Posted in anger, boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, goals, parenting, relationships, selfcare, trauma, values

I’m Sorry I Hurt Your Feelings by the Boundary I Set, You Psychopath

Okay, so that might not be the best way to respond to someone. Name calling is generally considered unhelpful. However, this can be the heartfelt cry of many people attempting to hold boundaries within unhealthy relationships. It is actually a phrase I heard someone wish to utilize recently. Establishing boundaries when a relationship has a close association or has persisted for a number of years, can be difficult. How do you create the boundary? How do you communicate it? The hardest, how do you hold the boundary when there is the inevitable pushback? All these questions are important to consider. Boundaries are necessary, the are important and they are a way to protect yourself and others.

HOW DO YOU CREATE THE BOUNDARY?

I have always known boundaries were important. However, few things increased my insistence on boundaries quite like becoming a mom. I’m in the camp that holds better boundaries for others than for myself. I know, I know, I’m working on it.

You know a boundary needs to be set by internal warning signs. Do you feel hurt and confused? Do you sense a threat? Fight, flight or freeze kick in? That lets you know a boundary was crossed. We hold unconscious boundaries within ourselves that can be difficult to identify. These standards can be solidified when we evaluate the event that occurred and what value was violated. This can range from a tone someone takes with you to physical abuse or aggression. Having this spectrum can make things a little gray. It does not help that the most chronic boundary violators can be very skilled at gaslighting. Gaslighting is the method of convincing someone that how they feel is invalid and wrong.

When you are continually leaving a situation or person feeling out of sorts and “always wrong” it might be a good idea to process the events with someone objective. It needs to be someone that can remain dis-engaged emotionally and does not play devils advocate, nor jump to your defense. Someone that can listen and remain detached. They can help identify the value breached and create a reasonable boundary. This can include not interacting with them until they can take responsibility for their behavior or even leaving the situation when they breach the boundary. This can be leaving the room or even the location where they are.

HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE IT?

Here is an example of identifying when a boundary needs to be set. Sometimes a loved one can be feeling anxious or frustrated and they turn all their emotion into the way they speak to you. Ouch, right? The value violated is respect. You may let it slide once or twice. However, it can be helpful to calmly say, “Please do not take your frustration out on me,” or “please talk to me in a kinder way.” Responding in a non-combative manner is helpful because it is more difficult for the other person to continue in their behavior. Read difficult, not impossible. If the pattern continues, the script can become more assertive. This can be saying, “If you continue to speak to me this way, I will leave.”

If patterns are repeated in a relationship, having one or two phrases identified that can be used in these situations is crucial. You may sound like a broken record, but the calm repeating of a phrase can defuse a situation. Who will continue arguing with someone that doesn’t change their words or escalate in emotions? It takes away the confrontation, fight or acquiescence the person may be looking for.

HOW DO YOU HOLD A BOUNDARY?

Boundaries are hard. They force change in a relationship. Any time there’s a shift, the relationship acts like a rubber band. You create distance due to the change, the other person either adapts or the relationship snaps. A severed relationship is painful. We, as humans, have an aversion to pain. Maybe that’s just me? The status quo is sometimes comfortable, even if it causes us pain.

However, boundaries are never an unloving or unhelpful addition to a relationship. A healthy relationship is one where boundaries are expressed and accepted. When two people’s values in treatment collide, it might not be the best to continue that friendship. This can range from one person wanting to gain all their emotionally validation from one person (read unhealthy) or refusing to engage in a nonreciprocal relationship.

The best way to hold a boundary is having a predetermined consequence to continual violation of the boundary. It helps to have an outside consultant to come up with this as well. The confidant can be a mental health professional, a mentor or a level headed friend. It needs to be firm, but also proportional. This can be, as stated before, leaving a room or a place when someone violated that boundary. It can be cutting a type of contact, such as texting, phone calls, etc for a predetermined set time. It can even be cutting all contact for a certain amount of time. It helps to have a set time table. It ensures that there is a possibility for reengagement, in non-abuse cases, and allows the option for growth.

Most importantly, then you must, MUST, hold the consequence. If it is a consequence “without teeth” the chronic behavior will not change. It must be enforceable and enforced. Have others that help keep you accountable to the consequence.

Remember, when it is hard, that your values are worth upholding. Insisting that others treat you with respect is important and contributes to how you feel about yourself. It can be a helpful model for your children, your friends and your family. It can serve as a reminder to people in your life that they, also, are worth holding boundaries.

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

Survival Mode to Summertime

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

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

When You Were a Kid

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

Reinstate Normal

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

One on One

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

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

Diving in with you,

Andrea

Reference:

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

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

Posted in comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, goals, grief, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, social distancing, therapy, trauma, values

Hitting Reset

None are excused from the challenges of this season.  The wealthy, the healthy, the married, the single, the successful, and the impoverished are collectively walking through one of, if not the most challenging time in a generation.  Increased weight lays on the shoulders of those in leadership positions as they seek to determine the best course for those in their sphere.  For those special people that call themselves educators; grief, uncertainty, and adaptability demand their attention.  For those medical personnel that are the very ones that fight this pandemic daily; anxiety, exhaustion, and caregiver burnout run thick in their presence.  For the parents that can’t find a moment to themselves and are struggling to meet the umpteen needs that arise within an hour, the mundane, insecurity, and human weakness call for one to expend every last drop of energy and patience. For the single person at home, face-to-face human connection has ceased altogether.  Though in many different forms, this pandemic has brought a halt to our preferences and routines that once helped us lead the life we desired and valued.

Just four and a half months ago we walked into 2020, pondering, discussing, and naming what he hoped or expected the year would have in store for us.  Some of us chose a specific word, goals, and desires for how we hoped this year would look different.  We identified some ways we wanted to take initiative in our lives and shape our lives to align with our values, priorities, and desires.

The current pandemic infuses our homes with tension and our hearts with grief. But for those willing to see, this time brings with it the gift of perspective. It is a magnifying glass for our lives, so to speak, to help us better appraise what is most dear to us, what is most challenging to us, and what is creeping in unwarranted and stealing precious moments from us.  Insight that we did not have just a few months ago has been given.  Complacency and busyness no longer plague our society and hinder our growth.  Our busyness has ceased, our culture has shifted, and we have this small moment in time to evaluate our values and priorities and implement some necessary changes to lead the intentional, value-driven life we desire to lead.  In assessing our different areas of development (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational), what are the areas that need evaluation with your newly gifted magnifying glass?

Have you found yourself in a cycle of over-eating, emotion-eating, slothfulness, or maybe just a few too many alcoholic beverages?  Do you have a sense that your emotional health and strategies for coping could improve?  Have you put off spiritual disciplines or seeking Christ altogether because of a past hurt or because it’s just not convenient?  Have you had a hard time taking control of your spending, Starbucks attendance, or seeking therapy in retail?  Have you noticed that your relationships are rocky, your friendships are surface-level, or your parenting could use some attention?  

Yeah? Me too.  Never has your social calendar been so free that you can focus more on your exercise routine.  Never has your insight been so clear on what flusters you the most.  Rarely is it so apparent that the world offers little and Christ is the only hope.  There are few opportunities to curb your shopping and eating out habits.  And there is no better time to commit to authenticity, break through the painful patterns, and create beautiful community.

This season brings, along with it’s pain and grief, an opportunity to hit the reset button.  It won’t be easy to align your days to how you imagined and desired them to be long ago when you chose the path that you are currently on.  Mamas, in the midst of the trials, grief, and fear, I challenge you to use this opportunity to improve in the areas you long to be stronger.

Walking the path and pressing “reset” with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Posted in body image, counseling, goals, motherhood, parenting, values

Letting Go

There’s no question that goals can be incredibly useful tools in life. They help us turn our dreams into reality and they help us stay focused on growth. They help us to live out our passions and to create change in our lives.

But what do we do when we need to give up on a goal? When a goal isn’t helpful any longer?

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of narratives in media, in advertising, on social media, etc. that encourage us to run hard after our goals. No. Matter. What. Oftentimes, these narratives are meant to be encouraging and showcase a celebration of hard-won discipline. A common one that I see often on my feed is the “I didn’t want to wake up this morning, but I have goals and I’m not a quitter, so I woke up and worked out!” I love celebrating those victories with my friends and family, but these narrative also seem to imply that giving up is never an option.

It’s true that the goals that you work the hardest towards are often the ones that feel the best to achieve. It’s also true that many of us fight against the temptations of laziness and apathy, so the constant barrage of encouragement and “you go girl”s that you can find online can be genuinely encouraging in our efforts to achieve our goals. But we also need to see and learn what it looks like to gracefully release ourselves from the pursuit of a goal. We need narratives of what it can look like to give up in a good way.

While we can all do many of the things we set our minds on and work hard towards, there are some times when we shouldn’t keep pushing towards our goals. There are a lot fewer examples of people celebrating quitting their pursuit of a goal, but it doesn’t mean that it is any less of a valid choice.

If you are struggling to reach or even to pursue a goal, then it may be a sign that it’s time for you to give up on a goal. Here are just a few reasons why it can be okay to give up:

It’s Not Healthy for You

Oftentimes the goals that we set for ourselves lead us down paths that we have never walked before, which means that pursuing our goals looks a lot like walking into the unknown. It is really hard to completely predict how we will respond to the new spaces we create in our lives. This means that we might not like what we find on our pursuit of a goal.

You might be pursuing a goal of healthier eating, but find that counting calories has worsened your relationship with food to the point that you are beginning to develop disordered eating.

You may have a goal to get a promotion at work but find that time and effort required to achieve that goal would mean that you would have to sacrifice the time you spend with family or friends or doing something else that you value more.

Or maybe you are crushing your goals, but you are exhausted and run down, or maybe you are starting to struggle with your pride as a result.

It doesn’t matter if the hurt you cause by the pursuit of your goal is physical, spiritual, mental, relational, or social; if it’s not healthy for you right now, it’s okay to stop.

It’s Not Healthy for Someone Else

We normally think of our goals as individual, solitary pursuits, but our actions always have an impact on the people and the world around us. If your pursuit of your goal damages your relationship with other people in your life, then you may want to consider giving up on your goal, or at least pursuing it in a different manner.

About a year ago I set a fitness goal that required me to go running several days a week. I would try to take my kids with me in a jogging stroller and then I would get grumpy when they spent the entire run throwing things out of the stroller or crying. Or both. They woke up so early that I couldn’t get my runs in before they woke up, but when I took them with me, we would all return home in a sour mood. I had also failed at that point to master the art of showering with a 2-year-old and 1-year-old, so then I also either felt stinky all day or had to take the risk of being in a different room than two grumpy, destructive toddlers.

It was a good fitness goal. It felt good to move my body that way. It felt good to feel myself get stronger. But it felt terrible to see how it was affecting my relationship with my kids. At some point, it started to feel like my goal was more important than the way I was treating my children. As soon as I gave myself permission to modify my goals and started working out in different ways, my interactions with my children changed dramatically and their behavior improved. It was clear that my goal of running, while good for me, was not the best thing for my children.

Your Dreams Have Changed

Sometimes our dreams change. Life is constantly happening all around us and things are always changing. Our goals are allowed to change too. You aren’t letting yourself or anyone else down if you release a dream that isn’t pointing you in the direction you want to go any longer. You are always allowed to change, so don’t let a goal from a different season in your life be the thing that holds you back.

You are NOT a failure if you have to put a goal on the shelf for a while or even trash it completely. You are more than the sum of your achievements and your value does not change whether or not you finished what you started.

Work hard towards the change and growth that you are able to, and do your best to have compassion towards yourself when you have to give up.

You can always start a new goal and chase a new dream tomorrow.

Growing and dreaming with you,

Selena

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

Posted in counseling, goals, motherhood, parenting, values

Value-Driven Goals

When I (Selena) went to work as a camp counselor after my freshman year of college at an outdoor adventure camp, we were expected to lead our campers through various activities, including rock climbing, rappelling, zip-lining, and mountain biking.

Spoiler alert: I had never done any of those things before.

Within the first 24 hours I was on-site at the camp, one of the directors took us to a steep hill made of dirt and loose rock and proudly announced that this was our mountain scooter course. For reference, this is a mountain scooter:

Think BMX bike, but in scooter form.

Before this summer, I had not ridden anything with two wheels since I was at least 12 and definitely never on anything besides pavement. So after I watched a few people ride down before me with seeming ease and thrill, I volunteered to go next before I let the peer pressure I was feeling psych me out. I remember thinking something along the lines of, “If I’m confident, how bad can this be?”

Turns out, it could be pretty bad. Twenty minutes later I was standing in a shower while my female director and camp nurse were cleaning rocks out of the giant swath of road rash on my legs and rump. Later that day when I went to meet some counselors from another part of camp for the first time, I was so bandaged that one guy shouted out at me, “Whoa! Did you get shot?!” We were not a “camp name” or “nickname” kind of camp, but I quickly became known as “Boo,” short for ‘boo-boos’ to my co-workers.

About a week later in our training we were all gathered to practice riding the mountain bike trail we were expected to take our campers on. I was terrified. I couldn’t even coast down a hill on a scooter, so how in the world was I going to be able to make it through this trail? It was through dense, wooded, and rocky terrain and I was certain that I would never be able to avoid wrecking and seriously getting hurt.

I was already scoping out the rocks and trees and ditches that I wanted to avoid when the experienced mountain biker who was leading our training told us something along these lines:

“Make sure to look where you are going. If you look at a rock, you are going to hit that rock. If you pay too much attention to the tree you are trying to avoid, you will run right into it. Your bike will go wherever you are looking, so focus on where you want the bike to go, not on where you don’t want it to go.”

And you know what? She was right. Whenever I pedaled confidently and set my focus on the path I wanted to take, I made it through alright.

As we continue to write about goals this month, I want you take some time and think about your goals, your word for the year, your intention, or whatever thing you are pursuing in this season.

Got it?

Now ask yourself why you are heading in that direction. Sit with that question. Because chances are that your core motivation for that goal is either to cultivate a value in your life, or to avoid becoming something/someone you are afraid of becoming.

On the surface, that distinction may not sound like much, but I would argue that it makes all of the difference. It means the difference between staring at the rocks and trees you are trying to avoid and actually focusing on the trail you want to give meaning to your life. Whenever our motivations for something are based around a fear (fear of ‘letting yourself go,’ fear of falling behind, fear of becoming like someone you know, etc), then our attention is more focused on what we do not want to be than on who we want to become. It’s really hard to find a target when you don’t know where it is, just some of the places where it is not. Whenever you are running towards something just because you are running away from something else, you are more likely to get discouraged and even take a meandering course. It would be exhausting to go on a bike ride where your only goal was to not hit trees. It might be engaging for a while, but eventually you would just be riding around aimlessly and without a sense of purpose. It’s hard to stay motivated whenever you aren’t driven by purpose.

As the beginning of the year begins to melt into the rest of the year, I want to invite you to reexamine your goals and your values. Do your goals match the things that you say you value in your life? Are you heading in a direction with purpose, or are you only focused on the things you want to avoid? If you get stuck, make a list of your top 3 values and think of both big and little ways that you can shape your life to better reflect that value.

My husband loves mountain biking and he will say that it’s 10 times easier to successfully ride a trail whenever you fully commit to what you are doing rather than being held back by fear or uncertainty. Value-driven goals allow you move forward with purpose and with clarity, while the ones created out of fear will always wear us down. Find a trail that takes you closer to fully living out your values and ride it hard; you’ll end up in the direction you end up looking towards.

Staying focused together,

Selena

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

Posted in counseling, goals, home, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Creating Kid-sized Goals

As we begin the new year and evaluate the goals we have for ourselves, often we have goals for our families as well. This could be an expectation that this year your partner will put their dirty clothes INSIDE the laundry basket going forward or that your kids will learn what it means to land urine INSIDE the toilet for a change.

The problem with these hopes can be their dependence on others to change their own behavior. However, as a parent, we are able to target ways we want to influence our children during the upcoming year. Often, it can be daunting to decide what expecatations we can set for our children due to variety in development. Here are a few ideas to consider as well as ways to determine age appropriate, reasonable goals for our children.

START SMALL

It can be tempting to create a large, general target such as, “clean their room.” However, this can be too broad and the lack of meeting this expectation may create more frustration. A better choice may be one small step. Beginning for a three year old may be, “put their bowl/ plate in the sink after every meal.”

This is something the child can physically complete and the expectation can be easily repeated. Once something small is achieved and the child has proved proficient, it is ok to increase the responsibility.

BREAK DOWN GOALS

Not only do you need to start small, keep even bigger expectations in small increments. Rather than instruct them to “clean your room.” Allow them to do one thing at a time. This may be first putting their clothes in the laundry basket, once that is completed, put all their stuffed animals in their place, make their bed, etc. This way they do not get overwhelmed.

STATE EXPECTATIONS FREQUENTLY

Children forget. Heck, I forget to move my clothes from the washing machine to the dryer almost daily. Stating a goal for a child often, calmly and in a concise manner helps train their brain. You have heard the phrase, “repetition, repetition, repetition.” It is accurate. Our kids do not always avoid doing tasks we ask of them on purpose. Assuming the best, can help curb some frustration that comes from being ignored.

WORK ALONGSIDE

It is more encouraging to do chores or other tasks alongside others. When children see our behavior as a model for our expectations of their behavior, it can be more effective. This can begin as helping them complete their task initially, as they gain the confidence to do each goal. Eventually, it can end in merely working alongside in a task we have set for ourselves or similar to their endeavor.

For children being expected to have “reading time”, read your own book next to them. If it is cleaning their room, clean your own. If it is sitting calmly in time out, breath calming breaths alongside them. As the saying goes, positive behavior is “better caught then taught.”

Setting expectations and goals for children can be difficult. We know we need to teach them responsibility, for their maturity, but can be unsure where to start. It is ok to start small. Any step in giving them tasks to work or behavior to adhere to, is helpful for their development.

Remember that this is not easy. Teaching is a noble calling and parenting is as well. As we parent we teach our children how to tackle the expectations of others. We never do this perfectly, but have grace with yourselves and your kids as well.

Teaching 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.