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Making Peace With Your Inner Critic

Originally posted on help4yourfamily:

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

motherhood

Today’s post is about making peace with your inner critic. You know, that little voice inside that says meaner things to you than you would ever say to anyone else. That voice that immobilizes you sometimes into inaction, emotional instability and self-doubt.

First lets lay the framework to help think about this issue from a different angle than you may be used to. Think about when you go to a restaurant. If it is a restaurant you have never been to, what do you do? Maybe take a peek at the menu? Ask your friend or a server what they recommend? Think about the multitude of internal suggestions that can come up just from looking at a menu. First you might ask yourself what you are in the mood for. Then you might look at the prices and have a conversation with yourself about that…

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May 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Parent Tip #1

English: Houston, TX., 9/8/2005 -- Elementary ...

English: Houston, TX., 9/8/2005 — Elementary school students wave good bye to their parents as they leave the Reliant center for their first day of school in Texas. They are sheltered at the Reliant center and were evacuated from Louisianna. FEMA photo/Andrea Booher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

One super amazing thing about my job is that I get to see and learn so much from the parents that I work with. Even before my own children reach a particular age or stage, I have acquired knowledge about the issues that come with a particular time in a child’s life. Over the years I have amassed a wonderful body of learning which has helped me enormously in my own practice as well as with my own children. I feel blessed to have found the job that I have and from time to time, I would like to share some of the tips and understandings that I have come to which have created happier moments for me as a parent and for the parents I have worked with.

Tip number 1 is:

Give your child room to take ownership of their own responsibilities and accomplishments.

Here is a situation I am sure many of us can relate to:

It is time for school. You steel yourself for the daily battle of shoes, coats, and getting to the bus on time. Won’t your children ever learn how to tell time? Don’t they understand that the bus waits for no child and that you have to get to work on time? Within the first month of school you find yourself in the daily cycle of first gently reminding your children of the next step in the morning routine, then, getting firmer with your voice and using your best “I’m serious” tone to get them closer to the door, until you finally get tired of the games the children are playing and either start yelling or start resentfully doing activities they are more than capable of doing had they just managed their time in the ways you suggested.

This is an example of you caring more about your child getting to school than they do. And, really, if you are going to do something and take pride in it, you have to care. As adults we can see this when we go to a store with poor customer service. It is clear that the employees do not take ownership or pride in the running of the store most likely because they have not taken on the understanding that the quality of customer services reflects on them as well as the owners.

Of course it is important to remember your child’s age and developmental stage. For the example of going to school on time a kindergartener, will need much more help than a freshman in high school to get out the door. Also, if asked to in a respectful way, I am all for parents helping children in the morning just as you would want them to help you if you were running late as long as it is not a daily expectation.To illustrate ways you can help your child become more self-motivated rather than allowing you to carry all of the responsibility, you could say any of the following statements that you think would work for your child in a loving way that may cause your child to pause, think and re-prioritize. In the following suggestions I am focusing on elementary school, but they can work well for middle and high school as well although you can expect some verbal push-back.

  • I’m not going to work harder to get you to school than you do anymore. You know what time you need to leave. It is up to you to get to the bus on time.
  • I wonder what else you have to do to get ready for school? (they know the routine already, they have just been allowing you to do all the thinking for them thus far).
  • If we are late, I hope I’m not asked to write a note to excuse you because I won’t be able to do that without telling them why. (You can feel free to fill in the blanks here: Suzie didn’t feel like getting out of bed, taking her shower, etc.) If your child is late after you say this you cannot write an excuse note and you must allow for an unexcused tardy. Otherwise they will know you care more about it than they do.
  • I have had several parents who absolutely needed to get kids on the bus on time for work reasons in the morning who told the school that they were going to send their child in pajamas if they refused to get ready in the morning. These parents would pack an outfit for the child to put on at school. (hint: do not pack your child’s favorite clothes)
  • If you end up driving a child to school, you can have them pay you back for your time later by saying, “I had to use my time to fix your mistake this morning. You owe me the ten minutes it took me to take you to school. Now I need you to….”
  • Don’t forget that when a child has gotten themselves out the door on time, you want to point it out and ask them if they are happy with themselves. Reinforce the good feeling your child has about being on time and point out that there was no yelling, arguing or fussing.

While I know that everything can not be turned so that you help your child find their own initiative for making good decisions (I find it difficult to get children to understand that it benefits them to go to bed on time, for example), there are many times that I see parents, and I include myself in this group, taking on the emotional work for children. Many responsibility issues that cause conflict in families can be eased into in this way, grades, chores, clean rooms, curfews. Sometimes in the process of making our child’s life easier by doing things for them, we can forget that we may also be depriving them of important lessons about taking responsibility for themselves, and learning to manage success and learning opportunities with dignity and a forgiving heart. By stepping back and remembering why we care in the first place, we can realign our own priorities as parents. Ultimately, we want our children to do the things we ask because we love them and we want to learn responsibility etc. so they can have a happier adult life. The best way to do this is to help children see the ways in which taking responsibility is helpful to them, rather than telling them it is important.

What is something you could use help getting your child to take more responsibility for?

February 28, 2014 Posted by | child development, children, counseling, family, help for parents, kids, mental health, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, psychology | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Sexual Abuse is Never a Child’s Fault…Not Even a Teenager

written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

English: Join the movement to end child abuse:...

English: Join the movement to end child abuse: http://www.1stand.org (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news was atwitter this past week with the story of the judge, who has since apologized, sort of, for stating that the 14-year-old girl, Cherice Moralez, who killed herself after her teacher molested her was “older than her chronological age” and that “It’s not probably the kind of rape most people think about,”… “It was not a violent, forcible, beat-the-victim rape, like you see in the movies. But it was nonetheless a rape. It was a troubled young girl, and he was a teacher. And this should not have occurred.” (cnn.com) I do not know this case, or this girl. I am not going to comment on this family’s pain other than to try to use their situation to create better understanding of all children who have experienced sexual abuse.

I have worked with people who have been molested for quite a while now and while many people know the company line is to say that it is never the victim’s fault, I do find that as adults it can be difficult to understand why we say that. It is true that 2 out of 3 teen victims know their abusers. In cases where a child knows his or her abuser, it is much more often the case that a child or teen was tricked into performing sexual acts rather than, as this judge envisioned a “forcible attack.”

Child abuse is difficult to think about, so many of us, when given the option, simply choose not to. It is not until we have someone close to us that is affected that we begin to examine our own underlying belief about abuse. I am glad when adults share what they really believe about their child’s abuse with me so that we can address the questions about whether a child participated in his or her own molestation, rather than continuing to hold onto a belief that a child might have done so, a belief that can unknowingly be conveyed to the child through actions, body language and words. In this article, I would like to address some of the questions that survivors and parents of survivors have brought to me over the years which may be difficult to answer unless you have had some time to reflect upon it:

Why didn’t the child tell anyone that he/she was being abused? Doesn’t that mean she/he might have wanted it?”

Children do not tell about abuse for a variety of reasons. Most often an abuser is someone known to the child. The abuser often tells the child that they (the child and the abuser) will be in BIG trouble if the child tells anyone. Abusers are often very good about convincing children they are participating in the wrongful behavior, even when a child says they do not want to. Sometimes an abuser suggests or threatens that if a child tells they will be removed from their home, the abuser will be fired and will not be able to take care of his family, no one will believe the child didn’t want it, that the child misinterpreted the abusers actions, and on and on. It is not difficult to convince children, even teenagers, that they are in control of whether the abuser is in trouble or not. It is a normal part of development to believe that the world in some senses revolves around us so, when an abuser presents the case that his or her world, as well as the child’s parents world and even other relatives,  revolves around the teens choice to tell or keep quiet, it becomes easier to understand how a child, even a teen, especially a teen would keep quiet. Should a teen figure out he or she has been tricked, the shame of feeling tricked can keep them quiet as well.

Yes, but my child was a teenager when this happened, he/she should have known better.”

This is probably the most common issue I hear from parents, family and friends of teens, and even the teen themselves who are abused by adult caregivers. It can be difficult to understand how teenagers who have learned about abuse, and whose parents have told them since childhood to tell if someone is abusing them would still keep from telling. I have even had adolescents who have tried to convince me that they were a party to their own abuse and that they are guilty of participating. I understand how teens and their parents can feel this way and when they do here is what I say. “Think about you two years ago. Were you different?” If you take a moment to think about the difference between a fourteen and sixteen year old, anyone who has had a child either of those ages knows there is a difference. A sixteen year old will absolutely tell you they are different from how they were two years ago, they have different friends, they know more, they have different interests or have increased their skill in an ongoing interest. Then I ask, “Do you think in two years you might be different from the way you are now? If so, what will the differences be?” Of course we all know we will be different in two years. We will have two more years worth of experience and information. We will have two more years of practicing independence, understanding relationships, etc. Last, I point out the difference in age between the abused and the abuser, say it’s fifteen years and say, “So this person had fifteen more years than you to figure out the stuff you are figuring out now. They had fifteen years more experience in relationships and getting what you want in relationships. They had fifteen more years to figure out how to talk someone into giving them what they wanted. Oh yeah, and how many serious relationships have you had?” What people often fail to realize is that for the child, this is their very first introduction to sexual relationships and they are simply outmatched by someone who has honed their skills of manipulation to lure the child into believing that they are on even cognitive ground and therefore in an equal relationship. This cannot possibly be the case when you think about it. While some teens are very good at acting mature and responsible, they do not yet have the ability to determine who is and isn’t trying to trick them and they cannot possibly have the understanding of adult relationships that only comes with experience.

“She/he always seemed older in a sexual way.”

Yes, I hear this one too and my response to this is simple…how does a child come to seem older in a sexual way in the first place? Often it does not take much looking to see why this might seem true. Is this a child that was previously sexualized by another abuser? Is this a child that has been taught that her (could be a he but I find this argument most often to be about girls) looks and looking sexual is something that is rewarded in her family? Has this child been exposed to a lot of media that encourages young girls to act in sexual ways? Does this child live in a family where you do not get noticed unless you are acting out making it easier for her to get tricked by someone who treats her special? Were these circumstances also the child’s fault, or do these circumstances explain the ways in which this child was made into a target for a predator? Just because a child has learned to act in a certain way, or dress in a certain way, it does not mean that the child has the same cognitive abilities of an adult. It does however, give manipulative abusers a heads up that they are an easier target.

While we don’t like to think about these things, it is important before we make a statement that impacts an average of 1/3 of the people in the room, that we take the time to arm ourselves with knowledge. Yes, approximately 28% of the population in the United States will be sexually victimized by the age of 17. Knowledge is power and if you want more knowledge, try some of these links:

If you want to learn more about protecting your child from abuse try my posts:

It’s Not Just Strangers: Protecting Young Children From Abuse Part I

It’s Not Just Strangers: Spotting Potential Abusers Part II

Teaching Young Children about Stranger Danger

And, if you believe anyone you know is suicidal like Cherice Moralez, please look up my posts:

Suicide Prevention: Determining if Someone is Suicidal

5 Steps to Take if Someone is Suicidal

September 1, 2013 Posted by | child development, children, counseling, family, help for parents, keeping children safe, kids, mental health, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Naming Patterns Changes Patterns

written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C 

Update: I’ve been on hiatus from writing for a while and I return with good news.  I’ve been asked to contribute a couple of chapters to the new Kinship Parenting Toolbox, scheduled to be released in Fall of 2013. For updates on the upcoming book you can “like” the Facebook page: TheKinshipParentingToolbox .

It can be hard to break old routines. Do you ever find yourself doing the same habitual complaining, arguing, nagging or run around? One way to break the pattern is to name it and even insert a little humor. It only took my husband and I the first ten years of our marriage to figure this one out. It is rare for us to travel without each other. It happens maybe once or twice a year. At some point one of us figured out that whenever we were traveling without the other we got into an argument the night before over nothing I can remember. We always parted annoyed. I can’t remember who figured it out but during one such argument one of us happened to say something along the lines of, “Do we always have to fight before one of us leaves?” Hmmm. We got curious for a minute and figured out the pattern. Instead of digging into our old routine, we changed it up a bit. When it happened again (yes it happened again). One of us said, “Oh, this is the part where we fight because you’re leaving tomorrow.” It completely took the wind out of the sails of that fight. We actually laughed. We were arguing because we love each other and were going to miss each other’s company. Getting curious about the ritual and finding a loving meaning behind it, rather than sitting alone in angry confusion helped us to get past it and even laugh about it. Naming what is really going on behind a tiff is now a regular ritual for my husband and I. It makes our marriage happier and stronger. We laugh a lot.

We can do this with children too. Instead of winding into the same old argument, put on a silly voice, I prefer Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

Eeyore as depicted by Disney

Eeyore as depicted by Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and say, “Oh dear, this is where I ask you to put your shoes on and you tell me you don’t know where they are and wait for me to find them.”

Shake your head and dramatically cry out, “Why must I daily be plagued by missing shoes?!?!” (Think over-dramatic Lady Violet from Downton Abbey if you are a fan).

downton-abbey-episode-7

downton-abbey-episode-7 (Photo credit: Evian Tsai)

The typical response of children is to look at you like you have three heads, then start looking for the shoes during this fun game you just started. The trick is, if you are going to be dramatic, be really over the top.

Of course you can do it in a slightly more serious way, like my husband and I did. But with kids, I like dramatic, silly, “out crazy the crazy” as Christine Moers says. She speaks about it in relation to traumatized and attachment disordered children but I see it work with all children and, quite honestly, it’s just more fun than being so darn serious all the time. I mean, don’t you ever get tired of the tit for tat stuff that goes on in your home? You know, the “you did this so now I have to do that” stuff between you and the other members of your household or between siblings? Next time you see a pattern you’re tired of, go ahead and try naming it. Start with checking your tone to make it silly or light and say something like “This is when we…” or “This is the part where I usually…” or “Oh, I think I know what’s going on here. We’ve done this before! This is where…”

Let me know how it works!

Related links:

The Perils of Perfectionism in Parenting (help4yourfamily.com)

Laugh and Your Family Laughs With You (help4yourfamily.com)

Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious (help4yourfamily.com)

August 8, 2013 Posted by | affirmations, attachment disorder, child development, children, counseling, family, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, psychology, relationship issues | 1 Comment

This is your brain on attachment

The Brain Limbic System

The Brain Limbic System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the years, I have come to learn that the cure for any kind of burnout, life burnout, work burnout, parenting burnout is two-fold. One part is incorporating self-care into your everyday routine so that it is no longer a question of whether you have time for it, it is just something you do, just like you get dressed in the morning. The second part of burnout prevention and or recovery is training and education. Often we feel burnt out because we feel ineffective at what we do, we wonder if we are doing our job, whether it be our job as parents, as part of a couple, as part of our employment or something else, well.

Recently I was able to have a few days of burnout prevention when I went to two wonderful continuing education workshops as well as taught my own full day training to other professionals, and, every teacher knows, when you are teaching, you are also learning. It’s always with very cautious optimism that I enter a training day, especially with someone I have never learned from and even more so when it has to do with something I find incredibly intimidating…brain functioning. I’ve always hoped just to be able to send healing messages to the subconsious rather than figure out the in’s and out’s of the ways the brain works. It turns out though that with the right teachers this stuff is actually pretty fascinating and even someone who shys away from science can learn a lot. What I learned was the reasons why much of what we do in working with building secure attachments between parents and children is so important to overall healthy brain functioning and just how much children have to teach us about the ways we learn and grow best. In my two trainings, the first with Terry Levy and Mark Owen from the Evergreen Clinic in Colorado, I learned about healing adult attachment related issues. In the second training, with Daniel Hughes and John Baylin, I learned about using our knowledge of brain functioning to help children with early insecure attachment styles. And now, I’m going to share some of what they taught me with you. By no means am I giving you all the information these guys taught me and I would highly recommend you see them should they come to your town. They all do trainings for both professionals and for parents.

Don’t Flip Your Lid!

Hold your hand in front of you with your thumb tucked in

Curl your fingers down around your thumb.

You are looking at a rough replica of your brain. There are three basic parts: 1. The back of your hand to your wrist represents your brain stem, which is responsible mainly for your body’s basic functioning (breathing, circulation, etc.); 2. Your thumb, tucked there in the middle, represents your limbic system. I think of your limbic system as your “first responders.” If you have heard of people in the midst of a crisis or threat having a fight, flight or freeze reaction, this is coming from your limbic system. Your limbic system takes in and interprets information way faster than any other part of your brain and it does not, for example, think first then shoot later, it sees danger and responds to get you out of danger quickly. 3. Your fingers represent your frontal lobe. They are the part of the brain that develops last and give us the ability to reflect on our actions, make more complicated, thoughtful decisions and maintain self control. This part of the brain is still developing well into our twenties.

Obviously I have made this brain thing about as basic as it gets. If you would like a longer lesson, click here and watch Dan Seigal, neuroscientist extraordinaire explain it in more detail.

Now, if you still have your fingers curled around your thumb I want you to lift them up again, we’ll call your finger your “lid.” John Baylin taught us that in large part as children much of our growing up process involves learning not to “flip your lid” or, in other words, not to allow our limbic system to work in a state of constant response, but rather to keep our “lid” intact, using our frontal lobe to think in more complex ways and to reflect upon what we did, are doing and would like to do. This job is a task we all must work on and we certainly know (or are) adults that flip that lid quite a bit when presented with a stresser. The problem is that once our lid is flipped, we have to figure out how to put it back on, this is how we develop strong coping and problem solving skills.

Stay tuned for more posts explaining about the ways in which our brains function and how to help children with attachment disorders that have caused delayed brain development to rework those neural passage ways and literally rewrite your child’s attachment script.

Related Posts:

May 13, 2013 Posted by | attachment, child development, children, family, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, psychology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Last Chance for Two Great Opportunities

I just wanted to send out a quick reminder that this weekend is the last chance to sign up for two great opportunities. One is the chance to participate in the first Mother’s Weekend Retreat. Saturday is the last day to register! Here is the information:

Moms Renewal Retreat 2013

The second is for mental health professionals to participate this coming Monday in a Continuing Education training where you will have a chance to learn about the importance of attachment and how to help clients who have developed an unhealthy attachment pattern. You can find the information for this training on this website. or by going to www.lisaferentz.com.

Please let me know if you have questions about either activity.

Thank you!

Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

April 25, 2013 Posted by | attachment, attachment disorder, counseling, family, Groups/ trainings, help for parents, mental health, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mother’s Retreat Weekend- It’s Really Happening!

I am very excited to share the announcement of my first Mother’s Retreat Weekend  co-facilitated by me and Sharon Fuller, owner of The Attachment Place, especially for adoptive and foster mom’s with children with attachment related issues. If I am talking about you, please think about giving yourself the gift of 24 hours with other mom’s who can relate to what you are going through. If I am describing your wife or partner, this would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift! For more information, click the link below. We have a very limited number of people we can accommodate so please do not delay and sign up today! Feel free to contact me for more info or to sign up.

For mom’s that do not fit into this category, don’t worry, I’ve got something in the works for you too…

Below is a description of the retreat and beneath that is a link to the full announcement. I hope to see you there.

Ladies, give yourself a gift this Mother’s Day weekend. Join us for a time of renewal for your mind, body, and spirit. This retreat has been created with you in mind. It is just for mothers of adopted, and/or foster children, with attachment related issues. Come join a small group of women who are looking to practice some self-care techniques, learn about healthy food choices for themselves and their children, add a few new tools to their parenting toolkit, and meet other mothers who are dealing with the same issues you are. Learn about how to keep yourself from being triggered by your child(ren), who are experts at pushing your buttons. Revisit and adjust your parenting goals in light of what you learn, and leave feeling refreshed, and better equipped to parent your child with attachment challenges.

When: Friday, May 10, 2013, 4:00 PM – Saturday, May 11, 2013, 4:00 PM Where: The Attachment Place, LLC, located in Lothian, MD Cost: $375 per person, which includes your room, all food, including a gourmet meal, and materials. A massage therapist will be available on-site for an additional charge, if there is enough interest. Space is limited, so sign up today! A deposit of approximately one half of the cost ($188.00) is due by April 27, 2013. Pay via credit card or check. A convenience fee of 3% will be added to each credit card payment. Make checks payable to The Attachment Place, LLC. For our mailing address, please visit our website at: www.theattachmentplace.com

Moms Renewal Retreat 2013 (1)

April 16, 2013 Posted by | attachment disorder, children, family, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stopping the Parent Shame and Blame Game

Parenting

Parenting (Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

 

When parents come to me for help with their children, my job is not so much to change every single thing about the way they are parenting. My job is to help mom and/or dad to create the outcome they are looking for. Many parents come in to me worried that I will shake my finger at them while scolding them about all the things they are doing it wrong. The fear that this could happen is one that keeps people away longer, until the problem gets “bad enough” that they have to come in.

I wish I could wave a magic wand to make this fear go away. If parents brought kids in when the issues first started, they would save so much time and money. Instead, we end up weeding through the guilt and shame of whatever the perpetuated cycle has been for parent and child. Most often what I end up doing with parents goes more like this:

  • What are you doing right?
  • How can we increase the times when you feel as though you are handling issues in a way you feel good about?
  • How can we find ways to increase your effectiveness when you feel you are not meeting your own expectations?

A while back I heard someone (I wish I could remember who) saying that so often we focus on what we want to do, as in,

  • What am I going to do about this?
  • If you do this, I’m going to do that.

The speaker went on to point out that we are asking the wrong question. The real question is “Who do I want to be?” Answering this question, “Who do I want to be?” makes the question of what you want to do clear. If who you want to be is a loving parent, then what you want to do will incorporate love for your child (which can also include boundaries and discipline- just so we are clear). If who you want to be is a guide for your child then what you would do would incorporate modeling for your child the appropriate response to a particular situation. It guides us away from whether we are right or wrong to do what we do and into a new discussion about whether we are acting in a way that aligns with our values. When the answer is that we are not acting in such a way, and we cannot come up with a way to act that feels more in line with our value system as parents, it is time to seek help. Think about finding a therapist, parent coach, pastor, rabbi, parent support group or someone that you trust to take the courage to ask the questions about how to become more aligned with who you want to be.

Related Posts:

 

April 11, 2013 Posted by | affirmations, attachment, counseling, discipline, family, help for parents, kids, mental health, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting, psychology, thinking about therapy? | Leave a comment

Making Peace With Your Inner Critic

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

motherhood

Today’s post is about making peace with your inner critic. You know, that little voice inside that says meaner things to you than you would ever say to anyone else. That voice that immobilizes you sometimes into inaction, emotional instability and self-doubt.

First lets lay the framework to help think about this issue from a different angle than you may be used to. Think about when you go to a restaurant. If it is a restaurant you have never been to, what do you do? Maybe take a peek at the menu? Ask your friend or a server what they recommend? Think about the multitude of internal suggestions that can come up just from looking at a menu. First you might ask yourself what you are in the mood for. Then you might look at the prices and have a conversation with yourself about that. Then you might think about the nutritional value of the meal you are thinking of. You might remember a time you had a meal like the one you are considering on the menu and were happy, or unhappy with the way it tasted. Really, there is almost an endless number of ways our minds can go simply by sitting down and looking at a menu. And, if this is true for most of us about ordering a meal, just imagine the number of internal conversations that go on about parenting!

To simplify things, I am going to call the different internal suggestions you receive parts. The part of you that does the budgeting for your family asks about the price of the meal. The part of you that asks about the nutritional value, we could call the health conscious part (or it could be your inner critic depending on the tone). Another part would be the memory bearer for a specific occasion when you had a similar meal, etc. We all have parts. All of us. When I say we have parts I do not mean that we are all suffering from multiple personalities, rather I am stating that we all have learned experiences that come to mind in relation to each situation we encounter throughout the day. There are some “parts” that we all have and one of them is the inner critic.

When it comes to the inner critic, most of us try to do what we have been told to do with bullies… ignore, stand proud, pretend they don’t exist, etc. but we all know that doesn’t really work with bullies most of the time and with an inner critic it can be even worse! You can’t get away from your inner critic. It’s you! Oftentimes, ignoring it only makes it like your children when you are on the phone, louder and louder until you are forced to take notice. Instead, let’s look at making peace with the inner critic.

I know it’s hard to believe, but most often, when we look inside to the purpose of the messages we get from an inner critic it has something to do with protecting us from a sad, mad, or disappointed feeling. It may have something to do with protecting us from criticism, anxiety or upset. For a moment, reflect upon what the purpose of a particular message that you get from your inner critic that you would like to change.

If possible, take a minute to put aside all of the criticisms you have about the delivery of the message and practice looking for the helpfulness of it. Believe it or not, the true intent of the underlying messages from the inner critic tend to be something like:

  • I never want you to feel that hurt/disappointed/angry/used again.
  • I don’t want people to treat you badly.
  • You deserve better.
  • Stay alert and attuned to what you are doing/ what is happening.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Be true to yourself.

The packaging of that message tends to sound like:

  • What’s wrong with you?
  • How could you be so stupid?
  • Don’t do that anymore, you’re just going to get hurt.
  • How could you have trusted that person?
  • What a mess you have made of your life.

Remember that the underlying message or your critic is a loving one, it is the packaging of the message that hurts. This understanding sets the groundwork of the conversation that you can have to help turn your inner critic into a loving inner guide.

To get in touch with an inner critic and begin the process of trying to turn it into a helpful voice, there is a process I would suggest. Before you go through the process, I recommend you read through it to get an understanding of the intention of the exercise. In this exercise, you will get in touch with your inner critic and have a conversation with him or her about changing the tone of the conversations you have. If you have difficulty doing this exercise, please do not push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Take this idea to a therapist that is familiar with Internal Family Systems work (IFS) and they will guide you through it. Some people will feel more comfortable making this a writing exercise. That is fine, however, make sure that you are taking a moment to breathe first and that you have tuned into your inner world.

Getting in touch with your inner critic:

Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet grounded to the floor. Relax your shoulders, and take a few deep breaths. If it feels right to you, you can close your eyes.

Determine a particular message that your critic sends your way. For most of us, it won’t take long for a thought to pop into our head that reminds us of something critical we have said toward ourselves.

Continuing to breathe in and out, gently look inside your mind and ask yourself what the purpose is of this message. Find the loving message that is underneath the criticism. It may help to think of a particular time your inner critic said the message to you. When you think about what the circumstances are when you receive the message, it helps you to identify what the message was about.

Take a moment to absorb the loving message hidden in the criticism.

Do your best to thank you inner critic for sending you that loving message.

Ask your inner critic if next time they want to give you that message, they could try to give it to you in a way that is easier for you to hear.

Communicate to your inner critic the way you might like to hear the message next time.

Promise your inner critic that rather than ignoring the loving message, you will take note of it, you will acknowledge the message, but that ultimately you will need to take everything into account and decide what is best.

Ask your inner critic if there is anything you need to do for it to trust you more, so it can take some time off from all it’s hard work.

When you are done with this exercise. Reflect on what, if anything, that your inner critic said you would need to do to earn more trust. If your inner critic suggested something, reflect on whether that thing is do-able for you.

While I have been talking about the inner critic in the singular, many of us have multiple inner critics. One or more may have the voice of a parent or early caregiver. Another may have the voice of a shamed earlier version of you that did not know how to cope with a particular difficult situation like the ending of a relationship whether it be via break-up, abandonment or death, a traumatic memory, a feeling of being isolated and overwhelmed by a life circumstance or something else. This exercise will help you as the inner criticisms arise to examine them and to make peace now that you are an older, wiser person and know you can choose a different perspective.

Making peace with your inner critic will help not only you but the people around you, especially your children because, as I’m sure you can figure out, the voice of our inner critic also tends to become the voice of our children’s inner critic as well.

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March 28, 2013 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, mental health, parent support/ self improvement | 4 Comments

Putting together something fun for you!

Maryland

Maryland (Photo credit: Dougtone)

This post is just for moms (sorry dads). I’m working on a new project just for you. How would you feel about a weekend for you (no kids) and a small group of other moms to come together for some rejuvenation and to breathe some fresh air into your most important job- being a mom? I am looking for a location in Maryland to do just this.Think about the last big project you undertook. Maybe it was moving into a new place, or an assignment from work. Think about how much time you dedicated to the planning of the project. Think of the time you took to map out what your intention was with the project. When was the last time you sat down and really took some time to think about what you want for your life, and who you want to be in relationship to your children? A mom’s weekend retreat would give you time and motivation to focus on just such an idea.

If a weekend like this sounds interesting to you, please take a moment to answer a quick survey. I am in the process of making it happen and want to give you something you will truly enjoy.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FZSQQ2N

Thank you for any help you are willing to give. Feel free to use the comments section below to make suggestions if you are not up for taking the survey.

All the best,

Kate

March 22, 2013 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, resources/ book reviews | Leave a comment

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