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Posts tagged emotions
Parent's Perspective of the Tween's brain

In the article, “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents,” Annie Reneau described an example of good parenting. There is no true definition of great parenting, but one that comes close to that is someone who is willing to take the time to talk to their child. In order to gain a better perspective of what is going through your child’s mind, both you and your child should both take the time to respectfully listen to each other. This is the time to acknowledge that your child is going through a stage, called puberty, where it is very difficult for your child to control their emotions. This is not a time to yell at your child for being moody, but an instance where you can help your child understand why they are moody in the first place. Maybe they don’t even know what or why they are saying something in a specific tone in the first place.

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All mothers have to raise their child into the teen years, so why not treat the scenario the best you can? A mother of an 11-year-old boy asked a question about parenting on Quora: “How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won’t tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I’ve already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?”

Reneau interviewed Jo Eberhardt, a mother of two, who replied with a solid answer to the common question “how do I talk to my child about their emotions and their attitude towards me when they are experiencing puberty without pushing them away?” Eberhardt recounts a discussion that she had with her 11 ½-year-old son who was experiencing what every tween child goes through, the terrible twos all over again...puberty.

Instead of Eberhardt telling her son you did this because or you did that because, she remembered that is was not her son who purposefully talked to her rudely, but his brain. We forget that it is our brain that is controlling our emotions and changing as we grow and age. She stated that “Not only is your body being transformed from a child’s body to an adult’s body, your brain has to be completely rewritten from a child's brain to an adult’s brain” because at age 5 or 6 it was fully developed for a child but not yet ready to fit an adult body. Puberty is the training process for your brain to get used to your new body and fully develop a sense of who you are.

Certain parts of the brain such as the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls your emotions, also control how much sleep one gets and how cranky one may be in the morning. Eberhardt’s son began to understand how his moodiness could come off frustrating to his mother. Not only did he come to a consensus, but so did his mother who also realized how unmanageable it may be for an adult-sized amygdala hitting all your emotion buttons at once.

This is the time when one needs to raise their child's spirit and be careful not to break it. Admit to your child that it is not their fault for not having a fully developed amygdala and frontal cortex, but instead, praise them for seeing that their bodies are changing and the hormone changes that come with it.

By explaining the physiological reasons behind their changing bodies, children may begin to understand that it is puberty’s fault that their brain is working the way it does. Eberhardt stated that it is still your responsibility to take ownership of your actions and recognize what is going on and choose another way: “You get to choose what you do with your feelings. And, when you make a mistake, you get to choose to apologize for that mistake and make amends.”

Keep empathizing and communicating with your child. This way “when we let one’s kids know that we're going through these various phases together, it's easier to work with them instead of against them” (Ebehardt). As their adult brain is developing, they need to realize that their hormones are ranging and how to control them. At least now they know it is not their fault for being moody and why. Every child goes through this treacherous stage in life, so give them some slack because you went through it too.

Contact us for more information on how to communicate with your child and how your family can function best throughout puberty. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Reneau, Annie. “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents.” UpWorthy. Web. 4 Jan. 2019. https://www.upworthy.com/this-mother-s-description-of-her-tween-son-s-brain-is-a-must-read-for-all-parents

Top 7 things anxiety sufferers want those without it to know
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Sometimes suffering from anxiety can be hard to understand if you don't suffer from it yourself. People without anxiety often think "Just breathe and you'll be fine" or "What's the big deal?". But to people with anxiety, it's a really big deal. Here are the top 7 things anxiety sufferers want those without it to know. 

1. People with anxiety obsess over the little things. 
Things that seem like little things to you, are actually really big things to people who suffer with anxiety. Something as "small" as being looked at wrong or ignored can be very daunting. Situations like these stick with them throughout the day causing even more problems. So the next time something "small" happens, recognize it can be big to them. 

2. People with anxiety have every intention of going to an outing, but at last minute cancel. 
As these daunting ideas continue through out the day, our decision to go out to the movies or dinner becomes the worst idea in the world. Although people with anxiety want to go out, their thoughts often get the best of them and lead to only one decision, canceling. 

3. We are exhausted. 
The constant thinking and question can take a toll on a person who suffers from anxiety. Distracting thoughts throughout the day lead to staying up late at night constantly thinking. This leads to a lack of sleep and struggle to wake up in the morning. Waking up is a struggle for everyone, but imagine what it's like for someone with anxiety. 

4. Anxiety sufferers replay conversations in our head.
When your mind is constantly thinking and running through every possible scenario, you often start to explain a topic faster than possible. All of a sudden, what you're saying isn't making sense. This can be embarrassing for someone who suffers from anxiety. With that feeling of embarrassment, they often shut down. This doesn't mean they're in a mood, they're just struggling with that moment. 

5. Anxiety sufferers compare themselves to others. 
It's hard for someone with anxiety to understand how easy it is for people to get over things. When they see in person or on social media everything that is going on in other people's lives, they often question why it's so much harder for them. This causing even more of an issue when they begin worrying about why they're so worried all the time. 

6. Anxiety sufferers obsess over mistakes and beat ourselves up over it:
When something goes wrong, they often blame themselves. Therefore, when they make a mistake, they obsess over it. Doing things wrong and believing they're not good enough can lead to bigger problems. It's no surprise they're perfectionists. 

7. Finally: please, please don’t give up on us.
Sometimes, when a person with anxiety has no other option than to give up on themselves, they really need YOU to not give up on them. Although it can be frustrating and hard to understand, don't give up on them. 

People who suffer with anxiety are aware of how irrational they may sound. They know what they are going through and they're trying their hardest. Before giving up on them, try to understand them. 

While this information is geared towards individuals who suffer with anxiety, this same information about empathy and understanding emotions can be used to all individuals with disasbilties. 

 Contact us for more information on individuals who suffer with anxiety, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Mazza, Laura. “Top 7 Things Anxiety Sufferers Want Those without It to Know.”Love What Matters. 

Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emotions of children on the autism spectrum are often hard to comprehend. It is important to help children not only identify an emotion, but also connect that emotion to a specific event. According to Alice Kassotaki, speech language pathologist MSc, BSc, there are four steps to identifying emotions.

  • -Step 1: Definition of the child’s emotion: “Nick, you look scared”.
  • -Step 2: Connection of the emotion while it is being expressed: “Maybe you are scared because this is a new game”.  
  • -Step 3: Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion: “It makes sense to be scared when you try something new for the first time”.
  • -Step 4: Reassurance: “Let me help you. It will be easier and less scary if we do it together”.  

There are many simple games that can be played to help children identify emotions. Mirroring emotions and having children guess how you are feeling is a great way to have them practice recognizing emotions. One a child has accomplished this step, they will later learn how other people think, and then eventually be able to connect how their feeling in regard to what they are doing.

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Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties displaying empathy. However, during the transition period from early childhood to preschool age, children are able to gain some skills. For example:

  • verbal and nom-verbal characterization of the emotional expressions
  • use of emotional language to describe personal emotional experiences and to clarify others’ emotional experiences
  • development of knowledge about the rules of emotional expression and how various emotions can occur at the same time
  • gradual understanding of social emotions such as guilt

It is an important first step to understand one’s own emotions. Once this is achieved, identifying, understanding, and reacting to others’ emotions is crucial to building strong social skills. Misunderstanding social ques, such as non-verbal signs, can lead to miscommunication. A child may unknowingly misbehave because of the lack of understanding. This can often be avoided by teaching children specific emotions and reactions in the clearest way possible.

At a young age, 4 to 6, most children are able to understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear (think of the Disney movie, Inside Out). More complex emotions, such as pride, guilt, and shame, must be learned through the main emotions. Here are 7 ways to help children understand the complex emotions:

1.     Attention approach: some children must be taught to pay attention to social information. When you notice a child feeling a certain emotion, such as anger, state their emotion and why they are feeling that way while continuing to show nonverbal signals, such as crossed arms and stern voice.

2.     Naming the emotions: As a child begins to pay attention to social information, teach them the names of the emotions, starting with the main emotions. Using pictures of familiar faces with obvious emotions can help the child relate the name to the understanding of the emotion.

3.     Designation emotions: Once a child is able to look at a frown and identify that that person is sad, teach them how to designate each emotion. Ask questions such as “How does he feel?” to be able to designate different emotions

4.     Actions based on emotions: Now that the child is able to understand and designate each emotion, help them react based on emotions. Rather than looking at pictures, show them real life examples of emotion.

5.     Role-playing: Give the child different scenarios of receiving ice cream and feeling happy or losing a toy and feeling sad, allowing them to role-play and further identification and expression of emotions.

6.     Modeling (filming): When watching a movie or television show, point out characters’ emotions that the child will be able to relate to.

7.     Games and books: Playing board games and reading books are also great ways to help the child learn about others’ emotions in different situations. This is a way to turn learning into an interactive activity.

While this information is geared towards individuals on the autism spectrum, this same information about identifying and understanding emotions can be used to all children. 

 Contact us for more information on children on the autism spectrum, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kassotaki, Alice. (2017). “Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Upbility.

6 Things Parents Can Do About Catcalling

Catcalling and other forms of harassment happen everyday. Many grown women know the feeling of walking down the street and being whistled or yelled at, or heard small inappropriate statements about their bodies. According to the article "One in Ten Girls is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It", one in ten American girls had been catcalled before her 11th birthday. In 2017, a report showed that more than one in six girls in elementary and secondary school have dealt with gender-based harassment.

First of all, this type of harassment at such a young age can affect the way girls feel about themselves, leading them into a downhill spiral of being concerned about how they look and even judging other girls based on their looks. Other studies have proven that females who have been objectified by members of the opposite sex perform worse on math tests. Finally, the more women are talked about in appropriate ways, the blurrier the boundary line gets. Males tend to forget that their little comments can go a long way. Although it is not all boys and men who participate in catcalling and harassment, it is happening and could be happening to your daughter.

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Here are six ways to help protect your daughter and fight back against this inappropriate behavior:

1. Point out pop-culture sexism 

Since catcalling is everywhere, especially in pop-culture, an easy way to bring awareness to your daughter is to talk about it when it is brought up. Whether it is on the television, on the radio, or even in person, talk to your daughter about why it is inappropriate and how serious it can be. Ask her questions about how she would feel if those comments were directed toward her or if it has ever happened to her. 

2. Get talking

Although this topic seems a little mature for elementary school, it is never too early to start talking about it. When young girls are harassed, only about 2 percent of them talk to their parents about it. Start around third or fourth grade to make your daughter comfortable and know she can talk to you if the situation occurs in the future. 

3. Let her know, its never ever her fault

It is important to emphasize that it is never her fault. She didn't "ask for it" because of her outfit choice and she wasn't "doing anything to deserve it" by walking around with a group of friends. Girls and women deserve to feel as comfortable and free as boys and men do. This type of attention is often unwanted, so make sure she knows to not feel ashamed if it does happen and that she can talk to you or any adult about it. 

4. Arm her with what to say or do

Reacting to a harasser can be confusing, especially when it seems they are "complimenting" you. Make it known that their behavior is the opposite of polite and it is not necessary to engage in conversation back to them. Sometimes it is better to ignore them and continue walking, while in other situations an assertive comment like "Please stop, that's not okay" may be appropriate. Remind her that if she feels uncomfortable in any situation, it is best to remove herself from the situation and talk to you or an adult she trusts. If this inappropriate behavior is coming from one of her classmates or other individuals she would feel comfortable talking to, encourage her to tell him he is acting inappropriately and he needs to stop. 

5.Talk to boys and young men in your life

If you have a son or other young men in your life, speak to them as well. Making them aware of the inappropriate behaviors at a young age can help prevent it from ever happening. Use pop-culture to show them what is inappropriate and explain to them how it can make others feel. Ask them why they think other men do this and give them ways to help stop it, such as standing up for girls or refusing to laugh at inappropriate jokes. Be sure that they know the phrase, "boys will be boys," is not an excuse to be inappropriate.

6. Take action

There are more ways to get involved than just talking to your daughter or son. Reach out to your community and plan meetings or assemblies to spread the word about catcalling and gender-based harassment. The more knowledgable people are, the less likely it will happen. 

Although catcalling and harassment won't end tomorrow, bringing awareness to the problem is a start. If you have questions about harassment and how it affects you or your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: “One in Ten Girls Is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It.” Girl Scouts of the USA, Girl Scouts of the USA, 2017.