How To Improve Communication With Your Neurodivergent Child

When someone is neurodivergent, it doesn’t mean something negative. Rather, the term applies to how they behave, learn, process, and think. To some degree, we are all different within those realms but there are neurodiverse conditions. These include but are not limited to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and even anxiety disorders.

About 20 percent of children qualify as neurodivergent. They have brain development adaptations and thus, adjustments must be made. In particular, this pertains to communication. Learning to best communicate with your neurodivergent child will enable you to support them and enrich both of your lives.

Some of the Many Challenges When Parenting a Neurodivergent Child

  • The child is often guided by emotions
  • They are very difficult to calm down
  • You must adjust your expectations
  • It’s important to practice self-care, self-compassion, and self-control
  • Communication

That last item covers a lot of ground. You may feel as if you are speaking different languages at times. But common ground can be found. It’ll be an evolving process but is very much worth the effort.

How to Improve Communication With Your Neurodivergent Child

Of course, the following suggestions are eternal in nature. Each neurodivergent child is as unique as each neurotypical child. Make adjustments where necessary and be sure to ask for professional help when it is needed.

1. Self-Education

This is an ongoing process. There is no one “right way” to communicate with your child. Not to mention, it automatically evolves as your child ages. Commit to understanding what you need to understand in order to make your interactions happen more smoothly.

2. Talk to Your Child About Their Condition

Be sure to help them grasp their differences. Explain that some people are more accepting than others and support them as they navigate a sometimes cruel world.

3. Include Them in Conversations

Never assume they are not interested or curious. For example, if your neurodivergent child is present during a family discussion, ask them if they’d like to participate. Let them know that they are neither excluded from the conversation nor required to chime in.

4. Create Signals For Difficult Situations

Neurodivergent children may be more affected by outside stimuli than others. It could be noise, lights, textures, or more. Work in advance with your child to come up with escape plans should they become overstimulated. To avoid embarrassment or having to explain too much, these plans could involve your own personal language, e.g. signals or facial expressions.

5. Don’t Force Them to Communicate “Normally”

Just because most people communicate a certain doesn’t make other ways abnormal. A neurodivergent child’s method of communication may be uncommon. But let your child know that “uncommon” isn’t weird or wrong. If your child has a preferred method of interacting, the onus is on you to meet them where they’re at. Create a safe space in which they do not feel judged or pressured.

6. Involve Other Families Members (and Teachers, Too)

Obviously, you are not the only person your child interacts with. Do your part to build a bridge between your neurodivergent child and their siblings, extended families, teachers, neighbors, therapists, and so on. Not everyone will be as dedicated and patient as you but every little bit helps.

Parenting a Neurodivergent Child is Not a Solo Act

You will need guidance from skilled practitioners. Your child will almost certainly have a therapist. But what about you? When you’re running on empty, who do you turn to? Your weekly therapy sessions can be a sanctuary for addressing your fears, doubts, resentments, dreams, and more. we’d love to connect with you for a free and confidential consultation soon for child therapy.

4 Ways To Begin Calming Anxiety In Those With Autism

Anxiety is very common in autism. Perhaps as many as 4 in 10 people with autism spectrum disorder struggle with high levels of anxiety. This reality further increases the challenges of interacting with the world. But why does it happen?

It remains unclear whether anxiety is part of autism itself. Observational evidence confirms that people with autism often display anxiety. This is true even when they are in a familiar setting. So, anxiety may be baked in or it could be a somewhat inevitable outcome of navigating daily life as a person on the spectrum.

What Increases Anxiety in People With Autism?

Social Norms

Human interactions are very nuanced. Plus, they can differ depending on the setting, timing, and location. People on the autism spectrum may feel steady anxiety when trying to gauge their place in all of this. This reality can create more anxiety due to fear of bullying.

Beyond Words

We each use more than words to communicate. For someone with autism, body language, tone of voice, sarcasm, and metaphor might be confusing or even invisible. Imagine the stress of not knowing if you’re truly grasping what’s being communicated around you.

Over-Stimulation

Some of the aspects of “normal” everyday life can be a source of anxiety for people with autism. For example:

  • Crowds of people
  • Flashing or bright lights
  • Loud and/or unpredictable sounds

Fending off such sensory assaults can also be anxiety-inducing.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety in People With Autism

The symptoms of autism and the symptoms of anxiety intersect. This makes it even more difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. For now, consider the following signs to be where both conditions dovetail:

  • Sticking to a routine even when it no longer makes sense
  • Rocking
  • Appearing frightened without an obvious cause
  • Sweating, shaking, trembling, and pacing
  • Repeating oneself in language or actions
  • Wanting to stay home alone and avoid social interactions
  • Covering your ears or eyes in an attempt to shut out the source of anxiety

Autism and anxiety evoke a “what came first?” type of situation. But you don’t need to have scientific certainty to be of help. If someone you know with autism is displaying increased anxiety, there are some basic ways to help them become calmer.

4 Ways To Begin Calming Anxiety In Those With Autism

1. Remove the Trigger

First and foremost, if you can remove the source of their anxiety, it will begin the calming process. Take another look at the list of causes above. Keep this in mind for those times when you make need to leave an over-stimulating situation or location or ask if something like lights or noises can be reduced or turned off.

2. Plan in Advance

This is a two-part effort. Firstly, do your homework. Learn more about autism and learn more about the specifics of the person in question. From there, you shift into part two. You do your best to identify in advance any potential triggers you may encounter. Having something like sunglasses on hand to block out bright lights can be a game-changer.

3. Share What You’ve Learned

As you do your research, talk with the person with autism to help guide them. Empower them with the same knowledge you have. This can allow them to be in control of their own needs.

4. Be Especially Aware With Children

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, become familiar with concepts like deep pressure, fidget toys, sensory toolboxes, safe spaces, and more.

It can be quite useful for you to meet with a therapist to talk about all of the above. You can air out your fears and concerns while learning more about being sensitive and helpful. Child therapy can help you learn how to help them, reach out to us to begin.

Is Social Media Worsening Mental Health In Adolescents?

Did you know that roughly 44 percent of American teens feel sad or even hopeless? In light of the lockdowns, etc., you might not be surprised by this number. But what if I told you the number was almost as high before the pandemic? In fact, the number of teens feeling sad, hopeless, or having suicidal thoughts rose the most between 2009 and 2019. So, if it wasn’t all due to the pandemic, what could be the cause?

By 2010, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and the hashtag were in full effect. What role did the advent of social media have in the state of adolescent mental health?

What is Really Going Viral?

The average child opens their first social media account at 12 years old. Within one year, according to recent research, that translates to 97 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds on social media. About half of these teens admit to being online “almost constantly.” Studies find that the more time a kid is online, the higher the risk of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Isolation

The confusion lies in the reality that kids can gain benefits from social media time, e.g.

  • Access to information that can help their education
  • Access in general for teens with disabilities or illnesses
  • Awareness of current events
  • The ability to interact with peers all across the globe

But the same mechanisms that offer such upsides are placing adolescents in some precarious situations.

The Curse of the Algorithm

Social media platforms are created with the simple goal of making profits — lots of profits. To succeed at this mission requires them to keep people’s eyes on their screens. This is accomplished through a wide range of tactics managed by an artificial intelligence algorithm. Kids are naturally impulsive. They are still developing their identities and intellectual capacities while subjected to intense marketing and manipulation.

They are herded into small hive minds that can present a skewed perception of the world around them. As a result, there are impacted by negative factors ranging from bullying to fake news to body image problems and beyond. In other words, it is essential for parents and guardians to get involved in some way.

How You Can Help

  • Talk to Your Children About Social Media: Explain to them that such platforms are run by huge corporations that don’t always have your best interests at heart. If necessary, monitor their accounts.
  • Talk to Your Children About Mental Health: Don’t let this topic be taboo or stigmatized. Normalize conversations about your everyone’s mental well-being.
  • Set Limits: Sure, this will provoke some conflict. But consider the alternative. You have every right and reason to set boundaries, e.g. no devices at the dinner table.
  • Talk About Appropriate Behavior: There is so much a teen can get caught up in online. Bring these topics out into the open. Discuss difficult subjects like bullying, pornography, etc.
  • Set Up Face-to-Face Socializing: Do everything you can to get your children to maximize in-person social time.

You’re In Uncharted Territory

As the numbers above highlight, this is a relatively new issue. As a parent, you can be forgiven for not having all the answers. This makes it crucial that you take personal steps to learn all you can — as soon as you can. Of course, you need to be up to date on what your kids are doing. But, more importantly, you’ll need input from a professional.

Parenting was hard enough before social media and smartphones. In this brave new world, it is necessary to learn new skills in terms of managing your adolescent’s online life. If you feel concerned about the social media usage, child therapy can help both of you. Let’s connect and talk soon.

How To Start The Conversation With Children About Racial Issues

If you’re not a target of racism, you have the privilege of not talking about it. Choosing this path, however, is a pretty clear way to maintain the status quo. This is why it can be so important for you to start the conversation with your children. Sure, some topics are difficult but that’s never a reason to avoid them. If your child was concerned about drugs or bullying, you’d certainly step up and help.

Children are not oblivious to race and racism. Babies as young as six months can notice physical differences, e.g. skin color. Translation: It’s never too early to lead by example.

How to Prepare Yourself for The Discussions

Be Wary of Social Media and News Stories

The aim of these outlets — like any other business — is to maximize profit. This means certain perspectives and angles can be emphasized in the name of increasing their audience. Train yourself to discern such trends. Also, take news breaks to give yourself time to digest and process.

Take Stock in What You Think

What are your beliefs, values, and possible blind spots on a topic like race? Before serving as a message or mentor, get a handle on where you are in this particular journey.

Be Willing to Learn and Grow

Consult with a broad range of sources. Commit to an ongoing path of learning. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. This gives you the chance to be a role model when you remedy that situation.

How To Start The Conversation With Children About Racial Issues

Obviously, every single conversation will be different. There are too many variables to address here but we will focus on a big one: age. To follow are some age-based suggestions to get things started.

Under 5 Years of Age

By the time they’re five, your children may unknowingly behave in a way that demonstrates their awareness of racial differences. They may openly comment on traits like skin color. This is a golden opportunity to begin a simple but necessary conversation.

  • Don’t silence them or create any stigma
  • Encourage their questions
  • Celebrate differences openly
  • Relate any discussion of discrimination to the child’s concept of fair and unfair

Under 12 Years of Age

Suddenly, your child is forming far more complex questions and opinions. At the same time, they are being exposed to an extremely wide scope of content. Stay connected with them about what they are seeing and how it makes them feel. Embrace the chance to read what they’re reading and watch what they’re watching. This will allow you to ask them some specific questions.

Children in this age group can understand concepts like stereotypes. Introduce such conversations when they watch a movie or read a book. Most importantly, be very open. Let them know you can be trusted to handle challenging questions. Also, as they begin to enter the world of social media, do your best to monitor how this impacts them.

12 and Older

As the teenage years hit, you may have to be more creative in getting your kids to sit down and discuss deep topics. You can start this process by staying aware of what they currently know when it comes to race, racism, discrimination, etc. Get to know their friends and see what their mindsets are like. Teenagers are often excited to try activism. Make yourself available to discuss these efforts and participate with them when it feels appropriate.

Keep Checking on Yourself

Times change quickly. If you feel a little lost and unable to keep up, it could help immensely to have someone to talk with. Child therapy is an ideal venue to assist you on this tricky journey, reach out to us so we can talk about how we can help you.

Spotting Depression In Children and How To Help Them

Kids can have some pretty volatile mood swings. They will display intense sadness if, say, they lose at a game or are told they can’t have more dessert. This is normal. It can also be frustrating at times. In addition, this reality can make it quite difficult to identify symptoms of a depressive disorder. Because, yes, children can struggle with depression, too.

Depression in adults can be tricky to recognize. With kids, that goes double. In both cases, it is essential that you learn the telltale signs. Again, with kids, that goes double. A child relies on caregivers to identify the need for help.

How to Spot Depression In Children

The first step is to push aside much of the mainstream discussion. Depression in children may or may not mimic how it manifests in adults. It also probably will not look anything like how pop culture portrays it. To get started, here are some possible signs:

  • A big one to look for is a child who seems to have lost interest in activities that once excited them. This may be accompanied by low energy and a sense of restlessness.
  • How are they doing in school? Is your child refusing to go? Are their grades suddenly dropping? Have they withdrawn from social interactions?
  • Changes in daily functioning could be a red flag. This could be something like appetite fluctuations or disturbances in sleep patterns.
  • Do you notice mood-related shifts? Your child may have angry outbursts, irritability, a bad temper, or sudden episodes of crying.
  • Physical symptoms include unexplained digestive issues, aches, pains, headaches, muscle tension, or not gaining weight and size as expected.
  • Perhaps the most depression-like sign you’ll see is the most urgent. Is your child displaying low self-esteem, feeling worthless or guilty, or talking about death or suicide?

As many as five percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffer from depression. If anything on the above list rang a bell, you should at least start monitoring closely. However, if you have witnessed behavior that even hints at suicide, please reach out immediately.

How to Help a Child With Depression

As a parent or caregiver, there are two major ways you can help your child as they undergo treatment.

1. Offering Emotional Support

You are your child’s go-to person — especially in tough times. If they are struggling with depression, it becomes your role to find appropriate ways to be there for them without overwhelming them, e.g.

  • Let your child clearly know that you validate their feelings and are ready to listen
  • Maximize the amount of quality time you spend together
  • Role model the practice of open, direct, and honest conversations
  • Deepen your trust with each other

2. Encouraging Self-Care

Teaching self-care skills to your child is a gift that never stops giving. Some of the fundamental elements to consider are:

  • Maintain regular sleep patterns
  • Make healthy eating choices
  • Engage in physical activity, exercise, and sports every single day
  • Cultivate methods to relieve stress

Who Should You Contact?

Obviously, depression is not something to ever be downplayed. If you have concerns, talk with your pediatrician. Also, you must seek out a mental health practitioner with pediatric experience. A child or adolescent may not find it easy to articulate what they are feeling. This makes it all the more important to get input from qualified professionals.

Childhood depression can be addressed, managed, and treated. The first step, of course, is to recognize the problem. If you have any reason to be worried about your child, I invite you to reach out today. Let’s connect and talk in the name of supporting your child.

child-counseling

5 Indicators that Your Child May Need Some Help with Depression

It’s true, children are not adults. For the most part, they do not have to deal with any financial stress, job stress, or relationship stress. However, children do have their own battles to face every day, some that you may not know about.

School is hard. Other children are mean. A pandemic is exhausting.

It is normal for children to have moments of sadness or be in a bad mood. Consider it a red flag if this sadness persists for more than two weeks.

It’s okay if you do not know exactly what the signs of depression are in children. It is not okay, though, to ignore them. You’re doing the right thing by seeking help. Depression generally does not go away on its own.

Seeking depression treatment for your child is the best thing you can do for them if you do notice the signs. Here are five indicators that reveal your child may need some help with depression.

1. Sadness or Irritability

You may notice that your child has been in a “bad mood” for weeks. They don’t need to be crying constantly or completely sullen, though those reactions wouldn’t be unusual.

Keep an eye out for any type of persistent mood disruption. Depression can make a child cry very easily, have tantrums, or become short-tempered. If you notice this behavior going on for more than two weeks, consider that your child needs support to identify and resolve low moods.

2. They Are Their Own Criticchild-counseling

Children with depression tend to experience low self-esteem and feel down about themselves. You may notice them complaining about their lacking performance, mistakes, or missteps when things go wrong. For example, they could lose at a simple board game with friends and criticize themselves and value to others with a statement things like “I’m such a loser.” Depressed kids tend to let one moment or interaction define themselves.

Also, you may notice that your child gives up too easily on things that are difficult for them. They do not have faith in themselves to accomplish much, so they simply refuse to try. If you catch your child saying more self-critical things than good things about themselves. This is an indicator that depression may be the underlying cause.

3. Fun is No Longer a Factor

If your fun-loving child no longer wants to play and seek adventure, something is wrong. Loss of pleasure is a very common indicator of depression. Seeing this occur in a child can be quite dramatic.

Your child may want to just stay in their room and not want to come out.  Hobbies and sports they used to love may no longer interest them. If your child does not find the motivation for fun, it may mean it’s time to address their solemn mood with a therapist.

4. Changes in Eating and Sleeping

Depression can drain anyone Your child may appear tired much of the time, even if they have plenty of sleep. Other times, your child may have trouble falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night.

Also, your child develops food issues. Depression can play out as picky eating or overeating. It’s important to encourage your child to eat healthy foods rather than sweets or junk food for comfort. You don’t want to create any food addictions or health problems down the road.5. Body Aches and Feeling Sick

While depression comes with many mental health issues, the physical health of your child can pay the price too. Your child may complain of a lot of headaches or stomaches. They may resist going to school even though they are not technically not sick.

 Take the Next Step Now

If you notice these indicators of depression, it is wise to speak to an experienced professional about it right away. Ignoring these signs of trouble will likely exacerbate these symptoms over time. Your child needs help and ways to cope. Please consider support for you, your child, and your family on our child therapy page and contact us soon for support.

Art Therapy for Adults and Children

Growing up, many of us remember coloring with crayons, playing with Play-Doh, or building with brightly colored blocks. We crafted worlds, constructed make-believe scenarios and proudly displayed our creations on fridges, walls, and in frames.

Today, while some of us continue to create art, many of us do not. Life just seems to get in the way. And while art and creating may not be a staple in our lives, what if we told you it could be a catalyst to healing and growing? What if art could again give you that rush of joy? That ability to let go, to embrace emotions, raise self-awareness and cope with what life throws at you? What if we told you that a healing power lies in art therapy?

What is Art Therapy?

Don’t worry, art therapy isn’t just coloring in coloring books (although we enjoy coloring too!)

Art therapy is the use of artistic, creative methods to enrich the lives of individuals, families and communities and treat psychological distress and improve mental health. Art therapy is conducted by a Master’s level art therapist, whose goal is to help individuals and groups gain a deeper understanding of difficult situations and our behaviors and reactions surrounding these situations.

At Affinity, our art therapists will help guide you, either through creating your own art or viewing others’ art.

Through techniques like drawing, painting, collage, and sculpting, you will be encouraged to reflect on what you create, how it was made, and the meaning behind it.

Together you will search for common themes that may be influencing your thoughts and actions. Through exploration like this, an art therapist can help you to better understand your emotions and provide tools to help you cope with future stress.

Will Art Therapy Work for Me or My Child?

Art therapy has been proven to be beneficial for all ages and for a wide array of mental health concerns. Used as an alternative therapy or in conjunction with other psychotherapies, art therapy can be used to help treat such issues as:

  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Depression
  • Aging
  • PTSD
  • Relationship Issues
  • Eating Disorders
  • Chronic Pain

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and if you have any questions about art therapy and what it may help treat, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Art therapy has helped everyone from war veterans to children with special needs get a better grasp of the world around them. Art therapy has been shown to help reduce pain and stress in cancer patientsreduce anxiety in children, and depression and PTSD in those who have suffered great traumas.

The benefits of expressive arts therapy seem to be boundless.

At its core, art therapy is about making meaning through making art.

Here at Affinity, we take pride in finding out how art therapy can help even more people thrive!

Art Therapy for Children

Expressive arts therapy for children may look like play, but it’s actually a highly beneficial therapy approach. Children do not have the refined verbal skills that adults do. Through art-making, children are actually able to communicate more and better than they can communicate with words alone. Art therapy is especially beneficial for children who may be non-verbal or sensory-based, or who may have suffered from trauma. An art therapist will encourage children to visually express and record their experiences, emotions, and perceptions.

Common art therapy activities for children include:

  • Collage making
  • Tactile activities
  • Fort building
  • Drawing

Art Therapy for Adults

Art therapy for adults, may not look too different from art therapy for children, but is just as beneficial. The goal is to “delve deep,” focusing inward and expressing yourself with creative materials. Art therapy for adults  involves a lot of talk therapy, or psychotherapy, as well. However, unlike expressing yourself with only words, the physical form of art therapy also allows you to “do something” in the moment with your thoughts and feelings – rip them up, turn them over, bury them, or change the image to what you want to have happen.  An art therapist will help you reflect on your art, ask questions, learn about yourself, and develop strategies to work through similar issues that may arise in the future.

Common art therapy activities for adults include:

  • Self-portraits
  • Creative journaling
  • Mandalas
  • Word collages

Do I Have to Be Good at Art for Art Therapy?

Not at all! Remember, art therapy is designed to help you explore your feelings, perceptions and reactions to the world around you, not your artistic techniques. When creating art, our art therapists want you to create art that is an expression of you and your feelings, not necessarily an expression of the outside world. Art therapy is for you and you alone. No artistic flare needed.

Art therapy is about the process, not the final product.

How Do I Get Started With Art Therapy?

We can’t wait to help you in your journey towards empowerment and change. You are more than welcome to read more about our art therapist here and get to know the rest of the team here. To schedule an art therapy session, you can either schedule online or contact us by clicking here. We’ll walk you through the next steps from there.

You’ve made the first step towards healing. We can’t wait to meet you!

Parenting Differences and Conflicts

Viewpoints about the right way to parent our children often have so much baggage that, if the baggage was physical, we’d need a truck to haul it around.

Your views about the right way to parent are influenced by the way you were raised, because you’re often trying to either replicate or run away from what was normal in your own childhood. That’s why raising children can bring up strong emotions and desires you forgot long ago.

It can feel personally threatening to have your parenting methods challenged.

When you are parenting with a partner or a co-parent, your strong feelings and preferences are multiplied by the number of people inhabiting a parent role in your child’s life. Those feelings can interfere with your ability to work together. You may find it difficult to understand why your partner feels the way they do, or why what makes sense to your co-parent makes zero sense to you. Not to mention that it’s sometimes hard for you to fully comprehend why you have the feelings, reactions, and values you have in your own parenting!

Shouldn’t you be able to parent the way you think is best?

Of course! However, (and you knew this was coming) you are not your child’s only parent. All parents in a kids’ life have the right to raise that child. That means it’s important to work through parenting differences and find some common ground. If you aren’t able to resolve or reconcile these differences, it can create relationship conflicts between parents and in the parent-child dynamic that ultimately can harm your child. As an involved and caring parent, that is obviously the very last thing you want.

Are there ways to resolve parenting difference, avoid parenting conflicts, and work harmoniously for the benefit of our child?

Yes, there are, and you won’t have to compromise your deeply held values to achieve that goal. As a parent, you want what is best for your child. Your desire to parent your child in your own way is because you believe your child will end up healthier and happier as a result. That’s the primary reason you feel so attached to parenting in your preferred way.

The trick is, your child’s other parent(s) feel exactly the same way!

Being able to see and understand the other’s perspective, and having your perspective understood in turn, is the key to finding workable solutions to the parenting differences in your unique family situation.

You are totally capable of raising your child well.

Developing good communication skills so that disagreements do not devolve into tension and discord is an important aspect of great parenting skills.

We know parents are doing the best they can with the information and experience they have. We also recognize that most parents don’t have the time to keep up with all the various research and parenting literature that could help them enhance their parenting skills and resolve their parenting differences. Not to mention that communication skills in adult relationships are already challenging in general!

When you work with an Affinity therapist, we become a part of your parenting team.

We can help point you to information about how certain parenting styles lead to certain outcomes. We can help you understand and practice different communication techniques that allow multiple perspectives to be heard and respected so that you can work through parenting conflicts.

We’re not saying you have to do what the research indicates is best. You are right there, in the midst of the situation, which is the best place to make the final decision. When you feel like that final decision is well-informed and respects all the voices in the room, you will feel more empowered and confident in your parenting decisions. Your relationship with your partner or co-parent will be strengthened. And, as a bonus, you will be modeling excellent conflict resolution skills for your child as well!

Unresolved parenting conflicts and tension in the home aren’t good for you or your child, especially when they’re about how you’re going to parent that child. Children need firm yet flexible boundaries so that they can experiment, push against limits, and continue to be safe and loved as they figure out their place in their family and the world.

If you’d like to get started with one of us as part of your parenting team, schedule with us or contact us today to get started.

Overwhelmed Parents

Being a parent is the most demanding and rewarding job you’ll ever do. The particular challenges of modern parenting mean that the feeling of overwhelm is the norm and not the exception.

The Added Pressures of Modern Parenting

If you are a parent, you are used to feeling overwhelmed. Most parents today no longer have the luxury of having a full-time parent devoted to caring for the home and children. Even if you have that advantage, there are more moving parts and decisions to make today than your parents had to think about.

For instance, previous generations were more ecologically innocent, so you didn’t have to think about the chemical make-up of your family’s mattresses, or whether the products you bought were packaged with recycled post-consumer waste. Social media can make you feel as if your children are competing for spots at top schools even before they are born. You are more connected via social media but more isolated by time and distance constraints. Private and charter schools can make neighborhood children and their family’s strangers to one another. In past eras, when you left work, you were off. You didn’t have to check your email or field telephone calls during the time you were with your family.

Your children also demand more. Your teenagers receive enticing brochures for summers abroad and postcards of idyllic Ivy League campuses. All your children want an endless list of games and gadgets that cost increasing amounts of money.

Have you felt guilty or inadequate for feeling overwhelmed by your parenting responsibilities?
You are as capable as parents in prior generations. In fact, in many ways, modern parents have more resources and knowledge than their parents had access to.

However, your life is more complex. You have more choices, which means you have to think more. Making decisions can be exhausting, even when you are interested in what you are doing. For your parents, a drive-through dinner was a simple question, “Is it in the budget?” For you, it is complex. Affordability may be one of the criteria you use, but you’re likely to also consider the nutrition and whether they’ve had any other fast food recently. When you add two or three extra considerations to every decision, it is overwhelming.

It’s Difficult to Admit You’re an Overwhelmed Parent

Do you sometimes wonder if you were cut out to have children? The demands of parenting make every good parent feel inadequate some of the time, but few are able to admit they’re an overwhelmed parent. You may worry about being judged by others if you acknowledge those feelings. It may feel like you don’t have the time to even think about your sense of overwhelm. You may fear getting lost in that feeling. If you’re divorced, you may be afraid of losing your children if you admit you feel like you’re drowning. When you do hint at how difficult things can be, family and friends may offer well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful advice rather than just letting you vent.

Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad parent. Feeling overwhelmed comes from having too much to do and not enough time to do all the things, all the time, for all the people, in exactly the right way every time. Who can keep that up? No one. And yet you try, because your family means the world to you.

How Therapy Can Help You Feel Less Overwhelmed

Therapy does not magically take away your life responsibilities, unfortunately. But therapy does have a lot of other things to offer the overwhelmed parent to help them feel less frazzled and more grounded.

A wide assortment of skills, from those that enhance communication between you and your partner and you and your child, to managing your inner voice, to setting boundaries with intrusive people or obligations in your life, all can make parenting easier.

Children pick up on their parents’ stress and act it out in their behavior. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your child will feel, which then makes it easier for you to feel more relaxed. And relaxing doesn’t mean lackadaisical parenting. It means not stressing over every decision and being more intentional about your priorities.

The therapists at Affinity know how to help you create a home you want to live in with a family you enjoy. If you want more of the rewards of parenting and less of overwhelm, reach out to us today for life transitions counseling. Positive parenting approaches will make you feel like a pro.

Families Created Through Adoption

Is love enough? It takes a special type of person to bring a child into their home and offer unconditional love and support. When you chose to create your family through adoption, having an open heart that was willing to love your new child may have seemed as if it was the most important part. Perhaps love is the most important piece of the puzzle, but if you’re like most adopted families, you’ve learned that you need more than love to keep everything running smoothly.

Integrating an Adopted Child Into Your Family

Some families include both adopted and biological children. Of those families, some have existing children before they grow their family through adoption. Some families’ biological children come later. Some at the same time! Some families have only one child through adoption. Some families have multiple children through adoption, and sometimes those kids are related to one another and sometimes they’re not.

Clearly there are so many ways to create a family through adoption. Each has its own joys and challenges as you explore the best ways to integrate your adopted child into your family. Trying to balance the needs of your adopted child with your own needs, plus any existing children’s needs, is a complicated job.

Often adoptive parents do not have a ready-made community of other parents sharing in this life experience. Therefore it’s common for people to feel different and alone in this process. And it’s important to find people who “get it” who can support you through it.

Secrets and Transparency in Adoption

Deciding how much you want to know, and then how much you want to tell others, is a really stressful process. These are decisions you make many times over, for a long time. There aren’t right decisions, and every decision has its own outcomes.

Sometimes withholding information from our children is a gift we give to them. And sometimes those secrets can create different challenges. Did you hold information back from your child to protect them from unfortunate truths only to have the secrets become a trust destroying issue later on? Once untruths are in motion, you may find it difficult to maintain them and difficult to unravel them without causing someone pain.

If you valued transparency in the adoption process, maybe your child didn’t respond to that knowledge in the way you hoped they would. Perhaps they are asking a lot of unexpected and increasingly uncomfortable questions. Maybe they’re identifying heavily with what they know about a birth parent, which feels rejecting to you.

If you find yourself feeling worried and unsettled about whether to keep secrets or be transparent, you are in good company. It’s normal for parents to experience uncertainty and sometimes conflict regarding how forthcoming to be, both with their adopted child and with others in their lives.

Managing the Complicated Feelings that Accompany Adoption

Whether you’re a couple trying to reconcile differing values about how open to be with your adoptive children, a parent dealing with anxiety about your child’s search for their birth parents, an adoptive family feeling “different” from others families, or you’re an adopted child feeling guilty about wanting to meet your birth parents, there are a lot of complicated feelings involved. It probably feels like there’s a lot at stake for you.

Talking with a therapist can help you deal with the emotions and dynamics involved in your unique family make-up. In many cases, these issues can be talked through, better understood, and navigated around more gently. After putting so much effort into creating the family you want, its worth a little extra effort to work towards making it feel the way you want, too. Schedule an appointment today for individual or family sessions, depending on your specific needs.