Posts

By Mary Ruth Branstetter, LCSW, LCAC, RPT – March 24, 2021 –

A common problem many of us experience is an inability or unwillingness to appropriately address our powerful emotions. Most of us want an outlet where we can express our feelings, but sometimes it can be a struggle to find someone who will truly listen and understand. 

I believe this is a problem for both adults and children. When we copy behaviors that we grow up with, we sometimes learn unhealthy methods of expressing how we feel.

For example, if a child is told not to cry with phrases like, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” they learn to keep important feelings bottled up.

Another example of how we learn from our surroundings might be how we cope with frustration or anger. If anger was never talked about in the home or was only displayed in an aggressive manner, those behaviors may be learned and repeated as a normal reaction to upsetting situations.

Occasionally the opposite stance may be taken such as, “I am never going to deal with feelings the way they were expressed in my home or by my role models.” This too can be unhealthy, leading to passivity and stuffing of true emotions.

Repressing feelings can only work as a coping skill for a certain amount of time before problems start to surface in your personal relationships and/or through physical and mental distress. Such distress may take the form of overeating, over-spending, depression, anxiety, repeated health problems, or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

Trying to teach our children healthy ways to express their feelings is becoming a critical skill. It is important to begin encouraging children to be honest about their emotions at a young age, as our children are exposed to external influences early in life.

Young children may or may not be emotionally ready to understand some of these influences in a healthy manner. For small children, this may result in some form of regression, acting out in anger or destructive ways, or development of unexplained fear.

Some of our kids are modeling what they see in social media or video games as a way to handle conflict, hurt feelings, competition, or disappointment. These forms of media may disrupt our children’s ability to learn how to carry on a conversation, resolve a conflict without aggression, read another person’s body language, or recognize basic social cues. The inability to grasp these communication skills can eventually leave a child emotionally stunted.

It is never too early or too late to ask your child about their feelings. This is a perfect time to take the opportunity to help your child process emotions in a way that helps them feel better. If you are unsure how to do this, there are many books for all age groups on feelings and healthy coping skills at local libraries, bookstores, and online.

Do not be afraid to consult with a mental health professional for guidance. This is an investment in your child’s long term emotional and mental health. The way your child learns to address their emotions now will impact the rest of their lives in terms of personal relationships, academic success, career success, physical health, and positive self-worth.

By Megan Shake, LSW- November 25, 2020-

They can happen anywhere – the grocery store, the doctor’s office, restaurants, school, or home. If your child is prone to meltdowns, you know they can strike at any time and any place!

The first step in helping children manage meltdowns is to understand why the meltdowns are happening. This can be difficult since these meltdowns can be triggered by a variety of reasons: fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, or sensory overload. Fortunately, children typically have meltdowns in very predictable situations, so you can learn to be more prepared to manage an outburst when it occurs.

Meltdowns are often symptoms of distress that your child is struggling to manage. As a result, children attempt to do whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means crying, yelling, kicking, name calling, or throwing things. This can result in outbursts becoming learned behaviors if the child achieves the outcome they desire from the meltdown.

Understanding meltdowns means knowing what triggers them. According to Dr. Vasco Lopes, a clinical psychologist, a common trigger for many kids is when they are asked to do something they don’t want to do or when they cannot continue doing something they enjoy. This can be especially true for kids with ADHD as some tasks can be less stimulating and require them to control physical activity.

Once triggers can be pinpointed, try to modify the trigger. This could mean giving more warning that a task is about to start or end, especially for those kids who struggle with transitions, or this could mean restructuring problematic activities. For example, if homework time leads to tantrums, you can modify it by offering frequent breaks, support the child in areas that are particularly difficult, organize the work, and break down particularly large or intimating tasks into smaller ones.

Setting clear expectations can also help prevent tantrums from happening. Instead of telling the child that he needs to be good today, be specific and concise in your communication. Tell him that he needs to stay seated during mealtime, keep his hands to himself, and say only nice things as these are very concrete expectations. Also make sure expectations are developmentally appropriate and match the child’s ability.

Furthermore, parents’ or caregivers’ response to tantrums plays a role in preventing future ones. It is helpful to respond to meltdowns consistently. For outbursts that are not dangerous, the goal is to ignore the behavior and withhold attention from negative behaviors we want to discourage. Give attention and praise when your child exhibits positive behaviors. Try to reason with your child during an outburst because his or her ability to reason is diminished.

We all know meltdowns are not easy to get through, and may even cause embarrassment to parents when in public. Know you’re not alone in trying to help your child manage their emotions and remember your child’s meltdowns are not a reflection of your parenting skills. Remind yourself that you are doing great, even on the days when it does not feel like it!

By Tyler Patchin, LSW – July 2, 2019

Being a male in a female-dominated field such as social work has its pros and cons, but in my opinion, the pros drastically outweigh the cons.

It was easy for me to choose such a demanding profession, but the lack of males in the social work program in college was truly shocking. I assumed, just like many other fields, that there would be some sort of balance between males and females. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the undergraduate program males weren’t prevalent, and there were even fewer once I got to the graduate program.

So why is there such a shortage of males in the social work field?

I think the answer is simple. Males are conditioned from a very young age to “act like a man” or told things like, “Suck it up. Don’t cry.”

These little phrases have more impact than people sometimes realize. Phrases like “man up” tell young boys that they have to act a certain way to obtain the things they want most in their lives. Boys look up to their parents, especially their father, and many of the fathers they look up to are the ones telling them who they should or should not be.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma against males who talk about their feelings or show emotion. Guys who show their emotions are sometimes viewed as weak or lesser, all because they are in touch with their feelings.

Yes, older generations had it worse. But the fact that it is 2019 and there is still an issue with males showing their feelings is concerning. I think being a male in such a female-led field shows young men that it is okay to talk about their feelings, it’s okay to feel sad sometimes, it’s okay to know how to express feelings to others. Not only does it positively impact the males on my caseload, but I also believe it leaves a lasting impression on the females as well.

Since there are more girls on my caseload, I would like to think having a male’s perspective helps them just as much as it does the boys. Many of them want to understand why a certain situation would happen the way it did and enjoy hearing a male’s point of view on the topic. It also shows young women that males can, in fact, be trusted people in their lives. Luckily I have had few, if any, students reluctant to talk to a male about their feelings, but that may not always be the case.

Unfortunately today, so many children are raised without a father figure in their lives, and that leaves a sour taste for many I have had the privilege of working with. Continuing to be a support person for the students in need and letting them know that I will be there unconditionally is something I take great pride in. I wholeheartedly believe that if there were more males in the school social work field, we could continue to break down the stigma against guys being open about their feelings.