Attune

Attune means harmony. This blog is about harmonizing ourselves in our connection to others and to our planet. I bow to basic goodness in our world and in relationships encourage opening our hearts with love and compassion.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.
Albert Einstein
Posted 427 weeks ago

(via Glencairn Marriage & Family Therapy Center Inc.)

Posted 428 weeks ago
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Posted 429 weeks ago

UNDERSTANDING THE EARLY SEXUAL PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN

By:   Susan Grey Smith, PhD, LMFT

March 3, 2014—Part 4:

A third group of children who develop sexual behavior problems may sexually abuse a younger, less powerful child and overlaps and may progress from the sexually reactive or mutually engaging types of behaviors.  They go far beyond over-involved childhood sex play or consensual behavior with age mates.  The hallmark behavior is coercion—tricking, bribing, threatening, bullying, manipulating, forcing, or just using their relationship to get a much younger child to go along.  

These behaviors may continue or increase over time as part of a consistent pattern rather than an isolated incident.  There may be an impulsive, compulsive, and aggressive quality to the behavior with feelings of anger, loneliness or fear linked to sexual behaviors.  Coercion is always a factor and when they are discovered, they do not stop after well-intentioned parents discipline them, or cannot stop without intensive and specialized treatment.

As parents we can avoid many of these problems armed with the proper information.  As adults we have to be awake to the fact that children do have sexual natures that can be over-stimulated early.  Just like learning about when our child should be expected to talk in sentences or learn to read, we need to inform ourselves about early sexual development in childhood.  

We can no longer afford to leave sex education to others, wait till the child asks, or give the “talk” on the other side of puberty.  If we are not talking with our children about sex now, most likely someone else is and that person just may be another child.

Posted 429 weeks ago

UNDERSTANDING THE EARLY SEXUAL PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN

By:   Susan Grey Smith, PhD, LMFT

March 3, 2014—Part 3:

Mutual developmentally inappropriate or repetitive sexual interactions characterize the second group of children with sexual behavior problems and overlaps with the first group of sexually reactive children.  Children in the second group engage in mutual but developmentally inappropriate sexual behavior and have acted out these behaviors with other children.  Unlike some solitary reactive sexual behavior, the main ingredient is that they are involved sexually with age mates or others who are developmentally similar.  

The child may have learned the sexual behavior from another child in unsupervised time with siblings or cousins, or in day care, foster care, psychiatric or other types of residential placements.  They play out adult sexual behaviors such as looking at pornography, simulating sexual intercourse or oral sex with each other, or actually having oral, vaginal or anal sexual intercourse with age mates who keep the behaviors secret.  Either child may or may not have had previous sexual encounters with other children or adults. 

The child may believe that the behaviors are no big deal yet they may be engaging younger, unknowing children in this adult-like activity.  It is always startling to the adults who catch them acting out such advanced sexuality.  Mutual sexual behavior is more difficult to stop if the child has used the behavior as a coping strategy and it has become habituated.

Posted 429 weeks ago

UNDERSTANDING THE EARLY SEXUAL PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN

By:   Susan Grey Smith, PhD, LMFT

March 3, 2014—Part 2:

Most of the sexual problems that children encounter involve other children.  As adults we mostly don’t even recognize that a child has sexual feelings in early childhood that are inherent and spontaneous.  We are not at all involved in our children’s sexual life as they play out with each other what they have learned.  This can be though normal exploration with peers, mutual sexual behavior with age mates who have already encountered exposure to adult sexuality, or with older or more powerful children.  Statistics vary but as much as 75-80% of the sexual abuse of young children is committed by other children or adolescents.  

As a society we are facing an epidemic of children following in our footsteps—uninformed about all the ways our sexuality can cause problems and engaging in problematic behavior early that sets us up for a potential lifetime of sexual problems.

Getting off track with sexual development as originally conceived by Dr. Johnson and Dr. Gil in 1993 is modified here as part of my clinical research.  Children with sexual behavior problems can generally be categorized into three groups of behaviors.  The first group of children’s problematic behavior is reacting to sexual behavior they have either discovered on their own or have been exposed to by other children, adolescents or adults. 

Children in the first group may be reacting to recent or present sexual victimization or exposure to adult sexuality from the most casual and unaware to the most intentional.  This hallmark of this type of behavior is related to exposure to adult sexual themes and is thought of on a continuum—there are many forms of exposure.  One example is unintentionally allowing a child to have access to adult language or sexual scenes in the home (particularly watching older siblings) or on TV, or allowing access to soft porn on late night TV, or allowing access to all types of porn on the internet.  Their sexual curiosity is out of balance because these scenes play in their mind and as a consequence, they become more active sexually than their peers. 

Sexually reactive children may show compulsive, self-stimulating behaviors, imitate adult sexual behavior or talk, try to initiate sexual behavior with both younger and older children, or act sexually suggestive with adults.  The child is acting out his or her confusion because what they have seen or heard is not understandable to the developing child’s mind.  These children may feel shame, guilt and anxiety about their developing sexuality.

Posted 429 weeks ago

UNDERSTANDING EARLY SEXUAL PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN

By:   Susan Grey Smith, PhD, LMFT

February 25, 2014—Part 1

All children engage in sexual exploration as a normal part of early childhood development.  Preschoolers may comment on all the different bodies they see, be fascinated by bathroom activities, sit on your lap and squeeze your breasts, run naked with glee, and engage in sex play with each other.  They may touch their genitals and feel a pleasurable sensation by accident then repeat it.  They are not yet inhibited about sex and may rub erogenous zones openly without any sense of shame or guilt.  Limits set by parents may entice children to make a game out of showing off their sexual natures if they know it bothers you.  They are lighthearted and innocent with the sex behaviors and seem to be having a lot of fun.

Adults are often alarmed when they see a young child exploring his or her sexuality lightheartedly and act like it should not be happening.  We unwittingly begin to teach children that sex is dirty and bad by trying to quash these early playful sexual experiences.  As a society we have not been well-educated about our sexual natures.  Americans tend to be extreme about sex—we don’t talk about sex at all but secretly engage in obsessive sexuality.  We are bombarded daily by sexual language and images through advertisements, cable or satellite TV, video games, movies, and the internet.  Young children are exposed to sexual information early because living in this age of easy information it is not possible to shield them.  Our old strategy of withholding sexual information until the child asks no longer applies, if it ever did.  Mostly I think as parents we just did not know how to talk to our children about sex.  Now they have all the info but not the cognitive ability to understand the social implications.  They access the information but have little access to the guidance.

Can you recall the talk your parents had with you about sex?  Most of us didn’t have one, or if we did it went something like, “Don’t have sex before you’re married, but if you do, use protection.”  Or if we’re really lucky, we may have been given a book, with images and instructions but no guidance.  So it is certainly no mystery why we have difficulty incorporating our children’s normal sexual behavior into a healthy parenting routine.  We teach our children values around a lot of things, but sex usually isn’t one of them.  We think we can just wait for “the talk” until they go through puberty and start having “real” sexual feelings, but by then it is often too late to prevent problems.

Posted 430 weeks ago

5 Things All Parents Need To Know About
Teaching Self-Discipline

February 18, 2014

By: Susan Grey Smith, PhD, LMFT

If you have a child you know how difficult it is to get the message across that it takes hard work to get what we want.  We all want our children to learn to be responsible adults yet children want everything handed to them on a silver platter!  How do we teach our children about how hard work leads to rewards when we feel so guilty about working so much resulting in limited time to spend with them?  We all want our children to have the good things that we didn’t have, but we usually know it when we’ve crossed the line into over-indulgence.  Don’t be afraid to look at it with full awareness.  We all do it.

Stagnant wages and more demands on our time and money while TV constantly encourages kids to buy, buy, buy leads to more family and job stress.  We may feel trapped in a very negative cycle.  We all know how work and responsibility should fit together in a child’s life but sometimes there is too much “noise” in our environment to recall what our parents taught us.  So here goes with a 5 things we already know.

1.    There are basic material things people need to survive-these include food,

clothing, and shelter–Play Stations, Gameboys, and Smart Phones are not on the list.  Teach your children the difference between needs and wants.

2.    It takes money to be a consumer. Marketing that targets children treats parents like loan officers loaning money to broke customers.  When does this ever happen.  Teach your children that they cannot spend money they don’t have. 

3.    If you’re a child, earning money means doing chores.  Parents shouldn’t

have to pay for work that benefits the whole family.  But there are usually extra chores to do around the house.  It is never too early to provide a way for a child to earn money to pay for what they want.  Teach your children the value of a dollar by earning it and saving up.

4.    Children’s work (making good grades and staying out of trouble) should not be tied to money or they will come to believe that the world owes them a living. Help your child learn the value of internal rewards by teaching them to take satisfaction in a job well done.  Teach your children that there is intrinsic value in doing things well while doing the right thing.

5.    Teach your children that being an adult requires self-discipline–getting up early when we’d rather sleep in, going to jobs when we’d rather be playing, working late when we’d rather be home, and taking the kids to soccer practice when we’re bone tired.  Feeling entitled and having the right to get what you want, even at another’s expense, doesn’t require anything.

Don’t worry so much.  Cut yourself some slack.  Remember, we model for our kids the value of self-discipline because they don’t do what we say do, they do what we do.  Take some time with them to just relax.  You are already teaching self-discipline that will give your children the wherewithal they need to make it in our increasingly complex society.

Posted 431 weeks ago
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Posted 432 weeks ago

Developing a Balanced Parenting Style

By: Susan Grey Smith, Ph.D., LMFT

 February 11, 2014

Parenting is a tough job that is getting tougher every day. Parents and children face challenges that our parents never had to deal with. Life is fast paced and there never seems to be enough time. Parents end up thinking that somehow they are to blame for the problems their children deal with. We think, “If only I could be more consistent, more patient, calmer, I could raise a problem free child.” Well that is just not true! As parents we do the best we can juggling our responsibilities and busy schedules.

The world is changing at a whirl wind pace and if it is challenging for adults to keep up, imagine what it must be like for our children. Today’s parenting information market is full of advise intended to ease the burden of knowing how to best respond to our children’s needs. It seems that instead of helping to relieve us of worry it has created a lot of confusion. In an information driven society, we are all falling victim to listening to the voices of others instead of following our own hearts and minds.

Instinctively we know that good parenting requires a balance between nurturing our children and teaching them how to self-discipline. How do you as a parent find a good balance that is a comfortable fit for you? Diana Baumrind (1978) identified three parenting styles that have held up to strong scientific inquiry over time: authoritarian, permissive, and democratic.

•  Authoritarian Parenting Style . A high value is placed on discipline to obtain obedience so as parents we rely on strategies that are punitive. Parents punish children to put them in their place and maintain a parenting heirarchy, even when children are developmentally able to start thinking more for themselves. As parents we tend to be detached, controlling, and demanding and our children are more likely to be discontented, withdrawn, and distrustful.

•  Permissive Parenting Style . A high value is placed on having our children like us so as parents we rely on strategies that are noncontrolling and nondemanding. As parents we tend to be too relaxed, under-involved, and lenient and our children are less self-reliant, explorative, and self-controlled.

•  Democratic Parenting Style . This is the balanced style, using elements of the other two styles in a unique combination of high control and positive encouragement toward autonomy and independence. As parents we value our children’s will power and encourage them to make rational choices. Our children are more self-reliant, self-controlled, and explorative.

If you think your parenting style need some coaching, get in touch with a family therapist. Family therapy is not about giving advise on how to parent although family therapists are informed about the latest scientific research findings. It is about helping you find your way though a maze of information to develop a balanced parenting style that fits your lifestyle and your family’s needs.

Posted 432 weeks ago

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