Category: Parenting

Is My Child Depressed?

Robin William’s death is a reminder to us all of how serious depression can be. Early detection and treatment is key to combat its devastating effects. For parents it is especially important to be aware of signs of depression. Until recently it was thought that young kids were immune to becoming depressed, however we now know that this is a myth and kids as young as 3 or 4 can exhibit signs of depression. Younger children may have some similar symptoms as adults, yet they may display their depression in a very different manner and it is critical for parents to know the signs.

Physical symptoms

Children may complain of stomachaches or headaches on a regular basis. They are also more apt to be tired and fatigue easier than their peers. Some parents may have even thought of their child as lazy. It is important to rule out any medical problems first that may present with these symptoms such as anemia.

Preoccupation with death

These children tend to be hyper aware of issues related to death and dying and may ask many questions about death. As one of the parents I worked with said “it is hard to get through a story at bedtime with out my daughter asking about whether the characters are dead or alive.”

Prone to accidents

Our child may appear to be clumsy or have many browses as a result of falls.

Negative towards self

Aside from having a general negative outlook. The child may use negative self talk such as “I am stupid” or I hate myself.”

Sleep problems

You may notice your child having difficulty sleeping and a great deal of anxiety around nighttime and the dark.

Depression is a chronic illness and does not go away on it’s own A professional can help your child with a variety of treatments to address these issues. They can also assist the parents in becoming aware of the under lying causes and receive support.

 If you have questions about depression, signs and symptoms in particular, contact me, Fatemeh Farahan-Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist, for an assessment. Call my Los Angeles Psychotherapy office at (310) 535- 1398.



3 Key Pillars of Empathy Parenting That Elevate the Parent-Child Relationship

How Empathy Parenting Cultivates a Happy Family Environment

A New Perspective on Parenting

I’ve been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) for 15 years.  So when I gave birth to my son, I already knew exactly what type of mother I wanted to be and the kind of relationship I wanted to have with my child.

What I did not anticipate was how challenging being a parent could be.  

In my Los Angeles-based psychotherapy practice, I provide parents with the tools to assist them with their family relationships.  Soon after having my own child, I developed a brand new perspective on parenting and a deeper understanding of the benefits of empathy parenting.  

The Birth of My Six-Week Empathy Group Parenting Therapy

It was at that moment that I decided that I needed to share this new perspective with other parents.  I wanted to incorporate empathy parenting into my expertise in child development and offer it in my Los Angeles psychotherapy office.

I designed a Six-Week Group Empathy Parenting Therapy that would offer a style of parenting that would inspire happy, emotionally-in tune and confident children.  

The Basics

Nearly half of the factors that determine a child’s happiness can be attributed to the environment in which they are raised.  It was with this thought in mind that I set the curriculum for my Group Empathy Parenting Therapy with the focus on 3 key pillars that cultivate that environment:

  • the child’s development;

  • the relationship of the parents with each other; and

  • each parent’s role in the family.

It bears mentioning that the first step in the Group Parenting Therapy process is to strive towards a genuine effort in being a great parent while also having empathy for yourself as a parent and for the mistakes that you may make along the way.

The 3 key pillars of empathy parenting enable us, as parents, to support our children in their most challenging moments in a way that allows for growth while also setting boundaries that are respectful of the child’s emotional needs.  

The Shift in Consciousness

Initially, I started my Group Parenting Therapy with eight parents.  There were three sets of couples and two single parents.

As much as I believed in all the research behind my Group Empathy Parenting Therapy, I have to admit that I was a little nervous.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure how parents would respond to the idea of letting go of their striker charts and time-outs.  

As I started to introduce the concepts and tools of empathy parenting, I could see in parents’ faces the desire to believe that it could be possible to have the type of relationship with their children where they were totally connected, even in times of trouble.  

When the first session ended, I knew that a shift was already starting to take place.  

There were two sets of parents in that group who had very similar challenges; both had seven-year-old boys.  One set of parents had been able to immediately implement some of the shifts in their home, while also giving advice to other family members on how to address their own particular challenges utilizing the concepts of empathy parenting.  

By the end of that first Six-Week Group Empathy Parenting Therapy, all of the parents in that group were able to give tangible examples of improvements in their relationships with their children, and they were able to point to shifts in their children’s behavior as a result of applying the techniques of empathy parenting.

I can tell you first-hand that it is a rewarding and uplifting experience when you and your child are truly and consistently connected.  I’ve experienced this in my own life, and I’d like to share it with you.

So, if you live or work in the Los Angeles area, and you’re interested in finding out more about my Six-Week Group Empathy Parenting Therapy or empathy parenting, please contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.



What is ADHD?

External and internal factors affect our children

It’s not clear how many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD annually, but a study published in 2010 estimated the number could be nearly 1 million. ADHD a brain disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and an inability to focus has become a go to label for educators, parents and even clinicians for hard to manage children who are disruptive and inattentive.

Taking a closer look at my Los Angeles family therapy practice, in one specific case, I saw that some of the children had been misdiagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD).  Trauma which has similar characteristics, such as, hyper-vigilance and dissociation for example, could be mistaken for inattention. Impulsivity might be brought on by a stress response in overdrive.

I found that in some cases, despite my best efforts with behavioral therapy and referrals for medication, it was difficult to get the symptoms under control.  I started to consider that a lot of what I was seeing was more externalized behavior as a result of trauma or dysfunction in the family.

Looking at the statistics of 6.4 million children in U.S being diagnosed with ADHD, it raises the question that inattentive, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior may in fact mirror the effects of adversity, and many pediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists don’t know how or don’t have the time to tell the difference.

The newest research shows that children diagnosed with ADHD also experience markedly higher levels of poverty, divorce, violence, and family substance abuse. What is not clear is how trauma influences ADHD, but what is clear is how misbehaving children might be experiencing harm that no stimulant medication can fix. These children may also legitimately have ADHD, but unless prior or ongoing emotional damage is treated, it may be difficult to see dramatic improvement in the child’s behavior.

I have experienced in my work with children, that they may withhold abuse out of fear or may even be protecting their family. To get a picture of trauma from a child is much harder than looking at behavior like impulsivity, hyperactivity. And if they cluster in a certain way, then it’s easy to go to a conclusion that it’s ADHD.

As a clinician, I am extremely careful not to underestimate the prevalence of adversity.  In a years- long survey of more than 17,000 adults found that two thirds of participants reported at least one of 10 types of abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction.

Unless the parent opens up and shares more about what’s going on in the home, I often don’t have the opportunity to see the clear picture of what may be taking place for the child.

Both at my Los Angeles family therapy office and my Encino family therapy office, I regularly assesses patients for post-traumatic stress disorder instead of, or in addition to, ADHD.

Though stimulant medications help ADHD patients by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain associated with pleasure, movement, and attention, I worry about how they affect a child with PTSD, or a similar anxiety disorder, who already feels hyper-vigilant or agitated. The available behavioral therapies for ADHD focus on time management and organizational skills, and aren’t designed to treat emotional and psychological turmoil.

Instead, I teach children how to cope with and defuse fear and anxiety. I also recommend training and therapy for parents who may be contributing to or compounding their child’s unhealthy behavior. This can help parents reduce their use of harsh or abusive discipline while improving trust and communication, and have shown to decrease disruptive child behavior.



4 Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied at School -Part 1

4 Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied at School -Part 1

What YOU Can do About It

 Assessing and Addressing a Bully Problem

Situations involving bullying in school-age children are an all-too-common occurrence in our world these days. It’s something that I, as a Los Angeles LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) have dealt with often. In my Los Angeles Psychotherapy practice, I often assist families in dealing with the pain and anguish caused by bullying and I provide them with the tools to help their children, and the family as a unit, overcome this devastating situation.

In this three-part article on the subject of bullying I want to show you:

• Part I: How you can recognize the top four signs that indicate that your child may be the victim of bullying;
• Part II: The right questions to ask your child if they are being bullied and how to get them to communicate with you about it; and
• Part III: Ways to move forward once your suspicions of bullying have been confirmed.

About Bullying

Bullying is direct, intentional, aggressive and malicious and it can also be relentless. As a parent, I can imagine the devastation one might feel upon learning that their child has been dealing with a bullying situation. As a family therapist in Los Angeles, I can be very instrumental in giving families ways to cope with, comprehend and conquer these devastating events.

Most of the bullying of school-age children comes from their fellow schoolmates. However and unfortunately, it can also come from other children in the neighborhood and even worse, teachers or other adults who are charged with the well-being of our school-age children while they are away from home.

Bullying can also come in many forms – verbal, physical and emotional. Plus the children of today also have cyber-bullying to contend with, that is because they are so much more involved in electronic forms of communication than we were in our younger days. On Bullyingstatistics.org, a site devoted to the subject of bullying, they estimate that one out of every four children will be bullied at some time throughout their adolescence. That is a staggering statistic.

Four Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied

So what do you look for when you suspect your child may be the victim of bullying? Here are the top four signs to look for – a child can have one or more of these signs:

• They come home with cuts, scrapes and bruises on their bodies

• They have lost interest in school and school-related activities

• They often complain about not feeling well (headaches, stomachaches, etc.), which may be a physical manifestation of their problem or it can also be used as an excuse to get out of going to school

• They have few friends, if any; they are not outgoing or social and prefer to stay close to home.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, the next step after exploring your suspicions is to confirm them.

Children, especially boys, will not always be willing to come out and openly discuss what’s going on, so parents have to be the detectives.

If you have specific questions on the topic of bullying, please contact me at my Los Angeles Psychotherapy office or at my Encino Psychotherapy office.

In Part II of this three-part article, I’ll provide you with questions you should ask your child in order to assess whether or not they are being bullied and how to get them to open up to you. In Part III, I’ll explain how to handle the situation once your concerns have been confirmed, and ways in which you can help your child (and the family) recover from this situation.



Parenting With The Best Intentions

Ever since my son was born I have been preparing myself for the type of parent I wanted to be. I had done a great deal of research and have developed a parenting program called Empathy Parenting based on the latest research. The basics of this style of parenting are that the quality and quantity of parental attention is not limited to punishing a child’s bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. Tim-outs, positive re-enforcement, natural consequences and other commonly prescribed parenting techniques are not used. So the idea is not to rely on external motivation like rewards and a punishment which is basically saying to your child your worth is in your actions.   Empathy parenting, on the other hand, assumes the best of the child and tries to address the whole child, not just the unwanted behavior.

I have to constantly ask myself what is my long term goal for my son? Or else it is very easy for me to fall in to the trap of just wanting the easy way out, an obedient child. Remembering that when our children are at their very worst that they need us the most can be helpful.  For instance conventional advice would recommend withdrawing parental attention in case of tantrums.  Empathy Parenting assumes that behaviors are just the outward expression of feelings and thoughts, needs and intentions.  Leaping to punish the “bad” behavior, we are really telling our children that they mean less to us when they act up and we miss an opportunity to address deeper issues.

This is not to say that as a parent you will not struggle with the desire to take the easy route and put an end to whatever is going on at the moment by counting to three or using time outs as a quick way to get your child to behave.  I must admit that this is a daily challenge that if I am not mindful in my daily routine with my son can be overwhelming. As parents we all have room for improvement. It is never too late to start to turn things around.  If you are interested in learning more about Empathy Parenting my next group for parents will be announced soon.  Contact me at info@farahantherapy.com for further information.