6 posts categorized "Family"

Signs you may never think to consider-Teen Suicide


         A parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that your child has committed suicide. As a parent your mind starts racing, what did I miss? Why was their life so bad? Why didn’t they tell me they felt depressed? Soon the grief has taken over like a sharp knife stabbing your heart. Guilt, fear, and shame become your friend and the days and nights feel empty and hopeless.

            I have met with many people who have been affected by suicide. A mother whose teen overdosed on anxiety meds, a girl who found her best friend hanging from a tree, and countless teenagers who have come to see me after attempting to take their life.  

            Today is World Mental Health Day and therefore an important day to discuss teen suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10-19 year old’s in the United States.  In the average year, we lose over 2,000 teens. What are the warning signs of suicide that you might not think about?


If your adolescent avoids expressing emotions and feelings they may be depressed.  Numbness is the result of an individual no longer feeling safe to share. They often lack opinions, shrug off feelings and move through life as if they are a robot.


Many parents will tell me their child does not struggle with anxiety. I believe it is because anxiety is often viewed as panic, shaking, and nervousness. However, many people can be anxious yet show none of the above signs. Anxiety is when our brain gets stuck in a problem-solving mode. Many teens struggle with anxiety about school, grades, their home lives and life in general. Some common ways I see adolescents self-soothe is through drugs, alcohol, smoking and reckless behavior.

Reckless Behavior

Your adolescent may be depressed and suicidal if they are sneaking out of the house, engaging in reckless behavior that could lead to death or showing signs that they do not care about life. A teens lack of care in life can often lead to isolation.


A common misconception is that depressed teenagers will isolate themselves from everyone if they’re depressed. This is not always true. Many of the suicidal adolescents I have seen in my office have a large social circle that they are regularly a part of, however, I often see that they stay isolated from family. They push their family away by being rude, angry and disengaged.

Trouble in the Family

Adolescents have a hard time putting emotions and words to what they’re feeling. If your family is going through a divorce, a loss of a family member, the removal a family member or any other changes, your teen could become depressed.

What can you do? Talk to your child regularly. Do not assume that a smile, good grades and, an active social life exempts your child from depression. Watch for signs of numbness, anxiety, reckless behavior, isolation and trouble in the family systems. If your child presents with any of these signs, monitor their behavior, have regular conversations and ask them if they have ever thought about harming themselves. If they have, take it seriously and get help immediately. There are three ways you can get help:

Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Call a therapist near you

If your child is in immediate danger call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.



In response to: Michigan lacks much-needed mental-health support for K-12 students


School I will never forget the day my husband approached me and said, “I want to open my own counseling practice.” When I asked, “Why?”

He stated “Because I want to change the world one person at a time. I know that might seem lofty but that is what I want to do.” “If we can make one person better, that improves a family, which helps our community be healthier, which helps our world.”

         In order for us to change the world one person at a time, we knew it would take sacrifice and hard work. We opened our first practice in 2010. Today we own three practices in the greater Grand Rapids area and see thousands of patients a month.  Our mission continues.

Where there is a need. We plan to fill it.

         A couple of months ago, Lindsay Bryan, one of our office managers, approached me about a need she heard of at our local school. She heard that children were waiting on a list to receive mental health care. Lindsay knew right away, that children sitting on a waiting list to get care, was unacceptable, and did not support our mission. Lindsay took action and had a meeting with school personnel. As a result, Joe Martino Counseling will begin providing free serves to the local school.

         An article posted on April 11, 2018, on Mlive, stated:

“One in five children in the country ages 3 through 17 have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year, but only 20 percent of those children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment. If they get help at all, it is usually at school. “


         The Joe Martino Counseling Network prides itself in being a teaching agency. We employ a large number of interns (residents) every semester and work with several local universities to train the next generation of counselors, psychologists and social workers. Through our internship program, we are able to provide free or reduced services to local schools.


No child should be waiting to get help. If you work at school, and you have children that need services, please contact our office. Will you join us in changing the world one person at a time?

Joe Martino Counseling Network has three offices:


Creative Solutions Counseling

2305 East Paris Ave Suite 203

Grand Rapids, MI 49546


Joe Martino Counseling

11630 Fulton St

Lowell, MI 49331



Joe Martino Counseling-Grandville

3181 Prairie St SW

Grandville, MI 49418


Bullying: What my daughter did next I never expected to happen

    When my daughter Kendra was in the second grade, she came home daily complaining about a little boy in her class that was mean to her. I just listened and did not offer much feedback until one day she told me the boy broke a chair over her back. I was infuriated! However, I knew that my anger was not going to stop this boy. Instead, I asked Kendra to tell me why she thought this young man was so angry. She said she did not know. I began to ask her questions about his life. Soon she was able to put the pieces together. The young man's parents had recently gotten divorced. He switched homes every few days and Kendra was a happy kid with a stable home. This young man envied what she had. I noticed that the conversation between Kendra and I had helped her no longer feel powerless and frustrated.

In fact, I did not anticipate what she did next.

The next day when I picked her up from school she told me she stood up to this boy and he started crying. I was a little nervous at this point. What exactly did she do?

She told me she looked him right in the eye and said “I know why you are so angry. You're tired of going back and forth between homes and you hate it that your parents got divorced, but guess what? I am not the one who has hurt you and you can no longer take your anger out on me.”

That was it.

The boy never bothered her again.

Let me tell you about a kid named Jeff. Jeff was a middle schooler. He was thought of to be a bright young man who enjoyed reading, math, and science. He spent his days on the computer researching how to invent toys and change the world. He was considered by many to be a geek and relentlessly picked on because he did not fit the status quo. Jeff began to hate going to school. He was told to just ignore the bully. That did not work. The bullies just increased their intensity in an effort to get a reaction and Jeff became increasingly more depressed and suicidal. 

Jeff would be:

  • Pushed into lockers.
  • His stuff would be stolen.
  • He would be relentlessly poked.
  • Made fun of.
  • And humiliated in front of peers.

    Jeff would report the bullies, but soon the school got tired of  Jeff being picked on so they advised him to just suck it up and ignore. He became increasingly angry and the thoughts of ending his life became so predominant that he could no longer focus on living but only on dying.

                  If he died, his after life would provide no more suffering, pain or heartache. His daily suffering would be over. As a therapist, Jeff’s story breaks my heart. I wonder why, as a society, we fear conflict so much? What are we afraid? Why do schools push the idea of “Ignore the bully”?

                  Jeff saw a mental health professional who taught him that bullies hated confidence and that it was ok to stand up for himself. He soon, with much fear and trembling did it!
                  One day Jeff was playing ball with friends in the school parking lot when the bully approached him and started making fun of he and his friend. Jeff became so angry that he told the bully “I will not tolerate you treating us like this anymore, you need to go pick on kids your own size.” The boy walked away and never said another word. Jeff told his therapist that he was angry because he had no idea that's all it took. He felt frustrated that he had endured years of bullying when all it took to stop it was confronting the bully.

Stopbullying.gov states:

Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.

So why does ignoring a bully not work?

                  Bullies are in a fight for control and power. They often prey on those who they believe is inferior or powerless, but this is not always the case, sometimes they are simply threatened by a stronger, confident person, and choose to make it their life mission to tear them down.


Bullies are bullies because they have their own story of brokenness.


For a kid like Jeff, it is imperative that he learns all about his bullies in order to stop the bullying.

He should ask questions to himself like:

Why am I the target of bullying?

What about me triggers the bully?

Do I remind him of his dad? Was the bully once a target of bullying?

What is going on in the bullies’ personal life that has caused he or she to act and behave the way they do?

    When Kendra confronted the bully she robbed him of power and control and sent a message loud and clear that she would not tolerate it. To this day, 8 years later, this kid does not bother her. Bullies have their own story of pain and brokenness, and understanding those stories bring insight to those who are bullied. A bully needs professional help and should be referred to a professional. In the mean time if your child is being bullied you should teach them about emotions, how to handle conflict appropriately and how to fight back with their wit and self-confidence.

The Truth About Mother’s Day



            Mother’s Day is a ponderous day for me. I love being a mom and feel so proud to be the mother to our four children. They bring joy to our lives daily, however, I often think about the people who cannot have children, the children who have lost their moms, the mom who has lost her child, the mom who lost her husband and the mom whose children no longer speak to her. My heart goes out to them. I imagine the day is filled with many emotions.  

 To the women who cannot have children

            My heart goes out to you. The emptiness you feel is real and I know it sucks. It is hard when you want something so bad and for whatever reason, it will not happen. Please know it is not your fault. I know that is not always easy to accept. I hope you find joy in the day celebrating a mother in your life and never forget that a mom is not just a woman who gives birth but a woman who cares and nurtures for others, if you pour your life in a child, you’re a mother so Happy Mother’s Day to you.

To the child who has lost their mother

            I am sorry. I imagine this day brings sadness. Losing a mom sucks. Moms fill our life with joy, love, and laughter and when they are gone, it hurts. I imagine that no matter how long it has been, the pain of not being able to pick up the phone to call them never goes away.

 I would love to hear about your mom. Would you share your favorite memory of her with me? I hope that as you mourn the loss of your mom that there is another mother in your life to celebrate today.

To the mother who has lost her child

            This is the most difficult one for me to write. I cannot imagine your pain and the longing you must feel to hold your child once more, to see them, to touch them, or simply tell them you love them. To me, you are a hero because you got to love them and let them go. That pain is indescribable I am sure.  I hope that you do not skip this day. Celebrate the mom you were, are and want to be. You never stop being a mom. Pull out pictures of your child, letters they wrote you or videos you might have. I know this can be hard and you don’t want to experience those emotions and feelings again but I invite you to cry, laugh, feel anger and mourn if that is what it takes. Feeling will bring healing. Most of all, I hope that those memories bring you joy and remind you of the life you invested in for so long. Celebrate you today because you are worth celebrating!

To the mom who lost her husband

            I cannot imagine what pain you feel on a day like today. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that if your children are young, that someone in your life celebrates you. You deserved to be noticed, pampered and cared for today. I hope that you see your husband in your children’s eyes and that his memory never dies. I hope that your day is filled with love, laughter. and hope.

To the mom whose children won’t speak to her

            As a counselor, this is the most difficult one for me to understand. Life is so short. I am sure there is a story of pain and hurt and that has caused this separation but I hope one day the pain, wounds, and hurt can be healed. Never give up hope. I hope, that even in the silence, that you celebrate you today. You’re a still mother regardless of how you are treated. 

To all the mom’s out there

            You’re not a mom just because who gave a birth, a mom is a woman who nurtures, cares for and loves children unconditionally. I know that today can be hard for many of you but I hope that even in your pain that you chose to celebrate you today because you deserve it!

Take a day to relax, catch a movie, have a spa treatment or just hang around those you love. I hope whatever you choice to do, that your day will remind you of just how special you are.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Leave a comment and tell me what makes the mom in your life special

Time to put away those spoons

  Wooden spoon    It was a normal day in my house, mom was cleaning, I was playing with my dolls, and my oldest sister was listening to records on the record player. (Does this show my age?) My sister’s favorite song just came on the stereo, “Take this job and shove it”. I can hear this song still in my head as if it was yesterday. My mom came into the living room, where I was playing, and told me I had to clean my room. How dare she say this! I was playing dolls! They were all lined up ready to hear me preach a sermon and she wanted me to clean my room? I told her, “No! Take that job and shove it!” Boom! I told her!

Not only did I have to clean my room now but I also got a whack with the wooden spoon. My parents were spanked, my siblings and I were spanked. You know “Spare the rod and spoil the child” an ancient proverb that is better translated as “refuse to discipline and you get a spoiled child”. My parents were not abusive by any means but I would argue even they could’ve put away those spoons.

How does discipline work without the spoon?

  • Identify the problem

(You are looking for more than just their sin nature here) Why are they disobeying? Throwing a fit? Or being mean? If you do not know ask them what is going on.  Are they tired?  Are they hungry? Are they feeling sad over a recent event that has affected them or your family? Are they exploring and learning new things? Is it information overload?

Example: Johnny you just hit your sister. Why did you hit her?????

Johnny “Because she took my IPod from me!”

  • Identify the emotion

Is your child feeling sad, angry, depressed, guilty, determined, frustrated, threatened, or lonely? By finding out what the emotion is they are feeling you can better handle the problem.

“When your sister took your IPod you felt ___?"

“I hate her! She is always taking my stuff!”

  • Teach them to change the emotion

Johnny hit his sister because he feels like she is taking her stuff all the time. Most children only know two emotions: love and hate. It is important that children learn to identify more emotions because it will make them much healthier adults.

“Johnny you hate your sister?” When your sister took your IPod what other emotion could you have felt besides hate? How about angry? Sad? Annoyed? Instead of getting angry and hitting her what could you have done differently?

  • Teach them to problem solve

The ability to problem solve is a skill that will carry them through life and help them be more responsible adults. We problem solve when we look at a problem and think of different ways to handle it.

“Johnny instead of hitting your sister what is another way you could’ve responded?” (Have Johnny come up with several different ways and talk through each of them)

  • So what is their punishment?

I am a huge fan of making the punishment fit the crime. Johnny hits his sister and then mom spanks him.  This teaches Johnny that when I feel emotion it is ok to hit. Instead of spanking try:

  • Time outs - Consistency is the key. They sit in time out one minute for every year they are old, if they get up, you say nothing to them, and you just put them back.
  • Take something away - Since the IPod was involved in the incident take the IPod for a reasonable time period. I suggested a few hours to a day.
  • Have them write a note - Sometimes when children are really angry with someone it is punishment enough to have them list all the things they like about the person they are angry with.
  • Talk it out - Children, just like you and I, have bad days and do not know how to express emotions. The best gift you can give them is to teach them life skills that make them a better adult.
  • Give them a hug - sometimes, especially tots, throw fits because they are overstimulated and just need a hug to make everything better. (Remember as adults we also need hugs.)

Spanking them is too easy, it’s a great frustration releaser for the parent but it is not effective in teaching life skills. No one is going to spank them as an adult. You should stick with punishments that model life to them. Take the time to teach your child in the midst of conflict. Also, remember that change does not happen overnight. Just like you and I, it’s a process. Be consistent. Be patient and be loving. It will pay off in the end.

What to do when your child is constantly misbehaving

My child is constantly misbehaving and I cannot deal with it anymore!


My husband and I have this phrase we often like to use “Where is the handbook?” Seriously these precious little beings coming into our world. They have a mind of their own, their own personality and no one bothered to send a manual with them! I mean how nice would it be to turn to page 5 and read about


“When my child constantly wants to miss school do this.”

Instead we get to figure it out on our own.

Steps to behavior modification

  1. Find the source of the problem. How is your child winning by the way they are choosing to act?

Maybe it’s the only time they get your attention?

Do they get their favorite treat when they act up?

Do they get to sleep in if they choice not to get up in the morning?

  1. Create a rewards/ punishment system

Children between the ages of 3 and 12 need very specific steps.

Create a reward and punishment

Make sure to follow through

Need an example?

Susie is not getting up in the morning. A few changes have recently happened in the home. The most recent in the addition of Susie’s little sister Aubrey. Mom and dad are busy attending to the new baby. Susie has realized that if she puts up a fuss in the morning and refuses to get out of bed, she misses the bus, therefore her father has to take her to school. Susie has learned that by missing the bus she gets alone time with daddy. Her dysfunction is serving a function.

(Its important that Susie learns she can get alone time with mom and dad without missing school so set up date nights or one on one time with her)

To get her to school:

  1. Make expectations clear. Susie you have to be up at 6:30 a.m. dressed and downstairs by 7:00 a.m. and ready to be on the bus at 7:30 a.m. with coats and mittens on. If she meets those goals she gets a reward. It has to be a reward that she really wants.
  2. If she fails to meet the expectations, then she loses the reward or has to give it to someone else.
  3. Don’t give up

Behaviors do not change overnight. They involve awareness of the problem and consistency.

Try a behavior modification and see if it works! If you have questions just ask!