Trying To Get It Right

Over the weekend I had some friends from out of town visit.  We got together for lunch one day with many of our mutual friends that live in the area.  My two and half year old, who is usually a charmer in small groups, was very nervous with so many adults around with whom she isn't familiar.  She whined, and cried a little.  She was clingy, and didn't want to leave my side.  She didn't want to play with the toys we had brought to distract her, and the only thing that seemed to help was watching her favorite show on the iPhone.  

I was thinking about her behavior later.  I was at first frustrated, but as I followed my thoughts I came away with more respect and empathy for my daughter, and some thoughts about maintaining a little grace with her when situations like this arise.  

I realized that in that moment she was feeling shy, nervous, embarrassed, and unsure of herself.  Being so young she didn't have the skills to maneuver this complex social situation without my help and understanding.  Clinging to me was really her best coping skill and defense.  Of course, over time I'd like for her to be better at self soothing and distraction, but that isn't going to happen over night.  

I was surprised (in the moment) that her toys (a doll and book) weren't more comforting and distracting to her.  However, in hindsight, I see that children only play when they are free of distress.  Play is the luxury of a relaxed mind.  

Watching her favorite show on the iPhone, although not something I want her to rely on always, was one of the few things at my disposal that carried a strong enough motivation to allow her mind to be distracted.

So with these new epiphanies in mind and empathy for my daughters experience here is what I wish I had done:

--I wish I had not been blinded by my wish for her to be on her best behavior for my sake (my reputation).

--I wish I had allowed her a few minutes of comfort from me where I validated her fears in the situation and offered her assurance that everything was going to be ok.

--I wish I'd have been more patient.

--I wish that I had been able to help her soothe in a way that allowed her mind to relax.  

--I wish that I had come into the situation with more age appropriate (and individualized) expectations. 

Being a parent is hard.  I think  reflection may be my very best "tool" if I am to get it right next time.  

Upcoming and Ongoing Groups and Classes

I am happy to report that I currently offer three groups/classes.  Groups are a great way to have a therapeutic experience while learning new information and getting support from other people in similar situations...AND at a much reduced rate than traditional therapy or counseling.  

All three of these courses focus on parenting and learning more about children's emotional development.  

In the Co-Parenting Group you will gain better skills at communicating over stressful parent related conflicts.  Connect with other adults in similar parenting situations, which in my experience, provides for a safe and collaborative environment to tackle some of the less than desirable after effects of divorce.  We'll also do a number of activities to get in touch with our children's experiences of the divorce, and discuss ways to provide consistent, positive discipline to help them transition as best they can.  More Info: http://www.kjerstinelson.com/blog/2015/1/26/co-parenting-group-starting-soon   

The Toddler Play Group (for you and your toddler) is hosted at yours or a friends home.  This is a very fun group that will engage both you and your toddler!  Be prepared to have fun and learn something!  The group begins with some singing, followed by a structured play activity and/or art, and ends with a goodbye song.  The educative portion for the parents happens throughout the fun.

The Positive Discipline Class is a collaborative environment for parents of all kinds to come together to learn positive discipline techniques and strategies.  In this group parents will share about their particular situations, and the group will work together to come up with solutions and ideas.  This class is highly influenced by the book Positive Discipline and the course material was developed by Jane Nelson.  I am a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, meaning that I've had extra parent-education-training via Jane Nelson's program.  http://www.positivediscipline.com/what-is-positive-discipline.html

 

For more information on what other services I offer check out my "services page".

  

Co-Parenting Group Starting Soon

I'm currently recruiting clients to join a co-parenting group.  The group meets once a week for 8 weeks.  It is very affordable, just $25 per session ($200 total).  

It may be comforting to know that most children adapt quite quickly post parent split up if a couple of things are in place: 1.  Parents resolve any ongoing and persistent conflict between themselves.  2.  The children return to a consistent and predictable routine.  And 3.  They can maintain a healthy and happy relationship with each parent without interference from the other parent.  

Of course, there are many heartaches and unmet wishes a child of divorce may have.  Like they might hope their parents get back together.  This is very common, but this unmet wish is something they will understand with time.  It isn't something that they will carry with them forever.  Ongoing and persistent conflict, unpredictable parenting, and fear of ridicule or disappointing a parent has much further reaching consequences.  

This group is designed to help parents resolve ongoing conflict between each other that involves parenting matters, helps you get in touch with your child's experience, and introduces parenting strategies so that your child has as consistent and predictable a life as possible.  

If you're interested, or know someone that might be, give me a call or shoot me an email!  I also offer co-parenting sessions on an individual basis.  

kjerstinelsonlmft@gmail.com

(650)416-6388 


   

Biweekly Roundup

Good new about marriage today!  The 50/50 divorce rate is not true any longer!  However, that does not mean you shouldn't keep working on your marriage!  Today's articles discuss attitudes and reasons why marriages are working, tips on communicating your needs/wants more healthily with your partner, a heart-warming story about when co-parenting with a step parent goes RIGHT!, and a new study about how daily chaos influences your child's sense of self and family stability.  Read on!

1.  Marriage rates are up!  If you got married in the last decade you are 70% more likely to stay together until death!  The 50/50 split and stay rate is a myth!  Divorces peaked in the 1970's and 80's and is correlated with the beginning of a cultural shift spurred by the feminist movement, but these days people have adapted, attitudes have shifted, and the results are in: if you get married you are likely to stay married!  Read more here: http://jezebel.com/that-50-percent-divorce-statistic-hasnt-been-true-for-a-1665833364

2.  On the subject of marriage this article has some tips on improving your communication with your partner.  It lists a few "what not to say" followed by a healthier way to talk about getting your needs met.  It's short and might help you get thinking about communicating more effectively and carefully :D http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/marriage-sex/worst-words-in-a-marriage

3.  However, if you are divorced, with kids, this is a heart warming best-case-scenario of what life could be like when both partners move on, co-parent cooperatively and involve new step-parents.  It is not easy, nor wanted (by most) to have a new "parent" in the mix.  When your ex moves on and has a new partner that can lead to a myriad of reactions: anger, jealousy, mistrust, relief, fear, sadness, anxiety, you name it!  However, in the best cases, when the new step-parent bonds with the children, is a positive role-model, and co-parents cooperatively with both parents things can end really well for the child and parents!  I know this is not always the case, but I think it is heartwarming to know that this can happen for some families.  Read the story here: http://www.today.com/parents/letter-my-daughters-stepmom-i-never-wanted-you-here-1D80341783?cid=sm_fbn

4.  This next article is based on a study done with six year olds.  The six year olds drew pictures of their families, a common diagnostic tool used by clinicians.  Then the drawings were analyzed for distance between family members, sad, angry faces, etc.  These were then cross referenced with the child's home life.  What the study reveals is that children with chaos in the home (referred to as "a function of poverty") which could be loud noises, excessive crowding, lack of structure, and clutter down the line leads to children with poor self-esteem, poor family relations, and higher levels of family dysfunction.  The study suggests that daily disorganization leads to negative outcomes more so than occasional instability in the home.  read more here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/08/368693069/kids-drawings-speak-volumes-about-home?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=202608

and the original article here:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616734.2014.966124#/doi/abs/10.1080/14616734.2014.966124

 

Rules for Fair Fighting

Everyone argues, conflict is something we all have to deal with from time to time.  Particularly in partner relationships rules for "fighting" can be useful.  And if for nothing else, maybe this list can help you get thinking about rules you might use to have a "healthy argument" rather than a big blowup.  I don't remember where I found this list, but I think it's pretty useful.  

Rules for Fair Fighting

 

DO:

1. Deal with the Here and Now What is the specific problem right now?  Anything older than 24 hours is garbage, so no garbage-dumping!

2. Take responsibility. Use “I” statements as a way to show you are taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions.

3. Be direct and honest about your feelings and what you want.

4. Listen and hear! Try to deal with the other person’s perceptions of the situation as well as your own. Be aware of his/her feelings as well as your own. Check to see whether what you heard is really what the other person is trying to express, and ask him to let you know what she hears you saying.

5. Give the other person equal time. Both people need to express their feelings and points of view to create a full mutual understanding.

6. Attack the issue, not the person. Name-calling puts people in a position to respond angrily and defensively. This is usually used when a person feels he is losing. Name-calling breaks down communication and destroys trust in the relationship.

7. Take a breather by paraphrasing what you think you  heard them saying. “I understand you want to tell me about your day but I need a few minutes to finish what I am doing.” This gives you time to think about your response.

8. Focus on solving a problem/reaching a solution rather than venting your anger or winning a victory. Think win-win.

9. Deal with one issue at a time. No fair piling several complaints into one session. Some people call this “kitchen-sinking” – talking about everything including the kitchen sink!

10. Limit your discussion/fight to no more than 30 minutes. Adults have relatively short attention spans. Long drawn out discussions/fights rarely reach resolution. Instead they just wear the participants out. And when you are worn out, the potential of saying or doing something you’ll regret is much greater. If you are unable to solve your problem in the 30 minutes that you’ve allotted, schedule another time to continue.

11. Brainstorm solutions. Be willing to compromise. Give a little to get a little.

12. Go forth as equals. Don’t use power plays. Gauge the intensity of your anger to the ego strengths of the other person and be responsible with the things your mate has entrusted to you in your relationship. YOU ARE ON THE SAME TEAM.

13. When necessary, take a time-out.  A time-out is a short break to cool off, calm down and get perspective. Think of it like pushing the pause button on a video. It’s an opportunity to restore calm and be more reflective instead of reactive. Use the time-out to reflect on why you feel the way you do and how to express yourself in a positive way. Try to think about the other person’s feelings and point of view. Think things through before you speak. Then “push play” again and return to each other to resolve the issues calmly.  A time-out should be at least a half-hour long (but no longer than twenty-four hours). It takes at least a half-hour for your body’s physiology to return to a normal resting state and for your thoughts to become less hostile or defensive. It’s surprising how different a person’s outlook can be after they’ve had a chance to calm down.

14. Give each other the ability to withdraw or change their mind.

15. Speak softly.  If you and your partner have a natural tendency to raise your voice, try whispering.

16. Identify and Define your issue or topic, and stick to it!  Don’t change the subject or bring in unrelated items.  If you have a different item you’d like discuss, save it for the next discussion.

17. Hold hands. (We are not fighting each other, but talking over a problem we are mutually trying to resolve. )

18. Ask questions that will clarify, not judge. A question should never begin with the word “why.” That puts people on the defensive — and we know that defensiveness stops conversation rather than continues it.

 

DON’T:

1. Don’t Refer to past mistakes and incidences.  No garbage-dumping! 

2. Don’t Blame. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements which automatically blame, making the other person defensive.

3. Don’t make comparisons to other people, stereotypes, or situations.

4. Don’t play games.  A game is being played when you are not being straight about your feelings, and when you are not being direct and honest about what you want or need in a situation.  Examples of games are; poor me; silent treatment; martyr; don’t touch me; uproar; kick me; if it weren’t for you…; yes, but…; see what you made me do; and if you loved me…

5. Don’t involve other people’s opinions of the situation (e.g.: “John’s mother agrees with me.”) The only opinions which are relevant are those of the two attempting to communicate at the time.

6. Don’t make threats (e.g., “Do this or else!”). Threats back people into a corner and they may choose the ultimatum in order to save face. You may find later you really do not want to carry out your threat.

7. Don’t demand to win. If you do, your discussion will surely become an argument.

8. Don’t say “always” and “never”.  (“You always…”  “You never…”) These are usually exaggerations and will put the other person on the defensive.

9. Don’t interrupt, talk over or make comments while the other person is speaking. Watch your non-verbal expressions too. Rolling eyes, smirking, yawning etc. all work against fair fighting.

10. Don’t walk away or leave the house without saying to your partner, “I’ll be back”.

11. No finger pointing.

12. Don’t save up feelings and dump them all at once, try to air feelings often.

13. Try not to yell.

14. Don’t read your partner’s mind.

15. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind.

16. Don’t use the following: swearing, denunciation, obscenities, character assassination, contempt, sarcasm, or taunting.

17. Do not assume, guess, imagine, take for granted, theorize, surmise, speculate, make gestures, judgments, funny glances or faces about what your partner means. Find out!

18. No belittling each other’s accomplishments. No matter how small or odd they may be.

19. Don’t be afraid to apologize when you are wrong. It shows you are trying.

20. Don’t argue about details. Avoid exchanges like, “You were 20 minutes late,” “No, I was only 13 minutes late.” (An easy way to distract from the problem).

 

What rules or guidelines have you found to be helpful in communicating with your partner?  Anything on the list you particularly like or dislike?