Resources: Books: Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman Healing ADD by Daniel G. Amen Transforming the Difficult Child by Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley

Articles by Michelle Poppe, M.Ed, LCMHC


How many of us honor our couplehood? Having careers, children, sports, and extracurricular activities leaves little time or energy for each other. Many families today seem to be child centered. Vacations are often geared towards children's interests such as Disney, Great Wolf Lodge, cruises with elaborate children's programs, and most recently The Plaza in NYC has a room decorated from the story book Eloisa with dress up clothes included. We spend a lot of time nurturing our children and families as a whole but how much time is spent nurturing our marriage? 
The Office of National Statistics show that most couples spend about 2-2.5 hours per day, including weekends, with each other. Of this time 50 minutes to 1 hour is spent watching TV, 30 minutes is spent eating, and 25 minutes for housework. This leaves a little more than 30 minutes per day to spend with our spouses. Can one nurture, connect, and take care of each other 30 minutes per day? 
When couples first meet they generally spend a great deal of time with each other talking, sharing activities and hobbies, and being intimate. Dr. Harville Hendrix, marriage expert, calls this stage the Romantic stage of love. It comes very easily because for the first 1-2 years our brain produces Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel euphoric. Scientists discovered that Dopamine floods our brain most intensely in the first 90 days. This explains why there is less need for sleep and we often find ourselves acting giddy and doing things we don't do in our normal everyday lives. Over time romance will naturally begin to fade. Although fading romance is a natural progression of all relationships, this is usually where conflict occurs. 
This next stage is called the Conflict stage. This is where the Dopamine has worn off and we begin to see each other more realistically. Couples usually find that the qualities they first found attractive in their partners are the exact things that drive them crazy. Unfortunately, most couples divorce during this stage of marriage. However, with counseling and nurturing your relationship I believe many marriages could be saved. The last stage of marriage is Mature Love. This is where both parties learn to take care of each other's needs, remove negativity, and caring and loving behaviors dominate. 
Although it can be tricky to navigate the Conflict stage independently it can be done with a little bit of professional guidance. Some tips that can help during these various stages are:
1. Learn the art of listening. Ask yourself "what is my spouse trying to say and how must he/she feel?" 
2. Schedule time to nurture your relationship. Have a date night at least once a month to remember what you like about each other. 
3. Talk about what each of you hopes to have the relationship look like. Create a list of guidelines to follow. Ex. Date night, share housework, participate in hobbies, vacation frequently....
4Focus on the positive! We can all list what our partner doesn't do but you can choose to focus on what he or she does do!
5. Behave like you want your partner to behave. If you want more compliments and romance give him/her compliments and plan romantic outings. 
6. Engage in fun, new activities to create those same endorphins or chemicals that were present more naturally in the beginning of your relationship. 
Dr. Hendrix says it best when he said "Feelings are not the essence of love; attitude, decision, and loving behavior are." 
If you have any questions or concerns or would like more information please feel free to contact me. 
Michelle Poppe, LCMHC
Individual and Family Therapist
2.Girls Emotional Health
Girls more often than boys struggle with lower self-esteem, issues with self-image, and overall poor emotional health. Why is this and what can we do?
Most girls between the ages of 8 and 11 are quite androgynous. However, after elementary school and starting adolescence girls self-esteem decrease, body image declines, academic progress slows, and stress, anxiety, and depression increase. Girls tend to begin to focus on how they are supposed to act compared to traditional female roles and how they are perceived. Studies indicate that African American girls seem to have higher self-esteem than both White girls and boys. Studies also show that girls who have more traditional views typically have lower self-esteem than those with more liberal views. This is also the time when gender stereotypes begin to form. Gender stereotypes are influenced by culture, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.   
Adolescence is a time of great turmoil for many girls. Their behavior tends to become more aggressive toward friends with rumors and threats of alienation. Many girls struggle to understand their identity and since it is wrought with confusion prefer to conform to the majority. Adolescent girls also tend to function in groups which increase the anxiety of not just losing one friend but being ostracized by their entire group. This level of rejection often prevents girls from speaking their mind and allows a small issue to become devastating. Technology used today allows many more peers to become part of what may have been just a misunderstanding but quickly becomes a school wide rumor. 
Although puberty and hormonal changes are often thought to be the main reason for such turmoil and difficulties there are many other factors and influences. Recent reports show that the average teenager is subjected to 180 minutes of media exposure per day and only 10 minutes of parental interaction. Girls are bombarded with images of unrealistically portrayed women with unobtainable looks. 
Here are some ways to help girls resist pop-culture's negative cultural messages:
-Have ongoing dialogue with your children about what is real and what is not.
-Watch their television shows, movies, and listen to their music so you can learn what they like, are influenced by, and hear their comments. 
-Mothers are very influential. Be mindful of what you say about your body, celebrities bodies, and talk about constant dieting.
-Fathers are also very influential. Girls learn how to relate to men by how they relate to their fathers. Be very careful about comments or questions around their weight and/or food and ask "what am I tyring to accomplish by asking......?"
-Close family connections tend to combat these negative influences.
-Strong cultural beliefs and connections.
-Participation in sports.
-Teaching girls to trust themselves.
-Encourage girls to speak their mind.
-Show them assertive female role models.
Please feel to contact me if there are any questions, concerns, or if I can help you address any of these issues with your girls. 
Michelle Poppe, LCMHC
3.Blended Families
Divorce rates for a first marriage hover around 50% and almost 65% for second marriages.  Research shows that in 2011 blended families or step-families will outnumber any other type of family. Marriage and child rearing is hard enough, adding step-parents and multiple households can sometimes make the challenge feel insurmountable. Some families are blended due to a death or other unfortunate circumstance and face the same type of challenges. 
Blending families is no easy pursuit. Often times the adults get frustrated that everyone is not feeling as loving and excited as they are about their decision to create a new family. This can lead to feeling discouraged, resentful, and overwhelmed. However, with guidance and good communication blended families can be very successful. 
Some of these challenges blended families experience include differentparenting styles, varying ages and developmental stage of the children, and the details and characteristics of how the new family was formed. Many families of divorce have gone through an intense and stressful process that causes significant hardships for everyone, including the children. Other divorces that are more amicable and are handled privately amongst the parents are less damaging for the children. That being said, I believe it is the parents responsibility to create the most peaceful and stable environment possible. Children of tragedy or divorce did not ask to be in this situation and often feel powerless, confused, and sad. 
How can you make a blended family work? The key to success is giving everyone a voice. Initially, the parents need to sit down and discuss how they envision their family to look and function before blending. Parents need to agree upon parenting responsibilities including discipline, how to handle concerns regarding the other set of parents, and how to resolve issues. Once the parents are in agreement the children should be informed. I usually suggest a family meeting once a week to discuss issues, concerns, and any new rules that may have to be established. During these meetings everyone should be able to share openly and honestly, without criticism or judgement, about how they feel and what they need to feel better. 
Children of tragedy or divorce are grieving a loss. They have lost the family they knew and often their home. They are being asked to lovingly accept this new person as a parent. This sometimes makes children feel as if they are betraying their other parent and causes significant emotional turmoil. You may have had a chance to fall in love with this new person but your children will need some time. As the parents involved, you most likely had more time to address your feelings and emotions or may have even sought out help. Children are often asked to adapt to this new family structure with little preparation or skill set. Allowing children to share their feelings helps them feel like they are being heard which in turn makes them feel happier, calmer, and more empowered. Children often have an easier time talking to someone outside the family, such as a therapist, so they don't have to feel as if they are hurting someone's feelings. 
Things to consider: 
-Be patient, change is difficult. Adjustment can take several years
-Don't try to establish a new family unit too soon. Most families need at least 2 years to grieve and heal 
-Be open to new ideas and strategies of parenting
-Be considerate and accepting of other parents differences
-Never speak negatively in front of the children about the other set of parents 
-As parents of this new family structure be loving and provide a united front to avoid manipulation
-Don't make too many changes at once
-Be respectful and respect will be returned. Children may have been exposed to inappropriate information during a difficult separation but will need to establish their own relationship with this new step-parent
-Every relationship requires work and no two relationships are alike
Michelle Poppe, LCMHC
4.Could my child have ADHD? and what does that really mean?
Is your child disorganized, always losing their belongings, having to be reminded to do things repeatedly, can't sit still, or always "in trouble"? These could be signs of Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is a behavior disorder that causes children to lose focus, have difficulty concentrating, and sometimes act in a hyper and impulsive manner. It is often difficult to determine if kids are just being kids or if there is a bigger problem. If a child has ADHD the symptoms will be present both at home and school. Children are often diagnosed by 2nd or 3rd grade if they are hyper or impulsive but the diagnosis may be missed if they are just inattentive. Often times, girls who are not as active by nature, may not be diagnosed until later years when academics become increasingly more challenging. There are 3 types of ADHD- inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and a combination of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive type.
Children with ADHD will often have a hard time completing tasks unless it is something they are truly passionate about. For instance, many parents have a hard time believing the diagnosis when they see their child sitting and playing video games for hours. Not only are video games very stimulating they are usually very popular and therefore something kids become passionate about. If you child is diagnosed with ADHD it will be very important to work with his teacher to find creative ways to keep his or her interest in challenging subjects that he or she may not particularly like. 
Additionally, children with ADHD can be overly emotional, moody, invade personal space, ask intrusive questions and thus cause others to not want to be around them. Children with the hyperactive/impulsive type of the disorder have a difficult time sitting still and may still fidget, tap their foot, or play with things around them. 
Although ADHD can be challenging it can also have positive qualities. Children with ADHD can be energetic, able to transition more easily, imaginative, and readily accepting of others. No child wants to be in trouble, off task, or chronically disappointing adults. This disorder prevents their brains from performing in a way we require. The best way to determine if you child has ADHD is to seek guidance from a professional. You can get a preliminary screening by your pediatrician, mental health counselor, or testing from a psychologist. 
Signs to look for:
-A very messy book bag
-A notebook or desk that is crammed with papers
-Multiple prompts to complete simple tasks
-Difficulty falling asleep
-Frequent problems with peers resulting in few friends
-excessively energetic and/or impulsive 
Tips for parents:
-Organizational systems and strategies to teach child how to keep track of his things
-quiet, non-stimulating environment to complete homework
-written lists of daily tasks to complete 
-rewards for appropriate behaviors
-consequences for inappropriate behavior
-structured, high energy activities such as sports to channel energy appropriately
-meetings with school officials and teachers to see what supports are available and necessary
-patience-they are not trying to be difficult
-support from friends, family, or support groups
Call for a consultation:
Michelle Poppe, LCMHC