Taking The "No Win" Out of Conflict

Conflict is a common stressor for my clients.  It makes sense that it would be!  Conflict is a natural byproduct of independent individuals working at interdependent relationships.  But it’s uncomfortable.  We often feel as if we are not seen or heard when we are in conflict.  We often feel insulted and defensive.  We often walk away feeling as if things weren’t really solved, or that one person won and the other lost.  For all of these reasons, we tend to avoid conflict or approach it with intense anger.  This causes us to have poor experiences with conflict, which leads to avoidance and anger, and thus the cycle continues.

 

The biggest barrier to having a discussion vs. an argument is often our attachment to the outcome.  Typically each party puts all of their feelings, hopes and personal perceptions into a brain blender—creating their own personal outcome smoothie.  And once done, it feels completely true that any other outcome will simply not meet their needs.  Meanwhile, the other party has created their own outcome smoothie.  Then we spend a lot of time arguing about which outcome would be better.  But when that happens, someone has to loose and often both people do.

 

As an experiential and auditory learner, I hate discussion checklists.  I tend to believe they often widely miss the mark.  I also believe that we can overly depend on how-to guides to change relationships when the path to true change is far more complex.  Having said that, I often have clients ask for a step-by-step guide to use when they are practicing conflict at home.  So for the visual and concrete learners out there, I must oblige you!  Do an experiment and see how focusing on combined needs can lead to incredible brainstorming. 

 

1.     Time and Place:  Make sure it’s truly a good time for both people to talk.  This means the environment is free from distractions and both parties feel calm and ready to hear each other out.  If this isn’t the case, ask yourself and the other party if it’s truly necessary to solve the issue immediately.  Sometimes it is, but more often it isn’t.

2.     Respect, Love and Valuing Solutions:  Say to yourself “Resolving this conflict in a way that meets both of our needs is important to me because ______”.  Oftentimes conflict happens with those we love the most.  Please remind yourself that the person who sits before you is someone you love and, therefore, you care deeply about his or her perspective.  This will help you to remember that it’s not all about you being heard, it’s also about hearing someone else.

3.     Speaker and Listener:  Choose someone to start the conversation.  This person is the speaker and the other person MUST listen, make eye contact and nod.  As you begin to share, take notes of what is said. 

4.     Needs and Concerns vs. Outcomes: Speaker, calmly use “I” statements focused on your concerns and your needs.  Speak your truth without blame or judgment.  “I’m concerned about the fact that our account is overdrawn regularly.”  “I would like to come up with a solution that helps me feel more informed and empowered in regards to our decision making with disciplining our children” or “I feel like I need more social time with my friends.”  (Please remember, “I feel like you’re being a jerk” or “I’m concerned that you can’t manage our money at all” are judgmental and blaming “I” statements and therefore not helpful).

5.     Reflection:  The listener will reflect back what they heard without judgment, eye rolling, or sarcasm.  “It sounds like you’re stressed about the effect our account overdraws have on us.”  “You’re feeling unbalanced without solid social time”.  Reflection is SOOOO important.  If you don’t reflect, the other person will not feel heard and will therefore be defensive.  It’s a guarantee.

6.     Needs and Concerns vs. Outcomes Take Two:  The listener becomes the talker and uses I statements to express their needs and concerns. 

7.     Reflection Take Two:  The new listener reflects what they heard.

8.     Last Thoughts:  Often after listening to the other person, the original speaker becomes aware of needs or concerns that they hadn’t shared earlier.  Give each person a chance to explore anything additional that has come up and hear that reflected back.

9.     Brainstorm:  As with all good brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea.  Throw them all out, even if you KNOW you won’t want to do it.  You may actually find that the craziest idea is the best one.  Or, the crazy ideas will highlight your shared needs and concerns and help to narrow in more.  Brainstorming ideas must be an open experience where it is clear that neither party is attached to any outcome.  If either party is attached to an outcome the other will be able to tell.  This will cause each party to feel like the whole exercise was a waste of time and energy. 

10. Attempt Consensus:  Some ideas will easily fall away.  Work on that first.  Talk honestly about which ideas fit better for each of you and why.  Listen openly, reflect compassionately.  Acknowledge when something you hoped for isn’t truly as important as your other needs and concerns and/or the other person’s needs and concerns.   For example, you may have hoped to move to a new house this spring when the weather is nice, but can live with moving in winter because all of the other needs are met.  Know what to let go of for the greater good, but also know what to hold onto for the health and happiness of each party and the relationship.

 

 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid:

 

Arguing About Facts: Memories are flawed—seriously flawed.  I know you both think your memory of the facts is the truest memory, but you will waste a lot of energy on this and it will take you nowhere.  This is about emotional truth and each person’s emotional truth is equally valid!

Passive Aggressive Body Language:  This is why you must remember why it’s important to really hear the other person.  If they express a need or concern and you roll your eyes, or sigh deeply or chuckle a little you are totally invalidating their perspective.  Remember, you do not have the corner on the most mature and valid perspective.  Truly listen or this doesn’t work.

Mistaking Outcomes for Needs:  A need is “I need to feel comfortable in my home”.  An outcome is “I need you to do half of the chores”.  A need is “I need time on my own in a regular and consistent way”.  An outcome is “I need to go to the gym every other day at 9:00”.  The more you stay true to the true underlying need, the more options become available to you. 

Using Brainstorming to Achieve Your Original Desired Outcome:  The only way to truly partner is to throw out your outcome smoothie and start from scratch.  It is rare that this process lands you at the outcome you were formerly attached to.  This means you have a decision to make.  Is the outcome more important or is the relationship more important?  Sometimes the outcome IS more important—but then you need to be honest about that with yourself and the person you are talking with. 

 

What If The Conflict Is With My Child?

 

Of course a parent gets the final say!  No questions asked.  But allowing your child to be a part of this process teaches them how to handle conflict with others, how to express their needs and how to understand someone else’s perspective.  It helps them to understand how you land on your final decision and allows them to feel that they have been heard in the process.  And if you are truly open to brainstorming options that meet everyone’s needs, you are less likely to have power struggles or children doing sneaky things behind your back.  It’s a great idea to go through this process with them and then say “Okay, I’m going to take some time to think about everything we talked about and will have an answer for you tomorrow.”  This teaches kids to think ahead and prepare themselves for a mature conversation when they want new privileges or things.  What an awesome tool for them to have!

 

Good luck!

Counselor To Parents: Are You Doing It Wrong?

I read a blog post today titled “Physician To Parents:  You’re Doing it Wrong” by Leonard Sax.  As a parent coach and a parent of twins I am always curious to see what all of us parents are doing wrong now, so I read it.  In the end, he made some good points.  He talks about a culture of American parents who allow their children to make adult decisions that they are not prepared to make for themselves.  He talks about a culture of parents who work too hard to please their children.  He talks about a culture where we focus more on keeping the peace in our home than we do on teaching values.  And he blames the “parenting experts” for selling parents a bill of goods by suggesting that we give kids choices and avoid saying no.  He says that parents are unable to put a period at the end of their sentences anymore—everything is a question.  He gives six parenting strategies that, I’m assuming, he believes will solve this parenting challenge for good.  And while they are great ideas that most families could benefit from, they aren’t the end of the story-- by a long shot.

Dr. Sax is really blaming parenting approaches like Love and Logic for this corrosion of parenting boundaries (although he doesn’t mention it by name).  It's not the first time I've heard this concern.  Talking to a friend of mine the other day she mentioned her perspective on Love and Logic.  “I give them choices,” she said,  “do what I say or get spanked”.  Many of the parents I work with have gone to Love and Logic classes, or something similar and say “I just don’t understand how I was supposed to give him a choice in that situation.  Shouldn’t I just be the parent and say no?"   My Au Pair from Columbia was told during her training that many American parents take an approach where they don’t say “no” to their children.  Oh my!  We parents have gotten awful confused, haven’t we?

So let me sort some things out for folks.  It is far more likely that parents who believe that they ALWAYS have to give their children choices or that they can NEVER say ‘no’ have been trained badly or have misunderstood the training they received.  I am not familiar with ANY parenting approach that suggests these things.  But so many parents walk away with that belief that I can only imagine that the trainers have lead these parents astray.  While there is not enough space in this blog to touch on all of my thoughts on this issue, there is enough space to talk about four important things that I discuss with all of my parents.

One Size Fits All?  The problem with parenting books and group training is that they can give the indication that one approach will work for all kids and all families.  This is simply not true.  At 9 months old what works for one of my boys doesn’t work for the other most of the time.  While taking a class in Love and Logic or Triple P or reading a book may give you ideas, if you’re truly struggling you may want individual support to develop a plan that fits your values and your child’s temperament.  While the theory behind Love and Logic works for most kids, the implementation will change from kid to kid and will change as they are in different developmental stages.  When parents take a class and then implement what they believe they heard without really knowing how to assess the effectiveness they wind up confused and overwhelmed.  Then they throw it all out the window and say “well that didn’t work”.  I really encourage folks to seek out one-on-one support if your kid is struggling with behaviors at home and at school.  An individualized approach will be more effective faster.

Always Give Choices?  Love and Logic does not say that it is your responsibility to always give your children choices.  If that’s what you walked away from your training with, you got the wrong idea.  At the foundation of Love and Logic is an understanding that children DO have choices weather you like it or not.  They can choose to throw a temper tantrum if they want to.  They can choose to climb on the furniture if they want to.  They can choose to ignore your instructions or stay out past curfew.  Ultimately, you can’t control your child’s choices.  You can’t control anyone’s choices but your own.  BUT, you can control their environment and that will impact their decision-making.  So, yes, sometimes the choice is “You can choose to continue to throw this tantrum and have your toys taken away or you can choose to handle this differently and we can have a fun afternoon”.  Or in Dr. Sax’s example “You can choose to let the doctor look at your throat or you can choose to be restrained while he looks at your throat.”  “You can choose to stay up past curfew and your Dad and I can choose to take away the car keys.”  Love and Logic asks you to be clear on what you do have control over and what you don’t and be honest about that with yourself and them.  You control their toys, their ability to go on outings, their access to cell phones their access to the car etc.  But you do not choose how they behave. 

Love and Logic does suggest that you give children choices when it doesn’t matter much to you.  I believe this confuses parents so let me clear it up.  The idea is that you are giving them the ability to make decisions as often as they can.  This makes it easier to draw a hard line later because you showed them that you do give them autonomy when you can.  It also gives kids the opportunity to use their decision-making skills.  So, “Bedtime is in 20 minutes, would you like to read a book or would you like to play quietly with your toys?”  Bedtime is not the negotiable part.  The choices are not endless, you gave two options that are acceptable to you—notice TV wasn’t one of the options mentioned.  And if they say “But I want to watch TV” you can say “I’m sorry, that’s not one of your options, would you prefer to go to bed now instead?” If they say “I’m not going to bed” you can say “It would be sad if you chose not to go to bed on time and your bedtime got moved to an earlier time tomorrow.”  So, yes, look for options to give them choices—but the choices are always ones that are acceptable to you.  If there is only one option acceptable to you then their choices are between doing that thing and having a consequence.  Done. 

Avoid Saying No:  Okay, let’s be clear here.  Children NEED to learn what ‘no’ means and they need to learn to be comfortable with being told ‘no’.  This is a life skill.  Please, please, please do not remove the word ‘no’ from your vocabulary.  Having said that, I think parents over use the word ‘no’.  The first problem comes when parents say ‘no’ before really thinking through why they are saying it.  This often leads to back tracking on the ‘no’ later.  When you first say no and then they negotiate and wear you down and you then say yes you have set yourself up for a future of arguing, negotiating and an inability to say ‘no’ without a battle.  I suggest to all parents to think for at least a minute or two before giving a yes or no answer to your kids.  In that minute, allow yourself time to determine why you’re saying ‘no’ and also to determine if you’re willing to fight to the bitter end for your ‘no’.  If not you’re setting yourself up for failure.  No needs to mean no, no matter what.  If you’re not sure don’t say it.  There are also times when you can avoid giving a hard no and it will actually make your life easier.  I love the phrase “Yes, when”.  “Mom, can I go to my friend’s house tonight?”  “Yes, when your room is clean and the dishes are done.”  “Mom, can I get a tattoo?”  “Yes, when you’re 18 and legally able to make those decisions for yourself.”  You may be surprised at the reduction of power struggles and increase in compliance you see by using this little phrase.  The limits are the same, but the phrasing is more motivating for kids. 

But sometimes the answer is no and needs to be.  “Mom, can I go on spring break with my friends by myself this year” says the 14 year old.  “Nope”.  “But why!!!!!!!??????”.  “I’d be happy to talk with you about my reasons and help you have a fun spring break.   I will not have that conversation with you if you are going to argue or yell.”  “Well I’m going to go anyway!”  “Gosh, it would be a shame if we had to call the police because you left the house without permission.  I know you’re upset but I do think you’re way too clever to make that decision.”

Am I Doing It Wrong?  I like to remind parents that parenting is an art, not a science.  Picasso and Van Gogh were both incredible artists but they did it very differently.  This is true for parenting.  There are some no-no’s of parenting that are universal (don’t abuse or neglect your kids for example).  There are also some things that are great ideas for most families (clear expectations, empathy for your children’s feelings, and consistency for example).  But overall, each parent has to do what works for them and their family.  This involves a balance of personal values, temperament of all family members and resources available.  So the better question might be “Is this working for us?”  If you feel like you are battling all of the time, it’s probably not working for you.  If you feel like you have no control or authority in your home, it’s probably not working for you.  If you are getting constant complaints from school, it might not be working for you (or the school might not be working for your child, but that’s a different topic).  If your kids have a relatively stable mood (based on their developmental stage) are successful in school and with peers and are following house rules most of the time it’s probably working for you.  This is true even if they get angry and storm off sometimes.  This is true even if they say they hate you.  This is true even if they say that they hate the way you talk to them like a counselor.  And if you’re not sure if it’s working for you, there are professionals that can help you get clearer on this. 

So the next time you put all your eggs in one parenting approach basket use your instincts, your best judgment and your knowledge of your family before buying completely into the idea.  AND take the pieces of these parenting approaches that work for you and use them, leave the rest.  If you are interested in individual support, I provide parent coaching in the office and remotely.

DON'T Appreciate Every Moment

As the new mother of twins I am often flooded with well-intentioned and loving advice that is also unrequested and completely unhelpful.  Much of the advice is annoyingly cliché or a total mismatch with my values about parenting.  Other times the advice is so darned obvious and repetitive that it’s hard for me to understand why anyone feels compelled to say it out loud.  And as annoying as it can all be, I typically smile, say thanks or hit the “like” button.  I take a deep breath, remember that the advice giver’s intentions are good and move on.  Our social norms don’t really give us permission to say “that’s not helpful, but thanks for thinking of us” or “your advice just made things harder for me”.  So I keep my mouth shut, as many of my clients do.  But there is one piece of advice that I’ve seen do actual damage to many of my clients and I know that it has made the first year of parenting harder for me. For my clients (and for my own cathartic release), I am compelled to put my thoughts about it on paper.    

We’ve all heard it before: “Appreciate every moment”.  “Time flies and you’ll wish you had these moments back”.  “These are the best years of your life”.  There are two times in our lives when we most often receive this advice.  The first is when we are children, teens or young adults.  Adults who feel their sense of opportunity and vitality slipping away from them repeat this mantra as if they could somehow save these young people from getting old.  The second time we hear this is when we have children of our own.  People who’s children are grown and out of the house imagine that by telling you to appreciate every moment, you might grab more juicy, beautiful moments than they did when their children were young. 

As is often the case, this advice serves the giver more than it serves the receiver.  It allows them to voice their grief over the loss of a time gone by.  It allows them to reminisce.  It allows them to paint a glossy coat over the past.  I understand feeling compelled to speak these words out loud.  There is such value in expressing your own sense of loss and allowing yourself to feel the grief of a phase of life that you’ll never get back.  And I realize that it seems, at the worst, to be harmless advice and, at the best, to be a good reminder to stay present.  I’m here to tell you that this advice is neither harmless nor helpful.  Let me tell you why.

The first three months of my twins lives were three of the worst months of my life.  BY FAR. There were a gazillion moments that are better forgotten than remembered.  There were days when I wasn’t sure how I’d make it through the next hour, let alone the next 18 years.  There were days when I truly evaluated every single option available for me to get out of parenting.  After deciding that I wasn’t comfortable with any of those options I decided that I would just focus on keeping my children and myself alive for another day.  I am not alone in feeling this way.  The CDC identifies that 10%-15% of mothers experience Postpartum Depressive Symptoms within the first year after giving birth.  Younger mothers and mothers of multiples experience Postpartum Depression at far higher rate (www.cdc.gov).  Mothers suffering from postpartum depression will typically hide it very well and you will not likely know who is and who is not struggling.  Postpartum depression can be incredibly dangerous and harmful to mother and child.  One of the main reasons that mothers don’t reach out for help is that they feel ashamed that they are not able to “appreciate every moment”.  That’s what people say you should do, right?  That’s what everyone else on Facebook seems to be doing, right?  They feel that something is wrong with them that they hate being sleep deprived carrying a screaming baby around for hours.  They feel guilty that they wonder if they’ll ever be happy again.  They try very hard to “appreciate” the fact that they are blessed to have a child in the first place.  Telling parents to appreciate every moment often causes these parents to feel isolated and misunderstood.  This piece of advice can make things worse.  And while most cases of Postpartum Depression are not dangerous to the lives of mother and child, some are.  And because you may not know how the receiver of your message is feeling about parenting, you could be making things harder for them without knowing it.

In my practice I support parents with children from zero to thirty.  The most common thing I hear in our first or second session is “I know I should be enjoying this more” or “I know time flies and I should appreciate these moments more” and “I feel like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t enjoy this as much as everyone else seems to.”  Oftentimes these parents have been beating themselves up for years but have not gotten help because they are ashamed to admit that they are not enjoying parenting.  Children and parents suffer greatly when parents aren’t comfortable admitting to themselves or others that they aren’t happy.  I also work a great deal with teenagers and young adults.  Again, the common theme is “Everyone says these are supposed to be the best years of my life” and “There must be something wrong with me that I’m not enjoying it” or “If this is the best it gets, what’s the point in continuing to live?”

But it’s ridiculous to expect that we would appreciate every moment!  That’s a completely unrealistic goal.  There are lots of life moments that are not worthy of appreciation.  Being so sleep deprived that you are hallucinating while holding a screaming, colicky infant is not worthy of appreciation.  And no, I do not believe that it made me a stronger person.  Having your teenager defy your rules while throwing insults at you is not worthy of appreciation.  Being 16 years old and torn between social acceptance and your parents’ values is not worthy of appreciation.  These things just suck.  And we get to say that they suck.  And we get to feel that they suck.  And we get to decide not to appreciate them.

Suffering is a part of the human experience and yet we struggle to allow each other to feel it.  Every day that I scroll through my Facebook feed I see another meme about being grateful, focusing on the positive, creating your own joy, or the 10 things that happy people do.  We repeatedly send the message that the comfortable emotions (joy, excitement, love, gratefulness) are the ones we should focus on and the uncomfortable emotions (sadness, anger, anxiety, jealousy, hate) are the ones we need to avoid.  But avoiding those emotions and denying their right to exist (or their helpfulness) causes us to be completely out of touch with what they are trying to tell us.  Avoiding these emotions takes us out of contact with our true experience and authentic selves.  In the end, it makes it harder to be truly happy or content in life.

It is also a complete farce that we can simply think positively, focus on the things we’re grateful for and get out for a nice walk in the woods and magically find happiness.  If this were true I would be out of a job.  If it were true that we can just simply “choose happiness” or “create our own happiness” we would all do it and we wouldn’t even be talking about it because it’s as easy as breathing.  It’s not that simple and to suggest that it is causes those who can’t seem to do it that easily to feel alone and to sink deeper into their depression.

So for those of you out there feeling guilty or emotionally incompetent for not “appreciating every moment” of your life, I want to assure you that you are not alone.  And next time someone gives you this well intentioned, but annoying advice, maybe tell them that you’ll appreciate the moments that are worth appreciating, try to be present for the moments that aren’t and cope in the best way possible when being present is too painful.  Because that’s life.  That’s real.  And that’s what will truly help you find your joy.

 

How Do I Talk To My Teen About Therapy?

Parents often call me with concerns about their adolescent or teen.  They may be concerned that their son is withdrawn or that their daughter is defying every instruction given.  They may be worried about who their child is spending time with, or a recent dramatic drop in grades.  Their teen won’t talk to them anymore so they don’t know what’s really going on or what to do.  It is common for parents to feel confident that their child needs counseling but be completely unsure how to convince them to go.  “I can’t even convince them to eat breakfast!”  Below are some strategies that may help:

1.     UNDERSTAND THAT THEY PROBABLY WANT TO GO:  Believe it or not, if you think your child would benefit from counseling there is a good chance they think so too. They just don’t want to admit it to you or anyone else.  There is a stigma to going to counseling and so they need to find a way to “save face” if they do agree to go to counseling.  Keep this in mind as you begin to talk to your teen about counseling.

2.     I’M NOT TRYING TO FIX YOU: Avoid bringing the topic up in a way that says “there is something wrong with you and a counselor can help you fix it”.  Instead say something like “It makes sense to me that you are finding your independence and aren’t talking to us like you used to.  I’d like to find a counselor that you feel good about talking to in case you need an adult’s perspective and don’t want to talk to us about it.  I can send you a list of counselors that accept our insurance and I’d like for you to pick at least one that you are willing to meet with and just see if it could be helpful to you.”

3.     EMAIL/TEXT/WRITTEN NOTES:  Allow them to communicate with you about this without verbally engaging you.  Start with a verbal conversation but let them respond in other ways that are more comfortable to them.  Saying, “I’ll email you some counselor websites and you can let me know which ones you want to meet with,” allows them to email or text you back if that’s easier for them.  This will help them to “save face”.

4.     LIMIT YOUR EXPECTATIONS:  The maximum requirement you should have is that they meet with at least one counselor at least 4 times.  Ideally they will meet with more than one, pick one and meet with that one 3 more times but don’t require this.  This will give them an opportunity to open up to the idea and possibly decide that it’s helpful because THEY want it—not because you do.  Beyond that it’s not very helpful.  Forced therapy is just as pointless for teens as it is for adults.

5.     LIMIT FOLLOW UP:  Don’t press too hard for how they feel about the counselor after the session.  A simple “thoughts?” will suffice.  If they don’t respond, that’s okay.  Just follow it up with “Okay, just let me know by Friday if you are going to see this counselor or the other one and I’ll get it set up.”  Don’t get mad or huffy that they aren’t responding.  It’s hard for them to talk about and hard to admit that they like a counselor so let them sit in silence about it.  Also, if they’ve decided on a counselor and decide to keep going don’t act too happy or talk AT ALL about how happy you are that they’ve decided to keep going.  Oftentimes teens don’t want to make you happy so this will backfire.  At a minimum they will roll their eyes at you, at a maximum they will refuse to go no matter what privileges you remove.  Stay cool.

6.     SCHEDULE THE APPOINTMENT:  If the deadline to decide comes and goes without a response give a quick reminder “I’m going to call today to make the second appointment with one of the counselors you talked to, can you let me know which one?  If not, I’ll go ahead and pick one.”

7.     PRIVILEGE REMOVAL:  Yes, you can make privileges contingent on meeting with counselors and even having a few follow up sessions.  If they really don’t want to go after that it’s important to know that it’s very unlikely that it will be very valuable for them.  Would it be valuable for you?  Thank them for trying and tell them that they can let you know at any time if they want to try other counselors or go back to one that they met with before.  When you discuss taking privileges, say it this way “It’s important enough for us that you give counseling a try that we have decided that we can only let you use the car if you at least meet with these counselors and have at least 3 follow up sessions with one.  As long as we’re working on that, you can use the car.”

8.     DO YOUR RESEARCH:  Find a counselor that builds rapport with adolescents and teens well.  Many teens are reluctant to go to counseling because they have gone to counseling in the past with a counselor that wasn’t very good at their job.  Other teens are reluctant because they have a very “cliché” concept of what therapy will be like.  If you pick someone who isn’t good at this you can just expect it to fail right away.  It takes a special skill set to work with adolescents and teens and just because a counselor says they’ve done it before doesn’t mean they are actually good at it.  Ask your friends, ask the school counselor and talk to the counselors themselves about how they “build rapport”.  Oftentimes counselors who have only done outpatient counseling are not a good fit for adolescents and teens.  Counselors who have worked in Residential Treatment facilities or Wilderness Therapy settings are a good bet.  They have experience with some of the most therapy-opposed clients out there and have likely found some great tools to build rapport.

9.     GET YOUR OWN SUPPORT:  Even though it takes a different skill set to work with teens, counseling still supports teens in the same way it supports adults.  It gives them a place to be seen and heard.  I often have parents call me before a session and say “He got angry and threw something across the room last night.  Can you talk to him about new coping skills or find out what he’s so upset about?”  My response is usually a resounding “no”.  Imagine if your partner called your counselor up before your session and said “Betty has been really depressed this week.  Can you talk to her about coping skills?”  That’s just not how counseling works.  The only person who really gets to decide what they work on is the client.  What you CAN do, though, is get your own counseling with someone who is also skilled at Parent Coaching.  This will allow you both the time to be seen and heard and supported through all of the emotions that are coming up for you AND some concrete skills to support your teen.  This is especially important if your teen refuses counseling.  You may be surprised at how much your child’s behavior can improve because you are getting the help you need.  

This Is Your Marriage, This Is Your Marriage On Kids...

Parenting can often feel like a never-ending battle for sleep, time, privacy, fun, a sense of control--a sense of self.  It is unpredictable.  It tears at the fabric of our self worth.  It makes us anxious and insecure.  It causes us to be frazzled and angry.  Parenting strips us down to our very core resources and then asks us to give more.  Parenting is hard.  It brings out our most honorably resilient self and our most depleted and least likeable self.  No wonder so many marriages creak and crack under the pressure.  In our efforts to be our best selves for our children we are often our worst selves for our partners.  

Parents often call me to get control over their children’s behavior.  They have read book after book and have accomplished nothing.  Their kids are wearing them down, getting into trouble at school, and tantruming at home.  They can’t get on the same page and they find that they have a hard time being consistent.  They come to me wanting a plan—a strategy that will make it easier. 

Parents often ask for parent coaching because they are afraid to ask for couple’s counseling.  They are often hesitant to admit that they have begun to resent their spouse.  They argue more than they’d like to.  They yell more often than they thought they would.  The stability of their marriage is hanging on the awareness that they can’t imagine doing this alone even though they’ve lost touch with each other.  Unfortunately, they can’t admit that to themselves or others because the idea that their relationship may be in trouble is terrifying.  Because “Only couples considering divorce need couples counseling.”  Yet, they have lost touch with the person that they were in love with on their beautiful wedding day.  They’ve lost touch with the person they once were when they were in love with their spouse.

The problem is that the best parenting plan in the world won’t work if a couple has gotten into bad relationship habits.  Why?  Kids notice and feel stress in the relationship and this impacts their behavior.  This is the primary reason that parenting plans don’t work, but there are other reasons as well.  Parents who resent each other, can’t connect, or can’t trust the other don’t partner well.  Therefore they don’t follow through on plans.  They don’t have each other’s backs.  So when the parenting plan calls for ignoring the tantrum, they cave.  When the plan calls for removing a privilege, one parent gives it back too soon.  When the plan calls for a family schedule, they avoid implementing it because they are too tired to try something new.  So what can we do to set ourselves up for success in our relationship as parents?

Here are 10 things I recommend to any couple in the throws of parenting: 

1.     Be Generous:  Many of you have seen the picture depicting hell as a group of hungry people sitting around a bowl of soup holding spoons with incredibly long handles.  They can’t feed themselves and they don’t consider feeding each other so they starve.  The corresponding picture of heaven is of a group of well-fed people with a bowl of soup and spoons with incredibly long handles.  Because they are feeding each other, they are happy and full.  Do this with your partner.  When you believe you have nothing left to give, find something to give to your partner.  Give them an afternoon to go for a hike, or get a beer with friends.  And have your partner read this because they must do the same.  If they don’t it doesn’t work because one person starves. 

2.     Come to The Table Truly Interested in Your Partner’s Perspective:  Oftentimes couples come to a disagreement discussion ready to “prove their point” and “ready to win”.  That means they come to the table either on the offense or on the defense, but definitely not on the same team.  Even if you “win” you tend to feel like your partner still doesn’t understand you.  In addition, it is typically the more articulate or aggressive partner who“wins” This ends in resentment down the road. Resentment is the killer of love.  When heading into these discussions say this to yourself:  “This is the person I loved and admired enough to have children with.  Surely, their perspective is valid and respectable.”  Then be open to truly hearing what they have to say.

3.     Talk in Terms of Needs and Goals, Not Desired Outcomes:  When you disagree with your partner use this statement: “Tell me more about what makes that important to you.”  You may be surprised that an argument about which one of you takes the kids to practice has nothing to do with workload balance as you had originally assumed.  Maybe your partner is uncomfortable with the way the coach deals with your kids and wants you to take a whack at it.  When you know what the real need is underlying the stated desired outcome you open yourselves up to new solutions that work for everyone.

4.     Have sex/Be Intimate:  I know you are tired.  I know you may not feel sexy.  I know your partner isn’t as exciting as they once were.  But find a way and make time to talk about your intimate life, know your partner’s needs and wants and find intimacy that feels genuine and loving for both of you.  Then make time for it every week at least once a week.  This may not be sex.  It may be movie night in your bedroom (without the kids) with someone’s head on someone else’s shoulder.  Get creative.  Don’t wait until your kids are out of the house more often to tend to your intimate life.  By then it may feel awkward and stale and just not worth the work.  Without intimacy, many partnerships become co-parenting roommate type relationships.  It’s only when the kids get old enough to not need you EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY that you begin to realize that the parenting part of your relationship is there but the romance is gone.  This is often when couples begin to consider divorce or engage in infidelity. 

5.     Apologize, Don’t Justify:  Apologize when you snap at each other—right away.  And forgive each other for snapping—right away.  You are not always your best self when you are a parent and you will get justifiably angry and express it in unjustifiable ways.  What I mean is that you may very well be justified in your frustration with your partner.  But it’s never justified to snap at, yell at or insult your partner.  The issue doesn’t go away when we apologize for dealing with it the wrong way.  Instead, we make space to deal with the issue in a more respectful way.  When you know you’ve done it wrong say, “I’m sorry I snapped at you.  I was tired and angry and overwhelmed and it just came out.  But there is no excuse for me to snap at you.  Let’s make time to talk about ______________ in a way that is more solution focused.”  Do it in front of the kids and they see how a loving couple argues appropriately.

6.     Have each other’s back:  If your partner has “had it up to here” with your mother and your mother is insisting on a week long visit you need to side with your partner.  Period. YOU tell your mom that your family is not up for a visit this month.  YOU tell your mom when she oversteps her bounds.  Do this even if you think your partner may be overreacting.  Your partner is your rock in this parenting thing and if something is bothering them it needs to matter.  This is also true with the kids and discipline.  Parents question themselves a gazillion times a day.  When your partner sets a limit with your kids that you don’t agree with, they are probably already questioning their decision.  Have their back 100%.  When you talk to them about it later say, “Can we talk about how to handle Jane’s tantrums?  I know we want the same thing and I think we’ll be more effective if we have a plan.”  If you have their back you are more likely to hear them say “I just don’t know what to do.  I’m afraid if I don’t do it that way our kid will become a monster”.  Then you can partner on how to teach the same lesson in a more effective way that you can both agree with next time.

7.     Don’t Be a Martyr:  If you choose to do a gazillion times more of the work than take responsibility for that choice.  Don’t say it’s because your partner isn’t capable or willing and “I’m the only one who can do all of this”.  If they truly aren’t capable, teach them what you know.  Let them do it not as good as you do.  Your children are unlikely to die as a result and they are better off having two involved but faulty parents than one superstar parent who is overwhelmed and overworked.  Believing that you’re the only one who can do something leads to lots of marital issues.  First, your self-esteem may become wrapped up in this idea that you are the only one who can do something.  So even if you want your spouse to step up, you may find it hard to let them without feeling useless all of a sudden.  Second, your spouse’s self-esteem as a parent will suffer, leaving them to avoid being an active parent because it makes them feel like crap to try and fail.  Third, no one likes a martyr.  It’s annoying, so just don’t do it.  If your partner truly isn’t willing to do the work, set up a therapy appointment NOW.   This imbalance will lead to resentment and, as I said before, resentment is the killer of love.

8.     Be a Good Teacher and a Good Student:  Teach your partner how to be good with the kids if he/she is feeling overwhelmed or incompetent.  Yes, this means they will practice and botch things that are easy for you.  It means the kids will have more fussing and tantrums and may end up at school in dirty pajamas.  And the world will not end and your children will not be in jail because of it.  And if you are the one feeling overwhelmed or incompetent, keep trying and ask questions and get better.  Don’t isolate or disconnect from being an active parent and partner.  Don’t let your pride get in the way of learning how to be effective. Your kids and your relationship will benefit from having two parents trying their best vs. one actively involved parent and one who only knows how to contribute by “bringing home the bacon”.

9.     Have Perspective: There was very likely a time in your relationship when you looked at your partner and imagined a day when you would sit on your front porch together, grey strands of hair poking out, drinking some warm beverage in a mug and quietly enjoying each other.  Don’t forget this.  Don’t forget what you loved and admired about your partner when you decided to start this journey of parenthood together.  Life will become less crazy some day and your partner will be stronger, more mature and still as amazing as the day you met.  It is true that we sometimes realize over time that we are not very compatible and no longer want to be sitting on the front porch with our partner when we are old.  But it is also true that sometimes we build walls of resentment, focus on the warts and forget to connect.  Don’t let your partnership drift and break because you’ve lost perspective. 

10. Reach Out and Reach Back:  Ask your partner this very important question: “How do you like to be shown love?”  Please don’t assume you know unless you’ve asked this already.  You are likely showing them love the way you want to be shown love and that’s not necessarily what they need.  If your partner doesn’t know, take a journey to the Love Languages website and learn how you each like to receive love.  Then reach out every day to your partner in the way that they like to receive love.  Yes, every day.  If they love gifts than pick up a rock that you saw on your walk that you thought was pretty.  If they need acts of service, do the dishes for them.  You get my point.  And when your partner reaches out to you, reach back.  Don’t be too busy or distracted. Research shows that couples who reach out and reach back last.

 

 

 

 

Healing Brilliantly and Unapologetically

I work with women and girls a lot in my practice.  I hear the words “I’m sorry” A LOT in my practice.  I hear “I know I shouldn’t feel this way” A LOT in my practice.  I hear “What’s wrong with me?” A LOT in my practice.  It’s both horrifying and not surprising to me that so many women have become convinced that there is something wrong with them.  “My mother says I need to find better coping skills” or “My husband says I cry too much”.  “My last therapist said I had Bi-Polar Disorder” or “The hospital gave me a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder”.  “I’m sure they’re right because I just can’t get a handle on these mood swings.”  “I’m sure they’re right because I do bad things… I do unsafe things”.  “I’m sorry for having to be here, I’m sorry for being broken, I’m sorry I don’t know what I want, I’m sorry I just went off topic, I’m sorry I wore my workout clothes to therapy, I’m sorry I don’t know what to say, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  And then, how can I stop being angry all the time?”  “How can I stop being sad?”.  And finally, “What can I do to fix myself?”

And as therapists we can sometimes reinforce this paradigm without even realizing it.  “Let’s find out what irrational thoughts you have and replace them with more rational thoughts.”  “Maybe we should set you up with a good psychiatrist.”  “Let’s explore your coping skills” “Let’s set goals”.  This is what we are trained to do.  We are trained to fix our clients—or at least help our clients fix themselves.  So we pull out strategies and coping skills and medications.  And we buy into the idea that our clients actually need to be fixed in the first place.  But maybe they don’t.

Maybe the thing that needs to be “fixed” has nothing to do with who they are or who they’ve become or how broken they are.  Maybe the thing that needs to be “fixed” is the idea that something needs to be fixed at all.  Maybe these women can’t “get control of their emotions” because they don’t feel like they’re allowed to have them at all.  Maybe they do terrible and unhealthy things because they have unmet needs and they are screaming out to get them met in whatever way they can. 

As women we are taught to be feminine, but to keep our emotions inside.  We are taught to be kind to others no matter what and to forgive those who’ve hurt us.  We should be compassionate and nurturing while being strong and levelheaded.  When we are unhappy in a relationship we need to work on it-- and by work on it I mean we need to shave away at ourselves to fit into the box that our partner has defined for us.  If we express a need, we need to apologize for having that need.  Apologize for not being self-sufficient enough to nurture everyone else and then fill our own cups too.  If we need to express our anger we must do it calmly and then let it go.  If we need to hide in a hole away from the world for a few days, we need to pull ourselves together and get to work.  If that leads to depression and anxiety we need to take medication and stop complaining.  We should admit that we are sick.  We need to appreciate the life we’ve been given and “think positively”.  And so we try and try and try and then arrive at our therapists’ door saying, “I’m sorry.  I tried, but I failed”. 

What if we stopped trying to fix these women and started giving them permission to be?  Permission to be angry.  Permission to be sad.  Permission to hold a grudge.  Permission to have a need.  What would happen if we helped them see their struggles as a conflict between their true self and the self that they have been told to be?  That they have failed only at being the unrealistic version of themselves that others say they should be—but they have not failed.  Because there is no “should”, there is only what is.  What if we refused to agree that there is something wrong with their anger or their desire to hide in bed for a week straight?  How would things change if we honored the fact that they don’t know what they want?  What if we said “Of course you feel that way, why wouldn’t you!?”  What would happen if we asked our clients to show as much compassion and empathy to their true selves as we ask them to show someone they are in conflict with? Because it is a conflict, and the world of expectations is winning and our clients are loosing.

I can tell you what happens in my office when I remember I’m not here to fix my clients.  I stop hearing “I’m sorry” so often and I start hearing “I feel like myself again” more often.  I stop hearing “I need to be fixed” so often and start hearing “Thank you” accompanied by a deep restorative breath and tears of relief in their eyes.  I see women who no longer look “Bi-polar” or “Borderline”, who would no longer qualify for a diagnosis of “Anxiety Disorder” or “Depressive Disorder”.  I see women begin to speak their truth to those that they love and find better ways to express their needs.  I see women rage and then release.  I see women grieve and then release.  I see women heal, brilliantly and unapologetically. 

 

 

 

3 Reasons Counseling Is Not Just For The Bad Times- Part A

Why Counseling Is Not Just For The Bad Times

Lara Stevenson, LPCA

As a counselor I often first meet clients when they are feeling overwhelmed or stuck.  The urgency to feel better is so pressing that it is hard for clients to imagine a time when they WILL feel better.  The good news is, typically clients do begin to feel better.  Sometimes this is due to the experience of "being heard".  Other times, it is because the client has gained a new perspective or learned new skills.  And sometimes it truly is because things have gotten easier to manage in life-- those things that felt out of your control are now feeling "in control".  

This is when clients begin to think "Maybe I don't need to continue counseling now.  What is there to talk about now that I'm feeling better again?".  Others may think "I'm just wasting my counselor's time and my money since there isn't really anything to be fixed".  Clients become anxious just trying to figure out what to be upset about so that they have something to share in the session. This is when a good counselor may subtly or not so subtly suggest that it is still very healthy and possibly essential to sustaining your growth to stay engaged in the counseling relationship for a bit longer.  But why?  Below are 3 reasons why you may want to stay in counseling even if you're feeling better.

Evaluating the Why:

It may be important to spend some time on the question "Why am I feeling better?"  If you are feeling better because your horrible boss just quit or you just got an influx of cash it is quite possible that when circumstances change again, you will be just as overwhelmed as you were the first time.  The goal is not just to feel better but to learn ways to cope with external changes that are stressful to you.  You may also be feeling better because of a pattern in your life that is not all that healthy.  For example, you may be feeling better because you've just met an amazing girl/guy and you no longer feel alone and worthless.  This may be part of a pattern you've created where you are dependent on someone else to make you happy.  Knowing the why will help you to be sure you are feeling better because you have truly gained new insight and skills and not because you're repeating old patterns that will wind you up in the same spot in 6 months, a year etc.

Understanding the How:

Imagine you just made the most amazing chocolate cake you've ever made, but you were so caught up in making it that you didn't write down all the changes you made to the recipe.  Do you sit back, enjoy the cake and hope you can do it again the same way next time or do you take a minute and try to evaluate what worked that didn't work last time?  The best time to figure out our own patterns and evaluate what we've learned about ourselves is when things are going well. When we are in crisis, all of our energy is put into getting to the next breath... the next solution. That's not typically the best time to see the big picture.  Spend this time understanding how you got here so that you feel more empowered next time to manage these overwhelmed or stuck feelings without crisis.

Sustaining:

While I certainly think it can be healthy preventative "medicine" to maintain a counseling relationship for years if it feels good to you to have a space where you are heard and seen and there is not an unhealthy sense of dependency, I AM NOT recommending that all clients continue in counseling into infinity. There are many ways to create a practice of attending to your mental health and you are the best judge of what is best for you at any given time. Having said that, I do recommend sticking with a counselor through your first "feel good" period of time to make sure that the changes you've made feel sustainable for you.  Changes in perspective or changes in behavior can easily revert back at the first sign of stress.  Your counselor is there to help you tackle the next big stressor with your new perspective and skills without going back to the old way that didn't work for you.  Give yourself and your counselor the opportunity to experientially witness the sustainable change you have engaged in before moving on.

Stay tuned for part B, where I'll discuss reasons you might start counseling when life is good....

 

 

Parents of Teens Support Group

Trillium Path Counseling will be offering a Parents of Teens Support group starting late January or early February.  Please contact me directly to get more information or to register.  trilliumpathcounseling@gmail.com or 828-989-3182.

Does My Child Have ADHD?

The Question

The question that comes up most often when I tell people what I do is some variation of "My child's teacher tells me that I should get him checked for ADHD because he can't sit still in class, what should I do?" which is inevitably followed up by "I don't want to put my child on medication if I don't have to and I don't even know if there is really something wrong with him".  This question is both extremely complex and also quite simple to answer.  It is complex because diagnosing ADHD is not as straight forward as one may think-- there are lots of reasons a child may be struggling to pay attention or may appear overly hyperactive. It is also complex because there are a variety of ways to think about ADHD and the treatment of ADHD even when a correct diagnosis is made. It is easy to answer, because there are a few basic steps you can take as a parent to make sure your child is getting the support they need.  This post will walk you through some of the important information you need to know as a parent, while also giving you concrete steps to take to support your child.

Deficit Disorder?

It's important for me to explain that I do not see ADHD as a deficit or a disorder.  In fact, I believe the name is entirely off base when broken down.  Some years ago, the diagnoses of ADD and ADHD were combined to ADHD to make it simpler.  Now, if a child is diagnosed with ADHD and is not hyperactive, the person diagnosing will name it ADHD-- Inattentive Type. Conversely, if a child is hyperactive, they will diagnose as ADHD-- Hyperactive Type.  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense since ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but I don't make the rules.  It is also a mistake to believe that children with ADHD have an attention deficit.  In fact, they do not-- or not in the way you might think.  Children and adults with ADHD are able to focus quite intensely on something that they identify as very important-- or for children, something they find very fun.  This is why a child with ADHD might throw a huge fit when you tear her away from building her Leggo tower after an hour but can barely take 2 minutes to focus on her math homework. Finally, I believe it is an incredible misnomer to call this a disorder.  Anyone who has spent any time at all with a child or adult who truly has ADHD will tell you that they are more adventurous and creative than others in their peer group.  They are able to solve problems in ways that their peers cannot and those who make it through the very difficult years of childhood often find themselves in high positions in companies, respected by many.  So one must ask, is there really something wrong with these kids or is there something wrong with the way we understand and teach them?

The Farmer and the Hunter

It may be helpful for parents who do have a child with ADHD to think of them as a hunter while their peers are more like a farmer.  This explanation was developed by Thom Hartman  and has endured over the years as one of my favorite ways to conceptualize children with ADHD. Farmers are able to plan ahead, attend to somewhat boring tasks for a long time, think before they act etc. Hunters don't have that luxury.  They are constantly on the look out for threats and prey.  When a bird flies by above, they notice.  When there is a rustle in the leaves, they notice.  They don't have time to sow their grain, they have to find their prey and not get killed in the meantime.  Both personality types are important in our society and there are many professions that lend themselves much better to the Hunter's approach.  And yet, we devalue this skill set because it is not useful in our current school system and, let's be honest, it can be distracting and frustrating for us farmers who are trying to plan and plant and build!

Other Causes

A brief look at the DSM-V will show you that there are other reasons a child may be exhibiting the same behaviors associated with ADHD.  A child with an Anxiety Disorder may behave similarly to a child with ADHD-- and yet the treatment plan would be very different.  For example, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder behaviorally will have the following symptoms: (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep, (2) irritability or outbursts of anger, (3) difficulty concentrating, (4) hypervigilance, (5) exaggerated startle response (APA, 2013).  Generalized Anxiety Disorder would be demonstrated by: (1) restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge, (2) being easily fatigued, (3) difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, (4) irritability, (5) muscle tension, (6) sleep disturbance (APA, 2013).  Now let's look at ADHD.  Those symptoms are: (a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities (b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities, (c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly, (d) often does not follow through on instructions, (e) often has difficulty organizing tasks, (f) often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, (g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, (i) is often forgetful in daily activities (APA, 2013).

So, if you go to your friendly family doctor and tell her that your teacher is concerned that your son has ADHD and tell her what you have observed, you are very likely going to walk out of that office with a diagnosis of ADHD for your child and a prescription to match.  The trouble is, your family doctor doesn't have the training to distinguish the two in the way that a mental health clinician or Psychiatrist would-- and yet this is how many of our children are being diagnosed.  

The problem with this is pretty huge.  A child with anxiety put on a stimulant medication is going to be in big trouble.  And, often, instead of taking them off that medication and re-evaluating the diagnosis, physicians tend to put them on another medication and then we have children on "medication cocktails" and parents feeling like they don't know what to do.  This is not what you want for you or your child.

So What Do I Do?

First, you need to ask yourself a very important question.  Does this issue need to be dealt with because she is driving me and her teachers nuts or because I can see how frustrating it is for her that she isn't doing well socially and can't focus in school?  If your child is antsy in the school setting but overall doing pretty well socially and academically-- why are you worrying about it? Join a support group, get a counselor for you and learn how to be the best parent you can be for your brilliant and unique child.  On the other hand, many children with ADHD have such poor impulse control that they are unable to make friends and become frustrated and angry with themselves when they try to take tests at school.  If your child is at risk of lowered self esteem because this issue is not treated, then you must look into this further for your child's sake. In addition, poor impulse control can lead to very risky behavior (climbing to the top of 30 foot trees).  If you are worried about your child's ability to be safe physically it is also important to look into treatment options. 

Next, if you decide to seek out treatment find someone who knows what they are talking about. Please, I know you love your family doctor.  He has always been so kind to you and your child and he knows you better than other professionals.  It's less scary to go to your family doctor and your family doctor will do a much better job than I will at diagnosing strep.  But I'll do a better job diagnosing ADHD.  So reach out to someone who knows.  It may be best to go to a counselor first.  A Psychiatrist is really there to utilize medicine to treat mental health disorders. While some also provide counseling, they often depend on counselors to do that part of the job. Start with someone who's job isn't to prescribe medications.  If your child needs them your counselor will certainly refer you to an excellent local psychiatrist. 

After that, sit down and have a real talk with your teachers.  If you have a good counselor, they can give you a wealth of ideas on how to make the school environment more friendly for your child.  If your child has ADHD they are likely to be very tactile.  They will be able to focus more if they are doodling when the teacher is teaching.  They will focus more with a stress ball in their hands.  You'll need to help your teacher to understand this if your teacher doesn't already.  It's not an issue of disrespect, it's an issue of focus.  If there are charter schools in your area that have a more experiential curriculum, your child may be better off in that environment.  Your child is likely to learn far more about science and math running around in the woods and building forts than he will sitting at a desk.  The more a child's environment matches their learning style the less they will need their medications.

Finally, get your own support. The biggest mistake that parents make is to send their kids to the counselor and not get any support for themselves.  No one taught you how to deal with this when you were in high school-- you need help!  Get involved in a support group if you are the social type and hire a counselor if you're more of an introvert- or do both! Through this, you can learn patience and gain a sense of humor about the quirky behaviors of your child. 

Good luck and enjoy!  

Written by Lara B. Stevenson, M.A., LPCA

Reference:

American Psychological Association, 2013. DSM-5.

Superstar Parent Training

All parents want tools to make parenting easier and more fun.  Good parent training can help even the best parents in their very difficult job.  I will be offering the first of a 5 session parent training curriculum in downtown Asheville, North Carolina on September 15, 2014 from 5:30- 7:30 PM.  I would love for you to join me!  I have pulled together a variety of concrete tools that have helped the many parents I have coached through the years to create an interactive program called "Superstar Parents".  This session will be about setting yourself up for success and preventing potential problems with your child.

The course will be provided free of charge for foster or adoptive parents and will be $20.00 per participant per session for all other parents. Registration is required to attend.  You will be provided the location of the session upon registration.

If interested or to register, please email me at trilliumpathcounseling@gmail.com