Posted in boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, grief, isolation, Jealousy, parenting, relationships, selfcompassion, siblings, therapy, trauma, values

Three Things to Learn From Encanto

As many parents know, the world of Encanto has enveloped reality. The music plays constantly, the kids enact scenes and scold one another from mentioning Bruno. One thing to know, I’m not a huge fan of animated movies. I loved them as a kid, but as an adult I’d rather an action movie. However, this movie surprised me. I was unaware of many themes that presented themselves. The therapist and parent within me was hooked from the first few verses of “Surface Pressure” and as more evolved, I was excited for the progression of the story. There’s much to learn from examining this movie related to mental health. Here are a few lessons to glean from this wonderful movie.

“Give it to your sister, your sister’s older / Give her all the heavy things we can’t shoulder / Who am I if I can’t run with the ball?”

Your talent or “gift” does not need to be your identifier. Each character is presented based on their gift. It appeared that they have settled into their role within the community and family system. However, it begins to become clear that they are exhausted by the constant expectations. The pressure is intense and robs them of exploring other aspects of their personality.

It can be comforting to put ourselves in a box. A clearly outlined identity. We know where we fit within ourselves and the world. It can be uncomfortable to be okay with unclear boundaries and expectations. It is comforting to be known for one particular characteristic. The reason stereotypes are common, is it is easier to stick someone with a label than take the time to get to know the whole person.

Unfortunately this can be true of ourselves, or even the person we projected to others. We worry that we will be judged or rejected. However, being a complete person with quirks and weaknesses, is reality. You are known for baking? It is okay to bring a store bought cake when you’re tired. Usually the friend that listens? It is acceptable to need someone to listen to YOU too. Learning to break out of the norm can be difficult and scary. However, you are worth it and the world needs all that you are, not just a portion.

“We don’t talk about Bruno”

Having family secrets are harmful. You know that family “thing” that no one talks about? It is unhelpful and actually harmful to your family. It can be anything from someone’s past, a mental health struggle, addiction or a whole estranged member of the family. Just because the family didn’t talk about Bruno did not mean his absence left the family unmarked. The unspoken aspects of a family will actually be the most harmful.

When words are unsaid, they hold too much power. Power to divide, power to grow into lies that cause damage. Families internalize what is unspoken. It can create a whole range of trauma and veiled problems. This is explored in detail by Mark Wolynn in It Didn’t Start with You. It is called “transgenerational trauma” in the field of counseling. This leads to the next point.

“And I’m sorry I held on too tight / Just so afraid I’d lose you too”

Grief and all kinds of trauma can be harmful down generations if unresolved. Abuela silenced her emotions. She silenced her fear. She walled herself off as a matriarch with noble goals for her family and did not have attachment to the next generations. The members of her family became lauded only for their outward actions. She was a victim of trauma and wounded deeply. It not only effected her interactions with the world, it effected how those that loved her felt about themselves.

Experiencing a traumatic event is not your fault. However, how you cope with it IS your responsibility. Numbing and refusing to acknowledge what you view as weakness, is not helping anyone. It harms the future. Relationships cannot coexist in a healthy way with unresolved trauma. It can spread like a disease and weaken all bonds. Please seek help. For you, and generations to come.

Media can be so helpful to explain difficult lessons in a nonthreatening manner. The elements of stories in general allow us to learn from character’s failures and how to overcome obstacles. We watch movies for entertainment and that is okay. However, sometimes the themes are so universal and important we need to examine them to understand the world in a healthy way.

Always learning,

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

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

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

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

COMMUNICATE IN AN AGE APPROPRIATE MANNER

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

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

MODEL APPROPRIATE COPING SKILLS

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

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

SEEK APPROPRIATE SUPPORT

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

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

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

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

Emoting all the time,

Allyson

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

Posted in empathy, Jealousy, motherhood, parenting, values

When Life Isn’t Fair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Striving for joy and contentment,

Andrea

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