Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gender Identity: “Is this just a phase?"

by Stacey Vinci

“Is this just a phase?” is a question I often get from parents looking for help with their teens.  You begin to notice your teenager changing their appearance, experiencing mood swings, keeping to themselves, engaging in less eye contact with you and almost only engaging with the video, snap, tweet, or gram on their phone. And you think to yourself: “Yeah, this is what I expected…This is what I read would happen during this age… It’s just a phase”.

For some parents, it is just that- a “phase”. A developmental period in which their child is transitioning; growing and changing into a more physically and emotionally mature young adult. For other parents, however, there is much more happening. Along with the expected adolescent mood swings, style changes, and social life influence, they are also navigating the world of gender identity issues: from significant changes in appearance, clothing choices and hairstyles to requests for puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and frequent struggles in everyday life and society to exist as their genuine self. These parents have taken on the role of helping and supporting their child with their exploration of gender identity.

 So what is gender identity and how do you know if your child is struggling with it? Gender identity is most easily explained as the way in which a person defines themselves on a scale of maleness to femaleness.  Individuals may identify as male, female, neither, both, or “fluid”. An individual’s gender identity does not need to match their sex (genitals) and it does not define their sexual orientation. These three terms are often mixed together by mistake, when they are very separate entities. Although there is a rise in teens and preteens expressing struggles with gender identity, it typically begins much earlier in development. Here are some additional signs that your teen may be struggling with their gender identity:

Expression of or desire to be the opposite or alternate gender (can start at 2yrs)
Discomfort with or rejection of one’s genitals and overall body appearance
Disagreement with assigned pronoun; request to be called an alternate pronoun
Changes in play activity; peer group
Appearing withdrawn or depressed in affect or experiencing significant distress*

*Keep in mind that not every child will identify with a specific gender, nor will every child experience distress with their gender identity. It is important to take into consideration the teen's personality and overall comfort with their body and identity and to support them in their expression of self.

Parenting Tips
If you think your child may be experiencing issues with gender identity, the most important first step is to create an open, safe, and trusting place for communication and support. Secondly, put in place the professional support system that you and your child will need during this time. By contacting a therapist or counselor specializing in this area you now have a built in system of support, resources, and guidance through each step of your child’s process in achieving a healthy, strong, and positive identity.

Stacey M.Vinci, M.A., LMFT is a PA Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with teens and their families struggling with anxiety, depression, and trauma-related issues. She also specializes in working with youth in the LGBT community, particularly teens identifying as gender non-conforming or transgender. Stacey’s Trans Teen Therapy Group is currently accepting new clients.
For more information on individual/group openings or alternate resources to help support you and child, contact Stacey at or 267-989-9113.

Self-Care for Parents

by Katie K. May, NBCC, LPC

Sometimes as parents, we think that the focus needs to always be on our children. We might think that it's selfish to take time to ourselves, or that we can't focus energy on our own well-being until our children are emotionally balanced and their behavioral issues have been addressed. These beliefs, however, are counterproductive. Modeling good self-care and finding ways to recharge your own batteries are the best tools you have to effectively help your children manage their feelings and behaviors.

Below are some ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. 

Breathe. Take a 30 second vacation, close your eyes and notice the way that your breath feels as it moves in and out of your body. Do not underestimate the power of your breath.

Read. Steal 20 minutes of your day to indulge in a good book. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and absorb the stillness around you.

Talk to a friend. Meet for a quick cup of coffee or chat on the phone on your way to picking up the kids at school. Finding ways to connect with others is what makes your life meaningful. Adult conversations help keep you grounded.

Take a bath. Light some candles, play some music and draw yourself a warm bubble bath. 

Give yourself a time out. Lie in bed in the dark, or give yourself a one hour break from the glow of a screen. Life's demands can be overwhelming, especially with the added demand of being a parent. Giving yourself permission to take a break is crucial.

Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to help you balance your emotions. Take a walk or run outside and enjoy some fresh air. Or, join a group class for the added benefit of social connections. Moving your body helps to ease stress and unlock negative emotions.

When you take care of yourself on a daily basis, you become a better parent because you're better equipped to handle life's ups and downs.  What will you do today just for you?  Share with us on The Resiliency Center's Facebook page to hold yourself accountable and inspire others!

Katie May is a teen therapist who hosts weekly groups for teens. Contact Katie at 610-813-2575 or and visit her website [Insert link to: ] to learn more.

Deepening Self-Care

by Jennifer Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC

We all know that self-care is important. Perhaps you’ve heard the metaphor about the oxygen mask and putting your own on first. Or the saying that you just can’t pour from an empty cup. For caregivers and everyone else, it is imperative that we make our self-care a non-negotiable. 


Because we matter. For those of us who are focused on caring for others, hearing that we matter may not be incentive enough to prioritize self-care. Or it may feel at odds with our caretaking of others. But how we show up for others makes a difference. And prioritizing our own self-care helps us show up with love and energy.

Consider a parenting challenge faced daily in many homes: Bedtime. If you are grouchy because you haven’t eaten, are dehydrated, haven’t slept well, or are still carrying significant stress from your day, it may be very difficult to bring the same patience and care to your child’s nighttime protests. If, on the other hand, you are in a good mood and feel at ease, you are much more likely to bring humor and creativity to any conflicts that arise. Or at least to move through the challenge with greater calm and perspective.

Strong self-care allows us to live fully engaged, vibrant, resilient lives in the face of whatever ups and downs life is throwing our way. 

In my work as a counselor and parenting coach and in my own healing work, I have come to appreciate three dimensions of self-care. While most of us are familiar with the first, examining all three may be the most helpful in deepening our thinking and expanding our practice of caring for ourselves. 

The first dimension includes common self-care practices. These include exercise, diet, meditation, drinking water, spending time on hobbies, spending time with loved ones, giving yourself a treat, etc. Unfortunately, this list can sometimes feel like a weighty list of “shoulds” against which we measure ourselves, defeating the purpose and becoming a source of stress instead of a sanctuary.

The second dimension is less about specific activities and much more about the way we approach every task and moment in our lives and less about what we are doing. Can we be present while doing any mundane life task (including any from the list above) in a way that acknowledges we are a living, human being whose energy matters. We are not machines to be judged by what we accomplish everyday. Instead, our everyday tasks are our lives, not something to power through so we can live in some distant future moment when everything is done and we’ve been productive enough. Some examples include listening to favorite music while doing the dishes, calling friends to talk while commuting, picking up fresh flowers weekly for your office, lighting a candle before you work or pay bills, cooking dinner as a family. The possibilities are endless and can be as individual as your fingerprint. If we are doing the tasks in the first category but rushing through them or simply checking a box to say “done,” we may find ourselves just as depleted as if we were not engaging in self-care practices at all. The how matters.

The third dimension is all about our self-talk. In my individual work with clients and in my mindfulness and self-compassion group, we look very carefully at our inner dialogue. Are we talking to ourselves with kindness and support? Or is our inner world full of sarcasm, self-judgment, and self-deprecation? Is our inner world a safe, caring place to dwell? Our patterns of self-talk are mental habits that can be examined and, over time, shifted towards greater kindness and generosity. With empathy and self-compassion practices, we can learn to soften the harsh, critical voice in our head and turn our inner world into a self-care haven.

Painful experiences in the past may have instilled challenges to all three dimensions of self-care, making it hard to recognize that we are worthy of care, setting up patterns of rushing or avoidance that make mindful attention to the present moment difficult, and creating recorded critical messages that are all-too-easy to play in a loop internally. As a trauma-informed therapist, I understand the impact of these painful experiences and partner with individuals, couples, and groups to help them unburden the weight of the past so that they can experience greater freedom and care for themselves well. You deserve to enjoy your life. I’d love to explore with you ways you can do just that.

Jennifer Perry is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Peaceful Parent Educator and Coach. She is passionate about mindfulness and loves her work helping people relate more compassionately to themselves and to others while learning how to thrive and build lives that they love. She can be reached at 215-292-5056 or 

Thursday, August 4, 2016


by Dean Solon

on the buddhist wisdom path it is said we are living in a world of activity and phenomena.  there is no judgment in this;  it is a description of what is.  it is a description of the human predicament on the earth and it may be a description of the significant footprints we human beings leave on the earth.

an experiencing of meditation may allow you to enjoy the quiet.
the experiencing of meditation may allow you to appreciate the silence.

i wake at 3:53 a.m.  i wake disturbed.
all i am remembering of the dreaming alternative life as a young boy and young man, a life in which i traveled frequently and extensively.
i am feeling there was nothing negative about the life i dreamed.
i suspect it to have been a means of revisiting and reintegrating this life i have lived.

the disturbance?
is the world i am living in
and seeking to be making sense of
and seeking to be living with heartfully and mindfully.

the world i am living in and with is one of activity and phenomena,
is one of much disturbance,
one of much turbulence and turmoil.
will we humans calm our asses down?
will we quiet our hearts and minds?
will we lighten our heavy footprints
as we are walking on the earth?