Families Together in Tough Times

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Tragedy keeps striking again and again and we need to pull together for ourselves today and the future for our children. The events in Las Vegas following repeated hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may shake us deeply, but we must not let them shatter us.

The first step is self care for the adults in the family. Before you talk to your children, find a way to calm yourself, at least a little bit. Connect with your resources, inner strength and spirituality as well as outer connections. You might pause just to visualize a calm safe place until your body begins to self-regulate. Take some deep breaths. Get out in nature, or at least look out the window or at some nature pictures. Take a walk. Say a short prayer. Sometimes the short version of the Serenity Prayer can be helpful: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Sometimes all you can manage is a simple: “Help!”

When your head is clearer, be sure you have accurate basic information and weed out the graphic or fake news.  Keep the TV viewing to a minimum, ideally recording what you will watch so you can control what you present, especially  for any children under 12. Then go ahead and initiate a conversation with your children.  Better to be the one to bring it up than to wait for other less caring sources to prevail. Your children, if they are 4 or older, may have already heard something and not know what to say or do with the confusing feelings. Keep it short, simple and straightforward. Ask if they have questions. Just answer the question asked.

You may share your feelings if you can do so without drama that will alarm them. Encourage your children to express their feelings in words if they can, but action and art may be easier. They can scribble, squash play-doh, beat a pillow, scream or cuddle in a soft blanket depending on what they need. If they are able to talk, don’t interrupt or disagree. Repeat back, reflecting or paraphrasing what you think you heard them say. Hold them or let them go as they need, not by your need. They may just want to be quiet and rock with you.  Ask what helps them calm down; don’t assume that what helps you will be the same for them. Expect a range of emotions to change over the days but keep an eye out for lasting changes in sleeping, toileting, eating or acting out patterns. Keep your schedule as normal as possible, but also plan to pause being sure to eat together or get out to a park if you can.

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If you’re reading this during a lull between crises, plan ahead now by checking out a resource to review what is age appropriate for your children. One source to consult could be “Talking to Children About Tragedies” by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now, back to the adults: We need each other in times like this. Introverts may need to heal in quiet solitude, then return to provide comfort to others. Extroverts may need to process verbally, thinking out loud while others mostly listen. Some people will curl up and cry; others may clean everything in sight. We may differ about causes and cures. We’ll need patience with each other. Remember, in spite of differences, we’re better together.

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Finding Beauty/ Speaking Good Truth

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As the bee pollinates and produces food and more plants, so we can nourish our children’s souls and bring beauty to their lives and the world. Good delivered consistently begets good. Yet I’m beginning to hear increasing concern about praising children. The often repeated phrase “Good job!” or participation awards regardless of the quality or consistency of participation may indeed become empty and contribute to problems more than strengths. Professors are pointing to research which finds that if we reward children for being kind or generous, they will stop caring for the inherent intangible rewards of helping others and become more mercenary, serving only when it serves their own purposes to earn a badge, go out for pizza or get accepted to a better college.

What I hear though is not a problem with praise, but a longing for authenticity and integrity. We don’t want shallow, meaningless words. We do want heartfelt appreciation. But surely we don’t need to wait for grand moments. Hopefully we can find beauty often in daily moments. I believe it is important for us to notice when our children do something we value and give voice to the positive observations we make. It’s unfair to ignore the good and only criticize; that is hardly likely to encourage the values we hold dear. If no one notices when children make their bed, pick up their toys, or put the backpack somewhere that it won’t be tripped over, why bother? If we cherish our time in the kitchen preparing a meal together or in the driveway playing ball, let’s say so.  If we see when our child shares or stands up for someone vulnerable, they deserve to hear that we noticed and share their values.

The key to praise or simple acknowledgement that nourishes a child’s soul is authenticity. Praise that encourages is specific, noting what the child did well and why we care. Here are some samples: “Thanks for telling me what you want. I noticed how you were able to calm yourself. You have waited patiently and I appreciate that.”  Our tone of voice, smile or touch should be sincere, not fake or distracted. In this way we reduce anxiety and decrease depression. We strengthen attachment and deepen relationships.

It helps if praise comes often enough that our children believe we generally notice their good points and that those qualities come in a variety of areas worth noticing. Praise should not be so rare as to be shocking.   If perhaps we’ve been more critical than kind, our children may perceive us as prickly but beauty can blossom in the relationship.

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We can bring light into darkness.

Renewal Resources

Help Young Children Build Relationships

and Handle Strong Emotions!

A Positive Parenting Workshop:

Short Series/3 Weeks Only

Supporting Parents of Children Ages 2-5

Thursdays January 19, 26; February 2

6:30-8:00 PM

Fees: $50/session/couple

$30/session/individual

Taught by Martha Thorson, LMFT 77527

To sign up call 408-420-7895 or write to thorsoncounselor@gmail.com

Sponsored by Renewal Resources, a non-profit (501c3) public benefit organization

Sliding scale rates available

Finding our way with hope!

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Basketball Reflections

Renewal Resources is a nonprofit, public benefit organization serving our community through therapy, classes, groups, support teams and retreats. We offer care and compassion, strategies and support to nurture your inner resources with hope, meaning and healing. 

 

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Life lived well can be a little like being on a good basketball team. Wouldn’t it be good to know that we aren’t alone, but we are part of something bigger, with purpose and built in support? I’d like to think that there are some people in my life who would be willing to charge into the fray, fearless for me when I’m afraid, furious for me when necessary. It would be great if at least one person in my life somehow towered above the others and could be counted on to catch the rebounds if I don’t make the shot. Sometimes in life, we make that 3 point shot and people start to believe in our potential. Other times we get the fast break, and then trip over our own feet and are crushed. The pressure to “succeed” gets so great we develop depression, anxiety or are tempted to cheat.

We have to be intentional in building the network of our lives much as a coach is intentional in recruiting players with a variety of skills.  We need to build the team of our lives with depth. A good team doesn’t just rely on a few stars, but has strength on the bench, ready to provide respite for the first string or move into play in case of injury. And building a team means contributing to the life and strength of others, not just looking for what they can do for us. Psychologist Alfred Adler believed that personal mental health improves as we increase our social interest. The more we cooperate, encourage others and make decisions in light of the greater good, the healthier we will be. A team that builds each other up, will get better as a whole. A second string player may be able to coach the first string player in chemistry between classes and the game. Life: we’re in it together.

I usually recommend having at least 5 unrelated sources of support–(our own team)-and being an active part of the team for those people. That can be a Herculean task in our increasingly isolated existences amidst the anonymity of urban/suburban living…when just surviving at work or school requires vast hours of time. Still, it can be done. One or two people could be ones with whom we have a lot in common, who are accessible and know how to listen, ideally without giving advice. At least one should be someone from a very different background, with different skills, who can provide a different (perhaps even opposing) perspective from our own to keep us open and balanced, to challenge us. Some might be relatives; some might become the family we choose. It’s very helpful if we have multiple people in whom we can confide in case one is not available; everyone is chronically busy these days. It’s also helpful to have a group in which we participate without telling all our troubles, a place we can go just to serve or have fun. A group provides a buffer against isolation and bullying. A choir, sports team, religious or service group, hiking/cycling club or the like can fill that role.

Finally, being part of a team means being willing to do your own individual work so that when you come to the team, you’re ready. If you’re playing basketball, it means getting in shape, eating right, and practicing shots on your own time as well as with the team. In life it means self-care through diet and exercise, plus meditation, mindfulness, journaling or sometimes counseling. In confidential counseling we can work through the issues that are too embarrassing to tell friends or too heavy because we don’t want to wear out our welcome. We might expect to go for counseling to deal with grief, loss, communication problems or trauma recovery. But just as some private tutoring/coaching helps us become a better team player, counseling can also contribute to our personal growth and ability to enjoy the game of life. Who are we?

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What We Do

Mindfulness Stairs

Renewal Resources is a nonprofit, public benefit organization serving our community through therapy, classes, groups, support teams and retreats. We offer care and compassion, strategies and support to nurture your inner resources with hope, meaning and healing. 

Mindfulness Moment:

Stairway to ???

As you look at the picture above, what do you see? Does it feel like life is an uphill climb or that these are the stairs to an exciting new vista, an opportunity for a great view? Or does it look like the the stairs are descending, coming towards you?

Focus on the stairs … then notice the physical sensations in your body? Do you notice any muscle tension or tiredness? What thoughts pop into your head? Are they more like …”The stairs would make climbing that hill easier.” or “Why isn’t there a hand rail?” Do they feel inviting or intrusive?

Focus on the trees for a moment.  Pay attention to your body again. What do you notice? Any changes in heart rate or breathing rate? Any new thoughts? For some the trees may be lush and rich, comforting representatives of evergreen, ever growing life even when the grass is dry and brittle. For others they may be annoying, in the way, and blocking the view.

Our bodies tell us a lot. They are an early warning alarm of discouragement or anxiety or they can be an indicator of peace. Listen to your body. It’s alert and informative long before the thoughts formulate in your mind. But notice those instinctive thoughts as well. The quick little thoughts often tell us more about ourselves than the well-formed opinions we share with others. Mindfulness often means to just stop and notice. If we become uncomfortable when we stop and notice, that’s important information.

If you notice more tendencies toward depression or anxiety than you’d like to live with, find a skilled professional to walk with you towards the future you would rather live into. If you live or work near Los Altos or Fremont, California, call 408-420-7895 for an initial free phone consultation.

Parent Child Interaction Workshop

Are you struggling to connect well with your child? Often when you interact does it descend into a conflict? Or a power struggle?

Do one or both parents work long hours or have to travel frequently for work? Has your child or someone they love had a long hospitalization or loss in the family?

Have you adopted your child and now struggle to strengthen the attachment?

PCIT is a socially interactive therapy designed to help parents and children play together while receiving in the moment coaching from a skilled therapist. This evidence based therapy supports increasing child cooperation and parent’s confidence in their nurturing, authoritative parenting skills.

Please join us for a 3 week workshop series based on PCIT principles.

Wednesday September 23, 30 and October 7

7-9 PM

Cost: $50/individual; $75/couple

To register: Call 408-420-7895 or email: thorsoncounselor@gmail.com