Archive of ‘Austin Family Counseling’ category

Ways to Increase Connection with your Child When School Starts

Notice the Good and Encourage 

As you know, the weeks leading up to school and even after school starts can be a rough transition for both you and your kiddo. One way to increase connection with your child is to not only pay attention to the positive things that your child does, but also verbalize them. Yes, the small things too! When people do better they feel better, which is exactly how children feel when their parents notice and affirm their positive actions. 

Examples of Encouragement: 

“I appreciate how you put your backpack up when you walked into the house.”

You are such a kind friend for holding the door for your classmate.” 

“Thank you for helping me set the table.” 

“You must be so proud of yourself for figuring out your math homework.”

Make Agreements 

A common struggle I hear when working with parents is “how do I get my child to do what I want.” A parent that decides for their child what they want their child to do directly reduces the opportunity for collaboration or discussion, which can create more distance between them. With this authoritarian approach, the child may feel discouraged that they cannot express their feelings leaving the parent defeated as to how to fix the issue.  

However, involving your child in the process of creating agreements can increase direct involvement from them, which can lead them to keep their agreements. Children feel respected when they are given an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings on an issue. 

Follow these 5 Steps for how to create Agreements: 

  1. Sit down together when everyone is calm and have a respectful discussion about an issue that requires an agreement 
  2. Brainstorm Solutions. Let everyone share their thoughts and feelings about the issue.
  3. Choose a solution that everyone can agree on and agree on a specific time deadline 
  4. If agreement is not followed, refrain from using judgment or criticism. Instead say, “What was our agreement?” 
  5. If agreement is still not followed, start again with Step 1. 

https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/agreements-positive-discipline-tool-card

Validate Feelings 

The first few weeks of school can elicit a range of emotions from your child. Some children might be excited about making new friends or entering a new grade, while others may feel nervous and retreat from these new experiences. Whatever your child may be feeling during these first few weeks of school, you will be a source of grounding for them. They will come to you seeking guidance or support and the most important way you can help them is to validate their feelings. 

Validation is all about providing children the space to simply feel without you trying to rescue, fix, or deny their feelings. When you directly acknowledge your child’s feelings through a question or statement, it models to them: I am significant and it is okay to feel what I feel. Through validation, you show them that their feelings provide crucial information about themselves in that very moment. And when children experience their feelings and are actively able to work through them, it can lead to self-regulation, and then later to appropriate problem solving. 

Examples of Validation: 

“You sound angry.” 

“I can see that makes you very frustrated.” 

“Can you tell me more about what you are feeling?”

“Do you need a hug?” 

Transitioning out of summer and into the school year can be hectic and overwhelming as the entire household juggles waking up on time, carpools, bus rides, packing lunches, after school activities, completing homework, and the list goes on. And as a parent, the responsibility falls on you to manage, problem solve, and fix things along the way. However, I would like to remind you that you deserve to give yourself compassion and patience during this time because you may not meet every expectation you have for yourself as a parent. And that is okay. 

The creator of Positive Discipline, Jane Nelson says, “the first step in learning to be the best (but not perfect) parent you can be is to create a roadmap to guide you to your destination.” My hope is that by implementing and practicing these three techniques it will serve as a path to more meaningful moments with your child. 

Written By: Geetha Pokala, M.S., LPC

Saying “no” Is Incredibly Difficult

For some of you, saying “no” may be easy. In which case I hope you’re enjoying your beautifully boundaried life! (Maybe there’s some jealousy there…) For the rest of us, even when we know it’s in our best interest to say “no,” we don’t. 

Recently I was invited to brunch with some colleagues, and it would have been the EASIEST thing to say “no” to. I’ve been working my butt off and I’m currently over-committed to extra-curricular activities. I didn’t say “no.” In fact, as soon as I got the confirmation, I immediately replied “YEP! I’ll be there!” And here are all the reasons why I did that: 

  1. I love this group of friends. 
  2. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen them, and I missed them.
  3. When we first had the idea to plan a brunch, I helped spearhead the scheduling, so I felt I had a responsibility to attend. 
  4. I thought brunch doesn’t require energy. All I have to do is eat, drink, laugh, right? And just for an hour or two. 
  5. I forgot that I’m not superhuman and that I actually have limited energy resources.

But Here’s The Kicker

I said “yes” because I was stressed. How does that make sense? We’re less boundaried in our lives when we’re stressed. It takes energy to set boundaries, to say “no” to things, and I was all out of energy. 

In my stressed state, I wasn’t thinking about the energy it takes to be social (I’m a bit of an introvert). I didn’t think about the fact that it’d take 30 minutes for me to get to the restaurant we agreed to meet. And then 30 minutes back. Not to mention that I had an other event to attend immediately afterward that would be taking more of my energy. 

The point here is that it’s a cycle. When we commit to too much, it drains us, which leaves us much less likely to to have the energy needed to draw boundaries. We have to break the cycle somewhere. 

For me, I have the opportunity to break the cycle with my therapist. 50 minutes, just for me, to talk to someone who also wants to help me set some boundaries so that I don’t end up completely exhausted. I, of course, WANT to do everything. To go to all the brunches and the trainings and the creative activities and the weekend events and and and. Unfortunately, I’m a finite human, and I have to prioritize the things that are most important. 

We Can’t Do It All.

There’s some grief to process there too. Sadness about all the things I don’t have the energy to do, even though I want to. Maybe I’ll get to get to do them at a later point in time, or maybe it was a missed opportunity. But then I think of all the things I would have to miss when I burn out (which is inevitable with this lifestyle). When I “have to” miss things, they’re usually things I wish I had prioritized. When I choose to miss things, they’re usually things that are lower on my priority list, and thus I feel less regret. 

I’ll leave you with this: Consciously saying “no” to less important things is another way of saying “yes” to more important things. 

Written By: Mike Rothschild, M.A., LPC-Associate, NCC, Supervised by M. Michelle Hawn, LPC-S

Routine Charts for Getting Out the Door on Time

It’s back to school time! Soon families will be adjusting to a different schedule, and mornings can feel early, short, and frustrating to get everyone and all of their things packed up and out the door. Back to school can also serve as an excellent opportunity to revisit or create a morning routine that works. To help ease the transition from summer to school, your family can use a routine chart to support and guide the morning. Routine charts are meant to be collaborative and encourage children to take responsibility for their things and time. Here are tips for creating a routine that helps get everyone out the door and on time!

“The more children do for themselves, the more capable and encouraged they feel.” (Nelsen)

Nelsen, J. (1987). Positive discipline. 1st Ballantine Books ed. New York: Ballantine Books.

Collaborate!

Create a routine chart with your child. The goal is to help the child feel involved and part of the routine. When children are involved in the process, this helps them feel a sense of pride and ownership. Collaborating and getting their help is a great way to teach and build time management and life management skills. This can be something added to the Family Meeting agenda!

Brainstorm!

Working together, brainstorm all the steps and tasks needed for a successful morning. We want children to feel encouraged, so all ideas are welcome! Ask them to tell a story about their morning, share tasks they can do, and what they need your help with. This is the time to look at all of the parts of the morning and then decide what key things are needed each day and in which order.

Make it Creative!

To help children feel ownership in the routine, ask them to help decorate, write, and color the chart. You can use stickers, pictures of them doing each task, or whatever will help the child recognize key steps and see their contribution to the list. This is meant to be their work! Then, find a spot in the household where everyone can see it on display.

Take Time for Teaching.

It is important that every child feels informed and capable of how to move through each step of the routine. Spend the first week doing the routine together so that you can teach the skills. This can help the child feel like the routine is a team effort and help start the school year positively.

Let the Chart do the Work.

Now that the tasks are outlined, the chart is made, and the family has discussed each element, it’s time for the chart to “be the boss.” This helps take the parental “nagging” out of the situation and gives a clear visual and reminder for what is next. It is normal to experience resistance and for kids to test boundaries to see if you really plan on sticking to this new plan. When you hear pushback, gently remind the child of the routine in a Kind and Firm way, “I know you are tired, AND I appreciate your help packing up your backpack.” Remember to encourage, encourage, encourage! Take time to acknowledge their cooperation and completion of tasks.

Written By: Janet Mize, LMSW Supervised by Kirby Sandlin Schroeder LPC-S LMFT-S

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