Happy March! Do you remember what your New Year’s resolutions were? Eeek! Me neither! Don’t worry, though, now is a great time to remember, re-formulate, or totally re-vamp your ideas about how and why to make lifestyle changes.
Have you been reading the Colorado Sun? If you live in Colorado, I suggest you check it out. Here’s a a bit about them from their site:
“The Colorado Sun is a journalist-owned, ad-free news outlet based in Denver but which strives to cover all of Colorado so that our state — our community — can better understand itself.”
Recently, the folks over there published a story about a “conversion therapy” bill that had been introduced to the Colorado Legislature. I thought the reporting was great, but they missed a mental health professional’s perspective on why Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) are not only unhelpful, but also damaging. So I wrote a letter to the editor. Here it is:
I am writing to add some information to the article Colorado lawmakers for a fifth — and likely final — time will weigh whether to ban gay “conversion therapy”
While I appreciate the balanced approach you attempted to take in explaining the history and effects of “conversion therapy,” I think you missed an important voice: licensed mental health professionals who have long been opposed to the practice.
Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, also commonly known as “conversion therapy”) operate under the assumption that there is something wrong, bad, abnormal or disordered about identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the gold standard in mental health diagnoses) stopped identifying homosexuality as a mental health disorder in 1973. Since 1973, all mainstream health and mental health organizations (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, etc) have come to understand that lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning adolescents are simply a part of the normal spectrum of human sexual expression.
But not only does every health and mental health organization oppose SOCE, I, as a clinical psychologist have seen first hand the harm lack of support, understanding and evidence-based mental health treatment can do to a young person struggling to understand who they are. Shame, guilt, low mood, anxiety, self doubt, trouble concentrating – these are all potential outcomes for a young person who is told they aren’t “normal,” “healthy,” or worthy of respect and acceptance exactly as they are. Sadly, this is exactly the message SOCE sends.
Adolescents who identify with a same sex orientation or are questioning their sexual identity can face enormous challenges – during a time in life when things are already pretty hard. In addition to trying to figure out everyday things associated with adolescence: What classes to take, how to get homework done, what to do after high school, who to hang out with – they can also be met with lack of support (at best), discrimination, prejudice and violence (at worst) by family, friends, and community members. We know youth who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual have higher rates of substance abuse, emotional distress and suicide attempts. We also know that some of the reason for this is because of the lack of support and genuine acceptance these kids find in homes, schools and society as a whole. We, as adults and caregivers, need to do all we can to guarantee that these kids will have access to safe places to express themselves and receive appropriate, effective mental health care that will be accepting of all pieces and parts of the wide range of human sexual expression.
Stephanie S. Smith, PsyD
I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about coping with the expected – and unexpected – emotions around returning to work after maternity leave. It’s a complicated issue that’s rarely talked about, which is strange given that women make up 47% of the American workforce. What’s more, more and more fathers are taking paternity leave, and may face the same emotional ups and downs when they return to work.
Here’s one tip:
Just as there are many ways to become a parent, birth a baby and then actually care for your newborn once she arrives, there are also many emotions that might (or might not!) come up when returning to work. Some women are sad and teary, others guilty and still others ecstatic to be back — perhaps all of these things at the same time! The point is, emotions are varied and variable. What you feel one day might not be what you feel the next. And that’s OK. Keeping your expectations flexible is a good strategy for managing the variability of emotions.
To read the entire article, head over to Health eCareers
Finding outpatient mental health care, like counseling, medication management or group therapy can be really confusing and difficult. I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to navigate the process:
1. What type of mental health provider to see
2. How to pay for services
3. How to actually find a provider that works for you
Check it out:
For the past 11 years, I have loved my little office right on Briggs Street – the main street in the heart of Old Town Erie. But as Erie has grown, it’s gotten to be quite busy. Hardly a week goes by without a parade, block party, festival or celebration of some kind. It’s a lot of fun – but not necessarily the best environment for therapy!
So…I am moving! But just down the hall. Starting on October 13th, my office will be located in Suite D. My new office will be in the back of the same building, but as it faces the alley, it will be quieter, more peaceful and more conducive to private conversations. Luckily, I will remain in the same charming, historic building where I’ve been since 2006.
All of my contact information will remain the same. And yes, I am taking new patients! If you have questions, please give me a call at 303-828-3080 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am so proud to be part of the Erie community – and excited to start this new chapter!
Several years ago – 6 to be exact – I got a call from a writer from Parenting Magazine. She was working on a story about how to prepare older siblings for a new baby, and wondered if she might ask me some questions. It was a fun interview – made even better because I had just found out I was expecting my third child. This meant I was trying to take my own advice at the same time I was giving it!
Anyway, this article has a special place in my heart because of the timing. Check it out:
My favorite tip:
Yea (or, boo! – depending on your perspective) it’s back to school! Regardless of how you and your family feel about this time of year, one thing never changes: everyone has to eat lunch. I feel quite lucky that all 3 of my kids have become sandwich lovers over the past couple of years, making packing lunches pretty simple. But all of us need to mix it up from time to time, so today I am teaming up with Produce for Kids to help spread the word about their Power Your Lunchbox campaign:
Look at all those clever, yummy and healthy lunches!
Please consider taking the pledge! It’s super simple and also helps the organization Feeding America. Additionally you can be entered to win a bento box from Bentology, and also get some free printable lunch box notes (super cute).
Ok, let’s get started. I was lucky enough to get one of these fun bento boxes. My kids have been itching to get their hands on it for weeks!
There’s just something about all those cute little boxes that fit so perfectly inside each other. I think it makes us all believe when can eat smarter and more creatively!
So when my kids and I discussed what to put in our bento box, they decided they wanted something with their new fave – Greek yogurt. I thought about making granola to go with it, but decided instead to use up some of the delicious peaches that are in season right now. I had just seen this Peach Oatmeal Muffin recipe over at Six Sisters Stuff, so we gave it a try:
We used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour:
I was concerned that full-sized muffins wouldn’t fit in the bento box, so I made a couple dozen mini-muffins:
My little one decided to make some full-sized, Christmas-themed muffins:
We may or may not have popped a few in our mouths straight from the oven:
Next it was time to fill the box! I put in the vanilla Greek yogurt, then the little guy added some muffins. I said 2 was plenty, he thought 3 sounded better:
We agreed on some strawberries and sliced almonds, but had a difference of opinion on how to fill the last little box. I thought carrots, he thought cheese sticks. We compromised and added both:
Does that look like a tasty lunch, or what?
Judging others: So easy, so entertaining, so widespread. But sadly, also completely contradictory to good mental health.
The other day I did my own little experiment and noticed how many times in an hour I made a judgmental comment (in my head – I was on the treadmill) about either myself or others. I lost count at 25. Yikes. Now, I didn’t speak these judgments out loud, but they were there just the same. Things like:
“Why did she choose that shirt, ick”
“She totally looks better than me!”
“Who chose this awful music on the loud speaker?”
All those judgments flying every which way got me thinking: How does a judgmental attitude affect mental health? Here are some thoughts:
Passing judgment (on ourselves and others) keeps us from being fully present in our lives. Life is full of things to notice and be a part of. If we spend the bulk of our time formulating judgments, what might we be missing? A quiet, peaceful hour on the treadmill? The joy of watching our kids play sports or act on stage? A entertaining conversation with a friend?
No one ever wins. Judging ourselves, judging others; comparing ourselves to others. All these things lead to the same end: a downward spiral to misery and disappointment. When it comes to judgment – no one ever ends up feeling good.
Judging others can make us paranoid that others are judging us, too. Judging others has the nasty side effect of making us feel that we, ourselves are being judged – even when we’re not. As in: “What are the neighbors going to think when they see me driving this old, dented car?” See? Not so good.
We all want to spend time with non-judgmental people. Think about some of your favorite people to spend time with. I’d be willing to bet that most of them steer clear of judging, or gossiping about others. Sure, it’s fun for a minute, but this behind-the-back judgmental attitude has a pretty nasty aftertaste. Supportive, interesting (and interested), funny friends are the ones that give us longer-lasting feelings of warmth and closeness.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic, kid-friendly comfort food that many of us, including myself, relate back to cold winter days with family and friends. Even after moving away from the cold weather as an adult, the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese still stir up a feeling of comfort for me. Now, I serve my own version of the duo to my family.
In this recipe I skip the sodium-packed canned soup and go for an easy, homemade version that’s packed with veggies! You can stir in 1 Tbsp. plain yogurt to each bowl for extra creaminess.
The mini grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect for little mouths and for dipping.
Now, As I share this recipe with my family, I feel a new sense of comfort knowing that I am passing along not only a taste, but a feeling for them to carry on to adulthood.
Should we take our kids to the funeral?
That’s a sad question that most every parent will have to ask themselves at one time or another. We recently lost a dear family friend and my husband and I found ourselves asking this very question. Now that a few weeks have gone by and I’ve reflected a bit, I have come up with a few thoughts on the topic. Here goes:
Funerals are important for many reasons: they provide structure to our grief, they answer questions about the meaning of death and what happens after life, they give us the opportunity to grieve with (and support) others; and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to participate in a tradition that humans have been participating in for many, many years. And just doing something that our ancestors did can be comforting.
The other part about funerals, though is that they are sad, and often quiet, and can bring up lots of questions too. So, should we bring our kids along? A few things to consider:
- Kids can be a wonderful distraction from grief. Lively, healthy, happy children can be a lovely contrast to the pain of losing a loved one. But not always. Sometimes they are too much of a distraction, though – like my 3 year old would have been at the funeral – he didn’t join us. In this case, they might be best left at home.
- Funerals are part of life. We are all going to die. As hard as that is to write down, of course it is true. Shielding our children from that reality isn’t doing them any favors. Allowing them to witness others grieving, consoling, supporting, remembering and loving each other is.
- Life isn’t just about us. At the recent funeral I attended, I experienced the importance of tradition, history, culture, language, music and food in times of grief. Just like in times of celebration (weddings, births, baptisms), grieving families benefit from the familiarity of shared family and community traditions. Life isn’t all about us. It’s also about the many people who came before us, and all those who will come after us. And important lesson for all kids (and adults) to learn.
- Sometimes things are boring, long and uncomfortable. The funeral we attended was all in Greek (literally), was quite long, and we pretty much had no idea what was going on. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to sit quietly and respectfully as we remembered our deceased friend and showed his family our love and support. Just like life isn’t all about us, it also isn’t always instantly-gratifying. The sooner and better we learn that, the easier life will be.