Posted in emotion regulation, grief, motherhood, parenting, values

Dealing in Disappointment

Trigger Warning: Discussion of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Pregnancy is difficult. Postpartum is gross. Breastfeeding is, at least for me, brutal. With every kid, it has been a struggle. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. However, it is something I value, that I have been determined to do with every kid. In reality? It has not been so easy. It is so frustrating that something that is touted as “natural” can be so unnatural for some kids.

I was warned with my first that it would be hard. I’m thankful for that or it might have been so much worse on my emotions. As it were, it was still so difficult. My son refused to latch at first and in the hospital they said that his sucking reflex was not developed. It developed and I thought things were going okay. His wet diapers weren’t super consistent, but I was determined to power through. It did not work. He was so underweight at three months that pictures of him at this time make me want to cry. Turns out I didn’t have enough of a supply, thanks PCOS. We turned to formula and he is a vibrant, wonderful five year old now.

My second child latched, but wasn’t transferring much milk during feedings. Turns out she was an ineffective eater. I was still determined to make it work. We did triple feedings for a few weeks. That is nursing, bottle feeding and pumping at every “meal”. Eventually, she nursed. It was something healthy and beneficial for her. We lasted 12 months and I was so grateful. She is a sassy, smart three year old now.

Now my third baby. She is currently five weeks. I am trying EVERYTHING. Lactation consultant appointments every week, evaluated for and participated in revision for a tongue and lip tie, attempting to triple feed and nothing is working. My husband and I decided that this was our last baby. I want this to work so much. I continue to pump and I am, thankfully, producing enough. She still refuses to latch, at all. We are working on developing her sucking reflex. My desire is at odds with this moments reality.

I am struggling with frustration and disappointment. I oscillate between determination with a dash of hope, to resignation laced with sadness. You ever have difficulty with your own emotions? I wanna tell myself, “Get over it already!” Emotions though? They don’t work like that. These are some ways I am attempting to cope in a healthy way.

REACHING OUT FOR HELP

I do not like to need people. Isn’t that ridiculous? Many people have this hang up. We are human. We have needs. I always like to quote 27 Dresses when Katherine Heigel says, “Needs? I don’t have needs. I’m Jesus.” I know I’m not Jesus. I am in no way perfect and cannot meet my own needs. Talking to others is important.

I call my support system. I am transparent about how I feel in the moment. I receive their encouragement like another food source. I ask for what I need and I take to heart their advice. It is important that your support system is healthy and lends places for uncomfortable feelings. If they mirror your worst impulse to “get over it” maybe find another support system.

FEELING THE FEELINGS

I encourage feeling all the feelings a lot. Because it is important. I don’t like doing it either sometimes. It stinks. I feel all weepy and not fit for public consumption. I feel like a mess. You know what? That’s okay. It is a natural response to existing stimuli. There is something I am discouraged about, so I feel discouraged. It’s important to sit in it for awhile. Sitting in emotions and wallowing are two different things.

Wallowing means sitting in “negative” emotions, ruminating on the negative and refusing to be motivated toward change and coping. Coping with those emotions means acknowledging them, naming them, valuing them and moving forward in a way that honors what they say about who you are.

I feel sad about this struggle. I can name the disappointment, the exhaustion, the discouragement. I recognize that they identify part of who I am. I want to do this because I value the attachment it can bring, the ease of not having to wash bottles, not being tied to an electric machine, avoiding the financial burden of formula and having my baby drink breastmilk for the first year. In following along that process, I do not avoid my feelings and I do not wallow. I approach them without (most of the time) judgement. Then, I can move on.

ENGAGING WITH POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

When things are difficult, it is important to do things that bring joy. I can hold my newborn, snuggle with my other kids, eat some cheesecake, watch a comedy or listen to a good audiobook. In the midst of discouragement, we often avoid our happy places. It can seem like too much work.

Last week was my birthday. It seemed like too much work to celebrate. To prioritize doing something fun. Thankfully my sister insisted and I had a wonderful evening with my family. It would not have been helpful to solely focus on my struggle. It is vital to take time away either mentally or physically from the weighty topic. Not to avoid, but to remember that life extends beyond the difficulty.

I’m still not on the other side of this. Part of my motivation to write this was to be able to speak to myself as well as others. Coping with a struggle is never easy. However, there are steps to take to navigate it in a healthy manner. No one does things in a healthy way all the time. As I began to write this, I was tempted to wallow. However, writing is a positive experience for me. We can deal with life and all the obstacles.

Struggling along,

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, 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 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 relationships, selfcare, selfcompassion, values

But it’s Always Been This Way

As humans, we enjoy the familiar. It can reduce anxiety to know what to expect. The predictable can become monotonous, but ultimately change is difficult.

Change often forces introspection and evaluation. We don’t usually like that. It means having to analyze and examine what works versus what is comfortable. Another word for unchanging can be tradition. As the holidays approach, tradition is a word that is thrown around often. Now, I am a person that love tradition. I thrive on having something that has meaning because it has history. However, it is good to explore whether certain things are accepted because they have value, or changing is too hard. Here are a few ways to evaluate that idea. It can be applied to the job that you know you hate, but it’s too hard to find something else. It can be a relationship that is unhealthy, but having to force confrontation is too uncomfortable. Whatever the situation, it needs to be said that just because it has “always been this way,” does not mean it has to continue.

HOW DOES IT EFFECT OTHERS?

Observation. Most people have to tell themselves to observe. Consider how others behave. Attempt to gauge their emotions. I know we are not mind readers, but body language can tell you a lot.

Not only examining others in the situation is important, but also examining your own reaction. We (and I may just mean me) can be so aware of other’s feelings and experiences that we forget to check in with ourselves. Something occurs routinely, because we don’t want to rock the boat. How do you feel about it? How do you feel when the situation or interaction is over? Fatigued? On edge? That may be a sign that something needs to change. An example could be who hosts Thanksgiving. Do you host every year and find yourself experiencing resentment? Maybe it’s time to ask for help or to let someone else take over for a season.

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO CHANGE?

The idea of changing the hosting of Thanksgiving? Did that cause anxiety? Where did that come from? Sometimes people are so entrenched in their roles in families or friend groups that stepping outside of that role can feel stressful. We are not what we do, but that concept isn’t really communicated in the world in which we live. Our value is not from what we provide for others. Are you always the friend that is the sounding board and struggle to find your own board? Might be time for something different. 

Identifying our emotions is difficult. We usually oscillate between happy, mad or sad. However, there are so many other feelings that can explain what is going on internally so much more clearly! Do you feel devalued or excited or content? We don’t use descriptive, feeling words, because they aren’t in our usual vocabulary. It’s okay to print out a list of emotions and go from there. Once the feelings are identified, it can help with the evaluation. 

WHAT IS NEEDED?

As people, we stink at asking for what we need. That’s why we are so good at manipulation. The idea stings because it’s true.  Look at toddlers. They learn how to fake cry for attention at early ages. They learn how to behave to get what they need. However, once we develop language capability, we don’t translate the idea. How often have you been feeling sad and asked specifically for a hug? Or needed to have a difficult conversation about someone hurting your feelings, so you gave them some passive aggressive clues that you were upset? Guilty. 

When we need things to change for someone else, for a place or for ourselves, we need to communicate. Communication that will probably lead to confrontation is my least favorite. I’d rather stuff my emotions (great job, therapist!) or flat out ignore my feelings to avoid effecting someone else’s feelings negatively. You know what? I need to “adult up,” and you do too. 

Change is hard. Evaluation is necessary. Just because something has “always been this way,” whether it is relationship dynamics, work environment or expectations, does not mean it has to or should continue forever. Look outside yourself, look into yourself and find what is necessary for things to move toward a healthy place. It’s not fun. It is not easy. However, your life is worth it.

Facing confrontation with hesitation,

Allyson 

Posted in anger, coparenting, empathy, grief, parenting, relationships, trauma, Uncategorized, values

Confronting Communication in this controversial world

“Do you even have a brain?” may be an overarching sentiment throughout today’s dialogue. The tone of the home is often found within the culture of the outside world. In these times, the overwhelming atmosphere of polarization is seeping into our families. Politics, COVID precautions, parenting, and so many other issues have become divisive rather than topics for discussion. 

Navigating these subjects with our spouses can be very difficult. The tendency is to become reactive, condescending and dismissive. This can cause small fights to become point-making episodes that will erode the relationship.

Here are a few options to consider when disagreements arise:

LISTENING VS. LITIGATING 

When we believe something strongly, we often have a list of relevant arguments on file in our brains. (Or is that just me?) We know the common attempts to refute our thoughts and the best rebuttal. A conversation becomes more like a trial for certain ideas. 

That is not how communication with our spouse needs to function. We need to listen, not only for the words they are speaking, but for what is below the surface. We know this person. We have dedicated our lives to being “one flesh” and molding our wills into a compatible force. When something triggers deep emotion, it is normally about something much more. What is that underlying fear or hurt they are attempting to outrun, out-reason or out-act? Listen deeper than the argument that you deem idiotic or shortsighted. 

Some insistences that wearing masks are ridiculous might stem from the panic response the body creates when feeling trapped. What trauma are they experiencing? Is it about more than just their decision that wearing masks “isn’t for them.” Often, when we are able to listen beyond the words and enter into their world, we can speak to the core issue rather than the surface defense.

RESPONDING VS. REACTING

As previously explored, look beyond what is said. This is easier said than done. How come? We also have underlying reasons for our reactions. It can help to evaluate our own stances and the reasoning behind them. 

This way, we are able to hear what is said without our own filters. These filters may color our partner’s arguments with more meaning than they intend. As an example, have you been frustrated at your spouse’s suggestion that they may not get the COVID vaccine? Are you simultaneously grieving an elderly loved one? Consider the connection between these two seemingly unrelated events.  

The words spoken are not what causes the emotion, it is the history we contend with in our own minds. When we understand our worldview, our own traumas and why we feel how we feel, we can respond with more calm than if we react to our own underlying histories. When we know ourselves, we can also share where our passion comes from. Bringing the cause of emotion into the conversation allows understanding. 

A great method to begin this conversation can be using “I” statements. This is a format often taught in counseling as a means to express difficult ideas. “I feel __________, when you _________, because _______________ . Next time, I would like if you would ____________ .”

This can be “I feel unheard, when you complain about COVID restrictions, because I am still grieving over losing my Grandmother. Next time, I would like if you would acknowledge my emotion as valid.”

ASKING VS. ASSUMING

Part of the “love verses” in scripture that is read at weddings and quoted ad nauseam in 1 Corinthians 13 is that love “always trusts.” (verse 7) It believes the best. When we assume that the other person is intelligent, caring, and wants the world to be a better place, we can ask questions without an ulterior motive. 

Questions can be healing or very damaging. When done with an agenda, or in an attempt to shame or manipulate someone, it can harm. However, when we seek to really know the answer of the question we ask, we can begin to communicate. 

Attempt to start on a level playing field. Ask what you do not understand. Ask without condescension and without agenda. Ask to know what is going on in your spouses mind. Seek to understand their perspective. 

Another way to find common ground, a way that helps me and is in line with my belief system, is making prayer part of the equation. When I pray to understand my spouse, pray to hear what he says, pray for compassion for him and pray to be able to communicate my own thoughts, I find that things go better. I am able to shed my defensive walls and make my hurts more exposed. It becomes more of a place of trust and I am able to approach with humility. 

All of these ideas make one assumption, however. They assume that you and your spouse are seeking to be a team, partners. These points do not work when one or both of you are attempting to have control or manipulate one another. If that is the case, I would recommend finding a marriage counselor to help balance the dynamic in the relationship to be in a healthier place.

I know this season is difficult. Tensions are high and passions run hot. It is possible to disagree and come to some type of compromise. However, this depends on your ability to approach your spouse with empathy and understanding. When you understand the “why” behind their “what”, the core of the issue can be discussed without hiding behind current issues. This gives birth to a new kind of intimacy – one where mutual respect and knowledge pave the way to better comprehension. 

Listening and evaluating,

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 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