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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 sign up for our upcoming parenting support group to find out more about how we can help. You don"t have to parent alone. 

Sympathy vs. Empathy

Photo by  Hian Oliveira  on  Unsplash

We hear these words get tossed around, almost interchangeably, all the time. So what's really the big difference between sympathy and empathy, and why should it matter to a teenager?

Here are some common definitions:

sym·pa·thy

ˈsimpəTHē/

noun 

1. feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune

em·pa·thy

ˈempəTHē/

noun 

1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

One way to help really get the difference between the two is to think of sympathy as feeling sorry for someone and empathy as feeling sorrow with someone. Climbing into the space where a friend is hurting and just being present with them. Sitting close to a friend whose crying and allowing the sadness to just be. We want so much to help our loved ones not feel pain, but oftentimes our efforts can have the unintended consequence of leaving a friend alone with their feelings. We dismiss, or minimize, or try to put on a silver lining, when what a friend really needs is to know that you are there for her and that you know that sometimes life is hard.

Rather than jumping in to fix it when your friend or your daughter or your partner is hurting, try just allowing yourself to be in the moment with them. Allow yourself, and your loved one, to have all these feelings without trying to rush past them back into the happiness zone. Here's a great video from the always-awesome Brene Brown that highlights the critical differences between sympathy and empathy:

The Upside to Downtime

How many times have you hear yourself respond to a simple "How have you been?" with something along the lines of "Busy, but good!" There's an element of pride to this constant state of busyness, mixed with a desire to seem productive, sought after, the opposite of lazy. There's the need to reassure oneself and others that our time is not idle, that we are making the most of each day. The irony is that the act of maintaining a constant state of busy can get in the way of living in the moment and slowing down to appreciate the here and now.

High schools in particular champion the busy mindset, and lead us to think that downtime is wasted time. We push ourselves and our teens to do more, achieve more and stay constantly on the go.  After-school activities, sports, clubs, committees and more can take up precious evening hours after school. While our interests and hobbies are worth pursuing, and of value, the key to maintaining one's sanity through all the busyness is balance. 

Balance is the act of placing as much value on unhurried, unscheduled free time as we place on the various tasks at hand. Balance means letting ourselves off the hook when we decide not to take on one more commitment, choosing to stay home on a Saturday night with a good movie instead of going out. Balance looks different to everyone, but the essence of it remains universal. That we strive to value all facets our time and make room in our lives for the decidedly un-busy act of slowing down and letting go.

As with most things in life, the balancing act is a practice and a journey, not a final destination. Each day we learn new ways to let go of busy and embrace idle.  How will you find the upside to downtime?

Behind the Scenes of Your Therapist's Maternity Leave

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We’ve had the good fortune of partnering with Work Muse for a series on how we (Blake & Tracy) stumbled into job=sharing the role of co-owning and co-directing our beloved team here at GT Therapy Group. (See Part One here and Part Two here). This week we’re diving into what it’s like when a therapist and small business owner goes on maternity leave and how our partnership supports our work/life balance, our group practice, and ultimately serves our clients.

As some of you know, I will be going on maternity leave sometime in the next 6 weeks (!!) and I can’t credit my partner Tracy enough with making the whole process smooth and comfortable for me, our clients and our team. This is our fourth maternity leave to navigate together, and we’ve grown and transformed from each experience, personally and professionally.

For clients, it can be unsettling and disruptive when your therapist goes on an extended leave. It’s common to experience anxiety and uncertainty, wondering: Will she come back? What if I need support while she’s out? Who do I turn to? Is it ok to see another therapist while mine is on leave? How do I even do that? With a partnership like ours, we can leave our clients in capable hands, knowing that whatever comes up while we are out, our partner and support staff will be there to guide and support them with compassion and care, including connecting clients with other therapists or resources when they are in need.

For business owners, the prospect of going on maternity leave can be daunting and anxiety-provoking. What will happen to my business while I’m away? Who will put out the fires? Who will hold it all together? What if it all falls apart?? Having a job share team means that we can take our time off to focus on our family, having trust in our partner to keep the ship afloat while' we’re away. This peace of mind is priceless.

As I enter into my last weeks before my leave, I’m filled with gratitude for my partner Tracy, my GT Therapy Group team, and my clients. Thank you for walking on this journey with me and enriching this experience every step of the way.

Work Muse  supports job-sharing as a means of achieving work-life balance while having a thriving career; something near and dear to our hearts. Follow all the awesomeness here !

Put Play on Your To-Do List!

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When we talk about the importance of play, we typically talk about ensuring younger children have access to recess or free time during their school week, but play is an essential part of our well-being at any age. Unfortunately, busy schedules for teens and adults can cause us to put off playtime indefinitely as we rush around putting out fires in our daily lives. In our go-go-go world, play is often seen as a frivolous and unproductive activity. We have a tendency to feel guilty for indulging in playful activities when there are tasks to be tackled. But having time to play is essential to leading a healthy, productive life in the long run. A raucous game of kickball may not help you cross anything off your massive to-do list, but it’s a more productive use of time than you might think.

Play releases endorphins, which relieve stress, anxiety and lift your mood in general. It also improves brain function by boosting memory, problem-solving skills and creativity. Play helps you be fully present in the moment, providing you with a much needed break from daily stressors or worries. And playing with others strengthens relationships, fosters empathy and trust, and can be an effective way to overcome past hurts. Family play encourages bonding - making family relationships stronger and increasing family resilience. Play is an important tool you can use to increase your overall sense of well-being, as well as to nourish the important relationships in your life and increase the wellness of those around you. Consider making it a goal to work more play into your life by: 

  • Giving yourself permission to play: Acknowledge that even when faced with many other obligations, you deserve the opportunity to care for yourself. Tapping into the rejuvenating nature of play is one way to do just that.

  • Finding your own kind of fun: Know that play looks different to different people, and follow your own interests and passions.

  • Scheduling play: Actively reserving space in your week for play can help keep other obligations from sidetracking your fun.

  • Invite others: Strengthen relationships by playing with friends and family, and build community by finding others with similar play interests.

  • Arrange outings dedicated entirely to play: Trips to the pool or park, where you can’t be distracted by things that need to get done around the house, or technology like iPhones and televisions (which can get in the way of more fully-involved play) help you give playtime the priority it deserves in your life.

  • Explore an interest or revive an old hobby: Give yourself the gift of time spent doing something you love, or exploring something you're curious about. Remember that play isn’t about the product, but the process, so it’s okay if you turn out to be the world’s worst knitter as long as you enjoyed the experience.

  • Adopt a playful attitude: Be open to joking with co-workers, or even strangers waiting in line with you at the post office. Sometimes even a small personal connection while running errands can bring an unexpected amount of joy into your day, as well as someone else’s.

  • Seek guidance from the masters: Feel like your play skills are a little rusty? Younger children and animals are usually more than happy to remind you how to embrace playtime in your life.

Original video from http://www.dogwork.com where you can also adopt homeless animals. 


ProTip: Spotlight from Work Muse on Job Sharing with Blake & Tracy

We are thrilled to share a collaboration with the founder of Work Muse, Melissa Nicholson, who has a series of interviews with us on our “accidental job share” of co-owning and co-directing our wonderful group practice here. Our first article highlights the ways we put our work relationship first, so that we can bring our best selves to our partnership, our team, our clients and our families. It’s not always easy, but it’s always richly rewarding. We take time to really check in with each other, we show up for each other, we talk it out, and we know how to have fun while doing hard work:

We owe this to ourselves and each other, as well as our therapists and clients. Good communication = love + directness. We don’t wait to talk until we’re burning in resentment. Little things can slide, but the stuff that gets us in our feels is a signal it’s time to talk. Conflict resolution makes your partnership stronger. -Blake & Tracy

Never heard of job sharing? Work Muse is on a mission to bring this creative approach to the work/life balance dilemma so that more men and women can build personal and professional lives that offer flexibility, support, productivity and more joy. Learn more about job sharing and Work Muse’s story here.

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Intentions over Resolutions (And Book Inspo!)

Photo by  Daria Shevtsova  on  Unsplash

As 2017 draws to a close, I’m feeling reflective and hopeful. There’s a simultaneous sense of looking back and looking ahead, trying to stay present while also taking stock of another year in the life, all while preparing for what’s in store in the new year. We hear so much talk about resolutions this time of year. There’s a sense of “not good enough” that always comes up for me when I think about resolutions. This idea that we have to give something up, be better, be more disciplined, lose more weight, make more money, do more, have more, be more. But more isn’t what I’m feeling right now. Yes, there are things I want more of. But they aren’t really about things, or even really goal-oriented at the moment. They aren’t things I can pass or fail at, and they aren’t about discipline and control.

Enter intention. Intention is a practice, much like mindfulness. It is about the process and the journey rather than the outcome and destination. For so many of us, resolutions have us kicking off the new year in a burst of energy, willpower, and drive, and often end in a month or two in disappointment, self-recrimination and shame. Intention is all about self-compassion, gratitude, resilience and presence. When I think of what I want more of in 2018, it’s all of those things.

There are a few books I’ve read this year that have tended the embers of these intentions, and some that I offer to you as a way to light your own path away from burdensome resolutions and towards a new way of being with yourself and your loved ones. Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, Amy Johnson’s Little Book of Big Change, Rebecca Scritchfield’s Body Kindness come to mind. I have Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, Shonda Rhimes’ The Year of Yes, Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck all queued up on my bookshelf. Are you sensing a theme?

My work this year with Rachel Madorsky of The Coaching Therapist Institute (Tracy and I both became Certified Transformational Coaching Method Practitioners) has helped me shift gears internally and in my work, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: my intention for 2018 is to allow myself a lot more grace, a lot more room to fail, and a daily practice of slowing down, staying present, letting go of what doesn’t serve me, and honoring my own work/life alignment by focusing on self-compassion, gratitude, resilience and presence. What will your intention be today?

Reframing Adolescence

"Raging hormones! Terrible judgment! Crazy mood swings!" How many times have you heard these terms used to describe teenagers? As a culture, we have a lot of negative perceptions of adolescence and all the challenges that the teen years can bring for both parents and teens themselves. What we don't hear as often is how incredibly rich and rewarding the teen years can be, including for the adults who love them. We get caught up in the frustration, the mistakes made, the seemingly unpredictable inconsistencies in mood, behavior and choices.

There are a lot of reasons for the risk-taking, reward-seeking behavior we tend to see in adolescents. Teenagers' brains are, in fact, different from adult brains in how they process information, respond to perceived risks and rewards, and manage emotional cues. But part of what makes the teenage years so full of wonder are these differences we, as adults, are so quick to malign. What if we paid attention to the upside as much as, or even more than, the potential downside?

Mary Elizabeth Williams, author and mom of tween and teen girls, recently wrote:

Teens can be the most amazing, interesting, curious, weird, hilarious, original, enthusiastic and challenging in the good way human beings you will ever meet. My life is exponentially richer and more rewarding because of the high schoolers in it. Teenagers write songs and design clothes and do volunteer work and have really good ideas. Also, they can do their own laundry and make their own lunch.

We couldn't agree more. The words we use have real power to shape the world around us. Imagine the impact we could have on teens' self-image, as well as parents' confidence in their teens, if we took care to use our words wisely. 

Get Out of Your Head and Into the Moment - Part 2 of 2

*Check out Part One from last week: Get Out of Your Head and Into the Moment- Part 1*

Many grounding strategies can be done anywhere, at any time, without on-lookers being any the wiser.  Some other strategies may be familiar forms of exercise or even simple household tasks.  Below is a list of a variety of different grounding strategies.  This list is by no means comprehensive.  A quick internet search will turn up a wealth of different grounding activities, and there are plenty of  apps available to coach you through strategies like breathing exercises.

If grounding strategies and mindfulness exercises seem like they could be useful in your life, consider dedicating some time to finding out which ones are the most effective for you.  Some people like exercises that help them feel mentally focused.  Others feel physical grounding exercises that focus on sensory experiences do the trick.  Still others find soothing grounding exercises that focus on self-compassion are the way to go.  The next time you're feeling emotionally flooded and ineffective, rate your mood on a scale of 1-10 before and after implementing a grounding strategy.  After trying a few different kinds, you might have a clearer picture of what strategies have the greatest impact on your mood.  You might need to be physically active, or to spend some time nurturing yourself, or maybe you like a little bit of everything.  You're the best judge.  

Remember, when enacting a grounding strategy, be sure to make an extra effort to notice things like the way your body feels and the details in your surroundings.  Its okay to acknowledge the negative in and around you without judgement or dwelling.  For example, tell yourself, "I am feeling very anxious, and that's okay.  I'm breathing in as deeply as I can and I can feel my rib-cage stretching in and out with each breath." 

Now let's begin with some exercises!

Occupy your mind: 

Give yourself a difficult mental task like saying the alphabet backwards, creating a chronological list of all the vacations you can recall, do a math problem without a calculator, or repeat a personal mantra.  Some people find the 54321 Game effective: Name 5 things you can see in the room with you, 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”), 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”), 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of) and 1 good thing about yourself (Source: www.ibiblio.org/rcip//copingskills.html).


Focus on your body: 

Do a favorite exercise like yoga or running, walk barefoot, press your heels into the ground, press and release your fingertips together in a patterned sequence, or press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and notice how it feels.  Many people also find breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation calming to the body and mind.


Nurture yourself: 

Take a hot shower or bath, paint your nails, take time to do your hair in a fancier way than normal, spend time preparing your favorite food.  When we're feeling down, it's difficult to dedicate energy to self-care activities, but the rituals can be very soothing themselves and the end results, like a plateful of cookies can help lift your spirits.


Nurture others: 

Make a long overdue call to a loved one, or go through the process of finding a suitable card, writing a message to someone on your mind, and mailing it.  Reaching out in a loving way and doing something kind for others can capture your attention and tends to help us feel better ourselves.


Focus outward: 

Put yourself to be in an environment in which it would be difficult to stay inside your head - spend time outdoors, sit against a tree and observe nature or people passing by.  


Household chores:  

Change the bedsheets, clean the bathroom, do the dishes - These activities involve your entire body and can help you focus your attention on the current moment.  As an added bonus, although working up the willpower to clean when your dealing with anxiety or depression can be a bit of a battle, many people feel better in tidied home environments and the sense of accomplishment from tackling some chores can help get the ball rolling in other areas of your life.

Get Out of Your Head and Into the Moment - Part 1 of 2

Sometimes we get so preoccupied with a worry or concern that we become our own worst enemy, unable to focus on the moment, essentially sabotaging ourselves so that we don't act in our own best interests.  Grounding strategies can be useful tools to rein in those overwhelming feelings and to return our focus to the present, calming us and empowering us to accomplish our goals. This week's GirlTip will talk about WHY it is important to be mindful and stay in the present and next week we will focus on the exercises that can help you do so!

There's science and reason to why mindfulness is important and helpful to reducing stress and relieving anxiety. Brain studies have given us a wealth of information into the mysterious mind of anxiety. While not all anxiety is bad, many sufferers will attest to the difficulties that worry and concern bring to their lives! 

From a biological standpoint, anxiety is meant to put us on alert so that we can be prepared for threats of danger. Our bodies have a fight, flight, freeze response (and some scientists are now even talking about a faint response) that help us react when there is a perceived danger ahead. Unfortunately our bodies don't always respond appropriately and sometimes we have a false alarm. In these cases, anxiety actually hurts instead of helps

It's important for us to stay connected with our thoughts and feelings. Paul Ingraham writes an excellent article about what works and doesn't work in cases of anxiety and stress. (Note: Stress and Anxiety are different things when it comes to the chemicals and reactions of the brain and body but both can be dealt with in very similar ways!) Regular check-ins keep us functioning at our prime and lessen the chance of true burn-out. Stay tuned for next week's GirlTip on the specific ways you can commit yourself to living in the moment!

PREVIEW TO NEXT WEEK'S EXERCISES IN THIS 2 PART SERIES:

Indulge in a passion

Do whatever is likely to get yourself into a flow state, where you lose track of time and feel fully engrossed in the task at hand.  Maybe it's knitting, maybe it's rock climbing.  Whatever it may be, spending time on a hobby you're passionate about can help anchor you in the present and get unhelpful feelings in check.