We are excited to welcome Dr. Erin Palmwood to WellSpring! Dr. Erin Palmwood is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who brings a rich array of experience and interests to the practice. Dr. Palmwood works with adolescents and adults (ages 14 and older) for a variety of concerns including obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, and anger management.
Dr. Palmwood is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Exposure and Response Prevention. She is also an Associate Professor at the University of Mary Washington.
WelcomE Dr. Erin Palmwood
We have to admit, over the past year some things have fallen through the cracks. Sometimes even very important things, like saying a public hello to this amazing new(ish) provider! Better late than never, right? And without further ado....
We are grateful to have another talented psychologist join the WellSpring community
Kate has training and experience working with parent-child conflicts, adolescent behavioral concerns, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, PTSD, trauma, sexual abuse, relationship conflicts, and domestic violence. She is trained in a number of treatment modalities, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Peer Culture, Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care, EMDR (Level One), Co-occurring disorders, and Critical Incident Stress Management.
Kate will be starting to see clients with WellSpring in mid-August. If you are interested in meeting with her, please contact us at (540) 693-0096 x100 for our intake coordinator.
Welcome, Kate! We are so excited to have you on our team.
Welcome Dr. Cook
Lesley Cook, Psy.D., LCP
We are so excited to welcome our newest provider, Dr. Lesley Cook, to our team. Dr. Cook works with children ages 5 and up, adolescents, adults, and couples. She provides therapy for a number of issues, including anxiety, mood concerns, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Learning Disorders. She is also experienced in LGBTQIA and gender identity issues throughout the lifespan. Dr. Cook is trained in psycho-educational assessment, and is able to help families navigate obtaining special education services through their schools.
We are especially excited to have someone on our team with a specific passion for individuals (children and adults) with neurodivergence. Neurodivergence is a broad term that refers to having a brain that functions differently than the socially accepted "norm." Examples of neurodivergence range from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders to Epilepsy and Traumatic Brain Injury. Dr. Cook has worked extensively with children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Learning Disorders. She has a wonderful passion for working with individuals whose brains work in unique ways. This is such a needed area of specialization in our community, and we are very excited to be able to offer additional services for individuals with neurodivergence.
Dr. Cook will be starting to provide services on July 1st. Individuals interested in scheduling an appointment or getting on the waitlist should contact our main number at 540-693-0096 and dial ext. 100 for our intake line.
Welcome, Dr. Cook! We look forward to having you on the team.
For additional information about Dr. Cook, see our About Us page.
If you are experiencing parenting challenges during this time, you are definitely not alone. We work with hundreds of families, and while each is unique, one thing is pretty much universal these days - parents are struggling with the difficult task of raising kids during a pandemic. There is no piece of advice that will perfectly fit all families, but we hope this list will give you some ideas and support as you navigate this challenging time.
There are good reasons you are experiencing difficulties with parenting right now.
The demands of parenting during this global pandemic are huge. We are confined to our homes. We have to "home school" our children. We have to work. We have to help support our children with their own feelings of anxiety, fear, and frustration. At a time when our children may have more misbehavior, greater needs, and less ability to regulate themselves, we have less time, less energy, and less patience. We have nowhere to go to take a break, and less time to get away. We have financial stressors. And of course we have our own stress, sadness, and anxiety about what is happening in the world.
We need a realistic interpretation of what is going on.
This is not home-school. This is not vacation. This is not an extended summer break. This is a global pandemic, which is stressful, scary, and is changing our lives in major ways. That means that all our high expectations for ourselves as parents and for our children, may need to be extremely flexible right now.
Children are being affected by this - and it may show in strange ways.
Even if your child seems oblivious to COVID19, they know something is happening. Children can sense that life has changed, and they know when the adults in their lives are under stress. Children who are old enough to understand the coronavirus may still have difficulty knowing or talking about what worries them. We are noticing an increase in nightmares, anxiety and phobias (fears), sleep problems, and misbehavior in children right now. Sometimes these things appear to be unrelated to the pandemic, but it is likely that any major changes in your child's mood, behavior, or sleep could be related to the underlying stress they feel.
One of the most important things for children right now is connection.
In normal life, our children have support and connection from many people in the community: teachers, friends, friend's parents, bus drivers, coaches, principals, piano teachers, instructors, extended family, and many others. In times of stress, connection with others calms children, helps them to process their feelings, and helps them to self-regulate. At a time when children need the MOST connection, they are separated from a huge part of their social support system. This means our children need even more support from us right now.
At the same time, parents are being pulled in a thousand directions, and are finding it challenging to give children the increased attention they need. If you have a household in which all adults present are working from home - you have a particularly challenging situation. Although there is no one solution that will fit every family, here are some suggestions to help give your children the connection they so desperately need during this time:
Don't forget to validate.
As parents, we want to make things better for our kids. However, there are times we can't. Validating feelings simply means acknowledging how our children are feeling and providing understanding and support (e.g., "I can see you are really frustrated right now. This is a hard time. We are all feeling a little frustrated at times."). Children are missing events that are extremely important to them, such as birthday parties, sleepovers, get-togethers, school, vacations, etc. They are separated from loved ones. They are grieving the loss of normal life. We can't fix this for them, but we can use this opportunity to teach our children how to sit with difficult feelings, accept them, and eventually move on.
Here are some examples of validating statements:
Help teach children how to be flexible and to manage uncertainty.
It is very hard to know what to tell children about the future. How do we answer questions like "when can I see my friends again?" "What are we doing this summer?" "Will I be able to have my birthday this year?" It is OK to be honest with children that we don't know how things are going to go over the next few months. Let them know that everyone is working together to figure out what is best for our whole community, and that we are going to start doing these things again as soon as it is safe for the community. Let them know it will not last forever, but that we are all learning as we go, and it may take time to figure out what the next best step it. Avoid making promises you may not be able to keep.
Teach children how to be flexible and accept things we cannot control. This will be a valuable life skill.
Help children accept and manage boredom.
Most of us are not going to be able to avoid feelings of boredom. Nor should we. Being bored is a normal emotion. Being bored can help spur creativity, imagination, and problem solving. Children are going to feel bored, and that is OK. In this digital age, we are used to filling every second of time with something engaging. However, teaching our brain how to slow down, be in the moment, and live without constant stimulation is a valuable skill.
That being said - we have to teach kids how to manage boredom. Here are some ideas to help:
Working from home with kids is not normal, not ideal, and no one's fault.
For parents working from home, with no childcare, this is a particularly challenging time. Both kids and parents need to understand that the current situation is not normal, not ideal, and no one's fault. I often work with parents and children to increase their understanding of how hard this is for each other. Kids don't want to hang out at work with their parents. It is boring, they can't get attention, and they don't like to feel like a disruption or nuisance. At the same time, parents don't usually take kids to work because they will be distracted, will want to pay attention to their kids, and will be stressed about not getting work done. Unfortunately, this is the only option for many families right now. It's good for parents to keep in mind that kids know they are bothersome, and they don't like feeling that way. Help kids to understand it is not their fault that this is happening, and that it is hard for everyone. Try to praise kids for times they are able to occupy themselves so you can work. Schedule breaks throughout the day (if possible) to spend time focused on the kids. Set timers or give children specific times you will, and will not, be available. Praise kids for their flexibility when this changes unexpectedly.
Make intentional decisions about screen time.
Decisions about screen time will depend on your specific family and circumstances. Although we generally recommend limiting screen time for optimal development, it is also important to keep in mind this is not a "normal" circumstance. It may be better to increase screen time in order to give parents a chance to work (and spend time with kids later), and allow children low-stress learning opportunities. Families that are usually strict with screen time may need to be more flexible. Families that usually have few restrictions on screen time may need a little more structure. We do recommend a combination of screen time and other play, learning, physical, creative, and social activities throughout the day. We also recommend no screen time at least an hour before bedtime, so as to avoid sleep problems. Also, it matters WHAT your children are doing on their screens. There is a difference between watching educational videos about space on youtube versus watching other people play video games. Give kids options for their screen time that you are OK with. You can also let kids earn screen time by completing their work, chores, or other tasks.
Siblings will fight - more than usual.
This one may not surprise anyone. Being stuck at home with a sibling 24 hours a day for months is bound to increase sibling rivalry. If possible, give kids some time and space to themselves. It may also help to have "special days" on weekends, when each child gets to do something with one parent/caregiver. Use sibling rivalry as a chance to teach children effective communication skills, like how to calm down and talk about their feelings, ask for their needs to be met, and compromise. Praise children for positive or prosocial behaviors (e.g., helping a sibling, talking in a calm voice to let a sibling know what they need, or involving a sibling in play).
Don't mess with sleep.
Although flexibility is key right now, bedtime is not something you want to be flexible with. Lack of sleep can make everything else harder - both for our kids and for us. Everyone in the family needs to get enough sleep, now more than ever. Try to have a consistent bedtime that does not fluctuate more than about 30 minutes (including on weekends), and try to get up around the same time each day. This means if your child's bedtime is 8:00pm, avoid letting them stay up past 8:30. Lack of sleep in children can cause irritability, attention problems, behavioral problems, and lack of motivation. Children ages 3-6 need about 10-12 hours of sleep per night, and children 7-12 need about 10-11 hours. This will vary a bit between children, and your pediatrician can provide more specific recommendations for you. Don't forget, you should limit any screen time at least 1 hour before bed for all ages.
Your sleep is important too!
It will benefit both you AND your kids if you are well-rested. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and you should follow the above guidelines as well.
Use your free time (as little as you may have) very, very wisely.
It's hard to find time for our own activities - activities that may typically help us to manage stress, stay energized, and recharge. There is so little time for us as parents these days, that we need to make sure we use our time wisely. If you can carve out a free hour, really consider how you want to use it. While it may be tempting to binge watch a new show, or get lost in social media, think about whether these things actually help you to recharge. Think about the activities that help to improve your mood and increase your energy level (e.g., cooking, baking, running, talking to a friend, painting, reading, walking, etc.) and choose THOSE instead. We don't have enough free time these days to waste it.
Most of all, have COMPASSION for yourself. This is a really difficult time to be a parent. And have compassion for your kids - because it's hard to be a kid right now, too.
Please note: this article was a joint effort of the child and adolescent therapists at WellSpring Child and Family Psychology, PC.
Talking to Kids about coronavirus
A lot of parents are, understandably, concerned about how to present information about coronavirus to their children. There is certainly no one "right" way, and what is best for one child may not be best for another. You will want to consider the child's age, developmental stage, anxiety level, and other factors that are unique to each child. Also, I realize this situation is much, much harder for some families than others, and depending on your situation, the below information may or may not apply. That being said, here are some general points to consider when talking to your children:
1) Kids are (overall) Safe
Children need to know that, thankfully, COVID19 tends to be mild in children. Let them know that, for children, this virus is much like a cold or flu. Remind them of a mild illness they had in the past, and talk about how it was uncomfortable for a while but got better. In addition, let them know that for most people the virus is much like other viruses, and is uncomfortable and then passes. If they have questions or have heard about more severe cases, you may choose to let them know that there are certain at-risk populations. Let them know there are doctors and hospitals to help the people who are most at-risk.
2) Teach them WHY we are working together to make a difference
The reason for social distancing, hand-washing, postponing vacations, and school closings is actually pretty altruistic - meaning the majority of the population is doing these things to support and protect the members of our community who are most at-risk, and to help hospitals and medical personnel to be able to do their job. Despite the gravity of the situation, this part is pretty awesome. We have the opportunity to teach our children that when things get tough, we can work together to so something to make it better. Parents have the chance to use what is happening to teach children about kindness, compassion, and social responsibility.
3) Give them a sense of control by telling them how they can help
Having a way to experience control in a scary situation can help children (and adults, too) to cope. Children can help by washing hands, learning to keep their hands away from their faces, helping to clean the house, taking food to neighbors, doing school from home when their school is closed, supporting small businesses, and sometimes even cancelling play-dates, outings, or family vacations. All of these things are ways to help children experience control and purpose.
4) Explain changes in children's lives by emphasizing compassion
"Why are schools closed?" "Why cant we go on vacation?" "Why do I have to wash my hands AGAIN?" Many of these changes can be explained by telling kids how each change is something we are doing to help the community. We are washing our hands so that we don't spread germs that could make some people sick. We are cancelling our vacation because we can help to slow down people getting sick so that hospitals can take better care of the people who are already sick. We are doing school from home because it is one way we can change our life (in a big way) to help do what is best for our community. We are going to keep going out to eat to support local businesses. What you do to help will depend on your values, perspectives, and your family's specific situation (and, of course, on the current CDC and local community advice!). Although we will all help in different ways, we can use what we are doing to help children build compassion.
5) Point out ways people are helping each other
Let your children know about the good ways people are handling the situation. Tell them about how schools are gathering food and making sure that kids who need it are getting breakfast and lunch while school is out. Let them know how scientists around the world are working together to create vaccines. Talk about how various organizations like museums, opera houses, and educational companies are putting tons of free materials online to help parents homeschool. Tell them about community efforts to support small businesses. It might do us all some good to notice the good in the world and in each other.
6) Let them know this will not last forever
Although we do not fully know what the long-term effects of all this will be, we do know it will not last forever. We can explain to children that viruses are a normal part of life. We can talk about how, once we catch a virus, our body builds up immunities and we (generally) can't catch it again. This means that eventually, people will start building up immunities to this virus, too, and we will not need to do so many things to help prevent the spread. Schools will eventually re-open. Sports will resume. These things are temporary. It is OK to be honest that we don't know how long it will take, but also be reassuring in our confidence that it won't last forever.
7) Be aware of your feelings, and get support if you need it
Children pick up on our feelings, whether we tell them how we are feeling or not. Adults need to be careful that we are managing our own anxiety, fears, and concerns so that they do not make our children more fearful. Fear and anxiety are helpful - to a point. When our anxiety and fear help us to avoid risk, to take appropriate precautions, or to appreciate the seriousness of a situation, this is good. However, if we become overwhelmed by fear, this creates panic. If you feel anxious, wait until you are calm to talk to your children.
8) Battle misinformation, racism, and xenophobia
There is a lot of misinformation going around, and a lot of fear. When fear gets out of control, it can fuel hatred, racism, and xenophobia. When we get into the "every person for themselves" mentality, this generally does not lead to positive outcomes. We can prevent this by teaching our children that we can solve problems better when we respect others, have compassion, and work together. No one is at fault for a virus. It happens. It can happen anywhere to anyone, and has nothing to do with culture, race or political affiliation.
9) Answer questions calmly and with accurate (but child friendly) information
Children will have questions. Lots of them. Be ready to answer those questions the best you can, but also remember that it is OK to not have an answer right away. If your child asks about something, and you are not sure how to answer it, it is perfectly fine to say "That's a great question, let me think about the best way to answer that, and you and I will talk more about it a little later, OK?". Children generally need simple, concrete answers.
10) Validate your child's feelings and listen to them
Although we certainly don't want to panic our children, or give them inappropriate (or too much) information, we also need to allow them to experience a full range of feelings. If they are afraid, let them know that it is OK to be afraid and that it is understandable. Let them know that new and unknown things usually cause fear until we become more understanding of the problem and the solutions. Listen to their concerns. Provide comfort and reassurance.
11) Avoid watching news or listening to radio news in front of young children
News is geared toward adults, not children. It can be dramatized and inappropriate for children. Children do not understand what they hear. Make sure any news presented to your child is done in a child friendly way - with honesty but also respect for your child's developmental level and how they process information.
Being a parent is always a challenge - and in difficult times, it is even more so. Hang in there, we can do this together!
Other Resources on How to Talk to Children:
Welcome New Providers
We are thrilled to announce that we will be adding two new providers to our team this Fall. Catherine Conger (LCSW) and Danielle Johnson (LPC) will be joining our other 6 providers to help meet the demand for services in our area.
Catherine Conger is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who has training and experience working with children, adolescents, families, and adults who present with a variety of issues, including; PTSD/Trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, behavioral difficulties, family difficulties/problems, mood disorders, and codependency. Cat has specialized training in treating the effects of trauma in individuals and families. Cat is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is a Certified Family Trauma Professional.
Danielle Johnson is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Virginia, who has experience working with children, adolescents, and adults. She provides treatment for a number of concerns including anxiety, mood issues, behavioral difficulties, and adjustment and attachment concerns. Danielle has specialized training and experience in treating trauma and early attachment concerns. She is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR, is a certified Parenting Apart; Co-Parenting Together (PACT) Instructor, and is trained in the Circle of Security program, an intervention designed to improve attachment relationships between parents and children.
We are very excited to add these two practitioners to our group. Both will start in late August/Early September 2019. We are currently scheduling appointments. If interested, please contact Dr. Etu at ext. 1.
There has been a lot of talk recently about mindfulness. And for a good reason - research has shown that it may have positive effects on attention and focus, improve immune health, help with emotion regulation, and possibly even improve relationships (for a good overview of the possible benefits see this APA article from Psychotherapy Vol. 48, No. 2). TIME recently released a Special Edition entitled "Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness," which is well worth the $14 (a special thanks to a client who brought me a copy). But what is Mindfulness?
When you hear the word 'mindfulness,' your brain may be flooded with images of Buddhist monks in orange robes, skinny people doing impossible yoga poses, or the hippie movement of the 1960's. However, mindfulness has infiltrated modern American psychology and pop-culture, and it brings with it a new way (for "westerners") of thinking that may help bring some balance back to our chaotic, busy, and media-obsessed lives (trust me, I'm not judging - I am currently writing this while watching TV, eating, and occasionally checking my email).
Mindfulness, at its essence, means being in the moment. Focused on what is happening around you. Paying attention to what you see, taste, hear, smell, and touch. Focusing your mind on one thing at a time, and avoiding the distractions (e.g., phone, TV, email, worries about tomorrow, ruminative thoughts about yesterday) that detract from that one thing you are focused on. The idea is that life is a series of moments, each one here and then gone. If you miss a moment, you miss a period of your life. How often is your brain really focused on what is happening NOW? How often are you distracted by media, your thoughts, daydreaming, or worries?
In relationships, being mindfull may be especially important. For example, if you are a parent, think about the time you spend with your children. If you are like me, at times you likley find yourself texting, answering emails, or thinking about the 5,000 things you need to do in that precious 2 hours between the kids' bedtime and yours. Kids KNOW when we are not giving them our full and complete attention (ever noticed what happens the second you answer your phone?). In fact, they find every imaginable way to try to get our full attention. Having moments with your children when you are really focused on what they say, what they are doing, how they are feeling, and what is happening between you is essential to building good parent-child relationships. For that matter, being mindful in relationships is essential to ALL relationships (Have you ever talked to someone while they are watching TV? Annoying, right?). We all value the times someone is really present, focused, and in the moment with us.
So where do you start? If you are interested in giving this mindfulness thing a try, there are some pretty simple things you can do to start being more aware of what you are doing in the moment:
1) Try focusing on one thing at a time. We are all used to multi-tasking, although most research seems to indicate we are not really all that good at it. We tend to do better when focused on one thing at a time. Choose something you tend to do while doing other things (e.g., watching TV, working, playing with your kids, eating, riding the train, walking, listening to music, exercising, etc.). Try doing this activity while doing NOTHING ELSE. Try to focus your brain on what you are doing (what you see, hear, taste, smell, touch). It may seem difficult, boring, or like wasted time at first. After the activity is done, think back to how much of it you remember. Think about how that one moment in time was recorded in your memory. Compare that to other times you did the activity without being focused on it. See if this helps your productivity or quality of life. If it helps, keep doing it with more and more activities.
2) Breathe. One of the simplist ways of being mindful is to do deep breathing exercises. Try sitting in a quiet place. Close your eyes and just focus on your breath. Breathe in in for 4 seconds and out for 6, filling up your stomach and then your chest, and slowly letting the air out of your chest and then out of your stomach. When thoughts pop into your head (and they will), don't be hard on yourself, just notice that a thought popped up, remind your brain to focus on your breathing, and move your attention back to your breath.
3) Try Yoga (or another physical activity that encourages a focus on your body). Yoga is a great way to increase mindfulness because it encourages a focus on your body and breath. It is calm, so you can focus on these things more than you would when playing faster-paced sports. However, you can also practice mindfulness when preparing to hit a baseball, running, walking, dance, horseback riding, or even shooting a bow and arrow. Next time you do physical activity, really pay attention to your body. Notice your muscles, your heart-rate, your breathing, where your body is in space, etc. Pay attention to how this focus impacts your enjoyment of the activity.
4) (Don't Hate Me for Saying This...) Put Down your Phone. One of the things about our current culture that is particularly anti-mindfulness is our addiction to our smartphones. It is way too easy to click on that Facebook, Email, Youtube or Twitter icon and .... 5 hours later realize that you got sucked in. Phones can also be bad for relationships - think about all the times you are around your family or friends, and you or they are on the phone. It's hard to connect to others when our attention is focused on that $400 mini-computer that we will probably find a way to implant in our head one day. Try this - choose an hour a day to put the phone away. If you feel really motivated - schedule 30-minute intervals throughout the day when you are "allowed" to check your phone, and leave it away the rest of the day. Good luck, because this one is hard.
5) Limit TV/Games/Screen Time. If you are still reading at this point - well done! Most people probably bow out after #4. Another thing to try is cutting back a bit on screen time. When we are playing games or watching TV, our brains sort of zone out (very different from mindfulness). It is really easy to turn on the TV the moment we get bored. But think about the last time you binge watched Gilmore Girls or Game of Thrones... kind of feels like you weren't really around for that 25 hours of your life, right? Our brains are used to immediate stimulation, all the time. So you are likely to feel really bored at first. If you can get past that, you may find that you find other things to do, and you may actually find that they are more relaxing and enjoyable than TV was.
Remember - our brains are not used to focusing on one thing. It takes time and effort to get good at being mindful. While it is not possible (or even desirable) for us to be mindful every second of the day, having just a few more moments throughout your day when you are being mindful and aware can help you to slow down, reduce anxiety, improve relationships, and enjoy life!
These strategies can help, kids too!
We are moving!
We are excited to announce that as of January 1, 2017 we will be in our new office located at:
510 Princess Anne Street, Suite 101
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
The new location is in the heart of downtown Fredericksburg on Princess Anne Street, near the post office and train station. The building is a free-standing brick building that is clearly marked, with ample off-street parking. Our new office space will allow us to offer additional services to the community, such as groups, courses, and trainings. We know it is an inconvenience for everyone to move offices, but we hope that you will be as happy as we are with the new space!
If you have any questions about the move, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Expanding our vision, Together
One of the primary goals in founding WellSpring was to create a practice that can provide high-quality services for the entire family, as well as to help meet the growing needs of our community as a whole. Coming from a background in integrated healthcare, I am a firm believer that you receive the best care when your providers are working together. The old saying "two minds are better than one" is certainly the case when you have colleagues to brainstorm with, consult with on difficult cases, learn from each other, and provide support. One of the goals in opening this practice, was to eventually offer families the option of having multiple providers who can work with different family members in a collaborative way.
I am very excited to welcome two new providers to the practice: Dr. Sarah Etu, Ph.D., LCP, and Dr. Robyn Van Brunt, Ph.D., LCP. The three of us will be teaming up to work toward realizing the vision of WellSpring. Working together will allow us to offer a variety of additional services, including increased options for families in terms of collaborative care, new groups and courses, increased community outreach, and additional treatment approaches. We all share the same goal - to help provide high quality services to our community.
Here is a preview of some of the exciting things to come:
1) Integrated Care for the Family: Having three providers working together in the same space will allow us unique opportunities to work together as a treatment team if you desire this service. For example, there is often a conflict of interest in having one provider treat multiple family members (e.g,. providing child therapy for a child and individual therapy for a parent). However, having the option of individual providers who can work very closely together can be a tremendous advantage for many families.
2) Expanded Services. Bringing together three providers who have unique training and experience, as well as different areas of expertise, allows us to collectively offer a wide variety of services without compromising on the quality of those services.
3) Increased Parenting Resources: With 8 children between the three of us, we can provide both professional support paired with parental understanding (and non-judgement) in helping parents navigate the many challenges of parenting. Examples of services we are planning include parental support groups, trainings in effective discipline techniques, and courses for new and expecting parents to help parents navigate the first few (often challenging) years of parenting.
4) Provider Education and Growth: We have integrated regular group supervision and consultation, continuing education, and peer education into our practice. This means that whichever provider you are seeing, they will be pushing themselves more to stay current in the field, to develop new techniques, to consult with and learn from others, and to get additional ideas on how to most effectively serve you. We believe three brains are better (for both clients and providers) than one!
Dr. Etu and Van Brunt will begin seeing clients as part of WellSpring later this year (until then, they will continue to see clients through their existing practices). We are all very excited about our new partnership and about the advantages this partnership will bring to the individuals we have the pleasure of working with each day! If you have any questions or concerns about how this partnership will impact you, please do not hesitate to contact any one of us.
Is 'Time-Out's' Time up?
Is Time-Out .....bad? Time-out is a discipline strategy that has been heavily researched and long recommended by psychologists, pediatricians, experts in child development, and super-nanny's around the world. However, a recent article titled "'Time-Out's' are Hurting Your Child" published by TIME has raised much controversy.
The article (written by Daniel Siegel, M.D., author of "The Whole Brain Child") argues that isolating a child during a time when they are having difficulty regulating their behavior is detrimental. He argues that rejection and isolation threaten the connection between the parent and child, a connection which he (and most other child development experts) believe is critical to effective discipline and raising healthy children. You can read the full article here.
The article provoked a strong reaction from other child development experts, who strongly disagree that Time-Out should be considered ineffective or detrimental. In a response to the article, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology published a response that argued that decades of research has supported time-out as an effective and safe discipline strategy (at least when used properly). Dan Siegel also published a response to criticism of his original article, which acknowledged that time-out is not inherently ineffective or detrimental, but that many caregivers use the technique in a way that does not optimize its success, and in some cases could be detrimental to the child.
So with all this controversy, what is the verdict? There are some points that everyone seems to agree on:
1) Time-Out is a broad term - for time-out to be effective (and to help foster healthy parent-child relationships) it needs to be done correctly.
2) Time-Out should not be done out of anger. For any discipline strategy to be most effective (and to avoid weakening your relationship with your child), it needs to be done in a calm, firm, loving manner. When you discipline your children out of anger, you are modeling poor emotion regulation.
3) Time-Out is a teaching method. It can be used to teach children that inappropriate behaviors have a consequence, as well as teaching them that the appropriate behaviors will be rewarded (e.g., with attention or praise). It can also teach children how to regulate their emotions (but only if done correctly - if done incorrectly, Dan Siegel argues that it can actually have the opposite effect).
4) Praise and positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior is just as important (if not more important) than punishing inappropriate behavior. In fact, positive reinforcement of desired behavior is the most effective way to modify your child's behavior.
5) Building a supportive and nurturing parent-child relationship is critical to child development. Without this relationship, children experience many negative outcomes (no matter how well behaved the child may be!)
So, what does all of this mean for parents? Here are a couple of pointers to use when developing your own discipline strategy for your children:
- Whatever discipline strategy you choose, do some research (or seek consultation) on how to use that technique most effectively.
- Avoid disciplining when angry. Discipline is about teaching your child. In particular, teaching them to regulate their behavior and emotions. If you cannot regulate your own emotions/behavior, your child is unlikely to learn these skills.
- Think of discipline as a teaching strategy: you are teaching children that when they choose a misbehavior there is a consequence, and when they choose appropriate behaviors there is a reward (note: this doesn't mean material rewards, but things like praise, feelings of accomplishment and pride, or some other natural positive outcome).
- Don't forget to focus on the positive. One of the most powerful ways to shape behavior is to teach your children what TO DO. This can be done by focusing on and praising them for good behavior, which will increase the chances that those good behaviors will occur again.
- Remember that children are not born knowing how to regulate their behavior or their emotions. Some children may need more help than others in learning these skills. Children (contrary to how it may seem) are most often not be trying to "be bad", they may be genuinely having difficulty regulating behavior or emotions.
- Focus on strengthening the Parent-Child relationship. Forming a strong bond with your child (which we sometimes lose sight of when we have become so focused on dealing with misbehavior) is one of the most important aspects of parenting.
- Help your child learn to label emotions and to cope with their emotions. Help children put words to how they are feeling (e.g., "I can see you are very upset that you have to clean up your toys and get ready for bed. You are having so much fun, it's hard to stop. I know its hard, but it's important that we get to bed on time").
- If nothing works, seek help. If you have tried to use effective discipline strategies and nothing is working, it may be that your child/family needs some additional help. Every child is different, and the same technique will not work for every child and parent. There may also be underlying emotional factors that are driving your child's behavior, and it is important to determine what these factors are.
Dr. Jerome is a clinical psychologist who works with children, adolescents, families and adults in Fredericksburg, VA.