Being a good parent requires a tremendous amount of time, love, and energy, but what happens when a well-meaning mom or dad becomes too enmeshed in their children’s lives? Over-involvement can unknowingly do damage to kids, who then become responsible for their parents’ well-being and happiness. On the other hand, parents who can draw a separation between themselves and their children are emotionally healthier and are actually able to give more to their families.
LCSW Julie Hanks recently discussed this topic on KSL’s Studio 5. Below are some questions she suggested to ask yourself to determine whether or not your kids define you (along with some strategies to help you reclaim yourself if you find that you’ve taken on a little too much):
I have noticed that most parents try their best to teach their children to succeed. Of course we do! All parents want their children to grow into successful happy adults. No parent wants his or her child to suffer or be unhappy. Fortunately, life will always bring struggles and hardship no matter how much we love or prepare our children. Yes, I said fortunately.
When we don’t allow ourselves as parents to struggle, our kids never watch it or learn how to do it themselves. Children can develop the belief that everything has to be okay all the time. “Mom and Dad always have it together, so I should too.” That is an expectation that will surely be met with disappointment and failure. Here are some ways you can help your children expect struggles and embrace them.
Let’s face it: young children lie. They make up stories and often exaggerate what really happened. So how can we encourage honesty in our kids?
LCSW Holly Willard gives us some insight on this topic. She says the age of the child matters. A 3-year-old doesn’t developmentally understand what it means to lie, so this is innocence and we don’t really have to worry about it. When a child is 5-6, his/her mind goes back and forth between fantasy and reality, so we can try to help him/her understand what is real and what is not. By 7-8, it’s time to hold our kids accountable for telling the truth.
Have you ever gotten bad vibes from one of your children’s friends? Maybe you felt like he/she was a negative influence or was causing your son or daughter to be unhappy. It can be hard to know when you as a parent should get involved and when it’s better to just let things be.
I have the pleasure to speak at the Uplift Families Parenting Conference on September 13th. Hosted by Utah First Lady Jeanette Herbert, this exciting event will feature several prominent presenters who will help us learn to develop and celebrate meaningful child-parent relationships. Come and be inspired as we discuss ways to uplift Utah families! Dinner is included.
My presentation will be focused on an area that parents (especially mothers) often neglect…yep, you guessed it! I’ll be tackling the topic of self-care for parents.
Next month, Julie Hanks will be presenting at Affirmation, a conference dedicated to fostering a loving discussion among LGBT Mormons, their friends and family, and the LDS community. The conference is non-political, but is instead focused on providing healing, love, and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.
The Deseret News asked Julie a few questions about Affirmation. Here is a bit of the interview:
Q:How did you get involved with Affirmation? How long have you been associated with the group?
A:While I am not officially affiliated with the group, I am a huge supporter of Affirmation’s mission of inclusiveness, love, and support for Mormon LGBT individuals.
Q: What do you hope to communicate with those attending?
A:I hope to communicate a message that every life is valuable and important. No matter where we are on our life’s journey, God’s love for us is infinite, and Jesus Christ’s Atonement is always available as a source of strength and healing. Too often, we think that we have to do something different or be someone different to be worthy of God’s love, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.
As an LDS performing songwriter and a licensed therapist, I plan to share some of my best-loved songs and words of encouragement based on my experiences working with LGBT individuals and their families.
Q:What misconceptions do you think people have about LGBT Mormons and Affirmation?
A: There are so many misconceptions about LGBT Mormons that it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are a few: that being LGBT is a choice, that you can’t be LGBT and participate in the church, that LGBT Mormons want to leave the church, that many LGBT Mormon who have left the church are bitter and want nothing to do with it. None of those things are necessarily true, and we want to help eradicate these myths.
Many people assume that Affirmation is an activist group that is in opposition to the LDS church’s teaching. Affirmation is about creating and maintaining a respectful and healthy dialogue between LGBT Mormons and the broader LDS community that encourages inclusive attitudes and practices.
The Affirmation conference is on September 12-14. Click here for more details and to buy tickets.
It’s that time of year- time for the kids to head back to school. It can be exciting for kids to see their friends and get back into the school routine again, but it can difficult, too. Some children may even experience “the back-to-school blues.”
Clair Mellenthin, LSCW, recently sat down for a KUTV segment to talk about how parents can help their kids make this transition. Here are a few ideas from her discussion:
Nightly check-ins are a great way to understand how your child feels about going back to school. Every night, ask about he/she feels about the change. If your child is excited, then celebrate! If not, you can help address some of his/her concerns. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open, especially for children who are prone to worry.
Another strategy Clair suggested is to ease your kids into school mode. Parents can have their kids start to go to bed earlier and read a little more every day in the weeks leading up to the first day back. Getting ready for school little by little will help manage the transition.
Once school does begin, parents should check in to see how things are going. If a child still seems to be experiencing the blues, work to identify and solve problems he/she may be having with friends, the teacher, or understanding the school work.
How are YOU helping your kids with the back-to-school blues?
Watch the full video to hear more of Clair’s suggestions.
August is here! Most stores have shelves stocked full with back to school supplies and school employees are beginning to attend meetings and trainings to properly prepare for the 2014-2014 school year. Typically, teachers, parents, and (most) students are thinking ahead, using experiences from last school year in order to make the current school year even better. For most, the school year ended fairly well this year will likely be a relatively easy adjustment.
When Hurt Turns to Anger, Turns to Shame, Turns to Fear: Tips to Start the School Year out Right
It seems to me that every new school year my kids (and yours) face more and more adversity. I often find myself (as a parent) wishing I was better at preparing my children to face bulling, rejection, shameful feelings, and self-confidence issues. My girls and foster children have struggled with these issues. In my research and personal experience, I have found not one thing works on all children, but if I can do my best at consistently being receptive to my children’s emotions, teach empathy, validate feelings, and come up with a way to solve a problem—that works! But first I have to consistently rid myself of my own fears and mirror disappointments and fear in a healthy way. To live well, we must grieve well.
When we are shamed with anger and rage, our underlined emotion or reaction is fear. One fear I will discuss is that of rejection. There is no greater shameful pain of loss than that of rejection. Fear of rejection can result in great loss for anyone. Rejection for someone may mean that they are unlovable or unwanted. When going through a battle of feelings of rejection or loss we (especially children) need social support, feelings of mirrored affection, time, self-talk, and emotional coaching. I will admit, rejection is a hard pill to swallow for me. There is no way to escape rejection or loss in this human life. The important thing is how we deal with it. Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling for success with coaching your child about fear of rejection and bulling.
Fear of rejection is the center of bulling in my eyes. When shame cries out—fear of rejection and hurt screams—and we become a bully, even to ourselves. Many of my foster children bullied and were bullied. Kids and adults sometimes wanted to shame them for their actions and could render no empathy when they were being bullied. Once again, fear of rejection, being left out, being unloved is the root of this pain! Shame or fear does not help children to feel like a worthy person, but understanding and love does. Teach the feeling behind the fear and then strive to help that person change their negative views of themselves.
Validation is number one! First and forth right. This takes TIME. Validate your child’s feelings and concerns. As a teacher, parent, friend, or peer, children need to feel heard and understood, don’t we all. This is a universal concept, but do we really do it? Or are we good at it? I know it takes practice for sure. I have not always been validated in my life and I have had to learn how to do this with my children. In addition, remember to teach your children to validate themselves. People (and the world) are not always going to validate them. So the next thing to teach is self-talk and how to trust and love themselves first so they do not need to bully their self-concept or others.
Stand tall, look confident, tell yourself you are worth it—is sometimes hard to do. Why is that? Are we taught that we should just know that we have worth? It is hard sometimes for an adult to overcome fears and self-talk ourselves to a happier tomorrow, let alone a child. But I also think children now days are very resilient because of parents and caregivers like you that have taught them to stick up for themselves, try a little harder, and be proud of who they are. But some kids just plain and simple have a harder time with self-talk. Research shows children that suffer from ADHD and autism lack skills in self-talk. Yet, I believe like many things, it takes practice. Through therapeutic techniques, these can be taught and improved. Here some ideas. I have used visual aids to help remind kids to rid those bad thoughts that creep in. You can even use a small item (ex. small smooth rock, string, necklace) that they can take to school that remind them that they are special and to self-talk themselves every time they touch it. You can repeat or chant words to yourself while doing an activity like-
“No matter what others say or do, I am still a worthy person.”
“The more I like myself, the more others like themselves.”
“I ______like myself and I am a lovable person.”
“I am special because______.”
Another way to make sure your child’s underlining fear or anger is understood is by teaching skills of recognizing their own feelings. If a child can not recognize what is going on with their body or heart, then they will not be able to regulate themselves. One of my most favorite books is Raising an Emotional Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Phd. Emotional coaching is key in helping your child be more aware of how they are feeling and how safe they feel about their feelings—thus they can self-regulate better. According to Gottman’s research, emotion-coaching parents had children that later went on to be “emotionally intelligent” people. They simply could regulate their own emotions and could calm their heart rate down faster. They had fewer infectious illnesses, better attention, and they could socially relate to others, thus better friendships. When a parent or caregiver help a child cope with negative feelings, such as anger, sadness, and fear it builds bridges of loyalty and worth. Bridges, in my opinion, that will become a foundation of utmost importance for their understanding of their own self-concept.
When hurt, fear or shame turns into rejection of self or others, give your child the tools to combat the bully of the mind or on the playground by giving them comfort, self-talk, and emotional coaching.
Summer is finally here ! Hopefully you and your student(s) are enjoying the break from homework, studying, and worries about school. And isn’t that exactly what summer is for? However, as we psychologists and counselors wrap things up for this year and discuss preparations for the fall, some of our discussions involve how to better support our incoming 8th grade students. This particular jump, 8th grade into high school, has been considered particularly difficult for most adolescents given the age at which it occurs and the importance that the 14 -15 year old mind places on peers and acceptance. In the world today, however, many would argue it’s become even more difficult. Shifting academic demands placed on students contribute to this situation. The shadow of common core and the expectations on our students appears to be ever increasing. How can we, as parents, help our 8th grade students make a transition into 9th grade that is reasonable?