Archive of ‘Children’ category

Children and Their Feelings

I was at the rock climbing wall at our gym the other day when I heard a little boy say to his dad, “I don’t know if I can do it. I’m scared.”He was referring to the route he was hoping to climb. His dad, who seemed relatively supportive and encouraging toward his son replied, “You can do it. Big boys don’t get scared.”

Jennifer Alley, LPC

Jennifer Alley, LPC

Although perhaps said with good intentions, this statement made me sigh and feel concerned about another generation of boys and men (and even girls and women) being taught that it isn’t okay to experience perceived “weaker”emotions. And more importantly, what they can do when these inevitable feelings do creep up.

Part of the reason it is so difficult to respond well when our children/friends/partners are experiencing difficult emotions (besides all of the gender messages we are socialized to adhere to) is that in order to be empathetic, we have to actually touch that part in ourselves that knows what it is like to feel that feeling. And that is scary! And what is more scary is to imagine your child feeling that, and so the easiest thing to do is brush it under the rug, dismiss or minimize the feeling, shame the feeling, or try to make them feel better. Unfortunately, this generally leads to the other person feeling like they are not heard, that their feelings don’t matter, that they should be ashamed of those feelings and are bad for having them, or that they need to keep their feelings to themselves in the future. And it generally intensifies the feeling while causing isolation.

I’m certain the father at the gym did not want for his response to his son to have any of these outcomes. Likely, he was wanting to help socialize his son to stereotypical gender norms that he learned (without even realizing it necessarily), and he probably honestly didn’t know how to respond. I did keep my mouth shut at the gym, but here are a few thoughts about how I hope to handle these conversations with my children and what you might do when your kids are experiencing painful or difficult emotions.

1. Because we are modeling emotion regulation for our children, it can be really helpful to walk them through our process.

Example: “I sometimes get scared, too. I remember when I was scared (give age

appropriate example). This is how I handled it (give healthy, age appropriate ideas about how to manage that emotion).

2. Simply validate the feeling. Nothing feels better than having someone acknowledge our emotions.

Example: “It does look scary! I would be scared in that situation, too!”

3. Listen and give your child time to talk about what they are experiencing. Having our feelings validated and being given space to talk through them can greatly lessen the intensity of the negative emotion.

Example: “I hear that you are scared. What are you most afraid of? What can I do to support you?”

If you feel like you might benefit from a little lesson on empathy and what it looks like, check out this great animated video based on the work of Brené Brown.

 

 


Separation Anxiety for Children and Parents – Back to School

The morning is going just as you had planned, but you know what is coming when you drop your child off at school…crying, hugging desperately onto you as you attempt to leave, teachers and other children trying to comfort your child, and then, your child being pulled away, screaming as you painfully gather yourself up and leave, reminding yourself that you are doing what is best for your child.

For many parents, the return to school can bring up the worry and stress of this daily exercise. Separation anxiety is hard on both children and parents. Some preparation and planning can make getting through this challenging situation a little easier.

Blog by: Kirby Sandlin, LPC, LMFT

By: Kirby Sandlin, LPC, LMFT

As a children’s therapist, I would first suggest that you start talking with your child about school and what it will look like, be like, and what happens throughout the day from drop-off to pick-up before school ever starts. Allow time for your kids to ask questions about anything from the environment to who will be there to the daily schedule.

Secondly, you might consider showing your child pictures or, if possible, go for a fun visit of the school a few weeks before starting. At this visit, walk around looking at drop-off areas, bathrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, etc. Everyone, even adults, get a little anxious when they don’t know what to expect. The fun pre-start visit can put some of that nervous energy to rest.

My next suggestion is that you read books with your children about starting school and possible feelings that might come up about it. Please check out these 7 books to ease separation anxiety. At this point, you can talk about your own experience with starting something new and how you felt.

Many parents and children also find it helpful to come up with a morning routine plan for school days. You can check out the Austin Family Counseling Blog for more information on morning routines. Once your family has a planned routine, practice it a few times before the first official day.

Finally, when your child is struggling with separation anxiety, I suggest that you get down on your child’s level, do your best to remain clam, loving, and soothing, and share with your child the feeling that you notice them experiencing and then state your expectation/goal for them. (Ex. I can tell that you are a little scared and upset about going to school today. However, we planned and practiced, and I trust and know you can and will be successful with this new routine. I love you and will see you at the end of the day!) Once you have comforted (hugged) your child and made this statement, try to make a quick exit.

The support, trust, preparation, and love will stay with your child. As for dealing with the feelings that you as the parent are experiencing, try to remember that your child is scared and not trying to annoy you. Also, remember you are teaching great long-term skills to your child by having trust and confidence in their abilities.

Separation anxiety is a challenge and can be both frustrating and heart-breaking at the same time; these suggestions will hopefully make separating for the day a little less challenging as school starts this fall.

Have a GREAT start and school year!


Back to School – The Morning Hustle

If you are like me, school day mornings feel like a mad dash to the finish line of getting everyone where they need to go. A good day is when no one is in tears and everyone has clothes on (pajamas count!). By the time I get myself to work I am often exhausted, annoyed, and my hair is a hot mess.

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

But last year, I tried a truly revolutionary practice to help with my mornings with the kids (mine are now 4 and 2), and today I want to share it with you as we gear up to use it again this fall. Please know that this practice takes time and planning, but with your efforts (and your family’s effort) it has a big pay off!

Positive Discipline suggests creating a MORNING ROUTINE CHART for (and with) your kiddos. Here’s one way to roll it out:

  • Gather needed supplies: camera or smart phone, poster board, glue, scissors, stickers, markers, and any other art/decorating materials.
  • Plan a family meeting time with all members present and an hour or so of open time.
  • Start by asking your kids, “Would you be willing to help us come up with a way to make mornings fun and easy?” Then create a list of things that need to get done before leaving in the morning (let your kids create this list, and chime in only at the end to add in anything they may have left out – you might say, “What about brushing our teeth? Should that be on the list?”)
  • Once you have your list, have fun “pretending” to do all the things on the list, and take a picture of each one.
  • Print out or develop your pictures (you might need to do these next steps at a different time, depending on the age and attention span of your family).
  • Spend time creating a Morning Routine Chart. Glue the pictures on and decorate the chart – let your kids lead this part too. (Special note: Don’t make the same mistake I did the first time and try to push your agenda and/or your crafting abilities on the chart – this is their chart and they will have much more buy in if it is their creation).
  • Use the Routine Chart as the “boss” – ask kids questions like, “What’s next on our morning routine chart?” or “What do you want to do next on the chart?” – instead of nagging.
  • Try several “practice runs” before school starts to get ready. If you realize you need to add something, this will give you time.
  • Go back and evaluate your routine chart regularly with your kids – how is this working? What do we want to add or take away?
  • Go HERE to read more about different versions of routine charts.

Enjoy! And have a wonderful school year.


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