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, 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 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.

Posted in anger, boundaries, comfortzone, emotion regulation, relationships, trauma, Uncategorized, values

ANGER IS NOT AN OVERREACTION

We live in a time consumed with anger. In light of the recent events, we need to evaluate the underlying causes of anger and it’s purpose, because when we see the expression of anger we only see one part of a much larger and more complex story. It is crucial to place anger within it’s bigger context so that it can be heard, processed and acted upon. Consider how you respond when your children ask about anger and in particular current events. Are you missing part of the story?

Anger has long been associated with many negative characteristics. These characteristics, such as, evil, out of control, unmanageable, or overreacting have created some damaging results. This can cause us to dismiss or disregard anger. As stated in previous posts, emotions are a “check engine light”. Rather than dismissing anger, we must pay closer attention.

 Anger has been placed in it’s own containment chamber and is often categorized as something “wrong”. It can be a scary emotion to experience, whether you are the angry party or are facing someone that is angry. It is vital that we do not teach our children that anger is unacceptable.

Even when we do try to dismiss it, anger has a habit of bubbling to the surface. Anger is considered a secondary emotion. This means that the underlying causes are hurt, fear, and/ or disappointment. These feelings are often considered “weak” and uncomfortable. It is important to pay attention to events and words that trigger anger, because it can expose a deeper wound that needs to be addressed. It can be easier to rationalize away hurt or disappointment, but when anger explodes, it requires some attention. Pay attention to when you are angry and explore what primary emotion you may be attempting to suppress.

Anger has long classified and harmfully stereotyped, a particular community, more than any other, within our country. A dear friend of mine shared her perspective, as a member of BIPOC community, in these words:

The Great Awakening

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” -Emma Lazarus

Martin Luther King Jr. has been propped up as the ideal African American after which black people are expected to model their behavior when in protest to how black lives are valued in the United States of America and all over the world. We have seen some protests that are not so peaceful as it comes a time when people enduring being ignored for so long and eventually have to speak in the language of the oppressive force as freedom is hardly ever given. It is taken.

A new age has dawned in which so much information is now available about our past so that we fully understand all the contributing factors as to why so called “black” people have fallen so low in society. The very idea that we are labeled “black” is symbolic of us being robbed of a nation, our own language, knowing our exact family lineage/history, etc. The anger that so many are witnessing throughout the black community today is the result of centuries of feeling and knowing that we were never really completely free-whether it be psychologically, economically, etc., compared to many other non-blacks within our society.

I am thankful an awakening has initiated, first of all among black people who are starting to think about how to improve our own lives, which in the past has been impeded by racist Jim Crow laws deliberately meant to keep us in the lowest tier of society while using psychological warfare with phrases such as, “pull yourself up from your bootstraps”- Boot straps that were stolen and burned in the past (Research Black Wall Street- Tulsa, OK-Greenwood and Rosewood).

When I am asked what allies can do to help during this awakening, I am often at a loss for words. The racial disparity which has existed for centuries and that is now being widely acknowledged, is woven into the fabric of this nation and is literally the foundation of it. Black people need a break to think, to organize and to be restored so to speak. How this happens, I am not sure, as many black people have been conditioned to remain in survival mode. It will take some powerful force to restore us and lots of mental work. Allies acknowledging this and speaking up for the agenda to restore black people is a great first step, while black people also make a strong commitment to improvement.

Be compassionate during these times, listen without judgement, ask questions, and/or do your own research when you don’t understand something, be “anti-racist” and not just “not racist”. These are just the first few steps of many to understanding and repairing a system that has been broken from the start. I have faith that we will figure it out, the anger will subside as the healing/restoration starts. However, the anger we see today is very transformative and as we consciously organize our goals for reformation, hopefully that anger is channeled constructively to build a more peaceful and inclusive world for our future generations.

-Tyquencia “Ty” Hal (Allyson’s good friend since 2005 😊 )

Anger prompts change. This is an unfortunate truth. Calm words and appeals are often ignored. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but the exploding engine receives the most immediate care. Our society has become a master at ignoring the uncomfortable. In response, as individuals, we often stick to our corner of sameness and avoid the tension that change prompts.

Change is not easy. It requires sacrifices. Those that fight the hardest are those that experience anger at their current situation. Anger can be fuel that propels someone into confrontations they have avoided with attempts to pacify. Confrontations can be positive, if both parties are willing to listen. An angry person, that is able to remain civil, will often be heard above a passive, peaceful voice.

We want our children to be catalyst for change, to have their voice heard, to be warriors. Don’t we? If that is your hope for your child, you need to teach anger, encourage anger, but model and teach it’s appropriate use. Anger can be something powerful, harnessed for good. We could all use a little more spark sometimes.

Sparking,

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, 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 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 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 counseling, motherhood, parenting, Relatinships, Uncategorized, values

Recipe for Relationships

It’s February, the month that typically causes us to reflect on relationships, namely romantic relationships due to Valentine’s Day. This holiday provides an array of feelings for many of us, so we have decided to focus on relationships this month. The aim of this post is to give a few tips for meaningful romantic and unromantic relationships

Trust and respect were two topics highlighted in our co-parenting series. In order for co-parenting to work, both parties must trust and respect one another. This is true in any relationship, we want to trust our partner and their decisions and provide respect just like we want trust and respect in return.

With friendships and family relationships it’s difficult to have a healthy relationship if trust and respect are not reciprocal. When either of these is lacking we see undermining, questioning intentions, and putting others down publicly or privately. Of course there will be people in our lives we do not exactly trust or respect. For the people in our inner circle though, trust and respect are crucial. Examine your marriage, your closest friendships, and the family members you consider “your people,” how are you doing trusting and respecting them?

Trust and respect lead into expecting the best about the other person’s motives. When a friend does not return a phone call, we can expect that maybe they have a lot going on rather than assuming they are avoiding the call. When a spouse drops the ball on something at home, remembering what a tough week they have had at work helps assume the best. Assuming the worst leads us to believe negative things about others and ourselves.

So why outline the concepts of trust, respect, and expecting the best in a parenting blog? The reason is because we want to model healthy relationships to our children. We do not want them to witness interpersonal conflict of ours as their norm or friendships filled with gossip and drama. Demonstrating trust, respect, and expecting the best sets the stage for healthy relationships for them as well.

Finally, if we are looking at this through a Christian lens, there is a key verse to remember. Ephesians 4:32 states, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ forgave you.” Think about how you can transform your relationships and transform your attitude if you apply this verse to your relationships.

Kindly,

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 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.