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Youth-Family-Dispatch

Dairy Queen therapy

I am continually amazed at how difficult and complex we often categorize problems that youth and children face. We are in the era where any perceived symptom or challenge one faces can be quickly looked up with Google, and instant answers (with varying degrees of accuracy) found. Too often, parents seek to immediately have a wide range of testing completed, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars, in order to get a big picture of why their son or daughter is so angry or has such a difficult time focusing in class, for example.

Without question, there are indeed many cases where children and youth are struggling with acute difficulties for which they truly require specialized help. Pediatricians in the Okanagan are very busy, and their help can be critical in helping a child to start down the road to new found health. By the same measure, there are many professionals who can share useful expertise in helping children and youth, and who are excellent at what they do. Yet, I often wonder: does finding health need to be this difficult? Are the solutions found both long-lasting and effective?

Remarkably, when we ask children and young adults for insight on their own needs and struggles, their answers can be very enlightening. One of the themes that seems to come up again and again in my practice is the wish to simply have a more frequent, healthier presence from Mom, Dad, or whoever the parental figures in a family are. When I ask the person to tell me more, I often hear of a desire to have one-on-one time with a parent, and without being on the phone, or as part of a task or chore of some sort. Our kids and youth truly just want to have some focused time where they feel heard, where Mom or Dad are not clearly just waiting for the next task or event to begin. Most of all, they want to have FUN!

One of my own favourite activities over the years has been to head over to the nearest Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. They are building one near my home in Winfield - very exciting! Almost never do I end up going alone, or without at least requests from others to bring back a treat for them as well. It is not unusual at all for me to have a tray of Blizzards to bring back home for friends and family to enjoy together. However, something almost magical can occur with ice cream: it encourages people to spend a few minutes sitting and enjoying together. In short, a simple treat can become an invitation to do something very easy but fun together, and to be emotionally present with those around us. This so often is what kids, teens, and even adults crave – and a fun treat is a shockingly powerful tool.

Last week I also engaged in an activity I had put off for too long. My seven-year-old daughter has long wanted to play "princes and princesses" with someone, and someone who was prepared to spend more than 2-3 quick minutes with her. So I surprised her by asking her to play, and was treated to a half hour of flying off to a mystical medieval palace, creating dialogue for the prince, and helping tame (not slay!) a dragon in the process. My daughter was positively glowing for that entire time, and talked about it for several days afterward! I couldn’t help but notice how nothing else seemed to matter to her for a time – she had great focused time with Dad, and her happiness with something so simple was remarkable.

A large question to ponder then arises: if our children and youth felt healthier connections with their parents or parent figures, what might the impact be on their overall health, both physical and emotional? Without a clear study seeking to answer this question in front of me, and based simply upon my own work with families over 15 years, I would hazard an educated guess that the healthier the family and the relationships within, the fewer difficulties requiring testing and visits to physicians and other professionals will generally be required. Why is this? Happier and healthier are qualities that tend to go hand-in-hand, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. If we meet our kids’ needs to feel safe, connected and loved, it is an intoxicating feeling that is therapeutic on its own, both for them AND for us.

 

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: twitter.com/AndrewPortwood



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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.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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