BELLY BREATHING

One of the most common tools I teach teens and adult clients is belly breathing.  It is one of the most successful tools when treating anxiety and fear.  This trick can calm you down quickly and can be used ANYWHERE, which is what I love about it.

Belly breathing is also known as deep breathing.

Before you practice this technique, I want you to imagine your belly is a balloon….

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OK—Got it?

When air is blown into a balloon, it inflates.  So as you breathe air in, your belly will inflate like a balloon.

When you release your breath, your belly should deflate as a balloon would when slowly losing air.

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Step 1: Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.

Step 2: Clear your thoughts

Step 3: Take a slow deep breath in through your nose, slowly counting to 7, while focusing on your belly rising.

Step 4: Hold that breath for 2-3 seconds.

Step 5: Slowly release your breath, counting to 7, while your belly releases air.

Step 6: Repeat for 1 minute.

The trick to this technique is that you are breathing through your belly—Not— your chest.

Practice this Belly Breathing daily to build your stamina and increase the number of seconds you are inhaling and exhaling.  Work your way up to increments of 5, 10, 15 minutes of deep breathing.

A relaxed body cannot be an anxious body…

More on how to teach deep breathing to your child in the next post…

DEEP BREATHING FOR CHILDREN

As promised, here is a post on helping your child learn deep breathing techniques or belly breathing.  Deep breathing is a quick trick to help alleviate anxiety and calm worries.

When teaching a child this technique, there are 2 different ways I approach it, depending on the child’s age, developmental level, and comfort.  Most children are open about practicing techniques in front of others, but older children may feel a little weirded out when you start asking them to perform belly breathing in front of you, especially if they already have anxiety.

Trick #1-Teaching deep breathing using Bubbles. soap-bubbles-870342_640

I have a pack of bubbles in my office like this one that I can hand out to children in sessions.  I have the child blow bubbles and discuss how hard/soft to blow to get lots of bubbles or big bubbles.

I then suggest this as a trick to help them fight off their worries or (fill in the blank)-tummy ache, jitters, etc.-most of the time children cannot label anxiety/nervousness/worries.  But they can tell you what somatic complaints they have easily, which is a sign of anxiety depending when and how often it’s occurring.   (Please be advised that tummy aches do not mean your child has anxiety.  If you are concerned your child may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, schedule an appointment for further assessment with a Pediatrician or Mental Health Professional.) 

 

Trick #2- Teaching Deep Breathing using a stuffed animalbear-678607_640

Have your child lay down on his/her back comfortably and place a small stuffed animal on their belly.

While directing them to slowly breathe in through their nose and out their mouth, guide them to watch the stuffed animal move up and down on their belly.

This will teach them belly breathing, and they can visibly see if they are breathing correctly.  Most times, this is modeled for the child by first doing the technique and then asking them to teach it back to me.  Children love to be the teacher!  I always end a session reminding them to teach their parent what they learned.  This keeps parents involved in progress and helps them hold the child accountable to practice daily.

Alright, that’s it-2 simple ways to help your child practice deep breathing!

DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH SELF-ESTEEM?

This week we’re going to be talking about our children’s self esteem.  That can be a heavy subject! chains-1379468_640

I would like to know where you struggles with your own self esteem and when you think it began for you.  Our ability to see the good in ourselves begins in childhood and either grows or is stunted as we mature.  Our parents have a huge influence on what we think of ourselves and how much confidence we have in our ability to Be or Do great things.

When you think about self-esteem, you often get an image of someone in your mind that you know…  Who are you picturing right now?  Maybe they have a negative view of their body, they have zero confidence and are really shy, or maybe they never socialize for fear of embarrassment. And on the other side of that, you know people who seem to have a very strong confidence in themselves that seems arrogant and cocky.  I bet you’re picturing someone else you know!

Where is the healthy middle?

Stop and Think—

Set your timer for 1 minute and write down as many positive things about yourself that you believe are good qualities.

Now…how many did you come up with?  If you struggled with this, why did you struggle?

We will talk more throughout the week about how to combat this thing called self esteem and how to set our children up for success in this area.

Please share your experience in the comments and tell me where you struggle with your own self esteem.  Do you know when this struggle began?

NURTURING SELF-ESTEEM IN CHILDREN

Last post I asked you to write down as many positive things about yourself you can think of in 1 minute.  I bet some of you struggled with this…if not great!  You might not need to read about self-esteem.  However, the flip side is I bet you can come up with double or more negative thoughts about yourself in less than a minute.  Right?  And the sad part is that we tell ourselves these negative things all day every day.  We “bully” ourselves!

Kids do the same thing!  “I’m so ugly…I’m fat…I’m stupid…No one likes me at this school…I can’t do anything right…I never do the right thing…I’m going to fail this test/class/grade…no one is going to pick me to be on their team…my parents hate me…I have no friends…” The list goes on.  Now add to those negative thoughts negative perceptions.  

Here’s an example: (I will use a personal experience with you based on my own child who I will call B.)

Me: How did your test go today?

B: I made an 67.

Now I could say: What?!  But you studied so hard!  How could you fail?!  

(My child is a perfectionist, and he always wants to be the best.  If I had said that, he would have burst into tears.) Instead, I try to keep his personality in mind and I respond like this:

Me: Wow that stinks…What do you think you missed?

B: I don’t know, it was really hard.  I’m just no good at math!  I hate it!

Me: It was a hard test, I’m sure you will do better next time.  We can look over it later and see if you understand what you missed for next time.  

Now, this child of mine can go right into negativity if I’m not super careful how I deal with him.  He tends to be very down on himself and expects me to feel the same way when I clearly can see his struggles; but I also see all the great things about him too.

Let’s take another not so great example that’s pretty common:

Mom: (screaming) I told you to clean up your room!!!

Child: I can’t, it’s too much.

Mom: You can’t do anything!!!  You never listen!!!  I’m so sick of this!  I’m going to beat your ________ (fill in the blank)!  

Ever been where this mom is?  Here is what her child with low self esteem might have heard…

“I never do anything good enough.  My mom is mad and doesn’t understand.  She doesn’t like me.  She’s tired of me.  I don’t belong here.  No one cares about me.  I hate it here.”fail-1288346_640

All of us lose our cool at times when we are parenting because well parenting is hard work, and it’s a learning experience.  A lot of times though, we don’t realize the true impact our words have on our children.  Let’s build our kids up, not tear them down.  I’ve heard kids being called stupid, idiots, dumb, fat, chubby, not as pretty as …., annoying, not like here brother/sister, mean, bad even.  Think about what this does to their self esteem and confidence….this becomes their inner dialogue.  This inner dialogue becomes their bully. If you have a child in your home who has experienced abuse, trauma, separation from another parent, then that negativity multiplies because of their perception.

We can set our children up with a healthy self-esteem by nurturing them, talking out issues, allowing them to tell you what the struggle is and problem solving how to fix it or improve.  We don’t need to point out every little thing that is wrong about their situation because they probably already know.

Think about your conversations with your children….Do you need to alter them a bit?  Are your words setting them up for future success?  Are you building them up to be successful or tearing them apart?

MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR BATTLING ANXIETY

Here is a round-up of my top 5 tips most helpful for you and your battle against Anxiety! 

1. Deep Breathing:  I teach deep breathing, AKA belly breathing A LOT in my practice because it is so effective and easy to do.  Click here to see how I teach this technique to children.

2. Mindfulness: This is a post I wrote a while back on my 3-2-1 approach to fighting off anxiety.

3. Change Your Thoughts: I teach teens and children this technique.  Our thoughts are what drive our feelings.  Our feelings drive our behavior/reaction, and the circle continues. Instead of thinking “this is going to be a horrible day”, change your thought to a positive one!   You could change it to “OK-this is a new day, and I’m going to make it a good one.”—“That was a bad dream, but it wasn’t real.”—“1 bad thing is not going to ruin my whole day!”  See how I did that?  More on this later…

2. Apps!    Click here to find apps that you can use as tools while you are working through your anxiety and depression. (Note: These are not to replace therapy, if needed, but to aide you in your ability to overcome your struggles.)

5. Talk it out.  This may be with a friend or a therapist.  Having meaningful connections can ease so many issues we struggle with.  You need someone in your life who gets you and who accepts you.  If you have no support, let me help you find it.

Don’t fight this alone!  I am here to help.

Call 615-683-1111 to set up a free 30 minute phone consultation.

ARE WE OVERDIAGNOSING???

One of the biggest challenges I find in my career is the pressure to diagnose children.  With the added pressure of billing to insurance companies and customers wanting an answer to “Why does my child act like this?”, professionals are often pushed into slapping a label on you.  Is it ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Oppositional Defiance……..?  The list can go on.

This has always been a struggle for me.  Not that I’m not prepared to handle diagnosing or know symptoms to treat.  It’s that label.  It sticks around.  It’s often used to excuse behavior rather than change it.  It can leave an impression on a child that “something is wrong with me”.  And the biggest issue I have, a lot of times nothing is wrong with your child.  They are developmentally where they should be.  Yes, I said it.  They are normal.  They are reacting to the stressful events that are occurring all around them.

Let’s look at society today just to make an example here.  Have you ever noticed how high anxiety and depression rates are in adults?  How many people are on antidepressants to treat both issues?  Do you feel life is stressful and over-scheduled?  Feel like there is constantly something pulling you in a different direction, running from place to place, never ahead of schedule?  Our children are right along with us.  And not only can they feel the same way we are feeling, they can’t think through it the way we do.  They can’t tell themselves, “this is only a season”, “things will be better after this week is over”, “vacation is just a week away”, or “I will just take a whole week off next month and reboot”.  Nope.  They are expected to be miniature adults who go with the flow!

When I was growing up, I remember being home most of the time.  I played outside every day.  I had a very active imagination.  It was safe enough for me to roam around our neighborhood unsupervised, ride my bike all around the circle or the subdivision we lived in.  Everyone knew who I was and we knew all our neighbors.  I walked down the road to a small country store and bought honey buns for breakfast along with a papersack full of 5 and 10 cent candy and gum.  We would walk down to the creek and swim.  I road my bike to friend’s houses.  We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up, but I had no idea until I was older and more mature.  I never felt I was lacking as far as material things.

What about today?  Kids are being showered with toys and candy every time they go somewhere just for being good in the store or to keep them quiet.  They rarely play outside.  They are watching shows that are developmentally more advanced than their little minds are.  Their face is glued to an electronic device of some sort daily.  They expect things to be given to them versus earning it through work (chores, helping a neighbor, etc).  And need I say it, many parents have no set rules in the home or little structure for their children to know what is expected of them.

That in turn leaves us with children who have little tolerance for idle time.  They are easily bored and can’t sit still and be quiet because they are used to constant entertainment of some sort.  Their imagination is lacking.  They have no patience and struggle to wait for reward because they are so used to immediate gratification.  They are disrespectful not only to their “elders” (as we were always taught to respect our elders) and struggle with authority figures.  They are constantly being reprimanded at school.  (I won’t even get started on how the school system’s changes may be negatively affecting this too.  That’s a post in itself.)

Then parents take them to a professional and explain that something is wrong with this child.  He is always in trouble.  He can’t sit still.  She talks back all the time.  I can’t get him to listen!    The parent throws out ideas of ADHD…  A doctor has maybe even suggested Oppositional Defiance.  And then……a diagnosis is slapped on their head for the rest of their life. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes these diagnoses are accurate and helpful (sometimes…), but many times the child is overstimulated, overly attended to, and lacking some parental guidance. So, how do you treat that?

I would like to continue this with a series of parenting tips to help you make some changes where you see the need.  Join me in the next few posts and share with me areas you struggle with the most as a parent.

MUST READ PARENTING BOOK

Raisingkids I’m a little late posting this as I have had my nose in multiple parenting books.  Raising Kids You Actually Like by Sheila Wray Gregoire is a good read.  It’s basic parenting that we all need to be reminded of.  The way we used to be parented has been forgotten and many parents today feel they lack these basic tools to discipline and train their children.  “We have more education and we’ve forgotten.  Provide structure. Provide stability by loving your spouse. Care for your children’s bodies by feeding them and putting them to bed.” (Loc 69)

 

I would like to share a few excerpts from her book…I love her humor and candidness.  If you’ve never read anything of Sheila’s, I encourage you to check out her blog at To Love Honor and Vacuum where she gives advice on marriage, parenting, and sex from a Christian view.

I will let her book do the talking here:

“Power struggles with smaller children are easier to defeat than power struggles with teenagers.  Yet too many parents give up in the early years…” (Loc 101)

“I once read about a dad who dialed 911 when he discovered that his teenage daughter had posted naked pictures of herself on Facebook.  He was desperate, and to him this was an emergency.  The dispatcher, though, wasn’t amused.  She wasn’t in the position to do anything about it, because she wasn’t the girl’s parent.  He was.” (Loc 98)

“…children can’t obey if no rules are laid down.” (Loc 98)

“If we don’t stress discipline when the children are young, then children don’t internalize self-discipline, or values, or even simple politeness.” (Loc 111)

If you need encouragement to remind you that you have the skills and tools to parent your children, then this ebook is a great way to motivate you and remind you that you can do this.

As a parent, we have the job of training, molding, and shaping the lives of our children to become strong, healthy, successful adults.  That’s what we are doing here.  Making responsible adults.  However, if we aren’t disciplining them and nurturing them the way we are intended to, they become irresponsible adults who lack motivation and struggle to develop healthy relationships.  The power is in the parenting.

 

Happy Reading,

Dayna

PARENTING WITH BOUNDARIES

boundariesinkids It’s important as a therapist to have tools readily available to utilize in our work and to provide resources for clients.  I want to provide resources that I know work, so you can depend on me to give you tools that will help you be successful in parenting.

This month, I am reading through Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  When working with children, it’s important that parents are providing necessary structure in the home.  Children need to learn boundaries in order to grow and develop to become successful adults.

For some reason, it seems as the years have gone by that we as a society have forgotten how to set boundaries when parenting.  I hear older adults respond that “young people seem to be telling their parents what to do”.  Youth today struggle with patience, self-esteem, boundaries.  This is not a new struggle, but it is different from the struggle adults today had with technology so prevalent today.  There is less structure now, less accountability, and fewer parents are monitoring activities.

If you are struggling to develop healthy boundaries with your child whether young or teen years, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of Boundaries with Kids.

IMPROVING YOUR LIFE

This year I vowed to improve my health on many levels. Last year I had a bit of a scare and had some tests run leading to acquire a diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease.  Thankfully it’s not as bad as my mind was leading me to fear.  It is something I can live with and make sure I’m taking care of my body so I don’t have to deal with it often.  I have been a little worried about food we eat for a while, and I can often get on a soapbox over nutrition while discussing it with people.  However, I continued on the same path.  Well, all that has changed this year. January 5th I began a lifestyle change.  I read “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.

Although I already knew what we consider food in this country is equal to pure junk for our bodies.  We might as well eat trash.  Most of what we consume is not natural.  I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it.  I will just say, if this has ever been your worry read about it and make a change.

I began the Whole30 program on January 5th along with a crossfit program called HIIT that I do at home on my own.  You can read about it here.  I thought I was pretty fit prior to this, as I ran regularly.  However, there were still areas I wasn’t seeing change in.  And one thing I’ve struggled with for a while is feeling exhausted from the time I would get up until bedtime.  I’ve never been a good sleeper, especially after having kids.  I knew something had to be wrong because at 34, I still should feel pretty young.  Plus my bloodsugar has been all kinds of crazy this past year due to my hypoglycemia issues.

I’m on Day 21 right now!  I feel wonderful!  I’m committed to this change and I’m not stopping.  If you need a boost in your life and feel you have a poor relationship with food and your body, I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself.  God only gives us one physical body that has to last us our lifetime.  Shouldn’t we want only the best for it?

I will spend the next few weeks sharing my success with you as I count down to the last 9 days of my Whole30 and the beginning of my new life.  I hope to encourage you with my story of transformation!

IS BEDTIME MORE OF A BATTLE ZONE? HELP FOR THE EXHAUSTED PARENT

It’s 7:00 and you are rousing the children up to go to bed.  They are brushing their teeth in protest; taking their vitamins and getting water in protest, climbing into bed and attempting to wrestle in protest.  Although an hour ago, your child was whining and crying over tiny bumps and minor disappointments due to exhaustion, now they claim “I’m not tired”.

Do you leave the room already frustrated when lights are turned out?  Only to hear the common sound of little feet scooting down the hall to ask you for the 4th time, “will you tuck me in?”  Does your child get up minutes later asking for “just one more kiss?”  Do you find yourself biting your tongue because ‘if they get up ONE more time, they are REALLY going to regret it?!!!!’  But then of course, that one more time comes, and you once again go into the room, tuck them in, kiss them goodnight, and in a firm voice inform them “STAY in bed or you will: get a spanking/be in trouble/lose a privilege, etc, etc………  The list of threats can be exhaustive at times.

Do you ever sit and think ‘it would be nice to have a little quiet time before going to bed, if the kids would just GO TO SLEEP’.  I’m here to encourage you and myself because this is my house EVERY NIGHT.  This is an issue with consistency and limit setting.  I too feel guilt when I get frustrated and my 4 year old whispers in a sweet voice “mommy, I need another kiss?”  But when the morning after comes, I know this is a behavior not a cry for more love.  She gets kisses all day long.  This is a problem with me and my husband.  We have made it her problem just as we made it her brother’s problem when he was younger.  We struggle with what Dr. Canapari calls sleep association disorder and limit setting disorder.

Setting limits around bedtime and enforcing them doesn’t make you a mean parent who doesn’t want to love on your children.  It makes you a strong parent who knows the importance of your child and yourself getting the rest you need.  Children need 11-12 hours of sleep per night depending on age.  And I presonaly need at least 7 hours of sleep to be able to get up the next morning and function.  Intermittent sleep through the night makes us tired and drowsy the next day.  This is the case for children too, so if you have a child that falls asleep pretty easily but can’t stay asleep, this post is for you too.  There are times when my daughter falls asleep quickly and without the battle (although this is not common lately).  However, she wakes up several times per night calling out or crying for me.  I then wake up, and usually go get her and put her to bed with me.  Because of my need for sleep, I have created another problem for her.  She does not self soothe when she wakes.  She requests to lay with me, rub my arm, or rock in order to fall back asleep.  There are some nights when I am awakened because she is reaching for me trying to find my arm an hour later.

As babies, I didn’t mind the co-sleeping arrangement all that much as long as they would sleep and I got sleep.  However, with a preschooler and grade-school child, sleeping with my kids is less than fun and sweet.  I often wake up to a foot in my face or being kicked in the back.  The other night I was dreaming, and my daughter threw her arm across my face, and I jumped up because I dreamed someone slapped me.  To help encourage you, I am going to share how I am enforcing bedtime limits with my child.  I will be referencing Dr. Canari’s sleep training tools.  As well as “Sleep Sense” by Megan Faure & Ann Richardson. This is a book my children’s pediatrician recommended when my daughter was a baby, and I have returned to it several times during difficult sleep issues.  I would recommend it as a resource to keep on your bookshelf if you struggle to get enough sleep and are not a fan of the “cry it out” method.

As we set out on this journey, I would love to know what some of your bedtime struggles are.

TAKE CONTROL OF CHANGE

The holidays are wrapping up and that leads to thoughts of the New Year.  I’m not typically one to buy into the New Year’s resolutions but maybe you are, and that’s OK.  My opinion is that you can start fresh any day.  There’s no need to wait until the New Year to make a change in your life.  I have found in the past that when I have tried to make a “radical” New Year’s resolution, I often failed.  Changes have to start small and need to be intentional.  Before you go about making radical changes, here are some tips on how to set yourself up for SUCCESS. 1.  Make a list of the changes you know you need to make.

For me right now, I need to get back into my fitness routine.  I have fallen back on this due to a recent sickness I was suffering from the past month.  My go to routine is to run every other day, but right now my goal is just to do some sort of exercise every other day as running may not be doable every time for me.

I also need to clean up my diet.  I typically count calories, but I am now ordered to be on a low sodium diet due to recent health changes.  I plan to start eating clean and eating meals at home (meaning I will prepare for times I am out past lunch and bring food rather than grab fast food).

I also need to be intentional about being in God’s word daily, several times a day.  If I’m going to fight the good fight, I must be prepared mentally and spiritually.

While it’s good to have a list, don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to change all these things at one time.  Pick the biggest bang for your buck.  What is going to have the most impact.  Or you may want to start small if you are one who often sets goals and fall short  leaving you disappointed in  yourself and discouraged.  These goals of mine are things I have been doing for a long time, but I need to clean it back up a little and reset my mind and body.

2. Once you have picked a goal, set a date.

Decide when you can start this goal.  If you are working on your diet, and you have a few more holiday parties to attend, you may want to wait until those are over.  You don’t want to feel like a failure in the beginning.

3. Research how you want to make the change.

You need a good plan.  Do some research first.   Is this diet effective in the long term?  Is it short-term, and if so, what is my plan once I reach that goal?  How do I need to set up the routine for exercise?  Pinterest is a great place to find resources.  You can also follow blogs written in your area of interest.  Facebook often has groups for certain interests where you can find a community of encouragement.  Then there is Google when you just don’t know where to start.  Read books.

4. Pray about it.

God knows your needs, and he knows what we are capable of more than we do.  Give this area of concern to him.  Tell him your plans and let him guide you.

5.  Find an accountability partner.

Mine is my husband and a friend.  Find someone and tell them your goal, your plan, and your weaknesses.  Text, call, or sit down with them and talk about your struggles or successes.  If you can get someone on board to do this with you, EVEN BETTER!

OK, so what are you waiting for?  Let’s take control of our lives again by taking one step at a time!  My new start begins today.  I would love to hear your plans!

MY WORDS OF ADVICE ON DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR TEEN

I’ve been doing LOTS of work with teens these past 2 years in my practice.  Prior to that I worked with teens, but this time around is different.  I get to see them for who they are.  I get their trust and their innermost fears, desires, and regrets.  I am blessed to be doing what I love and helping these young people.

My problem is, I am seeing that as a society, we are failing these young people.  We have created a world (with our high tech gadgets, impersonal social society, distant relationships with God if you even believe in God, sex crazed media, and poor values) that is difficult to maneuver for immature minds and fiercely hormonal bodies.  We have very high expectations for them with little back up to support them.

I have parents come to me crying and worrying their girls are going to become pregnant or engage in sex.  The sad thing is that I see kids who are so mixed up in their beliefs because of what they see in the world. How can we ensure what we are teaching them about sex is what they understand when that is all they see around them?  Have you seen some of the television shows geared towards this age group?  Seriously, have you?  If you aren’t watching what your teens are watching, I advise you to check it out.  And yes, these shows are on Channels like Nickelodeon.  Networks devoted toward children and teens are airing shows that, if you have Christian values in your home, you better be monitoring that TV.

Another question I often get from parents is how their child can say they are “bisexual”.  I’m seeing this become a trend with young people.  They are confused about their feelings for their best friends.  Friends that are the same sex.  Yes, they still like the opposite sex, but now they think they like the same sex too.  I find myself pondering on this dilemma often because it’s becoming more and more prevalent.  Most of the young people I see this in are struggling to find love from anyone.  They’ve been hurt by people who should love them the most, and they seek affection anywhere they can find it.  And again, I’m seeing that this world is gearing people towards acceptance of this type of culture.  Where in the past, it was an abomination to be “gay” and no one talked about it, and now that’s all you hear about.  People are on television portraying same sex relationships on almost every show, female artists are singing about how they “kissed and girl” and liked it.  And here we are wondering why our teens are becoming so confused about their sexuality.  So my second piece of advice is: keep monitoring that TV but you also need to monitor their music.  Music is a necessity, I believe, for most teens.  It is how they relate to themselves and the world around them.  However, if they are listening to music that sounds good to them but the lyrics are conflicting with what you teach them, that is an equation for disaster.

Finally, let’s talk about how you as the parent/guardian can support them.  Young people often hide things from their parents for fear of getting into trouble.  We tell them to talk to us about what’s going on in their lives or to talk to us (parents) when they are confused about things they want or are being pressured to do.  However, when they come to us with this information as we have encouraged them to do, we then begin lecturing them and badgering them to tell us everything.  Sometimes consequences are administered to prevent them from continuing to do something deemed inappropriate or to prevent them from engaging in something they are thinking about.  So in their minds, they are being punished for doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to come to us with their problems.  I believe some parents wonder why their children come to me with honesty but won’t tell them anything.  It’s because they know I am not going to judge them and I’m not going to lecture them.  That isn’t to say I haven’t responded in this way before, but if I do, you can believe they are going to shut down.  So my advice to you is to give them guidance, but also you need to LISTEN to them.  Listen to their fears, their conflict, their ideas about the issue.  Many teens know the right thing to do, but they need to talk it out with someone to ensure they know what the right thing is.  At times, they aren’t planning to do what you think they are, some of them are very wise, but they need to talk about it.  You can react negatively to this, and a teen who was not planning to act on their thoughts will as an act of defiance because you didn’t trust them.  I’ve seen this happen.  Listen to them!  Ask them questions about what they think on the issue.  Listen to their thoughts.

My last piece of advice is to talk about issues.  Talk to your teens.  Don’t dodge topics on sex, alcohol/drugs, or other difficult conversations.  If you do, you are losing a chance to ensure they are making sound decisions.  And start early…These issues are not beginning at ages 15 and 16 anymore.  They are beginning in the preteens.  Ages that, in my time, you never talked about it.  They are being pressured before puberty hits sometimes.  Once again, this just shows how much we are failing our young people when their once young ages were only worried about Barbie dolls and transformers, and now they are already hit with information about sex and drugs.

This post is not meant to discourage you but to wake you up to these issues.  Be the parent!  Take control of the direction your children are driving towards.  Don’t say to yourself: “it’s her phone and she has it locked”; “I don’t know the password to her FB page and he has me blocked”; “they stay in their rooms with the door closed”.  No excuses, take control before someone else does and you lose them to the things you want to prevent.

We have to fight for our children so they can live strong adult lives.  We have to advocate for their needs.  Let’s do this together.

WHY COUNSELING?

I have spent time counseling many different people in different socioeconomic statuses.  Individuals who have varying cultural beliefs and needs.  I have counseled individuals and families who are wholeheartedly involved in the process and see varying degrees of positive results, and I’ve worked with others who are on the opposite end of that spectrum.  Your attitude about the counseling process does affect your outcome.

So what is counseling?

1. Counseling is a process of give and take.  You give of your deepest worries, regrets, beliefs, struggles, fears, problems….  When you give of these things seeking relief, what you get back is support and understanding, empathy, compassion.  Counselors aren’t there to do the work for you though.  We aren’t there to give you advice and tell you how to handle each issue that you are dealing with.  Counselors are there to support you through the process of finding your way of resolving the conflicts you face in a healthy manner.  I find the majority of people know the answer, they are just too afraid or lack the skills to change their circumstances or patterns.  Yes, even children and teenagers often know how to resolve things in their own way, they just need someone to back them up.  When you approach counseling in this way, you get a sense of peace and understanding of your inner self.

2.  Sometimes it just helps to have someone on the outside looking in.  When you’ve tried over and over again to solve a situation with no success, it’s helpful to speak with someone who can be objective.  Someone who does not know you or your family/friends personally.  When we talk to family members or good friends about our problems, they have a personal agenda already…that’s YOU or themselves.  They are there to protect you or themselves.  A counselor doesn’t gain from your problems in any way other than seeing you successfully find solutions.  We aren’t there to judge your actions, degrade your decisions, or jump on the bandwagon of tearing down someone who has wronged you.  We are there to listen….just listen…and allow you to process what is happening in your life and focus on solutions to change what you are unhappy about.  I once had a teen who said to me matter of factly “Everyone needs counseling!”  She was not worried about others knowing she saw a counselor.  As a matter of fact, I think she was proud of herself for her work and dedication to change.

Why Should You Seek Counseling?

1. The stress in your life is beginning to affect your ability to make good decisions.  It’s affecting your family…there is tension in the home around you.  Everyone is walking on eggshells per say.  Your family is acting out due to your stress…children are more clingy/aggressive, parents are arguing over the child’s behavior, one parent is siding with the child while the other is struggling to connect, there is high conflict in the home.  Your work ethic is disintegrating due to burnout, fatigue, lack of motivation because you have so many other stressors pushing you down, or maybe your home life is disintegrating because the only relief you find is at work.

2. You or your child is engaging in self destructive behavior through the use of drugs/alcohol, sexual behavior, aggression, or self-harm.

3. No one seems to understand what you are going through, and you feel alone and lost.  You worry that your life will always be this way.  You find little meaning or direction in your life.

4. Your child/teen’s behavior has suddenly changed.  Grades are dropping, they are no longer interested in sports or activities they used to love.  They can’t maintain their attention in school.  Maybe they are acting out behaviorally at school.  They have few to no friends.

5.  You are experiencing suicidal thoughts.  If this is the case, please contact your local crisis line.   Seek help immediately.  There are several hotlines that you can call and just talk to someone.

1-800-273-TALK (8255), 

National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433

Suicide Prevention Services Depression Hotline

630-482-9696 Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week http://www.spsamerica.org

There are many reasons to seek counseling.  It’s never too late to seek help, and it’s never too early.  I would encourage you to take the step if it’s something you’ve been contemplating.  Don’t wait until life spirals out of your control and you lose relationships that are most valuable to you.  If you feel your child may need counseling, seek someone when you begin contemplating this.  Often times parents worry their teen or child will not talk to a counselor because they don’t talk to them, but if you find the right counselor they will open up about what is going on in their life.  I find teens are often relieved to finally have someone to listen to them and not lecture them about their poor choices.  They are often the quickest to talk in my experience.

You will never regret seeking help, but you may regret never asking for help.

3-2-1 APPROACH TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR ANXIETY

I woke up this morning feeling not so great.  My jaw and shoulders are tense.  I have a tingly sensation in my body.  I sit and think what is wrong with me?  Then I remember the bad dream I have and the people who are in it.  I’m experiencing anxiety at this moment.  I tell myself “I’m really anxious”.  So I work through ways to decrease my anxiety.

Yes!  I suffer from anxiety just like many other people do.  I’m hear to share with you ways to overcome your anxiety.  I teach adults and younger people many different techniques to manage their anxiety.

Here is my 3-2-1 Approach to Take Control of Anxiety3 Ways you need to Assess your body:

1.  Know the signs your body is sharing.  What do you physically feel like?  For me it’s muscle tension from my head down.  Sometimes I have headaches and shoulder pain from it.  Many people have stomach issues, trembling, dizziness even.  Get to know your body when you feel anxious, angry, sadness.  It’s not just an emotional feeling, it affects you physically too.

2. Find the trigger.  What is causing you to feel this way?  For me, it was the after-effects of a bad dream I had . I didn’t even remember I had the dream until I sat and thought about why I was feeling anxious.

3. Manage those thoughts in your mind.  Don’t let the trigger consume you.  Tell yourself for instance, “It was a bad dream.  Everything is fine.”  For me, my bad dream is a piece of my past that I know cannot happen again.  And because it was a dream, it was more intense than my past experience.

2 Techniques to Fight the Anxiety:

1. Deep Breathing: Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly.  When I teach people this skill, I use a balloon so they can visualize their stomach as the balloon.  When you take in breath, the balloon expands, then you slowly let it out as if air is seeping out of the balloon.

             Inhale:                                                                   Exhale:image0

 2.  Mindfulness: Another technique I often love to use for myself is mindfulness.  Today I did this while sitting at my desk.

Take a Deep Breath and Do These 5 Easy Steps:

5 Things I see (my messy desk : ), the light shining bright, books stacked up, a picture my kids made, my dusty blinds.

4 Things I hear…

3 Things I feel (the cold desk against my arms, my legs touching together crossed, the feel of the floor on my bare feet.)

2 things I smell (coffee brewing, the smell of my house)

1 thing I taste

Practice this technique.  as you get closer to 1 it gets a little more difficult to hone in on those senses.  I love to teach this technique.  It is very effective in bringing you to the present.  It will relax your body the more you are able to focus on just those senses and divert your attention to what is surrounding you.  The here and now….

So, as I completed this exercise, I thought this would be a good thing to share with you.  To let you know there are ways to overcome your anxiety, and yes, I too suffer from it at times.