House Calls Herald 05 – Holiday 2009


Welcome to the 5th edition of the House Calls Counseling Herald, and the last one of 2009! The end of the year is a time for celebrating the spirit of the holidays: togetherness, giving, and joy. It can also be a hectic season: of time constraints, financial strain, family tensions, and academic stress. It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind and become overwhelmed. Here at House Calls, we hope that you take the time to stop, breathe, and enjoy the festivities of the season with the ones who matter most to you.

All the best from the House Calls family!

A Christmas Truth
By Billy Kaplan, LCSW
HCC President and Clinical Director

Santa Claus is coming to town.

So many people believed that as children, and many of us make-believe it with our children. I didn’t believe it as a child because I celebrated a different holiday that brought light to dark winter nights – Hanukah. So when my eldest daughter was in grade school and she asked me, “daddy, do you believe in Santa Claus?” I wasn’t surprised she asked her Jewish parent. I imagined she didn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings.

But I wasn’t prepared for the question. I knew I couldn’t lie to her – at her age and the earnestness with which she asked the question, I thought the lie would have been disappointing. I think she wanted me to show her respect. I think she was saying, “Daddy, please, treat me like a big kid. I’m really ready.”

So I told her what I believed: “If you’re asking me if I believe a jolly fat man comes down the chimney and brings presents, I think you already know if that is true or not. But if you’re asking me if I believe that the spirit of Santa makes great magic happen which brings many wonderful gifts, then I can say with all my heart that I believe in Santa. And those of us who understand that spirit get the joy of sharing it with others.”

Click here for a little holiday treat!

School Strategies for Kids with Attachment Issues
By Wendy Kovacs, LMFT
HCC Senior Clinician

It is well known that all children are born with both the ability and the desire to learn. Yet children with attachment difficulties often have a hard time with both. Adoptive and foster parents often ask me: “Why is school so difficult for my child?” The answer lies in early brain development.

Every time a caregiver interacts with an infant/ young child, he/ she shapes the brain of that child. When interactions are positive, the brain is stimulated, promoting growth and an openness to new knowledge and experiences. In this way, positive interactions with caregivers help prepare children’s brains for academic work.

In contrast, when children’s early interpersonal experiences are negative- for example, if they are unpredictable or traumatic- the brain goes into survival mode. Early negative experiences, especially if they are prolonged, have a profound impact on children’s ability to take advantage of education by wiring the brain for survival, not learning. Children who have experienced trauma have high levels of stress hormones which impair the growth and development of both the brain and body, affecting their ability to think, retrieve information, and manage their behaviors.

Click here for the rest of this article!

china kidsCross-Cultural Reflections
By Billy Kaplan, LCSW
HCC President and Clinical Director

I realize when I spoke to students in China at Fudan University in October I didn’t attract as much attention as did President Obama when he spoke there in November. But I like to think that, like the President, I influenced some students to think about things differently.

The audience was comprised primarily of the “counselors” of the student-led peer counseling program, as I had been when I was in high school. I wanted to discuss some common mental health issues specific to student populations, namely; leaving home, building new relationships with peers, and dealing with academic stress. I addressed the need to help shake off the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues. I also encouraged the student “counselors” to help their peers express feelings. I used the analogy of a shaken can of soda to illustrate what happens when we hold in our feelings: the pressure builds and the release is explosive and messy! In contrast, expressing feelings gradually can be like slowly opening a twist-top bottle of soda: the pressure is released steadily in a more manageable and less destructive way.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

hcc_26A Foster Child’s Road to Success: The Important Role of Mentors
Genita C. Robinson, Executive Director
Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth

Stephanie Banchero’s feature story on Derrius Quarles (“Former foster child in Chicago now a million-dollar scholar,” News, Oct. 4) should be required reading for all adults concerned about today’s youth. Derrius did not have the benefit of growing up in a home with caring parents. With the death of one parent and the determination by the state that the other was unfit, Derrius spent his childhood in multiple foster homes.

This part of Derrius’ story is unfortunately not unique. According to research by David DuBois at the University of Illinois at Chicago an estimated 8.5 million youth (about 20 percent of the U.S. youth population) do not have a caring adult in their lives. What does differ about Derrius is the outcome. He did not become another child lost to death or the penal system. Instead, he became a model of success, winning more than $1 million in college scholarships.

How did Derrius do it?

Click here for the rest of this poignant letter to the editor!