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Kathy Marshack News

What Parents Need to do to Prevent Cyber Bullying

Thursday, November 14, 2013


prevent cyber bullyingA bully used to be the big kid on the playground who pushed the littler kids around, stole their milk money and bloodied their noses. Times have changed and bullying is not only much more prevalent but also more insidious. Nowadays bullying takes the form of insulting rumors and gossip. These vicious verbal attacks are happening via social media and text messaging.

Rumors boost social status and is an effective method that bullies use to climb the social ladder. Young people don’t control the impulse because they don’t stop to think of the consequences. They think it’s all harmless fun. But it isn’t. As we’ve all heard recently, online bullying has led to teens committing suicide because they felt there was no one to help them and they couldn’t handle the embarrassment.


The perceived anonymity of the Internet is greatly responsible for people feeling free to post comments and photos that they might not otherwise. As Lesley Withers, a professor at Central Michigan University, said in 2008, "In the (pre-Internet era), you had to take ownership. People think what they say won't have repercussions, and they don't think they have to soften their comments."

Your child may think it’s a private and innocent moment to be sexting to a boyfriend or girlfriend, but those embarrassing photos and comments can go viral and cause irreparable damage. Once they are posted, they are out there forever. They can’t be retrieved. Not only does this affect your child today, but it can also negatively impact their future.

The truth about the Internet is that no one is anonymous. It can always be traced back to the sender, leaving both the victim and the bully wide open to further bullying. It creates a vicious cycle that often ends in tragedy.

Forty-nine states have laws against school bullying and some websites like Facebook and Twitter are instituting policies against this kind of abuse. Educational programs have been started by parents of bullied/suicide victims to help other students and their parents learn how to cope with it. Many teens don’t know how to talk with their parents or persons in authority about this abuse. My advice is that as a parent you need to start talking with your children about this rapidly growing problem. You may be surprised to hear your child’s response. I also recommend that you read the CNN article, How to Counter Online Bullies.

If you notice your child’s behavior has changed negatively and can’t find out why, don’t delay in getting help! A family therapist can help you communicate openly and begin to heal the hurt your child is experiencing. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office and schedule an appointment now.

For additional information visit my website: Parents - Be Alert to Signs of Bullying.

Parents – Is it a Good Idea to Bribe your Children?

Friday, November 08, 2013


should you bribe your childrenYour child is important to you and you recognize that you have an important obligation to raise your child to be healthy, confident, and independent. Virginia Satir, a noted family therapist once said that parents are in the business of "people making."

Most children will have a very difficult time developing the strength of character required to live a happy and productive life if they haven’t learned how to conquer challenging tasks that no one else can do for them. Due to a natural lack of maturity, they want to avoid “unpleasant” tasks at home or school, so the challenge for parents is how to get them to do these difficult tasks. No one wants to nag and fight all the time with their kids. It’s exhausting! So, parents may resort to the quick fix of bribing their children. “If you let mommy talk on the phone, we’ll go for an ice cream.” Or, “I’ll pay you a dollar for every homework assignment you turn in.”

Some call this rewarding good behavior. A thought provoking discussion on the pros and cons of bribing your children was covered in the New York Times recently. It helps parents think carefully about the consequences of using this tactic. Two debaters offered their different points of view.

Both debaters did agree that if the activity you’re trying to promote in your child is an important life skill then you don’t bribe to do that activity. You “bribe” or reward your child’s promptness and pleasant attitude in doing it.

As a parent you’re faced with many choices beyond whether to bribe your children or not. You have your personal parenting style, your spouse’s parenting style and the personalities and needs of your children to consider. Most parents are astounded at how wildly different each one of their children are. While a permissive style may be appropriate for one child, another may require more authority.

Sometimes families need help sorting out the best parenting style for their family. Do not be ashamed if it’s necessary to find a family therapist. If you’re in the Portland Metro area, contact my office and set up an appointment. Being a good parent means doing whatever you have to do for your child and that sometimes means getting a professional involved.

For more information on parenting, visit my website: Am I a Good Parent.

Does What You Read Affect Your Social Skills?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


reading literary fiction is good for your social skillsDo you enjoy reading? Many families like to read together as a way of connecting and spending time with each other. That helps the social skills within the family. Did you know that reading can improve how you interact with others in general? According to a recent study, the benefits depend on what kind of literature you chose to read. It found that social skills are improved by reading literary fiction.

Why does literary fiction work this way? Unlike popular fiction that focuses on the plot, literary fiction explores complex personalities and relationships that cause the reader to put him or herself into that person’s shoes and to think, “What would I do in this situation?”

The New York Times recently spoke about this study in their article, For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov. They reported, “Reading literary fiction enables people to do better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.” One of the tests asked the participants to see if they could accurately “read” the expression in the eyes of the people in the photographs. Those who read literary fiction first scored better than the groups who didn’t read anything or who read popular fiction.

The researchers say, “The reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.” This promotes more empathy. When we are better able to read body language, then our social skills improve.

Could this help someone on the spectrum? Perhaps. Those with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome don’t always respond appropriately in social situations. However, it has been proven that parents can train their children on the spectrum to recognize emotions in pictures and then in people’s faces so they learn how to respond to someone when they see that same expression in real life situations.

There are inseparable connections and complicated interactions that take place between the mind, body and our environment that impact the kind of people we are. If you would like to improve your social skills, therapy can help. Make an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Read more about the connection between your mind and body on my website – Mind and Body Health.

What People Are Already Saying About My New Book “Out of Mind – Out of Sight"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Out of Mind Out of Sight Since I first published on the subject of Asperger Syndrome in 2009, there have been many exciting discoveries. This is especially true in the areas of genetics and neuroscience and how they interact with psychology and social learning. I use these discoveries to help make sense of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the parents and children described in my new book, Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD): Out of Mind – Out of Sight. Knowledge is power. The more you know about Asperger Syndrome, the better able you are to parent, coparent, co-exist and even thrive within your AS/NT family.

I’ve received numerous comments from people anticipating this book. I ’d like to share a few of them with you. Out of respect, I’ve withheld their names to maintain their privacy.

“I was wondering when the book Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind –Out of Sight was going to become available to purchase? I have read the sample chapter, and I need more. It is brilliant, just like the other book Going Over the Edge? - A sanity saver. I am desperate to get my hands on it as soon as it is available.”

“Thank you so much for your books. I ordered Going Over the Edge? today and am eager to get the book on parenting with an AS spouse, Out of Mind – Out of Sight. My husband is a wonderful man, but after we had children his mood deteriorated rapidly. It has been hard on all of us. Since I realized that the reason is AS, my reality has been altered in a way I have had trouble articulating. Your book did it immediately. It gave words to my life, and I am profoundly grateful to feel understood. I have a relief valve, at least for now.”

“What is your update on release timing for the book Out of Mind – Out of Sight about AS parents? I’m looking forward to reading more. It helps me think through and prioritize my issues as I go through custody battle issues – what will be a big deal, and what won’t be.”

“I just learned of your new book about parenting when your partner is on the autism spectrum. Thank you for writing on this subject. My wife and I are on the spectrum as are our children, and we are rare in our ability to work collaboratively. I train parents in how to more effectively collaborate and raise their children on the spectrum. I’m repeatedly asked if there is any books on the very subject you’ve written on, and yours is the first I’ve heard about. I’ll gladly let my clients know about it. Thanks for writing this book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight.”

Out of Mind – Out of Sight is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition.


You can download your free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight here to get started reading it today.


How Can Children Learn to Control their Emotions?

Saturday, September 21, 2013


help children learn to control their emotionsIt saddens me to hear so many news reports of young people who cause tragedies to themselves and other families through acts of violence. Youths with out-of-control emotions are evident in the rising incidents of school violence, bullying and teen suicide just to name a few of the problems facing children today.

Many people are trying diverse ways of helping people learn to control their emotions so as to prevent future tragedies. One way is that thousands of schools across the United States are considering adding Social Emotion Learning (S.E.L.) to their curriculum. The goal of S.E.L. is to “instill a deep psychological intelligence that will help children regulate their emotions.”

We can’t expect children to know how they’re supposed to react to situations inherently. Starting back as far as the 1980’s researchers have been studying whether “emotional intelligence” over “academic intelligence” is a greater indicator of how well a child succeeds in life. Evidence is pointing to the truthfulness that emotions outweigh academics. In fact, Maurice Elias, a psychology professor at Rutgers University and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab calls emotional learning “the missing piece in American education.”

A recent article in the New York Times, “Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?” explores some of the pros and cons of this approach. It gives examples of teachers who are implementing Social Emotional Learning into their classes with mixed results.

To properly act on our emotions takes practice because you first have to master 3 steps:

1) feeling your feelings, 2) interpreting your feelings correctly, and 3) act upon the feeling information. Children need guidance in order to master these steps.

The best example your children can have for proper emotional responses is from you, the parents who love them best. But this can become very difficult when your partner has Asperger’s Syndrome and doesn’t know to read emotional indicators for him or herself, let alone be able to teach it to your children. Are you in this situation and would like some insightful help? I’m soon going to be releasing a new book with help for this specific situation, outlining how to make your life more manageable and enjoyable. It’s called Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome. If you’d like a sneak preview, you can download a chapter and start reading now

Read more on my website – Parenting.

Can Any Good Come from Suffering?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


morpho butterflyWe try to shield the ones we love from all struggle and suffering. Parents especially do this for their children, trying to make their lives easier than their own. But can this become a misplaced sentiment? Is it an attempt to make ourselves feel better rather than doing something that actually helps the situation? Haven’t we all heard about the parent that shields a child from the consequences of their actions until the child becomes hardened in a self-centered way of living?

Take the story of a butterfly as an example. A little boy collects a chrysalis and puts it in a jar so he can watch it hatch. As it goes from the stage of pupa to butterfly, it emerges from it chrysalis and crawls up the twig. But because the jar is too small it unsuccessfully tries to pump the fluid from its body into the wings. It just can’t do it. It doesn’t have enough room to expand its wings. They harden in their shriveled state and this butterfly will never fly.

Throughout history and across different cultures, people have long struggled and coped with immense suffering in different ways. The New York Times has a story, The Value of Suffering, that is truly thought provoking. It points out the obvious – that we all suffer – but the important point is how we choose to react to it.

Parroting platitudes like “look at the bright side" or “time heals all wounds” does little more than irritate. We can, however, take bad situations and expand or grow by looking for ways to help others, and in the process help ourselves. Never should we keep our views so small that we are afraid to say a word of comfort, give hope and extend an act of kindness. Looking for the positive in the situation, in other people and in ourselves will keep us from spiraling into bitterness and anger.

When you’re confronted with a person who is suffering from clinical depression, it requires special consideration and treatment. It would be insensitive to say, “Get over it. Buck up.” However you don't want to be an enabler to their depression as they sink deeper and deeper. Encourage the depressed individual to seek help with a mental health professional. Or if you’re living with a depressed individual and don’t know how to cope and you live nearby, contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington office and make an appointment soon. There is help available for you and your loved one.

Read more about this on my website – Overcoming Depression.

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.


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