Archive for October, 2009

Halloween – Keeping It Easy and Fun For All

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Halloween has always been a fun time for me.  Going into town to Trick-or-Treat, showing dad our costumes while he was in the tractor, going to Halloween dances when I got older.  It also kicks off the official “birthday season” for the kids in our family, starting in November 1.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your kids’ Halloween excitement.  But you and I know what can happen with kids who get too cranked up and overly scheduled.  Bad news, and even worse when they have a cumbersome costume and too much sugar in their system.  Too many houses, too many parties, too little sleep.  Did I mention potential weather drama like tornado warnings or an ice storm?  Yep, we were watching the radar one year and slipping down sidewalks the next.  But I digress….

Here’s my big message – Don’t let your perfectionism get in the way of having a really fun Halloween!  Even if you have plenty of time and your kids are plenty excited, there’s only so much any of you can take.  Also, don’t feel obliged to do exactly the same thing each year if it seems to be too much of a burden.  How many people really need to see your kids in their costume all in one night anyway?

You know, I say this hoping that more of you out there are relaxed and able to easily tell what your kids need during such a big production.  I’ve had years where we really tried to do way too much for one on night.  Dinner with grandparents, YMCA Halloween party, going up and down streets, seeing people on different sides of town, trying to scrub makeup off a sleepy (and crabby) four year old at 9:30 at night.  Told myself I’d keep it less planned than that in future years.

Right now I’m trying to temper a week with a Halloween party on the 30th, Halloween night in our new neighborhood with a ton of kids to run around with (plus our old neighborhood), and next weekend with a Halloween costume overnight …


What Mood Do You Set In Your Home?

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Take notice that I didn’t ask “What’s the mood in your home?”  I want to know what you do on purpose to make the mood what it is?  It may seem like a technicality, but this small turn of phrase makes a huge difference.

Every parent has a million things on their list to do.  Doesn’t matter if you stay at home, work part time, go to school, work fulltime, or anything else.  You may often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  If you allow yourself to get caught up in this busy-ness and think only about your discomfort, you are likely to give off a pretty sour vibe.  Life is complicated, I can’t relax, nobody appreciates me, etc.

Your family members might start avoiding you a little more, might act more tenative around you, only talk to you if they really need something because they don’t want to risk ticking you off unless it’s absolutely necessary.  You see this as rejection and further proof that nobody cares.  You get stuck in the bad mood and you continue to react to your surroundings.  A merry-go-round of stress and grouchiness.

Here’s where the problem lies.  You allow yourself to react rather than being proactive.  Yes, stuff is going to happen to disrupt your well-laid plans.  So what?  It happens to everyone and that includes you.  If you get your perfect plan in your head and get stuck on the fact that something didn’t work exactly right, you will be frustrated a lot.  You have taken a passive role, allowing outside circumstances to dictate your mood.  Whatever that is, your family gets.

Now you might be wondering, “Well, yeah.  When something happens, of course I’m going to react with a feeling.”  Yes, that is true.  However, a negative reaction mood won’t have nearly the impact if you have a habit of purposely setting your own positive mood each day.  If you make the conscious decision to make your home peaceful and warm as much as possible, then you will handle disappointment or disruptive change with that goal …


Can You Step Back From A Hurtful Family Relationship?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

You know the person I’m talking about – that person in your family that seems to really have your number.  It doesn’t take much for them to get you riled up, set off your whole day, touch on vulnerable emotions.  What is it about them that keeps you stuck with them?  It could be your sister, your mom, your uncle, your son, or whoever.  Are you able to see the forest for the trees and step away from them, or do you feel emotionally torn and entangled with them?

This can feel pretty tough sometimes.  You might feel like you are being torn in two directions.  You may hear one thing from this hurtful family member and something completely different from your spouse or friends.  You know you and others you love aren’t being treated well, but somehow you just can’t move away from them.

First, let’s look this example and see if we can spot the problem.  Your mom really has a way with words, sharp biting words.  She always seems to have a timely piece of criticism ready for you.  Since you aren’t going to be a doctor like your brother, you are frequently compared with him (not favorably).  Once in a while, she just doesn’t say anything much at all and seems mildly pleasant.  No ruckus, no strong emotion, just neutral.

You start to wonder if maybe something has come over her and she’s finally coming around.  Maybe this is the start of something better, more peace, less tension.  You even get a little upset wondering, “Well why can’t she just be like this?”  And that’s the part that keeps you sucked in, thinking she can someday rehabilitate her attitude and behaviors toward you after all this time.

Guess what.  Probably not.  In fact you might be the problem here because your expectations are off track.  Yes, if you can see clear evidence that your family member is treating you or other people in your family poorly (spouse or kids), the logical move is to back away and protect your family.  It’s false hope that keeps …


Thanks, Family Mental Health Blog Readers

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

It’s been almost six months now, writing for the Family Mental Health Blog.  I’m definitely looking forward to writing many more posts for you.  This has been such a learning experience for me, and I hope that many of you have gotten something positive when you’ve visited.

I hope that you all understand that while I am trained and have years of clinical experience as a counselor, I am no true expert on anything.  And really, even people considered to be “experts” are always learning about their chosen topic.  I entered this challenge with the hope of providing information, learning, and inviting dialogue about mental health topics.

Several of you have offered your disagreement, which I welcome.  Your personal experience can offer a lot to others with or without mental health problems.  Mental health can be challenging to understand and explain to others, mostly because those disorders can strongly affect our communication and perceptions about our problems.  Just bringing up difficult topics can provoke controversy and widely differing opinions.  And that’s just what we need to keep the conversations flowing.

I invite you to suggest or recommend topics you’d like me to write about.  I’m always looking around, but I can’t think of everything!  Just add a comment at the end of any post, or find my “About” page (check the sidebar) and add your comment there.  I try to write about things that would be important to you, so tell me what you want to read about.

Again, thanks so much for making this blog so well read and rich with feedback.  By myself, I’m just a mom writing to a faceless audience.  Everything you add to my posts – that’s what makes this blog so useful and rich for everyone who sees it.  Thank you, and keep checking in!

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetruthabout/ / CC BY-SA 2.0


Kids Squirm When The Buck Stops With Them

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I swear, I never thought I could hear so many excuses, so much whining, so much blame on others from my child all at once.  One reward at school was based on her individual responsibility and she dropped the ball.  She wanted to drop that ball on my head instead of her own.  Sound familiar?

Yes, kids really dislike getting called out for something they were lazy about.  And if anyone else is casually involved in the situation, that person may get the blame.  Couldn’t be their fault – no!  Quite honestly, not something many adults like to think about too hard either.  Ahem.

Anyway, back to my example.  She was bent out of shape because she didn’t get my signature on her homework planner.   I had to explain to her several times that I wasn’t getting the reward for signing it, SHE was getting the reward for being sure I signed it.  Of course, I understood the obvious benefits of parents being aware of homework.  But the exercise was as much about training my daughter to develop a habit as it was keeping me informed.  She really wanted that reward but was irked when the details didn’t pan out each time.

I told her that if she wanted to be sure she got every reward she was entitled to for getting my signature, then the final responsibility didn’t rest on me.  It was on her.  I’ve already done all my elementary homework for my life, and I already have calendar habits.  I told her I would do my best to remember each time, but ultimately this was her learning journey.  And darnit, if she didn’t try long and hard to pin that failure on me for a few days.

After several days and a second time of missing the reward, we had the conversation again.  It ended with her sulking, much like before.  I let her alone because I knew we’d been down that road. We talked at bedtime and she was finally open enough to talk about …


UK Doctor Claims Fathers At Childbirth Harmful? Really?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

A friend posted an article today from the UK Mail on the presence of men at childbirth.  The article is called ” A father’s presence during childbirth makes labour longer and harder and could damage mother and child’s health.  Upon reading just the title alone (though I invite you to read the entire article for yourself), you could say I have a few thoughts to share.  And one of them is “What??”

Let me first outline the key points in the article along with some of my immediate criticism.  Then I’ll give a summary of my thoughts on this eye opening article.  So bear with me as I lay this out.  Please stick with me until the end.

A male obstetrician from the UK claims that from his observations over the last fifty years, fathers being present during childbirth can do more harm than good.  The father causes the mother to get stressed and not release hormones properly.

The apparent reason for labor becoming longer and more difficult is because of the “inappropriate environment.”  Oh, and one more gem of insight, as long as we’re blaming men and babies for women’s troubles.  The drop in sexual attraction after childbirth can apparently lead straight to a divorce.  As if there is nothing more holding this couple together.  Granted, this is fairly common after childbirth.  But a direct connection like that?  Come on.

And Mary Newburn, someone from the National Childbirth Trust, seems to point the finger at social pressures for men to be there – a “you got me into this” type of attitude from women.  She goes on to say that it can be OK for the mom to prefer having a woman present rather than the father, which sounds like a fine option on its own.   But on the way to that message of openness and choice, Ms Newburn manages to make a generalized insult to the growing number of moms who do want dads present.  She makes them sound snide and resentful of pregnancy, making sure the dads go through their …


An Anxious Life – Your Fears and Your Family

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Anxious Life Is A Small Life

No, you don’t have an anxiety problem.  You don’t feel jittery or get sweaty palms every day.  How could that be true?  Well, a life lived from a base of anxiety and fear might look different than you’d expect.  And you might be surprised by the impact your fears have on your family.

When you operate out of your anxieties and fears, you may not see the whole picture.  Since you don’t seem to have  obvious symptoms of anxiety, you might very likely brush this off.  But here’s the key to understanding this viewpoint.  People with a perspective largely influenced by fear and anxiety often live life in a tiny “box”.  They cut themselves off from most things that could provoke their anxiety.  And if they successfully avoid these opportunities, they may not feel classic anxiety symptoms all that often.

They have missed the whole point that their life is lived to avoid feeling anxious whenever possible.  They trade interest and excitement for feeling comfortable and safe.  If this person’s true anxiety problem isn’t addressed and treated, they may live many years before they understand the bigger impact of their behaviors and choices.

When you have a family, everything you do could potentially impact someone besides yourself.  Life is no longer just about you and your absolute comfort level.  Marriage pushes you to go beyond yourself and think of your spouses needs and happiness.  Having kids presses your boundaries of patience, learning, and maturity.  And these are good things, things that can help you develop into a more well-rounded fulfilled human being.

If you regularly refuse to visit family, turn down your kids’ invitation to visit them at school, avoid going to social events, and say no to travel opportunities with your family, start thinking hat that’s about.  You know your own life better than I do, so I’m not accusing everyone of having an anxiety problem if they really don’t like their mother in law!  No, I’m asking you to consider the bigger pattern.  And if you think this might …


Kids Can Handle Some Disappointment in Life

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Back in the day, it was good to get on the honor roll, you sweat during play auditions, and getting the state tournament was everything.  Anymore, kids get meaningless ribbons, participation awards, and sometimes no valedictorian for graduation.  Too much competition, chance to not feel included in everything, or potential disappointment is seen as harmful and un-PC.  Me?  I can’t imagine growing up without it.

So many parents have gotten their feathers fluffed up about the slightest risk of low self esteem.  I wrote another post a while ago about the value of promoting self worth rather than self esteem.  That post echoes my main point here.  Self esteem is just all about feelings.  Self worth is based on what you do and how much effort you put forth.  You can easily be proud of good work done.  Hard to pinpoint your own feelings from minute to minute.

You can begin to see how futile it is to jump around protecting your child from any potential hit to their self esteem.  Stuff happens, and you can’t control everything anyway for yourself much less anyone else.  Take a look now at how this connects with my focus on disappointment.

Losing is disappointing and winning is fun.  That’s pretty much by design.  That doesn’t mean losing is bad, though.  How do you think people get pushed to be better?  Often times, losing does it because it elicits some pretty strong disappointment.  A kid puts their heart into their tryout for the soccer team, the choir, the advanced dance group.  That extra heart and effort is often what makes the difference between someone reaching their goal and someone falling short.  But if they still don’t make it despite their very best efforts, the fall can be long and hard.  And it can hurt.

So does that mean kids shouldn’t try because there is a risk of losing and being disappointed?  Absolutely not.  That’s what makes accomplishing something so great.  When you put your all into it, the accomplishment of your goal overflows your sense of self worth.  You feel on top of …


Personality Disorder In The Family

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

A family with a personality disorder can be such a challenge to deal with.  Problems are always someone else’s fault.  They either love or hate everything.  Life’s always filled with drama and exaggeration.  I have met and worked with a few people with personality disorders and I find the experience unlike anything else.

Some people with personality disorders have come to understand them, often with professional counseling help.  These people have been persistent and patient, finding ways to live with less distress and greater satisfaction.  What I describe below will be true largely of someone who hasn’t progressed that far with treatment, or who may not have had any help at all.

I’ll give you the basics on personality disorders so you know where I’m coming from.  Someone’s personality is the collection of personal traits, behaviors, patterns, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, and thoughts.  When all of these things are generally healthy and positive, a person can cope fairly well in the world on most occasions.

For someone with a personality disorder, these patterns and traits are much more rigid and inflexible.  This makes it very difficult for them to cope with the ups and downs of life.  A key part of this is their viewpoint on their own behaviors and attitudes.  They are always “normal” and “correct.”  They attempt to make everything fit into their narrow world view, rather than incorporating new information and various viewpoints when needed.

If you give them feedback about something they do that constantly makes problems for their life, they won’t understand what you mean.  Their extreme mood swings and dramatic comments all make sense to them and seem perfectly justified.  They aren’t being flippant by dismissing your concerns – they truly don’t see their inflexibility or extreme nature as part of the problem.

Unfortunately, this huge blind spot prevents them from taking opportunities to learn about themselves, make changes, and have healthier happier lives.  A few examples of personality disorders include Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Like most things, personality disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe and can …


PMDD and Severe Pain

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I have to say, the continued response to the Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) blog posts on the Family Mental Health blog is overwhelming.  That’s so great!  I would have never guessed that my own experience with  PMDD would be able to help connect so many others going through the same thing.

I’m seeing several posts from women desperately asking for help because of their severe pain (associated with other PMDD symptoms).  Medicine may or may not work, they’ve been on a carousel of doctor referrals, their symptoms shut down their life and they can’t find relief.  Oh, it makes my heart sad to hear these stories.  Hang in there!

Just a quick disclaimer – I am not a medical doctor, I am a mental health therapist.  So please know that anything I may suggest will be from my personal experience or within my professional abilities.  That being said, I feel I must respond to the complaints of severe pain and cramping.  Ongoing severe pain is really out of my realm of professional knowledge, but I know just the kind of pain you are talking about.  It’s nothing you want to deal with any longer than you have to.

To make a small dent here, I decided to do a quick Google and find a little info on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and pain.  Unfortunately, the more you search sometimes, the more you can’t find what you want.  Hopefully the time I spent scanning the internet can make your search for answers a little shorter.

I found one great suggestion that anyone can do no matter where you live.  The American Medical Association (AMA) has a function called DoctorFinder.  You have to accept a disclaimer, then you get to a page where you can either search by name and location or specialty and location.

For someone with PMDD, I might suggest looking up psychiatrists or ObGyns in your zip code or neighboring zip codes.  Call and find out if they treat PMDD specifically.  And if they don’t ask who they know that does – even if they are several cities …


 

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