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!

Parenting Tips For the Road Trip

Upon completing a fairly unplanned 2 1/2 week road trip with my 2 elementary school age kids, I am a mom and therapist with some sound advice about traveling with kids. Don’t do it!

Only kidding! This road trip had ups and downs and all the emotions in between. I would highly recommend traveling with your kids, and I wanted to pass along some lessons learned.

1. Be a mind reader and have within your reach all the “needs” your kids are going to have. Snacks, travel blanket, snacks, water, pillow, snacks, Kleenex’s, books, audiobooks, coloring supplies, movies, games, paper towels, snacks, charger, car sick medicine, and did I mention snacks?

2. Keep in tune with their need for food. If it’s been a few hours or you can see their tank running low then certainly make the effort to fuel. With my one child I can see a distinct mood change when she gets some chow from grumpy kid to funny, playful kid. Parents eat too. A hangry Mom or Dad is no fun either.

3. Pace yourselves. I know you may have plans, a schedule, ideas, and want to do it all, but a kid who is pushed to the max is no bueno. If you’ve been rafting all day and then want to stop at the brewery for a relaxing pint and meal you may be setting yourself up for disaster. Because what you actually may get is a melted down child and an angry parent combination. There couldn’t be a worse way to end your awesome day.

4. Limit the electronics. I hear so many parents talk about how their kids energy takes a turn for the worse when posted up in front of tv, phone, or video game systems. If you find your child cannot handle even having the device without a swirl of whining when they take a break, don’t bring it along.

5. Make room for the emotions and practice self care. I had a great time with my family, however, there were moments when I wanted to release their rafts into the wilderness while I floated in the peace of the river or allow them to go live with the lovely lady at the pottery painting studio. At times I felt burnt, sad, anxious, and overwhelmed. My whole family also felt this way at times. They weren’t going to be perfect and neither was I. So I needed to make room for all the feelings and also take care of myself by taking some time to read, exercise, and pray.

6. Practice mindfulness. Yes it is the buzzword of the times and that is because their is something to it. Pulling yourself into the exact moment of what was happening was helpful to me in so many ways. Feeling the mountain air make contact with my belly through a deep breath was medicine for many of the moods I encountered.

The advice could go on, however, as I tell all parents I work with, you know your kid best. You know their wants and needs and limits. There will be a time when they can do it all and when that time comes, it’ll be awesome. Until then….

I Wish I Had Known

Do you remember your 5th-8th grade self?  If you are like me, you may remember a variety of selves that showed up.  Transitioning from a kid to a teen in the matter of 4 short years.  From changing bodies to older topics of conversations to getting in and out of braces.  Then there is the labeling yourself, judging others, trying to find your place, changing relationships with your family members and friends, and seeing yourself in a whole new way.  And then there is the more modern day changes from no phone to phone and from texting to use of social media platforms.

I believe these years are extremely critical to our development and are a window of opportunity.  Kids and teens can still hear us. I see it all the time in my work; kids who are spouting out their family values, words, and beliefs.  Towards the junior high time though, many parents feel like their kids stop listening to them.  This time is when it can be helpful to have your child hear positive messages from other people.

Deep down inside of me is a teacher with wisdom to share with younger people.  While I don’t have all the answers, I believe I do have a knowing based on my own experiences, the experiences of others, and my training to help guide, share, and inspire.

There are a lot of things I wish I would’ve known and why I feel so compelled to run Wise Girl Workshops.  Here are a few:

  1. That feeling you get when you start eating a lot of food when you aren’t even hungry or you find yourself drinking faster, that’s anxiety.  There are healthy things you can do when you recognize that feeling to take care of yourself and watch it pass.
  2. You can be the person you want to be and you will also have challenges within yourself.  That’s ok.  You don’t have to be perfect.
  3. You are enough and can love yourself as is AND you can also work to better yourself all at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
  4. You can make good decisions for yourself and seek guidance from the loving adults around you.  It is ok, and people approve of you asking for help.
  5. We all want attention.  You don’t have to seek it out in unhealthy ways and succumb to pressure from others in order to be seen.
  6. We are all just trying to find our place. It’s ok to feel sad, worried, scared, and lonely.  It’s ok to talk to someone who cares about you when you feel this way.  You aren’t weak.  You are human.  And you don’t have to happy all the time.
  7. You can dream big and make things happen.
  8. You don’t have to sit quietly when comments, gestures, or requests are made that make you uncomfortable.  Stand up for yourself.  Set limits with others.
  9. Allow yourself and others to try on different ways of being without judgement.  We are all going through it.  No one way is right.
  10. Give yourself permission to embrace your strengths.  From academic success to athleticism, to being funny and caring.  It all counts!
  11. No one ever starts out using substances and intends to be addicted.  It can happen to anyone.

What do you wish you would’ve known?

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!

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A Few Things About Anxiety

1. It is a trickster.  Anxiety tricks people into being anxious about being anxious. Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  It does unless it is happening to you.  Many people report feeling anxious and not knowing why.  

2. It takes over the whole house.  It is common for patients to talk about how one person’s anxiety is reeking havoc on the whole house and/or relationship.  Anxiety demands lots of attention and reassurance not only from the person experiencing the anxiety but those close to them.  It can be exhausting for everyone.

3. It can make you feel awful when you were just feeling good.  Anxiety can seem to blindside us and come out of nowhere.  Walking down the street feeling fine and then….

4. It can make you feel sick.  Stomach aches, headaches, digestive issues, fatigue.  While these symptoms are real, they can be linked to anxiety.  It is good to talk with an MD to rule out if it is anything more than anxiety.

Ready for the good news? 

5. You don’t have to qualify for a disorder to get help.  Whether you meet the DSM-IV criteria for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic, Generalized Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, etc., if anxiety in any form is getting in your way, you can get help.

6.  Anxiety is extremely common to experience and highly treatable.  Millions of people suffer with anxiety.  Many don’t get help despite the variety of options available.  The psychological community recognizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as one of the key approaches.  Other approaches are Individual Psychotherapy, Group Psychotherapy, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy, Nutrition, Medication, Mindfulness Practice, and the list goes on.  

7. The internet is full of resources to help you learn more about anxiety and how to treat it.  Check out the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, The American Psychological Association, and AnxietyBC.

8You have local therapists, holistic practitioners, and tele health services available.  Help is at your finger tips.

You can start feeling better.  Please feel free to contact me to discuss treatment, options, recommendations, and referrals today.