Dr. Steven Lazarus is an expert child psychologist and teen psychologist in Littleton, CO. This page is dedicated to giving parents different parenting strategies in their work with their children and teenagers.

Could Substance Use Come Between You and Your Partner?

Substance abuse is a major problem that affects about 20 million Americans each year. Could it be coming between you and your partner? Read on to see some scary scenarios and how to handle them.

Picture this: You and your partner have been together since you were in college. You remember many nights spent partying with friends, celebrating the 21st birthday rite of passage, perhaps experimenting with some substances. You took full advantage of your early 20s, sharing excitement and joy and visiting the bars and parties, and then had a wonderful marriage. Now, you’re both in your thirties, and you realize you want to “adult” a little better and start having kids. Is your lifestyle sustainable? How do you change it? You ask yourself, “is it time to call a couples counselor?”

Or, what about this scenario: You and your partner have been together for over a decade, but you notice something seems wrong. Your partner has been withdrawn, distant, and money from the household budget just keeps disappearing. You start being more attentive and realize that empty liquor bottles end up in the trash can outside, but you never saw them in the house. Or maybe you find some paraphernalia from other substances. Is your partner having a mid-life crisis ? You know you have to address this.

One last example: In your golden years, you decide to take up a whiskey-tasting class. You love it so much, you sign up for another, and start trying different cocktails at home. Even when you can’t get the nice stuff, or the fancy mixers to go along with it, you like that warm, fuzzy feeling, and the fact that you don’t remember arguing with your partner when you drink. Before you know it, you realize you are drinking most every day, and you really like the way it feels when you mix your beverages with the painkillers you have from that old back injury. Your partner tells you to cut down, but you think they’re just jealous. You’ve met some new friends at the bar who understand you much better.

Red Flags and White Flags

At any stage of a person’s life, they can be affected by alcohol or drug abuse. Whether you have a history of problem drinking, always have to be the “life of the party,” or love the way that substances help you to escape problems, the line between “social” use and problematic use can be blurry. Unfortunately, it can also come between you and your partner. In some cases, only one partner has a substance abuse concern, which places much of the burden of managing household responsibility  and children on the sober partner. In other cases, both partners are struggling and often enabling each other, trapping one another in a cycle of negative behaviors, arguments, and guilt. You and your partner may not agree on the exact same level of substance use, but when it comes between your marriage, affects your performance at work or as a parent, or causes health concerns, these red flags let you know that you need help! When you reach this point, you may want to work with a skilled couples counselor in Highlands Ranch, as well as a certified addictions counselor. Even if you are not the “patient” (the one with the substance abuse issue), your relationship is undoubtedly affected by substance use, and a therapist can help you to work through the ways that your partnership has been affected.

You don’t have to deal with substance use or abuse alone. If you, your partner, or both are having problems with substance use, there is help available. Working with substance abuse professionals and attending couple’s therapy can break up that relationship with substances and rebuild your relationship with each other. Set up a couple’s counseling session today to reclaim your relationship!

 

 

 

Tricks, Treats, and Trauma: Triggers at Halloween

Not long after fall sets in, the season of spooky ghosts, fairy princesses, and undead ghouls and zombies comes to life! This is an exciting time of year for most kids, but for those who have survived trauma, it could be a little more than is desired. In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why we love to be scared, what can be too scary, and how to handle the sights and frights in a positive way.
Fright is Fun!
When one thinks logically about it, Halloween, horror movies, and even dangerous sports like mountain climbing or cliff diving shouldn’t appeal to us—or our kids! Any good child psychologist in Littleton knows that these are things that make our hearts race, send a shiver down our backs, and mimic some of life’s biggest dangers: falling, losing to the elements, monsters, and worse! But kids, just like adults, are drawn to these things. The act of seeking out that excitement plays a role, but it also helps us to manage and deal with these feelings when they come up in real life. Humans play with all our emotions, from tear-jerking romances to action-packed superheroes, and fear is one of many!
When Scary is Too Scary
For some children (and adults!) these “fun” scares are not so fun. While many people associate this with very younger children, people of all ages can have experiences that can make horror a true fright. For example, children who have witnessed violence or graphic accidents may find that the prop blood used to stage many horror scenes is just too close to reality, or may not want to see or touch it. Children who have been abused may shy away from threatening figures, and for good reason—these behaviors keep them safe, both physically and emotionally.
How to Enjoy the Season
How can you enjoy the Halloween season and help your child to do the same? First, help your child to understand the fear and put it into words. Is your child simply afraid of all monsters? Try visiting an age-appropriate fun event, where the focus of the costume is to be cute or funny, not frightening. Make sure to check age recommendations at haunted houses or festivals, as many are designed for teens or older. If you know that something in particular triggers your child, work with a behavior therapist in Littleton on ways to stay calm and present during these triggers, or build strength by gently exposing him or her to the frightful event through play therapy. Teaching your child to repeat a mantra, such as “these are just costumes, the blood is just syrup and food coloring” can help to keep them focused. Make it clear that nothing is really going to harm them, and encourage them to have fun and master the fear by “being” the scary monster, including jumping out and yelling “boo” at mom and dad from behind corners.
If your child’s fear or trauma reaction is getting in the way of normal functioning, or if he or she is thinking about it very often, working with an experienced mental health therapist is your best option! Dr. Lazarus has helped many children to process trauma and emerge stronger than ever!

When Your Child’s Behavior Comes Between Your Marriage

When you and your partner imagined having children, your hopes and dreams likely created a beautiful setting. You could see and feel all the times you would cuddle as a family, play board games, go on trips, share meals and enlightening conversations, both supporting each other with patience and equality… and then, you realize that years have passed, your toddler is screaming bloody murder because you dared to put carrots on her plate, your teen is slamming his door and reminding you that you are “seriously the worst,” nobody does anything but scowl at each other, and you wonder if that partner you got with is really helping or just making everything worse.

You can’t divorce the kids, but should you divorce the partner? Probably not!

The Toll of Child Behavior Problems on Marriage

Even the strongest of couples can struggle during stress. Financial conflict, job changes, health concerns —all of these can place stress on a marriage. But many couples fail to realize that their own darling children—often, the reason both partners are together in the first place—can create just as much stress. Worse, unlike the nasty boss you can joke about with your husband, you’re supposed to be happy and loving toward these little mood-killers. You love your kids, but not their behaviors, and your own frustration and guilt can provide even more of a challenge! As a good parent, you are usually able to keep it pleasant for the kids, but then all that built-up frustration has to go somewhere… often, your spouse. In addition, the time spent managing a difficult child’s behavior can take its toll, whether that includes taking time off work to pick him up from school (the third time this week!), canceling plans because the babysitter refused to spend another night, or even taking your child to therapy appointments.

How to Get Help

You are doing an admirable job making it with all of these challenges, but if you burn the candle at both ends, you burn out faster. For yourself, your children, and your partner, you need to give up and admit “I need help.” Where can this help come from? Try these tips!

  • Call Grandma! Or any trusted adult, really. Even if it seems like you are placing a burden on others, consider if your parents, siblings, or other family members could help.
  • Hire a Professional. If the neighborhood teens can’t handle babysitting a difficult child, seek professional nannying services. Many come with certifications in CPR and different behavior management styles.
  • Take Turns. You—yes, you, reading this—deserve time to yourself. Time when you aren’t supervising, watching, caring for, or anything else. You and your partner can take turns scheduling alone time and feel better when you return to one another.
  • Seek Professional Respite. For children with some chronic conditions, professional respite care matches you with a trained, caring family that will care for your child a few days every few months. Trust that your child is safe while you rebuild your resources and reconnect with your partner.
  • Join a Support Group. Whether online or in-person, it helps to know that you are not alone in your struggle! Laugh about tantrums, hear practical tips from other parents, and create a safe space to vent when you need it.

When to Get Professional Help

If your child’s behavior is getting in the way of your marriage, or affecting the other children in the home, you should seek a skilled child psychologist to work with your family. You may also want to seek couple’s counseling in Highlands Ranch to improve your relationship. By reworking and re-evaluating your relationship patterns, you can find a happy balance for everyone in the home.

 

Add These Social Questions to Your List for Parent-Teacher Conferences

With the school year fully started, school supplies have been purchased, new clothes have been tried on, and new clubs and activities are clamoring for attention. For many parents, this is a reminder that the parent-teacher conference is coming up! Most schools hold at least one parent-teacher conference per year, and the fall is the most common time for this meeting. Whether you’re planning to quiz your child’s kindergarten teacher about your child’s ability to get into an Ivy League school, inquire if your teen is failing algebra for the third time, or just want to make sure the year is going the best it can , these questions take a step back from the normal “grades and homework” talk. A child psychologist in Highlands Ranch addresses some social and emotional aspects of school.

Does my child have friends?

School is about learning, but it is also about socializing, exploring peer boundaries, and navigating conflict. As adults, most people remember vivid fights on the playgrounds, secrets whispered between passing periods, and lonely lunches more than the specifics of learning how to read and write. Especially if your child is starting a new school, struggling with friends, or has had a history of bullying or victimization in the past, checking on his or her social life is a good start to understanding the fill picture.

How does she handle disappointments?

Every day isn’t going to be the best day—that’s just part of life. But how did your child react to that bad grade on a spelling test? What does she do when the other kids want to play a different game? For the parent who only hears that school went “fine” most days, a little insight can help identify early problems with coping or friendships.

Is he putting forth good effort, or just coasting by?

Many parents of high-achieving students wonder, why go to parent-teacher conferences? My kid’s getting all As, everything is great! However, this can be a good time to check in with teachers to make sure your child is really still motivated and engaged, not just benefitting from “easy” work. High-achieving students will go above and beyond , seek extra opportunities, or deepen their learning by helping others learn. Or, maybe he took an “easy” class to have more time to work through calculus homework. Understanding how your child’s teachers view him, and insight into how time is spent, can help you as a parent.

For a child and teen psychologist in Littleton, parent-teacher conference time equals plenty of new referrals! Keep in mind that you are not alone in helping your child to develop their fullest potential, and if concerns are raised that you need help with, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Steven Lazarus for behavior and emotional strategies.

 

How Your Smart Phone Steals Your Smarts

With just a few taps of your finger (or thumb!), you can access more information than most people throughout history could ever conceive of. Without ever having to leave your couch, you can browse the libraries of thousands of universities, communicate with experts on a million subjects, and check out the latest scientific research. But is your smart phone actually stealing your smarts? More and more people say that this is the case, and when it comes to your relationships and performance, that tiny computer in your pocket may be doing more damage than ever before. Read on to find out how your cell phone steals your brainpower, relationships with others, and more!

Concentration and Memory

Many people in today’s world report difficulty getting through a chapter of a book, or even a whole magazine article. Why? Because we are constantly dividing our concentration. The thought of spending 15 or 20 minutes on just one task is almost unheard of—after all, you could check social media, reply to a quick text, glance at the weather, see if the nannycam for the kids is showing any activity… after all, if your phone can keep all these apps open in the background, can’t your brain? The truth is, you can’t. Even the best multitaskers are pretty bad at multitasking, because the human brain only has a single “processor” built in. You may think you can do it all (at once), but if you notice that it is hard to stay focused, remember the details, or keep a good timeline, it may be because your brain is in the habit of only giving partial attention.

Relationships and Connection

Your smart phone isn’t just sapping your brainpower, it’s affecting your relationships. When you check your phone in the middle of conversation or engagement with others, you are saying “this phone/person/thing is more important to me than our conversation right now.” It sounds ugly, but it is true. Sometimes, it’s okay—if you check your phone a few times to make sure the kids are okay while out with a friend, this is a good thing—your children’s safety is more important than rehashing the latest gossip with your friend. But when it becomes a habit, think of the damage it can do. Your device may be breaking the bond  between you and your significant other. Where a high-powered CEO may look more important when he or she takes a call or replies to an email during a meeting, you would be right to start looking for a new therapist in Littleton if this happened during session! If you are checking messages, you are not listening actively , and you may find that friends and family even stop talking with you.

Finding Balance

Even the most technology-avoidant therapist in Highlands Ranch isn’t going to tell you to ditch your smart phone. But can you find a balance that works for you and the others who are important for your life? One way is to turn off those push notifications! They aren’t there to help you—they are almost always there to sell you something or remind you to “do” something—usually, buying something. They take away your power of choice and leave you as a passive consumer. Shut them off, or set limits on when you can be interrupted. When you are busy with a task or with family, consider the ultimate: shut the whole phone off! Even if only for an hour or two, notice the change you feel without the constant demands on your energy and attention.
For some people, technology goes behind normal use and escalates into addiction. If you are having problems putting your smart phone away or if you feel like your use is affecting your relationships or functioning, seek effective, evidence-based counseling in Highlands Ranch today!

 

 

Get Ready for Back To School Season with these Top Tips!

It seems like summer just got started, but for many kids and teens in Colorado, the back to school season is here! Going back to the “daily grind” after taking a few months off can be a challenge for everyone—after all, the days of sleeping in late, lounging in the pool, and planning epic multi-day sleepovers are likely gone for another season. However, getting your children ready for the best year possible at school is no small task. Many parents seek the expert help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist for tips on managing friendships, getting homework done, and handing behaviors. Read on to find out some great tips for every age!

The First Timers: Starting Kindergarten

If your child is starting school for the first time, get ready for an exciting time! Hopefully, you have already prepared your young child for the fun he or she is going to have at school! Most schools have programs to let new students meet their teachers or tour the school early, and these can be great anxiety reducers. Always be positive while talking about school with your little one, even if you are as nervous as they are! And make sure to drop off with a big smile—you’ll be there at the end of the day to see how they did! For children who are fearful to start school, working with a play therapist  in Littleton can help to introduce scary topics in a friendly, supportive way.

The Importance of Routine

For kindergarteners, middle school kids, and even graduate students, having a routine is key to success in school. There is so much to do, so much to remember, and so many opportunities for stress to break through! Often, when you work with a psychologist in Littleton, you will discuss household and family routines that can be modified or added to increase success. Routines help by making certain things like morning hygiene, after school homework, or cleanup time “automatic” and predictable.

Plan For Success

For parents of students who have been in school before, you may notice the same problems creeping in each year. Does your son always end up with a stack of missing assignments by conferences time? Is your daughter usually in a “major fight” with all her besties before the fall break? Make a plan for how this year will be different and see how it helps! This might involve getting your kid involved in creating an organization system  that works for them, scheduling regular play dates or hang out times with a true friend, or establishing clear parent-teacher communications. Don’t wait until the problems grow into disasters, tackle them early.

Don’t Forget the Fun!

Finally, remember that starting a new school year can be stressful for you and your child! In between the scheduling, planning, and studying, make room for rest and relaxation! Think of starting a new school year like starting a new job and it will be easy to understand why your child or teen just needs some time to “chill.” If you notice that your child never seems to have fun, has fears or worries that keep her from attending school, or if you just need some extra help, contact a teenage psychologist or children’s play therapist in Littleton to see results today!

 

 

Get To Know Your Animal Helpers

Get To Know Your Animal Helpers

Kids and animals seem to go together naturally. Just put a child in a room with a puppy, kitten, or turtle, and see how they open up and explore! Throughout human history, we have interacted closely with our four-legged friends for safety, companionship, and entertainment. In today’s world, some of the best child psychologists and teenage psychologists in Colorado know that animals can go a step further  for some teens and children who are struggling with mental health. Read on to find out the amazing ways that therapists and families use animals for emotional health!

The Service Dog

Perhaps the best-known type of helper animal is the service dog! From canine assistants to the blind, to dogs that can detect seizures and call 9-1-1, these animals have been trained for a specific, useful task that addresses a physical or mental health condition. These guys can be fun, but remember, they are working!

The Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal provides an important emotional service, such as being used as a coping tool or emotional support. However, these animals may not have been trained on specific task, and may “work” only for their “person.” While service animal is often a “must-have,” similar to a wheelchair for people with limited mobility, an emotional support animal is more like a best friend.

The Therapy Animal

Those who have visited with Dr. Lazarus and Zeke know how amazing a therapy animal can be! Like a service dog, official therapy dogs have had special training and know just how to behave in a therapy setting. Children and teens often struggle with intense conversations, and a soft, furry dog in an animal-assisted therapy setting can be a great ice breaker or stress-reliever. Therapy animals also work well for metaphors, such as helping a child understand the need to care for and care about others. When a child is making the difficult transition through the “tween” years,  animals can help to alleviate the constant tension and awkwardness.

The Family Pet

Last, but not least, the humble family pet deserves a place on this list! Sure, your family pet may growl at strangers, have accidents when the family goes out too long, or bark at inopportune times, but if they love you and you love them, any family pet can be a valuable part of a healthy life. Pets remind us to be gentle, to show love with exuberance (and slobber!), to care for those who need it, and to love unconditionally.

If you think your child or teen would benefit from animal-assisted therapy, don’t wait! Find a great teenage psychologist in Littleton today!

 

 

Are You the Only Solid Thing in Your Child’s Glass House?

Ever hear the saying “don’t throw stones in glass houses?” For many teens and pre-teens, life feels like a glass house. All day, they make sure their hair is perfect, they are acting “cool,” they are supportive and nice and happy about other people’s ideas… and then they come to treat you like dirt! Many parents seek out teenage psychologist services and child psychologists because it seems like they are stuck taking the brunt of their child’s anger. How can you make sense of this and bring things back to being respectful ? Read on to find out!

The “Glass House” of Teenage Social Life

Your daughter’s “BFFs” may be anything but—in fact, many girls especially report friendships that end quickly, rumors that spread like wildfire, and low tolerance of “unusual” behaviors by peers. They are like delicate china, the kind you bring out for company but know not to be too rough on, or they break. Your son may have different challenges, but relationships with boys are just as fraught with jealousy, displays of pride and power, teasing, alienation, and demands for social compliance. As much as kids need the influences of their peers at this age, these relationships are unstable at best. The slightest pressure could cause them to crumble.

The Indestructible Parent

On the other hand, as a parent, you get to be the reliable, sturdy, unbreakable part of your child’s life. Maybe you are a support beam in the center of that glass house, or a foam ball, or a pillow. Not glamorous, not flashy, and even when you’re thrown against the wall or filled with negativity… you survive. You’re strong, so strong that your child sees you as indestructible! “Clearly” (according to your child!) you can handle the anger, the outbursts, the name-calling. You are not another fragile relationship that must be wrapped in bubble wrap—you are so much more.

A Reality Check

Many people lash out at those closest to them for these very reasons. When you keep in mind that your teen is still growing and developing, it makes sense that they sometimes still think of you as “SuperMom” or “SuperDad” who “clearly” can’t be hurt by their child’s actions. But just like you had to teach your toddler that hitting hurts moms and dads, you need to help your teen to realize that even SuperParents can be hurt emotionally by their child’s words and actions. Help her talk through her feelings and what she is really upset about, or encourage him to vent  about stress and vulnerability with friends. Sharing your own emotional experience and suggesting coping skills can help your child to manage these feelings more effectively—instead of using you as an emotional punching bag.

If you’ve tried your best strategies and still feel like your child’s behavior toward you is unacceptable, consider working with a skilled child psychologist in Littleton. Dr. Lazarus and his therapy dog, Zeke, have helped hundreds of parents and teens to see eye-to-eye again!

 

 

 

 

The Negative Effects of Video Games Interview

An elementary school student named “Zoey” had a number of questions that she asked Dr. Lazarus about video games and their effects on children.
Here are his answers (Audio).

For school, I have a project where I need to research the negative effects of video games. I was wondering if you could answer a few of the questions I have:

 
  • What is the main/most common effect/s of children becoming addicted to video games?

  • How are children’s social lives negatively impacted by video games?

  • What do video games do to negatively affect children’s mental health

  • What do video games do to affect children physically?

  • What is the main problem the children you see have as a result of playing video games?

  • What do you do to help children recover from video game addiction?

  • Do most children who are addicted to video games end up recovering?

  • What is the main negative difference between children who play video games to children who don’t?

  • What do you think a good time limit for playing video games would be?

  • Do the children playing violent video games that you see tend to be more aggressive than the average child?

 

The Importance of Physical Health for your Child’s Wellbeing

If your child sees a therapist in Littleton, you are probably well-versed in coping skills, bedtime routines, rewards, and ways to boost emotions. But how much attention are you paying to the everyday physical health of your child? This blog will focus on the importance of a variety of physical health needs and the ways that they may—or may not—affect mental health.

Sleep

One of the most important questions that child psychologists ask their clients is “does your child sleep well?” If we think of food as fuel for the body, sleep is more like a “reset” for a computer—it gets rid of lags, poor performance, and unexpected errors. When your child has not slept enough, or is not getting good sleep , he is much more likely to struggle to keep up mentally and physically, demonstrate tantrums and bad behavior, and make more mistakes. Even more, sleep is vital for effective learning and consolidation of memories.

Hydration

Dehydration drains your brain—literally! When your child does not drink enough liquids, she is more likely to feel irritable, struggle to concentrate, and become fatigued (and cranky!) much sooner. This is true for adults as well, but children often need reminders to stay hydrated.

Exercise

Some studies have shown that just 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, is about as effective as most antidepressants. For children, this can be an important, but easily overlooked way to help manage mood and energy levels. If your child would rather chill with a video game than play a game of soccer, try to encourage a variety of fun physical activities to get blood circulating and energy out. Especially for children with ADHD,  exercise is an important way to promote healthy activity that boosts concentration and focus.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the basics of physical health, how does your child stack up? Don’t stress too much if your child is not catching enough zzz’s, drinking enough water, or working out, just try to move him or her to a healthier place. For help creating structured routines, building strong self-care skills, and promoting the best achievement in your child in Highlands Ranch, contact Dr. Lazarus today!