Archive for November, 2011

What to do when the holidays suck

November 29th, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (insert holiday tunes here)… unless you have experienced loss, trauma, neglect, moved suddenly, lost a job, separated, or divorced, experienced physical illness, volatile behaviors of a family member, substance abusing behaviors of a loved one, or mental illness.

So what happens when you or your child experiences losses and changes beyond your control and the holiday season arrives? Everyone appears so jolly and excited, and your experiences have left you feeling like you want to curl up and hibernate through the holiday season.

Here are 7 ways to honor yourself and help your child transition through difficult times during the holidays:

1.              Allow yourself  to express your feelings- You may feel like you don’t want to be a downer at the holiday party when people ask you how you’re doing, so you put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay, and reply “I’m fine”. Yes, opening up your emotional floodgates at a party may not be the best way to communicate your feelings; however, you can honor yourself, and your feelings and let others know “it’s been a difficult time”. Model this behavior with your children, so they know that they don’t have to mask their feelings and pretend to be happy in order to make others feel okay.

2.               Listen to yourself- Take time to hear and listen to what you need. That may mean saying no thank you to invitations and spending an evening at home reading a book. You may need to quite down the busyness in order to hear what you need. You can use the art making process to ask yourself what you need right now, and then allow yourself to express that through the art. Art making can help your child to become quite and connect with their inner voice so they can honor their needs too.

3.             Find ways to honor your loss- Put together a photo album honoring memories, create a memory box, use glass paint and paint a glass candleholder in honor of your experiences. Take time to be with your feelings and help your child find ways to honor and express their grief and loss.

4.              Create a new story- Grief and losses often involve letting go of how things used to be. Take the time to acknowledge and honor what was, and then look at how you choose to create a new story. Get creative with a blank journal or art paper and create images and words of what you are welcoming into your life.

5.              Seek out support- Being alone in your pain often amplifies the feelings of being disconnected and unsupported. Find close friends, support groups, or a therapist to help you during difficult times.  You will go through a period of “new normal” where things will never be as they were before; surrounding yourself with support will help you and your child navigate this transition.

6.              Let go of other people’s stuff- When you are honest with your feelings or when problems arise in your home good intentioned family and friends may jump in to offer unsolicited advice or comments. Realize that their response is their stuff; perhaps they feel uncomfortable, or they want you to feel better, and move on, or they want to fix it. Thank them for their concern, and let them know what you need, “sometimes I just need talk things through, or someone to just listen, or I just need to express that I feel upset”.  If they are unable to support you in the way you would like or continue to give unsolicited advice let them know how you feel and seek out support from those who will respect your process.

7.              Be gentle with yourself- You may want to push through the pain or you may become overly critical of yourself and others. Model being kind with yourself and teach your children to be compassionate with their own feelings and behaviors, this will be a life-long gift you will share with your child.

If you or your child is in need more support you can schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.

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Thanksgiving Crafts for Children: Creative Ways to Celebrate

November 23rd, 2011

Thanksgiving day is a special time to encourage your child to celebrate all the blessings they have in their lives. Here are six creative ideas to involve your child in preparing and creating special crafts and mementos for the day:
1. Have your child create individualized place mats for each guest. This can be a painted image, drawing, or collage using magazine images or even old greeting cards to capture what is unique about each guest. Laminate these images to use as functional place mats.

2. Bake cupcakes and have your child decorate each cupcake with what they are thankful for about that guest and embellish the cupcakes with these words or images. Use edible customized images from photos made at your bakery or 3D sugar embellishments.

3. Have your child create a thanksgiving centerpiece representing each person who is part of the family. You can start with a tall large vase filled with rocks, fruit, or glass and add wooden dowels with photos of each family member attached to the dowels, or 3D embellishments found at a craft store representing something unique about each family member. You can fill this in with flowers and foliage if you desire.

4.  Visit the craft store and have your child pick out a small papier mache box or wood box for each guest. Use markers, paint and glitter and decorate each box, inside and out. Ask your child what’s special about each guest and write their words on slips of paper and add them to the box. Ask each guest to open the box and share their favorite with the table.

5. Take the family video recorder or flip camera and make a video of your child. Interview your children on what makes each extended family member unique and special and create a documentary of gratitude. Purchase plastic DVD boxes and cut out paper to fit the DVD case and ask your child to decorate each case with thanksgiving images. Burn the movie onto disk and give each guest their own personalized copy

6. Turn your cranberry sauce from the can into Tom the turkey. Get some big feathers from the crafts store and have your child decorate the sauce, then add a popsicle stick with a turkey head image into the other end and you have an instant cranberry turkey.

If you or your child is in need more support you can schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.

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Want a Happy Child? Positive Psychology & Creative Gratitude Strategies to Reduce Depression

November 15th, 2011

What are your thoughts on happiness? It seems like you either have it or you don’t, and as a society we are continually pursuing it. Heck, it’s even a constitutional right here in the U.S. as decreed in the Declaration of Independence. These days Happiness is a Hot Topic in therapeutic research and for those whose lives are impacted by mood disorders and depression there are some hopeful findings. Interestingly enough the research on Positive Psychology (yes, the study of happiness) suggests focusing on our strengths and giving gratitude daily can reduce symptoms of depression and long-term change. Now that is something to be very grateful for!

Positive Psychology is the study of mental well-being encompassing positive emotions, and character traits (Park et al., 2005). The research offers some insight into happiness and how much we control we have over our happiness.  David Lykken studied 4,000 sets of twins to determine how genetic influence happiness.  Lykken concluded 50% of our happiness comes from genetic predisposition.  Moreover only 8% of circumstantial factors (life events) influence an individual’s well-being.  Gratitude appears to be linked to happiness and quality of life.

Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests doing five acts of kindness increased overall happiness.  Moreover, Robert Emmons found gratitude exercises improved health and energy levels, especially for those with neuromuscular disease (Wallis, 2005).

Martin Seligman and his colleagues (Park et al., 2005) studied positive psychology interventions using the internet to collect data. They presented one of five exercises to participants and one placebo (or fake intervention).

The five exercises were:

  • gratitude visit (write and deliver a letter of thanks),
  • three good things in life (document three positive experiences daily),
  • you at your best (write about a time they were at their best),
  • using signature strengths in an new way (using top five strengths identified on inventory of character strengths in a new way),
  • identifying signature strengths (take the survey of character strengths),
  • and the placebo intervention: early memories (write about earliest memories).

The results suggest that two interventions reduced depressive symptoms and increased happiness for six months, using your signature strengths in a new way and three good things.

The gratitude visit caused a spike in positive change for one month, however within three months participants resumed their baseline status.  Notably, those who participated in three good things saw an increase in positive affect at the one-month follow-up and they maintained this positive affect at the six-month follow-up. In addition, using signature strengths in a new way yielded long-term change in affect at the six-month follow-up, but immediate effects were not as pronounced as three good things.

So what can you take away from this article and apply in your own life?

Happiness is not “fixed” or genetically based; so you can increase your happiness and there are some specific strategies you can use such as learning what your signature strengths are and using them in a new and novel way. Also, a very simple tool of three good things in life, documenting three positive experiences daily, may reduce symptoms of depression.

You can use art and art therapy practices to help reduce depression and increase happiness by creating a a daily gratitude practice. Write in a journal, ask your children to name three good things at dinnertime or bedtime, create an art journal and draw, paint, or collage images of three good things that happen each day. Create a gratitude box and each day add words, objects, and images to it and when you are feeling down go back and look at what you added to the box. Document three good things with your camera each day and if you have a social media page start a daily gratitude post or share a daily gratitude picture. Do this daily and see how it impacts your mood over the next 3-months.

Of course, if you or your child has any symptoms of depression or concerns please seek out the support of a professional immediately, and if it is an emergency call 911. If you or your child is in need more support you can schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.

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Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Art Therapy For Depression

November 11th, 2011

child depressedIf you are suffering from depression there has been a tremendous amount of research that suggests that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of treatment. The recent research on positive psychology that suggests it may be complementary to CBT interventions as it relates to depression. Moreover, how can we use art therapy to reinforce these theories and interventions?

Garratt, Ilardi, and Karwoski (2006) offer a compelling article on the integration of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and positive psychology for the treatment of depression. The authors present the two primary goals of cognitive behavioral therapy, modifying dysfunctional thoughts and creating long-term cognitive skills to reduce relapse. The meteoric popularity of CBT as a treatment modality arose with Beck’s research of CBT and depression. However, studies suggest that long-term recovery is sustained in less than half of the clients who receive CBT for treatment of depression. It is the implication of long term success with clients that leads the authors to explore the principles of positive psychology as it relates to cognitive behavioral therapy.

The article suggests the conceptual overlap between CBT interventions and positive psychology approach, including a strong therapeutic alliance, focus on distinct goals, here-and-now focus, cognitive reappraisal, and client collaboration. Moreover, the authors suggest there is an overlap in techniques that are congruent in both CBT and positive psychology. Both encourage pleasant activities scheduling, identifying and reviewing success experiences, mood monitoring, relaxation training, and problem-solving. The authors suggest that positive psychology can provide CBT with the opportunities to move beyond removing negative affect, consequently moving the client towards positive affect, influencing quality of life. The positive psychology constructs that could blend with CBT to reduce depression and enhance over all well-being include: capitalizing on strengths, instilling hope, flow (being absorbed in the moment while engaged in an activity), mindfulness (being fully present), addressing unsolvable problems, optimism training, meaning, physical exercise, and humor.

The aforementioned interventions blend well with art therapy. Using art the art therapist can capitalize on the inherent creative strengths of the individual. Creating a picture of what the individual can imagine as a possible positive outcome can instill a sense of hope and provide a tangible road map to achieve their goals. Flow and mindfulness occurs when the individual is fully present in the creative process and is often accomplished in an art therapy session. The art making process can be used to explore choices for problems that appear unsolvable, and create meaning and purpose for the individual. Therefore, art therapy offers a bridge to CBT and positive psychology by the process of using therapeutic art interventions that reinforce the tenants of these two theories.

If you live the Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton area child art therapy can help your child develop new coping strategies to overcome their depression . To learn more sign-up for your complimentary child support consultation here.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child. You can lean more here .

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3- Step “Super Secret” Formula to finally get your kids (and spouse) to listen

November 1st, 2011

Does your child have trouble listening to you? Are you feeling like a broken record, asking again and again for what you want, and feeling like you are being totally ignored? If you’ve asked for what you wanted and everyone in your household seems to ignore your request you’ll likely get to a point where you begin to wonder, “why isn’t this working, why aren’t they listening?”

You may begin to get to a boiling point, get mad, throw a fit,  threaten, just give in and take care of it yourself, or complain about all that you do for everyone in the house. What you’ll likely find is that when you reach your boiling point and react (or just take care of it yourself while silently resenting your family members), others may for a short period of time take notice.  Heck, you may even get your teen (or husband) to listen and pick-up their underwear off of the bedroom floor if you yell loudly enough, AND….

…you may be creating a pattern of negative behaviors to get your needs met. So your children and spouse continue to ignore your requests and pleas until you blow your top, then all of sudden they are listening,  responding quickly and wondering, “What’s up with mom ?”

We know that children model their parent’s behaviors, so the last thing you want to teach your child is that ignoring and then overreaching is a healthy way to communicate. The best way to teach your child to listen, respect your requests, and to communicate in healthy way is to learn how to communicate your wants and needs in a healthy manner first.

You can use creativity to get back into you parenting authority, and here’s a way you can do so. Create an image of something (or someone) that represent being empowered, strong, assertive, and clear. Take a minute to see what pops up for you. Now embody this! Wear it like a cloak and ground yourself in this image. When your child or spouse wants to “hook you into an argument” or they are ignoring your requests, connect with this empowering image before you respond. You’ll respond from a centered more calm place; then you can use the 3- Step “Super Secret” Formula to ask for what you need! You can take this exercise even further and create an image of this and put it in a place where you’ll see it often as visual reminder of being in your parenting power.

Drum roll please….I’m going to share with you my 3- Step “Super Secret” Formula to finally get your kids (and spouse) to listen.

  1. Validate your child’s feelings
  2. Use the assertive triangle to state how you feel and what you need. I teach that technique in the free audio-telesemiar  Secrets Your Kids Really Don’t Want You to Know: A Child Art Therapist Tells All (*except for the confidential stuff) and you can access in the box above.
  3. Be clear of consequences and follow-through

Here’s how it might sound. You come in to your teen’s room and it is a mess and you’ve ask them to clean it and they are on Facebook with their friends.

“I understand that Facebook and connecting with your friends is important to you and it’s upsetting to get off the computer when you want to be on it. When I walk into your room and it’s messy and I asked you to clean it I feel upset and disrespected. Please pick-up all the clothes off of the floor and put them in the hamper and remove the dishes from your room by 9:00 pm tonight. If you choose not to then you will not be able to use the computer tomorrow.”

DONE! This is no need to lecture, no need to yell, not need to threaten, you have clearly asserted you needs, set reasonable expectations and consequences and given your child a choice. So there is no need to go on and on and lecture them (doing so you’ll lose your parenting authority).

This must be done in a neutral tone being in your parenting authority, so your child does not hook you and get you to react! Embody that image you created and operate from this calm- empowered place and you’ll be modeling for your children and spouse how to listen respectfully.

Have you tried different ways to communicate, but your child or spouse is still not listening?  We can help!

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