Posted in adolescents, relationships

Secrets, Secrets

Navigating your child’s transition from adolescence to adulthood is complicated. One of the most complicated questions we face involves trying to navigate what is your responsibility, and what is theirs. Gone are the clearer-cut days of knowing when it is time for you to let your kid brush their own teeth, make their own bed, or even help make dinner. Older adolescence is fraught with much more complicated variations of this question. How much independence do they need to grow, and how much can you handle giving them while also remaining sane? To what degree should we let our child fail? Then, there’s the question I want to talk about today: how do we empower our adolescent children to be safe in their relationships and friendships when the other person is in crisis?

If you’re anything like me, you love hearing when kids overshare. I get really tickled when I hear little kids share really private and personal stories about their family members, and they have no idea the lines they just crossed. Although we may hear less of it directly, this is still happening in your child’s adolescent friendships. Kids tell their friends about the domestic violence at their home. Your child overhears someone talking about their dad’s excessive drinking. Someone texts your child that they are considering killing themselves.

The kind of connection and comradery that is built in the landscape of adolescence is almost unparalleled, so it is unsurprising that some of the most difficult, disturbing, and deviant experiences kids have get shared with their friends. Sharing stories and keeping secrets does, in fact, build trust like few other things can. As our kids start learning how to have more emotionally mature relationships with other people, we want them to learn how to be trustworthy friends. This means that we don’t want them to have to share everything they hear with us. But where is the line between secrets your child should keep, and secrets that they need to share, even when it could risk their friendship?

Distinguish between different kinds of danger

Our kids are going to keep secrets from us. When our kids our little, we teach them to tell us anything someone asks them to keep secret. We do this to protect them, and to keep them from falling prey to a dangerous situation. But as our kids mature, they start to understand some of the nuances between “good” secrets and “bad” secrets. It’s easier for our children to understand that it’s okay to keep the name of their friend’s crush a secret or to promise never to tell anyone else that they saw their friend shoot snot out of their nose when they sneezed. These are generally harmless secrets.

It may even be easy for your child to know when they have to tell someone about what they have heard, such as if their friend has been abused or assaulted, or if they know that someone is planning to harm themselves or others. But what about the more complicated secrets? The “in-between” secrets?

“You have to promise not to tell my mom and dad that I’m smoking pot. It would get so much worse for me at home if they knew.”

“I don’t know how to not feel depressed. Sometimes when I cut, I feel a little better. But you have to promise not to tell so that no one makes me stop.”

“I gave our other friend my anti-depressants. I don’t need them anymore, and her parents refuse to let her go to therapy. If they ever found out, they would ground her forever and she’d never get help.”

These are complicated situations even for adults to navigate, and we have to equip our kids to not have to navigate them alone. One way to do this is to keep an open conversation about okay and not okay secrets. Whenever I see adolescents in therapy, their parents and I talk about secret-keeping. They agree that my sessions with their kids can be secret, but first I promise them that I will let them know if I ever find out that their child is engaging in a dangerous behavior. I tell the parents that I will immediately inform them of immediately dangerous behavior, such as plans and intent to commit suicide, using hard drugs, or having unprotected sex. I then draw a line and say that if their child tells me they are engaging in risky, but not immediately threatening behavior, like superficial self-harm or vaping, I will give their child a two week grace period to tell their parents on their own and then I will check in to make sure they were informed. I distinguish between safe and unsafe secrets, and even outline when immediate action is required.

You don’t need to have this formal of a conversation with your child and their friends, but I do think that this kind of distinction between different kinds of secrets and different levels of danger are important to make. One way to help encourage your kids to share dangerous secrets is to help them understand that sometimes getting an adult involved is the most loving thing they can do for their friend. Yes, there are always possible nuances and exceptions. There are, in fact, some situations where children are put at more risk by sharing their secrets, such as in the case of children living in abusive homes. But no child should hold the weight of that kind of secret squarely on their shoulders. It is not our child’s responsibility to have to protect their friend from that kind of danger; an adult needs to take the responsibility for them.

Be sensitive to the risks of your child

When you describe the different kinds of secrets that are okay to keep and need to be shared, it’s important to remember the real risks of both sharing and keeping secrets. Sometimes, a friend will appreciate a secret told at the right time in order to ensure their safety. Other times, our kids know that they are making the very real choice between making sure their friend is safe and keeping the friendship. If your child ever finds themselves in a situation in which they have to betray the trust of a friend in order to keep them safe, they will need your support. Be sure to talk about your child’s friend with concern and respect. Yes, they may be doing something stupid, but save the judgment for later. Your first job is to be a trustworthy space for your kids to come to. And even better, enlist another adult in your life and name them as “the other safe adult.” Maybe this is a cool uncle or neighbor. It doesn’t really matter, as long as both you and your teen find this adult to be trustworthy and safe. Talking about secrets early and often will help them know that you are there for them and are willing to help them walk through the muddy waters with them. Risking a friendship is serious business for our kids, so take their concerns seriously. Relational death can feel just as scary as actual physical danger.

It is important for you, the parent, to do some work as well. Do you know what would you do if your child told you that their friend was about to commit suicide, take drugs, or go steal a car?  If not, take some time to consider your options. You can ask your child what their ideas are as well so that they can be involved in the decision making, but it will help if you have an idea of who you would call or how you might address the situation.

It’s scary when our children start to encounter very real adult-sized problems, and evaluating secrets is one of those problems. If we are not a safe place for them to come to, they end up trying to solve these problems alone. Our children should never have to feel fully responsible for keeping another teen safe. It is our responsibility to communicate to our children that we are ready and willing to share in or shoulder that responsibility for them.

Growing alongside,

Selena

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

Posted in Uncategorized

When Parenting Styles Differ

We all have friends and family that parent differently than we do. We have different children, who have varied temperaments and we have different home environments. Sometimes it can become difficult to engage with one another with children involved, because of parental variations. With a wide array of values and expectations held by us parents, discussing this topic can bring tension. In our world today with a “right/wrong” mentality, we often try to categorize each other as negligent, irresponsible or too strict and overly involved.

However, it is okay for parenting styles and expectations to be diverse. How we approach the world varies and therefore our approaches to parenting will carry the same variety. It is not necessary to always agree. It is actually okay to have different expectations for your children while being with other kids that have other rules. You will find, the way to adjust to these situations has more to do with you and your family than convincing someone else to change. As we often say in therapy, “The only person you have control over, is you.”

KNOW YOU EXPECTATIONS AND THE WHY BEHIND THEM

This may seem silly. However, most parents are not aware of the expectations they have for their children until the situation arises. By knowing your individual values and allowing that to direct your expectations, you can navigate an unexpected circumstance with more clarity. The awareness of where you stand, and the reason you hold to that rule, can drive your action.

Your child may need a certain schedule to manage their behavior, or you may be able to have a more flexible schedule due to your child’s personality. Neither are wrong. However, you need to know what your child needs and understand why your child has those needs. As a result, you do not need to get defensive when someone else has different plans. You know what you need to do and you know why you need to do it. You will be less likely to be swayed by outside influences.

BE CONSISTENT

It can be tempting to alter our expectations depending on the environment. However, this can be very confusing for our children. They can jump on the couch at Mimi’s house, but not your house. That’s not going to translate for them. It can cause them some anxiety due to not understanding the rules or cause them to become defiant because they get confused.

To maintain exceptions everywhere sets us up for more challenges. It takes more management, more interventions, more attention. However, being consistent will eventually make it easier for you to enforce rules and for your children to follow them. They cannot read your mind. If we change our approaches based on our environment, they may attempt to read our mind (anxiety) or treat our expectations as suggestions. They may draw the conclusion that Mom obviously does not know what she wants (not that they’ll consciously think that).

If you are a parent/caregiver watching someone else’s child, it is important to know their rules. It is important to try and adhere to their rules whether you agree with them or not. This might be enforcing a no screen time rule that you feel is ridiculous or you allow your children to jump on the couch – even if you think he should be allowed to. However, it can be more confusing for the kid to have different rules. Allow the consistency to prevail. Once again, this is if the rules are not harming anyone.

BE VOCAL

Your children need reinforcement. They need reminders. This is especially true, the younger they are. Have a phrase you use for each expectation and repeat it. This could be “please keep your voice down when we are inside” or “remember, we only sit on furniture.” Stating the behavior you wish for them to model, is more helpful for them.

It is also helpful for those around you to know what you expect from your children. It does not mean that they need to comply. It is okay for parents to have contrasting rules. It does not mean one is right and one is wrong. You are each parenting individuals. Each child comes with their own needs. There is no reason to feel insecure about your expectations. There is no need to feel insecure over someone else’s expectations as long as everyone is being respectful to one another and the property of other.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFERENCE

It is okay to recognize the varied expectations–not only with the other parent, but with your child. You can tell your child that “other people have different rules, but you need to follow Mommy/ Daddy/Caregiver’s rules.” This acknowledges to the child that you are aware, and that your expectations have not shifted with varying circumstances.

In the end, ignoring the inconsistencies can be more confusing. It will not cause more tension or suddenly cause your child to notice the differences. Children are way more observant than we give them credit for, and more observant than we’d like them to be sometimes.

Parenting can be a struggle. When you add other people and their kids, it can create a bit of chaos. Chaos isn’t bad. Chaos can add a little bit of diversity in your life. However, you can set up skills that allow you to parent how you parent, regardless of your environment.

As we identify our own values in conjunction with our child’s unique personality, we can communicate our expectations to our children with confidence and clarity. And if you think about it, this may actually teach them to hold strong to their own values later in life when others go a different way.

Parenting differently,

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 Uncategorized

What I Learned While Sick With Covid

I write to you from the weakness and discouragement that only sickness can bring. Our household was unfortunate enough to be stricken with this awful virus over the holidays. It is uncomfortable and distressing, provoking anxiety at every turn. Our experience has not resulted in hospitalization, thankfully. However, there are still some things that I have realized through parenting in the midst of “the Rona.”

I NEED MY CO-PARENT

My husband received the dreaded positive test result first. After exposure, we hoped against hope he didn’t contract it. He wore a mask and stayed six feet apart. However, after the test, it hit him like a truck. I felt some pity, some compassion and some dread.

We decided he would quarantine to hopefully spare our Christmas plans. Anyone with a sick spouse can tell you how difficult it can be. I felt like a hotel employee providing room service sometimes. I would leave food at the door and knock to let him know it was there. All this on top of parenting two active kids, plus two dogs (but I digress).

I began to notice as he emerged from his sick bed, how much his presence gave me extra dose of energy. Just knowing he could provide backup, was so helpful. It changed my mood in a noticeable way. I think he appreciates this truth being reiterated from my experience. I try to remember to be grateful for him in the midst of parenting together rather than resent it when he isn’t present.

I WISH I PARENTED WITH MORE GRACE WHILE SICK

While writing this, I needed to apologize to my four year old. I. am. tired. The contagious period is coming to a close, but the exhaustion is real. My patience is nonexistent. I am having many many conversations with my kids about frustration and positive coping, both pointing it out when I do it well and when I do not.

Parenting while sick is the struggle stay at home parents have to handle. It is miserable and often kids feel the brunt of it. Plus, with parental expectations, like limiting screen time, it is so difficult. Sometimes I put a movie on, but it always left me feeling guilty. New flash, an occasional movie day is OK. Do I know this? Yes. Do I believe it is ok for me? Apparently not. The double standard is obnoxious. My sister lovingly pointed out that it was “maybe better to have them watch a movie that having to deal with not yelling.” I hate when she’s right.

PERSPECTIVE MATTERS

I have been so grumpy. From feeling bad, but also from self-pity. I love Christmas. I think it is magical. This year? I wanted to light my tree on fire. I refused to listen to Christmas music and couldn’t get myself to watch the cheesy movies. I didn’t even wrap presents. I love wrapping presents.

Now. It is important to feel emotions. To let yourself be sad and disappointed and angry. But DON’T STAY THERE. I did though. I wanted to sulk and stew and be Scrooge. Who did that hurt? Mostly me. On Christmas night, I finally engaged in what I knew would help. Gratitude. There is so much for me to be thankful for right now! Naming those things, not to mention the reason we celebrate Christmas, enabled me to change course.

I am still not happy that I missed time with family that traveled to my town. That was brutal. BUT, I will be able to see them again. It is so helpful to look at my kid’s faces with gratitude rather than frustration that they need Mom to Mom while she is feeling awful.

Covid brain is a real thing, so maybe this post doesn’t make sense at all. But maybe it does. I wanted you to benefit from my experience. It seems that most of what I learned can be wrapped up in the bow of gratitude. It is a skill that is difficult to learn, harder to practice and cannot be done accidentally. It all comes back to perspective. That is my word for the year 2021. When I adjust my perspective, I find my parenting experience changes.

Begrudgingly (sometimes) grateful,

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 Uncategorized

I Just Can’t Do It

“I just can’t do it,” are the famous words of my four year old when he does not believe in his ability to accomplish something. His self-efficacy, his belief in his ability to do something, has everything to do with whether or not he will start something new or do a seemingly cumbersome activity. If honest, we often feel this way as adults too and would rather not start something if we think we might fail.

How do we help our kids believe in themselves when we do not believe in ourselves some of the time either? We want to build our own self-efficacy to model and help our kids build their self-efficacy. We often need to regroup and reboot to start believing in ourselves, and our children need this too.

REGROUP and REBOOOT for Parents

Identify negative thinking patterns contributing to “can’t do it” attitude like the following.

  • I’m not good at this sort of thing.
  • I wasn’t cut out to be this kind of parent.
  • This is too hard, too much, too overwhelming.
  • I remember a time when I failed in this area before and replaying that memory.
  • What if I fail?
  • I should be able to do this.
  • My kids deserve a better parent.
  • If I can’t do it perfectly, why do it at all.

Calm down to regroup by using relaxation or calming skills. We have suggested coping skills throughout the blog including but not limited too: breathing, exercise, mindfulness, art, music, something spiritual, spending time with friends, engaging in a pleasant activity, and journaling.

Reboot by replacing the negative thinking with more rational and positive thinking.

  • This is challenging, but I will do my best.
  • Even if I can’t finish this task today, I will start.
  • I am enough for my kids.
  • Today was rough, I made mistakes, and tomorrow is a new day.
  • I only have enough strength for today not for every day in the future.
  • Who can I ask for help on this?

REGROUP and REBOOT

Listen as they say they “can’t” or show you they can’t by having a meltdown or a fit. Listen for the negative thinking. You can call it “stinking thinking” with them. Help them calm down. They will not be able to change negative thinking until they calm down! They may just need a hug. If they need more than a hug, a calm down corner is a great way to help them regroup.

Ways to regroup for kids in a calm down corner:

  • Deep breathing
  • Hug a parent
  • Hug a stuffed animal
  • Count
  • Draw or color
  • Listen to music
  • Exercise
  • Drink some water
  • Say a prayer
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Read a book

Help your child reboot with strong, healthy thinking by helping them solve the problem. Remind them of times they have succeeded in the past when they did not think they could do it or when they completed a similar task.

Suggestions to help your child reboot:

  • Would you like some help?
  • Can we start the project together?
  • Let’s set a timer for ten minutes and just get started on the homework.
  • What if we count all of the blocks as we throw them in the bin to clean up?
  • Want to listen to music while you do this?
  • I believe in you.
  • You are a great problem solver.
  • I love the way you are thinking this through.
  • You have an amazing brain, and I am here to help if you get stuck.

Though this may not work every time, my hope is that it will help. The other day when my son was saying he could not do something that I knew he could, I showed him the times he has successfully completed the task before.  I encouraged him. I helped him get started. After he successfully completed the task, I said, “Was that hard?” He replied, “No that was easy!” I hope you receive some positive feedback as you are helping your child believe in themselves as you too are working on believing in yourself.

Day by day,

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 Uncategorized

What is Weary?

One morning last week as my husband and I were in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for kids, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know the word but I’m so…” I started spouting off feeling words that I thought would fit given his recent circumstances. “You are so worn out? Burnout? Defeated? Exhausted?” I kept striking out.  A few minutes later he looked at me and said, “I’m so weary!” Weary was the perfect word that I would never have guessed.

So what is the feeling, weary? It’s not on any of the feeling charts in my office. Some definitions of weary from the Merriam-Webster dictionary are “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness” and “having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted.” My non-counselor husband described what we both have been feeling off and on for months.

I am wondering how many of you have also been feeling weary. Weary after the prolonged summer, weary from no routine, weary from the news, weary from monotony, weary from virtual school, weary from a loss, weary from trials, just plain weary. No one wants to stay here permanently. What do we do if we are weary?

I think the answer is rest. Before you tune the remainder of this blog post out, thinking you don’t have time for any type of rest, read on and pick one small way to engage in rest. It can be physical, emotional/mental, or spiritual rest.

Physical Rest

Is it possible for you to physically get some rest and catch a nap while your partner or a friend watches the kids for a bit? Can you sleep in one weekend despite your long to do list? To do lists will never end. Maybe there are some tasks you can to do a little more leisurely and less vigorously to feel rest and not wear yourself out. Hydrate and eat decently. There is only one of you, lowering the expectations of how much you accomplish or produce in a day can give you physical rest and a sense of relief.

Emotional/Mental Rest

Our minds have a tendency to wander and live in the “what ifs” as our recent blog post addressed, ruminate over the past, and stay stuck in negative spin cycles. Guard your thoughts. If a certain topic or imagined scenario produces negative emotional reactions make the choice to stop thinking about it. Yes, easier said than done, but I would encourage you to take those harmful thoughts captive and alter your thinking. Gratitude can give you a break mentally. Mindfulness and meditation can help you stay in the present and focus on life without judgment. We can all use that! If you are constantly in your head and it feels like a battlefield, I would encourage you to talk to someone about it, journal your thoughts, and reach out to a counselor.

Spiritual Rest

When I think of rest from a spiritual perspective, this song, “Quiet You with My Love” from artist Rebecca St. James comes to mind. Through this song I imagine surrendering everything, especially the weariness and experiencing rest in God. Prayer, music, journaling, and reading Scripture are a big part of my spiritual rest. I would encourage you to do something to promote spiritual rest for yourself too. What feeds your soul? 

I have come to the somewhat defeating realization that I will never get done in a day what I want to accomplish. For my type A, task oriented, and achievement-loving self, I could be setup to live weary. If I reframe my thinking to remember that I am raising children and helping others, my mindset is lifted and broadened. Moment by moment, day by day, I encourage you to remember what is most important, I hope this mindset along with practical ways to help you rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually leaves you less weary.

Resting with you,

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 Uncategorized

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

 “I didn’t sign up for this,” she said as we talked on the phone about life. I could hear the feeling in her voice. I wanted to jump in the car, drive all of the hours it took to get to her house to talk, to help, to be there, but I couldn’t because…COVID. Two friends, states away processing parenting challenges, transitions, and COVID. We worked to find practical solutions knowing there is no ultimate solution.

Most of us have had numerous challenges during COVID, and I think many of us have had the thought, “I didn’t sign up for this.” All of those feelings piling up on one another: sadness, disappointment, worry, frustration, boredom, jealousy, and fear add up to the overarching feeling of being OVERWHELMED!  

One of my least favorite feelings to feel is overwhelmed. The world feels cloudy, heavy, and unclear. Sometimes our bodies have stress reactions like muscle aches, stomachaches, headaches, and chest pains when we are overwhelmed. We have behavioral changes like snapping at loved ones and dropping the ball on responsibilities. Maybe you are holding onto the thought that when things are “normal” again, I won’t feel so out of sorts, so overwhelmed.

The reality is we do not know when normal will be. That statement is overwhelming! Worrying about getting the virus, sending or not sending kids back to school, working or not working, being a full time parent and employee, missing friends, not seeing extended family, cancelled summer plans, tired of the mundane, wearing masks on every outing, and kids stuck inside is reality. What can we do to feel less overwhelmed?

Let’s meet overwhelmed with practicality. I want us to tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed one step at a time. The first step is to understand you are overwhelmed, acknowledge the stressors and feelings contributing to being overwhelmed, and realize that feeling overwhelmed right now is within the scope of normal. Take a breath, give yourself a break, and tap into one or more of these.

  • One day at a time.
  • Take it moment by moment.
  • Be present in the mundane moments with your kids.
  • Take social media breaks and news breaks.
  • Resist jumping to conclusions about what tomorrow, next week, next month will hold.
  • Find joy in the simple things.
  • Laugh with your kids.
  • Remember what is rational versus irrational.
  • Remain hopeful that a sense of normalcy will be restored.
  • Go outside for a few minutes each day.
  • Listen to music that lightens your mood and lifts your spirit.
  • Encourage a friend or family member.
  • Connect with someone you have been meaning to talk to.
  • Read something uplifting.
  • Watch a feel good movie.

I know these are simple, but small acts like these keep us grounded. They help us breathe and remember to get out of ourselves when that is really hard to do right now.  Ruth Chou Simons quoted a German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in her book Beholding and Becoming. What he wrote in the eighteenth century could not be more pertinent now.

“Cease endlessly striving to do what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.”

There are so many things that I want to do but can’t, and so many things I don’t want to do but must so that my household and business run. I want to invite you to do your best to love what you have to do right now after you take some time to choose a few practical things to feel less overwhelmed. Realigning focus will help us feel more content, and I am committed to doing that so I can feel less overwhelmed and more at peace with my current life. Please join me.

Journeying with you,

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

Survival Mode to Summertime

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

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

When You Were a Kid

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

Reinstate Normal

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

One on One

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

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

Diving in with you,

Andrea

Reference:

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

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

Posted in 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 Uncategorized

Searching for the light

I ventured into Costco this week, and was overwhelmed by the masks and isolation. Waiting in line for them to monitor the flow of customers and having to register the list of unavailable items, I felt the change more deeply than before. The grief that Selena wrote about in the last post, was an almost tangible presence. Our society has shifted and the world will no longer be the same. 

Taking time to process the anxiety, grief, loneliness and other unpleasant emotions is important. The more we bury and ignore the underlying emotions, the harder they will hit and the more others will become collateral damage. Once we are able to identify and process through our emotions, however, we do not want to stay and wallow. 

Wallowing can be easier. Wallowing is the path of least resistance and wallowing will never make us feel better. It is vital to find ways to splash colors of gratitude, joy and relief in these days of crisis. It will not only allow us to feel lighter, it will alter the atmosphere of our homes. 

A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE 

When we look at all the plans that were canceled, all the people we miss, all the hugs we are unable to receive, we sink into sorrow. Sadness is part of life, but there is joy as well. When our eyes are blinded by darkness we can lose sight of the pin pricks of light. Looking for the light, adjusts our focus and therefore changes what we notice.

Look for the moments to cherish. The family dinner, uninterrupted by soccer practice. The increase in phone calls from friends seeking connection. The days in your pajamas, when comfort is your only goal. When you are seeking the positive moments, you will find them. 

BE INTENTIONAL

When we lack intentionality, time passes quickly and our desires go unmet. Schedule a zoom meeting with family, sit in your driveway and wave at neighbors. We all need community. During this time, it will not happen accidentally. Take a moment to find ways to reach out to others. 

It takes one step to make something happen. Everyone desires moments of connection. In the age of internet and video calls, we can have time with each other. When you are able to focus on others’ lives, it helps with the isolation and holds the loneliness at bay.

CONTINUE THE GROWTH

Learning a new skill, baking bread every week, or developing more structure is not necessarily feasible. As parents, many of us are trying to refrain from throwing things across rooms. Our kids are a handful and trying to do more than take one day at a time can be exhausting. However, during this time, the slower pace can be something to hold onto once this passes. 

Instead of jumping back into life as usual with hectic schedules and more events than hours in a day, investing in what is important needs to continue. The growth we find while enduring the crisis, the character we build, needs to persevere. Valuable change is happening these days, recognize it so that it may carry on.

Life is changing. If we continue on a path of unending disappointment, this pandemic will take a toll on more than just our health or economy. The stress can be overwhelming. It will not necessarily go away, but couple it with encouragement and moments of light.

Searching,

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.