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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Weathering the Storm

A derecho in the Midwest. A fire tornado in California. And now double hurricanes in the Gulf.

How very 2020.

I’m writing this from Baton Rouge, so hurricanes and tropical storms are nothing new around here. But preparing for a storm always feels a bit like a cross between a calculated gamble and taking a crazy risk. It’s hard to predict exactly what will happen when a hurricane hits, but one thing you always know for sure is this: if the worst happens and you aren’t prepared, the effects could be devastating.

Preparing for a hurricane feels a bit like deja vu at this moment in time. It feels like all I’ve been doing for the past six months has been preparing for an unknown future full of unpredictable and potentially devastating risks. We’ve all been living in the path of this year’s storm and frankly, it’s getting tiring.

So how does one weather the storm that this year become? In many ways, surviving this year is going to look like preparing for a real storm:

FIND A SAFE PLACE

Just like with any natural disaster, finding a safe space for yourself is essential to survival. Safety comes in many forms: physical safety, emotional safety, spiritual safety, social safety, etc. This far into the storm, it’s time to really evaluate the safety of your space because things don’t seem to be letting up yet.

If you are still trying to maintain toxic friendships this far into 2020, it is time for you to finally let them go. Been putting off going to therapy? Get in there and let yourself find rest in a non-judgmental and healing space with the comfortability that comes from talking to a stranger. Spend time pouring into your faith/belief system. Find friends who affirm you and don’t spend time with people who make you feel unsafe. Make sure that your surroundings are as secure as possible.

KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO

Two phrases that are important to remember in this season are “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” and, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Having boundaries isn’t selfish. Having boundaries is essential for everyone’s survival.

If you drive your car without refueling or neglect to send it in for regular maintenance, then you can be certain you will end up with a broken down car. If you neglect to get the restorative rest that you need (preferably the kind that doesn’t involve a screen), then you too will find yourself worn down and worn out.

Take a look back at some of our blog posts on emotions to help find out what check engine lights your emotions are setting off and how to cope. Then, evaluate your boundaries and challenge yourself to create changes that will make weathering the storm more manageable for you.

ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS

When a storm rolls in, things go quiet. The streets empty and people stay home. Schools and businesses close. Emergency and essential workers go into overdrive and the rest of us hunker down.

Sounds familiar, right?

Fam, the storm still hasn’t passed. We may be learning more about how to go out and survive in it, but we are still very much in the storm. So please stop holding yourself to your pre-2020 expectations of yourself. You may have more bad days. You are likely being stretched thin in ways you didn’t ever expect to have to find room to give. Have grace and compassion for yourself AND for others. This is HARD. We are NOT living in the normal.

You cannot expect yourself to be the same level of friend, mother, parent, or child that you were 8 months ago.
You cannot measure yourself by the standards you developed in a time of stability.

And this goes for after the storm as well. When a storm ends, things that were broken are not magically restored. Be patient and unyielding. You will need both endurance and empathy to come out of this storm well.

HOLD ON TIGHT, BUT ONLY TO WHAT MATTERS

Too often, those hit the hardest by storms have to make impossible choices. Coming out of a storm can be devastating, but it also provides an opportunity for creating life-giving change.

As a systemic therapist, I am always thinking about how systems work. Systems – from families and schools, to governments and economies – create feedback loops that tend to reinforce the status quo. Whenever something threatens the status quo, or homeostasis, of a system, then the system works hard to ‘fix’ the disruption and get things ‘back to normal.’ Changing a system usually takes and causes a lot of disruption, and these changes create at least a bit of chaos for the entire system. If one part of the system changes, then it must all change. A new stimulus requires a new response.  

I would be lying if I said that I am not simultaneously thrilled and terrified about the prospect of how the systems in our lives will reorganize as we collectively emerge from this storm. We are primed for change. We are primed for growth. Things are already being thrown into chaos, so the way is already being made for us to establish new patterns.

I urge you to take care of yourself. Seek help. Take space for yourself, and then take up the space that you need. Remain curious. Take the time to grieve the loss of what was so that you can be open to what is to come.

We need to stay strong for the rebuilding that is to come.

I’ll be right there next to you, tools in hand.

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 Uncategorized

What is Weary?

One morning last week as my husband and I were in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for kids, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know the word but I’m so…” I started spouting off feeling words that I thought would fit given his recent circumstances. “You are so worn out? Burnout? Defeated? Exhausted?” I kept striking out.  A few minutes later he looked at me and said, “I’m so weary!” Weary was the perfect word that I would never have guessed.

So what is the feeling, weary? It’s not on any of the feeling charts in my office. Some definitions of weary from the Merriam-Webster dictionary are “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness” and “having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted.” My non-counselor husband described what we both have been feeling off and on for months.

I am wondering how many of you have also been feeling weary. Weary after the prolonged summer, weary from no routine, weary from the news, weary from monotony, weary from virtual school, weary from a loss, weary from trials, just plain weary. No one wants to stay here permanently. What do we do if we are weary?

I think the answer is rest. Before you tune the remainder of this blog post out, thinking you don’t have time for any type of rest, read on and pick one small way to engage in rest. It can be physical, emotional/mental, or spiritual rest.

Physical Rest

Is it possible for you to physically get some rest and catch a nap while your partner or a friend watches the kids for a bit? Can you sleep in one weekend despite your long to do list? To do lists will never end. Maybe there are some tasks you can to do a little more leisurely and less vigorously to feel rest and not wear yourself out. Hydrate and eat decently. There is only one of you, lowering the expectations of how much you accomplish or produce in a day can give you physical rest and a sense of relief.

Emotional/Mental Rest

Our minds have a tendency to wander and live in the “what ifs” as our recent blog post addressed, ruminate over the past, and stay stuck in negative spin cycles. Guard your thoughts. If a certain topic or imagined scenario produces negative emotional reactions make the choice to stop thinking about it. Yes, easier said than done, but I would encourage you to take those harmful thoughts captive and alter your thinking. Gratitude can give you a break mentally. Mindfulness and meditation can help you stay in the present and focus on life without judgment. We can all use that! If you are constantly in your head and it feels like a battlefield, I would encourage you to talk to someone about it, journal your thoughts, and reach out to a counselor.

Spiritual Rest

When I think of rest from a spiritual perspective, this song, “Quiet You with My Love” from artist Rebecca St. James comes to mind. Through this song I imagine surrendering everything, especially the weariness and experiencing rest in God. Prayer, music, journaling, and reading Scripture are a big part of my spiritual rest. I would encourage you to do something to promote spiritual rest for yourself too. What feeds your soul? 

I have come to the somewhat defeating realization that I will never get done in a day what I want to accomplish. For my type A, task oriented, and achievement-loving self, I could be setup to live weary. If I reframe my thinking to remember that I am raising children and helping others, my mindset is lifted and broadened. Moment by moment, day by day, I encourage you to remember what is most important, I hope this mindset along with practical ways to help you rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually leaves you less weary.

Resting with you,

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 back to school, comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, goals, grief, home, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, relationships, summer, Uncategorized, unprepared, values

Ch-ch-changes

Change is always inevitable. As the saying goes, “the only thing constant is change.” That is more true in these tumultuous times than ever. As I type this post, I sit in a home with unpacked boxes and blank walls. During the craziness of a pandemic, my family has moved across state lines. More unsettled emotions and more disruption to routine await my children. 

It is important to focus on ways to support our children and give them stability amidst uncertain times. As we have previously discussed, their emotions are weaving through anxiety, grief, and confusion. The presentation of these feelings may come out sideways, but there is no question that they are struggling. School is uncertain and friendships are suffering from lack of time together. Here are a few ways to ensure our kids have what they need.

SET EXPECTATIONS EACH DAY

A way to reduce anxiety is to give the most information possible. As they wake up or join you for breakfast, remind them of everything on the agenda that day. It can include having a FaceTime date with a friend or relative, going to pick up groceries, spending time doing online school or even going on a walk. A few activities that you plan for the day or need them to accomplish, stated in a few bullet points. 

This can allow them to have a method for marking the days. As days run together it can become distressing for a child that is used to lots of activity. If it is possible, plan the day with your child and allow them to insert a few items they would like to do or need to do. This can provide some feelings of control. 

CREATE A SAFE SPACE 

My son is a fan of enclosed spaces. Give him a tent or box and he enjoys himself. Having somewhere a child feels safe can go a long way to aiding their adjustment to change. This can be a corner of the house where they can listen to music, read or draw. Having their own space, again gives them feelings of control and a place to turn when life seems out of control. 

Understanding their need for familiar things, and providing them time to seek out the comfort, you are validating their emotions and coping. It sets a healthy precedent for enduring upheaval later in life. It is also helpful to have a place of your own. Modeling healthy behavior aids in kids engaging that behavior. 

SPEND INTENTIONAL TIME TOGETHER

How often this is possible, depends on your life stage. Working from home with school age children having to do distance learning? Maybe once a week. However, setting up some activity to do with your son or daughter can give them the extra attention they need. This does not need to be finishing a thousand piece puzzle and hours of work. It can be reading together, coloring together or building a blanket fort. 

Kids love experiencing fun with their parents. They love finding ways to do things they know their parents are enjoying alongside them. It builds a foundation of security that lasts during times of uncertainty. Knowing that they have a way to connect with the most important people in their lives.

USE FEELING WORDS OFTEN

We spent the last two months focused on feeling words. On why they are important, how to cope and how to identify them. Revisit those if needed, its never a bad idea. Using feeling words when you are experiencing an emotion as well as identifying their emotions can give your relationships a common language. 

Some examples are: “Oh, I see you are so frustrated.” “I am really angry that, that car cut me off. Please give me a minute to listen to music to calm down.” “I am a little confused about what is going on right now, it can be scary”. “It is ok to be overwhelmed with all the change.” One of the phrases I use to most is, “It is ok to cry, but not whine. It is ok to be disappointed.” All of these comments allow for emotional intelligence, modeling and beginning conversations. The more emotions are discussed, the less scary they are for little ones. 

Change makes parenting difficult. It pulls and tangles our emotions and then we have to help our emotionally developing little ones navigate it as well. This season, that seems to last forever, is a tricky one. It begs for relief and we beg for stability. Let us find ways to be that stability for our children so they are able to cope effectively. 

Growing through change,

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

Getting Stuck in “What-If?” Thinking

I don’t know about you, but I was hoping for better. For several months, I held onto the hope that things would be different by the time school started. I hoped, both for my sake and my kids’ sake, that in the fall school would be able to resume almost normally.

But now that the school year is beginning, we know for sure that things are not going back to the way things were.

…and that’s about the only thing we know for sure.

The lives of families with school-aged children revolve – in many ways – around school. It’s how we plan our vacations, our activities, our drives or carpools – it’s the cycle that shapes our years, weeks, months, and days.

And now, that routine – that certainty– is gone.

We have more answers than we did a week ago, but almost everything has been up in the air or subject to change at some point. You’ve probably asked yourself at least one of these questions:

  • Where will my child be the safest?
  • How will I balance e-learning with going to work/working from home/caring for my other kids/caretaking for a family member/my child’s special needs?
  • What childcare will be the safest for my child while I am at work?
  • How do we keep teachers safe?
  • Will my child fall behind doing e-learning?
  • Should I consider homeschooling/private school/moving to a different school district?
  • Will my child be okay without as much social interaction?
  • And what are the long-term effects for my child going to be with each of these questions?

I want to grieve all that will be lost this school year, but for now, anxiety and fear are much more pressing. For many people who experience anxiety and fear, “what if” thinking can often dominate thoughts. This kind of thinking can be hard to turn off, which can start to affect sleep, moods, and even relationships. This kind of thinking is also exacerbated by external stressors, like job instability, housing concerns, schooling, political and social justice concerns, and, of course, a global pandemic.

Now, “what if” thinking in and of itself isn’t bad. In fact, it can be a really helpful tool. Chances are, your “what if” thinking has come in really handy for you at some point. “What if” thinking can lead to some serious mom wins, like when you already had band-aids in the car when your kid fell down at the park and why you already had a Plan B when your last babysitter had to cancel. “What if” thinking helps us plan ahead and come into the battleground of parenthood with an armory full of tips, tricks, skills, and resources.

But as with any tool, you can get seriously hurt if you misuse it or it starts to get out of control. And so, coping with our anxious thinking has become more important than ever, especially as we are having to make decisions on the fly for ourselves, our children, and our families.

Something as simple as shifting how you view your thoughts can be a simple first step. Viewing “what if” thinking as a tool, like I just described above, can help you see this part of you with more compassion. It can be really easy to blame ourselves, see our shortcomings as “bad,” and to fall into cycles of shame and being hard on ourselves. But this simple shift can make it easier to be kind to yourself and in doing so, give yourself more space to cope and grow.

Getting some mental distance from your thoughts can also help manage anxious thinking. A lot of times, the anxious thoughts that run away from us are rooted in illogical thinking patterns. Identifying and naming those patterns in your thinking can help you to gain enough mental distance from your thoughts to stop the cycle.

Here are a few examples:

  • Magnification and Minimization: Exaggerating or minimizing the importance of events. One might believe their own achievements are unimportant, or that their mistakes are excessively important.
  • Catastrophizing: Seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation. Overgeneralization: Making broad interpretations from a single or few events. “I felt
  • awkward during my job interview. I am always so awkward.”
    Magical Thinking: The belief that acts will influence unrelated situations. “I am a
  • good person—bad things shouldn’t happen to me.”
  • Personalization: The belief that one is responsible for events outside of their own control. “My mom is always upset. She would be fine if I did more to help her.”
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Interpreting the meaning of a situation with little or no evidence.
  • Mind Reading: Interpreting the thoughts and beliefs of others without adequate evidence. “She would not go on a date with me. She probably thinks I’m ugly.”
  • Fortune Telling: The expectation that a situation will turn out badly without adequate evidence.
  • Emotional Reasoning: The assumption that emotions reflect the way things really are. “I feel like a bad friend, therefore I must be a bad friend.”
  • Disqualifying the Positive: Recognizing only the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive. One might receive many compliments on an evaluation, but focus on the single piece of negative feedback.
  • “Should” Statements: The belief that things should be a certain way. “I should always be friendly.”
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: Thinking in absolutes such as “always”, “never”, or “every”. “I never do a good enough job on anything.”
    *Taken from TherapistAid.com

I don’t think we’re close to seeing “normal” any time soon, and in fact, both we and the world around us have been impacted so deeply that there will be a lot of healing that’s required before “normal” even becomes a possibility. So rather than urging you to “just hang on,” I want to urge you to stop, breathe, and give yourself credit for what you have done so far.

You have parented during a global pandemic.
You have parented through school shutdowns, quarantines, and the cancelled plans of summer.
You have had to create brand new routines for you and your kids.
You have been scared, anxious, worried, sad, and bored.
And I completely believe that you have been doing the very best that you can.

All. Of. The. Time.

You’re not alone. This isn’t just your crisis to handle. Ask for help, receive help, and give help. And we will be here with you walking through it all.

Moving forward 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 Uncategorized

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

 “I didn’t sign up for this,” she said as we talked on the phone about life. I could hear the feeling in her voice. I wanted to jump in the car, drive all of the hours it took to get to her house to talk, to help, to be there, but I couldn’t because…COVID. Two friends, states away processing parenting challenges, transitions, and COVID. We worked to find practical solutions knowing there is no ultimate solution.

Most of us have had numerous challenges during COVID, and I think many of us have had the thought, “I didn’t sign up for this.” All of those feelings piling up on one another: sadness, disappointment, worry, frustration, boredom, jealousy, and fear add up to the overarching feeling of being OVERWHELMED!  

One of my least favorite feelings to feel is overwhelmed. The world feels cloudy, heavy, and unclear. Sometimes our bodies have stress reactions like muscle aches, stomachaches, headaches, and chest pains when we are overwhelmed. We have behavioral changes like snapping at loved ones and dropping the ball on responsibilities. Maybe you are holding onto the thought that when things are “normal” again, I won’t feel so out of sorts, so overwhelmed.

The reality is we do not know when normal will be. That statement is overwhelming! Worrying about getting the virus, sending or not sending kids back to school, working or not working, being a full time parent and employee, missing friends, not seeing extended family, cancelled summer plans, tired of the mundane, wearing masks on every outing, and kids stuck inside is reality. What can we do to feel less overwhelmed?

Let’s meet overwhelmed with practicality. I want us to tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed one step at a time. The first step is to understand you are overwhelmed, acknowledge the stressors and feelings contributing to being overwhelmed, and realize that feeling overwhelmed right now is within the scope of normal. Take a breath, give yourself a break, and tap into one or more of these.

  • One day at a time.
  • Take it moment by moment.
  • Be present in the mundane moments with your kids.
  • Take social media breaks and news breaks.
  • Resist jumping to conclusions about what tomorrow, next week, next month will hold.
  • Find joy in the simple things.
  • Laugh with your kids.
  • Remember what is rational versus irrational.
  • Remain hopeful that a sense of normalcy will be restored.
  • Go outside for a few minutes each day.
  • Listen to music that lightens your mood and lifts your spirit.
  • Encourage a friend or family member.
  • Connect with someone you have been meaning to talk to.
  • Read something uplifting.
  • Watch a feel good movie.

I know these are simple, but small acts like these keep us grounded. They help us breathe and remember to get out of ourselves when that is really hard to do right now.  Ruth Chou Simons quoted a German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in her book Beholding and Becoming. What he wrote in the eighteenth century could not be more pertinent now.

“Cease endlessly striving to do what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.”

There are so many things that I want to do but can’t, and so many things I don’t want to do but must so that my household and business run. I want to invite you to do your best to love what you have to do right now after you take some time to choose a few practical things to feel less overwhelmed. Realigning focus will help us feel more content, and I am committed to doing that so I can feel less overwhelmed and more at peace with my current life. Please join me.

Journeying with you,

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 back to school, emotion regulation, social distancing, summer, unprepared

Is My Child Ready?

This summer, we are exploring the many emotions experienced by ourselves and our children on a daily basis.  Take a look at our previous blog posts on empathy, jealousy, boredom, and disappointment.  This week a guest blogger and kindergarten teacher, Alison Crubaugh, has an encouraging word and practical tips for parents as many of us battle feeling unprepared entering into a school year with many unanswered questions.

As a Kindergarten teacher, every spring I have families ask if their child is ready for 1st Grade. There is a natural concern and desire for parents to want their children to be prepared for the next grade. In light of brick and mortar schools closing and parents (and teachers) being thrown into a world of virtual learning, I have seen that concern from parents increase. Be assured the teachers and staff are anticipating a new beginning to the school year. Elementary teachers are aware that more students than in previous years may struggle to say “goodbye” to their parents those first few weeks of school. Our approach to beginning the school year will reflect this change. Older grades are also anticipating students who, under normal circumstances, may have no problems saying “goodbye”, experiencing anxiety or fear at the start of this year. As teachers prepare for this fall, the emotional needs of our students will be at the forefront. This will be a transition back to school that is unprecedented. Your child’s emotional needs should also be at the forefront of your mind as well. The academics will come. As teachers, we anticipate students who have not mastered all the previous grade level material. We are aware some content areas were never taught in a traditional sense. It is okay. We are preparing and adjusting to fill in those gaps. Don’t spend this summer worrying about if your child is prepared for the next grade academically. They are prepared. It might look different than previous years, but they are ready for the next grade. To help your child be prepared academically, the best thing, the most important thing, you can do this summer is read. Read to your child and with your child. Have your child read independently. If your child is not yet reading, they are still a reader. Read together through storytelling, read the pictures by labeling what you see, study the pictures in nonfiction books to discover something new. Read daily and your child will be ready for the next school year. Spend time this summer, especially the weeks leading up to the return to school, exploring the emotions of returning to school. Don’t start the night before school starts. This is a big transition as many students have been away from school for five or six months. Here are some ideas to help you and your child prepare for the return to school.

  • Create a social story to read the weeks leading up to the return to school –  Include how your child will get to school, things they will do at school, and how they will get home, reassuring them they will see you at the end.
  • Visit the school – you will probably not be allowed inside but you can help your child be familiar with the outside/location. For older elementary students, talk about the areas of the school. Do they have a special wing for each grade level? Where is the art room or gym in the school? Help them to realize they are more familiar with the school than their emotions may be telling them.
  • Create a goodby routine – For example, hug, kiss, I love you and then mom/dad leaves. Keep it short and sweet. As a teacher, I see how dragging out the goodbyes makes it more difficult for the child. I understand it is difficult to leave your child in tears, but staying an additional 5, 10, or 15 minutes will not calm your child, it will only build up the inevitable of you leaving. Teachers and pupil services will be on hand to help your child regulate their emotions. But to do that, the parents must leave. Discuss this routine with your older children, too. They might surprise you and want a hug goodbye to start the year. Maybe they want the hug and kiss at home before you drive them to school. Talk it through with them.
  • Create a morning routine – For some children a visual schedule can be extremely helpful. Have pictures showing the steps for how they will get ready in the morning.
  • Role play – Practice what the morning routine will be and how/where you will say goodbye. You could also role play asking a friend to join in a game or how to ask to join others in an activity.
  • Talk about their feelings – If your child has been in school before there will be excitement but also apprehension about the change. Emotions can coincide together, and that’s healthy. Encourage your child to talk through the different feelings towards returning to school.
  • Understand it will take time to transition smoothly back to school.
  • As a parent stay calm, but don’t pretend –  Your child will read your anxiety. If you are anxious about the return to school, they will be too. Do your research to calm your own anxiety. Find out what steps your school is taking to keep your child safe. Most school districts have a school or district wide nurse. They are hard at work this summer working with the school and state to make sure students are returning to safe environments.
  • Be patient with teachers/administrators –  We don’t have all the answers, especially in this situation. This is uncharted territory for staff as well. Ask questions, reach out to your child’s teacher, but understand they might not have the answers either, and that’s okay.
  • Don’t make promises to your child about what they will and won’t be able to do at school. Special classes, lunch, recess, and classroom set up may all be very different. Many administrators don’t know what the fall will look like. This school year will be different. To what degree depends on your State, County, and/or school district guidelines, which no one can predict.

I hope these wise and timely words from Alison leave you feeling prepared to navigate the waters ahead. At the end of the day, remember to extend grace to yourself, your child, and your school’s teachers/administrators. We are all in this together, and we all want the best, safest environment for our children. 

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

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.