Friday, August 22nd14.7°C
21790
22501
Andrew Portwood

Don't treat anger with band-aids

There is a question I have been asked countless times by parents and others, and it goes something like this:

“My son is currently taking medication to help him control his anger, and it helps. But how long will he need to take it?”

In this day and age, I am continually amazed at just how many people, including children, teens and young adults, are taking medications to control behavior. Frequently, these behaviours are anger or depression-related. The medication is prescribed during a visit to a physician with the understanding that the behaviour being treated should see a reduction in intensity over the next few weeks. There is a lingering belief among many in our society that the role for medication in treating anger, depression, or other similar challenges is to keep these feelings at bay, and thus a minimum of effort is required in feeling "better". If an edge can be taken off the extremes of anger and depression, it may be easier to ignore them - for a time.

However, this can leave parents and others wondering if there will now be a long-term need for pharmaceuticals in place. In other words, will the parent need her son to continue renewing his prescription indefinitely, or at least until he graduates from high school? This is obviously an important question, and forces us to decide what true health actually looks like. Will long-term medication for behavior allow a young (or young at heart!) person to become their true selves, and live a healthy and vibrant life? Or does there come a time when the medications have reached the limits of their effectiveness, and more sustainable methods for achieving health are screaming to be utilized?

In my experience and work with parents and their children, there are two widely-accepted truths that stand out:

  1. Almost nobody WANTS to become reliant on behavior-control medication for a number of years, especially during the transition into adulthood.
  2. These medications are never enough to create sustainable, vibrant, and natural health by themselves.

All behaviours are purposeful. When we choose to ignore the true underlying reason behind someone's anger, for example, then medication in effect becomes a ‘band-aid’ solution: we treat the symptoms without addressing the problem. Yes, there is an unlimited supply of band-aids available (though there is perpetual cost involved), but the ‘wound’ those band-aids are intended to treat is never invited to actually heal. Medications can have an important role in the healing process, especially in reducing the intensity of feelings enough that one can authentically start to examine the cause of anger.

My answer to parents asking about medication is often this: what might be causing your son or daughter to be so angry that a visit to the doctor was required? It often marks the beginning of a process where we unravel the root causes of the anger, which are usually connected with someone or something taking away physical and/or emotional safety on a significant level. With commitment and support, the process will soon lead the young people to a place where they can truly stand on their own two feet and feel the empowerment of taking full responsibility for their own physical and emotional health.

 

Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner. Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life. Find more about him and his practice:

Website: http://clarowellness.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Portwood-Youth-and-Family-Counsellor/



19966


How the 1970s can help your summer

You may have seen recently a viral article on social media entitled "How to help your child have a 1970s summer". If not, feel free to have a look! Like many others, this article was particularly intriguing for me, mainly because I myself was a child of the seventies and had those summers of boundless energy unique to 8 and 9 year-olds, in 1978 and 79. However, I would never suggest that growing up at this time made me any more special or unique than anyone else reminiscing about their childhood. None of us choose the years we are children any more than we choose our families or our hometowns. As I reflected on this article, it nonetheless became clear to me that there was something unique about the 1970s that may contain some important wisdom for parents and young people more than 30 years later.

 

1.  Connection

The 1970s were a decade in which social connection played a much clearer and important role in our society. It was almost inconceivable (and impossible) for a child or teen to spend an entire summer to themselves, whether hibernating downstairs or otherwise spending a great deal of time engaging in independent activities. Even if one wished to, remaining reclusive on this level would likely mean watching much television, reading, or listening to music, and little else. Possible, yes, but common? The activities most common to the era tended to be much more socially-based, such as bike riding, walking to the store, building treehouses with friends, or even helping a friend with their paper route. It was natural, and playing interactive video games for days on end, with its invitation to solitude, was still more than 20 years away.

2.  Technology

While technology was on the move in its own way, it was nowhere near providing an alternative to social interaction. The closest society came at this point was the relative importance of owning a large colour television, and preferably with access to American channels that naturally carried all the "best" programming. Nonetheless, there were few programs most young people would have been interested in during those summer afternoons, and there was no way to view programs on-demand, as is taken for granted now. I suppose I could have spent every afternoon watching The Jeffersons hour on the Detroit network affiliate we received in my hometown in Alberta, but it hardly filled any real need for entertainment or connection I had. Even if it did, television had the capacity to become a social activity as well, with friends coming over to share viewing.

 

3.  The Power of Community

 A tangible sense of community was also far more commonplace back in the 1970s than it tends to be today; and while neighbours do still talk to each other occasionally and you can even find the odd block party in some areas, the reality is still clear - there are no longer a large number of kids to "go call on" in one's neighbourhood. That does not mean there aren't kids or teens around nearby, but rather that they tend to be so much busier! Summer now often means weeks of lessons of various kinds, daycamps, family vacations (which can be amazing times together by the way, but I digress), or even an opportunity to watch plenty of Youtube and Netflix videos, in addition to hours of interactive video games, often played with people your child has never met from around the world! A sense of being a part of a group of kids running like roving caravans to each other's homes for fort-building, popsicles, and the occasional sleepover appears to have been reduced to an anomaly at best.

What does all this mean? Fundamentally, each of us as human beings has needs to belong, to feel emotionally safe, and to connect with others. The more we seek to have these needs met, the stronger our resulting emotional health will be. At one point (i.e. the 1970s, and likely some decades before it), it didn't require a lot of effort from parents to help ensure their children received this valuable growth, as our society naturally provided many opportunities for it. Today is a different story. Allowing our children to have more unscheduled days over the summer, with boundaries placed upon television and video game time, can be one support that helps them to seek out entertainment through connection. Kids and teens can still be shockingly creative when challenged to live like it's 1979!

 

Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner. Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life. Find more about him and his practice:

Website: http://clarowellness.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Portwood-Youth-and-Family-Counsellor/



The secret joyful families know

It is often far too easy to fall into the trap of believing "the grass is greener on the other side". I have to look no further than my own front lawn to remind me of this old axiom! Even after two years of learning the essentials of in-ground sprinklers, there never seems to be any lack of brown spots in my front yard. In the same way, it can also appear that other families around us have it all together; while we are struggling to get along and there seems no end to arguments and strife, the Smiths next door are seemingly always laughing and happily spending loads of time together. Do they know something we don't, but should?

The reality, thankfully, is that no family in the world gets along 100% of the time and sails along with nary a bump in the voyage. Sooner or later, everyone must deal with the rougher waters of life, where disappointments can occur and feelings can and will be hurt. I say thankfully because it is always a relief to know that perfection is not a reasonable goal for family life, since we are all human and all imperfect by nature. In fact, allow me to suggest that arguments and disagreements are part of any healthy family from time to time, and not necessarily indicative of deeper problems that need to be addressed.

So what is it that decides whether disharmony is a short-lived period where problems are solved and life returns to normal, or alternatively, that disharmony becomes a seed of discontent that grows and festers for months or years to come? There must be some secret joyful families know that allows them to prosper in spite of (or because of) those challenging times! Here is that secret: never allow your love or support of any child, or your spouse for that matter, to appear conditional in any way. In other words, showing your displeasure with something your child or children have done can easily be confused with not loving or accepting them, if we are not careful. This is most common with younger children, but also holds true with pre-teens and teenagers as well.

Here is a scenario to help illustrate this point. Terry asks his son Josh to mow the lawn one afternoon. Josh groans, saying he will do it later, which in turn causes Terry to give a terse response.

"I ask you to do ONE thing all week, and this is the respect I get? Unbelievable!"

Dad has made a significant statement in his moment of frustration, overshadowing what may actually be a valid point on his part. Rather than express his disappointment in a constructive way by suggesting a deadline for the job's completion, or even offering to get the mower fuelled and ready first, Terry makes it clear he needs greater respect, and that his son's response is unacceptable. Most importantly however, Terry's statement appears to draw a firm connection between the lack of enthusiasm from Josh in getting the lawn cut, and an apparent disapproval of his son on a much more generalized and deeper level.

Chances are good that Dad did not intend to turn this moment into an opportunity to make his own love and acceptance of his son seem to hinge on yard work. Nonetheless, it is equally likely that Josh felt hurt on some level by Dad's sentiments, and resentment could grow as a result. To go further, it may well seem to Josh that his father is inauthentic; "I only love you when the lawn gets cut" tends to dilute any belief that this parent truly cares about him, and is a thought that can easily cross the mind of many young people, regardless of its absurdity. We need to be aware of just how easily this can occur, and the fact that it is shockingly common, if we wish to be able to create a healthier and happier family.

What would have been another approach in this scenario that Terry could have taken, and how might Josh's response have been different? We will map that out next column.

 

Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner. Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life. Find more about him and his practice:

Website: http://clarowellness.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Portwood-Youth-and-Family-Counsellor/



22691


Is Twitter worth banning at home?

Social media is very often talked about in not-so-flattering terms in parenting circles. If you reflect for a moment, chances are good that you will recall seeing a few articles and opinion columns detailing the dangers of children and youth using Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and others as ways to interact with others. For certain, none of us want our children to be exploring the world of social media in any sort of an unsupervised way, particularly when there is the potential of being bullied online, or even being found by any number of internet predators, exploiting technology in order to have communications with those not yet able to make this sort of sound judgment on their own.

Clearly, there is a key role that all parents should play in monitoring their children's use of social media, and this stems from a natural wish to protect our children from threats and dangers in general. However, my focus in this column is not to add to an already considerable number of voices urging caution for parents, but to shine a light on a seldom-acknowledged element of young peoples' use of social media: that it can actually be a benefit to some in this age group. To do so, I have to make this assertion - Facebook, Snapchat and others are not inherently beneficial or harmful; rather, it depends greatly on one's purpose for use of social media in communicating with others.

The first purpose is sometimes a problematic one for a child or teen to carry out, that of wishing to get the attention of others. Having others take notice of us fills a basic need to belong and to be of significance to others around us, including even some we may never even have met previously. Perhaps the best example of being motivated by a need for attention comes with Facebook's "like" button, a press of which spreads awareness of one's comments, pictures, etc. to others very quickly. When a teen is motivated to build these "likes" from others, it can influence their words and online behaviours in ways that may not be reflective of their values or genuine character. In some of the more prominent cases of tragic online bullying we have become aware of in recent months, a desire for attention from others has often proven to be a strong motivating factor in continuing to engage with others who are making unhealthy and unreasonable demands at times, such as posting revealing photos or supplying personal information.

The second significant purpose for young people using programs like those mentioned above and many others is actually a very noble one, and at times can prove to be almost therapeutic. It can help youth and young adults to stay connected with friends and peers in real-time; this is especially important for those who have a fear or lack of confidence in deepening those meaningful connections with others, but who find comfort in being able to connect from a safe distance (at least at first). We must acknowledge that the youth of today do not rely on face-to-face meetings nearly as much as they once did in order to have their needs for connection met.

I think specifically of one teen I encountered who found herself unable to talk to most others about her own interests, challenges and successes; however, as the small number of significant friends she had went to a different school, it became imperative for her to have an easy means with which to be part of the larger conversation online the rest of them were already engaged in. As she did so, being careful to hand-pick only those on Facebook that she wished to deepen healthy connection with, her confidence and sense of happiness soon began to rise noticeably! In essence, social media provided a means for her to engage with others that would not have easily occurred any other way, and she was grateful for the benefit provided.

It would be difficult, in my view, to suggest Snapchat, Twitter and the like are necessarily harmful to a young person learning and finding their way in the world of friends and peers. There are dangers and pitfalls to be sure, but it might actually be harmful to put a full ban on all children and teens in your home using social media, and take away their ability to use a key tool in meeting important peers "where they are at". Strong encouragement from you as the parent or guardian to limit connection to those they know and trust may give them some needed guidance, while supporting a natural growth of independence.

 

Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner. Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life. Find more about him and his practice:

Website: http://clarowellness.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Portwood-Youth-and-Family-Counsellor/



Read more Youth & Family Dispatch articles

22625


About the Author

Andrew Portwood is a certified Masters-level counselor in Kelowna with a heart for supporting and helping children, youth and young adults. He has also helped many parents to grasp a better understanding of why their children are choosing the behaviours they have, and how to move forward in a supportive, healthy manner.

Creating authentic connection and clarity is essential in all he does, both as a counselor and in his life.

Find more about him and his practice:
Website: clarowellness.ca
Twitter: @AndrewPortwood

Contact him at The Core Centre of Health (250) 862-2673.




22870


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


Previous Stories


22885
RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)
22837