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Chat with child psychologist Wes Crenshaw about school, family and social issues

August 16, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Wes Crenshaw, a Lawrence child psychologist and co-author of the Double Take column in the Journal-World, will take questions about school, family and social issues.

Moderator:

Hi, everyone. I'm Christy Little, your chat moderator today. Wes Crenshaw is kind enough to do this chat with us today from San Francisco, and we're starting a little early to make sure our connections are set.

Wes Crenshaw:

I'm here in beautiful SFO.

Moderator:

We'll start with our reader questions ... the first is about ADD.

Ragingbear:

It seems today that so many children have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD that it appears that it is used as a way to make children stop acting like children and just sit there in school. What is your take on the prevalence of such diagnosis and medication to our children?

Wes Crenshaw:

I haven't run into that. Can you give an example?

Wes Crenshaw:

ADHD is one of the best established diagnositic categories in the diagnositc manual. It really isn't as much about sitting still. If you go into a classroom with say, 30 people and know what you are looking for you can pick out the kid's with ADHD. It's harder to pick out the non-hyperactive ones, but they are there too. The issue is how does the child compare to AGEMATES rather than an ideal of how children behave. All testing for ADHD is based on normative data. So kid's have to be A LOT more inattentive. Of note, hyperactivity isn't the main qualifier. Inattention is.

JTravis:

What type of therapy would you recommend for our 10 year old who has been extremely terified of dogs and cats since she was 1 1/2 years old?

Wes Crenshaw:

Systematic desensitization is the usual treatment for any phobia. I've talked about it in the column before. It is a graduale pairing of the child with a picture of the object, then the object in say a cage, and later the object across the room, and so on. And the therapist and family work to help the child calm herself down as she gets closer over many sessions. This is the empirically validated treatment for a number of fearful things.

momtomany:

Wes,
Is it mostly ture if a child has been sexually abused that it would more than likely come out in their therapy sessions? And wouldn't it be out of the ordinary for a teenager to freely talk about it and yet still want something to do with the individual?

Wes Crenshaw:

Well, that is a very complicated question. First of all, I have seen a change for the last 14 years on this issue. Earlier in my practice (and that of my colleagues) young ppl were reporting more sexual abuse to therapists. Now, I haven't received a disclosure from a minor for a long time. I have received many from 18 and ups and continue to get them from adults in the 20s -- who've never told anyone before. When asked why, they are uniform in stating that they did not want their parent, uncle, brother, etc. to go to jail, be on the offender's registry etc. In other situations, another party (say the mom, or grandmother) has been told and tries to protect the child but implores them not to tell any one. Kids know that once they turn 18 they have full confidentiality for such things and can leave home, and then the start sharing the information. It's really very tragic. I'll post this and then add more on the second half of yoru question.

Wes Crenshaw:

People have a hard time understanding that for a large percentage of sexual abuse cases, it is an acquantaince, and often a parent or step parent who is the offender. Much less common is the "stranger-danger" type of person. Most offenders "groom" victims and form a close relationship with them. Needless to say this is disturbing. However, it is the norm. So many kids not only want to have the relationship MINUS the abuse, but we have to remember that there are thousands of them out there right now having that relationship because the vast majority of sex abuse is never reported. So the short answer is that getting the secret out is important to kids if it protects them, but it often doesn't mean they want to end the relationship. That leaves us in a very complex dynamic that has yet to be dealt with adequately.

jcstepmom28:

Wes, My 13 yr old stepson has a few issues for which he is getting help. My problem is that his (bio) mother doesn't pay attention to him. She only has him come over if we ask, and she never calls him to check on him. I can see that this is hurting his feelings, and despite my suggestion that she call more often, etc it doesn't happen. How do I help my son deal with this consistent rejection?

PS We live less than 2 miles from each other, this is not a problem of physical distance.

Wes Crenshaw:

Well you are in a real bind here. You absolutely have to take the step-parent role and not over-ride the bio-mom but at the same time she isn't (by your account) fulfililng that role very well. I think the best thing you can do is reach out in the manner of a kind adult friend to him, say respectful things about his mother even if he doesn't, and support his dad in being a solid parent. I would NOT get into any contests with the mom, no matter how she may be distancing herself. I'd like to say this is rare, but regardless of it being a dad or a mom that distances like this, it is not rare at all.

Moderator:

Wes, reader justthefacts asks this: "Do you think today's children are less civil or well mannered then generations past, and if so to what do you attribute that change and is it something parents should worry about?"

Wes Crenshaw:

Huh! Great question and one I think about a lot. If you look at history every generation is just certain that the kids of today are more unruly and screwy than any time before. Think of what our parents thought of us in the 60s and 70s. Holy Cow. ON THE OTHER HAND, I think that there is a great deal more trouble available for kids today than there was at any point in history and a great many more distractions from text messaging to a whole new approach to sexual contact. What I really think is that parents are weighing their own teen-foolishness too heavily at times and not being willing to set down the groundrules for kids. Kids will do kid things. That's what they do and have always done. Parents have to do parent things and sometimes that means being a hypocrite b/c you are tough now but were not so perfect as a teen.

waswade:

I have a 6 year old daughter starting 1st grade this year and has a history of difficulty with transitions. For instance going from summer to starting school she does not sleep well, acts out often at home, is mean to her brother, and just basically looses it when her daily schedule changes significantly. Do you have any advice for me?

Wes Crenshaw:

It is very difficult to toss out diagnoses with such limited information, so please don't over-read anything I say. It wouldn't hurt to have her talk to a therapist who specializes in younger kids even for a couple of sessions. The goal here would be to find out if this sort of thing is just her flavor of being 6 or whether it is the sign of an underlying anxiety disorder. One place to look would be your family and your spouse's. If either of you or your family members are big worries, type-A personalities, etc. then that could be part of the problem. If this little gal really stands out in the bigger picture, it's less likely that's it. However, w/o more info and a face-to-face it's really hard to know if that's the case. However, for kids who have this sort of problem, anxiety -- temporary or more trait-related -- is often to blame. And fortunately it's not too bad to treat.

Moderator:

OK, a question now from Machiavelli_mania: "Do you think boys are suffering from a society that seeks to feminize them?"
"Do you think we are allowing our sons to fall behind in deference to making sure girls advance?"

Wes Crenshaw:

Well that kind of leans to the sociological, but it's interesting none-the-less. You've probably seen the Boy's Dangerous Book, and the authors make a gentle plea in the same direction. Personally I don't really see that so much. I don't know of any research that really supports that. Boy's sports are (I'd estimate) at an all time high for participation. I think it isn't so much a societal issue as how one wishes to spend time with their sons (or daughters). I suggest teaching girls to shoot rifles and boys to cook. Both skills come in handy, and everyone should know how to work on a car or paint a house. I don't see those as being guy or girl things.

justanothervoice:

Do you have any resources/suggestions for an adult trying to overcome childhood trauma of sexual abuse, on their own?

Wes Crenshaw:

I am a little hesitant to make that recommendation because, as I say in the book I'm working for parenting teenage girls "you can't write a book about parenting teenage girls...you'd need one fore every girl." Everyone's abuse history is very very different and I think some resources are harmful for some people at one stage of that process and less so at others. And some are helpful at one point and not at others. Overall, I don't want to over-sell therapy but when it comes ot talking about trauma and abuse, I have to suggest that "going it on your own" may not be the best idea. Remember what you put in your head about these sorts of things is going to stick, and the very act of talking about, getting other perspectives, crying, sharing, and making a connection with someone who is not caught up in the situation can itself be healing.

Moderator:

Readers, we're about out of time, so please submit a question if you wanted to ask Wes about anything today.

Moderator:

And here's another question from justthefacts: "In your opinion, how much freedom or privacy should a parent give to teens? E.g. Is it ever OK to "snoop" on them?"

Wes Crenshaw:

Well that is really the big question of our generation of teens I think, and I don't have it all figured out just yet. One has to be guided by ethics here and coming to an ethical approach -- that balances teen privacy with parental authority is very tricky. I expect we'll be tackling this issue this Fall and I'll use your question as an impetus. For now, I'd say that you should give your kid's more privacy if their judgment is reasonably sound. The more unsound their judgment the more you need to interceed. So if a kid is using drugs in the house -- or there is reasonable suspicion that he is -- privacy goes down the tubes. If the kid just wants to write deep profound thoughts about life's pain or talk privately with a boy or girlfriend in a manner you might not approve of (believe me they do) I'd leave that totally alone. If the issues are self-harm of any kind, prying is more ethical. If the issues are just teen stuff, prying is dangerous. As with all the questions today, its a good one and we'll revisit it in the coming weeks.

Moderator:

All right, we're out of time, folks. Wes, any final thoughts for us today?

Wes Crenshaw:

Returning to the issue of resources for sex abuse victims, one did come to mind. It's not really a book about sex abuse but about having a health relationship to your own sexuality, and that does include discussions about trauma. It's called (get this!) Secrets of A Sexually Satisfied Woman by Laura Berman and her sister. I know this sounds solacious but it's not. It's a good readable clinical book. If you've caugh Laura's showtime specials, they are great and I've taken her trainings and she's excellent. I think her work is very healthy and healing. So there's one.

Moderator:

And Wes, as you said to justthefacts, you and your new student columnist may explore some of these questions more in-depth in the fall.

Wes Crenshaw:

Yes. I think all the questions this week were really thoughtful and interesting and so you'll probably be getting more indepth answers to them -- and Julia's comments -- in comming issues of the LJW. We are backed up with letters until the end of September but we'll sprinkle these in as we go through the Fall. Terrific issues.

Moderator:

Thanks for joining us today, Wes.

Wes Crenshaw:

Enjoy the 100 degree heat. It's 63 in Frisco!

Comments

costello 6 years, 7 months ago

Hi venice:

If this is addressed to Wes Crenshaw, I doubt if he'll see it here.

If you're just asking the people on this forum, we aren't mental health experts.

You say you've tried therapy, and it didn't help you. But you've posted your question to a chat with a psychotherapist. Maybe you should try therapy again with a different therapist. If you live in Lawrence, you might try Bert Nash. Or, if you live elsewhere, call your local mental health association. If you have health insurance, you might try a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker in private practice.

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time. I hope you can find someone to help.

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venice32 6 years, 7 months ago

Hello,

I am 31 years old and I am battling (LLP) low Level Potential. I had a rough childhood I repelled against my parents I hang out with all the wrong people. And I met all the wrong guys. After having my first child at 17 I thought my life was over. My child is now 12 years old soon to be 13. The father to this child has sense moved on and I am still stuck in the past. I am not a stable person when it comes to money, love, and career. I really do not know why I am having a hard time living in a normal society life the way they advertise. I am a struggling 31 year old single parent. I tend to be attracted to men that are a lot older than I am. Do I have low self esteem maybe. Do I think I am not worthy Yes? Am I a good parent No! I had 13 jobs since I was able to get working papers. I have issues with affection and showing emotions. I am a deep thinker, what may not be offensive to one person maybe disheartening to me. My relationship with such child is grim. I feel as if I am living in a life full of destruction, everything I touch does not turn to gold. I am always angry and upset at everything and I have no patience for anyone. I went to a shrink and did the whole I will talk out my problems. Went to church and did the whole I am a Christian thing. There is something lacking that is preventing me to move on with my life. I am estranged from my family and the communication has always been an issue. I lived in a group home for about a year when my mother had me go to court for running away all the time. I am not sure if I love my parents. I tolerate them. Please let me know how I can overcome this problem I am having with self. Please advice

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promitida 6 years, 7 months ago

You know RB looking back at double take columns you seem to have a problem with almost every one. Why do you continue to read and respond to someone's advice that you do not find helpful? It looks more like a personal attack than anything else.

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Ragingbear 6 years, 8 months ago

This was a chat. I submitted my question. There was no way that I could have reasonably submitted "further information" or elaborated in any way. He just blew me off. He knew full and well what I am talking about. Just about every person in the psychological field does. He would rather just ignore it.

And just because he can't prescribe it does not prevent him from forwarding his "opinion" to the doctor there that can prescribe it,who instantly agrees and then prescribes it.

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oldgoof 6 years, 8 months ago

you other dudes/gals who have such strong opinions/axes make me very very nervous.

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machiavelli 6 years, 8 months ago

Court of Machiavelli Chat Room (continued)...

Q: "Do you think boys are suffering from a society that seeks to feminize them?" "Do you think we are allowing our sons to fall behind in deference to making sure girls advance?"

A: Yes, but I'm not sure that girls are really advancing. Political correctness, which is the root of what we're talking about here, has only served to drive negative attitudes, behaviors, and stereotypes toward women farther underground. It has not eliminated them in the least.

Q: "Do you have any resources/suggestions for an adult trying to overcome childhood trauma of sexual abuse, on their own?"

A: Yes, I do. Do not become sexually abusive toward anyone else. Don't do drugs. Don't drink. If you haven't already done so, begin pursuing a formal education. Thanks for the question.

Q: "In your opinion, how much freedom or privacy should a parent give to teens? E.g. Is it ever OK to "snoop" on them?"

A: Only if you want to know the gory details.

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machiavelli 6 years, 8 months ago

Court of Machiavelli Chat Room (continued)...

Q: "Is it mostly ture if a child has been sexually abused that it would more than likely come out in their therapy sessions? And wouldn't it be out of the ordinary for a teenager to freely talk about it and yet still want something to do with the individual"

M: Well, ummm...anything's possible. Next question.

Q: "My 13 yr old stepson has a few issues for which he is getting help. My problem is that his (bio) mother doesn't pay attention to him. She only has him come over if we ask, and she never calls him to check on him. I can see that this is hurting his feelings, and despite my suggestion that she call more often, etc it doesn't happen. How do I help my son deal with this consistent rejection? PS We live less than 2 miles from each other, this is not a problem of physical distance."

A: Well, JC, what incentive does his stepmother have in paying attention to anything? Her son has a stepmom who is so attentive and insightful that she is willing to go so far as to seek out parenting tips on an internet chat room! She's home free! You're doing all the heavy lifting, and she's getting all the benefits!

Q: "Do you think today's children are less civil or well mannered then generations past, and if so to what do you attribute that change and is it something parents should worry about?"

A: My first inclination is to simply answer "yes" to both questions and leave it at that, but I think I'll illustrate by telling a story...

I was in Target the other day, and as I was walking along near the toy department I saw some female toy dolls for sale. I was immediately taken aback. "She" was "wearing" what appeared to be mascara, lipstick, a low-cut blouse, and a pair of those tight-fitting, "low rise" jeans. I was surprised that she didn't come complete with a "cocaine vial" accessory. I think the toy was called "Bratz."

My point is that we all get the society we deserve, but thanks for your question anyway.

Q: "I have a 6 year old daughter starting 1st grade this year and has a history of difficulty with transitions. For instance going from summer to starting school she does not sleep well, acts out often at home, is mean to her brother, and just basically looses it when her daily schedule changes significantly. Do you have any advice for me?"

A: Yes. Get a life.

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machiavelli 6 years, 8 months ago

Hello everyone. The Court of Machiavelli Chat Room is now in session.

Q:"It seems today that so many children have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD that it appears that it is used as a way to make children stop acting like children and just sit there in school. What is your take on the prevalence of such diagnosis and medication to our children?"

M: Thanks, Ragingbear, you've hit the nail on the head. It is indeed correct that increasing numbers of children are being "diagnosed" with ADD/ADHD, and are given dangerous medication, in order to control natural teen/pre-teen behavior. This is due to many factors, not the least of which is the lack of any real, objective standard for "diagnosis" in the psychological profession, nor in their "bible," the DSM -IV. But it can also be traced to the lack of any real discipline in our schools.

For the psychological profession, the DSM-IV is the "diagnostic" manual for psychological disorders, and includes "criteria" on everything from "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" to ADD. However, most are unaware that the psychological profession and the pharmaceutical companies have had a hand in virtually CREATING many of the so-called "disorders" that are found in the DSM-IV; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being a prime example.

Why would they do this? Well, in a word, money. The psychological profession needs money for research, and the pharmaceutical companies need to make a profit. It really is as simple as that, Ragingbear. Because of all this, the psychologists and drug companies have co-opted the disciplinary process in our schools. Thanks for your question.

Q: "What type of therapy would you recommend for our 10 year old who has been extremely terified of dogs and cats since she was 1 1/2 years old?"

M: Well, JTravis, I always say that it's better to be feared than loved, so obviously your child doesn't have very much love for your dog. I'm kidding, of course. Actually, in all seriousness, I need more information. Is your child a little girl? If so, this is probably a pretty normal situation; as little girls tend to exhibit more fearful behavior at this age.

If your child is a boy, then I suggest taking your son over to your dog, and in a loving (yet firm) manner explain to him that the dog is not dangerous. Explain that the dog will not hurt him; and that you--as his father--would never allow the dog to hurt him. Encourage petting. If your son exhibits fearful behavior, such as crying, and you withdraw him from the situation in response to his crying, then you will create a sense of entitlement. This will cripple him for life and contribute to the eventual downfall of our society. Thanks for your question.

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 6 years, 8 months ago

Rb,.. I don't see where he blew off your question.
He asked you for further input. Lacking that, he responded with an answer based on how he interpreted your question. He did not "completely" blow of your question.

BTW, as a psychologist he can not prescribe medications.

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Ragingbear 6 years, 8 months ago

I love how Dr.Fraudshaw completely blew off my question about ADD/ADHD. Not surprising. Every piece of advice he has posted has tried blaming childhood problems on ADD where he practically prescribes Ritalin over the net. This guy is a total fraud that just throws medicine at all his problems.

You very rarely can go into a classroom and "pick out the ones with ADD". I have only met a few kids in my life that I could actually say that. Most of the time they are just kids being kids, with sugar and caffeine in their system. Our society needs to stop medicating kids so they will become Stepford Children so we don't got to worry about that entire being a parent thing.

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Ragingbear 6 years, 8 months ago

I love how Dr.Fraudshaw completely blew off my question about ADD/ADHD. Not surprising. Every piece of advice he has posted has tried blaming childhood problems on ADD where he practically prescribes Ritalin over the net. This guy is a total fraud that just throws medicine at all his problems.

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 6 years, 8 months ago

Wes, In describing the mentioned Berman & Berman book, was your intent to say: "it sounds salacious, but it is actually solacious" ?

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