What I do…

 

If you’ve checked out my “about me” section, or you know me either personally or professionally, you know that I’m a child and family therapist.  I’m amazed, though, how many people aren’t really sure what that means.  Some assume that I’m some sort of physical therapist and others guess that I work with severely emotionally disturbed children or children with disabilities.  Well, I wouldn’t know what to do with your strained back, but I do occasionally work with children with severe impairments.  That’s not the bulk of my practice, though.  Most of the people that I work with are just like you and I- trying to do their best in raising their children and running into some issues that they’re brave enough to seek some guidance on.

I’ve had people close to me judge this clientele harshly and question the need for parenting help.  If it were to be suggested to these people that their own child might benefit from therapy, they’d take great offense and assume that this reflects poorly on their own competency.  These people tend to believe that each parent should be able to take care of issues on their own, that they have a responsibility to do so, and that by seeking help they’re shrugging off that responsibility somehow.  I’d like to challenge that right now.

First, let’s take a look at childhood.  We know that a child’s brain is developing and isn’t yet equipped to handle the full weight of adulthood (in fact it won’t be fully ready until about age 25 or so).  Children find themselves in many situations which require them to interpret adult situations using their still developing minds.  Think about all the times in the last year or so that you’ve felt stress.  How many of those situations impacted your child?  I’d argue that either indirectly or directly every one of those situations impacted your child because it impacted you.  Now you may be capable of reasoning that the stress you’re experiencing is transitional, or that it’s mild relative to what could be going on in your life.  You are probably equipped to decide that some exercise or rest is just what you need to deal with the stress.  But your child probably isn’t capable of doing any of that on their own.  They need help to understand their emotions and to select constructive ways to express these emotions.

The larger problem here is that as parents, we’re often trying to teach our children the very things that we were never taught growing up.  We want them to be better people than we are.  That’s the beauty of it all.  So how can you be expected to teach your child something that you yourself struggle to master?  That’s where I come in.  When you don’t know what to do.  When you care so much that all you want is to make it better for your child, easier for them- no matter what the cost.

I know your family is important to you and that you realize the great gift you’ve been given in having the opportunity to shape a child into a contributor to our society.  I applaud you for having the courage to put your own issues aside for the greater good of providing your child with the help they need.  Everyday I work together with parents to generate solutions to help their families function better, happier, with more stability.  I take the time to learn what’s important to them and what works for them.  I help support and encourage them through the hard times and celebrate the good times with them.  This is what a therapist does.  This is why I love my job.

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Back to School

 

It seems like all my clients can talk about these days is going back to school. They’re either super excited to see their friends and have recess time with kids their own age, or they’re dreading having to go back and get into a schedule again. As for my family, we’re working on getting our 5 year old ready for his first year of school and experiencing all of this for the first time. I’ve been coaching parents around the back to school transition for years doing in-home therapy, but it’s an entirely different thing to experience it myself.
In coaching, I’ve always focused on how to make the transition smooth for the child. Mimic the routine as closely as possible at home for a few weeks before school starts, make sure your child has had medical/vision checks to ensure they’re at the top of their game, be consistent with bedtime and wake up times, etc. Every child needs to adjust to getting back to school, not just my clients. Especially if you’re doing it for the first time, like I am right now, children need to know what to expect.
The part that I’ve been missing all these years of coaching parents is getting the parents themselves transitioned back to school. I always preach about how the work I do would be useless without parental coaching, but in this area I have been guilty of over-focusing on the child and forgetting the system they live in. I’m sorry. Here it is- parents need help transitioning, too. It’s a stressful time for the whole family and as the cornerstone of the family, parents set the tone for the experience of all. So how can parents adjust?
– Try mimicking the routine of school for yourself, as much as for your children. Address any problems right away.
– Give your children age appropriate responsibility for their own routine- most children of age to attend school can handle getting themselves out of bed with an alarm clock, or getting themselves dressed without reminders. Make these expectations clear and hold your child accountable.
– Create organizational simplicity in your home. A place for backpacks, a space for homework, a calendar of events for the family, etc. Adults benefit from some structure just as much as children do.
Finally, a reminder: every member of your family needs to have fun. Getting back into the routine in school often means cutting time from other activities. Please make sure to keep fun as a priority in your home and spend some time playing together every day. Don’t do it for your children, do it for yourself.

Hello world!

I’ve finally started my blog!  This has been a long time coming and I’m so very excited to spend some time writing and sharing with whoever feels inclined to read my posts!  Please share with me any thoughts you may have on things you’d like to see on my blog.  I’d love to write to your interests in children’s mental health, rather than just assuming that you’ll find my thoughts interesting.  I hope you have a fantastic day and that you’ll come back soon, as I start adding real content.

Love first.

Leah