Inspiring Words

Here I am sharing some thoughts from my experiences in my clinical and forensic practice, as well as through my role as a mother of three children, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

COPING WITH RACING THOUGHTS AT BEDTIME

In today’s busy world, children and adults often have a difficult time unwinding at bedtime. Thoughts about the day or tomorrow may interfere with your ability to fall asleep. These thoughts may at times feel uncontrollable, as if they are “racing”. Other people may not have difficulty falling asleep, but then wake up with troubling thoughts. The following strategies are being offered to help you/your child fall asleep, and then go back to sleep if awakened in the night.

  1. Have a regular bedtime routine, aiming for same time every night. Our bodies develop a rhythm, and we are more likely to fall asleep when we stick to that rhythm (schedule). Children may ask to stay up later on weekends. Try not to alter more than 30 minutes from regular bedtime.
  2. Take a warm/hot shower/bath closer to bedtime. The warm water helps produce tiredness at the end of the day.
  3. No use of visual electronics (“screen time”) 30 minutes before bed. Studies have demonstrated that any kind of screen time delays the onset of sleep. Instead, engage in an activity where lights are not so stimulating.
  4. Try using lavender (essential oil associated with sleep) or other pleasing scent.
  5. Use a meditation/guided meditation/visualization before bed to help “quiet” the mind. (Apps – “Stop, Breath, and Think”, “Mindfulness”, “Calm”, “Headspace”, “Pacifica”, “Digipill – Sleep, Relaxation, and Mindfulness). Sit in a favorite comfy chair, light a candle, and relax!
  6. Use of “white noise” to help drown out other noises in house if others are still awake. There are apps with white noise, or you can purchase a small machine from a company such as Brookstone. In addition to white noise, you may find the sound of ocean waves, light rain fall, or forest sounds more appealing.
  7. Try to get more physical activity during the day. Studies have demonstrated that regular exercise helps with falling asleep at bedtime.
  8. Listening to audio books before bed can help to induce sleep and provide a distraction from the thoughts. Just make sure that the book is not too interesting or exciting! (classic audiobooks from www.librivox.com)

If racing thoughts begin despite these strategies, try:

  1. Deep breathing. Simple – really just focusing on your breath. Just focus on your breathing and the rise and fall of your chest.
  2. Guided meditation (same apps as above)
  3. Imagine balloons flying away or clouds moving. As each thought enters, imagine attaching it to a balloon flying away or cloud quickly moving it away. Using your thoughts to imagine this helps to take away from the thought itself.
  4. Focus on your senses. Think about what are you feeling, seeing, hearing. This serves as a distraction from the thoughts.
  5. Focus on the present. Try not to think about yesterday – it’s done! Try not to think about tomorrow – it’s not here yet! I know, easier said than done. Just try to remember that most problems are not solved by us ruminating about them at 2AM!
  6. Try progressive muscle relaxation. Focus on tensing and relaxing your muscles, starting at the top of your head and working your way down to your toes. Tense the muscle group for five second, then relax for five seconds.
  7. Try mental activities as a distraction. Do math calculations. Or think of a favorite day and all of the activities and senses of that day. What did you do, what did you see, how did it feel? What did you hear?
  8. Try this breathing exercise. First, inhale at your normal rate – that is count one.  When you exhale, double your exhalation rate – that is two.  As one gets more relaxed both rates may lengthen. Inhale one count, exhale 2 counts.  That is one pair. Inhale one count, exhale 2 counts; that is 2…. and so on…

Continue counting the inhalation/exhalation rate and the pairs.  If you forget what number you’re on, that’s okay, just go back to one and start over again.  If you fall asleep and then wake up again, that’s okay, just start back at one.

With this breathing technique, you are doing a number of things at once: employing a relaxation breathing pattern ratio of 1:2, counting your inhalation and exhalation rate and also counting your pairs of breath inhalations/exhalations.  What this does it helps you focus your mind on breathing and counting, not on what your thoughts are that are keeping you awake.

And remember… try not to beat yourself up about NOT falling asleep. Avoid passing judgment on yourself. Try not to add to your anxiety by thinking about the sleep you are not getting. That is not helpful, and counteracts the relaxed state you are seeking.

Do you have any other suggestions that you have found successful?

 

Helping Your Child Through Friendship Breakups

As children get older, it is natural for friendships to change. Children develop socially at different rates, and interests and activities change.   Associated changes include who they spend time with, and who they prefer to be around. As a result, they experience the loss of friendships, and this can be painful whether your child is the one changing, or her best friend is changing. For children, this loss can feel profound because they can spend hours on end in person or communicating with a friend, and then be suddenly cut off. Also, children tend to think in extremes. They catastrophize, and they feel like whatever problem they are going through is forever, or that the intentions of one person extend to an entire social group. In addition, children often lack coping skills to deal with these difficult situations. They are learning, and it is these experiences that will help them later in life. However, their skills are still developing, and they need support.

Here are 12 suggestions for assisting your child through these transitions.

  1. Notice

Your child may not readily come to you with a problem with friendships. Sometimes children are reluctant to let their parents know when they are experiencing emotional pain. Other times, they have difficulty identifying the source and articulating the pain. Pay attention and notice any changes in your child’s mood or behavior, and make a point to “check in” and see how things are going with friends. If you are concerned about getting one-word answers, you may wish to make it more playful by putting questions onto slips of paper into a jar, and then pulling the questions out of the jar. And your child gets to ask you questions too!

2. Be available

Your child may not want to discuss an issue when you bring it up or “check-in”. He or she may wait until the most inopportune time to bring it up. This could be as you are speeding out the door to run some errands, at 11:00 when you are brushing your teeth at bedtime when your child wakes up after sleeping, or while you are in the middle of making dinner. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to listen to your child. Sometimes children pick these times to test our commitment. There will be times when it is simply not possible to stop what you are doing. In these instances, set aside a specific time that day to discuss your child’s concern, communicate that time to your child, and make sure to stick to it. Have your child write down the time on a piece of paper, and a short phrase or sentence that is on your child’s mind to help her start the conversation at a later time.

Being available also involves being proactive. It is important to find ways to stay connected to your tween/teen on a daily basis. Here are some creative and fun suggestions to accomplish that: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/ways-of-staying-connected-with-your-tweenteen/

3. Listen

Sometimes children do not want a parent to solve a problem. They are simply looking for someone to listen, empathize, and communicate understanding. Resist the urge to solve the problem or provide suggestions, unless your child specifically asks for that. You can also communicate understanding by providing an example of a similar situation from your own life. Feeling understood, and feeling not alone can go a long way. Sometimes your child may simply want to feel understood and less lonely in their feelings, rather than a solution.

4. Help your child develop a variety of interests

Friendships often change as children’s interests and activities change. Your child may experience a loss of a friendship because she is no longer interested in cheerleading, yet her close friends remain on the team. Help your child to develop relationships in a variety of settings. This way, when your child experiences the loss of a friendship, he or she will have other people to spend time with and feel less alone. If the friend from a former activity is very important to your child outside of the activity, and the feeling is mutual, help your child to find opportunities to interact with that friend in person.

5. Help child understand that relationships change

Help your child to understand the natural flow of life, including the coming and going of people. The loss of a friend does not have to mean that there is something “wrong” with your child or the other child, or that it is anyone’s fault. Often it is simply a reflection of interests and convenience. It is natural to form closer relationships with those we spend more time with. Also, children often change as they develop, and this impacts the child’s relationships. Some may grow and change similarly with the child, fostering the continuation of the friendship, while others may change and become different in a way that does not help to maintain the friendship. While this loss may feel painful for your child, help your child to see it as a natural flow of life, and not that your child did anything wrong.

6. Understand that it hurts

The loss of a friendship is painful. Avoid minimizing the emotional impact on your child. Acknowledge the loss. While it is helpful to have other friends, communicate that this is not a replacement for the missed friendship. People simply do not replace people. Provide opportunities for your child to talk about what the loss of the friendship means to your child, and how your child feels.

7. Teach your child to be an includer

Unfortunately, tweens and teens can often feel purposefully excluded. Your child may not only be feeling the loss of a friendship, but may be feeling unliked, and also that the former friend is influencing others and excluding your child. As we cannot force people to include our children, this can be an opportunity to teach your child about inclusion. Sometimes it helps to provide the very thing that we are looking for to others. For example, if your child is seeking support from peers, he might feel better by providing support to a peer.

8. Remember that your child’s on-line life is important

Keep in mind that we cannot always see the loss of a friendship. More and more, children are feeling losses and feeling excluded through on-line behavior. Pay attention to your child’s facial expressions while looking at social media. Maybe your child saw photos of a friend’s party, yet he or she was not invited. In addition, children often make more hurtful comments on-line than they would say to someone in person. Make a point to check-in with your child regarding his or her friendship experience on-line. In addition, be mindful that excessive use of social media has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety. Here is an article regarding managing children’s use of technology and social media: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/some-suggestions-regarding-managing-childrens-use-of-technology/

9. Resist temptation to speak badly of your child’s former friends

Your child is feeling hurt, and it is hard not to react with anger toward the former friend, especially if your child confides that the former friend has made hurtful comments. Keep in mind that your child may suddenly be friends with this person again. Friendships change, and children can be resilient and forgiving. You may then find yourself in an awkward situation if in your attempt to comfort your child, you insulted or spoke badly of the other child. Instead, listen to and support your child, and help your child find ways to remain cordial. If the former friend continues to make hurtful comments toward your child, help your child problem solve and role play what your child could say or do to help diffuse the conflict.

10. Teach your child about qualities of a good friendship

The loss of a friend can provide the opportunity for a valuable discussion about qualities of a good friendship. What did your child value about that friendship that he may wish to find in another friend? What made your child feel good when interacting with the former friend that he can look to experience in other current and future friendships? Sometimes the loss of a friend can be an experience for your child to reflect upon what he or she wants out of existing and future friendships.

11. Help your child enjoy being by herself

While friendships are important, it is also an important developmental task for your child to enjoy being by herself. This may be an excellent time for her to discover solitary interests and hobbies. Enjoying being by oneself is an experience that has life-long positive benefits.

12. Show love

Your child is likely feeling vulnerable, and this is a wonderful time to shower your child with love. This can be done through words, non-verbal communication, and/or physical touch in the absence of words. Here are some very simple ways to show your child love: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/five-simple-things-to-do-today-and-every-day-to-show-love-for-your-children/

Remember that physical touch is powerful and can be very healing. When your child does not feel like talking or the words are simply not there, physical touch can be a wonderful way of connecting while also providing emotional support for your child. A hug can go a long way. Here are some silly and fun suggestions to incorporate hugs: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/the-hug-jar/

 

 

Two Basic Suggestions Regarding the Use of Technology

I showed this video recently at conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

There was a powerful reaction from the audience, including from those who had seen it before. I do not like what technology and social media are doing to human relationships, particularly within families and friendships (as depicted in this video). People are less connected. People are making less eye contact. People are plugged in and tuned out to the people right in front of them. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to find balance.

I came across two articles regarding suggestions to make some very basic changes regarding the use of technology. If you are feeling like you/your child need to make some changes, I suggest starting with these two basic changes (and read the articles to see why): 1) Avoid using technology during morning family time before work/school http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/10/07/break-this-habit-to-create-more-time-goodness-in-your-day/

2) Keep technology out of the bedroom (yours and your child’s).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parents-kids-smartphones_us_5600226fe4b0fde8b0cef8f3

Oh, and one more!  Make a family rule not to use technology during short car rides (driving your child to school/activities).  Because it is during these down times that we get to share thoughts and ideas, or just daydream.  Because this is where the magic happens.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to conduct a workshop on helping parents manage their children’s use of technology and social media.  (PTA/PTO, parent group, church group, group of friends, etc).

 

Some Suggestions Regarding Managing Children’s Use of Technology

I was contacted by a writer who was working on an article regarding children’s use of technology, and what parents can do.  Here are his questions, and my responses:

Your question – We want our kids to engage the real world more, yet adults set a precedent for them, by spending too much time on their screens.  How may a parent mitigate this “bad” example?

A wonderful way to help children manage the amount of time and how they spend their time on technology is to set a good example. Some very simple suggestions include:

  • During dinner time, keep electronics off of the table. In addition, wherever the electronics are, turn them to silent mode. Nothing can zap your child’s attention than hearing the notification that a text or message came through. And nothing makes children feel less important than work when a parent checks work emails during dinner time. It can all wait until after the family meal.
  • Do not use electronics in the morning. The morning routine of getting the children ready for school and ready for work should be focused on family. Using technology involves intrusion – intrusion of responsibilities, to-do lists, social problems, scheduling problems, and problems of the world – into your sacred family time. When parents reach for the smartphone or other electronic device in the morning, they are no longer being present with their children. Parents can be having a peaceful morning with family, then see something upsetting in an email or post on social media, and immediately the mood in the home is negatively impacted. In addition, when parents use their devices in the morning before school and work, they are sending a subtle message to their children that the device is more important.
  • Keep technology out of the bedroom, for children and adults. Just as technology affects relationships in the morning, it affects relationships at night. A smartphone has no place when a couple desires quiet time and intimacy. When parents keep smartphones out of bedrooms, they set a positive example for children to follow. This is particularly important for children, as they need as much sleep as they can get. Studies show that children report waking up in the night to check social media. In addition to disrupting sleep, this can lead to mental health issues, as excessive social media use has been associated with mental health problems in children. If your child uses the excuse that he or she needs the device as an alarm to wake up in the morning, go out and buy an old-fashioned alarm clock!
  • Resist the urge to use technology during “down” time. We have small periods of down time during the day, and we have become so accustomed to being entertained and processing information that we feel the need to fill a void when nothing is happening. We need that down time to unwind, think, process emotions and thoughts, or just be. We need that down time to connect with our children and just BE together in the absence of distraction. So resist the temptation to whip out the smartphone while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or while on line at the grocery store.

Your question – Media and internet technology are a daily fact of life.  What are 1-2 strategies parents may use to find balance with their kids’ technology use?

 

  • Develop a contract for electronics use. This should include rules regarding downloading or using apps or the Internet, and a discussion regarding what apps are off limits. This may also include rules around what time of day devices may be used and where. Other rules may include: a) no taking videos or pictures of inappropriate material, including bad language, gossip, or anything that is a violation of someone, b) parents can inspect device at any time, c) commitment to tell parents or another adult when anything appears confusing, scary, or threatening, d) before you do anything with your electronic, ask yourself, “Would this make Mom and Dad proud of me?”
  • Get the most out of travel time. You could make a family rule that electronics and ear phones are not used for short car rides and other modes of transportation. These are the times when we can learn about our children’s days and their thoughts. Also, just being together, even in the absence of words, is an opportunity to connect. These are missed opportunities when our children are plugged in and tuned out on their devices. Also, remember that it is not going to harm them, but it is important for children to feel “bored”. In the absence of conversation and electronics, your child may complain about feeling bored. This is a good thing! Boredom allows the mind to wander and fosters daydreaming. Some of children’s best thinking occurs when they allow their minds to wander. We deprive them of this opportunity when we allow them to constantly fill down time with an electronic device.
  • Get outside. With increased use of technology, adults and children are getting less exercise, and they are connecting less emotionally with each other. Getting outside and enjoying nature not only helps physical health, but studies demonstrate that being out in nature is associated with elevated mental health, particularly when the activity is done with someone.
  • Remember that if your child has a device that connects him or her with the outside world, it is your job and responsibility to protect your child from all of the potential harm that can come along with that. It seems like every week, there are new apps that children are using that are potentially harmful. We don’t want to accept it, but children younger and younger are sexting and getting themselves into dangerous situations via text and other messaging programs/apps. Educate yourself. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing daily “check-ins” regarding the use of technology. Ask your child “Did you see anything on your device (app, text, email, anything) or the Internet today that scared you or made you feel uncomfortable.”  Ask, ask, ask, check, check, check.

Feel free to contact me if you would like an example of an electronics contract, as well as some suggested questions to use for your daily “check-in”.

 

 

New Line of Mental Health-Inspired Jewelry

Announcing “Peggy’s Midnight Creations” – Inspirational Jewelry for life’s celebrations, relationships, occasions, and challenges.

As a psychologist, I am often encouraging my clients to discover their passions and carve out time for them. In 2008, I took a class in jewelry making. As I experienced the therapeutic impact of beading, it very quickly became a passion. I am now drawing upon my 20+ years in the mental health field and incorporating wisdom gained into bracelets for a variety of life’s celebrations, occasions, relationships, and challenges. The inspirations/instructions for the bracelets draw upon humanistic psychology and research from cognitive behavioral psychology. On my Inspirational Jewelry page, you will find:

Gratitude Bracelet, Couples Bracelet, Peace in Relationships Bracelet, Angel Bracelet (2 designs), Healing Loss Bracelet (2 kinds), Friendship Bracelet, Coping with Anxiety Bracelet (2 designs), Promoting Peace and Relaxation Bracelet, Coping with Depression Bracelet (2 designs), Coping with Divorce/Breakup Bracelet, The Love Bracelet, Celebrating Sobriety Bracelet, Celebrating a Goal/Growth and Development Bracelet, Happiness/Joy Bracelet (3 designs), Mother/Daughter Bracelets, Proud Mother Bracelet, Proud Grandmother Bracelet, Coping with Illness/Difficulty Bracelet (4 styles – “love”, “peace”, “hope”, or “joy”), Peace in Parenting Teens Bracelet, The Four Agreements Bracelet, Intentional Acts of Kindness Bracelet, and for fun – Beach Bliss Bracelet and Snowflake Bracelet.

Here are some examples.  All bracelets come in an organza gift pouch with inspiration/instruction card. Please visit Inspirational Jewelry page for the corresponding card for each bracelet.  http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/inspirational-jewelry/

inspirational-jewelry-ideas-and-supplies cope-anxiety-1 cope-depression-1 cope-depression-2-mauve random-acts-of-kindness peace-in-relationships-or-couples-female

Mother-Daughter Bonding Activity – Making Bracelets

mother daughter bracelets

Mother-Daughter Bonding Activity – Making Beaded Bracelets

The positive relationship that a tween/teen girl has with her mother serves as a protective factor and helps her to make healthy decisions, particularly in risky situations involving substance use, sexual behavior, and social media use. In order to maintain and strengthen that relationship, parents and children need to spend time together. They benefit from engaging in activities that provide opportunities for connecting on an emotional.

One activity that provides this opportunity is to make mother and daughter bracelets for one another. Visit a local craft store and buy elastic and glass beads in a variety of colors, or you can purchase at www.artbeads.com. Each color bead on the bracelet represents a quality in the mother or daughter that is appreciated, a memory, or favorite activity. For example, green could represent, “I love when we walk together”, pink could represent, “I love you”, and purple could represent “I appreciate that you cook for me”. Each color and related sentiment is then written down on a card and given to the other person along with the bracelet.

You will need 12 inches of elastic for each bracelet. Round Swarovski crystals are a nice bead to use for this project, and they come in several colors. If you use 8mm beads, you will need 22-23 for an adult bracelet, and 20-21 for a child bracelet. 1) Cut 12 inches of string, 2) tape down one end onto the table about one inch from the end, 3) string the beads on the elastic 4) peel tape off the table to lift up bracelet, and tie onto your daughter’s wrist, 5) make 4-5 tight knots, 6) cut off extra elastic close to the knot, 7) secure with a little dab of craft (Elmer’s) glue. Here is a link to browse round Swarovski 8mm beads. http://www.artbeads.com/swarovski-rounds-8mm.html and here is a link for the elastic. http://www.artbeads.com/el25cl05.html

Encouraging Words to Use With Children

Encouraging Words for Parents to Use With Their Children

Sometimes when we praise our children, we focus on their appearance, when we really should be focusing on their unique and special qualities and abilities. Sometimes we focus on an outcome, when we really want to focus on their internal qualities and what helped them to achieve the desired outcome. We want to communicate that what is important is what is on the inside. Children may not always achieve the results that they want, and we do not want them to determine their worth (and others’ worth) by a measurable outcome. This is not to say that you should not comment on how attractive your children look when they dress up for a special occasion, or not congratulate them on an achievement. Simply be mindful not to make commenting on appearance and outcome a habit or the most important factor. In the long run, good sportsmanship will have longer lasting positive results for children than winning. Building character will help children further in life than their appearance or results of a specific sporting or academic event.

Here are some encouraging words that help children feel good about themselves just for being who they are.

  • I love spending time with you.
  • You are working really hard.
  • I am so proud of you!
  • Your effort is paying off.
  • I trust you.
  • You are so special to me.
  • I know that you will figure it out.
  • You matter. Your words matter.
  • That was so kind of you.
  • You are making a difference in the world.
  • I can tell that you really care about this.
  • I appreciate you.
  • You really care about your friends. I see you are so kind to them.
  • What are your thoughts?
  • I can tell that you have worked so hard on this.
  • Your time and effort are so important.
  • Thank you for your cooperation.
  • I love you.
  • You are demonstrating perseverance and strength.
  • Thank you for helping with the laundry. That really helped me out.
  • I noticed that you have been working so hard on this project. Good for you.

One Simple Way to Improve a Relationship

There is one very simple thing that you can do today to improve a relationship. Improve a relationship with your spouse, with your child, with a friend. It’s so simple, that it is often overlooked. Ready? Show appreciation.

Yes, your daughter is SUPPOSED to do her homework. Yes, your husband is SUPPOSED to take out the trash. Yes, your son is SUPPOSED to put away his laundry. Being thanked and shown appreciation, even for the expected, can help strengthen a relationship.

Appreciation and gratitude go a long way. Not only does it create a positive feeling in the moment, but it helps to nurture a relationship. It serves as a buffer in times of conflict by creating a sense of closeness and deeper connection. We behave our best and treat people nicely when we feel an emotional connection with them. Expressing gratitude for the person or the relationship can help foster that connection. For this very reason, I start off every MotherDaughter Connection session with an exercise in gratitude. Mothers and daughters privately tell each one thing that they are grateful for in the other person or within their relationship.

Test it out today. What might you take for granted and not express thanks for? What small act can you express appreciation and thanks for today within your family? What quality do you appreciate about your partner or child? Take a moment to think about it, and then make a point to express it.

“The Hug Jar”

As your child becomes a tween/teen, there is less physical affection than the preschool years! Your daughter may not be eagerly holding your hand like she did when she was four years old. Your son may not want to cuddle like he enjoyed when he was younger. Your child is not sitting on your lap, and you no longer have a person attached to your hip! This is all part of normal development. However, as humans, we still have a need for physical affection with our loved ones. Physical affection provides a connection, and this can be particularly useful when the words are not there. There may be times when your teen/tween comes home from school, seems upset, and does not want to talk about it. There may be times when you want to express your love for your child, but the words do not come easily. These are times when physical affection can go a long way. Yet as children get older, they become less comfortable asking for the physical affection from parents that can be so comforting. And parents need the affection too!

We all need physical affection in varying degrees, and sometimes it is hard for both children and adults to ask for it. Making and using a “Hug Jar” can make it fun. Here are some suggestions to write down on a piece of paper and put into a “hug jar”. Make a point to pull one out a day.

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