5 Tips for Happy Family Trips

Family Trips

Ever grabbed chocolate from a box, expecting your favorite caramel square…only to find it was loaded with that weird cherry goo?  Ugh!

That taste just doesn’t go away easily!

What a waste!  All that anticipation just to get a disappointed.

(sorry, cherry lovers)

In all seriousness- lots of folks plan months in advance for the perfect family vacation expecting one thing and getting another.

You spend hours booking flights, finding that right place to stay and packing bags.  Vacationing takes time, money and energy.  Of course, you want it to be enjoyed!

But sometimes when it comes to actually taking the trip-  it can end up feeling like anything but a vacation.

The kids are whining, parents are stressed and everyone’s frustrated.

(That cherry goo doesn’t sound so bad now, huh?!)

Listen…vacationing doesn’t need to be so aggravating.

Having some fun with the whole family can be within reach.  It just takes a little planning ahead and getting into the right mindset.

Here are some Tips:

 1.  Define your desired outcomes– We all want enjoyable vacations, but what that means can be very different for each person.

The number one reason for conflicts in families is communication issues.  Ask your family what their expectations are.  For one person it may mean going on new adventures, for another, it could be to relax.   Those are very different expectations!  Get clear on what everyone wants so that you can avoid catastrophe.  Not everyone will get their exact ‘made-to-order’ vacation and that’s okay.  The act of clearing up communication alone can stave off a lot of frustrated, invalidated and unhappy moments.

2.  Decide what’ll get you there-  Knowing what is the first step, planning how is next.

Don’t fret if family members have different expectations.  It’s really common for one partner to want a relaxing vacation, another to want an adventurous one and the kids just want to play!  Ask your tribe “What will help us have the vacation we want?” You may be surprised how much there is in common.  For instance- whether a person wants an adventurous, relaxing or fun-filled vacation, it’s likely they want the family to be able to get along.  Talk about these things.  It really helps by creating awareness and ownership of everyone’s part in the family experience.

3.  Plan for the tough moments-  Think about what may block the good times from rolling.

Fights, excessive tattling, begging Mom/Dad to buy something or bedtime battles can turn Paradise Island into the Island of Aggravation.   Does your son need a special blanket to sleep well?  Could your kids earn spending money before the trip?  Do you know your daughter misbehaves when parents are stressed?  Do you get stressed if you don’t have an itinerary- or just the opposite?  Know thyself!  Know thy family!  Plan accordingly.

4.  Take proactive measures–  The best way to deal with difficult behavior is to prevent it.

Having the knowledge of what makes a great vacation is wonderful, but insight is almost useless without action.   Decide what’s in your control, what predicts the outcome you want and what’s the best leverage to get you there? How can you best plan for the bumps so they don’t send the whole family off track?  Start verberizing what you know will help.  Then use the Nike method- just do it!

5.  Have the right attitude– Vacationing is a great time to unplug from our familiar world and dive into something new.

The change of pace can be refreshing, exciting and sometimes unpredictable. The only guarantee is that things won’t always go exactly as expected.  And that’s okay- Life’s really about moving with the flow, not against it.  These summer days won’t last forever and this time with your family is precious.  Having the right attitude helps with your own stress and it spills out into your whole family, making it enjoyable for everyone else, too.  Be present, laugh and enjoy the little moments.   If you get caught up in a moment of stress (as we all do), breathe, smile, and ask yourself “What’s the worst possible outcome?“.  Often it’s not so bad.

The best adventures are colorful ones filled with highs, lows and wild times!

And there is no such thing as a perfect path- just enjoy the one you’re on.

Family life is quite the adventure.  A little planning and having the right attitude can help us to relax and enjoy a bit more of the vacation we all want!

And you may want to even grab a few chocolates for the road (btw…the cherry ones actually aren’t so bad once you have a few…it’s mostly the shock factor that gets ya).

I wish you the very best adventures ahead…

Jenna

Jenna Fleming, LPC, NCCJenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling servicescourses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

3 Steps to Less Anxiety and Getting More Done

Your mind is a powerful gift.  It can also be a total pain in the rear.

How do I know this? Because my mind can be a huge pain, too.  So is the mind of every client I’ve ever had.

And so is just about every single person’s- It’s one of our common human experiences.

But this is ok, because leading a happy and fulfilling life does not mean having a perfectly calm, peaceful mind.

It’s about whether you allow your “monkey mind” to run the show or whether you use your freedom of choice.

Your “monkey mind” is the constant, often unsettled thoughts that run through your mind on a daily basis.

“I have to schedule that hair appointment.”   “Did I order school supplies yet?”    “I have to check my phone notifications.”    “What’s that weird smell in the pantry?”

Sound familiar?   (Well- hopefully not that last one)

“Monkey mind” can also rear its ugly head with trouble letting things go or as overthinking a situation.

“I can’t believe I did that.  I’ll never live it down.  I’m so embarassed!”   “What a jerk! How dare he say that to me. I’ll never forgive him for this.”   “Things will not be okay unless they are perfect.”   “I MUST do this or that.”  or “What’s wrong with them/me?” 

You see our mind is almost always playing ‘background music’ and this keeps us trapped in misery, anxiety, and distraction from actually accomplishing the things we want to do.

Our society today doesn’t help these matters at all.

Being ‘connected’ often means that we are constantly on call and bombarded with a steady stream of social media updates, real-time news and emails to return.  We have access to virtually unlimited information and entertainment.  Walk into any public place and you’ll see kids and adults alike on some sort of screen.

This is not how humans were designed to interact.

We are physical and social beings.  Technology is a wonderful tool.  But as with anything, too much of a good thing can become harmful.

Technology addiction is becoming an increasing problem.

Social media updates, phone notifications, and video games train our minds to have shorter attention spans.  Technology raises dopamine levels, a ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter in the brain.  This excessive ‘noise’ literally wires our brain to become addicted, more distracted and less resistant to the “monkey mind”.

Many people feel trapped by their anxiety or victims of their excessive thoughts or distractions.

You are not alone.  And you are not a victim.

Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor.  In his masterpiece Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl teaches us:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way.

Frankl teaches us that as humans, we have the gifts of self-awareness and imagination and that we have the free will to use these gifts in any circumstance.

Your monkey mind does not have to be such a pain in the rear.

There are 3 simple shifts you can make.

1. Go on Airplane Mode

Setting limits on our technology is an important mental health habit.  Going on ‘airplane mode’ simply means to designate some boundaries around when you will be on and offline.  As we adults practice this life skill, it also models for our children what we should also be expecting- screen time limits.  Modeling is the most powerful way we teach.

Set designated times of the day to ‘unplug’.   Check and respond to emails in a couple of ‘batches’ rather than throughout the day.   Turn social media notifications off or take them off of your phone.   Use extensions like Chrome’s “newsfeed eradicator” to help you from falling into the trap of endless hours of reading social media updates.

2.  Stop Believing Everything You Think

Anxious thoughts come with implied demands. Your mind says, “If you do as I say, I will shut up and leave you alone. I’ll stop giving you this thought, and then you’ll feel ok.”

This is a lie.

It might be an hour from now, or it might be five seconds from now. But it’s a guarantee, your mind WILL come up with something to bug you about. It will not leave you alone as it promised. So if you obey, your mind wins.

Become self-aware.  Notice and realize the thought you’re having.  Don’t try to stop them- that only makes them worse.  Ask yourself “Is this true?” “Is this helpful?” “Is this what I want?”.  Then make a choice based on what YOU want to do.

3.  Focus on One Thing

If you feel like you stay busy all day and barely accomplish anything, chances are you’re focusing on too many things at once.

Multitasking is overrated, impossible for our brains to actually do and a huge time waster.  There are certainly exceptions, but it often occurs because of procrastination or avoidance or because of poor decisiveness or boundary setting.

It’s perfectly fine to have a list of things to do or ‘big rocks’ for your day. But when it comes to the actual act of doing, you need to set aside time for doing just ONE thing at a time.

To train yourself in this new habit, write down the one thing you’d like to accomplish.  For example “Finish folding the laundry”.   Start with 20 or 30 minutes for the task at hand with no distractions.  You’ll be amazed at the quantity of what can be accomplished when you focus on just one thing rather than 10.

Even though you can’t stop your monkey mind, practicing these three things will eventually lead to a decrease in anxiety and more of what you actually want.

If you do these things consistently, for a long enough period of time, you will see huge shifts in your life as your patterns change.  Freedom from the “monkey mind” allows you to enjoy life more fully and live with greater intent.

In the words of Victor Frankl.

It’s this spiritual freedom, which cannot be taken away which makes life meaningful and purposeful.

One of the kindest things you can do for your family and for yourself is to practice presence.

And it is hands-down the best parenting tool I can suggest.

Change comes from action- not just insight.

What one thing can you do to set some boundaries around your ‘monkey mind’?

Write that down and commit to doing this with complete integrity.  Keeping promises to ourselves is one of the best ways we can increase our self-confidence.

I believe in you!

The salvation of man is through love and in love. – Victor Frankl

Sending you love and peace of mind,

Jenna

Jenna Fleming, LPC, NCCJenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

Why Families Struggle with Relationships (and ways to fix it)

I still print photos.

Yes, I know I’m a dinosaur.

I don’t print all of them.  But I do have a pretty hefty and poorly organized box of hold-in-your-hands snapshots from over the years.

It’s fun to pull them out every now and then- and comes in real handy for my kid’s last minute school projects.

Plus, walking down memory lane completely melts my heart- those chubby cheeks and toothless smiles are so dang adorable!

Thank goodness photos don’t really capture the whole story.

Between all those moments of sweetness and joy has equally been my own mistakes and frustrations.

Family life is bumpy.

And rollercoaster-y.   And exhilarating and sacrificing.

It pushes us to grow as human beings and tests the meaning of unconditional love.  This is its nature.

Family life is also a tremendous gift and the foundation of our society.

When asked by a reporter at her Nobel Peace acceptance “What can one do to promote world peace?”, St. Teresa of Calcutta responded: “Go home and love your family.”

Her version of “Think Global. Act Local.” …I think.

So simple and yet not always so easy.

Lot’s of people experience more than just ‘bumps’ in life, which can make strong relationships seem impossible.

You might have grown up in a family where it felt like the rollercoaster went only one direction- down.

Or maybe you’ve gone through huge hurdles like the loss of a child, infidelity, divorce or you feel really overwhelmed with behaviors from your kids.

Perhaps you’re just feeling ‘lost’ and off track or really disconnected from your spouse or children- and not sure why or how you can fix it.

If this is you, you are not alone.

Sometimes a counselor can help.  Please get help if you need it.

But there are also other ways to move momentum upward, to a more loving, happier family life.

Ask questions about your childhood

The first place to get started is with yourself- and a great place to begin is with your earliest years.

Ask yourself: When I was a kid...What were relationships like?  What did I learn about family life?  Are those the values and behaviors I want in my family today?

People resist this kind of self-reflection.  That’s normal (but not helpful).

We come up with all the reasons not to…

“I turned out okay.”    “What’s the point, you can’t change anything now.”    “That stuff doesn’t affect me.”   “I’m nothing like my parents…”

Those are excuses that block your growth and self-awareness- so dump them.

This isn’t about wallowing in a pity party, it’s about being realistic with our story, embracing who we are and moving forward consciously.

Let me explain…

Why Attachment Theory Matters

In 1949 work was started from a theorist named John Bowlby and expanded on by Mary Ainsworth.  Together, their research birthed what we call Attachment Theory.

Attachment theory tells us that parent-child relationship is crazy important.

It also teaches us that having healthy relationships requires self-reflection and self-awareness.

Here’s why-

After studying post-war orphans Bowlby concluded that “a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with (infant and) his mother” is essential to thrive.

In the 70’s Ainsworth looked at Bowlby’s theory in action through a series called the “Strange Situation Test”.

Ainsworth placed a mother, her 12-month infant and a stranger (to the baby) in various scenarios. The child’s reaction (or lack of) was organized into styles of attachment- either secure or insecure.  The latter of these was broken down into 3 types of insecure: Anxious-avoidant, Anxious-ambivalent, and Disorganized.

Ainsworth found that mothers who had securely attached children responded in a nurturing and attuned (present) way with their baby.

She also found that almost all moms with insecurely attached children were themselves insecurely attached.

And that the attachment style of the baby tended to stay with him as he grew.

So in a nutshell, relationship patterns stick with us and get passed on to our kids.  (Disagree?  Keep reading…there’s more.)

Attachment Styles Explained

Here’s a breakdown of the childhood attachment styles, the style of parenting and resulting adult traits:

  • Secure: Parented in a way that was attuned and responsive.  As adults, they are able to create meaningful relationships, set boundaries and are empathic.
  • Insecure, Anxious-avoidant: Parent was unavailable or rejecting.  As adults, they tend to avoid closeness or emotional connection; distant; critical; rigid.
  • Insecure, Anxious- ambivalent: Parent communicated in an inconsistent or sometimes intrusive way.  As adults, they can be anxious and insecure; erratic; blaming; unpredictable; sometimes charming.
  • Insecure, Disorganized: Parent ignored or didn’t see the child’s needs, the child was traumatized.  As adults, they can be untrusting while craving security or attention; insensitive; chaotic; abusive.

This information is grossly general, but still really valuable.

Since the beginnings of attachment theory, there has been a mountain of research to validate it and information to give us helpful direction.

But listen up, because THIS is my favorite part-

We now understand that if you’ve had bumps in life as a kid, you aren’t destined to stick with an insecure attachment, you can EARN your secure attachment.

I’m personally a proud member of the earned-secure club and I wouldn’t want it any other way (a colorful past can make a person enormously resilient and empathic).

Earned secures understand that the past is significant, but it does not determine the future.

Earning Security

Becoming an earned securely attached adult requires 3 things: Self-reflection, self-awareness, and forgiveness.

Why?  Well, you can only change what you are aware of.  And forgiveness cuts the cord of resentment or dependence that continues the unhealthy patterns.

Forgiveness is saying “I’m letting this go”, it is not saying “That was okay”.

This is a very important distinction.

In my line of study, I’ve had the benefit of diving deep in this area with brilliant teachers and mentors.  You can, too- but without all of the expense and time.

For less than the cost of gas to see a therapist, Dr. Dan Siegel writes about this in his book Parenting From the Inside Out.   It’s awesome and can walk you through a lot of this stuff.

For even quicker and free access, here’s an AttachmentQuestionnaire from his work on the topic.

Self-work requires carving out time, but it’s so worth it.

Moving onward and upward

We hold on to ‘old habits’ and patterns in our relationships.  Some are helpful.  Some are not. We’re usually unaware of most.

As you become more aware of your past, many patterns will reveal themselves.  Keep what’s helpful.  Dump the rest.

And when you feel off track as a family, these are some excellent guiding questions.

  • What is deeply meaningful to our family?
  • What is blocking or limiting this from happening?
  • What actions can help us get more of what we want?

These three questions are as simple as they are complex.

Love your tribe

That messy box of mine contains more than just photos.  It’s filled with memories of the most valuable gifts I have in this world- my family.   There is no greater treasure and nothing more important to invest in- which often starts with our own self-work.

All families are lovely messes of good times and challenging times.  Through them all, it’s LOVE that binds- that’s really all you need (the Beatles nailed it).

The greatest gift you can give your family is your time and attention.  

Change is tough.  Counseling can help, but sometimes the office isn’t the right fit.  I get that.  That’s why I’ve created an e-course for people looking for a little extra family support.  It’s packed with tons of direction and support- all that you can do from your home.

I also have a free monthly newsletter (scroll down to sign up) and facebook page with tons of support for strengthening families and navigating tough parenting issues.

There are so many resources today to support your family.  More important than ‘what’ is simply to take action on something.

Above all, remember that the journey is meant to be enjoyed.  So just breathe, smile and let go of perfection (it’s so over-rated).

…and if you can, print a few photos along the way.

Jenna

Jenna Fleming, LPC, NCCJenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

 

How to Make Your Life (Crazy) Better Immediately

counseling happy

Ever hung on to something too long- and regretted it later?

You know what I mean- pants that no longer fit, a worn out toothbrush, that jar of pickles in the back of the fridge?

I hung on to my trash can from college.

Seriously- for like 20 years.  Pretty weird, right?

The truth is I couldn’t bear to part with it.  It symbolized my youth and my independence.  It was way more to me than just a cheap trash can.

And it worked pretty okay for us- that is until we got Red, our sweet, curious and energetic new pup.  True to his nature, Red can’t help but get into all sorts of messes.

Then it happened- it was spaghetti night and Red got into the trash.  Ughhh….what a mess!

He was running around.  Footprints of sauce were everywhere.  I was pretty sure he would throw up any minute.

Something had to change fast- either Red or the trash can.

So a quick search online (and lots of paper towels later), Amazon hooked us up with an awesome new trash can.  It’s complete with lid, lock and it looks beautiful.  No more red sauce all over the kitchen!

And bonus- we now spend way less time in general dealing with trash (apparently, trash can design has come a long way in the last 20 years).

Listen, we all do this kind of stuff.  

No- not hoard trash cans.  

We hang on to things that no longer serve us well.

What worked okay then– is now a source of pain today.  Sometime it’s obvious, other times these things dangerously seem ‘harmless’.   But when you hang on to the old ‘trash cans’ in life, you’ll find yourself in a pattern of wondering why you keep having messes to clean up or life seems like such a hassle.

It’s exhausting!

We must let go of unhelpful old habits and replace them with new, healthy ones if we are going to grow.

I know, I know- easier said than done.

In truth, silly as it sounds, I cringed at the first thought of a new trash can.  Most people simply do not like change.   But in the end, my quality of life has improved far greater than the pain of my ‘loss’.

My trashcan story may seem trivial, but here’s the deal- life lessons are often presented in the smallest things first (the trick is to learn them before they get bigger!).

You see, we’re all in this life to learn, to grow and ultimately to love.  Examining ourselves, being brave and reaching out to others is part of that process.

If you struggle with frustration or getting out of a cycle, life can be better.

Let go of four destructive patterns and replace them with healthy ones.  It can completely transform the way you approach relationships, work, and life.

In fact, if you really embrace these ideas you will see relationships improve and you will feel an increase in your overall happiness.  I can personally attest to this.

#1 Let go of Resentment- Replace with Forgiveness

We all have hurts.  Little hurts and big hurts.  It’s hard to let go of feelings.  Sometimes anger and resentment is obvious.  Other times it’s been stuffed so deep within, we try to forget about it.  But here’s the truth- anger weighs us down.  It’s drinking poison and expecting the other to die. It affects your relationships and your life in very negative ways.

Practice forgiveness.  Forgiving is not saying that the act was “okay”.  It’s saying “I let go”.  Call up the person in your mind.  Get what you need “off of your chest” (journaling and prayer can help).  Forgive and mentally ‘cut’ the cord of resentment as you send them love. Believe me when I say this- this is for YOUR benefit, not theirs.  Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

#2 Let go of Shame- Replace with Courage

Shame is the intense feeling of being unworthy.  That something is wrong with who we are.  It’s destructive and unproductive.  Feeling sorry or convicted about what we’ve done wrong is vastly different than shame because it can lead to personal growth.  Shame does the opposite- it hides in darkness and secrecy.  It feels awful and weakens us.

Addressing shame seems counterintuitive, but courage is the antidote.  Bring your story into the light, where shame can not hide.  It takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable with who we are- especially if shame has weakened us with fear.   Everyone has a story and yours matters.  Find someone who you can talk to you- often that becomes lifting others who are struggling with issues you’ve walked through yourself.

#3 Let go of the Need to Control- Replace with Presence

Most anxiety is fear of the unknown.  We get trapped in over analyzing the future or concerns with ‘what if’s’.  It starts with the need to control our environment, but unaddressed anxiety can get out of control.  People griped by the clutches of anxiety feel tormented by sleepless nights, physical pains and racing thoughts.   It can feel impossible to see a way out.

I want you to hear this loud and clear- Anxiety can not live in the present moment.  It lives ‘out there’ in concern for the future.  Let go of the need to control things around you.  Practice presence.  Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises help.  Notice the little things all around you and in the people you love- a new freckle on your son’s nose, the way the sun hits your husband’s face.  It takes practice being here NOW, but it is, after all, the only time life happens.

#4 Let go of Criticism- Replace with Gratitude

We train our mind to look for certain things around us.  Complaining and criticism can become nasty habits.   It’s one thing to ‘vent’ to a friend about a bad day, but when it becomes the norm, it’s no longer venting- it’s destructive.  Criticism attracts negative emotions, which takes a toll on our health and well-being.  Arguably the worst symptom of criticism, however, is the negative impact it has on our relationships.

Try going a week with no complaining or criticizing.  Seriously.  See how it impacts your relationships.  I’d bet money you see improvement within a couple days.  Replace that void in your mind with gratitude.  What can you be thankful for in each moment- there’s always something- fresh air, a living body, a roof over your head. Gratitude is a muscle- you need to exercise it.

 

Listen, I know these are big ideas.

I also know that if you put just one of these into action, you will see incredible things happen in your life.   I mean, seriously- think of how much better life got for me just by replacing a stinky old trash can.

You can do this- but clarity comes from action – not thought.

So I challenge you to commit to one thing that you can put into action immediately.

Then, share this article with a friend and let them know what you’re working on.

In fact, if you have any friend whom you feel like this could help, share this with them now.  I would greatly appreciate it and this just may really give them the encouragement and spark they need.

Change is possible!

Focus on progress, not perfection.

And- if you aren’t signed up for my monthly newsletter yet, what are you waiting for?  Scroll down and join me by signing up below.  It’s totally free, non-spamy and I’ll send you my awesome behavior help freebie just for being amazing-you.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here-

Jenna

Jenna Fleming, LPC, NCCJenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

3 Things You Can Do Now- to help with your child’s behavior

3 Things You Can Do For Child's Behavior

Ever feel like your end results aren’t anything like what you really wanted for your family or for your child?

For instance- you want your child to do well in school and so you’ve set homework as a priority.  You have the time carved out and the homework area set- but at the end of ‘homework time’, things end with you being frustrated and your child crying and saying she hates school.

Not cool, fun or effective- for anyone!

Listen, you aren’t alone!  Most parents want good things for their children.  But good intentions does not always equal good results.

The following are a few shifts in thinking, responding and questioning to make powerful change for actually GETTING more of that outcome you want.

And bonus…every single shift can be immediately implemented!

1.  Turn Down the ‘Shark Music’.

“Here we go again…”,  “She always has to have it her way”, “He can’t take no for an answer”…

Da dum, Da dum, Dadumdadumdadum (my attempt at the Jaws music)

We all do it- give into doom and gloom thoughts that keep us trapped in our fears about the future or stuck on what’s happened in the past (aka “shark music”).

The key is not getting stuck there- and choosing a better soundtrack!

This type of thinking predicts negative outcomes and leaves us feeling totally powerless.  Parenting with ‘shark music’ looming in the background leads us to react and not respond with calm, thoughtful intention.

And worse- our kids feel this and that translates to them generally feeling fearful, frustrated, shut down and trapped.

Notice your background music and what’s not helpful.  Turn the volume down on the negatives by giving your valuable attention to thoughts that are actually helpful and truthful.  Here are a few to try on for size:

  • “Change is possible.”
  • “Mistakes happen.”
  • “How else can we handle the situation.”
  • “We can do this!”

2.  Become More Self-Aware.

Positive thinking is great, but you can’t just think yourself into better outcomes- you behave your way into them.  Notice your typical reactions to tough behaviors and be open to doing something different.  I bet you have certain ‘buttons’ and some general reactions.

Think about the times you’re most likely to be reactive or to have that ‘button’ pushed.

For instance the dreaded homework time or when your child talks back.

What’s your typical reaction at those times?

Do you yell, stonewall, or overly punish?  Maybe your reaction is just to give in- that seems so much easier at the moment.

Now ask yourself- are these the responses you want and more importantly, are they helpful?  Stay rooted in your values and the positive outcomes you want.

Jot down things you can do to bring yourself to a more thoughtful place- breathe, limit your distractions, focus on solutions.  These things can help you parent more responsively (vs reactively).

3. Ask Better Questions.

When your child consistently shows up with behaviors you don’t want, get out of the autopilot reactions that aren’t working.

Quit asking “What’s wrong with my kid?” and start asking these three questions.  They’ll help you figure out what is going on, what you want your child to learn and how to do that more effectively.

Question #1: Why did my child act this way?  Behavior is simply another form of communication.  Use that to your advantage and listen to what it tells you.  Could your child be telling you she needs help organizing herself at school?  Is your child telling you he is overwhelmed?  Is your child seeking attention, boundaries or control?

Question #2: What do I want my child to learn?  The goal of discipline isn’t about punishing. The goal is for your child to learn.  Dealing with tough behaviors is an opportunity for you to teach.  Get rooted in your values and decide what life-skills may need strengthening- responsibility, focus, respect, self-control, appropriate ways to express big feelings…

Question #3: How can I best teach that?  Considering your child’s age, stage and their emotional, physical and developmental needs, make an informed decision on what your child needs to learn the lesson you very wonderfully want him to learn.   A natural or logical consequence may be the right prescription for learning- or perhaps an opportunity to re-do the behavior is what’s best.  Sometimes a chart or checklist is the solution- every situation is different and this is your opportunity to get creative.

Go for progress.

Simple solutions aren’t always simple in application, but you CAN do this!

If you’re looking for more help on handling tough behaviors and helpful information for happy families, join my free monthly newsletter that has exclusive content, helpful tips, and updates.   You can join by adding your name and email to the form below or to the side of this page.  As a gift for signing up, you’ll gain instant access to my free download “Handling Difficult Behaviors” complete with video and behavior planner.

If you want to dig even further into this topic, I highly recommend Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, No-Drama Discipline or the other awesome books I know, use and love on my resources page.

Just remember that parenting is a journey- and it’s important to focus on progress, not perfection. 

With encouragement along the road…

Jenna

Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

 

Improve Communication with Your Teen

Improve communication with your teen

The one thing that sets the teen years apart from no other is incredibly rapid change! Parents wake up one day and their “little baby” is suddenly a teenager. The rules of the game have changed and parents don’t know how to “play” anymore. Suddenly there’s distance and now communicating with your teen seems impossible.

If you feel this way, you are not alone! Most parents struggle at some level when it comes to communicating with their teenager. With a few adjustments in your “game strategy”, you and your teen can begin moving forward with better communication in this new phase of life.

Get Clear on Your Family Values

Parents are constantly making decisions and correcting course to keep their family “on track”. For most situations, in-the-moment decisions are fairly obvious. But when kids leap into this stage of massive change, there can be a new group of friends, interests, and activities. Parents can have trouble finding their bearings.

Re-center yourself by connecting to your personal values. What’s important to you? What are you okay or not okay with?  This is different for every family. Getting very clear on this will help you make better in-the-moment decisions based on values and not on emotion (like frustration), which will tend to build up communication barriers.  For additional support with this, I recommend downloading my FREE guide for Handling Difficult Behaviors when you sign up for my newsletter.

Understand There’s More Than Meets the Eye

In the teenage years, things are happening ‘under the current’ at an incredibly rapid rate. The brain is going through massive changes and growth- second only to the first years of life and social life has taken on a new form of its own.

Understand that your teen’s behavior may seem to come from out of nowhere to you, but to them, something huge in their world may be happening. It could be a crush they’ve had has suddenly rejected them and now your teen just wants to retreat and hang out in their room. It could also be something bigger that involves safety or a value issue. Have regular check-in’s with your teen to stay on top of what’s happening in their world and to keep communication open and regular.

Talk Less, Listen More

Parents just don’t understand — that was sort of the teenage motto when I was coming of age and it’s great at capturing the feelings many teens have. Practice the art of active listening, which temporarily setting aside any agenda to understand your teen.  Yes, you do have your values (which are really important), but the goal is not to teach or to lecture but to understand and open back up communication. After which, your teen will be more receptive to what you have to say or teach.

Use non-judgement and open offers for communication like: “Looks like English class is pretty overwhelming. Want to talk?” or “Anyway I can help?” or maybe something like “Sound like there’s trouble between you and David. I’m a pretty good ear for listening.” Your teen may grunt and turn away, but you may also be surprised at how softening your approach and taking judgment out will drop defensiveness and open lines for communication. As your teen opens up, really try to listen to their words and feelings. Offer back ideas as you understand them. This helps to confirm you ‘get it’ and lets your teen see that you really care.

The Best Days are Still Ahead…

Don’t think that game’s over just because your teen seems to be shutting you out. Just like before puberty hit, your teen still needs your support and your guidance in their life. Things look different and that’s natural. What should stay consistent is your love and support. It will make a huge difference in your growing relationship.

Sometimes it helps to have some added support during these transitions.  Through coaching and counseling, I help families sort through overwhelming issues of communication and change to achieve stronger relationships. You can also grab my free download “Handling Difficult Behaviors” by signing up on this page or check out my Family Reboot eCourse.  Both tools are designed to help families break down these big issues into simplified tasks for healthy, lasting change.

I have great hope that your best days are ahead…

 

Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX.   She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.

 

Jenna’s article was originally published on PsychCentral.com’s World of Psychology Blog.