ParentTip

LifeTip: Learning to Trust and Be Trusted

 Photo by  Perry Grone  on  Unsplash

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

“Trust me” is a phrase we hear in all types of relationship dyads. From intimate partners, to parents and their children, friends, and even work colleagues and acquaintances, we all want to feel trusted and know if we can trust the other person. If we look closely, we might even wonder if we can trust ourselves. It begs the questions - “Why is trust so important?” and “How do we know if we have trust?” The challenge is that like most things in life (dare I say ALL), it isn’t black or white. It’s not as simple as “Yes, I trust you” or “No, I don’t” in most situations...

As I reflect on my 10+ years of experience as a therapist, I can safely say that every one of my clients have struggled with the question: How can I know if I trust him/her/them? I can easily recall the pain in the eyes of a 16 year old client who had worked for months to mend their relationship with their parents after a period of greatly deceptive behavior, as they asked, “Can’t you trust me now? What more can I possibly do?” And the simultaneous confusion, grief, doubt, hope, and uncertainty in the eyes of the parent who responds, “I don’t know; part of me says ‘yes’ while another part says ‘no way!’”  There’s also the employee who can’t quite pinpoint why he feels so uneasy in interactions with his boss. Or the woman who sits in my office wondering out loud if her boyfriend can truly be trusted, despite her deep love for him. Most of the time, it’s painful to examine trust in our relationships and yet, it’s completely necessary.

If we want to be seen and valued in our relationships, trust is essential. Trust is the foundation upon which we can engage in and build authentic relationships with one another. It determines if we feel safe enough to be vulnerable or if we feel the need to put on our armor and self-protect with another person. Trust is not something that we can expect to have with other people instantly. Rather, it is much like a flower - it requires patience, attention, nurturance, and flexibility in order to thrive. When we see warning signs that things aren’t going well, we must take a look at the components of trust to know what is getting in the way and whether it can be salvaged. So what are the components of trust?


Researcher, author, and storyteller, Brené Brown has identified 7 elements of trust which are incredibly helpful when evaluating and examining where there are challenges and strengths in a relationship. Quoting from her book Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution (pgs 199-200), she defines these elements with the acronym BRAVING:

B - Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s

okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.

R - Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your

competencies and limitations so you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on

commitments andbalance competing priorities.

A - Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

V - Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need

to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any

information about other people that should be confidential.

I - Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun,

fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.

N - Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can

talk about how we feel without judgment.

G - Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions,

words, and actions of others.

This is one of the most useful measuring sticks for trust that I’ve found. It takes something that is very murky and hard to define, and makes it just a little clearer. The reason the parent may struggle to say whether she trusts her teen is because their child may be incredibly reliable but struggles greatly with accountability. The employee may feel uneasy around their boss because the same boss they are supposed to have rapport and safety with is the same person who revealed deeply personal information to him about another colleague. The newly formed romantic relationship may be strong in generosity but weak in boundaries.

This stuff is complex. The good news is that if we take a look at each of these components we will likely find strengths to acknowledge and praise, as well as new language to explain the reasons we’re struggling with trust in our relationships. Similarly, it can help us to identify our own areas of weakness that may cause others to mistrust us or to mistrust ourselves.


So, the next time you feel uneasy or uncertain about your level of trust in an important relationship, take some time to get quiet, take a deep breath, and evaluate your strengths/weaknesses according to the BRAVING model and the strengths/weaknesses of your counterpart. Keep in mind, the point is not to blame the other, but to make this murky concept of trust a little clearer, which means looking within as well. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” We have to be willing to look at our part in building and maintaining trust, as well as the other’s part.

LifeTip: How Setting Boundaries Promotes Intimacy

Recently, I’ve felt inspired by both my personal and professional life when it comes to interpersonal boundaries. Setting boundaries in our relationships can be challenging because it requires a bit of finessing, but in the long run it can actually help promote intimacy with others.

Often when we talk about setting boundaries in relationships, we refer to creating metaphorical lines that are not to be crossed or tampered with in order to protect ourselves. This idea may appear to create distance in a relationship, perhaps in one that requires nurturing and closeness, but in most cases, the opposite is true.

Boundaries are not only a way to protect ourselves in relationships, they also create healthy structure, promote predictability and safety, and are a form of self-care. A boundary can be as simple as setting guidelines with your child about phone usage at the dinner table. Other boundaries can be more complex, such as telling a parent or family member that certain topics are off-limits because they personally result in unhelpful consequences and emotional discomfort. In either case, we set boundaries with the people we care about in order to increase the safety, intimacy, and long-term sustainability of each relationship. Setting boundaries can be appropriate in any relationship: your child, parent, sibling, partner, friend, coworker, the list goes on. If it’s a relationship you care about, it can certainly benefit from setting healthy boundaries.

It’s important to note that setting boundaries can be really challenging, especially if this is something new you’re trying. It might feel awkward, it might also create some short-term confusion/anger/resentment, and it might even take a handful of tries before it feels authentic. Be patient with yourself and this relationship. If you care enough about this person and yourself, allow the time and space to work out the kinks.

Here are some helpful tips when setting interpersonal boundaries:

  • Practice saying no/yes when it comes to your needs/desires and reflect on how you manage hearing “no” from others. Practice tolerating any uncomfortable emotions that come up.

  • Reflect on your sense of identity. Practice accepting and respecting yourself.

  • Practice speaking up when you feel you have been abused or disrespected by others.

  • Take time to identify your wants, needs, and feelings. Practice using direct communication to share these wants, needs, and feelings with others.

  • Identify your limits and allow others to define their limits.


Finally, remember that we set boundaries out of love and not punishment!

Practice compassion for yourself and within your relationships 😊


LifeTip: Communicating Your Needs and Getting What You Want

 Photo by  Mona Khaleghi  on  Unsplash

You can’t always get what you want, but how do you get what you need?

The Rolling Stones may have been on to something with their 1969 hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but what happens when you “try sometimes” and still can’t get what you need? Think about it: Have you ever tried explaining what you need or how you feel to a friend, family member or spouse, but the message doesn’t seem to translate? No matter how you try to explain yourself, your listener becomes defensive, uninterested or simply does not react the way you had anticipated. Afterwards, as you mentally parse every word that was spoken, you start to wonder if talking about your needs, bringing up a concern, or making a request was even worth it in the first place. Let me reassure you- it WAS worth it! Not expressing your needs with others may leave you feeling unfulfilled, overwhelmed and resentful towards those relationships. In my work with couples and individuals, I have found that in most relationships, platonic or romantic, both parties want to provide adequate support and meet the needs of the other person. The problem is not the request for support, but instead how the request was made.

In a society where social and emotional learning is now being taught to kids as young as Pre-K, we are all pretty well versed in “I statements” (for those of you unfamiliar, an “I statement” goes something like this: I feel because ). Many couples and individuals report that they have used traditional “I Statements” but the results have been less than satisfactory. What I have discovered is that this statement tends to leave the listener with only a small amount of information, and in many situations, they can get defensive. While we have the best intentions in explaining why we feel the way we do, this format of the “I Statement” tends to lead us into a “you”/blaming format.

For example: “I feel sad because you are so selfish.”

In this example you have articulated your feelings, but, unfortunately, your listener is left to interpret your meaning of “selfish” and forced to guess how they could appear less selfish in your eyes. This is especially difficult if the listener doesn’t feel as if they are being selfish, or they just become defensive at the term. Instead of providing our partner or friend with a road map of how to better support us, we end up leaving them questioning the security of our relationship and lacking direction of how to meet our needs.

In an effort to reduce conflict and allow individuals to express their needs, I teach my clients a modified version of the “I Statement.” With this new phrasing, we exclude why the person feels the way they do in the initial statement, and instead specify under what circumstances the feeling occurs, as well as the needs of the speaker. The goal is not to negate why you feel the way you do, however, you want your listener to hear your message before they start disputing your reasoning or feeling under attack. Conversation immediately following the stating of your needs, may allow for you to express the “why.” The phrase I recommend to anyone interested in clearly communicating needs, looks like this:

“I FEEL , WHEN . I NEED .

This statement allows the speaker to not only express how they feel, but give a specific example of when the feeling occurs, and exactly what they need from the listener. Sounds like great information to give and receive, right? This does, however, require a little bit of thinking on your part. Before approaching a loved one with a feeling, determine what you need from the individual. The goal is not to blame the other person for your feelings, but instead provide specific details about what they can do to help you.

In the case of our example, instead of saying: “I feel sad because you are so selfish.”

Try saying: “I feel sad when you refuse to go to the symphony with me. I need you to show interest and agree to participate in activities that I like. I feel supportive when we go to see your favorite soccer team. I need to feel the same support from you.”

See the difference? The modified “I statement” lets the listener know that the speaker is upset, gives specific reasons why, and provides the listener a road map to the speaker’s preferred path forward. Now the listener should have an opportunity to explain how they are feeling, and if they can’t agree to meet the specified needs, they need to explain why that is (more modified “I statements”, but this time from the listener).

Keep in mind, not only couples and adults benefit from clearly stating their needs. While teens may need more help labeling their feelings and identifying their needs, statements such as the modified “I statement” may provide them with an incredible template to express themselves!


Here are a Few Tips for Conversations about Needs:

  1. Privacy Please! Conversations discussing sensitive topics should be done in private, or at least without other people within ear shot. If you want your partner/friend/family member to fully focus on your message, and respond authentically, give them an environment that they feel secure to do that in.

  2. Fully focused! Find a time that is free from distractions. If your listener is dividing their focus, they may not fully understand what you are asking of them or even be able to process your conversation. Also consider outside stressors that may prevent your message from translating; such as, stressful days for your listener, exhausted listener, etc.

  3. Make “eyes” with your listener! Gazing into one another’s eyes allows us to bond, without speaking. By making eye contact, you are showing your listener that you not only want their attention, but you want to connect with them.

** In some situations, the idea of sitting face to face may feel too confrontational. In these cases, instead of forgoing the conversation all together, consider taking a walk and talking side by side, or chatting in the car (after you have pulled into the driveway).

Help your partner meet your needs and vice versa. Use “I feel , when . I need .” statements to get your message across. Encourage the people in your life to also use these statements, so that you can appropriately respond to their needs as well. Promote this type of discussion until it becomes a natural part of your conversations!

ParentTip: Adjusting to a New School Campus

Hooray! The start of new school year! For many kids and teens, this time of year is a chance to reconnect with friends who have been out of touch for the summer and to recap their adventures from the last 3 months. However, for those going to a new school - whether the transition is from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or simply a new campus - it can be a time of panic and frustration, as they try to “find their place” amongst a new group of peers. As parents, it can feel like you’re helpless to sit on the sidelines, and watch your child struggle to fit in. It can also lead to wondering and worrying if you’ve made the best decision in choosing their new school. Before you start looking at other education options, consider a few tips:

Tips for Parents Supporting Their Tweens/Teens

  1. Create time after school to talk with your tween/teen. Finding a time to check in with your child regularly that is free from distractions and audiences (siblings, other family members) gives your child a consistent safe space to share their concerns and fears about their new school. If your child seems “burned out” at the end of the day, give them time to recharge before you start asking questions. For a child who is feeling isolated at school, having a space to vent and connect at home is imperative!

  2. Leave your preconceived notions at the door. What may seem like a big deal to you (i.e. sitting alone on the bus), may not be the main concern of your child. Understanding specifically why your tween/teen is happy or unhappy at their new school will give you a better understanding of how you can support them.

  3. Don’t fix, reflect first. When your teen is upset, it’s easy for parents to want to offer advice to help them fix the problem. For transition issues, there are often a lot of factors in play because all of their surroundings are totally new. I have compiled a short list of “action steps” below, that teens can take to help get more adjusted to their new school, but before you start offering advice or comparing the old and new schools with your child, be sure you truly understand why they are upset. A simple reflection of feelings can save a lot of tension between you and your teen.

    For example, if your tween/teen comes home upset about Math class. Instead of saying: “That’s terrible! I am going to fill out a class change for you. This teacher is awful for not helping you. You shouldn’t be so lost and upset in their class.”

    Instead, try: “Math class was really frustrating. It sounds like you feel that the teacher moves at a faster pace than what you’re used to or comfortable with.”

    What you may find out is that an element that you didn’t expect is to blame; perhaps a disruptive classmate is causing confusion, rather than the content or pace of the class. By reflecting, your child is given a mirror to understand the message they’re conveying. Tweens/Teens are still finding their voices, so reflecting on their feelings and checking for understanding not only helps parents address the correct issue, but it also gives your child the language they need to appropriately express their concerns!

  4. Talk with your child’s favorite teacher, or their least-hated teacher, depending on how your student is feeling about the new school year. Teachers are in a unique position to help kids meet one another. Because teachers initiate peer interaction through natural class activities and give students automatic talking points, kids are able to meet each other in ways that feel less intimidating. They also know most of the kids in their classes by the end of September, so they can steer your child towards a group who shares similar interests.

  5. Introduce your child to their school counselor. If you have a child experiencing anxiety or apprehension with school, you don’t want to wait until your child is in full “meltdown mode” to start talking with some of the support staff. Counselors often have friendship groups, mentor/mentee opportunities, and the ability to give students a safe space to vent if an interaction at school doesn’t go as planned. Proactively meeting their counselor allows your child to build a relationship with them before needing it!

  6. Get involved! Join the PTSA, a booster club, or offer to volunteer at an extracurricular event. Your child will learn a lot of their social cues from you. By modeling the act of “putting yourself out there” to meet others you are demonstrating that even in intimidating circumstances meeting new people and making new friends is rewarding and important.

  7. Reach out to a therapist or medical provider if your child is taking the transition especially hard. Sometimes having an outside adult to process the new surroundings allows your tween/teen to express their feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression, while learning how to cope with difficult situations and thrive in their new environment. Be sure to fill out a Release of Information, so that your child’s therapist can connect care and strategies with their school (you can decide what information to share between all parties on the form).

Tips for Tweens/Teens:

  1. Stick to the basics. When you start at a new school, everything can feel overwhelming. During the first few weeks, give yourself permission not to know everything. In the first month, if you’re able to get to your classes, find the bathroom and cafeteria, and know your way home, then you’re doing great! Have compassion for yourself. It likely took years to know all the ins and outs of your old campus so don’t panic! You will get the hang of your new school layout, learn teachers’ names, join groups of kids, and figure out the overall “way of life” at your school, it just takes time.

  2. Join a club. Feeling connected to your new community will help make your time at school more enjoyable! Most schools have LOTS of activities for their students to get to know one another. Gone are the days when sports and academic clubs were the only extracurricular options. Now, most campuses have robotics and technology based clubs, art, movies and creative clubs, and even some form of game clubs (Minecraft/D&D/etc) in addition to athletic options. If your campus doesn’t have a club that interests you, talk with a teacher about starting a new club. Also, try something that you maybe never thought you would like. Lots of professionals are in careers that they never expected, so this might be your start to a newfound passion or hobby! No time after school? No problem! Many schools are now offering clubs that meet in the mornings or over lunch.

  3. Put down your phone and make eye contact with others! It sounds cheesy, but humans are less likely to approach someone new if they feel like they’re interrupting or imposing on someone else’s space. If you’re staring down at your phone, it’s hard for others to determine if you’re intentionally looking for peace and quiet or if you’re just passing time while also being open to meeting new people.

  4. Talk to one new person, each day. It could be someone in your PE class that runs at the same pace as you. It could be your table-mate in Math class. Even if you don’t think you will have anything in common with the other person or the conversation only lasts 30 seconds, by simply smiling and saying hello you will be presenting yourself as someone who is friendly and approachable. By presenting yourself in this way, others will feel more comfortable and invited to talk with you.

  5. Talk with your parents! Even if they don’t completely understand what you’re going through, telling them your concerns builds a stronger connection and allows them to step in and help when you feel overwhelmed.

  6. Remember: You are not alone. Most tweens/teens report feeling uncomfortable when they switch campuses! And almost all of them are looking to make new friendships and connections, even if they don’t show it outright. Whether you’re moving to a higher grade level on a new campus or moving schools mid-year, keep in mind that friend groups are fluid and ever-changing. By being open and trying new activities, you will build a friend group that is unique and satisfying for you!


ParentTip: Division of Responsibility (Or How to Do Less So Your Kid Does More)

 Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I was having this conversation with a parent the other day about how our role changes pretty much continuously as our kids develop, and how much we have to shift the division of responsibility as they grow up. If you think about it like a big, messy pie, our share of responsibility goes from the whole dang thing as caregivers to infants to a big thick slice in the middle school years to a thin and very delicate sliver as our teens get ready to launch. The way we adapt to the shifts in the division of responsibility can influence how our kids develop the skills needed for living independently, how much we experience power struggles in our relationships with our kids, and how prepared we are for the inevitable letting go that occurs inch by inch as our kids get older.

Like development in general, changing the division of responsibility is not a linear process. It can ebb and flow along with each child's unique ability to manage increasing responsibility, and as they experience the inevitable mistakes, backslides and missteps that mark the process. How we adapt the division of responsibility is also dependent on our own willingness and ability to step back, let go, and create space for our kids to try new things that they will have to mess up a little along the way. This can be uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking, confusing and scary for parents. It also means that we're constantly having to reassess our own readiness and our kid's readiness for taking over a larger piece of the pie. 

In early childhood, we can get in a routine of "doing for" our kids in big and small ways, and it can be tough to know when the right time is to give them a little more autonomy. How much do we manage *for* our kids and how much do we manage *with* our kids? How do we get comfortable with all the discomfort this messy process uncovers? Part of what makes this so challenging is that there's no way to change up the division of responsibility without experiencing some failures and some heartaches. This is the hardest work of parenting, learning how to manage our own fears and pain as we give our kids room to skin their knees, experience loss, and get their hearts broken along the way.

Think about a time your young child made a mistake. How much did you step in to correct course for them? How much did you have to guide, manage, advise, and direct this process? Now what about with your teen? How different does it need to look in order for your teen to develop the necessary skills for living independently from you? The teen brain is wired for novelty-seeking and  risk-taking, but it's also wired for resilience and growth. The most effective way to nurture our teen's developing frontal lobe (home of all the critical thinking and executive functioning skills) is to give them plenty of room to practice, practice, practice their increasing responsibility to directly manage their own lives, and to learn how to parent from a place of collaboration & compassion as they grow. This isn't about turning our backs on them, or shutting them out, or leaving them to fend for themselves. It's about moving from the position of leading them by the hand (sometimes dragging them kicking and screaming) to walking behind them with a gentle hand raised in readiness to help steady them when they stumble. Because how will we, but more importantly they, ever know what they're really capable of until we give them room to try?

Need some guidance or support with navigating the tricky teen years? We've got you. Check out Blake & Tracy's TeenWise® Parent Coaching or our Therapy Services to find out more about how we can help. You don"t have to parent alone. 

TeenTip: Planning Your Way to a Stress-Free Summer

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Ah, summer. It’s the time of year when the smells of backyard barbecues, sunscreen and citronella combine seamlessly in the hot Texas air. On your evening walk to the mailbox you're able to hear kids playing, cicadas chirping and lawn mowers in the distance.  If you’re an adult, you may pleasantly reminisce to those days of summer when you didn’t have a care in the world and you spent your days out on amazing adventures which brought you home, miraculously, just in time for dinner. Millennial adults remember the hours spent roaming movie theaters, three-way calling and imagining what kind of housemate you’d be if you made it on Road Rules or The Real World (or is that just me?).  It was a simpler time back then. Relaxing. Carefree.

What we often forget, however, is that summer is a time of transition. It is a time when both parents and their children experience a loss of structure, which can end up being challenging for everyone involved. It is important to keep in mind that for most young people, this structure is really about their social life. School provides ample opportunity for connection. Without it, some teens might become anxious about how they are going to continue those relationships throughout the summer. Add to that the pressure of making the team, staying on top of their college preparations, getting ready to move to a new school, feeling self-conscious about “swim suit season” and finally, having their parents remind them that summer is about having fun and relaxing! This is all but relaxing, especially for a teen experiencing anxiety or depression.  

These teens might need some extra help during the summer months. In order to keep your cool during connection attempts with your child, here are some ways this new lack of structure might affect them as a person with anxiety and depression:

1. Isolation

  • School provides opportunities for young people to build connections and relationships (ultimately building support), contribute to the well-being of others, practice social skills, and check in on how they view themselves against a more realistic barometer. Teens with anxiety or depression may isolate themselves to feel safer, but this approach can actually make negative feelings worse.

2. Free Time

  • With anxiety and depression, your teen might experience avoidance and lack of motivation. Depression feeds off of free time, and free time reinforces the distorted belief that they have no purpose or value because they are not able to self-motivate. Feeling like they have not accomplished something can stir up guilt, shame, frustration and anger.  Finding an activity for them can help structure their time, while also allowing them to explore something they feel passionate about – ultimately increasing their sense of self-worth.

3. Lack of Stimulation

  • During the year, school allows teens to focus on productive activities. It gives them natural opportunities to push away negative thoughts and feelings, because there is other work that requires their focus and attention. This stimulation has the potential to keep depression at bay. When summer comes along and there isn't a school schedule to follow it is easy for teens to lose focus and experience a lack of stimulation, which can lead to increased anxiety and depression.

Considering all the benefits that school provides for students with depression, teens and parents should look to carefully plan the summer so that the rug doesn't get pulled out from under them. Here are some natural and inexpensive ways to replicate the benefits of school:

  1. Have a Schedule – create a to-do list, even if it seems minor.

  2. Daily Physical Activity – It fills time, improves mood and is an opportunity to accomplish something and/or nurture social relationships.

  3. Employment / Volunteer Work – An effective tool against depression is helping others. Employment or volunteering opportunities can provide structure, stimulation and social interaction.

  4. Strengthen Existing Commitments – Whether through club sports, faith communities or additional learning, teens can find purpose when engaging with their community.

  5. Stay Focused on Academics – While a reprieve from the pressures of school are necessary, keeping up with academics is beneficial for some. It can also ease their transition into the next school year.

  6. Leisure  - Ideally, leisure time is given the same priority as the items listed above and is mainly social. This allows teens to take time for themselves and blow off steam by participating in activities they enjoy, with people they enjoy. * Remember that these are activities of their own choosing, and not something that you hope they will enjoy.

  7. Down Time is IMPORTANT! – There is such a thing as TOO MUCH activity. Filling every minute of the day with activities is exhausting and might even decrease their self-esteem. Regardless of age, it is important for everyone to have time to unwind and be alone, as long as it’s only one part of many.

A thoughtful and well planned summer can not only help those with depression and anxiety by avoiding certain stressors, but it could also help them make gains in managing their illness!


 

 

ParentTip: The Mayhem of May!

  Photo by  Aaron Burden  on Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The month of May is often fraught with a unique blend of moments; the kind of moments that elicit intense highs and lows that can end up making parents feel scattered, overwhelmed, and all over the emotional map. Sometimes we refer to this feeling as an emotional rollercoaster. I certainly feel those peaks and valleys, and for years I have noticed that other parents do, too. It makes sense though, when you step back and take a look at the type of moments that get packed into this little month. Graduations! School parties! Finals! Proms! Summer internships! New jobs! Packing for camp! I could go on and on... as a parent, you get the picture.

Although the constant commotion can become overwhelming, I think each moment individually matters in a notable and remarkable way to each of us. These milestone moments are saturated with growth and meaning, whether your child is a toddler, teen, or young adult. The month of May is an extraordinary time where bittersweet endings and exciting new beginnings overlap and get entangled. It is a time for greetings and goodbyes, each of which are laden with complex, mixed emotions, whether that be a fear of letting go or an eagerness to do so. No wonder a parent can feel all over the place!

This post goes out to parents at the close of May and the opening of summer. May you find comfort in knowing that your heightened emotions make sense, and that you are not alone. Summer is on the horizon. Parents, you are almost there.  May the breath of summer bring a respite from the mayhem of May!

ParentTip: Where’s That Parenting Manual?

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Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a manual of some sort that was issued the moment you become a parent?   Unfortunately, there is no manual that can capture all of the in’s and out’s of being a parent. Just as being a kiddo is rough, a parent’s job is equally as rough.  Every day can seem like a trial and error experiment. One of the biggest questions that I get asked is, “how do I become a better parent to my child?”

At the sake of sounding like a broken record, my first response is to always stop and breathe.  Give yourself permission to put the brakes on for a few moments and relax.  I can appreciate that there are many moments where you are juggling: grocery shopping, talking on the phone with the cable company, keeping an eye out on your child, and checking out the date and time of your kiddo’s next soccer match.  With all of this multi-tasking, though, it is vital that you take a moment for yourself so that you can regroup; burning the candle at both ends can’t last forever.

My second statement is often “it’s okay to make mistakes”.  We’re all human and all are afforded the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from our mistakes.  Yes, parents are essentially superheroes but even superheroes can’t be perfect 100% of the time. Accept and embrace that mistakes will happen as a parent and allow yourself the compassion to forgive yourself.  In doing this, you’re not only giving yourself the grace that you deserve but you’re modeling positive self-care and self-appreciation to your child.

Taking on the responsibility of rearing a child and helping to shape your kiddo’s values and decision making skills is a tall order for anyone.  Although children are always looking to you for guidance and support, they are also learning how to successfully navigate through the tough stuff.  If you’ve had a crummy day at work or you and your partner are having a spat, your kiddos are watching to see how you deal with the yucky stuff. These young eyes are absorbing everything that they see and using this to help shape how they navigate through their own rough patches.

In working with youth, I often support them as they work through concepts of identity – the good old “who am I” concept.  Through this, we identify the different pieces of child that create who that child is. I utilize the same concept when working with parents.  We are all made up of many different pieces and possesses many different qualities and attributes that make up who we are as individuals. Yes, you’re a parent, but you’re also a human being that deserves just as much love and appreciation as every other person.

As a parent, you do hold a responsibility of providing safety, security, love, support, and guidance for your children.  You also hold a responsibility to yourself as an individual. Be patient with yourself and give yourself the grace to make mistakes.  Love on yourself and take time to just breathe and re-center. When things get rough, do what you need to do in order to release that stress and calm down.  Lastly, find someone to talk to – a friend, your partner, a counselor. There’s no shame in admitting that we need a little extra support at times.

ParentTip: Mindfulness in Parenting

 Photo by  Jon Flobrant  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

"Mindfulness isn't about having perfect attention, it's about noticing when your mind has wandered and bringing it back to whatever you're doing...Any activity you do with your kid can be a mindfulness practice if you choose to make it so." -Carla Naumburg, clinical social worker

This short video explains some of the science behind mindfulness and how daily practice has been shown to lower anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and increase one’s ability to concentrate and be present. Mindfulness is also very beneficial for kids! And you don’t have to be a guru to incorporate it into your parenting style either.

Simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine with your children are centered around the idea of slowing down and inviting a sense of calm into your home. This can be as simple as taking deep breaths together, having a mindful afternoon snack where you and your child focus your senses to really experience what you’re eating, or even taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood to be curious together about the sights and sounds.

Source: Mindful Parenting

ParentTip: Cyberbullying

 Photo by  Kinga Cichewicz  on  Unsplash

In the age of social media, cyberbullying has become a problem that can no longer be ignored. In a TED Talk she did last year, Monica Lewinsky spoke out against the societal ramifications of cyberbullying… And she should know considering she was quite possibly the first victim of public shaming on a worldwide level. In her talk, she describes the concept of “being embarrassed to death” through her own experience of coming very close to considering suicide in the aftermath of the scandal. She also shares the story of an 18-year-old student who took his own life after his privacy was posted online. Unfortunately, his story is only one of many.

Social media has created a culture where we are “seen by many, but known by few” and this is the breeding ground for cyberbullying. When youth can communicate messages of hate and humiliation without truly seeing the consequences of their actions we begin to create a society of apathy and isolation.

Thankfully, the cruelty of cyberbullying is now in the spotlight and organizations are speaking out against it. In her talk, Lewinsky claims that “shame cannot survive empathy.” We love that statement and want to share with you a few ways you can show your support to victims of cyberbullying so that they know they are not alone.

The I Am a Witness campaign has created anti-bullying emojis that can be used across most social media apps. Now youth have a fast, but effective way to reach out to their peers and be a voice of support rather than humiliation.

The Stomp Out Bullying campaign’s website has several great resources for youth, parents, and educators including tips on how to take an active role against bullying. Check it out!