Tag Archives: worry

Basic Trust: Seeing All that Glorious Light
New Parents

As I sit blissfully holding my infant grandson, I am struck by his fragility and vulnerability. He is dependent on us, his caregivers. And we in turn look to every possible behavioral sign to determine what needs caring for. Is he hungry, tired, does he have an internal pain, does he need a burp, a suck, a bounce, a diaper change? We rotate through the possibilities hoping to land on the right one, thrilled when we do, worried when we don’t. 

When he’s content, he coos and looks around curious about all he sees. When something is wrong, he makes a pained face and cries. We answer those cries. We will do so for a good long time to come. 

Caregivers must pay attention to behavior that signals a problem the child is having—a need that must be met. As he grows, his cries turn to whines, hurts to frustration and anger. Sensations of discomfort, pain, and hunger get complicated with jealousy, confusion, shame, fear, embarrassment, anger. As he learns he is a separate entity, he understands that he can be left alone, yelled at, and made to feel bad. He learns he can be a problem to those he loves and needs the most.

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Opening up Communication so Sadness and Stress Doesn’t Turn to Depression

 

Q. I’m concerned about my almost 15 year-old boy. He is depressed and with good reason.  He is slightly on the spectrum and has A.D.D. (no hyperactivity). We’ve moved twice in 14 months and we’re currently renting. He is a creature of habit and our lives have been very unpredictable for almost three years. He lost his baby brother when he was 6 and had to deal with Mom and Dad’s grief. He is totally quiet and therefore doesn’t make friends. Being stuck at home doesn’t help. He has never really talked much, especially about emotions. How can I help him open up?

A. Everything you have described is life events that have been out of your or your son’s control. Very hard but this is life happening. These are situations that people have to deal with. Depression has all to do with how those events are perceived and dealt with. If your son’s emotions are swept under the carpet, ignored or criticized, then he will be left feeling unheard, alone, misunderstood, etc. – fertile ground for depression. But if his feelings are acknowledged, even if your son doesn’t do much talking, then he is left with the sadness, grief, or anger about the situations, but everything is out in the open and feelings usually do not fester to cause depression.

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The Power of Acceptance

All parents struggle with fears and worries about their children and many end up just getting in their own way. When you take your children’s behavior personally and use your authority to control them to do what you want, you may wind up creating the scenario you most fear.

The problem comes when we think it’s our children who need to change when indeed it is us. Whatever you need to do to get to acceptance is the answer.

The following is a story from one of my clients that I find truly inspiring. Her struggles to understand her son and ultimately herself have led to a wonderful relationship. I hope it motivates you to trust your children and let go of a small bit of your fears. You will always have fears and doubts — you wouldn’t be a conscientious parent without them. But in the moment, when your child needs your connection, you must be able to at least temporarily put those fears aside.

Reflections on my journey with my son – Mother of three

I am enjoying a playful moment in the kitchen with my 6’6, 17 year old son. He likes to get in my space and see if he can startle me with his big teenage energy. I get flustered and cry out, “You make me feel anxious when you do that!” He smiles with this gentle warmth and looking right in my eyes​ ​he says lovingly​, “​Mum, it’s not what I do​ that makes you feel anxious. It’s what you ​think​ about what I do.”

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Dec. ’18 Q&A – Big Emotions, Angry Outbursts and a Must Read

Handling Big Emotions and Understanding the Behavior

Q. We had an episode with our 5 1/2 yr. old son. For the past 2 years, we have tried every approach. Our son is smart but immature. We feel he lacks confidence and tends to hold things in rather than talk. I tried to get to the root cause but he still won’t budge (one might say stubborn). Tonight he was off the wall jumping on chairs, interrupting when I had someone over and had to help them work. No matter how many times my husband or I ask him to stop jumping on chairs, he would say “no never”. He has a temper – will hit, throw, slam doors, spit and call us “stupid” or say “never” when we’re explaining how we want him to stop hitting and start listening. However, his tantrums have become less frequent and recovering has become quicker except tonight. Usually he’ll go through the tantrum and then start crying. If we try to challenge him and he’s in the mood, he’ll do it.  But most of the time, he’ll say, no let’s do something totally different or I can’t or don’t know how. If I say I’ll show you, then he’ll whine and say he’s a baby. He always has a comeback. What do you think?

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October ’17 – Grieving, Transitions and News Anxiety

How to Deal With Grieving

Q. My 3.5 yo nephew’s adored grandmother has just died. She lived far away and he and his mother have just spent two weeks with her. They just got back only to discover that she died right after they left. My question is how his parents should handle this with my nephew. She was very special to him and he was very, very fond of her. Should they be honest, should they just say that she has gone to heaven – how honest would you recommend they be with a 3.5 year old’s processing of the news and his handling of grief?

My sister in law’s first reaction was to not tell him but I feel that’s a mistake yet completely respect where its coming from. They are going back but leaving my nephew here with me for the week so he can go to school and they can be kid free to grieve themselves and attend to the family unencumbered. But do you think it’s important that he go back too? Apparently the funeral will be brief, a cremation and no mass or eulogies etc, so not sure how much he would get from being there?

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When Your Child Feels Worry or Despair
Worry, Despair

Don’t go underground when you see worry or despair in your child.

What do I say to my kids when they seem consumed with worry or despair for their futures and when tragedy cuts down innocent lives? When leaders demonstrate behaviors that I work hard to steer my children away from and demonstrate intolerance where I want to teach them tolerance? And in their day-to-day lives when they complain of teachers and kids treating them unfairly or feeling pressured to do what doesn’t interest them? I feel helpless when I can’t answer their questions.

More and more I hear parents describe their children as anxious and angry, who see no reason to strive in school, who seem engulfed in worry and despair. The worry may not be voiced but shows up when they drop out of activities, lose friends and spend more time alone in their rooms gaming and on social media. Is this what’s happening to kids now because we are not tough enough on them or is this a reflection of the world we live in?

When schools focus on competency on standardized tests, children’s education gets boxed in. Few are getting what they need to excel in today’s world. Less and less feel inspired by what is out there. College degrees no longer guarantee jobs. Our political system is teaching that bullies win and minorities lose.

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5 Don’ts for Effective Careers (oh, and Parenting, too)

Instead of telling you what to add for the new year, I’m going to tell you what to avoid. I saw a Business Insider article about the 5 behaviors that may be killing your career. As I read them, I realized that the same holds true in parenting. These 5 behaviors may be making your parenting life way harder than it needs to be with little if any good results. I will translate them as we go.

1. Over-committing and under-delivering

In parenthood, fear and guilt tend to rule. Am I giving my children every opportunity there is? Do I spend enough time with them? Do I play with them enough or am I enabling their dependence? Should I start music lessons, soccer practice, tutoring? What’s the next big idea for my children’s birthdays? If we don’t have the money for all this, guilt takes us down and we fear our children will fail.

Who are we competing with? We over-commit our children in the hopes of giving them the advantage, being the best, excelling in everyway. But at what cost?

America’s teens “trail much of the world on measures of school achievement, but are among the world leaders in violence, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, abortion, binge drinking, marijuana use, obesity, and unhappiness,” according to adolescence scholar Larry Steinberg. Many of our twenty-somethings are so driven to be at the top that stress levels take physical and mental tolls. Perhaps we need to connect some dots.

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“You just don’t understand!” ~ a teen’s lament

Sound familiar? And I have to agree. We don’t understand. Most of us have locked away the pains of our teen years and approach this raising children business with a hindsight perspective (read, I now know better). Teens feel misunderstood, angry and detached from the most important people in their lives when their parents appear clueless to what is important to them.

Parents are at their wit’s end with fear and worry about their children’s activities (or inactivities) once parental supervision is reduced. We want the best for them. We want them to be safe and smart and make good decisions. We want them to do well in school so they have opportunities for success in life. It drives us crazy when we see that “I don’t care” attitude at our cautions.

Brain research tells us that the prefrontal cortex is not complete until age 25, which means the ability to look ahead, gauge the consequences of particular choices, and make decisions based on those assumptions is trumped by the excitement of risky activities. And what’s more—this delay is apparently biologically important for the evolution of the species. (Learn more in Dan Siegel’s, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.)

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A Mother’s Day Gift

Being a mother is no piece of cake. From the beginning there is seemingly endless crying, sleepless nights, demands on your time and energy, exhaustion both physical and mental, putting your needs on indefinite hold—forgetting what your needs even are. Kids fight—with each other and with you. You know it’s your job to do something about it but seem to have no idea what to do. You need a break. But will you give it to yourself? Probably not.

This Mother’s Day I have a break for you. I find that in times of stress, when I’m full of indecision and don’t know which way to turn, when I know I want something but don’t know what it is, when I need to get something off my chest but don’t really want any advice—what always helps is an understanding ear and sharing with someone who knows just what I mean.

Katrina Kenison is that person who knows just what you mean and has been there in one form or another. Her books, The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Magical Journey are memoirs of growing and learning to let go throughout her parenting years. Together with all the changes, tragedies, and daily doings of each ordinary day, Katrina gives you that ear, that understanding—even though she doesn’t even know you.

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Empathy vs Sympathy
Empathy vs. Sympathy

There is a fine line between sympathy and empathy. Learning the difference can make huge changes in your relationship with your child.

  • Sympathy directs attention to how you feel.
  • Empathy is about listening. It tells your child you are paying attention to how she feels.
  • Sympathy is about me. Empathy is about you.
  • Empathy has nothing to do with how you feel; it’s about understanding how the other feels given their circumstance.

Empathy and sympathy as metaphor:

Imagine a huge hole in the ground with Man A stuck at the bottom unable to escape. Man B walks nearby and hears Man A calling for help. Man B sees Man A at the bottom of the hole and jumps in to help. Now both are stuck at the bottom of the hole. Man C walks by and hears both A and C calling for help. Man C tells them he will be back soon. Later, Man C arrives with a ladder.

Man B acted out of sympathy for Man A and jumped in thinking he was helping Man A. Now both were in the problem. Man A now had Man B to deal with as well as his original problem. Sympathy often becomes more about the sympathizer. Man C empathized understanding the predicament they were in and what was needed. His compassion was helpful. Empathy is more about the person being empathized with.

My mother was a professional worrier. Whenever I expressed having a problem with anything, she sympathized, “Oh my poor dear. That’s so awful. Do you really have to do that?” Her sympathy was not helpful. As a matter of fact, I stopped sharing my problems with her because then I had her feelings and worry to deal with as well as my own problem.

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