Soccer vs. Guilt
SCENARIO: You 13-year-old daughter forgets her soccer shoes for the 4th time this week. She’s begging you to drive back home and get them, again.
FACT: Other parents will look at you like scum if you refuse to go get it. Your guilt over their gasps behind your back is worth this lesson! (GUILT is one of the hardest parts of being a parent…help her learn her lesson and you learn yours…let go of some of that guilt!)
FACT: If you don’t go get it your daughter is going to be so upset because she can’t play. She may feel embarrassed or sad. She may even cry. (Haven’t you? Was it the end of the world?)
FACT: If you don’t go get it your daughter is going to be angry at you (because being mad at you is easier than admitting to herself that she made a mistake).
FACT: This crisis will end if you refuse to get them...it may continue if you don’t refuse.
FACT: Your daughter is going to be one step closer to not forgetting her shoes next time when you refuse to go get them again!
FACT: You don’t have to say anything except, “I’m so sorry. I am not going to go get them again.”
FACT: If you say, “I tried to tell you!” or “I’m so sick of this!” or “Don’t you ever learn?” and then go home to get them you’re potentially damaging her emotional health AND you’re rescuing her from her own behavior and saving her from the lesson you want her to learn.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME: Her teammates or coach find her another pair of shoes, but she feels so embarrassed that she delayed practice that she starts to remember her shoes.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME: Your daughter stops forgetting her shoes (but may soon begin to forget her socks and need the same lesson).
UNLIKELY OUTCOME: She learns nothing and does it again every day forever.
UNLIKELY OUTCOME: She never forgets anything ever again!
LIKELY OUTCOME: Your daughter stops forgetting her shoes and socks.
LIKELY OUTCOME: You taught your daughter a lesson without damaging her with your words.
LIKELY OUTCOME: You begin to realize you do not need to lecture to help her learn a lesson; she is capable of learning a lesson all on her own. She will learn to adjust to your behavior instead of you adjusting to hers.
One of the things that makes blending a family so difficult is the fact that most blended families begin after the loss of another family. This means each person involved in that lost family has experienced emotional trauma. Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence based way of helping children overcome trauma (of any kind). It could be one of the best first steps to blending a healthy family!
The cost of calm
People often spend hundreds of dollars on hair care, mani-pedi’s, shopping excursions, massage’s, facials, and anything else that can relieve stress or offer an escape. Unfortunately, these are all only temporary escapes and stress relievers. Therapy is less expensive and longer lasting. Research shows therapy IS effective and the days of Freudian theory based care are gone. Evidence based treatments are a mainstay in therapy today. If you can commit to creating beauty on the outside, why not create beauty on the inside…plus you’ll struggle less emotionally when your pants don’t fit right on that shopping spree! ;-)
One of the greatest stresses for an individual is financial stress. Bill collectors call and you shut down and cannot even answer the phone. Remember, most everybody struggles with financial strain from time to time and a bill collector’s phone call is no more likely to make money appear for a bill than when they do not call you. Try this…when they say, “Can you tell me why you haven’t paid your bill?” Instead of the long drawn out explanation in an attempt to get the cold bill collector to empathize with your struggle, consider saying, “Because I had no money. If I had the money I would love to pay this and as soon as I have the money I will.” There’s no need to send your blood pressure through the roof because your stress won’t improve the situation, but it does make it worse. Try to consider how your emotions affect each situation…negatively or positively. If your emotions make it worse, work to control them. Don’t stress over things you have no control over. Smile and stay calm.
One of the most difficult struggles a person can have is an inability to sleep, whether that is trouble falling asleep or waking up and being unable to go back to sleep, or just not getting enough sleep all together. A lack of sleep can cause so many other problems; memory loss, an inability to concentrate, physical health problems, depression and anxiety, just to name a few. A lack of sleep overwhelmingly causes stress!
A great tool I have found for my clients is one that was developed for military service men and women who suffer from PTSD and was found to be highly effective in helping them reduce their anxiety and stress. The tools are called Chill Drills, which are recordings of progressive relaxation scripts. “The drills [Heidi J. Bauer, MSW, LCSW] developed help reverse symptoms of stress. They slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and reduce the level of stress hormones in your body. When you do these drills regularly, you’ll actually lower your baseline stress level, and that will help you deal better with stress in the future.”
There are drills that can be used in other situations as well, when stress is not allowing you to manage your daily life. One of the Chill Drills is designed to walk you through releasing your stress and another is for decreasing back pain which is often associated with stress. Play them on your iPod, your phone, your mp3 player and use these tools to manage your stress more effectively. These Chill Drills can even help you prepare for an upcoming stressful situation. They help you learn and prepare for them.
These recordings (Chill Drill 5 & 6) can be downloaded (in MP3 format [which can then be imported to iTunes]) and played as you try to fall asleep.
A stress muscle?
Ever heard of a stress muscle? Probably not, but if children do not experience some stress and learn to manage it, they learn to avoid stress as adults; their "stress muscle" doesn't fully develop into the strong muscle it needs to be to maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem and self confidence. Stress management is a necessary skill for coping. By managing stress one learns to build a sense of pride in his or her accomplishments and she/he learns that things do get better when they are bad. Having HOPE is crucial to withstanding stress. Like your arms, if you don’t work them, you cannot expect to go to the gym and lift a hundred pounds without injuring yourself.
Now, obviously we don't want the stress to be even near the level of a traumatic event, but he/she needs to learn to self soothe. If not, you are going to be very busy consoling your teens while they struggle to manage life.
One of the things I tell my children is to always question what they've been taught; to research and know the truth, even if I was the one who said it. Had I not done the same, I might still be telling my children they'll catch the death of cold if they went without socks in the house and I'd probably still be telling them that I am correct because I am the parent. However, leading with this kind of example doesn't teach humility. I have to be able to say, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake" if I want them to be able to say it. Parents do the best they can with the tools they have available to them at the time.
I'm sure there was no ill intent regarding these types of things when I was growing up. It's what the parental figures in my life knew at the time and what they were taught. One of the nice things about being the parent is being allowed to change the rules!
What are you still doing that your parents did that don't really make sense to you now, but you continue to do them out of habit (or because you hadn't really considered why you do them)?
I'd love to hear what they are too! Please share!
Mary Bowles, PsyD, abd, LMFT
My blog posts are just some of the bits of information I find useful for some or all of my clients.