These 7 simple tips are intended to help you and your family reduce the intensity/frequency of unwanted behaviors from your teen. Click for your free plan!

7 Simple Tips for De-escalation

Poor communication with your child can lead to power struggles. Chronic power struggles can often lead to escalated arguments and negative behavioral outcomes. Being a parent is hard! Being a parent takes considerable effort and constant evaluation of those efforts. Sound stressful? Well, let me tell you that you are not alone! These 7 Tips for de-escalation can help you feel more confident and ready for your ever changing child.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve been part of a conversation with your child that sounds something like this…

You: “Why are you playing your video games when the trash hasn’t been taken out yet?!”

Child: “I guess I forgot about it”

You: “why do I always have to remind you about the trash a million times? Why can’t you just be responsible for once?”

Child: “I already told you that I’ll do it. Just leave me alone already!”

You: “Excuse me? Now you are grounded AND on extra trash duty. Now go to your room!”

This is a fairly typical example of a power struggle between a parent and child that can lead to escalated outcomes. If you want to avoid this type of behavior (or worse) and are ready to make some changes in the communication with your child, keep reading!

If used consistently and with genuine effort, these 7 de-escalation tips may help reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of  your child’s unwanted behaviors.

Tip 1: Use an Empathetic and Non-judgmental Approach

  • To avoid the power struggles that keep us in a negative feedback loop with our child, we need to implement empathy. If we are curiously aware of our child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors, we will be better equipped to address those vulnerable thoughts and feelings that lead to the behaviors rather than only responding to the negative behaviors. If we only focus on the negative behaviors we find ourselves in power struggles.
  • Keeping an open mind and having stabilizing thoughts about our children’s behaviors such as, “we are all human and sometimes humans make mistakes” or “All human behavior makes sense within context” allows us to be non-judgmental and effectively use empathy.

Tip 3: Give Them Space

  • When we feel overwhelmed and out of control we naturally seek safety. For some children, having physical personal space helps them to self-sooth, which is vital for healthy emotional regulation.
  • If your child needs some space give it to them. You can also use this time to self-sooth your emotions as well.
  • Once you are both calm it is important to return to the conversation with empathy and a non-judgmental tone to work toward resolution.

Tip 4: Use Non-threatening communication and Non-verbal Gestures

  • When we are attempting to de-escalate, it is important to approach others in a non-threatening way. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts for non-threatening communication
Don’t talk to your child with your arms crossed. It can send messages of power and intimidation. They won’t want to open up to you if they are in fear.
Don’t talk loudly or aggressively. Now is the time to be curious about what they have to say about the situation. Remove yourself from the equation. Actively listening can give you important information about their current feelings.
Don’t dismiss their opinions or interpretations of events. Validation will help them open up more about what they are feeling.
Do make consistent eye-contact. This will send them messages that you are interested in what they have to say and that you care.
Do sit with your arms relaxed or open. This will also help them feel more relaxed and safe.
Do make sure to validate what they are experiencing and saying. You don’t have to agree with them to make them feel herd and understood.

Tip 5: Feelings Aren’t Fact

  • Feelings and emotions are essential to our existence as humans. However, feelings are just that, feelings, not facts. Our feelings come and go and often very quickly. Acting solely on feelings and emotions is impulsive and it can lead to exaggerated outcomes.
  • If we can listen to the message behind the negative words and behaviors of our children, we are better able to address the real underlying fear, anxiety, or emotional pain that is driving that unwanted behavior.

Tip 6: Don’t Overreact

  • Although you are not able to control your child’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors, you do have control over how you respond to those behaviors and what those behaviors are trying to saying.

Tip 7: Setting Limits

  • If someone is acting out in a violent or dangerous way, it is important to make sure you give them clear and simple directions with limits. Keeping it simple is important. When children are in a state of anger and potentially harmful behavior, they are not able to hear what you are saying and they may even feel more overwhelmed by complex direction or requests.

Allow time for reflection and processing the event

  • Some events can be very stressful and overwhelming for everyone involved. Take the time you need to relax and ground yourself. This is critical for healthy emotional regulation.
  • Ground yourself in the here-and-now.
  • Reflect on how you currently feel, identify and validate your feelings.

Grounding exercise

Going through this exercise helps you focus on the present moment and become grounded in the here and now. The next time you are feeling anxious, sad, angry or just overwhelmed, try to identify all of these things and see how you feel!

  • 5 things you can see.
  • 4 things you can feel.
  • 3 things you can hear.
  • 2 things you can smell.
  • 1 thing you can taste.

 

If you and your child are in need of a communication overhaul, feel free to reach out and start your journey to healthier communication and a happier relationship with your child!

Emotional regulation. Anger management. counseling. peace. chaos. contentment. relationships

Trauma Recovery in 3 Steps

What is trauma?

Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can be big, or it can be small. What seems to be a big trauma for you may not be traumatic for me at all. Just as unique as we all are, so are the traumas we experience. The way we see and view the world will help determine how we decide what is dangerous, what is safe and what is a threat to us.

Whatever you have faced, whatever traumatic experiences you have encountered in your life you are not a lone. Your emotions and traumas matter! In order to begin the healing process, it is important for us to understand and make sense of the trauma, find some self-compassion and self acceptance of the event, and then to re-story our interpretation of the event.

Making sense of the trauma:

Think about a time when you’ve been involved in some sort of “out of the norm” experience; maybe you witnessed an intense car accident, or maybe you were in an intense car accident. What was your initial response once the dust settled? Typically we tell our friends and family all the details about the event over and over. We do this for two reasons…

  1. It helps us process what we just went through and witnessed. If we were in a bad car accident we often don’t realize how intense it was in the moment because we sometimes go into a survival mode or fight or flight mode. In this state it’s difficult for us to account for all the details of the event because we are too busy trying to survive! So when the dust settles we try to piece everything together that happened and this helps us make sense of everything that happened.
  2. Second, we feel the need to tell the details of the story over and over to help us gain some control back. When we experience a traumatic event we often feel out of control and are in a state of chaos. Gaining some control helps ground us and helps us find stability.

Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance:

Self-compassion and self-acceptance help us heal and produces feelings of love and hope. The use of judgment and criticism keeps us stuck in a negative mindset that perpetuates our uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt. If we had some responsibility for a traumatic event (maybe we did or said something that had a negative impact on someone) we can easily become stuck in this negative downward spiral of self-loathing.

When we are critical and judgmental of ourselves we keep ourselves down and in the position of the victim. If we are down and out, the last thing we need is another kick to the ribs! Providing yourself with compassion and acceptance is the beginning of true healing. If you find yourself laying on the ground bruised and in pain, offer yourself compassion and empathy to help yourself up. Life is hard as it is, we don’t need to be adding to our discomfort!  Tell yourself, “I know what I did was not okay and I regret what I did, but I am not defined by those mistakes. I am someone who was struggling and didn’t know how to handle the situation. I forgive myself for those mistakes”.

We have no choice but to accept our reality; avoidance does not make the pain go away.

The Re-Story:

Once you have moved though understanding your trauma, and showing yourself some compassion and acceptance, you can now move to the third step of healing; the re-story. Remember, we only have control of ourselves in the present moment. That means, in the moments we experienced or played a role in the trauma, our behaviors made sense in that moment. It is not an excuse for the negative behavior or experience, but it is an explanation for the behavior. One of my favorite phrases is this – “all human behavior makes sense within context”. With this mindset, we can begin to understand how we work and why we behave the way we (and others) behave.

The re-story sounds like this; “When I was young I didn’t know what I know now. Now that I am older and more mature, I realize how much pain I was experiencing as a child. That pain lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and fear. Today I am able to look back on my past with compassion and acceptance and I can learn from those experiences. Now I know how to regulate my emotions and I am now stronger and happier because of this.”

With acceptance and compassion we can break free from our painful and traumatic past. There is freedom after suffering if we love ourselves first.

 

A letter from my professor:

In one of my classes in graduate school, my professor shared a letter with the class that he wrote.  I think this letter is beautify written and is something I reflect on regularly.

“When a person goes through trauma they must face it head on. They must evaluate, what did the trauma do to me? How does this make me feel? What did I learn from it? Now mourn it. Take time and mourn it. And put it away! Like a death it’s over…your life is not. When abuse destroys the soul it destroys everything in ones life undoing relationships, planting seeds of inferiority and unworthiness. It begins to shape the way we think about ourselves, the way we act and the way we act out. Mourn it. It’s a death, let it go. That person is dead, mourn them.

And in the distance is a new soul that is beautiful, that is strong, that is good. You are full of possibility and and so worthy of being loved. The most precious possession that ever comes to someone in this world is the power of new possibility. Take back the power and create your new possibility.”

~ Dan Sagert

If you are suffering you are not a lone. If you are facing trauma right now just know that you are brave and there is hope in your pain!

Thinking Outside of Your “Man Box”

The man box, we all have one. Lets see what is in yours…

The Man Box

Tony Porter is an activist dedicated to helping end violence against women, and he has come up with a really simple and easy to understand idea about how (some) men think. You can check out his TED Talk about the Man Box here.

Tony Porter came up with the idea of the “Man Box”. In this man box are all of the things men think it means to be a man. Some examples include; not showing emotion, always being in control of the finances, being the sole provider for the family, don’t cry, and being strong- just to name a few.

Where does the content of our man box come from?

We learn through our environment. So if our father, grandfather, uncles etc. believed that you can’t say “I love you” because it made them appear weak, then there is a good chance you will also take on this belief. Once you are an adult and have children of your own, you may also find it difficult to express love and empathy as a man. We are a product of our environment, and this is the process of socialization.

Through socialization we begin to form our beliefs about the world at an early age. We don’t get to choose our environment as kids.  What we don’t transform we transfer. The pain and suffering we experience today comes from generations of pain and suffering. Our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers pain is now ours. If they have not transformed their pain, they are giving it to you. Lets start thinking about what we need to transform in our own life journey so we can end the cycle of pain, suffering, and abuse for the next generation.

Us men need to, and can do better. Lets start to think outside our man box and make some transformations!

Thinking outside your man box

In order to transform what we think it takes to be a man and begin to break free from our pain and suffering, we need to think about 3 things;

1) Recognize where the contents of your man box come from

  • Remember, we can’t choose our environment as kids, but as adults we have the ability to change our thinking. Be a non-judgmental observer and think about your childhood. Who were your male influences? what were their beliefs? How did they treat others? Were they able to show you love, kindness, and respect?
  • Once we are able to reflect on our past and start making some of these connections between our environment and our current behaviors, we can then start to make sense of our behaviors. Then we can see where the contents of our man box came from. If you don’t like what you see, challenge yourself and make some changes!

2) Evaluate and challenge the contents of your man box

  • If you have read this far, good job! you have also probably been able to identify some of the contents of your man box. Do you see anything you don’t like? See something you might want to transform so you don’t transfer it to your kids? Great! Now you can start the process of challenging those old beliefs in your man box.
  • Ask yourself (without judgment) how is this belief serving me? my kids? my partner? co-workers?. Ask yourself, what is the honorable intention of this thought, feeling and behavior? If it is negative and abusive, then change it! One of the really cool things about our brains is the potential to rewire them and form new and healthy beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in!

3) Re-define your idea of what it means to be a man

  • Now that you’ve been able to identify and challenge your old ways of what it means to be a man, you’re almost there! Now you get to re-define how you want to move forward in life as a new man! Think about the things you were missing out on as a kid. What are some of the positive messages you wish you could have received as a child? What are some things you see yourself repeating in your family that had a negative impact on you as a kid? If you want to be more present for your kids, then take some time out of your day to be with them. Ask your kids how their day was. Ask about how they are feeling about that upcoming test. Start re-defining your man box!
If you want more help understanding and re-defining your man box I’d love to help you! Simply click here for more information about scheduling your first appointment!

4 Simple Steps to Enjoy Thanksgiving

The Holiday season is upon us!

The turkey has been bought, the decorations are out, and the eggnog is flowing! Everyone is excited to be with their family and start creating new holiday memories! Okay, well, maybe not everyone is looking forward to this time of year…

Are you one of those people dreading the family get-togethers?

There are many reasons you might be feeling this way. Maybe you have just gone through a divorce, there might be some tension between you and your family, you might not even be allowed to see your family to create those memories. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Whatever the reason, if you just aren’t feeling very thankful this year I want you to know that you aren’t alone!

Very often we are expected to be a part of the holidays with our families and feel all the joy and thankfulness we are inundated with. We might even feel some shame and guilt about not wanting to participate in the gatherings if we aren’t feeling the “Holiday spirit”. So, rather than skipping the Thanksgiving dinner all together to avoid those awkward situations, we go anyway and end up feeling uncomfortable and that we need to “survive” the evening.

I want you to THRIVE during Thanksgiving this year! I know you can do more than just survive! Here are a few tips to help you enjoy Thanksgiving a little more and help reduce your discomfort.

4 Tips to Help You Enjoy Thanksgiving With Your Family

1) Boundaries.

Establishing and maintaining your boundaries is the most important tip to help you through thanksgiving dinner this year. It’s also one of the most important tips for life in general! If you are going through a break up, not able to see or bring your family to dinner, or if you’re grieving for any reason, you’ll want to maintain healthy boundaries. If you don’t want to talk about it, then don’t. Find a healthy and effective way to communicate your boundaries.

An example might sound like; “Aunt Mary, I understand you’re curious about my relationship and how I’m doing. Right now I’m not really sure how I’m doing, and I’d rather not talk about it tonight. Lets just be with family and enjoy the evening”. Notice how I don’t avoid her or give in. I am able to knowledge Aunt Mary and her curiosity, but I don’t allow the conversation to go any further leaving me feeling upset and uncomfortable. When we set healthy and consistent boundaries we find peace and contentment.

2) Plan Ahead.

Don’t get caught flat footed! If you know you are going to a family gathering where people may ask you some questions that you don’t want to talk about, come up with a plan on how you will address this. Planning ahead about what to say and how to handle potentially uncomfortable situations can help reduce your anxiety. With anxiety under control, you can begin to enjoy your time at the family gathering!

3) Be open to new experiences.

It’s important to remember that this year may not be like last year, and that’s okay. Different doesn’t mean bad, it’s just different. When we start to compare today’s experiences to past experiences, we bring the past into the present. This attempt to relive the past prevents us from enjoying the people, conversations and interactions that are in front of us today. If we can be open to new experiences we can start to find true peace and contentment.

4) Keep it positive.

During your next Thanksgiving party, and you begin to notice yourself becoming anxious, angry or sad, remember the thought-feeling-behavior connection. What we think we feel, how we feel is how we will behave. If we think positive, we feel positive, and our behaviors will reflect positivity. Being mindful of our thoughts is the first step toward mastering emotional regulation. With our emotions under control, we have deeper conversations, more meaningful relationships, and more satisfying experiences. Keep those positive thoughts flowing!