Seminar Date: October 26, 2016

“Technology as Parent” was the topic presented by Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CCBT, CDVC at our parent seminar series. Richard shared that over the past few years he’s been witnessing a particular trend with clients: kids spending too much time with technology looking at screens, spending less time with their family and then reporting that they are bored. Richard said that the parent’s role has diminished as technology is rewiring the developing brains of today’s children. Families are growing apart as their children spend more time with their devices, and less time interacting with their parents.

Richard said that today’s teen averages 9 hours per day of screen time. This translates out to 63 hours per week. If a teen sleeps 8 hours per night that’s another 56 hours. Throw in 40 hours devoted towards school and that’s 159 of the 168 hours in a week. So there are approximately 9 hours of life each week without electronics. Quality time with their family has decreased all the ways down to 36 minutes per week which is a little more than 5 minutes of each day.

In terms of helping to bring the family back together, Richard reminded parents that they are in charge. Parents are the ones who are responsible for creating the rules of the home. Richard suggested writing down the primary values in your family. A family statement for that lists at least three things that you want to teach your kid. Richard said that often times when he asks the kid what the family’s primary values are, they aren’t the same thing the parent thinks they are teaching. Richard encouraged the parents to build their relationship with their kids by sharing who they are. “Where did you come from? What is your story? How did you get to be where you are?” Richard said kids love to hear this stuff about their parents and that it helps them to open up about themselves.

Richard also encouraged families to have technology free dinners so that the family can practice being together without electronics. Other tips included not to make promises with your children that you don’t intend to keep. Don’t make decisions out of impulsivity. If your child has a high arousal response when their device is being taken away, it’s a good indicator of technology abuse. One interesting test is to see if your child can turn in their device at a specific time. If you ask your kid to turn in the ipad after 1 hour…can they? Richard said that the behaviors you see in your child will grow over time. Whatever they get used to, they get used to and will do.

If your child loses privileges with their device, talk with them about why it happened so that everyone can be better prepared for the future if the same behaviors come back. Everything can be a teachable moment with your family and an opportunity to explain your thinking. Richard also reminded parents that the power they have is their reaction to an event. They can’t always control what their kid will do….but parents are in control of their response.

Seminar Date: April 8, 2015

Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CDVC, CCBT explained techniques on “How To Effectively Confront Your Teen” at the Of One Mind parent seminar this week. Richard shared the importance of explaining to your children the rules you want in your home. It’s also essential that the rules of the game precede the game, so that expectations and consequences can be set and understood in advance. Richard suggested that when working an issue out with children, parents should let the child go first. Richard stressed the importance of not interrupting while the other person is speaking in order to gain the same respect when you speak. Perhaps the most important things a parent can do to help their communication when confronting their child is to stay calm and be consistent, predictable and trustworthy. This creates a safe environment for discussion. When things escalate, no one gets heard. In fact Richard told parents that they should end the discussion if the child is yelling or not behaving appropriately and only continue again when things are calm. If your child refuses to talk to you about what you need to talk about, Richard suggested not giving them what they want either, until they are ready to participate with you. In order to parent like this, the parent also needs to make sure they can keep their own emotions in check. It’s important for parents to know their own hot buttons so that they don’t over react when the child pushes them. Richard also explained how everyone is only responsible for their own behavior. Thus we should all use “I” statements to talk about our feelings, thoughts, needs, wants, and decisions. To use the word “I” is to be assertive. Richard said that the word “You” is not only more aggressive but less effective than the “I” statement. Again, because the only one I can truly control is myself and my reaction to what “you” do. Richard also spoke of the importance of explaining your thinking to your children. You don’t want them to just follow what you say. You want your children to understand your logic and thinking so that they too can make good decisions when they are not with you.

Seminar Date: July 23, 2014

Of One Mind presented a special parent seminar “Technology is the Virus: Has Your Family Been Infected?” this past Wednesday night. Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CCBT, CDVC was joined by Dr. Don Grant who specializes in both Addiction and Media Psychology.   The duo led a discussion on how cell phones, the internet and computers have become the new drug of choice for many families.

Richard and Don outlined the risk factors for a technology addiction.   People who are already suffering from anxiety, depression, or under a great deal of stress are strong candidates for developing a technology addiction. These folks may be self medicating with their technology in an attempt to escape from negative feelings.   Likewise someone who lacks proper social support may engage in social media to feel like they have friends when in fact they truly need to work on improving their social skills.

Richard and Don discussed symptoms that may show there is already a problem with technology addiction. Some questions for parents to ask themselves are:

–          Is your teen or young adult withdrawing from friends and family and/or isolating to their rooms to use technology?

–          Does your teen or young adult become angry when you ask them to shut it off?

–          Is the person not able to stop using the device and/or staying online longer than intended?

–          Does your child have trouble completing non-technological tasks such as cleaning their room or getting home work completed?

Internet addiction creates problems that are similar to other addictions in that it can affect relationships, make a person spend more time by themselves, and thus create social anxiety. Don compared technology addiction to an eating disorder in that the goal isn’t to eliminate technology, but rather to find a way for the person to use it successfully so that they still navigate the other areas of life.

Richard shared that the faster the internet speed, the more damage that can occur to a young person’s brain.   The only good news here is that most of the damage can be reversed using a variety of techniques including CBT, EMDR and DBT.

One parent asked if using the internet in 2014 is just the same as a 20th century teenager being on the phone all night long.  Don explained that phone usage is way more interactive as you actually have another human being on the other end listening to you and reacting live.  This is vastly different than using Social Media or texting where the user puts something out into the universe and then waits to see if there will be a response.

Both Richard and Don agreed that it’s a vastly different world for folks now born into this technology. A young person may grow up thinking that Skyping is just as effective as meeting in person. In fact Don shared a story about a retail store that is hiring employees not based on a resume or an interview but rather how many “followers” the person has.   This led to a discussion on the self esteem issues we all have to deal with on social media. Popularity contests and people not responding the way we want them to. Or even worse, they don’t respond at all.

Of One Mind has created an instrument to test for internet and technology addiction and is now performing assessments. For more information please contact 310-479-9065 ext 100.

Seminar Date: May 7, 2014

Of One Mind continued its spring 2014 Parent Seminar Series with “The Counter-Productivity of Helicopter Parenting: The Price of Hovering.”   Richard B. Cohen LMFT began the lecture by defining what helicopter parents are. “Helicopter Parents” are also known as “Lawn Mower Parents” because they “clear out the way” for their child.   These parents worry, get scared, then hover. Helicopter Parents are anxious parents who have difficulty with their children making mistakes or failing. Richard explained how this parenting doesn’t teach children to be responsible for themselves. Learning to be responsible is very important for children to learn because our self-esteem is connected to accomplishing something.

It may sound counter intuitive to some but we actually need to let our kids fail so that they can learn. “Teach a man to fish he’ll eat forever.”   Richard shared that there’s a natural opportunity for kids to learn when there are consequences to their behavior. Similarly, risk estimation is under developed if a child never gets to fail. If mom and dad shield all consequences, the kid is at a loss when it’s time to launch into life.

There are negative effects to helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents have kids who quit quicker. These same kids have more discomfort under stress. They have less psychological wellness, more depression and more anxiety. The difficulty in handling their depression and anxiety leads to higher prescription drug usage.

Helicopter moms are into the details of kid. Helicopter dads are into career success and status. They are the ones threatening the little league coach. Ideally we want to monitor our children without being excessive. Try to find balance as you model and consult. Guide and limit. Richard acknowledged the other extreme of permissive parents who may not monitor enough. Richard referred to this as “free range parenting.”

Richard said to teach your kid to value school. Tell them they are doing it for themselves not for you. Raise them with the idea that respect is more important than grades. Grades are for them. Respect is for you.

One interesting area of discussion occurred after Richard pointed out this same hovering can occur in relationships where someone is carrying someone else. Does the other person in the relationship become less responsible? Richard’s suggestion for raising kids or being in a relationship is to make sure you don’t over help. Don’t always give the answer.   Praise from a parent is what’s important to a child. When a parent worries, the kid might think they don’t have it together. The long term internal reward is for children to learn to do things for themselves.

And everyone can benefit. The more a kid is taught to participate in chores, the more connected they feel to the family. Richard recommended that parents set a schedule for their household. Everyone should know when they eat, sleep, clean, play and study.  Richard challenged the parents to ask themselves “What am I teaching my kid?” He asked the parents in attendance “Can your kids be disrespectful and still go out on weekend?”  If that’s the case, then what are they being taught?

Seminar Date: September 18, 2013

Of One Mind began the fall 2013 Parent Skills Seminar Series at our Barrington office this past Wednesday night.  Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CDVC, CCBT presented a wealth of information regarding “The Keys to Changing Adolescent and Young Adult Behavior.”

Richard said that changing behavior starts with respecting yourself, and that parents who are looking for their kids to like them have self esteem issues.   Richard emphasized to the parents in attendance that it’s more important their kid respects them than likes them.   This foundation is important as a child who doesn’t have respect for their family will also often not have respect for the community.

Richard used the DMV as an example of using good parenting techniques.   Richard explained how the DMV has known rules, teaches you the limits they want you to follow, has you take a test, and then enforces consequences when you don’t abide by their rules.    Richard pointed out how he likes that the DMV has consequences that educable, offering you the option of going to traffic school where they can re-teach you the rules.   And just like parents, the DMV doesn’t need your cooperation.  They don’t need you to agree.  They set the rules.  If you want to drive legally, this is what you have to do.

Richard then talked about some of the differences between changing behavior in adolescents and adults and what leverages are available to parents.   Denying privileges such as phone or computer or having friends come over to visit works for some families.   Richard said that when he takes away a privilege such as a cell phone, he is never the one to bring up when they get it back.  That’s your child’s problem.   Richard suggested asking your child questions like “Why did you lose it?  Why would you get it back?  What justifies you being disrespectful?”

In the more difficult cases of acting out behavior, it’s not until the legal process comes into effect or the kid may get sent away that behavior changes.   Richard noted that stopping the acting out and negative behavior is only the first step.  That therapy then still needs to take place to deal with the underlying issues.  We still need to get the child talking and find out what they were/are upset about.   It’s okay for your adolescent or young adult to be angry.  Their feelings are normal.  What needs to be changed is how the person deals with their feelings.  They need to learn to talk about their feelings rather than act destructively.

In the case of older children, Richard told parents that they should not have young adults living in their home if the young adult is being disrespectful.   Richard advised parents not to get into power struggles.  When things get difficult, go low and slow.  You are not in a rush.  If your child starts to yell, tell them that no one speaks to you like this and that they need to speak calmly if they want to continue the conversation.  If they cannot be calm, the parent does not need to engage at this time.   Richard reminded everyone that another person cannot have conflict with you if you don’t allow it.   You are defining over time what is okay or not okay to do with you.  If it’s not okay- walk away.

Richard said that the single most important predictor of child success is the parent’s relationship.  90% of learned complex psychological social behavior comes from modeling.   The child learns that “I can do what mom and dad do to each other.”  If mom or dad undermines the other, so can I.   Richard mentioned the different parenting styles and how it can be difficult for spouses to work together if they were each raised differently.

Richard encouraged parents to be “firm and kind” with their children.  That parents need to be willing to uphold the rules, but also have their child’s best interests at heart.   Richard told parents to pay attention to who their kids are hanging out with as peer relationships become more important in teem years.   Richard also reminded parents the importance of doing what they say they will do to build trust in their relationship with their child.

Our next Barrington parent seminar will be “Launching Your Young Adult Child” on October 2, 2013 at 7pm.  To reserve your seat please call 310-479-9065 ext 113.

Thank you.

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