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!
Last week, I posted an Introduction to Filial Therapy. Don’t let the name deter you from reading further. This is simply a tool that play therapists use to create and strengthen the relationship between parents and children.
Today, I am going to share the first few steps in getting started in this special play time with your child! We will talk about who will be included, where the play time should be held, a time to schedule, what to tell your child, and what play materials you will need. I am so excited about this blog series because I know so many parents and children can benefit from devoting this time together!!
Who: This play time is recommended for ONE parent and ONE child together at a time. It doesn’t matter if it’s mom or dad. I recommend these sessions for children between the ages of 3 years and 7 years of age.
When: Decide upon a specific play session time. I recommend starting with 20-30 minutes, once a week. Choose a time when you will have little to no interruptions and you can focus your attention solely on the child. You also want to consider a time when your child will be fed and rested to avoid any irritability or fussiness.
Where: Choose a room that has little distrations for you and your child. You will be putting the toys on the floor so consider somewhere with decent floor space. If all the rooms in your house are regularly used, just make sure the space is clean (to minimize the distration of thinking about the mess).
What To Tell The Child: Tell your child that you want to spend more quality time with them and you have chosen the special time, place, and toys to play together. Make the focus on your desire to spend time with them, rather than wanting anything from the child.
Play Materials: Below is a list of toys and play materials to collect, but first I have a few pointers/guidelines.
Store your toys in a special box or bag, away from the child’s other toys.
Do not allow the child to bring in any toys or take any toys from this box of designated toys.
You can find many of these toys at dollar stores and garage sales. Don’t fret about spending a lot of money!
If you cannot find every toy on this list, do NOT let it keep you from getting started. If you have a good amout of the toys, or find good substitute, then you are good to go!
And finally, below is a list of toys to get started.
Glue (I prefer stick glue)
1-2 small cars
2 cell phones (I use an old cell I no longer use)
Kitchen set (couple dishes and toy food)
Baby doll accessories (such as a bottle, diaper, clothes)
Set of animals (such as a lion, elephant, monkey, shark, dog, pig, etc)
2 soft animals
Deck of cards
Noise maker (such as a maraca or toy drum)
I gathered a small sample of toys from my play room to give you an example of the types of toys you will be gathering. Happy hunting!
This time of year, many of us are reflecting upon the many things we are thankful for, including family, friends, health, home, and our jobs. I would like to share some of the things I am thankful for in relation to my counseling profession.
Fellow Counseling Friends: I don’t know what I would do without friends who share my love for counseling. We all have those friends who can understand just what we mean when we share excitement about a client who finally shows a small sign of trust, or finding a great deal on a sand tray miniature. I’m so thankful for my counseling friends!
Uno Cards: If you work with adolescents, you get this one. In addition to taking the pressure off an adolescent for having to talk, Uno cards give them something to do with their hands. This will often lead to establishing a positive therapeutic rapport, which ultimately leads to progress. I’m thankful for Uno cards!
Play Therapy: Working with children is challenging without techniques that account for those early developmental years. Plus, collecting the toys is half the fun! I’m thankful for play therapy!
Committed Clients: Therapy is a process and, just like anything else, results come from consistency and hard work. I admire clients who are committed to their emotional health and the emotional health of their family and I am thankful to have committed clients!
The Paper Office: This is a book filled with private practice forms for mental health that can be edited and reproduced. Not only are there forms for informed consent, but I have found excellent assessment tools as well. I’m thankful for tools that make my life easier!
Pinterest: I find so many great ideas on this website and it has introduced me to even more websites and blogs with great ideas. Plus, everything is organized and in a convenient place when I’m ready to access. I’m thankful for the wonderful world of Pinterest!
LPC-Interns: New grads and interns are so excited about the field of psychology and counseling. They are eager to learn and ready to work hard for their dreams. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with interns so I can always be reminded why I entered this field and continue to feel the excitement of all it has to offer!
All Tied Up With Worry Activity: I use this activity with so many clients. Whether they are dealing with anger, stress, worry, or depression, there is always so much the client learns about themself from this activity.
My office: Since starting my private practice this year, I am so thankful to have a beautiful space in which to work!
My family: It’s impossible for me to mention what I’m thankful for without mentioning my family. The mental health profession and starting a private practice requires the love and support of your family. I am so very thankful for my husband who gives me encouragement and my kids who give me inspiration!
3. Trying to decide whether to put your child in preschool? SSBE has a good post on this topic- Preschool: yes or no.She lists the many issues to consider, such as the financial costs, readiness of the child, and benefits of preschool, as well as some additional resources to check out on the subject. Being a mother of young children, I will be bookmarking this one!
4. About.Com has a good article on preparing yourself and your toddler for surgery- Toddler Surgery. I have not had to go through this yet, but I even cried when my first born got his first vaccination shot!
I loved this article on Huff Post. Here are a few of the tips, but check out the full article for the full effect!
Wake with the sun – There is no purer light than what we see when we open our eyes first thing in the morning. Resisting the morning’s first waking moment instantly adds stress to your day. Avoiding the sun, you commence a chase that lasts all day long: running short of time, balance, peace and productivity.
Sit – Mindfulness without meditation is just a word. The search for mindful living is always grounded in a meditation practice. Seated meditation is the easiest and fastest way to clear your mind of anxious, fearful and stressful thoughts. Meditation puts your overactive brain on a diet, so you have more attention to bring to the real life that appears before you. You will be far more productive in the ensuing hours if you begin the day by spending five minutes actively engaged in doing nothing at all.
Make your bed – The state of your bed is the state of your head. Enfold your day in dignity. The five minutes you spend making your bed slows you down from your frantic, morning scrambling and creates a calm retreat to welcome you home at night. Plus, making your bed means you’ve already achieved an even more challenging feat: getting out of it.
Empty the hampers – Do the laundry without resentment or commentary and have an intimate encounter with the very fabric of life. Doing laundry is a supreme act of personal responsibility. It requires maturity, attention and discipline, and it engenders happiness. Don’t believe me? See how you feel every time you reach the bottom of an empty hamper.
Wash your bowl – Rinse away self-importance and clean up your own kitchen mess. If you leave it undone, it will get sticky. An empty sink can be the single most gratifying sight of a long and tiring day.
Rake the leaves – Take yourself outside to rake, weed or sweep. You’ll never finish for good, but you’ll learn the point of pointlessness. The repetitive motion is meditative; the fresh air is enlivening. Lose yourself in doing what needs to be done, without a thought of permanent outcome or gain. You’ll immediately alter your worldview.
Eat when hungry – Align your inexhaustible desires with the one true appetite. Coming clean about our food addictions and aversions is powerful and lasting medicine. Eating is so central to family life and culture that we can pass on our habits for generations to come. Mindless overeating feeds our sickness; mindful eating feeds the body’s intuitive, intelligent wisdom and nourishes life well past tonight’s empty plates.
Let the darkness come – Set a curfew on the Internet and TV and discover the natural balance between daylight and darkness, work and rest. Your taste for the quiet will naturally increase. When you end your day in accord with the earth’s perfect rhythm, you grant the whole world a moment of pure peace.
Over time, I have come across many anger-related activities from websites, blogs, and more. I decided to gather them all in one place and came up with a list of 50. If you have any other tools targeting anger, please share with the rest of us!
This anger management activity can show a client how anger can build up inside a person. It can also show the client that when they feel an angry tornado building up inside of them they can use coping skills to help defuse the anger.
With this activity the play therapy client will create a “visual” of their problems being locked away in a tower and come up with solutions to solving these problems. If the play therapy client is not ready to create a solution to the problem the client can still benefit by visualizing the problem locked away in the tower. The play therapy client can become empowered by separating themselves from the problem that is locked away in the tower.
After reading When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…, we played a game with the tree pictured. I gave students examples of things that made them or Sophie angry and had students put a leaf on the tree for their response.
The Anger Management Puppet Set includes 3 Puppets, a CD of recorded script and catchy original music, and a separate guide. The two scripts and one CD that are designed to help counselors, teachers, or parents teach children about how to be a good sport and how to deal with anger. These puppets are suitable for small and large hands are quite durable. They are made for long term use.
For people to recognize and understand that the anger they keep on the inside affects how they live their lives. To help people recognize the good things that they have in their hearts and to encourage them to share this part of themselves with others.
Give these cards to students to use throughout their day. Have them place their thumb behind the card and watch for the color change to reveal how calm they can make themselves. Four useful steps to anger control are provided on the back of each card.
Escape form Anger Island™ is designed with the busy counselor in mind, and it can be played in just 15 minutes. There are six skills in total, and one skill is the focus of each 15 minute session. Kids can play multiple times to learn all six skills.
These cards depict different elements of the anger cycle. Using appropriate cards in a variety of activities discussed in the accompanying booklet will facilitate awareness of the causes of anger and help to work out ways to overcome those triggers. For use one-to-one or with small or large groups.
This game is intended to introduce the concept of anger management to children, while encouraging them to talk about things that bother them. The game is played like the familiar children’s card game of War, but with a peaceful twist!
Here’s a deck of cards that teaches children how to manage their anger. Using two internal dialog techniques—Thought Stopping and Self-Talk—kids can stop anger in its tracks. By simply playing cards, they learn to envision a stop sign whenever their anger is triggered and to replace their angry thoughts with more positive responses.
Angry Aardvark, Cranky Crab, Furious Frog, Mad Meerkat, Peeved Pig, and Raging Racoon teach children how to respond to anger in healthy ways. As they move from the Anger Volcano to Tranquility Beach—with occasional visits to the Time-Out Tent—kids answer game card questions about behavior, responsibility, sibling rivalry, conflict, and relationships. Along the way, they learn that anger is a natural feeling, neither good nor bad. It’s the way one expresses anger that matters.
Smart and Angry is a therapeutic and educational board game designed to teach young people specific skills that will help them look objectively at anger-provoking situations and react in a thoughtful, assertive, and respectful way. It is not the anger that gets kids in trouble, but rather the actions they take when they are angry, that determine whether they can solve the problem or make things worse. In addition, many people misread situations and become angry when it is inappropriate.
The Positive Ways to Handle Anger Card Game is played like the classic Old Maid card game. There are 20 sets of matching cards that show positive, safe ways to handle angry feelings. Each game includes playing instructions, information about anger and how to use the game as an educational tool.
The Anger IQ game educates players about the hazards of irrational thinking associated with anger, and gives them practice avoiding them by using a set of principles for dealing with anger. Players will translate this rehearsal of responsible decisions made under conditions of anger to the real world. This combined use of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and Social Learning Theory is particularly effective.
This game helps children learn how to stay cool and not blow up when they are angry. The object of the “I Was So Mad” Anger Game is to help children learn positive ways to control and regulate themselves when they are angry.
This fast-paced therapeutic card game helps children control their anger in the moment, practice effective anger management techniques, and understand what anger looks and feels like. Mad Dragon plays like the popular card game Uno.
A beautiful reminder of the importance of mindful affection for our kids. This concept can also be applied to a couple’s relationship as well. Here is a brief clip from the article:
Touch is a powerful thing, especially a parent’s touch. It is likely you’ve seen the power of a parent’s touch in action. Babies are soothed when folded in loving arms, tears are chased away with a hug, a gentle squeeze of the shoulder that reminds an antsy child to sit still just a while longer, or how a parent’s large hand wrapped around a child’s small one can provide an extra boost of courage. We know that touch matters.
So, let me ask you a question I recently asked myself: when was the last time you slowed down enough to connect with your child, not just through words, but through a loving, intentionally tender touch?
We touch our children often, of course. But how many of those connections are made on auto-pilot? What if we put more intention into our tasks as loving caregivers? How can we add tenderness to the routine tasks of childcare?
I recently posted on Gifted Kidsand thought this was an interesting distinction between “bright student” and “gifted learner” and worth sharing.
3. Play Therapy Pictionary on Creative Counseling 101 is a great therapeutic activity to help children identify and express feelings.
1. Ask your play therapy client to pick five to ten feeling words and write them down. These feeling words should come from feelings the client has experienced in the past day or week.
2. Once the feeling words have been identified, ask the play therapy client to paint or draw (with colored markers or crayons) the feelings on paper.
3.The therapist will call out a word while the play therapy client paints or draws a feeling related to the “feeling word” the therapist stated. This game is similar to Pictionary.
4. The therapist will continue to state the “feeling words” identified by the play therapy client. Each “feeling word” will be drawn or painted to create a unique “feeling picture.”
5. Discuss the drawing or painting after each “feeling word” is stated. Talk about the final picture or painting and process what it felt like for the play therapy client to put the feelings down on paper.
6. The play therapy client may want to take the picture home to celebrate their feelings, or to further explore their feelings.
For all you play therapy enthusiasts, or parents curious about what play therapy is about, this is good video on play therapy and autism. What I like is that it shows how important it is to ACCEPT the child and their interests.
“Following my high school graduation ceremony my dad handed me a bag with a copy of Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Doctor Seuss inside. I open it up and on the first page I see a short paragraph written by none other than my kindergarten teacher. My dad tells me “Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book.”
There really are 100 techniques featured on this site for nurses! The exercises are categorized by activities for Emotions, Relaxation, Portraits, Trauma and Unhappiness, Collaging, Self, Gratitute, Inside the Mind, and Miscellaneous. I’m not sure how long ago this was put togeher, but some of the links for the ideas don’t work. Still, I think we get the general idea and it’s a great resource. I haven’t gone through every technique, but here are a few of my favorites so far:
In this article, readers shared what means home to them. For me, home is a place where I can be with my family and a place where I can be relaxed and content. Here’s what a few other readers said in this article:
A warm bed that you can’t get out of in the morning, a tiny pink toothbrush in the bathroom, and the sound of my husband’s key in the door at the end of the day. Dena Nilsen, Charlotte, North Carolina
Anywhere my kids are. Millie Ayala, Northport, New York
The sensation of peace on a cozy, rainy Sunday; the feeling of relief when you pull into the driveway after a long trip; a quiet kiss on the head of a baby asleep in my lap; and the warmth of my husband’s arms. Home has been many places for me over the years, but its comforts are defined by simple, blissful moments like these. Sarah Bernard, Somersworth, New Hampshire
Home is a place you can feel comfortable cooking breakfast in your pajamas. Danielle Halloran, Folsom, California
5. Nerd Quirks. An entire website devoted to fun “nerd” quirks is fun to read when you have free time.
Throughout the school year, I get quite a few calls from concerned parents about their child or teen. Sometimes, the issues are stemming from something at home, and other times, it may be stemming from issues at school. Either way, it makes sense that a lot of the behaviors and struggles are observed on school grounds first.
What school problems are most commonly reported when parents seek therapy?
1. Not paying attention in class.
When a child or teen is reported as not paying attention in class, parents often worry right away their child has ADHD. While this is certainly a possibility, inattention can also be a symptom of boredom, lack of sleep or adequate nutrition, or preoccupation with other problems. When inattention is such a problem that the child’s grades are suffering, or it is causing them emotional distress, it’s best to seek professional intervention.
2. Difficulty making friends.
In my experience, this is most common with kids in elementary school who are just getting started in the school social scene. The possibility of a disorder on the Autism spectrum is always looming when parents report social difficulties. While we want to look at all possibilities, this can also be a symptom of a child who is shy, inexperienced in social settings, or even suffering from a mild form of social phobia. If the teachers are reporting this is a problem, or the child is telling you they are worried, and the problem persists despite your greatest efforts, seek professional advisement.
3. Disruptive in class.
When a child or teen is disruptive in class, it is usually treated as strictly a behavior problem without considering all the potential reasons for their behavior. Many times, like most of these issues, there is an underlying reason. First, kids and teens are extremely vulnerable to the need for social acceptance. This need can drive them to behave in ways that will get them into trouble, or even put their safety at risk. They may also be disruptive because they are bored, cannot understand the teacher, cannot see the teacher, or not challenged. This child may also be struggling with the material and find they are so far behind that it “saves face” to look as if they are failing because they don’t care, rather than being unable to understand the material. Many, many possibilities!
4. Reports of aggressiveness or anger.
When children act aggressivetly towards others, or express such a high level of anger, it can be worrisome. It breaks my heart to see a young person feeling so negative. In my experience, these kids don’t want to feel this way. They are often angry about something going on a home, such as a divorce, or an issue at school, such as a bully. When a child is this angry, seek help from a professional so they can work through some of that anger, as well as learn some more positive coping skills.
5. Failing grades.
When kids fail their classes, it’s best to determine the reason as soon as possible. The longer the issue goes on, the more and more behind they will fall. Not only may they repeat a grade, but they can feel defeated and believe they are not smart. This is rarely the case. Talk to the teachers and the student to find out more about what subjects they are failing. Is it test grades or homework? These details can help you discover the possible root of the problem. Finally, talk with a professional about your next step. They may be a candidate for psychological testing or therapy.