What makes it “click”?

My 7 yo son (RC) and husband went for a hike the other day with no real plan, just a guys’ day to get out and enjoy some bonding time. They ended up in the Blue Ridge mountain area and hiked for 9 miles! Yes, NINE MILES! I don’t know about you, but I was astonished at the distance they went and how chill they were afterwards. I congratulated RC over and over for his accomplishment and told him how proud he should be of himself as well.

I should have led with the fact that my very bright, but not always a self-motivating, son has been dealing with self-esteem and confidence issues. He has always shown high intelligence since he was young, and so therefore, stupidly on my part, I never thought I’d ever have to worry about him academically. I never really over his homework with him to see how he was doing because he always came back with 3s (which for Kindergarten and 1st is like an “A”). But this year, which is his 2nd grade year, he started struggling some. He started to fall a little behind on his reading scores and comprehension. Although for him, “falling behind” still landed him in the high average range. However, he started noticing how some of his other classmates didn’t struggle like him with comprehending or reading long passages. They had it a little easier and weren’t having problems with some of the big words like he was. I wasn’t really worried because I’d spoken to his teachers about it and they all said he was doing “fine”; “no worries here,” they said. So, if they weren’t worried, I was going to either.

Until one day, when RC was really moody and snappy with me, that I told my husband he needed to have a “talk” with him because he wasn’t opening up to me and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’ll stop here to let you know this is the epitome of “a counselor CANNOT counsel her own child!” It just doesn’t work. You are too emotionally invested (hence why counseling is so great because it’s a bi-partisan person – just a shout out to counseling for a second).

My husband is not your typical sit down with someone and let’s have a talk kind of guy, so he and RC went down to our little workout area in the basement and my husband started talking to RC about what was the definition of “hard work” when it came to building muscles and being overall healthy. My hubby pointed out that it’s not just a one and done kind of deal. Even when you’re good at something, if you stop working on it, the muscles and strength you gained starts to fade.

I would love to say that’s when it “clicked” for RC, but it wasn’t. I do, however, think it planted a seed, and seeds are what you need to start to develop deep roots for understanding and comprehending the bigger things in life as they happen.

So back to the hiking story. I was talking to my husband after RC went to bed and was again congratulating him on getting our boy to go so far. I told him I saw a real difference in RC when they came back, and he seemed geared up to do more things to get stronger and healthier. I asked, “Is that all it took? Just a long hike with his father?” My husband turned and said, “Absolutely not. Yes, I was super proud of him at the end at his persistence and how much he had pushed himself today, but don’t get me wrong, we had a major hiccup in the middle that was the real test in proving to RC just how much he lets his mind stop him from going as far as he can.” He went on to explain that there were two creek crossings on their hike (and this is January, people) that they had to take their shoes off and go across barefoot in the water. The first time RC went across he stopped in the middle and said, “I can’t do this! It’s TOO COLD!” and just froze up. My husband had to go in and carry him out on his back to get him across.

  

CYNTHIA BENNETT-Image caption-Baloo (top) and Henry’s close bond has won them almost half a million followers on Instagram

Now, what RC didn’t know at that time, but my husband did, was there was one more crossing that my husband wouldn’t be able to cross with RC on his back because of the slipperiness of the rocks. Therefore, in preparation, my husband began to talk to RC about how much power how mind has over how far we can actually go. He went on to tell RC that most people could go farther than they think but are only able to accomplish about 40% of what they capable of because they let their negative self-talk talk them out of going beyond their “comfort zone”, of pushing themselves to see what they can really do. He told RC, “If you’re able to recognize this and see that it’s really just fear talking, and not what you’re really able to do, you’ll go farther than you can imagine. And when you do, man, let me tell you – it leaves with you feeling of pride like you’ve never experienced.”

I guess something in that speech really took with RC. When they came to the next crossing, my husband explained to RC he couldn’t carry him because one of them may get hurt and RC was going to have to go across by himself. With a deep breath, and a moment of silence, RC ran across the creek like a lizard across water!

I couldn’t tell you what, exactly, changed in RC in that moment, but what I do know is that he saw himself overcoming an obstacle that before he never thought he could. He found in that moment strength and confidence that he didn’t have before.  

It’s not always a singular moment, or a single statement, that helps your child develop self-confidence or self-awareness. It’s about letting them fail; letting them struggle, and then letting them see with self-perseverance and strategies they’ve learned they can overcome. They can rise above, to push through, and to succeed. It’s all about planting the seeds. Giving your child strategies that build him up and strengthen his assurance in himself that when the struggles happen, he can find his own way to reach the light.

 

*If your struggling to help your child overcome some obstacle in his/her life, don’t think you have to do it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member or find a counselor in your area today that specializes in the uniqueness of child/adolescent therapy. You are never alone.

How to Tame a Tantrum Without Saying A Word

How to Tame a Tantrum Without Saying A Word

We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all dreaded them happening to OUR child. The dreaded temper tantrum…eek!!!

While they are not something that need to be condoned or encouraged, by any means, tantrums do have a purpose; and understanding that purpose can sometimes help us as parents, or grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc., calm our child down.

Tantrums usually manifest when a child has just had enough. They’ve had enough of being told what to do; they’ve had enough of all the noises going on around them; they’ve had enough of siblings taking their things, or breaking their things. They are just done with everyone around them, and they have become overwhelmed with feelings that they don’t know what to do with.

Start From a Place of Empathy…

Have you ever experienced a time where you were trying to get someone to see your side of a situation, but everything you said, they had a comeback; so much to the point where you wanted to either scream or throat chop them so they’d listen (this could be a literal or figurative throat chop)!?

That is similar to how kids feel when they have a tantrum, except they may not always say it with words. They show their frustration rising through their behaviors – like clenching their fists, or teeth;  squeezing their eyes tight; wringing their hands together – the list could go on and on.

The best way to manage a tantrum is to start to notice the signals your child is giving that they are about to “lose it.” When you see this happening, you want to pull them aside and ask them calmly if something is bothering them; then you would want to use a calming strategy to help them reset and recharge.

After they are relaxed and in a calmer mindset, you would want to ask them what happened that got them upset, do they think they handled it in the best way, and what could they do differently next time?

And that is in a perfect world.

Yes, that is what we strive for, but kids do not always follow the perfect world scenario.

But really, it’s not their fault; at least, not always.

Their brain is not wired to start thinking logically about events until around age 6 or 7. And it’s not until around age 11 that they can start thinking more abstractly and hypothetically of, “If I do this, the result would be this. What are the consequences of my actions? Am I okay with that?”

So asking a 2 year old to stop and think about their actions, before they act, is literally something their brain is not wired to do at this age.

When a young child’s emotions build to a certain point, they just act. They aren’t thinking about what they’re doing; they just know they feel uncomfortable with whatever they are feeling and they want to get it out.

It’s good to have some release. However, full-on tantrum mode is less of a release, and more of a child screaming for help.

So, what do you do then?

Responding to a tantrum with screams, threats, spanking, etc., only confuses your child more. There are cells in our brain, referred to as mirror neurons (you can read more about them here: The mind’s mirror), that have been shown to be the reason we respond with certain feelings to other’s actions almost as intently as we would if we were performing the action.

What this means for you and your child is, if you respond to your child in a loud, aggressive, and aggravated tone, they will keep responding to you in the same tone, and things will continue to escalate. But, if you respond to them in the opposite manner, then they are more likely to calm down sooner and follow your lead.

It’s all about the direction you show them. You know they are overwhelmed, and they don’t know how to think through what they can do to calm themselves down; so you have to be the model.

It’s all about the direction you show them – you have to be the model.

But what exactly do you model?

Here are a few ways you can help tame a child’s tantrum without saying a word

(and I know these can work because I’ve had to use them with my own kids as well!):

Breathe. 

Sit down where you are and just breathe. In slowly through your nose for 7, and out slowly for 10. Continue to breathe for as long as it takes. It’s not only good practice for you so you don’t start screaming yourself, but it’s a great way to model relaxation for your child.

Give a hug. 

You don’t have to say anything. Just reach over and give a hug. I do want to warn, that sometimes just reaching out and hugging can be a trigger for a child to get more frustrated. So an alternative is to sit down and hold your arms out to offer the hug when they are ready. You don’t need to sit with your arms out the whole time, but every once in a while, when you see them look up, hold your arms up to signal to them you are there when they are ready.

Read a book. 

Preferably one that you know is their favorite. You don’t need to read out loud; just calmly start turning the pages, making happy faces as you go through.

Practice a yoga move.

Yoga is a great relaxation technique for any age. You don’t need to be doing any crazy headstand moves or anything, but more simple yoga techniques like the child’s pose or corpse pose. These poses can help trigger a state of deep rest and relaxation all on their own.

Turn on music. 

Either fun dancing music or calm, classical music. The choice is yours and can depend on the situation. If dancing is a better distraction for your child, and it’s something they enjoy, then by all means go for the fun more upbeat music. But if focus and calm is more what you’re looking for at the time, then go for the classical.

Are there other ways that you have been successful with calming a toddler during a tantrum? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!


Thanks for reading!

If you liked this article, please subscribe to my newsletter to get more resources and insight delivered right to your inbox.

– Jenie 

Proud to be a “Hot Mess Mom”! – And why you should be, too!

Proud to be a “Hot Mess Mom”! – And why you should be, too!

“You can do anything, but not everything.” –David Allen


I think it’s incredibly empowering and transformative to take ownership. Not like ownership in the sense of owning a car, or a house, or whatever. But owning who and what you are. So in light of that statement, here is me taking ownership – I am a hot mess mom. (TBH, I also can be a hot mess wife, friend, and daughter, but let’s stick with one at a time, shall we.)
 
It’s not like I haven’t tried…

I have tried over and over to be that Pinterest mom that takes her kids on scavenger hunts every weekend; to create some kind of nature collage from the dirt and leaves that we find on our nature walks; that has the cutesty, little chore chart that keeps everyone organized, and on time for all of our activities (instead of running out the door with one shoe on, the other hanging by its shoe strings in my teeth while I grab the littlest one before she makes a death dive down our stairs for the fourth time this morning).

But I can’t be her! I’m just not that type of mom.

I’m a working mom; a commuting mom; a cleaning mom (some of the time); a working out mom; a t ball mom (which I LOVE by the way); and a trying to be an entrepreneur mom. And don’t forget awesome and devoted wife as well. With all that, I don’t have time to fit in much else.

There used to be times that I hated that I was a hot mess. I hated that I just couldn’t pull myself together to have the kids ready 30 minutes BEFORE we were supposed to leave, instead of 30 minutes AFTER. I hated that I was always having to run to the store at the last minute because it totally slipped my mind that it was Dr. Seuss week at school and the kids were suppose to wear their favorite character’s costume, when, that’s right, TOMORROW!

Well, you know what…

I’ve had just about enough of the hate. And so, I stopped. 
 
I stopped hating that I couldn’t get it together and started basking in the things that I do pull together.
 

So to all you other “hot mess moms”, here are the things you need to own, to be proud of, and to take joy in knowing that hot mess moms are also wonderful moms:

You are not alone.

I mean there is a whole online store dedicated to moms who claim to be a hot mess: http://hotmessmom.com/store/. And if there is shopping involved, it’s always good.

Your kids see you as a rock star! 

Trust me; they do. They may not say it every day, and it may not always show, but your kids see all the effort you put into making that cute little pancake bunny breakfast; or showing up and surprising them for a book read at their school when you can take the afternoon off; or when you just sit down and take the time to read their favorite book with them out of nowhere, not just because it was bedtime; or play their favorite board game with them. They see this, and they totally admire you for it and love you even more for all that you do for them. Because you are their mommy superstar!

You know how to make the best of those silent moments when you get them. 

Wait, both kids are napping at the same time – hello bubble bath!

You are a woman of mystery. 

I mean if a movie is made about it, it has to be a good thing. Right?!
You’ve learned to laugh at yourself, and be okay with it. 
In the words of Mindy from The Mindy Project, “I figure if I’m gonna be a mess, I might as well be a hot mess.” That’s right. I mean there is no better mess, than a hot one.

You are great at empathizing. 

You know the struggle is real to drag yourself out of bed every morning, early enough so you can get yourself ready first, then get the kids up, get them dressed, fed, and ready for school; then out the door, to school, on time, so you can get to work on time – and that’s just the start of the day. When you see another mom who looks like she is literally thinking, “I cannot do this anymore,” you go over, with no judgment, and just put your hand on her shoulder to tell her, “You’ve got this. Take a long, deep breath, because you are an awesome mom.” And your kids learn how to comfort others by watching you. You see it in those moments you have when you feel like you are about to lose it, so you sit down, trying to keep it together, and your little one tugs at your shirt, saying, “Mommy, can I have a hug?” Winning!

So I admit it: I am a hot mess. And I am proud to be a hot mess mom.

I’m not perfect, and life has been better once I stopped trying to convince everyone else that I am.
 
 The more I tried to hide my flaws, the harder it was to relax, to enjoy life and be with others, and the less fun I became. I had to add a statement to my list of positive affirmations: “I’m not perfect; no one expects me to be; and I can ask for help when I need it.” Oh it felt SO good to say that out loud! So much rolled off my shoulders at that moment, and I felt freer, more ME than I had in a LONG time.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t take ownership of my responsibilities either. It’s not always easy, but I know what my role is in my family, and I find ways to make things happen; to get things done. They just might not be done perfectly; and I’m okay with that!

This world cannot be discovered alone. It’s too big for that! In the world of being a mom, be proud that “you can do anything, but not everything.” 

I’ve learned that my challenges can become my strengths – through perseverance, patience, and time.

So, let’s stop thinking that we have character flaws, and instead only character advantages. It’s a benefit to be someone who can empathize with others, who can be a superstar, who knows how to laugh in the face of adversity, and who knows to never take advantage of any given day. And that is something I can be proud to own.

What can you start owning today about yourself?

What are your character advantages that you are proud of?

MMH Awareness Week: Connect the Dots

MMH Awareness Week: Connect the Dots

This week is Maternal Mental Health Week, as promoted by the Maternal Mental Health Coalition. 

In case you haven’t heard of it, Maternal Mental Health Week is all about talking and bringing awareness to the topic and the signs that mothers, fathers and partners should all be aware of, and for them to know when to ask for help.

I’ve made a short video for you about this week’s topic:  #connectthedots:

To gain more information and to find more resources checkout: http://mmhcoalition.com/mmhawarenessweek/

 

Thanks for watching!

If you liked this article, please subscribe to my newsletter to get more resources and insight delivered right to your inbox.

 

– Jenie 

Jenie Christopher, LPC | Simply Joy Counseling

View More Posts Like This:

What makes it “click”?

Giving your child strategies that build him up and strengthen his assurance in himself that when the struggles happen, he can find his own way to reach the light.

read more

How to Tame a Tantrum Without Saying A Word

We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all dreaded them happening to OUR child. The dreaded temper tantrum…eek!!! While they are not something that need to be condoned or encouraged, by any means, tantrums do have a purpose; and understanding that purpose can sometimes help...

read more