Parents, Ready To Make Some Changes?

Family session

One of my favorite parts of being a therapist is helping parents become better parents. I love talking about the challenges and finding solutions to what can seem like insurmountable problems.

Parents can feel afraid of therapy. What will Sierra think if I tell her what my child is doing? Will she judge me? Will she think I am crazy?

Let me just put it out there. I won’t judge you. I will think you are a parent who is trying to do your best. And no, I won’t think you are crazy.

Especially because we all come from some place, and that some place modeled for us how to be an adult and parent. Hopefully some of that modeling was stellar. However, because we are human, some of the modeling we received might not have been the healthiest and unfortunately this can impact how we parent. This way of modeling may have been passed down for generations.

Maybe you come from a family where no one ever talked about their feelings, or the only way one ever got heard was to get angry. Maybe your parents weren’t emotionally available for you, or they were super permissive leading you to be a wild child.

Whatever the way of parenting that got passed down, I believe we owe it to our children to do our best to do it better.

This is where I come in. A parent can have great success in shifting their child or teen’s behaviors by doing their own work in therapy. Yes that’s right. One way I help families work with their child is through working on themselves.

If you aren’t sure who could benefit in coming to therapy, then let’s talk. If you are ready to start your journey to becoming a better parent, email me here, and let’s get started!

Thanksgiving

Holidays mean something different for me as each year passes.  In the wake of the recent fires, I am filled with a whole host of thanks for all those who have and continue to put in the effort to support people who have lost and are impacted.  I am also saddened and hopeful for those of you who have been directly impacted, and I am holding you close in my heart.

The fires have not only kicked up gratitude but also trauma, as it continues to be a theme I am seeing around me.  With the holidays just around the corner, many people having lost their homes, sexual harassment in the media, the state of our country and world, and our own pasts, people are feeling deeply everywhere.

Holidays and being with family can bring forth a of mix feelings.  Being without family can do the same.  There is so much to feel.

It is important to remember this time of holidays and feelings is a season.  While they may feel extremely big and overwhelming, I encourage you to remember this is a moment in time.  Feelings change just as the trees do.  Nature holds such a powerful metaphor for our lives.

Just as the natural world cares for itself, we must care for ourselves too.  As the mushrooms pop up around us acting as a purifier for the air, we can care for ourselves by breathing deeply and paying attention to our inner world.  Asking ourselves if our choices are helpful or unhelpful.  Giving oneself permission to leave after dessert or go for walk.  Declining the party or forgoing the alcohol.  It is vital for us to practice self care.  What would our world look like if nature didn’t care for itself?  Please remember being thankful doesn’t mean we allow other people’s wants, needs, and expectations to compromise our own.

I am wishing you all a caring and reflective Thanksgiving.

Moving Forward in the Aftermath of Disaster

In the aftermath of the Northern California fires, nervous systems have been revved up and are now crashing down.  The fear and unknown has led many adults and children to live in a hypervigilant state.  Now that the fires are contained and threats to homes and lives are at bay, it is time get back to living.  This may be hard to do given the state of the community if you are in a fire struck area, lost your home or loved one, if you have been volunteering, and/or living in a constant state of fear.

While many people are resilient and will bounce back easily into their own lives, some people will not for a variety of reasons.  Whether impacted directly or indirectly, a natural disaster can have a traumatic impact on lives.  It is important to care for yourself, and as parents, it is vitally important to care for yourself so you can better care for your own children.  So what does caring for yourself mean?  This means getting back into your own routine, getting a lot of sleep and rest, nourishing your body with healthy foods, exercising, and engaging in other activities that bring you relaxation and pleasure.

It may take some individuals days, weeks, months, or even longer to recover from this experience.  I would encourage you to notice your own feelings and move with gentleness if not feeling quite as resilient as some of those around you.  Each day is a new day with new feelings and thoughts emerging.  Moving through a traumatic experience can take time so please be patient with yourself and those around you.

New trauma can trigger old trauma and sometimes cause a regression.  This can be a regression in behaviors or memories and can take many forms including an increase in separation anxiety, reverting to younger behaviors, and thinking about past traumatic events when one thought they had moved past them.  Again, please be patient with yourself as you move through your own process, care for yourself in healthy ways, and get some further support from loved ones or professionals.

Some people who did not experience the fires directly or whose home and family came out ok may feel guilt for having not lost their home or loved ones even though they are thankful they did not.  This is known as survivor’s guilt and is a common feeling for people to experience.  I encourage you to not disregard and down play your own feelings.  Last week evoked a lot of emotions.  We are all different and will process this experience differently.  There is no right or wrong way to move through these feelings.  

If you are feeling stuck, having difficulty sleeping, overeating or under eating, feeling lethargic, do not have any interest in things you used to, having nightmares, and/or you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, I highly encourage you to talk with a professional for further support if it is feeling overwhelming and you feel unable to move through it one your own.  Talking with a professional can have many benefits including giving you the space to explore and process your experience, gaining support, having space to not feel like you are overwhelming people around you by talking about your feelings, and helping you find your way back to wellness.  

Like adults, most children will remain resilient and bounce back easily while others can be deeply impacted by the disaster whether it has touched them directly or not.  Younger children do not have the sense of time and when seeing images or hearing people talk around them, they may be unable to differentiate if the disaster was from last week or from this very moment; this can be frightening.  If you are noticing any changes to their behaviors, including regressive behaviors, they are letting you know they need more attention right now.  It is extremely important to continue to check in with your child about their feelings as they head back to school and hear about the events from their peers.  If you are feeling overwhelmed as a parent, please reach out for support.

I am wishing everyone good health and loving kindness for oneself and each other as our communities recover.

Here are some local community resources for professional help:

Hospice of Sonoma County

Petaluma People’s Services

Social Advocates for Youth

Petaluma Health Center

Seeds of Awareness

Psychology Today has a list of therapists in private practice

Teen Rut

4628277817_d0ab67f499_mTeens get in the rut of the same patterns different day. They may say they want to change but you don’t see the effort being made. In fact, in your adult body, when you say you are going to do something, you do it. But it may have taken you years to get where you are and lots of trial and error.

So let’s give teens some credit that change is possible. Rather than a dose of “I told you so” or “You can’t do it,” offer a bit of hope. Acknowledgement of the feeling that it may be difficult and a confidence boost saying you know they are a capable kid.

Let’s take this last 6 weeks of school for example. Your child may have an intention of getting in their late work. Rather than showing the negativity you feel about not getting in their work, show some encouragement and offer some support. Because what is done is done. I would encourage you to process the semester with them but probably at a later time then when they are not coming up with a plan to crank out what they need to do. This can be discouraging and lead to hopelessness.

Am I condoning getting work in late? No. But I am an optimist and realist, and it is inevitable some children will just not be on top of things all school year.

What if you had to get something turned in late at your work. Something that slipped your mind or didn’t make it on the agenda. Would you want your boss telling you they knew you wouldn’t get it done and you will never be able to turn it in. Probably not. How about you boss asking you to do your best to get it done, if you need some assistance in planning how to tackle things or understanding the concepts, and empowering you with the idea that you can succeed?  Now that sounds nice.

So I know it is hard when kids aren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing or not doing as well as they should. These are all life lessons we can help them with to grow into successful adults who are going to run our country, businesses, and have families. Take a deep breath, smile, and know that even though it isn’t perfect, your hope in your child can make a difference.

And lastly, please join myself and a few colleagues as we offer a FREE Parent Education Event Sink or Swim: 5 Tips for a Successful Summer.  This will be held May 15 from 6-7PM at the Burdell Building, 405 East D Street #105, Petaluma.  There will be plenty of time for quesitons and answers about how to help your junior high child. Visit www.sinkorswimsummer.com for more infomation and to RSVP.

AFFIRMATION

I empower my child to be successful with words of encouragement and actions of support.

 

Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Mat

As I lunge forward into downward dog, I scan the crowd behind me to see who actually has their heels down. And then I think, “Sierra, get your eyes on your own mat.” I retract 6841772337_88704114ce_qthem back to my pose and take a deep breath in. I think about how I am doing alright, and it doesn’t matter what everyone has going on.

I always thought this a metaphor for my life in general. “Sierra, keep your eyes on your own mat.” Don’t compare yourself to other athletes, other professionals, other parents, other women. Just look at you.

But my eyes do drift. I may not want to be the best at whatever role I am in, but I at least want to know I can hang. “What does that even matter?” I wonder.

I have been a novice swimmer since I hit the pool on my middle school swim team in 5th grade. Yep, where I grew up, 5th grade was in middle school.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very good. I tried and eventually retired the Speedo but have picked it up throughout my life, certainly a different size, and have used swim as recreational exercise.

Now when I am in the pool, I know I can’t hang with the pros. Sometimes I catch a glimpse so I can better understand how to swim or watch how gracefully others move through the water. I never feel competitive, just humbled. I trudge along.

Does it pay to look at what others are doing? Maybe.  From looking at others, there are some benefits. I can gain a better sense of how I might like to do things. I can see I might be doing just fine or even better than some. I can also look at how I might like to change or challenge myself.

I think there is a distinction to be made of when it is OK to look around, and it lies in our motive. Am I looking around to better myself or to put others or myself down? Am I looking around so I can judge or so I can challenge myself? Maybe push myself to do things I didn’t think were possible. Not with animosity or negativity but with genuine heart. This distinction can be hard to determine as there can be many layers as to why we do what we do.

All I know is it feels better, whether I am on the yoga mat or in the pool, and I am truley focused on me.  When I am not competing with anyone but myself to be just who I need to be for that day.  The strong athlete or the soft woman or maybe even a bit of both.

Maybe its time for you to keep your eyes on your own mat.  Be an observer of yourself.  What does it feel like when you focus on you and not what everyone else is doing?  What happens when you don’t compete or compare?

Remember, being you just as you are is good enough.  Namaste.

Fester

7874770862_1d83a7bbde_qWhen I was in my late 20s, I got mad. Real mad. It was hard to even find the words to put it all together. It didn’t make sense that after over 10 years of being out of my parents’ house, I was truly angry about all the things they didn’t do. The limits they didn’t set. The times they turned the other cheek. “Hello?  Is anybody listening? Did anybody see?”

I was scared to confront my parents. I wasn’t sure what it would do to our relationship. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle what came back at me. Sadness? Anger? Pointing the finger back at me? I sat on it for a long time, and it festered.

Festering is not pretty. Imagine what festering can do to your insides. To your mind. When something festers and is not taken care of, it only gets bigger, uglier, and deeper. Soon it leaks into all parts of your world: relationships, work, school, friendships. It can lead to a deep sadness about oneself and the world. It can create anxiety, severe depression, abuse of yourself and others, and even lead to suicide.  Not pretty at all.

This story addresses a really poignant part of my life and for anyone who has an awakening about the things that weren’t ok stemming from childhood or teenage years. It is poignant because once we have an awareness about something, life can never be the same. We can try to hide but our minds and bodies know our truth and cannot turn back.

How difficult it is to listen to our truth and allow ourselves to be aware and awakened. Contrary, how beautiful it is to listen to our truth and be aware and awakened. When we listen to what is true and allow the awareness in, our whole being opens up, and we become free.

On a calm winter night in North Carolina, I finally got the courage to release my anger and heal the festering pain I held inside. I am free.

AFFIRMATION
I allow truth to set me free.

“Parents Just Don’t Understand”

What if I don’t get a Valentine?  What if I never date?  What if I don’t get asked to prom? 3262670006_b506c311e0_m (1)What if the only guy to ever kiss me is my dad?….gross.  What if I never get married?  What if I live with my parents forever?  I need a Valentine. Gretta got a rose from Steve last year.  She is so pretty.  I am not pretty.  I saw someone looking at my hair in class today. I know they were laughing at me.  I am ugly. I need to get up earlier before school. Do my hair.  And my makeup. I need to ask my mom for new makeup. Is makeup really going to help me? Maybe. It helps those girls in the magazines. It could help me. Probably not, I am ugly. I should text Gretta. Find out where she gets her hair done. Oh, and I have to do this stinkin homework. Really? I am awful at math………on and on and on and on……………..

Anybody else’s brain ever race like this?  Exhausting and self-deprecating.  Teenage girls are in the ranks among the people to be the most hard on themselves.  Constantly feeling the need to compare and put down themselves.

The thing is, you may never hear this whole dialogue.  Teens keep things like this tucked inside and maybe share a little bit with a friend.  Teens want to keep their parents at a distance because they think they don’t get it. Even in the 80s DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were singing about it, “Just take it from me, parents just don’t understand.”

Some parents love to pour out what happened to them to their children as living proof they get it. The thing is, while your story may be a carbon copy of what you teen is going through, it is your experience and not theirs so to them it can sound polar opposite.

I wouldn’t discourage all sharing, but just be selective.  Maybe ask if they want to hear it.  Otherwise you end up wasting your breath, your teen gets annoyed, and you find yourself agitated as well.

So what to do?  That is a good question isn’t it?  My answer is fourfold:

1. Show your unconditional love in any way you can. Share a meal together. Catch them on a Saturday when they wake up at 12PM and go out for a bagel; just before they hit up their phone and are gone for the day. Invite them to watch a movie with you. They may decline 9/10 times. But there will be a night when they need you. It might be just the right invite when not feeling so loved by their friends.

2. Listen. I always go back to this in a lot of things I write because it is what gets reported by teens so often. Teenagers want parents to listen and not jump in with the perfect solution.

3. Give them room to grow. Like you and me, we all needed to have our own experiences to grow and learn. Most of us really learn our lessons from our own doings. Teens crave these experiences and parents need to allow their teens the room to have them.

4. Get Their Mental Health Treated.  If your teen’s brain is functioning like the above paragraph and you know it, get them some professional help. Many kids benefit from a tune up of self-esteem from a professional. Teens can also learn life long tools to help them cope with anxiety and the negative chatter their mind’s create.  And lastly, teens are really soothed with reassurance by a teen expert in knowing they aren’t the only ones going through certain things.

AFFIRMATION
I allow my teen the room to grow and experience life.

Who I Used To Be

Before I had children, I was an outdoorsy girl. Relentless trips to the mountains. Biking, hiking, snowshoeing, climbing, swimming, camping, yoga by river. Whatever it was, I loved the mountain air.

Times have changed and so has my ability to do the things I once loved to do. No taking off for Tahoe on a whim after a days work. Not without a boat load of luggage and some serious planning.

There was a time I struggled with not being able to do what I wanted to do anymore. But somewhere, in some time, it shifted. While I still long for the spontaneity and the freedom, it now comes in a different package.

Spontaneity creeps out when deciding to go to the coast for an hour or taking my sweet dog Noelle out on our local trails. Or when I go to bed on a Saturday night at 8PM after loading my belly full of just what I wanted.  I am spontaneous with little surprises that bring lots of joy to myself and my family, like a breakfast out or family movie night in.

And freedom.  I have the freedom to be as silly as I want to be.  I have the freedom to read, write, discover, and learn all the things I was too busy to learn because I was constantly on the move.  I have the freedom to be the kid I buried long ago in the attempt to be older, cooler, and more accepted.

So I’ll take it.  While it may not elicit the excitement I imagined others felt when looking at my adventurous life, its what i have now, today, in this moment.  And while it took me awhile to really fully embrace it, I have arrived.

AFFIRMATION

I embrace the life I live today.

The Holiday Wrecking Ball

Holidays can crash the wrecking ball in on what people try to keep intact the rest of the year. An, “I don’t care” attitude about disconnections from family members. An, “It doesn’t bother me,” attitude about loved ones who are deceased.  In reality, it impacts people deep. Probably deeper than they even know.

Holidays can offer a real mirror into how alone people really are. Dinners with limited participants. Few, if any, gifts. And an overall feeling of just going through the motions.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s in the name of tradition, darn it! Tradition of what?  In remembrance of your parents and your grandparents being miserable with their own relatives? Fun!

There can be such pressure for people to do what they don’t want to do for the sake of others who are probably feeling similarly to you. Why spend time with people you spend the whole year trying to avoid at a time toted as being “the best time of the year?” Oh right, tradition.

How about making your own tradition? Spending time with people you really love. Doing good deeds for others. Attending a service or festivity. Reading a book. Doing something that brings the real sense of spirit into your heart. Now that sounds more like it.

I know there are just some things and people you cannot get away from. Well, maybe you really could but tradition and guilt and obligation are all tied, so there you are sipping some eggnog. But maybe the way you think about it could be shifted.

When we think we are going to dread something, we generally do. When we think an experience is going to be awful, it generally is to some degree. What if you take the glass is half full approach to whatever it is you are doing this holiday?

Try these on for size:

1. I am so glad I get to eat a home cooked meal.

2. While I wasn’t happy to see everyone, I am so glad I got to see my cousin Trevor.

3. I love Aunt Tammie’s special hot cocoa.

4. I am blessed for how I live my life.

5. I am a patient person.

Happy Holidays to each of you. Thank you for reading my stuff throughout the year. In an effort to have the glass half full, I am blessed!

Affirmation

I can feel positive during the holidays no matter my obligations.