Category: Parenting

Grieving on “Happy Mother’s Day” (Updated)

 

Written by Sofia Mendoza, LCSW

In the United States we’ve been celebrating Mother’s Day since 1908 when Anna Jarvis, a peace activist, held a memorial for her deceased mother and then annually celebrated mothers because she believed that a mother is the “person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” As the day approaches, we get several reminders to, “call mom,” “buy a gift mom will love,” “show the special woman in your life how much you appreciate her” and of course, how “diamonds are forever.” But this article is not about the commercialization of the holiday (wikipedia does a nice job of covering that). This article is more about educating loved ones on how for many, this day can trigger grief responses and how they can understand or help them cope. This article is also about providing validation and support to those who might need it on this day.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about what grieving on ‘Happy Mother’s Day” is like for them and these are the different reasons that were highlighted. Some have very graciously shared their stories with me and given me permission to quote them here. This is not an exhaustive list, as I’m positive other situations also trigger these feelings. In fact, I invite anyone whose reason I did not list, to contact me to share what their feelings on this day are. I hope to keep adding to this article as the years go by, so please reach out if you’d like.

The conversations I had led me to identify one underlying theme regardless of the exact reason they hurt on this day: not having the mother-child bond they yearn to have. Some of the reasons discovered were:

1) Not having their physically or in close proximity to their mothers, or mother figures to celebrate (either due to death, personal choice, illness, or circumstance),

2) Experiencing a child’s death or miscarriage, thereby altering the idea they might have of themselves as a mother,

3) Not having the relationship/bond that they yearn to have with their mothers or children,

Alternatively, some people get dealt a combination of those (or more) mentioned above, and the complexity of the grief is compounded. The immense toll of experiencing these types of losses on a day where the world is celebrating and posting about honoring this person who ‘has done more for you than anyone in the world” leaves these grievers isolated and alone in their grief.

The Grief Recovery Institute defines grief as: 1) the normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind; 2) the conflicting feelings caused by the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern of behavior; 3) the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to find when you need them again, they are no longer there. I really like this definition because it is all encompassing of what it means to lose a significant relationship or pattern, along with the normative and complicated feelings that arise from that loss. For this article, I would also add to the grief definition, 4) the feeling of losing or experiencing a void due to not having the relationship we want with a person who we feel we’re supposed to have. I’ll describe in detail what these grief patterns look like for many below:

“My mom died and I miss her so much”

For those who are grieving their mother’s death, this day is extremely difficult due to missing her and being able to have her near. A lot of these individuals are struggling with feelings of loss, regret for things they never got to say or do with their mothers. CS Lewis describes it as “Grief feels so like fear.” For many, they grieve and fear for the future without their mothers. Rubina Jetley’s mother died a little over two years ago. She describes her present and future grief as, “This holiday brings about feelings of loss in terms of things that never got to happen. It’s a really hard holiday because you see everyone around you celebrating something that you’ll never be able to celebrate with your mother again. Also, this holiday brings about feelings of loss in terms of things that never got to happen. For example, I will never get an opportunity to be a mother along with my mother. I won’t have her wisdom, guidance and experience; my child will not have a grandmother. There are so many things I wish I could have shared with my mother, but motherhood is the one I think of most often. I have no idea how I’ll do it without her.”

Another woman grieving her mother’s death for the last 6 years describes, “I feel cheated of this day..sure I’m a mother and I am celebrated, but I have no one to celebrate. I love reading all my friend’s posts to their mothers thanking them for being so great and telling them they love them…but of course I also feel slightly envious that they can still celebrate their moms. I will never be able to explain the pain and emptiness I felt when my mom passed.  I seriously felt as if a chunk of my heart/soul was torn out.  Even after 6 yrs although it normally no longer physically hurts I am no longer the person I was prior to her death.  I began to have panic attacks and few months after it all happened.  This was especially disappointing for me since I always felt as if I had a good grip on my emotional state. This reminded me of a prayer Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook wrote in her book Option B where she delineated her grief, “Let me not die while I am still alive.” For many, the pain is so great that they feel as though they are dying.

When the grief is due to death, milestones are also what they grieve. Victoria Pennock describes wondering what her mom would look like today if she was still alive, “what would your face look like with wrinkles, what would your be like, completely white? I wonder, why you left so soon and I can’t even imagine how you would have been as an “old lady.”

Great books on the grief of losing your mother:

 


“My child is dead.”

The organization, “Remembering our Babies, www.october15th.com is focused on creating awareness around the topic of pregnancy and infant loss. They beautifully describe this type of loss as, “You have to deal with the loss of your hopes and dreams, and the loss of your child. This is no easy task. Your child has died. That is the most devastating loss to any parent. You have also lost your dreams for that child.” For many, they struggle with the loss of their own identity and dreams of being a mother to their child. For these mothers, intense feelings of guilt, overwhelming sadness and loss can cloud this day, even if they have other surviving children.

Some books on this grief include:

 

“I’ve miscarried or aborted. I want/miss my baby. I long to be a mother.”

Although social media has made it possible to disseminate a wealth of information regarding miscarriages, many women still suffer in silence about miscarriages to begin with. Mother’s day is hard for a lot of women in this group as they describe their longing to be a mother, have children, and fundamentally, a mother-child bond. Along with suffering in silence, many of these women, continue and cope by celebrating their mothers or mothers in their circles. During these celebrations, they ask for sensitivity and refrain from asking, “when will you be a mother? When will you have kids?” They also want people to understand that they can’t ‘just get over it.’

The idea of Milestones come up for people in the loss of a child category as well. Like many holidays, Mother’s day is not just about celebrations. It’s also considered a milestone for many. People who are grieving the mother-child bond on this day wonder what their child(ren) would have been like today, or how their child(ren) would have been expressing their love on this day given what age they might have been? Would they be getting the macaroni necklace made in preschool?

 

“I struggle with infertility or haven’t had the chance to mother. I plead and pray, “Will I ever be a mother?”

 

Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos wrote a great article focused on experiencing infertility on Mother’s Day https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/article/what-mothers-day-feels-like-during-infertility. She describes grieving not being able to “experience life inside of her [or] create a family with my husband” and being triggered even after accepting her situation.

 

“My mother is alive and I have a difficult relationship with her.”

This is a big one. People also hurt when they have complicated relationship with their mothers due to either experiencing childhood neglect, abuse or any other the barrier that impeded the mother-child bond. This is where that addition to the grief definition comes in: the feeling of losing or experiencing a void due to not having the relationship we want with a person who we feel we’re supposed to have. A key feature and characteristic of humans is our ability to connect and bond. Newborns rely on those bonds as they ensure survival by way of feeding, being cared for and ultimately, being protected on all grounds. Studies on attachment in humans and other mammals (such as our closest DNA cousins, monkeys) have found that attachment is incredibly important as it contributes to how we see ourselves and the world. Deep down, we all want to be loved and connected. I’ve talked to many people who hurt due to not feeling that love, support, and feeling protected by their mothers. A close friend jokes saying there should be a card that says, “I’m still mad at you, and you failed me in a million ways, but it’s Mother’s Day, so here you go.

There are lots of reasons why there is a lack of bonding with parents and children. Some might stem from their own parenting (or lack thereof) they experienced. Untreated mental illness can be a big factor as well, as some of the chemicals essential in bonding might be depleted. Substance use, domestic violence, generational trauma and neglect are also contribute significantly. The level of understanding of these issues can be crucial, however, understanding does not mean that they don’t feel pain or grieve the circumstance. While acceptance of the circumstance is crucial in reducing suffering, it can also be a very hard, arduous and painful journey. Acceptance is much like forgiveness. It takes constant redirection acknowledging your pain, and accepting reality without judgment. Hey, I said it was hard, didn’t I? It’s the single best, yet hardest tool of all to master.

Some people have never met their mothers, have been separated from them due to prison, immigration, or other circumstances. Whiles some had had other significant female figures in their lives, some have not experienced a person who has “done more for you than anyone else in the world.”

This day can be incredibly hard for parents too. “Now that I’m a mother, I grieve even more for the mother I needed and didn’t have. I also realize how hard it is, how incredibly humbling it is, and how much I yearn for being mothered. I see my daughter, feel proud and happy that she feels loved and protected. And then I think about myself at her age and have flashbacks of not being protected, and neglected. Did she not love me how I love my daughter? And then I grieve for that little girl and feel so sad. On Mother’s Day, I go back to feeling like that little girl again.”

The feelings can also be complicated and confusing. “My mom was there for me in many was and I know she loved me – I’ll never deny that. But my mom also knew that my dad was an abuser and [she didn’t stop him when it happened to my sister and I]. She victim-blamed and made excuses [about not leaving him]. I’ve tried really hard to forgive but especially now that I have a child, I just can’t figure out how any mother could turn a blind eye when her child is being hurt. Now my mom has dementia and it’s hard to hold her responsible for things she may or may not remember. But even when she was more cognizant, she never took responsibility or asked for forgiveness. That really hurts; it wounds me in a way I can’t even express. She hurt me so much, but I still love her and still need her.”

I’m so happy for my friends and family who are celebrating their mothers, yet at the same time, I succumb to an overwhelming wave of sadness and shame due to yearning for and missing that fundamental bond between my mother and I. My story is one of experiencing childhood neglect due to trauma, death, neglect, and unacknowledged mental illness.

The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmine Lee Cori is a great resource to understand emotional neglect.

Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas is another amazing book that focuses on toxicity and the author’s own experience with her mother.

The combinations.

As mentioned above, some people get hit with a combination of the above. A great friend of mine describes her combination story and her reasons for grief and how it can be compounded and complicated. “As a child, I was impacted by a mother who wasn’t ready to mother. Because that word…mother is both a noun and a verb. My mother had her own trauma history and difficult relationship with my father and so she gave me to my paternal grandparents to raise when I was three weeks old. This was probably the best decision she could have made but it always impacted our relationship to the point that we do not have one today. My grandmother loved and adored me. I was wanted, cherished, and after my father died, a reminder of her beloved son. We talked to me, sang to me, did her best to guide me and instill religious and cultural values, and told me stories of my father so I would not forget the man I barely knew. One day my mother came and took me for a visit and never took me back. My mother took me from MY MOTHER. Thus began a difficult and abusive relationship and a complicated love with someone who was painfully learning to parent an eight year old grieving for the loss of the life she had. We never got over our late start. When I was almost eighteen, I left her home and made my own and went back to weekly visits with my grandmother and helped care for her until she died. I was 23. I didn’t have enough time with her. My children have helped heal some of the wounds I have from childhood and I have been able to redefine motherhood for myself. I have been the kind of mother I have always wanted but still I struggle during anniversaries and reminders. Wounds get opened during different life events in which most people want their mothers and grandmothers… the birth of your own children, religious sacraments, and the times where most children have grandparents present…my children didn’t have one.

“I have a complicated relationship with my children and I am not celebrated.”

My hope in this article was not to bash the mothers whose children yearn for a stronger connection. With that being said, as discussed in the section above, there might be several reasons for the lack of relationship between mother and child. Just like parents can experience untreated mental illness, substance abuse, trauma and other life altering events, so do children, which can make a parent’s grief equally great. Mothers who I’ve talked to about this pain acknowledge that this grief is a consequence of their regrettable actions such as not receiving help for whatever was going on with them and that might have created a barrier for the attachment or relationship with their child. Almost all of the parents I’ve worked with have described immense pain when they realize the impact of their choices, consequences of generational trauma, or the effects of their own childhood experiences. A professor of mine talked about the “ghosts in the nursery” and how we always carry our ancestors with us and through our parenting. One person shares, “I didn’t know how to mother because my mom died when I was 12 years old. She wasn’t affectionate with me because she was so sick all the time. After she died, I tried searching for connections and love. All the men I was with were no good. I just wanted to be loved. They hurt me and my children. I didn’t know how to protect them or myself. No one taught me. I am suffering the consequences of my actions.” This mother is also a part of that grief and trauma cycle.

 

What emotions are you honoring by grieving?

Emotions are important. They are akin to an internal GPS, signaling threat, danger, justice and rewards. Thinking about emotions like this helped me see and understand challenging behaviors and emotions in myself and others. I wonder, what is the GPS honoring? Where is it trying to get to with this emotion? I usually find that there’s more than one emotion, or destination that’s being honored. In my conversations with people who grieve on this day, I found that their grief was honoring 1) the immense love and respect they had for their mothers, 2) the yearning for the mother-child connection and bond, 3) the need to feel protected and secure by their mothers, and/or the need to protect as mothers. If we think about it as a two sided coin, we see that the value and weight of the grief is measured by the value of the love or yearning. Immense love will produce immense grief when that person or connection is gone.

When you are feeling lonely, you are honoring connection and love.

When you are feeling anger, you are honoring fairness, justice, freedom

When you are feeling scared, you are honoring feeling protected and secure

When you are feeling sadness and loss, you are honoring having, a sense of happiness, connection, love.

Simple things loved ones can do or remember on this day to help with coping:

It can be hard to support someone, when you don’t know how or don’t fully understand their pain. Some of these suggestions are direct quotes from those who helped me write this article, others are recommendations based on what I’ve heard from people, validation and coping research over the years.

  • The short answer, is to just ask them what they need from you. For the grievers, this means you have to do your part and let them know what you need.
  • Ask, “how are you TODAY?” I recently started reading “Option B” by Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook. The book is about uncovering strengths and the ability to bounce back after a loved one’s grief. She described the roller coaster of emotions that she went through and how family and friends also had difficulty in knowing how to relate to her or help her after her husband’s death. She felt that the best way of asking checking in on someone who is grieving, while honoring their roller coaster of pain is by asking, “how are you today?” She explains that this is the best way to validate that someone is doing the best they can in this moment.
  • “I would love for [them] to let me have quiet time to process and not have to be “on.”
  • “I want people to know and understand that the grief never goes away; there’s no “getting over it,” or “moving on” or anything of the like. I’ll experience it forever in one way or another.
  • Don’t be surprised if I’m teary, angry, minimally motivated, etc. Sometimes I just need to feel the pain, and distracting myself only leads to the same feelings cropping up later. Let me grieve, and help me by reminding me that it’s ok to feel these emotions, no matter how uncomfortable they are for me or others around me. I appreciate when others do things to try and make me feel better, but sometimes I just want someone to sit with me and acknowledge that I’m in a lot of pain, rather than try to redirect me to something else.
  • “Celebrate me even though I’m not a mom, and acknowledge that I’m a mother-figure to those I mother.”
  • “Netflix and chill with good food. Take out is best since I don’t want to go to a crowded restaurant and witness all those mother-child bonds.”
  • If you notice that I’ve deactivated my Facebook account, don’t make a big deal out of it. You can still text me and let me know you’re thinking about me.
  • “Just sit with me and allow me to feel my emotions. I’m not afraid of them, I just need to feel them.”
  • Just say, “I’m sorry. I know you’re in pain. I love you. I see you.”
  • “Simply hug me and understand that Mother’s Day isn’t a day to provide gifts and flowers, but one to be grateful for being a mom and/or for having one.”
  • “Keep inviting me to celebrations but be patient and respectful of my response. One year I might be willing to celebrate, while another year might be difficult for me.”
  • “Just sit with me. You don’t have to say anything. Just being there next to me helps.”
  • “Don’t tell me what I should be grateful for. I’m grateful for many things, and I can still grieve.”
  • No one type of grief is more hardcore, sad, or tragic than the other. They’re just different and significant for the griever. Please don’t ever tell someone that you wish you still had your mother around to be mad at, or even to forgive. This is incredibly invalidating to the griever whose mother is not dead, but still grieving a lost relationship.
  • Never tell someone who has lost their mother that it was “her time to go and in a better place.” The griever begs to differ daily and is not comforted by these words.
  • You don’t need to alter your own celebrations or honoring of your mothers or important mothers in your life. Every person I spoke to talked about being able to feel so much joy and happiness for family and friends celebrating.
  • Consider that they might be feeling a little envious of close and physical mother-child bonds on this day. That’s because they are honoring connection and bonding – a perfectly normal human trait.
  • Give them their space if they request it. Paradoxically, it might give them the space and time to feel their feelings and realize a few minutes/hours later that they are ready to cope by seeking out that connection in you, since their GPS just informed them that it’s safe to proceed to their intended destination: comfort.
  • Remember that progress and healing is not linear. There may be good days and bad days. It’s hard to know when there will be a trigger. “It feels like a chunk of my heart/soul is missing.” “I am not the same since death.” “Grief never goes away.” It transforms, but it never goes away.
  • My grief might be dependent on all the others things that are happening this year. Last might have been a great year for me, but this year with added stress and circumstances it may be harder for me to cope with the grief.
  • We all grieve differently.
  • Even though I might be in grieving in pain, know that I’m happy for you and for loved ones who are celebrating on this day. I may also be envious, but only because I long to do the same things as you, or feel love like you do. I’m not mad at you. I’m simply grieving my loss.
  • Remember that there are different types of grieving on this day.

My commitments to me, my coping and my grief.

Action Items:

Sometimes when people feel stuck in their grief, it’s usually due to the GPS being off balance and not knowing where it’s headed anymore. Committing to destination or a value of yours can be extremely helpful through the grief. I asked grievers what they commit to doing to continue to honor their grief and their healing process.

“Continue with my mental health treatment.

“Continue to make her proud by being a go-getter, good mom and giving person. Every time I perform an act of kindness I feel her presence and her being proud of me. I hope to raise my daughter to become a strong and independent woman, but most importantly, a happy one.”

“I’ll continue with my mental health treatment, and maintain my strong connections with my loved ones. I’ll keep working hard to achieve new goals and have new experiences, because I know that’s what mom would want. Most importantly, I will try to keep riding out the grief; I’ll allow myself to feel it and make a conscious effort not to shame myself for feeling weak sometimes.”

Victoria Pennock shares a lovely letter to her mother 4 years after her passing (translated from Spanish), “When I fall, I [will] pick myself up. I miss you, I need you, and I will continue to make an effort to learn how to live like this, healing in every possible way by way of my gains and also make an effort to be a better mom than yesterday, better person, and also a better professional [in my field].

“My commitment is to stop trying so hard to be strong and not to cry, to let myself feel my grief and not to try to hide it or suppress it. To acknowledge that what happened is not my fault, that it’s ok to still love my mom even though my anger and grief, and that I am a good mother in spite of everything. And to love those who are experiencing pain on this day, even if it’s not the same as mine.

“Mother’s Day is a day of reflection of the complicated love of being a mother, missing a mother, and being a peace for those who have mothered you in the course of your life. Some years I go to a baseball game with my comadre. Other years I have stayed in bed with my favorite movies and snacks. When my heart is good, I go out and celebrate the other mother’s in my life…but I respect whatever my heart tells me I need for that day. This year, I get to celebrate my daughter’s first mother’s day and my heart will be good.”

Ideas for coping:

Healthy Connection. “I surround myself with positive energy. Luckily I am blessed with strong women in my life that are always there when I most need them. I also spoke about the pain every chance I had.”

Therapy. “Ongoing therapy has been helpful, as well as identifying people who have experienced a similar loss. I participated in a year-long grief group, which was immensely helpful, and I was able to make some strong emotion and spiritual connections, which I’m so grateful for.”

“I’ve had years of therapy that have helped me ease the guilt I carried for not trying enough or being the ‘bigger person’ of trying to mend things, and [letting go of resentment].”

Healthy boundaries. Just because I understand the reasons for their lack of attachment or bond with me, doesn’t mean I have to enable her problematic behaviors. Implement healthy boundaries when I start to feel abused by my mother again. Healthy boundaries are a form of self-care and self-love.

Values. Act according to my values and the emotions I am trying to honor. This can mean, honoring connection and safety, therefore, engage in any activity that represents that for you. One person I spoke with decided to still give her mother a Mother’s Day card even though she was still angry with her because she said that it would allow her to honor connection and kindness — which are all important values for her. Others might choose safety and decide to stay away from their mothers. For those grieving death, they might want to honor love and connection and memorialize their deceased mothers or children — in bed alone, or with others at their graveside.

Acceptance. Focus on the present moment and accept reality the way it is right now. Acknowledge your pain. Honor the emotions. Honor wanting that love and connection. Mother yourself in a way that you loved being mothered or would have loved being mothered. Reach out to mother-figures in your life who accept you and nurture you in ways you need and want.

Meditation. Meditation is a helpful tool for understanding and managing challenging emotions associated with grief. The following grief meditation by Jack Kornfield is a great way to get started, get to know and honor your grief. https://jackkornfield.com/meditation-grief/ 

Gratitude. As annoying as it might be for people to mention gratitude when you’re in pain, studies actually show that engaging in gratitude exercises can be beneficial. I remember Oprah talking about how her gratitude journal was her saving grace many times. On this day, as you may be searching for answers or meaning, consider identifying things that are helpful and true reasons to be grateful for. This isn’t meant to invalidate your pain, but rather to move us away from a tunnel vision that’s only focused on the grief. Those who I spoke with about their deceased mothers expressed gratitude over having a great mother-child bond. They were able to acknowledge strengths in their mothers that they were starting to see in themselves. Others talked about the strong female figures in their lives, despite not having their mothers or relationships with their mothers. Those who were mothers were grateful for having an opportunity to mother. Those who didn’t have children talked about mothering others like pets, friends, and family members. Some were able to focus and acknowledge some form of love their mothers or children did express (even if they didn’t have the mother-child bond they yearned for). Others acknowledged their resilience throughout it all.

Self-compassion: Many people carry around shame, guilt, blame or thoughts related to being punished for something they did. It’s important to build self-compassion. We are our own worse critics. Would you be saying these things to a friend going through the same thing? Regardless of your transgressions, try saying this to your newborn self, child self, teen self, young adult self, and now: “May you be well. May you be free from suffering. May you find ways to heal. May you be happy.” All those ‘selves’ need that compassion and well intentions.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote a Facebook post about her processing her grief, 30 days after her husband died. This quote represents acknowledging your emotions and committing to the future. “I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”

My wish for you all today reading is that you always choose life, healthy connections, meaning and healing.

*Special thank you to all the people who contributed and helped spread awareness of this difficult and complicated topic.

Resources:

If you feel triggered by this article and are in need of some immediate resources, I urge you to contact:

  • Call 911 or go to your nearest ER if you feel you a danger to yourself or others
  • 211 – in LA County it’s the social service directory for grief groups, therapy resources, housing, and more. It’s also online, google, “211”
  • Call the LA County Access hotline for a psychiatric evaluation wherever you are located. The ACCESS/HOTLINE Phone number is : 1-800-854-7771. ACCESS operates 24 hours/day, 7 days/week as the entry point for mental health services in Los Angeles County.
  • Email me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com if you’d like to inquire about an appointment with me in the Long Beach area. I can also help connect you to other therapists if you live elsewhere.
  • If you would like to access your insurance mental health benefits, there should be a Member Phone number on the back of your insurance card. Ask them for their list of approved therapists. They can also email it to you, making it easy to cross reference the list on www.psychologytoday.com where you can check their profiles out.

Thank you for reading. Follow me on Instagram under @mendingrootstherapy to get updates about new articles, quotes and other musings on mental health.

*Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You should also know that I stand by my recommendations as I read or use everything I recommend. The fees earned from Amazon.com go toward purchasing more books and materials used in my practice. 

*Disclosure: These recommendations are not meant to replace professional help. Please seek professional mental health services to further understand your problems, symptoms, and situation.

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Mindfulness for Kids (and Parents)

The topic and practice of mindfulness has made its way into all healthy living circles, including kids and parents. And frankly, it makes me happy. I first learned about it as a therapist trainee and thought it was best thing since sliced bread (I lie, I thought it was the best thing since grilled cheese, I’m a big fan of grilled cheese).  There are many definitions of mindfulness. I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s the best. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Model creator says, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” Engaging in mindfulness exercises has a host of benefits, such as improving coping, emotion regulation, anger management, and reduction in mental health symptoms.

Are you wondering how simply paying attention to the present moment, can help parents and kids? Don’t worry, I was a skeptic too. Studies show that the consistent practice of intentionally paying attention non-judgmentally (simply replacing judgment with facts or removing labels such as bad/good) helps us with the way we perceive things, allows us to accept reality in the present moment, increase emotion regulation and most importantly, differentiate ourselves between our thoughts, feelings and our actual being. In short, we are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. They’re simply an experience we’re having in the present moment. Everyone can relate to this regardless of age.

So how do we teach kids to be mindful? First of all, babies are the experts of being mindful. They have what’s called “beginner’s mind” where they actually use their observe skills more than anyone. They use their senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) to navigate and learn about the world. In mindfulness, we’re striving to use those skills from that beginner’s mind. Through the years, language, judgment and distractibility, we’ve seemed to have strayed away from, but can learn to bring back and use them to cope with daily challenges.

Here are 5 different ways in which mindfulness can help and tips on how to practice them for ourselves and the kiddos. (Some links might be amazon affiliate links where I earn a commission for purchases made. Read my full disclaimer at the bottom of this post.)

  1. Mindfulness of emotion can help with observing, identifying and managing difficult emotions. I just recently came across this awesome book, “I can handle it” by MS Laurie Wright that focuses on a boy who experiences lots of disappointment and other challenging emotions. He labels his emotions and comes up with different ways to tolerate and cope with the feelings. Being able to observe ones emotions is key in mindfulness and any healing practice. We can’t understand and emotion if we don’t know which one it is! I like this book because it teaches kids that it’s ok to have feelings, it’s how we manage it that matters. This book has lot of great and silly examples that my almost 4 year old loved. When my daughter shares an emotion with me, I’ve started to ask her, “where do you feel it in your body?” We’ve turned it into a game with curious nature about these “funny body sensations” we all have.2. Mindfulness of Breathing is another common practice in mindfulness as it helps the person anchor on a physical sensation. Since we’re always breathing, that’s perfect to chime in to and when we drift our attention to other this (super common, by the way), we always have our breathing to anchor us back into the practice of focusing on one thing in the present moment. Our breathing can tell us a lot about what’s going on in the moment. The more we can focus on our breathing, slowing it down and into our belly, the more we will notice the intensity of the emotion changing. I love this video of students of Citizens of the World Charter School, in Mar Vista, CA. It’s a great visual of the practice of mindful breathing to cope with emotions. One can’t help but breathe when watching these kiddos. I love how they talk about emotions and their triggers too. It’s a great way to validate their emotions.

3. Belly (Deep) Breathing is another wonderful skill that helps with mindfulness and relaxation. My favorite way to teach kids how to take deep breaths is by engaging them blowing bubbles. First, I have them blow bubbles regularly. You know they are breathing into their chest when it’s hard for them to form bubbles. Many times, I have to teach them to slow down. Then I have them breathing into their belly so they can make a big bubble. The bigger the bubble, the more they have to slow down and engage their diaphragm (which is linked to slowing down heart rate). Sesame Street has a great video where Elmo, Common and Colbie Caillat sing about using belly breathing to manage anger. It’s another video I have on my mindfulness playlist for kids. 

4. Compassion practice is essential to manage judgments toward self and others.  A lot of challenging thoughts and feelings are related to unworthiness, unlovability, excessive guilt and judgments. Kids experience these thoughts and feelings too. I love the Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime series by Dharmachari Nagaraja because it has stories that focus on compassion, kindness and using their internal wisdom. Stories also help with concentration, paying attention to details, and a great way to help calm down before bedtime.

I wish you more by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a great book on wishing loved one  “more” positive than challenging moments. A lot of times, we don’t know how to help others when they’re struggling and unintentionally resort to withdrawing from loved ones when they need us to just be compassionate. This is a great way to introduce well wishes for kids who might have people in their lives going through tough times and even for us adults to remind us that although we can’t change or fix the problems in our loved ones’ lives, we can definitely use compassion-based thoughts and wishes.

 

5. Gratitude practice is a great way to focus on the positive that’s happening in the present moment. Whether it’s food, shelter, or togetherness, are all strengths that we can acknowledge and be thankful for. In no way is this meant to trivialize or invalidate ongoing struggles, it’s a practice that can help focus on the silver linings in our lives. Modeling is the best way for kids to learn gratitude practice, so simply sharing with your kiddo what you’re grateful for can open up the space for them to do it too. Doing it before bedtime can help with calming anxieties and promoting sleep.

6. Practicing being in the present moment with anything!  Mindfulness is like a muscle we’re building. The more we exercise it, the stronger the muscle will be. Mindfulness is about using full awareness using our sense: sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste in the present moment. You can do it by simply observing flavors, smelling scents, focusing on the different colors around you, counting, drawing just to draw, and as you notice distractions or judgments, just notice them and come back to the task or present moment. Having kids describe what they see in nature, while on the road, or even what they see in the sky can be help them stay present in the moment with what’s around them.

Sitting Still Like a Frog is one of my favorite mindfulness resources. It comes with a CD (yes, I still use CDs). I use many of the creative exercises in the book, but mainly the guided mindfulness exercises on the CD. Even my adult clients love the exercises I play for them before starting session. It’s a wonderful way to start or end the day, task or moment. In one of my therapy consultation teams, we start with a different mindfulness exercise and I really helps provide clarity, and set the tone of intentional attention for the meeting. I encourage you all to do the same.

7. Videos. Youtube Playlist. You can make a youtube playlist of your favorite guided videos to encourage guided visual mindfulness practice. Here are some of my favorite videos on my mindfulness playlist (these are actually from my daughter’s “Bedtime” playlist).

8. Apps. Maureen Healy wrote a wonderful article on Psychology Today about 5 different apps you can use to encourage mindfulness in kids.

I could go on and on about this topic as it’s very near and dear to my heart. This is not an exhaustive list and I hope to keep writing about it. Just remember, as long as you’re can practice intentionally bringing your attention back you’ve succeeded! Keep building that muscle and it will get easier with time. What are your and your kiddos’ favorite mindfulness practices?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

“I’m not bad…”

15 Statements to Convince Yourself to Self-Care: A love letter to all parents

A Mental Health Gift Guide to Inspire Healing

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You should also know that I stand by my recommendations as I read or use everything I recommend. The fees earned from Amazon.com go toward purchasing more books and materials used in my practice. 

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15 Statements to Convince Yourself to Self-Care: A love letter to all parents

 

“What to say” Series:

Last week I wrote a blog post on 20 easy 5-minute self-care ideas for parents. Today, I continue the conversation in the guest post, “15 Statements to Convince Yourself to Self-Care: A love letter to all Parents” on The Productive Parent website. I provide 15 statements and quotes that parents can say to themselves when our guilt, shame or other unpleasant emotions get in the way of taking care for ourselves. I practice saying those statements to myself on a daily basis when I notice feeling overwhelmed and just not feeling well as I attempt to juggle all my roles.

Many parents are notorious for putting their needs last, and these 15 statements help to remind us of focusing on our well-being for our children and to model self-care for them too.

Since I don’t want to mislead you, I’ll continue the list and add 16 – 30 self-care quotes here.

16. You can’t collect water from an empty well.

17. Self-care allows me to reduce my stress little by little.

18. Self-care will help me calm down.

19. I make the wisest decisions when I’m calm.

20. A car stops running when it’s out of gas.

21. If I don’t take care of myself now, I run the risk of becoming sick later.

22. My children need to see me being good to myself.

23. Self-care = self-compassion.

24. I deserve care and compassion, just like my children do.

25. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield

26. Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. – Etty Hillesum

27. “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect others to be good to me?” – Maya Angelou

28. “Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring because I don’t do things your way. I care about me too.” ― Christine Morgan

29. “When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”– Jean Shinoda Bolen

30.If you want to do your best for future generations of humanity, for your friends and family, you must begin by taking good care of yourself.”― Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

I’m curious to know, what are your favorite self-care quotes? I’d love to make a list of 100 self-care statements for everyone to reference.

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How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself

 

How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself

Sofia Mendoza, LCSW

Have you ever felt guilty or even selfish for indulging in some down time while your littles are in daycare, with grandparents or friends? If you have, you’re not alone. Every time I ask a parent about how they self-care, there’s a hesitation, then a laugh, and then a “well….” In my experience, not only is it hard for parents to talk about how they self-care, but for many, it brings up a lot of guilt about being selfish for doing pleasurable things for themselves without their kids. The good news is that for you to be the parent you want to be, who’s fun to be around, consistent in your discipline and loving, and present you must practice self-care daily. Self-care nourishes us, it helps ward off stress and illness, and it helps to clear our mind. If you’re like most parents I know, you’re probably feeling all kinds of depleted and in survival mode.

Flight attendants know this well and they remind us that in the event of an emergency aboard, to ensure that we put on our own oxygen mask on before helping others or children. I like to remind myself that I can’t pour from an empty cup. Audrey Lorde, a mother, warrior, civil rights activist and poet, describes the need for self-care as “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is crucial as we’re at the intersection of all our roles, responsibilities, and our own (unfair) expectations for ourselves.

Before you start engaging in self-care, start with changing the way your think about self-care. If you have thoughts that self-care is selfish, try swapping it for “self(care)ish.” I think it’s important to acknowledge when “selfish” comes up and I’m not asking you to abandon it, simply swap it. You can also try hashtagging or swapping it for the phrase #meforwe. You’re taking care of yourself now, for the benefit of your important “we” later.

Finding the time or money can be a barrier for self-care, that’s why I asked family, friends, and clients about their favorite 5-minute crucial self-care ideas. The response was great and we all agreed that these 5-minutes of self-care would not solve our biggest problems, but they definitely contribute to having a clear mind to be able to tackle the big ticket-heavy duty problems throughout our day.

Take a look at these easy and (mostly) free 20 5-minute Self-Care Ideas that anyone can do to help fill up their cup:

  1. A 5 minute bathroom break alone.
  2. Drinking your morning coffee/tea warm and alone before the children wake up (extra points if you sit down or put your feet up).
  3. Set out a few outfits at night so that you’re not scrambling in the AM.
  4. Sitting in the car and closing your eyes for 5 minutes.
  5. Put on your favorite dancing song and go at it.
  6. Singing or listening to THE song. The one that provides you with clarity, good memories, energy.
  7. Looking through pictures of your loved ones.
  8. Calling a friend who makes you laugh and “gets you.” You might say to them, “I need you to make me laugh right now. I only have 5 minutes.”
  9. Gratitude journaling. Take stock of the good in your life and write it down.
  10. Belly breathing. Good quality breathing is great for managing anxiety and resetting the system.
  11. I’m a big fan of 5 minutes of skimming or even reading bits of an article or book.
  12. Listening to books on tape or audible. A friend of mine loves listening to podcasts or Ted Talks on youtube. This can be done while driving, washing dishes, or even making dinner.
  13. You can color with your children or take it a step further and use an adult coloring book.
  14. Come up with a term of endearment for yourself. “My dear;” “My love;” “Amorcito;”
  15. See free apps like Headspace, Mindfulness, Simple Habit Meditation, Relax Meditation, Calm Meditation, 5 minute escapes – Guided Meditations.
  16. Drinking water – it’s important to stay hydrated.
  17. Taking medications, vitamins or supplements. After taking my emergenC, I usually feel like a champ and every time I get sick, I realize I haven’t been keeping up with my vitamin regimen.
  18. Self-compassion. It’s incredibly important and can sound like this:
    • Replace “selfish” with “self(care)ish to remind yourself that you need some you time to be well for everyone else
    • Tell yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that’s why you are choosing to be kind to yourself
    • You’re doing the best you can right now
    • Parenting is hard. My love [or whichever term of endearment you came up with], you’re doing a very hard thing right now. Be easy on yourself.
    • It’s ok to feel [insert emotion]. My dear, you’ve been through a lot
  19. Watch funny or heartwarming videos (the ones with the dressed-up dogs or baby hedgehogs)
  20. Engage any of your five senses and observe (taste, touch, smell, see, hear)

I had a really hard time limiting this list to 20 self-care activities. I bet there are lots of things you all are already doing. Feel free to share your favorite ideas in the comments. My goal is to provide a 100-idea list in the future.

Coming up with self-care ideas can be hard, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, depression or anxiety. Remind yourself to get help if you need it. Therapy can be a great way for you to be able to self-care, be kind to yourself, and focus on your well-being. You deserve it. You are the most important person in your child’s life.

 

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10 Important Parenting Tips to Help Children Comply

Parenting is both hard and rewarding at the same time. The hardest parts are when our children aren’t complying, we don’t know why and nothing we’ve tried works. In my last article, I identified different reasons children might not comply. As promised, I put together this list of the top 10 important parenting survival tips that I reference all the time and share with my clients. They’ve truly helped my clients and I navigate parenthood.

  1. Connection. I decided to put connection at the top of the list because it’s the most important in nurturing the relationship with our children and preventing behavior problems. We humans evolved because of our social bonds in our clans, tribes, and households. A strong connection can be considered the foundation of well-built home, designed to weather the toughest of storms and natural disasters. Children need to a good foundation mixed with equal part of of warmth, hugs, love, laughter, safety, structure, and discipline. This means, plenty of hugs, play, conversations, understanding, and giving our children our undivided attention. In PCIT, parents are instructed to spend 5 full minutes a day (more if available) engaging in Special Play Time where the focus is on engaging in child directed play. This means you following their lead even if it means them calling a blue truck a pink dinosaur. No criticism, no teaching, no correcting. This helps children feel special and loved. Connection earns us money in the bank, making it easier for them to comply down the road, while also rewarding us parents with the much needed bonding we need from them too.
  2. Ask yourself, “what are they trying to tell me?” I read a parenting article the other day that encouraged parents to ask their children, “What are you trying to tell me right now?” during a tantrum. Children are determined to get their caregiver’s attention in positive or negative ways. It’ll all depend on which type of behavior has been reinforced. My 3 year old both noticed that I was more receptive to giving her attention during cooking if she shouted, “Ouchie, I fell!” than “Mommy, come play with me.” When she doesn’t comply with playtime clean up, she’s telling me that she doesn’t want special play time to end. Some children have sensory issues with certain clothing textures, water, tastes (like the ones who genetically, taste soap when they eat cilantro!).
  3. Addressing vulnerabilities is crucial to help regulate emotions for everyone, regardless of age. Mood is a big contributor to non-compliance in children, and stress level for the parent. When we’re hungry, tired, sleep deprived, and sick we’ll be irritable at best, and suffering at worse. One of my favorite Emotion Regulation Skills has the PLEASE acronym. They are both basic and live saving in parenting (and life in general). It stands for:
    • Physical illness – treat physical illness for both child and parent. When we feel better, we act better. Take prescribed medications. Get medical check ups for yourself and your child. You might be seeing that irritability and/or non-compliance can be related to a medical issue (i.e. hearing issues, developmental delays, ear infections, low energy).
    • Lead with healthy behaviors (P and L were originally under physical illnessness). Modeling to children healthy behaviors is also important. They will take deep breaths when they’re upset if they see you do it. Likewise, seeing you follow rules and respond in a calm way, will show them what you expect of them.
    • Eating – balanced meals is important for you as well as your children. Poor eating habits can bring on tummy-aches and general unhappiness. Hangry is the very real combo of being hungry and angry. Snickers displays this concept where once the monster has it’s snack, they turn back into a human. When we don’t eat well, we may not have the energy to engage or even comply. Full disclosure: I’ve apologized several times for my behavior when hangry too.
    • Avoid mood altering substances – in children this might be sugar, certain foods, electronic devices, anything that might overstimulate the child. This reminds me of an episode on Orange is the New Black when there is a flashback to Pensatucky when she is given soda before a behavioral assessment. Studies have also shown the impact of too much screen time close to bedtime, impacting sleep cycles.
    • Sleep is of major contributor to challenges with mood for children and adults, alike. Think back to your or your child’s most sleep deprived moments and what the behavior was like. My daughter goes from goofy, to delirious, to combative as the evening progresses. On a day when I’ve gotten enough sleep and a good meal, I might have the reserve to deal with it. When I’m tired too, it sounds like World War III in my house.
    • Exercise helps produce the feel-good chemicals in our brain. It also helps to tire us out so that we sleep better. For children with a surplus of energy, exercise will be crucial. Bonus: engage them in a team sport and there are so many benefits such as, following rules, sportsmanship, and structure.
  4. Specific Praise. Catch them while they’re complying throughout the day and praise the specific positive behavior. It lets them know that you’re paying attention, it helps you describe the specific positive behavior you like and want to continue seeing in them. Examples include, “thank you for listening right away”; “Thank you for helping me. You’re such a good helper.”; “Thank you for using gentle hands”; “I really like how you get in your carseat right away”; “Nice job eating all your fruit. You’re so healthy!”; “Great job sharing your toys. You’re such a good friend.” Labeled praise is a win-win skill. The parent feels good about praising the good and the child’s self esteem goes up knowing that they did something well.
  5. Label and Validate Emotions.  The best way for children to understand what they’re feeling is for those around them to help them label their emotions. Otherwise, they grow up not knowing what they’re feeling and why. Help your children label their emotions by stating the obvious (to us), “You’re really mad that playtime is over,” “You’re really angry that you can’t have candy at 8pm,” or “You’re sad that mommy has to leave for work.” This shows your child that 1) you are paying attention, 2) you understand their emotion, 3) their emotion makes sense given the situation. Sometimes this is all that’s needed for them to feel heard and paradoxically, can calm them down since they won’t need to keep crying or engaging in the behavior to show you. Secret: This works for adults too!  If you notice that your child might be responding to a flashback or bad memory, you can validate and say, “you’re having memories of the [insert scary event] and you’re feeling scared. You’re safe right now.” (This also works for adults)
  6. Give specific instructions. Here it’s important to break tasks down for children and tell them exactly what you want to see them do. These are statements, not questions. For example, instead of “can you go get ready?” say, “please go put your shoes on.” You’re probably shaking your head because your first instruction is very calm, but when you get to the 7th time repeating it you’re reached the edge of your patience. Oh wait, is that just me? See the next strategy for this.
  7. Use When/Then Statements. This skill helps children know what you will hold them to. Catch here is that you need to be consistent so they can learn to know what to expect from you each time you say it. Examples can be: “When you finish the food on your plate, then you can have dessert;” “When you get all 4 stickers on your chart, then you can use the iPad for 10 minutes;” “When you get in the carseat, then I can put your favorite song on (Moana’s “You’re Welcome” – if you must know what ours is);” “When you get in the shower, then I can bring you the bath toys;” “When you finish your chores, then I’ll give you the wifi password (a favorite for the teens).
  8. Pick your battles/Ignore – ignore what’s ignorable such as whining, making silly voices, sighs, annoying behaviors that aren’t too serious or involve safety issues.
  9. “Own your stuff.” Here we have an opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves, “What am I doing that contributes to my child’s behavior?” I’ll raise my hand and share first. Sometimes I respond to a text or two (or 5) during dinner time and my attention drifts away from my daughter. Dinner time is our first reunion from being at work all day. To get my attention, she does something she’s not supposed to at the dinner table. I get it. She’s looking for ways of getting my attention: connection. That’s my bad. When I remember, I put my phone face down and turn the ringer off. I’ve started adding a bath time alarm too so that it doesn’t get too late and it keeps me on track, in terms of schedule.
  10. Self-care is incredibly important for parents. When we take care of ourselves, it allows us to be there for others like our children. It’s the idea taken from the pre-flight safety tips where they tell you to “put your own oxygen mask on, before helping others.” We need to be ok if we want our kids to be ok. If you’re wondering how a bubble bath is going to solve your child’s behavior problem, it won’t. However, it will give you moments of relaxation so that you can develop clarity and reflection so that you can reduce your own vulnerabilities. Self- care here can mean, 1) a long bathroom break, 2) having your A.M. coffee still warm and in silence, 3) saying NO to overcommitting, 4) staying an extra few minutes in bed, 5) cashing in on all those folks who offered to babysit for you, 6) getting with your “tribe” or “your people” who get it and will let you vent (bonus, if they will also babysit for you). Stay tuned for a future post on Self-Care.

Lastly, remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can in this moment. This is another favorite ism of mine that I tell all my clients. Parenting is a lot of work. Some days, moments, children, situations are harder than others. Reflect on this moment so that you can do better in the next. Like Oprah says, “when you know better, you do better.” Reflection helps us do better. So go and do anything that helps you reflect. I absolutely love working with parents. I offer parenting consultations on an as needed basis.

Resources:

If you feel triggered by this article and are in need of some immediate resources, I urge you to contact:

  • 911 or go to your nearest ER if you feel you a danger to yourself or others
  • 211 – in LA County it’s the social service directory for grief groups, therapy resources, housing, and more. It’s also online, google, “211”
  • LA County Access hotline for a psychiatric evaluation wherever you are located. The ACCESS/HOTLINE Phone number is : 1-800-854-7771. ACCESS operates 24 hours/day, 7 days/week as the entry point for mental health services in Los Angeles County.
  • Email me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com if you’d like to inquire about an appointment with me in the Long Beach area. I can also help connect you to other therapists if you live elsewhere.
  • If you would like to access your insurance mental health benefits, there should be a Member Phone number on the back of your insurance card. Ask them for their list of approved therapists. They can also email it to you, making it easy to cross reference the list on www.psychologytoday.com where you can check their profiles out.

Thank you for reading. Follow me on Instagram under @mendingrootstherapy to get updates about new articles, quotes and other musings on mental health.

Therapy Models referenced:

DBT – Dialectical Behavior Therapy

PCIT – Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

TFCBT – Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

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“I’m not bad…”

Ever want to shout out at a naughty child, “Stop it, you’re being BAD?” You are definitely not alone. Parenting, caregiving, teaching children requires lots of patience and skill especially when they are not complying.

Growing up, I knew a lot of kids who heard this from teachers, siblings, and well-meaning neighbors. These kids didn’t listen, were very hyperactive, and above all, mischievous. I didn’t like some of them. I was friends with some. Later, I would come to find out that kids aren’t bad, they just engage in behaviors that are either not expected, liked, or accepted for the situation.

Which is why when one of my daughter’s first words were, “bad! bad!” I cringed and as I was trying to tolerate the shame of having my daughter say this (and with conviction), I of course, yelled at my husband. You see, in her first year of life, my husband would constantly tell our chihuahua, Millie that she was “bad! bad!” when she would bark at strangers, family members, the baby, nothing, or a knock on tv (she’s just protective!). My family would laugh at me when I would say, “Millie’s not bad, she just makes poor choices.” Yes, these are the conversations in the home of a therapist. My point was that Millie was responding to her internal alarm, her “flight and fight” response telling her to protect us and the home. And while she has a lot to learn about life and real and perceived danger, we as her parents need to train her to do better, instead of making her feel as though she’s bad. Every time I hear someone say “bad person” it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. Mainly because I know how much people suffer when they believe it about themselves.

In my work, the “I’m a bad person” core belief comes up quite frequently. A lot of people believe they are inherently BAD. When we examine this belief and its history on their life, we find that the message (or “seed” as I like to refer to it as), “You’re bad” was planted back in childhood. It might have been an innocent, non-ill intentioned experience, and it kept being reinforced through time and other experiences. I tell my clients that these reinforced experiences are like oxygen, water and sunlight… all the things that a core belief and “tree” needs to grow and thrive. Then people start to believe the message and can develop assumptions about themselves and act accordingly. Two extremes can be: 1) continue to act that belief out, ex: “Since I’m bad and everyone knows it, I will continue to do bad things.” and/or ; 2) do everything possible to combat this belief or “inherent trait”, ex: “I have to go above and beyond to do nice things so that no one catches on and sees that I’m actually really a bad person.” Such behaviors can cause people to suffer and ultimately, behave in ways that are opposite to their values or goals.

Now that my daughter is 3.5 years old, I see her personality flourishing, how she developmentally appropriately pushes boundaries (and bedtime, and more snacks, or juice after brushing teeth, or stalling to clean up toys and on and on), and asserts her independence (no, I do it!),  and how she is also starting to hold on to certain beliefs about herself and even others, like Millie = bad. It won’t be before long that an experience plants a seed about how her behavior is a direct reflection of something or someone she inherently is, even though it really isn’t.

And so this post is for her, for me, for you and your children. Let this image be a reminder that kids aren’t bad, they’re just:

Hungry. Tired. Bored. Overly Stimulated. Super excited. Frustrated. Delirious. Loopy. Sad. Having bad memories (trauma reactions look a lot like hyperactivity in kids – more on this in a later post). Legitimately not listening to you or the directions.

Sure it frustrates the hell out of us parents or caregivers (or aunts, teachers, sitters, cousins, grandparents), mainly because we’re:

Hungry. Tired. Bored. Overly Stimulated. Super excited. Frustrated. Delirious. Loopy. Sad. Having bad memories (trauma reactions look a lot like irritability in adults – more on this in a later post). Legitimately not listening to them or the directions they have for us.

And that doesn’t make us bad either.

Hey, parenting, teaching, caregiving – it’s all hard. Every day is a whole new ballgame. Be kind to yourself and those kiddos.

Stay tuned for the next post focusing on what you can do to help with some of these behaviors.

Resources:

If you feel triggered by this article and are in need of some immediate resources, I urge you to contact:

  • 911 or go to your nearest ER if you feel you a danger to yourself or others
  • 211 – in LA County it’s the social service directory for grief groups, therapy resources, housing, and more. It’s also online, google, “211”
  • LA County Access hotline for a psychiatric evaluation wherever you are located. The ACCESS/HOTLINE Phone number is : 1-800-854-7771. ACCESS operates 24 hours/day, 7 days/week as the entry point for mental health services in Los Angeles County.
  • Email me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com if you’d like to inquire about an appointment with me in the Long Beach area. I can also help connect you to other therapists if you live elsewhere.
  • If you would like to access your insurance mental health benefits, there should be a Member Phone number on the back of your insurance card. Ask them for their list of approved therapists. They can also email it to you, making it easy to cross reference the list on www.psychologytoday.com where you can check their profiles out.

Thank you for reading. Follow me on Instagram under @mendingrootstherapy to get updates about new articles, quotes and other musings on mental health.

 

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