Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

We are stressing them out. And they’re going to burnout or breakdown before they even finish the journey!

My son is an excellent student. He is a unique 10th grader. He is conscientious, he has excellent time-management skills, he has good social skills, he does chores without being asked… He’s too good to be true! But this comes at a price. In addition to all of these wonderful things, he spends hours redoing school assignments to get a higher grade and stresses over what major he should choose two years from now so he can choose the right college in enough time to apply and get a great scholarship. He worries he’s not good enough or smart enough or won’t be successful enough. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said nothing, just college money. Woah! Slow down mister! You have your entire life to worry about the big stuff. How about just being a kid? And yet, he’s not alone. His friends are the same way. It’s a blessing and a curse to be a smart kid, and I’m wondering if ignorance really is bliss. There are many high achieving students who are stressing themselves out. And we as a society are encouraging it.Stress

I once knew a high school student whose parent worked at a very prestigious university which would allow the student to attend for free. Even so, the student pushed herself to take multiple advanced classes and get high honors as well as volunteer hours so she could get a scholarship. Why? She didn’t need a scholarship. She said she wanted to prove to herself she could. My son’s middle school science teacher told the class what he teaches now in 7th grade is what he learned freshman year of college. 4th graders are learning geometry. Kindergartners who didn’t learn to read in preschool are behind.

Why are we doing this? Why are we pushing and pushing and insisting they know more and more? I know what you are going to say. Because we need to compete with other countries, yada yada. But at what cost? Playing a sport and pushing to win, practice and games every night of the week, a different sport every season. High academics and volunteer hours and student leadership. Plus, they have to score at certain levels so the school gets accreditation and funding. It’s building and building and building and they’re not sleeping or eating right. Pushing harder in sports but not given the right education about nutrition and what a body needs to maintain that level of intensity. Or weight training without safety training. Or pushing themselves without teaching life balance…

How do you feel every day? How stressful is your job? Are you stressed? Are you tired? I’m sure you are. We all are. As a society, the pressures we are dealing with are more intense than ever. So what do you do to unwind? To relax? Do you watch TV, read for leisure, exercise, hang with friends, drink, eat, nap? Have you learned in your life that your body needs rest and a break from the pressure? Most of us have learned that and most of us know our limits and say I’m done, I’m just gonna sit here and veg for a while. But as we are teaching our children about competition and responsibility and what it takes to succeed, are we also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries, life/ work balance and self-care? I’m afraid we are not. I’m afraid we are pushing our kids to do more and be more than they can handle.

I am not suggesting complacency or lethargy or apathy. But come on, how about some balance? There is no way any of us would tolerate the schedules and work and pressure these kids handle every day. We’d balk. But they can’t. Because we have trained them to believe they have to do this to succeed. But do they? Do they really? Is it worth it in the long run? I’m not so sure. We told our son we’d rather he be a C-student and happy than an A-student and miserable. He said, really? We said yes. When these teens are shutting down, quitting, getting injured, getting sick, pushing back, getting anxious or depressed or suicidal…at some point we have to realize that they are KIDS, and being a kid just isn’t fun anymore. I think it’s time we as parents and educators and community members encourage downtime and balance. The whole idea of putting more recess back into the school day is fundamental to helping students realize they can’t keep pushing themselves without allowing themselves some breaks. We as adults know this because we as a society have more stress and high blood pressure than ever before and wait until a crisis before addressing the problem. I’d like to see us as a community be more proactive about teaching overall physical and mental health. It’s a sad day when I have to tell my teenager to stop doing homework, that’s enough. But if I have to push him to get a B instead of an A to save his mental health, I’m not afraid to do it. Perfection is an illusion.report card

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What do you mean I haven’t blogged in six months? How is that possible? This is a prime example of how life gets away from us. I have been focused on attending to the crises that present themselves, “putting out fires” as they say, and I’ve put the other stuff on the back burner until I have time. Well we can see how that worked out. Six months went by! I have always known this. You have to be proactive. You have to make time for the things that matter. But it sure is easy to get wrapped up with things and way off track.10313784_726687540767928_6619839759579931771_n

There is a nice trend this New Year that instead of setting resolutions that they worry will fail, people are choosing theme words that represent an attitude or a commitment for the year. One of my friends has chosen Organization as her word, and will use it to keep her life that has started to feel chaotic more in order. Another friend chose Nurture and plans to nurture her body and her family and her job. There are so many ways to apply these words. They become a Mantra that you can whisper to yourself every single day as opportunities present themselves for self-care.

The word I have chosen is Schedule. I am taking charge of my daily and weekly life. I am planning exercise and recreation, as well as chores and bill paying and even blogging! I’m not a control freak about time, that actually might be the problem. I tend to wing it. I can be very productive that way and do well at multi-tasking. But the old way tends to only focus on what the world is demanding from me rather than what I CHOOSE to see as important. So this year I am even scheduling time to schedule time. I will be realistic and build flexibility into the schedule, but being proactive will help me make sure my own priorities are attended to and not left to sit and then six months goes by.

Will you choose a word this year? If so, be sure to make it positive rather than punishing. Have it be applicable to many situations and be kind to yourself. This life changing stuff is a big deal. (Here is a link to my friend Margo’s blog about this One Word Resolution making. No Resolutions or Goals)10628115_726130297490319_2284401736206326049_n

You might be surprised what you discover.

I told a teenager the other day that if I owned a restaurant and he applied for a job, I would google him to see what kind of person he is. He kind of blew me off until I suggested I google him right then. His eyes got huge. So of course I googled him, in front of him. His name came up with a Twitter account, a Facebook account. When I saw his screen name on Twitter I googled that and found him on Instagram. His privacy settings were ok for Facebook, I couldn’t see his posts (he was relieved) but when I showed him what pictures were not hidden by his privacy settings he was surprised and a little embarrassed because his profile picture was a colorful unicorn. His Twitter and Instagram were not private because he wanted lots of followers. I was able to read his posts and they were full of bad words and sexual innuendo. He wasn’t breaking any laws, but I let him know that if I was a potential employer I would not hire him. During the whole conversation he was squirming in his seat, humiliated and said he was going home to change everything. The next day I googled him again and he had done so. Message received.

The reason I did this was to show him that in today’s society employers, scholarship judges, college admission staff and potential relationship interests do their homework. In our state we have a website where you can put in someone’s name and see all of the legal proceedings against them, for free, not on a background site you pay for. Any smart dating person looks here too.  

I had this discussion with a female client of mine and her internet behavior was pristine. I gave her kudos for doing a good job with her privacy settings. I also pointed out that in one picture I could see, she was wearing her cheerleading outfit with the name of her school on the shirt. So even though she didn’t post her name or age or location, a potential creeper could figure it out from just one picture. This is something she had not considered.

Do you know what your internet presence looks like? How about your child’s? It is typical for a kid to do things on impulse and not think about the long term consequences. It is our job to teach them, to show them. To kids today the internet is comfortable and common and they aren’t afraid of it like we were when we first started putting parental controls on every computer we had years ago. Now that is much more difficult to do and our kids think there is no need for it.

Take some time to Google Yourself and Google Your Kid to see what’s out there, and have a conversation about being more aware and more safe. And take that unicorn off your profile picture kid! (Just kidding.)

Therapy in a Nutshell

I have always known life isn’t easy. From my own tough experiences but more importantly, from hearing every day the difficult things people experience when they share them with me in counseling, I have heard some doozies. And yet, through it all, I am repeatedly awed by the strength of the human spirit to persevere. I tell people all the time that they can handle so much more than they realize. They don’t think they can, but then when it happens, they do, they survive, they make it through.

I don’t think we worried we wouldn’t survive parenting a child with Down Syndrome. We knew we would be okay. But there was so much we didn’t know, it was scary. Parenting itself is already an adventure into the Great Unknown. It’s the most rewarding and the most powerless feeling anyone could have. Add to that parenting a child with special…

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With many people posting about #NationalBestFriendDay, I started reflecting on what makes for a lasting friendship and I keep coming back to EFFORT. Relationships take work. They do not nurture themselves. Just as a plant will blossom if you tend to it, so will a relationship. And if you neglect it, it will die. 

Reach out to those you care about. Call each other, text a cute emoji for no reason. If they pop into your mind, tell them so.

Make time to be together. Don’t wait until you have time because you know that’ll never happen. You have to make time. 

Make your people a priority. Remember that old saying that no one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.” Don’t put something you dislike ahead of something you love. That produces regret. 

No one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.”

Go the extra mile. Don’t hesitate to inconvenience yourself occasionally to help someone. It’s difficult for them to ask you for help and it means so much to know someone cares. And you’ll benefit from knowing you helped.

Don’t isolate. Don’t pout. And don’t stand around waiting for an invitation. If you want to hang out or talk, just ask. Reciprocate. Don’t wait for them to do the work. You can plan and invite too. I promise, they too are lonely sometimes and will be glad you called. 

If you each decide you want the relationship to last, it can. But you have to tend to it. It’s totally worth it.

Dedicated to my people. 😜 You know who you are. 

What do you do if your older parent chooses different medical treatment than you want for them? If they want to stop taking their medicine or if the refuse treatment? If they are tired of living and just don’t want to try anymore. This is a dilemma I have seen time and again in families. Adult children have their own ideas about how their parent should treat an illness and this can result in an argument.

If an adult is in their “right mind,” meaning they have not been assessed and determined to be incapable of making rational decisions, then they get to choose. And this can be very difficult for their families. I have seen adults stop taking medicine because they didn’t believe in medicine or they didn’t like how it made them feel. Or because they couldn’t afford it. Their children say, but you need it to live! The adult knows this, but is making a choice.  I have seen adults have very harrowing experiences in the hospital, painful surgeries or debilitating side effects, long term recovery. They know they never want to experience that again, so they might refuse to see the doctor if they know something is wrong or if they fear they might need surgery again. If someone hasn’t been through this, they may not realize how traumatic it is and how fear can stop someone from acting. It is similar to having a car accident and being afraid to drive again. I have even seen people decide they want to stop living. They are tired; tired of hurting or tired of being alone or tired of being a burden. They aren’t suicidal, they are just passive about working to live and if death comes they are willing to embrace it. This scares their children because they don’t want to lose the parent. But whose best interest are the children acting in?elderly_console

I’m not suggesting stand back and let the parent die. I’m suggesting try to understand why the parent is feeling how they feel and be respectful. It may be difficult, but try to imagine how you will feel at that age. Try to assist that adult in maintaining their choices and their dignity, but it is also ok to have a conversation about how you feel. Enlist the help of a social worker, a pastor or a therapist to mediate the conversation and help each person see the other’s perspective. Ultimately, however, you as the adult child might have to get help for yourself in dealing with not liking your parent’s choices. This is not an easy scenario, when you and your parent disagree on how the parent should treat an illness or choose to live, but if you try to force the parent to comply it will often result in anger and resentment, loss of dignity and depression for the older parent. Not necessarily a better solution.

You Don’t Know Me

An amazing admission… So many first responders suffer in silence in order to “stay strong” but over time the horror they see that no human should see takes its toll.

Great share here.

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