The Number One Destroyer in the Parent/TEEN Relationship

unhealthy-ways-to-argue

-Proverbs 18:12
“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”

Pride is a big trigger for me. Just hearing the word makes me cringe. I do not tolerate certain forms of pride in others very well. My immediate response to unhealthy forms of pride is typically a negative reaction of fight or flight. I have no problem pointing out this kind of pride in others, especially when it presents itself as entitlement, but looking at pride in myself can cause a wall of defense to go up.

Having pride can cause significant challenges in any relationship. Pride affects the communication between two people and forces it to break down. Positive communication is necessary in order to have a healthy and growing relationship. This chapter will help you to understand what pride is, specifically how it can show up in the parent/child relationship. We will begin by exploring the definition of pride.

What is Unhealthy Pride?
There are two kinds of pride: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy pride is when we take pride in something or feel a healthy sense of pride with regards to an accomplishment. But unhealthy pride is when we feel entitled or like we desserve something. Often times, a prideful person will act as though they deserve more or they know more. They can have a sense of entitlement and see things one way; their way. They can present as arrogant, selfish, thinking of oneself as being better or more important than others and not being able to admit when wrong. While researching unhealthy pride, I came across the following characteristics:

  • Having an inflated sense of self or thinking that you are better than others.
  • Arrogance and selfishness.
  • Being defensive.
  • Not taking responsibility or ownership.
  • Inability to listen to another person’s point of view is the same as saying that your way is the only way.
  • Being fearful or anxious is the result of not trusting God. Distrust in God represents a belief that you know more than Him.
  • Controlling people, places and things is an inability to surrender which is another form of distrust in God’s will and plan for your life.
  • Having a deserving or entitled attitude.
  • Someone who is negative all the time and can only see the bad in things.
  • Someone who has expectations of perfection.
  • Consumed with what others think of them.
  • Judgmental and critical of others.
  • Breaks rules and doesn’t follow directions.
  • Wanting what others have.
  • Consumed by appearance or material things.
  • Allowing the inner critic to control your mind.

The Parent and Unheatlhy Pride

There are many different ways that parents can demonstrate pride in their relationships. It can present through their thinking and also through their interactions and reactions with their TEEN. I don’t think parents recognize their behaviors as being prideful. This is because the pride is a defense mechanism used to defend against a trigger.

As I stated earlier, a parent’s job is to make decisions and have control over their children until a certain age. Around age 11, the child begins to develop a sense of awareness and independence. Parents have much difficulty with this transition in the relationship and often times, the control and decision making that was once a healthy interaction, turns into prideful thinking and prideful behaviors. I’m not saying that once your child turns eleven that you should stop setting boundaries or having expectations. What I am saying is, that as parents we need to be aware of what how we are responding and reacting to our children. We need to be aware of our own triggers and we need to come from a place of intention when communicating with them, rather a place of reaction.

Let me give you a classic example. The “because I said so” answer we all give to our children. A teenager expresses dislike for a limit or expecation that is set and the parent responds with , “You need to do what I say.” The teenager will reply with, “But why? It’s not fair.” The parent then gets frustrated and hollers, “Because I said so, that’s why? And if you talk like that to me again, you will lose your phone privileges.”

Now I get it. I really do. I understand that as parents we want to raise children who respect us, listen to us and obey our requests. But just because the teenager expresses that he or she does not like a particular rule or agree with a certain expectation does not necessarily mean he or she is being disrespectful. And just because they respond with curiosity by asking why, does not mean that they are being disrespectful.  Parents can get easily triggered by simple interactions such as this one. We become immediately defensive if our children do not want what we want for them or behave how we think they should behave. We become defensive when they do not see things the way we do or have the same feelings and opinions about the things we do. And most importantly, we forget too quickly that we were the same way when we were their age. We had our thoughts and feelings; beliefs and opinions. We too expressed curiosity and at some point in our lives were probably shut down by a parent for having those thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions. You see, we learned to react this way from our upbringing in our culture. We learned to believe that we are more powerful, more important and feel this entitlement to be able to express that to our teenagers.

This is prideful parenting. We think that because we are the parents, that we have the right to respond this way. We think that it is not okay for our children to question us or have an opinion about things. We think this way and because we think this way, then we assume that our way of thinking is the only way.

This way of thinking and responding in relationship with our teenagers causes the relationship to break down. The more it breaks down, the more prideful we become. We tell our children they need to be with the family and enjoy it. How do you force someone to enjoy something they don’t want to do? How do you force someone to want to do something they don’t enjoy doing? Do you see where I am going here? It turns into a great big mess and in the end, because we are the parent, we think it is okay to blame it on our children being selfish and disrespectful.

Another form of prideful thinking is trying to change or “fix” your child. It blows my mind how many parents bring their teenagers to see me so that I can mold them magically into the person the parent thinks he or she should be. I’m not at all saying that if you bring your child to get help that you are prideful. Again, please understand that it is the intention behind the behavior or reaction to the teenager. If your intention is to give your child the guidance you do not feel equipped to provide, then the decision is not prideful. But if your thinking is to “fix” your child because they are not living up to your expectations, then this is prideful thinking. If you are a parent and you are going about your relationship with your child this way, then please let me tell you that you are not going to get anywhere. The changes need to begin with you letting go of your prideful thinking.

The TEENager and Unhealthy Pride
Okay TEENS, it’s your turn now. Let’s look at how TEENS can be prideful. I am pretty sure there are many things on that list that the TEEN reading this book can relate to. The biggest prideful characteristic in TEENS I see is a sense of entitlement. When they get to a certain age, usually around 13, they become very entitled. They form their own opinions about things and automatically assume that their way is the right way. They disregard their parents life experience and knowledge and say things like, “Things are different now.” They talk to us like we are old and washed up and have no clue what is going on in the world. There is especially a sense of entitlement between the years of earning their license and turning 18 years old. The thinking many TEENS have is “I don’t have to listen to you.” “Your rules are dumb.” “I’m almost 18 and I can do whatever I want.” “Once I move out, my life will be easy.” For some reason, many TEENS live in this fantasy world that life is going to be so easy once they move out on their own and can make their own decisions. They have a tunnel-like vision and can only see life through their eyes because for a TEEN, their life is the only one they are responsible for. They don’t have to worry about anybody else, but themselves. This is the way it should be for TEENS until they go out into the world and begin an adult life. But they tend to have a sense of entitlement about it and one track thinking.

This entitlement comes out in their interactions with their parents and causes great discord and breakdown in communication. It can be a tremendous trigger for a parent who is working so hard to find balance between taking care of themselves, working and raising a family. Again, those triggers cause stress and both parent and TEEN to go into fight or flight mode.

Effects of Unhealthy Pride on the Parent/TEEN Relationship
We all have some form or even multiple forms of pride. How does pride affect your relationship with your parent or child? Let me guess, you are looking at the list identifying all of the characteristics your parent or child has and how it impacts your relationship with them. You are saying to yourself, “Yup, if they weren’t as entitled, then I wouldn’t have a problem with him/her.” Or you might be saying, “If they could just see things my way for once, then we would be able to communicate better.” “If only he/she weren’t so critical and judgemental.”

As you can see, pride can present itself in many different ways. And if we look at the list one by one, we can probably see how each behavior or attitude affects our parent or child in the relationship. I know what you are thinking, “I need to give this book to my parent/child so they can see how their pride is affecting our relationship. If they read this, then maybe they will be able to see what I am trying to say to them.” Guess what! This way of thinking is the number one problem in the relationship. It is your form of pride and it is affecting your relationship with your parent/child.

I want you to tackle this chapter by looking at yourself, not your parent or child. As I stated earlier, it is easy to point out the flaws and faults of the other person in the relationship. It’s difficult to look at our own. Having a healthy relationship with your parent or TEEN begins with you being able to look at yourself first. And being able to do this is the first step in conquering pride in the relationship. When you deal with your pride, the other person’s defense mechanisms come down which allows them to deal with their pride.

Always seeing fault in the other person is the biggest form of pride. Blaming, shaming, judging and acting as though you are the victim in the relationship is a form of pride. Trying to change the other person to be more like you think they “should” be is a form of pride. By doing this, you are saying, I am better than you and my way is better than yours. And this way of thinking and being causes major breakdowns in communication. It triggers the fight or flight response which is why parents and TEENS argue, fight or shut down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many parents bring a TEEN to therapy and expect that the therapy will help their TEEN to open up and talk to them more. Their chief complaint is that their TEEN won’t talk to them and they think the way to making them talk is to bully them into it through therapy. I know this sounds really harsh, but it is so often the case of what I see. They use shame as a desperate plea to get their TEEN to talk to them. When the parent checks in with me before a session begins, they will say things like, “Well, he is still not talking with me and opening up with me at home.” They say it with a blaming tone and leave the session with the expectation that this will be worked on in therapy. Little do they know that the only way this will change is if they look at themselves first.

I experienced this kind of thinking a few months ago in my relationship with my sister. Over the years, we’ve grown apart. Slowly, I’ve distanced from her and a few months ago, she broke down and called me out on it. She was angry and upset and her frustration came out on me as shame and blame because I do not talk with her like I used to. I knew her heart was in a place of desperatly wanting the relationship restored, but the way she went about it was to point the finger at me instead of looking at why I was shutting down from her. And my response to her was exactly that. I first acknowledged that I do not open up to her. She responded with, “Well you need to. You can talk to me about anything.” I then explained to her that instead of pointing the finger at me, that maybe she should look at herself and ask herself why I don’t talk to her about my life. I explained that I feel judgement and blame when I tell her things. After the discussion, I had to let go of my pride and put the effort in to give the relationship a chance to change. I started calling her more and even opening up more. She too let go of her pride and respond with an open mind, listening ear and no judgement. And she even went above and beyond and began responding with curiosity to what I shared with her.

Pride affects communication. When there is a breakdown in communication in a relationship, there is a breakdown in the relationship. Pride triggers the fight or flight response in both the parent and the TEEN and the results of this can be detrimental to the relationship.

God and Pride
I’ve had a lot of parents and TEENS come to me with these very same issues and ask me how I can help them. Well, actually, their request is for me to change the other person by talking to them. My answer is always the same. I explain to them that we can certainly sit down and communicate their feelings to the other person, but we ultimately cannot change the other person’s behavior. Trying to change someone else is where our pride is.

So instead, if they are a believer, I am able to explain it to them in such a different way, by relating their relationship with their parent or child to their relationship with God. God is our Father. He is our creator. He does not make mistakes. He does not shame, judge or boss us around. He does not roll his eyes at us. He does not give up on us. He does not walk away from us. The God I know loves us unconditionally. He is patient and kind. He is forgiving and merciful. He sees the mistakes we made and continue to make right under His eyes and He is there to catch us when we fall.

When I started looking at my relationship with my children in this way, I was able to respond in such a different way to them. The walls came down and all I could see is love for my children. The relationships changed and their walls came down too. God wants us to talk to Him. And when we do talk to Him, He doesn’t respond with criticism and judgement and He doesn’t tell us what to do either. He’s given us the Holy Bible as His Living Word and He wants us to use it to seek Him and know His will for our lives better. It is a lifelong process and we mess up a lot.  Just like God gives us a way to live, we give our children rules, boundaries and expectations. And when our children disobey those rules and don’t live up to our expectations, we get stressed. Our reactions to our TEENS are not always Godly.

TEENS can learn a lot about how to have a healthy relationship with their parents through their relationship with God as well. As a child of God, I want more than anything to please Him. I’ve learned that my way of doing things doesn’t even begin to compare with His way. I’ve learned by making mistakes that His way is so much better in the long run, even though most of the time His way makes me uncomfortable or may be hard. It’s the same thing with our parents. We may not always like or understand what they are asking us to do, but God tells us to obey our parents. If your parent is making a mistake, you need to trust that God will work that out for you and your parent.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I know your parents are not God. But God is your Father. Your parents are your earthly parents. God is the ultimate boss. He created you and know what is best for you. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This means that He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. He loves
your parents and He will work it out if you just step back and give Him the time and space to do it.

And just as our TEENS need to be reminded of this, so do we as parents. We need to be reminded that they are His before they are ours. He will work for good in their lives. He can fix any mess they make. Our job becomes transitioning to be their brother or sister in Christ.

Ways to Conquer Pride
After reading this chapter, my hope is that you are better able to identify your own pride in your relationship with your parent or child. The following are ways to conquer pride in the parent/child relationship.

1. Awareness.
Having awareness is the first step in being able to change the relationship you have with your parent or child. Once you become aware of these things, you can take the next step toward conquering your pride.

2. Prayer.
Prayer is the act of communicating with God. It involves admitting our faults to Him, asking Him for forgiveness and
then asking Him to show us a new way; His way. It is the act of letting go of our own way and surrendering that way to Him. I will usually end these prayers by asking God to help me see a situation or person through His eyes.

3. Learn a New Way of Thinking
Once you let go of your pride, you will be restored with a new way of thinking. There are three characteristics I strive to replace my pride with. I say strive because I am human and like you I am never going to do this perfectly. The three characteristics are humility, grace and gratitude. The next chapter is going to explore how these three characteristics can change the parent/TEEN relationship into a more loving, open and healthier relationship.

So if you take anything from this chapter, please understand that pride is a defense mechanism that gets triggered by stress. A parent gets stressed when he or she is not in control and has fear of what will happen once they let go of that control. And the TEEN gets stressed when he or she feels controlled. Replacing this pride with humility, grace and gratitude is the way to having a healthier relationship with your TEEN.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

1. Do you recognize your pride in your relationship with your parent or child? Which characteristics listed above do you relate to? Explain by giving an example.

2. How does your prideful thinking or behaviors affect your relationship with your parent or child?

3. Describe one way your pride triggers fight or flight in your relationship with your parent or child.

4. How does God respond to you when you do not meet His expectations for your life?

5. How can you respond more like God in your relationship with your parent or child? Give an example.

 

5 Ways to Conquer Inner Critic Thinking

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Inner critic thinking is that inner voice that spews all kinds of irrational and negative statements in our minds.  It gets triggered by stress and is fueled as we feed it by adding to the negative stories it tells us.  We all have an inner critic.  But guess what!  We all have an inner coach as well.  Unfortunately, most people spend more energy feeding the critic and ignoring the coach.  Our brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out.  And just like our muscles, our brain needs reinforcement and repetition to grow stronger.  When we spend our time feeding into negative thoughts, we strengthen the critic.  So it only makes sense that if we can learn how to reinforce and build the coach that it will get stronger.  As the coach gets stronger, our irrational and critical thinking will get weaker.

Irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions are usually extreme and negative thoughts based on beliefs and ideas we get from our culture, society, family or even religions.  Our brains hear and idea or belief and process it by categorizing it or organizing it in the brain.    One of the ways we can organize a thought is by categorizing it into being good or bad.  When we do this we distort the belief by creating rigid rules and expectations about a particular person, place, thing or situation.  These rigid rules and expectations keep us stuck in our heads and can grow as we feed the storylines and make assumptions.  I will give you an example from an intuitive eating workshop I did this week.

Belief or idea:  “Sugar and white flour are difficult for the body to process and can trigger the brain to want more.  Eating too much sugar and white flour can cause the brain to become dependent on it much like a drug addiction. “

Cognitive Distortion:  “Sugar and white flour are bad.  I should never eat sugar and white flour.  If I do, then I will get fat.”

You can see that the belief or idea does not make one reference between white flour/sugar and fat.  But our brains can distort the information into a new thought or belief otherwise known as a cognitive distortion.  In turn, we label white sugar and flour as “bad” and many people feel shame and guilt when they eat it.

Intuitive Eating teaches 5 ways to reframe cognitive distortions.  These 5 techniques help to build the inner coach and conquer the inner critic, reframing our irrational thoughts and re-programming our brain to process beliefs and ideas in a healthier and more rational way.  These ideas come from the work of Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of “Intuitive Eating”.  Elyse and Evelyn use these techniques to help clients overcome irrational and negative thoughts about diets and body image.

1.  Actual Experience.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with an actual experience.

Example:  “I’ve eaten sugar and white flour before and did not get fat.” 

2. Fact.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with a fact.

Example:  “Many thin people eat sugar and white flour every day.”

3.  Mindful Awareness.  This technique is simply acknowledging the thought without judging it or feeding the storyline. Mindful Awareness allows for you to reframe the distortion by recognizing the fear and anxiety that is triggered by the thought and being present with those feelings without having to add anything to them.

Example:  “This statement or belief makes me feel worried and anxious about eating white sugar and white flour.”

4.  Gratitude.  Challenge the distortion with an attitude of gratitude.

Example:  “White sugar and flour tastes yummy and is in some of my favorite foods.  I am so grateful they are available to me to enjoy when I feel like eating them.”

5.  “For the Most Part Thinking.”  Challenge the distortion by adding “for the most part” to the statement.

Example:  “For the most part, sugar and white flour will not make me fat or addicted when enjoyed in small amounts.  For the most part, I am free to enjoy them in my diet.

Try applying these reframing techniques to your irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions.  If you would like to learn more about my work or services, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.

The techniques discussed above are from the book “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.

 

Stress and the Parent/Child Relationship

Life-Planning

-Romans 12:2
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Stress blocks intuition; it blocks our ability to hear from God. Stress leads to living in survival instead of living life. Learning how to manage our stress and balance our mind, body and spirit leads to a more intuitive and balanced relationship with our children. This book will help you to understand why and how stress is triggered in your relationships with your children, will help you to learn ways to overcome that stress and will teach you how to incorporate new ways of communicating and relating to your children. But first you must be able to identify what stress is and what it feels like.

A Psychological Explanation of Stress
Stress occurs every day, everywhere and in everyone. Stress affects a large percentage of the general population. People struggling with stress range from infants to the elderly in age.

The long-term impact that stress has on a person’s nervous system is great. Often times stress will affect a person’s mood and can even result in a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. It can lead to people engaging in high risk or unhealthy behaviors to numb them and help them cope with feelings of fear, worry and insecurity. Lastly, stress can have a tremendous impact on relationships.

Last week I had a friend tell me that he doesn’t know what is wrong with him.  He said he simply feels exhausted and he doesn’t know why.  He told me that it’s gotten so bad that he plans to see his doctor to discuss medication options.  I looked at him with a flat affect, confused by how he really had no idea why he is so tired.  He gets up at four AM to start his day and doesn’t stop to rest until about eleven PM.  He has a high
stress job that is demanding, a busy family to take care of and recreational commitments to tend to.  He does practice self-care by eating healthy, exercising regularly and feeding his spiritual needs through his church community and music, but he does not take enough time for rest.  Instead, he tries to fit all the activities into his week and the result is fatigue and exhaustion. It has affected his mood, his behaviors and his relationships with family and friends. My friend expressed feelings, symptoms and long-term effects of stress which is the result of not listening to his mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs.

The following explanation is my understanding of what happens to the body, mind and spirit when it experiences stress:

Stress is a chemical reaction caused by an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. When we experience a stressful situation or event, it causes sudden feelings of panic, fear or worry.

The feelings of panic, fear and worry make us uncomfortable, so our natural instinct is to respond by fighting back or trying to avoid the situation. Sometimes our natural instinct to these feelings is to freeze.

This kind of response does not solve anything. It simply makes it worse and over time the stress builds, sending more frequent and intense surges of adrenaline and cortisol throughout the body. If we experience stress on a regular basis, then our bodies adapt to the cortisol or adrenaline high and they eventually become unbalanced. If our bodies are unbalanced, then we can experience the rise in cortisol or adrenaline at any time, even when there is no external stressor. When this happens, it becomes difficult to rest, eat, exercise and do the natural things our body needs to rebalance itself and can result in a clinical diagnosis of anxiety.

Stress on Mood, Behavior and Relationships
Over the last several years, I’ve worked with many teens who are struggling with high stress at school. We live in a culture where we push our kids from morning until evening. They don’t eat properly, they don’t drink enough water and they don’t sleep enough. Electronics are taking over our world and children and teens sit in front of the screen instead of going outside to play. They sit all day at school and have test, after test, after test. They become overloaded with sensory and auditory information. The amount of stress and pressure they experience combined with the lack of nutrition, exercise and sleep has a serious impact on a child or teen’s mood. After years of living with this kind of stress, they usually experience symptoms of anxiety accompanied by panic or sometimes even agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). In time, the anxiety leads to depression.

Adults also struggle with high stress. Our culture does not encourage us to take time to unwind or destress. Instead, it pushes us to keep going, suck it up and fight through the stress. Half the time we don’t even know we are stressed until
it is too late. Like teens, adults do not eat regularly or nutritiously. They do not sleep enough hours and they do not get enough exercise. Many don’t drink enough water and instead survive off of caffeine or energy drinks to stay awake and energized. Our culture has made it nearly impossible to recognize stress and anxiety because it’s way of dealing with stress is to use some kind of quick fix or substance to numb and relieve it. Addictions have become high among teens and adults for this reason.

Relationships are deeply impacted as a result of the effects that stress has on our mind, body and spirit. Do you know anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, or addictions? If you answered yes, then please take a moment to reflect on how their disorders impact their lives, specifically with regard to their relationships. Take a moment to reflect on how their disorder impacts their relationship with you. Anxiety, depression and addiction are family disorders, not just individual ones.

Stress and the Parent/Child Relationship
So what does this have to do with the Parent/Child relationship? Stress has everything to do with it. Children shut down because they get stressed. They retreat to their rooms and their video games or cell phones because they are avoiding being triggered by stress.

Do you ever wonder why your kid is rolling his or her eyes at you? It’s because he/she is shutting down and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Why? Because they are stressed or they fear becoming stressed. 
Or do you have a child who is constantly butting heads with you? Why might this happen? The answer is because he/she is stressed, defensive and as a result goes into fight mode to conquer the stress.

I know what you are thinking. You are rolling your eyes saying to yourself, “What the heck does she has to be stressed about? When I was her age….blah, blah, blah.” Yeah, I know, I thought those things before too. But the fact of the matter is that I would never go back to being a teenager. Why? Because I had no choices or control over anything. Being a teenager was hard and today with cell phones, social media and electronics, life for the teenager just got harder.

Finding balance by learning how to manage our stress is a key ingredient to healthy relationships between parents and children. When we live life with balance, we are filled with peace and contentment.

As parents we have a choice with regard to what we do for work, who we surround ourselves with, what we surround our lives with, what we put into our bodies, how we choose to move our bodies, etc. Kids don’t have these choices. Until they are adults, they are expected to follow our lead. And as I grow older and learn more about what it is that children need to become healthy, successful, independent adults, I am learning that children need to learn how to take care of themselves. They need to learn how to listen and honor their intuition and follow where their spirit is being led. Are you raising your children this way or are you feeding off of each other’s stress? Are you guiding your child or are you controlling your child? Are your expectations of your child dictating how you communicate and relate to your child? Are your fears, worries and insecurities triggering stress for you and impacting your ability to make intuitive decisions?

God created each of us for His purpose. He gave every person gifts and skills that they will use to live out their life purpose. Many adults continue to struggle to find the balance between what they want to do and what God wants them to do. In time we begin to recognize that when we adhere to God’s plan for us, our lives become full and blessed and we find peace and contentment even in the midst of distress.

So why do we think it is any different as we raise our children? They are His before they are ours. They too are here for a purpose. As a mother, I’ve come to recognize that my job is not to control my children out of fear that they will go down the wrong path. My job is to teach them how to have a relationship with God so that He can lead them. My part as a parent is the easy one and I am not in control of anything.

Stress impacts our ability to stop and remember this. It implodes us with feelings of fear and worry which are not from God. The rest of this book will help you to better understand why stress gets triggered in our relationships and what we can do to manage it so that we can stay in step with God’s plan for us as parents and how He wants us to guide our children.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

  1. Does stress impact you mentally? Explain.
  2. Does stress impact you spiritually? Explain.
  3. How does your body physically respond to stress? Do you fight, flight or freeze in a stressful situation. Give an example.
  4. Does stress affect you emotionally? Explain.
  5. What people, places and situations trigger stress for you?
  6. Do you engage in unhealthy behaviors to help you cope or numb stress? Explain.
  7. How does the way you cope with stress impact your parent/child relationship?

Grief and the Parent/Child Relationship

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Proverbs 3: 5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I think when we hear the word grief, we automatically assume it has something to do with death. I know I used to view grief this way. But I learned that grief does not only occur when we lose someone or something, it also occurs when we experience changes.

In my book RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal, I wrote a chapter about grief and the stages we go through. I explain that we go through this grief process with any kind of change or loss. This process includes the following 5 stages: denial/resistance, anger/blame, bargaining/shame/guilt, sadness/depression and acceptance.

There are two things we grieve when it comes to the parent/child relationship. The first is the changes that occur in our children as they grow older and how grief affects our relationship with them. The second is the expectations we have of them and in our relationship.

Grief and Change
It has been my experience both working with children and being a mother of three that our relationships with our children evolve over time. When our children are little, it is our job as parents to protect, teach and care for them. Our children develop personality traits early in childhood that help us to determine how we parent, but our role as the parent is the same for all children. It is to guide them. This is somewhat easy for us to do because ultimately we are in control of them. It is a time when we instill our values, beliefs and ideas onto them. It is a time when we dictate the schedule of their lives and have control over what they do in their lives.

Around age eleven something begins to shift in our children. Age eleven is when the beginning stages of pre-adolescence begins. At this age children begin to experience a sense of self or identity. They begin to have their own thoughts and feelings about things. They are able to process the meaning of things and make connections between those meanings and their feelings about those meanings.

As the child continues to get older, the boundaries and rules change. There is a shifting that evolves over time in the parent/child relationship when the relationship is healthy.

The explanation for this shifting is the systems theory. Systems theory says that we are one part of the whole and that any change that happens to one will affect the whole. I believe this to be true as children develop. As they evolve through the developmental stages, we too as parents must evolve.

So what does this have to do with grief? Well, as I talked about earlier, we grieve change and loss. As our children evolve into more independent human beings, we too will evolve with them. Evolving is a process that involves going through a series of feelings much like grief. At first we may have difficulty recognizing or even resist the changes our children are going through. We may become triggered by their independence and feel angry when they express thoughts and feelings we don’t understand or agree with. We may bargain with them in order to gain control again. We blame and shame them when they don’t live out our expectations of them. And lastly, we feel sadness and sometimes even depression as we come to realize that they are becoming their own person, rebelling against our desires and wishes for them. Eventually we learn to accept them for who they are and love them no matter what. And when we reach that place of acceptance, we find peace in our relationship with them. They are no longer shut down from us or fighting us.

Grief and Expectations
The second thing we grieve in the parent/child relationship is our expectations. Our expectations come from what we were taught. They are instilled in us through our culture and society. Our teens have expectations of how we will parent them and parents have expectations of how their parenting will turn out. Neither one will be right though.

I can remember envisioning my family before I gave birth to my first son. I envisioned the family from 7th Heaven, you know that cheesy show where there was sunshine and rainbows after every argument. I learned the hard way that in order to be a better mother to my children, I needed to be aware the expectations I have of myself as a mother and of their paths of my children. Having expectations of people, places and things will always lead to disappointment and puts pressure in the relationship.

I believe that every child is different and we need to assess each situation as it comes. The situation that most comes to mind when I think about expectations is grades. Parents have expectations that their teenager will get certain grades. I don’t think there is anything wrong with challenging your child to get those grades if he or she is academically capable of getting them. But often times, these expectations are not even discussed with the teenager. And if they are, many times we are not listening to what they are saying as to why they are not fulfilling those expectations.

I had a teenager I was seeing and she had A’s and B’s on her report card. She was bright and worked hard in school. As she got into high school her grades dropped and she had a harder time keeping up with the expectations in the classroom. She would forget to turn things in and would not get grades for missed assignments. Her parents insisted that she was being lazy. As I started learning more about this client, I decided to recommend some testing. Long story short, we found out that this teenager had a mild learning disability. Her parents were shocked as they had no idea their child was struggling the way she was. They never expected to get the results they got, but once their child received some help, her grades improved and she was back to getting her usual A’s and B’s. The relationship was also restored.

I can’t tell you how many times I have a teenager in my office that is telling me about their struggles and the parent is in denial that there is an issue. They are convinced that their child is being lazy or oppositional. Some even use the excuse that it is a phase instead of taking the time to sit and talk with their child and really listen to what is going on. I too am guilty of having expectations of my children. I expect them to get up in the morning without an attitude, help around the house, go to school, then sports and also maintain friendships. I expect them to be nice to their siblings and respect their parents. I expect them to do this all with a smile. But then I reflect on my own life and realize that I don’t do this all perfectly either and I am a grown adult. As I began to understand what my expectations are of my children and in my family, I experienced grief. Why? Because in order to accept the reality of the things I am expecting, I go through resistance, anger, blame, shame, sadness every time they don’t turn out exactly how I expected them to.

I am not telling you it is bad if you have expectations of your children. I am telling you to be aware of your expectations and be aware that you will grieve if they don’t turn out the way you expect. And during those moments grief you will experience denial, resistance, anger, blame, shame, guilt, sadness resulting in ups and downs with your children.

What You Can Expect
As the parent and child go through the changes in their relationship, it is common for the both the child and parent to feel stress and become reactive to the stress they encounter. This is why you will often see a child shut down or become argumentative or resistant to the parent during these changes. The stress that is triggered comes from the feelings of grief we experience as the child develops and changes and as we are forced to let go of things being exactly the way we expect them to be.

The grief we experience in the ever changing parent/child relationship is a process and it happens over time and in layers. I share this explaination with you to help you understand why you may feel some of the feelings you feel in your relationship with your child. Be compassionate with yourself and with your child as you become more aware of these patterns. Allow yourself to feel these feelings without judgement of yourself or your child.

God gave us feelings for a reason. He also gave us the process of grief, therefore I know it is not bad to feel these things. But what does He want us to do in times of grief? I believe He wants us to lean on Him. And He wants us to teach our children to lean on Him. When we lean on Him, He will guide us and comfort us through our times of grief. He will make our paths straight if we trust and obey His will and desires for us.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

  1. Is grief triggering stress in your parent/child relationship
  2. What kinds of changes are happening in your parent/child relationship that are causing grief?
  3. What stages of grief have you experienced in your parent/child relationship? Explain.
  4. Please list your expectations (“should” or “should nots”) that you have for yourself and your teenager. Have you experienced grief with any of these expectations? Explain.


Learning how to feel in a culture that does not want us to is like trying to row a boat against the current. We may rock back and forth and side to side. We may even flip the boat and fall out. But If we persist long and hard enough, the currents will shift and we will eventually make it to shore.
-Katie LaPlant

My Story Part 4

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Thank you so much for allowing me the time and space to share my journey and experiences with you.  This story is the first part of the book I wrote called, RENEWED.  RENEWED is not only a book, it’s a program that teaches people how to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally by re-learning how to connect to their inner self.   I want to take a moment to share with you the outcome I’ve experienced as a result of following the RENEWED approach to intuitive living.

I started RENEWED with my story to explain where I came from and what my cultural, societal, family and religious background was like growing up. Like most of you who chose to read this, I grew up not knowing how to take care of my whole self. My inability to live intuitively was the result of the culture and society we live in. That society and culture impacted my grandparents, who projected what they learned onto my parents, who projected what they learned onto me. I had to re-learn how to listen to my inner wisdom and inner self. I had to learn to connect to my intuition. And most importantly, I had to learn how to manage my stress by practicing self-care so that I could stay connected to true self.

So much has changed as a result of relearning how to listen to my mind, body and spirit. The biggest thing I learned was how to have faith in God. During my mini breakdown, when I decided to finally learn how to cope with stress, I was challenged to trust in God. I chose to believe in Him and chose to ask Him for help. As I stated in the beginning of this book, I’ve always believed in God, but I had never truly surrendered my life to Him.

My relationship with God started with a physical and mental problem. I was desperate to feel better; desperate for my anxiety to go away. I was desperate for sleep. I was desperate for peace. I had little energy, but tons of motivation to get well.

Since turning my life over to God and learning how to listen to my intuition so many things have changed. I learned how to accept that life is a process. I may pray for something to be restored or healed, but most of the time, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. I learned how to be grateful for my troubles. I learned how to view my troubles as a chance to learn and grow. I wouldn’t say that I get excited when I have troubles, but I do have peace during my troubles.

Today I can recognize my stress within a matter of hours to a few days. I no longer spend week after week in stress. Today I know that when I start to feel uneasy, then I need to take a step back and assess my path. I still encounter stress and I still encounter depression, but I know that it will pass. I also know that it can be a sign that something in my life is off or needs to change.

When I started to live intuitively, my fears of people and fears of talking went away. I am now writing, blogging and beginning to speak to groups of people. I am leading groups and teaching. These are things I never would have imagined myself doing as they used to cause me a great deal of anxiety. And best of all, today the inner critic does not bother me after I talk in a social setting. I no longer obsess about what I said or didn’t say or about what they think of me. Intuitive living allows me to live for God, therefore, I do not need to be afraid. If God brings me to it, then He will provide the resources I need to get through it.

I learned how to accept my faults and failures and know today that I am not perfect, nor am I expected to be. I know that it is
okay to mess up and I do it a lot and am able to smile during and after my mistakes. Today I know how to laugh; I know how to have a sense of humor.

I also know how to grieve. I know how to recognize expectations and I know how to feel the loss and rejection that comes when my expectations are not met. I no longer run or hide from my problems, nor do I need to get defensive.

I no longer struggle with bulimia. I am learning to fully embrace my body for what it is today. I am intentional each day with physical self-care and I do the best that I can. I continue to struggle with emotional eating at times, but I think everyone does. I am able to remind myself that I am not perfect, so I am not going to eat perfect every day. I am much gentler with myself. I do not restrict food today. I enjoy food to the full. I love food and I love the different seasons in nature and holidays that are included. I enjoy every bit of eating, especially during the fall and winter seasons.

Today I engage in exercise that I enjoy. I love to cycle with my husband, walk my dogs, lift weights and jog on occasion while catching up on my favorite television shows. I do not put the pressure I used to put on myself to overwork my body. I love the movement I do and enjoy my time at the gym, on the bike or in nature with my dogs.

Today I have purpose. I understand that I am here on this earth for a reason. I seek that purpose every day. I understand that it changes and evolves over time. I own my own practice and am building programs that teach people how to take care of themselves. This is one of my favorite changes I’ve encountered. I feel like a butterfly who exploded out of its cocoon. I love my job and feel so blessed to be doing
it. Work brings me a sense of fulfillment and validation. And when I take on too much (which I can do sometimes), I take a step back and regroup by adjusting my schedule.

Today I have friends. I have real friends who care about me. I have friends and family that I know would be there for me if I needed it. But more importantly, I am not dependent on them for happiness nor do I need them to feel good about myself. I have healthy, loving relationships.

I have a church that I absolutely love. I cannot imagine my life without this church. One of the best things I ever took the risk to do was to explore my faith. Today I not only attend church, but I volunteer at my church. I lead at my church. Most importantly, I grow at my church. I am not afraid at my church. I do not feel bad at my church. I have no guilt or shame at my church.

Throughout this journey, God has become the most important part of my life. I used to put my faith in money, relationships and food. But today I know God. Knowing God allows me to live without fear as well as to have freedom from guilt and shame.

My journey has been long and it has been hard. But I would not change one part of my journey. Today I like myself a lot. I am a pretty cool person who does pretty cool things. I could not say that before. My journey has taught me how to let go of some of the hardest things I’ve ever been challenged to let go of. I know I still have a long journey ahead filled with continuous healing and growth, but I have faith and fully believe that I will continue that journey. My life gets better and better and the blessings get bigger and bigger.

There are circumstances and situations I dread in the future to come, mostly having to do with losses of loved ones, because let’s face it, that is never easy. But I know that I have God and I also know that this life is not eternal. I know that I do have an eternal, spiritual life waiting for me when I am done here. This gives me great peace.

RENEWED is a program I’ve developed as a result of my personal and professional experience in working with people who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, relationships and even addictions. My hope is that it will reach people and help them too. I believe that God has a plan for this program. I believe that He used me to create this to help others. While I have hopes for what will become of this, I know that no matter what happens, God is in control.

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling. 

Peace and blessings,
Katie

My Story Part 3

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Emotional Crisis
Throughout my childbearing years I worked as a clinical
social worker in the Children’s Department of a community mental health center. I was working toward my license part time. It was an amazing experience for me. I
worked in community mental health for ten years. During
those years I met a lot of clients. Some were as young as 5 and some were as old as 19. I could relate to their feelings of anxiety and depression. Because some of them were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I decided to diagnose myself with bipolar disorder. I can remember sharing with two different therapists that I thought I had bipolar. I don’t think they believed me.

A few years ago, during the time of Tyler’s surgery, I decided to see a psychiatrist to get some psychotropic relief for the anxiety I was feeling. What I really wanted was a pill to stop my compulsive eating. At this point I had given up on ever reaching my pre-baby weight; I just wanted to stay in the overweight category of the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and started me on minimal medications that had somewhat of a positive effect for a short period of time. After a few months the medications were increased by the psychiatrist and a year later I was being faced with a taking a second and third drug which was a pretty serious medication.
I was still overweight and completely obsessed with being a size 4 again. The medication wasn’t doing a thing as far as I was concerned. If anything it was causing me to binge eat more. But the doctor insisted that I needed the medication. I told him “Thank you very much but I don’t want it anymore.” I asked for his blessing to help me to wean off the medication. He was very sweet and kind and agreed to help me, but did not agree with my decision. My therapist was worried too. I could see it in her face, but she whole heartedly supported me through the entire process and told me to go with my instinct that was screaming for me to get off these medications. Yes, it was that voice again.
I did wean off the medication. It was complete and utter hell. It took 3-4 months to regain balance in my body, mind and spirit. Once again, I cannot believe my husband stayed with me through it all. I was an absolute mess through the whole process. I had severe panic and anxiety accompanied by insomnia for three months. I almost caved in and took a medication for the insomnia, but fought through it. This period of my life made the most impact on me. Surrendering to that experience truly changed my life forever. During that time I questioned everything I learned about mental health, physical health and spiritual health. It was my moment of complete surrender.

Finding Balance
Through that experience I developed a relationship with my aunt who was learning how to be a yoga teacher. She taught me how to breathe and how to connect with my body. She also taught me some gentle yoga postures to help me relax. I could only do these things for about two minutes at first. My mind would race, my heart would pound and I needed to get up and move. I felt like I could not breathe.
That summer I met two holistic nurse practitioners. One introduced me to vitamins that helped with anxiety and sleep. The other helped me learn about how food affected my mental health. She encouraged me to try an elimination diet for a few weeks. I was so desperate to feel better that I did it. I cut every single processed food, dairy, sugar, caffeine and gluten out of my diet for four weeks. Then I slowly added foods back in. It was the start of learning how to listen to my body.
I could not believe how sensitive my body was as I added the foods back in. I got headaches from certain foods and I noticed body pains from others. I noticed gas, bloating and digestive issues. It was eye opening. I didn’t stay on a clean diet for long because the desire to compulsively eat was stronger. Shortly after, I went back to my old ways of compulsive eating. I think I even purged a few times that year which was something I hadn‘t done since before I had children. But, I knew I was on the right path because I was sleeping better and feeling better.
That Fall I went on my first retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. It was a terrifying, but life changing experience. I took a workshop on anxiety that weekend and learned about the inner critic voice in our heads. I began to implement what I learned into my life. Being at Kripalu healed my anxiety. Overcoming my fears and trying new things, talking in small groups with people I didn’t know, crying in front of others, eating healthy food and practicing breathing and yoga techniques for the weekend all changed my life.
At Kripalu I learned how to take care of myself and more importantly why I need to take care of myself. I learned that weekend that I need to put myself first. So I began to do it. That year many things changed. I developed a very close relationship with God. My relationships with friends changed. I could not take care of my friends anymore because I did not have the physical or mental energy. I learned how to ask and accept help. I was not used to this and it was a challenge for me to accept help from others. But that voice and feeling in my heart told me that if I wanted to get better, then something needed to change.
Little by little my need to please others disappeared. Fear of people, criticism and judgment slowly faded. I opened a small private practice that grew quickly and left my job of almost 10 years. I lost friends in the process and fought with family that year, but I healed. All through this I continued to use food to cope with my feelings.
I recently decided to face the next challenge…my biggest challenge…my eating disorder. I call it my cross. My eating disorder has always been the cross I bear. I tried every diet out there. I tried Overeaters Anonymous and just recently was talked into trying a very expensive shake diet. I did lose weight for about 2 weeks, but gained 15 pounds back. I finally decided I needed to look at why I gained 15 pounds after all I had been through and all I had learned.
As my spiritual practices continued, the answers became clear as to why I was putting on the weight. About two years ago I lost a good friend. I considered her my best friend because she knew the deepest and darkest things about me. I shared my whole self with her. We shared our spiritual beliefs, our fears and our worries. She was my neighbor and dear friend. Our kids were friends and our husbands were friends. We vacationed together and even decided to do some spiritual healing work together. One day during her journey of growth she decided that she no longer wanted to be in a friendship with me. She refused to tell me why and abandoned the friendship without giving me a clear reason.
I tried several times to reach her, but failed. I spent two years of my life struggling with understanding why and how she could just get up and leave. I wondered why and how she could spend time with other women, but wanted nothing to do with me after all we had shared together. I questioned why I was so unlovable. I asked her for forgiveness; not understanding why I needed to be forgiven. I gave her the space she needed to figure things out.
I gained about 20 pounds while grieving the loss of our friendship. I became embarrassed and ashamed when I would run into her and drive by her house because it was noticeable that I was struggling with food by the amount of weight I gained. I wanted to hide. I knew it was time to go back to Kripalu for healing. I found a workshop by Geneen Roth on her latest book “Women, Food and God”. I felt that intuitive feeling again, so I bought the book, read it and began the process of implementing her principles and guidelines into my life. But, I gained a few more pounds.
Something inside me pulled at me to not give up and keep learning and going. I knew I had no other choice. Every single attempt to lose weight failed. So I did. I attended her workshop which was the most amazing of them all. She taught us about intuitive eating which is the process of listening to our mind, body and spirit regarding eating. I continue today with the process of intuitive eating. What does it feel like eating? Am I mentally hungry or physically hungry? Recognizing when I am full has been the biggest challenge of all. The process of intuitive eating led to my lifestyle of intuitive living.
True Surrender
It has been about a year and a half since attending that workshop and starting an intuitive living lifestyle. So much has changed for me. What started out as learning how to listen to my body, turned into listening to my body, mind and spirit. They are all part of the whole. I wrote my first book after that workshop. It was intended as a coaching tool for clients to help them begin to dialogue and process their food journey. That book evolved into this program.

My spiritual life grew quickly after that workshop. I started doing things I would have never done before. Once I could feel what was going on inside me, I could begin to listen. Soon after I learned how to listen, I started to take risks and began obeying my intuition. I learned one very simple thing; if I take the risk and obey my intuition, then I will not fail. But if I ignore it; then I will become anxious, imbalanced and eventually depressed.

I still encounter daily challenges. I mean come on now, I am a wife and mother of three very busy children. All three children have their challenges. I am constantly battling the education system which can be very stressful. My kids are involved in karate, hockey and football which involve a very busy practice and game schedule. I have two puppies I am trying to train which has been very overwhelming. I am a small business owner and I am in the process of writing this program so I can share it with many others. And I am very involved in my church. Life still gets overwhelming, but today I know how to recognize when I am stressed and I know what to do to re-balance myself before it turns into a chronic anxiety or depression.

Click here to read “My Story Part 4″….

My hope in telling you my story is to help you to uncover yours. My guess is that you can relate to some of the feelings I felt and the experiences I went through. To continue reading more about my journey with self-renewal, check out my book, “RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal”.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you to find peace and balance in your life, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  To join a RENEWED group or attend an upcoming 5 Week Transformational Workshop, please check out the Events at Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling.