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

Back-to-School at Austin Family Counseling

Reframing Common Conversations

Woohoo it is time to go back to school! I am sure that many of you parents, guardians, and loved ones of school-aged children are experiencing a complex mix of emotions as the summer wraps up. It is perfectly natural to experience some anxiety regarding issues such as childcare, scheduling, and the overall transition; however, it will be a great benefit both to you AND the children if topics related to school are discussed in a positive manner. I would like to share my tips for reframing/rephrasing these conversations in order to decrease anxiety and motivate everyone to put their best foot forward this school year.

“I am nervous about making new friends.”

Instead try- “Wow I am so excited for you to make even more friends this year! How wonderful it is to have the opportunity to meet new people while still treasuring the memories you have with your current group.” This reframe using positive psychology will encourage socializing without focusing on the possible grief of losing friends. Another tip would be to ask your child to host a playdate at your home with someone new!

“You have to make your own lunch now because you are too old for me to do it.”

Instead try- “I am so proud of your growth and maturity that I am trusting you to make your own lunches now. Ask me if you need some help, but I am confident you will do great.” Some kids are not quite ready to grow up and accept new responsibilities, although it is often necessary, so this reframe emphasizes their strengths. If you let them know you believe in them, then they are more likely to believe in themselves.

“You will need to work extra hard this year because I do not want to see your grades fall behind.”

Instead try- “If the schoolwork seems more challenging this year, remember that most of the other kids probably feel the same way. Do not be afraid to ask your teachers and friends for help because working together is the best way to succeed.” We all want good grades and success for our children, but sometimes the pressure of new teachers, harder courses, and change overall can be too much for an anxious student to absorb. This reframe still promotes hard work in the classroom, but also reminds the child that they are never alone in their worries.

“I cannot deal with all of this; school, you kids, work, and keeping it all together”

I want to preface this reframe by validating that parenting is the hardest job on earth, point blank. Sometimes we say things that are maybe too adult for them to hear and we wish we could take them back, or we get caught up in the moment of our own distress. It is healthy to be honest with your children when you are struggling because then they learn that all humans go through hard times; however, it is important to phrase your statements in a way that the kids will not take personally and internalize as being their fault. Try this- “I am very overwhelmed right now. I will be okay, and do not need you to worry about me. However, I might need a little extra help from you until I feel better. Thank you for being such a good listener.”

If you made it this far, I hope you have a better idea of how to broach stressful topics with your little ones. Nobody is perfect, so please be kind and patient with yourselves if these conversations do not come naturally- all good things take practice! As long as you are willing to learn, then your children will have the motivation to learn from you and grow this upcoming school year. Good luck and have fun 🙂

Written By: Jennifer Sacco, LMSW Supervised by Doran Oatman, LCSW

1 2 3 4 5 84