Gratitude for the Small Things Grows Your Relationship

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Do you give your loved one credit for when he or she “tries” to show their love or caring? Gratitude for these small steps can create a beautiful chain of more happiness and connection in your relationship.

Maybe it is not exactly what you had hoped for but it is a try or an effort toward what you do want. It is easy to get into a state of wanting it exactly the way you want it and standing firm that you will not be content unless it is that way. I am not saying you should give up on what you want or need, but that you should consider the “process” of getting where you want to be in your relationship.

Some Things to Consider as Loved Ones “Try” to Show Their Love and Caring:

  1. It does not have to be perfect. When you expect perfection and your sweetheart comes up short, it is a set up for dis-contentment or unhappiness. Maybe you want or hope for more. And that can come. But in the moment you can acknowledge the try or effort toward what you wanted or hoped for. Maybe you want a sharing of chores in the household. Your husband chooses to help with dishes one night. It may not be all you want, but it is a start. 
  2. Search for the parts in the try that feel good to you. Be mindful of what is being done or offered to you. It is Valentines Day and your husband brings you chocolates home. You like chocolate but you had hoped for something new and different. You can still enjoy the chocolates, savoring each piece knowing your spouse was thinking of what he knew you liked and was trying to please you. 
  3. Let your loved one know you appreciate what they did do. This will bring more of this your way and beyond. You have been telling your wife you would like to carve out more couple time away from the kids. You are thinking in your head a weekend away. She sets up a 2 hour date night. You choose to thank her for carving out this special one on one time to be just with you. 
  4. Let the good stuff from the try or effort sink in and stay with you. Let it nourish your inner self and know you are cared for. Let it be a part of you, not letting it slip away. Keep it as a touchstone to remember and build on.

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Moving Toward More of What you Do Want:

  •  Do express your needs and desires. Do so in a calm, respectful manner, letting your partner know how this specific action will help to make you a better couple and increase happiness for both of you. Avoid demanding or insisting.
  • When these things occur let your happiness show, telling your partner how this makes you feel and express your thankfulness. This does matter. Your visible reaction and encouragement helps your loved one to know it is worth it.Plus it makes them feel very good as well. And it increases your chances of more connection.
  • Do illicit and ask your loved one what it is that THEY need or are hoping for in your relationship. Try to work toward these desires if it is a healthy request that could strengthen your relationship.

Let the small acts of love take root in your heart for they can grow and fill your soul with happiness and joy.

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

 

Less Serious, More Playful

Less Serious, More Playful

Feel like your life is one endless stream of “to do” tasks? All work, no play. You can go through your life seriously “serious” all the time. I have to admit I tend to run this way, full of purpose … Continue reading

How to Create What YOU Really Want for the Holidays Ahead

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I cannot believe I am writing a blog post on this, but it has already began – the thinking, the obsessing, the worrying, the planning, the stressing about the holidays ahead. The four upcoming holidays can feel like they all merge together into one massive overwhelm. It can be hard to separate them out. But of course it does not have to be that way. I want to share some ideas on creating holidays that are truly what YOU want. And now is the time to contemplate all of this – at the beginning of this time frame.

It is so easy to get caught up in it all and end up doing things you may not really want to do. Or to sometimes not really plan and end up not doing what you really want to do with your holiday time. So here are some ideas to consider.

 Questions you might ask yourself about the upcoming holidays that may help you be the true “creator” of  YOUR  holidays:

  1. What would my perfect holiday times look like? What would I be doing? Who would I be with? Ex. – For some it may mean enjoying time with loved ones. or slowing down to enjoy a special what ever it might be.
  2. What does each holiday really mean to me? Or what do I want it to mean to me? Ex. –  One family may say it is a time to reflect on what we are really thankful for?
  3. Does what I do reflect what I want my holiday to look like and be about? Ex. – Yes and No. Maybe yes we spend time together. But no there is too much competition with iPhones, video games, etc.
  4. What are my most favorite memories of past holidays? What was I doing? Ex.- One child may say when we had the snow ball fight in the front yard. Dad may say, when we went out looking at holiday lights and had hot chocolate after. Mom may say when we all made a holiday meal together.
  5. What are my most un-favorite memories and what can I do to avoid these from happening again? Ex. – This might be for some – the stressing and rushing and overwhelm.
  6. Do my holidays all merge together without a real feel of truly enjoying each one for what they are? A very good question, are we really mindfully enjoying each holiday?

Develop a Flexible Plan That Fits You and Your Family

  • Meet together as a couple or a family to talk about some of the above questions.
  • Decide together (or for yourself if you are single) what your main goals for the holiday are. Is it to relax? To be with family? Enjoy special holiday activities? Celebrate a particular religious belief? A mix?
  • As a couple or family you can put together a flexible plan of the kinds of things you want to do and begin gradually to work toward this.  Incorporating everyone’s ideas is very important if you are in a family or as a couple.
  • Keep in mind that too much will feel overwhelming for most people and that thoughtful choices are a much better route to go. It is not so much about how much you can pack in, but incorporating what you most want to do and really taking time to ENJOY it.
  • Try to stay open and flexible as plans shift and change as they will at times. Knowing you can be happy even if things do not happen exactly as planned.

My hope for you and your family is that you create what you most want and desire. Happy Holidays to you and your family!  holly-leaf-small


Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

ACT Limit Setting for Children

I love the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting method for children. This is a wonderfully positive and helps children to begin to develop self-discipline. This is what we ultimately want for our children – to be able to regulate their emotions and behavior; in addition, being able to set healthy boundaries for themselves and others. That is what I feel this kind of limit setting model can do for those who use it consistently.  I had an opportunity to present to a group of therapists last week and part of this training was presenting this model to them.  It is simple, but effective.  I find it to be respectful of children and gives parents the needed skills to set healthy limits with their children.

Here are the Basics for the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting, which were developed by Dr. Garry Landreth, University of North Texas and author of  “The Art of the Relationship” and co-founder of Child Parent Relationship Therapy.

ACT Limit Setting 

  1. Acknowledge the Feeling – Example: “I know you want to eat some cookies right now. You are hungry and you like cookies.
  2. Communicate the Limit – Example: “It is almost time for supper. Cookies are for after supper.
  3. Target the Alternative – Example: “You can have some carrot sticks or you can help me set the napkins on the dinner table.”

This is simple, but effective. Part of making it effective is REALLY listening to your child and reflecting what they are feeling. And then respectfully letting them know the boundary, with a follow-up of “what they can do”. This last part is so important in giving the child something to move toward that is acceptable.

You might ask what do you do when the child will not comply? You can first repeat what you initially said. Some choose to repeat this a couple of times, with a bit a space in between the information giving. If there is still no movement toward what is needed, you can then make the choice for the child or follow-up with a natural consequence. With the child in the above example you might simply put the cookies up high out of reach or ask that they go to another part of the home as they are getting into things that are off-limits. Of course standing by the limit you have set is important as well. This all said in a calm, matter of fact voice is best.

For more information about this method you can go to Dr. Garry Landreth’s book “The Art of the Relationship”.

I highly recommend the following video on the ACT Model of Therapeutic Limit Setting. This video is done by Dr. Theresa Kellam. She is one of the co-authors of the Treatment Manual for Child Parent Relationship Therapy. This video is of her own personal experience with her own child when she first learned this method of limit setting and what happened afterwards with her child as she grew older.

www.youtube.com     Go to: ACT Limit Setting by drkellam.

I encourage you to try this model of limit setting. I think it is a healthy interaction in helping children to learn to self regulate and in learning how to accept and set boundaries themselves when needed.

 

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Here I am presenting a workshop on Family Play Therapy, in which I cover ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting.

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Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional . Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

How to Set Healthy, Respectful Boundaries

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Do you need to set some boundaries with someone and not sure how to do it without being offensive? I wanted to share some thoughts on boundary setting and how to do it in a healthy way. For many folks boundary setting is not easy. We all want to be loved or we want to protect our relationships. Setting a boundary can feel scary as we may worry about any upset that it may cause. Setting a boundary or limit or saying no can come off abrupt and sharp or it can be done in a way that is respectful and non offensive.

Boundary setting is something that can apply to lots of different kinds of situations. This is intended to share information in regard to the general idea of healthy, respectful boundaries for all relationships. And among that sometimes it may not be a relationship but a situation that is occurring.

If you care about yourself and want to do good self-care, boundary setting will be a necessary interaction that you will need to engage in from time to time or quite frequently depending on those you are in contact with. Here are my thoughts on setting healthy, respectful boundaries.

Healthy Boundary Setting

  1. Let’s first look at what Boundary Setting is. This is about self-protection and good self-care for your self OR if you are a parent setting a boundary with a child or teen, it may be about protecting them and caring about their well-being. Respecting and standing up for yourself is a part of boundary setting. Healthy boundary setting is also about being respectful of those you are setting a boundary with.
  2. What is the difference between Offensive Boundary Setting and Healthy Boundary Setting? Offensive boundary setting may come off as harsh or uncaring. Healthy boundary setting will be aiming toward a respectful dialog and a healthy relationship.  Examples – Talking to your spouse: “I know you are upset with me, but I need you to tell me in a softer voice and without yelling” OR  Talking to your teen: “I know you like talking to your friends late at night, but our family rule is no cell phones after 10:00 pm.”
  3. Healthy boundary setting involves you deciding what is best for you or as a parent of children at home for your children.  It is about being in touch with your feelings and honoring what feels right to you. If someone is doing something that feels hurtful or abusive, then setting limits of how you are willing to interact is important. You cannot control another person, but you can choose to step away or disengage from someone who is being hurtful or disrespectful in an adult relationship.
  4.  Arrange a time to talk with the person you need to have a conversation with that is a mutually good time. Or it may be that you need to have this conversation as the need arises in a more natural consequential way. 
  5. Take some deep breaths and center yourself before you embark on a conversation about boundaries.
  6. When having a boundary setting conversation, start with letting the person know you desire a good relationship (if this is part of the issue) or that you need to let the person know your feelings on something. 
  7. You can acknowledge the other person’s needs or feelings first before begin to express your own.
  8. Use respectful language about your feelings and what you can and cannot do, keeping your voice calm and using a low tone.  You can ask for what you need. The important thing is that you express your feelings and needs. The person you are engaged with may or may not be willing to accommodate you. If not then you will need to decide what you need to do. This is not in retaliation, but in the stance of good self-care and respect for yourself.
  9. Stand your ground and keep with what you feel is best for you. Do reiterate if your boundaries are pushed again or if your initial request was ignored. But at the same time don’t push it in someone’s face if they are cooperating with you.
  10. Feel good about your self growth of being able to stand up for your self.

Boundary setting will involve you having a healthy self-esteem, knowing that you matter and how others treat you matters. It also involves having courage to have a potentially hard conversation with another. I  recently read one of Rick Hanson’s articles in which he talked of “speaking from the heart”. That is really what we are talking about here – speaking from your heart and letting the real you express what is needed to be said to help you feel better.

Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional. Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action  you take in regard to this article.

 

Letting Go and Creating What You Do Want

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One of the first steps to creating what you want is to “let go” of what no longer serves you. This opens the door to the possibility of creating “what you do want”.

I have always hated the term “letting go”. Have you ever had someone say “You just need to let it go.” I have and my first internal response is, “No, it’s not fair and I am not letting it go.” This letting go thing is not always easy and I think one of the  lessons I have learned from my own personal experiences and many of my clients is that is a journey or a process.

There are little, medium and big letting go of things that occur. Small things, like someone was rude to you is different of course than a loved one doing something very hurtful. The journey process mentioned below is more about the significant or larger things that occur that we feel stuck in.

Let’s take a look at this journey of letting go and what we might do to help navigate this process. Then put our focus on what “we do want” as this is what will get us to what will make us happy.

  1. Recognize that letting go is a process and it is ok for it to take some time. This will be different for different folks.
  2. Honor your real feelings of upset. Explore them and acknowledge them.
  3. Talk with someone who understands your need to process the genuine feelings you have and who can listen in a non judgemental way, without giving lots of advise. This may be your spouse or partner or another family member. Or it may be a good friend or even a therapist.
  4. To keep these upset feeling from overwhelming you, consider setting a certain amount of time that you will think about these feelings. And then do and experience other feelings outside of this time. Let the good come into your live during these times.
  5. Decide on what you want to do with your feelings. For example you can tell the person who hurt you what you are feeling. You can decide what you want to do from that point out that will make you feel better.
  6. When the time is right decide it better serves you to let go of the upset and move to a place that makes you feel more happy, with less worry. You can do this. And it will lead you down the ultimate path of being at peace.

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At this point, you are ready to create “what you do want”. Now that this upset energy has been moved out you have space for the good stuff. And isn’t this where most of us want to end up. Being in a place that brings us joy and happiness. Letting all that is good into our life. Here are some of my thoughts on creating what you do want.

  • Spend some time really thinking about what you do want. What do you want more of in your life? Who do you want to spend more of your time with? What do you want to do that is new? What makes you really feel happy and passionate?
  • Begin to boldly take some first steps in what you do want. It is time to give birth to your new you or your new life you want and desire. It is not always easy to take these first steps, but after you get going you will find a momentum that occurs.
  • Enjoy and absorb all the good feelings that are coming from taking the first steps toward what you do want now. This can nourish and feed your soul that is recovering from the hard things you needed to let go of. It feels so very good to focus on the good.
  • You will find the more you focus on what you want, the more it will evolve in your life.
  • Remember it does not have to be perfect. Enjoy all that leads you to where you want to go!

It is all about allowing a space for the good to come in and then creating the life you desire! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be Happy Even in the Tough Times

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We all want a PERFECT life, with all good things always coming our way. Nothing wrong with that. What we envision will many times be what we get, just not always in the form we think it will come or with the exact timing we wanted. We are all human and live in a human world with constant change and things not always going in the way we planned. Being able to go through those times and still be happy is a sweet thing indeed. It means we have some control over our emotions and have some choice. Isn’t that a grand thing.

Sometimes it takes us remembering what it is that REALLY makes us happy.

  1. Yes it is fun and exciting to go on vacation. Or buy a new something for our house. And it can make us feel happy. But in the end, for most of us it is about our time with our loved ones and the beautiful interaction and love that flows between us. So for me I try to remember when I am feeling sorry for myself that it is not so much about what I have or specifically if something goes as planned, but who I am with and my time spent with them and the joy and playfulness that we create together. Plus the support and strength we draw from one another. Giving us a life of love and connection – what we truly need as humans. For example: Your spouse or partner seems down and really is not into the fun time you have planned together. You feel upset too in that you wanted a fun time with your loved one and it is not happening. So opposed to having a fit of upset, you dig a little deeper and find that your sweetheart is really distressed about a particular something that you did not know about. So you learn more about this and find an empathy and wanting to help make your loved one feel better. You begin to feel closer with the sharing of this information. So all is not lost, you connected at a deeper level. You now understand your loved one better. You can put your heads together and find some ways to make it better for both of you.
  2. We see something going a certain way and it does not. We don’t understand. We did all the right things. What happened? Sometimes we don’t always know. But, what we forget is that the other something can lead to something even better. And we have to remember that all is well regardless of what happens. We don’t have to let what happens to us dictate weather we are happy. You have all heard the saying: “One door closes and another opens.” Well it is true. We just have to know and have confidence this is happening. Knowing there are good things out there for us. And things will work out. Our knowing and action toward this will facilitate this happening. Meaning we accept and move on when a door closes and go out there and create opportunities for others to open for us. Knowing that many times these new open doors will lead to something even better.  For example: You are in charge of a project in which you have taking a lot of time to find another to assist and they do and you feel all is going so well.  Happiness blooms all around you! And then the person needs to   bows out. All that thoughtful planning down the drain. Frustrated, you begin again. But is all lost?  No. You are just now ready for the next person to finish in another way that may be just as good or maybe even better. So stay tuned for Chapter 2.  Your story will enfold, maybe even with a better ending! 

Please Note: I do want to say I am not promoting that we ignore our upset or sad or angry feelings. Those are all valid and should be acknowledged. I am promoting that we allow ourselves to go beyond this when we are ready to do so and know that it is possible. I am saying basically we do not have to stay stuck in an emotion that we have more choice that we all think. 

In the end, it is all about perception, how we view something and how we choose to respond. We can choose happiness. It is just a step away. It may not look the way we originally thought it would, but it is still there. So go for it. It does not have to all be perfect to be happy. So step out and dare to be happy even when all is not perfect. You will be glad you did!

 

Forgive Yourself and Move On

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We mess up, we make mistakes, we are human! We all have times we are not happy with something we did or did not do.  So we might begin by telling ourselves: “It is ok. I am human and I can make mistakes. I am still capable and worthy of being loved.”

So what can we do to forgive our selves from our “mess ups”?

  • We can check in with ourselves and decide if we are being realistic with ourselves. Are our standards too high? I am not suggesting that we do not have standards or not try to do the best we can. I am suggesting that we remind ourselves, “We do not have to be perfect.” Letting go of this idea can be very freeing.
  • See mistakes as an opportunity to learn. I was reading about Albert Einstein and found that he had 1000 unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb. When he was asked how it felt to fail this many times he said ” I didn’t fail 1000 times,. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps .”  So know that your mistakes are just “steps” in your journey of what you want to become.
  • Start again. It’s ok. We can start as many times as we want. Isn’t it nice to remember we can always start again. It is one of the wonderful internal strengths we humans have – to begin again. 

So Forgive Yourself, Move On.

We are destined to be our best version of our self. Getting there means being ok with our human mistakes and “mess ups”. This is not to say that we do not make amends or ask for forgiveness when appropriate. It means we forgive ourselves and find compassion for ourselves. This is the first step of course to doing the same with others in our life. It is the first step toward going where we want to go. 

Best wishes in your human journey of loving and forgiving yourself. It is a basic for being at peace and continuing on to where you truly want to go!

 

Teaching Your Children About Giving

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With the holiday season upon us, it sometimes feels like all we hear from our children is “what they want for Christmas”.  Many of us hope that we can help our children develop a more balanced approach to what they want / need and helping others with what they want / need. The focus of this blog piece will be on the end of teaching our children about giving. “Giving is a basic value that makes our society a humane and civilized one.” This is not always easy as there is just so much of us during the holiday season. So it becomes about us too as adults coming to terms with  our own balance of the two things. So it may start there with us examining our own hearts.

christmas tree brid decoration philbrook 2015 orange with seed in it

I decided to re-visit this topic that comes up for me ever so often in my own family. I was at Philbrook Museum of Art over the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and saw the beautiful outdoor Christmas tree decorated for the bird’s to nibble on. It made me think of the trees I have created in the past with my children when they were younger for the birds. And thought again of the issue of making sure I create this “self-care / other care” balance in my family. So here are a few ideas on the side of giving to others.

Christmas tree bird decoration philbrook 2014 grapefruit

 

Teaching Your Children About Giving

  1. Start with yourself. How do you feel about giving? Are your beliefs or values reflected in your actions?  “I feel what our children see us doing is the foundation for teaching our children about giving.”  For what we do will so much more affect our children than what we say to them. We are powerful models for our children. The second piece of this is about our balance of self-care and other care. Is our balance where we want it to be and is it reflected in a way that our children can see this balance? 
  2. Create GIVING OPPORTUNITIES that are developmentally appropriate for your children. These activities work best when done together as a family. They carry so much more weight and power this way. AND they create some very special memories and solidify the message you want to give to your children.  These activities might include some of the following: going through toys and games no longer needed or wanted and passing them on to a non-profit agency; assisting in making some holiday treats to take to a nursing home or a neighbor, having children use part of their allowance to buy something for a special toy drive or angel tree, volunteering their time to help someone who needs help, etc. All of this depends of course on the specific age of your child. 
  3. Talk with children about WHY you like to give to others in your family. This may take a bit of a different slant for different families. For some it may have a religious basis. For others it may be about their own family values. ” Regardless it is good to talk about why we give in our family.” Talk with your children about why you give. This is good for us all to consider as adults. Why do we give? For me I give because it feels right, it fits with my religious and personal value system and it always comes back as to good feelings and blessings in my own life. It is important to remember that giving comes in different forms – our time, our talents, our material goods, our money.  This is another conversation one can have with their children. This is not a lecture, just a discussion as the time arises that it makes sense to talk about it. “But again, it is the action itself that will cement in your child’s memory the value or message about giving.”  
  4. Praise your child for their giving. It always help when others acknowledge our efforts. Of course, the intrinsic rewards of giving are powerful in themselves. 

christmas tree bird decoration philbrook 2015 cranberry ring

I hope you will find your balance in your family of self-care and other care. And that you will give your children this holiday season the gift of giving. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes! Tanna

christmas tree dec for birds philbrook 2015 orange with cereal cranberry string