Posted in boundaries, emotion regulation, empathy, home, motherhood, parenting, relationships, Uncategorized

What do I say to my kid, when love seems to hurt

My husband stood holding down my son as he screamed, “Mom! You’re hurting me!” We were both sweating and crying. He was squirming and probably thinking I was terrible, because (in his mind) I was the one causing him harm. Was I torturing my son? No. He had a splinter. Attacking a constantly moving hand with tweezers while your victim, I mean patient, struggles is horrible.

I needed to take out the splinter, causing a small amount of pain, to avoid him experiencing more lasting and damaging pain. As parents, we have to endure this phenomenon of being the “bad guy,” who is actually protecting them, very often. Causing your child pain is the worst part of parenting, whether it is for their health, consequences to teach appropriate behavior, or saying “no” when they demand you say “yes.” Remembering that sometimes their immediate discomfort, or sometimes pain, at our hand is an investment in their development as a kind, persevering member of society is important. Here are a few more thoughts.

CREATE EXPECTATIONS BEFORE EVENTS OCCUR

One boundary we will set with our children, as did my parents with me, is limited homes where sleepovers are allowed. It can make kids scream and cry and sometimes feel left out. However, with my husband’s, who is also a therapist, and my experiences with clients we are very intentional about our children being in vulnerable positions with people we do not know well.

We will not wait until the sleepover fever of elementary school days begin to share our boundary with our children. Whenever sleepovers are mentioned in books, life or movies, it is going to be a constant conversation. This way, it is seen as a known expectation and not as a punishment or “trying to ruin their life” as some teens dramatically insist of their parents.

As children get older, it can also be helpful to share the reasons behind the boundary. It needs to be age appropriate, but this can help avoid the recipe for defiance and dishonesty resulting from an authoritarian response of, “because I said so!” When children know there are boundaries and that those boundaries are intentional, it can be easier for them to accept them.

FIND YOUR VALUE OUTSIDE OF YOUR CHILDREN’S OPINION OF YOU

The more you parent, the more you will receive all types of resistance from your children. They will not like you at times throughout their childhood and teenage years. We love our kids and want everyday to be one where they know their needs are met and greet us every moment with hugs. However, more often we will be on the receiving end of an “I don’t like you” or “go away.” With toddlers, their dislike is sometimes communicated through the silent treatment or their preference for the other caregiver. Our emotional needs will NEVER be met by our children. I repeat, our emotional needs will NEVER be met by our children. If we look to them to be our comfort or validation, it will cause major problems.

Children know when someone’s expectations of them is too much. They cannot be our supports and it does harm them. They may sense our distress at times, and that is ok. We need to have other ways to receive comfort. Our children need to know that whether they are a jerk to us, or not, our relationship with them is unchanging.

When our kids do not meet our emotional or physical expectations, such as being unkind, disobedient, or uncooperative, it is important to treat them with continued care. There is no need for silent treatment or no passive aggressive comments. Do not withhold loving actions, be sure to speak to them with kindness, and give them consequences when they misbehave. These actions will be the greatest lesson they will learn. They are not responsible for anyone else’s emotions.

ALLOW YOUR CHILDREN TO EXPERIENCE CONSEQUENCES

The biggest indicator I have seen of a child’s future, is how their parents handle their failures. This can be failure to comply with parental rules, school expectations, or even laws. Parents want their children to have a happy life, free of pain and difficulty. If we intervene to rescue our kids, they will never take responsibility for themselves.

In these situations, the dialogue will become strenuous. It will become more difficult to persevere when they beg for “help.” However, if we begin the cycle of keeping them out of “trouble” when their actions are deserving of the “trouble,” they will begin to experience entitlement.

Did they forget to turn in an assignment? Allow them to receive the low mark. Did their tardiness become excessive and they miss out on a field trip? Do not talk the teacher into “letting it go.” When they have earned the punishment, it is our job to help them cope, not help them avoid.

Remind them of their actions and their knowledge of the consequence. Allow them to be frustrated, disappointed, devastated, or angry. They may insist you betrayed them, or they hate you, but their immediate discomfort will protect them from a pattern of dishonesty. Speak to them in a loving manner, do not withdraw your love due to their actions. Persevere.

Perseverance is the mantra of parenthood. There is nothing easy about loving and guiding children into adulthood. Frequently, our love will be their “enemy” and we will experience the backlash. However, it is re-breaking the bone so that it might heal well.

Persevering alongside,

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 Uncategorized

What do I Say About…Grief?

Do you remember your first encounter with death?

What do you remember? Were there hushed tones and tears? Was it sudden and traumatic? Were the adults in your life carefully honest with you, carelessly brash, or so cautious that you were unsure what was really going on?

There’s a myth that’s especially salient in our western culture, particularly in the United States, that your life is what you create. This myth propagates the lie that you can cheat death and sickness if only you work hard enough, have enough money, eat well enough, exercise the right way, etc. etc… That death is a failure.

But in reality, death – and the grief that accompanies it – is never far away.

“The physical needs of humanity are quite obvious and yet easily forgotten until they are threatened. Our limits are realized in weakness: when hunger claws an empty belly; when physical ailment or surgery impede our movement; when we cannot force our bodies to stay awake a moment longer.

We have many needs beyond our ability. Continuing on after grief is a need beyond our ability. It requires capability and perseverance of body and heart, a strength beyond our reach.”

Erin Cushman, “Bright Hope”

For those of you who have a relationship with God, our own limitations and resultant dependence on God is a cornerstone of the Christian walk. Our limitations, up until death, can be met with the provision and caretaking of God.  

But in a culture that sees death as a ‘failure’ to be avoided and spoken about in hushed tones, continuing after grief is made all the more impossible when so many find themselves confronting it alone.

The quote from earlier comes from a daily devotional written by the founder of a non-profit called Hope Mommies that seeks to stand in the gap and provide connection to the grieving.

While no grief is comparable and every story is different, the loss of a child during or shortly after pregnancy is perhaps the most jarring as it so closely and intimately places the miracle of life next to the inevitability of death. A mama in our community recently experienced this grief and wrote about the power of community during that time:

“Hope Mommies is a non-profit organization that supports grieving mamas who have lost a child through pregnancy loss or infant death. The main way they support moms is through their Hope Boxes. This box is given to a grieving mama by either shipping directly to the mom, or as a gift in the hospital… With each box, a Mom is given comfort, but also an invitation to an entire community. Being included in the Hope Mommies community means you have someone who understands how you feel.

I received my Hope box about a month after my daughter went to heaven. My sister sent it to me via the Hope Mommies website and it was hand packed by a fellow Hope Mom. I didn’t realize the impact of a hand packed box from another mother with empty arms, until I was able to pack one myself. I cried and prayed over the box and was terrified to add it to the growing stack of newly packed boxes. It felt like I was sealing the fate of a mom who was going to lose her child. I felt a strange mix of being prepared to welcome a new Hope mom, and a desire for there to be no more Hope moms in this world.”

Holly Credo

So what do we say you should say about grief? About death?

In short, please just say anything. To bring its existence into the open. Talk about your own grief. Encourage your kids to talk about what they see, feel, and have questions about. Reach out to someone else. Accept and give help. Normalize the hard parts and the healing.

Because as unbearable as the weight of grief is, it is made lighter by sharing it with others.

With you,

Selena

*If you would like to donate to Hope Mommies, visit hopemommies.org/box-gatherings/give-to-a-gathering. If you are local to the Baton Rouge area, please select Holly Credo-Baton Rouge,LA as the “gathering host.” She is working to continuously supply Women’s Hospital with Hope Boxes.

*The Mommy Therapist is a part of a book launch team for Erin Cushman’s book, Bright Hope. I (Selena) am reading through this devotional and have been so encouraged by its messages of truth, life, hope, and light.

If you are interested in purchasing Bright Hope, it will be available December 1.
Everyone who donates to Hope Mommies on December 1 will receive a copy of Bright Hope and swag (merchandise).
Bright Hope will be available to purchase online via Amazon on January 1.

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 anger, coparenting, empathy, grief, parenting, relationships, trauma, Uncategorized, values

Confronting Communication in this controversial world

“Do you even have a brain?” may be an overarching sentiment throughout today’s dialogue. The tone of the home is often found within the culture of the outside world. In these times, the overwhelming atmosphere of polarization is seeping into our families. Politics, COVID precautions, parenting, and so many other issues have become divisive rather than topics for discussion. 

Navigating these subjects with our spouses can be very difficult. The tendency is to become reactive, condescending and dismissive. This can cause small fights to become point-making episodes that will erode the relationship.

Here are a few options to consider when disagreements arise:

LISTENING VS. LITIGATING 

When we believe something strongly, we often have a list of relevant arguments on file in our brains. (Or is that just me?) We know the common attempts to refute our thoughts and the best rebuttal. A conversation becomes more like a trial for certain ideas. 

That is not how communication with our spouse needs to function. We need to listen, not only for the words they are speaking, but for what is below the surface. We know this person. We have dedicated our lives to being “one flesh” and molding our wills into a compatible force. When something triggers deep emotion, it is normally about something much more. What is that underlying fear or hurt they are attempting to outrun, out-reason or out-act? Listen deeper than the argument that you deem idiotic or shortsighted. 

Some insistences that wearing masks are ridiculous might stem from the panic response the body creates when feeling trapped. What trauma are they experiencing? Is it about more than just their decision that wearing masks “isn’t for them.” Often, when we are able to listen beyond the words and enter into their world, we can speak to the core issue rather than the surface defense.

RESPONDING VS. REACTING

As previously explored, look beyond what is said. This is easier said than done. How come? We also have underlying reasons for our reactions. It can help to evaluate our own stances and the reasoning behind them. 

This way, we are able to hear what is said without our own filters. These filters may color our partner’s arguments with more meaning than they intend. As an example, have you been frustrated at your spouse’s suggestion that they may not get the COVID vaccine? Are you simultaneously grieving an elderly loved one? Consider the connection between these two seemingly unrelated events.  

The words spoken are not what causes the emotion, it is the history we contend with in our own minds. When we understand our worldview, our own traumas and why we feel how we feel, we can respond with more calm than if we react to our own underlying histories. When we know ourselves, we can also share where our passion comes from. Bringing the cause of emotion into the conversation allows understanding. 

A great method to begin this conversation can be using “I” statements. This is a format often taught in counseling as a means to express difficult ideas. “I feel __________, when you _________, because _______________ . Next time, I would like if you would ____________ .”

This can be “I feel unheard, when you complain about COVID restrictions, because I am still grieving over losing my Grandmother. Next time, I would like if you would acknowledge my emotion as valid.”

ASKING VS. ASSUMING

Part of the “love verses” in scripture that is read at weddings and quoted ad nauseam in 1 Corinthians 13 is that love “always trusts.” (verse 7) It believes the best. When we assume that the other person is intelligent, caring, and wants the world to be a better place, we can ask questions without an ulterior motive. 

Questions can be healing or very damaging. When done with an agenda, or in an attempt to shame or manipulate someone, it can harm. However, when we seek to really know the answer of the question we ask, we can begin to communicate. 

Attempt to start on a level playing field. Ask what you do not understand. Ask without condescension and without agenda. Ask to know what is going on in your spouses mind. Seek to understand their perspective. 

Another way to find common ground, a way that helps me and is in line with my belief system, is making prayer part of the equation. When I pray to understand my spouse, pray to hear what he says, pray for compassion for him and pray to be able to communicate my own thoughts, I find that things go better. I am able to shed my defensive walls and make my hurts more exposed. It becomes more of a place of trust and I am able to approach with humility. 

All of these ideas make one assumption, however. They assume that you and your spouse are seeking to be a team, partners. These points do not work when one or both of you are attempting to have control or manipulate one another. If that is the case, I would recommend finding a marriage counselor to help balance the dynamic in the relationship to be in a healthier place.

I know this season is difficult. Tensions are high and passions run hot. It is possible to disagree and come to some type of compromise. However, this depends on your ability to approach your spouse with empathy and understanding. When you understand the “why” behind their “what”, the core of the issue can be discussed without hiding behind current issues. This gives birth to a new kind of intimacy – one where mutual respect and knowledge pave the way to better comprehension. 

Listening and evaluating,

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 Uncategorized

How to Talk to Your Kids…About the Election

If you have a kid that is even slightly exposed to the news/adult conversations, then chances are that they know at least something about our pals Mike, Kamala, Joe, and Donald. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot going on during this election season. Frankly, there’s been a lot going on this year. It can sometimes be hard even as an adult to grasp the breadth and depth of the issues surrounding this election and the candidates involved, so can you imagine what it’s like to try to wrap your head around all of this as a kid?!

Some of you may be thinking that your kid doesn’t know that much and isn’t affected by the climate during this election season. But if this election season is affecting you, then I can guarantee that your kids have picked up on something. Kids are AMAZING observers (oftentimes not of the things we want them to notice…), so they probably know – or at least feel – more than you think.

So what do we say to our kids about the election? One thing to consider is that the way you talk to your children will vary vastly depending on their maturity and age. This will be specific to you and your family, but for our purposes we will break it down into two categories: concrete and abstract thinkers. Our kids think in more concrete terms until around the age of 12, when abstract thinking starts to develop. This is a gradual process, so feel free to pick and choose for what fits best for your family!

Talking to younger children, or our concrete thinkers:

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors taught us the acronym KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. I honestly cannot remember the context of the lesson, but I use a version of this all of the time when talking to my own kids or teaching parents how to talk to their own kiddos. Until children move into more abstract thinking, giving long, detailed, and nuanced responses to difficult topics is just…well…ineffective. Play to the strengths of your concrete learner and Keep It Simple.

The best way to implement KISS is to remember to only answer the question your child has asked, and to answer it as succinctly as possible.

Example:

What is an election?

KISS Answer: An election is where people all say who they think will do a job best and the person who has the most people choose them wins.

You don’t have to go into details about how casting ballots work, what the electoral college is, etc., unless your child asks. The beauty of KISS is that is helps parents feel more comfortable answering kids’ big questions because you are only taking it one question at a time.

If you child asks about the election and then asks a follow-up question, answer them. And then keep going. If you end up talking about the electoral college and popular vote and swing states because your kid asked about them, then congratulations – you fielded a lot of really complex questions! But try to stay away from all of the details if you child doesn’t ask about them. If you get bogged down in the details, the answer your child was really interested in will get lost as they get confused or tune out.

If you are raising abstract thinkers…

No matter what you say or teach your kids or how you do it, they will grow up to be adults who disagree with you on one to one million different topics. It’s a good idea to start learning to tolerate differences now. When your child asks you about a political issue, instead of telling them your opinion and stopping there, I encourage you to offer them two (or more) different perspectives and ask them their opinion. This is most effective when you offer the perspectives in a fair and factual way.

If you’re anything like me, there are things that you actively hope and pray that your kids grow up to think and believe. But the facts are that we can control what we expose them to, but not what they choose to do, think, or believe. While it can be tempting to try to expose your child to your opinion and way of thinking only, this would be a missed opportunity. Instead of teaching your child what to think, teach them how you made your decisions. Help them to understand why different people believe different things and make a genuine attempt to help them understand why. Doing this not only offers your child a richer understanding of your perspectives, but it also encourages their critical thinking and tolerance for people who think differently than they do.

This election season means a lot to many people. There are feelings of hope, fear, anger, exhaustion, and everything in between. But no matter what happens on November 3rd, teach your child that the people involved – the candidates, the voters, the “other side” – are people. Just like you. Just like your child.

There’s no one magic way to talk to your kids about the election. Meet them where they are at, offer connection and compassion, and encourage their curiosity. It’s hard to go wrong from there.

Having the hard conversations with you,

Selena

Posted in anger, boundaries, emotion regulation, grief, home, isolation, Jealousy, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, relationships

What Do I Say to My Kid When…..I Have Emotions

We have moved recently. My husband preceded the family to our new home and I was left to manage two kids, a dog, a PUPPY (see the grimace), pack a house, transfer my clients, and say goodbye to my closest family and friends. Cue the overwhelmed, head in the pillow, scream. Handling life, especially when it is complicated (like always), can be difficult. There were moments of crying from the sheer immensity of the task ahead.

Trying to navigate the world of emotions while parenting, can cause us to either stuff feelings or lean on our children for support. Neither are healthy for them or us. It is important for children to see emotions and notice positive coping skills. They do not need to live in a “safe” world where Mom and Dad are never frustrated, sad, anxious or angry. They also do not have shoulders big enough to help carry our burdens. How can we find a balance?

COMMUNICATE IN AN AGE APPROPRIATE MANNER

It is important to be honest with our children. They see more than we would like to admit and experience the atmosphere of our homes. Our faces tell them when we are having difficulty with our day or our situation. If they ask about our tears and we insist that nothing is wrong, we not only lie to them, we invalidate emotions in general. 

It is important to give age appropriate responses. This could be saying, “I am really sad and I miss my friends back home” rather than “I am lonely because I do not have friends.” The simple version does not overwhelm little ones with the big emotions and does not give them a problem they need to “fix”, i.e. no friends.  As kids get older, the words can be more complex, but it is vital to keep them from feeling as though they have to change your circumstances or make your feel better. This bleeds into the next point.

MODEL APPROPRIATE COPING SKILLS

As I spilled the millionth item in my kitchen, I grunted in frustration and then took some deep breaths to avoid screaming or hitting my counter. You know who that impacted the most? My son. He was able to witness Mom using deep breathing to calm down just like she encourages him to do all the time. 

It helps to call attention to the use of positive or negative coping. I admit, I yell at my kids sometimes. I hate that I do it. I do not want to do it. But it slips out. The fact that I yell is less impactful, than the fact that I apologize. I tell my kids I am sorry and I reflect on the negative coping that I utilized. This helps to normalize the mistakes of negative coping and recognize that there are better methods to dealing with emotions.

SEEK APPROPRIATE SUPPORT

It can be tempting to utilize children as emotional gas stations. We are sad and need a hug? Ask a child. We need some affirmations? Ask a child. However, that is a manipulation of the parent/child relationship. They do not exist for our emotional fulfillment. When we begin to rely on them, we fail them as parents and we cease to be a healthy place for them.

We need to have others that we can rely on. A spouse is an important confidant. However, there needs to be at least one more. When you are fighting with your spouse? You need to have some you call. Ideally, it is someone that can remain objective, someone that has no ulterior motives and someone that can help be both encourager and devil’s advocate. Someone that is trustworthy. Complaining about your spouse to the co-worker you secretly find attractive? Maybe not the best idea. Processing disagreements with a person that can provide sound counsel and keep things confidential? Much better.

It can be hard to find reciprocal relationships where support is provided. If you are in a more isolated stage and no one can be reached by phone? It is ok to use a professional. It is why mental health professionals are so helpful. Utilize someone that is trained to explore your difficult emotions, rather than using your child as that sounding board while they are still children. 

Emotions are natural. Emotions are necessary. Recognizing emotions and navigating them well, is a skill that we must impart as parents. When we are struggling, it can be so difficult to parent with healthy boundaries through that process. However, being able to see a parent struggle, cope and emerge on the other side of hard things, can set a child up for not only a stronger internal identity, but ensure they experience an atmosphere of stability. 

Emoting all the time,

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 motherhood, parenting, relationships

Let’s Talk About Faith, Baby

Disclaimer: This post references my personal Christian faith and religious practices. However, it is not intended to be exclusive to those who identify as Christians. It is my hope that the content of this post is relatable and inclusive to folks of various religious and spiritual backgrounds.

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so

Most people who have spent any time in a church or around Christian people have probably heard the song, “Jesus Loves Me” at some point in their lives. This song is known for being sweet, simple, and reassuring. It is a reminder that we are loved, we are protected, and we belong. For Christian folks who believe in Jesus, it is a personalized love-song often sung throughout their lifespan, beginning as early as infancy. I recall this song being sung to me when I was a young child, and I recall singing it in years past to my own son as I rocked him to sleep each night. As a child, this song provided me great reassurance of love, protection and belonging. As a parent, I prayed that my son would experience that great reassurance too. And, while I could still cradle him in my arms, I truly believe he experienced just that.

Faith and spirituality have been core-values of mine for many years, and my husband shares them as well. My husband and I met in college, and at the time, we both strongly identified with the Christian faith. We even co-hosted an alternative-Christian radio show on our college radio station. Our shared faith and spirituality became foundational as our friendship blossomed into a dating relationship and, finally, a marriage. It remained critical to us as we navigated the early years of our marriage, a pregnancy and the birth of our first and only child. It brought us through many highs and lows and anchored us in times of uncertainty. For both of us, faith and spirituality have served as a source of strength, peace and purpose; and we wanted to ensure that our son had access to the same. 

Once our son was born, we were diligent about praying and reading the Bible to him daily. Even when he was a newborn, we read a Bible with simple illustrations and text designed especially for infants and toddlers. We brought him to church services, worship events, social gatherings and volunteer activities regularly. We enrolled him in vacation bible schools, observed Advent at Christmastime and held weekly devotionals together as a family. These types of activities have consistently been a significant part of our family for the duration of our son’s decade (and counting) of life. 

Recently, as I was driving my son home from school, he initiated an important conversation with me. He asked if he could talk to me about church. Immediately, my heart sunk. Did something happen to him? I wondered. 

I was relieved to find that he wanted to discuss his thoughts on church and, ultimately, faith and spirituality. I watched as my growing boy navigated through fear to express his thoughts to me honestly. I sensed his anxiety as he disclosed his perspectives, understanding that they did not all totally align with my own. I felt the weight of the moment, knowing that this was a crucial point in our relationship. I knew that his decision to be vulnerable with me was a risk and that my response could impact our relationship moving forward. 

To be honest, I had mixed emotions during our conversation. Was I disappointed? A little. Anxious? Yes. We raise our children in hopes that they accept our values and integrate them into their own lives as they grow up. We teach them about our faith and expose them to our spiritual practices in hopes they might adopt them as their own. However, I was also struck by my son’s courage and grateful for the trust that existed between us, allowing this moment to happen at all. And, this superseded any disappointment or anxiety I was feeling and compelled me to listen, learn and support my child.

I think about other people who have different thoughts or expressions of faith and spirituality from myself, including other Christian believers. These are some of my closest friends and family members. I think about important conversations I have had with these folks, consisting of similar riskiness, vulnerability and shared trust. Each time one of these conversations occurs, particularly about faith and spirituality, I feel so humbled and honored to share such depths of our beings. In these moments, I am not concerned with converting but with connecting

As parents, we can become hyper-focused on the expectations we have for our children. Of course, it is quite reasonable have hopes and dreams for our children as well as certain behavioral expectations intended to guide their development. However, when these expectations obstruct relational connection, parents may want to consider reevaluating their why. 

Upon having this conversation about faith and spirituality with my child, I realized that my why is a muddled mix of love and fear. Lovingly, I want my child to experience the reassurance of love, protection and belonging I mentioned earlier. Fearfully, I want to control the trajectory and outcome of his life. Watching as he slowly outgrows the simplicities of childhood, I am reminded how little control I truly have. 

It is often said that love and fear cannot coexist. In Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler write, “It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” They continue by explaining we must continually choose one or the other, especially when our commitment to love is challenged. Kubler-Ross and Kessler remind us, “Everymoment offers the choice to choose one or the other.”

Every moment. 

I hum “Jesus Loves Me” and read through the sweet, simple lyrics again. I am choosing love. I feel the twinge of fear, worrying about my son’s outcome. Little ones to Him belong. I am choosing love. I feel reassured by my faith, comforted that all of humanity is loved. I am choosing love. I feel another twinge of fear, worried about my son’s outcome. Little ones to Him belong. I am choosing love. 

Crystal Loup

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 Uncategorized

What Do I Say When… My Kid Lies

Some developmental milestones are lots of fun, and others…well, they’re not so much fun. Lying is one of those milestones that I could really do without.

I don’t like lies. No, not even the small ones. We don’t even tell our kids the jolly man in red is real (we say it’s a game that everyone pretends together). So lying was a milestone that I have been dreading years.

One of the first challenges of lies is discerning how to distinguish between lies and pretend. Around the age that kids begin to lie, they are in season full of imaginative play:

The floor is the ocean and our rug is a boat.
There is a girl in our house from the Orange Planet.
There is a monster hiding in the tent FoR rEaL.

These aren’t lies, but rather the product of full and vivid imaginations. Lies normally become a problem when our kids use them to hide things from us. Our kids learn that we are not all-knowing, and pretty soon you are watching your kid hit his brother and telling you that he didn’t even touch him.

Once they learn that you don’t actually see and know everything that they do, they begin to realize that they can lie. And those first lies are motivated by their primary need: connection with us. Addressing lies at an early age is an important part of establishing and maintaining honesty and connection for the lifetime of the parent/child relationship. When kids begin to lie, they do so in order to maintain a connection with the trusted adults in their lives.

Scenario: Every time your preschooler breaks something, you fuss/punish/yell/get disappointed. Your preschooler interprets your reaction as disconnecting. Your child realizes you didn’t see what happened and experiments with lying to you in order to avoid a threat to their connection to you.

If a child’s first lies are all about creating connection, then how we respond to lies is of the utmost importance. Try these tips for responding to your child’s lies:

Offer empathy: “If I broke a lamp, I might be feel bad or nervous to tell someone.”

Reassure: “I love you always. What you do does not change how much I love you.”

Create an Expectation: “It’s important to tell me what really happened. Saying what really happened, which is also called “the truth,” helps me keep everyone safe. The truth also makes our relationship stronger.”

Connect: If your child tells the truth, praise their honesty. Give them a hug or a high five. Focus on connection first, then you can establish any necessary consequences later. If you can maintain connection through the consequence too, that’s ideal. For example, cleaning up a spill or mess together.

When we teach our kids that it is safe to make mistakes around us, then they are going to be less likely to lie to us when they make them. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have rules, boundaries, and consequences; kids feel safest when parents establish secure boundaries. But if we want honesty, then it is up to us to establish connection first.

Here are some ways that you can create a culture of honesty in your house:

Teach about Truth with Games

Truth and trust are difficult concepts for preschoolers to fully grasp, but we can begin teaching them in simple ways. One fun way can to do this is to talk about the environment around you. Tell your kids that you are going to say one thing that is real and true and one thing that is not true or real. Then get silly! For example, if you are outside you can say: “The grass is green and the trees are made of gummy bears.”

This is the kind of silly game that appeals to preschoolers and can get your whole family laughing, fostering connection while teaching an important concept.

Model Honesty

Make the conscious choice to make honesty a priority in your home. Our kids are experts in our behaviors and moods by the time they can talk and they are going to imitate much of what we do. This means that the easiest way to teach our kids how to be honest is to do it ourselves.

Talk About Your Mistakes

Whenever you make a mistake, don’t try to hide it from your kids. When you are able to share your own mistakes and emotions about the mistakes you make with your kids, it shows them that you trust them as well. Connection and trust become a reciprocal experience.

For example: You burnt dinner and have to order pizza. Say, “I was really embarrassed when I burnt dinner (restating what happened, naming emotion). I know you might be feeling hungry or disappointed (empathy). I am sorry (apology, if necessary). Are you excited for some pizza?! (connection)”

When I fuss at my oldest when he lies to me, he physically runs away from me. I am learning through experience that if I value honesty and authenticity more than I value my connection with my child, then I am likely to lose both. Teaching our kids about honesty is crucial, but connection is far more critical. My hope is that we continue to increase both in all of our homes.

Pursuing trust and truth together,

Selena

Posted in Uncategorized

I Just Can’t Do It

“I just can’t do it,” are the famous words of my four year old when he does not believe in his ability to accomplish something. His self-efficacy, his belief in his ability to do something, has everything to do with whether or not he will start something new or do a seemingly cumbersome activity. If honest, we often feel this way as adults too and would rather not start something if we think we might fail.

How do we help our kids believe in themselves when we do not believe in ourselves some of the time either? We want to build our own self-efficacy to model and help our kids build their self-efficacy. We often need to regroup and reboot to start believing in ourselves, and our children need this too.

REGROUP and REBOOOT for Parents

Identify negative thinking patterns contributing to “can’t do it” attitude like the following.

  • I’m not good at this sort of thing.
  • I wasn’t cut out to be this kind of parent.
  • This is too hard, too much, too overwhelming.
  • I remember a time when I failed in this area before and replaying that memory.
  • What if I fail?
  • I should be able to do this.
  • My kids deserve a better parent.
  • If I can’t do it perfectly, why do it at all.

Calm down to regroup by using relaxation or calming skills. We have suggested coping skills throughout the blog including but not limited too: breathing, exercise, mindfulness, art, music, something spiritual, spending time with friends, engaging in a pleasant activity, and journaling.

Reboot by replacing the negative thinking with more rational and positive thinking.

  • This is challenging, but I will do my best.
  • Even if I can’t finish this task today, I will start.
  • I am enough for my kids.
  • Today was rough, I made mistakes, and tomorrow is a new day.
  • I only have enough strength for today not for every day in the future.
  • Who can I ask for help on this?

REGROUP and REBOOT

Listen as they say they “can’t” or show you they can’t by having a meltdown or a fit. Listen for the negative thinking. You can call it “stinking thinking” with them. Help them calm down. They will not be able to change negative thinking until they calm down! They may just need a hug. If they need more than a hug, a calm down corner is a great way to help them regroup.

Ways to regroup for kids in a calm down corner:

  • Deep breathing
  • Hug a parent
  • Hug a stuffed animal
  • Count
  • Draw or color
  • Listen to music
  • Exercise
  • Drink some water
  • Say a prayer
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Read a book

Help your child reboot with strong, healthy thinking by helping them solve the problem. Remind them of times they have succeeded in the past when they did not think they could do it or when they completed a similar task.

Suggestions to help your child reboot:

  • Would you like some help?
  • Can we start the project together?
  • Let’s set a timer for ten minutes and just get started on the homework.
  • What if we count all of the blocks as we throw them in the bin to clean up?
  • Want to listen to music while you do this?
  • I believe in you.
  • You are a great problem solver.
  • I love the way you are thinking this through.
  • You have an amazing brain, and I am here to help if you get stuck.

Though this may not work every time, my hope is that it will help. The other day when my son was saying he could not do something that I knew he could, I showed him the times he has successfully completed the task before.  I encouraged him. I helped him get started. After he successfully completed the task, I said, “Was that hard?” He replied, “No that was easy!” I hope you receive some positive feedback as you are helping your child believe in themselves as you too are working on believing in yourself.

Day by day,

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, goals, home, isolation, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, relationships, selfcare, selfcompassion, Uncategorized, values

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt is a very real phenomenon. Often, no matter the influence, no matter the intent, no matter the action, parents second guess their parenting decisions. Mom guilt can motivate us towards change, or it can be a destructive, shaming rabbit hole that leads to paralyzing self-condemnation. 

These two extremes are present in our lives, but often have more subtle nuance. For example, I awoke at 3:00 AM one morning and rode the rabbit hole of destructive mom guilt for about an hour before I was able to succumb to sleep again. The concern behind this spiral? Whether my four year old was getting enough active time.

My evidence? We moved into a smaller house so he cannot run around as much inside, we haven’t been to the park very much and he’s currently not in a pre-k program to encourage activity with his peers. 

The verdict? I was a horrible Mom that was not doing enough. 

Terrible? Yes. 

Unhelpful? Definitely. 

Unreasonable? Completely. 

The direction that mom guilt often projects us into, is one that is not productive for our emotional health, mental health, or parent/child relationship. Here are a few ways to battle against this minefield when it rears its ugly head. Ways to combat the worst ever game of wack-a-mole.

MEASURE AGAINST REALITY

As I wrestled with the trial of my parenting that 3:00 am had brought me, I was slow to come to my own defense. I hammered myself with the failings I supposedly contributed to, but I did not present the case that we are a newly transplanted family. I began to chronicle the various accusations and hold them up to reality. 

A smaller house? Yes, but living somewhere that would provide more bearable weather to endure outside play time. 

Infrequent park trips? The weather had been in the triple digits. That’s not healthy for anyone. 

Not in a pre-k program? We have lived in our new town for about a month. 

Being able to invite reality into our emotionally elevated headspace, can be difficult, but it is vital. We are often our own worst enemy, but doing accurate self-reflection is important. We can see ways we are not meeting our own realistic expectations and make plans to correct our behavior. It can also give us a reprieve when the spiraling mind is being irrational and intensely vindictive. I would also not recommend having those moments in the early moments of the morning. News alert: Your brain is definitely not being rational. 

MEASURE WITH A FRIEND

We all need someone with which we can be vulnerable and accountable. Someone that will offer us some reality with love. This can be correction if we are not living up to the needs of our children or guiding us toward better reality testing if we have gone off the rails. 

I must insist on something, this CANNOT be a social media account. Reality testing cannot be done through the highlight reel of Instagram. All parents look like rockstars if they choose to on this platform. All rooms cleaned, multiple activities for the children and they are rocking this homeschool thing. Can this be done? Maybe. Everyone has their own strengths.

These honest conversations can be held with someone that knows your strengths, can call you to be the best parent you can be and will not prompt you to do more crafts with your kids if that’s not your thing. We talk about a mom tribe, but more important than a mom tribe is that one friend that will be a taste of rational thinking when the tornado begins. 

MEASURE YOUR MIND

One of our greatest weapons when dealing with errant thoughts? A similar tactic we use with toddlers. Redirection. Spiraling about how few clean clothes your family has while you are doing laundry? Put on some music. Put on a TV show. Call a friend. Derail the thought train, because there are no helpful depots along the track. Thought stopping is a great way to combat anxious rumination and depressive spiraling. 

Sometimes it helps treating your mind like a tantruming child. Check for hunger, exhaustion, need for a moment alone and then find something different to focus on. It needs to be something that can consume your mind, so not necessarily only an action but also something that you enjoy. Find a way to make yourself laugh, yell at the dishes and then sing your favorite Hamilton song (“Work, work! Angelica! Work, work! Eliza! And Peggy! The Schuyler sisters!” is my go to). 

The self-flagellation that often is the result of mom guilt is very unproductive. It cripples the joy that comes from parenthood and wraps every event in the “not good enough” cast-off clothes. We deserve better treatment from our minds and our children deserve better parenting motivation. You do not struggle with this beast alone. Speak up, share concerns and allow others to speak into that rabbit hole. When spoken out loud, lies often scatter like bugs exposed to sunlight. Unproductive mom guilt lingers long after the problem area has been resolved and growth has begun. 

Letting in the light,

 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 back to school, comfortzone, coparenting, goals, home, motherhood, parenting, relationships, selfcompassion, social distancing, Uncategorized, unprepared

When School Comes Home

Is everyone tired of the word unprecedented?  2020, I’m looking at you! 

So, let’s try something different.  How about remarkable?  Is that annoying?  

Remarkable means worthy of attention, striking.  Unprecedented, in contrast, means never done or known before.  

What if we did an exercise in reframing?  Maybe 2020 with all its unprecedented remarkableness could be an invitation?  Instead of putting so much focus on the unknown, we could remember what we do know and pay attention to it.  Please don’t hear me downplaying the difficulty and grief of all that we are encountering – some to degrees beyond my comprehension.  What I am simply saying is that we have the ability to choose our focus.  We can remember what we know instead of all the things we don’t.  Everything doesn’t have to be unprecedented.

Most of us know how to love our kids and meet their needs in ways that no one else can. Many of us are looking at a year that could include the word homeschool.   Just saying it may cause you anxiety.  I’d like to offer some reassurance and hope.  It might not be easy, especially for those who are trying to juggle a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be terrible.  This could be an occasion to understand parts of your child’s education experience that you hadn’t previously and an avenue for deeper connection with them.  This is true whether you are actually doing the homeschooling yourself – as in choosing their curriculum and teaching it, or whether you are helping facilitate their online learning.  This year doesn’t have to be a drudge.  

We are on our eighth year of homeschool.  It has been wonderful and winsome in so many ways, but I wouldn’t use effortless as a descriptor. There are humans involved.  It’s the push and pull every day.  Our wills rub up against each other.  Homeschooling has allowed me ample opportunity to instill larger lessons in my children that I’m still learning too.  Oh, don’t worry, I know how to add and subtract and I can tell you a fair bit about the Enlightenment.  What we are working on together is patience, grace, self-discipline, and so many other things that we fail and try again at every day.   

Our culture by in large has reduced education down to the insertion of knowledge, but without wisdom knowledge is anemic.  Wisdom is cultivated through love, compassion and humility. Wisdom is the framework of values that knowledge rests upon.  It is taught most effectively as it is modeled.  As parents, we are uniquely capable of giving these things.  

So, don’t fret about creating the perfect school setting at home.  Don’t stress over choosing the perfect curriculum.  Do the best with what you have in front of you, and trust the one who created education to guide you as you seek to teach or help teach.  Be diligent, but rest in His faithfulness and delight in the present. Julie Bogart says in her book The Brave Learner, “Connect to your children. The academics matter, but they follow. Your children’s happiness and safe, supportive relationship with you come first. Believe it or not, your children are happiest when they believe you are delighted by them.”  And I would add that when they are happiest, their mind will be most open to learning.  So, just stick with what you know.  Love them well and nourish their imaginations.  Block out the voices that are tempting you to make it more complicated or feel less than capable.  

A reminder to all of us – education is a lifelong adventure.  In its truest form it begins in wonder and ends in wisdom.  Take a deep breath and notice the wonder around you.     And in the words of St. Jerome, “It is our part to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot”  

Grace and Peace to you this school year, I hope it’s remarkable!  

Amy

PS – I highly recommend the podcast Read Aloud Revival.  Enjoying books together is one of the easiest ways to learn.  

Amy Spencer has been married to Ryan for 21 years.  They have five boys ages 13-3.  She dabbles in interior design and enjoys studying history.  As you can probably understand, she never uses the restroom without checking the seat first.  

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.