Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Screen Kids": An Audio Series!!

Insights Into Education Podcast presents"Screen Kids!" 

Our  motivation is simple.

Our hearts are heavy with concern and care for your children's health and well-being.

This first part of a five-part series is a gentle introduction for parents, guardians, and for anyone entrusted with the health and well-being of our children.  Holli speaks with educators Ed Berger and Dan Kenley  presenting information about the damage electronic screens (smart phones, iPads, video games) have on our children's health. Because Holli is concerned that much of this new information will cause an overreaction and possibly generate guilt and negative responses, she takes a soft-spoken but professional approach.  She identifies dangers and offers courses of action that will alleviate these problems. The next episodes go deeper into the issues we all need to be aware of.

Real Power Means Being Informed!

Take a listen!   Screens Kids Introduction : Why Should We Care?

In the second podcast, Holli encourages parents and guardians to take a deep breath as we define "screen dependence" and delve into some of the clinical and behavioral effects of both passive and interactive screen time.  Holli focuses attention on "Electronic Screen Syndrome" - a new  disorder identified by Dr. Victoria Dunckley in her book "Reset Your Child's Brain."  Other behavioral effects are discussed such as "acquired" ADD and ADHD as well as the exacerbation of both disorders.

Take a listen!  Screen Kids II: Behavioral and Clinical Effects!

In Podcast III, Holli discussed the psychological and emotional effects of passive and interactive screen access and exposure. As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, Holli explains her deep concerns over the detrimental impact on children's self-worth and self-esteem. In Holli's words, "With our kids measuring their worth and value from an unrelenting supply of artificial sources of validation and with many tweens - teens feeling more "disconnected and isolated" from meaningful relationships, studies have shown that depression  and suicide rates have increased drastically among youth." Holli also explains the damaging effects on children's healthy development of their emotional intelligence (EQ), which is paramount for their social development and in the management of their emotions.

Take a listen! Screen Kids III: Psychological, Emotional, and Social Effects!

As we move into Podcast IV, Holli continues discussing the psychological and emotional effects of screen time on our children.  From Dr. Kathy Koch's book, "Screens and Teens," Holli outlines five maladaptive life-messages which teens are internalizing about themselves and their cyber environments and briefly discusses their harmful consequences:

1I am the center of the universe.
2. I deserve to be happy all the time.
3. I must have choices.
4. I am my own authority.
5. Information is all I need so I don't need teachers.

Holli also discusses some of the psycho-social effects of "screen attachment" (i.e. parents overly-connected with their children) and how that hinders their healthy development.  Holli concludes Podcast IV discussing neurological and cognitive damage to our children's brains. As Holli explains, "I'm not a scientist so I will keep this simple!"  However, she describes how early dependence on gaming, texting, posting, tweeting, social networking, etc. prematurely tap into the "reward system" of our brain's neural network setting children up for a  host of psychological, educational, and emotional problems. Holli quotes from the experts on addiction who detail how this early conditioning and desensitizing of children's reward pathways makes children more vulnerable to other addictive behaviors as they mature. 

Take a listen!  Screen Kids IV: Psychological, Psycho-Social, Neurological and Cognitive Effects!

In the concluding podcast of Screen Kids, Holli offers parents, guardians, and those entrusted with the healthy and well-being some practical strategies and effective tools for raising tech-healthy children!  First, she discusses four types of parenting:

1. Authoritarian
2. Permissive / Absent (Screen-attached from your children)
3. Authoritative 
4. Anxious / Ambitious  (Screen-attached to your children) 

Then, audiences are challenged to take an  honest inventory of who they are as parents and ask themselves "What is best for my family?"  With all of the concerns and consequences regarding exposure to screens, Holli stresses to parents and guardians,

YOU  have the power to make decisions about how you want to move forward!
YOU can start today being the kind of parent your children need you to be!

Holli provides four powerful strategies with tools for each in moving forward:

1.  Balance
2.  Boundaries
3.  Belonging
4.  Being Brave 

Take a listen!  Screen Kids V: Where Do We Go From Here?

Let's show our kids they are more important than our screens!

For more information, parenting guidelines and practices....
"Power Down & Parent Up" is here for you!

Available on Amazon !!

And, if you would like your children to learn how to DISCOVER, DEFINE AND DETERMINE their REAL worth, I invite you to get a copy of "Another Way!"

Another Way - a novel for tweens - teens

Please visit Holli Kenley for more healing resources. 
We would love for you to join us on FB Author Holli Kenley or  follow on Twitter !

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Me Too" - What Victims Want You To Know...And Do

Once again the news has broken exposing a famous individual as a chronic sexual abuser and violator of women. As the number of victims continues to rise, a collective compassionate response has also taken hold.  A movement  - "Me Too" - has gone viral with females from all walks of life courageously coming forward with their disclosures of  victimization from sexual harassment and assault. 

As an advocate of victims of any kind of abuse or trauma including sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying/cyber bullying and as a victim myself, I am encouraged by the outpouring of support. At the same time, it is important to remind ourselves how we have arrived at a place in our culture where sexual harassment and assault is pandemic, not only for females but also for males. Although I will provide you with additional readings and resources at the end of the blog,  today I want to address...

 "Me Too" - What Victims Want You To Know...And Do

What victims want you to  know.

First,  victims are hesitant  to disclose or afraid to report their abuse or assault because they believe that they will not be believed or taken seriously.

Many times, it is a victim's word against the alleged perpetrator's word. It is a battle of "he said...she said." Depending on the role, status, or power a perpetrator holds within a family, institution, or organization, the victim's word may carry little or no weight; and in fact, it may be seen as a "threat" to the system. Therefore, many victims knowing they won't be believed or taken seriously, choose to remain quiet.

Secondly, victims are hesitant to disclose or afraid to report their abuse or assault because even if they are believed,  their experience has taught them that no one will do anything about it. 

In many cases because the pattern of abuse and harassment has become such a part of the culture of the system or organization, it is considered "normative" behavior. Thus, when a victim speaks up, the violation is dismissed, minimized, or ignored. In some instances, there is protocol  in place to address inappropriate or illegal actions, but there is little to no effective accountability. Tragically, in environments of chronic harassment and abuse, victims who disclose or report are often blamed.

Thirdly,  victims are hesitant to disclose or afraid to report their abuse or assault because they fear retaliation.

Typically, perpetrators are in a position of authority and power over the victim. Whether the violator is a  parent, relative, employer, person of faith, teacher, coach, ranking officer, upper class-man, etc., the power differential itself serves a blanket of protection for the perpetrator and provides further ammunition to effectuate their abusive agendas. Out of fear for their lives, for their loved ones dependent upon them, and for their livelihoods, victims suffer in secrecy, shame, and silence.

In addition, when victims do disclose or report their abuse or assault, they risk being re-victimized and re-traumatized. 

This is very important.

Whether the perpetrator is offending within a family, a college or university, a place of worship, a movie or TV production company, a branch of the military, or any institution/ organization where there is money, reputation, a brand, and/or an image at risk, that "system" will protect its own. 

Let me say that again.

Whether the perpetrator is offending within a family, a college or university, a place of worship, a movie or TV production company, a branch of the military, or any institution/ organization where there is money, reputation, a brand and/or an image at risk, that "system" will protect its own. 

We have witnessed this time and time again as we hear about cover-ups, pay-outs, and deals made "behind closed doors" as victims' silence is bought off. Other times, many victims courageously move through their legal course of action. As their character is scrutinized or past history is put on trial, they are re-victimized and re-traumatized in the process. To make matters more horrific, bystanders, loyal friends, or subordinates of the perpetrator often rally in support of the abuser safeguarding their own positions and protecting themselves against becoming objects of retaliation.  As alliances form and solidify around the violator, victims are made out to be the "villains."

Understanding what victims are up against,  it is critical that you know exactly what victims want you to do.
  • Believe them. 
  • Stand with them. 
  • Offer to seek out help and resources with them. 
  • Whenever possible, intervene. 
  • Notify authorities you can trust. 
  • When you see or become aware of bullying, cyber bullying, harassment,  hazing, or any kind of violence or degradation of another human being, do not remain silent. Silence is being complicit. Become a part of the solution.
Every day, brave victims are continuing to post "Me Too" on their social networking sites. Even though others are responding by"liking" and showing their support through the various emojis, that is a start. But it is not enough.  

Victims need you to take action!  

Show them..." I Am With You!"
Join with us - Voices From The Pearls on Facebook

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Inside "The Glass Castle," Parents Betray Their Children

"The Glass Castle," a newly released movie, is based on the best-selling memoir by Jeanette Walls.  It is painful and powerful. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Jeanette Walls, despite being raised in a chaotic and negligent environment, broke free from the bonds of family dysfunction and built a life for herself as an accomplished journalist. Today's blog is not a review of the movie nor is it a commentary on how Jeanette's story has touched the hearts and souls of its readers and viewers. After seeing the movie, although I was moved by Jeanette's triumph over tragedy, I was reminded that it came at a cost. The message which resonated for me was...

Inside "The Glass Castle," Parents Betray Their Children 

Over the past ten years, I have written and spoken about "betrayal." It is a topic I am comfortable with and passionate about. When we think of "betrayal," our minds typically turn to issues of infidelity or other relationships in which trust is broken.  It is indeed that. It is, however, so much more. In "Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition," I explain betrayal in three ways:

An investment into someone or something met with rejection and/or abandonment. 

A profound trust in someone or something which is profoundly violated.

A belief which is shattered or a truth that becomes a lie. 

Although there is crossover among the explanations, each one also stands alone in its injurious impact on victims. I believe that all three definitions apply to Jeanette Walls and her siblings; however, the one which connected with their story the most was, "A profound trust in someone or something which is profoundly violated." 

In "Breaking Through Betrayal", I describe two kinds of trust:
1. Trust as an innate emotion
2. Trust as an extension of us

For the purpose of explaining betrayal in relationship to "The Glass Castle," we will examine trust as an innate emotion. This is the kind of trust which forms naturally within us. It is a preconceived bond, an almost supernatural current within us and/or between us.This is the mother-child trust. This is the father-child trust. And this is important. This is the trust which children innately feel for their parents, guardians, and caregivers because of  who they are and the roles they hold.

When mothers, fathers, step-parents, grandparents, etc.
 misuse, abuse, and betray the "reponsibility" of trust bestowed upon them,
 this parental violation has prolific and profound consequences on the children.

In addition to the violation of trust itself, there is another component which makes this kind of betrayal extremely damaging. All victims, especially children, carry around a great deal of shame, guilt, and a plethora of self-deprecating life messages because they feel the lack of parenting is somehow their fault. To compound the shame and guilt, when the standard of care falls into a pit of chaos and negligence where children are required to take on the parental roles, layers of confusion, worthlessness, and powerlessness also take hold within them. 

Jeanette Walls, her older sister, and her younger brother took on the parental roles of their household. However, the deeply entrenched inadequacies and extreme inconsistencies of their parents continued to betray them on multiple levels. Their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter were not met. Although it was evident that Jeanette's dad expressed his love for his children and his authority over them, other needs such safety, security, and sanitation were lacking. When children's needs take a back seat to the unhealthy behaviors of  parents, or when children's basic needs are not met, their internal dialogue plays out in life messages such as the following:

I am invisible.
I do not matter.
I am not enough.
I am on my own.
I don't belong here. 
Why did they have me?

These internal messages greatly damage a child's core being and erode a child's sense of worth and mattering. These painful life messages require a tremendous amount of recovering to repair, and it takes a committed process of healing in order to replace them with healthy life messages.  

There is one final factor about parental violation of trust which is paramount to understanding its depth of devastation. It is difficult  for anyone to stand up to one's betrayer.  For a child, adolescent, or teen to stand up to parent/s who are the betrayers - the violators of their trust - is extremely complex and complicated. Not only do internal loyalties wage war with one's psyche, but societal expectations, cultural norms, and familial traditions demand its silencing. Too often when victims find the courage to speak their truths, they are shamed by their parents (or caregivers), by their extended families, and by their communities. Often, victims default to their defense mechanisms, desperately trying to make sense out of the betrayers' actions. Others seek to diminish them. 

Well, they did their best.
I guess she did what she could.
I accept he didn't know anything else.
They were just repeating how they were raised.
Well, I know they loved us. They just didn't know how to show it.

These rationalizations further betray children 
by minimizing their truths and normalizing their suffering.

After moving to New York and establishing her career, Jeanette Walls did not disclose the truth about her past.  When she became engaged to a successful businessman, she and her fiance' concocted a story about her parents and her background. Understandably, Jeanette was fearful she would be judged and not accepted into the world she had built for herself. More importantly, she was not ready to do so. 

At the end of "The Glass Castle," Jeanette Walls, her older sister, younger brother (and his family), her younger sister, and Jeanette's mom arrived at Jeanette's home to celebrate Thanksgiving together. As they sat around the dinner table toasting their late father (and husband), the camera closed in on Jeanette's face. In her tears, I saw a mixture of promise and of pain.

After returning home from the movie, I googled Jeanette Walls. I came across an interview with her in "The New York Times Magazine" (May 24, 2013). Alex Witchel reported that "...she [Jeanette] seemed to make a clean break from her  mother, who was still living in an East Village squat. But when it was damaged by a fire, Walls, alone among her siblings took Rose Mary (mom) in.  Her brother, Brian, a retired policeman who lives in Brooklyn, finds it hard to be around her mother. Her younger sister, Maureen, stabbed Rose Mary in the back 20 years ago, before being given the diagnosis of schizophrenia; she now lives in California and claims she has  no mother. Lori remains close to Rose Mary...though she lives in Manhattan." After reflecting on the concluding scene once again and contrasting it with the article, I was reminded...

Parents who betray their children leave a legacy of brokenness. 

Every day, in this country and all over the world, children are living in "glass castles" with parents who betray them. They are afraid to speak up and share their truths. In 2005, Jeanette Walls wrote hers down.  By doing so, she took the first step towards healing the wounds of parental betrayal.  Her journey is not everyones'. In its various forms and different approaches, wellness awaits each of us. However, we must choose it and act upon it.

Our healing begins by speaking our truths.
Our suffering continues by not doing so. 

In order to provide you with a safe platform for speaking your truths and guide you on your journey from betrayal, I invite you to pick up a copy of "Breaking Through Betrayal."  I promise you...You will not feel judged. Your pain will not be minimized. It is a self-paced, compassionate companion for breaking free from the bonds of betrayal and recovering your peace within.

Before I leave you, I want to share a  future source of further hope and healing from betrayal. For the past two years, I have been interviewing daughters who were betrayed by their mothers and who chose wellness over victimhood.  One daughter's truth speaks for many of us.

"She probably did her best. For me, it was not enough."  
February 2018!!
"Daughters Betrayers By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness"

~ Believe and Be Well ~ 

For more support and resources, visit Holli Kenley - Recovering Process / Betrayal

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Detached Families, Disconnected Relationships, and Distracted Students: 4 Non-Negotiable Steps To Reclaim Them!

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to the staff of a comprehensive high school in Southern California about Screen Dependence. Because it is also a boarding school, I was able to connect with the academic faculty as well as the home-living staff. For three hours, we covered a lot of material: cyber bullying, screen dependence, and the growing health concerns within each. We also discussed several strategies and interventions for moving forward. Although I presented a research-based workshop, I was also mindful of involving the audience in several interactive exercises in order for the material to connect with them.  I was hoping they would welcome the participation. Wow!  I was warmed by their honesty and involvement, and I felt the heaviness in their voices as they described their experiences with....

Detached Families, Disconnected Relationships, and Distracted Students.

Alone together
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege to present to many incredible audiences. After asking attendees to silence their phones, almost everyone will.  However, many will also continue to text,read emails, play games or go to their social media sites, etc.  A few months ago, I watched a Simon Sinek talk on this very subject. So, I did the following.

At the beginning of the second part of the workshop on Screen Dependence, I put up a new slide on the power point.  It said:

* Please silence your cell phones.
* Please put your phones away (out of your vision) or....
* If you are willing, please place your phone in the basket. 

My husband walked up to the audience with a basket in his hands for folks who were willing to "check their phones" until the end of the workshop.  It was so interesting!  A few immediately stepped forward to put their phones in the basket. Then more did so.  Then more! Within a few  minutes, we had a large basket filled with phones! The audience laughed!  They enjoyed it!  

I spent a few minutes talking to them about how they felt about departing with their phones!? Some of their responses astounded me!

I'm glad to get rid of it.  I'm so tired of people not paying attention at meetings!
I didn't even bring mine. I keep mine locked up all day! 
It's a relief to let go of it! It's a distraction!

The other reason I did this exercise (besides wanting to establish a new norm) is because, as I shared with the audience, there are two important reminders for changing behavior:

1.  We want to experience what it is we will be asking of our students (or of family, staff, etc.)
2.  We MUST model the behavior we are going to ask them to change!

I must admit.  I had a little anxiety over doing this exercise, but I was pleased with how receptive everyone was.  More importantly, I had a good pulse on how the audience was connecting with the difficult information I was about to impart. 

I continued with the workshop and introduced another exercise. I asked them to do the following.  

1. Think about yourself and your family, friends, or students and how screen time has affected or impacted the relationship. 
2. Make two columns:  positives and negatives. 
3. Write down two examples for each one.
4. If you feel comfortable, please share your responses with the group when we are ready to do so.

During the workshop, folks shared the positives:  connecting with family in distant places; getting a hold of children at school, or for pick-ups, activities, etc.; being able to connect with someone at any time, especially if it was important; sending reminders to students for bus times, games, etc. 

Then, folks shared the negatives: feeling isolated from family members because of lack of involvement with technology;  children not wanting to pay attention or follow through with chores because of screen attachment;  both children and adults not listening to one another or communicating well; the constant battle in classrooms over the use of phones and the inability for students to put their phones away for even short periods of time; students staying up all night on their phones, exhausted and unable to stay awake during school let alone pay attention to their academics.

"Irresistible" by Adam Alter
Again, I so appreciated their honesty and openness. I listened. I told them I understood.  I've heard these concerns many times. After the workshop, several individuals wanted to talk with me more privately.  Their stories were serious: relationships within families not only detached but destroyed; parents frightened at their children's and grandchildren's addiction to their technology; and teachers on the brink of total frustration over the constant battle with cell phone usage as well as the battle for their attention.  Although the day was productive, my heart was heavy.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I know that change is hard.  And yes, it is a process. I typically work at presenting my material in an informative and restorative fashion. However, after yesterday, I realize it's time to get down to business. Children, families, and relationships are hurting.  My new book Power Down & Parent Up: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence and Raising Tech-Healthy Children was just released (July 2017).  I hope you will get a copy and start implementing the strategies within your family.  It is only about 50 pages.  There is a clear road map to reducing screen time and getting your family back in balance.  For now, I want to leave you with the following:

4 Non-Negotiable Steps To Reclaim Them!
Take a deep breath!

1. No screens whatsoever in bedrooms.  This includes adults. None!
   * This is a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  (2013)

2. All screens are shut off two hours before bedtime, for everyone!  If needed, collect phones, iPads, etc., and put them in a locked place.  Spend time with one another, face to face, really connecting. Your children need you! So do your spouse, partner, friends, and family!!

3. Take another deep breath.... Students should not have access to their phones in classrooms! There are a variety of ways this can be dealt with and there is research validating how excessive screen time is damaging students cognitive development and executive functioning. 
Although there needs to be consistency within an organization, a few exceptions may include:

* Students may need phones for calculations in science and math.
* Students may need phones for research.
* At the same time, teachers must be able to implement a "no use" policy in their classrooms.             

4. For families, this is important. Every family must have a Family Online Safety Agreement or your own family Internet agreement.  I have been talking about this for 10 years.  I explain it fully in Power Down & Parent Up. By implementing a family agreement, you will bypass years of arguments and confusion over tech usage.  More importantly, you will have safer and healthier children. It works!

I just came across a wonderful tool - Family Media Plan - sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can customize a family plan for all your children given their different ages! It's super easy and allows you to add to their recommendations! 

I know this is a lot to take in.  I want you to know my  motivation is simple - I care about the health and well being of your children, your family, your relationships, and of you. And, I'm here to help.

For more information on how to raise healthy Screen Kids, take a listen to a recent podcast with educators and hosts Dan Kenley and Ed Berger. We discuss the different kinds of parenting and how to make those difficult shifts when everyone else is attached to their screens!

For  more information or to contact me for a workshop or presentation, please visit
 Holli Kenley.

Real power means being informed!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

How Do You Become Empowered? Your Glass Casing Awaits Your Response.

How Do We Become Empowered?

Empowered is a word we hear frequently.  It suggests strength.  Although its connotations are appealing, it often times feels out of reach.  It is like an exquisite diamond ring casting its sparkle through the glass casings of a high-priced jewelry boutique.  Its magnificence catches our eye, and for a moment, we wonder what it would feel like to try it on. How would it transform us? Who could we become? We pause, allowing ourselves time to think about it. We may even give ourselves permission to believe a transformation could happen. Then, just as the brilliant vision of a different way of being begins to descend upon us, it quickly dissipates.

Why is it that becoming empowered seems to elude us?
 Is it really out of reach or is it a question of knowing where to find it and how to try it on?

Is it really out of reach?
The word empowered begins with a very important prefix – em – which means within and through. Thus, becoming empowered is not something that we obtain from external sources nor is it something which can be bestowed upon us. Also, it is not a process which takes us on a never-ending quest for reaching an elusive state of being.  On the contrary, becoming empowered requires that we refrain from searching outside ourselves and remain still. It demands we turn inward where we will find our power, within and through us.

Over the years working with individuals who entered therapy because their pain and its accompanying manifestations were no longer tolerable, I witnessed how their sources of power were drained and depleted, or they were camouflaged by layers of injury and injustice.  And yes, I would provide therapeutic tools and empathic strategies for assessing and intervening with their brokenness. However, it was the clients who chose to turn inward, unearthing their truths and acknowledging their sources of power. For many, this was a belief in a higher power or a connection with Nature. For others, their source was embedded within the recollection of a meaningful passage or proverb. For some, it was in the replaying of soulful music or spirit-filled words. For some individuals, their power emanated from an innate gift, ability, talent, or passion they invested in or pursued. Regardless of its genesis, without exception, it was the process of claiming each source which brought to life the promise of becoming empowered.  Each time clients chose to trust in themselves and invest into their sources, their flames of resilience strengthened and took hold.  

Far from being out of reach, 
becoming empowered means courageously reaching for what lies within us.

How do we try it on?  
Trying on something new can be tricky.  Most of us are our own worst critics. Trying on something  unusual or unfamiliar adds another layer of uncertainty to the mix.  Trying on something we’ve never imagined seeing ourselves in or believed we deserved complicates matters even further. Becoming empowered is no different.  Thus, becoming empowered requires we try it on, step by step, embracing three truths.

First Truth
As we begin discovering and tapping into our power within, a shift starts to take place.  We feel stronger. We feel hopeful.  We feel energized. And, because the newness of it all feels a bit awkward, we begin to doubt ourselves. Old tapes enter our minds and play their messages.  “I’m not good enough.  I can’t do this.  I feel selfish.  I just need to be a better person.”  We continue to diminish our potential for empowerment and dash out the flame within us by caving into a formidable opponent - shame.  Our destructive tapes intensify. “Who am I kidding?  I don’t deserve this! I’m not a leader…just a follower. I’ll never amount to anything.” 

With negative thoughts dousing our potential for power, we have a choice. We can walk by the glass window showcasing the sparkling diamond, resenting its presence and releasing its promises. Or, we can pause and give ourselves permission to try on our first truth.  

Becoming empowered means believing we are worthy of it.

In my career as a middle and high school teacher, I had the pleasure of connecting with hundreds of students.  In the early 90’s, I was teaching English at a middle school in a challenging neighborhood where students struggled getting their basic needs met.  One female student, Violet, was extremely gifted in her writing; however, her image and worth were tied to her gang affiliation. After acknowledging her writing abilities on several assignments, I approached Violet, offering her mentoring sessions before school several mornings each week.  Although reluctant at first, Violet agreed to attend.  She didn’t miss a session, diligently honing and perfecting her gift. Over time, we entered several of her writing pieces into our school publication. As months passed and she continued progressing, Violet started to change in several ways. Her dark heavy clothing became a lighter, more feminine style. Her hair and make-up softened.  Her prior protective demeanor turned into a warm gentle aura. Believing she was worthy of it, Violet not only tried on her power, she claimed it for herself.

Second Truth
One of the mistakes we make when trying on something new is dismissing it too quickly when it feels uncomfortable or strange.  Our fear of failure or not being able to make it work also feeds our doubts and justifies our giving up. Again, we must refrain from playing negative tapes and patiently try on our next truth.

Becoming empowered means giving ourselves time to fit into it.

Just as was true for Violet, other students with whom I had the honor of teaching and who chose to begin believing in themselves and their worth were quite wary of difficult choices and changes which they would  need to confront.  Often times, many students quickly fell back into old patterns or caved in under pressure from others.  However, there were countless students, like Violet, who gave themselves time to try on their power, a little a time.  They grew with it and made adjustments along the way. Although it was quite dangerous, eventually Violet made the difficult decision to be “jumped out” of her gang. Following this life change, Violet found herself navigating through foreign territory; however, she kept her expectations realistic and learned how to move forward in healthy ways.  Most importantly, she gave herself the time to ease into her new power and to fit comfortably into it.  

Third Truth
Lastly, another misjudgment we make when trying on something new is that we often tether the legitimacy of its presence to external sources of validation. With our digital social world pressing us from every angle to produce, perform, and post at an ever-increasing rate, it feels like our power is measured solely by the traction it receives. If we are not displaying our power 24/7 in the cyber lanes and drowning out the voices of others, our power feels false and fleeting. However, authentic power need not reveal itself through a barrage of boasts.  Becoming empowered is not legitimized by artificial numbers or fake friends or followers. Therefore, after finding our source within and then giving ourselves time to fit into it, it is essential that we try on one more truth.

Becoming empowered means allowing its presence to speak for itself.

As the vortex of social networks pulls us outward and the noise of messaging reaches peak levels fighting for recognition, we must remain still. We must continue turning inward, formulating and fortifying our truths and renewing and refining our power.  We must give ourselves ample time to allow for our power’s authentic integration into our being - to take hold within us and through us.  If we do so, it will stand strong, with or without external support. If we do so, it will speak for itself.

At the end of 8th grade, Violet participated in the school’s Promotional Ceremony. Although there were a number of students who received awards and honors, Violet quietly sat in attendance. When her name was called, Violet walked confidently across the stage to receive her Certificate. Aside from a soft cheer from a single mom proud of her daughter for being the first in the family to graduate 8th grade, the room was quiet. Violet shook the principal’s hand and descended the stairs.  Returning to her assigned seat, Violet looked up and our eyes met. Bearing witness to the strength behind them, I knew her self-respect and self-worth were rooted firmly within her and running fully through her. Violet’s beaming smile showcased their sparkling authenticity. Her empowered presence spoke for itself.

How do you become empowered?
Your glass casing awaits your response.

For more resources visit Holli Kenley!
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For tween to teens - check out Another Way - a novel

"Until you know, understand, and trust your worth, 
your choices will never truly belong to you."
Discover, Define, and Determine Your Worth!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Screen Time: Is it a harmonious passion or an obsessive passion? Take the quiz!

Because I am interested in the issue of screen dependence and internet addiction, I read almost everything that comes across my desk.  A few months ago, I devoured Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (2017) by New York Times bestselling author Adam Alter.  An expert in the field of addiction, Alter offers his readers a short quiz to assess their online(screen) usage. For today's blog, I invite you to take the quiz!

 Although it is sometimes a bit uncomfortable to assess our own behavior or that of our loved ones, it is important to know whether our screen-time falls into the category of....

a harmonious passion or an obsessive passion.

Here we go. Let's take the quiz!

Internet Addiction Test (Alter, p. 27)
Select the response that best represents the frequency of each behavior listed using the scale below.
0 = Not applicable
1 = Rarely
2 = Occasionally
3 = Frequently
4 = Often
5 = Always

1.  How often do you find that you stay online (or on any screen or games) longer than you intended?   _____
2.  How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount of time you spend online (or on any screen or game)? _____
3. How often do you check your email, social networks, texts, etc. before you do something else that you need to do?  _____
4.  How often do you lose sleep because of late nighttime log-ins or screen-time or gaming?_____
5.  How often do you find yourself saying "just a few minutes" when online, playing games, or on any screen? _____

As I do with all my writings, it is important not only to inform you but to offer up support which will restore you. I'll give you the scores later in the blog along with some resources for moving forward in healthy ways.

I want you to know I understand how the words addiction and dependence can be worrisome; in fact, often times, they are very unsettling. However, becoming familiar with terms associated with behavior helps us to acknowledge our own levels of usage and their effects on our well-being as well as on our relationships. If we are ever going to make healthy changes, we first must acknowledge there is a need to do so.

Alter defines several terms associated with behavioral addiction while clarifying their important distinctions (Alter, pp. 20-21). 
  • Addiction: with addictive behavior, the reward the behavior brings initially eventually carries with it damaging consequences; a deep attachment to an experience that is harmful and difficult to do without 
  • Obsessions (thoughts)  and compulsions (behaviors):  thoughts and/or behaviors which are intensely unpleasant to "not" pursue; they promise relief (known as negative reinforcement)) but not the appealing rewards of consummated addiction 
  • Harmonious passions: healthy activities that people chose to do without strings attached; the activity occupies a significant but not an overwhelming space in the person's identity and is in harmony with other aspects of the person's life
  • Obsessive passions: behaviors which are unhealthy and sometimes dangerous; passions which are driven by a need that goes beyond simple enjoyment; they are likely to produce behavioral addictions; the passion controls the person; it eventually takes disproportionate space in the person's identity and causes conflict with other activities in the person's life 
Now, for your scores!

> 7 or below: no signs of addiction or dependence; a harmonious passion

> 8-12: suggests mild dependence but generally you are in control of your usage; a harmonious passion

> 13-20: indicates moderate addiction/dependence with usage causing occasional or frequent    problems; moving into an obsessive passion

> 21-25:suggests addiction or dependence and implies that the obsessive passion is causing "significant problems in your life" (Alter, p.27)

Because we live in a digital age where everyone is on their technology 24/7, it's hard to differentiate between what is a harmonious passion or what is an obsessive one. So, given the above definitions and the results from your quiz, you are the best judge! And, you are the one who decides to what degree you and your loved ones want to balance out your screen time with your face-to-face time!

Remember, it's not about banning technology.  It's about balancing it!

In 2010, when Steve Jobs was asked what his children thought of the new iPad, he responded,

"They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our children use at home."
(Kardaras, 2016, p.31)

In my work as a Marriage and Family therapist, I am most concerned about our "digital natives" and how best parents/guardians can navigate our tech-driven world. I have authored a new book which was just released! If you are looking for help - for your children, for you, and for your family - it's here!  It's concise and easy to implement!

Real Power Comes In Being Informed!

For additional support, check out a recent blog! Other amazing experts are here to help!

How To Tech-Protect Our Kids: Four Must Reads and an  APP

I also authored an empowering novel for tweens - teens with the purpose of helping them to discover their REAL POWER - their REAL WORTH!

      Another Way - a novel

Discover, Define, and Determine Your Real Worth!          

For more resources, please visit Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT
Like us on FB AuthorHolliKenley
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Alter, Adam. (2017) Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York, New York: Penguin Press.

Kardaras, N. PhD. (2016). Glow kids: How screen addiction is hijacking our kids - and how to break the trance. (First ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

13 Reasons Why: "Shaming" No More

Over the past few weeks, there has been quite a bit of buzz regarding the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. Because of my interest in youth, my background in cyber bullying, and my years of advocating for victims of all kinds, I wanted to watch it. I did. Today's blog is not about the controversies surrounding the series or the pros or cons of it. It is about one behavior - shaming - which permeated the entire story-line. Many of our kids are navigating environments of shaming, both in their real lives and their on-line lives. It is our duty as parents, guardians, educators, health care professionals and anyone who cares about our kids' well-being to ensure..."shaming is no  more."

When most of us were growing up,we saw kids being made fun of. We "put down" other kids or played jokes on them. Or, we were the ones who were teased and taunted. At the same time, most of us were able to establish friendships and we learned about trust, loyalty, and mutual support. We cared for one another and wanted the best for each other. As I watched 13 Reasons Why, I was reminded how shaming, a type of bullying and cyber bullyinghas become a normative behavior. Our kids are exposed to it day in and day out. In fact, shaming is so prevalent, most kids don't recognize it as an abusive behavior. However, what makes shaming so damaging and dangerous are its insidious egregious effects. Incessant or re-occurring indirect or face-to-face shaming cuts at the core of an individual's sense of worth and value. Shaming  disgraces, dishonors, discredits, degrades, and defames another person. Shaming is humiliating and embarrassing. This is important -

Shaming is internalized as self-doubt and self-hatred. 
Chronic and on-going shaming can and will lead to a complete sense of 
worthlessness, powerlessness, and hopelessness.

Several students in the film appeared to be conditioned to and unaffected by the toxic ringers which were constantly thrown at one another. However, most of the kids, at one time or another, expressed their hurt in a variety of unhealthy ways. Some retaliated. Others buried their shame. Many students chose or continued to engage in unsafe behaviors to prove their worth even at the risk of further shaming. The main character in the film, Hannah, was shamed by her best friends, by some who called themselves friends, and  by anyone who felt like it because it was 'no big deal'.

And what I found so tragic was that Hannah didn't appear to know that she had every right to feel embarrassed, humiliated, and degraded. 

She didn't grasp that no one, including adults, can tolerate that kind of on-going trauma and emotional torture and feel good about themselves. 

We must understand that when no one steps up and calls out what is going on, victims will blame themselves. They will see it as a defect of self - not the fault of someone else.

As young people navigate through the stages of adolescent and teen years, their identities and egos are developing.They are vulnerable and they are fragile. They may put up a strong front so as not to appear to be weak or afraid, but  no young person can develop a strong sense of self or worth in the face of constant adversity, especially when it comes from their peers. In addition, with  24/7 online exposure to physical, social, racial, spiritual, ethnic and political  (etc.) shaming, our children are learning that it is an acceptable/normal behavior. For young people to think that shaming is just a part of everyday life  and that something is wrong with them if they can't 'toughen-up' is an indictment on our culture and on those of us entrusted with their well-being.

How can we help our kids? It starts with each one of us.

Parents, Guardians, and Youth

1. Whenever we see shaming, hear it, or become of aware it is going on, call it out. Say what it is is and explain how it harms another person. Do not remain quiet. By doing so, we are condoning the behavior.

2. Whenever possible, if  you are a bystander to shaming, step in and help.  Stand by the target. Stand up and support the individual in any way which is helpful. If nothing else, escort the individual from the situation. Stay with him or her until you are in a safe place.

3. Reach out to individuals who you know have been targeted. Even if shaming is not happening "in the moment", show this person what kindness looks like.  You  might be the only person that day who shows any concern or care for the individual.

Parents, Educators, Counselors, Youth Group Leaders and Advocates

4. Address shaming in your homes, curriculum, and in your practices. Discuss the word "shaming" and draw from examples in real life and on-line interactions.  Talk about how shaming "feels" and ways to work through it. (See resources below)

5.  If you choose to view 13 Reasons Why, do so first without your children. I believe the series can be utilized for teaching our children  about the harmful effects of shaming and helping them with a number of social behaviors and dangerous situations. Talk about the characters, their choices, and what could and should have been done differently.  Talk about the adults, including the teachers, counselor, coaches, and others and how their actions or lack of contributed to the culture of shaming. Talk about what they could have done differently.

These five protective steps are a start in the right direction! However, just as with any kind of cyber bullying or bullying, shaming  is not a cause. Shaming is a behavioral manifestation of a serious underlying issue. This is important.

Shaming is a symptom of the inability to feel empathy for another person.  

How can we help our  kids?  
We begin by teaching them kindness, empathy, compassion, and respect. 
We begin by modeling it.

Yes, we need to teach them and model the behaviors. We must address the root of the problem in order to change it. And this cannot be a "one and done" hour long meeting or assembly. This must be an ongoing curriculum and discussion. I'm going to leave you with some valuable resources which can be easily implemented into any advisory, homeroom, after-school club, counseling group, or church group or organization. These materials are free! I have read and studied each program thoroughly. As a former teacher, I highly recommend each one! Complete and thorough lessons plan are included within each. This is a teacher or leader's dream come true!

  • "Our K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum"                            Common  Sense Education - Howard Gardner,  Harvard School of Education   
  • "Words Wound: Delete Cyber Bullying and Make Kindness Go Viral"    Cyber Bullying Research Center - Justin Patchin  and Sameer Hinduja  (Best suited for intermediate and middle school levels). There is a cost for the book, but not the Leader's Guide.
  • "Don't Laugh At Me" (K-12) Social Emotional Learning   Operation Respect - Peter Yarrow  This program is suited for all children, especially those who connect well with music, art, theater, and other creative venues.  
  • Another Way - a novel Tween to Teens by Holli Kenley  Another Way empowers young people through a process of helping them to discover and respect what is right and true for themselves AND what is right and true for others. Included in the book are discussion guide questions and tools for parents and youth. There is more information on my website.         

From Chapter 8 - Each One of You Matters 

Tyrell (High School Senior)  turned toward Rick (Youth Leader). "But what I think you're sayin' Rick is we cannot separate ourselves from our behaviors - we've got to remember that how we treat others can and does reflect on us. We can't control what other people do, but we can choose Another Way in how we treat other individuals as well."

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Shaming falsely elevates a broken character. 
Showing kindness further enhances a beautiful one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How To Tech-Protect Our Kids: 4 Must-Reads and an APP!

Parents and Guardians, every generation has it challenges. We certainly had ours and our children have theirs! However, there is something very uniquely problematic about raising children in this digital age. The emerging and ever-present scientific advancements which offer 24/7 communication and social interaction and supposedly are "connecting" us to one another more rapidly and efficiently are the same technological tools which are changing who we are and cultivating a "disconnect" with one another.

Although research is  mounting in support of "tech-effects" on our children, 
we also know that adults are not immune to many of the psychological, relational, 
physical,and behavioral consequences of passive and interactive time spent on screens.

Why is this so hard to believe? 
Why do we want to turn away from what is going on? 

This is important.  I think the first reason is because we - as parents - do not want to think we might be doing something which is contributing to the harm of our children! What responsible parent would do that? Of course, we wouldn't.  I want you to know that you are not responsible for changing what you don't know! And, most parents have no idea about the dangers of  passive and interactive screen-time on their children. So, don't beat yourself up. Don't become immobilized in your guilt. Don't bury yourself in denial because your friends aren't changing their ways. At the conclusion of this blog, I am going to show you... How To Tech-Protect Our Kids with 4 Must-Read books and an amazing APP! 

Get ready to get informed. And then, get ready to make healthy changes! 

When I was growing up in the 50's, it seemed like almost all adults smoked!  It was a social thing. My dad smoked, my parents' friends smoked, and many relatives smoked, especially at parties and celebrations. Although I remember my dad smoking mostly outside on our patio, there came a time when he wanted to quit. He talked about how it wasn't good for his health or for his children's. I remember how over the years, the cigarette commercials started disappearing off the TV. Then, the bill-boards came down. Eventually, health warnings appeared on the cigarette packs. Slowly, people's minds began to change as they became more informed. And, as more years went by, laws began to change protecting folks who didn't smoke from the smoke of those who did. I believe neither my parents nor the parents of millions of other children wanted to endanger their kids' health (or their own). They just didn't know any differently. Today, with health concerns mounting around our children's degree of access and exposure to electronic screens, we have no excuses.

 We just need to be willing to become informed.
We don't need to panic or  move from a place of fear.
We have solid information and seasoned experts to guide our paths.

The second reason why I think we want to avoid addressing screen-time usage is because we - as adults - are enjoying our screens as much as our children! Look around. Parents are connected to their devices as well! Also, every day there are new gadgets, faster phones, three-dimensional apparatus, more intriguing, seductive games, and so on. Our friends have the newest versions and we want them too! And so, this too is important. This too is hard. We - as adults - must face on own issues of tech dependence, social comparison (keeping up with Jones family) and other tech-related problematic behaviors. We must be willing to acknowledge them, change them, and model healthy face-to-face relationships with our children and with one another.

 No matter what the enticement might be, we must remember...
"Too much of a good thing is not always a healthy thing."

Are you old enough to remember when there were no fast food chains? Ok, there may have been an A and W Drive-In or a favorite hang-out burger joint! But, it wasn't until the emergence of McDonalds, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, and countless others that we experienced a huge shift in our diets, our routines, and even in our health.  Raising my daughter in the 80's and 90's,  I remember when health concerns first started surfacing about ingredients in fast-foods as well as in processed foods. As more information was released, I made necessary adjustments.  As a working mom, it was not always easy to make a home-cooked meal, but I made it a priority to make sure my daughter had healthful meals. I did not eliminate fast-food altogether. However, I was much more mindful as to how often we would get those yummy Big Macs and delicious fries! Over the years, many of the chains have chosen to make changes in their ingredients and to offer healthier alternatives to their menus! They have acted responsibly to the evidence supporting unhealthy practices and to the growing concerns of their consumers. As the consequences of over-exposure to screens continue to show up in our children's lives and our own, we - as parents - must to do same.

Becoming informed does not mean the eradication of popular practices.
It means becoming empowered to make the best decisions regarding their impact on our lives.

Protection means being informed.
Parents and Guardians, let's get started. Let's get informed! 

All of these resources are amazing! I've read each one thoroughly. Choose ONE to get started. Choose one which best suits your needs right now. Don't get over-whelmed with too much information at once. These are in no particular order - they are all great!

1.   "Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids" by Thomas Kersting

I love this book because it was written from  a father's perspective!  Tom is also a psychotherapist, a high school counselor, and a coach on his son's team! With a compassionate and convincing voice, this amazing father offers a concise yet powerful approach for parents/guardians to reclaim the health and well-being of their children.  I HIGHLY recommend "Disconnected"! (92 pages)

2.   "Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World" by Kathy Koch, PhD.

This is an extraordinary book because Kathy addresses the problematic "life-messages" our children are learning about themselves and the world around them as a consequence of their time spent interacting with technology. "Screens and Teens" is a faith-based family-friendly approach.  Kathy provides plenty of exercises to implement with our children as well discussion guides for families to reconnect in healthy ways. (237 pages)

3.  "Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four-Week Plan To End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Syndrome" by Victoria L. Dunkley, M.D.

If you are a parent who is raising a child who is overly anxious, irritable, hyper-stimulated, inattentive, and unfocused (and who spends time on screens) or  a counselor, educator, therapist, doctor (pediatrician) who is seeing a rise or dramatic increase in  ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depressive symptoms in your child or the children you work with, PLEASE read this book. These children "may" be medicated unnecessarily. These children "may" be misdiagnosed and suffering instead from "Electronic Screen Syndrome". "Reset" is a research-based clinically detailed analysis of the effects on children's overall well-being as the result of screen-time. Victoria, a mom herself, offers a ground-breaking "reset" program which is family friendly, providing a step-by-step process for restoring your child's health. I believe EVERY clinician or individual who is assessing children's health should read this book.  (317 pages)

4.  "Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - And How To Break The Trance" by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.

I know the word "addiction" is a scary word. Don't let that deter you from choosing this book. If you, or your children, or other loved ones are spending a great deal of time "gaming" (video games) and are finding it problematic to stop or cut back are not alone. Nicholas Kardaras describes how and why video games are designed to become "addictive" (as are other screen interactive behaviors) and he provides a myriad of proven strategies for recovering from screen addiction or reducing screen problematic behaviors. Having experienced gaming addiction personally, Dr. Kardaras speaks with a compassionate and caring voice. You will not feel judged! (246 pages)

Lastly, but just as importantly, I want to share with you a new APP - BOSCO - which is being launched as we speak!

What is BOSCO?  BOSCO is purely an awareness tool - not a control tool - and will only alert parents when its algorithm has shown that the parents' attention is needed.  This APP provides a fresh approach to digital parenting!

Because of my interest in cyber bullying and its impact on the well-being of our children and because of how vulnerable our children are to on-line predators and other dangers, I think this is a extremely valuable tool.  In the words of Enon Landenberg, Co-Founder of Bosco and father of three, "We imagined an alternative that would help us keep our kids safe without infringing on their independence." I highly encourage you to check this out!

In closing, I want you to know that these folks and countless others (as do I) care deeply about the well-being of our children. It is why we do what we do. There is no other motivation. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to them or to  me.  We are here to help and support you. I ask one thing of you...

Be brave....take a deep breath...and begin reading. 
This high-tech generation needs our best parenting...they deserve no less.

Please, don't hesitate to reach out ~
Join us on FB  Author Holli Kenley
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For more empowering reads...

Real Power Comes in Being Informed!

Tweens - Teens - Discover, Define and Determine Your Real Worth!

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