Archive of ‘Family Time’ category

Tips For A Successful Transition To Summer

The temperatures are climbing, school dismissal bells are ringing, and sandals are reclaiming their rightful place as a wardrobe go-to. Summer is around the corner! While summer is usually associated with fun in the sun, it’s not always popsicles and rainbows. Summer is also a big time of transition for kids and their families. The change in routine and lack of schedule can be challenging for some people. However, this is also a great season for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation – especially after a tough school year like this one has been! Here are some of my favorite ways to make the most of your family’s transition to summer. 

Maintain A Routine

One of the toughest challenges I see is the change in routine for kids and their families. Within a matter of weeks kids go from a structured, time oriented lifestyle to a very loose and non-directive day. This shift in expectations and routine can be tough for kids and teens who thrive on structure, routine, and activity-based schedules. 

Consider maintaining a routine for summer that helps provide some parameters for everyone’s day to day experience. A great way to start this conversation is by hosting a family meeting. Bring the family together to discuss appropriate boundaries for wake up & sleep time, chores, and screen time during the summer. Ask each family member for input and find ways to meet everyone’s needs in agreement. Once or twice a month, consider revisiting this conversation in another family meeting to make adjustments as needed. As the months go on, the needs of the kids may change (and potentially yours will too!) This will help ensure a steady transition from spring to summer, and may make the transition from summer into fall easier as well. Find a local Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator to learn more about the benefits of family meetings and how to incorporate them into your routine. 

Let’s Go Exploring!

One of the highlights of summer is the gift of time! Less time spent in school means more time for extracurricular activities and interests. It can be really hard to weave in hobbies and new activities during the school year. Use this time to get in touch with your inner explorer! 

I encourage families to find ways to try new things over the summer to break up the monotony of long unstructured days. It’s a great time for kids to explore new interests they may have. Ask your children if they have any new sports or hobbies they want to try over the summer and enroll them in a class or interest group. It’s an easy way to meet new friends with common interests and help encourage new neural connections in the brain. Another easy way to introduce new things is planning a Staycation in your own city. Maybe there are some cool new restaurants you’ve been wanting to try, or a local park you haven’t had a chance to visit. Take some time to collect ideas of different places or activities and write them on popsicle sticks. Take one or two sticks out of the jar each Sunday to see where the week will take you!

Keep Up With Your Therapy

The kids are out of school, children are taking breaks from our regular routine of after school activities, and adults are taking time off work for fun vacations and day trips. Without the regular stressors of everyday life, keeping your regular weekly therapy may feel a bit unnecessary, right? Actually, it may be the furthest from the truth! Summer is the best time to jumpstart progress and growth, especially for kids and teens. Less stressors means more opportunity for the brain to stay grounded, attuned, and ready for processing. This is a great time for teens to work on emotion regulation, peer relationships, and overall exploration of their mind, body, and soul. It’s so important to model the prioritization of mental health year round, and maintaining regular sessions over the summer is a perfect time to model this self care for yourself and others. 

In addition, summer is a great time to schedule appointments with other practitioners to help coincide with ongoing therapeutic treatment. Summer is the perfect time to explore new treatment modalities or complete in depth psychological assessments. The extra time off from school allows for time for kids to adjust to new medications, build relationships with collaborative practitioners, and develop a plan for success for the upcoming school year. Ask your therapist if they have any recommendations for collaborative care in your ongoing treatment plan. Your therapist should have a list of referrals available for local psychologists, psychiatrists, and dietitians who are ready and able to help work together to create the best treatment plan for you or your child. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, summer is my favorite season. With these tips (and a good amount of Air Conditioning!) it can become yours, too! Incorporating these areas of growth into your life will help ease the transition from season to season, and prepare you for an amazing and bright few months ahead. Consider reaching out to your favorite therapist for support in making summer 2021 the best one yet! 

Written By: Sara Balkanli, LPC-Associate Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S


Once Upon A Year Into the Pandemic…

As we approach this harrowing year-long anniversary of the pandemic, or at least of the collective awareness and general quarantine period of it, it feels important to honor the horror we have witnessed. You might be experiencing the pandemic personally via loss of a loved one, shifting or lost work, social isolation, or perhaps your role has been more of a distant observer, or even seeing it through the lens of survivor’s guilt. Regardless of role or impact, we are currently living inside of an ongoing, slow-rolling, ever-unfolding collective trauma. Using imaginal tools can create some underworld and overworld understanding that is digestible while making personal meaning of this era. While many possible gifts have emerged, of note: the reconsideration of our shrine dedicated to “busy,” and a questioning of our ever-quickening pace; it is fair to say we are living in terrible times. Both Joseph Campbell and T.S. Eliot noted the world as a possible “wasteland,” yet used narrative and imaginal tools as a framework to withstand and even deepen psychological capacity. Campbell duly noted that by using myth we can vitalize ourselves, thereby creating vitality in the world around us (1988).

While there is medicine in creating a “normal” routine and buoyancy where possible, I wonder from a depth psychotherapeutic perspective, how healing it might be for us to incorporate the horror of this time more intentionally. This honors any upset and makes room for collective and personal grieving. Using the tools of the imagination is one way to incorporate the discomforting parts of the pandemic, both personally and clinically. Imagination can be used to meditate horror, or our reaction to horror, which is generally fear. Or it might be channeled to imagine and incorporate alternate endings, thus promoting hope. Equally, it can enable a deeper, storied processing of the events.

Trauma and Imaginal Healing

We know that trauma interrupts critical pathways in the brain that can impact, among many other things, the region that regulates negative emotionality. Through James Hollis’ analytic work and research in Houston, expressive arts were seen to “reactivate those portions of the brain and reinstate growth” (2000, p.9). Donald Kalsched, largely known in the depth psychoanalytic and trauma field, has cohered that the imagination “helps us integrate body and mind, affect and image, conscious and unconscious” (2020). And image is naturally the way we witness fantasy, creativity, and make meaning of the day-to-day world we encounter as a conscious species. 

“There is a mystery about this which stimulates the imagination; where there is no imagination there is no horror.”

– Sir Arthur Conon Doyle

Children teach us that holding space for the horrific can be healing and normalizing. Ask a young child to tell a story and many will quickly turn to the grotesque or the monstrous. They may even laugh while recalling a grim story from a book, or poke with curiosity about a character that gives them nightmares. Before defenses get installed into their hard-drive, so to speak, children are mostly comfortable with shadow-incorporation. Imaginal work offers a relatable, archetypal path to feel into what is dark, as a way to integrate wholeness into our psyches.

Why Honor the Imagination?

Before there was language, there was image and story. We have evidence of this, for one, in archaic cave paintings. It is encoded in our brains to storytell, and recognize patterns of story. We are narrative beings, and images are some of the ways our psyches take in and experience information. We speak in symbol. Our dreams speak in symbol. 

At times, especially in times of grief, language can feel limited. Even our common sayings point to this: there are no words, I am speechless, etc.

In the trauma world, often images are used to first encounter how something may have gotten storied in the psyche. Making use of the imagination which can coalesce and transmute images, somatic sensations, emotions, the ineffable– is a comprehensive way to “meet” what is showing up. 

Imagination is more important than information 

-Albert Einstein

Honoring imagination enables us to tap into our own narrative or the stream of archetypal patterns from the collective unconscious. In this primordial stream, we can encounter recognizable archetypes, or patterns of behaviors, alongside images that might resonate. As a meaning-making species, it can be healing to know that we are familied and recognized in other stories that exist outside of our own heads. We already, perhaps unknowingly, are in contact with archetypes, explored through film, books, video games, and Greek myths. Even our social media platforms respect the human propensity to narrativize as a way to connect, through Stories.

Using fairytales as an example of this work; you might immediately recall a tale that was once treasured as a child. This is one way we can tap into original stories from early life that carry personal meaning. In a fairytale, it is easy to encounter internal or external characters or motifs that resonate with life, relationships, or difficult situations. As Sabrina Orah Mark said recently in The Paris Review: “The reason why fairy tales exist and thrive is because our bodies recognize them like they are our own. Our same blood type. Because we recognize wolfwitchforestkisscursespellmother, the stories latch” (2020). Mark is noting that the stories “latch” because they are archetypal in form and as ancient as humanity. They carry patterns and a common language of relating to, or of rejection, or of horror, pain, beauty, protection. 

What Does Working Imaginally mean?

Working imaginally is flexible and spontaneous. Engaging with inner figures, with archetypal characters within and through myth, narrative, fairytale, etc, is vivifying. For some clinicians, it might mean play therapy, unstructured play, or sand tray. For others, expressive arts techniques are used. Narrative and drama therapies can assist in tapping into image. With depth psychotherapeutic training and a trauma-focus, I tend to use the tools of fairytale analysis, expressive arts, dreamwork, and classical Jungian sandplay as clinical tools.

Meanwhile, I invite you to honor your original images by revisiting your favorite fairytale from youth during this pandemic anniversary. Sit down, really sink into the tale and notice what comes up.

Resources:

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. (1988, June 21). The Hero’s Adventure [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://billmoyers.com/content/ep-1-joseph-campbell-and-the-power-of-myth-the-hero%E2%80%99s-adventure-audio/

Hollis, J. (2000). The archetypal imagination. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.

Kalsched, D. (2020). How the Corona Virus is Re-wiring our imagination [lecture transcript]. 

Written by: Ash Compton, LMFT-Associate, EMDR-Trained Supervised by Susan Henderson, M.Ed, LMFT-S, LPC-S


Building a Strong Long-Distance Military Relationship

I personally didn’t ever expect myself to marry a military soldier due to being afraid of the possible distance. It is emotionally draining being away from your partner for months or maybe even years. No matter how many times the separation occurs, it seems to be just as intimidating. Here are some helpful hints to get in a positive groove with your military spouse or even a long distance partner. 

1. Talk about the upcoming separation

Before it even happens, it’s extremely important to sit together and share what your fears are about the soon-to-be distance. Allow each partner to share without interruption and brainstorm ideas together to make them feel less scary. Throughout the separation continue talking and bringing up new fears and emotions that pop up before they become a bigger problem. 

2. Keep active and stay busy

Whether that’s picking up a new hobby, being outside with nature, surrounding yourself with loved ones, or creating a daily routine, do whatever you can to distract yourself so you don’t feel alone at your own home.

3. Discuss how you will stay in touch

Schedule a daily or weekly time to talk on the phone or video sessions. It gives you a positive part of your day to connect and look forward to together. Even talk about the type of communication you would feel closest to.

4. Continue to make plans together

Plan vacations that you will take together once reunited again. Plan smaller activities you took for granted and want to do together again, such as biking, kayaking, or taking the dog on a walk. This really helps with providing reassurance that life will be back to normal again some day.

5. Kicking it back to pen pals

Write letters to each other and send care packages. Share about your day or how much they mean to you or what emotions are coming up for you as you’re writing. Receiving mail from your partner is a way to make anyone smile and think of you. 

6. Seek support if needed

This could mean staying at a family’s house or seeing friends over the weekends. This could also mean seeking a therapist for an additional safe space to process.

7. Distance gives you the opportunity for the heart to grow fonder

This is the chance to really test your communication skills and prove yourself as a couple. You will learn how to communicate about aspects that haven’t come up before. This distance is also a reminder of the good times and how thankful you are for them.

8. Be flexible and open-minded

The military will control your partner’s schedule and it will be frustrating when you just want to see or talk to them. If you don’t already know, ask and understand why your partner is in the military and how it benefits both of you. 

9. Have shared experiences together

Read the same book or listen to the same music playlists and compare notes and opinions. Use technology to watch movies or shows together or even play games online at the same time. This provides some type of normalcy of being together even if it’s through a screen.

10. Acknowledge this is not easy

This is an experience not everyone goes through and is extremely hard. The best way to get through this time is to work together as a couple. Establish mutual trust, honesty, respect, and remember you are both going through a challenging time. Remind your partner that you love them.

Written By: Sumayah Downey, MA, LPC-Associate, NCC Supervised by Cristy Ragland, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S


1 2 3 4 5 13