help4yourfamily

Create the family you want to have

Staying Strong as a Couple

Sex

Sex (Photo credit: danielito311)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Whenever it’s time to bring up the topic of sex, I think about that old Salt and Peppa song, Let’s Talk About Sex.

Let’s talk about sex baby,

let’s talk about you and me,

let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be,

let’s talk about sex…

let’s talk about sex!

I guess I’m aging myself here. Anyway, people would be surprised how much I talk about sex with adults even though my main client population consists of families and children. While I spend plenty of time talking to the adolescents and adults I see about sex, more often, I find parents who bring their children to see me are asking me about it as well. Let’s face it, having a highly spirited child, or a child with an attachment issue, depression or any other mental health issues is draining and often the relationship you have with your spouse/partner can fall down a notch on the priority list.

I was inspired to do this post because of Christine Moers, mother of several biological and adopted children who has dedicated her past month of blogging to a month she has named “Sexuary.” I’m a huge fan of Christine and think she has amazing, funny, honest advice for parents.

Before I tell you what Sexuary is, let me say this. Sex is important in a relationship. It is not the most important part, but it is important. As one couples therapist said to me a while back, “Good sex will never fix a bad relationship, but lack of sex or bad sex can ruin an otherwise good relationship.” I completely agree and have seen this in my practice.

Here are some common mistakes I see parents making when it comes to sex:

  1. Not talking about it to each other…ever.
  2. Believing that sex is not important to their spouse without checking to make sure they are correct.
  3. Allowing their spouse to believe sex is not important to them.

There are a bunch more, but this post is not about the problems, it is about finding solutions and bringing couples closer together. Happy parents make happy children and I want your family to be a happy one.

So, for anyone who has questions about having more sex, better sex, any sex, or anywhere in between, I’m going to direct you to Christine’s posts (linked below) so you can read about Sexuary, which is picking the month of your choice to try to have some intimate contact every day. She does an amazing job walking you through the process of bringing this up with your partner, making a plan of action according to where you and your partner are, etc, even if your kids are not helpful, even if you haven’t had sex with your partner for months, or even years, even if you think your partner does not like, or want to have sex…

I would love to hear what you think about her posts:

The Kind of Partner Everyone Needs  (welcometomybrain.net)

Sexuary- What the Heck Are You Thinking? (welcometomybrain.net)

Sexuary- Closer Than When We Started (welcometomybrain.net)

March 7, 2013 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, relationship issues | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting Go of the Parent You Thought You Would Be

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Funny Family Ecard: You're making it difficult for me to be the parent I always imagined I would be.

It seems to me that many parents I come across in my practice are in a grieving process without being fully aware of it. I would venture a guess that there are many parents outside of my practice who are grieving as well. Grieving, while often associated with death, is really just a word that describes a transition from one reality to another. Transitions have stages that go along with grief like, sadness, denial, blaming, anger, bargaining, and relief. We can grieve relationships with or without death. We can grieve changes, like moving from a home we have loved to a new home- even if we are excited about the move. What I think most parents grieve is the fantasy they had about the parent they thought they would be. We all have those thoughts before we become parents, then, after becoming parents, we have days where we question what the heck we were thinking in the first place.

I remember having my first daughter. I was so excited and felt so much joy that she was coming. I was allowed that pure joy because I did not fully understand at that time, nor could I really without experiencing it, the enormous undertaking I was embarking upon. I remember that almost confused feeling, where my husband and I wondered aloud how it was that we came to the hospital, two of us, and left with a whole extra person. All the nurse needed to check was that we had a car seat properly installed. I’m sure the same is true for adoption and fostering as well. One day there are two of you, or one person on your own and the next day there is a whole extra person who does not know a thing about your expectations (even if you told them) and they are just there…all the time.

I think of those emotions, in contrast to having my second daughter, where I cried in the delivery room before I had her. When my husband asked me why I was crying, I told him I was happy, but I was also scared. I knew then the awesome responsibility we were taking on. We were responsible for a human life…two of them! Even with the knowledge that we had a supportive family and community around us I still felt that feeling, you know, that knowing that “the buck stops here.” I wanted to be a good parent and, even with all my training as a social worker, I knew it was going to be tough to feel successful as a parent.

I know too, that for parents adopting children at an older age, there is an added complexity. When you adopt an older child, you don’t have the advantage that parent of infants have in that, when you figure out you do not know what the heck you are doing, your child does not understand that you are just figuring this stuff out too. Instead, you have a child who is probably a bit hypervigilant, who is looking to see if you do know what you are doing, and who is actively testing you every step of the way (usually without naps). Even if you have already raised biological children, you have now taken on a child with a history you did not control and that was not ideal. They are going to be vigilant in their seeking to see if you know what you are doing, as you realize that really, lots of times you don’t, even if you went to all the trainings about therapeutic parenting.

A few weeks ago, I was laughing with a mom in my office when she told me she thought adopting internationally would be great, her son would be used to other children, having spent the first year of his life in an orphanage with other children.  She would put him into daycare right away, where he would be familiar with other children, then she could keep working, and sometimes she and her husband could sneak away for dates periodically. She told me this after we had just spent the session with me reinforcing the importance of this mom spending time alone with her husband, since she had been a stay at home mom and they had not had a date in the three years since they brought their child home.

We parents all know that the actual day to day realities of raising children are different, perhaps vastly different, than what we expected. Some of it is more amazing than we could have ever imagined. Parenting can be funny, serious, exciting, and tiring! No matter what, it is always different than we thought it would be.

The children I see most often come with an unique set of challenges. They have been traumatized. Their brains work differently than other children’s brains due to neglect or drug use while they were in utero. They have experienced loss. Their hearts have been broken. In a harsher, less gradual way, the parents I see recognize that the children that live with them, sometimes children they have not had an opportunity to fall in love with yet, if they were adopted at an older age, need more than our traditional notions of  parenting have afforded us. Biological parents can find this out as well. We live in a new age of parenting where there really is no dominant model for parents to follow. The media loves to tell you how to raise your child the “best” way until, if you were to try to simultaneously follow all the advice, you would feel schizophrenic trying to figure out whether you are supposed to tell them what to do, let them figure it out themselves, hover, or hang back, stay home or work… the list is endless.

I think a big part of the grieving I see in parents is grieving the loss of knowing what you are supposed to do! As a single, or even in a couple, before those little ones came along, we knew which days were sleeping in days. We ran our own schedules. We thought when the kids came we still would know what to expect in a given day, remember? Remember transitioning from most of the time being your time, to your time feeling like stolen time where you had to weigh whether it was “worth it” to take time for yourself away from your children? I remember before children, going to the movies with my husband and turning around to go home without seeing a movie because we had already seen all the movies that were worth seeing. One day we will get there again…maybe.

Until then, we will go through a series of transitions. We will transition from knowing where our child learned everything, to hearing them have a thought or bring home an understanding from someplace else. We will watch our children prove to us over and over that while we can attempt to control their outside world, we do not have total control over their inside world as they will have their own unique interpretations of the world as they see it. We will realize we can not shield them from pain, nor can we make them forget the pain they have already experienced in the way we fantasized we could. We will see our own understanding of parenting shift as well. The parent we thought we would be makes way for the parent that we are becoming. Often, we find that rather than being the parent we imagined we would be, we must adapt to becoming the parent our unique children need us to be.

What have been some of the transitions you have made as a parent that surprised you?

Related Posts:

Messing Up Children in Just the Right Ways (help4yourfamily.com)

A Quick Primer on Early Primary Relationships (help4yourfamily.com)

To Parents Who Worry Their Children Will Harm Others (help4yourfamily.com)

Quick Self-Care for Parents (help4yourfamily.com)

February 28, 2013 Posted by | child development, help for parents, mental health, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caught in the Loop: Why People Repeat the Same Bad Choices Over and Over

train circle

train circle (Photo credit: bitmapr)

written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

When I met Aaron, he was 10 years old and living with his parents who had adopted him after three failed placements.  Aaron’s parents were at a loss about what to do with him.  They were committed, loving parents who wanted to help him make better decisions; however, after living with them for over a year, Aaron continued to have bizarre behaviors that they did not understand.  In addition to continuing to steal from his parents any time he had the opportunity, his parents had just figured out that he had also been urinating into the vents in his room.  Aaron’s parents were at a loss as to how to help him change this behavior and they were terrified that it would continue to get worse.

Children who have experienced trauma can seem to continually engage in activities that can be baffling to parents.  I have had many a parent come in to my practice and describe a foster or adopted child who seems to seek attention in negative ways and to actually work to recreate the circumstances that were traumatizing to them in the first place.  From rooms that seem to get instantly messy immediately after cleaning them, to repetitive behaviors that pluck even the calmest parent’s nerves, these children can seem intent on turning their parents into a recreation of the child’s biological parent or earliest caregiver.  There is a name for this phenomenon.  It is called “traumatic reenactment.”  The best way to explain traumatic reenactment is to first understand how trauma works, and the ways we store it in the brain.

Think of your brain as a computer.  The files in your computer are stored in different areas.  There is a short term memory file that stores what you had for breakfast today and yesterday.  There is a long term memory file that stores the stories from your childhood.  There is the work file, the running “to do” list file, and many, many more.  Days that go as planned are pretty easy to file away.

But what happens on a day when something traumatic happens?  An easy definition of trauma is anything that impacts you in such a way that it causes you to feel as though your life is in serious danger, with the possibility of death, or that changes who you perceive yourself to be in a negative way.  To show how people typically store traumatic memories, let’s take the example of a car accident.  You do not wake up in the morning thinking this is probably going to be the day you are in a car accident.  If you really believed that, you would probably never get into the car.  But, there you are, driving down the road and someone sideswipes the car you are in.  No one is hurt, but there are a few moments of panic and your car is seriously damaged.  What do you do?  Well, of course, as an adult you make sure everyone in both cars is okay, call 911 to make sure no one is hurt, and then the insurance.  But what is happening with your memory filing system?  How are you filing this memory?  It sure does not go in the breakfast file!

What happens with trauma is that, until we file it, it acts like a virus on our computers.  If you have ever had a virus on your computer, you know what happens.  You go to get on the internet and think you are checking your email, only to find all kinds of unwanted images popping up on your computer.  Then, if and when you are able to get to your email, you may find out you sent a bunch of messages to people that were not even from you!  You never sent that!  This is how trauma works.  Until you file that traumatic memory you just got from the car accident, your brain is going to be working overtime to file it.  You will go to get in the car and up will pop the memory of the accident and maybe another accident you had a while back.  You will start to remember those terrifying moments when you were out of control and you did not know if you were going to live or die.

Healthy adults file traumatic memories as they verbally process the trauma.  Remember how you called the police?  You had to tell them what happened so they knew who to send.  You were processing the memory.  Remember when you had to call the insurance?  Same thing.  Did you sit in your car for a moment and do some sort of self-soothing like deep breathing to calm yourself down?  Maybe you got a hug or reassurance from someone.  Perhaps you reminded yourself that you have been in cars thousands of times and the vast majority of those times nothing bad happened.

If you did any of those things, you were processing and filing your memory.  Another part of filing trauma is finding a way to understand the event.  This includes thinking about whether you could have done something differently, how you got through it, and how you can avoid the same thing happening again.  Therapists call that mastering the situation.

Now, think about the child you have or have had in your home who has experienced trauma but did not have anyone to process it with and did not have anyone to soothe them, nor did they know how to self soothe, after all, who would they have learned soothing from?  The clinical term for the way this “virus” manifests is “traumatic reenactment.”  It goes like this.  A trauma occurs.  It is not filed appropriately because there is either no, or not enough, processing or soothing for the child.  The child tries to gain mastery (understanding) of the trauma by subconsciously putting themselves back into the same situation over and over again in an attempt to understand or “master” it.

Remember Aaron?  When Aaron lived with his birth parents he was repeatedly locked in his room for days at a time when his parents went on drug binges.  When his adoptive parents brought him in to see me he was lying and stealing constantly, then, they had recently discovered that when they sent him to his room for punishment, he had been urinating into the vents of their home.  What became clear was that this child had found a way to experience a traumatic reenactment with his adoptive parents.  He lied and stole, then got sent to his room for punishment.  While in his room, he had the emotional experience of feeling trapped again, just as he was trapped when he was very young.  In his mind, being sent to his room meant he was not allowed to come out even to go to the bathroom.  When he had to go, he did what he had before, went in the vents, so he did not have to be around a wet spot in his room.  His loving parents had responded in every way they could think of to change these behaviors, but it was not until they understood where the behaviors were coming from that they were able to adapt their responses to more accurately fix the underlying problems.

In therapy, Aaron processed the trauma, learned how to soothe himself and to be soothed by his parents.  It really did not take long for the vents to become dry again so his parents could focus on new ways to address other issues related to his early abuse and neglect.  For traumatized children, I strongly recommend counseling, with a therapist that specializes in trauma, as a resource to help them process traumatic memories to improve behaviors and help parents find a way to adapt parenting styles in ways that are most beneficial to the child.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | attachment disorder, child development, discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chronological Age vs. Developmental Age

written by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

Having a blog on WordPress is so nice in that I got a nice little report for the end of 2012 letting me know which of my posts has gotten the most attention, etc. By far the most popular post was this one! So, in the spirit of sharing and refreshing for the New Year, I thought I would update and repost this blog, since it was one of my earlier ones and may have been missed by some of the folks who are newer to my blog. I keep my comments open and would love to hear if people are getting what they are looking for from this post even if it has been a while since I originally posted. Enjoy!

Chronological age vs. Developmental Age

When figuring out how to best meet the needs of our children, it is important to understand their developmental age.  For many children this can be the same age as the chronological age, the age we typically think of when we talk about our children, however, if you have a child that, among other possibilities:

  • has a history of trauma or neglect,
  • was adopted at an older age (18 months or more),
  • has a developmental disability,
  • has experienced the death or loss of a primary caregiver,
  • has experienced a major change in family structure,
  • or has a parent with a serious illness or addiction,

you may have a child that has a “stuck” part of their development. If you have a child like this, typically you might notice that there are times when he or she acts much younger than you would expect for their chronological age.  What makes this confusing is that your child may be able to do things that are appropriate for their chronological age.  For example, you may have a child that works at or even above grade level in reading and/or math, but in some emotional areas they may be developmentally younger than their chronological age.

Let’s look at an example everyone can relate to, think for a moment about a time when you have been triggered into a younger developmental age, say, when you go to your parent’s house for the weekend.  Even as an adult, you may find that you act differently toward them or your siblings than you would in your day-to-day life.  You may feel younger, angrier, more docile or more or less confrontational.  What that signifies is that there is a part of you that has not left or resolved some of the struggles from your own childhood.  Most of us have something like this. Our children are no different.

Some important questions about an area where your child seems stuck in a younger developmental age are:

1. Is my child capable of meeting the demands of this developmental stage? Developmental delays, learning issues, issues related to physical abilities and early childhood exposure can all add to a child’s difficulty in meeting a developmental milestone.

2. Has my child ever been properly taught how to meet this developmental milestone? For example, if you have a daughter you adopted from foster care at age 5, she may not ever have been properly potty trained and taught to clean herself appropriately after using the bathroom. It may be that while we expect that to be a skill children learn between ages two and four, your daughter may require instruction now, as she has not received it before.

3. Did something prevent my child from being able to learn this skill at the appropriate time? Perhaps you had a child with medical issues, a traumatic situation or something else. At the time when other children were learning to make friends and play nicely with other children, your child was busy managing an internal or external stressor that demanded all of their attention they would otherwise have been able to focus on meeting a developmental milestone.

4. Does your child have a traumatic trigger that remains unresolved which prevents them from moving through a developmental stage? I see children who have experienced trauma. Many of them have memories associated with trauma that prevent them from focusing on a task. Children (and adults) with unresolved trauma have what we call triggers, which remind them of the traumatic incident. Depending on what happened, a trigger could be a bathroom, a car, candy, really anything that reminds them of the trauma. What this means for parents with children who have experienced trauma is that the simple act of making a snack for your child could result in a child acting much younger until the traumatic triggers have been identified and resolved so that the apple you cut is just an apple again, instead of a reminder of a difficult past.

Why is it important to know where your child might have a developmental lag or stuck place?  Knowing that there are areas where your child is developmentally behind their chronological age allows you to make decisions about how to handle their  behavior appropriately.

What to do about a child acting developmentally younger:

After considering the reasons behind the developmental delay, it is easier to figure out how to address the issue. Sometimes it may just be a matter of time, or finding appropriate school or therapeutic support to allow a child’s brain to develop. For children who are delayed due to an external factor, in addition to school and therapeutic support, consider attempting to change your response to match their emotional/developmental age for the issue you are addressing.  What would you do for a two-year old who needs to brush her teeth?  Would you tell her to go brush her teeth and expect that she was going to easily and happy get right over to the toothbrush and begin throughly cleaning her teeth after applying just the right amount of toothpaste to the toothbrush?  Of course not!  Ideally, you would go with them (even if they are grumbling), you might remind them of why tooth-brushing is so important (if you have a child adopted at an older age, please remember it may be that no one ever taught them the importance), you would make brushing fun by singing a silly song to say how long you need to brush your teeth.

I know many parents reading this might be saying that your 12-year-old, who acts like a 2-year-old at brushing time is not going to stand for you hovering over her while she is brushing her teeth, and you are not going to talk to her like you would talk to a two-year old.  You are right, I am not recommending that you use the tone you would for a two-year old because you might get the death stare or worse, escalate a tense situation.  No, I am saying to use what you would do with a two-year old as a guideline for figuring out something with your child that is developmentally two during tooth-brushing time but is residing in a 12-year-old body.  To me that would look something like, playfully having a contest to see who can get just the right amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush or offering to get your child started by putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush, then saying a silly poem or singing a silly 12-year-old song, or reading a page out of a joke book to your child while they brush their teeth so they can get an idea of how long to brush.  Only read or sing when they are brushing, stop if they stop and start when they start again, and stay playful. Yes, they may look at you like you are crazy, but are they brushing while they are doing it?

Spc. Elizabeth Jarry shows an Iraqi girl prope...

Yes, I can hear protesting parents, now saying that you do not want to put toothpaste on your 12 year old’s toothbrush because they are old enough to do it themselves!  I know they are chronologically old enough, however, we are talking about something that they experience at a developmentally younger age.  And, here’s the good news, if you speak to your child’s developmental age for a while, their needs for that developmental stage get met, and they move on to the next stage of development for that issue.

For more parenting tips that don’t take a ton of time but do improve the happiness level in your home please see my previous posts:

January 5, 2013 Posted by | attachment, child development, discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Affirmation for the New Year

written by Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

In honor of the New Year, I would like to share one of my favorite affirmations. I believe it comes from Louise Hay, but I have been saying for a while now and don’t honestly know the origins. However, I find it particularly fitting for the New Year. It is fairly simple and goes like this.

I am willing to let go of old, painful patterns that keep me feeling unhappy. I welcome new and fulfilling experiences into my life.

I love this affirmation because it rightly implies that you do not need to figure out how to let go of old patterns, as much as you must be willing to let them go. Just the simple act of being sincerely willing to let go of old, painful patterns, can open up a new experience for you and for your family, since your willingness to let go will impact them as well.

It is my hope for you that this year brings your happiest family experiences ever. Thank you so much for traveling with me through the past year, my first year of blogging, and for your support as I entered a new learning experience. I am looking forward to many more years spent together.

candles

candles (Photo credit: rogerglenn)

December 30, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To Parents Who Worry Their Child Will Harm Others

Child

Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

In a departure from my typical Monday affirmation posts, I want to address the recent tragedy in Connecticut and speak to an issue that has not been covered much but needs attention. While many parents worry that something so terrible could happen to their child, many of the parents who come into my office will be asking another question alongside the concern about their child’s safety at school. A good number of the parents I see will be asking whether their child is capable of someday growing up to perpetrate a similar crime. There is a striking article by the Anarchist Soccer Mom, who is not my client, about this very issue. Today I want to write a letter to this parent who has an added layer of grief.

Dear Mom/Dad/guardian/grandparent of a child with violent tendencies and angry outbursts,

I know that the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school has you shaken on many levels. Not only have you been faced with the vulnerability of human life, even children, but you also have had a scary glimpse into something similar to what your deepest darkest fears whisper to you…that your child could perpetrate a similar crime. As a private practice social worker, I work with children who have a history of being violent, angry, destructive, and rage-ful. I want to talk to you about this fear that may be bubbling up to the surface now even though you may have become an expert at keeping it tucked away.

Please do not live in fear. I know that sounds easier than it is, however, some of your most important work will be letting go of the fear of what your child could become. This does not mean pretending that your child is able to maintain and keep reasonable boundaries if she or he is not, it means to focus more time on planning for the success for your child than you do planning for the spiral down. Sometimes as we visualize a worst case scenario we begin to watch for and call forth those behaviors in our children which we most fear. I am not blaming you, just pointing out a human tendency that we have to find that which we seek, confirmation for that which we are looking for.  Have an emergency plan in place, then try to take in out only when needed.

Remember to separate the behaviors of your child from who you believe them to be. All behaviors are a reaction or coping mechanism based on internal or external stimuli. The core essence of your child, like all humans, is good, loving, caring and kind. This is my belief. The work of parents, therapists, teachers, and other adult caregivers is to help a child connect to his or her core perfect self. Sometimes this means helping a child to quiet internal stimuli via medication, acupuncture, physical exercise, and/or dietary changes. Other times or even at the same time, this means helping children to manage external stimuli, like social and family relationships, sensory issues, or physically or emotionally traumatic experiences. When you are working toward this goal PLEASE MAINTAIN HOPE. If you are seeking treatment for your child and it is not working go somewhere else, even if you are coming to see me! Please do not be scared of non-invasive alternative help that science may not have caught up with yet. There are always going to be people who some treatments help and people the same treatments don’t help. There are no cookie cutter treatments or people. Think about taking your child for yoga or meditation. Try Reiki. Look into crainio-sacral therapy. These are all non-invasive treatments and you can research the person you are taking your child to see. Make sure they are licensed in the treatment you are seeking. Ask questions. Yes I’m sure you will find people who think you are going off the rails, but if it works, do you care?

Listen to yourself. You know your child. I have spoken with too many parents who continued to take their child to a practitioner for years that the parent did not like, did not really agree with and did not trust that their child was getting the treatment he or she needed. These parents continued to go because they were told it was important. Treatment is important, however, the most important part of treatment is picking the right person. Just because someone is an expert, it does not mean they will be an expert for your child. If you feel they do not know or “get” you or your child, think about going elsewhere.

Most of all, keep trying. For some mental health issues, especially issues related to impulse control and emotional regulation, a lot depends on brain development. Sometimes we can teach and guide children endlessly toward more positive coping skills, however, they are not able to follow through with the knowledge they have gained until their brain catches up. Many times it is more than a parent or parents can do alone. You need a good team and respite. Don’t be afraid to ask for more help before you need it so you have it in place. For children who are struggling so much they put their parents and siblings in danger, there are inpatient programs that are good and I have seen parents who have figured out some amazing ways to fund a residential program in an attempt to save their child’s life, and it has.

I want to tell you that I have been doing this long enough now that I have seen kids get better. I am talking about kids who picked up knives and shook them at their parents, kids who started fires in their homes on purpose, kids who purposely urinated on furniture and threatened death toward their parents. You don’t hear about those brave children and parents because they don’t make the news…they grow up. They learn to love people and accept love back. They are not in rehab, or jail, they are at work, school or home, or out with their friends. They make mistakes sometimes, just like you do. They experience personal crises, just like you do, and question their lives, just like you, but really, they survive, just like you and they are doing just fine, utilizing the coping skills you worked so hard to make sure they had available to them.

Keep moving forward.

All the best,

Kate

Recommended Posts:

Messing Up Children in Just the Right Ways (help4yourfamily.com)

The Spectrum of Attachment (help4yourfamily.com)

How to Know if You or Your Child Need a Therapist (help4yourfamily.com)

December 17, 2012 Posted by | attachment disorder, discipline, help for parents, keeping children safe, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quick self care for parents

Drunk water

Drunk water (Photo credit: eyesore9)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Many parents get into the habit of believing that in order to nourish ourselves, we need a grand gesture or a day away from the children. While that is nice sometimes, we also need to find smaller moments throughout the day to fit in body and soul nourishment. Especially around this time of year, when we find that we are doing more for others, it is important to fill our own tank as well.

One of the issues I hear from parents when it comes to self-care is that there is no time or money or that when you do start taking care of yourself it just reminds you of how little care you have been getting. Well, the last issue is for another post on another day (I am planning on writing that post), but in the meantime, here is a list of quick and easy self-care ideas that even a parent with a small child can find a moment in the day to do. Most of them cost little or no money. Please feel free to use the ones that work for you and lose the ones that don’t. I want to include this list in the book I am writing and would love it if you would share any other quick and easy self-care tips you have. You may notice that you already do some of them, like drinking water. For this list, the idea is not to just drink the water, but to enjoy doing it and to mark it in your mind as something you did today to take care of yourself.

  1. Put lotion on your feet before you put your socks on.
  2. Take a deep breath, hold it for a slow count of two, then let it go. Repeat two more times.
  3. Try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to enhance the good feeling you are having, or to clear away a difficult feeling. Here is a video of Cheryl Richardson teaching this technique in five minutes, but if you want to really take care of yourself, you can get the book by Jack Canfield and Pamela Brunner Tapping Into Ultimate Success (you can find this book quickly on amazon by clicking the amazon link on the top left of the screen).*
  4. Set a timer for five minutes and start clearing off a surface of your home that has been bothering you. Stop when the alarm goes off. Look at what you just accomplished for yourself!
  5. Sit and drink a glass of water. If you want to get really fancy, cut a slice of cucumber, lemon or apple and put it in the water. Allow yourself to enjoy the water as it cleanses your body.
  6. Light a candle that you have been saving for a special occasion. Now is the special occasion.
  7. Get the app on your phone called Quick Reminders (it’s free) and type in an affirmation for yourself then tell your phone to remind you of your affirmation regularly.
  8. Take a moment and stretch your body. Start at your head and slowly and gently circle your head around clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Circle your shoulders around, circle your wrists and elbows. Circle your hips around, clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Bend your knees. Circle your ankles around. Wiggle your toes. Bend and touch your toes, then reach up to the sky. Open your arms to the world and breathe in happiness.
  9. Imagine your body filling with a colored light that feels like the right color to you right now.
  10. Take a shower and enjoy the feeling of the water on your skin. Even better, take a bath.
  11. Treat yourself to reading an article you have been thinking about, or an extra chapter in the book you have next to the bed.
  12. Close your eyes for five minutes and take a power nap.
  13. Put your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and thank yourself for the good things you have done to make your life good in this moment.
  14. Say a prayer of thanks for the gifts that you have.
  15. Listen to a song that puts you in a good mood.
  16. Look up a funny video on YouTube and get a good laugh.
  17. Find a picture of yourself from when you were little, and tell the child in the picture some of the good things that are coming his or her way.
  18. Purchase a deck of gratitude cards, angel cards, etc, and pull one for yourself. Remind yourself of the message on the card.
  19. Give yourself a mini manicure or pedicure.
  20. Step outside and look at the sky. Touch a tree or feel your bare feet on the ground. Take a moment to enjoy nature.

I am certain that I have not covered every self-care tip out there, this was just the first 20 I could think of. I am so curious to know what it is that you do to take care of yourself quickly during the day. Please share!

Related Posts:

The Art of Breathing (help4yourfamily.com)

Parent Affirmation Monday- Being Present (help4yourfamily.com)

*See disclaimer page

December 13, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- Letting Go of Grievances- 12/10/2012

Don't let the sun go down on your grievances

Don’t let the sun go down on your grievances (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

As we approach a new year, and get closer to seeing people we might not see all the time, who we might have a history with that remains unresolved in some way, it is time to think about putting aside past grievances. Most of us, at some point, have had an argument with a person we cared for that turned into something much bigger than it needed to be. So often the conflicts we have are not about what we say they are about. More often they are about a perceived slight, belief about the other person, or some other story we tell ourselves about things that have happened in the past. When you look at the person you have an old, unresolved grievance with, perhaps one that gets activated this time of year, I’m going to suggest that it is time to ask yourself whether it is worth it to you to carry around this grudge anymore.

I am reminded of an email I got a long time ago that I wish I had saved. It was about a professor talking to his students. The professor filled a cup with water. He held the cup up in front of the class and asked the students how much they thought it weighed. The students guessed with a fair amount of accuracy. The professor then asked, “How much do you think this cup would weigh if I held it up just like this for five minutes?” Well of course it would weigh the same amount, but it would feel a good bit heavier. Imagine holding a cup up in front of you for an entire day…an entire week…a month…a year. That’s one heavy cup. Imagine the water is a grievance you have been carrying around. Think about the relief of putting down our cup of grievances.

Often we think we are going to hold onto a little grudge. It won’t weigh much. We only pull it out a couple of times a year when we see a certain individual. We minimize the energy it takes to carry the grievance inside of us until we wait for the right moment to pull it out and apply it.

In the car, on the way to see people you have not seen for a while, or maybe even people you see all the time, take a moment to listen to your thoughts. Are you dreading some aspect of the upcoming encounter? Why? Imagine what it would be like to let go of your expectations for what that person “should” do or how they “should” be according to you. A big part of this will be forgiving yourself for believing you knew how someone “should” be or what they “should” do. On the way to see anyone who you hold hurt or angry feelings about (including your children), try saying the following affirmation to yourself:

I am letting go of past grievances and looking toward a brighter future for myself and for this person.

I want to strongly emphasize that looking toward a brighter future does not necessarily mean that you are looking to become best friends. It does not even mean that you spend time together- ever. Letting go of grievances does not push the reset button for healthy boundaries. It is simply deciding that you are putting this memory, this contentious story you tell yourself about the issue to bed. Wishing happiness for those around you, and letting go of old grievances help us all create a more peaceful, loving existence and models for our children how to rise above old, unhealthy family patterns.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Few Helpful Resources

Since I have been busy preparing a book proposal to send off (please wish me well), I have missed a few posts. Well, the proposal is sent, and I would like to share with you three posts:

1. Sometimes you read something that just sticks with you and you want to keep referring back to. Kristen Barton Cuthriell over at Let Life in Practices wrote just such a post. It is called How to Become a Happier Person. I think we all need to read it. To get to it, you can click here.

2. In the spirit of the holiday’s Leah DeCesare over at Mother’s Circle invited me to do a guest post about a family tradition we have for this time of year. I would love to invite you to check it out now by clicking here.

3. Lastly, Karen, over at Familosity, was kind enough to mention me in a post she made about finding our true mission. I wanted to send her my appreciation for recognizing that I am working to live my life’s mission and to share her lovely post with you all. You can find the post by clicking here.

Have you read any recent articles or research that you think need to be included on this site? Please feel free to share in the comments section:

December 6, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, resources/ book reviews | | Leave a comment

Parent Affirmation Monday- being present- 12/3/2012

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

This week’s affirmation is simple and meant to be a reminder to help your holiday season happier for you. Have you ever noticed how the holidays have changed since you had children. They can go from a time you anticipate all of the wonderful surprises, to a time you find yourself constantly working to make sure everything gets done. When you are planning the holidays around your children, while also keeping up with the regular routines in your life, the joy of the season can become lost in favor of muddling through and getting it all done. My hope is to simply remind you to take time to stop and enjoy yourself along the way.

I remember my wedding day. It was scheduled to be outside in the summer at the end of a long drought in our area. It was actually scheduled for what I now call “the day the drought ended.” About an hour and a half before the ceremony, the drought ended with a bang, thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour. I guess because I don’t take myself very seriously, I really didn’t fret about it. My friends kept telling me how sorry they were for the bad luck and kept reminding me rain on your wedding day is lucky. I just laughed and told them it was all going into my memories of a special day. I decided the minute the rain started that the day would be special, rain or not.

My point is, that at some point, it is all just going to be memories. If the kids are too scared to sit on Santa’s lap for the perfect picture? Memories. If you burn the turkey and everyone lives on side dishes? Memories. Almost any imperfect happening can be looked back on with a smile later if we have the right attitude, so why not allow yourself to be present, go with the flow, and, when it gets to the point where you have a chance to sit back and enjoy your hard work and planning, do it?

This week, I want to remind you that as you find yourself planning to create just the “right” memories, remember also, that there comes a point at which you can stop and just enjoy the ride as well. Show your children that when you plan well, you also get to laugh hard, have fun, and be present in the moment. Any worries you have about work, money or anything else can wait a moment while you allow yourself and your children to enjoy a family meal, take a drive to see the Christmas lights, or enjoy a special holiday show.

This week’s affirmation is:

I enjoy being present with my children as we enjoy each moment together. I remember that it is often the imperfect moments that we end up treasuring the most.

By the way, 15 minutes before my ceremony, the sky cleared and we ended up having our ceremony outside anyway. It turns out whether I worried or not, the day was destined to work out just fine.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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