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Peace, Love & Anxiety

A Time of Transition

by Christy Gualtieri

I don’t know if you remember the commercial or not, but years ago there used to be an ad on TV for back-to-school shopping.  It featured a parent literally dancing in the aisles as they threw notebooks, paper, and pencils in a shopping cart, kids trudging behind, as the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” played.

I love that commercial because I identify with it.  It is a wonderful time! When school starts, my kids actually get to learn things instead of spending hours on end bickering over toys or throwing dirt in each other’s faces! They’re happy hanging out with friends during recess instead of crying because their sibling pulled their hair or grabbed their toy or – and this is my personal favorite – their sibling’s foot has moved two inches onto their own couch cushion, and how can I be calm and well-behaved  because THEIR FOOT IS ON MY SPAAAAAAAAACE! MOOOOOOMMM!

It’s been a long summer.

But it’s over now, and the kids are in school, and cue the dancing! The twirling in the store aisles! And…the screaming? The tears over a changed routine? The afternoon meltdowns because things are different and it’s hard to get used to?

Yes, to all of them.  And no, it wasn’t my kids doing that.  It was me.

I had such a hard time transitioning into a new school year this year! New grades, new after school activities, new expectations for homework, new preschool for my daughter, and tons of paperwork sent me nearly into hot, frustrated tears every day.  How in the the world was I going to adjust? My kids seemed fine with it, but me? I was the mess. And then I realized why.

I’ve always had a hard time with transitions: moving to a new neighborhood, starting a new school, starting college, starting pretty much anything.  A new job would start a new world of worrying about my performance; a new addition to my routine would be really unsettling. And I’d get upset about the something new until I got used to it, which I eventually would.

But this year, I wasn’t as upset for as long as usual, and I figured out why.  Because I let myself feel it. I acknowledged that the first couple weeks of this new academic year were going to be tumultuous, and new, and went with that.  I let myself feel unhappy about it and did my best to power through, and here we are: about three weeks in, and I feel settled. I leaned into it, didn’t make myself “get over it faster,” and when I was able to breathe comfortably, I did.

If you’ve had children naturally, you’re familiar with the term “transition,” that short bit of time between the completely agonizing period of labor and the time when you’re ready to push that baby out.  It’s not the longest time of the labor process, but it’s the most painful. That in-between. If you’re in an in-between point in your life right now and you’re feeling that pain, know that something better is coming.  You will overcome whatever it is that you’re transitioning from and moving to a place you can – and will – get comfortable in. Lean into it as best you can, and when you’re able to, take a deep breath.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Summer Sweetness (With Bonus Recipe!)

by Christy Gualtieri

It’s Summer, and the kids down the street have set up a lemonade stand.  There are about eight kids; the oldest is about ten, and it’s pure mayhem at first: running back and forth into the house to get the pitchers and cups, long disappearances to make the lemonade (both pink and yellow), splashes and spills galore.

And not one customer…yet. It’s blazing hot, one of the first really hot days of the year, and I think about how growing up in Miami, there weren’t many lemonade stands in my neighborhood because no one would be crazy enough to set up shop in such intense heat and humidity.  I loved that these kids were out here, though: I loved their hustle, and I loved the fact that even though we live on a street that gets very little traffic, both foot and car, they were out there anyway.

I walk down with a few bucks (each cup costs a quarter, but I knew once both my kids got a taste of it, there’d be many cups asked for), sit on the steps, and observe. The older kids busy themselves with pouring out the drinks, as the littlest ones try to learn how to wait in line patiently without crowding. Two middle school boys walk up the street, each walking a dog, and buy a cup. They look so grown up contrasted against the toddlers, and I wonder what my own kids will be like, perched on the edge of teenagerhood like that. My son takes it upon himself to stand at the very edge of the driveway and put his hand out to stop cars passing by, trying to force them to stop and buy a cup, but no cars come by.  A neighbor’s getting their lawns landscaped, and their team comes over for a few cups. It’s a big order, and the kids rush back to the house in their excitement to hurry up and make a fresh pitcher.

After about an hour, the heat is just too much, and the kids decide to pack it in.  They’ve made eight dollars, and they want to donate it to Children’s Hospital. The mom in charge thanks them and wisely suggests that they should run a few more stands throughout the season and make a bigger donation at the end. The kids try to clean up, but it’s mostly the mom who does it as the kids run around back and hit the trampoline. Summer achievements, lemonade stand and trampoline time, unlocked!

__

Lemonade is not really my thing, it’s pretty sweet, but I am a huge lover of iced coffee, especially with half-and-half. For Mother’s Day last year, my husband gifted me with a two-gallon glass beverage container, and so I use that to make several batches throughout the season (the iced coffee should last about three weeks). The recipe is below, and it’s perfect for powering through a hazy Summer afternoon both at home taking care of children or at the office waiting for that end-of-day whistle to blow. This makes a huge amount (about two gallons), but feel free to halve the recipe (or even quarter it) for your needs.

You’ll need: A large plastic container, 10 oz. (a full can) of espresso (I prefer Cafe Bustelo, in the yellow can or the vacuum pack), water, a dishtowel, a large pitcher or other container that will hold your finished iced coffee, a measuring cup, and cheesecloth or some other fine mesh or synthetic strainer (I recommend these from Amazon.)

How to:

  1. Fill your large plastic container with 2 gallons (8 quarts) of water.
  2. Open the coffee can and pour it all in, mixing it around with a spatula so all of the grounds are saturated.  It’ll float on top for a while and take a couple of minutes to descend down. (You can also start out the opposite way, with the grounds in the container first, and then add the water to it.  Just make sure all of the grounds are wet.)
  3. Cover the container with a dishtowel and leave it, unattended, for 8-12 hours.
  4. Uncover the container, and bring over your pitcher or whatever you’re going to use to hold your finished iced coffee.  Affix your cheesecloth or strainer on top of the pitcher, and using a measuring cup, start pouring the coffee into the pitcher.  The grounds should stay in the cheesecloth or strainer.
  5. That’s it! Discard the grounds, or save them for your compost pile – excellent for the garden! Store your new iced coffee in the fridge, pour over ice in a glass and add whatever you like, sweetener, half-and-half, milk, or even sweetened condensed milk – and enjoy!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

What Do You Mean?

I have to go potty!” My daughter called from the other room.  I put down the dish I was washing, slipped off my rubber gloves, and hustled out of the kitchen.

Great!” I told her.  “Let’s go!” I’d been hoping she’d finally gotten far enough in her potty-training journey that she’d be able to recognize when she needs to go on her own, rather than having to rely on my near-incessant reminders throughout the day.

We rushed to the door of the bathroom, and she stopped short.  “I don’t have to go.

Let’s go!” I told her, anxious to get things moving, and not at all excited about the prospect of having to clean up yet another accident.

I don’t have to go.

I looked at her, trying to keep my exasperation level down.  (I was only mildly succeeding.) “You just said you had to go, honey.  Let’s give it a try.

I. Don’t. Have. To. GO!” She screamed, stamping her foot.

I threw up my hands.  “Fine.” I headed back to the kitchen, and was only about a foot away from her when she called out.

Mama, I DO have to go!

***

We had a saying growing up that I plan on making sure I pass down to my kids: Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. It comes from the Bible, and it’s always made sense to me. But as someone who has spent most of her life thus far wanting to be The Favorite, The Most Well-Liked, and The Best Friend Ever, those words gave me a lot of anxiety. There are so many things I want to say, but I’m always so worried – what will the person I’m talking to think? Will they still like me after they hear my thoughts? What happens if they don’t?

I know, I know – my insecurity level? Expert!

I spent so much time in my life tamping down what I think in order to always say the “right” thing – or, rather, what I think others wanted to hear. If I did that, I reasoned, then I could be everyone’s friend. No one would dislike me. It made sense!

Until it didn’t. Because I’ve found that generally, people do two things when confronted with behavior like that: 1) they know exactly what I’m doing; and 2) they don’t like it, because they know it’s not authentic. And I’d get called out on it. And when I did, I’d move through this really interesting cycle of behavior: someone would say, “Is that what you really think?” I’d say yes, then feel awful and terrible about myself afterward, because I knew I was lying – not only to them, but to myself.  It feels awful to deny yourself the truth, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I didn’t know how to be my authentic self.

Not such a long time ago, I happened to be at the library in my neighborhood when I struck up a conversation with another mother with young children. She was starting the process of homeschooling her oldest, and asked me if I home-schooled or, if I didn’t, if I knew of anyone in town who did.

I don’t,” I said. “But I have many friends who do, they live in another state, but if you want, I can give you some bloggers I read that home school, for ideas.

She shook her head. “Thank you, but no,” she said. “I really just wanted to know if there was anyone local, so I could meet up in person. Thank you anyway.

We got on talking about something else, but that short little bit of conversation was so striking to me, precisely because it was the opposite of something I would do. If our roles were reversed, I’d probably throw a bunch of clarifiers in there, floundering around in conversation, but she didn’t do that. I loved so, so much that she knew exactly what she was looking for, and when she didn’t find it, she thanked me, but also made her point perfectly clear with no animosity, no worries that I was insignificant, and without belittling me. She knew what she was about and communicated it clearly, and didn’t seem to care about my opinion one way or another.

All of this is something I have such a hard time doing! But I was able to use it as a wonderful example in my own life, for clearly communicating my own thoughts and needs. As I’ve been able to learn about how to be assertive, and how to speak up for myself, I’ve been doing my best to listen to others and realize that just because I think one thing does not mean they are any less of a person because they don’t agree with me.  It seems so silly to say that, but it’s what I had been doing, in reverse. Before, if I had spoken my mind, and someone would have disagreed, I would have felt ashamed, or stupid, or less than, even if the person I was talking to didn’t intend those things. But I’m learning now that all of that thinking had to do with my anxiety, not with them.

And so I’m trying to learn, and to practice the skill of clear communication: of my yes meaning yes and my no meaning no. It’s a hard one to master, but it truly feels worth it. It feels authentic! And it feels really good. If insecurity in conversation with others is something you struggle with too, you are not alone! Let’s go through it together.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Existential GPS

What is Co-Parenting?

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

As a therapist I am often asked questions about parenting and parenting styles. Amid the shifting core of contemporary family structures co-parenting has become an exceedingly topical subject. Co-parenting, sometimes referred to as shared parenting, is the practice of raising children as a single parent when divorce or separation occurs. This can be a difficult process for parents and children, but it is not an impossible task and, in fact, may have its own rewards. Below are some brief tips that will help when it comes to co-parenting. Although everyone will find his/her situation somewhat different, there are basic generalities when it comes to shared parenting.

  1. RESPECT each other like mature adults. Do not talk negatively, or allow other adults to talk negatively, about the other parent, their family and friends or their home in hearing range of the child.
  2. Your child is not a spy. DO NOT question the children about the other parent or the activities of the other parent regarding their personal lives.
  3. DO NOT make promises to the children to try and win them over at the cost of the other parent. Trips and elaborate gifts should not be used as weapons against the other parent.
  4. COMMUNICATION. Communication. Communication. Communicate with the other parent and make similar rules in reference to discipline, bedtime routines, sleeping arrangements, and other schedules.
  5. It’s not about you. At all times, the decision made by you and your Ex should be for the child’s psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being and safety.
  6. DO NOT ask the child where they want to live. Additionally, visitation arrangements should be made and confirmed beforehand between the parents without involving the child in order to avoid any false hopes, disappointments or resentments toward the other parent.
  7. ALWAYS notify the other parent in a timely fashion of the need to deviate from the order, including cancelling visits, rescheduling appointments, and promptness.
  8. Both parents should WORK TOGETHER to allow the child to be involved in extracurricular activities and both parents should make every attempt to attend these activities together.
  9. INFORM the other parent of any change to scholastic, medical, extracurricular activities or appointments for the child.
  10. Keep the other parent well informed of your address and telephone number and your whereabouts.

Co-parenting means doing the right thing for your children. Always be ready to compromise and communicate with respect and civility.

If you are experiencing difficulty with co-parenting or are having a conflict in your relationship due to divorce or separation, please feel free to contact us to schedule a confidential appointment.

In good health,
Don