The missing ingredient to parenting challenges…

If you have followed my page then you would know that when it comes to parenting challenges, I highly advocate for self-soothing, emotional intelligence, connection, and collaborative problem solving (check out How To Get Calm and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions for more information). As I have mastered these skills, which have made a tremendous difference in my relationship with my kids, and upon further reflection, I noticed that there was still something else integral to their well-being. It was something I was lacking in various situations as I was able to be calm and empathetic yet they were still extra challenging or losing it.

Fortunately, I discovered what it was: self-confidence.

If I have any shred of doubt or ambivalence in my self or my decision, my kids will attack incessantly as they are confident with what they want and can sense my weakness. Or they absolutely crumble with the overwhelmingness of making a decision they do not feel ready to make and terrified of doing something that could risk failure or disappoint me.

When I have alignment of my intentions, thoughts, feelings, and actions, then there is clarity and certainty in my responses. When I trust myself and my decisions, then my kids just get it. You can feel their calm and acceptance even if they are not happy with the decision. They trust me and feel secure. It feels like magic. Now, if only I could feel confident all the time, which fortunately is where self-compassion comes into to help 🙂

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

We can promote resiliency & connection by ‘tuning in’ to our senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. 

Here are keys to empowering you to make conscious choices to get your vital needs met. Understanding and following these will harmonize your connection to your mind, body, and soul as well as your relationships.

Bright side..Resilience

 

Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs):

  1. Nutrition/Hydration
  2. Temperature
  3. Sleep
  4. Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
  5. Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included
  6. Unprocessed stress/trauma (negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)

“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham

stress-model

Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out? 
When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, HALT(S) and reflect: 

Are we Hungry?

Angry/Anxious?

Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?

Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)? 

Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?

Get regulated together by doing the following daily:

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Eat nutritious food & Drink water
  3. Rest/Sleep/Meditate
  4. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temp, turn off electronics, lower noise level, get fresh air and sunlight)
  5. Increase production of happy, calming hormones by doing fun, interactive activities  such as smiling, silly faces, singing, music, hugging, playing games, tickling, dancing, exercising, attend social events, spending special one-on-one with each other
  6. Process stress & release negativity through play, drawing, exercising, writing, understanding, reflective listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathy…the list is endless and unique to individuals interests and/or preferences.

When applying these keys, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/soul and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps. You can do it.

If you’d like support, international clients can find me at RingMD

Clients living in Illinois can find me at Wecounsel

Key Terms:

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences

Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met

Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming

Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond your threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/BSRC_Resilience_English_fnl.pdf

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/resilience/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/toxic-stress/

https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

http://lindagraham-mft.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Neuroscience-of-Resiliency-Interview.pdf

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/resilience/according-experts/resilience-development-importance-early-childhood

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

https://postinstitute.com/?s=stress+model

https://www.heartmath.org/

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

New filters to live by…

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy and curiosity.

 

As human beings, we are constantly absorbing stimulation from all our senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, sounds, and intuition). In order to function efficiently, our brains filter the stimuli to prioritize and respond. Our initial filter is to determine if the stimulus is a threat. If we perceive a threat, then our stress response system kicks in and we react to protect ourselves. There are more steps that occur instantaneously in this complex process. Yet ultimately, the presence of a calm, nurturing, and safe person and/or connection to secure, positive beliefs and memories can stop the stress response from taking over. Thus promoting resiliency and more positive, secure connections within our mind, body, soul, and relationships.

After receiving counseling and training in trauma and brain development, I discovered I was a highly sensitive person who experienced complex trauma. My central nervous system was also often in a hyper-aroused state. So along with having enhanced sensory sensitivity, I was hypervigilant and intensely surveying every environment I was in. I had a tendency to perceive stimuli as threats and had exaggerated reactions. I was able to pinpoint specific traumatic events that occurred during sensitive stages of my development and in my parents’ lives that I accepted that I was essentially born, wired in fear.

When I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, overtired and not prioritizing my needs, I was constantly feeling triggered.  I was having strong negative reactions during my own children’s sensitive stages of development. Fortunately, I was aware of what was going on in me so I reflected further on what my biggest fears were. Then I came up with specific statements that targeted those fears and provided compassionate and trusting beliefs to filter the stimuli and my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator. I followed my impulse to take it down and scribbled down the following statements on it:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy, and curiosity.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which I knew was happening when my children were upset or acting out and I connected to my “felt sense”. I would notice my chest tighten, heart racing, my body trembling and overheating, my voice tone shifting up, and negative thoughts flooding my brain. I would also take deep breaths and step outside for fresh air.

I refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their negative thoughts and feelings so that they could securely connect to their innate intelligence and shine through any negative stimuli. I loved the visual of the rainbow my son drew and reminded me how the sun shines through and creates a rainbow after a storm. Here is what this creation looks like… 

 

Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to believe when I got triggered. We all can get triggered and easily fall back to negative habits and reactions. The goal is to take responsibility for your triggers: Notice when you are getting triggered, what are you thinking, feeling, and doing; and what will you choose to do to get through it faster. 

Healing our triggers often takes time so be compassionate with yourself as you go through this process. The ability to even notice your triggers and negative reactions is progress even if you cannot stop them yet. Awareness is first to step so when you catch your stress signals or negative reactions, do something nurturing, breathe, and love yourself through. I like to remind myself how it takes an average of 21 times to repeat a new behavior before you make a positive, secure connection in your mind, body, soul and in the relationship itself. The deeper the issue, the more times it takes. Do your best to celebrate each step and choose love over fear. Today is a present, open it with grace, joy, and curiosity.

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you ❤   

Debra Wallace MS LMFT Wecounsel Online Profile

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision-making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed marriage and Family Therapist in the state Illinois, USA

 

The Halloween Dread Reframe

Every Halloween, my son wants to make his own costume. The therapist and educator in me absolutely loves his initiative, determination, creativity, high standards and resourcefulness The mom in me gets triggered and dreads this. All I see are the barriers, the frustrations, hard work, messes, costs, and disappointment. It happened again this year where he feels my dread and it brings him down. I know it is not fair so as I practice what I preach, I chose to ask my son this morning as I was acknowledging how he was right about feeling my resistance, “How are we going to open this day with joy and curiosity?” I then reframed our day by stating, “I am very curious how we will get this all done and I look forward to the joy my son will feel when his costume is finished.”

I am happy to report that after great effort we have a 5 foot Salamence costume all ready to be painted and fully assembled in time for Halloween and my son is already filled with joy with the progress. He even volunteered using his own money for the expenses, made the shopping list, went to the store and did most of the work. Salamence and cheetah (2)Here is video of his costume:

Clink link to see video of a past creation that fortunately his father helped him with: Spinosaurus Son

Here is a link to Parenting Resources on topics of Halloween: http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/search/site/halloween

Happy Halloween!!!

P.S. My son also learned valuable lessons which he was able to express through processing and tears. He worked so hard on the costume, yet he encountered many frustrations and disappointments (many which his father and I had foreseen yet didn’t tell him). He says next year he will choose an easier costume and help his sister with something special as he was so appreciative of her support and realized all the drawbacks to huge costumes.

Negative thoughts and the gift of rising again

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty/shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through much of my life and often triggers me into a dismissive reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted our attempts. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stresses.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way and that I will keep working on improving myself. I then shared a story of how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded how blessed we are that *God gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are really just symbols of the gifts God gives us everyday. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You,” gave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He began to hug and say “thank you” to all the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft  blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was being I Believe In Me. Listening, holding a safe place, using respectful touch, and acknowledging feelings allows negativity to process which naturally leads to calming down and making new connections. The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish every one to see the beauty and miracles given everyday and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

~Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.

A glimpse into a boy’s emotional development

When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.

I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.

I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.

I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships.  There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.

It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in fight, flight or freeze mode). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop.  Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.

Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:

“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”

-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World

Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.

During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.

He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.

Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that is actually a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard feelings with you. These emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered with fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to hug an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.

The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only what you are hearing them say like identify feelings.

‎”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott

I recommend the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. & Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.

http://michaelthompson-phd.com/books/raising-cain/

http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisingboys/

Here’s also a video on how important it is to meet emotional needs

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am licensed to provide Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA