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Kathy Marshack News

Parents – How to Help Your Child Do Well in School This Year

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


help your children do well in schoolAs the new school year begins in Oregon and Washington, many parents happily send their children to school expecting them to receive a good secular education and to learn the social skills needed for life as an adult.

Each classroom is filled with children who have a wide range of abilities and personalities – those who will have minimal problems, those who will be straight A students, those who will struggle, those who are average, and those who get left behind because they require special attention that they’re not receiving.

Where will your child be in this diverse group? We all hope for the best. But if your child is experiencing difficulties, how long will it take for someone to call it to your attention? It is so much better to stay involved and aware of your own child’s situation, because no one knows your child like you do. As an example, your child’s behavior may be interpreted by someone as an uncooperative attitude, but you may see it as struggling to remain connected out of boredom.

When children have trouble fitting into the classroom setting, their academic achievements suffer. The more they fall behind, the harder it is to catch up. So, parents have tough decisions to make. They have to figure out whether it’s normal awkwardness or is it an indicator of a more serious problem? Is it a physical problem, perhaps a child needs glasses or has low blood sugar? Is it an indicator or a psychiatric condition such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome? Is it an indicator that your child is gifted and needs extra challenges to stay engaged?

Perhaps you’re hesitant to acknowledge and address the issue, thinking your child will simply outgrow this stage. Perhaps you suspect there is a problem, but you’re in denial or are grieving the changes this will bring to your entire family. Perhaps you’re afraid that if you pursue this, your child will be stigmatized or will identify with being “labeled”, that it will become a crutch and excuse for not trying to do better.

A recent news report highlighted the fundamental truth that if you don’t seek a diagnosis, you can’t use the special services available to your child that can begin the process of understanding, accepting, and supporting your child to get the best out of school and life.

If you see that your child is struggling and you don’t know why, don’t put off seeking help. Consult either your child’s pediatrician or a licensed psychologist for help in assessing your child’s situation. As a parent of a child with Asperger’s, I know how valuable early intervention is for their success. Feel free to contact my Portland Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington office and set up an appointment.

4 Steps to Healing Negative Emotions In Your Family Business Relationships

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


use a notepad to do these four steps to healing negative emotionsWhen you run a family business, unresolved emotions can complicate the business relationship. When you improve the parent/child relationship, your family business will be a much less stressful place in which to work. How can you do this?

To clear up the negative emotions you have with your parents or children, take a moment to do the following four steps:

Step one:

Go to a quiet place and think about what really makes you angry with your loved one. This is the time for honestly listing the flaws, mistakes, habits and traits that bother you.

Step two:

List everything you admire and are grateful for in your loved one.

Step three:

Now comes the harder part, honestly ask yourself which traits are you perpetuating in the family tradition. Feelings of guilt may make it hard for you to acknowledge your parents flaws or your own, so it might be wise to ask your spouse for input.

Step four:

Finally, make a plan of action to change the negative traits.

These four steps reveal a great deal. Because of feeling guilty and wishing to avoid blame, you may inadvertently be carrying on the same mistakes generation after generation.

The goal of each generation should be to improve, not repeat mistakes. Holding your parents accountable gives you freedom to do the same. Accountability is the answer to removing negative emotions. It does no good to keep doing the blame game. When you’re respectful in your confrontations, you can communicate how your parents/children have hurt or angered you. An essential key to being respectful is to give them the dignity of being capable of accepting responsibility for their mistakes and correcting them.

Another challenging business arrangement is working with your spouse. My book - Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home is now available on as a Kindle edition and will help you with this.

For more information, visit Entrepreneurial Life - Families in Business.

Don’t Compromise. Go for a Win-Win Solution

Thursday, August 01, 2013


negotiate a win-win solutionDo you find that most of your controversies end with both parties being satisfied with the outcome? Or do you find that someone usually ends up being resentful, which is damaging to the relationship? Whether it’s between business associates, family members or friends, how can you possibly achieve a win-win situation in controversial matters?

Letting go of the notion that good relationships are based on compromise is tough. Most of us have been taught that compromise is essential because both people can't be right. But the truth is there really are many right solutions to a problem. We tend to think our solution is the only right one because it fits our reality best.

When you aren’t "bent" on having your way, but are willing to risk a little annoyance or confusion instead of settling for a compromise, you’ll find a much more creative solution in the long run.

Just as listening is a difficult skill to master, learning the art of negotiating a win-win or no-compromise solution with another person requires a lot of effort. But the pay off is a relationship filled with respect and cooperation.

By listening you can begin to understand the other person's world or "map of reality." This is vital to developing your communication strategy. Good listening requires that you get your own ego out of the way and that you don't require the other person to think and talk as you do.

Next, listen to what the other individual is trying to tell you instead of their words. Remember that all human behavior is meaningful, but the meaning may be disguised.

Listening also requires that you be truly interested in the other person. If you are genuine, the other individual feels appreciated and tries that much harder to communicate. Even if you don't agree on something, the fact that you are making an extra effort to understand the other's reality will move you both toward a win-win solution.

Working toward a win-win solution encourages free thinking in those around you. If you have a powerful or charismatic personality, you may be able to garner obedience from others. However, you will then deny yourself the opportunity to benefit from their creativity.

It does require that you are willing to devote time. You can't give up in a huff or sacrifice your position because you are beaten down. You may be tempted to resort to intimidation for the sake of expediency, but you will risk rapport. Remember, just because someone gives in doesn't mean they agree with you. Acquiescence often leads the person to become sneaky to get their way or to be passive aggressive and dig in their heels on other issues.

If there is no solution on the horizon, table the discussion until you sleep on it. Oftentimes, this will bring the solution. You may also benefit from seeking the advice of an impartial counselor. If you’re near Portland Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to learn more? Check out my website – Marriage Counseling Conflict and Communication.

The Three Aspects of Listening that Contribute to Good Communication

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


couple talking but true communication requires listening mostlyDoesn’t it feel good when you’ve had a meaningful exchange of thoughts and feelings with someone who really understands you? It contributes to your sense of self-worth, belonging, and security. On the other hand, it can sour your day when communication goes wrong because of misunderstandings. What determines the outcome of your conversations?

The most important part of communicating is listening. It’s been said that that’s why we have only one mouth but have two ears. You can’t assume that you understanding someone simply because you know them well or you have much in common. Not only does a person have to listen to the actual words spoken, but there’s so much more that communicates feelings and thoughts.

Communicating is an art. It’s a complex on-going process that can be done skillfully with time and real effort. Here are three tips that will help you to improve your listening skills: 

  • Listen for the meaning. Words often don’t reflect what the person really means. Become a better listener by asking yourself, "Why is he or she telling me this?" Put yourself in his or her shoes and try to discover the meaning behind the words or behavior.
  • Notice why the speaker chose you. When people communicate they unconsciously and many times consciously identify a certain person to talk with. Perhaps you have purposefully been chosen because the speaker needs a certain kind of feedback that they hope you will give.
  • Accept the meaningfulness of all communication no matter how small. Do you tend to dismiss "small talk" as unimportant? There is nothing small about. It is a quick way to build rapport and trust between people. It’s how we stay connected. Often in our busy lives we skip the small talk and get on with the agenda and, as a result, relationships suffer.

An important part of listening is truly caring about the other individual. If you are genuine, the other individual feels appreciated and tries that much harder to send you clear signals that require less translating.

If you’ve tried to develop good communication skills but you’re still experiencing difficulty, seek out the assistance of a skilled therapist. Are you near Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington? Contact my office and set up an appointment. You’ll learn life long skills that you can use to improve all of your relationships 

Learn more about communication in marriage on my website – Marriage Counseling – Conflict and Communication.

Characteristics of Gifted Children and their Associated Problems

Friday, July 12, 2013


gifted children at schoolAll children face the challenges of growing up and fitting into today’s society. However, gifted children quite often go through these stages earlier in life and have the additional challenge of facing a world that is not designed to accommodate their unique way of thinking. It’s not uncommon for gifted children to be diagnosed as ADD.

How can you tell if your child is gifted? Look for the following typical intellectual characteristics and their associated problems:

Unusually large vocabularies for their age. This may lead to boredom at school and with their peers.

Ability to read earlier than most children, often before entering school. Being ahead of the others can lead to boredom, lack of motivation, cynicism and depression.

Greater comprehension of the subtleties of language. They may use words to manipulate others.

Longer attention span, persistence and intense concentration. They become so focused that other duties are forgotten or they stubbornly resist being interrupted.

Ability to learn basic skills more quickly and with less practice. They are impatience with others and dislike routine.

Wide range of interests. They may jump from activity to activity without completing any, appearing to be disorganized and are frustrated by lack of time.

Highly developed curiosity and a limitless supply of questions. They may tend to ask embarrassing questions and be excessive in their interests.

Interest in experimenting and doing things differently. They may be viewed as disruptive and uncooperative.

Tendency to put ideas of thing together in ways that are unusual and not obvious (divergent thinking). They may be very creative and not fit in with peers.

Ability to retain a great deal of information. They may be very sensitive and worry about issues of fair play, equality or truth, and they desire logic rather than tradition or feelings. They may be perfectionists or intolerant of others.

Unusual sense of humor. They may become the class clown to gain attention.

The New York Times article, Dealing with Problems of Some Gifted Children, provides further insight. Gifted children are fundamentally different and they need their parents' and teachers' help to learn the social, interpersonal and self-development skills to relate to the rest of humanity. You can find out if your child is gifted by consulting a qualified psychologist who can perform tests that clearly identify this, as well as, provide the support your family needs to cope with these challenges. Contact my office (either in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington) and set up an appointment.

Read more about how to guide gifted children at my website – Parenting-Gifted Child.

Working Moms – Create More Flexibility in Your Work Schedule

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


working moms juggling work and home life“I never miss one of my child’s ballgames.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to say that? With the busy work schedules that working couples have, especially entrepreneurial couples, it seems like it’s nearly impossible to accomplish something like that. One of the things working moms and dads regret most is that family time gets sacrificed in order to keep their job or stay in business.

In today’s world, very few women want to be stay-at-home moms. Most women prefer to have a career. However, statistics show that many are working much more than they’d really like. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that only a quarter of mothers with school age children want to be working full-time if money were no object.

That’s where thinking outside the box and taking the initiative is beneficial for creating a flexible work schedule. One great alternative is working from home one day per week. That’s what one enterprising mom did. After 9 years of working full-time for her employee, she mustered up the courage to ask to work from home on Fridays. You can gain inspiration from her story in The New York Times, Coveting Not a Corner Office, but Time at Home.

Some advocate that women should seek careers of leadership positions while depending on a partner to help with the childcare, however not everyone wants to live that way. It’s important for you and your partner to figure out your work-life priorities, and then not be afraid to ask the boss if you can work in an out-of-the-ordinary way, e.g. part time or from home. True, the boss may say, “no”, but there’s a good possibility you’ll get a “yes” instead.

But what if you are the boss? Of course, if you and your partner are in business together, then you have more flexibility of how and where work is done. If you’re having trouble coming to a satisfactory arrangement for your work-life circumstances, you might benefit from talking with a family therapist. Contact my office and set up an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Check out my book - Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home that’s now available as a Kindle edition. You’ll find the true-life experiences helpful and inspiring.

Can Marriage Survive When You Have a Child with Autism?

Friday, July 05, 2013


Happy marriages and happy family

There’s a lot of confusing data and misinformation out there, such as the oft repeated, but unsubstantiated, statistic that 80 percent of parents of autistic children will divorce. Granted, raising an autistic child does add more stress, especially since parents must suddenly become experts in education, health care, early intervention, insurance policies and so much more amidst the storm of emotions connected with learning of your child’s diagnosis. But that in no way means your marriage is doomed. 


To the contrary, researchers have found that, if the marriage has a strong foundation of good communication, flexibility and conflict resolution, then these qualities will draw you closer together as you work to provide your child with the training and attention needed. You can read more about this in the Psychology Today article, “Love in the Time of Autism”.

Parents are encouraged to draw boundaries to preserve the quality of life with each other, with their neuro-typical children, family, friends and careers. You can’t let the guilt and grief of autism consume you. It’s important to discuss a division of labor between you and your life partner so you make decisions together and express appreciation for what each is doing. It’s damaging to spring emotionally charged decisions on a mate who is already stressed out.

Another crucial element to keeping your marriage strong in these circumstances is to reach out for support and not try to go it alone. If there are strains in marriage before the diagnosis of ASD, then these will be magnified. The good news is that even strained marriages can be salvaged by consulting with a mental health professional who specializes in autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. If you’re ready to talk, contact my office and set up an appointment in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

Download a free chapter of “Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome”. It’s my new book that addresses the unique issues that comes from co-parenting with an Aspie partner and how you can detach from the emotional distress.

The Long-Term Effect of Poverty on the Brains of Children

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


poverty effects child's brain

Poverty may actually be changing the brains of children as they respond to the stressful circumstances found in the low socioeconomic status. Research has found that the cortex thickens when children are exposed to factors such as stress, poor nutrition, lack of healthcare, and environmental toxins such as second-hand smoke. 


It’s indisputable that living in overcrowded, dangerous neighborhoods without adequate education or parental warmth will cause more stress. However, the stress in the children of these recent studies is disproportionately magnified. (To learn about these studies, read the article – How Poverty Might Change the Brain at CNN.com)

The good news is that researchers have found that “later enriching experiences can at least partially compensate for the effects of early-life stress on the hippocampus.” The brain compensates by creating new pathways. If you would like help to change how you think about yourself and your life, speak to a mental health care professional. The many forms of Psychotherapy available have helped thousands to overcome negative childhood experiences smoothing the progress toward full, rich lives.

For more information, visit my website – Depression & Stress or contact my office to set up an appointment.

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Help Your Special Needs Child Prepare for the New School Year

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Summer is flying by and before you know it you’re kids will be back to school. For parents who have children with special needs such ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) it can be stressful preparing your child for the new school year. I have put together a few tips to help make the transition from summer to school a little easier for you and your child.

Be Positive
It is only natural for your child to feel apprehensive about the new school year. You can help ease their worries by speaking positively about what they are going to experience this year. Get them excited about that they are going to learn. Recall to their minds the thing they enjoyed from previous years.

Get into a Routine
Even though school hasn't started yet, it’s a good idea to start getting into a good routine that will ease them into their school schedule. Set a wake up time and bedtime for your child. This may need to be done gradually for them to adjust. Also start with a few academic games/projects to refresh their memories and get them to prepared for what to expect when school starts. Consistency is key for both ADD and ASD.

Get Prepared
Include your child when you are getting prepared for the school year. Take them with you when you do their school shopping and let them pick out things that they like. Help them put together their backpacks, discuss lunch and snack options, and help them lay out their clothes for school the night before. Make the preparation a joint effort.

One other thing I really recommend doing – once you find out who your child's teacher will be – is to put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

For additional back to school and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics - Back To School Tips. My website also has information about Parenting a Child with ADD.


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