Divorce and Children: How to Help Your Kids Through This Transition, with Jessica Burrows
Divorce doesn’t just affect the two parties involved – the individuals’ families and friends must also deal with the stress, confusion, and changes that come with spousal separation. This is even more true for the children of divorcing parents. When two parents get divorced, kids’ lives get turned upside down. The things that once provided stability and assurance no longer seem secure, so it is crucial that parents consider their children’s needs throughout every step of the divorce process.
At Burrows Law Group, we place a high priority on the mental and emotional well-being of people going through divorce – especially children. That’s why we have an in-house counselor, Jessica Burrows, who is available to our clients to assist with guiding and advising clients on how to protect their children during the divorce proceedings.
Jessica has a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Dallas Baptist University, with an emphasis on adolescents who were victims of sexual abuse. Currently, she is working on her Ph.D. in Family Studies at Texas Woman’s University, where her focus is on life transitions and how the family impacts the success of overcoming difficult changes. Jessica is also the owner and Clinic Director of NextGen Counseling, PLLC in Flower Mound, a center that focuses on teens and young adult mental health services. Jessica’s warm approach to therapy helps build an environment where healing from divorce and other struggles can take place. We spoke to her about how children are affected by divorce and what parents can do to make things easier on their kids.
IN WHAT WAYS ARE CHILDREN MOST AFFECTED BY DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS? Young children often struggle to understand why they must go between two homes. They may worry that if their parents can stop loving one another, that someday their parents may stop loving them. As a therapist that specializes in working with young children, I see extensive anxiety and stress during divorce proceedings that affect their academic functioning. Grade school children may worry that the divorce is their fault. They may fear they misbehaved, or they may assume they did something wrong. Teenagers may become quite angry about a divorce and the changes it creates. They may blame one parent for the dissolution of the marriage, or they may resent one or both parents for the upheaval in the family.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO PROTECT THEIR CHILD FROM THE PAIN OF DIVORCE OR HELP THEM WORK THROUGH IT? First and foremost, co-parent peacefully. The most important thing that parents can do is to avoid disparaging remarks towards one another or about one another in front of the children. Talking negatively about a parent while the other parent is not there is very confusing and damaging to a child. Speaking in a kind manner towards one another while the children are present can go a long way in helping children adjust and feel safe during divorce proceedings. Avoid putting kids in the middle – asking children to choose which parent they like better or involving them in the decisions of where they stay can be very confusing, and children are more likely to experience depression and anxiety as a result.
WHAT SIGNS OF STRESS SHOULD A PARENT BE LOOKING FOR? Academic changes, behavioral changes, and changes in sleep patterns can be the first signs of stress in children.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A PARENT WHO HAS A TUMULTUOUS OR BITTER RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR SPOUSE? Research suggests that children develop higher self-worth and perform better academically when parents display positive communication, parental warmth, and low levels of conflict. It is common for parents who are bitter with their spouses to express their bitterness to their children. I would advise the parent to try to maintain composure and peace when around their children and to seek out counseling to process their anger or resentment towards their previous spouse.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR HOW A DIVORCED COUPLE SHOULD APPROACH CO-PARENTING? One word: together. The more parents can work together, the better the outcome overall. Using technology as a means of communication can be beneficial. When divorced, an organized platform such as Our Family Wizard can help parents work cohesively.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A CHILD WHOSE PARENTS ARE GETTING DIVORCED? I would tell them that it is not their fault, that they are loved by both their parents, and that they are enough. I would encourage them to talk with their parents about their feelings.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU WANT PARENTS TO KNOW ABOUT DIVORCE, CHILD CUSTODY, AND ITS EFFECTS ON THEIR CHILDREN? Divorce, child custody, and their effects on children are often misunderstood. Children can be affected in ways that they will carry with them throughout their life. It can affect their own future relationships, their successes later in life, and it can have lasting effects on their emotional wellbeing. Children should be protected at all costs. The less they see conflict, the better off they will be.
Parenting Advice and Tips for the College Application Process - By Alyssa Evans and Jessica Burrows
It is that time of year when the pressures start to mount, and the college application process begins. Applying to college can be a stressful time for the whole family and for many it can induce anxiety and conflict. There are major decisions, deadlines, and high expectations associated with the college application process. Can you imagine facing this without becoming stressed out?
Here is a list of tips and tools to assist families and their seniors mental, physical, and emotional needs so they can make the most of their senior year:
In summary, it is okay for young adults to need additional guidance and a little push to make the deadlines. Helping seniors stay organized and manage their time can be essential to their success. Take a deep breath parents you are doing a great job!
NextGen Counseling, PLLC located in Flower Mound has a heart and passion for assisting young adults in the transition to college. Our team of fully qualified therapists would love to talk to you or your loved ones struggling with anxiety, depression, life transitions, self injury, suicidal ideation, grief and more. Call us today
School is back in session, and with class starting back, students (and their parents!) can face many different challenges. Here are a few tips for parents to help their kids be successful this year:
Erin Crandall Payne, MS, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor at NextGen Counseling in Flower Mound. She has been in practice for 9 years and specializes in working with older children, teens, and young adults. Erin will be co-facilitating a self-esteem group for teens on September 7, 2019. For more information about this upcoming group, please contact NextGen Counseling at 940-228-2171 or visit us on the web at www.nextgencounseling.org
Back to School
Although our children may moan and groan about the end of summer vacation, for most children, the beginning of the school year is an exciting time, full of promise. Each new school year entails new teachers, new classmates, and new possibilities. However with all this newness comes uncertainty and sometimes uncertainty can introduce stress and anxiety.
Signs of stress and anxiety can be displayed in a range of symptoms from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms of back-to-school stress and anxiety may include "butterflies in the stomach", spending a great deal of time picking out “just the right outfit” for the first day of school, being full of questions, or staying more quiet than usual. More moderate and physical symptoms might include having trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, restlessness or irritability. Severe symptoms might involve tears, tantrums, or even refusal to go to school. Identifying the source of these stressors and equipping your child’s coping efforts in order to effectively overcome these stressors is the best way to help your child successfully navigate the start of the new school year.
These are just a few steps and tools that will help your child cope with the back to school blues:
Recognize and Acknowledge their Worries- By just letting your child know that you recognize and understand their worries can automatically alleviate some of the stress and worry they are experiencing.
Make Plans for Tough Situations- If your child is worried about a particular situation you can help your child figure out a plan for handling it. For instance, if your child says, "What if I have no one to play with at recess?" ask, "What could you do in that situation?" and then assist them in brainstorming solutions or offer suggestions. With young children, it may help to point out that teachers and even the principal will be available to help. With older children, you may want to emphasize that other kids will be dealing with the same problems.
Provide as much predictability and control as possible-This could mean visiting a new school before opening day, finding a photo of your child's new teacher on the school website, or printing out a floor plan of the school to let your child plan a route between classes. By providing predictability your child will begin to feel empowered and the stress will gradually go away.
Overall, the most important thing you can do to ease back-to-school worries is to share your confidence in your child's ability to cope. Children tend to look to their parents to help gauge, "How dangerous is this new situation?" If you are calmly optimistic that your child will manage the back-to-school transition, it makes it easier for your child to be optimistic too and overcome their back to school blues.
Jessica Burrows is a Licensed Professional Counselor who currently specializes in teens and adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, and life transitions. She is the owner of NextGen Counseling, PLLC located in Flower Mound. We serve areas of Lantana, Flower Mound, Argyle, and Flower Mound. For more information regarding the services she or her team may provide for you or your family please call 940-228-2171 or visit the website www.nextgencounseling.org.
What Makes Us Unique?
We have been doing a lot of processing and thinking about what people want in a counseling center. What we have found to be the most important element is a safe and welcoming environment. Here at NextGen we love meeting our client's where they are and strive to be very transparent in our own personal struggles and triumphs. I personally (Jessica Burrows, MA, LPC, CFLE) will never claim to be perfect and often find myself in an area of weakness and struggling to listen to the advice I often give to my clients. I am open about my struggles with my clients but not in a way that is overwhelming. I have always wanted to be a person people can trust and one of my personal goals is to accept and reflect my true and authentic personality with my clients. I love what I do, I am passionate about life change and enjoy the opportunities I receive daily with my clients to watch them overcome obstacles and learn to love themselves again. NextGen truly is a place that works to help our clients walk in free of judgment and feel welcome because we too would want that same feeling if we were walking into a new journey in our lives. If you don't have the strength to call our office just yet... please remember that we are willing and waiting for you to make that next step. Don't hesitate, we only have one life and every moment counts.
Adolescence is Full of Ups and Downs; Counseling Can Help
Although teens may have a negative view of counseling, it has many significant and positive benefits. Most importantly, teen counseling provides adolescents the opportunity to work through their problems and stressors in a safe and healthy way with a trusted professional. Below are more notable benefits of counseling for teenagers.
Development of Stress Management Skills
Usually, adolescence is the first time in someone’s life that they begin to experience significant stress. Teens face more pressure from teachers, parents and peers than young children do, and this increased pressure can lead to serious stress. Plus, teenagers are also typically learning new skills, developing new friendships and maybe even dating, all of which can be stressful. Counseling provides teens the space to talk openly with a trusted adult about their stressors, and it helps teens develop healthy stress management skills. Learning to handle the stress of school, interpersonal relationships, family issues and employment is much easier when done alongside a trusted professional.
Early Detection of Mental Illness
Teen counseling provides the opportunity to detect signs of mental illness early on in life, which makes treatment and management of these illnesses much easier. Teen counselors are trained to spot the warning signs of mental illnesses like mood disorders, anxiety disorders and personality disorders, all of which can cause serious impairment if left untreated. Luckily, if these illnesses are caught early on and treatment is started promptly, adolescents will learn how to effectively manage their mental illness through coping skills and can live healthy lives.
Healing from Trauma
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 5% of teens have developed post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a traumatic experience. Luckily, counselors can help teens work through their trauma in order to find peace and healing. Common types of therapy used to combat post-traumatic stress disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Through counseling, teenagers can learn to heal from their trauma and begin to lead lives that are significantly healthier and less stressful.
Development of Healthy Coping Skills
Adolescence can be a difficult time for many teens, especially those who deal with major life changes, the loss of a loved one or bullying, but counseling can help. Teenagers who go to counseling will learn the coping skills necessary to handle life’s biggest challenges. Plus, teens who attend counseling can develop everyday coping skills that allow them to be more present and live each day to the fullest.
NextGen Teen Counseling
Whether you are stressed about school, dealing with the loss of a loved one, looking to heal from a traumatic event or seeking treatment for a mental illness, counseling is an overall positive experience for teens. At NextGen Counseling, each of our counselors specialize in working with teens and are trained in handling issues that are specific to teens, so we can help you overcome any problems you may be facing. Give us a call today for your initial consultation!
GETTING HOLIDAY STRESS UNDER CONTROL
by Susan Neuhalfen
There are no two ways about it – the holidays cause stress for all of us in one form or another. In addition to our already overwhelming day-to-day lives, we have to do the holiday balancing act, scheduling parties and events, buying food and gifts and still managing the everyday things that are already enough to fill our days.
Signs that you have reached your limit this holiday season may include muscle tension, headaches, fatigue and depression. Jessica Burrows, MA, LPC, CFLE and Clinic Director of NextGen Counseling says “the first key to getting a grip on the holidays is to ask yourself why you are stressed”.
“Everyone’s situation is different,” said Burrows. “Sometimes it’s family stress, sometimes it’s social stress and sometimes it’s something completely different.”
Burrows says it’s best to start by asking yourself why you are stressed. Write down everything that is causing the stress in a list. Oftentimes, we get flooded because we’re thinking about everything at the same time and it becomes overwhelming. Breaking it down one issue at a time helps us to solve each on its own and take some of the stress away.
Once you have the list, write down the actions you need to take to work through them. Then simply address them and mark them off. Don’t multi-task your problems.
According to Burrows, the biggest complaint she hears during the holiday season is about family. Though many see family on a daily or weekly basis, there are other family members that aren’t regularly seen, except during the holidays. In addition, blending families is also a challenge, especially after divorce or loss.
“Usually we tuck our family drama under the rug because we don’t see these relatives and we can avoid it,” said Burrows. “You have to address these problems in order to get through the holidays.“
For many, the holidays also stir up painful memories of loss. Though loss affects us all year around, during the holidays it seems especially difficult. Whether it is due to death, divorce, or estrangement, we must be cognizant that others are suffering.
“You have to remember that though the holidays are a joyful time for many, for some they simply aren’t,” said Burrows. “We have to be sympathetic to that with others.”
There are also the financial and social pressures of gifts, food, entertaining, decorations, eating out and more. Sometimes we get so caught up in the details, we forget what the season is really about.
Stick with the Staples
“First things first, keep it simple,” said Burrows.
People go over the top for the holidays causing extra stress. Food, presents and decorations can all be simplified without unnecessary extravagance. Getting caught up in the holiday spirit can cause emotional decisions. Keep it simple. This isn’t a contest.
Budget & Plan
Budget for your food and remember that the basics are great for everyone. Make a list now and watch the circulars for coupons and sales. Do a trial run on the table to make sure you have enough serving plates, utensils and hot pads.Budget for your presents. Again, this isn’t a competition. Keep it simple but memorable.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having everyone bring a dish not only takes stress off you, it gives your guests an opportunity to introduce new dishes to the meal. Kids also love to be needed and try new things (especially younger ones). Come together as a family and work together. Have a wrapping party with your spouse – kind of like a date night. Also, have someone come in and clean (even if it’s just this one time) to help you prepare for your guests.
One solution to family issues, according to Burrows, is to come up with new traditions. Trying something new cannot only break the ice with family members, but it keeps others from “pining” for the old.
Here’s an example: instead of watching movies or television, try playing a board game or dominoes or even a card game. Make sure that the game is inclusive and it’s something that appeals to everyone. Even if someone isn’t participating as a player, it’s fun to watch the other players’ reactions. It’s a great way to have “face time” with one another and create some great memories.
Take Time for Yourself
Take a deep breath and make sure you take care of yourself. If you’re not feeling your best, you’re already behind the eight ball when you get stressed. Exercise, mani-pedis and getting plenty of sleep go a long way to helping you feel better. Finally, treat yourself but watch your diet. Don’t go crazy.
Burrows said that one thing that she urges her patients to do is to embrace the moment and use their senses. The smells, the sights, the conversations and singing—all of the things that make up the holidays—take them in and make the most of the memories.
“Savor the moment,” said Burrows. “ You’ll never get this time back, so make the most of it. “
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READING BETWEEN THE TEENAGE LINES
The transition from childhood into adulthood can be overwhelming at times for the entire family. The inquisitive little child that used to follow you around asking all sorts of questions about life seems to have discovered google and the questions have run dry. Instead of asking if you need help cooking dinner, they just want to know if they can skip the family dinner because it is cramping their own schedule.
If any of this seems familiar… take a deep breath. Instead of getting caught up in the emotions of teenage exploration for independence and feeling left behind, become a part of it. Start by giving more and more freedom in order for them to mature. I hear story after story of how teenagers graduate from high school and head straight to college only to have too much freedom too fast. They are not familiar with the maturity it takes to handle so much freedom and they fail or get caught in the wrong situation too often. By slowly allowing your child to experience independence they will be more adept to handle the stress and freedom that goes along with college and life after high school. However let the teen know that with freedom comes responsibility and that they will be held accountable for their actions. This does not mean you should hang the freedom over their head but rather use the freedom as a building opportunity to grow closer to your child.
NextGen Counseling, PLLC specializes in teens and young adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, and self-injury. For more information regarding the services we may provide for you or your loved one please call 940-228-2171 or visit www.nextgencounseling.org
CONFESSIONS OF A GAMER WIFE
I will not try to pass myself off as an avid gamer. Although I would be lying if I said I had never killed a creeper or visited the Nether in Minecraft, or that I had never been on a quest as a Blood elf in World of Warcraft, most of the information I have about video games is through friends and, even more so, my husband.
I will admit it. It takes adjusting to be in a relationship, let alone a marriage, with a gamer. There are nights when raiding with friends takes priority over time together, housework is done once the next achievement has been completed (which can be anywhere between 10 minutes to 2 hours, fyi) and explosions and other sound effects in the middle of the night are all too common. In my work as a counselor with teens and adolescents, concerns about video game use has become a more and more common parental complaint and parents express worry about the mental and behavioral consequences of gaming.
Despite a lot of information coming out about the dangers of gaming, there is actually a lot of research out there about the benefits of allowing your kids to have some time on the computer or using their gaming console. Here are some of the main ones:
Increased cognitive functioning. Research has made connections between gaming and the improvement of multiple cognitive skills, including hand-eye coordination, mental flexibility, attention, working memory, and quick decision-making skills. It makes sense when you think about it. You have to be able to move precisely and make decisions quickly to attack your opponent or reach your achievement.
Increased Social Interaction. Gaming provides a way for teens to bond with their friends. Gaming for many serves as a social hobby and otherwise shy or awkward teens have better luck building friendships through the gaming world. Now, side of caution: Teens are bound to meet new people online through games, and it is very important to educate and monitor gaming use to make sure that he or she is being safe.
Stress Relief and Coping. Video gaming serves a pastime to blow off steam at the end of a long day. Through gaming, you are able to engage in a story outside of yourself, allowing you to take a break from daily stress, and gain personal satisfaction through reaching the next level, completing a quest, or killing a difficult boss. From my experience with my husband, gaming allows him to unwind from work at the end of the day so that he can be more present in the evening together.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that any hobby or past-time can have risks when it becomes an over-indulgence or a means to avoid underlying issues. And, while I just got done arguing for the benefits of gaming, it is important that adolescents maintain healthy boundaries with their games. Here are some tips for parents to help their kids maintain a healthy relationship with their video games:
Get educated on games. In order to know if your child’s activities online are safe, you need to know what is out there and which games are better suited for your child than others. This may mean watching your child play, researching and reading reviews on certain games, or maybe even spending some time playing these games yourself. Don’t assume games are too violent or dangerous until you’ve had a chance to check them out yourself and monitor your child’s reaction to playing. Some games can be educational, so take time to seek out games that may serve as an opportunity to learn new skills.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Support your child or teen’s desire to play while also educating them on safe internet practices such as what information should and shouldn’t on gaming profiles, cyberbullying, and risks of talking with people online. If you are unsure where to seek out this information, there is great information out there on many sites, including NSTeen.org and NationalCAC.org. I also encourage parents to talk to their teens about their reasons for playing games. Is it just about fun? Is it a social outlet? Is it because they are having problems at home or school that they don’t know how to deal with? Understanding reasons behind gaming can help you to determine if the hobby is a healthy one.
Watch for signs of bigger problems. Certain behaviors and attitudes can signal that your child or teen does not have a healthy relationship with games. Watch for the following symptoms:
· Isolating from friends or family in order to spend more time playing.
· Becoming angry or aggressive when told to turn off games
· Declining performance in other areas of life, such as school, because of time spent gaming
· Refusal to allow parental access to computer or gaming activity
· Increased signs of sadness and withdrawal
Monitor Computer Use. Along with educating your children about safe gaming practices, I also encourage that parents monitor their child’s internet and gaming use. Gaming should be an enjoyable pastime, but not interfere with your child or teen’s ability to complete other tasks. Be willing to limit game time when necessary and watch out for the sites or games that your child is playing. Keep an eye out for who your child may be talking to as well. I encourage parents who find their children not using the internet or games appropriately to have a calm discussion with your child. Use this as an opportunity to educate your child and support healthy game use.
Use Games as a Bonding Experience. Last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to sit in front of the TV or computer and play games with your kid. Use video games as a way to connect with your child in a fun way and support healthy competition and skill-building as a family.
About the Author: Erin Crandall, MA, LPC. Erin has a special passion for working with adolescents and adults struggling with technology addictions, marital/couple issues, and meeting her clients where they are in life. Call today at 940-228-2171 to schedule a free phone consultation with Erin.
Positioning Parents: How to help your children grasp their dreams.
Thinking back to when I was a child, I can’t help but think about all the dreams I had while I was growing up. I remember that I always wanted to be like Super Woman and save the day or like Neil Armstrong and walk on the moon. Dreams were my playground that helped me realize my true potential in life. If no one dreams then how can we grow as a society and individuals. Where will the cure for cancer come from if no one has dreams? Thus the first step as parents is to ask your children the details of their dreams. It is so easy to pass on our own desires to our children and forget to listen to their aspirations. Thus the second step and the most important step is to be there for your children and give them the support they so desperately need without altering their imaginations. Without support, dreams never come into fruition. Therefore listen to your children’s hopes and support their dreams. Through active dream building your children will grow confident in their own imaginations and reach for the stars. Therefore, with love, patience, and advice you will help turn your children’s dreams into realities.