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Breathe, Mama

Oh, mama. I see you…  tangled up in a mess of emotions and putting on a brave face for the kids. Closing yourself in the bathroom in an effort to shelter your children from the eruption of emotion that is bubbling and threatening just under the surface. Trying hard to smile and show interest in yet-another-kid-inspired game of pretend even though what you actually feel is nothing. Numbness. Yelling at the kids for being too loud only to realize too late the irony of your actions. Trying desperately to retreat secretly to someplace— anyplace— that they may not find you for three glorious minutes. Breathe, mama. 

Breathe, Mama

http://https://youtu.be/9ClwKL_Ixzg

 

Close your eyes and take a deep breath in, no matter where you are. Let it out. The whole breath.

Breathe in again, mama. Deeply and slowly. And with that breath, feel your stomach expand. Now hold and count. 1-2-3-4. Deep sigh all the way out… push that breath away and let it take just a small part of the stress you’re feeling with it. 

Imagine that stress swirling away from your body– floating away as if caught on a draft. Imagine in your mind’s eye that that stress, like a plume of smoke or a drifting cloud, escapes with your breath through your open mouth. Take another deep breath and hold. 1-2-3-4. And then watch that deep breath drift from your mouth and take with it stress and frustration. Unrest, distress and pain. 

Breathe in compassion, relaxation, contentment… and breathe out stress.

You’ve got this, mama. You are worthy and good. You can do this…

May is mental health awareness month and nestled in the middle is Mother’s Day. There is no shame in feeling your feelings. Breathe. Work on your village. Look for helpers. Acknowledge that being a mother is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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The Bounce-Back Kid: 3 steps to a happy and resilient child

When you ask any parent off the street what they want for their kids, my guess is that at least 9 out of 10 would say they want their kids to be happy. But the way that I dissect that wish in my mind does not equate to kids who are protected from everything, never suffer, and never go through hardships. In fact, a kid who can bounce back from challenges might be the happiest kind of kid. Wouldn’t you agree? 

What’s a Bounce-Back Kid? 

After 9/11, the American Psychological Association (APA) created an initiative to bring public awareness to the concept of resilience. APA (2003) defines resilience as “the human ability to adapt in the face of tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors.” There is a common misperception that resilience is dichotomous— a have or have not— but it’s just not true. Some kids may have the bounce-back of a rubbery bounce-y ball while others’ bounce may be more like that of a tennis ball, but either way, these are kids that demonstrate a pretty high degree of resilience.

Raising a Kid with Bounce

It is true that some kids are just born with a bit more bounce than others. For example, intelligence, which does have some genetic loading, seems to act as a a buffer. Research has also identified several other predictors of resilience, too, that a parent can surely help support.  

Sees the bright side:

A bounce-back kid of the highest degree typically copes using humor. That’s right. Belly laughs aren’t just fun, they’re practical. People who are able to see the bright side of things seem to be able to un-do some of the negativity they might feel after a stressful event. They also happen to be better at gaining support from others. How can a parent support this? Don’t take yourself too seriously. That is, be willing to laugh at yourself. Being able to see the bright side can also translate into gratitude which has gained lots of attention in the last decade as a mood booster. 

Sense of competence:

One of my favorite concepts to teach others about is Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. As a society, we seem to have become uncomfortable with struggle. A growth mindset not only teaches the bright side to struggle, but embraces challenges as a learning opportunity. A bounce-back kid isn’t deterred when the going gets tough. The bounce-back kid is determined because she believes in herself. How can a parent support this? A caregiver who can step aside while a child figures something out, providing support when needed, but not interfering when their child demonstrates developmentally-appropriate struggling, sends an important message. This caregiver communicates to their child, “I believe in you and see you as capable” and this is a lesson that children take to heart.

Social strengths:

A bounce-back kid is a kid who knows that at least one parent cares about her. The warmth of a parent and a health attachment are tied to all kinds of goodness that will result in better emotional regulation and friendship-making skills in a child. How can a parent support this? We know that parents who have social support are more sensitive to their kids and cope better with irritable kids. Yet, parents can be so self-sacrificing. Seek support for yourself. This will absolutely have a positive impact on your parenting and it’s also good modeling to show your children that you’re willing to ask others for support. Secondly, set up times for your child to practice their social skills. If you have a child who struggles socially, set up really low pressure play dates that are sure to set up your child for success— ones that involve a structured activity perhaps and ones with another child who you know is patient and kind. 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated 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.

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Creating Calm by Creating Routines

School is ending and summer’s here! Children are excited and may be looking forward to no homework, sleeping in, and more freedom! As parents you might be worried about what to do to keep your child busy and out of trouble while keeping your own frustration level low. This is a great time to begin to establish a summer routine for your household. Establishing a routine now will also help with transitioning back to school.

5 Reasons Routines Can be Helpful to Both You & Your Kids:

  1. Kids feel less anxious. Routines create predictability. Kids feel less anxious when they can anticipate what’s next. Expectations that are clear and consistent help children to feel safe and secure.
  2. Kids transition more easily. Routines insure that important tasks are completed without the last minute pressure of the clock.
  3. Kids learn responsibility. As kids learn routines they will be able to complete tasks without your help. As they feel successful, confidence grows.
  4. Kids’ nervous system relax. Routines support a calm environment. This saves both you and your child from countless reminders and potential upsets.
  5. Kids receive positive attention. Routines provide opportunities to spend nurturing time together. Routines can provide a touchstone for positive connection.

Tips for Creating Successful Routines

  1. Take time to sit down and decide what routines are most important. It’s best when all caregivers are on the same page.
  2. Make sure that your child is developmentally able to complete the tasks related to the routine.
  3. Let kids know ahead of time that you are planning on putting a new routine in place.
  4. Start with one routine, master it, do it long enough to make it a habit.
  5. Write it down and post it so expectations are clear.
  6. Practice it with your children until they have mastered the routine.
  7. Offer TONS of praise each time your child successfully completes the task.
  8. Stay consistent. Your nerves will be less frayed and your home much more calm. The effort it takes is worth it!

Involving children in age-appropriate chores can also become part of your family’s daily routine. Think your kiddo is too young for chores? Think again! Even a 2-year-old can put dirty clothes in a hamper! A child who makes contributions to the household also gets to experience themselves as a helpful member of the family.

Interested in other ideas to calm your child’s nervous system? Join me on June 19 for a Parents’ Heart-to-Heart:

Parents’ Heart-to-Heart: Help Your Child Calm Their Nervous System

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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Yoga Journey: A personal testimony

When high school senior, Manasa Swaminathan, joined the Intuition Wellness Center team as an intern, she didn’t anticipate the positive changes she would experience in her personal life. However, in her journey to learn more about mental health and wellness, Manasa began a daily practice of yogathat has had a lasting impact. Here’s what Manasa has to say about this…

Yoga. What Does it Mean?

I have often heard the word “yoga” throughout my life– at home, on the tv, at school, and in stores. What does it actually mean? “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to unify.” However, from a philosophical standpoint, yoga’s meaning suggests self-integration of the personality and the awakening of a “higher self.” Yoga, as a science, is a culmination of techniques that allows us to connect with our mind and body.

 

Benefits and My Own Experience.

A regular yoga practice holds numerous benefits. Although I found yoga captivating when I was starting to learn more about it last year, I didn’t understand the meaning and benefits until recently. I have been doing a project at my school on the effects of yoga, art and martial arts on mental health. I have been reading research papers and books and helping Intuition Wellness Center with certain projects pertaining to this topic; however, I never completely understood the essence of yoga until I began practicing it as a part of my own daily routine. Navneet Lahti, LCSW, the Wellness Director at Intuition Wellness, taught me a practice of Kundalini Yoga that is designed to lessen anxiety and stress. I implemented this and a daily art activity in my everyday life and I have witnessed many positive changes.

Within a few weeks after I began practicing yoga regularly I started experiencing better sleep. I’ve struggled with sleep since I started high school.  My sleep schedule has always been shaped by the number of assignments that I had to complete each night. I hypothesize that the reason I’m getting better sleep is because this yoga practice allows me to de-stress and de-clutter my thoughts. I’ve also noticed that I’m better able to concentrate. Due in part to technology, I have a tendency to get distracted which, historically,  has led to procrastination and additional stress. Since I began practicing yoga, I have found that my mind doesn’t drift as much as it used to, which has allowed me to grasp and learn about things at a quicker rate.

The research supports my personal experience. In fact, studies have shown that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. Yoga offers other benefits, too, such as better posture and prevention of digestive problems. I’m not going to lie. Getting into the daily routine of practicing art and yoga was difficult. However, once I began a consistent practice, I have witnessed so many positive changes in my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Written By: Manasa Swaminathan Senior at BASIS– Oro Valley, Student Intern at Intuition Wellness Center.

 

 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs, such as yoga, 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.

 

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Dr. Kacey Greening is Getting Back to Her Roots


It’s hard to find somebody as dedicated to learning as Dr. Kacey Greening. After years of working primarily in college counseling centers, Dr. Greening made a bold move and re-routed her career path back to her original plan: working with kids and families.

And the timing couldn’t have been better. Just as Dr. Greening was launching back into pediatric work, Intuition Wellness Center opened a position for a new clinical team member. Her thoughtful approach to her work, gentle presence, positive attitude, and devotion to ongoing training are just a few of the many ways that Dr. Greening won over the Intuition Wellness team. There’s also a lot more about Dr. Greening to like…

Who is Dr. Kacey Greening?!?

Where are you originally from? I was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Favorite vegetable: Carrots.

What do you do to relax? Some of my favorite ways to relax are hiking and mountain biking, watching college basketball, and spending time with my husband, family, and friends. I also love to cook and bake.

Name an unusual thing that you know how to do that many others do not: I grew up watching my dad compete at his Archery club so I learned how to shoot a bow. It’s a lot of fun and a great stress reliever.

Name a guilty pleasure: Watching my favorite Netflix reruns.

What’s a professional topic that you get especially excited about? I’m a big believer in self-compassion. I practice it daily, many times a day! My hope is that in being kind towards myself it will encourage people to be kinder to themselves too.

What led you to decide on joining the Intuition Wellness team? Working with kids, young adults, and families has been a passion of mine since I started working in this field. Intuition’s mission to inspire others to live in health and joy is consistent with my own philosophy, and I wanted to be on a team with people who share my values. Another key factor that led to me joining the team at Intuition is my colleagues. When I was getting to know the Intuition team, I instantly felt a warmth and a kindness that put me at ease. I was also impressed by their commitment to continued growth and quality services. I remember thinking that Intuition was a work environment where I would be supported and challenged to grow, while also being able to offer support and challenge others to grow.

What if someone is feeling nervous about coming in to see you? Is there something they should know? My personal approach is that everyone needs some support and help from time to time, myself included. Engaging in counseling can be a wonderful form of self-care. I know that for many people reaching out for help, it can take a lot of strength and courage, which is one of the reasons why Positive Psychology is so important to me. I think being mindful of pleasant and meaningful experiences are just as important as being mindful of the areas we’re struggling in. When I provide counseling, I not only try to be attentive to the areas where a person feels stuck, but I try to use their strengths to problem solve and create healthy changes.

What’s something that parents and kids might like to know about your approach? I work very hard to find helpful strategies that are consistent with client and family values. I enjoy using art, therapeutic games, and creative approaches to identify client and family needs and to build a trusting relationship. I also incorporate skills from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Psychology, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Many of the things that are important to me as a person also come through in the therapy room, such as kindness, creativity, and collaboration. When I work with clients and families, I see my role as being on the journey with them and collaborating with them to decide what’s best for them.

For more updates on Intuition Wellness Center’s services and programs, subscribe to our newsletter or pop on over to our Facebook page for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Dr. Brandy Baker, PsyD and Dr. Kacey Greening, PsyD

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8 Ways to Overcome Back-to-School Jitters

It’s not at all uncommon for children to feel some anxiety at the start of the school year. For some children though, it turns into nearly paralyzing fear and gets in the way of them enjoying school. Anxiety is generally a reaction to feeling out of control of a situation.

8 ways you can help your child feel in control and cope well with their return to school:
• Start transitioning into the school year morning and bedtime routine at least a week in advance
• Get to the bottom of the fear by asking them about their “worst case scenario”and determining, together, a plan for handling it
• Discuss what will be the same about next school year (not just what’s different)
• Arrange for your child to have a meet-and-greet with new teachers prior to the first day
• Mark the first day of school on a physical calendar that your child can easily see
• Take your child to practice finding their classroom and opening their locker in advance
• Email your child’s teacher with a list that your child makes that includes questions about their new teacher and what they want their teacher to know about them
• Make the first day fun (write a message on the bathroom mirror, fill their room with balloons, special breakfast, etc)

Visit Intuition Wellness Center’s School Help Pinterest page for other practical ideas for helping your child transition back to school, including: making it a great day, creating gifts for their teacher and getting them to talk about their school day.

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. If you think you need some extra support, call us. We offer parent guidance and a slew of other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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Device-Distracted Parents: You’re Just As Bad As Your Kids!

Despite the fact that I typically consider myself less tech savvy than many of my same-age peers, I’m just as guilty as the next gal when it comes to overindulging in technology and screen time. I am sometimes device-distracted and dependent and it has, without a doubt, impacted the quality of my engagement in the world. To prove it, I’m going to confess: Sometimes I have to practically sit on my hands in order to resist the urge to grab my phone when I hear a buzz or ding and this has occurred during dinnertime with my family; I have gotten lost in a social media feed rabbit hole on more than one occasion for hours at a time and it has sometimes prevented me from getting to bed at a reasonable hour; I have often read junky articles online that did not improve my life or provide me with useful knowledge during times that I’ve set aside to complete work-related presentations and projects; and my biggest confession yet… my smartphone is  sometimes better at getting my attention than my children and I have, at times, wanted nothing more than to retreat into mindless technology in moments that I had set aside to play with my kids. Judge all you want, but I know that I’m certainly not alone in this because I have the great fortune of working with several families who struggle with the same sort of difficulties.

Generally, I interpret these moments as a sign that a parent is tapped out and desperately in need of self care. In my own life, I know that getting lost in technology and social media is unlikely to be helpful to getting rid of my brain clutter or recharging to my best mom self. Caroline Knorr from Common Sense Media wrote a great little article that gives good tips for those of us who would like to resist the screen time spiral. You can find Caroline Knorr’s whole post here and a condensed excerpt below.

5 Simple Ways to Save Yourself from Device Addiction (condensed from Common Sense Media)

  1. Keep a running list of “Things to google later.” Ask yourself what’s critical to know now and what’s just good to know.
  2. Tame your device. Use your phone’s settings to silence alerts, set up a “Do Not Disturb,” etc.
  3. That goes for vibrate mode also. That “phantom vibration” you imagine… it’s a problem.
  4. Get yourself some parental controls. Enlist the help of apps to monitor your use and designate screen-free times.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Turn off that “always on” feeling with a here-and-now focus.

There are some controversial posts out there that argue that limiting adult screen time isn’t necessary. However, recent research is beginning to raise red flags around this issue.  For example, technology use that interferes with parent-child interactions (AKA “technoference”) predicts children’s attention-seeking behavior. There’s still a lot left to learn on this topic and we really don’t know how these device-distracted parent-child interactions will impact the child or the relationship in the long-term, though researchers have been observing these interactions for at least a few years in an effort to gain a better understanding. In the meantime, as with many parenting decisions, your personal values and parenting philosophy continue to be your most important guides when it comes to addressing the screen time issue and determining when and how to limit your own usage. Personally, I’m starting my “google later” list right now.

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. If you think you need some extra support, call us. We offer parent guidance and a slew of other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

You might also pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

Photo courtesy of Kaboompics via creativecommons.org

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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When Your Child Says She Hates to Learn (Part 2)

Now that you’ve identified that your child is a refusal-to-put-in-the-work, acting-up, perfection-or-bust, or seeking-constant-reassurance bright kid (or just a kid with a nose), perhaps you would like some guidance? Last month I talked all about a fixed mindset and how it leads to these unfortunate presentations (and if you haven’t read it, no judgment, but you’ll want to read that post before you go any further). Then I said nothing, not even a single word, about what you could do to help your child. You were left wondering, should I say no to ribbons and trophies? Should I discourage my child from counting the freckles on her ankles? What, Dr. Baker?!? What shall I do to help my child love to learn again?!?

Do you see what I did there? So clever of me to rope you in and then leave you wondering, though I do hope that you signed up for our monthly newsletter as it gave a nice little intro to this post. Wait no longer loyal readers, here’s what you came for…

Super speedy review first!

Fixed mindset is:

A belief that your qualities are carved in stone–that you have a certain amount of talent and that’s that. In a fixed mindset, effort is only for those who can’t make it on talent and success is about being more gifted than others.

Growth mindset is:

A belief that basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through effort– that, while people may differ in initial talents, interests, aptitudes and temperaments, everyone can change and improve through application and experience. People in a growth mindset are able to look frankly at their weaknesses, challenge themselves, learn something hard and stick with it. Effort, finding strategies that work, and seeking input from others are seen as the keys to success.

We ALL have a fixed mindset sometimes. We ALL have a growth mindset sometimes. And in many cases, we have a smattering of both. However, it’s a real service to our children and ourselves to strive for a growth mindset ALL the time as too much of a fixed mindset can literally undo the natural love of learning we were all born with.

Instill a growth mindset:

Talk to your children about mindset. The very act of teaching the difference between a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset makes a difference! Research by Dr. Carol Dweck indicates that telling children about stories of a growth mindset helps them adopt a similar outlook. For an example to share, you might tell your child about some of Dweck’s research on students entering junior high who were matched on grades. Dweck concluded that those with a growth mindset improved their math grades incrementally over the course of their junior high experience while those with a fixed mindset demonstrated worsened math grades by the end of junior high. Another super fun example of how a growth mindset can be beneficial can be found in this little video that I like to show children, especially if they have interest in athletics. Spoiler alert: it includes some friendly banter between olympic runners who seem pretty committed to improvement despite their obvious success.

Model a healthy response to failure. The next time you don’t master something, you have the perfect opportunity to discuss your experience with your child. Struggling to get out the door on time in the morning? Burned the meal at dinnertime? Forgot about a deadline? These are all instances when you can fess up to your mistakes and talk out loud about how you might improve. This normalizes the learning process and reminds your child (and you) that there is always work to be done in order to get better.

Encourage studying to learn, not to memorize. Repetitive review of material to ace an exam is memorization and a lot less likely to stick than true learning of the material such as going over mistakes until you’re sure you understand them. Looking for unique strategies that suit the learner and studying with the purpose of understanding will result in better grades! It should be noted that, for those in a fixed mindset, rather than trying to repair or learn from a failure, they are likely to try to repair their self-esteem by looking for others who are worse.

Allow progress, improved learning tactics, and effort to be the basis for success. Making your 15-year-old daughter’s phone privileges dependent on her getting all A’s and B’s at school may be very tempting given how motivated she seems by her phone usage. One problem with this, however, is that it sets a tone that you value good grades not good study habits and fails to acknowledge that school is a place for learning (and seems to suggest that she should have mastered the subject already). A better strategy? Praise your child for improvements in study habits. Question how she studied and discuss how well those tactics worked for her or help her study and have a conversation about what you notice. Reinforce the work that your child puts into learning (such as attending after school tutoring or asking for additional practice). Don’t emphasize scores, grades, or trophies.

Teach the importance of strategy and goal-setting. Think of a time you were enjoying doing something and then it got hard and you wanted out. Unless you were just in it for fun, chances are that you didn’t have a realistic perspective on the work that it would require. If there’s something that your child enjoys and wants to get better in, help him create realistic, short-term goals for himself and figure out what he needs to achieve it. Consider hiring a coach or tutor and creating a practice schedule. If your 5-year-old son is expressing interest in learning how to write all of his letters by the end of summer, make a plan to introduce 2 or 3 new letters each week and help him map it out on a calendar so he can see his progress toward achieving his goal. Praise his work toward his goals.

Use the word “yet” regularly. People with a fixed mindset thrive when things are safely within their grasp. Depending on a person’s current capacity, this could signal some pretty big limitations. The concept of “yet” is simple. If your child says, “I don’t understand the math…” you add ”YET!” Again, this sends the message that working toward something is the norm and reinforces a value around effort.

Stop saying “You’re so smart.” In fact, re-think labels altogether. Labeling someone as smart actually has a negative impact on them! Likewise, saying things like, “Ben is such an artist” or “Elizabeth is so bright, she got an A without even studying” lead to Ben thinking to himself  “I shouldn’t try too hard, they’ll see I’m not that talented” and Elizabeth thinking “I better not study or they won’t think I’m bright.” Making these sort of statements devalues the effort needed to be exceptional at things and reinforces a fixed mindset.

There you have it folks– 7 things that you can do that I guarantee will help you and your child begin to love learning again. One more reminder also that no one is ALWAYS in a growth mindset. If you’ve been making some mistakes due to fixed mindset issues, you’re one of many. Now that you know these things, put on your observation goggles. You’ll notice lots of opportunities to support a growth mindset in your children. Know also that a lot of this may not feel intuitive since many of us were the victims of empty praise ourselves, but don’t give up just because you haven’t mastered the growth mindset… yet!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. If you think you need more than what this mindset series offered or, if after trying this, you still think your child (and/or those around her) could use some extra support, call us. We offer school success consultations and a variety of evaluations as well as parent guidance and a slew of other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

You might also pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image Credit: Steven Depolo. via creativecommons.org

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My Child Was Exposed to Media Coverage of a Tragic Event… What Can I Do?

With in-depth minute-by-minute coverage of news now literally at our fingertips, it’s impossible to shield our children from the tragedies of the world. While this may be ok in some cases, some children are particularly sensitive. In addition, many parents also worry about desensitizing children to violence and cruelty. If your child is fearful or anxious following exposure to a media-covered event, you may be wondering about how to proceed. For this reason, I offer some tips on how to help your child.

 

Talking to Children about Tragedy:
  1. Be your child’s news source. However you decide to talk about the situation, it’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells them. You want to be the one to set the tone and share the facts. Doing so in a calm and developmentally-appropriate way is important. Give them a break from watching the news even if they are interested in getting the latest developments. When you’re ready to turn on the news again, watch it with them so that you’re available for questions.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. Invite them to tell you anything they may have heard about the situation and how they feel. Try not to ask leading questions. Be prepared to answer their questions, too, but avoid language that will encourage their fear and don’t give more than what they are asking for.
  3. Validate your child’s feelings. Listen to your child and be empathic. It’s important to accept their feelings and let them know it’s ok to feel what they are feeling, but don’t give power to the fear. Help your child understand what they’re anxious about, while sending the message that “we” can handle it.
  4. Be reassuring and realistic. Your child may be fearful because they are worried something bad could happen to them or someone they care about. Reassure them that you are going to help them get through their fear and let them know of any safety measures in place to protect them. Sometimes it may also help to talk through what would happen if your child’s fear came true. For some kids, having a plan in place helps to reduce their uncertainty and worry.
  5. Be consistent. Kids find great comfort in the predictable and usual. Fear of something bad happening can sometimes lead to avoidant behaviors, but avoidance can actually reinforce anxiety. Keep as many things stable as possible and preserve the family routine. Sometimes just spending time with your child may help them feel safer.
  6. Model a healthy response. Let your child see you cope with worry. Kids are very perceptive and they will notice how you manage stress and anxiety. Let your child see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, and feeling ok about getting through it. If you’re having trouble managing your own anxiety, seek support from other adults— family, friends, religious leaders, or a therapist.
  7. Take action. Some children may feel better by taking on a prosocial pursuit in the aftermath of tragedy. Find a developmentally-appropriate activity for them to take action such as sending a card, raising money, or organizing a vigil. Help them see the good that can come out of trauma— heroic events, helpers stepping forward, etc.
  8. Watch for signs. If your child seems to be expressing excessive fear and worry or avoiding their usual places or activities a few weeks after the event, seek consultation from their school counselor or psychologist, pediatrician or a private therapist.

There are a lot of resources for parents and therapists out there who are helping children navigate these stressful encounters. For more resources, here’s our FREE list chock full of clickable links– Download Caregiver Tools: Talking to Children About Tragedy

And, if you are a member of the media, please visit the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network’s tips for covering traumatic events.
Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates 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

Image Credit: Randen Pederson via creativecommons.org

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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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Psychological Hygiene: Here’s what the doctor ordered…

The last time you went to the dentist and she reminded you to floss more regularly, maybe you nodded or giggled nervously, but certainly you didn’t walk out of her office thinking, “What a ridiculous suggestion!” You accepted it as a reasonable recommendation. And when you told yourself, “Self, it’s time to take better care of your teeth,” I doubt that your next thought was, “Gee, I’m so selfish and overindulgent.” Perhaps it’s because an expert told you to do it or perhaps it’s because it’s widely accepted in our culture that flossing is part of a solid oral hygiene routine, but for whatever reason you knew it was the right thing to do.

I’m making no judgments about whether you kept up your oral hygiene commitment. I am, however, making a judgment about our society’s lack of attention to the importance of psychological hygiene– the things that we do (or should be doing) on a regular basis to maintain good mental health. As a society, we seem to be a bit slower to jump on that bandwagon though there are some pretty clear reasons why to pursue it further. Intrigued? Good.

6 things to pay attention to right now for better psychological hygiene:

  • Mindfulness. This is about being in the present moment– the right now– with intention and without judgment. With the fast-paced chaos many of us currently live in, a mindfulness practice is becoming more important than ever. Greater Good in Action and Mindful.org are two great resources for lots of easy activities.
  • Exercise. Admittedly, most of us probably know that exercise is important to our wellbeing, but not everyone knows about all of the psychological benefits. Specifically, that exercise is also effective at treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.  Pair up exercise with mindfulness and you’ve got an especially winning combination that recent research suggests can ward off and greatly relieve depressive symptoms.
  • Sleep. Unhealthy sleep patterns may increase the risk of mental illness and lead to problems with emotional regulation, memory,  and immune functioning. Some great resources for helping a child sleep include the American Academy of Pediatric’s sleep tips as well as our very own handout on getting a good night’s rest.
  • Nutrition. For so many reasons, good nutrition is important to our overall health and we are learning more and more about this every day. It’s far too complicated to get into a detailed analysis of all of the ways that nutrition link to emotional wellbeing, but I’ll offer a few examples. Perhaps most intuitive is the fact that sugar affects mood and may even be contributing to depression and anxiety. We also now know that gut health is directly linked to emotional health. There are also many things that are being added to food and coming into contact with items we ingest (such as the teflon on our pans) that are considered toxins for the brain, particularly in children and have been linked to a variety of behavioral and emotional health problems such as aggression, ADHD, Autism, and other neurodevelopmental issues.
  • Social Support. Hands down, social support is the most important buffering factor in times of stress, adversity and trauma. There are a series of fantastic long-term studies on this topic, which suggest that, for a child, the perception of having at least one invested adult is a significant protective factor.
  • Play. Well, of course! In this wildly hectic world, adults and children alike are becoming workaholics and achievement addicts. It’s not that we can’t get enjoyment from work or school, but certainly a healthy balance is necessary. With the positive psychology movement, we’ve now learned about the importance of awe and the concept of flow, which are sometimes nice benefits of play.

Did you know that first aid for mental health also exists? Yup. It’s a real thing. It’s what you should do if you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis or a metaphorical emotional bruise, scrape or cut. I’d encourage you to read about it also.

Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates 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, 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, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by Yann (talk) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7866365

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Taekwondo Wellness Therapy Group Announcement

TKDKidsFlyerHello,
We have exciting news about a new Taekwondo Wellness therapy group for kids ages 7 and up that will be starting on May 24, 2016 at Intuition Wellness Center. We are currently accepting referrals for kids, teens, and adults who may benefit from an alternative approach to overcoming emotional, behavioral, and social challenges. The cost will be $35 per 60 minute group session. We are a provider for BCBS insurance and group therapy services may be billable. Please note that this can be an adjunct to current counseling services or a standalone service for clients.
Please call 520-333-3320 to register or visit us online to learn more about Taekwondo Wellness therapy groups and other services we provide. Here are two flyers, one for kids TKD and the other for teens and adults TKD. Please feel free to email (contact@intuitionwellness.com) or call (520-333-3320) if you have any questions about Taekwondo Wellness therapy groups. Below is a bit more info about Taekwondo Wellness.

Taekwondo Wellness Difference

What sets Taekwondo Wellness apart from your typical Taekwondo school? We incorporate three distinct services into our classes that are aimed at helping youth, adults and their families improve their mental health and family and peer dynamics. The first key component is psycho-education, which teaches psychological hygiene, coping skills, and social skills. The second key component is parent coaching that helps families improve their communication and interactions with their kids and others. Mindfulness meditation is the third key component, which is incorporated into each session to take advantages of its many benefits such as improved attention span, pain relief, and decreases in anxiety to name a few.

Taekwondo Wellness Core Curriculum

  • Clinical Interview & Treatment Plan: Participants will each be evaluated by one of our clinicians who will help identify mental health needs and treatment plan.
  • Taekwondo Philosophy: Students will learn about the core Taekwondo principles and how yin jang concepts of Taoism can be applied to our daily lives to reach a state of harmony.
  • Poomsae: Students will learn and practice a set pattern of defensive and offensive techniques as a means of improving power, speed, and balance while striving for self refinement.
  • One Step & Self Defense: Students will learn to apply Taekwondo blocking and striking techniques to real-life situations building self-esteem and sense of security.
  • Olympic Style Sparring: Intermediate rank students will learn sparring rules, skills, and strategies of Taekwondo sparring while developing good sportsmanship, coordination, balance, self control, and self-reliance.
  • Board Breaking: Students will learn to focus their minds and overcome fear to achieve feats of strength and build confidence.
  • Physical Fitness: Through rigorous exercises using interval training students will see improvements in their endurance and strength as well as managing their weight.
  • Flexibility Training: Students will practice stretching regularly for improved range of motion not only for higher kicks but for its physical and stress relieving benefits as well.
  • Psycho-education & Mental Training: Students will learn about self talk, goal setting, and energy, stress and anger management in addition to other psychological issues and risk factors.
  • Parent Coaching: Parents observing class will get parenting tips and learn how to manage or redirect unwanted child or adolescent behavior.
  • Meditation: Students will learn and practice mindfulness meditation for its physical and psychological benefits, including stress, pain, and mood management.
  • Body Awareness: Students will became aware of their bodily sensations and the difference between tension and relaxation, as well as, a better understanding of how stress can be stored in the body.
  • Fun: Last, but not least, is fun! Students will laugh, smile, and have lots of fun while practicing Taekwondo. Humor has been shown to have physical benefits such as boosting our immune systems and energy and diminishing pain, in addition to improving mood and relieving stress.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

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Parenting: the anguish of trying hard

Parenting

My blog-writing inspiration often comes from upcoming events and when I realized that World Breastfeeding Week is approaching (August 1st-7th), I was pretty quick to gently and metaphorically shove my colleagues at Intuition Wellness Center out of the way so that I could get my blog-writing on. It also took me no time to find some excellent resources regarding breastfeeding. See?

 

I had planned to write something lovely about early attachment between infant and mother and the benefit of early touch, skin-to-skin contact, and the other wonderful things involved with breastfeeding. But… I couldn’t even get an initial sentence out. Why? Having been privy to many conversations about mother’s guilt, the difficulties with bonding to baby, postpartum depression, the work/home balance, the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding a premature child, milk production issues and so on with many women in particular, well I just really didn’t see how re-hashing the benefits of breastfeeding would help and/or honor the truths of my current client base. They know the benefits, which is why it’s so difficult to let go of preconceived expectations for themselves and why so many felt so awful when breastfeeding or, let’s face it, any number of the other planned parenting methods they tried did not go well.

If you’re a parent or someone who works much with parents, I think you know what I’m talking about. I think you’ll also understand that one of the costs of being a parent is sheer disappointment when we don’t live up to our own (forget society’s!) standards. This is something that Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun: the paradox of modern parenthood, describes as “parent anguish.” In her 2014 TedTalk, Senior says:  

“We feel like if we aren’t trying everything, it’s as if we’re doing nothing and we’re defaulting on our obligations to our kids…. In another era, we didn’t expect quite so much of ourselves.”

So, in homage to all of those mamas and papas who have found parenting to be so much harder than they could have imagined and to those who have felt that parenting served to highlight their shortcomings after a life of many successes, I direct you to a very honest Ted Talk by speakers, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. I discovered this talk some time ago, but it’s one I re-visit sometimes because it speaks directly and truthfully about how difficult parenting can be and everything that people don’t say about bringing new life into the world.

Ted Talk: Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman: “Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos” 

Let me add to this a statement that I say to parents regularly when I am working with their family in my practice, “Perfect parenting doesn’t lead to perfect children.” Children actually benefit from seeing us struggle and make mistakes from time to time. The reparations are invaluable. Please absorb that, Mamas and Papas and other caregivers, and apply it to any feelings of parenting regret you’ve been holding on to. Forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to be human is great modeling for your kids anyway.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in parenting, early attachment, and just plain old frustration. 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 Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Protecting our Most Precious Resource

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Years ago I worked as a therapist in a quiet affluent suburb of Chicago. Little did most people know that tucked away on a side street in a series of unassuming red brick buildings, a teen residential program housed and was home to roughly 30-35 inner city teenagers. These kids had almost all come from a very disadvantaged background and were now considered “wards of the state.” While all unique, the kids in this program all had at least two things in common— they had suffered tremendously in their decade or two of life and they had survived.

I won’t go into their stories, because they aren’t mine to share, but I will say that I still can’t explain how I stomached reading their stacks of case files measured in feet rather than inches and wrought with details of who, when, how, and how much. They pushed me away, sometimes literally and often figuratively. It wasn’t easy to love children who had convinced themselves that they were unloveable, but I loved them anyway and I learned a lot about love from them. I learned about resilience and hope and vulnerability. I still learn from them when I replay our interactions in my mind. Usually, I smile when I think of them, because I remember the times that I came home exhausted from our snowboarding trips or our group art evenings or jumping rope or dressing up in silly costumes. Working with these children was the epitome of a life-altering experience. While I had long been interested in the concept of resilience, the kids that I served in those years were the first of many who utterly and totally embodied the spirit of a bounce-back kid.

Now I work with a very different population in a private practice setting. Most of the families who come to see me have many resources, most of the children live with a biological or adoptive parent or other extended family member, and rarely do the children come to me with stacks of papers detailing their time “in the system.” Most of the kids I see these days have not experienced child maltreatment firsthand, but these kids are bounce-back kids, too. Many have been through tough times— divorce, school challenges, acutely traumatic events, family conflict, self-doubt, friendship difficulties, worry, or sadness. They never fail to impress me.

Whether from a gang-infested neighborhood where violence is the ultimate in conflict resolution or from a quiet cul de sac where tutoring and swim team are the main events, children are deserving of protection and reverence. I urge you, in this month dedicated to Child Abuse Prevention, to think about additional ways to support and preserve childhood.

Here are a few things that you can do to protect children:

  1. Know your resources:
    Be informed about how to report suspected child maltreatment
    See Intuition Wellness Center’s Resource Page for supports
    Search PsychologyToday.com, call your insurance company, or contact us to find a therapist
  2. Offer your financial support:
    Donate to Prevent Child Abuse America
    Designate your income tax return to the Child Abuse Prevention Fund
    Purchase a Child Abuse Prevention Specialty License Plate
  3. Bring attention to the cause:
    Wear blue or pin on a blue ribbon
    Share a story
    Offer education to others
  4. Surround children with safe caregivers:
    Trust your gut if you sense that a caregiver may not be a good fit
    Join a parenting group or take a class
    If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to babysit
    Watch for warning signs

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in cultivating resilience in your child. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-419-6636 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

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Stress & Anxiety: Wellness Tips

Stress Management

According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 18% of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder while only 37% of those receive treatment. Meaning that about 63% of adults affected do not seek out services for treatable anxiety disorders. There are many triggers that increase stress and anxiety such as relationship conflicts, financial hardship, and school or work demands. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report 26% to 40% of workers responding to surveys reported that their jobs were very stressful. That is important because stress and anxiety impairs functioning whether that be academic or occupational, leading to injury or lower productivity. The first step to wellness is becoming aware of your physical and psychological reactions to stress and anxiety. Below are some common signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Headaches or backaches
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds (impaired immune functioning)

Furthermore, scientific evidence suggests that stress impacts your physical health. Many medical conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines
  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • PMS
  • Obesity
  • Infertility
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Skin problems

Wellness Tips

  1. Know yourself – Understanding how you experience stress is a vital step towards identifying what is causing you stress and preparing for or preventing it in the future.
  2. Identify causes of stress – Knowledge is power. Once you know what your triggers for stress or anxiety are, you can take steps to minimize its effect.
  3. Eat healthy – Good physical health promotes good mental health and vice versa. Stressed people tend to overeat or make unhealthy nutritional choices, so choose healthy foods and eat in moderation.
  4. Be proactive not passive – Don’t just sit with your hands crossed waiting to feel better, cope with stress actively by engaging in healthy stress relieving activities such as exercise, art, music, or dance.
  5. Get plenty of Zzzzzz – Poor sleep hygiene can leave you tired and cranky in the morning making you more susceptible to stress, so get the recommended 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
  6. Laugh, it is good for the heart – Laughing produces feel-good brain chemicals that relief stress and promote wellbeing.
  7. Live in the now: Many people experience anticipatory anxiety for something that hasn’t happened or ruminate over past events not realizing that in the actual moment there is nothing stressing them.
  8. Social support – The ability to seek out and have social support has been associated with resilience, the ability to bounce back from stress. There is a reason why humans are social beings.
  9. Seek professional help: When symptoms persevere and begin to impact functioning in other areas of your life such as school or work, therapy has been shown to help.

Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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