Distractions. The temptation for the kids to want to play instead of eat dinner, and for me to watch the news instead of prepare dinner, is one example of how distractions affect us at my house.
Stress. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the morning is no easy task and often very stressful. You do “what you have to do” just to get out the door on time.
Change. There’s no getting around the fact that changes in your family/life happen and adjustments have to be made. New babies are born, job schedules change, kids start new extra curricular activities… all requiring a modification to your routine.
Lack of Energy. I don’t know any parent who feels they get enough sleep and with all the activities of life today, disregarding a routine is very tempting, especially when you kids are resistant (bath, bed, etc.).
I talk a lot about my life as a mom on this blog. Usually I am sharing joyful moments, techniques, and other positive themes on parenthood. I’ll be completely honest though. While a moment doesn’t go by that I don’t love my kids more than life and want to give everything to them… the truth is that I don’t always love “parenthood.”It’s a HARD JOB, often filled with stress and always requires sacrifice. I work hard as a mom. I give my whole heart to them and desire to give them a happy, structured, opportunistic childhood. I want to raise them with good character and values. This kind of parenting requires a lot of effort and I am thankful to have a wonderful husband and father to my children to share in these responsibilities. Still, all you mothers and father know what I am talking about when I say that being a parent isn’t easy.
Negative Self-Talk = Negative Mood
In the middle of the most stressful times, like getting the kids dinner and bath by yourself, when one of them has an ear infection and the other is testing boundaries like there is no tomorrow, all on an empty stomach and back ache from an injury during your work out… Yes this is me! 🙂 You have to draw strength to continue without biting everyone’s head off! 🙂 I noticed my self-talk was very negative during these moments. I was really making those stressful times even more miserable for myself and spiraling into a state of stress, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. I want to look back and know I enjoyed my kids when they were little, not the experience I was having.
A Letter From My “Negative Self” to My “Positive Self”
When things are calm (aka when kids are in bed or entertaining one another) my mind set and perceptions about parenthood are totally different. I decided to write a letter from my calm, joyful self to my stressed, negative self.
I’m going to share this personal letter with you here.
I know you are stressed right now and feel like giving up. Raising kids is hard, especially when both of them are so young. Please remember: You are strong; You are a good mommy; Your kids are amazing; And this won’t last forever! Time will go by so quickly… it already has and you want to relish in the precious moments you have with your babies. Give yourself a break if needed! If your kids are in bed 30 minutes later… they will get an extra long nap tomorrow. If water splashes out of the tub, just put a towel down. If the kids are crying and clingy, it’s because they miss you… give them love and nurture them tonight! Take it moment by moment and remember to breath. Your babies are precious and your family is beautiful. There is no reason to stress like you are. Take care dear kimmy and focus on that warm bath and glass of wine you have planned for later tonight!
Your Turn: Writing a Letter to Yourself
Practicing positive self talk and positive affirmations is not a new concept. However, I found it very helpful to write this. The act of writing itself is therapeutic, such as journal writing. You also have something to reference during your times of stress. We all see things differently when we are in a good mood versus a bad mood. Reminding yourself of your “good mood perceptions” can encourage you to push through and give you positive affirmations that may be hard to come up with during times of stress.
You don’t have to be a parent to use this tool. Whether you are battling an illness, training for a competition, attempting to loose weight, or studying for an exam or overall degree, this can be a useful tool to apply in your life. When you feel strong, confident, and joyful, this is the time to sit down and write down reminders to yourself about how you feel now and the reasons to push through whatever adversity you are facing.
Applying This Tool In Therapy
I find that client’s often describe their moments of distress in therapy as being really bad at the time, but when they talk to me they say things like “I know this is normal…” or “At the time it felt so hard…” Writing a letter to can be an excellent homework assignment. Have the client write a letter to themselves when they are feeling more positive and strong and use it as I have described here.
If I haven’t responded to your email or facebook post, or you have noticed my blog posts have been few and far between, it’s because I have been a very busy woman! Over the last many months, I’ve worked on establishing a new place for my clinical practice. If you have ever set up a new office, or moved into a new home, you know the errands and tasks are endless… or seem that way at times. I am so happy to be moved in and wanted to share my space with you all!
While I looked very hard for a space that separated the play therapy room and talk therapy room, I actually decided on a larger space that allowed me to combine the two types of treatment, and still have room for a desk and work space!
As you can see from these two pictures, the play area is behind the talk therapy space. My desk is off to the side, away from everything else.
The combined space has worked out great and here’s why…
One reason is that sometimes I don’t know how receptive a child will be to play therapy, especially when they are around 7-8 years old. This allows for the child the have the opportunity to explore both spaces as needed.
My games, art materials, sand tray, and sand toys are in the play area, but I am able still access these items quickly and easily with teens when I want to incorporate these modalities into their treatment.
I like to read to some of my younger clients toward the end of a play therapy session. It’s easy to walk over to the couch and snuggle up with the teddy and blanket on my couch.
Having a play area in the back is a reminder to adult clients that I work with all ages. If they want to make a referral, they know I am equipped to work with children as well!
The lighting in the area is divided between the play area and talk therapy space. I can turn on the light in the talk therapy space without turning it on over the play area, and vice versa. This minimizes distraction the toys may cause adult clients and creates an even calmer environment.
Psychotherapy (aka Talk Therapy) Space
My goal for this area is to create a warm, calming, and safeenvironment for clients. The colors are greens, blues, creams, and brown. The lighting is dimmed. For auditory purposes, I have a white noise machine in the corner and a zen like fish tank that trickles water very, very lightly. In addition to the sound and a visual calming effect, the fish is also a way to bring the outdoors in… very important for me since I don’t have windows.
Play Therapy Space
The play area was the funnest to put together, of course. My goal was to display the toys in a way that made them easily visibleto the child and easily accessible, yet organizedand not distracting. I have sooo many toys and sand tray items, yet there are still some things I need (like puppets and a puppet center). Soon I’ll post more on my play room and share more detail about the toys and games I have. Here are a few good pictures to give you a general idea.
My waiting room is just the right size. My goal was to create a space that was comfortable, blocked sound from the counseling office, and offered some perks to make clients feel special and welcome! These perks include coffee, tea, and water, free wifi, toys and games for kids, reading materials for adults, contemporary music, and a bubble gum machine (my personal fav!).
So, that’s pretty much it! Please feel free to ask questions or make comments (love positive ones especially!) on this post. I’m also interested in hearing if you have a personal experience with a counseling/play therapy office and any feedback for me just starting out!
I often encourage my clients to keep a journal. I find them to be a great way to explore feelings outside of the session and it often generates thoughts they may want to bring up in their next appointment.
What is Journal Writing:
Most simply, journal writing is keeping written or typed form of your thoughts. These thoughts can be structured by answering questions or following a journal prompt, or they can be free style. You could even say a diary is a journal.
Journal writing is a wonderful tool for increasing self-awareness and expressing your self. It is a way to explore your inner thoughts, feelings, and desires. Some people even use journals to record important memories or dreams.
When and how?
Anywhere and anytime! Many people journal before bed, and others may journal when they feel the need to get their thoughts onto paper. All you need is a journal book, notebook, and even a laptop. Journaling can be in written form or typed. If you have a hard time starting a journal, I suggest using some journal prompts.
I created a journal prompt, which you can download and print for free by clicking onJournaling Writing Prompts. Here are the prompts in the print out:
1. Finish the sentence…
Today I feel…
I’m so happy I have…
I feel challenged by…
A wonderful thing that happened today…
If I had the courage, I would…
Often times I wonder…
My mother …
I showed a lot of strength when…
Sometimes I imagine…
I’m embarrassed that…
My greatest achievement in life is…
2. Write about a difficultly time in your life when you showed strength.
3. People often have scripts, or sayings, that they repeat over and over again in their mind. Identify 2-3 common scripts you find yourself saying.
4. Describe how you want your life to look in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years.
5. List your top three…
Wisest people in your life.
People you trust.
Songs that make you happy.
This is only a fraction of the ideas you can journal from. If you have any experiences with journaling, or if you have a good resource for more prompts, please share!
This quote by Melba Colgrove is a good description of how I felt today when I took note of a client’s success in therapy. Of all the topics I have to discuss, I felt it most appropriate to share a success story with you. What I hope you take from this example, is that success does come! Those who find success in the journey to self-improvement, whether they are children, teens, or adults, endure many challenges and sometimes harsh moments of self-reflection, to reach that place of “grinning inside.”
Therapy is not much different than committing to an exercise routine. In fact, they are very much the same as each are forms of self-improvement- one of the body and the other of the mind. Each require you to make a decision, a commitment for change and self-improvement. Each are more successful with the guidance from a professional. And each have both painful, challenging moments, as well as personally revealing and rewarding moments.
Joy in Her New Confidence
My success story today is about a young client. I will call her Shelly for the purpose of this post. Shelly is an elementary age child who came to me to address her severe anxiety, which was coupled with a very low self-esteem and poor self-confidence. Shelly had difficulty in her school and other activities because she would become so emotional and anxious over the tasks presented to her. In Shelly’s therapy sessions, I allowed her to direct her play and make the decisions about what she called the toys and how she played with them. In other words, I gave Shelly a safe environment to test herself and encouraged her to develop confidence in her capabilities. At first, this was so difficult for her. She wanted me to identify every toy and tell her where to go and became visibly upset when I encouraged her to decide. Shelly would also attempt puzzles and other mastery type toys, only to give up and express defeat when they became a challenge to her.
Fast forward about 9 months. In recent sessions, Shelly has come into the playroom with eagerness and excitement. She looks around the room and makes a quick decision on what she wants to play with or complete. Sometimes, she chooses more mastery toys and makes sure I watch her as she attempts the challenge over and over again until she is satisfied. Other times, she will choose an art activity in which she will decide what to paint and what colors to use (yes, she sought my approval on her colors at first!). Shelly will also choose to play with dolls or house items, such as the kitchen. I am no longer needed to name the items for her, as she will confidently tell me she is serving cake and pizza! This new self-confidence has also revealed her excellent ability to problem solve. I was so excited to observe her solve several of her own “problems” today during play by coming up with unique solutions and actively seeking items in the room that may help her with her dilemma. When she needed my help, she would appropriately ask for it. What a treat to witness!
So, if you are in therapy, have a child in therapy, or are a professional, you know that feeling like nothing you do makes a difference or that progress is moving so very slow. I’m here to remind you today that success can be possible. Please join me in this joyous feeling today as we now all know of one little girl will enjoy a fuller and healthier life!