Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, CEO of Gateway Corp in Sacramento

Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, CEO of GatewayCorp in Sacramento

Guest blogger Dr. Jessica Rodriguez is the CEO & Clinical Director at GatewayCorp in Sacramento, offering addiction, trauma, and family system services, and the CEO of OnSiteStrategies in Roseville, which is a sponsor of the Banana Moments Foundation. 

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I have spent a great deal of time researching the impact of negative body image messages that our youth face.  Whether secular or non-secular, within family systems, the school system, church, social media or literature, many of our youth live within unhealthy, dysfunctional, non-supportive family systems, and thus develop faulty beliefs about themselves and harmful behaviors which can lead to poor self image, unhealthy choices, behaviors to including eating disorders, addiction, process addictions, sex behaviors, and more. As you know from the research, information and trainings of Banana Moments Foundation, the complexity that social media, cyber world activities and the epidemic decline in family values, morality, sexual exploitation further complicate the world through the eyes of our youth.  I am passionate about sharing this information to bring about a greater awareness for parents that may be reading this article.

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Twenty years ago, I was the Clinical Supervisor for a large foster care agency and supervised eleven behaviorists. The population we served was adolescent whom for one or more reasons were removed from their parents and placed in the foster care system.  Several significant factors about our clients were that they came from an impaired family system.  In this system, they were subject to deadly habits to include, criticizing, and blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, forms of unhealthy control.  At the core of these precious human beings was confusion, disconnect, abandonment and shame.

Some of these experiences were also taking place in their school and for some church.  Many were exposed some of the same in the care of their foster care provider. That was twenty years ago and the experience of what I refer to, as “deadly habits” has not gone away.

These kinds of experiences inspire negative self-images, fear of being authentic and fabulous, and create faulty belief systems and lending a distorted image of oneself and deep shame.  A toxic and shameful belief system says, “Something is wrong with me.”  When our youth internalizes shame, it pervades them and they separate behavior from their personal worth and value.  Shame causes adolescents to disconnect from their feelings. For those who hear the message of being bad, inadequate, ugly, fat, stupid, worthless, a mistake, a burden, that they will never be anything, dirty, damaged goods, trust they can and will disconnect from their feelings. For our youth to live with shame is for them to be alienated, defeated, and never quite good enough.

The impact of shame on your child

Shame is about worth and value, it becomes a matter of their identity.  It causes our youth to feel exposed and vulnerable.  For them to exist with shame causes them to feel quite good enough, or to be a part of or belong. Shame can present as a very isolated experience that can make them feel completely alone, deeply sad and unlovable.

“I am not good enough, I am so ugly and fat and no one can love me.”  – shame thoughts that torment the soul…

What we have evidenced is how shame contributes to negative body image issues, thus eating disorders, self-harm, addictive behaviors, and other negative coping patterns.  I want to encourage parents to be mindful of your words and consider caring habits (as opposed to the deadly habits) to include being supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences with them. Our youth deserve healthy, loving support systems, direction, correction and boundaries.

Tips for parenting for healthy self-image

  • If you are a parent or caretaker that wants to engage prevention in hopes to circumvent unhealthy harmful behaviors, I encourage you to become more aware of what is going on in the life of your youth. Visit their school, be aware of what messages are coming forth from the pulpit, create time to know who they are spending time with and be sure that the places they are visiting are free from negative, harmful and shaming experiences.
  • Listen to what they say, spend quality time with them and validate their needs.  Commit to evaluating what they spend time doing.  Make a realistic healthy assessment of the time they are on their phone, video games, computer or watching television.  Determine whether their engaging is appropriate and if not, be the parent and address it.
  • Take an interest in their education and support them towards a memorable and successful education experience. Sacrifice some of what you want, need, and afford your attention, your time to be present in their life.  This is a very critical time, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, they will not be youth forever.  Youth also require clear expectations, instruction and when necessary consequences for unacceptable decisions and actions.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your youth, remind them of their value, worth, how much you love them, how beautiful they are, let your actions be loving, nurturing, kind and consider a caring habit belief system.  A quality relationship is the key to their overall wellness and success.
  • For you parents who are weary or have met a place of intolerance, impatience, just not knowing what to do, to strengthen your spiritual life. Develop healthy relationships with individuals who have your best interest and that of your family at heart.

Help for parents

If you are an adult who has generationally encountered deadly habits, shame, guilt, co-dependency, enabling, and enmeshment and act out faulty beliefs, negative self talk and behaviors, lost yourself, your divine purpose and destiny, we can help you.

Dr. Jessica Rodrigueez is the CEO & Clinical Director at GatewayCorp in Sacramento, offering addiction, trauma, and family system services.  We have an integrated behavioral health and an Invitational Intervention service and training provider.  If you are a doctor or clinician and have an interested in advancing your knowledge and skills in the area of addiction, family systems and other clinical specialties, check out the educational programs to provide current, relevant and cutting edge training’s and CEU’s @ www.onsitestrategies.com

Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

If you are a believer I am led to encourage you to go back to basics, read and ponder on three of the near 25 scriptures about children in the WORD, Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 4:9,Colossians 3:21.  You can contact Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, CEO & Clinical Director at 916-529-2343 or email, drj@gatewaycorp.org. See www.gatewaycorp.org

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CCLogoAbout:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).