Archive of ‘Attachment’ category

Five Tips For Parents To Lower Their Stress Level

For all of the perks that come with parenthood, there is no doubt that it can be stressful. After all, managing your own life can be challenging enough. So, once you add kids into the mix, there are just so many more things to stress over!

You are likely to have a much busier schedule for starters. Finances are also bound to become a bit tighter. Beyond that, there are plenty of other things to worry about. So, in this article, I’m offering up five tips to reduce your stress level as a parent.

Make Time For Your Hobbies

One of the easiest traps to fall into as a new parent is to give up your entire identity as an individual as you dive into parenthood. Indeed, in the first few months of being a mom or a dad, it’s just not practical to make time for your hobbies. But, as soon as you start to get the hang of things, it’s a really good idea to start getting out and doing the things you enjoyed.

You might not immediately go back to playing tennis every day or attending four yoga classes a week. But, you do want to make time for the things you enjoy. Hobbies are a part of what makes life fun and they are also a great way to get yourself a mental break. So, whether you love painting, photography, stamp collecting, or golf, make sure to carve out some time.

Get Outside And Smell The Roses

Being cooped up inside all day with kids can really be rough. Taking them outside is a great way to let them burn off some energy. But, it can also be a good way for you to de-stress. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can really help, especially if the weather is nice.

There is just something about seeing a blue sky, birds, and nature that can put you in a more relaxed state of mind. You might take your kids for a walk, or a bike ride. Or, you might just put your feet in the sand in your sandbox and watch your little ones dig and play.

Play Like Your Kids

When you’re a parent, it’s your job to make sure everything is going well. For that reason, once your kids are a few years old, it’s easy to start spending all of your time telling them what to do – eat your vegetables, wash your hands, clean your room, brush your teeth, and on and on.

Try not to lose track of the fun part though. Instead of just being boss, spend some time losing yourself in play the way that kids do. Play hide and seek, or break out some walkie talkies or board games and try not to worry about anything but having fun.

Keep Your Schedule Manageable

In today’s world, overscheduling has become the norm for a lot of families. It’s not enough that kids go to school and play a sport anymore. It seems that they need to learn three languages and two instruments as well. When this happens, it’s easy to start feeling more like a chauffer and personal assistant than a parent.

But, jamming your kids’ schedule full of activities can add a lot of stress to your life as well. After all, if their schedules are packed, that tends to mean your schedule is packed too. This makes it harder for you to get everything else done, and can really leave you feeling stressed out.

Enjoy Some Low Key Time Every Day

Beyond keeping a manageable schedule, it’s a good idea to plan a little bit of down time every day. Evenings are an ideal time to decompress so that by the time you get in bed, you’re feeling relaxed. For some people, this means a good book. For others, a little Netflix might be in order.

Making time to unwind is naturally stress reducing. So, whatever your low key activity of choice is, be sure to fit it in.

By: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Ryan writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.


Creating Healthy Boundaries

Growing up in collectivistic culture at home, boundaries were not a celebrated tool in my family. They were perceived to be selfish at times – unhelpful to the entire family unit. As I grew older, I came to realize just how important healthy boundaries are – with family members, friends, coworkers – to maintain my overall well-being. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are those created to maintain physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 

How To Create Healthy Boundaries 

I do want to preface this section by saying that the examples are for educational purposes only – some of them may not apply to your experience or situation. If you are in an abusive relationship whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, setting a boundary can be dangerous – please seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Please consult with a mental health professional to discuss what options may be most applicable or helpful for you! 

  1. Identify your boundaries: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is recognize how we feel during certain situations. If you find yourself feeling:
  • Anxious when your mother is complaining about your father to you 
  • Annoyed when your partner invites friends over without consulting with you 
  • Angry when your child plays with the soccer ball indoors  

it may be time to set some healthy boundaries in place. Sometimes utilizing a feelings wheel can help us gain better insight into our feelings and needs.

  1. Communicate your boundaries: follow the “I-statements” method. Starting your statements with “I feel…” versus “You did…” takes judgement away, preventing the person you are speaking with from getting defensive or feeling attacked. Depending on who you are speaking with, it may be helpful to validate the other person’s feelings (can be an especially helpful tool when talking to your parents to show respect).  You do NOT need to “over explain” the reason for your boundary – your healthy boundaries are your right. 
  • “It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”
  • “I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, and I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”
  • “I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”
  1. Communicate consequences: if you find your boundaries have been crossed multiple times – it may be helpful to associate a consequence while communicating the boundary. A consequence is NOT a threat, but at times can look like an ultimatum – especially if you find yourself being mistreated constantly in a relationship, the consequence of breaking your boundary could be ending the relationship for your overall well-being.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents

“It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”

Boundaries with parents can be the most difficult sometimes – depending on your parents’ culture and your relationship with them. For myself, the example above brought up feelings of anxiety and fear of disappointment. Due to my parents’ collectivistic culture, when setting boundaries I found that it was helpful at times to avoid being in certain situations as to avoid offending them. For example, if following the scenario above, saying something like, “I can’t talk now I have to do some work that is due tonight!” 

Another important factor to name when setting boundaries with parents is the idea that we may feel guilty for not helping them. It is important to recognize and differentiate our role as a child and what responsibilities that entails and does not entail.

Healthy Boundaries With Partners

“I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, but I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”

Boundaries with romantic partners are important to cultivate a strong, positive relationship versus cultivating contempt and resentment. With the couples I work with and even in my own relationship with my husband, I have found that it is easy to attack our partners by blaming them for their actions as opposed to understanding and communicating  how we feel as a result of their action. As shown in the example, I started it with “I feel” versus “Why did you invite them over?” Starting a question or statement with “you” or “why” immediately puts the other on the defensive.

Healthy Boundaries With Children

“I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”

Setting boundaries with children may look like setting limits – validating what they are wanting to do, but being firm AND kind in establishing the limit and consequence of their behavior. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries read our posts about Positive Discipline or attend one of our workshops

It takes practice and time to create healthy boundaries. If you find that identifying your boundary, communicating it and the consequence of not following it are not working in your relationships, it may be beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and decide if it is healthy for you. Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships!

By: Sarah Shah, LPC-Intern supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S
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Summertime: 7 Ways to Maximize Free Time with your Kiddos

With summer’s arrival, as a parent or caregiver you may find yourself with anxious feelings about the long warm days and idle time coming – you may be thinking, how in the world am I going to keep these kiddos entertained all summer? How can we keep TV and video games to a manageable level? How can we help our kids feel engaged in activities that are exciting, but simultaneously include some aspect of learning (or at least not staring into a screen)?

If you are like me, these thoughts have been crossing your mind a lot lately. You are in the right place and hopefully this post can spur some ideas to help your family thrive in downtime together this summer!  

~This is by no means an exhaustive list, and with some adaptation, the below activities can be appropriate for mostly all ages of children~

Cultural Events

  • Attend a cultural festival or event of any sort, such as an art, music, or theatrical performance. Not only can these events be engaging for the whole family, they can spark creative interest in a subject area your child may not have had before.

Reading

  • Read (anywhere!) and join the Austin Public Library! Reading together is one of the best ways to spend quality time, increase vocabulary + introduce concepts for younger children and avoid the summer slide for school-age kiddos!
    • There are of course many ways to do this – in your favorite park, cozy spot at home, or at many of the public libraries in Austin. https://library.austintexas.gov/events/calendar
    • If you haven’t yet visited the new central library downtown, it is a site to see!  It even includes a special Teen Lounge devoted to adolescents and many special events.
    • Book People also offers many events and storytime for younger kiddos; events calendar here https://www.bookpeople.com/event

Museums and Historic Sites

  • Visit a museum or historic site. Here are some favorites!  
    • Laguna Gloria – bring a picnic or pick up food onsite from Epicerie and enjoy on the lawn
    • The Blanton Museum
    • The Thinkery Children’s Museum + Mueller Lake Park
    • Bob Bullock History Museum
    • Austin Aquarium
    • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    • Austin Nature and Science Center

Gardening

  • Plant a small plant or garden to tend; even an indoor plant for when it’s too hot outside! Gardening with your child will give you a sense of shared purpose and responsibility! Here are some of my favorite nurseries to help get you started:
  • Shoal Creek Nursery
  • The Great Outdoors
  • East Austin Succulents  / Tillery Street Plant Company

Photography

  • Practice photography – Even some of our smallest kiddos will enjoy taking pictures with a Polaroid. It can give you a few free minutes while they explore the house or backyard and then provide you with some quality time as you review their gems together! This can create a sense of pride for your children in their work!
  • Spend time making a collage or photo book together of your favorite memories.

Donate to Charity or Volunteer Together

  • Host a lemonade [popsicle / cookie / whatever] stand together and decide on a charity to which to donate the profits.  This activity really stands out as you can teach entrepreneurial skills, create awareness around money, engage in social skills with neighbors, and give to others in need.   

Get the Wiggles Out

  • Austin Bouldering Project – Indoor and outdoor rock climbing for all ages Austin Bouldering Project
  • Play for All Park – This amazing park is located in Round Rock and was made with children with special needs in mind. It is massive and children of abilities will enjoy the many features it offers. Play for All Park
  • Marathon Kids: Walk and Talk – over the summer, walk the total distance of a marathon with your child and talk along the way. Sign up and receive a mileage tracker and conversation topics for each walk! https://marathonkids.org/walkandtalk/
  • Hamilton Pool – beautiful, historic swimming hole located about 20 miles west of Austin. Don’t forget you need reservations for summer visits!  https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/hamilton-pool-preserve
  • Deep Eddy – take a cool dip in Texas’ oldest swimming pool.  This “beach entry” pool is awesome for small kids and adults alike!
  • Zilker Park – an Austin dream day – Ride the Zilker Zephyr miniature train, hang at the park / playground and take a dip in Barton Springs (this one’s better for the older kiddos)
  • Your backyard / a neighborhood street: For a quicker adventure with littles, cruise around the backyard or walk the block to collect some sticks to turn into snakes (try to find some with a fork that can be the mouth!).  Set your child up with paint and paintbrushes and see them transform into snakes. You all can also paint rock families!
  • Play at a Splash Pad! https://freefuninaustin.com/austin-area-splash-pads-2016-schedules/

Making Meaning From Your Time Together

Now that you’ve invested time and energy in an activity together, remember some ways to make it even more meaningful while you are engaged in the event or afterward.  These tips are easy and can really strengthen connection between you and your child.

  • Actively listen! Ask open-ended questions!  When your child is talking, listen for feelings they’ve expressed. Notice these and dig a little deeper.
  • Ask your child to name Three Positives at the end of the day or as you’re tucking them in at night.
  • What are you thankful for in your [day / time / activity we shared]?
  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • Tell me more about your photo [the book we read / the place we visited/ etc.].
  • Don’t forget the nonverbals! Make sure you are making eye contact, getting down on eye level or putting your arm around your child as you are having conversation.

Know that not every adventure will go exactly as planned (or be free from tears, for those with smaller humans!). Just remember that it is the love and attention you are giving your child and the time you are investing in your relationship that will mean the most.  Have fun and see you out there!


Written by:
Brooklie Gonzales, LPC-Intern supervised by Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S

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