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instincts

Trusting Your Instincts

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“Be willing to trust your instincts, especially if you cannot find answers elsewhere.”~Brian Koslow

This means listening to your gut and your heart. You are the expert on yourself. No one knows you or your situation better than you. So trust yourself.

Many of us have a hard time trusting ourselves. This is to be expected when we are surrounded by others placing their expectations for us on us. Our loved ones love us AND they manage(d) their anxieties of being a parent by “parenting” us in ways that sometimes didn’t feel great for us when we were young (and perhaps even today as adults!).

Were they wrong or bad for doing this? Not necessarily. They likely didn’t know better and saw others doing the same.

What we can do now is offer ourselves new options.

Pretend we’re re-parenting ourselves. We all still have the little 7 year old in us who is still needing something they haven’t gotten. Ask them what it is they are needing. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you. And likely you already have a good idea.

Then allow your adult self to help get your 7-year-old self’s needs met. You likely do this easily and willingly for others. Now do it for yourself. You deserve it, even if you’ve felt perhaps you didn’t.

Perhaps you also allow this to have an impact on your own parenting?

Notice when you’re managing your anxiety by expecting certain things of your children rather than just allowing them to show up exactly as they are. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fine balance between guiding/teaching/parenting children and allowing them to be themselves. However, perhaps this is a reminder that we all just want to be loved and accepted for exactly who we are.

We all deserve that.

parenting in a pandemic

Parenting in a Pandemic: 3 Ways Not to Lose Your Mind

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Parenting is difficult. End of story. I have done office-based and in-home therapy with parents and kids for over 10 years. I believe I have just about seen it all. But how about parenting in a pandemic when it seems like the whole world is falling apart and we’re pretty much stuck inside with our kids? Sounds like a parent’s nightmare. And in many ways, it is.

However, it is possible to shift our thinking, feelings, decision and actions to break the trance of “I’m stuck and this sucks.” In a previous article, I discussed important steps to take before reaching a point where we might possibly abuse the ones we love. Many of the same principles apply here. However, I would like to focus on three other important principles we can follow that will alter our experience enough to make it through these difficult times. 

1. Adjust Expectations

There is no template for how to live, much less parent, during a pandemic and extended quarantine. We are all on shaky ground struggling to find our footing. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen when working with parents during the quarantine is the expectation that they can continue parenting as they always do. Their kids will continue to act in the same ways and need to be parented the same ways. This is not the case. NOTHING is normal or the same.

While our children may seem oblivious, or as if they don’t care about what’s happening, they are aware and do care. They are experiencing a significant amount of stress and trauma like the rest of us. Children are very sensitive and pick up on all the stimulation around them. They are like little antennas for stress. Adjusting our expectations and establishing a “new normal” can make all the difference in how successful our parenting is during these difficult times. 

2. Strike a Balance

Parenting is on a continuum. On one side are very permissive parents. On the other are very authoritarian parents. Most parents fall somewhere in between. During the quarantine, most parents will attempt to continue parenting as they always have, as discussed in the previous point. Some parents will swing the pendulum to the other side, however. This severe change in parenting can leave children quite confused. The goal of parenting, as with most things in life, is to strike a balance as close to the middle of that continuum as possible. Children need enough guidance and structure to keep them from falling too far without a safety net. But they also need enough room to make some mistakes and learn from them.

During the quarantine, parents who find themselves a little too far on either side of the continuum can benefit from shifting more towards the center. If you are a parent who counts every minute of your child’s screen time, it might behoove you to be a little less stringent on that. If you’re a parent who more or less let’s your kids do whatever they want as long as they aren’t getting hurt, it might be best to tighten that up some. Striking a balance in our parenting can make this quarantine a better overall experience for us as parents and for our kids. 

3. Prioritize Play

I believe one of the most important things parents can do to make not only their parenting better during the quarantine, but also just their own personal experiences, is to prioritize play. What I have heard from many parents is that they are struggling to keep themselves busy. They often finish their work faster if they are at home. They clean the house. Then deep clean the house. They hang up that picture they’ve been meaning to. They even organize their sock drawer. Ultimately, they are struggling to find something productive to do. Therein lies the problem: the idea that we should all be productive all the time. We have a serious problem in our culture in that we do not know how to play. This is not everyone of course. There are plenty of adults who are gamers, hikers, and cultural creatives. But many adults struggle with being able to adopt an attitude of play. Now we can relax. And we can vacation. But it’s not the same thing.

Playing is the language of children that we forget as we grow up. When we grow up, our culture tells us it is time to work. We are also told it is okay to rest. Playing, however, is a rarity and requires the ability to flip the idea of being productive on its head. Playing is the opposite of being productive. It doesn’t mean that being productive can’t be a byproduct of play. Some of the greatest inventions and accomplishments came through an adult at play when they occurred. The end product wasn’t even the goal. So, during this time where we are all mostly isolated in our homes with our families, try finding some activities where you can purposely not be productive. You just do the thing, whatever the thing is, for the sheer enjoyment of it. A great way to start is to let your kids teach you their language. Ask if you can join them in whatever activity they are doing. Then branch out to find your own activities that you can immerse yourself into. By prioritizing play, we can detach for a while from the madness the world is experiencing. We can drop into a different experience with our children. 

Chris Davis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 10 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Chris’s passion is helping couples increase their intimacy and connection with one another to have the type of relationships they have hoped for. Chris is also passionate about helping everyone he meets to experience increased awareness and mindfulness to be more present in their lives. He utilizes a variety of techniques and approaches to meet each individual and couple where they are. 

Megan Returns to Fortyish Podcast to Promote New Book

Megan Returns to Fortyish Podcast for a Third Time to Promote New Book, Don’t Go To Sleep

 

I know I’m in for a good time when Stephanie White and Dan Vonderheide invite me to be a guest on their podcast, Fortyish. For Episode 93, they wanted me to come on to talk about my new book, Don’t Go To Sleep. Click HERE to listen!

Don’t Go To Sleep is a silly and fun bedtime book to help children (and their grown-ups) get relaxed and calm at bedtime. Essentially it’s a guided meditation that parents read to their kiddos that actually may be just as beneficial for the parent as it is for their kiddo. It is a method I developed and used with my own daughter when she was 4 years old. We had always struggled at bedtime to get her to relax and calm at bedtime. For years she would flip and flop for a good hour or more and want me to stay with her until she fell asleep. Not knowing exactly what was going on, I tried all kinds of ways to help her. A few things we tried with limited success: a bedtime routine, limited screen time close to bedtime, aromatherapy, homeopathic remedies, flower essence, chiropractics, and craniosacral massage.

Finally, I decided to put to use some techniques I was using with adults in my practice at Louisville Mindfulness Center. I helped her get out of her head and more into her body. I utilized her senses to get her focused and keep her mind occupied so she wasn’t preoccupied with a fear of the dark, monsters, or being left alone. What I noticed as my method developed more fully was that not only was she responding to it well, but I was much more relaxed at bedtime. In fact, I now would look forward to tucking her in since I knew she’d be asleep in five or so minutes. It was incredible!

Eventually I thought, “If this can work this well for us, I wonder if it can work for others?” So I gave it a shot. I started writing the method down how I thought it could be most helpful for others. It went through several revisions after trusted feedback. One suggestion was to make sure it had pictures. My husband and I had a good friend whose drawings I had always admired so I asked him if he’d contribute a few drawings to the book. The illustrator, Erik Schullstrom, is a former Major League Baseball pitcher and now spends his time scouting players for the Hiroshima Carp.

Overall, I’m thrilled with how the book turned out. Don’t Go To Sleep is available on Amazon! Check it out for yourself, or send it to someone who could use it!

Click HERE to listen to Megan on Episode 93 of Fortyish!

Click HERE to buy the book, Don’t Go To Sleep!