Let us look at a hypothetical situation. This is a normal life event that every mother with a new born baby goes through. The newborn is completely dependent on the mother for nourishment. Apart from her own requirements of rest, nourishment and hygiene, the mother has to cater to the needs of her baby. This places demands on the mother in terms of disturbed sleep-wake cycles and extra nutritional requirements. That can be stressful to the mother. But we usually consider it as a normal life event or a transformation or adjustment that the woman has to make to care for their baby. However, when there is a body illness such as a fever or cold, or when three is a long term illness such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer or nervous system disorders or hormonal disturbances, the discomfort with the body can influence relationships with other people. The ability to take the hassles of life such as long or irregular working hours, adjustments to be made to the needs of other family members etc can become additional stressors . Irritability, low tolerance levels and changing needs of family members can aggravate discomfort. Long term effects of inability to listen to each other, reduced understanding levels, lead to misinterpretations, misunderstanding and the feeling of independence rather than interdependence and further leading to isolation and loneliness. When there are problems or crisis situations, then extra need for support systems in terms of working together and emotional availability can become challenges.
Regular sleep and adequate nutrition, and family time together in terms of fun time or relaxing times, communication at appropriate times, help to maintain the body and mind balance, in turn helping with the ability to relate to significant others in one’s life. Good exercise, Yoga, taking or seeking help from other family members on days that are more demanding, to meet specific needs, will help strike a balance and help in smooth functioning of the family unit.
In certain situations, processing of sensory inputs may be disturbed and there may be increased sensitivity to different sensations. In such situations, the environment may have to be controlled to help maintain a level of comfort with the body. These situations may add more distress to the already stressed mother and all family members have to work together to keep everyone happy.
With the fast growing technology all around the world, what we knew today is already outdated by tomorrow. Does this ultra fast pace help us grow or pull us down or challenge us with new issues to tackle?If stability and consistency help us move with better integration,too much use of technology can definitely have ill effects on our psychological health and healthy human relations.With so called fast moving life/routine we all are supposedly busy with, how much meaningful interactions are really happening?
Sensory overload is our new terminology that can undoubtedly have effects on our not so meaningful human interactions at work place or with in our own family members. How many of us really listen to,see what is happening in front of us with undivided attention and sense right meaning of what we hear ! With thousand-and-one things running in the background of our minds we end up half listening/seeing and so impatient that we want just the conclusions or solutions! Is it not our common experience? But still we move on with our routines reassuring to ourselves how we managed a meaningful and productive day.Sensory overloading can have drastic effects on the young growing minds of our children with no meaningful learning happening in spite of all the necessary gadgets that as parents proudly feel, we provided for our children irrespective of their receptive status. It has nothing to do with lacking intelligence or unable to remember information.Sensory overloading is inability to filter meaningful information from the meaningless.We all take our brains for granted that it can handle, process endless information! When we cannot have peaceful sleep that lost it ‘s refreshed feel, when we can’t have a healthy meal at regular intervals, our body indicates by easy fatigue and low concentration levels. So does our brain and it’s functioning.
Sensory processing disorder/sensory processing dysfunction is the condition clinically diagnosed in children. Child is happy to go to school but unable to make friends,always jumpy/nosy coming in the way of others,quick to grasp new concepts able to recollect one time but cannot at other times,sensitive to touch/noise, clumsy in eating/ dressing, easily tearful,moody, likes open places/outdoors and extremely restless indoors/restricted mobility, always fidgeting/restless can be confusing for parents and teachers as well. Is this child autistic or hyperactive? neither. These are symptoms of sensory perceptual dysfunction.No issues with intelligence, no sensory deficits but needing right doses of sensory stimulation.Is it treatable?definitely and very effectively not by medicines but by individually tailored occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy is the treatment module specially tailored to meet the individual child’s need for right sensory stimulation. It is usually very interesting fun filled activities to meet the right dose of sensory needs of your child.This includes wide range of activities of swinging,sand play,art & hand work such as free painting, knitting and most importantly unhurried and relaxed environment where children can be spontaneous and at their best. Can they become like any other child? go to school? A definite “YES” as long as you provide the right sensory stimulation at home until your child adapts to (based on each child’s need for right sensory stimulation).
Who can help? it’s a team work of developmental pediatrician,curative educator,physiotherapist and occupational therapist and of course an open minded parenting and not the least a sensitive teacher.
Then what is the way out for an adult overloading? An adult can easily recognise the symptoms of overload and work accordingly. Mould your environment with right mix of fun and work. It’s alright if every minute of your day is not focused towards spending only on productive activities but it’s not alright if you lose a precious relation or fail to listen to your child in need. Explore what can relax your mind and body -art/music/yoga/fitness in body and mind/travel/nature/good food/explore your own interests if you never explored so far.That will provide you the right solution.
With wider choices now available for schooling of our children,a possible lack of clarity is developing in parents as to the right choice of school for their children. The search includes affordability of fee to an individual opinion of what purpose a school should meet. More wider choices of schools means more options to choose from and more schools that are better or more worse.
Parents are the best persons to choose for their children, but are they able to do the best? Some of us go by opinions of our friends/families, some feel more strict discipline at school is much better for children, some focus on academics and some on sports or extracurricular activities. Overall, everyone tries to make a decision with a focus on what is good for the future of their children. But do we ever look closely at or sensitively at our own children’s needs in terms of how our child is same or different from rest of the them? Or if placing a child in a particular school is helping or harming our children? Does the infrastructure- big building & large school grounds, digital classrooms reward or intimidate your child? It’s time for parents to think rather seriously as to what is a right choice of school for our children’s long term growth!
We as parents have to exercise the right choice if we believe learning is a life long purpose/process than restricting it to a career for survival or to develop a meaningful occupation.How many of us adults are convinced that what we learnt as kids is of use to us now for our personal or professional growth or for identity/survival purpose? We are in such a rush that our children has to meet our foregone dreams or decide their career path by 16 or 17 years or much earlier before their 10th birthday. We want to just fit our kids to an ever changing society or help them to somehow adjust to harsh realities of life, like more money, more fame, high social status and a better life without understanding the needs or pace at which the child wishes to develop. How many of us think that playing is necessary for child’s personality growth? Do we have a value system for ourselves as a family? Does our value system evolve with time or does it remain stable? Does it change as per our view at different levels in our life’s path? More questions often lead to better search or more confusion. Do we feel is it necessary to spend time so seriously when we have so many choice of schools available?
Irrespective of above questions,as parents we have responsibility to provide / expose our children to a wider system of learning.That cannot be possible in one day or one year.Listening to our children,observing their behavior or rather taking time for our children by meaningfully interacting with them will provide opportunity to question and find answers.It gives solutions to much more questions than that posed in above paragraphs.School is just one system in the process of learning but currently considered the most powerful system as it occupies /shapes our children’s lives in their rapid growing years.This is the time to sow more meaningful seeds in their tender minds.If we stop looking at academic achievement alone as the goal & expose our children to more wider areas of learning such as less competitive sports & games to promote their physical growth needs,field trips/family tours focussed towards natural animal/wild life exposure,(which kids can relate better), by introducing informal systems of learning , it may help to form firm basis to sciences in a practical sense. Hearing children relate their daily experiences of routine spent at school gives an idea of their experiences with peers, teachers &the kind of environment they are exposed & how much positive or negative experience added in their lives & how much meaningful learning happening rather than judging them based on their progress report. Exposing children to different environments helps them & parents to figure out regarding their areas of interest such as sports,arts,music etc.This further helps to plan right path for them.It’s not necessary to panic if child takes time to explore & decide where & what is their choice or area of interest.Inspite of our good intentions to give our children the best,if we cannot relate to them at their level of communication,our intentions may not be productive.Forcing kids to take our choices make them more dependent on us and lead to a situation where they fail to exercise their potential.A system of education that gives an impression of failure in academics is only damaging a child’s personality even before it is starting to unfold.
There is sensible need for parents to take time and think seriously about what is the best learning for a life time for their child. This has to be an individual decision that considers the individual child rather than rushing to conclusions that has effects for a life time.
Help children by introducing them to a wider world of learning not restricted to a formal classroom.
Career oriented parents maybe considered as good role models for their children but sometimes can be disastrous if children have their own dreams to fulfill or limitations in their abilities. Often, children are brought to clinical attention for psychological evaluation with stress related to perceived expectations even though not obviously spoken by or demanded by their parents. Unspoken influences by parents seem to bother children especially in the teenage group. Often, parents talk to their friends about their children (in the presence of the child) as to how he/she stood first in a game/academic performance, indirectly suggesting the child that he/she will be appreciated when in limelight. The growing teenager with an unfolding temperament of wnating to be accepted and appreciated may be sensitive to such statements. Often, conversations between adults focus on “how many children do you have, what do they do, which school they are in” without any malicious intent but possibly leading to unforeseen consequences. Parents may also consider their children spending time with their friends without engaging in any meaningful “academic” or “competitive activity” as a waste of time or being aimless.
Can parents recognize this change in their child (a drop in motivation) with their own stress, the limited time spent with children, lack of common routine with time shared together? Sometime of a day or at least a day in a week should be set aside for everyone to share their day. This could be structured or unstructured with the focus on sharing both the perceived gains or good stuff as well as the perceived pains or bad stuff. These sessions may also help to understand specific needs of children. The focus of such sessions is to share and listen and not to sermonize or be judgmental thus encouraging children to feel free to open up about their experiences.
There is a need for parents to recognize that career is important but it alone does not make their child a well groomed or well adjusted personality in future. Spending quality time together even if it is just talking is a great stress buster for children, quality time will imply that one parents do not multitask during this time period.
Often, parents want children to follow their own career paths so that a separate foundation for career need not be laid, children can just piggy back onto their parents career. Although the intention is often to have their children settle faster and not have to go through the same growing pains, this may sometimes be at the cost of the child’s own dreams and their abilities or limitations.
Success is often a perceptional point of view that will vary with each individual. People can be successful in one aspect of life and be considered as failures in another aspect of life. Showing sensitivity towards your child’s dreams and aspirations may help them reach their full potential and make them a happy person.
BRINGING OUT THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF YOUR CHILD
A SIX MONTH TRAINING PROGRAM ON WEEKENDS
With increased complexity of lifestyle and decreasing tolerance levels in our society, our children are the most affected group. Lack of life skills is one important area of concern for growing children. An over emphasis on academics and career is developing our children into incomplete personalities unable to face disappointments. The ability to see failures as stepping stones to their success and all round development is being lost.
Keeping this in mind, we have developed a holistic program on Sundays for children aged 8 to 12 years of age. The program aims to bring out the hidden potential of your child and focused on improving communication skills, assertiveness as well as improving control over anger and impulsive behaviour.
Children will be assessed initially to understand their strengths and areas that can be improved further. This assessment will be conducted by a clinical psychologist and will include collecting information on basic temperament of the child, academic performance, home and school environment and adjustment levels.
Selected children will be trained in practical skills using role plays, dramas, and situational awareness and improving group compliance, verbal expressions, impulse control behaviours, peer interactions and classroom presentations.
The training sessions will be of two hours duration (10.30 am to 12.30 pm) every Sunday and over a period of 6 months starting from January 2014. Each batch will have a maximum of 20 children. Enrolment will be on a first come first served basis. Interested parents should attend the screening session with their child by fixing an appointment.
Venue: Manasvin’s Center for Family Psychotherapy, Anand Nagar Colony, Khairatabad, Hyderabad 500004. http://psychotherapyhyd.com
Interested parents can call Dr Kavitha Praveen at 9849924478 between 9 am and 9 pm to fix an appointment or for further clarifications.
Can a trusted person be damaged by a close or trusting emotional relationship? Sounds illogical but it is possible. Deeper emotional dependence is often considered unhealthy but is an inborn tendency of humans. It is not necessarily a childhood characteristics that we need to outgrow.
Secure dependency is a sign of a healthy relationship, which helps one to be confident and independent in functioning. The more secure we are, the more independent we can be, rather, interdependent and self sufficient we can be. The availability of a emotionally close person provides comfort and security and their lack of access or unavailability can be distressing or hurting. Closeness with an emotionally unaffected person can reduce anxiety and help healthy unfolding of one’s personality. It gives confidence to take risks, learn new information, deal with problems and manage stress effectively in life.
Accessibility and emotional responsiveness are core of healthy bonding between individuals that help build trusting relationships. Our strongest of emotions arise in attachment/emotional relationships.
Insecure emotional relationships can be extremely distressing with anger and aggression experienced on loved ones. Requests for attention and reassurance from emotionally close friends or persons and their failure to respond can lead to anger outbursts, depression leading to detachment over a period of time. Depression maybe a natural response to lost emotional connections. This kind of response or reaction patterns can happen with any relation such as a parent and a child, siblings, wife and husband etc.
Maternal deprivation where an attachment figure is unavailable by rejection or abandonment or loss can be traumatic in the sense of ones ability to deal with fear and stress in one’s life. Unavailable emotional relationships can create insecure attachment with oneself and one’s world leading to inability to handle stress and their ability to emotionally relate to their loved ones.
On the other hand, a close or emotionally attached person can become manipulative or use ones closeness for their selfish needs of material or emotional gains which in the long run can be more damaging to the affected person than helping him or her to deal with the stress. An over-involved parental figure in child activities such as not letting child explore one’s world for fear of hurt or rejection can be damaging to the child in the short and long term as an adult.
In conditions like schizophrenia, it is a well established fact that over involvement, being very critical of ones behavior by an attachment figure or parental figure can be continuous stressors for the symptoms to reappear over a period of ones life time. Rather, these critical behaviors and over involvement can maintain ones psychological disturbance. Non availability of emotionally close relationship can lead to depression which can be limited to oneself or even run in families projecting relational patterns in a family relationship with repeated cycles over generations.
The extreme form of malfunctioning can happen with unhealthy personalities, where ones close and emotionally related persons, manipulate emotions to the core leaving the attached person hurt and blunt by the distancing over a period of time. Here, such persons can use emotions and emotionally close persons as instruments of meeting their needs, using them as objects than emotional beings, even without their knowledge. In other words, the quality of manipulating one’s loved ones can itself become their natural personality tendency leading to more and more loss of loved ones over a period of their life time and possibly leading to isolation, denial and ultimately lost relationships.
Emotions and emotional relationships are complex and one needs to invest time and energy to analyze and retrospect in order to live and healthy and secure relationships. If one does not make the effort to invest time and energy into the relationship, one can be left depressed, isolated, and even ill.
Human emotions, both positive such as happiness, excitement, and negative such as anger, sadness can play a very significant role in relationships. At the same time, the intensity of these emotions can equally be important in deciding the healthy and unhealthy properties of the relationships.By intensity, we mean, the strength or depth of the emotional reaction one expresses towards a personal, emotional or close relationship.
Emotions, specifically anger, have the capacity to stir the persons whole being or personality at the moment of its expression. Rapid physiologic, including hormonal changes, may take place with a high adrenaline rush that increases the function of major body systems such as rapid increase in heart beat, and restless movements of the body. If the environment or persons at the receiving end are not able to understand the intentions or reasons behind this high intense expression, a disequllibrium creating misconceptions may result. For example, if a family member is extremely aggressive (exhibiting high intensity of anger or emotion) and the person or persons at the receiving end miss the actual intention of why he or she is aggressive, an actual damage to the relationship may result as a consequence. The person at the receiving end may misconstrue that the “aggressive” person is trying to physically harm them while the “aggressive” person may be trying to express his anger or frustration through their behavior. Unless both sides understand each other, a strain the emotional relationship results.
When one is in a highly emotional intense state, one loses awareness of oneself, the surroundings and the persons in the environment. Continuous state of body and mind in such a high emotionally intense state can damage the health- both physical and psychological. More over it can be very stressful to close family members leading to a strain emotional distance over a period of time.
It is very important that one understand and works towards maintaining an emotional balance to preserve harmony with relationships. When one is emotionally intense state of body and mind, one loses the ability to reason and logical capacity and may cross safe boundaries of propriety, and possibly abuse close family members. Repeated episodes of such situations can permanently damage the emotional relationship making people feel alone, depressed and vulnerable. Not only that, repeated expressions of negative emotions can themself become habitual leading to more and more such “disasters”. The unpredictability can be very threatening to significant or close family members living under the same roof.
In order to preserve one’s relationships, it is important to be aware of the situation as a first step. Showing agression in a high emotional state can appear to be an immediate rewarding experience for the person expressing; however, it can be more damaging in the long run. The receiving person may obey or become submissive for the moment but can become increasingly resistant over time and create an increasingly negative relationship. The ability to share openly between members becomes constrained. It is important that family members become aware and are willing to work towards this.
Certain precautions can be done to avoid such events-preventing emotional outbursts, anticipating and moving away from stressors, discussing stressors with family members, and discussions post episode with all sides willing to listen to each other, working out a balance, by finding alternate creative expressions or expectations, or writing a diary or notes to understand and reflect, learning to express frustration or upset by discussing than showing anger. If relations are still developing a distance in spite of best personal efforts, it is always advisable to seek professional help and even undergo an anger management program. It is advisable not to take any “emotionally charged” major decisions when one in a high emotional state of aggression.
When more than one member of a family are seen together in a therapy setting, it is called Family Therapy. The meeting of a couple, a parent and a child, siblings, or a multi-generation family with a family therapist all fall within the scope of family therapy.
When is family therapy indicated? Family therapy is indicated when the focus of therapy or counselling is related to changing or addressing unhealthy interactions between family members, aimed at improving the family functioning as a unit or improve functioning of individual members of the family.
Family therapy can be applied or approached for variety of conditions. Therapy can be used for or aimed at resolving difficulties between couple such as marital dissatisfaction, sexual or intimacy difficulties, therapy aimed at overcoming differences parents and their grown up children, or to address problems in the behavior of a family member and the consequent effects on other family members.
How does family therapy help? Family therapist focuses on the functioning of the family as a unit by careful and objective observations made while family members interact with each other in a therapy setting. In a family relationship, the relation is considered as a product of interactions happening between members as a process. For example, if a person addicted to alcohol reasons that his or her consumption is due to stress created within the family, the family members may reason that the stressful environment is created by the person’s alcoholism. The reasoning in this instance runs in circles with it being difficult to establish which came first- the stress or the alcoholism. Similarly, if a parent sees his child has a troublesome behavior, the child may reason that the parent never took time to understand their views. In a family therapy setting, the process of circular reasoning is carefully interpreted and the family given feedback to work out towards a more workable solution. The functioning of a family together will be the focus of counselling in a family therapy setting rather than focusing on changing an individual person. That means, all members are expected to change to have a possible resolution rather than holding onto or focusing on one member alone as a reason for difficulty.
Family therapy strengthens emotional bonding between members of a family by making them aware of the unhealthy behaviors of individual members , the aim of the therapy and the need for collaboration between all members towards achieving a desirable harmony that will improve overall functioning of the family as a unit. It gives a clarity to all members of the family involved in therapy as to how each member is contributing to the dysfunctional state.
There are different treatment or therapy models utilized by family therapist based on the nature of the problem, availability of family members and complexity of the family dysfunctioning. The cooperation of the members is a vital component for the success of the family therapy.
Discord is a word that explains adjustment difficulties between related persons at a severe or intense level. Parental discord can be a major and crucial area that can have significant effect on emotional relation between siblings. Constant fights and added physical or emotional or verbal abuse between parents can create confusion and anxiety at a younger age (even for month old babies) sowing seeds of tension, fear and pent up anger. Children may not be able to meaningfully verbalize and express these conflicting thoughts and emotions. At later ages, as they grow into adult individuals, it may be expressed as being fearful of or a fear of being emotionally attached to another person, a fear of authority, considering relationships as risky or as being vulnerable, fear of becoming a victim, fear of rejection etc.
Effects on the older sibling: The responsibility of older sibling taking a parental role where possible over involvement (without even possibly being aware of it) can result in loss of his or her own position as a sibling. This can kindle or trigger raised expectations and added responsibilities from younger siblings at a later stage. The younger siblings may transfer parental roles and expectations to the older sibling including the baggage and frustrations associated with the parental roles. This can lead to an increased stress in the relationship as the older sibling has to manage their own needs and expectations with those of the younger siblings. The expectations from the younger siblings may interfere with the expectations of the older siblings on how they would like to build their life. As the older sibling tries to achieve a balance, they may be looked at as being dominating, intrusive or interfering or even as uncaring and selfish. However, from the older siblings point of view, it can be a result of overbearing parental responsibilities that add stress and lead to hurt and emotional strain. Losing one’s own status as a brother or sister (and one’s own childhood and dreams) can sometimes be a shock that leads to emotional stress.
Effect on the younger sibling: Inability to differentiate the role played by a sibling and their parents can lead to over-expectations that are impractical and strain the emotional relationship between siblings. Emotional battles and manipulations between them can lead to a disengaged or “lack of love” relation and create a distance between siblings.
Effect on parents: Lack of focus can trigger or rekindle past stressors among parents leading to the resurfacing of old conflicts. It may result in intense struggles between the parents and may even involve their married children and spouses.
How do you work through this entangled web of emotional relations? The only way to work towards getting balance can be a direct discussion between parents and siblings. This depends on the motivation and availability of all members to work together and retain the sense of a family. Unless an effort is made, the marital and interpersonal relations of parents and their children can be affected. As the children become more involved with their life – their careers, their own children, their marital relations- the level of motivation needed to work towards maintaining the family increases. There is the risk that the family loses its identity and each individual charts their won separate courses without any common attachment. The same cycle may repeat with the individual families as it is not biological tendencies alone, but relational patterns also are repetitive with personalities remaining nearly the same. Like genetic characteristics, we also carry the relational patterns with our personalities and tend to repeat them. Unless corrected consciously, this may affect every relation entered into.
If the level of motivation and distance is low or absent, the best way can be creating a healthy distance between own families so that further strain is not built up (either as a temporary or permanent solution). The boundaries of what is healthy and unhealthy is more blurred than clear and hence needs a clear perception on all sides. The loss of the family structure may be seen as a real loss of an anchor or may bee pragmatically accepted as the dispersion of the family with the loss of its own identity.
There are limited options to work with if individual family members are not willing to reflect and re-visit their own roles and expectations with a better understanding. The longer the duration and distance in terms of accepting the need to work on relations, the lesser the chances of coming together as a family again. The binding forces that are intense and strongly bind family relations can be as strongly repulsive if family members do not work towards a healthy relation. You may not be able to choose the family you were born into but you could definitely choose to work towards maintaining the relational structure of the family you were born into.