Perhaps This Is Normal

In life we are faced with many challenges and obstacles to overcome. At these difficult times and during trying situations, it is imperative to have people to assist us, to provide support and guidance and to encourage our efforts to improve. In our families, at least ideally, we hope that we can come together and support each other through the tough times. This is not always the case, however, as our family members may also be struggling and, thus, are less able or unable to help. Of course, the stress we carry can be brought into the family and our loved ones can certainly add stress to our lives.

Family members may become more negative;

  • “We can’t cope as a family.”
  • “No one respects anyone else.”
  • “If I don’t raise my voice no one will listen.”
  • “We are a failure.”
  • “My parents could not possibly understand what I’m going through.”
  • “I have no power as a parent.”

Stress is a normal part of living and of any family experience. Life is hard on this planet and families constantly face a multitude of difficulties or stressors. How we handle stressful moments is the key to healthier and happier outcomes and relationships. When a family is in crisis, it is very difficult to get to a positive resolution without getting professional help.

Reading materials, joining community or on-line training courses and using counselling can provide the guidance and support families require. Registered, professional family therapists (“coaches”) can help identify areas for change together with the family and incorporate a wide variety of strategies to help families achieve their goals.

“Family counselling can be done in a lighthearted way, with an accepting and encouraging style that helps all family members feel accepted and valued.”

Additionally, drawing upon family members’ current strengths and resources, the counsellor can fairly quickly help the family improve teamwork, re-negotiate roles, expectations and boundaries, making it easier to resolve issues and function well.  Knowledge bases used include cognitive-behavioural, developmental, attachment, family structure, narrative, and family systems theory. Bringing these tools into the family arena allows for better clarity, communication and compassion through a more understanding and accepting view.

New strategies are introduced, in these “coaching” sessions, to overcome some of the negativity or “Stinkin Thinkin” that has developed and recover from past hurt. Through the therapeutic process, families can grow closer and develop more satisfying relations with each other. They redefine goals, assess and clarify shared values and beliefs and develop new ways to love, support and care for each other.

For more information on family “coaching”, call us today!

 

They know the latest Apple application to download. Their profiles on Instagram and Facebook are always up to date. They score really high on games like COD (Call of Duty), Mindcraft and FIFA. Schools even have online computer applications for students who have “misplaced their agendas.” So why is my pre-teen and teenager still waiting the last minute to complete projects? Why do I have to repeatedly ask them to complete chores when I get home from work? When are they just going to “get it!”

Some may even believe that technology impedes the development of children. Studies show adults and children are spending an average of seven to nine hours per day screen time (includes phone, gaming devices, TV and computers). For us “old school” parents, who were not privileged with smart phones, laptops and social media, we may find it challenging to discipline effectively.

Many parents rely too heavily on taking their technology stuff away as a consequence. Taking things away and removal of privileges, especially after about age 10, is actually a fairly ineffective and frustrating method of discipline. Disciplining effectively is less about the “toys” available to our children, taking stuff away or grounding and more about teaching and time.

For those of us who knew how to obey, to respect and to do our chores (without being asked too much) regularly, we quite likely had positive guidance, good role models and a valued relationship with those caring for us. That’s how we learned responsibility. There are parenting manuals out there for parents… “I’m too busy”… “I shouldn’t have to read”… “They should just listen”… “Parenting comes naturally”………… ALL Stinkin Thinkin!

We want our kids to read and learn then… it is equally important to find ways to learn creative, effective, efficient and loving disciplinary strategies. Many families are opting to remove tech from the dinner table, preferring to enjoy meal time with talking and sharing the important events in their day.

Parent-focused counseling can help parents vent their concerning experiences, identify strengths both they and their child(ren) have as well as increase positive parenting strategies. One such example is to learn the skills of negotiating, developing, adjusting and maintaining healthy expectations or boundaries for all family members.  To learn more, call us today!

“I Hate to Admit It”

They tease each other, pick on one another, make fun, wrestle, and yell. Their confrontations always end up with one crying, or bleeding, or slamming doors.

Will they ever get along? Can we ever achieve serenity in our home? I’ve heard of sibling rivalry; but this is a bit much. How do I know when I need to get more help for my kids?

These are questions that many parents may ask as their children display increased conflict. Some may not know this, but conflict is actually a normal and healthy part of relationships. When the emotions and behaviours to express and resolve conflicts are carried out appropriately, both parties achieve closure. Conflict can teach us many things:

It can teach us how to appropriately present our perspectives.
We may learn how to confidently rebut other viewpoints.
When done correctly, we refrain from inflicting emotional and physical harm on one another. (both verbal and physical harm inhibits communication and learning and can fuel a variety of mental health issues).

So when is the right time to get help? Teaching children the appropriate ways to resolve conflict can become very overwhelming in the heat of an argument. When parties have had time to separate, breathe and calm down, examining their experience (Time-out), it can then be helpful to bring them back together to sort through the argument and develop solutions (Time-in).

Of course it is easier said than done, especially when habits have developed and conflicts are occurring frequently. Family counselling may allow all members to express their concerns in a respectful manner and learn new ways of resolving disputes.

In family counseling, families can establish goals for themselves as a family and individually. Together they learn to cope with stressful events that occur in their lives (relationships, school, work, etc.). In a safe, professional, therapeutic environment, families have the opportunity to enhance their relationships and create a strong support system for one another. Call us today … we can help.

Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

Actually… It’s Not a Competition

Research indicates depression occurs twice as often in women as in men. There are additional risk factors that account for the increased likelihood that females will suffer from depression over males. Some of these added risk factors for females include: variance in hormone changes, puberty and premenstrual problems (e.g. bloating, breast tenderness, cramping, headaches and irritability). Another factor which is quite different for adolescent girls and women over boys and men, at least in developed countries, is females experience significantly higher levels of dysphoria and vulnerability related to physical appearance and body image.

These gender differences do not appear in pre-adolescent children. Risk factors become more apparent when they interact with the challenges of adolescence (e.g., physical appearance, dating, sexual experience and expression, and academic performance).

Why the gender difference?

Some may attribute the difference to the different stressors that males and females experience (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002):

  • Single, teenaged mothers report higher levels of depression than married ones.
  • Women suffering from obesity tend to show more depressive symptoms.
  • Females have been statistically shown to be exposed to various forms of victimization than males.
  • Societal conditions can create more stressors on women than males, making feelings of empowerment more difficult for women to achieve.

Does Gender Difference Matter?

Although research may present the differences of mental health among males and females rather than gender, our attention should focus on adolescent healthy development.

How are we rearing and “coaching” both males and females as they approach adolescence? Are we preparing our children for this new phase in their lives? Do we parents and caregivers know what these conversations should look like? Is the communication within the family open, engaging, and supportive? How aware are we about their social, intellectual, emotional, sexual, spiritual and physical developmental changes and the impact upon their confidence and performance?

When we consider these questions, we become in tune to helping our children through difficult times and new phases in their lives. A strong, consistent and caring family supportive system:

  • increases the chance adolescents can effectively cope with their stressors and crisis points,
  • helps teens focus on more positive thoughts about themselves, their family members and friends,
  • promotes healthier behavioural choices related to daily challenges and experiences teens face.

Male? Female? We all have “issues” and challenges! For further resources on how to help your family through different stages of development and your young people with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues, call us today!

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

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