The Anxious Parent

I've been asked to write about parenting with an anxiety disorder. Here it is!

When people are pregnant, we mention their “mom instincts” that we assume they will be gifted at the moment of birth. I remember asking about how people could tell different baby cries meant different needs and was told, “you’ll just know”. I didn’t just know. I had to learn. The fact that I had to learn meant that I second-guessed myself as a parent and felt immense anxiety. “Something must really be wrong if I can’t tell!” There are these societal fantasies and put them together with naturally anxious parents- that’s when parenthood can be full of second-guesses, guilt, and doubt. Parenting is hard and it’s even harder for people with anxiety disorders. Here are a few ideas from my experiences so you can lessen the anxiety and have more mental space to enjoy the gift of being truly present with your child.

Minimalism: Free Your Space and Mind

I’ve been on a kick of minimalism. It casually started when I began angrily throwing out my daughter’s cheap plastic toys the moment after I had stepped on them. Before I knew it, I was taking an inventory of my home and made a list of all the areas I wanted to declutter. I had noticed that I’d come home from work and feel physically and emotionally stressed by the visual clutter in my home. I was tripping over things, didn’t have clear spaces to cook on, and had difficulty keeping up with chores. My home, full of things I’ve worked for and should want, was really stressing me out.

Autonomy In Therapy

“Well, only you are the expert on you. What do you think? How do you feel? What are your goals?” I probably say these things daily in my job as a therapist in hopes of promoting autonomy, empowerment, and self-directedness.

Autonomy is very important in my work as a counselor and guides me in my practice daily. It is one of the six values on which the American Counseling Association code of ethics is based and it means “fostering the right to control direction in one’s life.”

Even when faced with horrific consequences-- addicts STILL keep using. Neurology helps us understand why...

It's one of the hardest things for non-addicts to understand. Why does this person keep using drugs even though _____________? Just fill in the blank with one of the many negative consequences of substance abuse. I've seen clients with failing health- people whose livers are shot, their once-flawless complexion is contaminated with scars and boils, maybe they've had infections in their heart or blood, or have had multiple over-doses that put them in the hospital for weeks with damage to their vital organs. Other consequences like legal problems, jail time, losing friends, betraying family, and financial ruin are also common among clients with substance abuse. Here's my best shot at explaining the neurology behind addiction and why, frankly, it doesn't make any sense. …

What's in a play therapy session?

No, I am not just playing Legos for fun with your child (although, I must admit, Legos are pretty cool). There's actually a lot that goes into a play therapy session. Children don't have the same language and communication skills as grown-ups. Play is the language of children. When treating kids, we have to use their language! Here's a brief overview of what happens behind the scenes in a play therapy session: 1. Observation. I'm constantly observing how a child interacts with me, the toys, the office, and their parents. You can learn a lot by noticing if a child walks right in, dumps toys on the floor, and starts playing or if they are shy, careful, or seek permission. I look for themes and repetition. A single story highlighting a power struggle may not be significant…

Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie, Language of Letting Go

5 Ideas for an ADHD Friendly Office

I try to make my office open, warm and inviting. I want all of my clients to feel comfortable and I want our sessions to be effective- whether you have ADHD or depression or whatever. Here are some ways I have tried to make my practice more ADHD friendly. I hope to open a discussion of what others have found to be helpful and hear your ideas too. 1. Reminders. I use a program that does automatic appointment reminders- both phone and email and I ask clients which they prefer. For clients who need tangible reminders, I make sure they leave the office with an appointment card or note. For those who tend to lose things, I will email links to websites or send copies of worksheets as attachments. 2. Fidget friendly. To me, there is nothing worse than a hyperactive kid (or …

Why Your ADHDer Hates Reading (and How to Get Them Motivated)

I absolutely despised reading until I was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking medication in my late 20's. As a child, my hatred of books was partly a desire to be different from my bookworm sister (my parents had to beg her to stop reading and go play outside), and partly a matter what my brain preferred. Believe it or not, even after I got my Master’s degree at age 24, the total number of books I had read cover-to-cover from middle school up was less than 10! I got my information from videos, pictures, short internet articles, scanning paragraphs and picking out the terms printed in bold, writing notes from lectures, and from hands-on-experience. My experience with reading was always “It’s boring!”. But now as an adult, I can be a little more articulate about what was happening…

Back To School Guide Uploaded!

I've created a guide to help parents get their grade-schoolers with ADHD back into a routine and prepped for the new school year. There's info on avoiding homework meltdowns, talking to teachers, and how to stay positive. Plus, an entire page of links to great websites for support, classroom accommodations, and 504/IEP info!

Get the guide.

What Feelings Are In Your Heart? An Art Therapy Exercise for Kids (and adults!)

Below is one of my favorite worksheets for kids that I’ve made that I call the “Feelings Heart”. The objective of this intervention is to allow children to develop vocabulary and identification of feelings to promote healthy expression of emotion. This exercise also serves as an open ended question about how the child views their world at the moment. It can also be used as an assessment tool and progress can be tracked by repeating the exercise and recording and comparing results. The way I use this exercise is to explain that everyone has feelings or emotions and this is normal. I explain that there is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. I help the child brainstorm and list the emotions they can think of and suggest some that may be missing from their lexicon. If a …

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