Blog 14–WC Resources & Reflections

As I work with children and families, I continue to be surprised by the missteps that parents make in raising their children. No, most of these are not intentional, yet out of fear and embarrassment or just plain busyness with the stuff of life.  Unless you as parents/caregivers are more proactive in your approach to parenting, you will risk your child growing up with a dysfunctional sense of self.  This distorted sense of self will have a foundation of feeling unwanted, unloved, not good enough and/or of being an inconvenience.  These will then be carried into adulthood and impact how your child functions at home, school, work and the world at large.

You have the power to prevent these negative messages by being more mindful in your approach to creating the structure and nurture your children need to not only survive this chaotic unstable world, but also to thrive. The following are even more ideas of how to do this to create healthier children who will grow up to be healthier adults.

  • Take risks in doing things that might not match your interests or energy level as means of connecting with your child. This might entail getting on the floor to play with dolls or actions figures, playing dress up and matching your voice to the character you are acting out, letting your child wear mismatched clothes because that is part of his/her style.
  • Work at tolerating your child’s quirks or temperament. You can do this by joining in on your child’s sense of humor, ignoring certain noises that drive you crazy, teaching your child about indoor vs. outdoor volume and activities, letting the other caregiver know that you need a break, find something good to highlight in your child’s behavior.
  • Learn to accept that some things take time to do and will promote dependence if you do too much for your child. If your child is learning to tie his/her shoes, to get dressed, to eat, to clean up then he/she needs the time to do this and to not be rushed or disciplined for not doing it right. It takes time to master skills.
  • Invite your child to speak up more to be more clear about his/her thoughts and feelings as well as his/her wants and needs. Help your child learn how to do this in a respectful and constructive manner. These communication skills will be useful in all of your child’s interactions at home, school and community.
  • Teach your child how to cope when feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, impulsive, angry, etc. to develop emotional regulation and acceptance of being human. You are setting an example yourself in how you role model how to cope with a wide range of feelings. Are you being reactive or proactive in the example that you are setting for your child?

I wish you well as you continue to reflect on your parenting style. I admire your courage as you put these strategies into practice to have a healthier family.

Blog 13–WC Reflections and Resources

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Happy New Year to you and your family. As an outpatient therapist working with children, teens and adults, I am reminded on an almost daily basis of the impact of parents’ actions on their children; some are for the good and some are definitely not.  Unless a parent/caregiver is willing to take the time to reflect on what he or she does or says any given day, a child’s development and future will be in jeopardy.

The following are additional reflections and resources to help you as parents and caregivers to be more proactive and present in your approach to being a healthier family.

  • Acknowledge that life is hard and sometimes it truly sucks (excuse my crassness). Life is not fair and you risk setting your children to think otherwise. And the flipside is that life is sometimes quite grand and can be a most amazing adventure that anyone could imagine!
  • Teach your children what it means to be human; yes, fully human with the tears of joy vs. tears of sorrow, the blood from a lost tooth vs. blood lost from ripped skin, the heart racing from excitement vs. the heart racing from fear, etc. Learning how to live with the wide range of feelings whether comfortable or not are crucial to healthy emotional development for yourself and your children.

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  • Remember that you are NOT alone in learning how to be a parent/caregiver. We are all born into families and experience the challenges of getting along and growing up together. It is up to you to take the risks to seek supports and to be vulnerable with fellow parents/caregivers. It could be a breath of fresh air for you to know someone else knows what it is like to be in your shoes. You might also be blessed with some pointers to help preserve your sanity.
  • Maintain a sense of perspective. All things in life are time sensitive and subject to change. As my mother used to say when feeling out of sorts, “This too shall pass.”

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  • Consider whether you are setting the example of what you are expecting of your children. It becomes a double standard or mixed message if you have a messy room yet expect your child’s room to be spotless, if you use colorful language to express yourself yet expect your child to speak respectfully at all times, if you don’t tell the truth or withhold information yet discipline your child for lying or telling half truths.

What are your experiences as parents or caregivers in putting these into practice? I would love to hear back from you.

Blog 12–WC Reflections & Resources

Yes, it has been over a year since I last blogged. I had been struggling with some personal and relational issues which took my attention.  I have learned that I need to be in a more grounded frame of mind in order to write.

Yes, I have continued to be working in the MH field as an outpatient therapist and to explore other ways to market my book. I am trying to network with agencies or companies in my area to do workshops for parents/caregivers and MH professionals.

I am modifying the format of the next series of entries to be more of a list format of things that I learned and/or observed this past year or so.

For parents & other caregivers:

  • Make an effort to take care of yourself–physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually so you are being as healthy as you can be. Raising children can be draining in the midst of other life responsibilities. Remember that you are teaching your children about taking care of themselves by how you take care of yourself.
  • Keep in mind that “if nothing changes, nothing changes” for you or your family related to whatever areas of life you may be struggling with.
  • Modify your approach sometimes to help your children feel heard and supported by you as they try to figure out who they are in the world.

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  • Try to not take your child’s actions so personally when responding to misbehavior or excesses of behavior. Most likely your child is trying to explore what he/she has control of and/or the limits of what he/she is able to say or do as part of the process of discovering who he/she is as an individual. Your child might also be trying to get your attention to help him/her feel more safe and secure. The world can be a scary place.
  • Build your connection with your child by engaging in child-centered activities on a regular basis. Get in touch with your playful inner self as you do this. NOTE: This does not take away from who you are as the adult. Your actions help children learn the difference between when to be silly and childlike and when to be serious.

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I look forward to hearing about your experience of putting these into practice.

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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