Here are some book recommendations from my summer reading thus far:
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Development. By Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
A common mistake that parents make is not understanding how differently children think than adults. This book helps parents understand how the brain develops, how it communicates across different parts of the brain and how to understand children’s behavior in light of their brain development. Good reading and easily application for parents of elementary age children. My favorite chapters are chapters 2
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace who you are. By Brene Brown
Brene Brown’s work is very popular in the psychology/self help field now. Her primary job as a researcher gives her books support and are not just a packaging of her own personal ideas. The Gifts of Imperfection would be a good read for someone struggling with self-esteem, perfectionism, over-pleasing others or anxiety.
Daring Greatly: How to Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we live, love, parent and lead. By Brene Brown
Most people are not seeking out a book on how to be more vulnerable but Daring Greatly is a good recommendation for those who struggle to connect in relationships. I like chapter 4 the most.
|Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell
A few days before Thanksgiving you are probably picturing what your day will look like. I think its safe to say that most of us won’t look like Norman Rockwell’s version.
I’ve been thinking a lot of how thankfulness and grace are related or how it needs to be. (grace = unmerited favor, giving good to be people when they don’t deserve it.) When it comes to our families, I think we have to embrace a degree of grace to be thankful. To be thankful for what our family is, we must find a way to have grace for what they are not. Grace for what our parents weren’t to us. Grace for decisions that our kids made that we don’t agree with. Grace for conversations that were never had or for stinging words said.
As Americans, we have really high expectations for everything. We expect the best and believe that we deserve it. We need to be better at accepting things that aren’t perfect. The truth is that all families have failures and hurts. To be normal is to be imperfect.
I don’t mean that we should ignore hurts from our families. Its not possible and its definitely not helpful. Its finding a way for hurt and love to coexist. In your case, there might have been much more hurt than love and that should be addressed maybe with your family or with a counselor. If you are going to continue to have a relationship with those who have hurt you, you must find a way to value something about them or that relationship. Otherwise, all you will have is the hurt.
When that “oh no” moment happens, remember that this is just how family gatherings work when there are imperfect people involved. I hope we can have grace for that, maybe address it in our best adult manner, and strive for better next year.
How do you keep a high octane culture from changing your household? Two main principles: go back to the basics and focus on keeping your calm.
When starting therapy with children, most therapist will start with the basics:
— Is the kiddo getting enough sleep?
— What development changes are going on?
— Do you have an established, predictable routine?
— Do parents and children have fun, positive time together?
— Is there a consistent plan for discipline? Does that plan work?
A lot of family therapy is re-establishing the basics of discipline, positive time together, conflict resolution and communication. Often when things gets stressful and problems arise, we overcompensate and overreact and make the problem worse. Shoring up the basics of your family helps remove the stress of the unknown and of change for kids. It can not be emphasized enough how sensitive children are to change and to ongoing tension. Even if they don’t know what is going on, they feel it and their behavior will show it.
My easiest recommendation for families dealing with stress, change or conflict is to sit and play with your child for 20 minutes. Give your kids an opportunity to reconnect with you. YOU are what makes them feel normal and stable. Parents are a child’s attachment base which means when they feel stressed, uncertain, or anxious, they need your presence to feel calm again. Give their your presence by giving their play your full attention (sit on the floor, turn off the TV, put the phone away). Follow their lead in play and don’t add your ideas unless asked.
Focus on Keeping Yourself Calm.
It goes without saying that children will be trying to your patience. How you respond is just as important if not more than what your response is. Yelling a perfectly crafted logical consequence to your child will have no impact. Your child will be focused on your reaction instead of focusing on their wrong actions. So let’s debunk some myths that cause us to lose our calm.
Must respond immediately. Often parents feel the need to respond to their children immediately when they misbehave. If you have to chose between responding promptly or responding calmly: choose calm.
Must always have it together. No one is level headed enough to respond to everything our children throw at us at all hours of the day and night with the most logical, calm head on our shoulders. If you have been worn to the end of your rope, feel free to give yourself a time-out. A person has their quota of “no”, tantrums, whining, arguments, and attitude she can effectively respond to without a break.
Must always have the right answer. Kids can really surprise you with how they manage to misbehave. You can’t expect yourself to have the appropriate response primed at all times. You might have to think over how to respond. For example, what’s the logical consequence for giving the cat a haircut?
Must go with first response. Often our initial impulse is often the wrong impulse. The right response often requires a greater calmness and thought than we have in the moment. Allow yourself to walk away for a minute. Also our children need to see us model how to regulate ourselves in stressful situations so they will learn to do it too.
A Calm Culture
This is the first post in a series about anxiety. Taking solution focused mindset, it will focus on the positive: being calm instead on the negative: being anxious.
There is a notable rise in the mental health field of people seeking treatment for anxiety and anxiety related disorders. So much so that I believe it is fair to say that we are becoming an anxious culture. Think about words related to anxiety: keyed up, up tight, worried, stressed, tense, high pressure, constant. Are these not words that could describe an 21st century lifestyle?
We are bombarded with things seeking our attention, things to decide to do or not do, things to learn about or ignore. There is always something to do, see, read, or watch. All of this noise has takes it toll. For many people, the constant nature of our culture, along with other factors, results in anxiety issues.
So lets flip the coin and focus on the goal. The opposite of anxious is calm: relaxed, mellow, peaceful, at ease. We need a grassroots effort to reclaim ourselves and our families for an anxious culture by creating places of calm and rest. We have to make effort to calm and relaxed because the natural flow of life is toward tension and stress.
What does it look like practically? When was the last time you did this or what would it be like if you: — Sat in your car for 2 minutes before you get out – no radio, no phone, just sat. — Went outside and listened to every noise you hear. Its astounding what we tune out. — Stayed seated when you hear your text alert go off. — Reserved some time on your weekend to have no plans, nothing particular to do. — Visited someone you love just to hang out.
If as individuals we can start pushing back on our anxious culture, then we will start to see a bigger shift. More to come on how to create calm for yourself and your house.
Traditions: The Tie that Binds
Holidays are approaching and I always enjoy hearing how people celebrate these special days. Traditions are a photograph of who we are. One of my pictures would be of my mom reading Oh, the places you will go on Christmas Eve and inevitably crying at some point. For others, traditions help people get to know and understand us, what we hold important and why. For ourselves, traditions connect us and symbolize that we are part of something unique and important.
The connecting and identifying element of traditions are a special element to families that I believe we often overlook in a progressive society that is always trying to do something new. Think about how children look forward to special things all year like putting out cookies for Santa, pulling the turkey’s wishbone or choosing their birthday dinner. Children look forward to these events with anticipation in part because they know they can count on it happening and they know when they do this activity are a part of something special. What security and comfort!
As the holiday season approaches, give a little thought to what you looked forward to as a child, what photo comes to mind to define the season, and what things might bring back the memories of feeling connected, secure, and loved? It might be time to explain to your children why your family has a certain custom or maybe its time to start a tradition that recognizes your family in a new way.
In the end, it doesn’t matter as much what it is you do as long as you do it.
Just Good Enough
One of the concepts I love from social science is “good enough” – specifically good enough parents. In an information-saturated society, hearing all the things that parents need to do for and with their children can be overwhelming. It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that no human can do it all. Striving for perfection is exhausting and unattainable.
Good-enough parenting in a nutshell is understanding and meeting the child’s needs. A good enough parent can sense what their child needs at a certain time and their parenting will change and adapt as their child’s needs change. So from this mind set there isn’t a list of conversations to have at each age or a supreme way to discipline. It focuses on your relationship with each child and being tuned into them.
Trying to be a good-enough parent frees us trying to do everything by everyone else’s rules. It allows you to be the expert about your family. Today, I’m trying to be good enough and believing that will be enough.
To forget one’s ancestors is to
be a brook without a source,
a tree without a root.
My paternal grandmother wrote a family history and included this proverb at the end. She believed that it was important to remember and learn from our family’s past.
Knowing and learning from your past is a critical element from a therapeutic perspective. Our families give us a blueprint of how to be in relationships, how to respond to problems, and how to show love to others. While your past is not your destiny, you are much more likely to repeat patterns from your family if you have not examined and learned from them. It is usually not enough to just want to be different. You have to understand how that pattern or characteristic is present in your family, what kept it repeating, and what will make you likely to do it too.
I have told clients before that your past is most likely to hurt you if you are too afraid to turn around and look at it.
All that being said, our families give us many things to celebrate and want to carry on the the next generation. Today I am thinking about how when you came to Grandma’s house, she would always say “Oh goody-goody! Come in and have a handout.” I hope I can make people feel as welcomed in my house and she did in hers.