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Checklist for Parents

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When families are faced with mental health issues it is hard to know where to turn for help and what kind of questions to ask when you get there. The Royal College of Psychologists, based in London, England put together a helpful list for parents in this situation.

Researching and speaking to professionals can be overwhelming at first. Whether you are questioning what issue you might be facing, or you are experiencing a first time hospitalization or medication issue this list is helpful to parents and family member. To find the list click here, or copy and paste this link into your browser

Another helpful resource is engaging with an Educational Consultant to help guide you through a difficult time. If you have loved one who is struggling call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.

How do we help struggling students?

Throughout the United States students are struggling with mental health issues, which is unfortunately being demonstrated with school shootings, bullying and rising suicide rates. Educators and parents are grappling with what can be done for these students. Earlier this year Ashville Academy and the Hillside Center in Atlanta co-hosted a luncheon to discuss continual care for students to help administrative professionals and counselors understand the many options available to help this youth mental health crisis.

Tamara Ancona was asked to participate in the panel discussion and offered the perspective of an educational consultant and an expert opinion on the process families go through to get their student the right kind of help. Attendees walked away with a clearer understanding about options available, choosing the correct program and where students fit into the continuum of care.

If your school is interesting in hosting a similar discussion call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 to schedule a time.


Digital Etiquette

Digit Etiquette


Etiquette is a word people typically associate with formal events or something their grandparents would have lectured about. However, with the rise of digital devices etiquette needs to be discussed more openly – namely digital etiquette. Screenagers focused on this very issue – how we can better employ digital etiquette around others and how we can teach our children the same skills. For their tips, please read below:

Our kids learn a lot about how to behave with other people by watching us. They see us listen instead of interrupt someone, smile at a cashier, embrace a friend. When we are often out in the social world with a cell phone in our hand, what are we teaching them about digital etiquette? For now, I am not talking about online interactions but rather person-to-person.

Etiquette sounds so prim and proper. If I could clarify more, it would be “nurturing relationships in the face of mobile technology.” But that is a bit long. How do we respect and give undivided attention to the people we are with when dopamine pumps (i.e. smartphones, tablets, etc.) are in our hands? It’s not easy, but I have some ideas to share.

When Everyone Has a Phone But You Don’t

Last week I gave a talk for a school district in Coppell, Texas. A girl about 12-years-old came to the microphone during the Q and A and said, “At my middle school kids can use their phone. We only get one break, and that is lunch. Well, all my friends are on their phones. I don’t have one, and I wish they would talk with me.”

My heart sank a bit but I smiled, and I asked her what she had tried. She didn’t have an answer so we brainstormed some ideas including asking her friends if they could try to put their phones away perhaps one day a week or for a time at the end of lunch.

I encourage parents to teach their children to put phones away when they are in a group of kids who do not have a phone. Maybe they won’t do it, but they are hearing from us what we think is a kind thing to do.

Give a Heads Up

If you are with someone and you decide you need to check your phone, a digital etiquette I love is to say something like “My apologies, (or heads up), but I have to check my phone for a second.” Or, something like “Can you excuse me, I just have to do this one thing quickly.”

Years ago I worked with my family to establish this etiquette so that when we are out together and someone has to check their phone, which we try not to do, we would give a quick heads up beforehand. I had a strong motivation to do this because when someone would turn to a phone, I never knew if they were planning on disappearing into their phone or if it was just for a quick thing. Not knowing meant I often snapped at them—and they didn’t like when I did that—and I didn’t like when I did that either.

Don’t get me wrong—we are not some family in the Jane Eyre novel constantly asking for permission, apologizing and sipping tea. We often don’t give warnings, but we are all aware of it, and we try to.

Keep Devices Off and Away for Meals

My family does not have devices out when we eat a meal together. The visual reminder of the device on the table can create pressure and desire to check messages and notifications and take our attention away from those right in front of us.

I have made sure to teach my teens about the benefits of putting phones away when they are at a table eating with friends. For example, they know how the presence of a phone at the table increases the chances that conversations will be more superficial. So now when they are with their friends, they can joke around about that study and in a subtle way impart this knowledge to their friends. I am not sure of the outcome, but I hope that this all results in more phones off tables and in pockets.

That said, a couple months ago my son told me that he and his friends had all put their phones in the middle of the table at dinner and if anyone checked their phone they would have to cover the bill.  He got this strategy from a teenager in Screenagers.  It was fun to know he put it into practice.

This week’s invite your family or students to talk about digital etiquette. Digital etiquette continues to be a new landscape, and often kids see things that we don’t consider. There can even be etiquette about sharing video game controllers. So many interactions happen around tech all the time. Here are some questions to get the conversation started:

  • Have you seen anyone be particularly respectful when it comes to tech and social situations?
  • What digital etiquette do you try to follow?
  • How do you feel when you are talking to someone, and they pull their phone out in the middle of your conversation?

If you have loved one who is struggling with their technology use call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.

Put Down that Phone

Cell phone


How often during the day do you ask your teen or young adult to put down their digital devices? Former professor Larry Clayton, has given recommendations in the article below on how to get teens or young adults to put down their phones and experience real life.

Did you know, or realize, that high school students spend about nine hours a day on digital media?

I didn’t spend nine hours a day on anything when I was in high school. Or in college for that matter, not even obsessing about being in college with a coed population after seven years in an all-boys prep school deprived of the normal interaction between the sexes.

This obsession with digital media has resulted in adverse mental, emotional, and physical health consequences. When on campus, I cannot help but observe and hear that just about everyone is glued to their cell phone, walking like zombies here and there. Their conversations can be totally inane.

“Hi, just got out of class.”

Just got out of class? I’m thinking.

“Well, am off to cross the street. Wazup?”

Who cares?

Even guys driving their 18-wheelers are on their cell phones, and when they weave into your lane as they look up a phone number you better move over.

Digital addiction is dangerous, not only for teenagers and college students, but for the rest of us trying to navigate the storms and shoals of life.

What’s going on here? The French appear to be ahead of us. Starting in September 2018, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has declared a total ban of mobile phone usage in primary and secondary schools. Blanquer said it’s a matter of “public health.”

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has established the first Center for Digital Wellness — it’s Wi-Fi free! –in the land.

Its founder, Sylvia Hart Frejd, the author of “The Digital Invasion,” summed up the reasoning behind this pioneering effort to deal with a national addiction.

“I like what technology is doing for us, but I don’t like what it is doing to us.”

The major implications of digital technology addiction were explored recently right here at the University of Alabama by Dr. Alan Blum, a professor at the College of Community Health Sciences, and Tomasz Gruchala, a Catherine J. Randall Research Scholar in the Honors College. Their findings, along with those of Frejd and others studying the addiction, are troubling.

After recounting all the good things that come of digital media, like instant access to information, GPS, online viewing of film, art, opera, etc. (our undergraduates are really into opera these days while having a brewsky on the Strip….) the adverse effects were described. Ugly. These are general categories:

— Decline in school performance

— Diminished attentiveness

— Physical and mental health problems

— Incivility

— Less satisfying relationships

On a more detailed level, an increase in narcissism among college students and a decrease in empathy, a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and stress, and, ironically, as Frejd describes it, “even in a hyper-connected generation, studies still show we are lonelier than ever before.”

Everybody is texting, connected, multitasking, and yet the end is loneliness and isolation, unable to deal in real-life situations.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal said true achievers were not multitaskers, but those who could block off the trash and focus on one or two elements at a time.

Let’s invite Frejd to UA for a conference and take some real steps to deal with this. Like any good student of a phenomenon, she has some suggestions for “digital wellness”:

1. IT’S NOT “I TWEET, THEREFORE I AM,” but think twice before you post, tweet, text, or upload it.

2. WATCH YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS, because they are permanent.

3. UNPLUG. Take a digital “fast” once a week or once a month

4. INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS. Real people trump virtual ones

5. ESTABLISH DIGITAL BOUNDARIES. Limit when you use digital devices and how much time you spend on them (like, “I should be practicing my piano lesson rather than sitting in front of this computer typing.”)


7. GET OUTSIDE. Take walks, feel the sun, and breathe fresh air.

8. POWER DOWN AND GET SOME SLEEP. Your brain can’t thrive without it.

9. CULTIVATE YOUR “GODSPACE” DAILY. Take time to be still and know that He is God.

10. BE A GOOD STEWARD. Use technology for God’s glory.

I like the above, some of which I do better than others. I am glued to my computer far too long for my mental and physical health. I told my wife that I need to get that Harley like No. 6 recommends above. Now is the time!

If you have loved one who is struggling with their technology use call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.

Study: Rise in Marijuana Use During Pregnancy


A woman finding out she is pregnant is often a happy time, but can also bring a myriad of symptoms and side effects. Other mothers are always eager to share their tips and tricks to ease the discomforts that accompany this exciting time in life. The latest trend is using marijuana. A recent study, published in the JAMA journal and re-posted below, discusses the reasons for this and the drawbacks involved.

More pregnant women are turning to pot to ease such pregnancy symptoms as morning sickness and anxiety, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA.

For the seven-year study, nearly 300,000 California-based mothers-to-be, ages 12 and older, completed questionnaires about their marijuana use and took toxicology tests during their prenatal care visits.

The results: Marijuana use climbed from 4.2% to 7.1% from 2009 through 2016. And while marijuana use increased in every age group, the sharpest spike was among women younger than age 24.

Here’s a closer look at some of the findings:

  • In women younger than 18, pot use increased from 12.5 percent to almost 22 percent.
  • In women ages 18 to 24, marijuana use jumped from almost 10 percent to 19 percent.
  • In women ages 25 to 34, pot use rose from about 3 percent to about 5 percent.
  • In women older than 34, marijuana use increased from about 2 percent to about 3 percent.

Why More Pregnant Women Are Using Pot

Experts point to both legalization and increasing social acceptance as possible explanations.

“Think about marijuana use from their perspective, especially in Northern California,” Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, professor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, told 

California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, and on January 1, 2018, legalized recreational marijuana. “So I think the idea that use is rising is just because of the greater legal exposure to marijuana that women have today versus 20 years ago,” Dr. Horsager-Boehrer continued.

Why Pot and Pregnancy Don’t Mix
Legal or not, using pot during pregnancy is risky business. Many of the chemicals in marijuana, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could pass through a mother’s system to her baby. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that “women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use” and “to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy.”

Research on the effects of marijuana use on developing babies is still ongoing and many women who use marijuana may also smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use other street drugs.

According to March of Dimes, studies have linked the following health effects with marijuana use during pregnancy:

  • Premature birth, or birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Anencephaly. This is a severe neural tube defect that causes missing major parts of the brain, skull and scalp. Babies with this condition do not survive long after birth.
  • Anemia, or lack of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to the baby’s body.
  • Problems with brain development.
  • Stillbirth, or when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In addition, exposure to marijuana during pregnancy may cause problems for the baby after birth, including:

  • Withdrawal symptoms, like tremors (shakes) or long periods of crying.
  • Problems with sleeping.
  • Problems with behavior, memory, learning, problem solving, depression and paying attention.

Getting Help for Marijuana Abuse
If you use marijuana and are pregnant or considering pregnancy, we can work together to create a plan to help you live a happy and drug-free lifestyle. To learn more about our programs and services, call today: 305-595-7378.

If you have loved one who is struggling with their marijuana use call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.