parenting, Support

PARENTING IN THE SPRING

While spring is an exciting time of year for our kiddos in and out of school, it is essential to know it also creates increased stress for many. We often think of stress as resulting from challenging things like struggling in a class or relationship troubles; however, even fun things happening in our lives like traveling or reaching a milestone, such as graduation creates stress as it takes us out of our comfort zone and routines.  When under stress, we often return to old coping strategies such as avoidance or burying feelings. So, keep an eye out for natural opportunities to build your kiddos skills.

When we listen to our kiddos often, we kick into problem-solving mode. Remind yourself to slow down and take notice of your own emotions that may drive your response. Actively listen to your child and remember it is frequently not about the content on the surface (“she was mean” or “that was unfair”). It is more helpful to respond to the emotions underneath the surface so we can help the kiddo identify their feelings, learn to sit with them and use some strategies to manage.

Some potential discussion starters could be the following:

It sounds like that was upsetting.

I’m sorry that was frustrating. What did you do or what could you do?

That sounds rough. I know you can handle it.

It will also be important to practice new ways of thinking about things such as learning to expect change and know it will take you out of your comfort zone. Talking about what to expect, including discomfort, and normalizing it will be key to building more successful coping.

Some potential discussion starters could be the following:

What felt hard today?

Did you expect that to be so easy or hard?

I never like it when that happens to me. What did you try to do?

Happy Spring! Embrace change and time for new growth. 🙂

parenting, Support, Uncategorized

A Sad Day

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Today I am feeling sad as a human and as a parent. However, among the sadness and some anger, I can squeeze out fragments of hope for change no matter how bleak things appear. Today is one of those days in my life that I will wrestle with my thoughts and emotions while I work to gather the words to talk with others. These moments come to all of us at various times in our lives, whether explaining an injustice, natural disaster, or a health crisis in the family. Searching for the right time and words to talk with a child when dealing with our own emotions has always been one of the more difficult things I have done as a parent.

At times, I have attempted to speed up this process so I can get the uncomfortable discussion out of the way and have been unsuccessful, as dealing with our emotions cannot be rushed. The only things I know for sure are that I want to be thoughtful about the words I use, and I want to maintain my boundaries. I do not want to overshare my intense emotions. A child needs to know the adults in their life can contain their emotions, so they are free to express their own in whatever form. Holding some space open to carry the weight of a child’s emotions rests with the adult. Lastly, I will allow the child to sit with their feelings and thoughts. I take comfort in knowing this allows all an opportunity to take in something upsetting, contemplate it, feel it and learn from it. I am not the fixer, and I will not promise to be as I know these moments teach us much. We all deserve at least that much on a sad day.

parenting, Support, Uncategorized

A Fall Reminder

As fall marks the end of summer, it brings with it much anticipation too. This is especially true if you have kiddos in your world as the inevitable rhythm of a school year brings excitement and trepidation. The mix of emotions drives much worry and anxiety for parents as they impatiently wait for signs of a child finding their way both academically and socially. This is especially apparent to me at the grocery store on weekdays around 3:00. At that time, I find parents running in for quick pickups of needed items before kiddos come home from school. Most often, I can catch snippets of conversations about how kids are settling into their new routines. The length of these conversations is often brief; however, the intensity is palpable. Fall teacher conferences or mid-term grades will put much of the wondering to rest for some, while others will learn of new thoughts and potential concerns that were not even on their radar.

This can be a challenging time of year for kiddos as well as their parents. I try to remember this each fall and work to be a better friend, neighbor, co-worker, and parent. For me the season of fall serves as a reminder to provide the care and support I would like to receive should I be struggling. Learning to be generous with kindness and compassion for me and others is an ongoing goal.

Living in the here and now, parenting, Teaching Kindness, Teaching Respect

Kindness to an Ant Can Mean So Much

I recently came across a young elementary school-aged child and mother walking on a path by a lake. The mother was repeatedly calling her child to join her further up the way however the child appeared not to hear the mother’s requests and continued to step on ants on the path. As the mother’s voice tone became increasingly frustrated, she retreated to gain her child’s attention. When approached by the mother who asked about the delay, the child simply replied, “I have to kill them all” and continued stepping on ants. I was hopeful when I saw the mother approaching she would take this opportunity to teach her child something about nature and how we all live on this planet together. Instead, the mother said okay and watched as her child continued to kill bugs. After another minute passed the child tired of the activity and they both quietly walked on down the path.

I must say this scene stunned and saddened me. This little moment probably would not be thought about by either child or mother again, and here it remained on my mind for the rest of my walk. This was just a moment but a significant one in which the mother could have shared a thought about gentleness, kindness, respect, and the care for creatures of all sizes. Instead, it became a missed opportunity.

Parents teaching their children well about nature and their place in this world is a necessary part of parenting as it relates to so many other skills, some of which include sharing, taking the perspective of others, and thinking about consequences of actions. Talking about your beliefs in these moments lays the foundation for future more significant moments such as how to treat family pets and even other human beings. We know it is essential for children to understand other points of view as they learn about their place in a family, school, community and the world. By paying attention to these little moments, parents will find they will have fewer big moments to manage. No parent wants to learn their child took something that did not belong to them or their child bullied a peer. Teaching a foundation of respect, kindness, and gentleness starting with an ant will pay dividends down the line.

Living in the here and now, living with intention, parenting

Fresh Eyes

We are all looking to find balance in our lives, families, and homes. Given our busy schedules, it is more important than ever to set ourselves up to build successes in our daily lives. When parenting, an essential component to creating more successes centers on the need to understand the difference between a parental expectation and a privilege in your home. Spending time to talk with your partner about this concept will be rewarding and prevent needless disagreements.

If you have not had this discussion, merely take a few minutes for each of you to list what you consider to be reasonable expectations as well as appropriate privileges for your child. Then come together and listen to each other without interruption or judgment. Take some time away from this subject to contemplate and come back later to discuss. It is hoped that going through this simple exploration will lead you as parents to a clearer understanding of how you each see expectations and privileges. You may not see common ground in all aspects but do not despair. This does not prevent you from beginning to create your family expectations and privileges list on all that you can agree upon. Armed with this knowledge, begin to teach your child about what you have decided to be important in your family/home.

Whatever you and your parenting partner have decided upon is a great start! Do your best to teach expectations well through consistent words/ actions and clearly define what privileges look like in your home. Please see below for some examples to get you started😊.

Emotionally distressed kids, Listening to our children, parenting

Parents, Please Listen!

You probably will not believe me when I tell you that good, loving, and well-intentioned parents often do not listen to their children when they express thoughts of distress or suicidal ideation. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is true. As a therapist, I have worked with children/adolescents in distress and asked them if they shared their feelings of hopelessness with family, and most often the response is yes. They have then gone on to share that to their surprise nothing changed. The kids are often perplexed why little to no changes occurred when they shared something so painful and profound. As a therapist, I have spoken with parents about their child’s suicidal thoughts and many times I have needed to convince parents to seek additional support/treatment. Why would a caring parent not seek help for their child immediately when so much is at stake?

After years of observation, I have come to believe that a parent’s own beliefs and defenses surface which leads to a struggle to absorb the thought that their child could indeed be suicidal. Yes, maybe they have been a bit down or stressed but…. The rationalizing and minimizing of this genuine challenge is truly disturbing and needs to be acknowledged. No other health issue would be met with such reluctance to pursue additional treatment.

The idea that a parent can control and protect their child is a powerful and consuming belief that is just not accurate. Also, the notion that we know what is best for our child is often flawed as well. The idea that we can be everything to our children leads us to dangerous assumptions and behavior choices.

While we have continued to work to remove the stigma of mental health needs, we need to do more. Parents need to do more. Listen to your kids if they tell you they are struggling and get them help now. By the time your child tells you about their struggles, chances are good they have been trying to cope for some time and haven’t been able to manage.

Do your work and explore your beliefs about mental health, depression and the contemplation of ending a life through suicide. Your kids need you to be there for them, and that means putting your own beliefs aside and hearing them when they are in distress. We can all do a better job of listening to each other, but in this area, it is critical for parents to be at their best and be ready to listen.

living with intention, parenting

Parenting with Intention

Parenting with intention takes regular thought and practice. Increasing awareness, listening to our thoughts and emotions which drives our behavior choices takes effort. Without a will to listen to ourselves we simply become reactive when responding to our children. It is empowering to choose something different and maybe even create something you intended. Starting with small moments is meaningful and can lead to much more.

All of us have different intentions each day. However, none of us wake up and decide we want to have a mediocre day. Most of us wake up with some initial anxiety about what the day may bring but hopefully after indulging in a bit of anxious thinking, we switch the gear and move toward intentional thoughts such as, I want to spend more fun time with my child, or I want to take a walk after dinner with my family. These are all great intentions most would agree. So what derails us can be a variety of factors such as our jobs, fatigue, chronic pain, etc. This is the moment we get to choose differently despite everything else going on. Yes, some things are out of our control, and too often we focus on what we cannot do for a variety of reasons. But what if today we decide to focus on what we can do? We choose to make something different happen such as eating dinner picnic style on the floor in the living room or a tent fort. The art of choosing something different can be powerful even with small shifts. The benefits can include a positive change in mood, decreased tension and some great laughter built in the day.

I love the idea of creating a moment. I choose to celebrate the positive moments in my life and build in more as that is my intention.