Two things your kids tell their therapists about you
Before I tell you what your children are telling me, let me say, I’m a child therapist and what your children are telling me about you might surprise you. Keep in mind that I work mainly with children who have a history of trauma and/or attachment issues. I see children with depression and anxiety too. Your kids with attachment issues don’t tell me these things with words, but if you have a child like that, you know, they tell you things with actions. You know your kids that you send to me? The ones you would do anything for? The ones you are so worried about? I’m going to tell you two things they all tell me about you:
- You need to take better care of yourself. Now, if I had titled this blog “self-care for parents” you probably wouldn’t have read it, right? But now you are, so please take a moment to remember your own childhood and ask yourself the following questions:
- What did you want from your parents that you didn’t get?
- Would you have been more likely to have gotten that from your parents had they taken more time for themselves that involved introspection and self-care?
If your answer is yes to either question, then guess what? It’s true for your children also. If you happen to be the parent of a child with attachment issues, you have to know self-care is of the utmost importance for you since those children tend to be, shall we say…very unrewarding. I know, I know, you are one of those parents that is going to tell me you will take care of yourself when the kids are okay, right? I have news. There is this thing called attunement that makes it so that whole idea doesn’t fly. Basically, when you are not okay, neither are your kids. You know this is true if you were ever a kid with parents who were not okay. Your attachment disordered children, if you have them, do not say these words out loud, instead, they tell you with their behavior by being even more miserable to you when you are not okay as a way to show that they are worried about you. Every parent I have ever worked with who has a child with attachment issues finds that when they are doing better, so are their children. Coincidence? I think not. Interested in learning more about actual ways to feel like you are taking care of yourself? Stay tuned for more blogs about parental self-care and please- don’t skip them…do it for the kids.
- Another surprising one to many parents is this… kids want you to set limits. I know! The whining, negotiating, rule breaking and arguments threw you off, didn’t it? Here’s what kids say behind your back- they know you do it because you love them. If you didn’t set a limit, they will just keep testing to see when your love for them will kick in. Here is a quick way to set limits that eliminates some of the arguments…”As your parent, I love you too much to let you do that. You deserve better.” This works when you are on the phone and they keep talking to you while you are trying to get self-care by checking in with your friend. See how I put those together? It sounds like this “I want to hear what you have to say. Give me 5 minutes on the phone then you will get my full attention, like you deserve.” Another example is, “You deserve to be in a safe environment, I love you too much to let you go to a party if I haven’t made sure responsible adults will be present.” Sure you’ll get eye rolls. You just blocked what they thought they wanted to do! You also reinforced your love for them and that’s pretty hard to argue with – even though they will try.
Ultimately, what your children want is what we all know to be true in our hearts, when one person in a family is not doing well it is not just that child that has a problem, it is the entire system and the best way we can heal a hurting system is to heal the parts we can control the best- ourselves. So, your work in helping your children, your most important work, is to care for yourself and your boundaries with love. If you find it hard to do that, then it is not just your child that could use help from a therapist.
- Finding the right counselor/therapist for you and your family (help4yourfamily.com)
- How to know when you or your child need a therapist (help4yourfamily.com)
- What is attachment disorder? (help4yourfamily.com)
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Kate Oliver, LCSW-C (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) has been a clinician working with traumatized and attachment-disturbed children for the last thirteen years. She is co-owner of A Healing Place, a successful private practice in Columbia, Maryland, since 2007.
Kate earned her BA from Goucher College in 1997 and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland in Baltimore in 2000. Kate first worked with the Sexual Trauma, Treatment, Advocacy and Recovery Center (STTAR Center) working with abused and neglected children in Columbia, Maryland. While working for the STTAR Center, Kate found that while some children responded to traditional child therapy practices, there were a significant number of children who showed little or no improvement in their overall emotional well-being. Kate sought out specialized training to learn more about attachment, the bond between parents and children, and found that by using attachment-based strategies built upon research by John Bowlby, and Mary Ainsworth, and models that foster parent/child attachment, even the most challenging children and their parents, saw major, life-changing shifts, not only for the children she was working with, but the parents as well.
After the STTAR Center, Kate accepted a position with Tamar’s Children, a program that took pregnant, incarcerated women from prison to a treatment facility that worked on teaching the women to bond with and attach to their babies, while also helping the women to heal their own broken attachments, and history of trauma and addiction. Kate was quickly promoted to Clinical Director of Tamar’s Children. The program was internationally recognized for having a successful, evidence-based practice using an attachment-based model. From working with some of the most severely disenfranchised parents, Kate received important information about how to help all parents maintain a happy, healthy relationship with their children with little or no additional financial investment for the parents.
In 2007, Kate co-founded A Healing Place, a mental health private group practice in Columbia, Maryland, where she focuses on working with families with children who have a history of trauma and/or attachment disturbances. A board certified supervisor, Kate has been an invited presenter to teach continuing education courses for other social workers and psychologists. In her courses, Kate teaches attachment-building techniques and presents about her sub-specialty, working with families headed by gay and lesbian parents.
Kate is a former board member for the organization COLAGE, a non-profit group that works toward community building for people with gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender parents. She is currently a member of Attachment Disorders Maryland, a group that works to educate parents and professionals about working with children with attachment related issues.
Kate lives in Columbia, Maryland is the mother of two amazing daughters, the partner to a fantastic husband, and the daughter of one mother and two gay dads. She loves to read any book that crosses her path, write (of course), and she recently started dancing again, a passion she has had since her youth.
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