Blog 11–WC Reflections & Resources

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With the coming of the new year, it seems like a good time to reflect on what you as caregivers, are teaching your children about setting goals and acting upon them. I currently am working with young adult clients who have little to no direction for they want to do with their lives.  There are numerous other children and teens clients who are having a hard time focusing or seeing the value of their education.  Some of them have even questioned if they would be missed if they weren’t here on this earth.

While children are still in the care of adults, they are dependent on their caregivers to not only to provide for their basic needs, but to teach them how to be in the world. Without these needs being met, children lose out on a sense of security, grounding and purpose in life.  By learning to set and meet goals, children will learn valuable skills in problem-solving, organizing and interacting with others in a collaborative manner.  These in turn help children to develop self-confidence, open-mindedness and direction.   This process also helps children learn the concepts of focus, time, patience, persistence and effort; possibly even coping with disappointment and engaging in hard work.

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Caregivers are able to teach the concepts of setting goals for short term and long term related to simple or complex interests. The following are some pointers in how to do this process:    1)  explore interests or assigned tasks, 2)  reflect on the purpose of the activity, 3) brainstorm the steps to accomplish the task, 4)  consider your resources to meet goal such as money and/or supplies,  5)  prioritize these steps, 6)  create a time-table to get the steps completed, 7) start the steps, 8)  assess and make adjustments as needed, 9)  acknowledge the completion (possibly celebrate), 10)  start the process over and use the knowledge gained from this goal endeavor.  Maintaining a positive attitude is essential throughout these steps as is keeping one’s expectations in check or one risks being too hard on oneself or blaming others if things don’t work out as envisioned.

Use these steps to instruct children on how to plan for a big school project, on how to prepare for a family meal, on how to structure summer school break, on how to prep for holiday celebrations, on how to spend a rainy or snowy day, etc. These tasks become building blocks for children to learn to think for themselves, to learn from their mistakes and successes as well as to acknowledge what they have control of and how they might need others to assist them.  The sooner children learn these basic skills, the better able they will be to face the challenges of higher education and their future related to work and family development.

It is never too late to practice these goal-setting skills for yourself or for your family.   Your children will thank you in the future for having taken the time to break things down in how to get more out of their lives personally and relationally. I challenge you to be more proactive in teaching your children how to set goals and how to work toward getting what they want out of life.

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Blog 10–WC Reflections & Resources

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I recently witnessed some of the highs and lows related to a family coping with the failing health and eventual death of my friend’s father and her mother’s husband. This experience reminded me of how tenuous and uncertain our life span can be.  One moment you may be laughing and telling stories with your beloved and in the next you may be weeping and grieving the loss of your beloved.  The finality of death may be seen as a sweet blessing after a long stretch of hospice care or an unfathomable loss due to unresolved hurts or unmet needs.  Each person will have a different range of feelings depending on the quality of connection with the deceased.

As a therapist I often think about the impact of life and death on my clients and their families. Personally and professionally, I have seen how children learn from their caregivers how to view time and how to use it.  The perception of time impacts not only the quality of our family interactions, but every other aspect of our lives.

We occasionally forget the value of time with our loved ones when we get wrapped up in the busyness of life or when we hold onto past hurts or regrets. Caregivers are responsible to teach their children the value of time through their words and actions.  Strong relationships with family, friends, peers and associates are created by people showing up to share, listen, encourage and support each other.  Healthy relationships promote a sense of safety, security and personal well-being.

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In my office, I have often heard clients state, “I don’t have time for _____.” Filling in the blank could be, “my child is having too many temper tantrums, my child is crying too much, my child is not feeling well, my child is taking too long to get ready, etc.”  This statement makes me wonder, “What do you have time for?”  A child’s words and actions are a form of communication that something is right or wrong in their world—physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, spiritually.  Caregivers need to take the time and to figure out what their child is trying to say to bring about a sense of support and relief.   If you the caregiver are feeling too overwhelmed and are having a hard time deciphering your child’s actions, you may want to consider outside support via individual, couples or family therapy.  There is no shame in doing this.

I am a firm believer in our having or taking time for what is important to us. There is no one right way to spend our time any given day.  We get to decide when we wake up what is on our plate for the day—a variation of work, play or relaxation.   The decision making process continues with the consideration of whether we have any responsibilities to ourselves, our family, our job and/or our community?

Because, no one knows how much time any of us will have on earth, it is up to each one of us to make the most of the time we have. Are you going to spend your time being present with your family and creating memories or are you going to take your time and family for granted?  I challenge you to take the time to reflect on how you spend your time in taking care of yourself and building positive connections with your family members.

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Blog 9–WC Reflections & Resources

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Life has a way of exposing individuals and families to a range of positive and negative experiences on a daily basis.  Part of creating a healthier family involves parents being more proactive rather than reactive to these life events.  Being proactive entails conscious thought and action whereas reactivity entails impulsive words and actions.  These response styles are the result of interactional and coping strategies learned in our families of origin.

Reactive parenting creates tension and disconnection within individuals and families.  Parents may act in a reactive manner consciously or unconsciously to try to maintain a sense of control.  This style was most likely unintentionally carried over into their adulthood and parenting approach.  Reactivity is demonstrated by caregivers who respond to situations in the extreme, who place blame or complain too much, who express out-of-control anger with verbal and/or physical aggression, who give mixed messages, who are inconsistent in their quality of structure and nurture and/or who assert control through fear and intimidation.

Children who are exposed to reactive parenting risk many negative outcomes such as less likely to feel good about themselves as individuals, to have less self-control and to have a harder time getting along with others.  These outcomes continue to impact school performance, physical and emotional health as well as future employability and family dynamics with potential for domestic violence or divorce.  If a child’s needs for connection and security are not met in the home, children will look elsewhere with risk of D&A use, sexual promiscuity or delinquency.

Proactive and preventative parenting results in creating a sense of security and stability in the home.  Parents build this environment by planning ahead, by considering what could go right or wrong, by having realistic expectations, by teaching problem-solving and by keeping things in perspective.  Proactive parents are able to own their mistakes, to apologize if needed and to make changes for the future.   There will also be more consistency and age-appropriate structure and nurture in the home.

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As a result of proactive parenting, children will most likely feel better about themselves as individuals, develop more self-control and relate more effectively with others.  The development of constructive problem solving and respect of others will have a positive impact on children’s school performance and future prospects related to work and family.

Because there is no one right way to live and be a family, we need to remember that we are all in the same boat of learning how to create healthier families.  It is never too late to reevaluate one’s parenting style to be parent you always wanted to have.  I challenge you to be more proactive and preventative in how you raise your children.  You will not regret this extra work to impact your child’s development and your family.  Your community and country will also benefit.

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Blog 8–WC Reflections & Resources

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During the past few weeks I have been hearing both positive and concerning stories about grandparent’s actions in and out of the home.  This caused me to question “What is a healthier role for a grandparent?”  I have often heard grandparents say, “It is my job to spoil my grandkids.”  Yes, it can be helpful to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren; however, in order to be supportive, grandparents benefit from respecting their adult children’s role as the primary caregiver unless this parent has given up that right.  Helpful grandparenting requires thoughtful communication, respectful interaction and acceptance of family hierarchy and healthy boundaries.

It is harmful when grandparents come in and take over for a parent and/or undermine what a parent has told his/her children what they can or can’t do.  This role and hierarchy confusion may continue if grandparents spend money or involve their grandchildren in things that they did not get permission to do.  These become mixed messages for the children and a method of splitting the adults against each other.   The parent may feel confused, angry and/or hurt by their parent’s actions due to his/her authority being discounted and due to reminders of unresolved wounds from childhood.  The grandchildren may take advantage of this tension to get what they want whether it is in their best interest or not. Parents also need to be clearer about what they want or need from the grandparents.

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As a grandparent, you might not like what your adult child is doing or not doing to raise your grandchildren.  If this is the case, it would be beneficial for you to reflect on how you raised your own child and what kind of relationship you currently have as adults.  If you want to continue to have a relationship with your adult child and your grandchildren, you may need to consider how you are treating them.   Have you been able to own where you may have fallen short in your parenting and made amends with your adult child?  Consider if your actions or comments are building connections with your family or tearing them down.

Children are dependent on the adults in their lives to meet their basic needs and to teach them how to get along with others and to live in the world.  If you don’t agree with something your adult child is doing, consider if it is really your place to say something and if you do, address it away from the grandchildren.  There are multiple ways grandparents can support their extended family such as passing on family traditions, sharing stories from childhood or about their parent as a child, teaching values especially related to how to treat others, creating memories related to work and play and loving each other throughout the ups and downs of life.

Grandparents may have the best of intentions to love their grandchildren and to be a part of their lives.   I challenged you as grandparents to do this in a manner that builds and maintains healthier family connections.  That is a legacy to be proud of!

During the past few weeks I have been hearing both positive and concerning stories about grandparent’s actions in and out of the home.  This caused me to question “What is a healthier role for a grandparent?”  I have often heard grandparents say, “It is my job to spoil my grandkids.”  Yes, it can be helpful to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren; however, in order to be supportive, grandparents benefit from respecting their adult children’s role as the primary caregiver unless this parent has given up that right.  Helpful grandparenting requires thoughtful communication, respectful interaction and acceptance of family hierarchy and healthy boundaries.

It is harmful when grandparents come in and take over for a parent and/or undermine what a parent has told his/her children what they can or can’t do.  This role and hierarchy confusion may continue if grandparents spend money or involve their grandchildren in things that they did not get permission to do.  These become mixed messages for the children and a method of splitting the adults against each other.   The parent may feel confused, angry and/or hurt by their parent’s actions due to his/her authority being discounted and due to reminders of unresolved wounds from childhood.  The grandchildren may take advantage of this tension to get what they want whether it is in their best interest or not.   Parents also need to be clearer about what they want or need from the grandparents.

As a grandparent, you might not like what your adult child is doing or not doing to raise your grandchildren.  If this is the case, it would be beneficial for you to reflect on how you raised your own child and what kind of relationship you currently have as adults.  If you want to continue to have a relationship with your adult child and your grandchildren, you may need to consider how you are treating them.   Have you been able to own where you may have fallen short in your parenting and made amends with your adult child?  Consider if your actions or comments are building connections with your family or tearing them down.

Children are dependent on the adults in their lives to meet their basic needs and to teach them how to get along with others and to live in the world.  If you don’t agree with something your adult child is doing, consider if it is really your place to say something and if you do, address it away from the grandchildren.  There are multiple ways grandparents can support their extended family such as passing on family traditions, sharing stories from childhood or about their parent as a child, teaching values especially related to how to treat others, creating memories related to work and play and loving each other throughout the ups and downs of life.

Grandparents may have the best of intentions to love their grandchildren and to be a part of their lives.   I challenged you as grandparents to do this in a manner that builds and maintains healthier family connections.  That is a legacy to be proud of!

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Blog entry 7–WC Reflections & Resources

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Last week I had an older gentleman in my office. I let him know that it was nice to see him.  In response, he stated, “It is good to be seen.”  I was touched by his response due to encountering so many people in my office who don’t feel heard or seen by persons in their lives.  It was a good reminder of how we as adults teach children about these values by “being present” in each other’s lives both physically and emotionally.

Caregivers demonstrate being present through the quality of your interactions with your children. There are very basic tasks to facilitate this process such as looking at your child on her eye level, being in the same proximity when talking to her, clarifying what your child is saying and/or engaging in reciprocal conversation.  Being present is also shown by setting time away from technology (i.e. cell phone, computer, tablet, TV), by observing differences in your child’s appearance or energy level and by socializing during mealtimes, playtimes or household chores.  Invite your child to help you make dinner or to fold laundry–there is nothing like being wrapped in a warm item of clothing or bedding.

You as the caregiver will potentially feel less stressed due to your actions being more preventative and proactive vs. reactive and out of control. Any time you are distracted or stressed as a caregiver, this energy transfers to your child resulting in her acting out, shutting down, isolating herself or being overly clingy.  This is a part of caregivers learning to boundary their issues from your children and to take better care of yourself.

Children need to be seen and heard in order for them to feel good about themselves and to learn how to connect with others in a positive manner.   Children are dependent on adults to teach them how to be in the world and how to relate with others.  When a child has this need met, she will develop the following outcomes:

  • An increased sense of belonging and attachment with her caregiver;
  • A sense of security and feeling valued for who she is;
  • An ability to seek out guidance and/or comfort rather than keep things to herself, acting out or shutting down;
  • A means of trusting others and learning to accept support as well as to soothe herself.

I challenged you to be more present with your children. Practice this by slowing down and being more in the moment.  In the long run, you as caregivers will be adding to the cumulative impact of your parenting style on your children as well as creating healthier memories.  The more positive interactions you have with your children the fewer negative interactions will you have.

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Additional WC activities on Facebook

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In addition to this site, I have a Facebook page under my name Betsy Stone and welcoming connections. I invite you to check it out and learn more about what other caregivers and MH professionals have to say about their experiences with my book.

You are also welcome to attend my upcoming book launch party on Saturday, October 1st between 1-6 pm at Paint & Create (6043 Allentown Blvd., Harrisburg, PA). More detailed description at the Facebook site.

Blog entry 6–WC Reflections & Resources

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I was working with a family recently and witnessed a father ask his son a question and then not give him time enough to answer. The boy was playing a game with his brother and may not have fully heard his father talking to him. The child’s mother observed this and pointed it out. The father seemed to pause, restated the question and then resumed waiting for their son to answer him. This got me to thinking about how children benefit from being asked questions to get their opinions, explanations, feelings and/or ideas. Children sometimes need more time to answer your questions than you might think is needed or reasonable.

Your child may have multiple things going on in his head, heart and/or body when you are attempting to interact with him. Depending on the temperament of your child, what your child was engaged in and the quality of your attachment, your child may not readily answer you. At any given time, your child might be experiencing the following feelings: pressured, rushed, afraid, untrusting (of how you might respond), caught on the spot, distracted, guilty, defensive, sick, overwhelmed, apathetic, confused, tired, hungry, frustrated, angry, confused, stressed OR calm, playful, energetic, welcoming, affectionate, happy, silly, excited, etc.

As caregivers, it is helpful to take your child’s immediate reality into consideration when engaging with him. Think about yourself and how you feel when you are asked questions. Children improve when the adults/caregiver uses various strategies to interact with them such as active listening (getting on the child’s eye level, being in the same area, listening and repeating back what you heard your child say) and being mindful of your tone of voice and word choice. Ask yourself if you are speaking in a manner you want your child to talk to you or anyone else?

Children gain in so many ways when you slow down and take the time to wait for their response. 1) Your child will feel heard, valued and included. 2) Your child will practice thinking for himself and be more in tune with his inner life. 3) Your child will learn how to connect his actions with + or – consequences. 4) Your child will feel a sense of safety and security in your relationship. And in the long run, 5) your child will feel better about himself and his ability to communicate and get along with others in various settings.

I challenge you to take more time to actively listen to your child and see what happens. You will be amazed by the things you will learn about your child. You will also be creating more positive memories as a family.

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blog entry 5–WC reflections and resources

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This past week, I shared my new book with one of my single mothers. She chose to have me work with her from the beginning of A to Z, starting with AFFIRMATION. I asked her to give her definition of affirmation and then presented the various tools written to help caregivers demonstrate this quality. As I went through the tools, she noted the ones she was already doing and described seeing her use of these tools to engage her son and to help build her his confidence related to how he felt about himself and what he was capable of. She also identified not realizing what else she could say or do to affirm her son and his development.
This mother reflected further and spoke about “The Power of Words” being an integral part of being a parent that can be taken for granted. I acknowledged the significance of what she had said. As stated by Robin Sharma, “Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” I have often challenged clients to consider if their words and/or actions are building bridges with others or tearing them down. For every interaction we as caregivers decide consciously or unconsciously how we are going to respond to the children in our lives.
The following are additional ideas in how to be present and proactive in being more affirming:
1) Come up with playful nicknames that use an adjective that begins with your child’s name such as “Awesome Aaron,” “Brave Bonnie,” “Curious Charles,” “Daring Debra.”
2) Create a family dictionary by identifying whose name would be after what word—Refer to image for A to C. (This is from an actual family exercise.)
3) Write child’s name vertically on paper and then come up with adjectives to match your child’s interest, abilities, and/or qualities such as KRIS—kind, realist, introvert, sensitive.
4) Create a family motto and/or mission statement to represent what you stand for as a family. “We stand for _____________!”
5) Model using your manners with “pleases,” “thank yous,” and “I appreciate when you ____________.”

Children respond better when they feel they are being treated with respect and compassion. They need caring adults to teach them how to speak and to respond in a respectful and supportive manner. These communication skills learned in the home carry over to other settings. How do you want to hear others describe your child and his/her words and actions? You play a foundational role in who your child becomes and how he carries himself out into the world.

I challenge you to talk to your children the way you like to be talked to.
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