At the anxiety workshop we talked a lot about what’s normal and what isn’t normal and needs intervention. Sometimes it’s clear — your child absolutely refuses to go to school or your teen tells you she’s depressed and is thinking about hurting herself. But other times it’s more ambivalent. Are these tantrums normal? Is your reaction to them making things worse? Can counseling help your 7-year old’s struggles in school?
Here’s how to figure it out.
Are you or your child missing out?
Is the issue — sadness, anxiety, anger — getting in the way of your everyday lives? Do you find yourself spending more and more time trying to move from one place to another? Is she expressing frustration or sadness with how things are going? Are you?
This is the number one way to know that it’s time to get help. If you or your child are avoiding things, if the problem is disrupting the normal events in your lives, that’s the very definition of troubled. It’s one thing to be scared of dogs; it’s another thing to be so scared of dogs that your child won’t leave the house. It’s one thing to want to stay home from second grade; it’s another thing to scream and hold onto the door frame when your dad tries to move you out the door to the bus stop. It’s one thing to have a lousy day where your child falls apart at the zoo; it’s another thing when you can’t go to the grocery store because of your child’s tantrums in the cereal aisle.
If you find yourself living around your child’s challenges, it’s time to get help.
Are you at your wit’s end?
Do you dread confronting your child or dealing with transitions? Do you find yourself unhappy with your child more often than not? Are you losing sleep because you’re worried about her? Do you find yourself asking friends, relatives, strangers for advice?
Parenting is no endless ball of fun but most of the time it’s pretty good. We can all have bad days and even bad weeks but if you aren’t enjoying your child and your child isn’t enjoying you, you both deserve help. Parenting is hard but it shouldn’t be so hard that you find yourself crying or yelling at the end of the day. Counseling can help you have fun being a parent again.
Are other people expressing concern?
Is your child’s teacher sending lots of notes home? Are there people you trust who are worried? Do you find yourself constantly defending your child?
Sometimes other people can see what we can’t. I’m not saying that every kid who’s not clicking with her teacher needs help but if the teacher’s concerns ring true or she’s the last in a line of concerned people, it might be time to get a new perspective. If you’re not sure — is your mother-in-law’s criticism valid or not? — a counselor can help you figure it out.
It’s hard to know when we can handle what’s happening for our kids and when we need professional help. Fortunately you can call a therapist and ask her. Does this sound like a concern? How will I know when it is? What might it look like if we come in right now? Further, you can get help simply because you want it. If you use your insurance to pay for counseling you (or your child) will need a diagnosis but if you don’t use your insurance then you don’t need a diagnosis. (I do not take insurance and so I do not give a diagnosis unless it’s warranted and will serve the client. I’d say most of my caseload is made up of people who don’t necessarily qualify for a mental health diagnosis but do deserve and benefit from professional help. You can speak to the therapist you’re working with to learn more about diagnosis and treatment.)
You don’t have to figure this all out on your own.
(I’ll be writing more about kids and therapy this week. Stay tuned!)
This Saturday I’m hosting the free talk on Kids & Anxiety. It looks like there’s going to be a full house (fortunately I have enough chairs now and we’ll just squeeze in if everyone shows). Because of the interest, I’m hoping to schedule another time to offer it early in the new year. I’m also doing out reach to professionals in other areas who are interested in sharing their wisdom with us so to keep up to date on future free events, please subscribe to my newsletter. (You can do this by scrolling down and filling out either the bright yellow box that will magically appear or by filling out the form in the black area at the bottom of the page.)
Because of the interest in the workshop and requests I’ve had from people calling my practice, I’m going to offer a group to help anxious kids in a few weeks. This is an 8-week program using research-informed practice to give kids tools that will help them understand and deal with anxiety. The workshop is called Coping Kids and you can learn more about it here.
I wanted to offer the group for several reasons:
- Research shows that group psychotherapy can be as effective as individual psychotherapy (and is also less expensive);
- It’s been my experience that many of my anxious kid clients feel isolated by their worry. Meeting other children who are learning to manage their anxiety can be a huge, huge relief;
- Creating community is incredibly healing; this goes for kids as well as adults;
- Finally, many of us learn best helping each other learn. Groups give us the chance to do that.
I do require a (free) 20-minute meeting beforehand just to make sure that the group is a good fit for that child. If it’s not, I’ll be happy to share other resources or give some direction if the parents are interested. Also I want potential members of the group to have a chance to meet me, see the space and ask questions.
I am going to keep the group small with a maximum of six kids so that everyone has the chance to participate.
Curious to learn more? Let me know.
I will be facilitating a workshop in partnership with the Central Ohio Families with Children from China. There are three tracks available and I encourage you to contact COFCC if you are interested in learning which one might be appropriate for your child. (Note: This workshop is open to children who have been adopted from other countries or domestically.)
POWER OF “ME” is a workshop for children with the goal of empowering its participants with the skills necessary to enhance their development in a fun and friendly environment.
Track A – W.I.S.E. Up! (9:30 – 11:30)
For children, in Kindergarten and up, who have not taken WISE UP before, or would benefit from a refresher course. W.I.S.E. Up! provides a simple, but powerful way, for adopted children and their siblings, to handle comments and personal questions about their adoption journey and their family.
Presenter/Facilitator – Vickie Hobensack, CPNP-PC
Track B – “MY” Life Book (9:30-11:30)
For those who already took W.I.S.E. Up! Children will have the opportunity to work on their own adoption story, their own life book! Their adoption stories in their own words.
Presenter/Facilitator – Dawn Friedman, MSEd, LPC-CR
NOTE: Make sure your child knows his/her adoption story. Once you sign up, a list of photos suggested for the session will be emailed to you.
Track C – Tweens & Teens (9:30 – 11:30)
Annie was 8 when she started school in the USA. She had to adjust, fit in and learn to navigate an all new world. She, and others, will share how they made it thru the tween and teen years.
Presenter/Facilitator – Annie Chen
COFCC Children: $20 per child
Non-COFCC Children: $25 per child
To Register, please go to the COFFCC website here.
Peter Gabriel’s song, Digging in the Dirt, from his album Us is based on his experiences in therapy.
This is a live version of his song and I’m sharing it because the original video of the song, (which I’ll link to here) can freak out people who don’t like creepy-crawlies. I do think the original video does a good job of showing how when we are in pain, we often lash out at the people around us.
If you do watch the original, I’m curious — do you think the little boy he burns by pouring the coffee wrong is himself? Or is it the way he hurt his own children before he got help? (In interviews, Gabriel has confirmed that one reason he went into therapy is that he was struggling in his relationship with at least one of his daughters, describing himself as a “weekend father” who should have been more involved. Perhaps the therapy worked since his daughter toured with him as this video shows.)
“I’m digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt.”
I remember when I was in my early 30s and seeing a therapist to process my experience with infertility. At the beginning I had so much to say that I didn’t know how I would make it between sessions. Then after (I thought) I had said it all, I would worry before appointments that she’d be disappointed because I didn’t have an idea about what we should talk about.
I used to plan our topics. All week I would store up events or musings and I’d have them neatly prepared. I would continue to do this even after I realized that during most of our appointments we’d end up talking about something completely different. She’d ask about something we discussed the session before or in our casual opening we’d end up on a subject I hadn’t even considered. But I’d wrench us back around to the topic I had planned even if it fell flat because I thought I was supposed to.
I didn’t know then that it was more than OK to just show up. I didn’t have to have a topic prepared. I didn’t have to know what we were going to talk about. I could let the conversation happen organically and trust her to help me figure out what I wanted to say.
Therapy is a lot like writing. Sometimes you come to the page with a plan and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have it all outlined and mapped out and sometimes you’re free writing whatever comes into your head no matter how messy and disorganized and ungrammatical it might be.
You can’t have too much of one or too much of the other. Yes, you do need to have goals and you need to pay attention to your goals but you also need time when you’re sitting in the chair riffing on whatever comes up.
You and your therapist are working in collaboration. You don’t have to come up with every topic and she’s not going to always lead the way. The two of you will discover what it is you’re working on through the course of your conversations. If you do too much editing (especially if you’re not bringing things up because you are afraid she will be upset or bored) then she’ll be working with less material than she needs. If you try to plan your topics because you’re afraid that she will be annoyed if you sit there blankly saying nothing then you may lose the opportunity to see what the silence will bring to you.
(Sitting in silence with a person who is wholly tuned in to you can be very powerful. Try it sometime.)
Therapy is collaborative creation and growth. Trust the process and give yourself permission to allow the session to unfold however it will.
Now registering for Parenting for Attunement, a class that helps you become the parent that your child needs and that you are meant to be. Learn more by clicking here