parenting, Support, Uncategorized

A Sad Day

20180812_114353

Today I am feeling sad as a human and as a parent. However, among the sadness and some anger I am able to squeeze out fragments of hope for change no matter how bleak things appear.  This 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 strong 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 own emotions 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 pick ups of needed items before kiddos come home from school. Most often, I can catch snippets of conversations about how kids are settling in to 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 myself 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 his mother walking on a path by a lake. The mother was repeatedly calling her child to join her further up the path 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. I remember telling my own children very simply that we are gentle with nature.

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

It is Friday and the Fourth of July is right around the corner. Most of us hope to enjoy time with family and friends. These upcoming days offer some wonderful opportunities to live in the here and now, even if only for a couple hours. Commit to looking at others with ‘fresh eyes’, including your kiddos. Put aside automatic beliefs and thoughts. Let anger, worries and fears go for now and appreciate the positive moments you have been given with each other. Give yourself permission to release negative thoughts and practice seeing others as if meeting for the first time. See the unique qualities of others. You will be amazed at what you see and feel. It is one of our challenges as humans to be in the moment and to put aside negative, non-productive thoughts. However, if we choose to commit to  moments, such as taking a walk or sharing a meal with ‘fresh eyes’, you will open yourself up to different ways of thinking and relating to others. You get to choose.

So, give it a try! We all want to feel lighter and experience more joy in the moment. This takes practice. The more times you practice this skill the easier it will become. Good luck catching some great moments.

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 truly be suicidal. Yes, maybe they have been a bit down or stressed but…. The rationalizing and minimizing of this very real 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 simply not accurate and one that makes less and less sense as kids get older. In addition, the belief 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 own 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 at 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 varying 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 actually choose to make something different happen such as eating dinner picnic style on the floor in the living room or in 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.

parenting, Uncategorized

Clarifying Parenting Expectations Versus Privileges

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, simply 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 on 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😊.

 

Examples of expectations: (taught and reinforced daily/weekly)

-follow bedtime routine

-help set and clear the table

-no television/electronic gaming on school nights

 

Examples of privileges: (parents control when and how long these are utilized)

-use of any and all electronic devices

-use of special craft supplies

-cooking/baking with family