Posted in anger, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, grief, motherhood, parenting, relationships, selfcompassion, social distancing, summer, Uncategorized

I’m Sorry, but We Can’t: Navigating Disappointment

“I know you wanted to do ________, but we can’t right now.” Sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve said it to your kids many, many times since March. If you’re anything like me, you’ve said it to yourself many times as well. My latest submersion in the pool of disappointment was Saturday. After coming in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19, my family went from limiting people interaction, to eliminating the interactions. 

Celebrating a holiday in a more subdued manner is so sad. I love to celebrate and have a reason to do fun things that make a day special and different than an ordinary day. I decided, even if the day couldn’t be the hanging out at the pool and jumping into a large crowd to watch fireworks, at least I would treat myself to a milkshake. Of course, the shake machine was down at Sonic! I mean, come on! Disappointment radiated through my fourth of July. 

As this pandemic continues, everyone is a little too acquainted with disappointment. How do we cope with this disappointment, and how do we help our kids navigate this emotion? It is especially difficult when you are disappointed for them. Your child was supposed to graduate, visit a theme park for the first time, have a birthday party, see the beach, or merely finish out the school year with their friends. Our hearts hurt when our children do not get to have the childhood we dream for them. Our hearts hurt even more when they express disappointment and we cannot change the circumstances. Here are a few points to consider:

RECOGNIZE DISAPPOINTMENT AS A PRIMARY EMOTION

When people, especially kids, experience disappointment, they often express it through anger. After all, it is more socially acceptable, and seen less as weakness, to explode in anger rather than dissolve into tears. When a child isn’t able to do something they prefer and they throw a tantrum, recognize the primary emotion. 

Call attention to their feeling of disappointment, validate their sadness and their original desire. Recognize their anger as a protective reaction to a hope that went unfulfilled. We can all relate. Even small disappointments seem monumental to a child, even a teenager. 

Those without their frontal lobe fully developed (anyone under 25) have some trouble regulating their impulses. They forget to utilize coping skills, and often do not want to regulate their emotions. When a feeling is validated and empathized with, the intensity often dissipates. Sometimes it is tempting to belittle the experience, or tell a child that they are over reacting. This moves us to the next point:

VALIDATE, VALIDATE, VALIDATE

Just because you cannot understand the intensity does not mean it is an overreaction. They may not respond in a respectful manner, and that can be given consequences. However, the intensity they feel is partially due to age. Disappointment is new to them. In some ways, that is a positive reality. Some young people become desensitized to disappointment because it is their constant reality. 

Being able to experience disappointment, means you allowed yourself to dream. Recognize the hopes, expectations and dreams that must have been held before the disappointment. Validate the emotion, discuss what was expected or hoped for and give them room to feel.  This is a great way to model empathy. The same needs to be done for you as well. Acknowledge and feel your disappointment. Validate your own emotions and seek out those empathetic friends that will validate them as well. 

Crying over disappointment can seem immature or being “overly sensitive.” But experiencing that depth of emotion can merely mean that you give yourself freedom to hope and plan and dream – something that adults often do not allow themselves to do. Teach your kids that having that freedom to experience disappointment is okay and actually a mark of healthy emotional expression.

MODEL AND TEACH HEALTHY COPING

When you give yourself permission to experience disappointment, you give your children an example of healthy emotional regulation. But you also give them a front row seat to witness healthy coping.  If you had great hopes for a birthday and it does not happen, it is okay to express the disappointment. This may include a few tears, or just a glum expression. When they ask for an explanation, tell them how you feel. However, it is key not to stay there. 

Feeling emotions are crucial for a healthy emotional life, but so is coping. We would not allow a teenager to mope for an entire weekend over a cancelled date, so neither can we. Express the emotion, process the emotion and cope with the emotion. This can be putting on some music, choosing a different task or merely engaging in some physical activity. 

Some people cope best by processing the emotion with a safe person and as a result they are able to continue on with their day. Others people struggle to move past the emotion. That is where the distraction technique we utilize with toddlers can come into play. Distract yourself with something this is possible and will make your heart a little lighter. You favorite song, facetiming with a friend, listening to a comedian, watching a good movie, going on a walk, creating something or taking a bubble bath. Find something that helps you cope, allow your child to recognize that you are engaging in these coping activities. Work with them to find a few methods that help them as well. Having a list of helpful coping skills on the refrigerator might be very helpful during this time that is filled with more than normal disappointments. 

This feeling of loss, of sadness, of missing something, is uncomfortable. However, if we suppress it and ignore it, it will come out in a maladaptive manner. More importantly is that we can teach our children to handle it the same way. Refusing to acknowledge disappointment may result in no more dreaming, only expressing anger or a temptation to belittle others that express disappointment themselves. 

Remember, feelings aren’t wrong, they are valid. Feel them, express them, but also be intentional about coping with them as well. You can do this!

Moving through disappointment to the other side,

Allyson

Someone please find me a milkshake!

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boredom, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, home, isolation, loneliness, parenting, summer

The Doldrums of Summer

“I’m bored!”

Complaints of boredom almost always arise during summertime as kids adjust to idle days after months jam-packed with school, sports, and other activities. Now, as we are all moving through a summer in which our vacations, camps, and road trips have been cancelled or postponed and many of our plans changed or been put on hold, our kids are likely to encounter boredom more than ever.

It can be tempting as a parent to try to prevent boredom in our children, especially when our kids are asking us to try to solve the ‘problem’ of boredom for them. We want our kids to have access to enrichment and learning activities, to engage in team sports and learn how to play instruments. We love seeing our kids light up whenever they are being delightfully entertained and sometimes, frankly, we just need some time alone to work or rest.

However, parents should be slow to jump in and ‘fix’ boredom. There are many ways that we, as parents, can guide our children through their boredom and help them learn more about themselves while empowering them to emotionally regulate.

Try Connecting

The fact that our children usually come to us with the cries of their boredom is a clue that one of the reasons our kids get bored is because they are lonely. Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K., describes boredom as a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied. So much of a child’s learning comes from social interaction and our increased isolation during the time of COVID-19 has increased the potential for everyone, especially our kids, to be a little lonelier.

Try to listen to what kind of boredom your child is experiencing. If it sounds like loneliness, you might look for ways of connecting your kids to their friends more. Try a combination of ways to connect that can also ignite your child’s creativity, generosity, or kindness. Provide stationary, letters, and envelopes or help coordinate facetime phone calls between friends, even with younger children. It will still be meaningful even if the video call is short and distracted. If you have older kids, it is fine to have rules about socializing over screens that mimic your in-person rules, such as having to be in a common area while on a device and having a “curfew.”

Some children, younger kids especially, may simply need to feel your empathy and connection through their boredom. Normalize the feeling of boredom, listen to what they have to say, and help them problem solve. If you have time to play, certainly take the time to play. But connection will also happen through the simple act of taking the time to make eye contact, listen, and simply be with them. Kids rarely have “run out of things to do,” and instead just need a break to be with someone for little while.

Model Boredom

One of the most impactful ways that we can help our kids with their boredom is by engaging with our own. When we keep ourselves busy or distracted by screens, we start to lose our ability to move out of our own boredom. It is easy to drown out our boredom with podcasts, tv, and scrolling, but in the process we lose our ability to be creative in alleviating our own boredom and become dependent upon outside stimulation.

Boredom has been found to be a fount of both creativity and emotional processing. Dr. Mann states that, “Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. It’s really awesome, actually.”

When you are bored, your brain begins to do amazing things. It is the space in which your brain sets goals, assigns meaning to your past, and processes emotions. It is also the space in which we dream up new solutions to our problems. It is really tempting in this season of boredom, burnout, and uncertainty to want to check out at the end of the day (or even mid-day) and just numb out with some Netflix. But just like our other emotions, boredom communicates something important to us. If boredom is the unmet need for stimulation, then boredom, like hunger, is simply trying to get us to pay more attention to what we really need.

Just like with our kids, boredom can be delayed by constant entertainment, but that will just make creating stimulation for ourselves so much harder. We can model good mental fitness by allowing ourselves to get bored during the day. This can look like engaging in menial activity, practicing mindfulness, sitting and thinking, or even just putting away our screens.

Provide a Space for Exploring Boredom

Personally, the hardest part of allowing my kids to be bored is letting go of control. Younger kids learn better through concrete experiences so while a teen may find themselves lounging under a tree and getting lost in their thoughts during productive boredom, toddlers and preschoolers tend to be a little, erm, *messier.*

Create space, perhaps both inside and out, in which your kids can explore. Set up a drawing station or pull out some play dough. Dedicate a section of your backyard to dirty and messy play. Have a cache of puzzles, books, or other engaging activities on hand. Set a time everyday during which everyone has alone time in a space made special for them. When we give kids ways to constructively work through and process their emotions, including boredom, they are more likely to grow into adults with healthy emotional regulation.

Many of us are still finding ourselves in survival mode this summer, but boredom is one thing that we don’t need to run from. Let’s all lean a little harder into boredom and see what amazing things happen.

Being bored and brilliant with you,

Selena

Ducharme, J. (2019, Jaunary 4). Being bored can be good for you—if you do it right. here’s how. Time. https://time.com/5480002/benefits-of-boredom/

Kovelle, K. (2020, March 25). Boredom is OK! Here are 13 ways to help your kids embrace it. Metro Parent for Southeast Michigan. https://www.metroparent.com/daily/parenting/parenting-issues-tips/boredom-is-ok-for-kids/

Zomorodi, M. (2017, April). How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas [Video file]. Retireved from https://www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas?language=en

Posted in empathy, Jealousy, motherhood, parenting, values

When Life Isn’t Fair

“Life isn’t fair!” How many times did you hear those words as a child? It probably provided little comfort or reassurance in the moment even though it’s true. Oftentimes when life isn’t fair, we experience an array of emotions including jealousy.

Jealousy is an emotion that can cause humans to act in ways incongruent with who they are or their value system. Jealousy leads toddlers to steal the coveted toy from a friend, kids to make fun of others for a talent, teenagers to pick apart each other, and adults to gossip or harbor bitterness. We have all experienced jealousy and will continue to experience it. Jealousy will happen. It’s what we do with that emotion that matters. How do we manage our own jealous feelings in a way that makes us feel proud of who we are and teach our children to do the same?

There’s a workbook I use in my practice called What to do When It’s Not Fair: A Kid’s Guide to Handling Envy and Jealousy by Claire Freeland. The theme of the book centers on pirates, and it encourages kids to put down their “spyglass” looking for other’s treasures and focus on the treasure they already have instead. We often need to put down the spyglass scoping out what others have. We don’t want to model having a spyglass and being consumed with what others have. First because it makes us feel lousy inside, and second, because the feeling of jealousy followed by the jealous behavior of keeping score will likely be picked up by our children.

We all have triggers of what makes us jealous. Some are predictable, and others may catch us off guard. Our kids have triggers too. We are often quick to reprimand being jealous over another kid’s toy and remind our child of how many toys they have. However, it’s not much different when you see someone with a new handbag, phone, or car and feel jealous yourself. Try tapping into that empathy written about in last week’s blog to help your child through jealousy rather than dismissing their jealous feelings.

In Mercer Mayer’s book Just So Thankful, Little Critter’s mother reminds him of something children and adults alike need to remember. “‘There will always be things you want but you don’t have,’ Little Critter, she said.  ‘What’s important is appreciating what you do have…’” Whether it’s the health of a child, behavior of a child, cleanliness of a house, appearance, affluence, influence, and the list goes on and on, we will be and our children will be jealous of what others have. Gratitude can help reduce the jealousy. Gratitude can boost our moods and keep us grounded.

At the end of the day, I want to raise children who experience jealousy and know how to cope with it. I want to teach them to manage that feeling instead of giving into every want they have to keep up with the Joneses because it’s easier for me and appeases them. As a parent, I value gratitude and want to raise grateful children rather than entitled children. I want to model gratitude over entitlement.

Consider the following steps to help you and your child navigate this week’s emotion.

  1. Identify when you/your child is feeling jealous.
  2. Normalize that jealousy happens/provide empathy to your child.
  3. Put down the spyglass.
  4. List what you are grateful for in your life/work with your child to do this.
  5. Review that new things/seemingly perfect situations do not guarantee long-term happiness.
  6. Be glad with others for what they have. It’s hard, but oh so, freeing!

Striving for joy and contentment,

Andrea

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in emotion regulation, empathy, parenting

Ouch, I Feel It Too

This summer, we focus our attention on emotional awareness. In the weeks ahead, we will dissect individual emotions, explore their purpose, the way they manifest themselves in us and our children, helpful tools to handle each emotion, and ways to guide our children through their intricate characteristics.  As I began to write out my thoughts about a common emotion experienced and mishandled by yours truly almost daily, I was confronted with a more foundational component to exploring these emotions that arise in response to our daily experiences and thoughts regarding our worth, our relationships, our desires, our dreams, and our purpose.  Empathy.  Without having the foundational value of caring how others are feeling, we can have the most keen emotional awareness, but not enjoy its benefits.  We simply cannot expect to benefit from knowing our emotions, how to handle them, and what might cause them if we don’t have the ability to care about the emotional experience of others.  The recent pandemic has reminded us that we were designed for connection.  Our lives are intertwined in such a way that our emotions impact the emotions of others, and vice versa.  Empathy is a key for understanding and navigating the interconnections of our emotional lives. 
Empathy, the skill of caring what another person is feeling, is a challenge for everyone, including parents.  It is easier to empathize for the mom who is dealing with a sick child or a friend who is caring for her sick parents, but when it comes to the mundane, every day emotions that our children are feeling, empathy becomes a much more difficult skill to implement.  In all the demands of the day, addressing the ever-pesky anxiety, hurt feelings, or picky eaters can sometimes be overwhelming.  We can be inclined to see our children’s emotions as barriers to the things we need to accomplish throughout our day.  It can be tough to remember the intense sadness of losing something dear to us when the ratty, stuffed penguin goes missing.  It can be challenging to care about the fear experienced over a bee buzzing when the fear that we experience as a parent has desensitized us to the fears of a child.  Our child’s playground conflict may seem trivial when we have been yelled at by a boss or colleague.  The emotions of others may be hard for us to understand, but failing to empathize leaves our loved ones feeling unloved, unheard, unvalued, and sends the message “You are not allowed to feel.”  Relationships of any nature, whether spousal, social, professional, or parental, cannot thrive if we fail to practice empathy. 
As we explore each emotion this summer, even if you are not prone to feeling that emotion, I challenge you to ask, “What must it feel like to experience those thoughts and emotions?  How would I want to respond if that were happening to me? How would I need someone to come along side me if I were experiencing that?”  I challenge you to really put yourself in the shoes of those that are in your life: those that you love dearly, those that irritate you to high-heaven, those that can hurt your heart a little easier.  When you begin to understand how that might feel, take the time to tell them “ouch, I feel that too.”

Feeling with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Posted in anger, boundaries, comfortzone, emotion regulation, relationships, trauma, Uncategorized, values

ANGER IS NOT AN OVERREACTION

We live in a time consumed with anger. In light of the recent events, we need to evaluate the underlying causes of anger and it’s purpose, because when we see the expression of anger we only see one part of a much larger and more complex story. It is crucial to place anger within it’s bigger context so that it can be heard, processed and acted upon. Consider how you respond when your children ask about anger and in particular current events. Are you missing part of the story?

Anger has long been associated with many negative characteristics. These characteristics, such as, evil, out of control, unmanageable, or overreacting have created some damaging results. This can cause us to dismiss or disregard anger. As stated in previous posts, emotions are a “check engine light”. Rather than dismissing anger, we must pay closer attention.

 Anger has been placed in it’s own containment chamber and is often categorized as something “wrong”. It can be a scary emotion to experience, whether you are the angry party or are facing someone that is angry. It is vital that we do not teach our children that anger is unacceptable.

Even when we do try to dismiss it, anger has a habit of bubbling to the surface. Anger is considered a secondary emotion. This means that the underlying causes are hurt, fear, and/ or disappointment. These feelings are often considered “weak” and uncomfortable. It is important to pay attention to events and words that trigger anger, because it can expose a deeper wound that needs to be addressed. It can be easier to rationalize away hurt or disappointment, but when anger explodes, it requires some attention. Pay attention to when you are angry and explore what primary emotion you may be attempting to suppress.

Anger has long classified and harmfully stereotyped, a particular community, more than any other, within our country. A dear friend of mine shared her perspective, as a member of BIPOC community, in these words:

The Great Awakening

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” -Emma Lazarus

Martin Luther King Jr. has been propped up as the ideal African American after which black people are expected to model their behavior when in protest to how black lives are valued in the United States of America and all over the world. We have seen some protests that are not so peaceful as it comes a time when people enduring being ignored for so long and eventually have to speak in the language of the oppressive force as freedom is hardly ever given. It is taken.

A new age has dawned in which so much information is now available about our past so that we fully understand all the contributing factors as to why so called “black” people have fallen so low in society. The very idea that we are labeled “black” is symbolic of us being robbed of a nation, our own language, knowing our exact family lineage/history, etc. The anger that so many are witnessing throughout the black community today is the result of centuries of feeling and knowing that we were never really completely free-whether it be psychologically, economically, etc., compared to many other non-blacks within our society.

I am thankful an awakening has initiated, first of all among black people who are starting to think about how to improve our own lives, which in the past has been impeded by racist Jim Crow laws deliberately meant to keep us in the lowest tier of society while using psychological warfare with phrases such as, “pull yourself up from your bootstraps”- Boot straps that were stolen and burned in the past (Research Black Wall Street- Tulsa, OK-Greenwood and Rosewood).

When I am asked what allies can do to help during this awakening, I am often at a loss for words. The racial disparity which has existed for centuries and that is now being widely acknowledged, is woven into the fabric of this nation and is literally the foundation of it. Black people need a break to think, to organize and to be restored so to speak. How this happens, I am not sure, as many black people have been conditioned to remain in survival mode. It will take some powerful force to restore us and lots of mental work. Allies acknowledging this and speaking up for the agenda to restore black people is a great first step, while black people also make a strong commitment to improvement.

Be compassionate during these times, listen without judgement, ask questions, and/or do your own research when you don’t understand something, be “anti-racist” and not just “not racist”. These are just the first few steps of many to understanding and repairing a system that has been broken from the start. I have faith that we will figure it out, the anger will subside as the healing/restoration starts. However, the anger we see today is very transformative and as we consciously organize our goals for reformation, hopefully that anger is channeled constructively to build a more peaceful and inclusive world for our future generations.

-Tyquencia “Ty” Hal (Allyson’s good friend since 2005 😊 )

Anger prompts change. This is an unfortunate truth. Calm words and appeals are often ignored. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but the exploding engine receives the most immediate care. Our society has become a master at ignoring the uncomfortable. In response, as individuals, we often stick to our corner of sameness and avoid the tension that change prompts.

Change is not easy. It requires sacrifices. Those that fight the hardest are those that experience anger at their current situation. Anger can be fuel that propels someone into confrontations they have avoided with attempts to pacify. Confrontations can be positive, if both parties are willing to listen. An angry person, that is able to remain civil, will often be heard above a passive, peaceful voice.

We want our children to be catalyst for change, to have their voice heard, to be warriors. Don’t we? If that is your hope for your child, you need to teach anger, encourage anger, but model and teach it’s appropriate use. Anger can be something powerful, harnessed for good. We could all use a little more spark sometimes.

Sparking,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, therapy

I’ve Got A Feeling…or two, or three…

Back in March, Tiffany wrote an excellent post about checking in with your emotions. She beautifully described emotions as “a check-engine light for the soul,” and we figured that now is the perfect time for a tune-up. For the next several weeks, we will be checking in with one emotion each week with strategies for both parents and kids to help with identifying emotions, coping with them, and working through them.

As we dive into the world of emotions, I wanted to start us out with a word about the importance of talking to your kids about emotions.

The ideal balance is to have both high expectations AND high responsiveness in our parenting. One without the other is unbalanced (and we will all be unbalanced from time to time), but talking about emotions with our kids is just as important as teaching them discipline and boundaries.

Here are just a few reasons why we should talk to our kids about emotions:

1 – One day your kids will be grown-ups with their own grown-up emotions.

We spend a lot of time and effort making sure our kids know the things they need to know to be successful adults. We teach them math, manners, finances, and French. But knowing how to talk about, cope with, and regulate emotions is arguably the most important tool for success in the adult world. We need emotional regulation to cope with our adult relationships, adult stressors, and adult workplaces. And just like with any other skill, the sooner our kids start working on it, the more practice they will have and the better chances they will have to excel in it.

2 – Emotions help kids self-soothe.

Emotions can be big and powerful, and they can even be frightening whenever they seem to ‘take control.’ Being able to name emotions and the ways they make your kids’ bodies feel not only normalizes what is happening, but it also empowers them to talk about what they are experiencing and take appropriate action.

3 – Emotional health is critical for physical health.

If emotions aren’t processed and regulated, then they can manifest as health problems. Just like a lack of emotional regulation can lead to health problems in adults, the same can result in physical problems for kids too. This can includes symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, or weakened immune system function.

4 – Talking about emotions with our kids give us a chance to connect.

Talking to and teaching our kids about emotions can be hard and exhausting. It can also create more connection with our kids. Whenever we engage with our kids on an emotional level, we have more opportunities for compassion, empathy, and connection.

In the coming weeks, I want to begin by challenging you to become more aware of your own emotions. Here is an emotion wheel to get you started. Our kids are studying us all of the time, so the best way to start the conversation about emotions with you kids is to start leading by example.

Feeling with you,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, goals, motherhood, parenting, screen time, selfcare, summer

Survival Mode to Summertime

Stepping into summertime feels really different this year. Kids have already been at home for months, things are slowly reopening, and many summer plans have been put on hold. So how do we differentiate summer from quarantine life and move out of survival mode to summer mode?

Hopefully things are getting a little more normal for you. As you make this transition, I would encourage you to remember to do what is comfortable and best for your family. If that means socially distancing longer than your friends or letting loose now that the stay at home order is over, you get to make the choice for your family. A great thing we can do for our friends and family members is respect their decisions. On this Memorial Day, you can also take some time to prepare for your summer!

When You Were a Kid

What do you remember about summer when you were a kid? What did you love? What can you recreate with your family? Maybe a backyard kid pool and homemade popsicles made the list or water balloon fights and super soakers. We may have to get a little more creative this summer with safety precautions and not everything open. I would encourage you to make a bucket list with your kids about things you want to do over the summer. Planning and working your way down the bucket list can help get everyone in summer mode.

Reinstate Normal

Anyone still feeling like they are in survival mode? What do you need to implement to get back to normal that is within your control? In our house, I need a better morning routine, and we need to get back to our bedtime routine in the evenings.  Maybe its reigning in screen time or limiting self indulgence as a coping mechanism as discussed in previous blog posts. Communicating expectations and routines is beneficial for both you and your kids. It keeps you accountable and does not take them by surprise.

One on One

In her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Dr. Markham discusses the importance of one on one time. She suggests doing this daily for fifteen minutes with each child and calling it by your child’s name, for example, “Matthew time.” I realize this may not be feasible every day, but what a great thing for our kids to look forward to when we can! These little ones love spending time with parents. It also creates something predictable in the summer routine.

I hope this new season helps you get into a new mindset as you set out to enjoy some time with your family this summer. Life isn’t normal yet for most of us. We know summer will have great moments and hard moments as all parenting seasons do, but I hope you can enjoy the moment by moment of this season.

Diving in with you,

Andrea

Reference:

Markham, L. (2012) Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. New York: Perigree Press.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, coparenting, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, home, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, screen time, summer, therapy, values

A Sea of Screens

We have all witnessed the impact of too much screen time on our own mood and on our children.  We have heard about the importance of limiting our screen time, but often times we haven’t seen the specifics of what screen time limitations should look like or the detrimental effects of too much screen time.  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that we have all been required to be on our screens more than normal (and may have streamed an extra show or seven for ourselves or our children) the need for a screen detox is inevitable. It may be helpful to explore together just what our screen hygiene looks like and how we can change it to increase digital wellness.  

Averaging 7.5 hours of screen time per day, 8 to 18 year olds often suffer many difficulties due to steep overuse of screens.  The developmental impact appears to be most determined not by what screens are doing to alter brain development, but rather by what we are missing when we spend our time engulfed in the sea of media.  Sequestered in our homes, we neglect the rich benefits of outdoor green space which calms our nervous system and strengthens our attention span.  The constant hue of blue light short-circuits our circadian rhythm as we shield ourselves from the sun.  Exercise and its many benefits are traded for the slothful rhythm of autoplay, creating fertile ground for anxiety, insomnia, depression, and hyperactivity.  Emotional regulation, conflict resolution, and our ability to understand cause and effect are all stunted when we and our children don’t enjoy the fruits of imaginative, free play and movement.  Empathy, connection, and love are hampered when we substitute media for real embrace and eye to eye connection.

In the midst of a global pandemic, a temporary increase in screen time is to be expected.  For many of us, it’s the only way we have made it through the day with any semblance of sanity!  But however alluring the call to the sea of screens, we must return to the shore of digital wellness.  Unfortunately, we can often feel lost at sea, with no way to find our way back.  So what can we do?  Here are some helpful guidelines to get us started, as well as some additional resources to promote digital wellness in our homes:

  1. Limit screen time for adults and children in the home.
  2. Curate our use of media, opting only for those things we enjoy and avoiding pointless browsing/binge watching. 
  3. Assign times and spaces that screens are and are not allowed (ex: no screens at dinnertime and after 9:00pm or no screens or phones in bedrooms).
  4. Use software to protect children from inappropriate material. 
  5. Model healthy screen usage for your children.
  6. Decrease screen time slowly as you work toward healthier limitations
  7. Consider a 24 hour “screen sabbath” once per week, when screens are off-limits. 

Detoxing from our screen dependence will not be fun.  But it is necessary if we are to enjoy and fully embrace the life, real life, that’s right in front of us.

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

References:

Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, May 1). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx

Infographics – Screen Time vs. Lean Time. (2018, January 29). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html

Posted in Uncategorized

The Importance of Showing Up

The greatest impact my mother had on my childhood, was her presence. It is a huge thing to know that someone will be with you, no matter what you attempt. More than that, in these days of social media moms, we are being told that nothing we do is “enough”. There are always more healthy foods we could serve, a better routine we could create or more exciting activities we could promote. No longer is being a Mom something you can individualize to fit your children and your family. It has become more than a competition; it has become an impossible standard.

However, one of the most crucial parts of a parent’s job is to “be there.” This does not mean making every school event or every dinner time. There are parents that work full-time, part-time, and all the time (especially single parents). No matter the work/ life balance, there are still ways to be a prevalent fixture in a child’s life. Being present will communicate some very specific ideas. 

IT TELLS THEM THEY ARE IMPORTANT

School plays will be frequent, they will be horribly cheesy and they will be aggravatingly long. However, your child feels like a rock star on stage. When you make viewing an event a priority, it can show them that they matter to you. This does not mandate you be at every performance or even be there to see it live. It can be videoed and viewed with the child later. 

When you take something insignificant and insist on giving it recognition, it will make a difference. We often measure the love someone has for us by their willingness to be inconvenienced for our benefit. Willing to be inconvenienced, communicates that they matter.

IT TELLS THEM THAT THEY ARE A PRIORITY 

My mother had four kids. She did carpool with all of us and we were all very verbal children. How can you make each kid a priority? You give them one-on-one time. She instituted “show and tell”. We would sit with her at the table and unload our backpacks. We would show her graded papers, activities we completed and paperwork that was sent home.

Each piece of paper represented a sliver of our time that we wanted to share. More important than our desire to share, we felt as though she wanted to listen. We knew that we mattered more than getting dinner on the table or folding laundry. She did those things, but we knew that in that moment, we were the only thing on her agenda.

IT TELLS THEM THAT THEY HAVE VALUE

When you are sitting on the bench at a basketball game and never get onto the court, but your parents are sitting in the stands anyway, it makes a difference. Being a support when your child is in the periphery, matters. This tells them that they do not always have to be the star. They have value no matter how they perform and no matter what others think of their talents.

It communicates that who they are is not determined by their achievements. In a society where every parent has the “honor student” bumper sticker, and parents compete to elevate their children, this message is worth sharing. Your attendance says that your child being anywhere makes something a worthwhile event and it sets an example.

IT TELLS THEM THAT LOVE MEANS SACRIFICE

The way we recognize love, is often how we have experienced it. I know ways of being a parent and loving my kids, because of how it was modeled. Being present is not easy. It is not glamorous and it does not come with a medal. Most children will roll their eyes when entering adolescence and beg you not to “show up” so much. However, as loving parents, we ignore that demand.

Because when it is all over, when they have moved on and become adults, they will remember. They will look over their memories and meditate on their childhoods. They will barely see the faces of friendships past, or costumes worn or baskets made, they will see the fingerprints of your presence in their world. Your impact will be moments at a time, easily forgotten as a single event, but instead remembered as the landscape of their childhood.

Sometimes all we have to offer, is our time. Sometimes time is even a stretch and a sacrifice. However, when we feel inadequate and overwhelmed by the standards of “Instagram” moms, remember that your attendance is what is important. Your attention and your presence communicates and teaches more than any activity you could create. Be you and just keep showing up. 

Being present,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, relationships, selfcare, selfcompassion, social distancing

Self-Care vs. Self-Indulgence

Spending so much time away from our friends, communities, and support systems has been hard. Sure, all of the Facetiming and Google hangouts have been nice, but no matter how introverted you might be, we’re all starting to really miss our people. Our people are usually the support systems we turn to when things are hard, but when our normal support systems are absent or lacking, many of us have had to start practicing more forms of self-care to make up for the lack.

When you’re having a hard time and cannot use some of your normal coping skills, how do you know what kind of self-care to turn to? Or, how much? Or, when is it enough? When our lives were busier, the question was more often one of “How do I fit in good self-care?” Now that we are having to practice more of our own care and maybe even have time for it for the first time in a long time, some of us are now asking, “Is there such a thing as too much self-care?” We all need a way to respond to our negative emotions, but how do we know we are doing it right?

One of the most confusing things about discerning between self-care and self-indulgence is that many behaviors could be either.

  • Going for a run.
  • Sleeping in.
  • Eating a big meal of comfort food.
  • Taking a long bath or shower.
  • Taking time for yourself.

Each of these could be the care your soul needs, or might just be a way to numb out from your negative emotions.

So how do we tell the difference? How do we know if the things we are doing are helping our minds, souls, and bodies, or hurting them instead?

Let’s get on the same page:

Before we move on, let’s start with the Merriam-Webster definitions and go from there – just so that we’re all on the same page.

Self-care: care for oneself

Self-indulgence: excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims

Both actions are directed towards yourself and are meant to benefit you, but there are miles between their respective purposes. If self-care is caring for oneself, then things like going to the dentist, making sure you do your laundry, or taking time to stretch all fall into that category. Sure, those things aren’t very glamorous, exciting, or even necessarily pleasurable, but they do serve the purpose of caring for oneself.

Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is directed by the desire to receive pleasure, specifically excessive pleasure.

But what about things that are pleasurable and caring? Like lighting a lovely smelling candle and journaling?

Or what about things that are caring, but excessive? Like training for a marathon, but forcing your body to overtrain and getting an injury?

How does it make you feel about yourself?

One of the biggest clues about whether you are practicing self-care or self-indulgence is how you feel before, during, and afterwards.

Self-indulgence keeps you focused on your sensory experiences, but practicing self-care takes a more holistic evaluation of and communication with yourself. Self-care ultimately comes from a place of self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff explains that self-compassion “requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.” This is precisely opposed to self-indulgence. Where self-indulgence invites you to indulge in pleasurable sensations, emotional exaggeration, or numbing yourself from feeling anything at all, self-care requires tuning into your body and your emotions and looking for what your entire self needs most. Even, and maybe even especially, when it doesn’t feel good. Dr. Neff states that, “We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.” Sometimes sitting with our pain is exactly the kind of self-care that we need because it’s the kind of self-care that brings healing.

Self-care should leave you feeling more connected to yourself – physically, emotionally, vocationally, spiritually, mentally, etc. Self-indulgence, on the other hand, may leave you feeling worse. If your “self-care” causes you to neglect or harm important people or activities in your life, creates unnecessary financial burdens, or causes significant damage to your body, it is likely self-indulgence.

How do I stop self-indulgence?

The easiest way to get rid of something is to start growing what you want to replace it with. If self-care is rooted in self-compassion, then the best way to curb self-indulgence is to lean into self-compassion.

In its simplest definition, self-compassion is treating yourself with the same compassion that you would show a dear friend whenever they are struggling. If you want to take a closer look at some of the thoughts and actions that indicate your level of self-compassion, take a look at Dr. Neff’s self-compassion scale here:
https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ShortSCS.pdf

Do you have low levels of self-compassion and are stuck on what to do next? Check out Dr. Neff’s exercises for increasing self-compassion here:
https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations

If you’ve realized that you’ve been lower on self-compassion and self-care than you had hoped, or if you’re confessing to yourself that your self-indulgence has been getting a little out of control, then I urge you to remember that you are not alone. This has been a hard season for almost everyone, and we are all learning and growing together.

Learning compassion with you,

Selena

Resources:
Neff, K. Definiton of self-compassion. Self-compassion. https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.