Expecting Unexpectedly?

At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, we help young mothers and fathers cope with unexpected pregnancy. It is still the norm that young mothers are more open to getting assistance, partly due to differences in gender socialization. Males are still unfortunately under-trained when it comes to the importance of getting help in personal matters. They are therefore less likely to ask for help and often quite reluctant even when they fully understand they have quite limited information; I like to call this BWS or “Bruce Willis Syndrome”… I can solve this myself… I don’t need any help!

Common concerns that younger parents have, yet mothers mainly seek help with include: fear of telling their parents, fear of the labour process, limited information and resources, financial strain, being the topic of rumours or disappointment remarks, worry about not being able to pursue goals and being in a difficult or uncommitted, even hurtful romantic relationship. We help young parents-to-be work through these fears, strengthen support systems, identify and utilize strengths and resources, coach parenting skills and provide communication training to best prepare them for parenthood.

It is common in Western civilized cultures to hear more of the negative side about teen pregnancy or pregnancies out of wedlock. With reality TV shows like “Teen Mom” or “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” society sends a debilitating message about the female gender. This negativity reinforces fear in young mothers.

Here is a brief posting of a young woman who decided to create a world of positivity toward her unplanned pregnancy.

“I am young, not in a stable relationship, and not in my chosen career. Oh! And I’m pregnant. Sounds like a great life to me; not necessarily the life I envisioned, but it is still a great life.

Fear, anxiety, and worry will try to pop up every now and then, but my coping strategies have not failed me. I turn to my higher power for strength. I keep only those who will stay supportive and positive around me. Each day, I do things to take care of myself, keeping my little peanut top of mind. My mind is at ease. My faith is strong. Positivity allows me to stay in action. I am not blind to the challenges I face. I remain calm and hesitate the feeling of being defeated. “I can do this!’ I repeat to myself as I need to.”

We trust this post provides hope to expecting mothers and fathers as well.  To enhance your path to healthy and happy parenthood, Call us today

When we hold our newborns in our arms, we are overwhelmed with feelings, emotions and thoughts. In fact, the term overwhelmed is an understatement of the first time this miracle appears in our arms. Yes, we had nine months to ponder what these tiny creations will look like, or how their personalities will develop and grow. We may sometimes even stress about all the dos and dont’s to keep our babies safe and as healthy as possible.

When they finally arrive, we whisper to ourselves (because no one can know that we’d ever ask such a question) “How on earth am I going to raise this child? How can I prevent her from being teased, or bullied? How can I get her to go to university and become successful? How do I get her to NOT have sex before marriage?”

If all these questions are screaming at you (even still today), know that you are not alone. You are not the first parent to doubt your capabilities. Not the first parent to want to keep any negativity and danger away from your child.

So now she’s 11 and growing into a beautiful young lady. She is beginning the steps of… “puberty” displaying hints of physical and emotional maturity. She does, however, not know it all yet (although she may portray that she does). She knows every song on the radio by heart, every new fashion trend, and all the celebrity gossip information. But she doesn’t know how to spell every word she speaks, still needs help comprehending math problems and is not yet equipped to conquer the world.

She dances beautifully, is confident in her own skin (so far), and shows love, respect and loyalty to her family (although she still needs gentle reminders to give kisses to her grandparents). So for the most part, she’s perfect! So what’s the problem? Why do parents feel like their babies are slipping away? ……they are not babies anymore.

All those questions we asked when we first held our babies in our arms and have stuck with us through their childhood; but now it is time to switch gears and throw those expectations away. Your child, now a preteen is growing, developing, forming moral opinions and has hopefully adopted a positive and healthy belief system. Pat yourself on the back for the work you’ve done (so far).

Our job as parents is to stay consistent with our love and support while providing increased flexibility alongside clear structure and boundaries. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to grow and develop as a parent as your child is growing and developing as well. Reading parenting books may not be high on our piorities or something we have much time for. Find time anyway… yes you too fathers! Get books, audio books for the commute, find videos to learn from and even seek wise counsel as you’ll be rewarded with a refreshing and enhanced parenting approach.

Staying consistent with love means that the foundation of support and meeting your child’s needs is solid. It helps if we as parents attain patience. Santosha, a Sanskrit word meaning contentment and satisfaction, is a great way to allow ourselves to be patient in good times and in not so good times. We have shared many blogs about family relationships, conflict-resolution and sexuality that can help parents with those “not so good” times. Embracing Santosha helps parents when stages in our child’s development arise and may be difficult to cope with.

Flexibility involves awareness. Awareness that the time we were 11 is much different than the times for 11 year olds now. So things may seem to be happening too fast and our kids may know way more than we did when we were that age; but it’s okay!

Flexibility also involves honesty and open communication. The ability of a parent and child to speak openly and honestly, hear each other’s point of view and share opinions is truly powerful. More powerful than trying to control environments, set strict and unrealistic rules and refrain from the child’s input.

Being a parent is a life-long job and we can support you through the most challenging parts of what may be the most rewarding experience of your life. Call us today!

Help For Eating Disorders Saves Lives – Durham Region

In a “sweeping” analysis of 77 studies, involving more than 15,000 subjects, University of Wisconsin researchers post-doctoral student Shelley Grabe and psychology professor Janet Hyde found that “exposure to media depicting ultra thin actresses and models significantly increased women’s concerns about their bodies, including how dissatisfied they felt and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviours such as excessive dieting.” (www.news.wisc.edu/15215)

My earliest memories about my appearance were of my mom and me (although I think I had insecurities about my appearance prior to these recollections). She would say that I would look prettier if I didn’t have my father’s nose. Absurd, I know now; however, that was a comment that stuck by me for the rest of my childhood and well into being a young adult.

So here’s how stinkin’ thinkin’ worked. It took that one silly comment from my mom and planted it into my head (like a seed being planted into the ground). Then, it would look at all my experiences to come and water the seed so that that one comment would grow and other related thoughts would sprout. Thoughts such as, “I’m ugly” “I’m not good enough” “I’m fat” “I don’t want to eat” “If only I was skinny like her.

Much of my experiences revolved around the media. Going to school and developing friendships, most of our conversations included the latest fashion trends, the hottest celebrity gossips or the fittest athletes. Body images were ingrained in me and consumed much of my eating, clothing, and activity choices.

I eventually became so tired of thinking about my body appearance. My body’s health and well-being now overshadow the superficial ideations exposed by the media. I’ve been blessed with education on disordered eating, self-esteem building, healthy body-image thought processes and family conflict and dynamics.  This has allowed me to discover that with healthy mind management, my external environment can have little to no control over who I am, what I look lik, and how I feel about myself. I learned that the cultural ideal of beauty is unrealistic and prejudice.

The authors of the study cited above emphatically conclude;

“We’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t matter what the exposure is, whether it’s general TV watching in the evening, or magazines or ads showing on a computer. If the image is appearance-focused and sends a clear message about a woman’s body as an object, then it’s going to affect women.” (Postdoctoral researcher Shelly Grabe)

For some of us, more help and assistance is required. And that’s perfectly OK! Some of us suffer from feeling powerless against our thoughts, images from the media, and difficult relationships in our lives. There are few safe outlets in our community that provide us with the strength to cope and heal. Disordered eating behaviours can develop unknowingly and unconsciously, often masquerading as our best and only way of coping within an unsafe and chaotic environment.

Disordered eating involves a wide range of abnormal eating behaviours, such as chronic restrained eating, compulsive eating and habitual eating. Eating patterns are chaotic and the physiological aspects of eating (like feeling hungry or full) are ignored (www.nedic.com).

Some people, even the ones who love us the most, have a difficult time understanding disordered eating or what is required to provide support during recovery. This is normal, however, the lack of understanding may create increased conflict and stress for the entire family. The process of overcoming disordered eating patterns takes a lot of work and a supportive and informed environment is essential for success.

Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, a registered, professional counselling service in Oshawa, Ontario, works with the individual engaging in abnormal eating and their family members. Treatment is catered to their individual needs and goals. It is important to include family doctors and registered dietitians in the recovery process. We also strongly encourage family members and loved ones to participate in family sessions.  This can help families improve and strengthen their relationships as well as learn to create loving and supportive environments for those in recovery.  To start your road to recovery, call us today.

Where are the instructions?

Our previous post “Am I the Ugly Duckling” came from a son describing the trouble he is having in his family.  Today we bring you the father’s point of view.

“Growing up on a small island, I became accustomed to very structured roles of what it meant to be a man, and a father. So having two boys of my own, I was thrilled at the opportunity that my life learnings may be shared and transferred onto my children.

Somewhere I did something wrong. From the time they were toddlers, I tried to spend as much time as possible with them. Then, when I got the opportunity to introduce them to sports, I thought, ‘This is the best life.’ What became hard for me was accepting that my boys had in different interests. I think I tried my best to support my son’s magic card acts, which eventually got him into playing poker.

But disconnect from my son has become almost unbearable, and I feel a bit hopeless. Wanting to see both my sons happy and also not being okay with some of their decisions is difficult to express. All I am seeing now is a son who is smoking pot and not making any attempt to find a proper job or look into furthering his education. So needless to say that the conflicts in our home are increasing; my sons are no longer talking; I just don’t know what to do.

A part of me feels like I have failed as a father, and I do not handle failure very well. My sons are young adults and my wife and I are in our early fifties, so we can either endure this broken home for another 30 years or we can get some help. But where do we start?”

Often times, the trouble in families is built up from years and years of difficult behaviours, troubling thoughts, and increased conflict. With this amount of pressure on a family, it becomes even more difficult to find solutions to cope, mend broken relationships, and improve each other’s lives.

It is never too late to improve family!  The first step to getting help is reaching out. Contact us today and take that first step to helping your family.

* Tune into the next post as we provide information on family conflict and a few tools and strategies that help families cope better.

Managing a nuclear family (most often composed of mom and dad and their offspring), is hard enough given the responsibilities and challenges of every day life. We are all aware of how our world has evolved in culture and diversity and the ever changing variety of family types as well. The balancing act required when new family members are introduced (additional “parent” figures, aunts, uncles and grandparents too) can become quite overwhelming

Being in a relationship with just one person is almost impossible. Our focus on developing a bond may at first be towards the person of interest; however as time goes by, we share the holidays with each other’s families, we celebrate birthdays, and attend family and friends’ weddings. We are no longer in a relationship with just one person—our love extends outward to the people that our new partner loves as well.

Imagine the complexity when our partner has a child. Even if the relationship between our partner and their co-parent is cooperative and working well, a lot of work is still required to keep parenting unified and consistent. This is even more of a balancing act when the parents decide to develop a romantic relationship with someone else.

As parents, we may be subtle in our pursuit to find a partner. However, when we feel we’ve found a suitable sidekick, it takes strategic planning to introduce this new person to our children. We may start to ask ourselves and others: “Do we say this is just a friend? Do we slowly start to include this new person into family occasions? When is the right time and best way to go about this? How long does or should courting take place before we introduce them to our children?”

In addition to these questions, parents’ negativity or stinkin’ thinkin’ can also get in the way. “What if we break up and this person has created a great bond with my child?” “If I couldn’t make it work with my last spouse, how do I know how to get along this time? My partner doesn’t have children, how can I ever trust that he/she knows what to do?

Let’s also consider the new partner’s stinkin’ thinkin’. How can I really be a parent to a child when there are two healthy parents already? What if my relationship ends; does my relationship with this child end too? How can I provide input into the well-being of this child, without stepping on the parents’ toes? I’ve never had a child before, how do I know I can be a parent to this one now?

Associated with these thoughts are feelings of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. Cognitive behaviour therapy suggests that with the rise of our negative thoughts and feelings, negative behaviours won’t be too far behind.  The related negative behaviours (e.g. grumpy, impatient, withdrawn, blaming) can severely disrupt parental unity, making it almost impossible to establish effective co-parenting plans (with ALL adults involved). Family systems approaches also guide family decision-making, structure and day-to-day adjustments using a non-blaming and teamwork perspective.

Seeking help in co-parenting assists parents with significant life adjustments and transitions such as finding healthier ways to introduce new members to the family. Counselling also is beneficial with helping family members create individual and group rules, expectations and goals as part of forming a new family configuration.

Our registered, professional counsellors , here in Durham Region, provide parenting coaching and family counselling that incorporates the children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as well as parents’. When the entire family attends, (all adults whenever possible), this models for the children the importance of forgiveness, acceptance, love and thoughtfulness. 

To receive supportive assistance with your “balancing act” and to receive helpful tools to manage your family relations more effectively, call us today!

What About God?

For some of us, we are raised in a family that follows a specific religious denomination. The practices, followings, and teachings are supposedly instilled in us so that we too may follow the exact same practices, the exact same teachings. We, at times, felt that our parents’ or grandparents’ way of reaching their Higher Power was too strict to follow. Or, we had no parental influences that a Higher Power may exist. As a result, we may tell ourselves that this isn’t for us and religion isn’t real, isn’t needed or isn’t even useful. For many of us, this thought pattern marks the beginning of neglecting our spiritual development and putting road blocks in our spiritual journey.

As we slowly adopt this stinkin’ thinkin’, we become less open to the possibility that a Higher Power exists. How could He exist, when we face so many difficult obstacles? How can some “Being” watch us suffer, feel depressed, go through numerous failed relationships, or have communities deprived of food and shelter?

These questions run through our minds, especially when we are faced with life challenges. However, deep inside us, we still talk to this “Being.” We still have some spec of hope that a Higher Power will see us out of our troubles. This is what we call FAITH. If we were able to change our thoughts based on our faith in a Higher Power, imagine the possibilities that can open up for us.

“I asked for strength, and

God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom, and

God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage, and

God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for love, and

God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favors, and

God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.

My prayers were answered.”

[from Rabbi Irwin Katsof’s How to Get Your Prayers Answered]

We know very well, at least usually, the parts of ourselves needing work. All too often, however, the physical aspects of living take priority over our spiritual development. Being guided to restore and build up our spiritual strengths can help us restore our relationship with our Higher Power. Spiritual strength enhances our relationships with ourselves and others. It helps us cope more effectively with life’s challenges. Prayer has been clinically proven to improve our health and well being.

To get assistance with your spiritual journey, reach out for counselling contact us today

Accusation or Acceptance?  Anguish or Forgiveness?

How many times in our lives have we expected something to happen or someone to come through on a promise or commitment. Maybe we have expected to be recognized for having done something a little special? When this doesn’t happen, how do we respond? I know I’ve been upset, let down and even angry on many of these occasions. Of course, with heightened emotions our behaviour can also become less than optimal making a frustrating situation even worse.

We have the whole wide range of emotions for a reason. There are no “bad feelings” like I thought growing up. It is, rather, how we choose to express our emotions can either be helpful or hurtful.

And what about the expectations we have for ourselves? All too frequently the goals, aspirations and targets we set can be thwarted, unreached or underachieved. Perhaps we fail to put in the required effort or decide the goal was too lofty or not worth the effort? At those times, negative thoughts can easily arise in the back of our mind, contributing to excessive emotions and negative behaviours. Some of us over/under eat, others over/under talk and still others turn to addictive habits (e.g. smoking, drugs, sex, exercise etc.).

As we learn, grow and mature, I like to think our expression of feelings and reactions improve.  The advanced ability to address upset with humility and grace, however, is not an automatic right of passage or a quality one develops by aging.  Through reading, education and practice we stand the best chance to improve. How we think about ourselves and others, when expectations are unmet, is central to both our emotional and behavioural response. When disappointment and upset surface, we can adopt positive attitudes that foster empathetic reactions.

“We are all human and are learning all the time”… “How can I do better next time?” “Some goals you reach… focus on those”

The next time you don’t reach a goal you set or someone you placed confidence in doesn’t follow through, dig deep inside your mind for an attitude or acceptance that fosters a balanced emotional state, and subsequently, wise and healthy behavioural choices. Additionally, it is important to take ownership for letting ourselves or others down, finding creative ways to reconcile the relationship.

Let us remember, healthy relationships are constructed, built up, maintained and enhanced over time. When efforts don’t match expectations we can still be polite and respectful.