Gratitude Helps Promote Happiness
By Lisa Lipton, MFT
Living from gratitude and being of service leads to more authentic happiness, which is what we all want for our children. We as parents can help instill these qualities by role modeling how to express appreciation and by demonstrating acts of kindness, while encouraging our children to do the same.
There is an organization called the Sparrow Club that links schools with a child struggling with various health conditions. The school raises money to help the families of these sparrows pay for medical services.
Highland Elementary School, in Bend Oregon, had a way of inspiring their young students to rally behind their sparrow. They were taught how to be in gratitude for their blessings while extending a helping hand to someone in need.
Their sparrow that year was a two-year-old boy who did not take his first steps until 19 months of age and was not speaking yet. He fell off the growth charts at three months old and was diagnosed with failure to thrive. This boy struggled to tolerate most foods and would often vomit after eating. The doctors speculated about various diagnoses such as cystic fibrosis and celiac disease. His parents often felt powerless when the specialists could not provide answers to why he was not growing adequately. But they did not feel alone, they had the support of these students.
The school raised over $4,000 to help this family. One particular 4th-grade girl wrote the sparrow a note telling him that she wanted him to have her birthday money. In lieu of gifts this year she asked that her family and friends donate money to her school’s sparrow. In her words you felt this young girl’s sense of gratitude. She was not concerned about acquiring the latest electronic gadget or fashion accessory. Her parents managed to instill in her the important qualities of generosity, kindness and appreciation.
As I look at this framed note that hangs on my child’s wall, I feel grateful. The sparrow I have been talking about is my son.
Jace is now 6 years old, attending 1st grade special day class at Melinda Heights Elementary School in Orange County California. He loves to run and can talk your ear off. I feel so much gratitude for the students at Highland Elementary School, to the Sparrow Club and to this endearing young girl. My holiday wish is that all schools sponsor a sparrow and help teach our children how to be kind, caring and appreciative!
Your Teenage Daughter’s Behavior:
Developmentally Appropriate or a Bigger Problem?
By Lisa Lipton, MFT
As a parent to a preadolescent or adolescent girl, do you ever ask yourself: What happened to my sweet, kind, and happy little girl? Do you wonder: Why is she so moody and defiant? Why is she so disrespectful? What happened to her self-esteem?
Adolescence is a particularly difficult and challenging time in your young daughter’s life. She tends to push you away as she attempts to become more independent and develop her own sense of identity. She faces so many obstacles while learning to navigate her world.
Being accepted by her peers becomes one of her biggest priorities. You hope as a parent that your daughter has good friends, ones that make healthy choices and value themselves. Even one negative friend can influence your own daughter to make poor choices. If your daughter attracts to the “negative crowd,” she can quickly become entrenched in the negative peer culture, whereby it is commonplace to use drugs and act out sexually to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Your daughter could even have some good friends and do well in school, but might still struggle with feeling anxious or depressed. Your daughter might lack a sense of self-worth and value.
These negative feelings often lead to acting out behaviors. Does she yell at you and call you names? Does she ignore your rules and undermine your parental authority? Does she show a blatant disregard for other family members? Is she sneaky or dishonest? Does she lie, cheat or steal? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions your daughter is most likely struggling with this developmental stage. These are red flags that let you know that your daughter might need additional help.
Your daughter might need more support even if she isn’t displaying these more obvious behaviors. Many of your daughters will follow the rules at home, school and in society, but quietly struggle with their insecurities and self-doubt. Numerous young ladies at this age develop poor body images, which can lead to eating disorders. Certain girls at this age resort to self-harm behaviors, such as “cutting” in attempts to manage their intense emotional feelings. By the time you actually learn that your daughter is struggling with these more secretive negative behaviors, they are often more entrenched and difficult to treat.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and have worked with adults, teenage-girls and families for the past 10 years. I worked in a therapeutic boarding school for girls, ages 10-16, for 3 years.
It was a very difficult and agonizing choice for all the parents who brought their troubled daughters to the residential placement facility. But they recognized that their child needed more help. Their daughter was at risk due to her poor choices and could not be successful living at home, thus needed a bigger intervention. Parents often will exhaust every other possible alternative before considering this option.
Such programs usually have 1 to 2 year lengths of stay. At a cost of approximately $6,000-$9,000 per month, this is quite a costly price to pay to get your daughter the help she needs. Shorter programs, such as Wilderness programs, often last approximately 30-90 days at a cost of approximately $300-$500 per day. Many of the students I worked with were referred from the Wilderness Programs, thus these girls’ parents paid for both the Wilderness Program and for their 1 to 2 year stay at the Therapeutic Boarding School.
Parents will make this emotional and financial sacrifice because they love their child and want their daughter to be that sweet, kind and happy girl again.
Don’t ignore the warning signs and hope that they will resolve on their own. Waiting to intervene can be very costly to both you and your daughter. Get your daughter the help she needs to navigate the many challenges she faces. Being proactive in accessing outpatient therapy and other community resources can help spare you from having to make the agonizing decision to send your daughter to a residential placement.
Teenage Summer Boredom: Parents Beware
By Lisa Lipton, MFT
Last summer I was at my local park with my two year old son and came across a group of teenage boys and girls. They seemed harmless enough; clean-cut, dressed appropriately, respectful to the park property and other people at the park. At the time I was working at a therapeutic boarding school for girls ages 10-16, as a Therapist, so I tended to pay close attention to teenage behavior, both out of curiosity and for the benefit of gaining additional professional knowledge. Things started out innocent enough…the girls playing on the swings and chatting…the boys and girls talking in a group. But it didn’t seem to take very long for the novelty of the park to ware off…and boredom to set in.
I could hear them trying to come up with some things to do…walk to the store (“My feet hurt”) Hang out at your house (“My mom will be home”)…ideas were quickly shot down for one reason or another. I particularly played close attention to the girls, who actually seemed quite passive during this conversation, as the boys discussed a plan of action. One of the boys got on his cell phone and called a friend. Excitedly, he let his other friends know that the friend on the phone agreed to meet them at the park and had some dope for them all to smoke. They found a solution to ward off their “summer boredom.”
I watched the group, hoping that one of the girls would object to this idea or make an excuse to head home…none of them did. They appeared easily willing to go along with whatever the boys decided, just happy to be included and to have something to do with their spare time.
“Studies have shown that teens with too much free time in the summer are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes than those who are engaged in structured activities,” according to Susan N. Wilson, MS Ed., who currently serves as senior advisor to the Answer sex education program. June is the most common month for teens to lose their virginity according to University of Memphis professor Dr. Martin Levin. The sociologist refers to this phenomenon as the “summer effect.”
Help your teenager ward off “summer boredom” and avoid the “summer effect” by finding structured activities for him or her to do. Structure, rules and boundaries are very important to all children, especially teenagers who are constantly pushing up against them. She will feel safe and cared for when you establish and enforce a consistent set of rules and consequences for rule violations. Your child wants this even when she says things to the contrary… “All the other girls are allowed to have boyfriends.” It’s their job developmentally to fight for more independence…but they are often relieved when you step-in to protect them from potentially life altering mistakes.
It might be legal in most states to leave a child 12 years old or older home alone for periods of time, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Many families are experiencing financial difficulties due to the poor economy, so it might be tempting to cut costs by letting their fourteen year old daughter stay home alone rather than pay for a summer camp program. Unsupervised children are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of “summer boredom.” The money you save in the short-term can be a lot more costly in the long run, both financially and emotionally.
After working with the girls at the therapeutic boarding school and witnessing that event in the park, I felt compelled to provide a supervised program for girls ages 11-15 in our community, both during the summer and after school during the school year. My program is called Girl Spirit, which recognizes that “she matters” and strives to help girls realize their own true self worth. By providing a safe place and a positive peer culture, Girl Spirit enables girls to learn to love and value themselves.
For more information about how Girl Spirit’s services can help your daughter and you, please feel free to contact me by calling (949) 310-2311 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to speaking with you.