help4yourfamily

Create the family you want to have

Monday is Parent Affirmation Day at Help 4 Your Family! 5/21/2012

an animated clock

an animated clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Get ready to laugh and tell me I’m wrong!  I have heard many versions of this affirmation but the person I got it from is the mother of affirmations herself, Louise Hay.  This week’s affirmation is:

Everything is happening at just the right time.

I know you do not believe me but give me a minute to talk you through it.  I know it feels like things happen too slow, too fast, or at just the wrong time!  This affirmation requires a little faith that there is a plan for us.  Even if you are not a believer in a higher power, doesn’t it just make life simpler to believe that everything is happening at just the right time?  I use this affirmation when I am running late and, I’m happy to tell you that when I use it, and believe it, everything does happen at just the right time.  One time I used it recently was when I was running late to meet my daughter at school because I had promised I would eat lunch with her.  I hate running late.  I decided that I was going to obey traffic laws, and I just repeated to myself over and over that things happen at just the right time.  I was still five minutes late, but guess what?  The lunch before my daughter’s ran over by five minutes and I actually ended up entering the cafeteria at the same time she did.  I also had not stressed myself out on the way there, which would require me to calm myself down before I could be present for my daughter.

You can use this affirmation for big things too.  Birth, death, illness, and entering a romantic relationship, are all things that come to mind.  Before you think I am trivializing any of those transitions I just mentioned, I want you to know I have experienced all of them, just like you.  Carrying with me the belief that everything is happening at just the right time even if I don’t understand it, gets me through a lot and I will share a personal story to demonstrate how this affirmation has come true in my own life.

When I was a child, just about to turn nine, my older brother, who was just about to turn 12, died suddenly from an undiagnosed illness the summer before he would be entering middle school.  I would never wish this on anyone, and no- there is never a good time for this to happen, but there might be a right time.  Move forward in time to the night I met my husband for the first time.  I was at a party and one of my brother’s friends, who I had not seen since he died, walked into the party with another friend.  He actually was pretty shocked to see me and had a pretty strong reaction when he realized who I was.  We started talking and he introduced me to his friend- my future husband.  Had my brother lived and gone on to middle school, he and his friend would have probably drifted apart, since they were going to go to different schools.  His friend might not have had the same memories of me that caused him to come right too me to talk and introduce me to his friend.  My husband and I might not have had a strong immediate connection and who knows what might have happened?  I can’t imagine my life without the husband and children that I have.  I wouldn’t change a thing about them or about my life right now.  This is one way that I make sense of the death of my brother.  Everything happens at just the right time.

Even if it is hard to believe right now, try this affirmation out.  Say it many, many times to yourself.  Remind yourself that you don’t have to know the “why” of things happening, but that they are happening at just the right time.

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May 21, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

child abuse

child abuse (Photo credit: Southworth Sailor)

I hate to break this to you in case you didn’t already know it but strangers are not the main cause of harm to children.  While we talk to children about “stranger danger,” as parents, we sometimes fail to talk to them about ways to protect themselves from people they come across in their daily lives who may be harmful to them.  Statistically, children are much more likely to be harmed by someone they know.  In cases of sexual abuse, for example, 90% of child victims know the perpetrator in some way^.  In 1994, Dr. Gene Abel, conducted a study of 453 pedophiles.  In total, those pedophiles admitted to over 67,000 victims, averaging out to 148 victims per perpetrator^^.  In my own experience, I have seen that most perpetrators have multiple victims and that sexual abuse is much less likely to be reported and prosecuted in the United States.  In this post, I am focusing on sexual abuse since that is the most under-reported of the abuses, however, you can use many of the same rules for neglect and physical abuse.  Rather than encouraging fear, I would like to tell you some ways you can prepare your children in case anyone ever does try to inappropriately touch or discipline them.  In my next post, I will tell you about signs you can look for to prevent abuse before it occurs.

Tips for teaching your young children about abuse prevention:

1.  Talk with your young child about the rules about private parts, namely that: private parts are the parts covered by your bathing suit; the only people who can touch private parts are parents when you are taking a bath or helping to change a diaper or going potty, and doctors during an exam.

2. Define other types of abuse as well: if someone hits you and leaves a mark, or does not take care of you when they are supposed to- like a babysitter who would leave a child home alone, then come back before the parents get home.  Tell your child that no one has permission to hit them even if they say they do, and that no one is supposed to leave them home alone.

3.  Teach children that if anyone tries to do anything you have just taught them is abusive they should: 1. say no, 2. get away, 3.  tell someone (list a few people it is okay to tell).

4.  Teach kids that people who would try to touch private parts, or hit, or neglect kids can be tricky.  If someone says they are going to hurt someone else if you tell something, don’t be tricked!  Tell!

5.  Teach children to listen to the “uh oh” feeling.  If anyone they know gives them an “uh oh” feeling (usually you feel it in your tummy, throat or head) then instruct your child to tell you as soon as possible.

6.  If you see your child acting strange around another adults and it makes you uncomfortable, when they are away from that person, gently bring up that you noticed they seemed different and get curious about why that might be.

7.  Encourage your child to build a vocabulary for feelings and talk about feelings in your family.  If you have difficulty with this, remember our affirmation for last week was: My children give me constant opportunities to learn and grow.  See, you have a learning, growing opportunity right here.

8.  Keep an open dialogue with children about okay and not okay touches.  Allow your child to speak up if they do not want to hug or kiss someone and back them up if they say or use body language to show that they do not want someone touching them.  Give them alternatives to help them problem solve like a fist bump, a high-five, or a hand shake, or if you find yourself witnessing your child being uncomfortable with a person trying to touch them, you can say something like, “Jake’s not quite ready for a hug, how about a high-five?”

Watch the language and tone that you use during your conversations with kids about this topic.  Children can misinterpret a very serious parent for an angry parent and feel like they are in trouble if you take the conversation too seriously. Keep the conversation light.  Remember Mr. Rogers from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?  If you don’t remember him, think of a gentle teacher you have met and emulate them.  Just like talking to kids about “stranger danger” this is not a one-time conversation.  Check in periodically with kids about what they would do if anyone ever tried to touch them.

Do you have questions about protecting your children from abuse?  Please feel free to ask them in the comments section.

^http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics

^^http://www.cpiu.us/statistics-2/

 

May 16, 2012 Posted by | child development, help for parents, keeping children safe | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When your inner critic hurts your relationship with your children

Written by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

We all have an inner critic.  Some of us have several.  You know, that voice in your head that just feels like it is part of you?  It’s the one that tells you that you did it wrong again, you are not working hard enough to fix your child’s problem, and reminds you of all the times you tried and failed to get items knocked off your “to do” list.  If you are not fully familiar with your inner critic, the next time you are upset about something, take a moment to listen to your thought process.  What are the thoughts floating through your head at that moment?  Our inner critic can be harsh…and sneaky.  We don’t even know it’s there, it feels so much a part of us.

I’ve heard our inner critic (or critics) referred to as “the committee.”

Committee

Committee (Photo credit: Editor B)

I love this because it is so true.  Think about the act of going to the grocery store and passing through the cookie aisle.  The committee gets activated!  You hear one part of your committee saying, “Get the cookies you like, you deserve it!”  Another part of your committee chimes in, “Yeah, your butt loves those cookies so much it will hold onto them all the way through summer.”  Then the internal negotiator pipes up, “Maybe there is a new, healthy cookie out that you could try.  Or, if you get the individual packs, you won’t eat the whole thing in two days and you can enjoy your cookies over the next few days, a little at a time.”  Of course then the critic chimes in, “Fat chance…get it?  Fat chance?  Haha.”  And so on.  Even after making a temporary decision to leave the aisle, or put the cookies into the cart, your mind wanders back as you continue through the store, either feeling like you should take the cookies out of the cart, or wondering if you will pass by other cookies and if you will be able to pass them over too.  Is it just me?  I don’t think so, maybe for you it’s not cookies, maybe it’s picking the right birthday card for a friend, or what job to take, the email you are sending to a friend, etc.

When the committee gets involved, we can all empathize with the wish someone stated to me once when he said he wanted to put them on a bus and send them away for the weekend.  Since that is not possible, what is the alternative?  I have one that may surprise you.  Think about loving them.  That’s right, envelop each part of your committee with love and thank it for working so hard on your behalf.  Right now I imagine there are quite a few people reading this who will argue that there is a part of them that is just plain wrong, that it is a part they would like to eliminate completely and that the focus should be on eliminating the “bad” parts.  If you are saying that, here is my question to you…how is that working for you?  I’m guessing that has not been so successful or you would not still be reading this post.   I might suggest that telling them to go away hasn’t been working so well so far.

If you want to try something new, take a moment to reflect on what it is each member of your committee is trying to say to you.  Try to listen to one at a time.  Are they trying to convey important information about your health, safety, or emotional well-being?  Is your committee chiming in about ways to keep yourself or your family safe?  Is it reminding you of something you need to know right now?  I promise you that even the most seemingly destructive parts of you are trying to help you in some way.   When you figure out the message, imagine yourself giving that part of you a hug and thanking it for it’s input, like you would a friend that just told you something that was really hard to say.  Make sure it knows you got the message and that you will take it into consideration.  Often times these parts of us, our committee, can be like any other team meeting where, if people feel like their important message is not being heard they just repeat it over and over again, saying it louder and louder, until people finally take notice.  Your committee may be doing this now.

Remember, listening to your committee does not mean that you will do exactly what they say, but, just like your children, if you take time to really listen to them, and they feel heard, they are more likely to listen when you tell them no, feel good when you agree, and feel less and less like they need to yell to be heard.

If it is confusing when I say to listen to your committee then listen to yourself, since your committee is part of you, that is understandable.  What I mean is, your committee members are all aspects of who you are.  At your core is you.  The you who knows what you really need, the you who is connected to all the love you feel for yourself and others, the you that does not need to judge anyone else, and is the same you that is connected to a higher, spiritual purpose.  Some people call it their higher self.  We all have this, it is the part that tells us we can do this, forgives us our imperfections, and that finds creative ways to solve any issues.  Take a few moments each day to connect with your committee, then to connect with your core, or higher self.  If you worry about fitting this into your daily routine, remember, thinking is free and can be done anywhere.  Even people with young children can take a few minutes a day to sit when the kids are in bed or are eerily quiet in the next room to check in with their inner dialogue.  The process of getting to know yourself and find peace within does not happen in one day, rather, it happens in increments over time.  It takes a lifetime, which is okay, because you have that long to do it.

A word of caution, your committee may try to tell you that doing this is too difficult and to stop or you won’t like what happens next!  Should you hear that warning from your committee, I would urge you to find a therapist to help you navigate the murky waters of your inner workings.  Over time you will find that the process of getting to know yourself can be like finding a long, lost friend that you have been missing desperately for a long time.

Doing this exercise is especially important for parents because, I hate to tell you, our inner dialogue shows to our children whether we like it or not and becomes their inner dialogue.  The best thing we can do for them is to clean up our inner space and be infinitely loving to ourselves so that our children may follow our example.

There are guides for this type of work as well. Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition by Jay Earley (Jan 27, 2012) is one such book.  It is available on Amazon and if you click on the Amazon widget link at the top right of this screen you can find out more about it.  Please read my disclaimer page.

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May 9, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday is parenting affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family!

From now on, Monday is going to be parent affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family.  Sometimes I  will share affirmations I have created and used, other times I will quote affirmations from teachers I have come to trust.

For this Monday, May 7, 2012 your parenting affirmation is:

My children give me constant opportunities to learn and grow.

Now, you know this one makes you smile, even when you are tired. I would suggest that, to make this part of your self-talk, you repeat it many times throughout the day.  Say it to yourself in the mirror, and mention it to your friends in conversations.

If you have a parenting affirmation that you would like to share, please feel free to let me know.  Maybe you will see it some other Monday 🙂

All the best to your family,

Kate

May 7, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Talking with Robert Holden

Robert Holden Ph.D

Robert Holden Ph.D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

On Thursday of this week I decided to try calling into one of my favorite radio shows, Robert Holden’s Shift Happens.  It comes on at 1pm EST.  Every Thursday is the day I stay home from the office and try to get enough done around my house so that my family and I can have a weekend free from running errands and picking up the house.  I always listen to Hay House Radio using my phone app as I clean.  If you don’t know about Hay House Radio, it is a station dedicated completely to positive radio programming.  I love listening to Dr. Holden because he is always gentle and kind to everyone he speaks to and has a wonderful way of helping people to look at things in a different way.

I’ve had an unusual amount of anxiety lately, really since I started this blog.  While I have taught other mental health professionals and parents in educational seminars, I’ve never publicly shared my writing until now and I have been feeling, well…vulnerable.  So, I called into the show, anticipating a busy signal.  How surprised was I when the phone rang and someone asked me what my reason was for calling before putting me back on hold?  Umm, pretty surprised.  I am so grateful for the time I had on hold so that I could gather my thoughts.  Then, just after the commercial break, I heard Dr. Holden announcing…me!  What a wonderful, effortless surprise :).

I know most people hate public speaking.  I actually love it.  I know I have good, worthwhile information to share and I love being with people as we all gain knowledge together.  When I am in front of an audience, I can see people responding and adjust accordingly.  But with this blogging thing, it’s like I’m putting my baby out into the world and it’s difficult for me to see how people are responding.   When speaking in front of an in-person audience, I also know who is there (no one I know personally) and it is easy for me, in a professional setting, to shrug off criticism.  I know what I am saying some people will respond to and some will not.  Remember, I work with children with difficulties with attachment.  I probably hear a few times a week that I am wearing the wrong clothes, have a weird look on my face, don’t have the right games in my office, and that I am just plain wrong.  I usually find it pretty amusing since I know that criticism is more reflective of where my client is and if we stick with it, we will get to the other side to figure out where the defensiveness is coming from.

While speaking to Dr. Holden, I realized it was not so much the people I don’t know reading my blog, but more the people I do know.  It’s funny the things we worry about.  Mostly I was worried about people I know personally changing their opinions of me, or my blog causing conflict with people I love.  Everyone else, if you like it, wonderful!  If you don’t, I sincerely wish you luck in finding a site that better suits your needs.

The most surprising part of the call for me was toward the end when Dr. Holden suggested that if I am worried about critique from people I know and am most connected to, the concern I focused on in my call (no perfectionist tendencies here), that I must begin to be the most loving, least critical person I can be.  I had a little inner battle about that one.  “No, wait!” my insides wanted to cry, “I’m not critical of others!  In fact, I am one of the least critical people I know!  I pride myself on being non-judgemental!”  But then, after the call it clicked.  I am loving and non-judgemental to many, many people with one major exception.  You know the exception, right?  Yup, it’s me.  I have a tendency to save my major criticisms for me.  Don’t we all?  I mean, when we are yelling at our children, isn’t part of it that we are berating ourselves for our perceived lack?  Our inability to get them to eat what we want them to eat, the anger over the clutter or mess in our homes taking over that we can’t seem to keep under control, or feeling like we do not know how to address an undesireable behavior?  It is on the days when we are harshest to ourselves that we are the most harsh with our children.  I realized from that call, (thank you Dr. Holden) that I need to be less critical to everyone.

Let this be a reminder to us that we all, even the experts, need reminders to be gentle, kind and loving to ourselves.  Thank you to all of the people who have contacted me since hearing me on the call.  It has warmed my heart and I welcome building continuing relationships with you.  I hope that I can also take part in helping to you be kinder and gentler to yourselves as you continue your own journey as parents, no matter the age of your children.

You can listen to the show here: http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=9401&show_id=180&episode_id=8697

This archive is available for only the next few days for free then it will go into the permanent archives and will cost money.

If I remember correctly, my call was the second after the break at the half way mark.  You can buy Dr. Holden’s book Shift Happens, on Amazon by clicking on the Amazon widget on the top right of this page.  I do not receive any financial compensation for this post or for any referrals to Hay House, or Dr. Holden however I do receive a nominal fee for purchases from Amazon if you click on the link on this page.  I only recommend products I believe in strongly.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ten Free Ways for Parents to Break Free of a Bad Mood (I’ll bet there are a few you’ve never thought of)

How do they get any work done?

How do they get any work done? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picture yourself, it’s Sunday around 3:00 pm.  You have already watched the children slowly dismantle any progress you made in getting the house into order over the week while they were in school.  They have gone through the playdates, video games, television and 1/2 the board games- as evidenced by the living room floor.  As you think about whether you are up for making dinner and wondering if you even have anything to make, you start to get grumpy.  Okay, you were already grumpy.  Maybe you have already yelled at them a few times and now, in addition to feeling overwhelmed about the mess in your home, you are also feeling bad about the words you have said- not that you are going to stop saying them mind you, because you are stuck in a loop of grumpy, nasty behavior…the same kind you get angry with your kids for having.  Below are a few techniques to help break free from the grumpy nasties and I’m quite sure there are a few you have not tried yet.  Why not print out the full list at the bottom of the post and stick it on your fridge to try out when the grumpies strike again?

1.  Put the kids in the tub or shower or take a bath or shower yourself.  Something about being in the water helps to set the reset button for kids and sometimes adults.  If you are taking a bath or shower, visualize all the angry, grumpy feelings getting washed off of you and watch them go down the drain.

2.  Set up a behavioral chart for yourself (if you get through something without yelling, you get a point and x number of points gets you something like a night out, a new cd you’ve had your eye on, etc.  I cover this one in my post “Ditch Your Behavior Charts!”).

3.  Tap on the inside of your pinky finger and say three times “I forgive myself, I did the best I could do.”  Then, continue tapping and repeat three times “I forgive myself, I’m doing the best I can.”  Don’t ask how it works, it’s an accupressure technique, just try it!  You know a big part of what you are doing has to do with the way you are talking to yourself about what is happening right now.  Think about ways you can forgive yourself- this is one of them.

4.  Imagine you are speaking to someone who loves you, your best friend who always knows what to say, your grandmother, whoever, and pretend they are with you right now guiding you.

5.  Learn EFT.  EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a quick, easy tapping technique that can help in all kinds of different areas of your life.  It addresses anxiety, depression, traumatic memories and much more.  Here is a link to someone teaching EFT.  I would recommend just doing the shortcut he teaches in the first 6 minutes.  It’s all I ever really teach and it seems to be enough.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPZ-xmj6KTI&feature=related.  If you really want to learn more, check out this site: http://eftuniverse.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18&Itemid=21

6.  Do a quick 5 minute spurt of exercise even though it is the last thing you feel like doing right now.  Partly this is just going to break the pattern by doing something different from what you were originally going to do next.  Add to that a quick, natural endorphin rush, and a feeling like you just took care of your body for a moment and it can really do the trick.  A great exercise that we do sometimes in our home that really gets us moving and laughing is playing “Just Dance” on the Wii.  We crack up as we watch each other try to get the moves right.  Just make sure no one gets hit with the remote.  Remind yourself that you don’t have to be at the gym and doing a full workout to get a little benefit from exercise.  See how long it takes you to go up and down the stairs of your home or apartment building 10 times, jog in place, race the kids a few times in the yard.

7.  Cry.  You read that right.  Think of the energy we spend holding back tears when really tears can be quite healing and good.  Even better than crying is crying in a hot shower.  That really gives your body a release.  Your tears actually carry stress hormones, that are otherwise trapped in your body, out of your body.  So, when I say it’s a release, I mean it, you are letting go of stress hormones when you cry.  Also, people worry about crying in front of children.  Unless this is a recurring issue- in which case I think you need to read my post on finding a therapist, crying in front of  your kids a few times a year is okay and actually can teach them about allowing themselves to show feelings and get comfort.

8.  Change locations.  When the kids were little I called them, “I need a witness days.”  I didn’t need a witness for them.  I needed a witness for me.  I needed to go out of the house so that I would be more mindful of how I was acting with my children.  Also, just getting out and going to the park gets you away from some of the compounding factors that may be contributing to your mood.

9.  Accept help.  Remember how you did something wonderful for your friend or neighbor and they were so thankful and told you if you ever needed anything to call?  Call.  Ask for help.  Accept imperfect help from your spouse, partner or friend while you go out to take a walk or clean up so you can feel sane again.  Sure, they may not do things the way you want them to, but are you doing things the way you want to right now?  Right.  Ask for and accept the help.

10. Picture yourself tomorrow, thinking back on today.  What do you want to say you did today when you were feeling this way?  Do you want to say, “yesterday I was in a foul mood and I couldn’t pull myself out of it?”  or do you want to say, “Yesterday I was in a foul mood, then I remembered this list of things to do to get me out of it.  I looked on there and found something and I’m pretty proud of myself because I gathered the children and pulled myself together and we all went for a walk.  The rest of the day went pretty good.”  Once you have pictured what you want to say.  Break it down into three smaller steps, what you need to do to get to feeling that way.

Good luck!  Let me know what works for you, or, even better, add to the list…

May 3, 2012 Posted by | help for parents | , , , , | 10 Comments

I’ve been tagged and I’m dedicating this post to assholes

Asshole 7"

Asshole 7″ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve been tagged by Rebecca from Mom meets Blog.  What does that mean?  It’s some kind of game in the blogosphere, and I’m a child therapist so I know games are good. Here are the rules of this game:

  • Answer the question the “tagger” listed for you in their post
  • Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
  • Choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post
  • Let each blogger know that you have tagged them

Rebecca was kind enough to allow me to choose a question.  I figured since she listed me as the fifth blog she tagged, I would answer question number 5.  It’s a good one.  “Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence in your life?”  Why, yes, quite a few as a matter of fact.

I recently took a meditation class where the teacher, Claudia, explained about people with a name she pronounced ( ash-o-les).  When she said it, I thought she was talking about her wise, spiritual teachers.  The actual spelling of this word is assholes.  In fact though, Claudia said that assholes have been some of her best teachers.  Well, the same is true for me!  They are, indeed some of our best teachers if we allow them to be.  In figuring out how to live life with, around, and in spite of, assholes, we learn so much about ourselves, including our weakness, strength, resilience and even courage.  I have had several teachers in my life who, I have to say, sometimes I thought were real assholes (and sometimes they really were).  I won’t name them here- they don’t really need it.  Most of them were wounded and were assholes because they carried the belief that whatever they were doing was self-protective.

Now, on to another great teacher for me who is most definately not an asshole.  Well, not to me anyway.  My mom thought he was a real asshole for a long time.  She’s long since worked it out, but who can blame her?  After all, she and my dad divorced back in the early 80’s after he came out of the closet.  The non-asshole is, you guessed it, my father.  Stay with me, I’m going to bring this right back to the beginning.  My father is one of my greatest teachers because, among other things, he decided to be true to himself.  Back in the 80’s, being gay was not considered to be too awesome.  In fact, things were pretty hush, hush.  My dad’s coming out caused quite a ruckus.  He lost his marriage (and almost his children), and he came close to losing the private practice (he is a physician) that he started when his partners nearly voted him out.  He has told me, in the many conversations we have had since about this time in his life, that he felt he no longer had a choice once he came to the late understanding that he is gay.  In coming out, my father modeled for me how to stick with the strength of my convictions even though sometimes people are going to think you are an asshole.

I offer this to you, readers, as a lesson as well.  Sometimes in life, we need to be okay with other people thinking we are assholes.  It can save lives, literally.  We can also learn that sometimes, when we think someone is being an asshole, they are just trying in the best way they know how, to protect themselves, or even save their own lives- even if it does not look that way from the outside.  The people who think you are an asshole sometimes could be your kids, your parents, your boss or co-workers.  They could all think you are an asshole when you don’t do what they want you to do.  The trick is to figure out if you are doing what you are doing for the greater good and whether this is actually self-protection (or protecting your children) or not.  I’m so glad my dad was able to weather that storm.  His decision to be true to himself gave me so many gifts.  I am also grateful and for all the other lessons he has taught me- like, that being honest is really the best policy, and how to maintain long-term, healthy relationships (he and his husband have been together for more than 30 years).  Thanks Dad.

Now, on to the next part of the game…tagging others.

  1. Gorillaparenting
  2. Queen of Familosity
  3. Anger Management Chicago
  4. 400 days til 40
  5. Mommyman
  6. Science of Mom
  7. One Inch of Grace
  8. Let Life In Practices
  9. Boundaries of the Soul
  10. Unhappy Mommy
  11. Danielle’s Story

There are so many great blogs to choose from! If I didn’t choose yours, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to just answer one of the following questions below.  I pose the same questions (pick one or more) to the chosen blogs.

  1. What is advice you would give to new parents?
  2. How is your life different now than you imagined it would be ten years ago?
  3. Have you ever had a good lesson that came in strange wrapping paper?
  4. What is something you said you would never do that you now do routinely?
  5. What books are you reading and what do you think about them?
  6. What path did you take to do the job you are doing now?
  7. If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
  8. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the past year?
  9. What do you think will be different about your life in ten years?
  10. What is your favorite blog post ever, and why (you can include your own)?
  11. What is something about you people might not guess from your blog?

May 2, 2012 Posted by | blog awards and recognition | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

End the Hassle! Tell kids what they deserve.

Hey Dad..!

Hey Dad..! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s parenting tip that I have for you is so simple but it could change so many of the more frustrating conversations you have with your children.  Are you ready?  When your children are hounding you about doing something you don’t think is a good idea, instead of saying no and negotiating back and forth about when they can, how much, why not, etc. try framing the issue in terms of what they deserve.  You know how this usually goes. You tell your child they can’t do something or they have to do something and they start to argue and negotiate.  Why can’t I?  All the other kids do!  You’re mean! Until you wonder if it was really important in the first place, or their arguments become so darned sophisticated that they have convinced you to go against your better judgement in regard to their health and safety.  Telling your kids what they deserve can end some of that and help you to keep focused on the main goal, the health and safety of your children.  It looks like this:

Example 1:

Kid: Mom, the other kids in my class don’t have to sit in a booster car seat any more! (feel free to imagine this as a whine)

Mom: You deserve to be as safe as possible and the booster keeps you safe.

Example 2:

Kid: Why can’t I have another cookie?  I only had a few!

Mom: You deserve to be healthy, let’s give your body the food it deserves.

Example 3:

Kid: Hey Dad, can I go to Joe’s party this weekend?

Dad: Will there be adults present?

Kid: But Dad!  You don’t trust me?!  I never get to do anything!

Dad: You deserve to be safe.

Framing your decisions this way will not save you from eye-rolls, huffing and puffing, or pouting all together.  Nothing saves you from those things completely, but it may shorten some of the duration.  It also saves some of the mental gymnastics for you.  For every arguement they come up with about the same issue, you can stop and ponder for a moment, then repeat how much you feel as though they really deserve to be safe, healthy, free from hurtful relationship or friendships, etc.  After all, it is difficult to argue back with someone telling you how important you are over and over.  Also, remember that our internal self talk is shaped by the way we were spoken to by our parents. Wouldn’t you prefer that your child’s self talk as they grow be “I deserve to eat healthy foods” over “don’t eat that, it’s bad for you?”

April 30, 2012 Posted by | discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

getting insurance to finance specialized therapy

No matter how you feel about the whole health insurance debate in the United States, I think most of us can agree that dealing with insurance companies can be confusing and frustrating.  It can almost seem like the insurance companies have their own special language and code words.  If you have a child in need of specialized therapy, or you are in need of therapy yourself, going through your insurance can seem really daunting and to add to the difficulty,  many specialists no longer deal with insurance.  My hope is that this post will help you navigate the way US insurance companies work so that you can get services paid for (even if they are out-of-network).

Do not let your insurance’s first response, where they say they are not funding an out of network provider, or they say they will but will only pay 20%, throw you off.  You still have options, they just aren’t going to tell you what they are.  Let’s start with a quick primer on insurance “lingo” you need to know:

in-network providers– are providers covered by your insurance company.  If you are going to an in-network provider your insurance company has an agreement with your provider so that they are likely to pay most of the bill except for your regular co-pay.

out-of-network providers– are providers your insurance company does not have an agreement with.  If you are calling your insurance company and they say the provider you are calling about is out-of-network, you will want to ask if you have out-of-network benefits on your plan.  If they say no- do not panic- you have options!

usual customary rate (UCR)- is the rate your insurance customarily agrees to pay for a given service.  When your insurance says they will pay 70% of the UCR that means they will pay 70% of what they normally agree to for that service- which is often different from what the specialist charges.  If your insurance says they cover a percentage of the UCR, ask them what the UCR is for the service you are getting.  If they say $80 and they cover 70% of the UCR, that means they will reimburse you or the therapist $56 and you would be responsible for the remainder of the UCR if you are seeing an in-network provider, or the remainder of the provider’s fee for out of network providers.

Now that you know these terms. give your insurance a call and see what they have to say about the provider you want to see.  Remember to also ask if you have a deductible and how much of your deductible has been covered.  Other insurances have a rate that changes, for example, they pay 20% for sessions 1-5, 40% for session 6-30 and 70% for sessions 31 and above.  Don’t worry, I’ll summarize at the end so you can get all the questions together.

So, what do you do if your insurance company tells you your chosen specialist is not covered? 

Gather the information that makes your provider special.  Do they have special skills and training to help your child that other providers do not have?  My clients that call would tell their insurance I have specialized training in trauma, attachment and adoption- if they are bringing their children for one or all of those reasons- pick only the issues that pertain to you and your child.  Ask your insurance if they have anyone in-network that provides that same level of expertise.  Your insurance is required to find someone with comparable skills within a reasonable distance of your home who has the specialized skills you require.  If they do not, they are required to offer to pay their UCR to your specialist.  If you have a willing specialist, with just a short conversation with your insurance, they can negotiate a rate for services.  I have done this several times now.

To summarize, the questions for your insurance are:

1.  Is (name of the provider) in-network for my plan?

2.  Do I need authorization?- asking the question starts the process if you need it.

3.  If my provider is out-of-network, do you have an in-network provider with the same skills and availability within reasonable distance from my house?

4.  If you do not have anyone in-network, could you offer the provider a single case agreement?

5.  What is my deductible?

6.  What is the reimbursement for this service?

7.  If they mention UCR, what is the UCR?

Remember, if they say they have an in-network provider with the same skills as your specialist, make sure to follow up and call that specialist to make sure they are taking clients because if they are not, you can call the insurance back to report and they need to find someone else or offer a single case agreement.

In case you understand better with a flow chart, I have included one of those below as well.  If you have further questions or would like clarification, please ask in a comment.  This stuff is confusing and someone else probably has the same question!

insurance questions flow chart

April 27, 2012 Posted by | health insurance, thinking about therapy? | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teaching young children about “stranger danger”

Street photography - photograph of a child wat...

Street photography – photograph of a child watching children play on the grounds of Arts College at Osmania University, Hyderabad, AP – India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am writing this post in response to a post by GorillaParenting’s post, “Stranger Danger- Gorilla Parenting- Fail!”  I will re-blog it so you can see the quick video of (I assume) the writer’s daughter answering the question, “What do you do if a stranger tries to give you a piece of candy?”  Her answer is, “Say thank you.”  While this is very cute, it also raises a question posed by the blogger- how do we teach our children who is safe and who is not?

Most of us grew up hearing about stranger danger and about never talking to strangers, etc. but I think it is time for a new conversation about this topic that first acknowledges that this is a much more complex issue than we give it credit for.  We know that it is important in our lives to talk to strangers for many things.  After all, on the first day of school, your child’s new teacher is often a stranger to them but of course you want them to talk to the teacher.  At the same time, we want them to be able to identify and get away from anyone who has an intent to harm them.  So, how does one teach a young child who is and is not safe?  Here are a few tips.

1.  “Stranger Danger lessons” grow and change over a lifetime and are not a one time event.  Start this conversation with your young child by asking them if they know what strangers are, followed up by a question about what strangers look like.  You might be surprised by the response you get.  Many children know that strangers are people you do not know, but then if you ask what they look like, children sometimes feel they can give a pretty good description.  This is your opportunity to begin teaching your child about strangers and how to tell if someone is a “safe” stranger or not.  Every child will stay away from a scary guy in a dark cape hanging out in an alley- we know that, it’s the person who would try to lure your child away with kindness that we worry about.  And, of course, there is a healthy balance to be made here because we do not want children to be frightened.  I coach my own children to speak to strangers that are “helping strangers” like someone who works at the store, a police officer or firefighter.  I also tell them if they are ever lost or need help to look for a parent who has children with them that are the same age as my child.  After all, a parent with same age children is most likely to empathize with the needs of my child and to help them to get the help they need.

2.  Come up with some rules for your child about who is and is not a stranger.  When does someone become an acquaintance and does that mean you can go into their home or with them in a car?  In one of your ongoing conversations with your child, fit this in.  What do you need to know about a person for them not to be a stranger anymore?  I often would say you need to know their first and last names, where they live or work, and your mom or dad has to say they are no longer a stranger.  Even if someone is not a stranger, you can talk about whether they are okay to go with and make sure your child always knows to tell you before they go with someone.  Many families also have a code word that they use with kids so that if something ever happened where, say, the normal person was not there to get them off the bus after school, the parent would send someone to pick the child up and that person would share the code word so the child knows they are safe.

3.  Make a playful guessing game with your child when you go to the park and ask them who is a “safe” stranger and who is an “unsafe” stranger.  This will give you an opportunity to teach your child to listen to their own instincts about who is safe to talk to and what it is okay to talk to them about, and to teach them that people who look good, are not always what they appear to be.  Any stranger that tries to give a child something or tries to have a child go with them without checking with their parents or having the kids check with their parents is not okay.   You can also talk with kids about listening to the “uh oh” feeling we get around people sometimes in their tummy, heart or throat.  Tell them to check with you first before talking to a stranger (you can come up with a signal like a head nod to say it is okay also).  After a child talks to the stranger, ask them how it felt.  You can ask them if that person would have been okay to go with to check on their lost puppy (hint- the answer is always “no,” or, “only if I check with you (the parent) first.”   If kids get an “uh oh” feeling about a stranger, talk about why they think that is- was the person not listening about your child’s personal space body language (were they in your space bubble?).  Was the person asking intrusive, personal questions? Acknowledge how these things can be disturbing and help kids figure out how to address them with adults in a respectful way.

When talking to your young child about strangers, I would be sure to try to keep the conversation on the lighter, playful side since we do not want to scare them, but to also playfully fit in little tests of their knowledge.  Children love it when they know the answers to questions.  Remember too, that children love it when they know the rules about things, and, even more, they love rituals.  Create a ritual where each time you go to the park, you remind them of the rules on the way, stay on the mulched area, ask me before you run to the bathroom by yourself, ask the owner before you pet their dog, and never go anywhere with anyone or accept anything from anyone without asking first.  When they are tired of you saying the rules every time, you can make it a guessing game and they can tell you the rules.  When they consistently tell you the rules every time, they have got it and you have done the best you can do on this one.

What’s funny is that I don’t think that original video that prompted this post is a “fail” at all.  My guess, by looking at the body language of the child is that what actually happened is mom and dad thought they were asking the child about stranger danger but what the child imagined in her safe, secure little world was that a stranger presented her with candy with mom or dad watching and giving a nod, then she takes it.  So, what do you do then?  Say thank you, of course!

The real problem is that the people who most often harm children are not strangers.  Look for future posts about how to help children feel confident enough to protect themselves if someone they know ever tries to cross a boundary.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | child development, help for parents, keeping children safe | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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