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An Attitude of Gratitude for the Whole Family

Halloween is over and November has arrived. With it comes cooler days, longer nights and the winter holiday season rapidly approaching. This time of year, many of us struggle with feeling there is too much to do and too little time! We may have the desire to have a joyful, relaxed approach to the holidays, yet find ourselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed and even Grinch-like-irritable. If you’re looking for ways to embrace the holiday season with a deeper feeling of joy and connection consider a gratitude practice. 

Research on gratitude shows that people who practice gratitude are happier. How does it work? Basically it’s a way of re-focusing our attention.

Gratitude supports us to focus on what we have, rather than getting stuck on comparisons to others or on what we think might make us happy at some point in the future. 

There are many ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for both children and adults, including writing a thank you note to someone who has contributed positively to your life or keeping a gratitude journal. This year I would like to recommend a family activity. 

A Family Attitude of Gratitude… In a Jar!

Step One: Get your supplies together. As a family, decide on some sort of container to which you’ll all be adding slips of paper for the next few weeks. Gather some small pieces of paper or post-it notes.

Step Two: Find a spot. The home for your gratitude jar should be very visible and accessible to all so that each family member can join in.

Step Three: Choose your time frame. Pick a date to start (maybe Thanksgiving) and a date to end (perhaps the last day of Hanukkah or Christmas day).

Step Four: Let the attitude of gratitude commence. Encourage all family members to write down daily something they are grateful for and why. Consider and encourage writing things you are grateful for that happen within your family. For example, I was grateful when Jimmy offered to load the dishwasher without being asked BECAUSE it gave me a few moments to take a deep breath and relax. On the agreed upon last day, take time to read the gratitude notes out loud as a family. 

Step Five Enjoy. Take a deep breath and notice how you feel!

 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director at Intuition Wellness Center

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Go Under the Behavior Before You Punish

alternatives to punishment

Calm, consistent structure in your home helps your child to feel secure and know what is expected. Ultimately, this will lead most kids to success in most situations. But even the most predictable routines and responses aren’t always enough. Before you start dishinggo under the behavior out punishments, first consider whether your expectations are developmentally-attuned and then… go under the behavior.

Young children are developing abilities to think rationally, to identify their emotions, and to verbally express their thoughts and feelings. Until they develop these skills, kids often express themselves through their behaviors.  In addition to providing developmentally-attuned expectations and consequences to children, it’s helpful to “Go Under the Behavior” to identify what need your child is trying to express.

Go Under the Behavior

What do I mean by underlying need? In addition to obvious needs like safety, nourishment, and sleep, all people also have needs for attention, love, and belongingness. When your child is really pushing limits, consider that she may be attempting to get one of these needs met. For example, a child who just had a baby join the family may regress. We’ve all seen kids seek attention by “acting like a baby” or “acting helpless.” Your child’s regressed behavior may be her way of asking for reassurance that she’s still loved. She’ll likely need more support while your family adjusts to a new family member and no amount of punishment will truly address the underlying issue.

While firm limits and structure remain important, once you go under the behavior and identify the need, it’s a lot easier to be empathic. Meeting the needs of your child proactively will also curb “problem” behaviors before they feel out of control. Ultimately, it will free you up more to enjoy your child.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, LCSW; Wellness Director,  Child & Family Clinician

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Stop Power Struggles, Make Peace with Your Child

Power Struggles

It’s 7:21 am, you have exactly four minutes until you HAVE to leave the house. Your child finally walks to the front door, “ready” to go… with NO shoes. You love them so much, but instantly you can feel your face turn red. You’ve already been nagging them all morning. “Wake up!” “Hurry up!” “Chew with your mouth closed!” And now, they’ve walked out of their room, ready to go, with no shoes! You look at them and say, “Go put your shoes on! We are going to be late again!” Your child cries, “I’m not gonna wear shoes and you can’t make me!” And away we go. Another battle begins.

How many of us can relate to a situation like this? As a result, it may feel like we are always focused on the negative, constantly wasting time and energy, nagging and caught up in power struggles. Maybe it feels like your child is entitled or lacks follow through. Okay, one last question, does it ever feel like you have to walk your child through the most basic daily routines and expectations? The struggle is real!

These issues are extremely common, and a major point of contention among families I support. One set of tools I have always been fascinated by and have witnessed the power of, time and time again, are the techniques and practices presented by Love and Logic. Love and Logic is an approach to parenting built on respect, trust and understanding. I have witnessed minor tweaks in language move mountains even in the most challenging of situations. These techniques are easy to implement, though require intentionality, allowing you to take back your healthy control by neutralizing arguments and using enforceable statements and positive reinforcement. Whether it’s a power struggle with your child about putting on their shoes or addressing the “tornado” your teen left in the bathroom, Love and Logic is an impactful approach worth exploring.

Love & Logic Applied:

A teenager refused to clean their room and is requesting that Mom take them to the mall. This mom’s approach demonstrates enforceable and neutralizing statements.

Teen: “Mom, can you take me to the mall to meet up with my friends?”

Mom: “Sure. As soon as your bedroom is clean, I’d be happy to drive you to the mall.” *this is an example of an enforceable statement*

Teen: “Ugh, Mom, that is not fair. I don’t have time! I need to go now.”

Mom: “Aw, bummer. I hope you can figure this out.”


Teen: “So, can you take me?”

Mom: “I would be happy to, as soon as your room is clean.” *again, using an enforceable statement*

Teen: “I don’t care what you said! This isn’t fair! You never let me do anything!”

Mom: “Sweetie, I love you too much to argue with you.” (walks away) *here we see the use of a neutralizing statement*

There are many ways to learn more about Love and Logic!  If you would like to schedule parent coaching rooted in Love and Logic principals, give us a call or check out a sampling on May 15 at our next Parents’ Heart-to-Heart.

Learn about Intuition Wellness Center’s next Parents’ Heart-to-Heart Series… Love & Logic: Behavioral strategies that support your relationship with your child.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting pediatric professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

Written By: Emily Fenton, LCSW; Child & Family Clinician at Intuition Wellness Center

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Screen Time Takeover: 3 Tips for Busy Families

A little over 6 years ago, I had just reluctantly traded in my basic flip phone for a smartphone. Now? My smartphone practically feels like an appendage. Digital advancements are happening lightening fast. As a result, research on the effects of screen time is struggling to keep pace. This has left most families feeling uninformed and overwhelmed when it comes to creating screen time boundaries.

The truth of the matter is that none of us could have prepared for the epidemic that is screen time in the 21st century. Whether it’s playing a mindless online game, following social media, coordinating a multiplayer video game, or streaming video, there’s something for pretty much everyone. But parents simply don’t have a personal reference point for what it’s like to be a kid in this digital era. None of us were tweens or teens connecting through social media in quite the way that our children are. We didn’t have such instant access to the huge variety of media like children do now.

If you’re like me and other parents, you’ve probably had some desperate moments in search of answers around screen time limits. Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking some of the following questions: what kind of screen time should we be allowing and when? Is it ok to let my child play video games before or between homework assignments? How do I get my kid to get up off the couch? What can I do to get my kid off her phone? How violent is too violent?

While what’s best for your family won’t be the perfect balance for all, there’s a few basic strategies that many families seem to find pretty helpful.

Tips for Battling Screen Time Takeover
  1. Ditch the 2-minute warnings.

    In a recent small study of families with young children, researchers evaluated transitions away from technology (computer, tv, tablets, etc). They determined that the hardest transitions were most commonly associated with the parent giving a “two-minute warning” before ending screen time. Shocking, I know! When the end of screen time was part of a regular routine, it was met with less resistance.  For example, if your kiddo knows that the iPad always goes off once breakfast is ready, then they will be much less likely to resist this transition. Natural endings as transitions were also more successful. For instance, if screen time is stopped at the end of a TV show or after your child has reached the next level in a video game, they will tend to respond more positively than stopping midway through.

  2. Watch with the kids.

    Simply put, engage in the media actively together. For very young children, this can help prevent the language delays associated with screen time. We know that when TV is on, even if it’s just as background noise, families tend to have fewer verbal exchanges a which leads to smaller vocabularies. It’s better to make it an activity with a set beginning and ending that turns it into a springboard for more conversation. That is, use it to develop a common language together that you can reference in later interactions. With planning, you can even use it as a subtle lesson that parallels a situation that your child is working on mastering.

  3. Invest in an alarm clock.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard teens, tweens and parents say that they keep their smartphone in their bedrooms next to them because they rely on it for the alarm clock. It’s a buzzing and binging little temptation that rarely can be resisted, even in the wee hours of the night and many are getting less sleep than they should as a direct result of engaging in late night screen time. I speak from the experience of having had many kids confess in my office when I say that lots of kids aren’t telling their parents when they’re doing this. Make screens inconvenient. Invest in an alarm clock for your teen and make it a practice to dock the phone out of sight at night at least an hour before bedtime. Better yet, as a family, make a commitment to keep all screens out of the bedroom.

This screen time takeover is something that impacts all of us. The battle is ongoing. I’ve identified several moments when I know for certain that it’s impacted my ability to be a present parent. Many other parents report the same. Much of what I’ve learned, came not just from extensive reading on the subject, but also from talking to other parents and trial and error. I encourage you to do the same.

Learn about Intuition Wellness Center’s next Parents’ Heart-to-Heart Series and talk to the experts

Receive 20 FREE STRATEGIES FOR BATTLING SCREEN TIME TAKEOVER Right Now

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting pediatric professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Dr. Brandy Baker, Clinical & Training Director; Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash.

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Talking to Kids About Therapy

January and February are heavy traffic months for us here at Intuition Wellness Center. Many children who are new to us enter through our door for the first time in the early months of the new year and most have had little or no experience in therapy. In those first meetings, many kids shyly admit that they were nervous about their first therapy appointment and they’ll often say that it was because they didn’t know what to expect. Some worry about what others might think about them.

Time and time again, parents ask us how to talk to their children about starting therapy and I’m always pleased to have that conversation, because getting a child started on the right foot sure makes a difference and we love creating that working partnership with parents. Thanks to our team members, Grai Bluez and Meg Beardmore, we now have a handy dandy little Parent Guide for Kids Counseling at Intuition Wellness Center that can be read to or with kids. Here’s a little snippet that I think other professionals might even find helpful, too.

“Sometimes kids come to therapy when problems come up and hang around like uninvited guests, taking up space in their lives and brains. Problems that some kids face are things like too much worry that makes it hard to get things done, anger that makes messes at school or in relationships, or big changes in life that can be hard to understand. Sometimes, there is more than one problem hanging around and that can be a lot for kids to deal with on their own.

Here at Intuition Wellness, we have special people called therapists who work with kids and families. Our therapists will help teach you ways to manage these uninvited guests. We have lots of different kinds of therapists and even a therapy dog.

Now that you know why some kids go to therapy, you might have other questions…” Keep reading here!

It can be an intimidating thing to start therapy services, but we know a lot of children who were nervous at first and now look forward to having a space all their own. In fact, in 2016, nearly 200 children became Intuition Wellness clients! Within minutes of that first meeting, we usually see telltale signs that kiddo is beginning to relax– they sit back a little more comfortably in their seats or ask to investigate a toy in the office; they may get down on the floor with our team therapy dog; they begin to share little bits of their internal world with us through their play or conversation. In every case, we approach children with a goal that takes priority over all others– to create a trusting relationship.

To answer a child’s questions about “Where will I go?” “What will I do?” and “How often will I come?” visit our quick guide.

If you’d like more updates on our services or other activities, subscribe to our newsletter or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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Parenting Tip: Love

Blog HeartLove is an utterly important emotion for the development of children, catalyzing them to create strong healthy attachments to their parents, to others, and improving life satisfaction. That is because humans are social beings that thrive on being and feeling connected to others and there is not doubt that our psychosocial environments impact not only our brain development but also our genes. Our brains and genetics, are hard wired to love and protect our children otherwise our species would have gone extinct. When children do not feel loved, they may be at risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depressive disorders. So here are four ways to show your love for your children no matter what age they are.

  1. Your actions speak louder than your words:
    • So demonstrate that your kid is a priority by behaving in a way that lets them know they are important to you. For example, be present when talking to them by making eye contact or looking at them. You would be surprised how many parents have conversations with their children while distracted on the phone, watching tv, putting on makeup, or engaging in some other activity.
    • Also, if you say you are going to do something, do it! Teens often share their disappointment about their parents not following through on their word. It’s one thing to have to cancel once but when parents consistently don’t follow through, kids may interpret that as not being worthy of love or your attention.
    • Express affection. I know that every family is different in how they express affection whether it’s through snuggles or hugs or kisses or some other manner. The important concept is that you express affection towards your child so that they feel loved and internalize the believe that they deserve to be loved. It is a common pitiful to pull away love from kids when they misbehave, sending them the message that they are only love if they behave in a certain way rather than unconditionally. Instead, try to let them know how you feel but that you still love them. Teach them that one can be angry at someone but still love them very much.
    • Have fun together. Their is much to be said about the importance of laughter and fun. It is a good way to convey the message that they are valued, and have something to offer. It’s also conveys the message that you want to spend time together and enjoy each others company.

Ultimately it comes down to demonstrating to your children that they are important and loved, no matter what, so that they go on to grow up into adults who believe they are worth loving. Remember children believe they get the love they deserve because they don’t no any better or don’t know how love is expressed in other families. So make a commitment to have fun, be present and express love and affection to your children with consistent follow through, as it will impact their whole lives.

Subscribe to our wellness blog for more tips (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

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Parenting Tip: Structure Via Rules & Routine

RulesIt may come as no surprise, but kids can thrive with a bit of structure that gives them a sense of routine and with rules that inform them of how they are expected to behave. Structure is an overarching concept that includes a consistent routine and well defined, individualized rules. Routines help children know what to expect and rules help them understand what is expected of them. I have put together a list of recommendations to keep in mind when developing a structure and rules for your family.

Suggestions for structure:

  • The key to creating a structure is to be as consistent as possible, knowing that you will have to be flexible once in a while.
  • Keep in mind that the younger the child the more “transition” time they will need. For example, if you want your 4 year old to go to sleep at 8, then plan on starting the wind down process about 45-60 before.
  • Teens also need some transition time and so don’t expect them to stop what they are doing the second you ask. Instead, remind them that they have 5 minutes so that they have some time to wrap things up before moving on to the next thing.
  • Try not to over schedule yourself and your kids. For example, enrolling your child in a sport can be a wonderful activity but it can also strain your family time and “rest time” because you’ll end up spending lots of time commuting.
  • Remember to schedule in family fun time so that spending time together becomes part of your routine. If you want to learn more about scheduling family time, read our previous blog on that topic.

Suggestions for rules:

  • When creating rules, keep in mind that family rules are not just rules for the children. In other words, if behaving respectfully is a rule, then the rules are more likely to be followed and successful if the parents model respectful behavior. Read our blog about modeling and its importance.
  • Be inclusive and ask your kids for feedback on the rules you are planning on setting up. Ultimately, the parents have the final say but rules are more successful if the kids have taken part in their creation.
  • Create rules for all your children not just one otherwise that may create family dynamics of unfairness, entitlement, resentment, etc.
  • Lastly, age-appropriate monitoring and loving guidance complete the learning loop by providing children with structure that is consistent with family values.

Subscribe to our wellness blog for more tips (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: Yoendry Torres

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Creating a Behavior Chart that Works!

Behavior ChartI’ve worked with lots of teachers, school staff, kids and families who have either given up on behavior charts altogether or who seem to be losing their confidence in them. Many of my clients support teams have described a disappointing scenario— “She never really took to it” or “He seems to respond wonderfully at first and then loses interest” or even “We had good intentions, but it was really hard to keep it updated.” I’m not suggesting that  a behavior chart is the answer for everything, but I will say that they can be pretty helpful for some kids. And here’s the best part— they can be EASY and FUN! So whether you’re ready to give it another shot or if you’re developing your first behavior chart, here’s our freebie (and a bonus) to you: 5 Tips for Creating Successful Behavior Charts AND Ideas for Rewarding Preferred Behavior

BHchartScreen Shot

For more free printables, advice and amusing musings, subscribe to our blog (see the far right column of this page or, if you’re on your cell, try scrolling to the bottom of this page) or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in working with families and schools on challenging behavioral issues. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

 

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Couples Gridlock – 8 Tips to Improve Communication

Couples Gridlock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite often problematic communication styles are the primary contributors to dysfunction in couples and families, leading to misunderstanding, resentment, and anger towards each other, not to mention gridlock. There are several common problematic communication styles that can be disastrous to any relationship. Here are a few common problematic communication styles that have been found to be detrimental to relationships by renowned couples therapists and researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman:

  • Harsh startup – Arguments starting with attacks using, for example, criticism or sarcasm rather than hearing out the partners options, thoughts, and feelings about a matter.
  • Criticism – Direct attacks to a partner’s character often using disrespectful and offensive words to describe their faults.
  • Contempt – Demeaning one’s partner using sarcasm and cynicism, often time expressing disgust by eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, or hostile humor.
  • Stonewalling – Withdrawing from the conversation in an attempt to avoid the conflict or tune out the partner, for example by turning away.
  • Defensiveness – Denying responsibility for any part of the conflict and instead blaming one’s partner or finding excuses.

Mental Health Implications

According to the U.S. Census Bureau divorce rates have risen from 15.1 million (from a total of 112.6 million married) in 1990 to 23.2 million (from a total of 130.3 million married) in 2009. Besides the higher likelihood of relationship dissatisfaction, separation, or divorce, children are also affected by their parents’ difficulty in resolving conflicts. There is a wealth of research indicating that children’s mental health is negatively impacted by parental discord affecting their psychological health in adulthood. For example, in a Report from the Department of Health and Human Services (2009), it was noted that “marital conflict has been found to elicit negative, aggressive behaviors in children, in both boys and girls” and that “the ability of parents to resolve their conflicts successfully was associated with self-reported levels of anxiety in children (Kerig, 1996). That is, parents who more constructively resolved their conflicts had children who reported lower levels of anxiety.” Moreover, children exposed to parental discord may experience symptoms of anxiety such as racing thoughts, poor concentration, feeling nervous, and sleep problems. Such symptoms may contribute to diminished academic functioning or problematic behavior. The impact on children alone is a compelling reason to improve one’s ability to communicate effectively.

8 Communication Tips

  1. Respect each other – Harsh startups using criticism or contempt will just make your partner more defensive and angry. Instead, set ground rules for arguing; for example, no name calling or sarcasm.
  2. Truly listen and reflect – Listening includes the ability to reflect back and summarize what you heard. So try not to be defensive or think of a counter-argument while listening to the other person speak, instead check in with them to make sure you understood their side correctly.
  3. Be honest – Integrity, or owning up to one’s mistakes or shortcomings, is critical in order to move passed gridlock.
  4. Body language – One’s true intent and emotion is communicated through one’s body language. Just as yelling does not communicate love or understanding, watching TV or talking on the phone while a partner attempts to communicate with you suggests that you are disinterested.
  5. Take a break – When one becomes angry, a number of physiological reactions occurs, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, making it difficult to think clearly or rationally. Take an hour or more to calm down before attempting to repair things again.
  6. Provide solutions – When discussing a problem with your partner don’t just complain about what they are doing wrong, rather come up with what you would like them to do, which would help improve the situation.
  7. Be a team – Many times couples begin to lose sight of their common goal and begin to see each other as rivals. Instead, view each other as team members, refocus goals, and work towards them together.
  8. Seek professional help – It is difficult to see one’s problems objectively from within and seeking outside professional help may allow you to learn and practice healthier communication styles in a safe, confidential setting.

The American Psychological Association has more communication tips specifically geared toward improving communication with one’s children.

Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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