Archive of ‘Being Present’ category

The Two-house Two-step

Whether recently separated or long since divorced, the transition between parents’ homes is a challenge for parents, teens and children alike. Giving your child as much heads up about when the transitions will happen, how they will happen, and updating them on any schedule disruptions is a great way to start, or reset, the Two-house Two-step. Here are a few other tips on co-parenting through home transitions: 

Clear and Consistent Expectations

Expectations and guidelines might differ between co-parents, but the expectations and guidelines at each home should be clear and consistent. Despite the constraints of two parenting styles, your child gets the benefit of TWO, loving, safe homes.

Create Routines and Lists

Parents and children should establish a drop off routine together and allow for adjustments and flexibility along the way. Create a shared list of commonly forgotten/important items of the child’s. Allow your child to edit and update this list freely and clearly reference the list during pack-up/drop-off times. A routine and list provides structure and helps build your child’s trust in the transition process. 

Give Grace

We all know how stressful a move is for an adult. For some children, the two home shuffle can feel like a lot of mildly stressful mini-moves on a set schedule. Even with a great transition plan and the most responsible children, expect there will be the occasional forgotten item when transitioning from home to home. Give your child some grace when things are forgotten; their brains are also transitioning! 

Validate Their Feelings and Model Problem Solving Skills

Identify comfort items and important, unduplicated items such as schoolwork. Validate your child’s discomfort and any other emotions they are feeling as a result of forgetting to transition an item. Of course it’s frustrating your teen forgot to bring a project due tomorrow but they remembered to bring their phone and 3 backup chargers. Of course it’s frustrating when your 9 year old forgets their soccer jersey the night before a game but remembers to bring all their Halloween candy. Instead of another lecture about remembering important items, consider modeling adaptability and problem solving skills. Calmly talk through your options with the child on whether retrieving the item is appropriate and feasible. 

Recap Your Time Apart

Establish a pick-up ritual with your child. Children may feel they are “missing out” on fun activities or bonding that happens while they are at their other home. Spend a few minutes recapping your time apart and talk through any upcoming events or reminders. 

Communicate With Your Co-Parent

Avoid using your child’s possessions as a co-parenting weapon. If a consistent pattern of forgotten items presents itself, please consider contacting your co-parent when neither of you are with the child, such as during the school day, to come up with a solution. 


4 Mindfulness Practices for Your Family

Mindfulness may be a term you have never heard or hear all the time. Regardless of how familiar it may be, it is often hard to define. When I introduce mindfulness into therapeutic work, I use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s simple definition: Paying attention, on purpose, without judgement. This perspective allows for full appreciation and engagement with the present. 

Imagine the benefits of being just a bit more present-focused and mindful in our lives, work, school, and especially in relationships with ourselves and others. I have included a few mindfulness practices and resources at the conclusion for families with people of any age to foster awareness, acceptance, and connection.  Breathwork

1 – Breathwork

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to your breath. By being mindful of our breath, we can begin to realize the power that it has. The breath is the most effective way for us to affect our nervous system. Each inhale engages the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and each exhale engages the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Bringing awareness to our breath can have a direct effect on our entire nervous system in an effort to bring it into balance when feeling dysregulated. We often encourage children or adults to “take a deep breath” in overwhelming situations without being mindful of what that looks and feels like. It takes practice and practicing as a family can further solidify its effectiveness. 

Belly breathing – Place your hands or a stuffed animal on the belly while lying down. Practice breathing into your hands or making the stuffed animal move up and down. In this way you are taking a true deep breath by expanding the lungs completely so that the diaphragm pushes the belly to move. 

Ratio breath – Ratio breath acknowledges the different parts of our nervous system that an inhale and exhale engage. By working to extend the exhale to be longer than the inhale, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Begin by breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 6 seconds. Adjust this ratio as needed to practice extending the exhale.

2 – Yoga/Mindful Movement 

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to your body and what it may be trying to tell you. Research shows the tremendous benefits yoga has on the mind, body, and connection between the two (The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk). Whether yoga is familiar or new to your family, it is accessible to everyone. I have included free resources to reference at the conclusion, but also feel free to define what yoga or mindful movement looks like for your family. My favorite option is to let the child(ren) lead the class and choose what postures feel most comfortable, challenging, and relaxing.

3 – Guided Imagery/Meditation

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to our thoughts and feelings. Guided imagery and meditation are grounding practices that encourage mindfulness, stillness, and relaxation. This can become a part of your morning or night routine by listening to or creating moments of stillness as a family. 

Guided imagery can be used in combination with a total body scan or progressive muscle relaxation by imagining a warm light traveling throughout the body, recognizing, and releasing any physical tension along the way. Another accessible option for all ages is a counting meditation. Start by simply counting your breath and each time a thought or feeling comes up, pause to notice and then start over counting from 1. See if you can count 10 or 20 breaths uninterrupted. Finally, the following is a short grounding meditation focusing on the 5 senses to bring our awareness to the present moment. 

Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste or say aloud 1 positive self-statement. 

4 – Nature Walks 

Nature is therapeutic as it is. Taking a walk outside and paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to what nature has to offer can benefit all the parts of ourselves and our ability to connect with others. While enjoying a nature walk with your family, I encourage mindful curiosity which could look something like the following: 

  • Having a conversation about what parts of nature stand out on the walk for each person and why. 
  • Creating a family sculpture with natural objects found in your yard, a walk through the neighborhood, or a local park. 

Online Resources

written by Emily Koenig, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Emily!


Destigmatizing Anger

Woman expressing anger emotion

Anger is valid, like any of the other emotions we experience. However, it seems to have a much worse reputation than other feelings due to its potential to directly harm those around us. This makes learning to control it just as or maybe even more important than controlling other emotions we experience. Let’s start by destigmatizing anger.

Anger is a secondary emotion which means that every time we experience anger, there is another emotion we are experiencing beneath the surface that may be more vulnerable to share. The “Anger Iceberg” provides a great visual of this concept. Unfortunately, the society we live in has portrayed anger, especially for men, to be much more socially acceptable to show as compared to sadness by crying, guilt, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, and the list goes on. So what can we do with this information? How can we learn to control our anger? As with all other emotions, I always say – start with curiosity, asking yourself “what” and “how” questions!

How was anger shown in my family growing up?

In addition to society normalizing anger, maybe anger was seen as a more acceptable emotion as compared to sadness or shame in your family. Having awareness of what we have learned about what different emotions mean and how to portray them from our families is key. This helps us better understand ourselves so we can either change how we show or what we think about anger or continue to engage in healthy patterns.

What is my anger telling me?” aka “What am I experiencing underneath my anger?

This may be one of the most difficult or uncomfortable questions to really sit with and answer – especially if this is not something you have had to identify previously. It may feel difficult now, and sitting with and sharing discomfort and vulnerability leads to growth! Just like every other emotion we experience, our feelings are always telling us something about our needs – either they are being met or they aren’t. This Feelings Wheel depicts just that. For example, your feeling of anger can be a result of one of your boundaries being crossed.

What are my triggers for anger?

Identifying your triggers for what makes you angry is a great way to identify what you need. Sometimes we are able to avoid certain triggers – for example, maybe sitting in traffic is a trigger and so you may identify that you need to leave earlier or later for work to avoid traffic. However, sometimes we cannot avoid certain triggers. For example, maybe seeing your family leads to feelings of anger – you may be able to see them less, but may not be able to avoid them altogether. This is where coping skills can be helpful!

What helps me control my anger?

Maybe you’ve noticed deep breathing helps bring you to a grounded place. Maybe you just need some space to go on a walk, journal your thoughts, or vent to a loved one. This worksheet goes more in depth about different coping skills for anger. Ultimately, identifying the coping skills that work best for you is a personal journey!

Anger doesn’t have to be scary or concerning for yourself or those around you. Like all emotions, it is something that you can learn to control versus letting it control you – an experience that is empowering! Therapy can be helpful in guiding you through this process of empowerment. I encourage you to continue to use curiosity instead of judgement to better understand your feelings and needs!

written by

Sarah Shah, M.S., LPC-Associate (she/hers) supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Clinician

Meet Sarah!


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