Most divorcing parents are greatly concerned about how their child will take the big change. Many expect sadness and worry but do not always feel equipped to help the child cope. Understandably, it is hard for moms and dads to offer ample emotional support to their child if they feel overburdened themselves. Parents are typically overwhelmed with grief, anger, financial concerns, residence changes, custody arrangements, and co-parenting issues, to name a few. Yet children cannot put their needs on hold until parents have fully adjusted. So in the meantime, something simple, like sharing a carefully selected book together, may offer some connection and understanding the child needs for that day. The following children’s books have been valuable in my work with child-clients, so I share them hoping they can help others too:
“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst (Ages 3+)
Children whose parents divorce typically experience repeated separations from one or both parents. This versatile book reassures children they can still feel connected even during times apart.
“People who love each other are always connected by a very special string, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love” (The Invisible String by Patrice Karst).
:Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss” by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen (Ages 8+)
When a couple divorces, all family members usually experience grief to some degree. This book tells the story of a woman who makes “tear soup” after she suffers a great loss. She shares some essential ingredients of the healing recipe: feel the pain of loss, accept that it takes time, and recognize that grief is different for everyone.
If your child experiences distress due to parental divorce, call to schedule an appointment with Melissa at Wasatch Family Therapy – 801.944.4555.
While in grad school, I had the opportunity to study the experience young adults are having being single in today’s world. I had particular interest in the topic given that I myself am single and work with single people regularly in my therapy practice. After a year of study and research, I was asked to share what I learned at a regional mental health conference.
Early on in my presentation, a man in the audience (probably mid 50’s) raised his hand and asked, ”so why aren’t you married?” Thinking it was a joke, I chuckled and quipped back with something to the effect of, “That’s a great question, and I’d love to know the answer when you figure it out!” Everyone in the room laughed except for this gentleman. After clearly not answering his question, he fired back more intently: “No really, what’s wrong with all of these single people today? What’s keeping you guys from getting married?” By the looks on the faces of the audience members (a mix of single and married individuals), it was safe to say that the majority of us were taken aback by the question. Realizing that he wasn’t trying to be funny, I did my best to address his question as professionally as possible without becoming emotionally reactive. However, inside I was thinking, “how dare he ask me to defend/expose one of my greatest insecurities in front of this audience?” Another part was able to look past the abrasiveness of the delivery and focus on the underlying issue at hand. Which is, because relationships (or the lack thereof) are so personal, sometimes it’s hard for us to know how to talk about them.
Ironically, the core message of my presentation focused on understanding the experience, pressures, and judgement young single adults face in today’s society. I genuinely believe that my new friend had no malicious intent. Rather, he used poor tact when asking an honest question.
So, in hopes that we can promote more safety/support and less judgement in our conversations, here are 10 suggestions of “things no to” and “things to” say to your single friends:
10 Things NOT To Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch! I’m surprised you aren’t married yet.
2. What about ______? They’re single too!
3. I wish I was single again. Life was so much easier.
4. Maybe you’re just being too picky.
5. Don’t worry, there are always more fish in the sea.
6. Maybe you’re just not putting yourself out there enough.
7. You need to hurry and get married or you won’t be able to have kids.
8. Look aren’t everything-they will change after you’re married.
9. Your time will come. I just know it.
10. You’re probably having too much fun being single, huh?
10 Things TO Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch.
2. Let me know if you like being set up. I know some really good people.
3. Do you want to talk about dating? Or would you rather not?
4. I think you’re great. You deserve to find someone you think is great too.
5. You really seemed to like _______. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out.
6. I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing _________. How is that going?
8. I would really love for you to find someone you’re compatible with.
9. What do you have coming up that you’re looking forward to?
10. I’m headed to ________. Would you like to join me?
It seems that teens are tethered to their phones and they are reliant on them to help them navigate the world. As parents, we look back and wonder how in the world the kids of today would have survived without the buffer of social media. Would they be able to function if they had to speak face-to-face and have regular interpersonal communications without the crutch of a phone, ipad, or computer? Modern teens have grown up in a world where the technological advances of phones and other devices is constantly evolving. Phones and computers are made more intuitive to anticipate the user’s next move, and there seems to be an app for everything. The world is at our fingertips, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. However, with all of these advances in communication, parents and teens still complain that they don’t communicate or understand one another. Why?
Parents say that kids today just don’t know how to carry on conversations or talk to one another without a phone in their hand, and even then, they don’t talk. Look around next time you are somewhere that has a mix of both teens and adults and observe what you see. Is it just the teens on their phones, or are the parents on theirs too? Guess what parents? We are part of the problem! We are using our electronic devices to avoid in-person communication, too. It’s a lot easier to sit and scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or watch a funny video or a Snap than it is to carry on a conversation with an acquaintance.We have become device dependent., and our kids are learning by watching us.
“But, I need to just check this email from work really quick!”
“But, I need to send off this text really quick before I forget.”
“But, I’m using social media to communicate with my kids.”
Obviously, these are all good reasons to use our devices. Life in our world relies on technology, but what is it costing us in our relationships? How can we strengthen relationships and communication with teens in the environment of social media?
Turn It Off
Actively unplug, take the devices off the table, literally, if even for just a few minutes. Eat a meal together, take a walk, hike your favorite trail, anything that enables conversations to happen organically. Giving your child your undivided attention lets them know that they are a priority to you.
Create Opportunities For Connection
Make space for a conversation to happen. Teens are faced with a lot of internal and external pressures, so they need a safe space, emotionally and physically, to vent their stress and frustrations. Teens are learning to self-regulate their feelings and parental support can bolster their efforts by validating what they are feeling.
Listen To Your Children
Don’t just hear them, but really listen to them. Sounds easy right? We are surrounded by sounds, but how often do we really listen? Listening takes practice; it is a skill. We often want to “fix” the problem, but often times advice isn’t the answer. They aren’t asking for the solution, they are asking for us to listen to their struggles. They are asking us to see them as capable of finding their own solutions and supporting them in trying.
So, let’s all put our phones away for a while and talk!
On any given day, kids and teens may feel joy, wonder, disappointment, rage, jealousy, and endless other emotions. Yet, many kids will inevitably learn from parents or peers that “happy” is the only emotion acceptable to express or even experience. “Happiness” in our culture tends to reign supreme as the highest aspiration – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is what we are taught to aim for – what we all deserve.
I commonly hear parents say to their kids:
I just want you to be happy.
“How can you be so down? Just look at all you have to be happy about.”
“Just focus on the positive. You’re dragging everyone down.”
Though these parents have good intentions, their statements might imply that if kids are not contented, they are somehow failing, or that happiness is the only feeling others are comfortable with. Children may respond to these messages by feigning a cheerful disposition and generally suppressing negative feelings to please parents. Unfortunately, suppressing feelings can compromise a child’s psychological well-being and fuel unhealthy behaviors.
Pain is a critical part of the human experience and in most cases, it is healthiest to confront it head on. Encourage children to acknowledge and accept emotions, such as anger or hurt, by using mindfulness meditation strategies. If your child seems overwhelmed by her emotions, encourage her to find a way to express them: talk to someone she trusts, write in a journal, create a work of art, or see a mental health therapist. Let us teach children that no one’s life is solely full of sunshine and that to live fully, we must stand in the occasional rainstorm.
In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the main character Tevye poses the question: “How do we keep our balance?” He replies to his own question with, “Tradition!” After bursting into song with the entire town, he then explains, “Without tradition, we are no safer than a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye was a smart man! He’s right, tradition is important to family development and a sense of personal well-being.
Tradition, however, does not necessarily need to be related to big family celebrations, holidays, or life events. Routine rituals have quite a bit of power in creating “balance” within the family. Summertime is a great time to begin new family rituals! These may include everyday things that involve roles, chores, rules, and family living.
Why do rituals hold so much weight in family life? Because of the feelings they create! Children who participate in family rituals experience buckets of benefits:
A sense of belonging
Better academic success
Understanding of Roles
Feelings of family identity
With the school year wrapping up, why not start some new family rituals today? Here are some ideas:
Dinnertime: Dinnertime is one of the best ways to form new memories, integrate family values and social rules, add a chore, and create connectedness. Allow each member to have a job in the meal prep, such as setting the table, filling the drink glasses, cleaning up, or choosing a dessert (my personal favorite). This is a time for parents to get details on the kid’s day. You can play the game “A Rose and a Thorn” by having each member share one good thing that happened and one negative thing. This opens up opportunities for gratitude, listening and feedback, and validation.
Child Date Nights: Choose one night a week to do something special with your child. This can be a fun way to get to know what your child enjoys or would like to try! Fun activities can include put-put, painting parlors, splash pads, a trip to the zoo, a bike ride, or a concert. Remember, put the distractions away, pay attention, and let your child take the lead!
Library Lolligag: Take a stroll through your local library on a regular basis. Plan on spending time reading together, talking about topics, and slowing down. Even big kids have subjects and books they enjoy! Try checking out the same book your teen does; you may find you have something in common!
Game Night: Frequent game nights teach children social skills in disappointment, competition, and winning. Some games require critical thinking, planning ahead, keeping a “good” secret-to win, and seeing what comes next. Playing together teaches appropriate modeling when the game doesn’t go as planned.
Saying “Goodbye” and “Hello”: Little routines of saying “goodbye” and “hello” opens doorways to connection, disconnection, and re-connection. Think of something that is special to you and your child that is a signature sediment. A hug, a kiss on the forehead, a fist pump (for the tough guys), or even “See you Later Alligator.”
Coming of Age Celebration: Growing up can be tough! A Coming of Age celebration gives permission for change and allows us to embrace growth. Perhaps, even some discussion of family values, expectations, and personal precautions. A small trip with Mom and/or Dad, can be defining in developing a life-map, of sorts. Where the focus is not on physical maturation, but life goals. Considering dating, college, careers, and even hopes of marriage and partnerships.
Saturday Morning Breakfast: A happy morning wake up call to breakfast in bed and watching a favorite kid show may not be so bad. Perhaps, that’s not your style, but a bowl of a favorite cereal in PJs and a morning bike ride might feel more like it. Or maybe choosing a favorite breakfast spot, where everyone can pick what they like and then get on with weekend commitments.
No matter what summer ritual you decide to pick up, remember that it’s about dropping the distractions and filling our summer buckets with memories and connection.
For more insights into creating family cohesion and decreasing family stressors, visit our website at www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com/blog.
By now many of us have become aware of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which is a series depicting the experience of a young teenager who commits suicide. Throughout the series the main character shares the various hurts and traumas she has gone through that leads to her decision to end her life. For many people this has been a troubling show to watch due to its graphic content, which includes a detailed depiction of sexual assault and the process of a completed suicide including the detailed depiction of the character dying through suicide.
Multiple media outlets have highlighted the creators intent to open dialogue surrounding suicide and not to glamorize the process of dying by way of suicide. However, for many the interpretation and impact of the visual content has had varying responses. For some it has been highly triggering and has increased suicidal ideation. For others it has created curiosity and the desire to open communication about suicide.
For all parents even those with the best filters or rules about viewing mature content, chances are your tween or teenager will be exposed to this show in some fashion. Whether viewing it themselves or through interactions with friends and social media, 13 Reasons Why isn’t going away and here are five questions to support you in starting this necessary conversation with your teen or tween.
What do you understand about the show?
Were there aspects of the show that you personally related to?
Is there anything I can do to help support you in understanding the realities of suicide?
Have you ever had thoughts like this yourself? Can you help me understand them?
Is there anything I can do for you?
If you discover your child has struggled with suicidal thoughts or is currently having them, it is important to not dismiss the seriousness of their experiences and these thoughts and to seek out help from licensed professional immediately. Below are resources for parents and children who may be in crisis.
If you feel your child could benefit from further professional help Wasatch Family Therapy is here to serve you.
National Suicide Prevention Life Line 1-800-273-TALK
I recently read an article entitled “Time for a Spring cleaning of the mind” by Jeannette Bessinger.
Because I have never been interested in Spring cleaning my home, I paid close attention to the tips that were given on how to “declutter my emotional space.”
I share these tasks with you along with some ideas of my own, and encourage you to join with me in asking yourself these questions, and reflecting on how you can work towards clearing the emotional junk from your mind.
Mind your own business. Most of us have enough business of our own to tend to. Ask yourself, “If it’s not my business, why am I in it?”
Let go of the need to be right. Ask yourself, Is it more important for me to love and be loved or to be right? Who do you play the right wrong game with? Make a commitment to eliminate the need to play this game with others.
Stop blaming, shaming and complaining. All three behaviors are negative and do not bring joy to your life. Ask yourself, Does my behavior of blaming, shaming and or complaining assist me and others to feel joy and happiness? Continue to remind yourself that these behaviors are toxic and will not improve your relationships and sense of well being.
Stop trying to impress and please everyone. Ask yourself, Will I die if someone disapproves of something that I think, do, or say? Remember you don’t have to do everything and be everything for everyone else. Make a list of 10 things that you can do for yourself and select one to do TODAY. Make yourself a priority. Put yourself on your “To do” list.
Clean up unfinished business. Ask yourself, If not now when will I begin? Pick a task that you have been procrastinating to complete and DO IT TODAY! Eckert Tolle stated, “That which stands in the was IS the way. Beginning is usually the hardest part of the task. Just Begin.
Forgive someone. Ask yourself, Who am I holding a grudge against? Am I being unforgiving as a way to punish them? Remember forgiving others is a gift you give to yourself.
If you’re in the wrong, Make it right. Ask yourself, Have I committed a wrong that I can make right? Follow this admonition,” When you do something wrong, tell the truth, apologize and right the wrong if you possibly can. Owning up means it won’t own you.”
Let go of self limiting beliefs. Ask yourself, Do I believe everything I think? Work towards eliminating the negative self talk you engage in. Use positive affirmations to rid yourself of stinking thinking, such as, I am capable of achieving that which I believe. I am capable of achieving the task at hand.
Let go of perfectionism. Adopt the belief that, “Nothing in life is perfect.” Stop comparing yourself to others and remind yourself that, “It is what it is, and it’s all good.”
Stop mismanaging your emotions. Ask yourself, Am I stuffing my unpleasant feelings down with too much food, or shopping. Remember, that “feelings are like the weather, natural and ever changing.” It is important to take time to acknowledge them, feel them and release them through healthy coping skills.
Only you know which task will be the most beneficial for you to complete. I challenge you to choose a task and begin to work towards clearing the emotional junk from your life. Begin now to “Spruce up your life,” YOU DESERVE IT!