- Voice your support: unfortunately, therapy still carries a stigma for some people. Your loved one may be feeling uncertain about how others would respond if they knew they were in therapy. Tell your loved one that you are proud of them for going to counseling. Assure them of the value of therapy and seeking help. Encourage them that you don’t see them differently and that you support their choice to go to counseling.
- Ask how you can help them: therapy can be mentally and emotionally draining. Ask your loved one how they typically feel after a therapy session. Do they want company and something to do? Or are they tired and simply want to be alone? Send them an encouraging text on the day you know they have counseling. Follow through on what they would find helpful.
- Respect their boundaries: you may be curious what your loved one is discussing in therapy. You may wonder if they are talking about you! Respect their boundaries if they tell you that they aren’t comfortable talking about or sharing. Be willing to listen if they would like to talk about therapy.
- Be understanding of the process: therapy is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process that involves emotional ups and downs as a person attempts to work through things. Your loved one may be angry, sad or frustrated at different points. Be understanding when they feel discouraged and find ways to encourage them through the process.
You aren’t currently in therapy - but your loved one is. How do you support someone you love as they seek help for whatever it is they may be struggling with?
The holidays are supposed to be the ‘happiest time of the year,’ right? Yet so often holiday times bring stress and anxiety. Maybe the holidays means getting together with family members you don't get along with. Maybe this time of year means fielding questions about your marital status, future plans, or when you're planning on having a baby. The holidays might mean being alone and lonely. They might mean working long hours to cover Black Friday or post-holiday sales. Maybe it means the memory of someone who you've lost and your grief is feeling more intense than usual.
With everything we might be going through: how can we get through the holidays with our mental health intact?
1. Adjust your expectations: realistically, Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t going to look picture perfect like they do on TV or on Instagram. Families will get into arguments, three people will come by and salt the mashed potatoes without tasting them first, you won’t get to spend time with the person you wish you could. Set realistic expectations for yourself. After all, in the grand scheme of things, these are just days in the year.
2. Realize that the holidays are a social construct: the holidays were invented - by us. Thanksgiving isn’t about the pilgrims and Jesus was probably born in the summer. That doesn’t mean the holidays don’t hold meaning - it is wonderful to be thankful and to celebrate the birth of Christ. But at the end of the day, that is what the holidays are - just days in the year. If we can separate ourselves from thinking that the holidays HAVE to be a certain way, we might be able to enjoy the way they actually end up being.
3. Set healthy boundaries: if you know that you can’t happily spend a week with your family, visit for just a day. If you aren’t up to buying Christmas gifts for every aunt, uncle and cousin, suggest a gift exchange. Find the limits of what is healthy for you, express those limits and stick to them. Setting healthy boundaries will help you stay within the limits of what is emotionally healthy for you during this time.
4. Ask for support: if the holidays are a particularly hard time for you emotionally, find someone who you can talk to about it. Whether it is a friend, family member or counselor, you deserve someone who will listen and understand what you are going through. The holidays feel like they should be the most wonderful time of the year. The reality is that sometimes they don't feel wonderful. While it isn't fun to feel that way, it is normal and okay to not experience the holidays the way it seems like everyone else is.
Children love to play and they don’t need much guidance from us on how to use their imagination, how to play with toys and how to run around outside. Children will engage with each other on the playground with ease and have an intuition that helps them identify what a toy looks like.
It can be a huge deal for a parent to engage in intentional play with your child. Intentional may sound the opposite of what play is supposed to be. As adults we can use intentionality in play to help children develop social skills, learn self control and continue to attach themselves to their parents.
Intentional play is a little different than simply playing with your child. Intentional play is playing with your child one-on-one. This enables the child to have focused attention from a caregiver through play. Here are some questions to ask yourselves to get started:
1. How do I play with my child now?
Take a minute to evaluate how you typically play with your child. Are you engaged in play or distracted? Are you directive in play and worried about your child following the rules? Or are you able to let loose and have fun? It is important to know your own style of play with your child so you can understand how you and your child may interact in play.
2. Am I engaged?
Intentionally playing with your child won’t be useful or fun if you aren’t able to fully engage with them. Put away your phone, your distractions of the day, and focus on your child. This focus will make them feel connected to you. It will also help you to notice opportunities to help your child learn new skills through play.
3. What is my goal of intentional play?
It sounds counterintuitive to have a goal for play with your child. Most of the time the goal is probably simple: have fun engaging with your child. Sometimes you might have another goal that you want to focus on. Have you noticed that your child gets frustrated when they lose? Does your child have difficulty with self control? Play can help with all of those things!
4. How can I help my child during play?
Children learn in tactile ways. This is why play is so important for children developmentally. As a parent the most important thing you can do with your child during play is pay attention to them, engage with them and care for them.
5. What do I do next?
Take a minute to evaluate after you play with your child. You know your child better than anyone. Does your child’s play seem different than usual? Does it feel like they are able to enjoy themselves around you? Does it feel like they are exhibiting a certain behavior that you may need to pay attention to?
Children communicate so much through their play. If you take the time and pay attention, you might be surprised at what you learn about your child during play time! If you want some practical ways that you can play with your child in an intentional way, check out next week’s post on creative play that encourages self-expression!
We have all experienced being in crisis. Something unexpected happens that sets our world into disarray and we are forced to enter “crisis mode.” Rarely do we think to prepare for a life crisis - typically crisis appears out of nowhere: an illness, an accident, a family emergency, a loss.
What can you do when you are in the middle of a crisis? Here are some places to start:
If you are experiencing a crisis and feel as if you can not do it on your own, Bethel Haven counselors are here to help. Call us at 706.310.9046 to schedule an appointment.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Confidential help is available 24 hours a day at no cost. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
I am a huge fan of my to-do list. I am a huge fan of my to-do list because I love the feeling of getting stuff done. I love being able to think back on my day and say: I worked to accomplish these ten things.
There is a part of me that whispers: “you’ll be happy if only you do all the things that you need to do. You’ll feel peace when your house is clean, you are caught up on work, and when you are perfectly organized.”
So I accomplish things and I check things off my to-do list. There is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, almost always, that reminds me of all the things I have yet to finish.
Can anyone relate?
We live in such an accomplished-based society where running around constantly helps us feel as if we are doing something. And doing something is what matters - right?
I think we all know, on some level, and I think we might need a reminder - we can’t work our way to happiness and peace.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
- Psalm 46:10
What we can do it let go. Let go of our idea that our accomplishments reflect our self-worth. Let go of the feeling that we will be happy when something gets done. If we live that way, happiness is an always distant idea. There is always something more that needs to be done.
What we can try is taking a moment to be still. Take a moment to simply rest in the quiet knowledge that God loves us regardless of what we’ve accomplished that day. He loves us even when we do absolutely nothing to further our goals. He only asks us to be still and to be present with him.
You won’t work your way to feeling happy and at peace. You won’t work your way to being satisfied when satisfaction is an ever-moving target. What you can work towards is being still and being present. Be still, and know that He is God.
If you find the idea of going to counseling a scary one, you aren’t alone. Oftentimes people would rather deal with their emotions and problems on their own than talking to a counselor. To some, going to a counselor seems horrible. Here are some common reasons why people avoid counseling:
"I don't want to talk to a stranger"
"It will feel awkward and I won’t know what to say"
"I’m too embarrassed to go to counseling"
"Only “crazy” people or people with serious problems go to counseling"
"I don’t want to talk about it"
"Talking about it will make me feel worse than before"
As a counselor, sitting on the other side of the counseling session doesn't feel scary at all! But I’ve been to counseling myself and I remember how anxious I was about it initially. Here are some of my most candid responses to these fears of going to counseling:
I don't want to talk to a stranger
Fair point. Talking to a stranger about things that feel incredibly personal is a weird idea. It’s also a great idea in therapy - the stranger that you’re talking to doesn’t have a personal bias against you or the people you might talk about. Your counselor doesn't even know them! You have the space to be completely honest. And the therapist that you're working with has a professional obligation to keep everything you say to them confidential.
It will feel awkward and I won’t know what to say
It probably will feel awkward at first, unless perhaps you immediately click with your counselor. Most of our meaningful relationships start with an awkward period in the beginning. Once the awkwardness passes you might find that your counselor can be a supportive and helpful person in your life. As for not knowing what to say, well, you are paying for this time. You can talk about literally anything you want. And your counselor will ask you questions - you aren’t responsible for completely carrying the conversation.
I’m too embarrassed to go to counseling
If you feel embarrassed to go to counseling, I would start by having you consider what feels embarrassing about it. Are you afraid to appear weak if you ask for help? Do you want to appear as if you have it all together? And most importantly: How is that working for you? It might be time to push past embarrassment if you really need the help. Also, your counseling appointments are completely confidential. No one has to know that you’re going to counseling. Of course, someone might see you walk in or you might run into someone you know in the waiting room. All that means is that you also know someone else who decided to seek help through therapy.
Only “crazy” people or people with serious problems go to counseling
You don’t have to have “serious” problems to go to counseling - though I’m not sure what makes a problem "serious" vs "not serious." If you have something in your life that is causing you distress and would like to talk to someone about it who can help, counseling is perfect for you. You don’t have to meet a certain standard to go to counseling.
I don’t want to talk about “it” (whatever that big thing is)
Fair enough. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about things either. Especially intense things that seem scary to share with someone else. If you aren’t ready to talk about it, your counselor shouldn’t force you to talk about it. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about things that you feel comfortable talking about. Counseling can be helpful for smaller things and bigger things. Sometimes talking through problems that feel smaller can help us gain confidence to talk through problems that seem bigger.
Talking about it will make me feel worse than before
Sometimes this is true. Sometimes talking about something does make us feel worse. But like a lot of things, facing emotions head on feels worse before it feels better. And sometimes our emotional capacity to handle our feelings get a lot better when you have a trained professional walking alongside of you who isn't fearful of exploring emotion with you.
Maybe you’ve had a bad experience in counseling. Maybe there is a stigma against counseling in your family. I get it. As a counselor, I have been in counseling myself. Making that first appointment felt scary. I didn’t know what would happen and I was scared of the unknown.
So why did I decide to go?
The stuff going on in my life was way more unbearable than the fear of seeking out counseling. The things I was trying on my own weren’t working. My family and friends love me but are too close to help me solve problems without personal input. I needed - and wanted - help more than I needed to avoid something scary.
If you think counseling might be a right fit for you, please reach out to Bethel Haven. Our counselors are ready to help - and they aren't scary at all.
One of the fastest ways to cause a child or teenager to emotionally shut down is when he or she doesn’t feel heard.
As adults, we’ve maybe mastered the multi-tasking listen. Maybe it is hard to listen to everything a child tells us. Maybe some of those things seem really unimportant compared to the stresses that we encounter. But as adults, if you aren’t invested in the little things you might miss out on your opportunity to be involved in the big things.
I talk to kids a lot - and I hear some very common themes when it comes to adults listening (or not listening).
“My parent is always on their phone when I am with them. It makes it hard to feel like we are spending time together.”
“My parent doesn’t ever really respond when I share something with them. It makes it hard to know if they are listening”
“My parent doesn’t even let me finish talking before they move on to something else. I know they don’t care about what I have to say”
“I feel like my parent doesn’t seem interested in what I have to say. They never ask me any questions about it.”
Substitute teacher/coach/small group leader/etc for parent and you can start to see the picture of times that kids aren’t being heard. We aren’t intentionally ignoring the kids in our lives - but we might be missing the bigger picture of how we can make them feel heard.
1: Put down the phone.
The irony is that as adults we are always complaining about kids constantly being on their phones. But we have an opportunity to stop and reflect. Are we guilty of modeling that behavior to them? You might feel as if you are able to listen when you are checking an email or replying to a text. But the message your child is getting is clear: “I’m not being heard. Whatever you are doing is more important than listening to me.”
2. Respond, even if you don’t know what to say
You may feel ill-equipped at times to respond to your child or teen. You might not always feel like you know the “right” thing to say. This can cause you to be silent instead of responding. Have you ever talked to someone who doesn’t really respond to what you say? It makes me feel incredibly unheard. Even hearing “I’m listening” or “Thank you for sharing that with me” can go a long way in helping a child feel heard.
3. Let them finish what they are sharing - either now or later
I get it - if your kid constantly has something to share then you may not always be able to listen exactly when they want to share. If you have the time to engage and listen, great! If not, acknowledge that its not the right time and then follow up. Make sure you remember to ask them later to finish their story. Or set a designated time where they can be the focus and have as much time to share as they need.
4. Engage through questions
This goes along with responding even if you don’t know what to say. How do we know if someone is truly interested in us? They ask us questions about what is important to us. They engage in understanding what we are talking about. They seek to know us better by asking us questions. They take the time later to follow up on our questions.
Do your children feel heard by you? Do they feel like you are listening to what is important to them? The quickest way to find out might be to ask them! Do you feel heard? Do you feel like what is important to you is important to me?
If you feel like communicating with your child or teen has become difficult, try the things on this list. If you feel like you need additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to Bethel Haven. We have wonderful counselors who can help rebuild parent-child relationships.
There is someone in your life who says some pretty discouraging things to you throughout the day. This person notices when you make a mistake and is quick to point it out to you. This person is more likely to criticize than to praise. Their words have power over you. Do you recognize this person yet? This person is you!
Whether or not we always realize it we have an internal dialogue going in our head consistently through the day. The term for this is “self-talk” and it describes the way that internal dialogue - and more specifically, the way we talk to ourselves. People typically fall into a pattern of self-talk. If we are not mindful of what our self-talk entails we can quickly fall into a negative pattern of self-talk. This can sound different for everyone.
“I forgot my lunch at home. I am such an idiot, I always forget things.”
“My mid-year review is coming up and I know my boss is going to have bad things to say about the project I’ve been working on.”
“It’s my first day of school tomorrow. I know no one will want to sit with me. I am such a loser.”
Self-talk can be messages that constantly replay in our mind. A lot of time these messages might have originally come from someone else - perhaps criticism from a parent or a teacher. But the way that we chose to frame our circumstances through our self-talk is important in changing our perspective.
If we can rewrite the messages that play in our heads we can change our perspective. Rewriting these messages means recognizing truth about ourselves. In order to find out these truths we need to spend time thinking about the negative self-talk that we replay in our heads. When we recognize a moment of negative self-talk we have the opportunity to change the way we are talking to ourselves.
“I forgot my lunch at home. I was rushing this morning because I woke up late. That’s frustrating but now I know I need to wake up earlier.”
“My mid-year review is coming up. I am nervous about this project that I have been working on and what my boss might say. I am going to take some time to think about what I know I did well on.”
“It is my first day of school tomorrow. I am nervous that no one will want to sit with me. I remember that I have made friends in the past and I can make friends again.”
Take some time to think about the negative messages that you replay in your head. How can you replace those with truth that gives you perspective about you or your circumstances? What are truths about yourself that are positive? Are you kind? What are you good at? What are you capable of doing? What are good things that you have done? Who are people who you influence?
Speak to yourself like you would speak to a close friend or family member. Be kind to yourself. Speak love and truth to yourself as you do for others!
It is that time of year where Target and Walmart have ten school supply aisles and those last few days of summer are upon us. It is time for our kids to go back to school which means making a huge transition from the fun of summer to the structure of school. There are ways that parents can help their children make this transition a successful one:
1. Getting back into sleep routines
No matter how much effort my parents put into me keeping a normal sleep schedule during the summer I always ended up staying up late and sleeping in. Those first few weeks of waking up at 6:00 when school started was miserable - for grumpy me and for my poor parents. Start prioritizing a school sleep schedule now. It is best if this begins two weeks before school starts but it isn’t too late to start now. Getting enough sleep is vital to students success in school. Help them start the school year strong by getting back into a routine school sleep schedule.
2. Identifying a study space
Go ahead and talk about studying expectations with your student. How much time will they likely need to spend doing homework? For younger kids, will they be able to do this on their own or will they need you to sit with them? Studying and homework is always most productive when it occurs in a specific study space - whether this is a desk or the kitchen table. Study places to avoid include in front of the TV or in bed.
3. Talk about the emotions of school starting
Is your child excited about going to school? Or are they dreading it? Set some time aside with each child to talk about the emotions of school starting. Address any anxieties they might have about new teachers, new schools or making friends. Help them identify the positives of school starting (without discounting anything they may be anxious about). Are they excited that they will have a friend in their class? Do they love their new book bag? Help your child talk through their emotions of school starting again. Listen to what they have to say and validate how they are feeling. Acknowledge that it is normal to have some fears and anxieties about the first day of school.
4. Create a evening and morning routine
Children flourish under routine. If you can set expectations for them before school starts then you will most likely be successful in helping lessen the stress of school. Create a morning and evening routine that your children can easily follow. This helps lessen the chaos of bedtime and of getting up to go to school. Print out these routines and put them somewhere that your child can easily see them.
To help you talk to your kids about emotionally preparing to go back to school we've provided a list of discussion questions to cover with your child! We think these questions could open up wonderful lines of communication for you and your child.
August is quickly approaching and with the start of the new school year comes the promise of Fall. It seems as if Summer just began and it is already time for the season to change again. I personally love the changing of the seasons because it reminds me of God and the way that he has designed our world.
My favorite thing to watch during the year is how the trees change. They remind me of God’s promises in His word that there is a season for everything. Do you think the trees worry when their leaves begin to brown in the Fall? Or when the leaves begin to fall in the Winter? The trees remind me that change is normal, scheduled by God. Change is expected - and though the change in our lives may not always be as scheduled as the leaves changing colors in the Fall - it sometimes can be as scheduled as school starting in August.
Change can create anxiety. When something changes we don’t always know what to expect. But God reminds us that He is always there to care for us even in times of change. He reminds us to: "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26).
As the weather becomes cooler and the leaves on the trees begin to change color, I challenge you to lean into your seasons of change. God has promised us that there is a season for all things. He brings us to seasons and He brings us through seasons. How beautiful it is to have a God who does these things for us!
Trees do not stay the same forever. They take in water and sunlight. They grow taller and their leaves change, they flower, they fall. The seasons bring change in a beautiful way that can only happen in God’s timing. A tree can not simply grow taller overnight. A tree requires time, seasonal change, water and sunlight to grow into something different. If God can do such a thing with a tree, surely he can do such things with us!