Is medication the answer?

I have been looking at the information available in regard to dangerous trends facing children today.  One of them as we reported earlier is depression.  In a response to that the Food and Drug  Administration reports in September 2009 that more than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs.  This includes not only teens, but more shocking, is the growing use of drugs in tens of thousands of preschoolers

From 2000 to 2007 there has been a doubling of the prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2-5 year olds, with only 40% of them having received proper mental health assessments.  Even more disturbing, children from lower income situations were far more likely to be given a prescription than having counseling for the child and the whole family – due to the difference in the cost of the two ways of approaching these issues.

Here is a link to the story found in the NY Times this week about one such boy and the story of 5 years of diagnosis, drugs, therapy and the end result. 

“Families sometimes feel the need for a quick fix,” Dr. Gleason, a Columbia medical graduate who had led a team that wrote 2007 practice guidelines for psychopharmacological treatment of very young children, said. “That’s often the prescription pad. But I’m concerned that when a child sees someone who prescribes but doesn’t do therapy, they’re closing the door that can make longer-lasting change.”

At the end of September, I will be releasing a report on the research I have been doing on the 6 Most Dangerous Trends Facing our Children Today.   I look forward to sharing it with parent groups in our community.  For more information please feel free to contact Joe Van Deuren at Balanced Life Skills.

Charity: giving of our treasures

This month the word we are discussing is Charity.  This was always one of the main reasons I started this school.  The idea was that to build the very best students we could build they must learn and practice a wide variety of life skills.  One of them is the ability to give to others without expecting anything in return.

This is of course difficult at first for children as they have no income and I do not believe that just going in and getting canned food off of mom and dad’s pantry shelf and carrying it to school is exactly teaching them about service to others.  

So as we discuss charity it is giving of service or goods to those in need.  Those who need are ones who don’t have what they need to survive and be comfortable.   Our children will have a difficult time grasping that, but we can share with them the cost of food and how so many in our world today – in fact a large majority – live on less than $2 per day.  If you can show them how little that buys, they may begin to understand.  

The real question for me and others has been, what can our children do that is theirs and still be learning about giving.  One of the ways is by sharing some of our own treasures with others.  So when they outgrow their favorite shirt, or get new shoes, they can learn to share the old ones with others.  Or it may be a toy that they do not play with anymore.  Could they share it with a another child, perhaps one that is without toys.  

In addition to that lesson, if our child receives an allowance we could encourage them to put a part of their “treasure” towards giving to a charity or a cause that is important to them.  Doing these things at an early age helps to instill the concept of sharing our treasures with those who are in need.  

I have several students in our school who in lieu of birthday presents they accept donations of toys or books to be given to various community groups that help the homeless or are in some way disadvantaged.  When our child is able to do this, the act is not just about them anymore.  They are now acting as leaders in their community, setting the example for other children in giving to charity.

Attitude: 3 things that control our attitude

I know of no parent that has not said to one of their children, “ Don’t give me an attitude!”.  We all know that we are talking about a bad attitude – one that is negative and disrespectful.  Yet most of us if we were truthful with ourselves would have to admit that from time to time we too have that “bad attitude”.   Interestingly in a recent article in the journal; Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics (April, 2009) that it is true that there are some people who are just more positive than others, but that only 50% of happiness is determined genetically.  Where do you think the rest of ability to be positive and happy came from?  Yes it was ourselves.

There are three things that only we have control over that have an affect on our attitude, whether we are 5 years old or 85.  They are how we feel, think and act.  I am sure you have seen this before.  If someone is thinking and feeling things in an optimistic way, they also act in a positive way.  If they think and feel more pessimistically, then they act in a negative way no matter how hard they try to cover it up and “act” positive.  

The way we see the world, how we feel it is treating us, the way we think and act influences in a great way our Attitude.  It affects our relations with others including our closest friends, to how we respond to events in our lives and even the very mundane day to day life.  

So what is attitude and can we choose the attitude we want to have?  What influence do we have on our children when it comes to their attitude?  Can we help them to approach their day in a more positive way?  As parents we influence how our children see the world, so what are strategies do you use to have a positive attitude?

Focus: reaching our goals

There are no parts of life that focus is not needed.  It does not matter if we are playing a game or doing the specialized work of a doctor or scientist.  But in fact many of us have problems focusing on the task at hand as we think about all the other things going on in our lives.  

I would like to think for a few minutes about the things that really need our focus.  For each of us those things may be different, but I would think that it is possible that many of them may be the same.  Who would not say that focusing on our family and health are two of the most important.  Yet for many children today the average amount of time their parents spend with them alone without interruption from media and other distractions may only be 8 minutes per week.  

Our health is another area that we could all agree needs our focus.  Yet our eating habits and workout schedule may be pushed to the side due to us focusing on other matters.  So many times I have parents tell me how healthy they and their children eat, yet both parent and child are not at a healthy weight.  So what is it that you want to focus on?   What are the most important things in your life?  

One of the things that will help us focus on our ‘most important’ things is by setting goals.  With a goal that is specific and with a completion date our mind can focus to reach that goal.  General goals do not help us focus.  Specific goals however concentrate our energy on the stated goal.  

Goal setting, focus and commitment to them is something I work on all the time.  In fact I invite you to join with me in that regard.  I believe that having ‘teammates’ is an important part of keeping our focus and reaching our goals and holding us accountable.  I am here and ready to do that with anyone that wants the support.  Of course it will be a two way thing, as in any team, both of us will benefit. 

Sea of Plastics

You may have heard me talk about environmental self defense.  As a part of my training this year, I have been challenged to not only reduce the amount of plastic that I personally use by 40 to 90%, but also to educate those around me about the effects of plastics on the rest of our environment.

One of the individuals who is doing research on this subject is Captain Charles Moore.  Capt. Moore is founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.  He discovered what is now called the Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean and is currently studying the effect of plastic pollution on our planets oceans.  The Garbage Patch is a very large area of the Pacific Ocean that due to the way the seas and wind move has trapped a great deal of the the garbage from many countries, including the United States, in an area in the ocean.  

Captain Moore was introduced to the world in a very public way at TED Talks, one of my favorite websites.  Soon the world knew of his work and discovery.  Part of Captain Moore’s team is Joel Paschal who is also acting as a consultant to the Ultimate Black Belt Test in our efforts to teach self defense from a “global” perspective.

More to the point though let’s do three things this year.

  1. Absorb the research and understand how plastic use and the oceans are connected to self-defense.
  2. Make a personal pledge to reduce the amount of plastics we use.
  3. Represent this material in our community –embrace at least one “environmental self-defense” project as a part of your belt test or just your commitment to protecting our earth.

Here are two links that will help
To learn about the material, go to this VPS.TV report on CNN
You can see Captain Moore on www.TED.COM talking about his work.

Creating peace at Thanksgiving gatherings

This time of the year we have many gatherings to go to and many of them involve family members and those close to us in other areas of our life.  Now I don’t know about you, but my guess is that you are much like me in that many of the occasions we go to, we do so with certain expectations.

We know ahead of time who is going to annoy us, who is going to brag, be outrageous or argue with us.  We think in our minds that we are going to do everything we can to stay away from certain subjects and sometimes people to try to keep the peace.  In fact the reason I am writing this is because from a ‘self-defense’ point of view, the things we do that harm us the most, come from our thoughts and mouth.

So what can we do to have peaceful gatherings?  For us to have the peace we are looking for we need to go to a place that may not seem to make sense at first.  If we are to change the relationships that we have, we must choose to be at peace with everyone in our life – and this time of the year especially with our relatives.

How can this possibly be true?  Because if the focus of our inner dialogue about our family members is on what they are doing wrong or how annoying they are, then that is exactly how your relationship is going to play out.  If what we notice about them is how annoying they are, then we are more likely to blame them for our annoyance.  But in reality the annoyance we are feeling is actually coming from our own thoughts.

In our mind we need to redirect our thinking to “My intention is to be authentic and peaceful with this person (relative)”, and that is the experience we will have.  I know this is true, I have seen it with myself and I am sure you have too.

Have you ever had a good relationship with someone and everything is going along very well and then they do something that hurts you really in a bad way?  What happens?  I have noticed that many times the very things that had been cute and appealing to me now begin to annoy me and they are very easily criticized.  We have all done this at some time. 

Our relationships are what we think they are.  I am going to talk about this more in the future, but for now just  know that,  No one is capable of making you upset without your consent.  When we decide to connect to peace, and bring peace to our relatives and relationships, we immediately gain the power to change the energy of the gathering that we attend in this season of thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!