Dr. Steven Lazarus is a psychologist in Littleton, CO. He specializes in helping couples in premarital counseling, relationship counseling, and marriage counseling. This blog is dedicated to providing couples with resources to have healthy relationships.

For many couples in Highlands Ranch, the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly ending. Businesses are opening, traffic is getting backed up, and everyday life is starting to become recognizable again. But have you and your partner come out of the quarantine a little less close? Many couples who seek couple’s therapy in Highlands Ranch report that the stress of working from home, homeschooling kids, not being able to meet with friends, and just being stuck together all the time has taken a major toll on their marriage. Fortunately, these tools can help you reset and reconnect!

Get Some Space—Alone

Now that you can leave the house… do! Certainly, you love your partner, but spending too much time together can make anyone wish they had more distance. If you’re comfortable, call up friends to reconnect, go for a jog, or enjoy an outdoor recreation activity. These not only get you away from home, but they give you time to relax and recover on your own. Plenty of people talk about how introverts need alone time, but the best relationship experts know that everybody needs alone time! This is a great time to meditate or reflect on your relationship.

Ditch the Kids

For couples with kids , the pandemic had an extra challenge: you’re now homeschooling, whether you like it or not! This means you’ve not only been spending more time with your partner, but a lot more time with the kids. While this has probably created some prime family bonding, you and your partner need time alone to be adults. As restrictions lift, consider having a close relative or friend over to babysit while you and your spouse spend adult time together—go for a walk, visit a restaurant if you feel comfortable, or find some private space to be intimate. Now that the kids aren’t out of the house for six hours a day automatically, you need to spend more time planning!

Seek Professional Help

If the typical advice isn’t touching your relationship problems, you should consider setting up an appointment to meet with a couples therapist in Highlands Ranch! When you work with a professional, you get an unbiased third-party to mediate disputes, and years of training and expertise in the best evidence-based methods to help you and your partner see eye-to-eye again. Animal-assisted couples therapy  is a great option for those who feel uncomfortable with talking, and Dr. Steve’s therapy dog, Zeke, loves to help couples express difficult feelings!

The pandemic has taken too much away from us already. Don’t let it ruin your marriage! If you and your partner are struggling, don’t wait. Visit in-person with facial coverings and enhanced sanitation, or participate in telehealth couples therapy. Get expert marriage counseling help today!

 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world found another major thing to talk about: race relations and police actions in the United States. While this sort of news is challenging for adults to process, children can have big questions that need careful answering. These top tips from a Littleton child psychologist can help you to have a big, difficult conversation with your child about vital current events.

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking

Human beings naturally make generalizations, and this is even more true in children who are trying to form an understanding of the world. As an adult, your job is to guide your child into considering other viewpoints. For example, a child might ask “are all police bad?” or “aren’t all criminals bad?” Make sure to emphasize that all people, no matter what race, age, or occupation, can be good or bad. There are corrupt police officers who make bad decisions, and there are citizens who break the law. On the other hand, there are also accused criminals who have done nothing wrong, and amazing police offers who keep people safe.

Address Systems

For younger children, stick with general rules about treating everyone fairly and being respectful. For older children, you can start talking about systems. While most fifth graders will struggle with concepts of systemic bias and institutional racism, they understand systems concepts such as tradition, habits, and patterns. Have a conversation with your child and see how he understands race in America, what her experiences are with police, or what they would do if they felt their rights were being violated. Have they ever done anything that would get them “canceled ” in today’s media playground? Can they make up for those mistakes? Have your child consider how these experiences would be different if their skin were lighter or darker. Remember, there are no right or easy answers!

Staying Safe

Many older children and teens are participating in protests, and those who aren’t are often watching them on TV and social media. How do you keep them feeling safe and secure during a pandemic  and riots? As a parent, you are probably already addressing the physical needs—keeping them in safe areas, loading them up with masks, and limiting screen time. For parents with children of color, you might share your own experiences and best advice for managing racial tension and dealing with police. Many children have additional questions about violent protests, riots, and vandalism, or find themselves frightened or anxious after witnessing these events. Help your child by placing the events in context, such as encouraging your child to consider the tradeoffs of property destruction versus drawing attention to lives being lost. If your child seems excessively upset after witnessing or participating in protest events, don’t hesitate to contact a teenage psychologist in Littleton to work through the issues.

Today’s children are facing very high demands, and they need strong adults to support them through these challenging times! Get additional advice and support in Highlands Ranch and call a skilled child psychologist today to set up an in-office appointment or telehealth child therapy appointment. With evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed treatment, play therapy, and animal-assisted therapy, your child will feel strong and able to manage these challenges!

 

In addition to the tragedy of death and illness due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many families across the nation are facing a distinctly different threat: Substance abuse. The numbers are staggering—an increased rate of overdose and deaths due to the concurrent opioid crisis, as well as increased rates of abuse of alcohol and other substances, makes home less safer than most families would want. If you suspect that substance abuse is affecting your family, make it a mission to seek effective substance abuse counseling for yourself, or encourage other family members to do the same. While you cannot force someone else to change their behavior, you can recognize how it may affect your family. Read on to find out family-focused tips from a Littleton behavior psychologist on how these signs show up and how you can manage them.

When Parents Use: Effects on Kids

Recreational substance use, when done responsibly and away from children, is not a problem for most adults. However, when use turns to abuse, or when it becomes an everyday event, children can be exposed to risks. Many Littleton child behavior psychologists help children work through the challenges of an addicted parent, including the fear of the parent dying or being harmed, challenges with responsible parents, and increased emotion. Many households with substance abuse are more likely to see domestic violence or child abuse, because people on substances typically don’t make good parenting decisions. For parents who are fully immersed in addiction, even basic parenting tasks like having food on the table, making sure everyone is clean, and paying bills may go ignored. One parent may shoulder all the stress, putting a wedge in your relationship , or both parents may use together.

Substances Come Between Couples

Whether one or both partners is using or abusing substances, the couple relationship will be challenged. If you are an addict, you may “love” your substance more than your partner—or, at least, that’s how it may feel. Resentment, anger, and conflict can follow. When both partners are abusing substances together, the situation may feel right, but this can quickly devolve into codependency. If you notice that “couple time” is being taken over by “drug or alcohol time,” consider this a red flag! Consulting with a Littleton couples therapist is a great way to determine if there is something amiss in your relationship, or something amiss in the substance use.

When You Suspect Your Child Is Using

Grown ups aren’t the only ones using substances. Many children and teens are experimenting more with substances, ranging from illegal substances purchased from peers, to sneaking medications from the medicine cabinet. Teen substance use can devastate your family . First and foremost, always lock up medicines! Your teenager likely knows more about opiate and prescription pill abuse than you do, so keep those controlled substances under your control. While your child may be showing normal symptoms of “teenager,” such as sleeping a lot, communicating less, or being irritable, these can also be similar to signs of substance use. If behaviors seem unlike the normal teenage malaise, don’t hesitate to start a conversation or explore further.

When you or someone you love has problems with substance use, getting help can seem like climbing a mountain. Offer to make that climb with your partner or child, or reach out for help if you feel your own substance use has gotten out of control. In addition to evidence-based substance abuse treatment, couples therapy and family therapy can help strengthen the family system to support sobriety.

One of the more common issues that psychologists in Littleton are hearing today is a sense of restlessness. With most of the world stuck at home for over a month, this is to be expected! However, this sort of restlessness has little to do with the fact that you’re cooped up at home, and more to do with underlying anxiety. Those with existing anxiety disorders may recognize this right away, but what about those who are usually calm, unflappable, or even aloof? The situational anxiety most people are facing right now is strong, and may cause you to feel out of sorts. Read on to find out what this feeling is and how to manage it more effectively.

Anxiety Does Not Always Equal Worry

Some people think of anxiety as being worried, frightened, frozen like a deer in headlights. In fact, anxiety can show up in many different ways, for different people, depending on the stressor. Few people are worried about losing their lives due to the coronavirus outbreak, given low mortality rates outside of risk groups. Many people have already had it and survived. Still, a feeling of restlessness, unsettledness, problems sleeping, or getting snappy at housemates is a sure sign of anxiety. When will the economy reopen? Will my job be stable? Will my child ever be able to return to school? These are not life or death worries, so many people discount them. However, keep in mind that these are worries about your livelihood and everyday life—in other words, these are important things!

Mindfulness and Acceptance

With all the time many people have free, mindfulness is a popular topic to explore. Fortunately, it is about more than just meditation, relaxation, or awareness. Mindfulness involves being attentive and aware not only to your setting, but also to your internal state—recognizing that maybe you got overly upset when your friend cancelled your video chat because you are worried about her, recognizing that you’re not feeling “unmotivated” but actually overwhelmed. When you can identify your inner emotions, you can manage them. Following this concept is acceptance. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling scared, sad, or lonely. Grieve your loss, even if the loss seems silly, like your weekly window shopping excursion or pedicure. You spent years building a life you loved, it is only natural to feel sad and anxious when it is interrupted.

Structure and Freedom

If you are working from home, or out of work and just staying at home, it can be hard to find motivation or relaxation. What a paradox! If you feel like you’ve been mentally “stuck in traffic” all day, unable to work properly or relax, don’t feel alone—this is common, and Highlands Ranch psychologists have struggled with the same challenges! Reconsider your balance between structure and freedom. Do you still need to wake up at 6 a.m., get breakfasts ready, and play “workhorse” from 9-5? Find a schedule that works for you, even if it looks different than usual. At the same time, give yourself a little more flexibility. If your workload has dropped from 40 hours to 10, don’t feel pressured to be “productive” during those extra hours! Do what feels restorative.

Feeling restless, edgy, sad, or frustrated is to be expected during this challenging time. Lashing out physically at others, harming oneself, or thinking of suicide is not. If anxiety or depression are more than you can handle during these challenging times, remember: you are not alone. Many psychologists in Littleton and around the world are offering telehealth appointments to help you build coping skills and manage your emotions. If you ever feel unsafe, your local emergency room or mental health crisis center is ready to help.

Zeke, my therapy dog, is not a perfect dog. He’s a good dog. At one point however, he was a terrible puppy!

When he was a puppy, he decided it would be great fun to jump our fence at her house and chased deer in the neighborhood. Being handy, I raise the height of our fence by several feet. The first time I let Zeek outside, he saw a group of deer. He ran and then easily jumped the taller fence. He then proceeded to chase the deer in the neighborhood for most of the rest of the day before I was able to catch him.Photo by Sander Weeteling on Unsplash

Because of his bad behavior it made me think of options to help Zeke. Should I find him a better home? Should I send him to the well-known prison dog training program? I decided to call and in-home dog trainer. He did a thorough assessment of our situation and we decided the best course of action was for Zeke to work with the trainer at the trainers’ home for three weeks. When Zeke returned home, he was a completely different dog. He was obedient, he listened to commands eagerly, and most importantly, when he was off leash, he responded to the commands come and stay.

Our next step was to enroll Zeke in advanced dog school which occurred for the next several years. During this time, seek was trained and obstacle courses, off leash work, and received his advanced canine good Citizen certification. We went on to do specific training with professional therapy dogs of Colorado which certified Zeke and I as a certified therapy dog team.

For the last seven years, Zeke has been coming to work four times a week and puts smiles on many people’s faces every day. He loves coming to work. He is playful, loving, and always happy to see people. Zeke is not a perfect dog, but because of some of the mistakes and problems he had when he was younger, we made some choices as a family that helped him to grow into the wonderful dog that he is today.

The reason I’m writing about Zeke today is to remind parents that kids mess up and make many mistakes. We want kids to make mistakes because kids can learn a lot when they mess up. It is our hope that by making mistakes when you’re young, we don’t make the same poor decisions when we are adults and for the most part this is true.

Just want to wish all of you health and happiness as we work through this difficult time and give you a funny story about my labradoodle.

Dr. Steven Lazarus
Child psychologist

As the full force of the Coronavirus outbreak sweeps the world, negativity is almost as detrimental as disease. From panic buying to the actual death rate, this can seem like a pretty bleak time. Fortunately, your family psychologist in Littleton knows some tricks to make the best of this bad situation. Read on to find out some light ways to replace everyday activities that might make the day a little easier.

Score More Screen Time!

For kids and teens, the silver lining to this time might be a chance to score more screen time! Child psychologists and pediatricians typically recommend no more than an hour or two of screen time  for children, but during these circumstances, we make exceptions. A great rule of thumb is to consider your child’s previous screen time allowance and maintain this—but schooling, visiting relatives, or seeing your child psychologist by telehealth should not cut into it! This way, your child does not feel like they “miss out” or “waste” screen time on studying, calling loved ones, or getting important mental health treatment.

Learn in Place

Did you know Ivy League Schools are offering free classes? Especially for those sheltering in place, learning must be addressed. Some schools have online curriculums ready, while others are shutting down and considering summer sessions. Don’t let your child’s education slide! Help them learn in place (and help around the house) by engaging in cooking, cleaning, and home projects. Learn to play an instrument, take a drawing or photography class. Engage in a Lego challenge. Older children can conduct internet research, write poetry and blogs, and practice taking college entrance tests. Life doesn’t have to stop, it just has to stay inside.

Enjoy a Fancy, Restaurant-Style Dinner

Missing family dinner night? With restaurants closed, this could be the perfect opportunity to engage the whole family in recreating a restaurant-style dinner. Set the table with the nice dishes, bring out some tablecloths and fancy napkins, and even create a menu—this is the perfect activity for grade-school and middle-school kids to explore. Practice manners during dinner at your “Family Restaurant” so you don’t get stuck gobbling down meals on the couch!

Host a Concert or Movie

Your favorite entertainment venue is closed, so why not play pretend at home? This could take the form of a DJ set, where each family member gets to play their favorite songs, a sing-along concert or lip-synching contest, or even a “movie viewing” with your favorite snacks.

Go Visiting

Many of the world’s most amazing landscapes, museums, and art collections are available for virtual tours. Why not take a “family visit?” Have family members take turns “directing” the visit (such as advancing the webpage, zooming in, reading captions out loud), or even plan a shared virtual trip with family across the world! This can be a fun way for younger children to connect to distant relatives, as attention to a face on a screen can be quite low.

Remember, you can still go outside and play , as long as you stay away from others. Don’t forget to enjoy some physical activity during this period of quarantine! For more ideas and support during this process, contact Dr. Lazarus, psychologist in Littleton.

 

Parents are getting hit hard during the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Most are stuck trying to “work” from home, usually while having kids home from school all day and worrying about aging parents who may need assistance. On top of it all, your favorite relaxation stations are probably shuttered for the next few months—gyms, theatres, sports, even restaurants and bars are becoming less of a home-away-from-home. So how can you maintain your sanity? Here are some tips from your trusted psychologist in Littleton.

Establish a New Routine, but…

While a week off to do nothing and have no plans sounds great if you’re visiting a beach, a week off at home to do nothing and to have all your plans flop around like fish out of water sounds awful! Even if you hate your “daily grind,” the familiar routine benefits you by reducing the number of decisions you have to make at any given moment. Without these constraints, you may find yourself working away until midnight, becoming unproductive, or just feeling constantly overwhelmed. Find your home rhythm and set clear times for work, meals, and family time, just like you would during a busy work week. If you are struggling with lack of work like many Americans, find your new routine—maybe this is the perfect time to help Junior memorize those multiplication tables, or finally tackle that pantry organization project. Setting a clear routine makes your life more predictable and manageable.

… Stay Flexible

At the same time, stay flexible. You can’t do everything, and that’s okay. Maybe some days you don’t put on your work clothes and “log in” by 9 a.m. Maybe you have “the blahs” and cuddle with the kids watching cartoons all day. With all the drawbacks we are facing, the least we can do is find some good in it! Similarly, cut your kids a break. They are more likely to express fear and anxiety through clinging, whining, and pestering, as well as “forgetting” all the basic rules. Show them you support them  through these difficult times.

Say “NO!”

If there are things that feel out of your control, or that you just can’t handle, feel free to say “no.” Setting strong boundaries is important, especially when times are tough, and can help you and your family stay safe. Start by saying “no” to requests to be out and about where you could be sick, and escalate to turning down extra responsibilities that you cannot handle. Prioritize your family and your mental health. Set clear limits, even with your children, because however you set the stage now will likely continue to play out for the next few weeks.

Encourage Independence and Value Alone Time

If your children are school-aged or older, they can entertain themselves for some time. They may argue otherwise, but your job is not to be the village entertainment. Set your child up with independent activities like viewing a favorite show, coloring, reading a book, or playing with toys, and go do what you need to do. This gives you time to decompress, and time to spend with your partner.  

Life will eventually return to normal, but until then, we all need to support ourselves and one another. If you find yourself needing someone outside of the house to talk to, do not hesitate to contact your Littleton psychologist. Set up a telehealth session, or visit in-person in our frequently-sanitized office.

 

 

I am putting together a list of resources and good articles to help families with our current situation. Jefferson County just issued a “stay-at-home” order until 4/17/2020.

Dr. Steven Lazarus

 

How to Explain Coronavirus to an Anxious Child

The importance of positive routines

“We Live in the Upside Down Now.” COVID-19 Meets ADHD.
“How am I supposed to manage all these people, plus myself, while we exist through this unprecedented, mostly-home-bound, wacky time?”
“Good enough” is good enough is a start →

Clinical Nutrition Center Treatment Center: Treatment and News

Dr. Lazarus is currently offering live virtual (telehealth) visits for those who are unable to visit in the office.

Click here for more information

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many people are wondering how to best show their love for their partner! While some discount this as a silly, commercialized holiday, couples therapists in Highlands Ranch know that sometimes you need a little reminder to express your love to your significant other! One of the hot topics that many people are learning about today is the idea of “love language.” Based on Gary Chapman’s book, “Discover Your Love Language,” this idea breaks down the way that communication affects our love. Read on to find out the basics of the 5 love languages and why they are important!

What are the Love Languages?

  1. Words of affirmation. If this is your language, you are always the one to say “I love you,” to leave sweet notes for your partner, or to write long, heartfelt messages inside of cards. You give good, constructive praise and share your appreciation.
  2. Acts of service. You feel that actions speak louder than words, and find yourself thinking “I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow… if that’s not love, what is!” (lyrics source: Fiddler on the Roof).
  3. Gifts. From a luxury vacation to a pretty rock found on the beach, if your love language is gifts, you love receiving and gifting. This isn’t about money—it’s about the thought put in and the physical reminder of love.
  4. Quality time. In today’s attention-grabbing world, this one can be hard to get. If you love quality time, you value those deep conversations, quiet moments spent appreciating nature, or long, rambling drives to nowhere. Get better at this language by learning and practicing active listening skills!
  5. Touch. For some, physical touch can be the deal breaker. You are the person who loves hugs, gestures with your hands and often touches others, and gets more out of a massage than relaxed muscles.

Why Does it Matter?

The concept of love languages has been expanded from romantic partners to all sorts of settings, including parenting, workplace communication, and even self-love. So why does it matter how one wants to receive love? There is no one way to love, and no way that is “better” than any other. However, by understanding what “language” your partner speaks (and what “language” you speak!), you can better meet those needs. This may require you to go out of your comfort zone, but can show your partner that you really care. There are plenty of free quizzes online to help you figure out your love language, and keep in mind, you can have multiple! Try taking one together with your partner and comparing results for a lighthearted bonding activity, or challenge each other to expand out to other languages. If you need help getting started, or find you can’t communicate effectively, don’t hesitate to contact an expert relationship psychologist in Highlands Ranch for more help!

Dr. Steven Lazarus, Couples Therapist

 

 

 

A new year, even a new decade is upon us! For many people, this seems like a perfect time to set goals, as if a turning calendar will magically make those decades-long goals seem possible. If you’ve tried to set goals in the past without much luck, don’t worry! Try these psychology-based skills to build your “resolution” to do whatever moves you most!

Have a Partner

Ask any preschooler if they want a friend to help, and most will say “yes!” This is because most tasks are easier with a partner, even if the partner cannot actually help. The role of social and emotional support, as well as accountability, is vital to achieving your goals. Sure, it can be nice if your best friend commits to going to the gym every day, or if your partner agrees that less TV and more quiet nights spent reading would be great, but even if your loved ones are pursuing different goals, you can still find ways to support one another. Spending time apart , but still thinking about one another, can help build positive feelings and commitment. If one person seeks to walk for an hour a day, and another seeks to read for an hour a day, these activities and celebrations of accomplishments can be done together to build positive mood. Even better, these tools can improve your relationship  with your partner!

Make it Routine

No matter what new habits you are trying to establish in 2020, make it a scheduled routine. Why? Because it makes it easier for your brain to switch to the task and actually get started. Set alarms if you need, post a visual calendar, but once you’ve built a routine for a few weeks, you’ll notice yourself actually missing your goal task!

Use Intention Cues

Intention cues are a great tool that psychologists in Highlands Ranch teach to children and adults alike. These cues serve as primers to get started on a task, and facilitate it getting done. For example, if you want to start your morning tech-free and with journal writing, plop that journal right down next to your toothbrush as a reminder. The phone, of course, should be banished to a drawer or other place where it can’t distract. Making clear intention routines (I will tidy up the living room immediately after dinner while my partner washes the dishes) will give even the least motivated person an internal reminder to get going again.

Just a Little…

If you’ve ever been stuck pushing a car stuck in ice and snow (and who hasn’t?), you know that the hardest part is getting it started. In fact, you can often get lucky and get rolling again after just one big push. Keep this metaphor in mind when you feel zero motivation! The hardest part of any task is getting it started, so try doing just a little and see how you feel. Not into sorting your old clothes for donation? You don’t have to do it all. Just do one piece of clothing, or set an alarm for two minutes and see how you feel after that. If you really still aren’t feeling it, give yourself a break! But often, just getting started will start that momentum and get you rolling again.

For little goals, these tips can be just what you need! However, if you’ve tried everything you know and are still struggling with lack of motivation, challenges in your marital relationship, or something else, don’t hesitate to call Dr. Steve Lazarus for expert psychological assistance.