The Most Contagious Ailment Is About To Strike . . . . . Spring Fever!!

While many of us yearn to hear birds chirping, see green grass growing, and don lighter clothing, let us not forget about the physiological changes occurring in our children, adolescents, and ourselves this time of year.  Though the research linking meteorological factors to mood is not 100% conclusive, there are certainly numerous well documented studies drawing the correlation to reported mood and energy shifts with seasonal changes.

Some child behaviors we may see surfacing may include: more than usual unproductive energy, a need to run around, complaints about boredom with routine things like homework and chores, resistance to following routines and structures that have been in place.

Some adolescent behaviors we may see may include “playing hookie”, an increase in high risk behaviors, a decrease in studying and homework.  For adolescents who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, there may be an increase in suicide attempts as there energy level increases.

Often times parenting is a matter of anticipating and staying one step ahead.  If we can anticipate a child or adolescent’s action or reaction, then we can plan for it.  Planning for children for the Spring may include changing routines to allow for physical activity before homework, or changing how the chores get done.  Are there different chores that can be given that might include outside time or more physical labor?  How about picnic dinner at the park occasionally? Above all, lets not forget family time which can now include outside time.  The particular activity doesn’t really matter.  The time in does.

Spring is the perfect time for spontaneous road trips with adolescents.  Take the long way home while playing their favorite songs and chat about the lyrics or their day or whatever comes to their mind.  Many school districts make grades available online.  This is a great time of year to check in with your student to talk about their strengths and challenges you can help with.  For the depressed and suicidal adolescent, asking about depression and suicide is important. Professional help may be needed if concerns persist.

Spring is a beautiful time of year!  Catch the fever!

Debbie Mann, LCSW

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Shhhhhhhh…………I’m on the phone”

So, why is it that a home can have one child or five children sitting calmly, quietly, watching a television show or perhaps reading a book or playing nicely together until the sound of a phone ringing, door knocking, or God forbid, parents conversing fills the air.  As if these sounds somehow spark some internal firecracker or push some button that says everybody must be hungry, thirsty, tired, cranky, . . . . . . . .Suddenly everybody needs something that moment!

Here are some tips that many families have found helpful in these very situations over the years.

1.Bring up “phone time” as a topic when things are calm.  This is a teaching moment and the beginning of conditioning their behavior.  This conversation should include short simple rules to be followed such as:

—phone time is quiet time – everybody whisper when mommy or daddy is on the phone

—phone time is me time – the person on the phone needs me time and the kids should care for themselves (unless they are hurt)

2.Practice phone calls with mobile phones and landlines so when the phone actually rings your family is prepared.

3.Offer praise for good behavior after calls.  Remember, if children do not receive positive attention, they will seek negative attention.

4.Prepare children for anticipated long waits for your attention such as calls you are making or grown-up conversations that don’t include them.

Enjoy your next phone call in peace!  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Shifting child behavior occurs with consistency over time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back To School Is More Than Shopping

As we think about the new beginnings of another school year and all that brings to a child, adolescent, and family thoughts arise about whether the year will enter softly like a leaf falling from a tree or like a vicious tornado that we need to survive.  This, in large part, has to do with how “back to school shopping” is managed.  This critical time of transition is about so much more than simply buying stuff.  It is a time to explore the child and adolescent’s thoughts and feelings about the impending journey they are about to embark on and helping to manage fears and anxieties and perhaps harness unrealistic expectations.  Before sending your teen off to the mall with their friends, set a date to do at least some of the shopping with them, with a planned break for snack or lunch (chat time).  Car rides are the perfect opportunity to explore teen feelings and ideas.  For those younger thinkers, as they are picking out their lunchboxes, it is a perfect opportunity to ask questions about who they think they might see at lunch or recess in school.  As they are grabbing the pencils and crayons off the shelf, talk about thoughts and feelings regarding classwork and homework.  My son remembers “hating!!!!!” doing his 10 sentences in the beginning of 2nd grade but getting so much better “and faster” at completing them by the end of the year.  Lastly, remember school is not the place for parents to live out a child fashion show.  Chose your battles.  If he/she wants to wear the same ugly orange shirt three times every week, so be it.  A child who feels secure, comfortable, safe and happy will be more open to learning and making friends. 

Debbie Mann, LCSW

Rob Mann, LCSW

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anti-bullying: What’s All The Hype About?

As we go from school to school and organization to organization educating and setting up programs to stop #bullying, the question continues to arise, ” . . . but why do we need laws to address the issue?”.  Comments come up such as “We didn’t have laws when we were kids and we survived”.  Then I sit with children (as their therapist) who attend schools who are exempt from the law who tell me “I was afraid to tell my teacher . . . .” about #bullying for fear of repercussions.  Children and adolescents fear the consequences from the adults and from the other students.  Exemption allows these schools to continue to turn a blind eye.  Do we NEED the laws? Perhaps yes, perhaps no.  Do they help us advocate for children . . . YES!  Let’s stop fighting about the law and focus on the kids it was written for.  It is a different time now. . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bullying: Whose fault is it and who should stop it- Parents or Schools?

The countless hours wasted debating these questions that could be better spent with the children this debate is about, this is what’s prompting this blog.

To begin with, all of the debate about whether we should blame the child or adolescent who “came out”, who allowed a nude picture to be taken (or took it) of themself, who sexted a picture, who aired an argument on facebook or other social media, or . . . . . . . is all sort of pointless.

The fact of the matter is, they’re children and adolescents, NOT ADULTS.  They think and act like children and adolescents.  Current research on brain development tells us that the frontal lobe of the brain (the part responsible for judgment and reasoning) surges in growth at about age 11 and isn’t done until about age 24.  So, when we ask a youth why they ride a skate board down a railing without a helmet, no matter what they say, the answer is the same as to why someone would send their nude pictures through the phone or over the internet.  They have not yet developed the judgment and reasoning to know and understand that it may be unsafe for them.

Our job as adults is to keep them as safe as possible.  This doesn’t mean that they will never get hurt, but we must do everything in our power to protect them.  Which adults are responsible to protect them? ALL OF US!  It’s shameful that this is even a debate.  The quote, “It takes a village”, has never been more true.  It’s not that the kids are changing, the technology  and adult response has. Thinking about movies like “The Outsiders”, bullying has always existed in some way.  However, youth can no longer escape it.  The most effective response we’ve seen is complete climate change in schools which includes involved parents.  Schools and parents must team together.  This is one of the core component of the programs we develop with schools.

Parents need to know that children and adolescents are not safe just because they are home.  If they have access to the internet (on cell phones or computers), unsupervised, they are as much at risk  as if they were hanging out outside the home.  Children who isolate are are greater risk for self injurious behavior and suicide.  Talk to your children and adolescents and more importantly, LISTEN.  Long car rides are often the best place to get them to talk.

Schools need to take the issue of bullying seriously.  Stop thinking of it as simply meeting a criteria or another legislative overreaching demand.  Creating an atmosphere of safety and zero tolerance, where bullying is simply understood as unacceptable, is critical to the long lasting change and ensuring youth security and well being.  Assemblies with staff will not accomplish this.  It’s about culture change.

Let’s work together to keep children and adolescents safe this school year!

Debbie Mann, LCSW

Rob Mann, LCSW

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The hurricane is over . . .what do we say to the kids?

In all of the years of doing trauma debriefing work, we often see that families are frequently faced with the tricky balance of managing their own feelings and cravings for information while attempting to respond to their children who are also witnessing the crisis.  Hurricane Irene, like every other crisis, is being covered by the media by repeatedly showing images and reporting on death tolls, homes crushed, roads demolished, cars crushed, and enormous property loss.  While watching and listening to these reports affects adult anxieties and function, the affect is magnified with children.  Such images and messages become ingrained in their brains and return later as anxiety and/or agitation.  Please consider the following tips:

1.  Limit how much information children are exposed too.  Be aware of televisions and radios left on in the home that are over heard; conversations that they will tune into; and visible signs around the neighborhood and stories of friend’s traumas.

2.  Be aware of the language usage regarding the hurricane.  If we refer to the hurricane as “the storm”, “the big wind”, “the big rain”, or any other term that is commonly used to describe conditions that are not hurricanes, children often become anxious when we later use those same terms for less severe conditions (ie. a typical thunderstorm).

3.  Avoid the temptation to immediately throw away everything that appears to have been ruined by floods or other conditions.  Let the children be part of the process, especially for items that belong to them.  They may be more willing to part with a toy or a coloring book once they experience it as not working or no longer useful.   Rather than simply throwing away many of their belongings at one time, throwing away a few things at a time can be less traumatic.

Although the  content and details of a specific event may differ, the basic process for how to help children through is similar.

Debbie Mann, LCSW


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cutting, Self Mutilation, Suicide . . . . .Attention seeking behavior???

I’ve  heard it said in a moment of frustration, confusion, wonderment, and even jest at times, that the act of a child, adolescent, or adult sliding a knife across their body, drinking bleach, or pulling their hair out (to name a few) is “just to get attention”.  The irony of this statement is that most who complete such acts report feeling enormous shame, guilt, and self hatred afterward.  When you consider why somebody would do any of these things versus behaviors that don’t harm themselves, do you think it is really just to get attention?  If the answer is yes . . . .  . . then if somebody would do something so extreme to get attention, perhaps we should hear their cry and pay attention to them!  Self Injurious Behavior and Suicidal Behavior is much more than attention seeking behavior.  Perhaps it is our own discomfort that prevents us from listening beyond the behavior.

Debbie Mann, LCSW

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ADHD . . . Truth Or Trend?

I have decided to focus our first blog on this topic because of the numerous referrals we have received over the past several years for children who have been labeled ADHD by one person or another, but who do not meet the criteria for this diagnosis.  As a result, parents are left frustrated, angry, and feeling helpless; and children’s self-esteem quickly plummets as they also become frustrated and baffled in trying to understand how to manage and understand what is going  on, on the inside and out.  Many of these children have been started on stimulant medication as a first course of action . . . a topic for a later blog.

Many of the behaviors that parents, teachers, and others complain about may, indeed, sound like ADHD to some. Some of these behaviors include constantly moving, easily distracted, difficulty completing one task from beginning to end, “spacing out”, being over talkative, not paying attention and many others.  For teachers, this becomes a classroom management issue.  For parents, tasks like homework can become time of battle.  The feelings of frustration and desire to help leave the adults searching for an answer.  My frustration is that during this vulnerable time, when a family is searching for answers, the first answer that comes along is often ADHD.  Parents and others accept this answer because it makes sense based on the information they have and it feels good to have an answer, even though that answer is often inaccurate.  As a parent, searching for answers when my children have been sick from time to time, I know the feeling well.  However, when they fail to get better, that “good feeling” quickly turns to feelings of helplessness and dismay.

Often times, there are MANY other explanations for the child’s behavior.  Sometimes the explanation is a different diagnosis (other than ADHD) and sometimes it may be other internal struggles the child may coping with.  We cover these in great detail in many of our seminars and workshops.

Lastly, for those reading this blog who may not be mental health professionals, I’d like to include the criteria that we use to diagnosis ADHD.  There are fifteen criteria that a child must meet in order to be accurately diagnosed with ADHD.  They must meet all fifteen criteria!!  Diagnosing is not rocket science.  We must use the criteria listed below.  If you choose to review the criteria, please pay particular attention to the age and other rule out diagnoses.  Symptoms have to be present before age 7 in order for a child to meet the criteria for ADHD!


Diagnostic criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

A.Either (1) or (2):
(1) inattention: six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:
(a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
(b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
(c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
(d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish school work, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
(e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
(f) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
(g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
(h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
(i) is often forgetful in daily activities

(2) hyperactivity-impulsivity: six (or more) of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:

(a) often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
(b) often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
(c) often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
(d) often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
(e) is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
(f) often talks excessively

(g) often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
(h) often has difficulty awaiting turn
(i) often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

B. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7 years.

C. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school [or work] and at home).

D. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

E. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorders, or a Personality Disorder).

In conclusion, my recommendation if you believe a child is truly suffering with ADHD is to have them evaluated by a mental health professional who is trained in interviewing children.  Whenever I seek treatment for my own children for anything my first question to a professional is, “What percentage of your work is dealing with children of my child’s age and with my child’s issues?”.  If the answer is not at least ninety percent, I am searching elsewhere for assistance.

Debbie Mann, LCSW

Posted in ADHD | Tagged , | 1 Comment