Monthly Archives: September 2013

Parenting

The Hardest Job in the World

As a parent, I know just how hard the job is. After the birth of my first child, I decided I needed some support in navigating this new and challenging journey! I was lucky enough to find a skilled and caring therapist. The experience was so life-changing that I decided to become a therapist so that I could accompany other people on the same path of personal healing and growth. If you are a parent, I care deeply about helping you and your family.

I believe that nearly all parents want the best for their children, and that they are doing the best they can to provide it. Even if you’ve had experience with other people’s children, you may be surprised by how different your interactions are with your own kids. Babies and children don’t always behave the way the books say they will, nor how the rest of your family thinks they should. Everyone has an opinion, and they don’t always agree. This can lead to self-doubt, frustration, and even more stress than already comes with the responsibility of caring for another life 24/7 for many years. Enjoying your children—the reason you had them in the first place—may seem like a distant and fading hope. My work with parents addresses three main factors that support positive parenting and a satisfying family life.

Sorting Out Your Past

The first way in which I support parents is to help them make sense of their own histories. Scientific research suggests that parents who have created a meaningful story out of their own experiences—even if they had difficult or abusive childhoods—have a greater likelihood of raising children who are secure, resilient, and well-regulated. Therapy is by its nature intended to help with this process.

Keeping Your Head About You

Secondly, I work with parents to increase their own physiological self-regulation. I do this using the combination of traditional talk therapy, and Somatic Experiencing techniques, which I have outlined on my main website. The stress and fatigue that often accompanies parenting can leave you vulnerable to emotional overwhelm. At such times, uncontrolled reactions of anger, anxiety, or sadness may intrude on your ability to parent from a loving place. These responses are greatly influenced by our “downstairs” brain, which takes over in times of increased stress. By increasing self-regulation, the likelihood is increased that you will be able to have full access to the “upstairs” portion of your brain, where functions such as planning, response flexibility, empathy, and patience are located. When you are better able to stay calm and in control of your reactions, you are more likely to parent in the way that feels good to you, and contributes to calmer, more cooperative behavior in your children. More than once, my clients have remarked that when they feel better regulated, they notice that other family members are calmer, and that this occurs without any conscious effort on their part.

In Parenting, Ignorance is NOT Bliss

The third aspect of my approach with parents is to provide information about child development and suggestions regarding specific parenting interventions that might be helpful. Most of us did not receive any formal education in child development or parenting. I have years of experience—as a parent, and as a child, adolescent, and family therapist—that I use to help you to feel more confident in your role as a father, mother, or caregiver. Except in very rare circumstances, I will not tell you what to do, because I believe that you will know what works best for you and your family, given the right kind of information and support.

Here’s to You

I believe that parenting is the hardest, most important, and most rewarding job in the world. I welcome your inquiry regarding a complimentary 20-minute telephone consultation to discuss the possibility of working together.  I hope to have the opportunity to help you and your family achieve more harmony, enjoyment, and love.

Click here to return to my website.

Accumulated Stress – What is it?

What is meant by “accumulated stress”? One way to think of it is as the loss of resiliency in a person’s capacity to respond to life challenges. Stress, when presented in manageable doses, and in situations where one can mobilize an effective response, is an opportunity for developing increased knowledge, competency, and joy. Think about learning to ride a bike. There is stress involved in learning to balance, pedal, and steer, all at the same time. When the stress is met successfully, and the body gets to do what it wants to do, you experience the exhilaration that comes along with a new-found sense of freedom.

Loss of “flow” in our nervous systems

On the other hand, modern life can hand us many experiences that don’t allow our bodies to complete a response in the way for which they were designed. Competing demands of work, family, relationships, parenting, household maintenance, and so forth, require mobilization of the sympathetic branch of the nervous system. This is the same branch that mobilizes our flight/fight responses in response to a perception of threat, whether real or imagined. It was never designed to be switched “on” all the time. However, the demands of life, the way many people live it now, lead to the constant “override” of the parasympathetic response. Rest, play, sleep fall by the way side. Our nervous systems become tuned to a higher and higher frequency of sympathetic arousal, which never really disengages, unless we fall into collapse. Our nervous systems are designed to be able to respond with a significant flow, with sufficient range, between sympathetic and parasympathetic responses. Yet, over time, we lose this range of frequency, becoming stuck “on” or “off,” or in a pattern of disorganized, abrupt shifting between the two.

Think of a guitar string. When it is tuned to the right pitch, it is capable of resonating in a musical way that delights. If it is tuned too tightly, it will vibrate at an unpleasantly “sharp” frequency. Tighten it even more, and it may finally “give up” and break, and be incapable of making any sound at all.

In people, this loss of resiliency in the nervous system results in symptoms such as inability to sleep–or sleep restfully–irritability, anxiety, panic, digestive disorders, chronic pain, depression, and so on. When this happens, we have access to fewer and fewer behavioral, emotional, and cognitive choices. Our behavior seems out of sync with the situation at hand. We snap at a loved one over a minor irritation, rather than expressing our feelings gently. We have trouble focusing on important tasks because our anxiety level is too high. We push and push ourselves to exhaustion just so we’ll be able to sleep. We fall into collapse and can’t mobilize any coping strategies at all. We turn to drugs, alcohol, and medications to manage our bodies.

 Restoring Flow

My approach, which includes a combination of talk therapy and Somatic Experiencing techniques, is designed to help educate you about your body, teach you to “read” its signals, notice your activation, and support you to allow for deactivation. Ultimately, talking things through allows you to explore your emotions and thoughts, make sense of what’s happening, explore different responses, and make a plan for how to maintain a healthier balance in order to nourish body, mind, and soul.

Click here to return to my website.