The week of May 2nd-8th is Screen-Free Week, this means that you take a break from all technology including the TV! The purpose of a screen-free week is to reinstate the joy of life outside of technology. 

Why is screen-free time important? This is because too much screen time can have harmful effects on children’s development. Here are some negative effects screen time can have: 

  • Children are rapidly learning the language at ages 1.5 to 3 years old. Studies show that these children learn better from a person than from a television show. Statistics have shown that those children who watched more tv than adult interactions performed less on reading tests in Elementary school. 
  • For children three or young, screen time can take away a crucial part of their development by limiting their exposed experiences and observations of the real world.
  • Premature thinning of the cortex in the brain using technology seven or more hours a day. This region is essential for cognitive functioning and is not supposed to start thinning until later development. 
  • Screens also impact the circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin. This is due to the blue light screen inhibiting melatonin production, decreasing sleep. 

What parental controls can be in place for safe screen time?

  • Watch TV shows with your child and add comments along the way to add personal commentary to help enable learning
  • Choose media-appropriate apps for your child
  • Keep meal-time, family time, and bedtime a screen-free space
  • Limit your own screen time because your child will modal after you
  • Set clear boundaries with all types of technology
  • Set specific time limits 
  • Plan ahead with consequences if technology rules are broken

Start today with monitoring and limiting technology use for you and your children. Challenge your family to participate in Screen-Free week May 2nd-8th 

Resources 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Connected and content: Managing healthy technology use. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/social-media-internet/healthy-technology-use

Coping with screens: 12 tips for balancing children’s mental health and technology use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children and Screens. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.childrenandscreens.com/media/press-releases/coping-with-screens-12-tips-for-balancing-childrens-mental-health-and-technology-use-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Save this to read later. Send to email 11 Min Read •Children’s Health. (2021, November 3). What does too much screen time do to kids’ brains? NewYork-Presbyterian. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-does-too-much-screen-time-do-to-childrens-brains/

By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialist)

What is considered sexual assault?

According to the US Department of Justice, sexual assault is defined as means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center mentions that the are several forms of sexual violence, which include:

  • Rape
  • Child sexual assault and incest
  • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
  • Masturbating in public
  • Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission
  • Nonconsensual image sharing

Who is impacted by sexual assault?

Victims of sexual violence include people of all ages, races, genders, and religions — with and without disabilities.

  • Nearly one in five women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives.
  • In the United States, 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape.
  • An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 21.2% of non-Hispanic black women, 20.5% of non-Hispanic white women, and 13.6% of Hispanic women were raped during their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2022).

The Facts:

  • Victims often know the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • People who sexually abuse usually target someone they know.           
    • Nearly 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew
    • 1 out of 5 were committed by a family member (RAINN, 2022). 

How to seek help:

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

1-800-656-4673

What can be done?

  • Raising awareness
  • Supporting survivors 
  • Getting involved to help change laws and policies regarding crimes of sexual violence and how survivors are treated

Resources:

https://www.nsvrc.org

https://www.rainn.org

https://www.nsvrc.org/about-sexual-assault

By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialsit)

What are the facts?

  • 1 in 7 children experienced abuse of neglect within the last year (CDC, 2022). 
  • In 2020 Georgia ranked 38th in the nation for child well-being (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Types of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse: injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker other than by accidental means​
  • Neglect: parent or caretaker allows a child to experience avoidable suffering or fails to provide basic essentials for physical, social, and emotional development​
  • Emotional Abuse: parent or caretaker creates a negative emotional atmosphere for the child ​
  • Sexual Abuse: any adult or older or more powerful child employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in any form of sexual intercourse​
  • Endangering a Child: a person intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence, and/or a person knows that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Warning Signs of Abuse

Mayo Clinic notes multiple signs and symptoms of abuse.

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
  • Attempts at running away
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

What can I do?

As a mandated reporter, you are required to make a DFCS report. According to GA law, failure to report abuse can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

How to Report:

Child abuse and/or neglect reports are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A report can be submitted on online via the portal or by paper and faxed in.

1.855.GACHILD (+1 855-422-4453)

Resources:

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services: https://dfcs.georgia.gov

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

http://www.pcageorgiahelpline.org

Self-harm: this is when one hurts themselves as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings.

Some individuals self-harm as a way to:

-express their feelings when it is hard to put into words

-change emotional pain into physical pain

-reduce overwhelming feelings

-punish themselves for their feelings and experiences

-express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life

Ways individuals self-harm: 

-cutting yourself

-over-eating or under-eating

-biting yourself

-hitting yourself or walls

-pulling your hair

-picking or scratching at your skin

How to overcome self-harm:

  • Learn to recognize triggers: triggers are people, places, situations, sensations, or events that cause specific thoughts or feelings. 
  • Become aware of the urge to self-harm: being able to recognize urges helps an individual take steps towards reducing or stopping self-harm. 

Urges can include:

-strong emotions like sadness or anger

-racing heart or feelings of heaviness

-disconnection from yourself or a loss of sensation

-unhealthy decisions, like working too hard to avoid feelings 

-repetitive thoughts about harming yourself

  • Identify distractions: identify distractions that can help distract the urge to self-harm. 
  • Keep a diary: a diary can help keep track and understand self-harming behaviors. This is useful to keep track of what occurred before, during, and after self-harming. After a period of time, the diary can help spot patterns of self-harming behaviors (Melinda, 2022). 
  • Use coping techniques: to help overcome self-harm, an alternate coping skill needs to take its place. 
  • If self-harm is to express pain and intense emotion: paint, draw, journal, write a poem, listen to music
  • If self-harm is to calm or soothe: take a hot bath, pet an animal, use a warm blanket, massage your neck, hands, and feet, listen to calming music
  • If self-harm is to disconnect or numb pain: call a friend, take a cold shower, hold ice in hand, chew something with a strong taste
  • If self-harm is to release tension or vent anger: exercise, punch a cushion, squeeze a stress ball, rip something up, make noises with instrument, bang pots and pans
  • Seek professional help: trained professionals can help direct towards overcoming cutting or other self-harming habits. 

Client Support Specialist: a CSS can help identify triggers and develop coping skills.

Therapy: a therapist can help explore past or current trauma that may be triggering self-harming behaviors and can assist in helping develop coping skills (Self-harm, 2020). 

Resources

Melinda. (2022, February 7). Cutting and self-harm. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

Self-harm 2020 – mind. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5783/self-harm-2020.pdf

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression), is a mental disorder that causes and unusual shift in mood, with extreme highs and lows.

Types of Bipolar:

  • Bipolar I 

Having at least one manic episode followed by hypomanic or major depressive episode. Manic episodes lasting at least 7 days or needing immediate hospital care 

  • Bipolar II

Having at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic, but no manic episodes

  • Cyclothymic

Having periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Types of Episodes:

  • Manic

A manic episode is characterized as at least one week of being extremely high-spirited or irritable most of the days, possessing more energy than usual, and at least 3 of the following: 

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Fast speech
  • Uncontrollable racing thoughts/quickly changing topics while speaking
  • Distractibility
  • Increased activity 
  • Increased risky behaviors 

Some people in manic episodes report psychotic features, such as false beliefs and/or hallucinations.

  • Hypomanic

Hypomanic is characterized with less severe manic symptoms only 4 days in a row versus a week.

  • Major Depressive

Major depressive is characterized by at least 2 weeks where at least 5 of the following symptoms present:

  • Intense sadness or despair
  • Loss of interest in activities the person once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Increased or decreased sleep
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Restlessness or slowed speech or movement
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment:

Bipolar Disorder comes with lifelong treatment. Medication is used to balance and stabilize mood. Along with medication, therapy/counseling has proven to be helpful with managing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/bipolar-disorders/what-are-bipolar-disorders

Developmental Disabilities are severe and long-term problems. These disabilities can range from mental disability to physical disability or both. 

Physical disabilities include: blindness, hearing loss, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, etc. 

Mental disabilities include: anxiety disorders, depressive disorder, personality disorders, etc.

Developmental disabilities can also present both physical and mental disabilities, such as, down syndrome (U.S. National Library, 2021)

  • Approximately 15% of children age 3-17, or 1 in 6 children, in the U.S. has some type of developmental disability
  • Many children and adults have more
    than one type of intellectual or developmental disability.
    Each likely to result in a variety of challenges requiring different types of care and services
  • Recent estimates show there are approximately 4.92 million individuals in the U.S. living with an intellectual disability, which is about 17% of the U.S. population
  • Children from families with low income have higher prevalence of intellectual/developmental disabilities
  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been shown to have poorer health and poorer access to health care
  • Males have been shown to have twice the prevalence of any developmental disability than females
  • It is estimated that 30-35% of all
    people with intellectual or developmental disabilities also have a psychiatric disorder (statistics, 2016)

Resources

Statistics. The Achievable Foundation. (2016, March 21). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://achievable.org/developmental-disabilities/statistics/

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 9). Developmental disabilities. MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/developmentaldisabilities.html

Self-esteem is defined as the overall opinion of yourself. This is determined by the feelings you have towards your abilities and your limitations. Everyone has a self-esteem, but each person differentiates between low or just right self-esteem. 

Low self-esteem is characterized as ones focus on perceived weaknesses and faults and they give no or little lack of credit to their skills or assets. 

Healthy self-esteem is characterized as a good balance and accurate view of self and has a good opinion of abilities but also recognizes their faults. 

Most individuals fall between the range of low and healthy self-esteem, but there are a significant number of individuals who battle with low self-esteem. 

So, how can we boost self-esteem so that healthy self-esteem is attainable? 

Here are four steps to take to achieve healthy self-esteem:

  1. Identify troubling conditions: think about the conditions or situation that tend to deflate your self-esteem. 

Some common influences of self-esteem can be:

-Your thoughts and perceptions

-How others react to you

-Experiences at home, school, work, and in the community

-Illnesses, disability, or injury

-Age

-Role and status in society

-Media messages 

  1. Become aware of thoughts: Once you have identified the troubling condition(s), pay attention to your thoughts about them. 

Ask yourself, is what I am thinking true? Would you say these thoughts to a friend? If the thoughts you are having is something that you would not say to a friend then you should not say them to yourself. 

  1. Challenge negative thinking: Initial thoughts may not be the only way to view a situation. 

You want to ask yourself if your thoughts line up with the facts of the situation? Is there other explanation to the situation other than my initial thought? 

  1. Adjust your thoughts and beliefs: Replace negative or inaccurate thoughts with accurate and constructive thoughts.

-Adjust your negative thoughts to positive ones

-Use encouraging words to yourself 

-Forgive yourself if applicable 

Once healthy self-esteem has been attained then we can enjoy the benefits. 

Benefits of healthy self-esteem include: 

  • Able to form secure and honest relationships
  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical with yourself
  • Resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks 

And most importantly to feel good, secure, and increased self-worth (Mayo, 2020). 

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, July 14). Does your self-esteem need a boost? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-esteem/art-20047976

In the United States, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these forms of violence by a partner before the age of 18-year-old. 

Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is when an intimate partner behaves in physical, sexual, psychological violence or stalking behaviors. 

1 in every 11 females and 1 in every 14 male High School students report having experienced physical dating violence.

1 in every 8 females and 1 in every 26 male High School students report having experienced sexual dating violence. 

  • Physical Violence: hitting, kicking, pushing
  • Sexual Violence: forcing a partner to take part in a sexual act 
  • Psychological Violence: Name-calling, insulting, threatening 
  • Stalking: repeatedly unwanted or threatening phone calls and messages and/or showing up unwanted. 

Teens who are or have been victims of teen dating violence are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors (Tabacco, alcohol, drugs)
  • Exhibit antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting
  • Think about or commit suicide (CDC, 2021)

How to prevent teen dating violence:

  • Look for warning signs: if someone you know starts having multiple injuries, a decrease in motivation, drop in grades, or loss interest in activities could be a result of dating violence.
  • Act on warning signs: if you notice warning signs, act on them. Speak to the individual about getting help through talking to an adult or seeking counsel. As well as using resources such as dating violence hotlines. 
  • Be supportive: it is important for the individual to feel loved and supported, especially when they have been in an abusive relationship.
  • Educate: it is important for teens to be educated and understand what teen dating violence is and the impacts it can have on well-being. It is also important for teens to be educated on the resources available if they experience dating violence. 

Teen violence does not just occur face to face. Teens can experience dating violence through internet services as well (Taylor et al., 2016)

If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence please get help right away. 

Love is Respect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 

Call: 1-866-331-9474  or  TTY 1-866-331-8453

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 5). Preventing teen dating violence |violence prevention|injury Center|CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html

Male survivor guide to help men find support and overcome the trauma caused by abuse or assault

https://www.innerbody.com/resource-guide-for-male-survivors-of-abuse-sexual-assault-and-trauma

Dating violence prevention. Dating Violence Prevention | Youth.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence

Taylor, Maralyn, Kimani, Hannah, & Antoilyn. (2016, February 5). 5 ways to prevent teen dating violence. URGE. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://urge.org/5-ways to-prevent-teen-dating-violence/

As the year ends, we start to think about the resolutions we want to set for the upcoming year. These resolutions or goals may be for physical health, new habits, finances, or focus on your mental health. Whatever the goal may be, making significant long-lasting change is difficult. When we fail to achieve these goals the first month of the year, we can increase our anxiety and become frustrated with ourselves.  

This New Year’s, we should set realistic, small, manageable goals for the New Year. The goals that we set should be thought-out and prepared with a plan to achieve this goal. A great way to achievable goals for this upcoming year is to use SMART goals.  

S –Specific  

M –Measurable  

A –Achievable 

R –Realistic  

T –Time-Bound 

Specific: Be specific in what you want to accomplish. Use who, what, when, why, and where when thinking about achieving your goal. This is the mission statement for your goal. 

Measurable: Make your goal measurable to track your progress. Ask yourself what metric system can be used to measure your goal? If your goal is a task that may take a few months to accomplish, then set milestones along the way to encourage the completion of the goal.  

Achievable: Set your goal to be achievable and focus on the importance of the goal. Ask yourself what is required to achieve this goal? How will you accomplish this goal? Remember that the goal is to motivate yourself and not discourage you.  

Realistic: Choose a realistic and attainable goal. If your goal is unrealistic such as learning a new language in one week, you are most likely setting yourself up for disappointment. You want to set a realistic goal that you can meet and increase your motivation to accomplish this goal.  

Time-Bound: Provide yourself with a realistic time frame to achieve your goal. If you allow yourself plenty of time to achieve your goal with small target dates along the way, this will increase motivation to meet your target goal (Borenstein, 2020).  

We want to set realistic, small, manageable goals to set ourselves up for success. After deciding on your SMART goal, we want to take the following steps: 

  • Start small: Setting a goal that you can keep.  
  • Change one behavior at a time: Do not get overwhelmed by trying to achieve your goal all at once. If your goal is to stop drinking soda, then start by cutting out one soda a day for a week rather than completely stopping drinking soda.  
  • Talk about your goal: Talk about your goals with family or friends. To help achieve your goal seek out an accountability partner.  
  • Do not beat yourself up: If you happen to take a minor setback, do not beat yourself up over it. Do not give up completely, and remember that perfection is not achievable. Resolve and recover from your mistakes and get back to attaining your goal.  
  • Ask for support: If you become overwhelmed or unable to achieve your goal, consider seeking professional help if needed. Therapy and Client Support Specialists can help you set realistic goals and help you build skills to attain those goals, along with helping you address emotions and unhealthy behaviors that may occur from not being able to achieve a specific goal (American Psychological Association, 2019).  

Resources 

American Psychological Association. (2019). Making your New Year’s resolution stick. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/behavioral-health/new-year-resolutions

Borenstein, J. (2020, March 19). Setting Mental Health Goals for the New Year. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/setting-mental-health-goals-new-year

At Georgia HOPE, we believe in the strengthening of the family unit. We do so by providing affordable services to individuals and their families. More specifically, we offer parent skills training, individual/family counseling, and group counseling. With these services, we can assist you in meeting identified goals for yourself and your family. Whatever your need may be, we are here for your benefit. Georgia HOPE can also connect you to resources within your community based on need. For more information regarding our services, visit https://gahope.org/our-services/

Spending quality time with family is an inaugural part of child and adolescent development. Did you know that spending 15 short minutes a day with your child can lead to happier and healthier well-being? It can be as simple as watching a movie, playing a game, or baking cookies. Studies have shown that children are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use when they have more quality time with family. Children who engage in quality time regularly are less likely to experience behavioral issues at home and school. Children who have spent time with their families are more confident in themselves to succeed mentally and emotionally. 


Reference: https://extension.sdstate.edu/why-spending-quality-time-your-children-important

Written by: Taylor Luczynski