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

A Sea of Screens

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

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

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

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

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

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

References:

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

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

Posted in coparenting, counseling, home, motherhood, parenting

Parents, We See You

Parenting is often our most challenging role of all. Of course it is filled with sweet and rewarding moments. It can also bring us to our knees and stretch us more than we thought possible. Parenting is a journey that is not linear and differs for all of us. This post is for all of the parents and caregivers doing the best you can. We hope you resonate with one or more of these statements and know that as we write, we are writing to all of you.

To the parent coordinating the multifaceted care for your child with a disability.

To the parent struggling to make ends meet.

To the adoptive parent.

To the parent who is praying the school does not call today with another negative behavior report about your child.

To the parent watching a child make a series of bad decisions and feeling helpless.

To the parent not on the same page as the child’s other parent.

To the foster parent.

To the parent who has lost his/her spouse.

To the parent crying for answers and seeking to understand your child.

To the parent who goes to bed feeling like a failure almost every night and senses the judgment of others.

To the parent struggling to control his/her emotions while juggling the stressors of life.

To the parent going through a divorce and in the midst of the grief and pain that goes with the changes divorce brings.

To the parent working tirelessly to help your child see his/her incredible worth.

To the parent watching your child struggle socially, academically, or in any ability.

To the parent who is barely able to take care of his/her basic needs due to having little ones at home.

To the parent grieving the unspeakable loss of child(ren).

To the parent who feels like he/she is not enough at work or at home.

To the parent who recently moved and is trying to get settled in a new community and help your children connect with new peers.

To the parent who has watched your child make great progress.

To the parent who is suffering from a physical and/or mental illness and fighting to have the energy to parent your children.

To the parent whose child has suffered trauma.

To the parent who really needs a vacation.

To all of these parents and so many more in circumstances that we have not mentioned. WE SEE YOU. We know that this parenting journey is full of bumps, twists, and turns. You may not have chosen the circumstances that you are in or the suffering you and your children have endured. None of us are immune from hard seasons or times of suffering. I wish we were. I wish I could make whatever you are going through better.

I told someone last week that I could not do my job as a counselor if I did not have hope that things could get better for people. You may not be able to change your circumstances or season of life, but there is hope. Many of us can benefit from taking a step back and doing this parenting role one day at a time. It is overwhelming to be responsible for the kids we have been entrusted with, especially when we want to do things well. You are enough. You may not feel like enough and no one is perfect, but you were chosen to be your child/children’s parent. Rest in that and pray for grace for the moment.

If you are at a loss, burnt out, and cannot even process life, counseling may be a great next step for you. Let a professional help guide and provide clarity for you.

Praying for grace for the moment,

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 coparenting, home, motherhood, parenting, Relatinships, Uncategorized, values

Five Things I Learned from My Parents

Children learn more from watching than hearing. Let’s face it, you remember more about childhood from the lens of what you observed and experienced than what was told to you. As we finish our relationship series, I wanted to reflect on the relationship you have with your partner and how it reflects to you children. All children absorb beliefs through witnessing the relationship between their caregivers, especially if it is seen daily through a domestic situation.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents that were not only together, but also very much in love. They still are and much of ingrained relational expectations are a result of all I experienced. Here are five things I learned about relationships though observing my parents.

VALUING TIME IS IMPORTANT

Date nights when you have small children is not always feasible due to time or finances. Some of my favorite memories surround getting to move the “small TV” to the back bedrooms, eat pizza and spend time with my siblings. In my mind, that was a treat and it is only now that I recognize its significance. I knew that it was so my parents could have date night, but I can now reflect on the intentionality of their decision.

As a parent I see that set expectation and understand how hard it must have been to follow through. It takes planning and dedication to making spouse time a priority when life with kids is exhausting. They would eat dinner and talk. In some ways, there was a security in knowing they spent time together. That they liked to spend time together.

ENCOURAGE YOUR SPOUSE

I do not ever remember hearing something negative said about my parents by one another. They did not bad mouth each other and did not tolerate anyone speaking ill of the other. Even when they did not agree, only body language would be the indicator and the occasional frustrated tone.

The biggest point of this experience was knowing they cared about one another and respected one another. They would praise each other to us kids and could be heard recognizing something positive the other one did. They were a team and it was obvious.

BE INTERESTED IN THEIR LIFE

Dinner time was spent together and my parents talked to each other as well as to the kids. It did not revolve around only kid conversation. They discussed their days. Many of the acronyms used due to my dad’s engineering job went over my head and probably my Mother’s. However, she would be attentive and ask questions. Genuinely interested in his day.

In the same way, my dad would ask about her day. All of my growing up years, my mother stayed home with four kids. It can be easy to overlook a stay at home mother’s day. However, he was interested in what she did, what she was learning in bible study, her thoughts on many things. He showed that he valued who she was and cared about her life.

RESOLVE YOUR ARGUMENTS

My parents seldom fought in front of us. We knew they fought, as stated before, due to observed coolness, but the “knock down, drag outs” were usually reserved for after bedtime (I think). However, their resolutions were obvious. We heard the apologies and saw the embraces.

This showed me that adults address their disagreements and repair a relationship disrupted by a disagreement. There was never any discomfort from hours of tension or days of frigidity between them. It was apparent that they worked hard to end fights swiftly and calmly, in a method that would strengthen their relationship.

THE RELATIONSHIP COMES FIRST

My parents made it clear that they loved their kids, but their relationship was the priority. It was evident in aligning with one another when we tried to manipulate as children do. They were always on the same page. They even made a point to always sit next to one another, no matter where we went. This was true at dinner, a movie, etc. We knew that they valued one another above anyone else.

The reality of their relationship was a stable force in my childhood. How they treated one another was important in ways I may not realize. As a kid, the world is big and unpredictable. However, due to how my parents handled their marriage, home was a safe place. How they treated one another influenced not only my growing up years, but also how I know to treat my partner. This ripple effect will hopefully shape my children, in the same way I have been molded.

Learning by observing,

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 comfortzone, coparenting, home, motherhood, parenting, Relatinships, Uncategorized, values

What’s Love Got to Do With it?

As we approach Valentine’s Day, we are constantly inundated with everything “love” related. This world is so crazy you can get the one you love’s face on anything from socks to cakes. Why someone wants to eat their face off of food is beyond me. However, the main idea is that February 14th is a day that has become dedicated to love.

It is usually centered around romanic love, but growing up my Mom made this day about any type of love. We would enter the kitchen and our places on the table would be decorated with Valentine’s gifts. When I was without a significant other in college, my Mom still supplied me with something on that day. It made it more a reminder to appreciate those you love, than “single awareness day”.

As you consider this upcoming “holiday” recognize ways you can make it a treasured memory for more than just your spouse or current partner. Here are a few options along the lines of the “Five Love Languages” referenced in my post Your Child’s Safe Place.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

“I am so proud of you.” Those words can be a giant motivator for anyone. Especially if they are followed with reasons. It can be helpful and healing to tell someone you love, how they are killing it at work, school, life, parenting, etc. Write them a note, leave them a voicemail, or buy them a card. This can be for a specific child or a close friend. Something that marks this day that gives a pass for the mushy and cheesy.

Some people hear words and it fills up their love tank in a way that nothing else can for them. It can seem too “easy” or “empty” for those that are not impacted by words. However, for a person that is constantly being complimentary to you or encouraging you, reciprocating that affection can mean so much.

ACTS OF SERVICE

My dad likes to complain about this type being “a husband’s worst nightmare” as it is my mother’s love language. This is a typer that can have someone labeled as “high maintenance.” In actuality, it needs no more or less intentionality than the others.

This can involve making your child’s favorite breakfast to start the day or grabbing your co-worker their coffee order without them asking. A way to know that this is their way to receive love can be if they do things for you without being asked, things that make your life easier. This does require observing and understanding the small actions you can take to show your appreciation.

RECEIVING GIFTS

Our society has made this sharing of love more common. When it is someone’s birthday, anniversary, Christmas, etc. it is expected that you give them a gift. Some people are grateful for the present, but it does not mean as much as another way of communicating love. However, for others, this matters.

When the gift is thoughtful and shows that time was spent on its choice, it can speak loudly of love. This person may often bring you something because it made them “think of you” or they knew you were looking for it.

QUALITY TIME

This type of love language can be the easiest and most difficult at the same time. In the age of constant phone obsession, putting it down to focus on another person might be more challenging than we care to admit. However, when we give someone our undivided attention or give an activity with that person complete focus, it shows love.

Often, these people may comment on phone usage passive aggressively or are often seeking something to do together. Working on a project, even watching a movie with no distractions can help them know that matter to you. Our children are sometimes the most demanding of quality time. It can be frustrating to stop washing dishes, eating lunch in silence or reading a book to play with a doll for the millionth time. However, it is communicating that they are worth your attention.

PHYSICAL TOUCH

Caring for someone with a hug or a reassuring hand squeeze may be second nature. In some cultures physical affection is common. However, it can be uncomfortable in some situations. Making the choice to give some type of compassionate touch may communicate more than all the other ways of showing love to some individuals.

Depending on your upbringing, holding your children or giving them a squeeze goodbye may be different. However, the kids that put their arm around you or look for the hug hello, may benefit from more contact. Friends may even need more of a shoulder for comfort than an affectionate word.

We all receive love in various ways. No method is better than others and we often have more than one way that speaks to our hearts. Observe those in your life and attempt to communicate love to them in the manner they “hear” it best. Use this over-commercialized “holiday” to remind loved ones that they matter to you- using their own language.

Loving,

Allyson

These five types are identified and discovered by Dr. Gary Chapman. You can find more information on this website: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

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

Posted in boundaries, coparenting, counseling, home, motherhood, parenting, values

Building Boundaries

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” can often mean nervousness, irritability and sadness. The holidays often illuminate the dysfunction in relationships that exists throughout the year, but can be easily ignored. It can be difficult to navigate this season with any sort of intentionality or serenity when family of all sorts begin to descend upon the calm you have built around yourself. Here are a few ways you can create boundaries that are healthy and helpful.

UTILIZE AN OBJECTIVE SOUNDING BOARD

We often color our memories with rationalized rose colored glasses. We can excuse our behavior or another person’s behavior when we remember only in our own minds. Therefore, having an outsider help us evaluate our desires and expectations can be helpful. For example, if our holidays are often stressful and we cannot identify the source, whether another’s behavior or our own unrealistic expectations, someone listening to our struggles can be what makes a difference. This can be a professional, or a friend. It is important that this friend be someone that is honest always and will not avoid difficult conversations. This can allow us to have realistic, healthy boundaries.

HAVE A CONVERSATION BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS

It can be tempting to avoid setting boundaries until another “incident” that reinforces the need for boundaries, occurs. However, those times are emotion-fueled and can result in more hurtful conversation. Sitting down with that person or people face to face, when possible, is the best option. It is uncomfortable, but has the best chance of success. 

Sometimes people are unaware that a boundary has been cross and cannot read your mind. In those cases, it is more of a relief to have the desire exposed rather than seething in silence. In the instances that the other person does not understand the expectation, it can be a moment to express yourself calmly and be understood. The most difficult conversation is with someone that will be offended by the discussion. However, due to your intentional broaching of the subject, they have to hear what you say rather than respond in defensiveness and blame how you approached the subject. They are able to make the choice whether to honor your boundaries and have a pleasant time, or violate them and experience the consequences you have decided will be your response. 

STATE THE EXPECTATION IN POSITIVE LANGUAGE

It is best to share the desired behavior rather than state what you would like them to “not do”. For example, “we need you to follow the physical desires of our children by offering a hug or high five.” This is different than insisting that the family member will “not hug my child”. By phrasing your desire positively it is an easier, less blaming way to present the boundary.

RECORD/ REMEMBER SPECIFIC INCIDENTS

This is not to rattle off how awful someone has been, or “throw it in their face”. However, when stating a boundary that you feel is important, the person hearing the boundary may react with indignation and insist they would never cross that boundary. For example, if using cursing language is something you are not comfortable with around your children and a family member has a history of that behavior, remembering and providing an example when it occurred could be helpful. 

HOLD TO YOUR BOUNDARIES

It can be tempting to give allowances when an incident occurs. It can be difficult to “make a scene” or “rock the boat”. However, you created the boundary for a reason. Allowing it to be violated without a comment, redirection or consequence may cause your directives to carry less weight. 

Another reason to hold onto your boundaries, is how it may effect you. You did not decide to go against someone’s stated expectations. Yet, if you do not speak it effects your emotions and time with others during the holiday festivities. Passive aggressiveness, hurt and stewing resentment become your companions rather than joy at the spirit of the season.

Setting boundaries can be an anxiety producing task. However, it protects you, your family and your sanity around the holiday season. You have the power to create an atmosphere of safety and be an advocate for those closest to you.

Constructing 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 boundaries, coparenting, counseling, home, motherhood, parenting, values

Protecting Yourself Instead of Pleasing Everyone Else

Growing up, I loved the holiday season! The breaks from school, family traditions, fun, gratitude, togetherness, magical feelings, and the reason for Christmas are a few. When I go to my parents’ home on Christmas as an adult, it feels like I’m stepping into a Southern Living magazine. They really know how to do Christmas, and I treasure this. As a parent of two young children, alarm bells go off in my brain when I think of planning all of the details of the holiday season.

I go to the panic zone that was introduced in last week’s blog. One alarm sets off another and another and goes something like this. How am I going to get everything done? What traditions should we start or continue? How many side dishes do I have to make? How many people do I need to buy for? What house(s) are we going to when? How in the heck is my house going to look like a magazine with two young kids? Last year my husband told me not to even talk about the holidays when I brought it up in October. Balancing the holidays between families was something we learned to dread because we put too much pressure on ourselves.

I promise this is not a Debbie Downer post! I am learning to get out of the panic zone and into the learning zone with the holidays. We have had to setup some appropriate boundaries when planning the holiday season including letting perfection go and doing the best we can. We brainstorm. We make decisions that work best for our family. We communicate with our extended families, both sides living in the same town as us. We do the best we can.

I often find that there is pressure to please both sides of family with the holiday season so no one feels left out. Seeing family is important. Considering others and their feelings is the right thing to do, but being governed by pleasing others sets us up for resentment and burnout. In contrast, maybe some of us avoid one side of the family and have such intense boundaries setup that we miss out on spending time with them.

We have learned that we cannot do two houses in one day for Thanksgiving and Christmas, or we turn into crazy people. We started switching years for Thanksgiving and doing two different Christmas celebrations. We plan fun, meaningful holiday events during the season for our family of four but do not focus on keeping up with what everyone else is doing. When my children look back on their childhood holidays, I want them to have wonderful memories like I do. I do not want them to remember stressed out parents who were rushing them around.

As we are planning for the holidays, let’s do what is best for our immediate family still while considering (but not aiming to please) others. When others’ expectations are not met because of decisions we make that is okay. Best case scenario, they can give us grace. Not good scenario, they can make a scene. It’s okay. As you may be disappointed by the choices some of your extended family members make during the holiday season, remember grace upon grace, and sometimes people have boundaries for reasons that are not known to us.

Learning and thankful,

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 coparenting, counseling, motherhood, parenting, values

It Takes a Village

Many of us are on our parenting journey with the assistance of others in addition to our partner. “It takes a village” resonates with those of us who have extended family, dear friends, or nannies/sitters who help care for our kids. This can be a wonderful asset! There is nothing like people who surrounding our kids with love and support. A network of support can help fuel connection and build resilient children.

This extra support can sometimes be a challenge when it comes to determining appropriate roles and boundaries with others helping care for our kids. Sometimes buttons get pushed or frustrations arise. We know it is important for healthy family members to be in children’s lives but may not like that it takes multiple days to get kids back into sync after spending time with grandparents. Friends may parent differently than we do. Sitters may allow more screen time than is preferred by the parent.

If you have people helping care for your kids, it’s reasonable to expect that they will do things differently than you. Grandparents play a huge role nowadays in helping with children. Carpool lines and waiting rooms are filled with grandparents transporting grandkids to school, appointments, practices, and events. In order to live with the “it takes a village” mindset successfully, two principles are needed: trust and respect.

TRUST

Do I trust this person with my child? Am I completely comfortable with them taking care of my children? Do they have my child’s best interest in mind? If we don’t fully trust someone with the care of our children it is going to be difficult to leave them with that person or believe the best. When we do trust the person and know they have our children’s best in mind, we can have peace of mind as we are tending to our own responsibilities.

RESPECT

Does the person keeping my child respect my wishes? Do they listen to my family’s values? Do I respect their autonomy when with my child? It is a rocky road when others do not respect the parents’ wishes (within reason). When we respect the person helping with our children and they respect us, we are setup for a successful relationship. I would encourage you to reflect on the amount of respect you are giving and receiving when it comes to childcare to determine what is right for your family.

Finally, communicate. Communication can provide clarity and resolve a host of potential issues. When we have trust, respect, and communication with those who help care for our children, everyone benefits, most importantly, the kids!

Thankful,

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 coparenting, counseling, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized, values

Creating Something New

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme circulating about how parents make different choices in the rearing of their children, but in the end everyone has hit their kid’s head on the car when putting them into their carseat.  It is funny and sad because it is so true.  There are so many decisions and perspectives yelling for our attention as parents.  Some people are able to narrow their frame of reference to include the traditions and history modeled by their own families.  However, when your experiences are those of pain and chaos, there is no where to turn when decisions are uncertain. 

Dysfunction is everywhere.  Often it invades our families and distresses our childhoods.  When it comes to parenting, remembering the parenting we have received can be a laundry list of our parents’ mistakes.  No parent is perfect, but when the main parenting style you claim is “the opposite of my parents”, there can be some difficulty.  There is nothing wrong with your struggle. There is the chance to be better. To do better for the next generation. 

Here are a few ideas to consider when you cannot lean on your parents’ examples:

CONSIDER YOUR COMMUNITY

There will always be people you see and admire.  Especially those that engage with their children with seeming supernatural patience and wisdom.  These people are flawed, but can also be a great resource of information.  If you feel particularly brave, ask their stance on certain issues and learn their reasons.  Seldom are parents stingy with their parenting opinions.  Often we have to ask others to keep their thoughts to themselves.  Being able to share passionate beliefs related to caring for our small ones, is something we all find important.  If you are not feeling brave, observe.  We can learn so much from watching those around us and gleaning their ideas from seeing their behavior.  The goal of observing is not with the purpose of comparison. Let me type that again, not for the purpose of comparison. Remember that parenting is a journey.  Look around for those navigating a little ahead or at a little smoother pace and utilize that resource.

CONSIDER HELPING PROFESSIONALS

Seeking professional help related to parenting is not a negative.  There are parenting classes available through some community centers, hospitals and churches.  Find somewhere that mirrors the principles you want to instill in your children and take advantage of those opportunities.  However, trusting professionals could be a more personal choice than training. Sometimes wounds from parents run deep.  Finding a way to mend and heal from those wounds will make you a better parent.  The phrase, “hurt people, hurt people,” is true.  A more specific truth: hurt parents can create hurting children.  You must deal with your own pain and  consequences from your parents’ choices so that you can prevent the same injuries.  A healthy you, is a step toward healthy children. 

CONSIDER YOUR CO-PARENT

Apart from outliers, you intentionally chose the person with which you have a child.  There was something within them and the relationship that created a sense of trust.  A belief that they were someone reliable and safe.  Lean on that. Even if both of you have come from dysfunctional families, you are two brains committed to a healthy childhood for your children.  Utilize that partnership and become a team of advocates for your family if they have proven to be consistently trustworthy. Explore the positives and negatives from your formative years, decide how to emulate the parenting style you value.  Do research together and share the load.  Allow them to be a sense of reality apart from your experiences.

CONSIDER YOUR INSTINCTS

The fact that you are unsure and insecure about your parenting choices due to negative decisions made by your parents, is a good sign.  It shows the dedication you have to making sure your children have a different experience.  Often, when looking at many of the ideas related to parenting, you know what is best for your child.   This may not always be true and without question.  However, there is something to be said for your understanding and knowledge of your child and your family.  Have faith in yourself and your ability to parent due to your dedication to your kids.  Self-awareness goes a long way in being a better parent.  Explore the effects of your parents’ parenting on you as an individual and decide the choices you will avoid or boundaries you will set in your own family. This is one of greatest gifts you can give to yourself and the next generation.

A perspective that you may appreciate, or may not, is the aid that prayer can have in this setting of new patterns. My own mother parented out of a new desire and new plan in contrast to her upbringing. She always shares that the way she was able to do things differently was “through prayer and asking God to show me how to make it different”. She often quotes the scripture 2 Corinthians 12:10, “where I am weak, then I am strong” and James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.” Look, He is doing a new thing!

You are doing great.  Sometimes deciding to parent after a difficult childhood can be the bravest decision of them all.  Your concerns are valid, but you are not your parents. You are creating something new and different.  You get to decide the tempo and culture of your family.  Make it count.  Make it different.  Make it yours. 

Battling with you for the next generation,

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 coparenting, counseling, divorce, home, parenting, values

Separately and Together

Those of you, who are single, separated, or divorced, we see you. We know that your parenting journey is likely complex. Your friends that are raising kids in a home with both parents may be supportive but cannot completely understand what you are going through. You have likely been through or are on an emotional roller coaster over the care of your children. Though it is impossible to cover every circumstance or situation when you are co-parenting with your child’s parent who you are not living with, it is possible to encourage you in a few areas for the benefit of you and your child.

Behind the Scenes Parenting

Communication is key to co-parenting from different homes so that your child is not placed in the role of the liaison between parents. If your child currently is the liaison, I would encourage you to remove him or her from this role as it can be so stressful on the child. If communication with your child’s other parent is less than ideal, I would encourage behind the scenes communication as much as possible so that the child is not experiencing heated conflict between parents. Communication between both parents can help a child feel connected to both parents and felt taken care of as they know both parents have knowledge of his or her needs and what is important to him or her.

When possible, it is great if both parents can be on the communication lists for school, extracurricular activities, appointments, and important events so that both parents are in the loop and the child knows this. Find a communication method that works best for you. Sometimes it seems like each text message, email, phone call or face to face interaction with the other produces a range of negative emotions. When this is occurring, take some time to regroup by yourself so you are not relaying this to your child.

Cut the Criticism

I preach this, and I know it is so hard! Please do not put down your child’s other parent in front of them. Children do not want to hear bad things about either parent even if it is true. That other parent is part of your child. Often times what one parent says about the other gets back to the other parent via the child, and this does nothing to help effective co-parenting.

I write this humbly as I am sure there are layers and layers of hurt and frustration behind those comments that are critical in nature. “Hurt people hurt people,” and I know you do not want to further hurt your child with the comments about his or her other parent. Please take the high road. This is a great area to work on with a counselor so that you do have a place to process all of that hurt and say those comments!

In the event that your child’s other parent is not in the picture because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, having an age appropriate conversation with your about the other parent’s choices/illness may be necessary. I would encourage you to seek the advice of a professional here.

Letting Go

It can be very difficult to have your child being parented in a way that is not your choice. If the way he or she is being parented at the other parent’s home is causing them distress, is abusive, is unsafe, or something is blatantly wrong, of course it is time to speak up. In some cases a mediator or attorney may be needed.  Generally speaking communication is needed to discuss values that you would like to see for your child in each home. Realistically, you cannot control the way the other parent parents, and you may do things completely different.

For the everyday things that you cannot control at the other home, like bedtime, dinner choice, screen time, and routine, I encourage you to let it go. Your mental health will be better for it. I know it is difficult, but consider letting one thing go this week. In the same fashion, stop yourself before reprimanding your child for not putting himself to bed a decent time if you know the other parent does not enforce a bedtime. You can encourage good choices, but it is never a good feeling for a child to get in trouble for something the other parent allows, like bedtime or screen time.

Advertise What You Agree On

Savor what you agree on with your child’s other parent. Be thankful for it! As it takes five positive interactions to cancel out one negative interaction, each time you can agree and make a joint decision, you are putting coins in the positive co-parenting bank.

Advertise what you agree on to your child. Knowing both parents are for and behind him/her can strengthen a child’s resiliency and enhance confidence. Here are some examples of advertising what you agree on.

“Your dad and I are so proud of your hard work at school this nine weeks.”

“Your mom and I support your decision to focus on more on baseball and not play basketball this year.”

“Mom and I were talking today about what good choices you have been making.”

“Dad and I are both seeing that you haven’t been yourself lately. We wanted to check in.”

I would encourage you to continue to run this race with perseverance leaning on the necessary supports: faith, family, friends, and hopefully a therapist. You are seen and your journey matters. Please remember that each day is a new day, and your relationship with your child is irreplaceable.

With kindness and humility,

Andrea