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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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Parenting Tip: Traditions & Predicability

640px-Family_jumpWith the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to bring up the importance of having predicable family traditions. If you’re like most parents, you are busy working, keeping up your home, and chauffeuring your kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. It’s no wonder that busy schedules often leave parents with little to no time to have dates with each other or play games with their kids. As a result, I find myself suggesting to most families who I work with to create traditions, such as “game night” and make them predicable by scheduling them and making those times sacred. It is a no brainer that spending more quality time with your partner and kids will have a positive impact on your relationships. Below are a few tips to help you create some traditions.

  • Make it a family decision by asking your partner or kids what they want to do. In other words, don’t just do what you want, instead include the family in the decision making so everyone looks forward to family time.
  • Put it on the calendar and make it recurring regardless if it is annually, monthly, or weekly. Unfortunately with busy schedules, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s unlikely to happen.
  • Agree to make the tradition sacred and do not schedule other events during those times. This means learning to do a few things such as getting into the habit of checking your calendar before scheduling new events and learning how to say no.

Here are some ideas for traditions:

  • Date night with your partner that includes dinner and a fun activity such as mini golf, bowling, movie theatre, ballet, comedy club, or festival.
  • Game night with your  partner and kids.
  • Craft night with your kids.
  • Have an overnight camping trip.
  • Go fishing.
  • Cook dinner together.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Take a weekly hike on your favorite trail.
  • Go to church, temple, synagogue, etc.

Finally, just have fun with it and reap the rewards of joy that comes with spending quality time with your kids.

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: “Family jump” by Evil Erin – http://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/3565026821/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_jump.jpg#/media/File:Family_jump.jpg

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Parenting Tip: Balance

ca_20141120_012It can be a challenging balancing act to figure out and maintain our work and personal life balance. This is especially difficult when we are connected to our work 24/7 via email, social media, or other technologies, work overtime, complete projects at home, and race around town driving our kids to one activity to the next. Another way I like to think of work-personal balance is work-play balance. Play meaning anything that we do that nourishes our mind-body-soul, our connection to loved ones, and brings us joy. Now, don’t get me wrong, work can and is very nourishing to us, can connect us, and bring us joy as well but like most other things in life, its about moderation. I’ve put together a list of recommendations to help achieve a better work-play balance that I frequently share with the families I work with below.

  1. First, step back and think about what you want your work-play balance to look like. Also reflect on how your current work-play balance is impacting your stress levels and your family.
  2. Cut out the fluff from your schedule. Look for activities or tasks that can either be eliminated all together because they cause stress or aren’t enjoyable or hire someone to do the chore. For example, if you dread cleaning your house and can afford to, hire someone to come clean the house every now and then so you can spend more time with your family doing something you love.
  3. Create boundaries and limits about what you are willing to do and what you will not. For example, if you set the boundary that you will not answer work emails on weekends, then stick to that or use technology to help you by turning off your work email in the settings of your smart phone.
  4. Be consistent by starting a routine that you follow. For example, try scheduling regular date nights with your partner or play dates with your children or friends. It could be weekly, biweekly or even a monthly date. The frequency doesn’t matter as much as being consistent and not canceling or rescheduling.
  5. Be mindful and present when you’re with your family and loved ones. That means paying attention to them without the distractions of work, technology, media, etc.
  6. Evaluate what you’re doing on an ongoing basis to make sure that what you’re doing at the moment or planning to do is consistent with your values and fits your vision of work-play balance.

Remember that the key is to find the right balance for you and your family and to be thoughtful, deliberate about what you are spending your time on. I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (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: “Ca 20141120 (15652310840)” by Costică Acsinte Archive – https://www.flickr.com/photos/costicaacsinte/15652310840/. Licensed under No restrictions via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ca_20141120_(15652310840).jpg#/media/File:Ca_20141120_(15652310840).jpg

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Parenting Tip: Actively Listen

1024px-Ruído_Noise_041113GFDLYouth I work with often share with me that their parents “don’t listen” and/or “don’t understand.” Listening to children is about communicating to them that you truly heard them by validating their feelings and expressing empathy. This type of listening is called active listening and it can help create a stronger bond and trust between parents and children and help resolve conflicts.

Here are a few tips about active listening:

 

  1. Active listening is being in a conversation without a preconceived notion of what should be said or defensiveness to what the other person said. Instead listen with curiosity.
  2. Active listening is about hearing the content but focusing on the underlying feelings of what was said. Listen and look for clues as to what they are feeling. For example, if a teen rolls their eyes they are probably annoyed or frustrated. Reflect on the feeling by saying something like “You seem really annoyed with me right now.”
  3. The key to active listening is to repeat back or summarize what the other person said in order to check if you understood them correctly. Simply paraphrase what they just said in your own words to check if you got it all. If not, ask for clarification and keep asking questions to learn more about what they are thinking and/or feeling.
  4. When practicing active listening, remember it is about expressing curiosity of what the other is sharing and not about defending or rationalizing your own behavior. For example, when your child says that they’re upset about you arriving late from work, ask more about how that makes your child feel rather than going into an explanation about why you were late.

I hope you found these listening tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (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: “Ruído Noise 041113GFDL” by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons)(Lmbuga Galipedia)Publicada por/Publish by: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG#/media/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG

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Parenting Tip: Teamwork

Parenting Team

“There’s no I in team” is a common sports expression and a value highlighted in many superhero movies. It’s also a great motto for parents. Consistently working together toward family goals with a unified parenting approach reduces the chances of children being confused about what is expected from them. Creating simple and concrete rules and expectations that are clearly and jointly communicated to children is a great way to accomplish this.

A few tips to help parents be a strong and unified team:

  • Come up with a game plan: It’s important for each parent to be able to identify their own values and goals first before coming together to discuss family values and goals. Then parents can jointly and collaboratively decide what the family values and goals are that they want to instill in their children. Try this four step exercise to accomplish this:
    1. First write down what are your most important values. Write down as many as come to mind and do this independently from your partner.
    2. Then write down your goals for yourself and family in as much detail as possible by asking yourself the following questions: What do I want to accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years? What do I want my family accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years?
    3. Now that you have both written down your own values and goals, spend some time sharing what you wrote with your partner. Be curious and ask many questions to explore these values and get more details.
    4. Lastly, you will probably have a good idea about what the family values and goals are by now since both of you have shared your own values and goals. Write these down and use them as guidelines for parenting decisions and also when making other decisions that impact your family. In other words, keep those values and goals in mind when making future choices.
  • Keep your eye on the ball: Parents work best together when they keep their eyes on a common goal. So keep discussions focused on the goal rather than falling into the trap of blaming each other. Focus on how you can achieve the goal such as reducing or eliminating an unwanted behavior your child is doing.
  • Get on the same page: Present a unified front when disciplining your children especially about rules, consequences, and incentives. Doing the exercise above is a good way to start because it helps clarify the rules. It is helpful for parents to also have discussions about consequences and incentives they want to use with their children. I will write more about this in a separate blog.
  • Avoid mixed messages: A common trap that parents fall into is when one parent gives a consequence that the other parent quickly overturns after the child complains. Instead, back up your partner even if you don’t agree and discuss your disagreement with them out of your children’s earshot. If it turns out that the consequence requires adjustment, both parents can explain the reasoning for the change to the child together. This way the child hears a clear message and views parents as a unified front.

I hope you found these tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page or far bottom on mobile phones) 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: By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Comikaze Expo 2011 – mutant family) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Parenting Tip: Modeling

1024px-Vlečení_kolaMahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” One way that I interpret this inspiring quote is to act the way you want others to act. I work with many families and I believe this mantra often applies when there is conflict between parents and children.

Parents usually want their child to stop disrespecting, yelling, acting aggressively, etc. I work collaboratively with the parents on how they can model the behavior they want to see in their children. We work toward enhancing parenting skills that help bring peace and joy back to their home.

Here are a few tips that usually help parents achieve this goal.

Parenting Tips:

  • Schedule play. Make time in your schedule to play with your family. It is important for families to have fun and bond through positive experiences. Schedule a game night or a hike or time together at a park. It is far too easy to get so bogged down with today’s hectic lifestyle that we fail to engage and enjoy our loved ones despite our best intentions. Making time for your child teaches him or her the important values of having fun with your family and communicates to him or her where your priorities lie.
  • Be present. How many times have you seen parents and children on their cell phones while sitting at a restaurant? Pretty often is my experience. Unfortunately, not much bonding is happening when everyone’s eyes are focused on the screens. Instead, put down the phones or any other distractions and be present with your children. Listen to what they are saying and reflect back on the feelings underneath their comments. This will go a long way toward creating a strong bond where your child feels listened to and understood.
  • And lastly, be the change you wish to see in your children. Parents are typically the main role models for young children so consider what you want your kids to learn from you next time you get angry. For example, it is often helpful to request space from each other and go into another room and later, once calm, discuss the situation with your child. When your children observe you engaging in a healthy coping skill to calm down when you feel angry, they will be more likely to do the same.

These are just a few of the frequent topics that I find myself discussing with families. I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column 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 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: “Vlečení kola” by cs:ŠJů – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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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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The Best Gifts You Can Give Your Child

A quick Google search for “Christmas Gift for Child” and up pop websites advertising things such as Minecraft Lego sets that the distributor suggests can be combined with other sets to create a Minecraft world, Hot Wheel’s race tracks complete with 2 quick kick loops, Disney’s Frozen plastic dolls featuring a “multi-colored bodice,” black and silver ride-on cars described as “sleek” that are capable of achieving speeds of 12mph, and a slew of other fancifully packaged options that will, undoubtedly, grace the tree skirts and stockings of many American children this Christmas season. If Amazon’s website sees as much traffic this year as they did on Cyber Monday of 2013, sales will reach an average of 426 items purchased per second. The marketing masterminds behind kid’s toys and games will surely rake in billions again this year and many of us will do our part in supporting American economy this holiday season. But the best gifts in life really are free…

Dr. Baker’s Top Tips for Instilling a Healthy Sense of Self-Worth in Your Child:

  1. Be a Good Role Model. When speaking about yourself in front of your child, avoid self-deprecating statements. Instead, speak openly about what gives you purpose and your strengths. When you make a mistake or wish to improve on a skill, speak about what was learned from your experience, how your current knowledge will impact future choices and what you propose doing to improve on your skills.
  2. Recognize and Embrace Natural Talents. Given enough opportunities for shining moments, a child’s overall self-confidence can only go up. If you notice that your child is especially talented at science, for example, enroll her in a science camp or club where her talents will blossom and be appreciated by others. Especially for a child who has developed an unbalanced sense of herself as incapable, this will tip the scales back and help her recognize herself as a multi-faceted person with strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Set Him Up for Success. Remind yourself what expectations are realistic for your child, which may not be the same as what other kids his age are doing. While your neighbor’s 4-year-old may be capable of sitting still and keeping quiet while her mother makes a 10-minute phone call, many kids at this age may not be. Prepare your child for things that you know may be tricky for him, avoid situations where failure is inevitable and brainstorm ideas in advance as to what will help him persevere through difficult parts of his day that are just unavoidable.
  4. Give Her Responsibilities. By asking your child to contribute to the household in manageable and realistic ways, you send a message that she has valuable contributions to make and that you trust in her ability to   participate in meaningful ways. Choose tasks that she is already drawn to and has demonstrated an ability to complete successfully. Don’t worry about perfection and refrain from intervening too much to reinforce the message of trust.
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 seminarswellness 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: Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

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