Parenting Answers

Should I stay or should I move and what should I do for work

Good morning.... As a mother myself my heart pulls for you and your goals for your son.  What you want for your son is admirable.  Any mother wants only the best for their child/chrildren.   My best advice on the subject is your son is at a very impressionable age in terms of his brain development.  Any negativity can be detrimental to his development, this includes from his own grandfather.  Many times you won't see the effects until later on in age.  There is much we don't know about the brain, but the medical community does understand that the brain is affected by stress.  The negativity from your father, although it sounds/appears as though you are attempting to keep him as safe and as protected from that negativity, can and will have negative effects on your son's brain development.   Effects of Stress | Better Brains for Babies (bbbgeorgia.org) This is a link to a short but very good article on stress on a developing baby.  This may help you understand better than I could fully explain.  Your son is at a very impressionable age, so this time of development is so important.   In terms of your own relationship with your father.... it sounds as though this has been a stressful relationship.  My perspective is that you should ask yourself what you want from a relationship with your father and what would you want that relationship to look like exactly.  Do you just want him to stop being "grumpy" and negative?  Do you want him to be a more loving grandfather?  Ask yourself this.... Is he able to do these things?  You may or may not know the answer, but maybe sitting with him a discussing your concerns (which are quite valid) may help him to understand your concerns.  If you father does not want to make changes or able to make those changes then you will be faced with deciding if you will want to remain residing with him.  This is only a question you can answer.     I hope this message finds you well and helps you with your future.  I wish you well and hope to speak with your further in the future.  Kristen Sheppard, MSW, LICSW
(MSW, LICSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I heal my fear of attachment and abandonment?

A way of starting the path to healing is to honor the spectum of emotions (comfortable and uncomfrotable).  When we experience traumas and in this case learning that a parental figure would no longer be in the same home on the day-to-day basis is rightfully so- a difficult event for a child to process. The emotions that have resulted from this experience and the residual effects (that show up in your present day life) are all trailheads of information to further explore.  What did you need back then that you can give to yourself in the present? (verbally, symbolically, creatively etc).  As you strengthen your muscle of vulnerability you can start with establishing what safety looks/feels like for you in proximity to other people. Trust is something that takes time to establish and being mindful of your needs and ability to communicate them to those you share space with is a starting point.  As you are mindful of your current attachment style, give yourself grace along the way as you unlearn patterns that are no longer working for the way you want to show up in relationships moving forward.  I'm curious, what you mean by "safely grow"? To be vulnerable is to risk, there is the possibility that things will not turn out how we want them and even in that there is still an opportunity to be present with ourselves and how we respond to the situation. When things work in our favor (comfortable emotions), things to consider include but are not limited to:  1. Did I honor my own boundaries? 2. Do I feel safe to share what I actually felt without holding back? 3. Is this relationship recriprocal? When uncomfortable emotions come to visit, curioisty around the emotions that still sting are trailheads of areas in your life that need further attention.  In the opportunities available to further explore and get to know yourself intimately, you can build on the information that you gradually uncover and move from a place of authencitity at the pace that works for you in the place you are currently in.  Addressing abandonment wounds take time, be gentle with yourself as you gradually address something that has been challenging. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I mourn the childhood and teen stages that I didn’t have?

One thing that a lot of adults say is that 'children do not come with an instruction manual', which does hold a lot of truth. Parents will make choices based on either their own experiences that they are trying to avoid the situation repeating itself or because they are trying to provide a better life for their children. At times that can come across as domineering behaviors because a lack of understanding of the child's emotions. Something to challenge yourself to do would be to look at the choices that they did make and try to think of why they could have made them. If you look at a situation through a different eye, although it cannot heal and change the past- sometimes it can explain it better.  As the years pass you have a choice to make on whether or not to express some of these ideas and feelings with your parents. Keep in mind that they cannot change the past and they way they handled things before but they have a chance to learn about who you are as a person now and provide the support you might need in the future. If there are things that you know you will need their support on, explain it to them in an assertive way where it highlights how much it would mean to you and how it supports your feelings. Try to avoid 'you' statements or 'you never..' because this will put people on the defensive almost immediately. Instead use 'I feel', or 'it means a lot to me...' instead and they can see how their small displays of support will impact you.  In regards to not letting you fully express and be yourself, at times parents will make choices where they are trying to prevent a worse consequence in their mind but also do not consider how their actions or inactions can impact their children. Parents do not always understand or consider the fact that it is better for them to heal their child from the hurt of the world than to be the cause of it. However along with that, as you grow you have a chance to help them understand what kind of support you would like in order to make your relationship stronger. It may take time, but instead of thinking of the relationship with them as a wall that has been built because of lack of understanding, it can be a door to a new opportunity for them to see you for who you really are. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I find balance in my life and still have success?

Hello Rosemary,   Thank you for reaching out on The BetterHelp Platform with your question: How do I find balance in my life and still have success?   I am so glad you reached out for some support with your attempts to live a happier and more balanced life for yourself.  This is a great personal goal for any working parent! I will share some information and some tools you can implement to help you achieve.   Being A Career Woman And A Mother: How To Find Balance The majority of parents who are working struggle to find a balance between their job and their personal lives. This can be challenging for a mother who wants to be a career woman, but it's not impossible by any means. One of the things to think about is this - you don't have to do this on your own. You might feel that, as a mother, you've got to raise your children, bring in the money, and do it all by yourself. If you have a partner, they can help with childcare, and if you're both working, one of the things to remember is that you can work on finding babysitters or childcare centers together. As you know, raising kids together is a team effort. If you're a single parent, it's important to remember that your full-time job is important, and so are your children. It's okay to take breaks for yourself and hire a babysitter so that you can go out with your friends; in fact, it's vital. You need to get that downtime. There are ways that you can balance having a career and a family life, and we will go through that in this article. You Don't Have To Do it All There's a lot of societal pressure on women and mothers to "do it all." You might feel tremendous pressure to be successful at your career and motherhood, and it could feel paralyzing. That's an understandable way to react when you're trying hard to make a life for you and your children. Remember that you get to decide what works best for your life. It's not anyone's business to make judgments on your life choices. There are many successful female business owners, and a large number of these women have children. You do not have to give up your life as a mother to have a business or vice versa. You may be a go-getter or an entrepreneur, and that's a wonderful quality. Follow your passion and do what works for you. Maybe, you own your own business. It could be that you work in corporate america in a nine-to-five job. Perhaps you work as a freelance writer or artist. There are so many different opportunities to fulfill your life purpose as a woman and a mother. You don't have to be "just" a mother, or "just" a career woman; those things can coincide, and you can live with balance. You don't have to do it all. It's easier said than done, but it's important not to let other people's ideas about the person that you "should" be get to you. There are ways that you can make a life of balance work for you as a busy mom and professional. One of the first things to think about is what you want to do with your life so that you can establish your priorities as an individual outside of your family life. Finding Your Purpose If you haven't decided whether or not you want to have children yet, that's okay. If it's a priority for you to have children, honor that decision. There are many ways that you can become a parent, whether that's having children biologically or adopting a child; both of those are viable options for starting a family, and remember that there are an abundance of different kinds of families in the world. Some people have a partner, some people are single parents, and some kids are raised by their grandparents; these are only some of the ways that a family can look, and family has varying definitions. If you're a woman who wants to have children, you can do this, and you can have a career. Making It Happen Before you try balancing your job and family, it's essential to define what you want to do with your life. It's okay to not know the answer to that question. Think about it, the average person changes careers many times in their life. If you don't know "what you want to be when you grow up" it's not a big deal. You can figure that out with time and patience. Start by identifying your goals. Get out a piece of paper and a pen and write down what you want. What are your goals in life? Write down a list of five things that you want to accomplish in your career life. Look at that list and prioritize the first one. What's the most important thing to you? Say that you want to become a high-powered executive at a company. This doesn't happen overnight, and it'll take steps to achieve this. Break it down into smaller steps; write down three things that'll help you get to that place in a company and start with the skill set that you have. That could mean working as an assistant for someone first and learning a trade or being an associate and moving up in your company over time. It just depends on what your goal is in terms of what you'd like to achieve. Where are you starting, what's the end goal, and what's in between that? How will you get to where you're going? There are steps involved, and a plan of action is one thing that will get you going. What Is A Plan Of Action? A plan of action is when you write down the steps that you need to take to get to your goal. You know what your objectives are, and now it's time to figure out how to get to where you're going. It's a matter of defining those goals, and then creating the steps to get to your destination. It's okay to be nervous when you start defining the things you want to do, but don't let that stop you! Feel your emotions, and keep going. You will achieve your goals if you stay focused and on track. Let's say that you'd like to own your own business, for example, the first thing that you need to do is determine the following: 1.    What is my business? Once you decide what you want to do, the next thing is - 2.    What are the things that I need to get my business going? Write down the things that you need to get it going (money, people to collaborate with, and so on). 3.    What do I need to fulfill those needs? In a notebook, write down what you need to get your business to where it needs to be. Remember that there are short term goals and long term goals. The short term goals are things that you can accomplish right now. So, in this example, you'd research businesses that are similar to the one that you want to start. Start by understanding what they do and how they do it. The long-term goal is to start that business, but there are steps along the way, and you'll get to where you're going if you stay on track. Managing Your Life And Career Goals With Your Family Goals When it comes to integrating your family life with your career, It's about balance. Naturally, you're going to want to spend time with your children. When you have a family, that's your first priority; your kids are what comes first regardless of what else is going on. You need to make sure that your kid's needs are met and that yours are as well; that everyone is provided for in terms of basic functions such as food, shelter, and love. You know that you love your children; you also need to love yourself or be working towards that goal. Make sure that you're in good standing with yourself so that you love yourself and are working towards being well if you aren't already. Prioritize your kids' needs to be sure they are met both fiscally and emotionally providing the support they need in all areas. It doesn't hurt to have help along the way in the form of mental health care. Your mental health matters as a mother and career woman, and one of the things that you can do is pursue therapy. Online Therapy Helps Career Women There are so many things to think about when you're a busy mom. You're worried about providing emotional support for your children and helping them grow. You also want to make sure their basic needs are provided for, and that can be stressful. You don't have to do this alone! Talking to a therapist is a great way to talk through your problems. Online therapy is a flexible place where you can get help as a busy career woman and mother. Sometimes, it's hard to get to a therapist's office in person with all that you have to juggle, and that's why online therapy is a great place to discuss your concerns about your career, family matters, and your life.   I wish you much luck with your next step! In KIndness, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can you help your kids to understand your partner’s communication if it’s disrespectful?

Hello Susan, Thank you  for reaching out on The BetterHelp Platform with your question: How can you help your kids to understand your partner’s communication if it’s disrespectful?   I am glad you reached out for some support and guidance with what you are struggling with in your family at the moment.  Trying to manage all the players in your family can be stressful for sure! I think the best way for me to answer your question and address the concerns of your interactions as a family is to recommend family therapy for you.   I will share some information on what Family Therapy is and what to expect and how you can seek help with what you are struggling with at the moment.   All families have conflict. It is a part of being a family. However, when the conflicts become too big to resolve and manifests into dysfunction within the family unit you may be dealing with something more serious than some common family discord. Family as a System The family is a system, that is formed of individual members who make up that family. Family counseling works to bring that system back to functioning order, realizing attachment within the family unit is what keeps it together, even when there is dysfunction (Crittenden & Dallos, 2009). There are many times that families will continue to repeat unhelpful patterns despite the discomfort. The instinct to survive is innate, and therefore to give up and give in is often not something a family wishes to do. Yet the conflict is there, and if not effectively resolved will generate into other conflicts. Think of sinus pain. There are some remedies that can alleviate the pain but do not resolve the source of the pain. The pain, if due to an infection can affect the ears, throat, and other parts of the respiratory system. While each of these has separate functions, they are still connected, and when one is not working effectively, the problem becomes systemic. Origins and Sources of Conflict Conflicts, like sinus issues, flare up when left unresolved. If a young couple married and did not establish guidelines and even rules for handling finances, they may have conflict over how to pay certain bills, what to spend money on, or how much to save. They may argue over this issue, that may not have become a source of ongoing conflict had they established goals and a plan to meet those goals. When this couple has children, and move beyond couple-hood to family-hood, this conflict may evolve into larger problems. Now there are more financial responsibilities with children who have immediate needs which must be met. Generally speaking, when no plan has been established to meet clear goals, problems have a tendency to erupt. There is nothing to do about the retrospective lack of having established an expectation early on. However, often when people do not know how to fix a problem based upon a past mistake or oversight, they fall into the trap of blaming. When children see their parents in this cycle of negative interactions and blame, they learn from it. The focus is then taken off the immediate concern, of say, paying for soccer camp, and the argument turns to a war about the past. Family counseling can help address why blaming has become the choice narrative for a family (Vetere&Dallos, 2008), how these narratives develop, and how to change them. Blaming someone for past mistakes or oversights does not repair the present, nor does it prepare for the future. The key is to recognize how the past mistake or oversight has affected the present, and then establish a goal with clear objectives to meet that goal from a specific point forward. Everyone in the family must be involved with goal setting (Almagor& Ben-Porath, 2013). This sounds quite simplistic, so much so that one is left to wonder why someone did not think of it before, or why then, if it is so easy, there are still so many families in conflict, or even broken because of conflict that has evolved into dysfunction. The answer to that is even more simple. When a couple or a family adopts the blame game as their means of dealing with conflict, they stop listening to one another (Patterson, 2014). This is when the help of a qualified professional is warranted to help the family to get past the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. The Reason for Counseling A family counselor can help a family to recognize the source of conflict, address it, and create a plan for moving forward. This is can be accomplished by using several research based methods such as the family dialectic method (Almagor& Ben-Porath, 2013). This method researched and utilized by Almagor and Ben-Porath is one that recognizes the need for each individual family member to have time to process what has transpired, and develop personalized interpretations of what has occurred. This method looks at the family as a whole, while recognizing each member as an individual. I the family dialectic method, it is accepted that in order for the family to resume functioning as a whole, each individual’s perspective must be respected as valid. When a parent (or even a child) makes the decision that it is time to seek therapy for the family, there may be resistance from other family members. The key here is to speak in terms of the family as a whole, and not focus on where the infection started. The thing is, the entire body (family system) is now affected, and in order for healing to take place the whole body is going to have to be involved. It is important to recognize that how individuals think and behave in relation to their role in the family unit must change in order for there to be progress for the family as a whole (Patterson, 2014). The family member who has come to the realization that outside intervention is necessary must be leery of falling back into the trap of blaming others for the problem. Falling into that trap is likely to build even more resistance. At this point, it does not matter how a problem started or even who started it. What matters is resolving the problem and moving forward. The best way to broach the issue of family therapy is not in the middle of a family argument or crisis. Wait until things have settled down and then approach the subject, with caution. Begin with some positive words of affirmation; you might want to try something along the lines of: I really love you, and I really love our family. When we are happy like we are right now, it makes me sometimes wonder how we could have had such a big argument over ___________. I value you, and our family, and because of that, I realize that when we are not getting along, or effectively communicating, it is painful for us all. It is because of how much I love and value our family, that I think we should consider finding a counselor that can assist us with communication so that we can become even better at being a family, and have more times like today. What does a family counselor do? A family counselor works with families to solve problems to help the family establish effective communication and healthy home life.  A family counselor will offer counseling to children and families, as well as individual couples. Recognizing and Subverting Triggers It is important to recognize preventive measures for managing conflict before crises erupt; children who are in the midst of constant familial conflict may not feel secure and often experience fear (Cummings & Schatz, 2012). Sometimes communication is so broken that the first three words of the above sample can cause an eruption. If that is the case, it may be appropriate to consider sending an email or letter with the information in the sample above. The reason emails and letters are suggested rather than text is because instant messaging may activate the impulse to quickly respond instead of taking time to process the information If your family is in crisis, and one or more family members is acting out, or has become violent, broaching the topic of family counseling will not be effective and may create dangerous situations instead. Sometimes things may seem to never be calm enough to introduce the idea of therapy. Unfortunately, by the time one or more family members has realized the family is in crisis, there may be landmines that must be navigated. Safety is always the most important thing to consider. If you think that a member of your family may lash out or become violent, err on the side of caution for the purpose of protecting yourself and other members of the family. You may want to seek support from a domestic violence hotline or individual therapist so that you can create a plan to approach the topic in a safe and protected way. Moving Toward Counseling Once the decision has been made to seek family counseling, be aware there are pitfalls that families often are unaware of and may fall into. 1.    Family counseling may open old wounds, wounds that have never healed because they have been left unresolved. An effective counselor will warn of this and make the family aware that this can cause more arguments in the beginning (which is a temporary burden that may occur before progress is achieved). Having an awareness of this potential can help in many ways to inoculate the situation. 2.    Family counseling only works when all family members are involved and invested. However, if one family member refuses to attend, then the other family members should still participate in order to learn new skills for managing the resistant family member. 3.    There could be a honeymoon phase where the family begins using communication techniques and strategies learned in counseling and things get better. Sometimes one or more members may erroneously decide the problems are resolved and counseling is no longer needed. Think of this period as remission. Remission does not mean healed. Therapy is also very important in the maintenance phase. You want to ensure that the improvements last! 4.    Bad habits are hard to break and it takes practice and mindfulness to do so. 5.    Triggers may continue to exist for some family members. 6.    Work with the therapist to set a plan and commit to working that plan between sessions as well as in the therapy office. 7.    Realize that with family counseling there is a process, and there is no quick fix. If there were, everyone would do it and no one would need therapy. 8.    Sometimes the counselor may wish to see one or more family members separately. This may cause friction but it can also be helpful for the process. Try to remember that you are working towards the health and happiness of the family as a whole. 9.    Do not skip appointments. You may lose momentum and then motivation. Consistency is key. If you take the appointments seriously you are setting a positive example for other family members. 10.Allow each family member to process the sessions in his or her own way. Try to be supportive of one another and acknowledge that the process is likely not easy for anyone. The most important thing for all family members to realize is that being in counseling, means that the family as an intact whole is highly valued. This is a positive thing and must become the overriding factor in all discussions about counseling or the conflict that necessitated counseling. Another important thing to realize is that conflict is normal. It is a natural part of life. The problem is not the conflict necessarily, but instead the malfunctioning manner in which they are being resolved (or not resolved at all). Family arguments are often more painful than the trigger that set it off. Family arguments often last longer than the event that triggered the argument. Family arguments are sometimes a complete waste of time and energy. Instead of arguing, communicating in a logical and compassionate manner will certainly be more effective. It is difficult to unlearn negative communication skills. It is difficult to retrain how we hear; yes, how we hear. If a person thinks everything a spouse or other family member says is negative, then that family member needs to retrain how he or she hears. Ask the following questions: What words were actually said? What did I hear? (In other words, what underlying meaning did I attribute to what was said?) Why did I hear that instead of what was actually said? Family counseling should not be viewed negatively, it is a positive thing. It is important to retrain thinking when it comes to seeking outside help. Do not ever lose sight of the fact that the family is in counseling because each family member is valued as an individual and the family is valued as a whole. There are sometimes excuses that family members may make in order to avoid counseling, some of these may be valid, especially when it comes to time management. It is important to realize that there are many options available to individuals and families in need of counseling. Some counselors keep evening and weekend hours. Some even make home visits, while others can work with clients online. One of the advantages of online therapy is that each family member can be “seen” at differing times, and then there can be times the family is brought together as a whole. In addition to that, with some of the better online counseling services, the counselor is always available through email or messaging. The ability to communicate 24/7 with a qualified counselor can often circumvent many problems that arise in families. With most online programs the counselor will respond within 24 hours. Most regularly check in with members receiving counseling, and this is not something that occurs in most in office counselor-family relationships. Some online programs charge a per session fee, and some charge a flat rate for unlimited email communications, and make live chat and video sessions available as well. For busy families, especially families with teens, this can be an economical as well as time efficient way of receiving the guidance needed to resolve conflicts and build better communication and coping skills. There is hope and there is help.  Family issues can be complex but with help you can learn what communication skills are needed for your family. I hope you consider reaching out for professional guidance before things become even more unmanageable. I wish you much luck! In Kindness, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

Should I Cut All Ties?

People often say things like “Blood is thicker than water,” or “You can’t choose your family.” And often these types of statements are used to justify a decision to tolerate mistreatment by a family member. To some extent, being a good family member might mean putting up with things you wouldn’t tolerate from friends or co-workers. But this doesn’t mean that you should maintain relationships with family members at all costs. Sometimes cutting family ties is the healthiest thing you can do. In fact, many people experience a great sense of relief when they ended a relationship with a family member. A 2015 study found that 80% of individuals who cut ties with a family member thought it had a positive effect on their lives. Study participants reported feeling “freer, more independent, and stronger.” This is not to say that cutting family ties is void of negative consequences. The same study found that individuals who were estranged from a parent or a child were also more likely to experience reduced levels of psychological well-being, feelings of loss, and difficulties associated with the stigma attached to their decision. Whether you decide to stop talking to your sister or you cut your cousin out of your life, it is not likely to be an easy decision. While you may experience a deep sense of relief, it’s important to be prepared for the challenges you’re likely to face after cutting ties with a family member.How Often People Cut TiesCutting ties with family members is more common than you might think. It’s just not often talked about. For some people, it might be embarrassing. Others fear sounding cruel. And many simply prefer to keep family issues private. A 2015 U.S. study found that more than 40% of individuals have experienced family estrangement at one point in their lives. A U.K. study found that it affects at least one in five British families. And while estrangement often encompasses extended family, it’s fairly common in immediate families as well. Another U.S. study found that 10% of mothers are currently estranged from at least one adult child.Consequences of Toxic RelationshipsSome people think about cutting ties but don’t actually do it. They may make threats, or set limits only to go back on their word. So while they may intend to discontinue contact, cutting someone out may prove too tough to actually do. Others tolerate toxic relationships because they think family is supposed to remain in contact with one another. They might have hope the other person will change or fear that the other individual can’t survive without them. No matter the reason , maintaining a toxic relationship can have serious consequences on your well-being. In fact, cutting ties with someone might be a healthy response when you’re in an unhealthy circumstance. Toxic relationships can take a toll on your mental health. Whether your self-esteem plummets as a result of emotional abuse or your anxiety skyrockets as you watch someone battle an addiction, the stress of an unhealthy relationship can increase your risk of mental health problems. It can also affect your physical health. A 2007 study found that being in a negative relationship put people at a higher risk of cardiac events, including fatal heart attacks.5 Poor family relationships have also been linked to slower wound healing times and reduced pain tolerance. Even if your negative relationships don’t lead to major physical or mental health problems, they are still distressing. A toxic relationship requires a lot of time and energy, and it can cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted much of the time. Maintaining a relationship with an unhealthy person also means you’ll have less time to devote to healthy relationships. And positive social support is key to positive psychological well-being Reasons You Might End a RelationshipPeople rarely cut family ties over a single, isolated incident. Instead, studies show it usually happens after years of mistreatment. Sometimes, it’s gradual. Someone might taper phone calls or decrease visits over time. And other times it’s more abrupt. There might be a final straw that leads to someone announcing their intent to cut ties. You might decide cutting ties is best for you. Perhaps not talking to someone will greatly reduce your daily stress. Or, you might decide cutting ties is best for the other person. You might think that having an ongoing relationship with you isn't doing them any favors. This might be true if you think the other person is too dependent on you for emotional or financial support.Research shows the most common reasons people cut ties with family include: Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or neglect, Poor parenting, Betrayal, Drug abuse, Disagreements (often related to romantic relationships, politics, homophobia, and issues related to money, inheritance, or business), Physical or mental health problems. These are the only reasons to cut family ties. You might have different values than someone in your family. Or you might simply grow tired of someone’s behavior and decide it’s best not to be involved in one another’s lives.Impact of Cutting TiesIndividuals who are estranged often report that their family situation has a negative impact on relationships with friends, colleagues, and other family members. People who have cut family ties are likely to experience a stigma associated with their decision. Parents who are estranged from their adult children are especially likely to report feeling ashamed and not “normal.” They can easily experience a great deal of loss. In fact, they often report feeling like they have lost their role in the family. This can be especially true for mothers who felt that parenthood gave them a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. Mothers, in particular, report being guarded in social situations when the subject of children and grandchildren is raised. Also, while much of the research on individuals who have cut ties with family members focuses on parents who are estranged from their adult children, studies consistently show that both parents and adult children experience a variety of consequences when they sever ties.Adult children who are estranged from a parent report feeling anger, shock, sadness, and frustration. They also report frequent crying. They may experience a loss of emotional, financial, and practical support as well.Adult children often report feeling pressured by those around them to maintain the relationship.8 They may be told to “forgive and forget,” or “cut their parents some slack” and reunite with them. They even report that they avoid disclosing their situation to friends or colleagues out of fear that they will be misunderstood or judged. And then when they do disclose their situation, they often feel unsupported. In addition, there is even less research available about what happens when people sever other types of family relationships in their lives, like ending a relationship with a sibling, grandparent, or in-law. But it’s likely that many individuals experience very similar emotions and complications as those of the adult children and parents who cut ties with each other.Moving ForwardCutting ties with a particular family member can make family gatherings complicated. Can you attend a wedding when this individual will be attendance? Should you refuse an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner if the person might show up? Do you ask that the other person not be invited? Or can you attend the same function without it being a big deal? Perhaps you ignore the person altogether. Or maybe you engage in polite small talk and keep things superficial. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go about navigating these challenging situations. You’ll need to make a decision based on what’s best for you. Another major issue to consider is what you’ll say to other people. How much should you share about your reasoning for ending a relationship? Should you tell other family members why you’ve decided to cut someone else off? How about friends or other people who aren’t familiar with your family? Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. But it’s important to consider how those around you are likely to respond. Another thing to consider is whether other people might benefit from the information. For example, if you’re cutting ties with someone who sexually abused you as a child, do you need to let other family members know that their children might not be safe around this person. If other family members are likely to keep pressuring you to stay in contact because they believe “family always sticks together,” it may not be helpful to talk to them. You might decide to let them know you have your reasons or that it’s simply just not healthy at this time.ReconciliationYou might decide to cut ties with a family member permanently. Perhaps you don’t have any desire to talk to someone who was abusive toward you ever again. Or maybe you simply decide your life is better without someone in it. But you also might decide that you miss someone and that you want them to be part of your life. Maybe something changed—like they stopped drinking or using drugs. Or they finally got help for a mental illness, and you think you can have a healthy relationship again. Maybe you just want to try again now that some time has passed. Whether this means you’re willing to put your differences aside or you simply want to start a conversation about how to move forward, reconciliation can be successful in some cases.
(M.Ed, LPC, CSC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

What should I do?

Hello MM, and thank you for your question. You sound like a concerned mom who just wants to help her child as she navigates adulthood.  While I would love to give you advice there are just so many factors I don't know enough about. You mention your daughter is in Germany and has curated a life for herself there, but is now talking about quitting her job and returning to the United States. That is a really big decision to make, and likely was prompted by something else.  I would strongly recommend talking to your daughter to see what is going on in her life. Decisions to move rarely come out of thin air and it's very likely she is feeling the need to uproot her life because she is trying to escape something in Germany. There is no way for me to know what she is escaping but it could be: a break up, work stressors, loneliness, bad news, ext. I would guess something is triggering her that is making her want to "runaway".  If this is the case, the best thing you can do is talk to your daughter and try and help her get passed the stressor. It may be best for her to leave Germany, but it also may be best for her to stay. I would start the conversation by asking her the following: "Help me understand what is going on".  When you talk with her avoid accusations and telling her what she is feeling (ie. why are you sad). The best thing you can do is softly prompt her to share and be as empathetic as possible. It sounds like you care a lot for your daughter and whatever she is going through you want to help.    Ultimately I would suggest your daughter talk with a therapist where she can safely explore her past. It sounds like moving to the United States initially when she was 12 years old was rough for her and having some place to process the past might be helpful for her future.    Seeing a therapist is ultimately your daughters decision but gentle prompting might be helpful. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

I have been reading about parental alienation and I believe I was an alienated parent is this someta

Some of the best therapeutic models in order to work through rejection would be Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is an approach that helps you identify irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns that may lead to emotional or behavioral issues. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on challenging and changing cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. It would be recommended to find a therapist that specializes in these modalities in order to begin individual therapy. It is also recommended (should the opportunity arise) to eventually get into family therapy. If you are able to get into family therapy for this, look for a professional who has experience with Strategic, Narrative and Transgenerational Therapy modalities. Strategic therapy focuses on patterns within families and less on viewing the family unit differently. The family and therapist will engage in a more hands-on approach to conflict resolution. Both are instructed to focus on any patterns of behavior that hav emerged of developed over time and attempt to intercept and redirect these patterns actively. Narrative therapy focuses on supporting and encouraging each family member. This modality operates under the notion that individuals being at their absolute best and believing in their power will create the greatest, most effective family dynamics. Transgenerational therapy works on conflicts between different generations by breaking down any communication barriers that exist and cultivating understanding, despite different practices or expectations. This modality suggests that most familial conflicts come from the differences between generational behaviors and expectations. This modality works to soothe these differences by improving communication and encouraging open-minded attitudes. Family therapy would be ideal, but, it isn't incredibly clear whether your children would be open to that idea at this time. It can't hurt to suggest it, but it would be in your best interest to begin individual therapy first in order to help with your hurt and your depressive symptoms. In an ideal situation, your kids would want to have family therapy with you. However, at the very least with individual therapy, you can build confidence and self-worth where the depression isn't encompassing you. 
(MS, LPCC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

am i depressed for real or is it negative thoughts only?

You brave and wonderful Samera. You're amazing for reaching out. I'm so impressed with you.    I don't know how old your baby is, and that makes some sort of difference, but on the most part, what I'm saying is at least 97% true.    It doesn't sound you have depression. It sounds like having a baby is very very very hard. And it sounds like you're having a normal reaction to an abnormal situations. You're used to having time, to sleep, to a clean house, to friends and to showers without the baby crying. You're used to your body being yours. And you don't have any of those things right now.    It's true that you love that baby, but it's also a loss of the life that was, and it's legitimate and ok and even healthy and beautiful to let yourself mourn for it.    Some points moving forward:   1. You need to have time for yourself.    That's actually points 1-10. You need time for yourself.    So what does that mean about nursing.    I recommend that you pump a meal, and put it in a bottle. And then YOU, feed the child from the bottle, in the same angle that you would nurse. Also, speak to your baby or sit where you would usually nurse. Basically it's "teach him that it's safe and comfortable to also take a bottle", by using your body and smell.    What usually happens is that they complain and fuss, but if you stay calm, they should take the bottle eventually because it smells like you, and you're holding it, and it's safe.    -- SO, once the baby takes the bottle, make sure you give yourself time off. Go out with friends, sleep one night in a row, clean the house while your husband takes care of the baby, go get a pedicure, whatever.    --- It takes moms two years after childbirth to return to normal, or pre birth with regards to emotions. You just 3D printed a baby, that's a huge deal. So remember to be kind to yourself.    You're not a bad mother for hating him sometimes, you're not a bad mother for wishing you had your life back, you're not a bad mother if you want to walk away. Just make sure you teach your baby that self care also matters. That YOU also matter.      I wish you all the best, all the growth, you're doing amazing. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

i’m not located in the usa

Dear mynick,   Thank you very much for your message and sharing with me the very challenging situation you are in with your family.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyways.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I love my unborn baby?

Thank you for providing context for me to understand the challenge you are facing. It can be challenging when what you want is not within your control since the child's father is not aligned with your goal of working on the relationship. I think the more you want to be with him, the more pain you experience because you have to keep facing the reality that this is far from where the relationship and connection stands. The first thing I would encourage you to consider is separating being a mother from being a partner. If you can consider what can excite you about being a mother rather than a mother with a partner, it will create separation between what you can have and what is out of reach. I encourage you to remember the why as to why you were excited to be a mother initially and to not lose sight of this. If the reason was to be able to raise this child with your partner, try to see if you can identify other reasons as well. This way you are looking to fulfillment that is not related to what is out of reach. Try to find ways you can connect to your baby whether it be in talking to the unborn baby or in some other way. The more you focus upon the connection with your child, the more purposeful and valued you will feel. When you think of what you cannot have in your relationship with your partner, you will feel devalued and lacking in purpose. Shifting your focus to where you feel value, will lessen your despair over what is lacking in your life. As for the relationship itself, I would encourage you to consider whether persisting for the relationship to work out is causing more harm than good. You might consider if you would be this persistent if you did not have a child with this partner. If the answer is that you would not be focused upon the relationship if there was not a child in the mix, then it is more about you wanting your child to have both parents together than it is you wanting the relationship itself. If this is the case, you might consider giving up that dream and expectation because if you are being mistreated that would also not be something you would want your child to be exposed to. That could be more detrimental than you staying together just so the child can have a traditional upbringing. You can also consider how your confidence is not improving in trying to continue with this relationship. With that being the case, you want to consider instead what is empowering and does enhance your self-concept. You want to live your life for yourself and for respect of yourself and your child. Consider what you feel comfortable with and actions that align with this value to understand how to act and be the best version of yourself for you and your child. The main emphasis here is that you focus upon sources of greater purpose and that you feel content with the choices you make, which are not determined by the actions and reactions of your partner. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I communicate effectively with a angry co parent?

Hello May,   Thank you for reaching out on The Betterhelp Platform with your question: How do I communicate effectively with a angry co parent?   I am glad you reached out with your struggles with commuication with you are your partner. You may want to consider reaching out to a professional counsellor who specializes in couples issues so that you both can learn some effective communication and problem solving strategies. I will share some general information and tips about effective communication and then I will share some more specific information on the steps you can make reagrding the co-parenting.   RULES FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION   One of the things we often see in our offices are couples and individuals wanting to work on their communication skills. We can easily identify when communicating is a problem in our relationships. However, it’s not always quite so easy to learn and implement the skills that can be really helpful.   WHY ARE LEARNING COMMUNICATION SKILLS HELPFUL?   As humans, we rely on verbal and nonverbal communication to connect with other people. The way we learn how to communicate comes from several different arenas in our lives. And, probably the most impactful are the relationships we learn from at home when we’re little.  Think of it this way: while you were learning how to speak, you were also learning the rules and norms of the world you’re part of. It varies! We all learn how to do this human stuff differently! This is probably one of the reasons we often find ourselves not quite understanding why the people in our lives would do what they do.    For example, we might have learned to communicate our needs to someone we love by falling silent, expecting them to dig and do the work to find out what’s needed. Sure, that might eventually get those important needs met. And it might also be really frustrating for everyone involved! If a misunderstanding becomes an argument or fight.   Because we learn so much about communication before we can even speak, it makes sense that this is the realm of improvement with which many people identify. The patterns, habits, and beliefs about how we ask for what we need go deep! Switching it up can feel overwhelming, challenging, or hard. It can also be liberating and help us find the deep and meaningful connections we so deserve. To make it easy, here is a list of 10 Rules for Effective Communication:   LISTEN TO UNDERSTANDIt can be very easy when we’re having conversations with other people to tune out of what they’re saying in order to prepare our response. When we do this, not only are tuning out from the person speaking, we might also miss really important information! Listen to understand what the other person is saying. If you need time to think of a response, wait until they’ve finished speaking and ask for it. Make room for everyone at the table to be heard and understood. Including yourself.   EMPATHY, EMPATHY, EMPATHYRemember that we are all showing up as much as we can in any given situation. Sometimes, we have 100% of ourselves to give. Sometimes we just don’t. Allow space for the people in our lives to be fully human, just as you are. Refrain from offering advice unless asked, don’t belittle or undermine someone’s feelings, and have your solid, firm, and flexible boundaries in place.    TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUYou’re responsible for your feelings. When someone says or does something that is hurtful, we might get defensive and blame all of our yucky feelings on them. While some of that might be truthful, it often isn’t. Think of it like this, what another person says might not be the cause of an emotion, but the trigger for one. The event can bring up lots of feelings in the moment that have happened in our lives a long time ago.   We’re ultimately in the driver’s seat of our life experiences. By owning our part in a conversation, we give space for the other person to do it, too. For   example, saying something like, “I think you’re going to leave the first chance you get” might not get the same response from a partner as, “I’m feeling really vulnerable and not worth sticking around for.” It communicates the true emotional response and can help us get those needs met.   NOTICE YOUR BODYA great portion of human communication is non-verbal. We have facial expressions, body postures, and very subtle ways of movement that are constantly communicating with other people.  These things tell everyone around us a lot more about us than we think they do. By being aware of our body, we can avoid accidentally communicating something we don’t mean to.   BE SPECIFICWhen we make requests of another person, it’s incredibly helpful to be specific about it. What we mean when we say “I need you to show up for me” might be interpreted differently depending on who we’re talking to. Their definition of showing up might be very, very different from yours. So while they’re busy showing up in all of the ways they know how to, they might not be showing up in the way you need them to. Being specific in our requests means that the other person is far more likely to understand what you’re in need of.   CHECK YOUR INTENTIONSWhat’s your intention in having a conversation with someone? What are you trying to understand? How are you trying to be understood? What are you looking for? Knowing this stuff can be incredibly helpful! Knowing what your point is can help you stay with it.   YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RIGHTYa just don’t. Sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we’re right and having a conversation with someone who just refuses to see it. We don’t have to circle around aimlessly in a conversation trying to prove how right we are.   BE WILLING TO HEAR “NO”Just as you’re a full, dynamic, complex, and important human being with thoughts, opinions, and feelings, so is everyone else. Be willing to hear the truth. Be willing and open to rejection. If you notice that you become very defensive when someone says “no,” what is that defensiveness trying to say to you?   EMBRACE CONFLICTConflict happens. Doing all we can to avoid conflict can often lead to some very deep feelings of resentment and feeling unheard or unimportant. We’re far more likely to have a much bigger fight by holding it all in until we bust at the seams. Remember that anger is a secondary emotion, which means there are probably a few primary emotions lurking under the surface. Usually, those primary emotions are related to fear. It isn’t to say that our anger isn’t valid, but perhaps to actually underscore that. Anger has a place. So does conflict. Embracing it as part of how we do stuff means that it doesn’t have to take up quite so much space in your box of fears.   SHOW UPShow up! Show people that you’re listening and tracking what they’re saying. Be present in your conversations as much as you can. Remember that even if we’re feeling at a solid 5/10, showing up fully at that 5 is our 100% for that moment.   Co-parenting can sometimes present its fair share of challenges. In fact, many co-parents struggle with effective communication and conflict management and this takes its toll on everyone involved.   However, not everything with your co-parent has to turn into a fight. In fact, these tips can help you effectively communicate with each other and avoid conflicts more often than not.   Check In With Yourself First   No matter how long you were with your child's other parent before you split up, chances are you have some history that can make communication muddy at times. You're probably used to talking to your ex about lots of things and communicating with each other in a very specific way. However, those same methods don't necessarily work now that you're no longer together.   Check Your Tone & Body Language   When we spend long periods of time communicating with someone in certain ways, it almost becomes second nature. Unfortunately, this can mean that you may be using a nasty tone with your co-parent without even realizing it. Obviously, this just causes things to instantly escalate, especially if your co-parent feels like you put them on the spot or are attacking them.   As you start talking to your co-parent, check your tone and body language to gauge what you may be doing. Are your arms crossed? Do you sound sarcastic or judgmental? Are you saying and doing things that may be putting your co-parent on the defense? These types of thoughts are important.    Avoid projecting lots of emotions, and remind yourself that your tone and body language genuinely matter.   Don't Respond Immediately   It's very tempting to instantly respond to text messages or emails, especially when they're from your child's other parent. However, gut reactions can sometimes be a bit emotionally charged and may even send the wrong message to your co-parent. This can create more conflict and break down communication even more than it already is, which is not what you want to achieve.   Take a step back from the situation before you respond, especially if you're feeling angry or hurt. The best time to communicate with your co-parent is when you feel calm and emotionally detached from the situation just a bit.   If the communication s something important, you may want to even take some time to think it over before you even consider responding. This can help you reframe the situation and even look at it from the other parent's perspective first. It also gives you time to really plan out your answer and even write it down to see how it sounds.   Likewise, if you notice that your co-parent is responding in what seems like a very emotionally charged way, walk away and give them some time to calm down too. They may not fully realize how they sound, but you can help deescalate the situation by remaining calm and collected no matter what.   Keep Your Child's Best Interests In Mind   When it really comes down to it, most parents want what's best for their kids. However, that can sometimes take a back seat when our emotions from the separation take over and run the show. This can lead us to make lots of poor decisions simply because we let our own emotions cloud our judgment. Instead of letting all of that rule, remember your child's best interests always. Is your co-parent asking for extra time with your child so they can take them to an event they scored tickets to? Then this request is probably something that's good for your kid! Should you talk about money with your ex in front of your kid? Probably not!   When we keep our child's best interests in mind, we can make better decisions and communicate more effectively regardless of how we feel.   Remain Flexible & Compromise   No matter what, your child is the most important thing here. So of course it is important for parents to remain flexible when dealing with their fellow co-parent. Be agreeable and accommodating when you can, and look for ways to compromise when simply saying yes or agreeing isn't possible. The more both co-parents remain flexible, the better the experience will be for the child (or children) you share.   To Conclude: So much of how we communicate with others actually depends on how well we’re managing our own experience. If we get triggered and dysregulated, it can be more difficult to come back to neutral. Practicing using effective strategies for communicating while we’re already neutral can be a really great way to solidify skills. That way, we get good at them before we need to call on them during a more heated conversation.    As with so many things, have some compassion for your own learning experience. We’re born ready to learn how to communicate and start learning right away. That means some of what we’re working with is as old as we are. It makes sense that we have the same reactions and feelings that we’ve always had. Changing it up doesn’t have to be changing who we are. But rather, it’s an opportunity to decide how we are going to do this life stuff. Co-parenting isn't always easy, but it doesn't have to be a constant battle either. In fact, there are ways for you to avoid conflict and effectively communicate in a way that ultimately benefits your kids and keeps you from going crazy too.   I hope you are able to consider some of these tips - perhaps you can share them together.   There is hope and you don't have to go through this on your own.  Consider reaching out to a professional counsellor for support and guidance.   I wish you much luck! Kind Regards, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can I make my words and intentions come out and be received in the same way I mean them?

Co-parenting can be tough even under the best circumstances. What's important is that you are recognizing there is a challenge and you are willing to make a change. Communication in these situations is the key, but how we need to communicate can become a lot more personal. Without knowing the context of the situation, it can be difficult to identify strategies that are individualized to your circumstances. However, I will provide a few in hopes that one or a combination of several could be helpful!    Setting "rules of engagement": This is really just a way for everyone to communicate their needs in a situation. How does the person prefer to be communicated with? How do they want to be involved in decisions? Is there a certain day/time that they think is best for this? How would they prefer emergencies to be handled? These questions need to be asked of everyone involved in the co-parenting of your children, and then compromises and agreements are made. This not only allows for expectations to be set but boundaries as well. Then when a person deviates from the rules, conversations can be had, instead of arguments.    The family calendar: When conflicts arise, it's sometimes due to a real or perceived shift in a power dynamic. One parent has more say or more power, and the other parent gets in defensive mode. To avoid shifts like this, I highly suggest a family calendar. One person or all 3 could work together to develop a family calendar that is regularly updated so nobody can say they didn't know something was happening. This could also reduce "in-between" conversation that often creates confusion or last-minute changes that haven't been thought out. I wouldn't suggest an old-fashioned way with a paper calendar, as that doesn't always account for updating from both parties. However, sharing an Outlook calendar or even better, researching apps like WeParent, Cozi, or FamCal.    Another strategy is approaching co-parenting as a business agreement. Treat the other parties as if they were your business partners. The business is your child's wellbeing. Speak or write to your ex as you would a co-worker. Be respectful and neutral, keeping emotion out of the mix. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood—if not longer.  Change your approach: If your ex is not willing to discuss or address the situation, then you have to take control of the situation. A relationship doesn't take 2 people changing to change. One person's changes can impact the system. That one person can be you. You can take steps to set boundaries and ensure they are being respected. Look for signs that the conversation or interaction is about to take a turn, and do your best to step away from it for a period of time. You can train yourself to not overreact or show a harsh reaction, and over time you can become numb to the buttons they try to push.    I hope some of these strategies are helpful in improving your co-parenting relationship. 
Answered on 01/21/2022

I’m looking to debrief my first foster child (teen with mental illness) placement with someone safe.

S, thank you for reaching out to get your question answered here. I want to be transparent with you that this is not therapy, treatment or any type of cure or diagnosis medically or otherwise. When you reach out here it is to gain additional resources and information. It sounds like you are trying to find out how to manage the needs of your first foster child and to help them with their mental health. It can be very hard to see someone that you are looking to nurture going through pain and I want to validate that challenge for you. I am wwondering if you can seek out a counselor or a support person to allow you to be able to process the pain and answers that you are trying to navigate. It sounds like having that sacred space to talk through the many emotions related to your experince may be helpful. When processing emotions it can be helpful to see if you can pinpoint the triggers that existed and that still may be apparent. Obviously mental health can be complicated and being able to help yourself and someone else is not an easy thing to do hich is hy support is a good thing to seek out personally and consistently. It can also be helpful to have crisis numbers handy in case you find that you need them for yourself or for others. I would ask that you look for resources related to mental health that may be found in articles and also books. Ask for reccomendations and suggestions from librarians and booksellers. You may also find people who are connected with the foster care system that give you what you need. Gaining perspective and insight from those who have experience can be very helpful to further your need and desire for clarity. It can be tough to locate resources but look out for fairs, events and such because there are many online resources as well if you are looking for opportunities to not be in person as well. I do hope that this is helpful for you to be able to get what you need.     
(LPC, NCC, RYT-200)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I deal with this and not let it affect my self esteem, confidence and decision making?

You brave little ducky!! I'm so so so impressed with your flexibility, ability to imagine a different future, bravery, creativity, and willingness to grow even when it's hard!! You wonderful wonderful you!   To the crux of it, what you're about to do is scary. It's ok to be scared, that's uncomfortable, but not bad. It will help you stay clear of some of the mistakes in the future and it will help you build a future that's better intuned to yourself.    We all know that we have one life to lead, and we all know that we love our loved ones, and then by accident those two sentences get mixed up, and I think it's my job that you have your life to lead.    What I would do is this:   1. Write down all of their concerns one by one.  2. Have a conversation with YOURSELF about how you could manage it if that fear were to take place   3. Maybe also speak to a specialist   4. Once you have a new clear vision of where you're going, go.    -- No decision you ever make, will be clear of all downsides. Doing what's right for you, or doing what's right with your family - each one has a value and a need and a legitimate plus side. The question is with which 'downside', you're willing to live with.    --   There's a Jewish fable, forgive me for a minute for taking it there. It works also on a secular level to some extent.    * When Zusha died and went to heaven, god didn't ask him "Zusha, why weren't you Moses", god asked him "Zusha, why weren't you Zusha". **   Your one job on this planet, is to be you. But a true, authentic you. Sometimes our true authentic us is to listen to our loved ones, and sometimes our true authentic us is to NOT listen to our loved ones. That's something only you could decide and only you know the answer to. But once you know the answer, that's the path that you need to take full steem ahead. It's the only path that will bring you contentment.      I wish you luck!
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I deal with overwhelming feelings of sadness and anger?

Hi there! Thanks for reaching out. I think your question is super important because it is so necessary to manage your own mental health in general, but especially as a parent. I have a few thoughts that I hope you find helpful.  -I'm sorry to hear you have very little help. I wasn't clear from your question if you are a single parent or if you have a partner, but either way, are there sources or people in your life you can tap into for some help? There is no need to be too proud to ask for help when you feel you need it, even if you are a stay at home parent. I think that warrants help even more actually, so that you can get a break from the demands of parenthood, even if it is to do other "have-to" type things. If you do have a partner, maybe there needs to be a conversation about balance of parenting responsibilities. If you are the only one to take on the majority of parenting responsibilities, which is a 24/7 job, that leaves you no time to take care of yourself or to be a partner, which leads me to my next point. -Use your time wisely. Even if you only get a few minutes to yourself each day, are you using them with purpose? Sometimes it can be nice to just unwind on your phone or with a tv show, but do you make time for self-care? Do you take care of your basic needs and make time for doing the things you want to do, even if only for a few minutes?  -Practice mindfulness. When you have the responsibility of managing your own life and two children's, things can feel really hectic. Taking the time to slow down and practice being more present can help with emotional regulation. I'll challenge you to try to incorporate some mindfulness practices into your day, again even if only for a few minutes. You can find plenty of five minute morning meditations that you can do as you wake up before you get the kids going. You can try to schedule a few times throughout your day to stop and do some breathing or notice your surroundings. Doing things like this will help slow down your thought processes a bit and help you be more intentional about the way you're spending time.  -What are you doing to release these feelings? There's no doubt in anyone's mind that being a parent is the most difficult job in the world, espcially like you said during high energy, touchy moments. It is very easy to get burnt out and ultimately become short with your kids because you are not taking the time to release the little frustrations that occur everyday. I'm not sure what will work for you, but think about how you like to reduce stress. Is it journaling? Is it exercise? Is it calling a friend and talking? Maybe it's a combination of those things. Whatever it is, remember to incorporate it so that you don't keep all of those emotions bottled up and eventually explode on your kids or the people around you.   I know it's a bit cliche, but I think it's so important to remember that you can't pour from an empty cup. Remember to refill your cup as often as you need to (self-care, mindfulness, stress reduction, fun, etc). When you take the time to take care of yourself, you can do a better job being a parent to your kids.  Take care and good luck!
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I navigate being a step mom with rules in our house with another home without those same rule

It really sounds like all of the adults need to get on the same page with things - easier said than done, right!? It can be tough to take our own personal feelings (and probably emotional history) out of the equation, but that is the first step that needs to happen. When everyone can get on board with the concept that the parents need to be (at least to some extent) on the same page with things for the kids' best interest it can help take out some of the personal issues that may be driving some of the unhelpful and unhealthy behavior. If possible I would highly encourage all parents to come together and solve the issue at hand as a "team". Taking a teamwork approach can be helpful and make for more effective communication because it can prevent defensiveness. So instead of taking the stance that "they" are doing something wrong that needs to be changed, the approach would be more along the lines of there is an overall problem that needs to be solved by all involved. If everyone would be open to it, scheduling a meeting could be really helpful. Finding a time and day that works for everyone is ideal because no one is caught off guard by the topic that needs to be explored. You shared that your fiance and his ex do not co-parent well so if you do not see this happening, then at least get on the same page with your fiance. You may not be able to control what happens at his ex's home, however you can control what happens within your own home. Exploring what your and your fiance's parenting styles are, knowing what the boundaries within your home look like, the rules that are important to you both, while being a united front on these is vital. At the end of the day the one place you have control of is your own home. The kids may not be happy with the rules at your home, however the best thing you can do for them is provide them with a consistent, loving, and supportive environment. Avoid any manipulation or negative talk about their other parent - simply reiterate that the rules look a bit different at your home than at their mom's, this doesn't mean any one parent is better or worse, and that you love them all just the same.
(MS, LPCC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How do I survive this

Dear Gina dawn,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on the struggles you are having with your family.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can I get over my trauma to be a better wife and mother?

Tori, This is a great question to explore, and it's not necessarily something that can be answered in one giant response, but I'll gladly offer what I can for your consideration. First and foremost, I'm sorry for the ways you have been hurt. The actions of an unfaithful spouse often cut very deep into the core of the relationship and the biggest parts of your heart and mind. Additionally, the past hurts from members of your own family often take time to address, process and truly accept. As only you can understand about yourself, resolving those painful experiences will take some time and patience. In short, it would likely require "heart surgery," and the healing season will require you to pace yourself.   How do you get over your trauma to become a better wife and mother? It will not be an easy process, but when you start slowly, your journey toward acceptance and healing will begin. The first step is always the hardest. This would include identifying the things that happened, who was involved, what those experiences meant to you at the time, and what they mean to you now. My hope is you can find someone - either a counselor or therapist through Betterhelp, or perhaps someone in your local area - who can help you process these things. It is important to have someone with you during this time of exploration and healing who can support you mentally and emotionally. Talking about the painful things that happened in your life is no easy task. Having someone there to listen and "walk" with you can make a great difference in this journey for you. In addition to taking your time and finding someone who is trained and willing to help you with these things, healing takes patience, too, mostly for yourself as you process everything in your own way. It's complicated and oftentimes messy. It will most likely also require forgiveness, not just for yourself, but for those that hurt you, and possibly for those whom you hurt along the way as a result of the way you were hurt. There's a common saying that "Hurt people, hurt people." It's hard to grasp, but it may shed some light on why those hurts led to your view of yourself as a wife and mother, and how things can change for you, your husband and your family. However, it's one of the best moves you can ever make, first for yourself and then for those around you who truly love you, care about you and want to have you in their lives. It's a moment that could serve as a great springboard for you to work toward healing and wholeness, for you to become the person you've always dreamt you could be! If you want to explore this together, at a pace that feels comfortable to you, I'd be happy to help. 
(MS, NCC, LPC)
Answered on 01/21/2022

How can if can help if son is projecting on spouse dont know how to help

Hello Kendra, I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles, so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even through you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through our struggles and be able to ask for support from others. I wanted to send you this reading and skills on ways to help you express yourself to your son around your feelings you are having with what is going on with your grandchildren.   How often do you find that you struggle with expressing your feelings or emotions to others. Some people excessively express what they feel, and others don’t share enough. Knowing how to express your emotions in an accurate and measured way will help you immensely in your personal, social, and professional life.There are many theories and techniques that teach how to either repress or control emotions. It has been proven though, that this approach is not actually effective. Emotions and feelings are spontaneous and automatic, and are meant to be felt and expressed.It has been proven on a scientific level that avoiding and repressing emotions can have negative psychological consequences. Modern therapies like acceptance and commitment therapy, and other practices such as mindfulness, can help you to accept your emotions and know how to treat them. Your emotions are part of you and need to be taken care of.For example, if you are a person who experiences a lot of emotional anxiety, you may do certain things and behave in a certain way in an attempt to avoid that anxiety. This may be because you aren’t sure how to channel it and express it. This emotional repression can cause physical problems, such as rapid heart beat, excessive sweating, trembling, or breathing problems. When feelings are held back, tension is created. This tension may be concentrated physically in areas like the neck, face, various muscles, and spine.If, on the other hand, you cling to these emotions without expressing them, you may be susceptible to experiencing psychosomatic illnesses of the arteries, head aches, or stomach problems. It is a indisputable fact that your emotions influence our physical health. Knowing how to express your emotions can help prevent physical problems and emotional pain.Know how to express your emotions in 11 steps With a little bit of training and by following these simple steps, you will be able to better identify your emotions and express them appropriately. Below is an outline of these eleven steps so you can start to put them into practice:1.     Identify the emotion and the feeling: When something changes in your body from reacting to something, either external or something within your own thoughts, you should ask yourself: What am I feeling? What physical symptoms am I experiencing? What is the cause? Why is it happening now?2.     Learn to recognize your feelings: Once you have detected your emotions and feelings, you have to analyze the sensation that it creates within you. It is useful to know what signs and gestures betray you. Try to make a list of all of those emotions and what exactly it is that physically gives them away.3.     Pay attention to your body’s reaction: Emotions are regulated by the limbic system and the nervous system, and are difficult to control when they first arise. Take a moment and let the emotion you are feeling settle so you can think clearly about it, and about how you will react to it. 4.     Pay more attention to how you respond to a given situation: You may feel like the situation is what makes you nervous, but the root of the problem is your emotional response to the situation. Observe yourself and you will realize that your response is the same as when you can’t find an important paper, or when you get fined for a traffic violation you didn’t commit. The only thing you can change is your reaction.5.     Express your emotions correctly and proportionally: Once you have fully grasped the previous step, you will be able to express your emotions in a more controlled way. Still, though, you can learn a few more steps to help you understand what is happening to you so you can express it accurately.6.     Communicate with and experience your body: When you have these strong emotions, take note of the part of your body from where they originate. Give them a color and a tangible texture. Place them in a specific place and try to form a different relationship with them. You are that which comprises your body and your emotions; they do not possess you.7.     Try to be honest about what you feel and what you do: If, in reality, you feel indifferent about someone or something, why keep trying to make it work? Or if you are irritated, annoyed, and angry, why avoid a conversation that might help you understand yourself a little better.8.     Choose the best situation in which to express yourself: If, for example, you have a conflict with your boss and want to have a constructive conversation with him or her, you will get nowhere if you choose the wrong moment in which to have it. Therefore, examine the situation, the people around you, and yourself when deciding when the best moment will be.9.     Utilize a positive form of communication: A pleasant tone, active listening, eye contact, and using simple phrases like “I feel stressed” instead of “what happened at work today made me so stressed” will help you avoid a situation in which you need to go back and describe what happened. The other person will implicitly understand that your stress is clearly caused by work.10.   Use your body to help yourself express what you feel: In the process of explaining that you are stressed, put your hand on your heart, on your head, or on your stomach. This insinuates that you are experiencing unpleasant feelings and that it would be good for you and your environment to not continue on in that state.11.  Visualizing and localizing your emotions is essential: You are in charge of managing your own emotions and feelings, without repressing them or hiding them. You need to express them in order to be able to relieve and ease yourself and your mind, and so that they themselves can be understood. I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.
Answered on 01/21/2022