Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember

I’ve heard many people say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Is that surprising? Though it’s a holiday sandwiched between the increasingly popular Halloween and the overwhelmingly merchandised Christmas, Thanksgiving remains the holiday of “coming home and spending time with family and friends.”
Thanksgiving should not be just eating, hours of TV, naps, leftover turkey sandwiches and on-line shopping.
Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful for family and friends.
Here are some of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:
“I’m thankful for being able to have a family.”
“I’m thankful for friends inviting us over to share Thanksgiving Day”.
“I’m thankful for my husband of 33 years.”
“I’m thankful for my two sons, my daughter in-law and my grandson”.
“I’m thankful for having big sisters.”
“I’m thankful for having a big brother.
“I’m thankful for my oldest sister and all she has taught me about life.”
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel”
“I’m thankful for a career that allows me to fulfill my life purpose.”
“I”m thankful for Manzanillo and the time I get to spend with my sister and brother there every Winter”.

As you plan your family’s Thanksgiving this year, you might want to try going around the dinner table a few times and allowing everyone to express what they’re thankful for. After all – Tis the Season to be Thankful

Does Your Child Suffer From Overindulgence?

Parents overindulge in three ways: Too Much, Over-nurture, and Soft Structure.

Posted Sept. 19, 2018 in Psychology Today Magazine

Parents often ask if they are overindulging their children. For example:

I recently bought my son a new pair of skis. The first time he used them he broke one in half jumping moguls. I quickly ran out and bought him a replacement pair because we were flying to Colorado on a ski trip the very next day.

My ninth-grade daughter never remembers to bring home the assignment folder which lists each week’s assignments. So, I email her teacher two or three times a week just to find out what her assignments are, and if she is turning them in on time. I really want my child to succeed! I don’t think I am overindulging her when I do this. Am I?

I rarely ask my children to do chores around the house. I believe you only get to be a kid once in your life! After all, it is easier for me to do them, and I do them much faster. Furthermore, I don’t have to listen to all of their fussing! Am I overindulging my children? 

Overindulgence comes from a good heart. Deep down, these parents want the best for their children. They want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, competent adults. They simply need to make a few course corrections.

 Peter Heeling/Pexels/CCO License

Defining Overindulgence

How Much is Too Much? Raising Likable, Responsible, Respectful Children—From Toddlers to Teens—In An Age of Overindulgence, a book based on ten research studies with 3,531 adults, describes overindulgence this way: “Overindulging children is giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. It is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s.

Did These Parents Overindulge? 

Yes. Even though their intentions were good, they gave too much, were over-nurturing, or didn’t provide the necessary structure for their children. Their decisions were more about what the parents needed than what their children did. Dad wanted to enjoy his ski trip without putting up with a pouting son who has to ski on his old equipment. Mom wanted her children to have a childhood because she was robbed of hers.

Three Ways of Overindulging

Most parents conclude that overindulgence is about too many toys, too many clothes, or too many activities. Our research found that overindulgence is more complex than “too much.” We found three types of overindulgence. Overindulgence can occur in one, two, or all three of these ways simultaneously:

▪ Too Much (toys, clothes, privileges, entertainment, sports, camps, etc.)

▪ Overnurture (over-loving, giving too much attention, doing things for children that they should be doing for themselves, etc.), and

▪ Soft Structure (not requiring chores, not having rules, not enforcing rules you do have, or not expecting children to learn skills, etc.).

The father who bought the pair of skis to replace the new broken pair overindulged by giving too much, whereas the mother who emailed her child’s teacher was over-nurturing, and the mother who didn’t require chores was soft on structure and over-nurturing.

Why Should Parents Care If They Overindulge or Not?

Overindulging children can cause them pain in their adult lives. Our research found that those who were overindulged are at risk for having the following difficulties. They:

▪ need immediate gratification

▪ have poor self-control

▪ have an overblown sense of entitlement

▪ are ungrateful

▪ have poor boundaries

▪ are materialistic

▪ overspend

▪ overeat

▪ have goals Contact Dr. Gibson of wealth, fame and image

▪ do not want meaningful relationships

▪ are not interested in personal growth or making the community better

▪ have not learned valuable adult life skills

▪ are irresponsible

▪ don’t know what is enough

▪ have difficulty giving up being the center of attention

You can help your child not be this way. You can:

▪ Identify which of the three types of overindulgence you do most often and start to change that. After a time, address each of the other two types.

▪ Insist that your child figures out how to replace belongings that were carelessly damaged or ruined.

▪ Teach respect for people and things.

▪ Decide which rules are negotiable and which rules are non-negotiable.

▪ Enforce rules using reasonable consequences.

▪ Teach children that every member of the family benefits by doing household chores.


Parents want the best for their children, but in doing so many parents overindulge their children. Parents overindulge their children in one, two, or three different ways; Too Much, Overnurture, or Soft Structure. Parents need to recognize that overindulgence comes from a good heart and it can be avoided. Overindulgence puts children at risk for pain and difficulty well into adulthood.


Bredehoft, D. J., Mennicke, S. A., Potter, A. M., & Clarke, J. I. 1998. Perceptions attributed by adults to parental overindulgence during childhood. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 16(2), 3-17.









Why Children Need Routines- Even During the Summer –

Even though your child is currently on a Summer Break from school it is easy to fall out of your established routines. Children, like the rest of us, handle changes best if expected and occur in the context of a familiar routine. A predictable routine allows your child to feel safe, and gain a sense of mastery in handling situations in their own lives. As they begin to master more, they can handle bigger changes. Refrain from allowing your children to pick their own bedtime and wake up time during the summer months. Doing so will make it much more difficult to go back to a set bedtime and wake up time once school begins in August. Also, limit the amount of time-spent using electronics daily. This applies to not only television time, but also video games (gaming), and social media. During the summer the Lake Norman Community has lots of outdoor activities, and other fun activities to enjoy. Socialization with others (face to face) is becoming somewhat of a lost art since the creation of the computer, internet and social media platforms. It’s important that children learn social cues and how to carry on a conversation with adults and their peers. Below are a few ideas you can-do together with your children over the summer, as well as throughout the year.
Empower your children by:
• Exposing your child to activities that involve others,
• Allowing them to pay for an item at a store, or
• Ordering what they would like to eat off the menu at a restaurant, or
• Ordering what they would like to eat when driving through a fast food drive thru, as well as
• Letting your child answer questions for themselves when they’re out in the community (instead of you answering for them).
The examples listed above will begin to create a sense of autonomy, which will eventually lead to sleeping over at a friend’s house or going to an overnight summer camp (activities that tend to happen often during summer months).
In the long run, mastery and autonomy will create resilience and the increased ability to cope with unpredictable events (e.g. a friend moving away, a parent leaving on an unexpected business trip, a family member passing away).

Teen Avoidance Behavior: What It Is and How to Recognize It

What exactly is teen avoidance behavior? It’s more complicated than your teen trying to get out of something they don’t want to do. Avoidance behavior in teens is typically closely associated with anxiety disorder.

Specifically, teenage avoidance behaviors—also called avoidance coping—refers to ways of behaving that are motivated by the desire to avoid certain thoughts or feelings. Avoidance behavior might include avoiding places or situations, such as school or social events. Moreover, it might refer to avoiding certain thoughts that create discomfort or even panic.

At its most extreme, such behavior is classified as avoidant personality disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5.2 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from avoidant personality disorder.

Examples of Avoidance Behavior

Teens may avoid unwanted situations or feelings in several ways. First, they may show avoidant behavior by refusing to do something. They might avoid difficult conversations or other social situations. Furthermore, they might try to avoid leaving home as much as possible.

Second, avoidance coping mechanisms can take the form of doing something else in order to escape or distract from the unwanted feelings. For example, they might wash their hands excessively in order to avoid anxiety about germs. Or they might count calories obsessively in an attempt to avoid worrying about weight. Therefore, both eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder may involve avoidance behaviors.

However, avoidance behaviors are not effective ways to control one’s thoughts or life. In fact, they typically end up creating more anxiety rather than less. That’s because avoidance behaviors are ways of putting a Band-Aid on the problem rather than addressing it head-on.

School Avoidance in Adolescents

School avoidance is one of the more common avoidance behaviors among teenagers. As a result, teen school avoidance typically increases during middle school and junior high school.

Usually, teens try to avoid school by complaining about physical issues—they tell their parents they don’t feel well enough to go to school.

Teens may feel anxiety about school for a number of reasons. Therefore, they may try to avoid school as often as possible. These reasons include the following:

Excessive worries about academic performance
Social pressures at school
Bullying or gang activities at school
Something unrelated to school, such as a divorce, death, or illness in the family, that triggers increased anxiety in general.
Teens may also show avoidance behavior in school. Specifically, they may avoid participating in class, interacting with peers, and joining sports teams or extracurricular activities. This avoidance behavior is a continued attempt to steer clear of anything that produces anxiety.

Teen Task Avoidance Behavior

Task avoidance is another common avoidance behavior in teens. Again, task avoidance is not just about trying to get out of doing something. Moreover, it’s not about being lazy.

Rather, children and teens often avoid taking on new or challenging tasks as a result of anxiety. Therefore, the underlying causes of such anxiety include:

Fear of failure: Teens who tend to avoid challenging tasks often lack confidence and self-esteem, so they don’t trust themselves to succeed.
Anxiety about criticism: Adolescents are often concerned that parents, teachers, or other authority figures will judge their attempts negatively.
Lack of motivation: In some cases, teens may find a task boring or meaningless, or they may be too depressed or anxious to exert energy to complete the task.
Avoiding competition: Some teens may be very anxious about having their performance or achievements compared to those of their peers, particularly if a parent or other role model is the one doing the comparing.

Risk Factors for APD

Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
Abusive, unstable, or chaotic family life during childhood
Diagnosis of childhood conduct disorder
Abnormal brain chemistry and structure
Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder

There are also a number of consistent symptoms of APD. These include the following.

Avoiding work activities or refusing job offers due to fears of criticism or failure
Feeling severely awkward or inhibited in social situations, as a result of low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy
Preoccupation with one’s own flaws or inferiority
Inability to form close relationships for fear of rejection
Extreme sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection; constantly trying to tell how others are reacting to them
Refusal to try new or challenging things out of concern for being ashamed or embarrassed
Difficult interacting with others on a daily basis, leading to avoidance of activities that involve socializing.

Teen Substance Abuse and Avoidant Behavior

Teens who exhibit anxious avoidant behavior are often in emotional pain and discomfort. As a result, they may be drawn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate.

Additionally, teens may use substances as a way to feel less socially inhibited at school or parties. Therefore, such teens are at an increased risk of substance abuse.

In conclusion, there is hope and help for those with ABT. Moreover, for teens with avoidant behavior, prompt assessment and treatment is vital in order to prevent acceleration of symptoms. Moreover, therapy can address co-occurring issues, such as an anxiety disorder or substance abuse. Finally, with the right treatment, teenagers can grow into adults who are happy and comfortable with who they are, and able to develop strong, authentic connections with others.

Level “1” Autism vs High Functioning Autism vs Asperger Syndrome – Understanding Their Differences

There is no formal diagnosis called “high-functioning autism” (HFA), and no agreed upon definition of “high functioning.” So what is meant by the term? In a very general way, may mean:

  • “a person with relatively mild symptoms which, despite their mildness, are significant enough to merit an autism spectrum diagnosis” or…
  • “a person with autism whose IQ is higher than 70″ or..”a person with autism who is successfully navigating a typical school or work environment” or…
  • “a person who is able to mask symptoms of autism successfully so they they have in expected ways and can pass for neurotypical” or…
  • “a person who, at one point, had an Asperger Syndrome diagnosis.”

As you can see, one person’s HFA is… just one person’s HFA. Add to this the fact that many people with autism may be bright, accomplished, and yet have severe symptoms (such as anxiety and sensory dysfunction) that significantly impact their daily functioning. Bottom line, HFA really is hard to define.

Why High Functioning Autism Isn’t the Same as Asperger Syndrome

Until 2013, many people who might be said to have high functioning autism were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

  • Asperger syndrome was a distinct diagnosis which described a person of average or higher-than-average intelligence and age appropriate language skills who also had significant social and communication challenges.

Perhaps more significant, people with Asperger Syndrome do seem to share certain personal characteristics that are not shared by all people with higher IQ’s and autism. For example, anxiety is often a symptom of Asperger Syndrome which is not shared by everyone who could be described as having HFA.

Is ‘Level 1’ Autism the Same as ‘High Functioning Autism?’

But what does a person with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder look like? The answer is as diverse as the people who have the diagnosis. For example:

  • They can use age-appropriate language, read, write, do math, show affection, complete daily tasks—but can’t hold eye contact, maintain a conversation, engage in play, or pick up on social cues.
  • They have significant speech and language delays but are able to take part in an inclusive academic program because their age-appropriate academic skills.
  • They have relatively mild speech and social delays but have severe sensory issues which make it impossible for them to take part in an inclusive academic program.
  • They have severe anxiety, learning disabilities, and sensory challenges—but have age-appropriate speech and extraordinary abilities in music, math, and engineering.

In short, the possible combinations of strengths and challenges are almost endless. This means that the concept of “Level 1” autism is also pretty tricky.

 Apparently, the people who developed the idea of “Levels of Support” were thinking in a very general way—that is, people with Level 3 autism need 24/7 skilled support, while people with Level 1 autism don’t.

How Much Support Does a ‘High Functioning’ Individual Need?

While few people with “high functioning” autism need help with toileting or basic hygiene, they may very well need a good deal of support in other settings. For example, a very bright individual with severe sensory issues, anxiety, and perseveration might actually have a more difficult time in the workplace than a less intelligent individual with less anxiety and fewer sensory issues.

What’s more, a “lower functioning” individual might spend most of their day in a supported setting where the possibility of dangerous interactions is almost zero. Meanwhile, the individual with “high functioning” autism may need to navigate a world of complex and hazardous situations. Who needs more support under those circumstances?

No Easy Answers

Autism is a puzzle—not because individuals with autism are so puzzling, but because the ever-changing definitions of autism mean we cannot come to a final conclusion.

And not only are the definitions changing, but so are the social expectations that make high functioning autism so challenging. In the past, for example, face to face communication was the key to personal success; today, many people with social challenges are more than capable of interacting with others online, making friends through social media, and even holding down a job at a distance. Some businesses are hiring high functioning autistic people because of their unique abilities, while others cannot imagine hiring a person with compromised social skills.

If this leaves you feeling that the definition of high functioning autism is clear as mud, you’re not alone! At least now, however, you understand why the term is so tough to nail down—and you know you’re in good company.

Healthy Habits of Happy People

Do you every wonder why some people are so darn happy?  Did you know that happy people are healthier? Studies continually show that those with the “glass 1/2 full mind set” most likey have – lower blood pressure, less stress, a healthier BMI, and as a result live longer.  I am going to list 8 Healthy Habits that can help all of us as we navigate our way through these currently emotionally challenging times.

1. SMILE – The actual act of smiling produces serotonin in the brain (known as the the Happy Hormone).

2. EXERCISE-Exercising (even moderately) helps blast stress, lower blood pressure, and lessen depression.  Keep yourself moving and get outside. The vitamin D from sunlight literally helps adsorb happiness.

3.DON’T BE JEALOUS -Instead of feeling jealous of the coworker who got the promotion or the friend who seems to have the world by the tail, look upon them as a source of inspiration and use that inspiration as a catalyst for your own success.

4.DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME-We all know people who blame everyone else for their problems. They are a simply a black cloud attempting to rain on your day.  Instead limit your time with these type of people and take control of your own situation.

5.FORGIVE AND FORGET-Forgiving means moving on and letting go of the power another individual or event has over you. Embrace the experience and move on to a new chapter in your life.

6. LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND- Dwelling on past injustices, unfair situations, a bad break-up or past events you had no control over make the likelihood of a sunny future quite bleak.  Realize those events are something that once happened to you, they are not who you are.

7.GIVE THANKS-Be thankful for the people ans situations in your life that are currently going well.  Also be thankful for the current and past challenges that have made you more resilient.

8.SEE THE SILVER LINING- Focus on the positives in life not the negatives.  Thoughts of doom and gloom translate into life.  Face it….no one wants to be around a “Debbie Downer”.


Why Children Need Routines

The holidays are over and now everyone is settling back into familiar routines.  Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine.  A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and develop a sense of mastery in handling their own lives.  As they begin to master more, they can tackle bigger changes. For example – paying for an item at a store, or ordering what they would like to eat when they visit a restaurant.  Eventually this will create a sense of autonomy and sleeping over at a friends house or going to an over night summer camp will be activities they will feel comfortable doing. In the long run, mastery and autonomy will create resilience and the ability to cope with unpredictable events (a friend moving away, a parent leaving on an unexpected business trip, a family member passing away) will be easier.

Are Social Skills Becoming a Lost Art?

I’ve taught social skills classes for years serving students on the high end of the spectrum (Asperger’s). Typical characteristics include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Unable to read facial expressions
  • Emotionally inaccessible
  • Appearing self-absorbed

I’ve noticed that social media (Smartphone, I Pad, etc.) aid in elevating these characteristics in those diagnosed with Asperger’s. Also those Not on the Spectrum! To me it’s disheartening to see families at a restaurant sitting across the table from one another with their eyes glued to their smartphones uttering hardly a word to one another.  Or the person walking down the street with their eyes fixated on their phone and bumping in to others unaware of their surroundings.  My particular pet-peeve is the person talking on their cell phone while attempting to complete a transaction paying no mind to the salesperson.

Let’s all agree that while some individuals struggle with connecting with others socially others are simply being rude.  Put your devices down and greet people by looking them in the eye and providing them with your undivided attention and if you see someone struggling to make a social connection provide a smile and words of encouragement.

Let’s All Connect With One Another More In 2018!



Blended Families and the Holidays

The holidays come with a lot of stress- especially if you’re hosting your extended family at your home.  Family holiday traditions can run deep, and feelings can easily be hurt.  Learn to get over the fact that your traditions may not necessarily matter to others.  As a blended family try making new traditions as you go along… one’s that everyone has a say in creating.  Also, if your children are scheduled to spend the holidays at the other household, give them permission to enjoy themselves without making them feel guilty because they’re not with you.

The holidays are not about gaining someone’s approval or stressing out over purchasing the perfect gift.  They’re about being together with those you care about.  If that means staying clear of your annoying uncle who consistently tells stupid jokes or the hypercritical grandma that can make you feel three inches tall just by a disapproving glare so be it.  Most likely the only time you will all be together is when you’re eating dinner.  Think of it as a 30 minute or less finite amount of time that you can get through.  Gravitate toward those who bring you joy and happiness and have yourself a Happy Holiday Season!