Words From Linda for the New Year

Linda is a therapist with over 30 years of experience in the mental health field. She works as a therapist in Hudson, WI at Collaborative Counseling & Psychology, LLC. She can be reached at linda@collaborativemn.com or 715-808-7200.

Words from Linda……

Auld Lang Syne. The familiar song poses the question, ”Should old acquaintance be forgot?” I sometimes look at behavior and habits as long loved and stroked friends. These “friends” are points of view, reactions, and feelings that recur again and again.

These habits can feel friendly because they are familiar, comfortable, even when the result is destructive and self-defeating.  Patterns in relationships with others and with yourself  can bring you down, weighing on you with pressure and darkness.

Consider shifting your point of view, losing your old “acquaintances” for this year.  Develop faith in yourself, and a belief that things will work out for you, that change is possible.

It’s tough to be patient and hopeful when all seems lost.  By being still, listening to your heart, you are able to focus on new intentions, new ways of interacting with yourself and others, and the way will seem clear, lighter, and full of promise.  Some people refer to these changes and mental shifts as RESOLUTIONS.

So it’s okay to leave old acquaintances behind if they are indeed, blocking you from the opportunity to live your best life, the life you deserve.

Teens Stress and Self-Harm

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Teenage years are a very volatile and unpredictable time in a child’s life. They are too old to be considered children but still too young and lacking frontal lobe development to be considered adults. Frankly many parents are not fundamentally aware of the inherent distinction between the two stages, nor do they realize that they progression from child to adulthood is gradual. At this stage of life their hormones begin to go haywire as they prepare to cruise into adulthood. Often things such as peer pressure, bullying, disagreements, abuse and just plain ignorance can derail this tenuous progression for teens.

At this stage of the life teens require lots of understanding and patience. Teen counseling can be very helpful to ensure that the chosen path into adulthood is navigated effectively. So many things can derail their progress that it’s a constant battle to make sure your words don’t fall on deaf ears. When teens find themselves in untenable situations sometimes they resort to self-harming.

Self-harming may include taking legal and illegal drugs, cutting themselves or engaging in high-risk activities. Self-harming is a coping mechanism for dealing with pain, disappointment, neglect or abuse. When a teen is self-harming it is very seldom that they will share this information with parents or guardians. This is when you know the situation has become untenable and has really pushed your teen to this extreme. Teens usually cut themselves in places that will not be easily visible like the arm and upper thighs that can be covered by long sleeves and pants.

It is paramount these at-risk teens get counseling before their self-harming behaviors lead to a more serious situation like them seriously or permanently hurting themselves or others. Listening is the most important step when undertaking counseling of teens. Most often teens will continue self-harming when they feel that parents are judgmental and hypocritical towards them or lay blame on the teen for situations beyond their emotional capacity.

Tips for parents include being supportive in a nonjudgmental way and take your teen seriously. Never trivialize the situation although you may become frustrated with your teenager. Teens need to know someone is listening and that they have an outlet to air their frustrations and disappointment.

We recommend seeking counseling anytime self-harm becomes evident to have a professional assess the level of support needed to help your teen overcome their difficulty managing the emotions of the teen years.

Searching for Happiness by Linda Butler

So happy! That’s what one of my Facebook friends posted one day. I couldn’t help but wonder…okay, what? She never elaborated.

Linda is a therapist with over 30 years of experience in the mental health field. She works as a therapist in Hudson, WI at Collaborative Counseling & Psychology, LLC. She can be reached at linda@collaborativemn.com or 715-808-7200.

Have you ever had moments of complete happiness? I have. It is so elusive, fleeting and simple. Just as quickly, our mood can change, the happiness gone.

It seems that oftentimes it isn’t connected to an event. That would be just too simple. But instead it’s a feeling of peace, contentment, and the joy of being alive.

Clients are asked to state their counseling goals in writing when entering therapy. Just to be happy, is frequently a goal. It’s my job to operationally define that for them, clarify their expectations for themselves, for others and for the universe. Sometimes it’s figuring out what is in our control and what isn’t, how to take better care of ourselves, or how to recover from a devastating experience. Some of us have chronic conditions and problems that make it hard to be optimistic about life.

In “The Happiness Project” Gretchen Rubin reports that current research shows that “genetics account for 50 percent of the tendency toward happiness; life circumstances such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation and religious affiliation account for 10-20 percent; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.”

As a therapist, this research reinforces for me the idea that people can boost their own happiness just by how they think about themselves and their life. Counseling is an opportunity for guidance and support through those critical decisions that determine your experience in life.

So the comment “So happy!” may have more to do with my friend’s perception of reality than an actual event…might be worth thinking about!

10 Tips For Parenting Through Divorce

Parenting does not come with a handbook and divorce can make parenting even more difficult. Here are my favorite 10 tips to help parents co-parent and support children while separating or divorcing:

          Things To Do:

  1. Think of the co-parenting relationship as something brand new to be built from the ground up.  It’s not the marriage.
  2. Repeatedly assure children that both parents will always love them. Do not assume they know. Tell them again and again.Talk to kids face to face about their feelings about the situation. “Tell me how you’re feeling about our arrangement.  Is anything bothering you?”Let your child talk to you about their positive and negative emotions.
  3. Continue to assure children that they are not the cause of the divorce. Very young children, and sometimes teenagers, believe the world revolves around them and might think they had the power to break up the marriage.
  4. Don’t let guilt motivate parenting.
  5. Maintain as much consistency between homes as possible. (Rules, routines, etc.)Things To Avoid:
  6. Do not say negative comments about the other parent. Do not burden your child with your anger or frustrations.
  7. Don’t have your child send messages to your ex. Anything you need to coordinate or discuss should be done with your ex and not through your child. This will put them in the middle and is stressful for a child.
  8. Never make your child feel like they can not love their other parent. Tuck aside your own feelings and support your child in their relationship with the other parent.
  9. Don’t become overly rigid with parenting time. Be flexible and remember that your child has friends and interests outside of spending time with you and the other parent.
  10. Don’t over-interpret your child’s complaints about the other parent. It is important to listen to your child and to also support them in having a relationship with both you and the other parent.

Adapted by information from Shannon Himango, MA, LMFT ~ Mt. Olivet Counseling Service. Resources: Support Through Divorce by Erickson Mediation Institute and The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons.

 

Parenting: Setting Rules and Expectations

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences. At the same time parenting can also be one of the greatest challenges too. Often parents struggle in figuring out how to set boundaries and rules for their children.This article provides you with some basic skills to get you started in setting rules and expectations for your children.

Here are some of our guidelines for what to do and what not to do.

What to NOT Say or Do (Ineffective verbal messages or actions):

  • “It’s time to take a bath, ok?”
  • “Would you just try to be nice once in a while?”
  • “It would be nice to see your homework done a little earlier.”
  • Allowing children to walk away from a mess.
  • Cleaning up children’s messes for them.
  • Dressing children when they can dress themselves.
  • Ignoring misbehavior in the hope it will go away.
  • Ignoring misbehavior when you’re in a good mood.

What to DO (Firm Limits: When No Really Means No)

  • Keep your words and actions consistent.
  • Send clear signals about rules and expectations.

Keep the focus of your message on behavior

  • (Goal is to reject unacceptable behavior, not the child.)
  • Example: “Stop teasing your brother” rather than “You’re  such a pest!”

Be direct, clear and specific

  • Example: “Be home by 6:00 for supper” rather than “Don’t stay out too late.”

Use a normal, matter-of-fact, voice as much as possible

  • “Non-emotional parenting.”
  • A raised voice conveys loss of control; highly entertaining.

Tell Your Child the Consequences of Not Obeying

  • Natural consequences: “Video game off with no arguing when time is up; or you lose your time tomorrow.”
  • ‘You’re not arguing, are you?”
    • “You choose to _argue, you choose to lose ____”
  • Whatever carries weight currently; technology, sleepovers, Verizon, etc.
  • These are privileges to be earned.

 Follow through on your words with action

  • If a child does decide to test, calmly follow through and take the toy/privilege away.
    • “We’ll try again tomorrow.
    • I know you can do it!”

Children trained with these signals understand what parents mean. They learn to take their parents’ words  seriously and cooperate when asked. The result is better communication, less testing, and less fighting and conflict.

What fills you up?

In life there are so many things that zap our energy. Often we become so busy just trying to get things done that we end up forgetting to fill up the engine. Here I am speaking of doing things that give you energy, instead of take it away.

Often we forget to take time to take care of ourselves when there is so much to be done to take care of everyone and everything else. Today I am challenging you to think about what you can do to fill yourself up with energy.

Mental Energy Enhancers

  • Reading a book or listening to a book on tape
  • Spending time with friends and family who are positive
  • Managing your money well
  • Keeping your home, office and care neat and clean
  • Face old conflict and find ways to resolve them
  • Be aware not to become over-scheduled; leave some breathing room and do not overbook yourself

Physical Energy Enhancers

  • Nutritious diet
  • Doing things at your own pace rather than how someone else dictates them
  • Relaxation activities (such as yoga, meditation, massage)
  • A warm bath
  • Lay in the sun for 10-15 minutes
  • Hugs

Spiritual Energy Enhancers

  • Say only what you believe to be the truth (speak your truth without blame or judgment)
  • Do each thing with love
  • Practice being grateful
  • Focus on what you have instead of what you do not
  • Spend time in nature
  • Listen to and follow your inner guidance
  • Say no to things that go against your beliefs

There are many ways for you to refuel your energy levels to help support you in living a vibrant life. If you want help learning to fill yourself up consider seeking counseling.

Click here to learn more.

Talking To Kids About School Violence

With the recent school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut both adults and children are aware and thinking about violence at schools. We have heard many parents say they don’t want to send their child to school and kids are worried about it too.

When significant acts of violence occur, it is important to be aware that some children may react strongly to these types of events. For parents, teachers and therapists it is important to be able to talk to children about their thoughts and feelings.

Here are some tips and guidelines to help be prepared to talk to children about school violence:

  • Be honest. Give children information they can understand in their own level. Help them to understand that while bad things happen to children sometimes, most children will not get harmed while at school.
  • Limit exposure your child has to violent video games, movie, TV, computer and books. Research shows the violent information has a cumulative effect in children. Also do not describe scenarios that may further frighten your child.
  • Monitor what information your child is getting or already has about the recent events. If they are hearing rumors or have wrong information, help them to understand the facts.
  • Be there for your child. Listen to what they have to say. Reassure your child is safe and that you and their school is working hard to keep them safe.
  • Work to manage your own fear and anxiety. Avoid letting your child take on your worries.
  • Give your child information on how to maintain safety through their actions. Provide them with information on how their school works to keep them safe.
  • Try to maintain normal activities and routines.

When difficult situations such as these occur, it can be hard to manage our own worries and those of our children. It is important to remember that school shootings and other acts of violence are very rare.

Change – Both hard and possible.

Change is hard. As almost all people know, it can be really hard to change! When we think about ways to move towards change, some ideas work well and others not so much. Here is a list of routes to change from least effective to most effective (according to Ann Betz, coach and poet).

Some ways we try to make changes:

Ignore the problem – pretend everything is okay, push the feeling aside…

  • This is NOT effective

Control the environment – make sure you don’t encounter stress

  • Helps a little but most stressors are unavoidable at some point

Name your emotion – short venting

  • It’s great to name the emotion, however we still haven’t gotten to problem solving.

Put attention on what’s important – explore what fulfills you

  • Here we get clear on our intent for ourselves and for our lives, this is important groundwork for the next steps!

Reframing – learn to look at things from a new angle

  • Now we are able to look at problems with a bit more objectivity and find new, healthier ways of thinking.

Mindfulness – learn to be in the here and now, get present

Often with depression, anxiety and other issues we are living in the past or the future. Learning to be mindful involves staying present to what’s going on right now. Until we learn to stay present, change can be hard to come by.

Think about the above routes to change and how you can move yourself towards the bottom few ideas. Using these tools will certainly move you closer to the change you desire to help you in grow.

Individual therapy is one way you can get the support you need to make the changes you aspire for. http://collaborativemn.com/individual-therapy/

Increase your child’s confidence.

Many parents ask “how can I make sure my children are confident and successful?”. At the core of a confident person is the belief that “I am able”, “I can do this” or “I am good”. One of the keys to raising confident children is to help children to develop a sense of self-efficacy.

In simple terms, you build self-efficacy through accomplishing things and doing things on your own. To help build this, never do for a child what they can do for themselves. Never is a strong word but if you err closer to never than always you are teaching your child that they can do for themselves, they are capable and they can figure their own problems out.

Children are always making decisions that shape their personality. Decisions become beliefs. Children are making decisions about:

  • Who they are (good or bad, capable or not capable)
  • What the world is like (safe or threatening)
  • What they need to do to survive or to thrive (based on decisions above)

My challenge to you: Try to draw out children’s own sense of resourcefulness. Encourage them to take risks and try things on their own so they can build up a reserve of confidence from all of their successes!

If you have concerns about your child’s self esteem play therapy with a trained professional can help you and your child learn to foster positive self esteem.

Depression versus Mourning.

What is the difference between depression and mourning?

Depression and mourning hold many similarities. Depression has been differentiated from mourning as depression has been viewed as a longer, ongoing sadness that impacts the person’s ability to function effectively in life. Everyone mourns differently; therefore someone in mourning could potentially meet the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. With this in mind maybe we haven’t given enough thought to whether some people who are depressed are grieving some loss…

In a recent conversation with a friend she posed the question to me of whether maybe depression really is a type of mourning. Maybe people with depression are sometimes grieving the way they wish things were. We do know that depressed people tend to view the world in more negative and pessimistic ways; however, maybe it goes deeper.

Maybe the negativity we see in the thinking of depressed people is about their grief and loss of relationships, career dreams, family ideals or visions of success they saw for themselves.

By no means do I suggest everyone who is depressed is grieving or in mourning, however I do believe some people may be…

Ultimately, depression varies in how it develops and presents for each individual. I think the thoughts above remind us to treat each person as an individual. By understanding better those in mourning and in depression we can undoubtedly better help them to overcome their struggles.