* Taking Care of Child’s Physical, Emotional Needs is Essential

By Katherine Baker, LCSW, Courier & Press, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 –

Unfortunately, all too often we hear stories in the media about children and teens being neglected.  Neglect can take many forms, including lack of housing, food  and medical care, failure to teach basic personal care, and withholding love and affection.  In neglect situations, the child’s basic needs are not being met by the parent.

For many families there seems to be a “disconnect” between meeting a child’s needs and strengthening the bonds of love, affection, care and support.  Parents can neglect their children for multiple reasons – loss of a job causing financial strain, loss of public utilities, depression, parent inattention due to involvement with a love interest, addiction to cell phones, or abuse of alcohol and other substances.

 As a school social worker, I see the effects of neglect every day.  In this writer’s opinion, emotional neglect may do the most damage.

Neglect can leave a permanent scar on a child’s self-esteem and well-being.  Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and tends to fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.

Children that are left alone, unsupervised, and don’t have regular one-on-one time with a parent frequently have unmet emotional needs.  They are not taught the importance of values, morals, and respect for self and others.

Spending quality time with your children should be a priority.  However, many children and teens do not get this much-needed attention from parents.  They are alone, unsupervised, and left to their own defenses.

On the other hand, children that have actively involved parents tend to have better self-esteem, make better decisions, are better able to respond to the stress of day-to-day living, and are able to verbalize their needs in a healthy manner.  The time you spend with your children in elementary school, middle school and high school will promote healthy and responsible relationships.

A big part of parenting is being the parent and not your child’s friend.  In addition to spending quality time with children, parents should make rules and enforce them, give advice, show love, care, and respect, role model positive and encouraging behaviors and discipline when needed.  If a parent is absent these skills are lost, as the child must meet his own needs and function as a mini-adult rather than a child.

Some children who are emotionally neglected become angry and sullen. Others become depressed, develop unhealthy dating relationships, demonstrate poor academic performance, and may show little respect for others or themselves. Showing your child you love them even when their behavior is troubling can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship.

If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver, make time in your busy schedule – or better yet – eliminate some of the commitments you have and start nurturing and loving your children.  Put down the cell phone and talk to your kids.  Teach your children how to communicate face-to-face versus the push of a button.  Give your children the love and attention we all need and make sure their basic needs are met.  Their future – and their ability to relate to others in our world – depends on it.

* Mindfulness and Meditation

By Katherine Baker, Courier & Press, March 7, 2017 –

For the past three years, Youth First has been providing Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT) to its social workers.  The concepts of mindfulness and meditation, which are part of DBT were new to me.

We are busy people with lots of responsibilities.  Most of us rarely take time for ourselves or our relationships.

The concepts of mindfulness and meditation can be intimidating.  After practicing DBT skills, however, I clearly see the benefits and how it can help you feel more peaceful and in control.

Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.  Unfortunately, our society is prone to making judgments.

Our brains move from topic to topic.  We ignore and push feelings away.  We find it difficult to focus and concentrate.  Learning how to be mindful and “in the moment” can reduce the stress in your life, improve relationships, and help sharpen your concentration and focus.

One way to begin a mindfulness practice is to find a quiet place, sit in a chair or on the floor, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath for two minutes.  It sounds easy, but you may find your mind wandering.  If this happens, simply return your thoughts back to your breath.

Practice this daily and gradually work up to 10 minutes.  Relax and let your body and mind work together.

According to the website Greater Good (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition), mindfulness is defined as maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

Some of the potential benefits of mindfulness listed in this article include the following:

  • Mindfulness is good for our bodies.  Practicing mindfulness and meditation boosts our  immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
  • Mindfulness is  good for our minds.  Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress.
  • Mindfulness helps us focus.  Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us  tune out distractions and improves our  memory  and  attention  skills.
  • Mindfulness  enhances relationships.  It helps people feel more accepting of and closer to one another.
  • Mindfulness is good for  parents  and  parents-to-be.  Studies suggest it may  reduce pregnancy-related anxiety, stress  and depression  in expectant parents.
  • Mindfulness helps schools.  There’s scientific evidence that teaching mindfulness in the classroom reduces behavior problems and aggression among students and improves their happiness levels and  ability to pay attention.
  • Mindfulness helps  health care professionals  cope with stress,  connect with their patients  and  improve their general quality of life.  It also helps  mental health professionals  by reducing negative emotions and anxiety and increasing their positive emotions and feelings of  self-compassion.
  • Mindfulness helps  veterans.  Studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of war.
  • Mindfulness  fights obesity.  Practicing “mindful eating” encourages healthier eating habits, helps people lose weight  and helps them savor the food they eat.

Instead of worrying about what may happen, try mindfulness and meditation and be fully present.  You will be amazed at how quickly your stress levels decrease.