Most of us do not get out of childhood without a few scars. Abuse can come in many forms, at any age, and from multiple sources including family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. In the past 40 years, social norms and government rules regarding child abuse and neglect have become much less tolerant.
As compassionate, responsible people, we now have resources to turn to when confronted with the disturbing specter of abuse. So, when we believe we are witness to abuse or signs of it, it is important to understand how it is defined, what to look for, and what to do if you suspect it is going on.
What is the Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect?
As we begin to wrap our heads and hearts around a difficult subject, perhaps it makes sense to begin with the external, societal implications.
According to the Washington State office of the Attorney General, RCW 26-44-020, the definition of child abuse and neglect is injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by any person under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health, welfare, and safety are being harmed.
It goes on to say that abuse and neglect does not include physical discipline of a child, but there is a regulation which addresses that, as well, R...
In my studies as family counselor, one of the first courses we took was a look into the family lifecycle. We obviously know the individual lifecycle – birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and then older adulthood (and of course we could subdivide that many ways).
The family lifecycle, then, has the following stages: launching (leaving your parents after adolescence), coupling, parenting young children, parenting adolescents, launching your own children, then adulthood in later life. Each of these phases of life carries unique challenges and obstacles to be overcome.
Parenting of young children, for example, includes managing expectations of both the parents and the grandparents and finding the balance of family support that will work the best for the family. Parenting of adolescents involves working out how to manage the wills and growth of independence of the adolescent children as they are not as dependent on their parents anymore.
One area where I have seen a lot of trouble (especially in Seattle, Washington in 2019), is the struggle that families have when they have an adult child living at home. I believe that this situation is causing a lot of trouble for families not because it is inherently a bad thing, but because 1) we as a society don’t have ...
Many of us go through life more or less on automatic, making the best choices we can based on the available information. It is only natural for us to want things to run as smoothly as possible. If we aren’t naturally prone to worry, it is easy to brush away concerns about physical symptoms as long as they aren’t too disruptive.
We may put off a physical examination, or ignore something that “isn’t that big a deal.” I have heard many people say they hate hospitals. It makes sense, then, that they would be resistant to a check up that might result in a trip to one.
If we can get past that resistance, and develop a healthy approach to our health care, we can make use of what’s available as appropriate and often get results that help us lead healthier happier lives. The very same can be said of mental health care. But even with all the normalization mental health in the media and schools, there is a lot of subliminal resistance to making use of it.
The Stigma Around Family and Marriage Counseling
It’s not surprising that people still have a negative view of mental health care. Forty years ago, a psychiatric hospital was referred to as “the booby hatch,” “bughouse,” and “funny farm” among other names, and I still hear those terms bandied abou...
I remember my father describing being at the grocery store once. There was a woman with a child who was being unruly. She tried to get the boy to settle down and grabbed his arm, but he screamed and raged all the more. I remember the menacing look on my father's face as he commented a kid who did that in HIS care would only do it once.
Few things can impact us as quickly and as deeply as the anger of our child. We all have our own reactions to it; some weather it and patiently correct, some get angry or violent right back, some feel overwhelmed and emotionally go to ground unable to deal with it. As they are remarkably complex, uniquely formed individuals, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when your children are angry, but there are some tools that will help in most cases.
It's Tough Being a Kid
We’ve all been there, and while a very few of us may have had a completely peaceful transition into adulthood, a great many of us suffered all manner of emotional and physical traumas along that particular path.
When you think for a moment about the developmental phases a child goes through, it makes sense that rage is going to be a part of their emotional makeup. Their capacity to experience it and process it will vary from person to person, based not only on emot...
In my work, I see a mix of couples, families, and individuals. It’s rare that a problem exists solely with an individual without any repercussions for the surrounding family. Problems that affect you will affect your family and problems that affect your family will affect you.
A bedrock of your family, your marriage serves as a motor for the family as a whole. If the marriage is healthy, your family usually shows signs of health but when marriage problems arise, they can affect the whole family as well, like a series of ripples in a pond.
The Social Ecology of the Family
Imagine a series of concentric circles. Somewhere near the middle is the circle that represents “you” in your wholeness and entirety. There are few more inside which represent your mind, your body, your body chemistry, and your soul.
Moving outward from the “you circle,” next, we might see your immediate family, your extended family and friends, your neighborhood, your city, your culture, and your country. Like rings of a tree or the ripples on a pond, these circles represent the multiple realms that affect who you are. This series of circles is sometimes called the “social ecology of the family.”
“Social ecology of the family” is a heavily loaded term, so let’s dissect it ...
One of the great tragedies in any life is the dissolution of what was supposed to be a lifelong journey. Divorce usually marks the death of shared hopes and dreams and is deeply disruptive to everyone involved. There is a scale of life stressors by someone named Rahe; on this list, divorce is rated second, just after the death of a spouse or child.
The pain and stress of the transition are significant, sometimes enormous, even if the people involved somehow manage to guard against despondency, avoid blame shifting, manage their anger, maintain civility and focus forward toward a more positive “new normal.”
If neither spouse is immovably spiteful or bitter to the point that they no longer have the capacity to have the children’s best interests at heart then this is a situation where a licensed counselor can make a huge difference in helping the couple manage the emotional currents present in the process. If there are children involved, even more so. If the parents are unable to agree to settle things amicably, their lawyers will end up doing it in court.
Divorce Counseling When Children are Involved
What follows is only intended for couples where there is no abuse involved. If one or both parents are abusive, the divorce probably will not be amicable, and if...
What is play therapy for children? Isn't it just playing? How can that make a lasting impact on my child?
Play therapy is playing with your child, yes – but it’s not justplaying. Play therapists use play in many different forms as a tool and treatment modality when conducting therapy with children.
A child learns about, observes, and processes the world they live in through play. For children, playing through issues is the equivalent to talking through issues for adults. A child interacting with a therapist through play is the equivalent to an adult engaging with a therapist through conversation.
By using play in a therapeutic setting, a child can grow, learn, develop communication skills, develop pro-social skills, learn to regulate their emotions, and much more. Play therapy for children is an evidenced-based intervention that allows children to learn and heal in the most effective way in order to insure long-lasting effects throughout adulthood.
Philosophers and intellectuals have known the importance of play for a child since the time of Plato. It has been known that a child learns about the world around them and how to interact with their environment through play.
Play therapy was first developed into a formal practice in the early 1920’s by a ...