Learn to Relax
August 24, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Communication, Mental Health · Permalink · Comments Off on Learn to Relax

The following exercises are ancient yoga breathing techniques shared by Francesca Bove, a registered yoga instructor in New York City.  One is called Sama Vritti Pranayama or “same length breathe”; the other is “alternate nostral breathing” or Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit. These both work to calm the mind and body, clearing the way for sound thinking. Enjoy!

Sama Vritti Pranayama

Benefits: Calms the body and focuses the mind.

Instructions:

1. Come to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees hip width distance apart. Take padding under your seat as necessary.

2. Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first.

3. Begin a slow count to four as you inhale. Then also count to four as you exhale. The exercise is to match the length of your inhale and exhale.

4. You may experiment with changing the number you count to, just make sure your inhale and exhale stay the same length.

5. Continue breathing this way for several minutes.

Nadi Shodhana

The term nadi shodhana means the purification of the nerves.

1. Sit in a comfortable cross legged position, spine straight, shoulders down, and relaxed. Head centered between the shoulders, chin tipped slightly downward, eyes closed. Use the thumb, and fourth finger (ring finger) of your right hand. The two middle fingers can rest gently on your forehead. To avoid strain in the neck, and shoulders, keep them closed into the palm. The pinky is not in use.

2. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring-little fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.

3. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle.

4. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand position and go back to normal breathing.

Benefits

Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety

Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain

Said to purify the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice

Special Note:

Do not force the breath in any way. At the slightest sign of discomfort reduce the time of each inhalation, and exhalation or discontinue the practice, and check with a health professional.

Alternate nostril breathing should not be practiced if your nasal passages are blocked in any way. Forced breathing through the nose may lead to complications.


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Alcohol and Relationships
June 24, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Alcohol and Relationships

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships helps you recognize whether alcohol is playing too big a role in your life.

DO YOU HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM?

by Lisa Merlo Booth

Too many couples have a third party creating problems in their relationship. That third party is alcohol. When alcohol is a source of stress in a relationship, it is typically because one partner thinks the other partner either drinks too much or is no fun to be around when they drink. The other partner, of course, does not think this is the case.

For those of you who struggle with this issue in your own relationship, let me help you out. Below are several warning signs that your drinking is, minimally, a problem and possibly alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
• You’ve ever been worried about your drinking and tried to stop or cut back as a result.
• You’ve experienced blackouts due to drinking.
• You become mean-spirited and nasty when you drink.
• Your drinking has resulted in your missing work, losing your job or not being able to perform your job as expected.
• Your partner, friends, children or co-workers have commented on your drinking.
• Your drinking is a source of tension between you and your partner (and not because your partner is opposed to drinking).
• You “have to” have a drink to calm down or relax.
• You often drink to get buzzed or drunk.
• You seldom, if ever, stop at just one drink.
• You use alcohol to loosen up and give you social confidence.
• You drink alone or hide your alcohol use.

There are several signs that your drinking has moved beyond social drinking to problem drinking, but the best indicator I know is: if your drinking is creating problems in your relationship or your life—your drinking is a problem. The problem is not your partner’s thinking it’s a problem.

If you’re not sure whether or not you have a drinking problem — chances are you drink too much. If people in your life think you have a problem and you get defensive when they say this — chances are you drink too much. If either of these two circumstances is present and you have a family history of alcoholism — you’re playing with fire. If you don’t control it, you will get burned.

Alcoholism has an uncanny way of getting passed from one generation to the next. If there is any question that your drinking is a problem, then deal with the issue NOW. Stop the toxic legacy of addiction. You, your marriage and your children deserve to have a safe, sober environment in which to thrive.

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Divorce Mediation at Soho Parenting
May 25, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Separation/Divorce, Therapy · Permalink · Comments Off on Divorce Mediation at Soho Parenting

Parents know their children best. That is why in the case of a divorce, the working out of a parenting arrangement and schedule is best left to parents – not courts or litigating lawyers. Even when the hurt, animosity, and fear involved in divorce feel overwhelming, many parents can come together and make decisions about how to set up the post-separation life of their children.

Ruth Bettelheim, a marriage and family therapist suggests a simple change in the law would have a huge positive impact on families. She writes in the New York Times Op-Ed, No Fault of Their Own, family law could “defuse tension by requiring parents to enter mediation to find a custody solution that best meets the needs of all concerned…In an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. Intelligent legislation could promote the one thing that children of divorce need most: peace between their parents.”

For years, divorcing families have come to Soho Parenting to talk about their conflicts and to find solutions to questions about their children. Even in the most contentious situations, it is amazing to see that parents can pull together and talk through, negotiate and decide on arrangements. When you step out of the archaic divorce court system and away from the sometimes combative advice of lawyers, parents do a great job agreeing about their kids with a strong but supportive mediator in the room.

Now we will be able to offer Divorce Mediation services at Soho Parenting in a more formal way.  The process includes helping couples to decide on financial matters and parenting arrangements. The completion of an agreement becomes a binding legal document. In addition to mediation, couples can meet with a child development specialist, individual therapists if needed.  Our goal, as always, is to support parents through the transitions in family life with complete regard for the care of the emotional needs of their children. Mediation provides an opportunity for parents to rise up to their best selves to make good choices for their families.

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The Honor of Being a Therapist
May 20, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (2)

2008_05_iStock_000003796974Medium-325x494-1People ask all the time, “How can you sit there hour after hour listening to people’s problems?” Here’s how. Imagine that you get to spend an hour or two a week with someone who has entrusted you with their most delicate, personal and honest thoughts. You learn the story of their lives. You know what hurt them, you know what they wish for. You figure out together what trips them up, what keeps them from enjoying what they have, or from doing something new. And in those hours you get to put your heads together and work to help them know themselves more deeply, challenge themselves and change things for the better.

Some are issues you have dealt with or are working on in your own life. Other issues are new and different from your own experience or training so it inspires you to read more and push yourself to change your way of thinking. You get to learn about the intricacies of many different kinds of careers–things you will never study but are fascinating, from writing poetry and design, to finance and surgery.   To understand how each individual takes their talents and struggles and turns them into their life’s work.

As a therapist, you get to watch a family grow, especially if you bring in other family members which is a part of our approach. You get to go through losses and celebrations, glitches and breakthroughs. You watch people unfold and become strong.

Sounds like a good job? All in all it is an honor.

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Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself
May 4, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships explains the importance of taking control and accountability of your own emotions – enjoy!

RELATIONSHIP CHANGE: TRANSFORM YOUR RELATIONSHIP BY TRANSFORMING YOURSELF

by Lisa Merlo Booth

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.
Ghandi

One of the biggest obstacles to transforming relationships is an individual’s endless investment in changing the other person.  Regardless of whether the individual is male or female, most people are ultra-focused on changing their partner.  Many people will say that they do what they do because their partner does what s/he does.  Do any of these sound familiar:
•    “If he would be more responsible, I wouldn’t be so controlling.”
•    “If she weren’t such a nag, I’d be home more.”
•    “If he weren’t so cold and absent, I wouldn’t have to plead with him to speak to me.”
•    “If she weren’t so critical, then I would help more around the house.”
•    “If she weren’t so unaffectionate, then I wouldn’t have had an affair.”

I hear these comments and more like them almost every day.  Believing, however, that you’re the way you are because of someone else, is not serving you.  When you excuse your behavior because of the behavior of your partner, you give your partner WAY too much power.  Since when are you not capable of controlling your own actions?

If you truly want to transform your relationships, then start by transforming yourself.  Begin by looking at yourself rather than your partner.  Pay attention to your relational mistakes and change them.  If you’re too controlling—back off.  If you’re too weak—get stronger.  If you’re too strong—soften. If you’re defensive and dismissive—listen with humility.

Stop putting the onus of control for your behavior on your partner. Your behavior is 100% your responsibility.  Always.  No one makes you be critical, passive-aggressive, controlling or intimidating.  You do that ALL by yourself.  Stop defending your position and start changing your actions.

Know that we all have our fault lines or, as I like to say, our edges.  Our edges are those behaviors that aren’t serving us.  They’re typically the behaviors that those closest to us complain about.  When we can own these edges with humility and have compassion and love for ourselves despite them, it is an incredibly freeing life shift.  Stop dismissing, justifying, rationalizing or blaming your edges on others and instead address them head on.  Change your side of the equation and it will force a change in the entire system: Changing Me, Changes We.

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When You Can’t Send Them Back
April 29, 2010 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Therapy · Permalink · Comments Off on When You Can’t Send Them Back

The story of the adopted eight year-old boy who was sent back to Russia evokes a lot of  judgment towards his adoptive mother. The New York Times Style Section, oddly enough, covers this story in the article In Some Adoptions Love Does Not Conquer All. The piece explores the perspective of other adoptive parents whose children have severe psychiatric problems due to trauma early in life.  Many parents had torturous experiences trying to love, heal and raise their children.  Ellen McDaniels’ struggle is one such experience:

Finally, two months ago, after what Ms. McDaniels described as nine years of frightening, exhausting and heartbreaking efforts to cope with her daughter’s behavioral problems — including, she said, her sexually abusing and threatening other children, threatening to burn down the house, hiding knives in her trundle bed, refusing to take medication and running away — she terminated her parental rights.

Just so painful. But what of the parents whose biological children have serious illnesses like the children in the story?  They have the added guilt and worry that they caused the disorder through bad parenting or genetics.  They can’t send them back. Imagine terminating rights to your biological child. The reality is that any parent, adoptive or biological, whose child is suffering so greatly and is out of control, is in desperate need of help. These families need comprehensive medical, psychological and educational support in raising their children and keeping everyone in their family safe. Only the richest in our society can afford the therapeutic schooling and wilderness programs that address these children’s issues.  Even then it is hit or miss in terms of the quality of care.

Maybe if enough of us pay attention to this serious crisis it will be “in style” to have comprehensive psychiatric care for troubled children.

http://www.nami.org/

http://www.who.int/en/

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/index.shtml

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Bring Your Context Into Therapy
April 27, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Therapy · Permalink · Comments Off on Bring Your Context Into Therapy

chp_cell_phoneThe recent essay  In Therapy Cell Phones Ring True by psychiatrist Barbara Schildkrout talks of the snippets of context she gets as her clients take short cell phone calls in her office.

“A mother receives a call from her teenage daughter. One theme of our sessions has been how to deal with the daughter’s “demanding behavior.” The volume is up; I hear both sides. The daughter is insistent about something trivial; mother is endlessly patient, even solicitous. Now I see that this child hasn’t been getting consistent feedback that her behavior is problematic. Guilt has driven my patient to conceal her anger. She is surprised to learn from me how successful she has become at this deception and how counterproductive it is…When another patient’s husband calls to learn the results of her medical tests, I sense his tenderness; this counterbalances my knowledge of their sexual difficulties…A calliope blares from the coat pocket of another patient, a young man. “I bet a hundred dollars it’s my sister!” he says. Clearly she calls him a lot, and he kind of loves it. Oddly, he rarely mentions her in therapy. Now I learn why. He had been afraid to disrupt the sweetness of his sibling relationship by uncovering its competitive core…In trying to grasp the infinite complexity of an individual’s mind, it helps to narrow the focus by closing out the world and creating a place of privacy. But, for understanding the context — the life a patient inhabits outside the office — it helps to let in some of the sights and sounds.”

Schildkrout is on to something – the importance of understanding a person’s outside world to really help them make progress. So why are we protecting the sanctity of the one-on-one therapist client relationship when it obscures so much crucial information? Loyalty to theory? Narrow mindedness on the part of the therapist? Fear on the part of the client? While there is certainly a place and time for individual work, we feel that bringing in the spouse, children, sister, mother of the client -in an ongoing way or even just for sessions here and there- provides critical insight that speeds the therapeutic process and makes therapy much more honest and useful. Though the essay is funny and sweet I wonder why Dr. Schildkrout would just wait for the cell phone snippets– expedite the process and invite those people into the room. You will be much more helpful to your clients!

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Melt-Down Or Blow-Up: Helping Your Teen In The Aftermath
April 20, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

polar-meltdown-gal-wildlife

By Annie Fox, M.Ed.

If your teen is upset and willing to talk to you about what’s going on, these steps can help you help him/her calm down and figure out the next best move. If your teen is not yet ready to talk, respect that and check back with him/her later. If your son/daughter is unwilling to talk to you for whatever reason and your gut tells you they need to talk to someone… get the help of another adult that you and your child trust.

1. Encourage your teen to ACKNOWLEDGE what he’s feeling and what triggered it. He isn’t required to say, “I’m stressed/pissed/worried, etc. and here’s why.” You certainly don’t want to pressure him by insisting he puts feelings into words. More stress is not what your teen needs right now! What matters most is that your teen tells himself the truth, AKA “I’m upset about _______.” That’s much better than pretending he’s not upset when clearly he is. Also, naming the emotion and the trigger helps to move your child from a purely reactive place into a more reflective (thinking) place. Exactly where you want him to go.

2. Your teen needs to STOP. Tell her calmly and firmly to put on the brakes. This is especially important if she’s in the middle of an argument on the phone, online, or in the real world. Continuing to fight will only escalate the situation (on both sides). No good will come of it and your teen is more likely to do or say something she will later regret. You are more likely to do the same. So stop yourself from reacting then tell her to STOP. If she won’t, you may have to take away the phone or computer for an enforced time out. If she’s arguing with you, simply remove yourself from the situation by saying, “I need a break. Let’s talk about this later when we’ve both calmed down.” Then make sure you revisit the conversation soon.

3. Tell your teen to CALM DOWN. Assuming he’s put on the brakes on his behavior, he now needs to chill in the emotion department. If your teen asks “Why should I?!” The simple answer is: “Because it’s the best thing you can do right now for yourself and the people around you.”

4. Take a BREAK. Or take a walk. Take a nap. Take a shower. Breathe. Count to 50. This advice works for you as well as for your teen. Make sure your teen knows that whatever it takes to calm down is good as long as it’s legal, healthy, respectful, and not against your core values. Make sure you model those rules in your own life. Explain that if your teen won’t calm down, stress will control them and they won’t get to Step #5 where solving their problem really begins.

5. THINK about your goal. Ask your (now calmer) teen: “What are you trying to do?” In other words: “You’ve got a situation here… what’s your idea for the best outcome?”

6. Ask: “Does someone need to change in order for you to achieve your goal?” If someone else must start doing something different then your teen’s goal is out of her hands. To pursue it is to set oneself up for more stress! Remind your teen that all we can ever control in life is our own response to what’s going on. When your teen can identify something she personally can work on, she’s ready to proceed to #7…

7. Ask: “What are your OPTIONS for reaching your goal?” Help your teen make a list of all the options for improving the situation. For each option, encourage him to predict what might happen as a result of choosing that option. Don’t evaluate your teen’s options! Keep your mouth closed unless he asks for your opinion. Guide him by asking: Will what you’re thinking of doing create more or less stress? In you? In a friend? In a group? Important questions to consider before any action is taken! This is an exercise in critical thinking. Let your teen take the lead, think through his options and come to his own conclusions. Your job is to facilitate the process not run it.

8. Ask your teen to CHOOSE the option that best HELPS the situation. Advise her that options which intentional hurt or embarrass other people, anger them or put you in danger will only make things worse. They’ll also create more stress and will bring your teen back to Step #1. Instead, encourage her to move forward. HINT: The option that makes the best sense for improving the situation is usually accompanied by feelings of empowerment and increased self-respect, if not immediately, then in the long run.

9. TAKE ACTION. Your teen should be ready to act. A viable (and mature) course of action may be to opt out of an ongoing argument. In other words, to choose “not take the bait.” In many teen social dramas, this is often an excellent move for your child to decide on. On the surface, it may look like doing nothing, but it actually is accomplishing a lot. And it often takes tremendous courage and/or self-control.

10. CONGRATULATE your teen for calming down and thinking things through. That’s so much healthier and more mature than reacting without thinking.

Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, and online adviser for parents and teens. http://anniefox.com/ Read excerpts from her books: Too Stressed to Think? and the new Middle School Confidential™ series. Download (free) her entire book: Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating. http://teensurvivalguide.com

Listen to her podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting” FamilyConfidential.com

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Phoebe Prince’s Death: A New Look At Bullying
April 8, 2010 · Posted in Bullying, Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Relationships, Social Action, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

bullyingPhoebe Prince, the high school girl who hung herself last week, was purportedly “bullied” to death. Tortured is more like it. Hounded, cursed, humiliated in school and on-line. Defining bullying clearly is critical. Many adults think of bullying as a rite of passage in childhood. Clearly there is a difference between being picked last in gym class and being targeted by an individual or group of kids whose aim is to intimidate and shame.  Today’s landscape for children is also markedly different in that Facebook and email amplifies and exacerbates the intensity of peer relationships.We need to take a fresh look at bullying.

“Peer Abuse” is a phrase that more clearly defines the difference between teasing and belittling. “Peer Abuse” includes not only the physical aggression most associate with bullying, but also the verbal and emotional abuse that are a part of situations like Phoebe’s.

“Peer Abuse” are repeated acts over time of physical assault, psychological manipulation, name calling and using social power to ostracize an individual or group. This goes against our commonly held belief that bullies are loners, having been rejected socially. New research shows that it is often popular kids that use subtly abusive tactics to put down others to maintain their social status. Becoming the victim of malicious bullying can happen for a variety of reasons.

The message here for parents is that any of our children can, and most likely will be aggressive or cruel to other children at some point. Make this an open discussion in your family: Model respectful behavior, take seriously claims that your child is being bullied, talk about the pressure and responsibilities that come with popularity. Teach your child to speak up and stand up if someone is being abused. Adults need to do the same. The stakes are too high to be complacent.

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The Quality of Mood, Not “Quality Time”
April 6, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (2)

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Tara Parker Pope’s recent piece Surprisingly, Family Time Has Grown in her New York Times Blog Well, takes a closer look at the amount of ‘family time’ in the modern working-parent household. Citing research from the University of California and the Pew Research Center, she writes that time spent with children has actually increased for both mothers and fathers since the mid 1990’s (with mothers still doing the bulk of parenting). The post goes on to say that working parents still suffer from guilt, constantly worrying about spending enough time with their children. The main point of this article is to relieve this distress, and show that parents are doing a better job than they think.

Pope leaves us with important food for thought in the last paragraph of her article, and it is this finding that really caught our eye. She refers to Ellen Galinsky, President of The Families and Work Institute:

Dr. Galinsky notes that although working parents typically feel guilty for not spending more time at home, children often have a different reaction. In a landmark study published as “Ask the Children” (Harper, 2000), she asked more than 1,000 children about their “one wish” for their parents. Although parents expected their children would wish for more family time, the children wanted something different.

“Kids were more likely to wish that their parents were less tired and less stressed,” Dr. Galinsky said.

This excerpt indicates that the quality of the parents mood, not the amount, and nor the exact activity or “quality time” that parents strive for is most important to children. This should not be a big surprise, of course. Whether one had a stay-at-home mother, a working mother, a dad who was home at six, or a dad that spent most time at work, it is the emotional state of that parent that stands out over time.

The “Ask The Children” study is a road map for parents about what children really want. Children wish parents were more rested and calmer, less stressed. They need us to take care of ourselves as best we can, so that time spent together is not time for them to worry about us.

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