Posts

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

Why Do I Need to Balance Discipline and a Relationship?

Why Do I Need to Balance Discipline and a Relationship?

If you are concerned because your home environment is one of tension and chaos then looking at your parenting style may be a key. Improving your parenting is not all about structure and discipline although I think providing a stable environment where your children feel secure and know what is expected of them is very important. But without a healthy, loving relationship with your child they will not be motivated to listen to you or abide by your guidelines.

According to Nicole Schwarz, parent coach and licensed family therapist “It is the value of our connection that determines how well they listen to us, accept our limits and values, and cooperate.” 

Establishing and maintaining the relationship takes intention, your child needs to know that you care about them. Are you someone who makes it a priority to spend time with them, listen to their concerns and show them respect?

Spending quality time can be doing things with your child that they enjoy but it can also mean taking the time to listen to their concerns. I often hear a parent say “My child does not open up to me”. I understand this can be a problem but that usually happens when the child feels judged for their ideas or they don’t think you really want to hear from them because you are distracted by your phone or work or any number of things.

I found with my own children that bedtime was a good time to connect. I would go in and sit on the edge of the bed and ask open ended questions and then sit back and listen. I would try to be an encourager not critical. I would show respect for their ideas and feelings, not minimize them. If they feel that you are invested in them and really care then they are more likely to trust your guidance and discipline when the time comes.

We forget about how important this relationship is and sometimes the environment in the home can become so negative and tense that we loose motivation to work on the relationship. But if you think about it in your own life the concept makes sense. I think each of us would be more likely to work hard for a boss who has shown interest in us, who listens to our concerns and who shows us respect. Investing in the relationship improves the family tone and environment.

Maintaining a balance between discipline and a relationship does take intention. Discipline can feel very negative and harsh to a child so make sure they know that it comes from a place of caring and love. That you value them, the unique person that they are and their opinions and views.

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 Strong

What’s Wrong With Being a People Pleaser?

Why are some of us so frustrated in our families, feeling like we are serving everyone else and our needs or wants are not being attended to?  Why is this happening? It may be because some of us are people pleasers and can’t or won’t communicate our needs to our family members. The result is that the family just goes on with what they want and they get it because they speak up and make it happen.

You may be the pleaser in the family so you are often meeting the needs of the other family members but at the end of the day you realize that you are frustrated because you didn’t get your needs met.

How does this keep happening? How come your family members are not meeting your needs? It is because you haven’t expressed them clearly and you haven’t required them to take you seriously. Often times if you are a pleaser you are not comfortable with conflict. Your role in the family has been to avoid conflict and smooth things over.

As children a pleaser was given the choice to either follow the rules set by others and receive praise or to stand up and challenge the rules and expectations and receive a withdrawal of affection and a feeling of abandonment. So this child learned to not challenge or create conflict. They have to renounce their own thoughts, feelings, needs and desires in order to stay connected and approved of. Also to avoid feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.

After doing this for years they loose the ability to nurture and care for themselves. They don’t know how to communicate their desires in a healthy way. It often comes out in anger and frustration. There is a difference between pleasing and serving and it comes down to the motivation. Is the motivation to avoid conflict or is it to relate with respect and care? Here are some examples.

Pleasing in parenting; Your child has lost their favorite toy. You hate to see him/her so sad and disappointed and don’t want to face the tantrum so you replace it right away.

Serving in parenting; Talk to him/her about responsibility and appreciation. Work on a plan so they can earn back what they have lost. Help and support them in the process.

Pleasing in a relationship; You don’t agree with your partner on an issue, for example how to spend your money, so you give in and give up. It’s just easier than fighting about it.

Serving in a relationship; Take time to talk about it and listen to your partner to gain an understanding of their perspective and share your perspective. Then work together to problem solve, speaking with respect and considerations until you work toward a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

Communicating honestly and clearly can be frightening for a pleaser, they fear loosing the affection and connection to the other person. It is something that needs to be learned in a safe and trusting environment. Seeing this behavior is the first step toward healing. You can learn to communicate your needs in a healthy way.

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.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong

 

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

The Payoff for Parents

When you are in the middle of a super challenging season in your parenting do you ever wonder what the payoff is?  Why do you even bother to keep engaging, to keep trying, especially if your kid isn’t receiving any of it?  Every good parent has been in that  place and asked those questions.  This true story will encourage you.

Today, I had the great pleasure of spending time with a dearest friend of almost 25 years.  I taught her daughter when she was in second grade and she is now in her twenties!  I suddenly feel very old.  I’ve watched my friend and her husband parent their three children who are all adults now.  I’ve seen the ups and the downs first hand and my friend has been brave and honest enough to share with me the truth about the trials and challenges she has faced as a mother.  But what she shared with me today brought me tears… the most proud and joyful kind.

Her oldest son, 26,  came to her yesterday, all on his own, and confided something deep and profound about his feelings that has been weighing on him.  It was powerful, amazing and beautiful… not to mention completely authentic and brave of him.  I got choked up as she was telling me the story… not because of what he told her but because he felt safe, confident and comfortable enough to have the conversation with her. What I realized is that the only reason this ever happened with her son is because of the relationship she has spent twenty-some years building with him.  She has always validated him, affirmed him, guided and directed him, disciplined him and was authentic herself within their relationship.  And the payoff for her was this intimate conversation they had… as an adult, he let her in to a deep and intimate place of his heart.  Beautiful! Does it get better?  I think not.

I am so proud of my friend and share in her joy!  But the only reason I can see the true beauty of this is because she has always been extremely real and genuine with me about herself and her family.  She didn’t cover up, make excuses or protect reputations… she simply shared her beautiful life with me as her very close friend (not with the whole world).  And for this reason, I know the real power of what happened in that conversation with her son.  She invested, worked at, and built a relationship with him that has proven itself.

So parents, be encouraged!  Know that if you truly work at and build a relationship with your kids that isn’t about things or providing services… but a real relationship that includes vulnerabilities, failures, time together, joys and even sorrows… it will be worth it!  You will profoundly impact them as a human being for the better.  What can be a more rewarding payoff for a parent?

Written by Lisa Smith

Make the Holidays Great Again

The holidays are here again and I think we need to revisit last years newsletter about this topic and see how we are doing. Are you stressed out? Worried about family gatherings? Fretting about how much money you are spending? Are family members pressuring you? This is not the holiday spirit. Maybe some of this can be avoided.

Let’s be proactive, parents and couples can avoid some of these pitfalls by pre-planning and communicating. As a couple each of you might have different expectations and this can be challenging so talking about what is to come can avoid the conflict. This needs to be done in a way that is nonjudgmental so your partner does not feel attacked and get defensive. Remember there are a lot of emotions tied up in the holidays. Here are some areas that should be discussed.

Family: How are we going to handle family? Where will we be on the holiday? Who will talk to the family and tell mother or mother-in-law that we may not be able to make it this year? Make sure that you listen to each other and come to a solution that you can both live with, remember you are on the same team and there needs to be compromise. And what about your immediate family, your children, will they get to celebrate at home? Are they the focus? Hopefully they are not seeing the holidays as a time of stress and anger.

Making it special: Talk about how to make it special for your family. You may want to start your own special traditions. What makes the holiday time unique for your family? It can be a magical time for children, you may want to look at lights or pick out your own tree. Make a special meal or dessert. What ever your special thing is you can make it your own.

Finances: What about the money? How much can we spend? It is easy to get carried away but it isn’t worth the stress and strife that comes in January. Can we make some baked goods or something more personal to lesson the cost and avoid the mall? Talking about this ahead of time and sticking to the plan can avoid conflict.

Busyness: There are so many events to go to. Holiday parties of friends or at work. The children might be in a school performance, church activities, so many things to do that we get overwhelmed. You and your family need to decide what you will agree to and what you will say “No” to. It is alright to say “No”.

It is better to experience this time of year as a team, united and in agreement. Taking the pressure off and knowing your partner is with you. Talking about what you want and expect ahead of time can avoid conflict and stress this holiday. Let’s get back to the true spirit of the season and make the holidays great again.

By Lisa Strong

The Four Things Your Child Needs

School is not only about academics, there is much more to learn. It’s no longer the 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Parenting expert Dr. Bob Barns talks about a different set of R’s, the 4 R’s including Recreation, Routine, Responsibility and Relationships. Teaching these areas will help a parent guide their child to be a more well balanced person.
Recreation may be thought of as a sport like soccer or baseball and these are healthy for the body as well as teaching teamwork and how to win or loose. All are good lessons but there are other recreations that might also be considered like music, art, model airplanes, cooking, these other activities that may be more appealing to your child. These activities can help a child learn to use their free time in ways that challenge and entertain. We can teach them how to fill the void with things other than computer games, T.V. or social media.
Routine refers to teaching our children time management. Children may not seem to appreciate a routine but it does give them structure and security as well as teaching them self discipline. There is a time to get up in the morning and go to bed, a time to get homework done or do chores. You tell them what is expected and then make sure you follow through and enforce the routine. As they take on more of the responsibility on their own then you can become more flexible.
Responsibility includes school assignments but there are also responsibilities at home. We have dumbed down our children and do not require much of them in the home. The family is a team and we need to all work together so the home runs smoothly. That means giving each child an age appropriate responsibility in helping. It is for the sake of the family and the child. It is a training opportunity.  Don’t forget to celebrate the victories, the affirmations will encourage and support the idea.
Relationships include the family and others. But in terms of the family we need to be proactive and schedule time with each of our children and our spouse. If this is not done then these important times get pushed to the side. Some parents tell me they don’t know what to talk about alone with their child so I suggest providing  a distraction, meet over a meal, do a puzzle or build something. This provides an opportunity for conversation and we need to listen. Doing this allows us to disconnect from the pressures of our world and social media and allows an opportunity to relate to each other.
The 4 R’s will create a family that works together and can enjoy each other. This is something worth the effort.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Ensure Back to School Success

We made it through summer and the school year is upon us!  For some this is a welcomed change but for others it brings up new challenges.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on the right path and to help you stay on it.

First, have a discussion (a two way conversation) about what you and your child want for this school year.  What things do you want repeated and what things would you like to see change?  The best way to approach this is for you to ask that question and let your child answer, uninterrupted.  Then you can share your thoughts in response.  Write these things down… not as a list of rules to be governed by but as a way to solidify the conversation.

Next, talk about expectations.  The following topics seem to be the biggest challenges and areas of conflict so address them up front.

Grades: ask your child what they think is a reasonable grade or mark for each subject.  They may think they can ace Spanish class but feel that math will be more of a challenge.  Write down the grade or mark you both agree on for each subject.

Electronics: with the school year starting will their be different expectations for screen time, games and electronics than there was for the summer?  Have a discussion about what seems reasonable regarding how much screen time they can have on a week day, weekend, what time screens need to be turned off and turned in at night and how you will monitor this.  Hint: the simpler the better.

Curfew/Social Events: it is important that kids at any age learn how to manage their time, their stress and their work load.  With school starting there are often sports and other extracurricular activities that are demanding on everyone’s schedule.  Some families limit the amount of sleep overs in a month (as these tend to exhaust kids because they get little sleep but spend so much energy socializing).  Some families require a set amount of “down time” for their child meaning they have to be home resting, vegging, connecting with the family on a relaxed level and taking care of their overall mental health.  Curfews are necessary and need to be clearly articulated ahead of time.

Remember, this is a discussion.  You can not lay out all the expectations and walk away.  Invite them in to the conversation and encourage their participation.  Make compromises where possible.  Most importantly, keep this as simple as possible and absolutely be sure you can enforce any agreed about terms.  Without enforcement or monitoring there is no point in doing this.

To maintain success and build communication, revisit this conversation on a monthly bases.  What is working, what isn’t?  Be flexible if necessary.  Ask your kids how you can support them and what they need from you to succeed.  It’s a new year… let’s start off with clarity and hope.

Written by Lisa Smith

We Do This All Day, Every Day

We Do This All Day, Every Day

We make assumptions about people and situations all day, every day.  We assume we know what others are really thinking, why they’re doing the things they’re doing and what they really mean.  The problem with making assumptions is that we almost always assume the negative.  I do, anyway.

Too often we jump to a conclusion that is not only wrong, but also often hurtful.  For example, if our children are not responding to us, we quickly assume that they’re rude and disrespectful.  If our partner or friend is quiet and sullen, we assume they’re mad at us, relationally inept or impossible to talk with.  If a parent gives us feedback, we assume it’s because all they see in us is the negative.  Seldom do we assume positive intentions.

Although there may be times when our assumptions are correct, the reality is that, more often than not, they are incorrect…and strongly negatively slanted.  For example, a while back I was in a home decorating store and walked past a woman wearing an overwhelming amount of perfume.  I immediately started sneezing, my nose was running, my eyes were watering and I started having to clear my throat almost incessantly.  I powered through the sudden onset of these symptoms, got in line and was content to wait my turn.  As I was standing there I was still incessantly clearing my throat for no other reason but to keep breathing when suddenly the clerk behind the counter yells at me “I’m going as fast as I can! Stop being so rude!”  I was stunned.  She assumed I was being inpatient and was discontent waiting in line when in fact I was not unhappy at all except for the fact that my eyes and nose were running profusely and my throat was practically closing shut.  This clerk made an assumption.  I probably would have made the same one.  

When it comes to the behaviors of others, remember that you truly do not know what’s going on in their head—even when you are “sure” you do.  If you’re assuming something about someone in your life, at least give him or her the courtesy of checking out your assumptions.  The worst that can happen is that they tell you you’re right—in which case it’s no longer an assumption, but a fact.  Know that when it comes to interpreting or assuming why others are doing or saying something our lens is clouded.  Our assumptions are highly negatively skewed and that negative slant greatly hurts our relationships.  Sometimes the behavior of others just simply isn’t about us or expectations of us.

Make room for a different story and check it out with the other person.  You may just be pleasantly surprised.

Written by Lisa Smith

Reasons Behind Resentment

 

Reasons Behind Resentment
Recently I found myself to be out of sorts, to say the least.  I was irritable with people, critical, impatient, disappointed, angry and hurt.  When I recognized this I took some time to reflect on what was really going on.  After some thought I realized that there was some resentment creeping in.  My next task was to figure out where the resentment was rooted.  I believe all of us experience resentment at different times.  There are different causes for resentment and some healthy ways of addressing it.

 

We often experience resentment in a relationship when we feel:

•taken for granted, unappreciated or that our work and efforts seem to be unrecognized

•taken advantage of

•not heard, considered or validated

•as though we are putting more effort and energy in to a relationship than the other person

•an injustice has been committed against us

•that the other person’s needs are considered more than our own

Now that we’ve identified some of the causes of resentment, how do we address it?

First, we must acknowledge the resentment is there without judging ourselves and then identify the root of it.

Second, we need to express ourselves. This is not a luxury; this is an absolute necessity. This needn’t be self indulgent or pitiful, but an understanding that it is our right to express that pain in an effective, healthy manner which helps us to let go and move forward.  We do not want to attack or challenge the other person as this will cause defensiveness.  We just want to express our feelings. Addressing the resentment toward the other person is really the only way to begin healing.

Third, if this is a healthy relationship that you value it is critical you give the other person a chance to make things right.  Forgiveness and second chances can go a long way.  Of course, if bad patterns continue then that is another issue to address altogether.  But in regards to resentment alone, give yourself and others the opportunity to learn and grow in self awareness and in becoming others-focused instead of self-focused.

Ultimately, we cannot control what other people do, but we can control how we react. When we practice truthful living, self-expression, and forgiveness, resentment simply has no place or power in our lives.

Written by Lisa Smith

SMFT Lisa #1 (1)