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Books to Help Kids Cope with Divorce

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+)

The Invisible StringChildren 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+)

Tear SoupWhen 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.

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Stronger Relationships Through Vulnerability

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The Pixar movie Inside Out goes into the head of a little girl, Riley, who experiences her world through the lens of her emotions, each represented by a unique character, Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy and Sadness. Joy is the leader of this group of individual emotions/characters, and works throughout the movie to protect Riley from sad emotions. Finally at the end of the movie, Joy learns that sadness is was pulls people in, and allows Riley to make the connection with her parents that comforts her and helps her begin to manage all the other emotions that are swirling around in her growing brain. That connection with her parents can also be called secure attachment.

Sadness is a primary emotion, and primary emotions are our vulnerable emotions. Sometimes we don’t feel safe being vulnerable, so we mask our primary emotions with secondary emotions. Secondary emotions are the reactions to our primary emotions that are designed to protect our vulnerabilities, so we sometimes use them to put up walls or push others away. This serves an important purpose in situations where we don’t feel safe, but can cause problems when something happens that causes us to feel unsafe with a romantic partner, a family member, or close friend.

If someone we care about does something that hurts us, we might feel sadness, or rejection, or fear, when we are hurting we work to protect ourselves and mask our sadness, rejection, or fear with anger, disgust, or frustration. We lash out to prevent the other person from hurting us more. This behavior starts us on a cycle of pain and protection.

If we can figure out a way to break the cycle, we can rebuild trust and emotional bonds, and regain that sense of comfort and attachment to important people in our life. Just like in the movie, the key to breaking the cycle is to become vulnerable, to express our feelings of sadness or fear. This can begin to change our interactions, and as our loved ones are able to respond to our primary emotions, we are able to be comforted.

The next time your partner expresses anger or frustration or disgust, try to imagine what primary emotion they are experiencing that is being masked, then respond with empathy to that primary emotion. You may be surprised what creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable does for your relationship!

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A List of Surefire Ways to Feel Happier & Fight Depression

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A List of Surefire ways to Feel Happier and Fight Depression
Over the years depression has been steadily increasing in adults as well as children.  So how can we fight these feelings of sadness? How can we help our children?  I recently came across this website that discusses nature and our mood, and why it helps.  It is a very quick read and the website offers a list of ways that we can increase our happiness; each suggestion is backed by clinically proven research.  The source offers specific ideas and things to do for adults as well as for children.  It gives suggestions that can take as little as five minutes of your time, to more extended amounts of time.
Check out his link and get see if there is a something for you to get you feeling good:
http://my.happify.com/hd/nature-makes-us-happier-infographic/?srid=self
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Ask A Therapist: Talk Of Parents’ Divorce Causing Depression

Q: My life was fine until I was in seventh grade, my parents were alright and I had amazing friends, until one night my parents told me and my siblings that my mom was thinking about divorce and how they were constantly fighting that single night brought everything down since then my parents were fighting all the time, my father would get drunk and start talking without knowing he was hurting my feelings, one night he almost hit my sister and my mom that marked my whole life, I almost didn’t make it through eight grade because I would just think about my parents and how their marriage is gonna end. Is not very pleasant to see your mom and dad sad 🙁 Now in my freshman year everything got worse I started to get sad, cry without a reason, I get stress more easy and stuff like that.

Also I’ve been distancing from my friends and I know many people but I’m just used to them being my friends, two of them have boyfriends and they just stick to them like glue and its kind of annoying because we made a promise that no boy will interfere with our friendship but I guess isn’t validate anymore, for them I don’t exist anymore because they also have new friends and they leave in a corner alone. I guess that is also part of my sadness I guess and I also lost interest in things I used to like for example writing, photography, fashion and reading plus I’ve been thing about self-harming but I know that isn’t gonna help. So please answer me. take care 🙂

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Ask A Therapist: I’m So Lonely But I Should Be Happy

Simply put, I’m very lonely.
 I should be happy.  I just graduated college and starting my masters’ degree.  I own my own home. I have a job. I’m very fit. I try to do things that are social, but most of the things I do are by myself because I don’t have friends.
I’ve always had a boyfriend, and finally realized that they were a crutch, so I’ve been single for the past 2 years and concentrated on myself and my education. But being alone night after night and not having anyone to do things with is terrible. I’m considerate and friendly, but I just don’t know how to find friends. Seems like I’ve even lost my mojo in dating. I don’t feel like the person I used to be, and maybe I’m not anymore in a good way, but I can’t figure out why I don’t have any friends and am living a solitary life. It’s so lonely. What can I do?

A: I have more questions than I have answers. How long have you struggled with friendships? Has this been a pattern even when you were younger in elementary and junior high or is this recent? No matter where you live you can find friends. Watch the video for some suggestions for overcoming this loneliness and sadness.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: Low Self-Esteem, Technology Addict, and Fear of Relationships

Q: I feel like nothing I do matters and nobody really understands who I am. Every time I reach out to someone they let me down. I guess they just don’t care. The last few years I’ve taken to locking myself away in my bedroom to read or watch movies; it gives me more enjoyment than people do but I’m always feeling guilty about it too. I’m 19 years old and I’ve only kissed 4 guys ever, and never anything more. I’m afraid and self-conscious and I feel like I don’t get the opportunity to meet boys that other girls do. I know its my fault but its so hard to change, and I don’t know if I really want to be in a relationship anyway; I don’t think I’d be good at it at all. I’m always fighting with my parents, especially my dad; he yells at me a lot. I used to be so afraid of him when I was younger; he has quite the temper and is always criticizing me. My mother constantly nags me to go out more, to find a job, to stop watching so much TV, to eat better, to do more chores, to act older, the list goes on. I often get excited about little things and become quite childish and energetic, but the smallest thing can also send me into a spiral of sadness, anger or  frustration for the rest of the day. Both reactions seem to annoy my family. My few friends probably find it annoying too; if I could stand being thought ill of I’d probably ask  them. I always think if I were prettier or smarter or talented at anything, life would be better. I don’t want to be different or behind; I just wish things were easier. What should I do?

A: Thanks so much for writing in for help. The fact that you are reaching out for advice in this forum means you have some hope that things could be different for you, that you can feel differently about yourself and your life.

What you’re describing sounds like depression: social isolation, insecurities, withdrawing from activities, negative thoughts, hopelessness. First, I want you to go to your physician and have a physical to rule out any physical illness. While you’re there please talk to your doctor about your hopelessness, isolation and fears. See if medication is an option for you. Your tendency to turn toward technology may be a way to numb your emotional pain.

Also, ask your doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist in your area to work on ways to improve your mood, gain self-confidence, and gain relationship skills. You may also want to consider asking your parents to attend family therapy  to improve your family relationships.  Even though you’re 19, it sounds as if  you’re still stuck in experiencing the “childhood” disapproval of your father, and criticism of your mother, and letting those emotions dictate, on some level, how you feel about yourself. The good news is, you can feel differently.

Your family relationships greatly impact how you feel about other relationships.  If you think about your relationship with your dad as the “template” for male relationships, and you experienced him as scary and critical, then it makes sense that you would be hesitant to open up to other male relationships, like friendships and dating relationships.  It makes sense that you’d have only a few female friends, too, because you’ve experienced your mother as nagging and constantly correcting you. She is your model of how to relate to women so you likely may fear disapproval in your female friendships as well. Your therapist can help free you from these patterns so you can experience relationships with others differently, and not as extensions of your parental relationships.

In addition to meeting with your physician and therapist, I’d like to recommend a couple of books to you: “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David Burns and “The Relationship Cure” by Dr. John Gottman. Both books will provide excellent tools and new perspectives on yourself and your relationships.

Thanks again for writing in. Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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