Please Don’t Touch That Phone….The Smart Phone is Changing My Therapist Office
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT, Parent Educator
A bright blue iPhone sits on the edge of my coffee table, waiting for its owner—a fifth grader who just got her first phone—to pick it up any second. “Nancy, please, I have to know who just texted me. I can’t wait until we’re done, that’s another 15 minutes! I could be missing something really important.”
I find myself staring at the phone, just anticipating the next buzz, ding, or vibration.
Welcome to the new world of therapy, where I, the therapist, have to compete with technology for my client’s attention.
Smart phones have changed the climate of my therapy office for many clients. It started off innocently enough—moms would forget to silence their phones, reaching quickly into their bags to turn it off. “So sorry Nancy.”
It progressed as I saw men and women keep their phones out and face down. Oh, how I long for those days…
Now, most adults feel the need to keep their phones out and face up. Some are not able to resist the temptation to look at every text or email that pops up. As bad as that may sound, the kids, tweens, and teens tend to be far worse; they have been completely seduced by technology.
To make matters worse, technology is becoming even more prevalent as I now see clients with Apple Watches and other wearables that beep, buzz, or light up, constantly demanding their attention.
I have attempted to tackle this cell phone problem many times.
“Please no phones out during sessions.”
I even purchased a pretty basket for people to put their phones in. While this does work with younger kids, adults and teens find the idea of being totally disconnected unfathomable. Technology has changed the way we want information, the way we connect, and even the way we tolerate intimacy.
I continue to come up with kind, yet direct ways to tell people to take the time to disconnect. Sometimes I’ll say the buzzing and ringing is distracting, causing me to lose my train of thought. Other times I try to explain that therapy is a place to disconnect from technology, to talk, to connect, to process life’s challenges and stresses
It is a time for you, the client, to express yourself uninterrupted.
I like to think of my office—with its old fireplace and pretty French doors letting the light shine in—as a sacred space. It is a privilege for me to be able to help my clients explore the deepest and often most intimate spaces in their minds.
But with technology, it is harder and harder to maintain the sanctity of that sacred space and to help my clients the way they deserve. For some, technology can be a pacifier and security blanket, giving them instant gratification. But for me, the therapist, it is an intruder, interrupting my thoughts and invading our sacred space.
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT, Parent Educator
The parenting methods we are all too familiar with are quickly becoming obsolete in the face of a modern world. Today, parents face a new challenge that’s putting everything we thought we knew about parenting to the test—the Internet. The roles and responsibilities that once fell to our parents, grandparents, family friends, and even neighbors seem to have been taken over.
The Internet now decides what our children see and learn.
And quite frankly, I don’t think the Internet is doing a very good job.
Just take a look at recent headlines; “Teenagers Recorded a Drowning Man and Laughed” is the direct quote from several news sites including The New York Times. Attached to the articles is a disturbing video of teens watching a man, laughing and daunting him as he helplessly drowned. They did not call 911, but they did post the video footage on YouTube.
Police chief in Cocoa Beach, Florida, will be recommending criminal charges against the five boys, who range between 14 and 16 years old.
Like most people, the video left me enraged. Why is there such a breakdown in the moral character of so many teens nowadays?
As someone who spends just about every day working with kids and teens, there’s no denying that entitlement and disrespect are significantly more prevalent in today’s youth.
It’s time we ask ourselves an important question—who is raising our kids: us, or the Internet?
Parents, take the time to share this story with your kids. Set up a no technology time, whether it be during your morning drive to school or mealtime together, and talk to your kids and teens.
If we want our children— the future of our society— to have morals and values, we need to take back our roles as parents. We can all start by teaching them some of life’s most fundamental lessons.
TEEN VOGUE IS OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY AND ITS YOUNG AUDIENCE - ARE YOU, TOO??
Nancy Kislin, LCSW & MFT
Teen Vogue's July 7, 2017 issue featured an article called “Anal Sex - What You Need to Know, How To Do It The Right Way.”
I wish I was kidding.
Teen Vogue is a magazine that targets girls age 11 to age 17. After I heard about this article, I did what any other psychotherapist who specializes in working with adolescents would do – I googled "Teen Vogue - anal sex."
Two side-by-side pictures of a female and male pelvic area in bright pink colors popped up on my screen. It was noticeable that the female picture was missing the parts of the anatomy that bring pleasure to a woman.
The article in itself is a guide to why you may want to engage in Anal sex. Okay… I kept reading. I tried to stay open minded. It did throw in a line that “enthusiastic consent” is necessary between partners before one engages in this behavior. It continues to read like an article in a sex book or Cosmo magazine. Did they forget who their audience is?
I almost fell off my desk chair when I read, “...When you do have anal sex, go slowly. Regular communication with your partner will keep things level.” What does that mean?? Does the author hang out with any tweens and teens these days?
Communicate? Most teens don’t know how to talk to each other except through texting, but you think they are mature enough to tell someone it hurts when they are face down with something in their “.
Seriously. The teens I know tell me about hook up parties where the guy will text you – and then you go sit next to him on the couch and fool around. It's up to you how far you will go. The girls and guys tell me that they often don’t know the person and never said a word to them.
The article continues with an entire paragraph dedicated to the "Need for Lube,” followed by a discussion about “Poop.” I keep praying that this is where the author will talk about the many health risks that can occur when one engages in anal sex. But NO – She literally says “it’s no big deal if you touch poop.”
Actually, it is a really big deal if poop comes into contact with your mouth or female private parts. It is extremely dangerous if the partner proceeds from anal to vaginal intercourse.
I have worked with clients who ended up in the hospital because of infections that resulted from anal sex going bad.
The article completely missed discussing health risks and emotional risks, but did end with a high five that included “...Anal sex and anal stimulation can be awesome, and if you want to give it a go, you do that. More power to you.”
Also omitted was the suggestion to go seek out additional information from one’s doctor or trusted adult, ie. parents.
If a teen is too uncomfortable to talk to an adult, there's good chance they are not ready to engage in an emotionally vulnerable behavior .
Let me be clear, I am not living in the dark ages. I know far too well from the teens and 20 somethings I work with, that our children are being over sexualized at too early of an age. It is imperative that parents and educators talk to children about their bodies, their choices and the emotional and physical health risks involved in having sexual relations especially including Anal Sex.
My feeling is that parents absolutely have to talk to their kids about sex, drugs and all kinds of topics at earlier and earlier ages. You don’t need to give them too much information at once – Test the waters and see what they know and still need to know.
But teach them to respect their bodies now. Empower them to say "no" if something makes them uncomfortable. Even if they see it on the internet or hear people talk about it doesn't mean it it right for them. They always have the right to say “NO.” Make sure they know that.
And lastly, just because a publication is labeled "teen" clearly doesn't mean it's appropriate or kid friendly anymore. Monitor what your children are reading online and getting in the mail.
Binge watching just got riskier!
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT, Parent Educator
All these years later – just listening to the sound of the actress' voice as she states that she can’t eat – it hit a nerve in me that I thought had died years ago.
I just finished watching the trailer for “To the Bone,” Netflix's new movie that premieres July 14 and portrays a teenage girl's battle with anorexia. I shed tears - old tears mixed with tears for the young women I currently help through this journey of hell called an eating disorder...
I survived that journey – Most of it alone except for an amazing therapist. But it was the darkest period of my life, the part I kept securely hidden from family and friends.
I struggled alone, searching to find control in a world that my young mind didn’t know couldn’t be controlled. Disorders like this take hold of you, and it's nearly impossible to separate yourself from it. I was one of the lucky ones. I survived and went on to have a healthy and productive life.
The scars, they are there. They never fully go away. They keep me hyper-alert for signs of eating disorders or other self-harming behavior when I am working with children and teens. I see and hear the undercurrent of anxiety that feeds the fierce desperation to find a way to have control in their lives. It is through my lens as a survivor and a veteran therapist that I ask,
“Why, Netflix, do you feel it's significant to release 'To the Bone'?”
I am sure many will be disturbed by the series. Let's be honest, eating disorders are upsetting, disturbing and more people die from it then any other mental illness.
An eating disorder series released right in the middle of bikini season...
After the last disastrous release of "13 Reasons Why," – Just yesterday, I got a new client who was triggered to almost commit suicide from this show - Really! -- I thought I better check out "To The Bone."
Can you hear my screams of "NOOOOOO!" followed by "Why?!"? Why is this series necessary??
Like "13 Reasons Why," is just another gateway to harmful behavior?
PARENTS: PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING.
If your kids want to watch this series, answer the following questions:
- Does your child have a history of depression, anxiety, addictive behaviors, eating disorder, suicide etc.?
- Are they over the age of 16 (and that age is me being generous)?
- Why does your child want to watch it in the first place?
- We don't need to see this series, we already know what the story is going to reveal.
Regardless of their answers, do not let them watch it alone. Watch the trailer together, and let that start a conversation about eating disorders, what they know about them and if they know anyone who struggles like the main character.
When the show does premiere on the July 14, watch an episode with them. Then decide - as the parent - if it's appropriate for your child to see.
Netflix please STOP glamorizing self harming behavior. There is nothing sexy about starving yourself to death.
Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT, Parenting Educator
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT and Parent Educator
Every day - yes, everyday - at least one parent shares yet another story with me of how a middle school student took a nude picture of themselves and shared it with a few of their “closest” friends.
Recently, after a program that I participated in about teens' addiction to technology, a principal attending the event from another school district commented that she was so tired of looking at pictures of boys' penises and girls' private parts. She urged me to keep instructing the parents to tell their kids to STOP taking nude pictures.
Ten years ago, no one could have imagined a world where educators would have to spend their time scrolling through students’ photos on their phones, looking for pictures of nude friends. And in case you don’t know this, it is illegal for a child/teen to send a nude photo - even if it is of themselves and especially when sent to another person. This is called distribution of child pornography. Depending on where you live and what you did, it can leave the distributor with an arrest and a record as a Sex Offender.
All this overexposure is causing tremendous damage to the child’s developing identity and sense of self, not to mention their sexuality. The kids may act like they don’t care, it’s no big deal, everyone is doing it, but don’t let them fool you. I see the girls after their boobies have been seen by most of the 8th grade class in their middle school. I listen to their fears as they fight to hold back their tears. I hear the girls awkwardly state that they received pictures of 13 year boys olds penises. Not to be rude, but what 13 year old girl wants to see this part of a boy’s body.
Girls and boys are dealing with feeling enormous amounts of humiliation and confusion with all these pictures and sex talk. There is an epidemic of shame that is being hidden by things like addictions to nicotine, weed, alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and/or apathy.
We don’t know the long term ramifications of this behavior but from where I sit everyday, it doesn’t look so promising for our kids to have normal, productive sexual lives. Not to mention the spread of STDs, AIDS, and teen pregnancy, which are all still taboo to talk about – yet nude pictures are collected by middle school and high school kids the way we used to collect baseball cards and Pokeman cards.
Parents, you need to set limits, monitor and talk to your kids about this oh-so-common phenomenon. Technology has changed the world your kid is growing up in. One of the biggest changes is how much they are learning, seeing and doing in the sexual arena. You can't protect them from everything, but you need to start doing your part.
STOP Trying to be the Cool Parent and Just be the Parent.
By Nancy Kislin, LCSW and MFT, Parent Educator
I overheard two women talking today about how exciting it was last night to see all the kids taking pictures before Prom. I smiled to myself remembering how much fun my daughter and I had shopping for her prom dress and getting her hair done. Indeed, it was a special mom-and-daughter-bonding time.
And then I heard one woman say that she bought her daughter a wine bra.
I was abruptly brought back to reality. A what? A wine bra. That’s right. You heard me – it’s called a wine bra or a wine rack. I quickly googled "wine bra" and found out that Amazon sells a product entitled “The Wine Rack.” It costs a mere $29.99, and if you have Amazon Prime you can have it by the next day. It comes in small, medium or large.
The Wine Rack is a removable polyurethane bladder custom-shaped bra. It has a long drinking tube with an easy-to-use on/off valve to control the flow of the wine. This bra is machine washable but you need to hand wash the “bladder” part.
It was not the wine bra contraption that alarmed me as much as the mom’s statement that she "had to find her daughter a Wine Bra for her Prom dress.” Why was it her responsibility to purchase this bra? Why did the mom even know the daughter was going to sneak in alcohol to a school function? It is still illegal to drink if you are underage.
Many teens are not afraid to let their parents know that they are drinking. And many parents often turn a blind eye to the drinking and sometimes even purchase the alcohol for them.
I have many suggestions and comments for these parents but the biggest one is – stop spoiling your child. Stop treating them like a child.
If they want to drink at least let them figure out how to get their alcohol without mommy helping them and paying for it. Better yet, talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking, drunk driving, and how alcohol is often a gateway to drugs and the beginning of a lifelong addiction.
You don't do your child any favors by catering to and enabling harmful behavior. Your job is to supply the consequences and the boundaries, not the booze.
The ‘NO’ Revolution: Tough Love Builds Character!
Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT
Why is this generation considered the most indulged in the history of the world?
During the past year, I became acutely aware of how privileged and entitled young people have become and how much power we are giving our children. I began a dialogue with friends and colleagues to see if they were noticing the same phenomenon. It seems I am not alone in my observations.
I decided to do something about it! Dear reader, whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher or young person I challenge you to join me in the “NO” REVOLUTION.
Say “NO” to the culture of raising spoiled, privileged, entitled and simply unlikeable children who fear working hard, are incapable of being self sufficient and often lack self-esteem and a sense of social responsibility.
Think I don’t understand your child?
Or, maybe you feel it is too late to help your kid. It isn’t.
Over 28 years of working with teens and children has shown me that it is possible to change – them and you.
Parents – you have enormous potential and you have the Power! You have the power to say “NO” and to positively influence and shape the kind of person your child will become.
I want you to remember the excitement, and maybe the fear, you felt when you first held your baby. Remember all the dreams and the potential that literally lay in your hands.
Your children, regardless of their current ages, need you to dream and believe in them as much as they need you to set boundaries. Parents need to remember the incredible job they signed on to perform. Parents have a responsibility to provide our children with basic needs; love, guidance, a sense of humor, an ability to laugh at themselves, and many other life survival skills. You only have 18 years to help our children develop a solid foundation. What values are you choosing to communicate to your children and which one’s are you living by? You are their biggest role model!
At a recent dinner with friends, my vision for the “NO” Revolution campaign was reinforced. It became crystal clear that the children are not at fault for the way they are turning out, The parents are!!!
My friends’ husband turned to his elementary school age kids and told them to pick out whatever they wanted from the menu. His daughter stated she wanted plain pasta with butter. There was no discussion about eating a well-balanced meal – just “okay, sweetie.”
I chimed in “my entrée comes with a side of pasta. Your daughter can have my pasta instead of ordering an adult portion.” “No” replied the father.
The father stated it was not fair for his daughter not to get her own meal; she was far too smart and would catch on that she was being cheated.
Only after the father learned that the side dish of pasta came in the same size plate as the entrée and the other adults joined in the discussion, did he agree not to order his daughter another dish.
When did our society adopt a philosophy that children were entitled to “things” and at risk of getting cheated.
The child ended up eating five buttered penne noodles, drank two juice boxes, then whined that she was bored.
Recently at a cocktail party I had attended, I overheard a woman sharing how stressed out she was about helping her child prepare for the college application process. She was annoyed that her kid spent too much time playing video games and did not have enough volunteer experiences. This mom was scared her kid would not succeed so she asked a friend to write a letter of recommendation stating that her son had volunteered for an organization, although it was fictitious.
I overheard her saying that she was asking her husband's partner to write a letter claiming fictitious community service hours.
This raises many questions about the moral character of the community we are building. What are the values and morals that we are instilling in our children? At what cost are we helping our children get ahead?
And where are they rushing to go?
Parents, it is not your fault alone. We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. But how far are we willing to go before we realize we have lost too much?
Our children are paying too high a price.
“NO” Revolution Tips and Strategies:
Don’t be afraid to listen to your heart, to your sense of right and wrong and don’t get caught up in what your neighbor or friend’s kid is doing.
Be part of the “NO” Revolution. Raise a child that is kind, loving, respectful and one you like hanging out with.
Your Kid is Vaping!
By Nancy Kislin, LCSW and MFT and Parenting Educator
The hottest new trend amongst high school kids is “vaping”. Ask your teen if they have tried an e-cig. Don’t be surprised if they say “Yes, everyone does it. It no big deal – it’s safe. It’s legal.”
Several of my clients just last week told me they started vaping. Their responses when asked why they are vaping include:
What are e-cigs or “vaping”?
Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigs) are battery-operated vaporizers that are designed to mimic the feeling of smoking a tobacco cigarette. They usually use flavoring which may or may not contain nicotine, but they are always without tobacco. Instead of traditional smoking, their inhaling is called vaping. An e-cigarette can be activated by either pressing a power or fire button or by simply taking a puff. Initially, they were designed to look like traditional tobacco cigarettes, but now with nearly 300 brands, they come in all shapes and sizes, and can look like anything such as pens and memory sticks.
What are the dangers of Vaping?
E-cigarettes don't fill the lungs with harmful smoke, but that doesn't make them a safe alternative to regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes still put nicotine — which is absorbed through your lungs — into your system. In addition to being an addictive drug, nicotine is also toxic in high doses.
Nicotine affects your brain, nervous system, and heart. It raises blood pressure and heart rate. The larger the dose of nicotine, the more a person's blood pressure and heart rate go up.
E-cigs or vaping pens also use “fruity” flavorings or marijuana oil.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that teens are still ingesting nicotine at a higher rate than experts expected. The study tracked “the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes among 5,490 California high school seniors who graduated between 1995 and 2014” and found that because of vaping, teens report inhaling nicotine at rates researchers haven’t seen since the ‘90s.
Parents and educators still need to educate kids about the dangers of nicotine. They need to talk about the risks and the consequences. The lessons of "how bad cigarettes are" is being lost on this generation.
Why you need to know about vaping!
Vaping is a trend that is a growing phenomena with tweens and teens.
Many kids are using pens or a product called Juul. Juul is referred to the “Apple” of vaping. But the design isn’t the only commendable thing about Juul, it’s incredibly easy to use and claims to outperform some of the more expensive competitors.
The cost of these products range from $49.99 to $89.99 for starter kits. Some kids brag at how many they are collecting. Although you can buy cheaper versions at local stores.
Another popular brand is called Halo. Halo is available online and has a wide variety of colors, designs, and flavors that can include nicotine or not. Kits range from $49.99 to over $90.00. Are you interested? They make it very appealing to the tweens and teens.
It is illegal for retailers to sell to anyone under 19 years of age. Sellers can be prosecuted. The result of this is that the younger teens without a "fake identity card" relies on older kids to supply them with their "nicotine pods" and "marijuana dabs." If I have confused you by now - it means we now have local "dealers" selling to our kids at younger ages. This is the Perfect Storm - Vaping is the Gateway to early and more frequent use of marijuana and other drugs.
Some of the Newest Trends
1 in 4 teens who have used e-cigarettes have also tried a potentially dangerous new vaping method called "dripping" — dropping e-cigarette liquid directly onto the hot coils of the device to produce thicker, more flavorful smoke — a new study found.
"Dripping” is the slow release of the liquid from a wick onto a hot atomizer, which may expose users to higher levels of nicotine and to harmful non-nicotine toxins, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — known carcinogens, according to the journal Pediatrics. KIDS ARE VAPING with Marijuana oil which makes it really easy to get high just about anywhere. Yes – your kid may be getting high during class, in the hallways and of course, the bathrooms.Marijuana oil is the same as THC oil and Cannabis oil. The advantages of vaping the oil is that it has no odor, easy to use and you can do it anywhere.
And did you know that Marijuana is still illegal everywhere in this country if you are under 21 years of age. And yes – that means it is illegal for your kid to get high and drive.
Manufacturers are marketing to younger kids with flavors such as bubble gum and gummy bear. They are targeting your kids and in many cases it is working. It is creating a habit of holding a device in their hands, bringing it to their mouths, enjoying the sensation and thus – on the path to addiction.
Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.
To learn more go to or google Vaping and e-cigarettes. Knowledge is power and you need to be in the know!
I have witnessed young teens promise me, their parents and most importantly themselves that they will never "binge drink, smoke pot and vape." In record time, our conversation changed drastically in a few weeks. Vaping on any device makes it so easy to become addicted.
- you can do it anywhere - and they are.
- a few inhales creates a powerful buzz from the nicotine and the marijuana
- there is no smell at the time or a smell that lingers
- easy access to buying
- enhances this generation of kids need for immediate gratification
Check back regularly to my blogs. I am researching more on this dreadful situation.
Health Care professionals I have consulted with all agree the trend is growing and we do not know the long term consequences of vaping.
Talk to your kids! Don't be afraid to say NO!
13 Reasons Why YOU Need to Know What Your Kids Are Watching!
by Nancy Kislin, LCSW and MFT, Parent Educator
The release of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why on March 31st created a phenomenon in homes and schools across the country. 13 Reasons Why has concerned parents and educators due to its explicit portrayal of suicide mixed with a vivid dose of sexual exploitation, drunk driving, rape and bullying. Kids have binge watched the show before parents knew about the dark subject matter the show covers and the potential impact on the viewers. If your kids have not yet watched the series and want to - watch it first and then watch it with them if you decide it is appropriate for your child.
Does the Netflix series glamorize, sensationalize, and romanticize the idea of suicide? Yes, and in fact, we are seeing the copycat effects happening all over the country.
Suicide is the #2 cause of teen death in the U.S.
What should parents do after their child has spent 13 hours being seduced by characters in a dark, violent, depressed, relatable world of teenagers’ lives? Talk! Talk! and Talk some more! And Listen!
Getting teens to talk about taboo subjects or anything that evokes emotions is challenging, but do not give up. Be persistent, humorous, sly and direct. Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right.
Do not be afraid to snoop. Check your child's internet history. What have they been watching on YouTube, Netflix? What have they been searching for and what are they posting?
Ask your child if they have watched 13 Reasons why and if they have talk to them about it. Ask them what they thought about the series and their reaction to the events depicted.
Things that stood out to me as I watched the series that may help you in raising topics with your kids are:
As I was finishing writing this article, I receive a call from a friend whose son was in the Emergency Room after telling someone he wanted to kill himself. That 11 year old boy had just watched several episodes of 13 Reasons Why. Parents, please inform yourself about what your children are watching and be empowered to set appropriate limits. Your childrens’ lives may just depend upon it.