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keep these 3 things in mind at all times
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keep these 3 things in mind at all times
Hello fellow therapists,
Ya know when a person says “I don’t know” to almost every question? Typically, the office rule is that “I don’t know” is not allowed in therapy so clients have the opportunity to share their feelings and do “the work”. But what are they supposed to say instead? Sometimes people, especially kids, are afraid to talk about things or they want to talk about it later, but they don’t know how to express that. Some kids are trained to always give an answer, even if it’s not true, and sometimes, they really have no idea what to say. These cards are meant to help kids understand the choices they have when talking about difficult subjects.
So Print these cards to help people know they have a choice in what they do or do not say…… and sometimes, “I can’t remember” is the correct answer!
When things are so frustrating, you barely know what to do, this card may help. Please put something in each square of the card, then you will have pre-planned ways to help yourself; ways to give yourself some comfort when life really gets rough.
The six parts of the card are………….
To print out your own comfort card, please use this pdf: COMFORT THY SELF
So, if you survived Psychology 101 in high school or college, you probably know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The idea that each person has biological and psychological needs that must be met in order to achieve “actualization”. The basic rule is that the lower needs have to be met BEFORE it is even possible to meet the higher needs of the pyramid/triangle. I have applied this idea to the emotional needs of children. This has helped me describe the emotional needs of children to the families that I work with.
Click on this link to see the diagram in a PDF file that you can print.
Moral development is a tricky thing, sometimes kids seem really empathetic and want to help others, and sometimes they are so selfish you wonder if they are human. Most moral and ethical decisions are based on a person’s conscience, which grows and develops over time. For some people, it doesn’t really develop until adulthood, and their brain is fully functional. For others, it is deeply influenced by life’s circumstances. I do not know exactly how it changes, but I do know that caregivers do not have complete control over it.
Do not give up hope that a child can eventually make ethical and moral choices, while at the same time, be practical in where they are at now. What motivates them to make choices now? What helps them make a decision? See the graphic below, which describes my version of the progression of moral development.
These are some short phrases you can say to yourself to help you when you are struggling with common parenting issues.
If they are helpful, repeat them over and over as much as needed.
This is a new day and age, and although we think the way we grew up or was parented worked pretty good, it most likely will not work in today’s society, culture and educational system. Kids are taught starting in preschool to have critical thinking skills, so they are learning to think for themselves and evaluate situations on their own. This will be great when resisting peer pressure, but it also means they will be less likely to follow your advice just “because I said so”.
I know parenting is really hard and sometimes you have to put up with so many hassles that you wonder why you wanted to have kids in the first place. But no matter how hard it is for parents, it is much harder to be a kid, and especially a teenager today. They have more pressures than prior generations, including being asked in 8th grade to choose their career paths and the issues with social media are unprecedented. If you don’t believe me, check out a book by Chap Clark, Hurt Kids 2.0
Kids have a tough time managing their emotions, and they have to spend all day at school being calm, following directions and managing the peer social strata of high school or middle school. Kids get about 500 commands a day, plus the hormones which lead to mood swings. They are literally “fried” when they get home from school. My 12 year old daughter yelled at me one day when asked how her day at school was. I could have punished her for “being disrespectful”, but instead I gave her some time to cool down and gently approached the subject again later. Come to find out, the boy she had a crush on did not say “hi” to her in the hallway that day at school. I know, seems silly as an adult, but to her this was devastating and her disrespect had nothing to do with me.
One of the key lessons I learned the hard way was to always ask first before talking to my teens and pre-teens. Whether I just wanted to chat or focus on a problem behavior or a teaching moment, I eventually learned to ask “is this a good time to talk?” The key word is “time” as they don’t always get a choice to talk, just a choice on when to talk. If a kid is not in the mood to talk and you go ahead, it will very likely turn out badly, trust me.
Your children are not little robots, and therefore, can not be completely controlled by you. Whether we like it or not, they have their own brain and they are able to use it to make their own decisions. This is the nature vs. nurture argument. It is very important how you interact with your child and develop a relationship. But it’s also important to remember that you can’t control everything. If you have a kid who is compliant and eager to please, thank your lucky stars. You might want to take credit for it, but it might also be possible that it’s part of their “natural bent”. I had 3 kids; one was rebellious, one was worried about being perfect and so was compliant and one just cooperated because she wanted to. Not scientific proof, but true.
A child’s brain (mostly the pre-frontal cortex) does not fully mature until they are 24 or 25. This part of the brain manages their ability to make good decisions, plan ahead and problem solve. This is a developmental thing, just like learning to walk, parents have almost no control over when it actually happens. So based on this fact, the following mantras apply:
They are going to make dumb decisions, its not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN and WHAT KIND, so don’t be surprised when they… don’t use their book for an open book test, pick a loser boyfriend or want to buy a $400 dress for homecoming.
Planning ahead is an adult thing, not a kid thing. You can help train them, but it will not come naturally until they are out of college. They especially have a hard time deciding what to do if they go out as a group. The best you can expect is that they tell you where they end up, not where they are going. Since they literally change their minds on the way to place X to go to place Y instead. Hopefully they have good critical thinking skills that they have honed since preschool and will have a way to get out of bad situation if needed.
You can preach, lecture, give consequences and scold, but kids who learn from their own mistakes are more likely to actually remember the lesson. It is so painful to watch as parents, because you know if they just listened to you, you could save them heartache and pain. But, what was the best way you learned?
Parents with kids younger than yours or much older won’t be nearly as helpful as those who have just survived the stage you are in. Friends or family who don’t have kids or who have younger kids have all sorts of advice, and are happy to think they are experts, but they don’t really understand what it is like. When you talk to parents of kids that are just a few years older, they give very little advice and are more likely just to pat you on the shoulder and remind you that you will live through it. Since the truth is, every kid is completely different, and what works in one family, may or may not work in another. And if you talk to grandparents or folks with much older kids, they have forgotten how difficult it is and have these nice sweet remembrances and memories; which is not much comfort either.
I know this is a morbid thought, but having teenagers was the hardest time for me. Every parent has a favorite stage of parenting and mine was everything but adolescence. The mantra that got me through lots of frustration during the teen years was the potential to enjoy grandchildren. I even found a plaque that said “you have children to love and grandchildren to love you back”.
It is tempting to have an argument with your child, then wake up the next day and just go on as if nothing happened. With younger kids, they might forget, but teenagers won’t. The relationship has to be reset. This might mean an in-depth conversation with both parties apologizing, or might mean a simple gesture of sending a heart emoji in a text. But there has to be a way to validate the relationship is back on track and you are there to be their safety net and coach. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get over the resistance of initiating the “reset” button. Do you want your child to come to you if they are in an abusive relationship? Do you want your child to call you if they are stuck at a party with no ride home? Do you want to walk your child down the aisle at his/her wedding? Do you want to be the one they go to for advice?
If you are a single parent, please find an accountability partner or mentor to help you stay on track. It might be nice to have complete control over parenting decisions, but the downside is that there isn’t anyone there to help you know if you are over reacting or under reacting. And one or the other happens almost all the time. Getting a second opinion will prevent regrettable parenting decisions and the need to go back on your word. Another way to prevent this is wait to decide about major decisions for 24 hours, most people have a clearer head after a good nights sleep and more time to think about the right thing to do.
So, this mantra might not apply to everyone. But for me, the problems with my children taught ME how to be a better grown-up. More patient, more understanding, more consistent, more organized, etc. In the beginning of my parenting journey, I believed that it was my job to teach my kids how to be good citizens and contributing members of society. It was my responsibility to make sure they learned everything they needed. But in the end, it was really ME who needed to learn a few lessons and my children were the best ones to teach me.
And I guess my last bit of advice is to not take other people’s advice against your own good judgement; even mine. You know yourself and your child the best and find something that works for you. Lots of people like to think they are experts, but you are the best expert on your own family. If none of these ideas work for you after you try them, then find something else. A good resource with lots of other ideas is a website called www.empoweringparents.com.
Good luck on your own parenting journey,
Sheryl Overby MS NCC LIMHP
Also try Sheryl Overby Counseling Facebook Page
Release Stress in a Helpful Way
Adapted directly From “What to do when your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D.
Stress is like fuel in your body, you need to get rid of it by burning it off. One way is to have physical activity, something that gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat and takes about 15 minutes. This method works best if you’re focused on the activity itself or on something unrelated to whatever you are unhelpful about. To get unhelpful thoughts out of your head during the physical activity, count in your head, sing out loud, or say a word over and over again.
Plan ahead to have an activity in mind that you can do at home, at school and when you are outside. Sometimes it even helps if you have an activity planned that you don’t need special permission for, such as jumping on a trampoline, or running up and down the stairs in your house.
Sometimes it’s better do something to slow down the stress, something relaxing and private. There are three methods, Stretch, Squeeze and Tap. You should try each method to see which one you like best. You can practice every day even if you are not feeling unhelpful, then it will be easier to do when you are upset. IF YOU DO NOT PRACTICE WHEN YOU ARE CALM, IT IS NOT LIKELY THAT IT WILL WORK WHEN YOU ARE UPSET. You will have to retrain your body and your brain, but it will work if you don’t give up and practice about every day for two weeks.
Breathing is an important part of each of the quiet methods. The kind of breathing that works the best starts by taking in breath through your nose. Breathe in very deep, all the way into the bottom of your stomach, and count slowly in your head 1, 2, 3. Then breathe out, keeping your mouth closed and count slowly in your head, 1, 2, 3, 4. The out-breath is a little longer than the in-breath. This will take practice, as it is different than regular breathing. It’s ok to open your mouth a little until you get the hang of it.
Some people like to imagine smelling something really good like _______________________. When you breathe in imagine the good smell and when you breath out, imagine the stress slowly leaving your body like red hot smoke. Either counting or imagining a good smell will help you stop focusing on the thing that was making you upset, it is very important to get the stress out of your mind as well as your body.
With the breathing you can do one of 3 things, STRETCH, SQUEEZE OR TAP.
1. Stretch your arms up over your head. Reach your fingertips for the ceiling; breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
2. Put your hand on your shoulders with your elbows pointed out to the side. Breathe in as you twist slowly to one side, breath out as you twist to the other side. Twist back and forth, gently stretching your body with each twist. Keep breathing.
3. Now, clasp your hands behind your back. Bend forward while you bring your arms up and behind you, stretching gently to raise your arms toward the ceiling. Breathe in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4 once and then again, twice.
4. Straighten up and drop your hands to your sides. Roll your head gently to one side, then the other, back and forth, keep breathing.
1. Grab a pillow, and suck in a big lungful of air. While you are breathing in, squeeze the pillow as tightly as you can. Even if it’s a small pillow, put your whole body into the squeeze. Tighten your arms around the pillow, scrunch up your face, and stiffen the muscles in your legs. Keep your whole body in that giant squeeze while you breathe in and count 1-2-3 in your head.
2. Loosen your grip on the pillow and relax everything while you breathe out, counting 1-2-3-4.
3. Stay relaxed, no squeezing this time, and do one more slow, deep breath in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
4. Breathe in and squeeze again, just like in #1 and repeat steps 1 to 3.
5. Do this pattern a total of 5 times, with breathing in and squeezing, breathe out and relax. Make sure you do a relaxing breath without squeezing in between.
1. Cross your arms to make an X over your chest. Tap your right shoulder with your left hand, and then your left shoulder with your right hand. As you tap, count in your head. Tap once for each number you say to yourself.
2. Breathe slowly but don’t count your breaths, you have to count your taps instead.
3. Keep going— right, left, right, left, right, left, tapping back and forth, over and over again, counting until you get to 100. This may seem like a big number, but just try it and you will see it only takes about 2 minutes.
4. Keep your arms crossed and take two extra breaths, slow and relaxing, in and out through your nose. In 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4, pause then do it again, in 1-2-3 and out 1-2-3-4.
Great, now all you have to do is try each method one time and pick one to start with for practice. If you don’t practice when you are calm, you won’t be able to slow your body down when you are upset. Practice at least once a day for 10 days. Also, try to practice when your body or heart is revved up due to exercise instead of stress because that will be the best practice of all. If the method you picked doesn’t work try a different method. Even if this doesn’t help your stress all the time, if it helps a little, it is still worth it to try.
Get the book “What to do when your Temper Flares” by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D. for more information
Sheryl Overby, MS LIMHP
There are 3 main types of ways to help kids with their social interactions with peers. Pre-teaching, coaching in the moment and giving feedback. All social interactions between children improve based on trial and error, and some kids need extra help from adults to understand their peers’ responses and to know how to change their behavior to make the interaction more pleasant.
Sheryl Overby MS NCC LIMHP
If everyone in the world has sexual respect, then there would be no sexual abuse. One of the best ways to help kids have healthy ideas about sexuality is to teach sexual respect. The world and its “pornified culture” will have a huge impact, sure, but do all you can to minimize that impact by implementing ideas of sexual respect.
Yes means one thing only: FREELY GIVEN CONSENT, where BOTH person’s needs, wants and desires are the foundation for the interaction.