Because sometimes we just need to be reminded of how comical the parenting journey can be.
Can anyone relate to this scenario? 🙂
Because sometimes we just need to be reminded of how comical the parenting journey can be.
Can anyone relate to this scenario? 🙂
We wrote last week about teens (and pre-teens) expressing curiosity about gender differences, and non-traditional approaches to sexual orientation. We got such an overwhelming response from families asking questions, that we thought we would share a bit more with you, as well as some (of the many) excellent resources.
Teens often ask us, teary eyed and anxious, how they should share with their parents that they are considering adopting a non-traditional lifestyle. We like to use that term, rather than ‘alternative’ because it feels more accepting of the decisions being considered.
As an early career clinician, I would sometimes be skeptical when teens asked these questions and struggled to identify what – if anything – might have “caused” this to happen. I WONDERED how you could “know” that you were bi-sexual or gay if you had never had a sexual experience. And I also wondered if the teen would “grow out of it”.
Families would also WONDER about things like, “Did I do something wrong?” or “What will people think of my child? Of me?” or “How will my child manage a potential future full of bullies and shaming?” Sometimes families would experience a sense of relief knowing that something had been bothering their child for some time, and that this was it.
Most often, however, we would all have some combination of all of these feelings. My job was to support the child in sharing a very scary personal truth, AND to support the family in being open to really HEARING their child (which is different from listening, FYI).
Author and therapist, Dr. Michael LaSala, of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, offers these 6 suggestions that we use with families at The Wise Family –
If you’ve read this far that means you are willing to take the initial step and get yourself information. Check out the resources below and reach out to us at The Wise Family fore more! Parenting is a journey with a lot of potholes and detours – and there are also some gorgeous scenic overlooks along the way.
Don’t miss them, and Be Wise.
Resources to check out –
Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child. (LaSala, M. C., 2010) New York: Columbia University Press.
Love Ellen, A Mother Daughter Journey (DeGeneres, B., 1999), New York: Ross Weisbach Books.
Mom, Dad, I’m Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out. (Savin-Williams, R. C., 2001.) Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
We have the opportunity, more and more, in our counseling practice, of supporting young people that are curious about nontraditional gender identification – and nontraditional approaches to sexual orientation. It is a confusing topic for even the most in-the-know parent (or therapist) so we thought we would share this article from PoshSEVEN with you to give you some orientation to the language and resources available around this topic.
Contact us if you’d like to discuss this topic with us, or if you have anything additional to add – this is new territory for many so we all have something to learn! You may also schedule a time to chat HERE.
Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: Do you ever wish you could have Mary Poppins come to your house to talk to your kids about “tough topics”? Topics are tough, no matter the age of your child, whether they are 5, 12 or 18. And topics tend to get tougher as your child(ren) grow older. Being able to talk to your child about subjects that are hard or uncomfortable is a beautiful gift in which you as the parent can give to your child. Not only that, but it also equips and prepares your child to develop and use these social skills in the future…
Dominique Adkins, EdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: Tough topics and teens can be a challenging combo. Teens are constantly wanting freedom from parents to prove that “I know what I am doing.” This desire to be independent must be acknowledged while keeping communication open and clear regardless of the topic. The sooner the tough topic is tackled the better. Before discussing a tough topic, I encourage parents, teens, and young adults to determine their individual goals and to speak from their experience. It is also important to remember that tough discussions will not always go as planned so we must listen and breathe before reacting. Finally, be mindful of nonverbal communication such as tone, body language, and facial expressions. These small gestures can have a big impact on achieving a resolution, an understanding, or a compromise.
Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: When kids are young they often turn to their parents (or another trusted adult) for guidance and this can mean answering some tough questions! It’s natural for kids to be curious, no matter how uncomfortable the questions may make us adults. When these questions are asked, it is important to provide answers, even if it isn’t the easiest thing to talk about. When we avoid the things that are difficult to talk about it only causes kids to become more curious and they may seek answers from sources that may not be reliable. Keep your answers simple, straightforward, and try not to make a big deal about it, just answer the question like you would any other.
The questions usually start somewhere so ask your child what they already know in order to get a better understanding of where the question is coming from or what the child’s concerns may be. You may find that your child just needs some reassurance if their question stems from something he or she may be worrying about. One answer may not be enough, so be sure to leave the door open to future discussions. Once your child feels comfortable talking to you (and knows you’ll give them an honest answer) they may continue to have questions. Kids are resilient and their responses to the tough stuff may surprise you, so don’t be afraid to be honest with them!
Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: I have spent the majority of my professional career working in pre-schools and elementary schools. Over the years, I have noticed that adults avoid talking to children about a variety of tough topics because they think the children are not ready for or can’t handle the information. While I certainly believe adults must consider what is developmentally appropriate for children to hear and talk about, we cannot use this as an excuse to avoid challenging conversations. In fact, when we avoid conversations because we are uncomfortable, we do a disservice to our child and our relationship with them.
I remember speaking to the mother of a 5th grade boy. As a single mother she was nervous about talking with her son about puberty. She asked me if the school would cover that information so she didn’t have to and if I could follow up with her son to see if he had any questions. Of course, I had the ability to talk with him, however, I talked with this mother about the possible long-term benefits of her having this conversation. Sure they might both feel uncomfortable in the moment and blush or giggle, but her son would realize that he could talk to his mother about awkward topics. I would not always be available to have these conversations, but as his mother, she would be a constant, supportive presence in his life. This is just one example of the hundreds of times I have encouraged adults to have difficult conversations with their kids.
I am fond of saying “little ears are everywhere.” This refers to the fact that kids are smart and are paying attention. You may think you are having an “adult conversation” away from kids, but chances are they have heard bits and pieces of it or are picking up on your non-verbals.
Kids are smarter than they get credit for. They also have the ability for great resilience. Let’s foster this resiliency but approach the tough conversations head on and show children that we are here to listen, talk, problem solve, etc. As Jeanne Phillips, more commonly known as “Dear Abby”, once said “Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in.”
A lot of people ask me how to motivate your kids. I think that motivation is really about two things. It’s about confidence and it’s about competence. So if you have a kid or a teen who is feeling incompetent in class, ask them the following questions to dig a little deeper:
If they are feeling like they’re struggling or they don’t understand something, then one of the ways to help motivate them is to clarify their competence – figure out what’s going wrong and help them figure out a way to reach a solution. (Guide them on this part – don’t just do it for them!)
Then the other part of it is confidence – When you see a kid that’s unmotivated, quite often it’s one of two things: lack of confidence or competence. The confidence piece is when you see a teen or a kid that maybe doesn’t feel really good about themselves or is questioning their own values or their own self-worth or where their role is in the family. Depending on what it is, sometimes you have to clarify those things for kids so that they can feel more confident.
If you think your teen’s lack of confidence is turning into anxiety, take a look at this blog post on how to reduce chronic anxiety.
We have some exciting groups coming up in the next few months – About building confidence and learning more about mindfulness and movement. Be on the lookout for more info. in the coming months!
We are rededicating ourselves at The Wise Family sharing insights, strategies and expectations about some tough topics that we, as both parents and clinicians, find ourselves talking about an awful lot with kids. This week’s article, written by our friends at Common Sense Media, is a guide to setting up some parental controls on that new iPhone or smart device that your kids got for holiday gifts. (Read the full article HERE.)
When I talk to parents about electronics individually and in workshops around the country, the #1 thing I hear parents say is, “I can’t figure that out.” Basically, that is a cop-out – a parenting cop-out. Electronics are here to stay – and they have some great value. And access to electronics can also be incredibly addictive, and dangerous (we’re going to be talking about that too this year.) As a parent, it is your responsibility to be fully aware of what your kids and teens are doing on electronics. And if you aren’t go to your kid’s school – or the “Make Me a Genius” bar at the Apple store, and find out.
We pay closer attention to the Halloween candy kids get trick-or-treating better than we do to what kid’s are doing with their electronics.
Here are some tips to get started on understanding more about electronics, and there is plenty more on the big world of the Internet where that came from. If you don’t know something, do what the kids do – Google it! Or call us at The Wise Family – we are happy to help!
Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: Welcome to the close of another year, and the opening of a brand new year. We are so privileged at The Wise Family to have such amazing clinicians who draw both from personal experience, and scientific research to support their insights into setting intentions for the new year! Enjoy their thoughts below, and don’t forget that the holiday season is also an opportunity for magic to happen – invite magic to happen in your life, and in your family this season!
Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: As another year comes to an end, it is the time that everyone begins to reflect on their year: the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all of the things that need improvement, so make sure to also highlight the positives changes that took place throughout the year. When we think about the progress we have made, we are acknowledging the areas we had success in!
When it comes to making resolutions as a family, everyone needs to have a say. Families can get together to talk about, and reflect on the past year in order to start making their resolutions. Each family member can share something they are proud of and something they may want to improve upon. Some of the younger members in the family might have a hard time with this so it’s okay to help them! Think about the things that your children can do now that maybe they couldn’t have done earlier in the year; reading a chapter book, riding a bike with no training wheels, or learning a new sport or instrument. We’re not looking to point out flaws, just places where there is room for improvement. Make sure the goals for the upcoming year are doable, and remember, change doesn’t happen over night!
Dominique Adkins, EdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: With the New Year fast approaching, we have the opportunity to look back at the past year and look toward the new one. This mindful reflection helps us to align with our purpose and integrate the successes and lessons of last year into our intentions for the new one. After reflecting on your intention, write down each intention in a prominent location so the intention will be set deep within your mind and heart. Then discuss your intentions with your family and cultivate a family intention. During your upcoming holiday celebrations set aside time to discuss your intentions for the New Year. Be sure to continue to communicate with your family as a way to support and hold each other accountable. Finally, take time to meditate and check in with these intentions throughout the year. Always remember to be encouraged and that any moment can be a fresh start to your life!
Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: New Year’s is the time when many people reflect on their past year and plan for their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. This often comes in the form of a resolution. Whenever I have friends, family, or clients that reflect on past goals that were challenging for them, I talk about two different things:
To the first point – this number comes from a study done at Univeristy College London published in the European Journal or Social Psychology. I find it helpful, because so often, if families try to begin a new routine such as weekly dinner or daily story time, they quickly become frustrated if their goal has not been met by February. Knowing the 66 days allows families to set appropriate expectations.
Change takes time. Expecting perfection in whatever family goal you set is unrealistic. Welcome the belief that the journey is the destination. In working towards a family goal, you are learning together. Family traditions and practices are often passed down from one generation to the next. If you begin something and it sticks, most likely it will stay for years to come. Happy New Year!
Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family: The new year usually brings to mind renewed commitments and resolutions on how to improve on challenges and shortcomings. But don’t let your end-of-year review end so soon! As you take time to reflect on the past year, make space for gratitude and forgiveness. Numerous research studies show how cultivating gratitude can have a host of positive effects, from improving your mood and sleep, to reducing stress and physical complaints, to enhancing and expanding your relationships. Letting go of resentments and practicing kindness toward others (and yourself!) for past transgressions also brings a wave of physical, psychological and social benefits.
It may be tempting to focus your energy on all the things you want to “fix” or the big changes in store for the new year, especially in our “work hard, do more, reach higher” world. But turning your attention to the successes and blessings that surround you can be a powerful antidote to the stress that this mentality can create — and maybe even help reap many of the same desired benefits in a more satisfying and sustainable way! It’s also a great way to set a kind and compassionate example for your family during this season of giving.
Until Next Year, Be Wise!
Need some parenting inspiration during the mad rush of the holiday season? Take time to appreciate that your creative, cute but sometimes difficult offspring are being groomed to lead the next generation. Hard to believe sometimes… but take a hard look at our parenting styles today versus the parenting styles of the past. Things sure have changed!
These days, it’s rare for anyone in our family to break a sweat. Sure, we work out (much less often than we should) in an air-conditioned gym or attend a yoga class and occasionally feel a bit “flushed”. The kids play sports and they get a little more dirty and smelly. But, for the most part, we don’t exert ourselves with the backbreaking labor of our forefathers who had to work the land to eat – not pop into Whole Foods for dinner from the meat counter!
The hard labor of working the land has slowly disappeared, and along with it, the hard labor of modeling and teaching leadership. We are losing many of the fundamental lessons in our families that are critical for the development of leadership in our children. And it’s past time to break a sweat, folks!
1. We don’t let our children take risks
Our world is quick to flash the “Danger” sign at every turn! Of course, it is our job after all, to make sure our children are safe, but we are bubble wrapping them so tightly that we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking. Yes, the risks are greater these days then when we were kids. But research in early childhood education shows that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience falling down (and getting back up), they are more likely to have anxiety as adults. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will be encouraging high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.
2. We rescue too quickly
Our children are not developing the life skills they need to fix their own problems because often we swoop in and take care of problems for them. Isn’t it always easier to just do it ourselves? When we rescue too quickly, we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail, an adult will smooth things over for me.” In reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.
3. We praise smart over effort
The self-esteem movement has been around for decades, but it began in our school systems in the 1980s. The “everyone gets a trophy” mentality might make our kids feel special, but current research shows that this method has unintended consequences. There is no such thing as “special” when everyone gets the title! When we praise kids for just showing up, rather than the effort to be successful, they eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to reinforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions.
4. We don’t admit our own mistakes
If you know a teen, you have surely observed that they have a healthy desire to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. And it’s ok to share our own “flights” of independence, and the related outcomes, whether they were good or not-so-good. Kids have to prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.
5. We don’t practice what we preach
As parents, it is our responsibility to live the life we want our children to lead. It is our job to pay more attention to the quality of our kid’s character than the day-to-day annoying behaviors we spend so much energy managing. As the leaders in our homes, we can start by being honest – about our own character. Our kids notice everything we do. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly to the community, to make strong and safe decisions, and to communicate with integrity and understanding.
Growing leaders might mean doing some hard work on our own leadership traits. And there may be times when you aren’t quite sure what decisions will lead to the best outcomes! Great leaders know when they need to outsource! So if you are struggling, get some help! Any kid can be a follower, but it takes a wise parent to raise a leader
Until next week, Be Wise!
With the holidays fast approaching, let’s all keep these tips from the Self-Care Snowman in mind! In order to properly care for others, you need to show yourself some self-care too! Easy to neglect yourself in the hustle and bustle of the season.
As we move through the holiday season, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about the value of making memories. With this in mind, our team wanted to share some fond family dinnertime memories.
Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: Most of my childhood memories focus around dinnertimes – maybe because I have always loved food – maybe because it was my big chance to talk and to be heard – or maybe it was the most likely time of day when my whole family would be together. The big memories I have are not from elaborate feasts or epic culinary adventures, but of simple dinners at the kitchen “bar” before my parents went out on a date. We would always get breakfast for dinner on these occasions and my Dad truly makes THE BEST pancakes! We would all sit side-by-side on our stools at the “bar” while my parents cooked and finished putting on ties and jewelry. I don’t remember the babysitter, or the activities of the evening – no one took pictures or brought home any souvenirs – the memory is from the glow of being in the same room together and KING syrup (you should try it!).
Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: Growing up, we lived about an 8-hour drive from both sides of our extended family. Since we weren’t always able to be with our relatives for the holidays we have often shared those events with friends and neighbors. Sometimes, your family is the one you make! Over the past decade our Christmas Eve tradition of homemade ravioli has evolved from a small dinner for four to a four-course meal for twenty-five. Ravioli Dinner is my favorite holiday! The most important part of the whole night is making sure that everyone can fit at one big table because that’s the fun of it; everyone being together! The night is full of delicious food, wonderful people, and a lot of loud laughter.
Dominique Adkins, EdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: Growing up in a family run business gave me opportunity to be a part of a blended family that exposed me to a wide range of cultures and experiences. As a child, I remember learning about the Feast of the Seven Fishes through the delicious Italian Christmas Eve dinners at Miss Carol’s house. The night was filled with joy, laughter, and love. I cherished this yearly tradition for our families to join together to celebrate and spread holiday cheer!
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, how can you make meals simple? How can you make the small times together into the biggest memories? Keep that in mind and feel free to share any special family dinner traditions you might have with our Facebook Group HERE.