Keeping our Kids Safe

Hi Parents,

I’m working on a project on one of my other blogs, and thought I’d post a link to it here.

Background checks are an important tool for today’s parents.  Go to that link to read my blog about how they can be used to better insure that our kids are in safe hands while in the care of others.  Background checks are accurate (unlike a good portion of what we read on the Internet) and they are easy and inexpensive.   Go here if you’d like to access the Colorado bureau of Investigation’s website and background check page.

Bill Strong Denver

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

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What is your Family’s Weekend Activity?

Hi Parents!

Bill Strong Denver Therapist here!   Some time ago I wrote about the benefits of healthy family rituals.  Go here to read that post.

We as a family are very active on the time that we have to spare, and do our best to carve out time when there doesn’t seem to be any.  I believe in the research that basically says “The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together”…or as I say in my Family Rafting Blog, The Family That Rafts Together, Laughs Together!”.  Go here to see my Family Rafting Blog.

Being an active family doesn’t have to involve something as intense or time-consuming as White Water Rafting, as the picture above indicates.  A family bike ride, game night, movie night (though I like to advocate for interactive family activities), family walks, “Adventure Day” (where the family tries something new)…all of these ideas bring the family together and creates closeness.   You can do these things on a budget and even when there is a time crunch.

Being active together or spending time together creates closeness.  I’ve worked with a lot of teens over the years who say they “can’t wait” until they can move out of the house.  Or they say their family isn’t close or enjoyable to be around.  This is a complex issue and there are some elements that come naturally as teens branch out away from their family (Separation and Individuation).   Having said that, if a family’s culture is determined by how we interact and spend time together (go here to read more about the development of a healthy family culture).

So…what are you doing as a family this weekend?  We are going to be busy and there is a time crunch.  The weather is nice in Denver, Colorado…do I’m going to try and play some golf tomorrow.  Then we are going for a drive up into the foothills for a family hike and outdoor dinner.

Let’s be healthy and have fun as a family!

Bill Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

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More on Video Games

Hi Parents!

Thanks for all the emails on “How much is too much” where I discussed just how much screen time is excessive.  Go here to read that post.

The following email asked a good question:  “Thanks for the article about just how much time I should be allowing my teenager to play video games.  Another problem is I’m not sure what the rating system is for video games.  Do you know anything about that and what is appropriate for my 14 year old son?“.

I think this is a great question and one I’m asked often (as well as a similar question for movie ratings).

Here’s my basic feedback.  The rating system is pretty simple.  Each game is rated for it’s content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).  The ESRB is an impartial board who reviews games for the following:

  • The Game’s Alcohol Reference – Re the games reference to images of alcoholic use and beverages
  • The Game’s Animated Blood – Re the game’s discolored unrealistic depictions of blood
  • The Game’s Blood Content – Re the game’s depictions of blood
  • The Game’s Blood and Gore Content – Re the game’s depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
  • The Game’s Cartoon Violence – Re the game’s violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
  • The Game’s Comic Mischief – Re the game’s depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
  • The Game’s Crude Humor – Re the game’s depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
  • The Game’s Drug Reference – Re the game’s reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
  • The Game’s Fantasy Violence – Re the game’s violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
  • The Game’s Intense Violence Content – Re the game’s graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death
  • The Game’s Language – Re the game’s mild to moderate use of profanity
  • The Game’s Lyrics – Re the game’s mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
  • The Game’s Mature Humor Content – Re the game’s depictions or dialogue involving “adult” humor, including sexual references
  • The Game’s Nudity Content – Re the game’s graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
  • The Game’s Partial Nudity Content – Re the game’s brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
  • The Game’s Real Gambling Ability – Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • The Game’s Sexual Content – Re the game’s non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
  • The Game’s Sexual Themes – Re the game’s references to sex or sexuality
  • The Game’s Sexual Violence – Re the game’s depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
  • The Game’s Simulated Gambling – Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • The Game’s Strong Language – Re the game’s explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
  • The Game’s Strong Lyrics – Re the game’s explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
  • The Game’s Strong Sexual Content – Re the game’s explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
  • The Game’s Suggestive Themes – Re the game’s mild provocative references or materials
  • The Game’s Tobacco Reference – Re the game’s reference to and/or images of tobacco products
  • The Game’s Use of Drugs – Re the game’s content about the consumption or use of illegal drugs
  • The Game’s Use of Alcohol – Re the game’s content about the consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • The Game’s Use of Tobacco – The consumption of tobacco products
  • The Game’s Violence – Re the game’s scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
  • The Game’s Violent References – Re the game’s references to violent acts

The above is what the board looks for and rates the game accordingly. The ratings go from:

esrb ratings symbol for ec games EARLY CHILDHOOD
Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
esrb ratings symbol for E-rated games EVERYONE
Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
esrb ratings symbol for e10 games EVERYONE 10+
Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
esrb ratings symbol for T-rated games TEEN
Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
esrb ratings symbol for m-rated games MATURE
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
esrb ratings symbol for AO-rated games ADULTS ONLY
Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
esrb ratings symbol for rp rating RATING PENDING
Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.)

I think the ratings look pretty simple.  What I have parents ask is something like:  “My son says that the A rating is meaningless and that he plays those games all the time at his friend’s house.  Should I allow him to own these games?” Or even something like this:  “My son wants me to get him a video game for his birthday, but it’s rated Teen and he’s 7, what do you think”.

Just like movies, I think the rating system should stand for something.  No I don’t think that a teen should be playing an M rated game, any more than a 12 year old should be watching an R rated movie.  What good comes from that?  What happens is that kids pressure their parents into agreeing to a video game or movie that most know is too mature for their kid, but they don’t want to say “No” to their child and have a big argument.

Let the child or teen argue with you.  If you’re parenting to avoid arguments, your kid really has your number!  If worse comes to worse, just say “Wow, it seems like the X-Box is really becoming a problem, perhaps we’d be better off without it”.

Let’s let the rating system count for something!  No your 15 year old should not be playing a video game with (A rating) “intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”  Tell him “not at this house” if he says “I play it over at Frank’s house all the time”.  In fact you may want to call Frank’s parents to see if they know he’s playing intensely violent or sexual games.

I advocate for keeping things simple.  If the rating says it’s too much for your kid’s age, let’s just go with that.  Let common sense prevail!

Happy Parenting!

Bill Strong, LCSW

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

 

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How much “Screen Time” is too much?

Hello Again Parents!

Bill Strong Denver Counseling here!

I’m often asked by parents about the use of video games, computer use, television time…or what we call “Screen Time”.  Just how much is too much?  You’ll hear very different opinions on this, that’s for sure.  One thing is certain; the use of electronic media and games has changed and increased significantly over the years.  And as you might think, video games aren’t going anywhere and most kids play them.  A recent study showed that 97% of kids play video games! (go here)

How much time is too much time?

As you monitor your child or teen’s use of video games what are you seeing?  More than an hour a day (probably)…two hours, three or even more.  Some male teenagers that I work with tell me that they are playing 4-6 hours on school days and 8-12 hours on weekends.   If that sounds outrageous keep in mind that the teens I’m referring to see their video game habits as normal, and “social” due to the newer games which all players to link-up with friends to play team games.

Neurologists remind us that children between the age of 5-15 are in a physiological stage that neural pathways of the brain are being formed.  The “plasticity of the brain” at this stage is very significant to the child’s development.  There is contradictory research about what video games do at this stage, but there is significant concern that game overuse “re-wires” the child’s brain.   Go here for a great article on potential effects that video games have on the brain.

So…”do you have friends” takes a whole new meaning.  I just had a mother point out to her son that his “friends” were all online (nothing new here) and that his out-of-school social interactions are limited to video gaming online.

Current research shows significant concerns about excessive video gaming.  There are studies that show increased attention problems with excessive video gaming (go here).   Whether it’s a desensitization to violence, attention problems, or more physiological problems, I think the prudent parent is aware of how much screen time their child engages in, and limits overuse.

I’m asking my clients and readers to look closely at this.  Is your child or teen staying up late to play games?  Is he/she fairly balanced in their life, ie school, social, physical/artistic activities?  Or are you seeing that video games are a primary part of your child’s life?

Everyone will give you a different answer about how much is too much.  Me?  I say only an hour a night on school nights (after homework and chores are completed).   On weekends I’d suggest no more than 3-4 hours of screen time, which still sounds like a lot to me, but doesn’t to most male teens I know.   I never want screen time to cause a significant loss of sleep.

That’s a start.  Feel free to email me your thoughts and experiences so I can include them in my next blog.  Go here to contact me.

William Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

 

 

 

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Hello Again Parents! How the Yelling Program working?

Hi Parents!

Bill Strong Denver Counselor here! I wanted to follow up on the Yelling Program I mentioned in my last post.  Go here to read about the idea:  Bill Strong Denver Therapist on Decreasing Yelling at home.

As we enjoy having our kiddos home for Christmas break, we often also see tensions rise. Keeping the kids busy can help decrease hostile interactions, but as you know we as parents can only do so much.

Remember that being “Kind” to each other is one of the 3 Family Rules I advocate for.  Go here to read more about the 3 Family Rules: Bill Strong Denver Counseling on Healthy Family Traits. Being “Kind” is a family value that I think we can all agree is important.  Having said that, how many of us remember kindness being a predominant characteristic within the family we were raised?  Were siblings kind to each other in your family?  How about your parents with each other and to the kids?  What will your kids remember about growing up in your family?

Keep in mind that we as parents are responsible for the “Family Culture”.  Is mean-spirited interaction allowed (or even encouraged) in your family’s culture?  How about sarcasm?    How much is allowed and is it hurtful in nature (as I believe most sarcasm is)?

I’d like to challenge my readers and clients to look closely at their family’s culture.  How can you encourage kindness through rewards and discourage hurtful interactions through consequences?  Let’s look closely and honestly at how things are really going at home and let’s start at the top!  How are you and your spouse (assuming your not a single parent) treating each other?

Back to the Yelling Program at my home.  At my home, all of us are keeping an eye on the quarter jar and having a more peaceful holiday season.  How about your home?

Bill Strong Denver Therapist

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

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Hello Parents! Is YELLLING a problem in your home?

I was just told a great idea for families where yelling is a problem!

All you do is buy each family member a roll of quarters.  Everyone gets to write their name, or draw a picture on their roll.  The rolls and a jar is placed onto of the refrigerator, or some other common area.  Simply put, anytime someone yells they have to put a quarter in the jar.  The last person with a quarter gets the whole pot!

Yelling isn’t that big of a problem in my family, but my kiddos are already excited about this plan.  Less yelling is always a good thing!

Email me how this goes for your family and I’ll post reviews!

I’ll be posting more about the causes, and solutions of yelling soon!

Happy Parenting!!!!

William Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

 

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Acting It Out vs. Working It Out!!!

Hi all,

I just had a parent of a teen talk to me about outbursts that the teen is having at home.  She has given me permission to make a quick post about this.

The teen is under a lot of stress…school, relationship drama etc…and has some outbursts of dis-respectfulness and rage.  I told the parent that I believe that all people struggle at time with what I call “Working Out” their problems instead of “Acting Out” them out.  And of course, Acting-Out is easier.  We can just let things fly without having to process, talk-through, plan, own our part or actually “feel” what is going on.

We have all done this.  So…what’s the solution since Acting-Out is easier?  We want to set up a family culture that doesn’t allow for such outbursts without a consequence.  In other words…on the back end Acting-Out just isn’t worth it because we know there will be a cost.

Think about certain patterns you have in your life that you’ve worked on changing, simply because of the cost.  Speeding is an example of this for me.  There are certainly times when we can tell ourselves that the speed-limit is unreasonable.  We can talk ourselves into a justification as to why it’s ok to speed…no one on the road, in a hurry etc.  The cost of speeding often causes us to change this pattern.

I want the same effect to take place within our families.  What is the consequence of “Acting-Out”.  Keep in mind that yelling, being oppositional or disrespectful is a violation of one or more of the 3 Family Rules.  To read about Bill Strong’s 3 Family Rules please go here:  Bill Strong Denver Therapist on Healthy Family Traits.   So…what is a consequence for acting out?  Perhaps being “shut-down” for a few days (this is also being grounded)…which for me involves the restriction of “anything social or electronic”…that will certainly show your teen or child that acting out isn’t how things are done in your family culture!

For more on consequences, please go here:  Bill Strong Denver Therapist on Parenting Ideas.

My challenge to you as a parent is to make Acting-Out unacceptable in your family culture and “not worth it”.  Let’s talk things out, work things out, and plan for changes!

William Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

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About Bill Strong

Hi all!

This is Bill Strong of Denver and I’d like to write a bit about myself.  I’m a native of Denver, Colorado and a Licensed Psychotherapist.  I’m currently enjoying my work in private practice, where I specialize in Solution Focused Therapy for Children/Teens, Families, Couples and Adults.

I grew up in the Park Hill Area of Denver, and attended East High School (Go Angles!).  My graduate degree is from the University of Denver.  I am an avid outdoors-man, enjoying everything from Whitewater Rafting (yes I have my own raft) to camping, mountaineering, and fly fishing.  I am a two time graduate of National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and enjoy teaching my children and other youth the joys of being active in the wilderness.  In fact, I first began working with children and families as a counselor for a local wilderness program where we took inner-city youth backpacking and mountaineering.  I was a Music Major in college at the time and was fortunate to find my “calling” in the manner.

My practice is Solution Focused.  I believe that change comes from a clear focus and a determination to solve the challenges before us.  Most people enter into therapy due to a desire to change painful or ineffective patterns.   Solution Focused therapy helps in identifying and changing these patterns.  I love my work and enjoy helping my clients.  I find it fulfilling to assist people in creating “healthy change” in there lives and relationships.

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Is your child “forgetting” instances of acting-out?

Hi Parents,

Bill Strong Denver Counseling for Children and Families here.

I recently was contacted by a parent (who has given me permission to blog about this) who asked if it was possible for her child to be unaware of a recent rule violation.  The parent emailed me the following (George is the child, Frank is the spouse):

Hi Bill – is it possible for George to be lying and honestly not realize it?  I found Frank’s I-Pod in George’s bed and when I confronted George about it he said he didn’t know it was there and that he didn’t take it. A tantrum followed because he kept saying he didn’t take it.  Frank had asked both our sons about it last week and both said they didn’t know where it was. The cleaning ladies were here Thursday so the beds would have been completely stripped and they would have found it. Also the I-pod was on a game.
I have taken all electronics away and have why lying hurts any trust we had in him. But he just says he wasn’t lying and it’s all my fault.

I responded with the following email:

Hi Janet,
I’m sorry to hear about this recent episode.  To answer your question, I’ve done this for a long time and can count on my hand the times where a kid saying “I don’t remember” is actually accurate.  That would be highly unusual, and the result of some type of fugue state (dissociative fugue or psychogenic).
Instead, it’s usually where the child sees no benefit in owning up to the lie…so in this situation a child claims to “not remember” when they are totally busted and adds to their position by being very insulted and upset that they aren’t believed.  I’d guess that is the case here.

One idea is to tell him something like “Gee, well although you’ll certainly be in trouble if you’re lying, I’d be even more worried if you don’t remember this event at all.  It’s clear that you took the I-Pod, played a game on it, and hid it in your bed.  Not remembering something you’ve done is just not normal and would mean that we’d probably need to get a doctor like a neurologist involved to do some testing.  I sure hope that’s not necessary”…etc…”Why don’t you take some time and think about it.  Things are shut down (nothing social or electronic) until we figure this out”.

I want the incentive to owning up to the event and lie, to be that he can go through the consequence and then move on.  Until you know the truth, there is no moving on.
I’m not sure this is what I’d call wisdom, but it’s the best I have right now.  :)

Let me know how it goes!
Best,
Bill

I was emailed back that my suggestion “Worked like a charm.”

This is a very common problem with children who are being asked to tell the truth about something they’ve done that gets them in trouble.  “I don’t remember doing it” is an attempt to avoid ownership of the event.  As I said in my email to Janet, unless “not remembering” becomes a problem for the child, there is an incentive to have this selective amnesia.

I have often seen “not remembering” by a child after an act of aggression or a temper tantrum.  It’s true that once a child is in a very upset state, he/she might lose track of time, but I rarely think the child forgets specific acts or actions.

So…give the above suggestion a try when needed.  We don’t “move on” and things are “shut down” until the child owns his/her part.  Like Janet, I think you’ll find this works like a charm.

William Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

 

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Hi Parents! How did the first quarter of school go for your kids?

Fall break is upon us (I sure don’t remember fall break as a kid)…so I’m wondering how you kids are doing so far in school.  How are you doing as parents helping them in a balanced, “neutral” style?  (to read more about being neutral in your parenting and the importance of doing so, please go here:  Bill Strong Denver Counseling on Parenting).

As with most things in life, I believe it’s important to know where we sit on curtain continuums, on this issue between Neglectful, Vigilant and Hyper-Vigilant.  With regard to our child’s grades, clearly being neglectful is a bad move.  If you never check your child’s grades, do not attend meetings at school and basically leave it all up to the child, put yourself in the neglectful category.  If we are neglectful, kids will go with the “if you don’t care, why should I” approach.

What about vigilant and hyper-vigilant?

If you’re checking your child’s grades every single day, are in constant contact with their school (or you spend as much time in the classroom as your kid), are on your kid’s case every night about their homework, if Straight A’s the “only acceptable” option …you can probably put yourself in the “hyper-vigilant” category. If we are hyper-vigilant, kids will go with the “it’s really your grade not mine dude, if you’re going to worry so much about it, why should I?” approach.  More on this soon.

If you know your child’s grades, are aware of missed assignments and implement appropriate consequences, and discuss periodic or quarterly progress (or lack-thereof)…please put yourself in the appropriately vigilant area.

Let’s not judge ourselves too harshly on this, but let’s address which side of things we are really on. That will help us with our parenting, and help our child in school.  I’d like you to really give some thought to this.  Are you parenting in good effective ways, or are you repeating an unhelpful pattern your parents may have used with you and your siblings.

I’ll be writing more on this soon.  For now, please look into this, talk to your spouse or partner, and your child.  Get some feedback.  If nothing else, make sure you know what this year’s grades are so far and have a meeting with your kiddo.

Happy Parenting!

William Strong

To visit my web-page, to schedule an appointment, or to email me a question, please click here:  William Strong, LCSW Denver Therapist.

Please go here for: General Therapy Ideas from Bill Strong, Denver Therapist.

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