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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Avoiding Childhood Obesity

Ask the Experts by Donna Morrison

Q: I'm worried about my daughter's weight and unhealthy eating habits, but I don't want to put her on a diet. What else can I do to help her lose weight and eat healthier foods?

A: First, it's important to focus on good health without overemphasizing body weight. Introducing healthier options for snack and meal times will provide your child proper nutrition, while also promoting positive eating behaviors.

Portioning is extremely important in the fight against childhood obesity, so be sure to plan appropriately sized meals. Getting the entire family involved is another great way to adopt and promote a healthier lifestyle without setting apart one child. Additionally, you can review the National Dietary Guidelines at for information regarding the primary food groups, nutritional values and portioning.

Read more: Avoiding Childhood Obesity


Stress Management Success

Ask the Experts by Jill Wrubel

Q. Do you think that companies should be providing stress management programs for employees and families?

A. There are two distinctive styles of leadership emerging throughout "best companies to work for" from what I have observed over several decades. There are those that have implemented programs for employees, their families and local groups to be able to participate in to manage stress through both holistic and wellness offerings --- and those that don't. 

It is this paradigm shift in leadership that is transforming how we look at the best companies to work for,  as they are driving functional excellence through the roof, and this is being demonstrated through employee engagement scores: morale, job satisfaction and overall health and well -being are improving! 9 things I have found to be TRUE: 

Read more: Stress Management Success


Suicide's Warning Signs & the Struggle to Notice Them

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen, LMSW

Q. After a loved one committed suicide, I hear many people report feeling guilty because they did not notice any warning signs prior to the incident. Could there have been signs someone failed to notice? 

A. Guilt is often pronounced when loss results from suicide. Loved ones erroneously feel they could have done something to prevent the tragedy, and they feel powerless. I believe human beings often find it easier to accept that they could have done something and failed, rather than admit helplessness. 

Suicide is difficult to predict, sometimes even with professional mental health training. Many people are depressed or isolated, but despite those traits often being referred to as potential "signs" of suicide, those conditions in and of themselves will not necessarily lead to suicide. In addition to depression and isolation, suicidal people also have feelings of pervasive and persistent hopelessness. They believe life will not get better, nor do they have the emotional endurance to tolerate what may seem like insurmountable obstacles to recovery.

Read more: Suicide's Warning Signs & the Struggle to Notice Them


Caring for family members who become incapacitated

Ask the Experts by Michael Kelly

Q. If my loved one becomes incapacitated can I arrange for their care and manage their financial affairs?

A. There is no inherent right to act for another person who is incapacitated based on a relation to them, except for a parent/child relationship. Express legal authority is required to do so. This applies to anyone age 18 and over.

Q. How does one obtain express legal authority to act for another?

A. It depends on whether or not authority was given to another to act for the incapacitated person before they became incapacitated.

Read more: Caring for family members who become incapacitated


Slowing Down...

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana

Q: I find myself so irritable, short fused, and I feel it is leading to anxiety and depression. Is this possible? 

A: Yes, it sounds like you are experiencing detrimental effects of stress, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Can you think of what might be precipitating your irritability?

Q: My husband has been out of work for two years and since he lost his job, I've been working full time and caring for the kids. I do not like my job at all, it is simply a paycheck. Do you think that is why I am irritable? I don't like this as I was never edgy like this before my husband lost his job. Then again, I only worked 20 hours per week at a job I enjoyed.

A: Seems you just answered your own question. It is difficult to juggle life's changes and challenges and most of us aren't even aware how overextended we are with multiple life stressors. I admire you for recognizing changes in your mood and behavior and inquiring as many seem to be experiencing stress overload.

Read more: Slowing Down...


Talking to Teens About Suicide

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey

Q. My kids and their friends are struggling with the suicide of a classmate, and they respond to this tragedy in such different ways. How do we talk to our teenagers about suicide?

A. The suicide of a young person impacts the whole community. In general, the severity of the response correlates to how connected they were to the deceased. Many of us feel incredibly vulnerable when confronted with the suicide of a young person, and there is often a wide range of emotional responses, which may include helplessness, anger, fear, guilt, shock, anxiety or confusion.

Talk candidly with your kids about the suicide, despite wanting to protect them. An honest discussion about what happened, based on the facts, helps adolescents feel taken care of and reinforces safety, security and trust. Knowing that the loss can be discussed constructively will help them to feel more in control.

Read more: Talking to Teens About Suicide


Recovering From A Loved One's Suicide

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q. close friend of our family committed suicide. How can I help my family understand the nature of grief and loss and navigate through the grieving process in a healthy way?

A. Grieving is a natural part of human experience, and necessary after loss for a person to heal.

Among the most common stages of grief are shock/denial, anger, sorrow, and acceptance. There are infinitely many ways to grieve. However, for someone to survive loss and be healthy, they must move through their own grieving process, in their own time, until it's finished. No short cuts, no exceptions! The only way out is through, preferably with support.

If loss is traumatic, such as a suicide, grief is often complicated and may involve flashbacks or other reactions that would benefit most from immediate professional help - especially true if a loved one witnesses the suicide itself or discovers their loved one after.

Read more: Recovering From A Loved One's Suicide


Teen Suicide Awareness

The recent, tragic loss of one of our high school students has deeply touched everyone in the community. Here at the Family Center, we can be a resource to help cope with hurt and grief.

Please use the search function in the left-hand column for articles on dealing with suicide, grief, and loss.

Access our Association of Professionals to find professionals who can help in this difficult time.

External resources: (links will open in a new window)

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

Article: "About Teen Suicide"

Video: "Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life | Talk Video |"

Out of the Darkness Campus Walk:
The Out of the Darkness Campus Walks are part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) signature fundraising campaign. A walk is scheduled for May 25 at the Grosse Pointe South High School campus.


Caring for People with Alzheimer's who Wander

Ask the Experts by Tom Gordon

Q. My father has the early onset of Alzheimer's. A friend of mine went through this with their parents and I am particularly worried about wandering. What steps should my family consider if my father begins to wander? 

A. One of the most common hazards someone in need of Alzheimer's care faces is the potential for wandering. Wandering can occur as either a side effect of medicine or because of an environmental trigger or a vague memory. Incidences of wandering often occur because your loved one has gotten distracted while looking for someone or something is looking to get away from an overwhelming situation or because of an old routine he or she once followed.

Here are a few tips to help control wandering: 

Read more: Caring for People with Alzheimer's who Wander


Behavior Indicators for Childhood Trauma

Ask the Experts by Dr. Caelan Kuban

Q. My child has experienced trauma. What is normal behavior, and how can I help?

A. Parents, caregivers and professionals should know that trauma can be any experience that leaves a person feeling hopeless, helpless, fearing for life or safety, or feeling out of control.

Children need to know that it is normal to experience reactions like fear or worry after exposure to trauma or an overwhelming life event. This knowledge reduces their concern that something might be "wrong" with them. It also provides them with assurance that they are not alone in how they are feeling.

During an initial 4-6 week period following the traumatic experience, any sort of behavior is common and should be considered normal. Following this 4-6 week period, behavior outside of a child's norm can indicate trauma or post-traumatic stress. These behaviors include:

Read more: Behavior Indicators for Childhood Trauma


What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 1 of 2)

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW

Q. How should I talk with my kids about losses in our community? I try to shield them, but over the past year they have heard a lot of discussion as people continue to struggle with deaths that have occurred in our community.

A.  It is a parent's natural instinct to protect their children from difficult issues, but the fact that your kids are hearing so much about recent deaths in our community reflects our own reaction to these painful losses. Many young people and adults are experiencing the secondary trauma of a sudden death and a homicide of two well-known, engaged parents who were closely connected with many facets of our day to day lives in our schools, public service organizations, children's activities and social lives.

Read more: What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 1 of 2)


What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 2 of 2)

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW

Q. How should I talk with my kids about losses in our community? I try to shield them, but over the past year they have heard a lot of discussion as people continue to struggle with deaths that have occurred in our community.

A.  When talking with your about your children about a loss due to violence you may want to emphasize that senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand, even grownups.  Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others because they may be unable to handle their anger, may be suffering from untreated mental illness, or may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Reiterate that violence is never a solution to personal problems and there are always viable alternatives.

Read more: What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 2 of 2)


Understanding and Acknowledging Grief

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana, LMSW

Q. There is immense sadness surrounding me now as my father has died and my husband has been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Although we're both grieving my father's death, my husband's grief seems worse? I am so confused, can you help?

A. I'm so sorry about the death of your father and your husband's diagnosis. Grief can show itself in many different forms, loss of a loved one, loss of a limb, divorce, job loss, loss of home, loss of a pet, loss of who we once were when we experience onset of chronic illness. Many are also grieving in particular decades of their lives as they introspect on what they thought their life would be at a certain age. Expectations and disappointment instill grief too.

Read more: Understanding and Acknowledging Grief


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