Parents, Ready To Make Some Changes?

Silhouette of family of 4 in sunset

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

Don’t Let Anxiety Boss You Around

If you or your family member suffers from anxiety, chances are you are being bossed around by it. Anxiety might say things like:

“Don’t do that!”
“You can’t do that!”
“Don’t go!”
“Call me when you leave!”
“Text me when you get there!”
“Don’t leave before I tell you to!”
“This is going to be bad!”

Now notice there is an exclamation point after each of these statements. This is because if it were said in a calm, cool manner, it wouldn’t be anxiety. Anxiety has an urgent fretful tone to it, warranting the exclamation. If you hear this more urgent tone coming from yourself or your loved one, odds are good, it is anxiety trying to push you around.   Even if you aren’t the one suffering directly, anxiety has been known to be contagious and make others around them feel it too.  ​The whole system gets impacted.

Who likes to be bossed around? (The crowd goes silent.)

So what does one do when anxiety is bossing them around?

1. Once you recognize anxiety is there and possibly bossing you, take a deep breath, maybe even a few to make room in your brain to think rationally about what is happening and what you will do next.

2. Decide if the anxiety is warranted. Ask yourself questions like, “Am I really in danger?” “What will actually happen if I don’t text my kid every 5 minutes from the grocery store as he demanded?”

3. If you are in danger, worry away and get yourself to a safe spot.

4. If are not in any real danger, which most likely is the case, begin to use your logic to talk yourself off the ledge. “Who is talking here? Me or anxiety?” “What is actually going to happen if….?”

5. Soothe yourself by talking calmly to yourself. “I am going to be ok.” “She’ll be back in 30 minutes.”

6. Do something to give your mind a break from the anxiety after you have gone through these steps. We don’t want to avoid our feelings but we do want to give ourselves a bit of space if we are feeling flooded by them, and we do want to move on after we have gone through the steps. No need to stay stuck.

7. Have a party! Recognizing when anxiety is bossing you around and choosing to do something different other than let it take control of you is definitely worth celebrating!

AFFIRMATION

I handle anxiety with ease.

The Private Practice Fundamentals Group Starting This March!

A Group by sierra dator

Motivating Kids- Public Speaking Event

Tomorrow I have the great privilege of motivating kids at one of our local junior high schools through imagery, activity, and or course, eating candy.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach kids about empathy, compassion, judgement, and assumptions.  I am going to end with this amazing find:

Holiday Pressure and Kids

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Imagine your boss was watching you 24/7 and evaluating whether you have been “good” at each second of the day.  Based on this vigilant watching, your paycheck would arrive or not arrive.  You weren’t sure.  Was it ok if you chatted for 2 minutes on the phone with your partner about what was for dinner that night?  Or grabbing a coffee on the way to a meeting?  Does that count as “naughty?”

Those questions could pose some serious pressure.

Now imagine your brain isn’t fully developed enough to be able to reason the way our adult mind can.  Imagine people were reminding you everywhere that “your boss is watching!”

The stress for some could feel unsurmountable.  You might eventually breakdown: lying, tears, fits, self deprecation, illness, fatigue.

I paint this picture to give you some insight into what it can be like for many children around the holidays.  It’s an amazing time of year but with it comes the stress of being perfect and being watched.  Yikes!

It might be worthwhile to give your child some room to make mistakes and to empathize with the pressure they may be feeling.  Here are a few things you can say when your child is making some poor choices this holiday season.

  1. While Santa may know when we are naughty or nice, he also knows when we do the right thing even after making a poor choice.  And it matters to him.  Let’s see if you can do the right thing starting now!
  2. I know it can feel hard to do everything right over the holidays with our Elf (name) watching all the time.  But I want you to know, its ok to not be perfect.  Let’s just do our best to treat others the way we want to be treated.  How do you want (person’s name) to treat you right now?  Ok, let’s work on treating them the same way.
  3. Did you know the elves sometimes get angry when their toy making doesn’t turn out the exact way they had hoped?  Sure do!  They have a few tools they use to calm themselves down.  They have a special breathing tool they use and I learned it once when I was a kid.  It’s called the Santa Belly Breath.  First you breath in making your belly as round as Santa’s.  Yes, that’s it!  That big!  Then they hold their breath for a second and slowly let it out…..

Be playful, kind, and loving with your interventions.  The way we approach a situation could really make a difference.

Back to the boss analogy for a moment.  Let’s say your boss came to you and screamed in your face that you better knock it off!  There was no paycheck if you kept it up!  You might feel ashamed, extremely worried, and stressed.  Would you want the same for your child?  Probably not.  You probably want them to stop the behavior or have some remorse.  But shame?  Not exactly.

I ask you to remember to have empathy for the pressure those little people feel and treat your children the way you want to be treated.

Wishing you and your family the very best this holiday season!

AFFIRMATION

I am kind, loving, and playful with myself and those around me.

 

Sierra in the Spotlight

I wanted to share a recent article about me featured on Simple Practice’s Spotlight Series.  Check out this article to learn a more about me and the work I love to do.

Anxiety About Parenting? Check This Out!