Category Archives: Parenting

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The Staircase That Is Anxiety

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

No matter how laid back you are, how accepting of the present moment, or how well you manage stress, everyone knows what it’s like to feel worry or to be anxious. While many of us feel these moments of anxiety for only short periods of time, for some, the feeling of anxiety never quite goes away. If you haven’t lived with chronic anxiety, it can be really hard to understand how debilitating this feeling can be and what impacts it can have on the life of the person suffering from it. In this post, we’ll share how you can support a loved one living through anxiety.

In the following video, we see a great example of what it can feel like to have anxiety, and how, sometimes, this “anxiety staircase” can become a tremendous obstacle for the person living with it:

This video shares some hard truths about anxiety. The first is that the person living with anxiety knows that what they are worried about is often irrational. That they can see what it would feel like to approach life without worry. Regardless of this knowledge, and this is one of the most important points made here, is that it is ALWAYS a struggle for the person with anxiety to get to a point where they do not feel it, where they are operating within the realm of rational thought.

What does this mean for those of us with a loved one who is experiencing anxiety? Take a look at the below tips for supporting someone dealing with this issue:

  • Remember that the staircase is always there, but depending on the day, it might be much larger and steeper than it was before. This means that whatever issue is causing anxiety, some days this might be a small struggle and others an impossible one. It’s important not to tell the person with anxiety to simply get over this issue – they don’t have control over the size of that staircase.
  • The top of the staircase is usually visible… but sometimes it may be clouded. When the person with anxiety seems unable to see the rational “landing,” gently remind them that this exists and that whether or not they reach it that day is okay.
  • There will be days when the person with anxiety cannot climb the staircase. Maybe they’ve already tried and slid back down; maybe it is so overwhelming that they just can’t do it. Share your support with them, but don’t force them to do something they simply don’t have the mental energy to do.
  • Celebrate the successes. When a person with anxiety does something they were previously unable to do (even a task that may seem simple to others), give positive reinforcement. This is the fuel that can encourage those living with anxiety to push themselves a bit further every day.
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How to Have a Better Conversation and Connect With Others

When we think about the ways in which we communicate with others on a daily basis, the act of actually speaking and sharing conversation with people may not be as high on the list as it once was. Instead, we find that most of our communication is digital – text, email, liking or commenting on status updates. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with staying connected though technology, it does leave gaps in our human connection – without speaking with someone face to face, how close can we really be to them?

In the below video, Celeste Headlee tackles this issue head on by bringing to light the problems we have directly talking to one another and maintaining non-offensive and worthwhile conversation. Watch below and come back for an exploration of the ten tips she describes for being a better conversationalist – we’ll be exploring these though the lens of how they apply to our most personal relationships.

Now that we’ve heard about these tips, let’s consider how they work in our closest relationships – those with our partners, children, and dearest loved ones.

  1. Don’t multitask – This means that in order to truly connect, we must dedicate ourselves to focusing on the conversation and only that. It can be hard to do, especially when we live busy lives! What we don’t want is for our partners to think that they aren’t a priority – we need to make sure those we care about know that we care enough to invest our time with them.
  2. Don’t pontificate – Meaning holding back opinions that we feel are right, and being open to learning. This may be one of the most important tips in the context of personal relationships, because it allows us the space in a conversation to see potential for compromise and a willingness to hear the opinions of others.
  3. Ask open-ended questions – This is a wonderful tip for bringing out more fruitful conversation with someone whom we are trying to build (or rebuild) a relationship with. By giving someone else the space to think carefully about their responses with who, what, when, where, why, and how questions, and for us to listen to their answers, we dive much more deeply into their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
  4. Go with the flow – Don’t stop listening because you’ve thought of something you’d like to say or ask. Let your loved one talk. If it’s that important, bring it up in a later conversation. Don’t disrupt the flow of speaking to someone else with your own agenda.
  5. Say “I don’t know” – Maintain your credibility with loved ones by being open when you don’t have the answer to something. Better yet, make a commitment to finding answers if possible and working through unknowns together.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs – When a loved one opens up to you about something they are experiencing, they aren’t seeking an understanding of the circumstances – they are seeking an acceptance of their feelings. Focus on the feelings and provide support to those when you feel the urge to compare stories.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself – At best, this can make it seem as though you aren’t paying attention; at worst, that you are being condescending. Trust your loved ones to hear you the first time and only repeat yourself when it’s clear that hasn’t happened.
  8. Stay out of the weeds – Again, when it isn’t needed, avoid oversharing details that someone doesn’t really care about. Focus on the big picture and answer questions about “the weeds” if they arise.
  9. Listen – Pay attention to the person speaking. Carefully think about their words until they are done speaking, and give them time to finish their thoughts without cutting them off. Give your energy to this and avoid “filling in the blanks” with your own thoughts and beliefs.
  10. Be brief – While this may not always be the case, your time with loved ones may be limited – make sure you spend your time in conversation wisely, using it to build deeper connections and help them to feel the support you provide them.

When couples come to therapy, one of the greatest complaints is the feeling of lost connection, often as a result of not taking the time to have conversation. With the above, you can start rebuilding this in your own relationship or prevent lost connection in the future.

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When We Blame First: How Do We Let Go of This?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When we experience a negative event in our lives, how many of us find ourselves reacting immediately with placing blame on others? Why do we do this and what are the negative impacts of this on ourselves and our relationships? In this post, we’ll be exploring the blame process and why this reaction comes so easily for people, the detrimental impacts of this, and what we can do to shut this reaction down more readily over time.

To understand why we blame others, let’s take a look at this brief video featuring Brene Brown. Here, she openly shares her own struggles with blaming and provides valuable insight as to why we do this.

From this, we see two important points about why we blame:

  1. It is a way that we attempt to find some reason for why something unexpected happens; therefore, we are creating a semblance of control for our minds in uncontrollable circumstances.
  2. It is a projection of our anger and pain, a quick way of expressing these emotions without the trouble of holding ourselves or someone else accountable.

There are a few problems with the “quick-to-blame” mentality. First, we aren’t addressing the root of our problem – by first blaming others when something bad happens, we are putting a stopper on reasonable and effective communication. Second, we put others in the position of dealing with the mental hurdles that we’ve navigated to place blame on them, hurdles that may not make sense to anyone but ourselves. When we don’t clearly explain why we are upset about something, and instead point fingers at our loved ones for things seemingly out of their control, we further reinforce the walls we have in our relationships. Both of these things have the potential to contribute to more and more relationship problems, such as stonewalling, anger, and a refusal to hear our partner’s side of things.

If you find yourself jumping to blame first, consider the following strategies to prevent this reaction:

  • Stop and breathe: When something unexpected happens, take a moment to process before saying anything. Analyze your thoughts. Are you already starting to place blame? Is the blame process logical or rooted in a place of anger and frustration?
  • Consider the source: If blame is coming from a place of anger, what caused this anger in the first place? For example, in Brene’s scenario, it wasn’t the spilled coffee – it was that her partner was late to return home. What might be happening in your relationship that’s causing negative feelings that you haven’t shared?
  • Discuss how you feel: While it may not be productive or enjoyable to feel the need to blame, it is a sign that there is something bothering you that you haven’t communicated. When this happens, take the time to engage in self-reflection and figure out what you need to communicate; then, do it without placing blame. Try to hold yourself accountable to holding others accountable in a respectful and empathetic way.

Through the need to blame, we are given the opportunity to peek into the issues facing our relationship – while letting go of blame, let’s commit to working towards more effective ways of communicating out needs and feelings with our partners.

 

The Gifts Imparted from Fathers

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Happy Father’s Day from me to you! As I was reflecting on this day and considering the special role of fathers in children’s lives, I found myself circling back to the idea of the gifts fathers impart. No matter who served the father role for us, whether that was a biological parent, a step-parent, or other friend or family member, I think we all know the moments of most importance from childhood: The ones in which that person, our father, took the time to make us feel loved, to teach us a skill or lesson that we still carry with us, or to ensure we had the self-confidence to march proudly through life.

When I work with fathers, I sometimes hear this discomfort about their role – with all of the pressures and stress of life, it can be easy to feel guilty or worry that we’re not spending enough of our time or giving enough to our children. That’s why I love this video – what a simple but impactful way to spend a few minutes with a child and give them a solid foundation of values and self-esteem without hardly any investment. Take a look below:

I’ve written on the power of affirmations before and the ways in which we can use them as adults to boost our own feelings of self-worth and confidence. But what an amazing tool – to use affirmations as a bonding experience between father and child, to instill confidence, to teach values. I love this video because it illustrates how the simple presence of a father, or either parent, spent in ways that builds children up, not only benefits them, but allows us to feel a more complete connection to our role as parent.

To those reading this who are parents, or are planning on becoming parents, consider the following:

  • Who was your own father figure? What sort of impacts did they have on your life?
  • What lessons from your father do you wish to instill with your own children?
  • What are the times you feel the strongest connection with your children? How often do you make this activity part of your routine with your children?
  • What are the values you feel are most important to pass along to your children? How have or will you work to embed these in your children?

By thinking about the role of the father and how you fill it, it becomes much easier to feel confident in successfully parenting children (and reducing relationship tension with a partner along the way). I hope that you have had a wonderful Father’s day, and know that your role as a father, while it may seem intimidating, is one that leaves immeasurable impacts on your child for years to come and a layer of self-fulfillment that is unknowable until you’ve achieved this.

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Bringing Home Baby: Easing This Transition for Couples

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

It’s hard to describe what bringing home a baby means to new parents – until you’ve experienced this transition, it seems impossible to really understand the changes your life undergoes, from long-term plans to the daily routines you’ve had. When parents bring home a baby for the first time, it can be a time of overwhelming joy – but with any new change, stress and feelings of disconnection can also be present. Without understanding what a new baby can do to a relationship, this can be an especially vulnerable time for marital discord. We love this article from Women’s Health Mag – it’s such an honest look at the most common relationship troubles during this transition. Take a look – when you come back, we’ll explore some questions to ask before you bring baby home that can help avoid these issues.

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The good news is that these issues can mitigated with some honest and thoughtful conversations with your partner. Ideally these would happen before discussing having a baby (or at least before the baby is born), but if these are things you are struggling with in your own relationship, start the conversation as soon as possible.

  • What role expectations do you both have regarding child-rearing, especially at the newborn phase? How do you expect your partner to support you? How will you communicate when you need more help or when you are feeling overwhelmed? If you are planning on returning to work, how will these roles shift at that time? What additional supports would you consider to help mitigate the stress of working and raising a child?
  • How prepared do you both feel to provide daily care to a newborn? How can you communicate with one another if you are concerned about the care provided by your partner to the baby? What are your expectations for care and are these realistic things to expect from your partner all of the time?
  • Your body will need time to recover after child-birth, regardless of yours or his sex drive. How can you embed intimacy during this time? How will you make time for this even after your body is healed? How would you prefer to communicate about feeling dissatisfied with the amount of intimacy during this time if it becomes an issue?
  • Do you and your partner spend quality time together now? How will you hold yourselves accountable to scheduling this time after the baby comes? What supports do you have that will allow one-on-one time without bringing baby along?
  • What are each of your parenting styles and philosophies? How were each of you raised, and how is that influencing how you intend to parent your child? When baby comes, how will you discuss parenting differences as they arise in a respectful way?

While these are a lot of things to consider before having a baby, they are essential to making this transition successful. Without having a conversation around these issues, problems like resentment, stress, and isolation can arise – things that quickly drive deep wedges in relationships. Above all, remember that effective communication, the willingness to be flexible and insightful, and placing your commitment to your family above all else is what powers couples through the new baby stage.

 

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Learning More About How The Gottman Approach Can Work For You

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

One of the most stressful things about agreeing to participate in couples therapy is a fear of the unknown – being unsure of what to expect, what to say, and how you and the therapist may interact. This is why we love the The Gottman approach to couple’s therapy – it’s a standardized approach that each Gottman-trained counselor adheres to. It is based on over 40 years of research conducted by Dr. John and Julie Gottman, and it has shown time and time again to be extremely successful when both members of a couple are dedicated to improving their relationship.

In this linked article, practitioner Clinton Powers interviews Gottman-trained therapist Lidia Smirnov to share with listeners more about the Gottman approach, including what to expect, how a treatment plan is created, and the kinds of intervention work a couple may expect when participating in this treatment option. If you are considering participating in Gottman-based counseling, take a few minutes to listen and learn about what you’ll be experiencing. It is such an amazing resource to share this information with couples – thank you to Clinton and Lidia for this informational interview!

The Gottman Approach to Couples Therapy: How Does It Help Couples?