This is the first of a monthly advice column with Julie Russell, a licensed family therapist.
Question 1) My eight-year-old son has had major behavior issues his whole life. He’s angry, mean, lashes out at other kids at school, hits his little sister, and speaks harsh words to me. Until just a couple years ago, he fixated on washing machines. We’ve had him tested for autism, and he’s not autistic. His father is a good man, but is frequently absent due to his work. We’ve lived in 15 places during our nine-year marriage, and I think that’s caused some insecurities. He even stopped wiping his backside after using the bathroom. He tells all the kids he’s better at everything when he’s really not. I’ve taken away all his privileges because of this behavior, and so now there’s nothing left to take away. What am I supposed to do?
“Leslie,” a frustrated mom in Washougal.
Hi Leslie, First it sounds like 15 moves in 9 years is a lot of transition for an adult, and can be even more difficult for children. So I hope the rest of the family is adjusting well to the move, and hopefully those moves will slow down in your future. Remember that change is hard for children and they like routine it gives them security. So try to create a routine that your son knows what to expect of each day. It might be helpful to create a poster with times and pictures of items happening during the day. I would also recommend a medical checkup with a pediatrician to rule out any medical issues.
Some of the issues sound like your son may have some Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms or some Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms. I would recommend talking with the teacher and school counselor and creating a plan for school, if that has not already happened. I would also recommend finding a Licensed Professional who specializes in working with children. They will be able to identify the problem and help with your son’s behavior. It is also important to catch your child being good and praise more of the behavior you would like.
Close-up image of woman texting and drinking coffee outdoors
Question 2) I caught my 15-year-old daughter looking at porn images of men, and she thinks there’s nothing wrong with that. She says the human body is a beautiful thing. I’ve told her to stop looking at those things, and even took away her iPhone for a while, but I still think she’s looking at this stuff. I didn’t realize girls could have this problem. How do I change this behavior?
“Jennifer” in Camas
Hi Jennifer, Try to remain calm and realize it is a normal behavior to be interested in sex and porn. But do some research and have some discussions explaining that sex is normal and feels good, but should be kept within the boundaries of committed relationships and what your family morals define. A recent publication from the American College of Pediatricians outlines the risks of pornography for children and teens. These can include, but are not limited to: 1-Feelings of disgust, shock, embarrassment, fear & sadness, 2-Symptoms of trauma including anxiety and depression, 3-Distorted views of sexuality and personal relationships, 4-Increased perception that everyone is having casual sex. 5-The belief that abstinence is abnormal and unhealthy.
According to a 2009 Cyber Sentinel poll, many 13 to 16 year-olds spend almost two hours a week viewing pornography. Mothers have reported finding their children as young as eight watching porn. Today the question is not if your child will be exposed to porn, it is when. Talking with your children about porn is difficult and emotional. Wendy Maltz, a sex therapist and notable researcher believes porn is creating a national health problem that harms our emotional and sexual relationships. Several states have passed resolutions declaring pornography a public health concern.
Specifically, these declarations state:
“Pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The state resolution further called for a united recognition for “the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.”
Here are a couple of websites that list tips for parents about talking with your child about porn, research and the impacts of porn on the brain. The websites also suggest resources for recovery if you feel your daughter is spending too much time viewing porn.
You could also seek a professional counselor who has sexual addiction training, and works with teens. There are also support groups available for those trying to overcome sexual addictions. I would also recommend installing a filter at the router level, limit screen time and require every person in the house hold to charge your phones in separate a room (not the bedroom). Spend time with your daughter doing things you both enjoy.
About Julie Russell
Julie has many years of experience working with families and children. She has volunteered in schools, the community and worked at homeless shelters. Julie is a graduate of George Fox University with a Masters Degree in Marriage, Couples and Family Therapy. She uses an integrated approach, she specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Sandtray Therapy, Play Therapy and some Jungian techniques. She is currently serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients.
In addition to being a prominent relationship therapist, Julie has presented at conferences and to general audiences speaking on the topics of child/parent relationships, addiction, child development, depression, anxiety and adult relationship issues.
Julie is an interactive, solution-focused therapist. Her therapeutic approach is to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client. With compassion and understanding, she works with each individual to help them build on their strengths and attain the personal growth they are committed to accomplishing.
To contact Julie directly, go to: julierussellfamilycounseling.com
You may also email your questions to: email@example.com Your identity will remain confidential.