How To Handle Change

Let me start by saying that I hate change.  I admit it.  I own it.  Change scares me and triggers all my insecurities.  I avoid the unknown at almost any cost (insert need for a plan and control).  But as this year has harshly and dramatically thrust my life in to upheaval and change I’ve decided to learn and grow as much as possible from it instead of trying to control it or avoid it (insert a very big work in progress so please be patient).  Here’s what I’ve learned so far…change is an unavoidable constant in our lives. Sometimes it’s within our control, but most often it’s not. Our circumstances change, the people in our lives change, we ourselves change.  It can be exhilarating for some and terrifying for others.Fortunately, there are ways to adapt to change, and even to take advantage of it.  Here is a compilation of strategies I’ve researched to help deal with change better.

Accept the past, but fight for the future. Even though we are never free from change, we are always free to decide how we respond to it.

Viktor Frankl championed this idea after returning home from three horrific years in Nazi death camps. He discovered that his mother, brother, wife, and unborn child were all dead. Everything in his life had changed. All that he loved was lost. But as fall became winter and winter gave way to spring, Frankl began to discover that even though he could never go back to the life he once had, he was still free to meet new friends, find new love, become a father again, work with new patients, enjoy music, and read books. Frankl called his hope in the face of despair “tragic optimism.”

Frankl’s story is an extreme example, of course, but that’s all the more reason why we should find inspiration from it. If we fixate on the limitations of a specific change, we inevitably succumb to worry, bitterness, and despair.

Instead, we should choose to accept the fact that change happens, and employ our freedom to decide what to do next.  I know, much easier said than done!  But I’m working on it.

Don’t stress out about stressing out. Our beliefs about stress matter. As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues in The Upside of Stress, your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health and success than the stress itself. If you believe stress kills you, it will. If you believe stress is trying to carry you over a big obstacle or through a challenging situation, you’ll become more resilient and may even live longer.

When you start to feel stressed, ask yourself what your stress is trying to help you accomplish. Is stress trying to help you excel at an important task, like a sales presentation or a big interview? Is it trying to help you endure a period of tough market conditions or a temporary shift in your organizational structure? Is it trying to help you empathize with a colleague or a customer? Or is stress trying to help you successfully exit a toxic situation?

Stress can be a good thing— if you choose to see it that way.

Talk about problems more than feelings. One of the most common myth of coping with unwanted changes is the idea that we can “work through” our anger, fears, and frustrations by talking about them a lot. This isn’t always the case. In fact, research shows that actively and repeatedly broadcasting negative emotions hinders our natural adaptation processes.

That’s not to say you should just “suck it up” or ignore your troubles. Instead, call out your anxiety or your anger at the outset of a disorienting change so that you are aware of how it might distort your thinking or disrupt your relationships. Then look for practical advice about what to do next. By doing so, you’ll zero in on the problems you can solve, instead of lamenting the ones you can’t.

Focus on your values instead of your fears. Reminding ourselves of what’s important to us — family, friends, our faith, hobbies, etc.— can create a surprisingly powerful buffer against whatever troubles may be ailing us.

In a series of studies spanning more than a decade, researchers led by Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman have shown how people of all ages in a range of circumstances, from new schools and new relationships to new jobs, can strengthen their minds with a simple exercise: spending 10 minutes writing about a time when a particular value you hold has positively affected you.  I just started this yesterday and I have hope it will help.  Here’s why.

The technique is said to work because reflecting on a personal value helps us rise above the immediate threat and makes us realize that our personal identity can’t be compromised by one (or many) challenging situation.

We’ve all heard it said that the only constant in life is change.  I believe it’s true.  Let’s try to embrace some changes this year instead of avoiding them.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Deal With Disappointment

With the new year comes hope for better things to come as well as the reality that disappointments will come our way.  Some disappointments are small and easy to shake off while others shake us to our core.  We know they will come in one form or another.  The question is how do we deal with them when they do?

1.  Feel It
One of the hardest things to do for many of us is to just let ourself experience a feeling… especially a painful and difficult one. Studies have shown that even at the most difficulties times, such as grieving, Americans  only allow themselves 1 to 2 weeks to feel sad or to grieve before expecting to get back into normality again.  This isn’t always reasonable.  Give yourself permission to feel the pain, even lean in to it.  Let it out.  And know that eventually the pain of disappointment will lessen.

2.  Get Perspective
Once you have allowed yourself to experience the emotion of disappointment you can then get some perspective.  Take a few steps back.  Look at what you do have instead of only what you do not have.  This is not denying the loss or the pain you have experienced but it’s acknowledging that there is more to your story than just the heartache right in front of you.

3.  Know Yourself
Disappointment can ripple through to the core of who you are. Sometimes disappointments can catch us so off guard and turn our lives upside down.  If you don’t know what your core values are, you may not have a framework to support you when you experience negative emotions that are inevitable when things go sideways.  

Knowing your own heart and your values gives you the freedom of choice. You can choose to be driven by what happens to you, or you can choose to live in line with your principles.  So I ask you… what are your core values?  What principles do you live by no matter what comes your way?  

4.  Practice Acceptance
As human beings, even though we know that some things are bound to happen, we’re not always willing to accept them.

Every time I am disappointed, I feel overwhelmed by my emotions. I’m inclined to withdraw, wanting to wallow in my disappointment. Each time, I have to accept that I will feel these things again.

I have to accept that I will continue to be disappointed—that it is a part of life, part of being human. I also have to accept that I will probably continue to struggle to accept this fact, at various points throughout the rest of my life!

This is a lifelong challenge and fundamental to dealing with disappointment. I will be disappointed, I will disappoint, you will be disappointed, and you will disappoint. Life will be disappointing—but it will pass.

Practice acceptance and we may suffer less as it is happening and notice the good things in life more.

Disappointment is a part of life and life is often difficult. But we can grow if we can endure.  We can be present and aware even in the midst of negative emotions that come with disappointment and therefore live more fully.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  
Written by Lisa Smith


How Can You Get Your Relationship Out of the Rut?

How Can You Get Your Relationship Out of the Rut?

Sometimes we get in a rut, we get busy with life and we neglect our relationships. The fact is that a good relationship takes effort to achieve. You have to put some work in to get the results you want. If you are feeling like you are in a rut it probably means that you don’t know how to get out. Well I see two areas of concern, you and your partner. This may seem obvious but let me explain.

Start by looking at yourself, not at your partner, and thinking about what you need to do. If you don’t feel good about who you are or what you can offer then your partner will sense this. You want to strengthen yourself and this will strengthen your marriage.

Do you need to take better care of yourself or have a more balanced life? If you are grouchy or depressed then you will not make a good partner. Don’t point the finger at your partner, you are ultimately responsible for your own well being. What can you do to improve? Do you need to change jobs, change your schedule or change how you care for yourself? It’s not helpful to be resentful of something and stuff your feelings about it. You may think that is what you are supposed to do in order to keep the peace but I find it is more helpful to talk to your partner and explain how you feel and what you need. Then see if you can come to an arrangement that can be a win/win for each of you.

Taking care of yourself is important because if you don’t feel good about who you are then you will not convey a confidence and inner joy that is attractive to your partner. But maybe you can also change something that you know bothers your partner. Think about what you can do to make your partner happy. Do you continually walk by the kitchen trash when it is full instead of taking it out? If you continually do something that you know bothers them then that is not a way to show you care about them and their feelings. If you know your partner loves it when you make them a cup of coffee in the morning then why don’t you do that? It is a simple thing that can make your partner happy and feel cared for. They will take notice.

So taking care of your own needs can improve your relationship because you will be a happier person and therefore more attractive to your partner but you also need to be concerned about your partners needs and what makes them feel loved. This may seem like a tall order but if you can sit down and talk to your partner about this and they can see you want to improve the relationship so you both can be happier then your partner may want to support this idea.

If you need help with sharing your ideas and concerns with your partner or you need ideas of how to lift yourself out of the rut then give us a call. We would love to support you in improving your relationship.Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

Clear Expectations Brings Security to Your Child

Are you saying things like, “clean up your room” or “get yourself ready for bed” without ever clearly explaining what that means. Clean up your room could mean that you just don’t want to see anything on the floor or it could mean that each toy should be in its proper bin. You may be unhappy with the job that your child does because you never took the time to teach him/her to do what you expect. By showing your child what you expect you can reduce frustration and bring a sense of security to your child.

It may just be easier to do it yourself but that is not thinking of the long term goal. You want to raise children who feel capable and have a strong work ethic. I think children thrive when they feel useful. So before you ask them to do something, you can do it with them, come alongside, giving guidance. It may take repetition and support. Focus on what they are doing well, don’t nit pic at their mistakes. Your positive attitude can be contagious, if it looks like it is easy and fun for you then they will be more willing.

When explaining your expectations to your child make sure that the expectations are reasonable. Consider the child’s age and ability, their attention span and understanding. We want them to be able to succeed.

Once the expectation is clear and you have taught your child where things go for example, then you need to check on them in a reasonable amount of time to see if they did what you asked. If you don’t follow through by checking then you are not able to either praise them for a job well done or teach them what they may have missed and how they can do better. Checking on them shows them that you mean what you say and it is important to listen. If they have chosen to totally ignore your request then you will need to give them the consequence.

Having clear expectations also applies to behaviors outside the home such as how to behave in a restaurant or the grocery store. Before entering the grocery store for example, get their attention and explain the type of behavior you expect. Should they hold your hand, have one hand on the cart or maybe sit in the cart? Tell them they need to keep their voice at a reasonable volume, no running or grabbing things off the shelf. No whining if they don’t get what they ask for. Once you have explained what appropriate behavior is then you explain what will happen if they behave, maybe they can get a cookie from the bakery, or if they do not behave, you will have to leave the store and there will be limited screen time that evening. Then you must be willing to follow through with these consequences, either good or bad. They need to know that you will stand by your word.

Children do not know what is appropriate behavior unless you teach them. You want them to learn to handle themselves in public, to care for themselves at home and to contribute to the family.  Parenting requires you to teach and to follow through. You will bring security and clarity to your child when they know you are a person who is showing them the way with love and consistency.

If you are struggling with any aspect of parenting, you are not alone and we can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong

4 Ways to Love Your Teen and Help Them Like You Back (Maybe)

An eye roll (or 20).  Indifference and disrespect.  Self-centeredness.  Testing every boundary known to mankind. For some parents, the teenage years test the bonds of unconditional love like no other parenting season. We can’t force our children to behave respectfully, love us wholeheartedly or — let’s be honest — even like to be around us.

But here’s the good news: After working with teens and their families for more than a decade, I’ve noticed four key things that help parents connect with their teens, and as a result, make it easier for those teens to appreciate their families in return… most of the time.

Fight Fair

Conflict isn’t the problem; knowing how to resolve it without scratching each other’s eyeballs out is. The goal is to reach a compromise with a greater understanding of each other, rather than wounding each other with dagger-like words or cold indifference. When we stick to the rules of a good, clean fight, the resolution is always better.

If you want your teens to engage in a meaningful discussion devoid of name-calling, low blows, running away, eye rolling and dismissive speech, show them how. This means you have to set the example. You, as the adult, have to refrain from sarcasm, criticism, and yelling.  Stick to the issue at hand, not all the issues of the past.  Reserve your veto power for the biggest issues.  And always be quick to ask for forgiveness when you blow it.

Understand Them

Figuring out a teen sounds like an impossibility, akin to understanding quantum physics or capturing video of Bigfoot. While it might be impossible to wrap our minds around our teens’ mood swings and irrational emotions, we can get to know them as individuals. Sure, you know your son still gets hungry at 4 p.m. just as he did when he was 5, but do you know what his greatest fears are at 16? You might know your daughter would rather be grounded for a week than clean her room, but do you know who her best friends are and why?

Show love by taking time to know their evolving likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, conflicts and accomplishments. Your teens are changing quickly, which means you have the joy and responsibility of continually discovering them — who they are and who they are becoming. Showing an interest in your teens might not spark instant reciprocation, but they will likely soften when they see you genuinely care to know the real them.

Let Them Go

Yes… go… away from you.  Your goal as parents is to help your kids reach adulthood before they leave your home, not hope they figure it out after they leave. To do this, you have to concede freedoms, even when teens don’t use those freedoms wisely. Let them increasingly make their own decisions about food, sleep, homework, purchases and activities, and allow them to enjoy the rewards or suffer the natural consequences of their choices.

Allow them to try and fail with as little “rescuing” as possible. For example, if you’ve given your teen the freedom to drive your car and she crashes it, let her know she is responsible for the repairs. Or if he works hard to purchase a car, let him decide which set of wheels to buy (even if you believe it’s a frivolous choice).

Anticipate Change

One of the only certainties about the teen years is that they will end. In a few years, your relationship will change. So before your teens launch into adulthood, ask yourself:

  • How do I want to spend the days we have left together?
  • Are there battles I can relinquish?
  • Are there experiences I want us to share?

Make the most of these days, and tell your teens why you’re being intentional. Invest in your relationship, not only to keep you from regret, but also to give your teens a solid footing for their lives ahead.

Sound hard?  Truth be told, it can be!  But you don’t have to do it alone.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help.  

Written by Lisa Smith

8 Reasons to Say “I’m Sorry”

We all know someone who would practically rather die than say they are sorry (you’re probably thinking of that person right now).  Saying “I’m sorry” can be much easier than it sometimes seems. Here are eight empowering reasons to say “I’m sorry”—and really mean it.

1. Builds Respect.  Relationships are built on respect, and saying “I’m sorry” shows that you respect another person’s feelings.

2. Helps you move on. We all make mistakes. #truthbomb It’s more difficult for some of us to admit that, I know.  Harboring guilt and anger toward yourself has adverse physical and emotional repercussions  Acknowledging your mistakes helps you grow and move forward.

3. Provides a strong foundation. Sometimes foundations crack and need repairing. Ignoring the cracks only makes them bigger—and the foundation weaker. However, moving past problems in a healthy manner can actually strengthen your relationship.

4. It gets easier. Saying “I’m sorry” is just like your time on your yoga mat. It gets more comfortable and familiar the more you practice it.

5. Integrity. If you don’t apologize, it doesn’t make your mistake disappear. Now it’s an elephant in the room. I love elephants but not in my room.  Owning your mistakes only makes you a better person—and it makes you more trustworthy.

6. Sincerity. On the other hand, don’t apologize just to get past an issue. No one appreciates this.  You may be thinking “how will anyone know if I’m sincere in my apology or not?”  Well, revisit point 5.  And…trust me when I say that almost everyone can sniff out a bologna apology so don’t even try it.

7. Relief. Say “I’m sorry” for you as much as for others. You’ll feel better. I promise. Even if your apology falls on deaf ears, you’ll know you did the right thing—and sometimes that’s all that counts.

8. Sets an example for kids. Saying “I’m sorry” to your children or in front of your children shows them how to make mistakes and deal with them appropriately. Need I say more?

Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it can be a learned behavior that takes time and practice just like everything else. You will grow and so will the relationships that you say are important to you.

Apologies and forgiveness can sometimes be difficult to understand and the conversations can be challenging to navigate.  We can help with that.  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  We’d love to hear your story and see how we can help.

Written by Lisa Smith

Publicly Shaming Your Kids: The True Effects and What to Do Instead

You know what I’m talking about…you’ve seen the videos and pictures on social media.  Check out the example we recently shared on Facebook.  Parents basically making fun of, shaming, their kids by sharing with the world the child’s mistake and humiliation.  It’s one of the many things that keep me up at night.  It’s mean.  It’s damaging.  It’s ineffective. Parents are meant to be a safety net.  Shaming your kids, at any age, is the exact opposite.

Studies show that shaming children violates their trust in their parents and can lead to permanent, lifelong problems for kids. Every relationship is based on early childhood patterns.

Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed states that shaming can actually change a child’s development, putting undue stress on the brain. Anxiety and depression later in life can stem from a shaming incident during childhood. Some kids even suffer post-traumatic stress after being shamed by a parent, or worse yet, commit suicide.  No, this is not an exaggeration.  This is science.  And common sense.

Think about it.  If the people you are supposed to be able to trust with your life, your heart and your soul turn on you, and publicly no less, of course you will be traumatized by this!  Most parents resort to shaming because they don’t know what else to do.  But some parents are just mean and immature and need to feel a rush of power so they exert their authority over their child and humiliate them at home or in public.  This is never acceptable.

Above, I stated the true effects of shaming your child but let’s recap just to drive the point home: they lose trust in you, they feel insecure in their environment and in themselves, they suffer from anxiety and depression all the way in to adulthood and some experience post-traumatic stress that sometimes leads to suicide.   Public shaming also makes your kid a target for bullies because they are exposed online and become vulnerable.  These are probably not the results you expect when you post shaming videos and pictures online but these are the results you will get.

What can you do instead when your child acts out?

  • Sit down and talk calmly but directly with your kids.
  • Pick a neutral space, like the kitchen, instead of a bedroom, so everyone is on equal footing.
  • Give everyone the same amount of time to speak.
  • Actively listen to your child.
  • Guide and direct them on what they should do next time.
  • Finally, allow for natural or applied consequences as a result of their unacceptable behavior or poor choice.  It is important to have them acknowledge and “fix” their mistake… but without shaming them.

Parenting is hard!  Get support.  Work together as a family unit.  And don’t lose hope.  If we can help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Lisa Smith

How To Not Screw Up Your Kid

Let’s face it, every parent screws up with their kid.  But this doesn’t mean your kid will forever be screwed up because of it.  Parenting can seem so complicated at times.  It’s almost never black and white and you almost always have the chance of stepping on an emotional land mine.  But even so, there are some basic rules you can follow that will minimize any damage and keep your relationship with your kid in tact… at least somewhat.  Consider the following:

1. Never withhold love as a punishment.  No matter what your child does, no matter what act of aggression, disrespect, defiance or disappointing behavior they engage in… love them.  Disciplining with love is always your best bet.

2. Be willing to change your mind.  You know those times when you feel like your kid has just lobbed an emotional grenade at you and in self defense you lob three back at them?  It happens to the best of us but it doesn’t always get us the response we want.  Be willing to change your mind and reconsider any consequences you lobbed their way in the heat of the moment.  Ideally there would be no lobbing at all but this is not practical, I know.

3. Give them age appropriate responsibility.  Time flies!  One minute you are dealing with a five year old and before you know it they are fifteen.  As life flies by at whiplash speed we forget that as they grow up we have to grow with them.  What we require at age fifteen must be more than what we required at age five.  This means vacating some of your responsibilities so that they can fill them instead.  If this doesn’t happen you end up with a young adult who is entitled, rude, ungrateful and miserable.  Nobody wants that.

These sound simple but none of the above are easy.  After working with thousands of teens and parents I am overwhelmingly aware of that.  I do know, however, that these three points work.  Give them a try.  You will mess up… no offense.  But that’s ok.  You will more often get it right. And remember that just because you screw up now and then doesn’t mean you permanently screwed up your kid.

Written by Lisa Smith

How Do You Respond When Your Child says “I Hate You”?

Have you ever had your child yell at you “I hate you”. I know that doesn’t feel good. It feels like a low moment in parenting. Hopefully it wont happen to you but if it does you are required to respond like an adult.

Your child lashes out with the most hurtful thing they can think of to say, “I hate you”. They must be extremely frustrated or hurt and he/she is expressing that feeling with anger. They do not know how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way. You, as the adult, need to show them a more appropriate response. The first thing to remember when disciplining a child for any unacceptable behavior is never withhold your love, that can not be a punishment.  When they yell hurtful words do not stoop to their childish behavior and respond with anger. You need to be the adult and show them how to handle their feelings and that those hurtful words that they yell at you do have consequences.

The idea to withhold love as a consequence for any bad behavior should not be a parenting strategy. There can be no silent treatment, no withholding hugs or bedtime kisses. Your child needs to know that even when they behave badly at school or don’t do their chores or don’t turn in their homework that there will be natural consequences to their choices but they will always be loved. You want your child to feel safe in the relationship, secure in how you will respond.

A child who does not feel this security in the home may respond in many different ways. They may seek that acceptance and security from someone else or a group. They may live with great anxiety and develop physical and emotional responses. They may put great pressure on themselves to be perfect so they will not make you angry and loose your favor. All of these responses are unhealthy behavior choices and will have consequences in their adult relationships.

Your job as the parent is to reassure them of their secure place in your heart and in the home and that you always want what is best for them. You may need to enforce the discipline but teaching them that there are consequences for their behavior does not need to be mean, it can be done with strength and love.

Written by Lisa Strong


5 Reasons to Improve Family Communication

When you get home after a long day of work is your home a place of rest, where you feel comfortable to be yourself and you can relax? This is not always the case.  It can feel like a place where you have to put walls up to protect yourself, you don’t feel understood, and there is no peace. You can’t figure out how to change that. It could be that you and your loved ones are not communicating in a way that works. If you could communicate in a healthy way then you would see benefits. Here are 5 benefits to healthy family communication.

1. If you can learn to communicate your needs and feelings in a way that is received then you will minimize resentment in yourself. Resentment is a feeling of indignation and displeasure because you feel like you are being mistreated, misunderstood or wronged. This is not how you should feel with your loved ones. They should be your teammates, the people who are on your side. It can be an environment of cooperation, not competition.

2. When you learn to listen to those that you care about then they will feel cared for and validated by you. This will improve your relationship and minimize their anger and frustration with you.

3. When you learn to communicate in a nonthreatening way then you will minimize defensiveness. By minimizing their defensiveness then you create an environment where you can be heard and they will feel safe, they can take their walls down. You will be building trust and a feeling of security in your home.

4. Respectful communication is a good role model for your children. They learn how a marriage functions by watching you and your spouse. Do they see you showing care and compassion or is it more of a competition to get your way? Is the communication demanding or does your child see each of you listening and working together to find a solution to a conflict?

5. You will be able to resolve conflict without feeling like you are in a battle. With healthy communication you will feel heard and you will be able to understand your partners view and then move to brainstorming a solution that would be acceptable to each of you.

These communication skills can be learned and practiced. It may be hard for you to change bad habits.  Possibly because you were not raised in a home with this type of an environment. You can change the repetitive cycle of bad communication, be the one in your family to change what your children are exposed to and how they will interact with their future friends, colleague or spouses. This ripple effect will benefit your whole family.

By Lisa Strong