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Holding Hope Services

Julie Fanning LCSW

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Considerations – Your Child and Counseling

You would do anything for your child.  It hurts when you see him or her struggling.  Maybe there has been a family trauma.  Maybe a parental divorce and you want to make sure your children are doing OK.  Maybe your child is anxious about school, has bullies they are dealing with, friendship issues or grappling with feelings of self-worth.  Maybe they are struggling with issues such as drugs, sex or cutting.  There are tons of reasons your child might benefit from counseling.  First,  give yourself some praise if you are thinking about helping your child with therapy.  It might feel as if you failed somehow but you haven’t!  Life is difficult for adults and it is sometimes even more so for children and teens.

I believe counseling can be valuable for everyone. I would caution you to consider, that therapy for a child or teen, may look different than for an adult.  As an adult, we know why we are going to therapy.  We may be looking for someone to clarify and ground us or looking for answers to numerous different questions.  At some level, we buy into going to therapy for ourselves, but your child may not have the same buy-in for their therapy,  Even though I believe the relationship is always paramount, an adult may find what they are looking for in a few sessions, but this more difficult outcome when working with children.  The dynamics are different in child therapy.

Continue reading “Considerations – Your Child and Counseling”

Mother’s Day – Not so Much My Favorite Day.

Happy Mother’s Day!  We all will hear this repeatedly today (and have likely heard it non stop for the past week.)  I honor all the mothers out there.  There will never be anyone else in your life like your mother – something your children may not even understand till they are old and experienced in life.  I like that we take a day to say “Hey – you should always remember this but make a special effort to tell mom she is awesome because you probably usually forget.”   I love that we have a Mother’s Day.   I honor mothers in whatever form they take.  Mother’s Day also is my least favorite day of the year.

Yep,  that is what I said.  For all the I am on board with Mother’s Day I hate today.  I am not a mother and I no longer have a mother with me on earth so the day becomes awkward at best.  I am doubtful I am the only one who feels this way.  Before my mother died I always had a purpose on Mother’s Day because even if my mom and I had shaky relations the rest of the year on Mother’s Day she could hear my explain how much I loved her, how much I appreciated her and how I wouldn’t trade her for any other mom in the universe.  Now that she is gone – I get a day where I’m reminded over and over again that she isn’t physically with me any longer.  Now to the other part.

It is a weird phenomenon on this day where if you do not have children you are not quite a real woman – especially if you are over thirty.  It is a day that’s inadvertent side effect is to put down all non mothers as less than.  The thing is generally most woman have their own journey with becoming or not becoming a mother.  A woman may be struggling with infertility or waiting for an adoption or praying with all their being to be mother and it may just not be happening.   A woman may choose not to be mother for all  sorts of reasons. (Side note: I have been told multiple times – yes multiple times – that only selfish women choose not have children.  I don’t know any way that would not be construed as insulting .  Every time someone asked they are generally people who are kind and that I liked.  Weird.  It is almost like it is OK to be insulting to figure out what is wrong with me that I don’t have children.   Just keep in mind there are many reasons people choose not to have children and very often selfishness is not one of them and if it is – yay for knowing themselves well enough to make healthy decisions!)

Today a childless  woman gets to have the constant reminder that they are different from other women.    A woman may have lost children or miscarried or chosen adoption or may have just not had a path that led to motherhood. I’m guess for a lot of these wom  Any other day a person may be confident in their choice to not be a mother.  Any other day a person may cope with their loss or grief in a personal way but not on Mother’s Day where they will be reminded again and again that they are not a mother.

On this day when we honor all mothers – do honor and appreciate them.  Maybe keep in mind that this isn’t always a joyful day for everyone.  Keep in mind that people mother in many ways – not just with their biological children and sometimes-they go unnoticed most of all because they aren’t a mainstream mother.  We have the day because mothers do so very much and are so very under appreciated.  Remember to honor all mothers on the their journeys.    Honor your own mother, honor the new mothers who are just starting, honor the mothers who have been in the game awhile now.  Honor the mothers who are driving their children to every single event and fundraising and working in their child’s classroom.  Honor the mothers who are there for their children throughout their lifestyle and in their child’s corner like only a mother can.

 

Gratitude and Worth

 

Honor the mothers who feel inadequate or have struggled with motherhood.  Honor the mothers whose children are unable to show their appreciation. Honor the mothers with no children.  Honor the mothers who have lost children through miscarriage or death.  Honor the mothers who are step and foster mothers.  Honor the mothers who are unconventional and mother those who aren’t her own emotionally or spiritually.

Please honor mothers today while keeping in mind today isn’t joyful for everyone.  I also will honor mothers today and at the same time try to bear with grace each time someone asks me if I am a mother today and I will  just say thank-you each time someone wishes me Happy Mother’s Day.

Thank you all mothers in whatever form you take and Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

Share your pain

For some reason I am all about speaking up lately.  I was playing on Pinterest (you know – instead of doing something productive) and I came across this quote:

“I learned that now that one who speaks about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”  CS Lewis

I have so much love for this quote.  It is so easy to not speak about what hurts us.  Sometimes it is to avoid.  If I don’t talk about something that bothers me then I don’t have to feel as bad.  Sometimes we don’t talk because a situation seems hopeless and nothing changes.    Sometimes it is because we think other people must be sick and tired of listening to us go on and on about it.  Seems like acceptable reasoning.

Only, the aftermath of not sharing can be so much more devastating. Not speaking can lead to isolation.  Not speaking up can lead to more feelings of hopelessness and desperation.  Not sharing can even lead to feeling shame.  Not sharing and speaking can lead to avoiding feelings which oddly enough often make feelings more pronounced.

I’m not suggesting you tell the cashier at Target all your problems but I bet there are some safe people in your life you can speak to.  People generally want to help us.   People generally are understanding.  Talk to a close neighbor, friend or family or even a therapist.  (Shout out for therapy from the therapist!)  You might be surprised at how speaking up alleviates some of your hurt and helps you feel more centered and whole.   

Helping Children with parental mental illness

Article Share.  I found this through the Liana Lowenstein newsletter.   I really loved the tips for therapists. (The tips would actually work for almost anyone.)

http://www.lianalowenstein.com/articlesProfessionalmentalIllness.pdf

I often read “advice” on this topic and cringe.  My own experiences have been that many therapists really don’t get what living with a parent’s mental illness means.  As an adult who had a mother with a severe mental illness, I still don’t feel like many people can really understand.    I can think of only a handful of people I’ve come across who seem to get what my journey as a child was like.  Sometimes I will connect with an adult with a similar experience and it is amazing.  Often the other person will say “I’ve never met anyone else who had a similar experience.”

You can’t fix what is going on in the child’s life but you absolutely acknowledge their situation is difficult.  I know as a child, people rarely even acted as if they were aware of my mother’s bizarre behavior.   When I worked in child welfare, I often believed the only real thing I could do is tell kids it wasn’t their fault, it can get better and their life isn’t hopeless.  I am also all for trying to find a safe adult for the child to speak to.  It can be a therapist, friend’s parent, teacher or other family member.  It can be you.  

Send your kids outside!

This article makes a lot of sense to me.

http://gma.yahoo.com/nyc-mom-charging-parents-350-let-kids-play-183149182–abc-news-topstories.html

Of course I wouldn’t recommend paying someone $350 to not watch your kids because you can do it for free.  Your very first and longest lasting task as a parent is to keep your children safe.  It makes sense that you will try to everything in your power to keep them that way.  However, is there a time you should grit your teeth and take a step back?  I am not a crazy outdoorsy person by any stretch of the imagination but as a child, I ran around outside.  The next door neighbor kids had a kick ball game some days, we would play “war” with these crabapple things, we would go try to catch crawdads in the creek and sneak away to ride our bikes to the grocery store.  (No idea on why we’d go to the grocery store – maybe because it was illicit behavior.  Also, I don’t believe we ever caught a crawdad.  I’m not actually sure what a crawdad is or if it is even real but would probably not want to touch one if I saw one.  My mom always told me I could catch one with a hot dog.  That seems weird to me but who knows.)

What freedom do you give your kids?  What ways can you feel confident that they are safe yet let them enjoy the magic of doing nothing outside or hanging with friends?  Unfortunately, there is no way any parent can plan for every eventuality.  I’m not saying send them out at the beginning of the day and tell them to check back in 8 hours.  Be a responsible parent but allowing them some time to just be can be huge part of their development.  Kids learn how to entertain themselves.  It may enhance their creativity.  Kids learn how to build friendships and navigate the muddy waters of relationships.  Kids build resilience because they learn to handle challenges without their parents always being  there.  By letting your kids have some time to go and play, you will be ensuring they have some very useful skills as they get older.  Have faith in your parenting – you are doing a great job – and your kids will reflect that as you allow them room to grow.

Play More Video Games (With Your Kids)

I see lots of kids in my private practice.   I have the requisite board games like Life, Sorry and UNO.  I have markers, paint and other art supplies.  What I don’t have, though, is any type of video game.  I was thinking I am a bit behind the

times.  I feel comfortable talking to youth about their gaming activities.  I don’t actually get it all but it gives them the opportunity to teach me something and share what they are passionate about.  Anything I know about Call of Duty is from clients.  I wonder how much more I could connect with some youth if I had video games in my office to play.

Right now you may be asking ~Really?~  Maybe you are outraged and thinking, “I pay you money to see my kids and you are playing video games because they can do that for free at home.”  True, but gaming and talking are not mutually exclusive.  Interacting during gaming gives the youth the opportunity to build confidence and actually relate to the adult.  It gives a commonality.   All sorts of conversations and sharing of secrets and worries can come out as you play.

My question for you would be “are you sitting and gaming with your child?”  Are you?  The connections you make with your child can be invaluable.  (Not to mention becoming aware of who they are connecting with in the world through their gaming.)   I think back to my relationship with my brother.  He is five years younger than me and growing up I think there was nothing but animosity and maybe some shared empathy for our living situation.  We weren’t friends by any means.  We had nothing at all in common.  We could connect by playing video games.  Back in the day when we’d have an old Nintendo system my brother and I would play Castlevania.  I wasn’t very good but we could connect over the games.  He could help me by beating the levels I couldn’t beat.  It gave us a common language.  Those experiences are invaluable and led the way to being able to be something like friends as adults.

Try playing some video games with your child.  You  might be surprised at the connections you make.

For Mothers

Eye Candy Designs on Etsy

When I saw this I just wanted every mother to take this heart.  Sure there are things you could do better – would do better if acting on hindsight was possible.  However,  you do a million things perfectly.  Your children are better off because you are their mother and you love them.  Trust yourself.  Love yourself.  You are an amazing mother.

Don’t Make Me Have Fun!

This happens to me sometimes.  I am supposed to go out with a friend and I think “I am so tired.  I want to see her but I’d really like to stay home and rest.”  Maybe it is a family party and instead of looking forward to seeing and enjoying everyone, I’m just adding it as one more TASK on my “to do” list.  Maybe I mean to get a massage or my nails done for some self-care but I just don’t think I have the time. 
Hasn’t this happened to you?  Something that ‘should’ be a fun activity seems to turn into this great big commitment and trial.  Excuses from “I have too much to do” to “I need to get stuff done around the house” to “I just need down time on my own” to whatever.  Then either you force yourself to go – with anticipatory dread- and maybe even really enjoy yourself or you make an excuse and don’t go and miss out on the opportunity to enjoy yourself and connect.  Then, even if you planned on some quiet, down time, it doesn’t happen.  You find things to do around the house or feel guilty about not doing anything.  (How many times have you said “I got nothing done!”)
Doesn’t this seem a bit crazy?  Yes, I meant to say crazy.    Somewhere our priorities get a little off skew.  Yes, we need income.  Yes, we need to follow through with commitments and responsibilities.  What about enjoying life?  What about actually looking forward to going out and being with friends and family?
Ideally, we would try to find joy in all that we do but if we are going to dread something – why is it the fun things?
Next time you have something ‘fun’ planned try changing your thinking.  Think about how you enjoy being at family events or going to the art fair or going to a game.  If you start dreading the “fun” activity, question to see if you are setting up the barriers to enjoy yourself.  We benefit from embracing fun.  You have my permission to look forward to fun.  Now, give yourself that permission.

Mindfulness, Mortification and Memories

I was recently able to go on a trip to Orlando, Florida for my cousin’s wedding celebration.  It was a good time to connect and enjoy those that are important in my life.
(And who knew Mickey and Minnie would come to the reception.)  These are my random thoughts on mindfulness, mortification and memories.

Mindfulness

Wedding preparations started months earlier.  Talk of plane tickets and places to stay and what to where have been forefront for quite awhile.  Finally the time for the trip arrived.  I heard from several people the statement “It will be over before you know it.”  There was a lot of anticipation and a lot of activities once in Florida.  The
worry with this situation is that there is so much to do in such a
short amount of time it is possible to forget about actually enjoying
the moments.  I wanted to avoid it being “over before I know it” and forgetting to enjoy my trip.  Trying to practice what I preached I made sure I took
moments to just be.  I looked off the 18th floor balcony overlooking
Epcot Center and Downtown Disney, feeling the wind, hearing the
background noises and enjoying the view.  When I was getting bored in
a ride, I would try to stop and focus on the ride, who I was with, and
what was being said – not thinking about the rest of the trip.  At the
wedding and reception I tried to focus on enjoying myself in each
moment whether it was the beauty of the vows, or the rhythm of dancing
or photos being taken or who I was talking to and not when I’d get sleep, or when I needed to get to the airport or how much money I spent.   Taking time and effort to be
mindful helped the vacation be much more meaningful and relaxing than
it may have been if I was task or worry oriented.

Mortification
I also had a mortifying experience during my trip.  Yes, I am sharing
it with everyone out there.  I was on Mission Space (or something) at
Epcot Center and did not follow the instructions.  Yep, I  closed my eyes and felt very disoriented.  (Reminder to self:  Sometimes rules are there for a reason.)  I became nauseous and yes I actually got sick on the ride.  For a
grown woman this is beyond mortifying.  You know what though?  I lived
through it.  Sometimes it is necessary to be reminded that each of us
has the ability to live through awkward, embarrassing or anxiety filled moments.

My 10 year old cousin offered the statement “Don’t worry Julie.
Sometimes things happen in life.  It is OK.”  Nice wisdom and compassion from him. (Of course the second his oldest brother got in the van he said “Hey,
Julie threw up on the ride!)

Sometimes when something happens that mortifies you remember how you
handle it says a lot.  You can live through it.  You will be OK.  You will not be forever marked.  You can be a role model for others.  You teach your kids that bad things happen but you can make it through.  Embarrassment is not the end of the world.  A mortifying moment is not a catastrophe.


Memories
Memories are part of our identity.  They help us with meaning.  They can
be a source of joy and contentment.  All the situations from this trip will be
cherished memories that will remind me of who I am and can be shared
with those I am close to.  I am sure sometime in my future someone in
my family will jokingly ask if I’ll be able to handle going on a
Merry-go-Round or something.  I’ll remember the weather and laughing
or worrying with friends.  The memories help me be who I am.  What
jokes does your family share year after year.  Which memories are the
most precious to you?
I am grateful for being able to practice mindfulness, live through the mortification and cherish my memories from the trip.

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