Suicide and Depression: How to Talk to Your Kids and What to Watch Out For

Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the United States, with more than 38,000 deaths per year. Suicide is preventable, but predicting who will decide to kill themselves can be difficult.

Nevertheless, there are risk factors and red flags for suicide. Suicide prevention experts suggest that if a loved one exhibits any of these warning signs, it is important to make sure the person is not left alone; remove any dangerous objects or drugs that could be used in a suicide attempt; and seek immediate medical help.

Signs to watch for

According to the American Foundation for Suicide:

  • Talking or discussions about wanting to die
  • Researching ways to kill oneself
  • References to hopelessness or feeling as if life has no purpose
  • Feelings of being trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Feelings of being a burden to others
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Sleep changes; either excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Expressions of rage or a desire to seek revenge
  • Anxiety, agitation or recklessness
  • Extreme mood swings

Suicide is the way that depression, a very serious illness kills.  Just as surely as a heart attack is the way coronary artery disease kills, it is similar with depression.  As with heart disease, there are things a person can do to try to be as healthy as possible.  The disease itself is no one’s fault.

Kids can handle this difficult topic, although it may be hard for you to discuss it. They will have questions, but they will be able to understand the information at their developmental level. Even more, it’s crucial that kids understand mental illness so that they can take diligent care of themselves throughout their own lives.

3 great reasons to tell them the truth of what’s going on:

  1. Kids deserve the truth. Hiding or lying about the facts will almost always come back to bite you and will get in the way of effective communication in your relationship.
  2. Mental health issues run in families, almost all families. It’s necessary to begin explaining these to kids as soon as it comes up so that they have years to prepare themselves and get good, solid information instead of fear and guessing at what to do.
  3. Even if this happened in another family, it will open meaningful conversation and a framework for future talks with your kids and teens. Seeing the pain that suicide causes is important for every teenager to understand.

  

What to say

As with any tough topic you address with your child, be honest, share the facts you’re comfortable sharing, and then pick the one message you want your child to remember from the conversation. For suicide, the most basic fact is:

This person who died suffered from an illness called depression for many years and died of it. For the one message that sticks, see below for some developmentally appropriate age appropriate talking points.

Toddlers to age 6:

Your Uncle was sick from an illness called depression. He died from it, and I’m going to miss him very much. How do you feel about it?

Ages 7-9:

Your Uncle had an illness called depression for many years. He died from his depression. I wish he’d been able to get more help.

For this age group you may be willing, or need, if they will hear from others, to address how he died. If you do, you can simply say. Depression tells a person that the entire world would be better off if they were dead which is untrue. So, he killed himself which was wrong and could have been prevented with some help.  Remember to be age appropriate but honest.

Ages 10-13:

Your Uncle suffered from depression for years. Do you know anything about depression?

Asking a question and listening to the answer will let you know what your child already believes about the topic. You may be surprised what they have heard and allow a deeper conversation with them. You might also need to correct some misconceptions. But if they do not mention suicide, you may have to.

People with very bad depression sometimes try to kill themselves. It’s because this disease makes them feel worthless and awful and makes them believe they will never feel any better which is untrue. They start to believe the world will be better off without them. If they do not get the right kind of help, sometimes they die by suicide.

Teens:

Your Uncle died of suicide. What do you know about depression?

Teens value the respect of being told what’s happening like an adult. Asking what they already know guarantees that you will start a conversation at their level, rather than assuming they know what they do not or frustrating your child with information they already have. Be sure in this first conversation or a follow up to turn the topic to your teen’s feelings.

Do you ever feel that kind of sadness or hopelessness? What would you do if you did?

Many adults are afraid to discuss suicide with teens, fearing it will give them the idea to try it. This fear has been studied and research shows that more discussion is better, not worse. Telling our older kids straight out that we worry about them, that we’d be devastated if they died of suicide, does help!

Depression affects many children and adults. More conversation helps! When faced with this kind of tragedy in your own family, a friend or just an acquaintance, the only good that can come out of it is keeping someone else safe. So, talk, ask, and get help for anyone who needs it.

Scott Casady, MA, LPC

If your relationship with your child or teen is struggling, and you are interested in some additional support, please reach out by contacting us here.  We have talented and skilled counselors that can help you and your family on a journey of peace, balance and quality relationships. 

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

3 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Body Safety

 

As a caregiver, keeping your child safe is an instinctive and lifelong priority – and something that is continually becoming harder to do with all of todays social media networks, electronic devices, and the extensive number of individuals they likely interact with inside and outside of the classroom. As your child progresses to pre-adolescence, adolescence, and young adulthood, it becomes easier to talk about scary, personal, serious, and all-over uncomfortable things and to provide them with information on what to look out for and do if they happen to find themselves in a bad spot. It’s no longer as necessary to tip-toe around wording and facts. However, younger children are naturally more vulnerable and trusting – leading to the question of “How and Should We Explain Body Safety to Them?” Below are a couple of quick tips.

Utilize pre-made resources:

Luckily, there are plenty of books written just for kids on body safety that take the stress out of preparing what needs to be said. Some of the top-rated childrens books on body safety include:

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept – Jayneen Sanders

My Body Belongs to Me – Jill Starishevsky

Everyone’s Got a Bottom – Tess Rowley

Matilda Learns a Valuable Lesson – Holly Ann Martin

Jasmine’s Butterflies – Justine O’Malley

Amazing You – Dr. Gail Saltz

The Right Touch – Sandy Kleven

It’s My Body – Lory Freeman Girard

I Said No! – Zack and Kimberly King

Your Body Belongs to You – Cornelia Spelman

Monitor and restrict online activity:

It’s okay to be the “annoying” or “unfair” parent or guardian if it means keeping your child safe. Although you won’t be able to protect them from everything, think about blocking or enabling parental control settings on websites, interactive video games, and cell phone features that could lead to unwelcome connections and dangerous outcomes.

Ask questions:

Just because kids have been educated about body safety and what to do if they believe someone is crossing a boundary doesn’t always mean that they’ll voluntarily open up about it. Fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anxiety are strong emotions that often accompany the subject. Questions such as “Did you feel safe this week?” or “Did anyone make you feel unsafe this week?” are examples of two easy and short check-in methods.

Julia Vulic, MA, CRC, PLPC, CPT

If your relationship with your child or teen is struggling, and you are interested in some additional support, please reach out by contacting us here.  We have talented and skilled counselors that can help you and your family on a journey of peace, balance and quality relationships. 

5 Quick Tips on How to Renew Your Connection with Your Child

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash
Read below to find out how you can show care and concern, and most importantly LOVE, to your children to help them know they are heard, validated and valued.

It is springtime already! I seems like school just started, and we all had to adjust back into a structured routine.  And now here is a new Spring, and with that sparks a new desire to share experiences and memories with those we love.  However, it is so incredibly easy to keep going with our busy schedules, stay tapped into our social media feeds and continue working on that important project after we are home from work.  We all know that changing our routines and habits is hard work, and we may chose to avoid these changes – so as to not disrupt what seems to be “ok”.   We all desire connection and meaningful relationships, and our kids do too, they crave the love that we have to give.

When I think of Springtime, I sometimes think of a new start, refreshing, hope, and of course the idea of being outside with my kids and with Molly, our Therapy Dog.  I value quality time with my loved ones, and often think about new ways of showing them I am connected to them and want to spend time with them.  I did not realize, at the time, the impact my choices to be intentional with my kids would have on them as adults.  I chose to show them affection, be expectant but loving, create fun ways for them to learn life skills, spend time with them fully attentive to them and nothing else. 

Let’s talk creativity in finding new ways to connect with your child.  When I think of ways to create this for kids, I think about a book that was an important part of my life when my kids were young, “The 5 Love Languages of Children:  The Secret to Loving Children Effectively”, by Gary Chapman, PhD and Ross Campbell, MD.   This book details how children feel love, and ways that we, as their caregivers and adults, can show them that they matter, they are an important part of our family, and that they are loved.

Words of Affirmation

Words are powerful.  We have all had experiences where someone has said something to us that has either evoked a feeling of pride, as well as hurt.  Words do matter.  Give your child compliments, “You worked really hard this week studying for your math facts test”.  “Way to go!! You did it!”.  Send an encouraging text message to your teen, of course with emojis! Brighten up their day with something thoughtful and meaningful.  If this is new to you, start with leaving a sticky note on the mirror, “Have a great day today!”.  Knowing that someone values us, is connected to us, and believes in us affirms not only our humanness, but also our value to our world. 

Quality Time

Time is precious.  Time is so incredibly hard to come by for busy families.  Build times during your week to spend together with no interruptions.  And yes, that does mean without the television on, social media streams (even snapchat!), video games, work emails and anything else that may pose a distraction to your connected time with your kids.  This does not have to involve any cost; take a walk around the block, or play catch in the backyard.  Let your kid know that you want to spend time with, and let your kid pick the activity.  Here is a short list of fun things you can do for 15 minutes and laugh together, and maybe even begin a nice conversation.  It is okay for all of the kids and adults to spend quality time together, in addition to one-on-one time with each child or teen.

  • Play keep it up with a balloon
  • Origami
  • Play a game of Uno or Candyland
  • Make dinner together

Receiving Gifts

Being thought of is wonderful.  When thinking about giving and receiving gifts, we normally think of a birthday gift, or something big and costly.  However, this is not about that! This is more about gifting your affection, attention and attendance.  Of course, you can always give a small material token, such as a toy car, baseball cards or Pokemon cards, slime, phone case, etc., just because.  What the gift is really about is investing in your child in a way that your child understands its value.  Attend your child’s event.  Make your child’s favorite dessert for after dinner (or better yet, make it with them!).  Draw a picture or frame a photograph of a fun and meaningful memory that you and your child share together, and leave it for your child on their night stand, or taped to the mirror. 

Acts of Service

Have you ever felt appreciative after someone did something for you? Kids also love it when someone does something for them, as well.  Helping them with homework, without judgement or expectation.  Helping them with their chores if they are trying, but struggling to complete them.  Or maybe they have had a rough week, and just need a little support.  Ask your kid, “I notice that you are having a tough time.  How would you like me to help you? I am here to help”.  Not only will you be giving of yourself and time, but you are also making a strong emotional connection with your kid that they matter, and you noticed something about them.

Physical Touch

Positive and gentle touch initiates so many reactions in your brain and being.  Children have the same needs, and even more importantly, is this helps with their overall development.  Providing positive touch through facial expressions, hugs, high fives, fist bumps are all examples of some physical expression of love.  Sit on the couch close and read a book together.  Put your arm around your child or teen while walking and talking.  Gentle touches, such as when applying essential oils, laying your hand on their shoulder during a conversation, touching their hand while watching a movie together.  All of these are examples of positive physical touch.  Research about positive physical touch as promoting a secure attachment response, and ultimately a connectedness and a safe base for relationships.

With change, there is usually a struggle.  Try to implement one or two of these this week with your child or teen.  You may notice that your child or teen is pleasantly engaged by your efforts, although you may also experience some resistance.  Be persistent.  Cultivate the relationship you want with your kids.  Take the steps you need to be fully engaged, present and available for your kids.  Model what you want from your kids by expressing through one of the 5 Love Languages.

Teresa Paterson, LPC, LCPC, RPT, CCTP

If your relationship with your child or teen is struggling, and you are interested in some additional support, please reach out by contacting us here.  We have talented and skilled counselors that can help you and your family on a journey of peace, balance and quality relationships. 

How to Help Your Child and Teen with Media Violence

Helpful Tips to Keep Media Violence Less of an Influence with Your Child and Teen

By M. Scott Casady, MA, LPC

To think that there is so much violence in our community where our children can be exposed is staggering.  Statistics reveal that there have been 239 school shootings since 2012. At least 138 people in total have been killed. There have been 17 in the last 45 days of this year alone. You may wonder how to even begin talking about this kind of violence with your kids, and possibly even wondering how to understand what is going on yourself. Give yourself some time to process scary events, before you talk to your kids.  Here are some tips to help you guide your family in viewing and understanding these traumatic events.

  • Limit any screen time. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) recommends children under the age of 6 have limited screen time, and this includes any media related views of school violence and shootings. They also recommend limiting media and screen time for pre-teens and teens – and NCTSN even suggests limiting your own screen time since non-stop exposure to traumatic news can be distressing to adults as well.  There has been research that support prolonged exposure can cause diagnosable PTSD in certain situations.
  • Clear up misinformation. It is easier to limit screen time and media exposure for younger children than your teens, where you have more control over what your child sees.   Do not assume that your children have not heard the news already.  Be honest, and share with them how they are safe at school. In fact, not talking about the shooting may simply magnify the threat in your child’s mind and feed into their fears. Begin by asking what they know. Gently correct any misinformation that your child has heard. Be honest with them and be prepared to honestly answer any questions that your child may have.
  • Reassure. It is important to be honest about the shooting and acknowledge what happened, it is also important to reassure your children that the adults in their lives are working on a daily basis to make things safer, even if they do not see it.
  • Keep your regular routine. Every child reacts to stress and trauma resulting from media exposure differently.  Sticking to your daily routine will help your child feel safer and build a sense of security in their world.
  • Watch for changes in their behavior. Your child may have trouble separating from you, or other caregivers, or experience noticeable changes in their eating or sleeping habits. That is normal.  It is also normal for teens to be more irritable, moody, cranky, or defiant in the weeks following a traumatic event. Generally, these changes will subside in a few weeks.  If the changes you notice are causing significant distress in your child’s academic performance or ability to function at home, please reach out to a professional – early intervention is key to the healing process.
  • Be patient. After a traumatic event, your kids might have trouble expressing themselves or telling you what they want or need. They will need you to have a little extra patience, care and love. They are watching you, and how you respond in these stressful situations.  They need you to be patient not only with them, but also with yourself.

If you would like to know more on how to handle stressful and traumatic events, please reach out to one our trauma informed clinicians.  We are here to help.  To schedule a free 15 minute consultation, click here.

Teaching Technology Responsibility Starts Early

Structuring kids technology time takes work!

By Brittany Talley, MA, LPC, RPT

Parents often ask me about ways to teach responsible use of technology and limit screen time for their children. With technology often provided to children by the school (tablets or computers), it can be difficult to discern the difference between modern homework and a game. The following are some suggestions for teaching children to use technology responsibly. Note: when I say “technology” I’m mostly talking about smartphones, tablets, and computers, but could also include video games and television.

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Before giving your child any piece of technology, talk to them about how you expect them to use it.
    1. Use a technology contract. You can find sample contracts online, or you can create your own. Be sure to include school provided technology in your contract, because even though you may not pay directly for this technology, you will probably be financially responsible if something happens to that tablet or computer.
    2. Let your kids be involved in coming up with the rules. This way they feel invested and like they are a part of the decision-making.
    3. Include realistic consequences if expectations are not met, for example: If you use your phone in school/at the dinner table, I will take it for ____days/weeks. If you plan to use terms like inappropriate or excessive, be sure to define them for kids so that there’s no wiggle room.
    4. Let them know that you are to be given access to their technology upon request, and that you should always be aware of any passcodes.

 

  1. Stay Present: Monitor what your kids are doing on their phones, tablets, televisions or computers.
    1. You don’t have to install spyware or anything like that, but walk/stand behind them and watch what they are doing.
    2. Ask questions. If they are playing a game, ask them about it. Not only does this keep you “in the loop,” it lets your kids know that you are interested in what they are doing.
    3. Institute a “no closed doors” policy when it comes to technology. This means that if a kid wants to close their door for privacy, all technology must come out of their room. Some parents even have the phone charging station in their bedroom, so that phones are “checked-in” at a certain time each night, and “checked-out” every morning. This can keep kids off of phones until the wee hours of the morning when they need to be sleeping.

 

  1. Be consistent: Know in advance how your children will earn or lose technology time.
    1. If you are parenting with a partner, you both need to be on the same page about the consequences.
    2. Post those consequences somewhere in your home so that you can remember them and refer to them if your child is testing limits.
    3. If you set up a rule about phones at dinner, YOU need to respect that rule as well. Our children model our behavior. If they see us with our phones in front of our faces, or if we are consistently telling them, “just one minute while I finish this email,” we are showing them that this is an acceptable way to behave.
    4. Have a way for your kids to EARN technology time. Maybe they have to complete all of their chores, or each chore is worth so many minutes of technology time, and they can earn up to 60 minutes. Again, this is a great way to involve them. Let them decide how they will be rewarded.

 

  1. Use those Consequences! Remember those consequences I mentioned? Get ready to enforce them. Your children WILL break the technology rules. Especially if you are trying these out for the first time. Not because they are defiant, but because they are kids and they push limits, forget, or think they can get away with it.
    1. Set realistic consequences up from the beginning. This make them easier to enforce. Realistic consequences can include: taking the phone/tablet/computer away for a predetermined amount of time, having them earn back their technology by doing a certain amount of chores, or taking away minutes of technology time for each infraction (eg: for each late assignment, they lose 15 minutes of technology time).
    2. Stay calm, but remain firm. Remind your kids that everyone makes mistakes, and that it is ok, but the consequences must be enforced. This is often the hardest part for a lot of parents. Usually because they have come to view the technology as a convenience (your kid can call when they’re ready to be picked up from a friend’s house, or you have a find your phone app that lets you know where they are). It may feel like the consequences are more inconvenient for you as the parent than they are for your kid, but you still need to enforce them.

 

This is just a start, but hopefully these tips will help you teach your kids to have a healthy relationship with technology.

 

Technology Contracts:

Common Sense Media

Safe Kids

Cyberbullying.org

Family Online Safety Institute

The Smart Talk – Interactive

The Importance of One on One Time

How to Get Your Child Interested and Build a Stronger Relationship

by Julia Vulic, MA, CRC, PLPC, CPT

Even to this day, some of my fondest memories include the Thursday night “pizza dates” I used to go on weekly with my dad. Although I was an only child and had plenty of time outside of Thursday nights to develop a strong relationship with him, something about our pizza dates was extra special. I knew that, no matter what was going on each week, I would be able to sit down, relax, and have a meaningful conversation with him without being interrupted by a TV, phone, or another person for that matter. During the hour or two we were out, the stress of work, school, and other responsibilities quickly faded. I truly believe that the tradition we created helped us become closer as a parent child duo, and as friends.

Below are some suggestions for setting up and enhancing your time together:

Find Out What They Like

DO ask your kids what they’d enjoy if you’re unsure. Have them make a list of ideas to go over together if it’s hard to identify and narrow down a specific option. DON’T choose for them or assume you know what they’d like to do. Remember to keep it cost-friendly and convenient, as it will be something you engage in regularly.

Put Away the Phone

DO let your kids know in advance that your time together will be technology free. DON’T, as their parent or guardian, let yourself get distracted by unimportant messages that may come in. There will be time to answer emails, calls, and texts later that night and every other day of the week. The time you carve out with them should truly be focused on them.

Be Consistent

DO try to follow through with the activity you’ve agreed upon every week (or every couple of weeks depending on what’s feasible). Consistency builds trust and enhances your child’s ability to rely on you as a support. DON’T make a habit of skipping your agreed upon tradition unless a true emergency arises.

Create a Safe Environment

DO work on listening to your child without interrupting them, raising your voice, or giving feedback that could be interpreted as hurtful. If they feel judged, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to open-up again. We all need an outlet to relieve stress and get some weight off our shoulders. Your kids will appreciate your ability to listen more than you know and will, in turn, be more likely to talk about potential serious issues with you. DON’T put your own adult concerns onto them or tell others what was talked about unless you really feel that you must.

 

For more information about how to cultivate a relationship with your child, or to schedule a free 15 minute consultation, contact Julia here.

Is EMDR Right for You?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative approach that has been extensively researched, scientifically validated, and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and adverse life experiences.

According to the EMDR International Association, EMDR is an evidenced based therapy that is a popular option for treating adverse life experiences.  It is a type of psychotherapy that allows individuals to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress.  Oftentimes, clients have tried many different approaches, and have had difficulty overcoming the emotional distress, including handling current adversities.  So how do you know if this treatment approach is the right option for you? This video provides examples of how EMDR has helped others.

This approach pays attention to three time periods:  past, present and future, where the focus is given to the past events that have caused the emotional distress.  Clients are taught to handle present distress by developing the skills and attitudes that are necessary for handling future events.  EMDR is an 8 phase treatment approach, spanning 8-12 sessions.  Although this approach is primarily used to treat trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is also effective in treating other concerns.

Other symptoms often treated

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • complicated grief
  • phobias
  • stress reduction
  • sexual and/or physical abuse
  • eating disorders
  • personality disorders

The effectiveness of EMDR

This treatment is effective for adolescents and adults, while still emerging for kids.  EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals.  However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, this psychotherapy approach can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way  (EMDR International Association, How Does EMDR Work? Retrieved from emdria.site-ym.).

As a registered EMDR practitioner, I am here to provide the warm and safe place to help you work through your most difficult adversities and traumas.  If what you have been trying has not been working, this approach may be an appropriate option for you.  Freedom.  Peace.  Hope.  EMDR Psychotherapy provides the release for you to find your healing place and confidence to take your life back.  To learn more about how EMDR can help you, please contact us.  To read more about EMDR, click here.  We are here to help!

M. Scott Casady MA, LPC

3 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Mind and Life This Year

Need to simplify your life, or even your mind?

Clutter and disorganization creates a feeling of chaos.  By finding new ways to simplify your life, you are on the path to finding clarity and balance.  Numerous studies have shown that keeping a clean space benefits more than just your physical health. However, doing so isn’t always easy. With busy work schedules, everyday life tasks, and the various other responsibilities that come with adulthood, the momentum to clean and organize can be difficult to find. Below are three quick tips to simplify your life, and help make your 2018 less jumbled and more enjoyable.

Give back:

Donate old clothes and shoes that have been outgrown or untouched for a lengthy amount of time. This goes for toys and other possessions as well. Chances are, if you have in fact outgrown some of your things, someone else could use them. The act of donating not only feels good, but can benefit certain charities and organizations that you’re passionate about. For example, many of the local Savers stores partner with non-profits like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Epilepsy Foundation. Having a little extra room to breathe is never a bad thing.

Don’t tackle it all at once:

Does the thought of spring cleaning make you want to run and hide? Get a head start and cut yourself some slack by breaking the job down into smaller chores that can be tackled as you please. Instead of dedicating one weekend out of the year to deep clean your whole home, set small goals throughout the year. For example, devote one week to vacuuming, another to dusting, going through a full closet, etc. This way, when spring does come around, you can stress less and have more time to appreciate some of the joys of the season.

Write it down:

If you don’t already have one, head to the store and buy a planner! Taking the whole year into consideration, there may be a lot you wish to accomplish, but without a tangible list readily available to look at, it can be hard to remember what exactly those things are. If you lead an extra busy life, look for a planner with hourly breakdowns under each day of the week to really stay on top of things. If you don’t like working with paper, consider downloading a free organizational app on your phone. Being able to check items off your list is a great feeling and knowing what to expect on a regular basis can help ease worries and calm our ever-racing minds.

For more information or support decluttering your mind and space, or for professional help, contact us.  We are here to help!

Julia Vulic, MA, CRC, PLPC, CPT

5 Tips to Create Family Traditions of Gratitude and Connection

“If we want to be happy, and to raise happy kids, we need to practice gratitude — deliberately, and consistently, or we may end up feeling more entitled than appreciative. When we feel entitled, we often stew about unfulfilled expectations. Entitlement makes us more likely to feel disappointed when we don’t get what we think we want, rather than grateful when we receive something. Disappointment is not a happiness habit. Gratitude is.” – Christine Carter

Now that we have approached this busy Holiday Season, many of us may feel the stress of attending parties, baking, buying gifts, spending special time with family, in addition to managing our typical daily routines.  Finding ways to keep peace and happiness can be difficult during this time of year!

How do we keep this from influencing our children and our connection within the family? Be intentional! Don’t let the Holiday frenzy control your family and leave behind a feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed out, unsatisfied and grumpy.  And even more, don’t let the frenzy steal your family’s joy or your gratitude!
How do you start being intentional and adding an attitude of gratitude? Start by expressing gratitude for what you have, where you are and who you are with.

New research has shown that people who express gratitude are more likely to be happier, healthier, optimistic and more likely to be helpful to others.  They spend less time achieving materialistic items, spend less time being envious of others and less likely to experience depression.

Here are 5 quick and easy ways to integrate gratitude into your families life, while developing connection and happiness:

Count your blessings.  When every member of your family is able to be present, such as at dinner, have every person list at least three things that they are grateful for throughout the day.

Read a book on gratitude together as a family.  Find a book at the library on gratitude and talk about what gratitude means to your family.  Here are some suggested books:

Grateful:  A Song of Giving Thanks, by John Bucchino
Thankful, by Eileen Spinelli
I’m Thankful Each Day, by P.K. Hallinan
The Thankful Book, by Todd Parr

Help your kids write thank you notes to give to someone who has done something for you, said something kind to you, where you can give them the thanks that they deserve.

Make a family thankful tree.  Create a tree out of craft paper, and post to the wall, or use an existing tree in the home.  The tree is representative of the family, and each branch is a member of the family.  The leaves (or craft paper leaves) are each member of the family and their thankful thoughts for the family, family experience or gratitude statement.  Write each item on a leave and attach to the tree.  Share with each other at a special family gathering.

Make a family gratitude jar.  This jar collects all of the memories of things that have happened that someone in the family is thankful for.  Write it down, place it in the jar and save for later.  Find a special time once a month, or on a very special day of the year, to read the memories together as a family.

 

Enjoy and be blessed!

 

 

Four Ways to Connect with your Kids in Today’s Busy World

 

A Family Connected

To connect as a family requires an understanding of what your family needs.  In addition, it also means one understands what demands our busy world is putting on each family member.  Raising kids today is much different than it was for other generations. The expectations that adults have for kids are increasingly more difficult today than they have ever been, as well. Children are expected to follow adult rules, stay on task without exception, only speak when its appropriate, among others. These expectations have cut into the creative and playful opportunities that children need to learn how to interact, communicate and process their world. What happens when there is not enough balance of healthy expectations for children? Children exhibit an increase in energy, often described as hyper, inattentive, argumentative, impulsive, loud, antagonizing, restless, etc. Oftentimes, parents describe the challenges they face with their kids’ behavior as overwhelming, exhaustive, disruptive and families find themselves disconnecting. So, how do families connect with the challenges that are thrown at them every day? Take time to slow down, connect and practice intentional family time. Ultimately, these family connection times can provide the safe place for you and your kids to connect, balance demands, and improve emotional health and family harmony. Here are four ways to establish a solid foundation of connecting with your kids.

Be intentional. Schedule times as a family without media, social media, emails, accepting phone call or texts from others. Be aware of the needs of the family when scheduling activities, outings, sports, classes, etc. If your family feels stressed with the busyness of your schedule, has trouble “winding down”, or if it has been a while since all members of the family have been in the same place at the same time, it may be time to evaluate what parts of the family schedule are not essential.

Be present. Connect, connect, connect. Eye contact, hugs, high fives, smiles. These elements convey interest, connections and intentional presence. Throughout the day, it is not uncommon for each member of the family to experience many experiences or interactions that leave a negative imprint on our thoughts or emotions. Research over the years has shown that for every negative comment or event, five positives need to co-exist to maintain a healthy balance. Let the family be that place of comfort, encouragement and resiliency. Find ways to have fun together, where these connection times happen – and let every member of the family choose an activity or event, or have a say!

Be expectant. Model the behaviors you want from your child. If you want respect, show respect. If you want calmness, model calmness. Find a family mindfulness activity to calm the mind and body, where all members have fun and participate. If you want communication, talk to your kids. Find age appropriate ways to discuss family values, positive choice making and problem solving. Model appropriate content. If you do not want your kids to enact aggression or repeat inappropriate language, limit what your family will allow for viewing and listening.

Be comfortable. Get rid of labels and shame. Lose the need to strive for perfection within your family. Acceptance of self and others provides vulnerability and safety in connection and relationship. Children pick up on other’s emotional energy, especially within the family, and when you can be comfortable in your presence, children will respond accordingly, where connection and relationship can flourish.

Below are some fun, low or no cost, engaging activities that will help provide ways practice and connect:

  • Walks in the neighborhood or park – find things of the same color, shape, size, etc.
  • Create a family vision board
  • Play board or card games
  • Establish a family ritual at family meal times, where everyone in the family tells about something positive and helpful that they experienced that day
  • Have a family meeting each week to discuss upcoming events, needs of each person, check-ins on school, activities, etc.

If you would like more information on how to help your family connect in today’s busy world, or challenged by your child’s behaviors, please call! I would love the opportunity to help you explore creative ways to connect and flourish as a family.

Teresa Paterson, LPC, LCPC, RPT