Published by Psyched Magazine: By Maryellen Mullin | June 13, 2017
For four years in college and four years after, everything I owned fit into a small space. Because I moved yearly, I lived simply. If I was tired of schlepping something between apartments, it was discarded. Like most people, once I stopped moving and settled in one place, I began to accumulate. Balancing my decisions of what to hold onto and a need for simplicity has been part of an ongoing process of sorting and letting go.
What’s the emotional tie between you and your stuff? For many, it is an existential dilemma. To be or not to be: A saver, a nostalgic preserver, a frugal spender, a frequent donor to Goodwill.
As a therapist, I have observed that both children and adults find letting go of their “stuff” challenging. This is one reason why clients seek help. Anxiety is a common obstacle in the quest to let go; and for many, emotional healing needs to happen first.
While a majority of children can let go of outgrown toys, clothes and books in a way that’s appropriate to their developmental stage; for some, anxiety makes it a bigger challenge. These kids need adult support in letting go.
How do you parent a kid who accumulates? To read more, click here:
By Maryellen P. Mullin, LMFT
Power struggles with kids are a losing battle. Want to make it a win-win for you and your kid?
Parents tend to focus on responding to the words going on in a power struggle, not to the actual issue. Everyone can relate to falling into the trap of getting caught up in a dialogue that has nothing to do with an underlying issue.
I coach parents to “Respond to the issue, not to the dialogue,” whenever they sense a power struggle is about to ensue with a child or teen.
Most parents can relate to the following scenarios. The reluctant child refuses to get ready for bed. The whining child in the grocery store pleads for a box of sugary cereal. The teen wants to use the car, but won’t get off a smart phone and come to the dinner table. The child or teen attempts to coerce, badger or butter up the parent, so that the parent will give in to their request.
Parental reactions to these challenges vary, but in general, many parents feel their frustration level or other negative emotions rise. Sometimes your parental response may spark additional retorts from your kid, escalating the situation into a fast-burning and raging power struggle.
What can you do to change the cycle? A primary goal in family therapy is to help families improve communication.
A simple piece of advice: Do not respond to the dialogue; respond to the issue. When I was growing up, my mom taught me the acronym HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, tired. We are all bound to behave differently (and sometimes negatively) if we are experiencing hunger, anger, loneliness or fatigue. Our behavior changes and is reflected in our communication with self and others.
For example, the child says, “I don’t want to go to bed.” The parent can think, “What is the issue?” Some children are just tired and give refusals when they are tired. Some children may feel lonely in the evening, as their time with a beloved parent is ending for the day.
So, to keep the calm and resist the power struggle, follow these simple steps.
What is the dialogue vs. the issue? For example, your child protests, “I don’t want to go to bed.” Catch yourself, take a moment and allow yourself to think. This dialogue is about bed, but that is not the issue.
Reduce your own tension. Breath deeply and pause before you respond. Think HALT. Where is your child physically or emotionally right now? Observe with curiosity. There is no urgency in responding right away. Slow yourself down.
Coach with reflective listening. Say calmly, “Ok, you don’t want to go to bed. ” Then connect to the emotion and the issue. Say kindly to your child, “It’s hard when you are so tired. I understand. It’s okay that you are tired; sleep will help you feel better.” Reflective listening can help move many difficult parenting moments forward. When children feel heard, they feel validated. Reflective listening is a way to validate their emotional experience.
Practice these new skills. Your child says, “I want the pink marshmallow cereal.” The dialogue is about pink marshmallows, but is that the issue? Your response might be, “Oh, you want pink marshmallow cereal?” Your kid nods. Then ask, with curiosity, “Are you hungry?” Your child may say no, just that they like pink. The response may be yes, that he is hungry. You can relate to both of those ideas.
Your teen wants the car. Perhaps you say, “Tell me more about your plans.” Invite a conversation before you respond in the negative, or before you set boundaries regarding use of the car.
If your child is fussing or your teen talks with contempt, you can assume a neutral tone and repeat what the issue is for them. Stay calm. Remind yourself that their cranky behavior is fueled by feelings. A child's or teen’s cranky behavior does not equate with total disrespect for you as a person or parent.
It’s not about you; so don’t make it about you with an initial negative reaction. Regardless of how you respond, first think about the actual issue and reflect it to your child or teen, thereby validating them. Relate to your child or teen:
“Yes, pink makes the marshmallows look fun. I know how much you like marshmallows when we camp.”
“Hey, I know you want the car, but if there is drinking involved at the party, no car.”
This will help you keep your cool. Move your child/teen forward by moving beyond their words or behavior. Take the time to go deeper, to understand what the child is really trying to say.
Remember, responding to the issue and using reflective listening takes practice. It may not work initially, but if you can stick to the issue, acknowledge your kid’s feelings and move forward, messy moments may not always turn into the dreaded power struggle.
Photo courtesy of August de Richelieu from Pexels.
Is Your Kid “Looping” On a Negative Thought? by Maryellen Mullin, published by Psyched Magazine
As a family therapist, I often hear parents complain of a child who cannot move beyond an interaction, incident or situation, even when it has been addressed. In fact, the parent may have already listened, empathized with the emotion, and talked the issue out.
An apology happened.
Reassurance was provided.
However, the child just cannot let it go, looping round and round, like a hula-hoop stuck in motion.
To read more: psychedinsanfrancisco.com/kid-looping-negative-thought
Convey Hope for Children in Challenging Political Times - Published by Psyched Magazine
As parents and those who work with or care for children, we can agree that children should not be exposed to all adult conversations. Most adults try not to swear in front of kids or discuss parenting topics that could alarm or cause misunderstanding. The developing brain is not cognitively mature. Therefore, kids cannot understand…to read more visit http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/psyched-magazine/
When It Always Has To Be Your Way, No One Wants To Play: Using Proverbs to Teach Children by Maryellen P. Mullin, in Psyched in San Francisco Magazine
By Maryellen Mullin | December 5, 2016
As any parent, educator or child counselor can tell you, children enjoy short, catchy and true phrases. However, in the heat of an emotional moment, it is hard to retrieve what we want to say. So, we often “do” before thinking.
In addition to learning academics at school these days, children are taught relationship skills, which are known as “social-emotional learning or SEL.” New research reveals that self-control is a better predictor of success than intelligence.
Continue on to read here: http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/always-way-no-one-wants-play-using-proverbs-teach-children/
This article was published by Psyched in San Francisco Magazine.
Modern society struggles with self-control around the use of devices and technology. At home, if you parent, these struggles intensify as adults and kids react with irritability, anger and hostility when interrupted on a device, or told to turn off a device to do homework, get dinner made or get to bed.
“It’s like my kid is a drug addict,” says one parent. “The more she consumes technology, the harder it is to get her to turn it off.”
An adolescent commented, “My dad says not to text and drive, but that’s what he does driving me to school in the morning.”
To read the full article, please visit: psychedinsanfrancisco.com/screens-self-control
Traci Ruble, as a mom and therapist, has written a timely and comprehensive article, with input from colleagues (including interviewing me) and is rallying support from the community to tackle a huge issue in parenting. Enjoy!
Those who parent are in the midst of the back-to-school buzz: juggling after-school activities, managing screen time, homework, dinner, and reestablishing bedtime routines. This busy pace plagues many families. Parents frequently ask how to help young kids complete homework, sit down for dinner, get along with siblings, be more respectful, get to school on time, and help with chores. With adolescents, they struggle to help teens manage increased responsibilities, get off screens, catch sleep, track schedules, socialize responsibly, and make plans beyond high school. To read more, visit this article published by Psyched in SF at http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/empower-kids-family-meetings/
For some practical advice on sharing a teen pregnancy with parent/caregiver, please read this article Maryellen P. Mullin, LMFT contributed to http://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-tell-parents-you-are-pregnant
To view the article Maryellen P. Mullin is quote in online visit the link or click on the PDF below: