Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cars, Guitars and Wars?

What do cars, guitars and wars have in common? They're all the subjects of video games, of course. Violent video games at that.

A friend suggested that my next newsletter be about how violent video games are affecting our kids.

It's not my thing really, but parenting and anger are two of my areas of expertise. At least professionally. Personally, I think my son might beg to differ. But professionally I have ideas.

1. Limit the time your kids can spend playing video games (any games) sensibly.

2. Talk to your kids about the things they see in games.

3. Talk to your kids about everything.

4. Listen to your kids when they talk.

5. Listen to your kids when they talk about everything.

6. Be interested in everything about your kids.

7. Be available to spend time with your kids so they don't feel like they have to play video games all the time.

8. Be a good role model regarding non-violent solutions to problems.

9. Talk about non-violent solutions to problems.

In short, while we know violent games affect kids' beliefs about violence and the acceptability of violence in the world, we also know that kids are affected most profoundly by how their parents treat them and teach them.

Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,
feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you'll know
Crobsy, Stills & Nash

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When the going gets tough...

the tough get going. But how?

A friend thought a good topic for my next newsletter (check it out at ) would be: what to do, and what not to do, when things go bad, when stuff happens. Like losing a job, divorce, death of friends and family, and so on.

The first thing that came to mind was something I was reading about recently. Daniel Gilbert, in "Stumbling on Happiness" (a book for serious readers only) spends a fair amount of time talking about how resilient people are when dealing with traumatic situations. We're all familiar with the notion, which he also discusses, of personal growth occurring in the aftermath of tragedy.

So, step one, decide you're going to get through this and you might even be a better, stronger, fill-in-the-blank-er person as a result.

In addition to changing some of the thinking patterns we can get stuck in (see previous blog in November about Loss), there are other helpful steps to take.

Write about it. Write about feelings: good, bad and ugly. Write about thoughts: good, bad and ugly. Don't censor. Write what you think and feel. Sometimes this process helps move us through difficulties.

Talk about it. That's what friends are for. Don't tell me they're sick of hearing about it. They may be, but that's still what they're there for and, if the proverbial shoe was on the other foot, you'd listen to them, I hope.

Listen to people. Sometimes your friend, coach, therapist, even mother, has a good idea. Try to consider the input people give you and see if there's something you can use.

Do what works for you. Cope, by whatever means you usually cope. Exercise, clean, read, watch movies, listen to music, do anything that relaxes you, clears your mind, gives you a fresh start.

Try something new. Make a plan to move forward and try to get on with it. Keep moving even if you can only take baby steps.

Need more help? Try a coach or therapist.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Food Glorious Food

Why should we be fated to do nothing but brood on food, magical food, wonderful food, marvellous food, fabulous food/ Oliver! (Lionel Bart)

You can imgine how much time I spend listening to people talk about food. Too much, not enough, dieting, bingeing, purging, weighing, and so on.

What is the obsession we American's have with food, or should I say weight? As one of my psychiatrist colleagues once commented, all American women have at least a sub-clinical eating disorder, and a lot of men too. Which is a fancy way to say we're all a little crazy when it comes to food.

Indeed, generally when I have an idea I want to write about, it just flows. This entry, on the other hand, is slowly creaking along. How could it be that I would have no pithy input on this topic that I hear so much about and spend so much time talking about?

I was a little saddened to hear that the girls in my son's middle school class spent all day getting ready for the school dance. Hair, nails, makeup, I imagine. He, on the other hand, spent all day playing soccer and wandered in late, without time to shower, buttoning his (clean) shirt, apparently not too concerned about how he looked.

The food/weight obsession is linked to our general obsession about physical appearance. Are we that superficial, or does it relate to something deeper?

I am the first to admit that our appearance, be it clothing, hairstyle, weight, etc, signal things to observers. Gender identity, social class and interests, are all conveyed by our appearance. But can you tell whether someone is a caring, intelligent person, with a good sense of humor? I think not.

But could we try being more concerned with these characteristics, and less concerned with appearance? Perhaps the girls could have been reading the newspaper so they'd have something interesting to discuss at the dance. Okay, maybe reading a book? A magazine? Watching a movie? Watching a game? Anything other than worrying about whether to get French nails, tips or whatever?

How about some philosophical advice?

Happiness: a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.-- Jean Jacques Rousseau

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Go for the Grit

Positive psychologists search for variables that predict success. There are raw talent and ability, presumably immutable trait-like variables. But they fail to predict how some of us are able to turn lemons into lemonade, while others aren’t.

Grit, the combination of persistence and passion, seems to be something worth cultivating if you strive for success and greatness. Although the study of grit is still in its infancy, several possibilities have been offered as to how to facilitate its development in children. With a little tweaking, these suggestions are easily translated for adults.

Find your passion. Exposure to different experiences and possibilities can spark interest in one special area that may become your passion.

Forget balance. In today’s world, most of us strive to achieve balance among things like work, parenting, socializing and fitness, among other things. People who are high achievers and make brilliant contributions tend to be focused in one area.

Accept criticism. Trying to be less defensive and accept input from others may help you broaden your perspective. This might provide just the little nudge you need to get into something new and exciting.

Emulate successful models. Notice how others you admire have been able to accomplish things.

Challenge yourself. Identify what you want. Go for it.

Learn from failure. Although we tend to want to curl up and pull the covers up over our heads when things go wrong, don’t! Find a few things that help pull you up, and then analyze what went wrong.

Find your optimism. Think about the silver lining and success in the future. Set your goals high. Don’t dwell on the possibilities for failure. Don’t sell yourself short.

So it's a pretty long list. You don't have to do EVERYTHING. Just try a few things. Persevere. Stick to it. Go for the grit.