Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teenage Girls and Sex

"Teenage Girls and Sex"

Posted by Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA.

On September 11, 2008, exactly seven years to the day after the United States experienced one of the greatest tragedies within our borders, Time magazine published an article outlining another possible home-front crisis. This one is not originating on foreign soil, does not involve flight plans and goals for ending American lives, and it is not a hard-hitting day that burns images of suffering and rubble into our minds and memories. It is slower, perhaps more invisible in the daily blur of life. It is a crisis hitting a targeted population: teen girls. In Time magazine’s article "The Truth About Teen Girls" about girls becoming “sex-wise,” younger than in years past, paints a picture of a culture of the OC and Gossip Girl where high-school girls are showing more skin and talking about engaging in more sexual activities than some people even knew existed. Belinda Luscombe, author of the article, states that “we idealize youth and sexiness but recoil if our young want to be sexy.” These mixed messages of “be sexy but, by gosh, don’t be sexy (and absolutely do not have sex or a sex drive)” set-up our teen girls for a lose-lose situation. One question is: how are our teens interpreting these messages?

As Luscombe relates, it may not be in the way that we think they are. After all, teen brains are not adult brains. Research shows this. While they are on their way to having adult brains, they’re not there yet. This can cause some problems when, as Luscombe points out, the media presents being hot and sexy as the only identity worth pursuing. Teenagehood is already a time of confusion about identity. It is, in fact, normal for teens to try out different identities and ask questions about who they really are and who they really want to be. It is not healthy when all other possible identities related to anything other than hotness are taken off the table. With arrests for child pornography on the rise, many parents are worried and wanting to put more effort into protecting their teenage girls. So what can you do on the home front to combat this?

In my experience, providing teen girls with a safe place to talk about sex, expectations, identity, and other related issues serves to re-open doors that may have been closed or at least mostly shut in the wake of the media focus on sexuality as the only acceptable measure of identity. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your teen about these things, as many parents do, try websites that are not aimed at selling things to teens and more about information such as (recommended in Luscombe’s article). On the website there are links titled strong girls, smart girls, bold girls, etc., painting a much more holistic picture of real girls out there. Search the web for other sites like this one, and show your daughters what you found. Then they can visit the site whenever they have questions that you don’t know how to answer or are uncomfortable answering yourself.

So, the point is not to convince girls that sexuality is not a normal part of life, but to teach them that it has a place in life just like everything else, and that to be a well-rounded person it is important to develop in multiple areas. Focusing on other areas where identity can be formed and shaped (like sports, academics, music, dance, community service, art, etc.) as well as talking with teens about the messages they are seeing/getting from media regarding sex and “being hot” serves to help your teen girl broaden her definition of success and self-acceptance. Bottom line: this is not a crisis we have to submit to. We can help our teens understand the influences around them so that they can make and own healthy choices as often as possible.

Editor's Note: Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA is employed by Lifespan Psychological Services and provides therapy and tutoring services to adolescents with a variety of challenges. She completed her undergraduate training in psychology at Gonzaga University and her Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Seattle Pacific University.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is Over-Scheduling Good for Kids?

We are all products of the era in which many of us try to cram in as much as possible in a short amount of time. Lost are the days in which idle chit chat, sitting on porches, and staring at the stars is seen as a vital part of living. Instead, we ensure that every moment of time is spent in some type of productive activity. But, is this good for us? Is it good for our children?

My answer to this is that it depends on whom you and your children are. For me, I need down time. I need time to reflect and talk about things that are not all that important. I need to waste time here and there and wander around aimlessly with no sense of purpose. I need to sleep in from time to time and do nothing the entire day. The reason is that my job as a psychologist can be stressful and I need time to “just veg.” But, this is me and you are you. My children and wife need much the same down time as me and we can tell when we all need to stop and watch cartoons. But, people are all different. Some people need a rigid schedule with lots of stuff to do. If they do not have this, they do not know what to do with themselves. Others need fewer activities and more down time.

In my experience, there are children who do best with a schedule full of activities. These kids thrive on stuff to do and need little down time in which to reflect. These kids crave being in group settings and thrive on constant stimulation. When they do have some down time, they frequently get themselves in trouble because they are not sure how to “just be.” I do not have any judgment regarding whether these children are normal or not. They just are. Structure and stimulation is what they need. I suppose one could say they need to learn how to entertain themselves. But, I prefer to say that is the way they are and to give them what they need, a full plate of activities.

Other children prefer to be on their own with fewer activities. These children need lots of time alone and prefer not to have lots of scheduled activities. They often have to be pushed to do things. These children need some type of structure but not as much as the children described above. With no structure at all, they may be prone to developing a sedentary lifestyle that could become unhealthy. The goal here is to help these children engage in healthy activities and to give them the down time they deserve when it is needed.

With all this discussion, I am reminded of a book that was very influential in my early career. The book is titled, The Hurried Child by David Elkind. This books talks about how children are pushed to grow up too fast. This can create stress and premature completion of crucial developmental stages. When we push and make kids do things they are not yet ready to do, we can create intense anxiety with resulting poor self-esteem. We have to help children go through each stage at their own pace.

My message in response to all of this is to play close attention to your child’s needs. Try and filter out the influence of the culture surrounding you (e.g., having to schedule sleepovers because everyone else is, having to look more mature because all the girls are, having to buy expensive computer games because all the boys have them). Make decisions for your child’s day depending on their unique needs. Keep them moving and learning, but in a moderate way. Ensure they do not stall and do nothing. But, also ensure they do not run around like caffeinated bunny rabbits ready to bite anyone who crosses them. Close monitoring of their current state of being will ensure they grow up with a smile. Thus, in response to over-scheduling being good for kids, it really depends.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Helping Children to Attend

Tamim Ansary has written a very interesting article for MSN Encarta titled, Concentration Is the Key. In this article, he notes that while people pride themselves with the ability to multitask, he instead desires to master the skill of "mono-tasking." He adds that many elements of modern life have actually eroded our ability to concentrate and that big industry has developed surrounding the disability of ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). He does not doubt that some children do have this disorder. But, it seems that in today's world the skill of concentration is not being successfully taught. While it may be great to teach children how to multitask, it is even more important to teach children how to focus and concentrate for extended periods of time. The ability to attend to a task for a long period of time is the foundation for most successful endeavors.

The good thing about concentration is that it can be taught. Yes, some people may have a natural ability to attend more than others. But, we can all learn how to better concentrate, even our children. Mr Ansary recommends that children be taught how to concentrate beginning at an early age and I agree. What I see many parents and teachers do with today's children is to cram a large amount of activities into a small amount of time. Children are constantly transitioning and moving on to the next task before the previous task was completed. We all seem to be running around like crazy people, including myself. This is not to say that "crazy" is bad, it is just that we seem to be wearing ourselves out unnecessarily. And, our kids are not being taught how to just sit and focus on one task at a time. In fact, when a child is focusing well, I have noted that some may say that he or she is "hyperfocussing" and being abnormal in some way.

I recommend that parents of children with attention difficulties carefully read Mr. Ansary's article and try some of the recommended strategies for attention improvement. It would be very beneficial to take some regular time with your child to work on attending or sticking with a task for an extended period of time. If your child has difficulty sitting and attending, take it slowly. Take a small amount of time at first (e.g., 5 minutes) and focus on the task. If the child has difficulty provide encouragement. Help the child learn to take all other thoughts out of his or her mind. There are no magical interventions to recommend. Learning to attend primarily takes practice just like with any other skill. After a successful period of time, give a high five or some other type of natural reinforcement. With time, I guarantee you will see positive results.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Improving the Parent-Child Relationship: Four Points to Consider

Believe it or not, there has been a debate for years regarding whether a good parent-child relationship matters in the later success of children. But, we all know that this debate is silly since it is a no brainer that a quality relationship between you and your loved one is essential. You will not be a very good parent without it. I suppose you can be a cold disciplinarian and run your household like the military. You may get compliance in your household, but you will also get children who are angry and sneaky. Children thrive when they have good relationships with their parents. With good relationships children are much happier and more successful in friendships and school. When you have a good relationship with your own child, you will have an easier time dealing with problems when they arise. People have always told me that a good relationship is like putting money into a savings account. When you have to set a limit, it is like withdrawing money. If you have no money in the savings account, you will not get any compliance.

So, how does one develop a quality relationship with one’s child? Four points to consider are outlined below:

  • First, hang out with your child and just be. Don’t criticize and don’t control, just be. “Hanging” with children can be just as beneficial as anything else.

  • Second, respect your child for whom he or she is. Try not to be disappointed because your child is not something you want them to be. We all have our traits, gifts, quirks, and issues. Your child will too. You may feel when a child is born that he or she is perfect with no flaws. This is a nice feeling, but you will soon realize that no one is perfect.

  • Third, work hard to help your child understand and respect you. Your child looks to you for care, protection, and guidance. He/she needs you to be there in times of need. You are the anchor and without you, your child will wander in spirit and life. In order to be understood and be respected, tell things about yourself. Tell stories about your own childhood, experiences, likes, and dislikes. Spend time with him/her and really talk. Along with this, do your best to be a healthy role model. Be consistent with what you say and follow through on your word. Be positive in your attitude and demonstrate hope in your actions.

  • Fourth, believe in your child and tell him/her that all will be okay. Having someone really accept you and believe in you is a powerful motivator and crucial to a positive self-esteem. If you have spent the time with your child, you will learn many things. If you have accepted your child for whom he/she is, then you will be that much closer to be able to believe and trust that he/she will be okay in life. Be a mentor and be as positive as you can in your child’s life’s passions and ambitions

By the way, I asked my two children what makes a good parent and they stated, “Ones that love us. Ones that are friendly and nice. Ones that hug you, kisses you, and is willing to snuggle with you.” If this does not point to a need for a close relationship, I don’t know what does.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Positive Use of Time Out

The term “time out” is a behavior management procedure that is often considered a punishment for misbehavior. Time out is frequently utilized by parents trying to address a behavioral challenge of their child. When misbehavior is noted, the parent sends the child to a designated place for a specific length of time. The child is then let out after appropriate behavior is achieved or after a predetermined amount of time has lapsed. Some parenting experts do not recommend the use of time out while others recommend its frequent use. Most parents at one time or another are forced to use time out in order to try and develop a peaceful household.

What I have seen over the course of my career is that parents do not use time out in an appropriate or effective way. What frequently happens is a parent-child battle and much drama occurs during the transition from direction to go to time out and the act of the child going to time out. Both the child and the parent frequently end up arguing and much heightened negative emotion occurs. This is not how time out should be used. This use of time out in this manner frequently creates more anger and animosity. Positive results are sometimes obtained, but many times the child keeps misbehaving. There must be a better way and there is.

The better way is to conceptualize time out as a “break in the action” similar to time out used by coaches in a basketball game. This is in direct contrast of viewing time out as a punishment. When a coach needs to give players feedback the coach calls a “time out” to talk with the group of players. Positive and negative feedback is given based upon what is being observed in the players’ game. If a coach only gave negative feedback during the time-outs, players would stop wanting to huddle up. A good coach gives both negative and positive feedback in order to help players learn from their mistakes, to help them recognize when they are doing things right, and to help maintain their inspiration to do well. The “break in the action” approach is very effective in spots and is also very effective intervention at home.

In your household, I recommend that you try this positive use of time out to help your child step back from the situation and reflect upon what he or she is doing. The steps to the appropriate use of this time out are as follows:

  • Sit down together (child and parent) and concisely describe what is expected in the household. Make sure questions are addressed. When children are young, expectations can be entirely set by the parent. As children mature, household expectations should be set in a more collaborative fashion.

  • Point out that when things go well, you will do your best to point that out and encourage more of the same. When things to not go well, you will have to intervene. With both the positive and negative, explain that you will be using a method of positive time out.

  • Explain the concept of positive time out. Positive time out is when a child is asked to take a break in the action in order to get feedback and reflect on behavior. This is where lots of learning will take place.

  • Explain what procedures will take place. Essentially, when you say to go to time out, the child must stop what he or she is doing and go to the designated space. If the child does not go to time out as requested, you will begin counting, “1, 2, 3.” On the 3, the child will be escorted to the designated space. If necessary, the child will be carried to the place in a safe and respectful fashion. If the child does not stay, you will hold him or her until they are willing to comply.

  • Begin training the procedures to time out by sending your child to time out for positive things. Do this multiple times in a row over several days. When the child complies, really lay on the positive reinforcement. Whenever you see something good happening, send the child to time out briefly and just lay on the praise for a job well done. You can also just pull the child aside as an alternative in order to give immediate positive feedback.

  • When your child has the drill down, begin a few directions to time out for things that your child could improve upon. Since you have already gained compliance, your child will probably go without much fuss. After the child is in time out, give feedback and discuss what he or she could have done differently. Brainstorm alternative behaviors as needed. After a short period of time, have the child leave time out to practice what you have just discussed to do.

  • Early in my career in the 1980s, I learned to use this positive use of time out while working with out-of-control teenagers at Capistrano By The Sea Hospital in Dana Point, CA. Our time out was called “the bench.” When directed to the bench, the residents were taught to stop what they were doing, walk silently to the bench, and sit down. Staff then came over to them in order to give them feedback on their behavior. We learned that it was very effective to send the youth to the bench for both positive and negative behaviors. In fact, we tried to send youth to the bench or many more positive behaviors than negative. When a resident was doing something well, we would tell them to go the bench. We would then compliment them on their behavior and send them on their way. When we needed to give them more negative feedback, they were much more receptive to our instructions since we created such a positive environment. With this use of frequent positive feedback, we greatly increased compliance to instructions and appropriate behavior overall. We were able to effectively work with residents that previously had not responded to any teacher or parent intervention to date.

    When you are implementing this process, make sure that you send your child to time out for many more positive behaviors than negative. This will greatly enhance your child’s willingness to be positive. Of course, sometimes you do have to take control and send your child to time out for negative behavior. You are doing this because your child needs to learn proper behavior. When you do have to send the child to time out for misbehavior, do not get caught up in the drama of it all. What is meant by this is, if your child begins to argue, stick to your procedures. Verbal battles will not help. Calmly restate your expectations and begin your counting. If you have to carry your child to time out, minimize any talking and remain calm. If you have to scream, go behind closed doors and scream to yourself. Be aware that changing behavior takes time. Be very gentle with any holding you may have to do. If your child is too big to carry, you may need to withdraw any of your attention until your child is willing to comply. Always, treat your child with dignity.

    When you follow this process as directed, your household will become much more positive. I have seen these procedures work time and time again in inpatient, outpatient, school, and home settings. In my own home, the procedures have worked amazingly well. As I have found, you will also find that you will not have to do hardly any time outs for negative behavior as time passes. I rarely have to use time out for any misbehavior in my own household. I still try to constantly tell my own children that I am proud of them, that I like what they are doing, and that I love them.

    Some people may say that all this praise and positive attention will hurt the child’s intrinsic motivation to do well. I personally think that way of thinking is nonsense. We all like to be recognized for what we do and children are no different. Most children want to please those around them. Giving you children genuine praise and positive feedback for what they do will not damage their intrinsic motivation. Instead, they will become more motivated. I encourage you to do your best to recognize positive efforts no matter how small they may be. By taking this positive, but firm, approach to parenting, you will find that your children will respond in a very satisfying way.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Exit Strategies for When It's Time to Go Home

    Does your child have difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next? Do you frequently have to deal with a major tantrum when it is time to do something else? If so, read the article by Tamekia Rice in Parents magazine titled, Exit Strategies for When It's Time to Go Home. Advice given is based on interviews with me (cited in the article) and other professionals in the field. Let me know what you think!

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    The 2e Reading Guide

    Linda Neumann and Mark Bade of Glen Ellen Media have just published a fantastic reading guide for parents of twice-exceptional (2e)children. These are children with exceptionalities in areas of strengths and areas of limitation. For example, a child with gifted cognitive ability who has difficulty learning to write can be considered to be twice-exceptional. This is a fascinating area of study and Glen Ellen Media is leading the way in helping to ensure that the appropriate resources are being disseminated to the parents in need.

    The guide is titled, The 2e Reading Guide: Essential Books for Understanding the Twice-exceptional Child and can be found on the web at I recommend this guide and website for any parent with a bright child who demonstrates some type of behavioral, learning, or social challenge.

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    Boys and Homework

    A common complaint received in my practice from distressed parents is that their son is not completing homework. These parents state their household turns into a nightmare around homework time because the son does not want to complete the assigned task. And, even if the homework gets completed, for some reason the son does not turn it in!

    Many of these parents have tried unsuccessfully to improve this issue by withholding privileges. Others have tried allowing the natural consequences to kick in by letting the boys fail with the hope that the boys will learn from mistakes. What are these parents to do? Should they back off and let their son figure it out on his own? Or, should these parents risk being enablers by taking a lead role in ensuring that the homework gets done?

    To help decide what best to do, it is important to be aware of the “boy crisis” controversy that has been debated in our country over the past several years. The discussion of the “boy crisis” in the media became popular when Peg Tyre published an article in the January 30, 2006 issue of Newsweek called, The Trouble with Boys. She reported that “by almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind.” She reported that boys are falling behind in test scores, overall grade point averages, and college completion. Boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special education classes. She noted that this is a recent phenomenon since thirty years ago boys represented 58 percent of the undergraduate body. Now, they are a minority at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education, "has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy." Concerns about the wellbeing of boys has been voiced by numerous authors including Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, authors of Raising Cain, William Pollack, author of Real Boys, and Michael Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys.

    Not everyone agrees that the boy crisis exists. David Von Drehle reported in his July 26, 2007 article in Time, The Myth About Boys, that the boy crisis is a myth. Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Chait Barnett echoed this sentiment in their April 9, 2006 article in the Washington Post, The Myth of “The Boy Crisis". These authors reported that data is being misinterpreted and that boys are doing well. However, they are in agreement that girls are doing even better.

    In response to this criticism, Peg Tyre recently reported in her May 29, 2008 Huffington Post article, Who Says the Boy Crisis is Over? , that there is a growing constituency of smart, empowered, and vocal women who are very concerned about their sons. These mothers do not see the boy crisis as a myth and are trying to ensure that their boys are receiving the most appropriate education they deserve. If there is a crisis or not, these mothers are concerned about the struggles their boys are facing.

    Much speculation regarding reasons for the boy crisis has been made. Some state boys are victims of gender bias in education. Others state that boys learn differently than girls because of different types of brains. The most intriguing finding for me is from a comprehensive study by Julie Coates and William Draves published originally as Smart Boys/Bad Grades on and now presented on Coates and Draves found that boys are behind in school primarily because of the difficulties in meeting the teacher’s homework requirements. In their comprehensive and national study, boys were found to have great difficulty completing homework and turning it in on time. If homework completion was not included in the final grade calculations, boys would be on par with the girls in terms of grades earned. Based on this, Coats and Draves advocate that late homework should be accepted without penalty. They argue that behavior unrelated to learning and knowledge should not be included in the overall grade determination.

    Given this information, what advice can we give parents regarding the daily grind of homework completion? It is always an option for parents to advocate for eliminating homework requirements, but in most cases, parents will not be able to change the policies of a given teacher or school. As an immediate solution, I recommend that parents become the guiding force in getting the homework done and turned in. This means that parents should monitor their son’s homework on a daily basis, ensure that it is completed in a timely manner, and then make sure that it is turned in. This will require checking with the teacher, checking on-line if the teacher posts assignments, asking the son lots of questions, hassling until the homework is done, and sometimes personally watching to make sure the son turns the homework in on the day it is due. This may entail much friction in the household with periodic episodes of uproar. However, if this guidance is carried out with love and understanding, as opposed to using punitive actions, the son will be greatly appreciative in the long run. At the end of the quarter, the son will have the assignments turned in and will experience what it is like to be successful in school. Once success is established, the parent can then work on becoming less involved. However, the parents need to be prepared to stay involved until at-least until the beginning or middle grades of high school. Eventually, the son will learn to take responsibility on his own and will learn to better organize himself. In the meantime, it is a good idea to expect lots of household drama during these learning years.

    If parents take the alternative route of backing off and letting their son get the assignments done on his own, there becomes a risk that the son will dig a hole so deep that learned helplessness will set in. Many educators advocate for the use of “natural consequences” meaning that the son should be left to figure it out on his own. The idea is that he will learn what to do once he experiences failure. This is an interesting idea, but this natural consequences approach results in much tragic failure in many cases. In my early career, I worked as a school psychologist at a local middle school. I tested boy after boy who was receiving Fs. These boys were well-behaved, attending class, and even participating. However, they were not turning in their homework and thus, receiving Fs. This resulted in meetings with the parents, teachers, and boys. The boys would inevitably get a lecture from both the teacher and parents, but nothing changed. The homework still was not turned in. Many of these boys never did learn to get themselves out of the hole. The boys who did succeed had parents who decided to ensure that the homework was completed by becoming the guiding force. They closely monitored the homework situation and made sure that the homework was completed and turned in. The ones who had parents who stayed on the sidelines continued to get bad grades.

    Some may say that helping the son get the homework done is enabling the son to become dependent upon the parent. To me, the first priority is being successful in school. Once this success is achieved, the supposed dependency can then be addressed. Most kids figure out how to be self-sufficient as they mature. I have faith that our boys will eventually become self-sufficient as well. In the meantime, they need our guidance and prompting. This will ensure that opportunities for success are available to them when they finally wake up and realize for themselves what is going on.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Spend or Save Our Hard-Earned Cash?

    Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press has recently reported that American's are saving more, spending less. According to the article, Americans are now saving 2.9 percent of their after tax incomes which is up sharply from 1 percent a year ago. He noted that this increase in savings is good for the family but not necessarily good for the economy. As savings rate rises, spending falls. When consumers are not spending, layoffs rise. This causes people to become more thrifty and the recession then deepens. He noted that today's consumers may start to rival their "penny-pinching, Depression-era grandparents." This may not be good for everyone involved.

    However, in all of my readings of today's economic crisis, there has been little discussion on the positive effects of this recession. Since we are saving more and spending less, we are being forced to be content with what we have. Many of us are becoming even more conscious about not being wasteful and less focused on "stuff." When the economic boom of the 1990s was occurring, I personally became disgusted with our wastefulness, our acceptance of so many cheap products, and our evaluation of an individual based on the individual's personal financial portfolio. Today's economic crisis is helping me readjust my values and to me, that is a good thing.

    I personally disagree that we should begin spending freely as we have in the past. I have doubts that the current stimulus plan being put forth by Congress is the way to go since its purpose is to get us to spend more. My overall gut opinion is that we need to let our economy shrink to a sustainable level. Shrinking of the economy could result in more people putting their priorities in sharing experiences with their loved ones and friends as opposed to becoming obsessed with the almighty dollar.

    Our family certainly is not escaping the effects of the economic crisis. We have a small business and many times we do not even know if we can pay the bills. We have to pay for our own health care and we are getting taxed to death. Our heat pump broke this winter and we are heating our house with wood since we cannot afford a new heat pump at this time. This is all very stressful. However, I have noticed that we as a family are beginning to appreciate the small things in life such as being with one another in idle time or worrying together about the raccoons knocking over our garbage. I have noticed that focusing on the more mundane aspects of life can actually be quite fun.

    I encourage our families to continue the pattern of saving despite what all the economists say to do. Any hint of us going back to the reckless spending of our hard-earned cash on junk should be met with a big resounding "no!" Save and get yourselves free from greedy fingers of credit card companies and banks. Force our businesses to focus on quality again so our lives can once again be more wholesome as of those in the past.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2009

    Let the Children Tell The Ending to the Story

    We are starting a new year. Many of us have hope that 2009 will be a lot brighter and more positive than 2008 which was dominated with news of the economic crisis and other matters. Even though we have barely started this year, we are already hearing more devastating news about the economy. We have a new war in Gaza. And select politicians are, once again, being caught engaging in unethical, possibly illegal, behavior. Many Americans are excitedly waiting for President-elect Obama to take office so that he can begin implementing his ideas to create change. I am one of these Americans. I am looking forward to new leadership since our country has had so much negativity over the past number of years.

    I personally was fixated one night on the doom and gloom that we all have been facing in the economy. I went with my family to see Bedtime Stories with the idea that this movie would be "so so" since the reviews were not that terrific. I left the movie feeling energized and full of hope. Bedtime stories is directed by Adam Shankman with Adam Sandler as the primary star. The movie is a family comedy about a hotel handyman whose life changes dramatically when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to magically come true. The main theme of the story is that with imagination, great things can happen. This movie inspired me because so many of us adults get caught in the daily minutia of life. We forget to dream and imagine the impossible. Children on the other hand love to dream and fantasize. I realized after the movie that imagination is a great activity in which to engage in these times of economic stress.

    If you are experiencing family stress, go see this movie with your children. Then have your own children write the end of the story about how yours and their lives will turn out over time. Let me know what you think! Happy New Year!