Stop for a second – it’s OKAY.

Stop, Breath & Restart

Recently, my precious 2 ½ year old gave me a real test of patience.  I’m not entirely sure that I would say I passed that test with flying colors.  Allow me to explain…

On this particularly beautiful day, my sweet child decided that going through the front door of the house was far preferable than going in through the garage.  She made this choice as we were already walking into the house through the garage, and she was alerting me to this at a full-volume scream.  Now, I’m coming off a long day myself, not feeling very good, and my husband was away on business.  (Basically, already not my best day.)  I decided to humor her and walked through the house to the front door and took her out on the porch to then enter the house form the front.  WRONG.  Somehow, this only made it worse.  Now I have the screaming banshee on the front porch for the whole neighborhood to enjoy my parenting skills.

Oh, and now she is refusing to come inside.

At this point, it’s possible that I may or may not have uttered a few words that I am now thankful she isn’t repeating.  I picked her up and brought her into the house, shut the door, and took her into the kitchen.  She is still mid-meltdown.  And now, I am, too.  So what great parenting thing did I do next?  I actually put my hands on my head and screamed “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO??”  So now we are both in the kitchen crying, and neither of us knows what to do.  It’s not my shining moment.

Here’s what I am proud of, though:  I walked away.  (Wait, what?)  Yes, I walked away.  I sat in a chair (within eyesight of my kiddo) and gave myself a minute to cry and catch my breath.  Believe it or not, it helped.

So after maybe 2 minutes of taking some deep breaths and calming myself, I walked back over to my child, who is laying on the floor crying.  I put my hand on her back and asked her to sit up, but I used my very best Calm Mommy voice.  She did, and she let me pick her up.  I sat her on the counter so we could be eye to eye.  And then I told her I was sorry I yelled.  I told her I thought we both felt frustrated and that sometimes mommy feels that way, just like she does.  Then I told her how much I loved her and how no matter how frustrated I felt, I always love her.  Then I wiped her tears, I wiped my tears, and I asked her if I could give her a big bear hug.  (She let me, and it was awesome!)  And then we made chicken nuggets for dinner and we had a really good evening.

So here’s what I want to point out about this:  It’s okay for you to get upset!  Parenting is tough, and you have to do it even when you don’t feel good, or are tired, or just want to have the night off.  But when you feel that way, you can model something important for your precious pumpkin.  You can show them it’s okay to stop and take a moment to collect yourself before you react in a way you wish you hadn’t.  I had a lot of guilt about my reaction at first.  And then I felt pretty good about what I did.  I taught her to stop and check in with herself.  And I held myself accountable.  I turned it around.  And when I brought myself back down, she was able to match what I was doing.  And then we both felt better!

So stop and take a second when you need it!  It’s okay!

Walk away and collect yourself (make sure your little one is safe, though). When you do this, you help both of you.  And you might end up with a surprisingly amazing night!

jennifer-circle Written by Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC- Intern
                                     Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D, LPC-S

We all experience it, but did you know that it may be affecting your health?

stress

STRESS! We all experience it, but did you know that stress may be affecting your health? Stress symptoms can affect your body, as well as your thoughts and feelings. If left unchecked, stress can lead to many health problems, like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Effects of stress on mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Problems with focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Sadness or depressionstree2

Effects of stress on your body:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle Tension
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems
  • Change in sex drive

Human

Everyone experiences stress every now and then. It is a natural reaction to life experiences. Many different things can trigger stress, such as work, family, or even serious life events such as death or a diagnosis. For short-term situations, stress can be beneficial. Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. Your hypothalamus gets the ball rolling by communicating to your adrenal glands to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormone increase your heart rate and send blood to the vital parts of your body, such as muscles, heart, etc. When the perceived threat is gone, the hypothalamus tells all systems to go back to normal. However, if your stress levels are elevated for too long then this can have a negative impact on your health.

THERE ARE SIMPLE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS ON A DAILY BASIS.

  1. Take a breath
  2. Take a time out
  3. Use positive self-talk
  4. Think of something happy
  5. Express your feelings to someone
  6. Think about someone you love
  7. yogaHum your favorite song
  8. Schedule time for yourself
  9. Visualize your favorite place
  10. Practice yoga

 

jennie-circleBlog written by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

What You REALLY Need: Toys that Promote Emotional Health in Children

TOYS- Blog

I’ve had many people look at me sideways when I tell them I’m a “play therapist.”

And I get it.  Conceptually, play therapy seems odd at first.  Like, the two words on their own make sense just fine (Play? Okay. Therapy? Sure, no problem), but for whatever reason, when you put the two together, it throws a lot of folks off.

“Play therapy?  So what does that mean?” they’ll say.  “Do you, like, watch kids play or something?” The implications usually being: a) “so you have a college degree in watching kids play?” and; b) “wow, people actually pay you for that?”

Well, yes, I do watch kids play and, respectively, a) yes, I actually do have a college degree in that; and b) yes, people will, from time-to-time, pay me for this.  Of course it is a bit more complicated than simply that, but as a play therapist, observing children at play is indeed an important bit.

The theories underpinning the practice of play therapy are fairly dense, and it’s easy to get out deep into the weeds, but at a foundational level our very first understanding as a play therapist is that a child’s play is important.  Children innately play. Unlike, say, tying their own shoelaces, saying “please” and “thank you,” or using a toilet, you never had to teach your child how to play.  I’m willing to bet you never had to sit your child down and have a talk with them regarding what types of playful activities they ought to fill their free time with.  Humans just seem to be hard-wired for it. What’s more, children play everywhere, across cultures, geography, place, and time; wherever you find children on this globe, you will find them at play.

Not only is play important, but it’s meaningful.  Children’s play is a representation of how they view the world around them; it helps them to process the feelings that occur as a result of day-to-day or even difficult life events.

We conduct play therapy within a controlled play room at our offices — more or less a room full of play things, albeit with a specific layout, design, and types of toys.  I attempt to provide a tidy and consistent environment for the child to come and play how they need to.  It’s simply a thoughtfully designed room full of toys that’s designed to provide the child with feelings of safety, support, freedom, and to play out their life experiences.

As a parent in my own home however I am not always as consistent or thoughtful in how my children’s toys are arranged or displayed.  I have been known, from time-to-time, in a fit of frustration to cram everything into the toy box; slinkies piled on top of wooden blocks piled on top of board games piled on top of some battery-operated talking dog of which I have no memory of how it came to live at my house.

But if play is meaningful and playthings are the tools by which my children express themselves, I owe it to them to do better.  If child’s play matters, so do the toys themselves and their organization.

 

When organizing, consider:

  • Less is more. Children can become overwhelmed by the excess that we provide them.  They really don’t need 5 types of dolls or 3 different sets of blocks.  If you feel the need to keep the surplus, perhaps consider storing some toys and rotating them out every couple of months.block organizer
  • Out of sight out of mind. It truly benefits children to see the toys. Children will forget about a toy if they don’t see it.  And if they don’t see it, it will not be a go-to toy when they need to express a certain feeling or process their day.  Consider block shelving with canvas style bins to display toys in an organized way.
  • Allow for creativity. Not every toy has to be electronic.  The play room has few toys that are battery operated, and that is by design.  This encourages the child to create the sound effects and use imagination.

When purchasing toys, consider:

  • Reality/Nurturing Toys. This includes toys like a baby doll, medical kit with bandages, dollhouse with a family, puppets, animal family, kitchen food. These toys puppetsprovide opportunities for the child to process real life experiences, relational dynamics, and their needs in a symbolic way, and the feelings associated with each. Additionally, toys like these benefit children’s social and emotional development, and give them a positive outlet for how they view the world around them.
  • Aggression/Release ToysThis includes toys like dollar store punching/bop bag, aggressive animals or puppets (shark, dinosaur, dragon, crocodile, tiger), handcuffs, toy soldiers. These toys provide opportunities for expression of difficult experiences or emotions. These toys also provide the child with a safe and appropriate alternative to aggression that would harm them, a friend, or belongings.  Your child bop bagcan be redirected toward these toys given a safe outlet for aggressive or angry feelings — “Your brother is not for hitting, but you may go and punch your bop bag”.  These toys help to decrease the stigma that some feelings are “bad or wrong”.  It is not the feeling that is “bad”, but the ways we choose to process or cope with our feelings can be a poor choice.
  • Art SuppliesCreative ToysToys like Playdoh/clay, pipe cleaners, paper, crayons, markers, and dress up clothes.  These types of toys encourage creativity and imagination, and provide your child a positive outlet for negative emotions. Creative toys also help your child develop motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, spatial skills, and innovation

 

Bailey CircleWritten by Bailey McAdams, M.Ed., LPC

 

Please Place the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First

OxygenMask

You hear it every time you fly somewhere.  If the cabin loses pressure, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then assist those around you.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you pass out, how can you help anyone else?  Are you even a little surprised to be reminded that the same is true for parenthood?

We hear plenty about taking care of ourselves.  As a parent, that sounds great!  Let’s take time to relax and do something that fills the soul and refreshes us to take on the next unprompted meltdown! (I fondly recall the last meltdown I dealt with was because I put juice in the green cup and NOT the pink one. My bad.)  So here’s the big question:  How in the world do we take this mythical “Me Time” without guilt, or if we are seriously swamped and don’t have the help we need?  There are times when I have been sure that parental “Me Time” was as likely as finding a unicorn being ridden by a leprechaun handing out hundred dollar bills.  We hear a lot about how a hot bath helps, or taking time to read a book, or getting our nails done may help us feel refreshed and back to our happy selves again.  What if those just aren’t options for one reason or another, or they just don’t do the trick?  Don’t give up!  I’m here to offer a few more ideas…take them and tweak them if you need.

  • Meditation apps: I can hear it now.  “Isn’t that kind of weird and New Age-y?”  “I can’t shut off my brain long enough to meditate.”  “I can’t meditate over the voice inMeditation my head begging for ice cream.”  (Okay, that last one was me.  Don’t judge.)  So what do you do if you’re new to meditation?  There’s an app for that!  And there are lots of good ones that don’t cost you a dime.  One of my new favorites is called “Calm”.
    It guides you, so you can just work on focusing on the voice of the app helping you to calm your mind.  The beauty is that you can set it for the amount of time you have available, so it doesn’t require a 30 minute commitment.  Got 2 minutes?  Give it a shot!
  • Take your little one for a walk: But isn’t “Me Time” supposed to be time for yourself?  Sure!  But if you don’t have help close by, improvise!  If your precious pumpkin likes being outdoors, try going for a walk.  Fresh air will do you both some good!  Even just in the back yard if that’s your best option.  You could even make a scavenger hunt list and try to find leaves and other assorted nature things  (Feathers, smooth rocks, snail shell, dandelion, etc).  Getting out and being silly and having fun together can refresh you, too!
  • Get to know some other daycare parents and expand your mom network: AsMomNetwork you get to know other moms, you can make play dates, and even take turns babysitting for each other.  No one knows the struggle better than another mom!  If you are a Work-at-Home-Mom (WAHM), find meetup groups with other WAHMs and network with them.  There are a lot of groups out there if you start looking.  It may take a little time, but keep looking!

It’s hard to slow down and take time for ourselves.  Burnout happens FAST!  But in order for us to be the best for our kiddos, we need to stop for a moment and take time for ourselves.  Mom guilt is real, but we need to learn to let go of it.  Remind yourself daily that you are awesome!  Try out some of the ideas above.  Or Google something creative to try.  The key is to find SOMETHING that helps you refill yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure you are taking time for yourself.  You’ve earned it!

jennifer-circle Written by Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

PTSD: More Common Than You Might Think

PTSD Pic

When people hear PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) many immediately think of soldiers and veterans, but PTSD can affect ANYONE from child to adult! What is PTSD? It’s a disorder that develops in some people after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic, scary, or dangerous event. These events could include but are not limited to abuse, assault, war, traffic accidents, finding a person who has committed suicide, animal attacks, and even listening to people tell you about their traumatic experiences.

Some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks of the event, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, intentional avoidance of feelings and thoughts or discussions about the event, difficulty concentrating, depression, and guilt. The symptoms must be persistent for at least one month before the PTSD diagnosis can be made. When it comes to children with PTSD there are slight differences in that many of their symptoms will show up in their play.

We hear children suffering from abuse, adults witnessing or being a victim in a violent crime, war, and other major events that can cause PTSD but there are other groups that can also suffer because of the type of job they have.  Many of our first responders, PTSD first_respondersfirefighters, police, and EMS personnel see so much trauma on a daily basis it’s not surprising that they can suffer from PTSD. Another part of first responders are the 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers. They sit in a room and take call after call dealing with everything from providing a phone number to talking to a person who is having the absolute worst day of their life. These calls add up over time and there is rarely, if ever, any closure as to what happened or if the person ended up being okay or not. The dispatchers are on the radio and can send help to other ng_9-1-1_call_brand_storyofficers, but when an event such as an officer getting shot or hurt occurs, they cannot physically go and help, they can only listen to the screams for help and deal with the flood of radio traffic that comes in immediately thereafter. These people have ongoing rises in adrenaline with no way to release it. They can’t get up in the middle of a call or radio event until that event is finished and then they are expected to keep working and move on to the next call or dispatch the next officer. The continual fluctuations of adrenaline with no time or place to really release any of it builds up and if left undealt with can turn to PTSD. Other groups could be CPS workers, animal control officers, and crime scene clean-up crews. There are so many other groups that through their work are at risk for developing PTSD that I couldn’t possibly mention them all here.

The word trauma can mean so many things to so many people and each person experiences a traumatic event differently. This is why only some people end up with PTSD.  One of the hardest things a person with PTSD has to do is to realize that they have a problem, as many people cannot accept hearing it from a friend, loved one, or a stranger until they reach such a point that they admit something is wrong. This is the most important first step to the recovery process.

What can you do to help prevent PTSD? Find an outlet, something that you enjoy that help1865328581s you relieve stress such as running, journaling, or playing an instrument. Talk about the things that are bothering you with someone you trust. Eat healthy and exercise. If you or someone you know develops ongoing symptoms and these things are not helping please seek professional help!

Anne Circle

 

– Written by Anne Wiggs, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S