Blog : stress

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s New Book

Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

From Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier:

Control vs. Voice

So how do we use this new information about guiding our kids to help them change their behavior? Ultimately, you have no control over your child. They make decisions every day. They are their own persons.

Webster’s defines “control” as: “To exercise restraining or directing influence over. To have power over. Reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>”

The part of this definition that I like is the “directing influence over”. I would argue that this comes less from control and more from having a voice in your child’s life.

One of Webster’s definitions of “voice” is, “wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed.” So to have a “voice” in your child’s life is for your wishes, choices, and opinions to somehow take root in them.

Think about who has a voice in your life. Who can say to you, “Here is my opinion” and you consider it?

Is it your mom?

Dad?

Best friend?

Wife or husband or significant other?

How did they gain that voice in your life? Did they do something? Did they act a certain way? Is it because you have seen how they live their life and you respect that? Do you aspire to be like them or certain parts of them? What is it that allows them to have that voice, not control, in your life?

I believe that it is trust. They somehow built trust in you. Building a voice comes from trust. For kids, that trust comes from three specific things. To build trust as parents we must demonstrate:

  1. Consistency and love
  2. Set an example
  3. Spur something in our children that brings life

Consistency and Love

In future chapters I will discuss more in-depth what this looks like and ways that you can increase consistency and demonstrate your love. One definition of “consistency” is “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole.”

To be a consistent parent, you have to have harmony in what you do. What does this mean? It means that it is better to say nothing at all, rather than a false promise. By false promise I mean not following through on things you say. If you give a warning to a child regarding their behavior, then follow through.

When you start thinking this way, two things will happen inside of you. First, you will slow down the frequency of threats that you make because you know that you need to follow through. Also, you will evaluate the intensity of threats.

One thing about threats: they don’t work.

 

Threats don’t work

Why don’t threats work? Think about it this way. Your boss keeps coming in your office for two weeks reminding you of a date that a report is due. She says, “If it’s not on my desk on November 12th, then I’m writing you up.” November 12 comes and goes, you had some crazy things happen in your family and you just couldn’t get it done.

Then in January she does the same thing for the report due January 29th. Again you miss the mark and it comes and goes, yet no write up. Imagine this happened over 18 years in the company. Sometimes she does write you up sometimes she doesn’t.

Now imagine a different scenario. At a staff meeting she announces that reports need to be timely. To try and help the staff keep it in their mind, if the November 12th report is in on time you will get an overnight at the hotel of your choice and if not, then you will be written up.

No more reminders.

Then she does what she says.

Often parents believe that they have a voice in their child’s life and that is enough, but really a voice is earned through consistency. Your action of giving positive or negative consequences will speak more than anything you could say ahead of time or threaten.

Even when threats do seem to work, it is usually not based on building a long-term voice in your child’s life.

The second part of this is building love. I trust that you love your child deeply; otherwise you would not be reading this book. So it is not how to build your love for your child that is the issue, it is how do children receive love?
Consistency in parenting helps kids feel safe. If you are about to manage a child in a grocery store and help her choose good choices there, then you can definitely take on any monster, bad dream, bully, and tornado. Kids fear all sorts of things.

A psychologist named Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs”. His belief was that if basic needs are not met is it is harder or impossible to work toward higher needs. Thus, if safety needs of security aren’t met, it is harder to build feelings of love and belonging.

I had a client recently who had her apartment broken into. She was staying up all night because she was scared someone would break in, then she was sleeping during the day, but her classes were slipping. Her feelings of lack of safety made it harder for her to do more complex thinking like that which is required in school.

The same is true for kids, as they see that you can handle a variety of situations, they will trust that you can protect them…

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is also the author of the books Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier
and Practice of the Practice | A Start-up Guide to Launching a Counseling Private Practice

Parenting Soup

Parenting Soup

Being a good parent is like making soup. For those of you who have never made soup, except out of a can I’m sorry. You are truly missing out.

When making a good soup you can of course follow a recipe. But, some of the greatest surprises are when you create a soup from what you have and then it is amazing. As you sip that steamy amazing broth and dip bread to absorb the flavor, you understand that you may never taste this exact soup again. You savor it. When it is gone, you attempt to replicate it, but only if you are lucky will you create the exact same flavor again.

When I make soup, I look in the fridge and review what we have and need to get rid of. If we’re lacking, I move toward the freezer. I may start with sautéing meat or onions, then I’ll add additional vegetables to create a depth of flavor. I may add some flour to the oil or butter to make a roux.

When I was volunteering in New Orleans at a shelter for people in the final stages of AIDS, I asked a number of the nurses, “Can I have your gumbo recipe?” They almost always replied, “Son, you just use whatcha got in da fridge, or you use Zataran’s.”

Read More

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

sleep counseling Traverse City counselor family

Originally appeared in the Record Eagle, April 21, 2012 available at:

http://record-eagle.com/bodysoul/x1350020161/Mental-Wellness-More-than-beauty-rest/print

My grandma had a sleep mask. You know the kind that blocks out light? Hers was pink. I always thought it looked stupid. Then my wife gave me one last December, except mine is brown and black. When I got it, I thought, “Am I ever going to use this except on an airplane?”

Every morning when the light smacks me in the face at five something, I now put it on and have a glorious last hour of sleep. I love it.

We all know how important sleep is for kids. If they don’t get their naps they are cranky and everyone in earshot knows. We underestimate the importance of solid sleep for adults. Here are some things you should know:

Sleep is tied to mental wellness

Did you know that poor quality sleep is tied to anxiety, depression, attention, mood swings, panic attacks and self esteem? If you are fighting with your kids, spouse, or friends, feeling frustrated, or just anxious, maybe it isn’t medications that you need. Maybe you need more sleep.

Sleep is tied to memory

During the day our brains store most information in a short-term part of our brain. At night, the brain sorts through what is important and what is not. Everything from the color of your boss’s shirt to that marketing report gets sorted to keep or delete. If not given enough time to sort, the brain hits the delete button. Things you understood yesterday will be harder to recall.

Sleep can improve with a few simple changes

Going to bed and waking up at similar times can improve your body’s ability to get deeper and better quality sleep. As well, increasing exercise, time outside, and eating more fruits and vegetables will help. Eliminating caffeine in the evening and drinking more water can help unclog the sleep center of your brain.

Sometimes we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. What if all you need is a little more sleep? It could be the key to improving the relationships in your life, even if all it takes is a pink sleep mask.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, distant couples “¦ and just about everyone else. Check out his “Happiness Resources” at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/happiness/.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo used with Creative Commons license, care of blue.sky

15 things I learned while in the hospital

 

Psychologist Traverse City Family

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t told everyone, but I have told a lot of people, my daughter was recently in the hospital for a week. It was something fairly severe and we’re now in recovery mode. Here are some things that I wrote down the night that her surgery was over and things were stable. Maybe you will resonate with these things, maybe you don’t think your reaction would be the same. Either way, I hope it inspires you to build deeper relationships, appreciate family more, or reach out to those in your life that are hurting.

1. Our network of friends and family is much larger in size and heart than I ever knew possible.
2. I can handle much more than I ever thought possible.
3. I can be annoyed with someone and have a deep appreciation for them at the same time.
4. I need to appreciate every single day that there is not a health crisis in my family.
5. I don’t need to work harder so I can have more time with my daughter, I just need to make the time.
6. My wife is much stronger than I imagined.
7. My daughter is much stronger than I ever thought a kid could be.
8. I can still trust God even when I am angry, hate, or don’t understand Him and His decisions about healing.
9. Overall, people want to do good.
10. Humankind knows a lot more about the human body than I ever imagined.
11. I really love family and friends.
12. Food heals where words can’t.
13. Sitting with someone means a lot.
14. Facebook is a great tool in a family crisis.
15. Even though I hate McDonald’s, I love the Ronald McDonald House.

I’m not sure what you will glean from this, but I hope it serves you wherever you are at.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

 

Three Tips to Relax More as a Parent

How’s it going friend?
I hope that your day is going fabulous! Also, thank you in advance for passing this on to one friend, I’m sure you know a parent that can grow with you, so thanks for helping your friends through this newsletter. 

Today’s newsletter is going to be a shorter letter with a few great tips to get you started with getting rid of Mommy/Daddy stress! I’m sure you’ve heard several things to reduce your stress, but maybe you haven’t thought of it this way, when you set time aside for yourself, you are more emotionally healthy, therefore, you will respond better when you have parenting decisions to make, you won’t yell as much and you’ll be more level headed. 

Sometimes you need someone to tell you:

“Take time for yourself, you have my permission.”

Tip #1 The Magic Three
Getting quality sleep, exercise, and eating foods low in processing all help reduce stress and help you feel more focused. There is something about these three in combination that destroys stress. Exercise makes you tired, which helps you sleep child clears your mind, as does healthier foods.

Tip #2 When you say “no” you are really saying “yes”
I was wondering, friend, do you feel guilty when you say, “no”? For me it helped to realize what I was saying “yes” to when I said “no.” If you say “no” to another play date, you say “yes” to more time at home, getting things done, or relaxing, Also, when you allow yourself to hear what your body needs, it is easier. We sometimes have Mommy/Daddy guilt, thinking we always have to be educating, playing with, or engaging our kids. It is alright to step back and relax for a moment. Realize that 15 minutes of time is 1% of your kid’s day. If you step back for 1%, the other 99% will be substantially better. 

Tip #3  Outsource something
Do you have friends or family members that could watch your child for 30 minutes every Wednesday while you go for a run? Could you swap having someone clean your house floors for something you enjoy more? Sometimes we don’t creatively engage with our friends. What if we folded laundry together at your house this week and my house next week? It would be more fun and go faster.

If that doesn’t work, send me an email, I’d love to help you out. Contact me now 

If you liked this, please pass it on to a friend or post it to Facebook/Twitter. Thank you so much!

 
Do you agree?

Well friend, that’s it for now!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok owns Mental Wellness Counseling  and is a Dad. He loves helping angry kids, frustrated parents, and struggling couples. He lives, works, and plays in Traverse City, MI. He also just launched the blogwww.PracticeofthePractice.com where he helps therapists to be more awesome. Check it out if you are a therapist looking to launch a private practice. 

Blah in our Brains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. sanokcounseling@gmail.com

Dear Joe,
What are some approaches to improving bed time routines for my kids? They are 9, 12, and 13.
-I Need a Break, Kalamazoo, MI

Dear I Need a Break,
First start with their ages and how much time they need to sleep. Depending on their wake-up and bus times most 9 year old should be in bed between 8:00-9:00, however, since you have two old kids you may want to have the 9-year-old have and 8:30, 12-year-old 8:45, and 13-year-old 9:00. Until high school, most kids should go to bed prior to 9:30. Once you determine the times that you want, stick to them. Start the bed time routine at least 15 minutes before, that means no TV for the 15-30 minutes before bed.

One technique that seems to work well is the have weekend bedtimes based on weeknight compliance. For example, “If you go to bed at 8:30 during the week for 3 nights, your weekend bedtime is 8:45, 4 nights 9:00, all 5 nights 9:30.” This provides a clear positive consequence for the desired behavior. Some families create charts to keep track. Also, tying their behavior to the social skill of “building trust” can help. For example, “Thanks for being in bed on time. By doing that, you are showing me that I can trust you to do what you need to do.” Then, when they ask if they can do something, you can say, “You know, you have done a great job building trust at bedtime, sure you can go to the store with your friend.”

Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Blah in Our Brains
By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
I hate the time change. I don’t understand why during the darkest part of the year, we make it darker. I would much rather have it stay dark until 10:00 am and have light in the evening. But maybe that’s just me. This time of year triggers in people a sense of fatigue, sadness, depression, and feelings of blah. Whether you deal with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or feelings of blah, there are several things you can do that will help you feel better.

Get More Light
Even when it is light outside, it seems to still be cloudy in Northern Michigan. A window usually is not enough. Regular lights do not capture the full light spectrum. They usually only have the blues and violets. Getting outside and sitting by a window will help, but changing some of your bulbs in your office or home to full-spectrum light bulbs can really help. A number of studies have shown that full-spectrum light can help with depression, sadness, and the feelings of blah (blah is not a clinical term used in research studies). Bulbs usually run $14-$24 dollars, a lot cheaper than therapy.

Get More Exercise
Exercise releases natural endorphins in your body. I was at the University of Michigan Depression Conference last year and one speaker was discussing how some studies are showing that exercise paired with counseling can be more effective than psychiatric medication. Even a short walk or taking the stairs can be helpful.

Get More Veggies
Fruits and vegetables can help with replenishing the body’s nutrients. Loads of colors in your diet are helpful. A diet of reduced processed foods helps to make the brain more receptive to light and exercise during the winter months. WedMD has a number of helpful nutrition suggestions,http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery

Get More Socialization
When I work with clients dealing with depression they often get into a cycle of alone time. They don’t feel like going out or doing anything which makes them feel like they don’t want to go out and do anything. During winter months we often feel like we want to hunker down and stay home. Socialization and new activities help us free up the blah in our brain.
Once you try these tips, you will hopefully see changes. With that said, you also need to know when to talk with your health care provider about pursuing additional options.
As with any change, it is better to start small and make little changes that you can do. Maybe for you a step would be to change a light bulb, go for a daily walk, eat broccoli again, or plan a potluck with friends or family. The hardest part is taking a step in the right direction, after that you will pick up momentum and have a blah-free winter.

Do you agree?


Resources 
University of Michigan has a great set of resources called The Depression Tool Kit. There are videos, worksheets, and tons of resources. Check it out, it will help you and/or the people you work with! http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Ask Joe

Therapy family counseling Traverse City

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. joe@mentalwellnesscounseling.com Dear Joe,
There is so much in the news these days about sexual orientation and tolerance in schools and communities (anti-bullying, etc.) and I’ve seen videos about people who knew at a very young age that they were “different” but never know how to deal with it, or what it meant. How should a parent talk to a child about “being gay” if they suspect that their child may show signs of homosexuality? A parent wouldn’t want to frighten a child by insinuating this about them, but wants them to know that they are loved and accepted no matter what. How do you think such a conversation could go?
Please Help- Traverse City, MI

Dear Please Help,
Thanks for this question. Yes, this is a topic that many parents are concerned about. As well, we as a community need to look at this issue, especially because suicide amongst GLBTQ teens is shown to be higher. I think that there is a three-prong approach regarding the topic of homosexuality and talking with your kids.

1. Create an environment that is conducive to conversations about the issue. If someone in your home, on TV, or somewhere else says something like, “That’s so gay” meaning “That’s so stupid” correct them. As you work to create a home where it is safe to discuss these issues, it makes questions of homosexuality or really any difficult conversation easier for your child. No matter what your beliefs about homosexuality or faith perspective, you want your kids to be able to talk with you about the issues they are concerned about.

2. Engage in non-threatening conversation. There’s a reason that schools start with birds and bees before they teach kids the whole story. It helps kids learn the whole context of sexuality. As a result, it is also healthy to take this approach when there are gay characters on TV, movies, or in the headlines. For example, Traverse City just had a vote on an ordinance regarding GLBTQ issues surrounding employment and housing. Asking your kids about their thoughts on these types of things can be a non-threatening way to discuss the issue. Also, talking about characters in TV, what they are thinking, how they are acting, and what your kids think are important. Rather than just telling them what you think, tech them to think. Part of your role as a parent it to teach your child how to engage in the world as a thinking citizen.

At the heart of these discussions is that your kids should feel that they are being listened to. If your child tells their thoughts, only to be told that they are not correct, they will be less likely to ask you questions. Do you want them going to their friends instead? Who knows what kind of misinformation they may get. So make sure you are educated on the issue and if you are not sure, just tell your child, “I don’t know, but let’s research it together.”

3. Don’t press the issue. Once you have created a sound environment and showed that questions are ok, let you child make steps in their decisions as to how to express their sexuality. For them, they may need time to process their sexuality. Mentioning that you will always love them no matter what can be helpful, as long as it does not come out of no where, but in the context of a conversation. Some kids come out in high school, others college, others may be straight, but just are more effeminate. During this time of stepping back, educate yourself as much as you can.

I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Setting a Good Example
From http://parenting.org/article/setting-good-example
We often hear the expression, “Children are like sponges,” uttered by parents, grandparents, educators and counselors. This phrase captures the reality that children are always learning from what they see and hear, and that the vast majority of what they learn comes from watching their parents. Parents can model a variety of behaviors to their children, including how to behave appropriately when angry.
Role Modeling and Anger
Anger is a naturally occurring emotion that cannot be avoided. All kinds of circumstances can trigger it. Parents model for their children how, and how not, to manage anger every day. Parents teach their children to manage anger well when they remain calm, cool and collected even when they’re upset over a circumstance or behavior. Parents teach their children how to manage anger poorly when they yell, become aggressive, throw things, slam doors or swear in response to angry emotions.
Wherever you fall in the spectrum of being a good or poor manager of your anger, here are six valuable strategies that can help you improve your and your child’s behavior.
1.    Make a list. Think about instances where you managed your anger well and times when you didn’t. Record when and where those times happened, and who and what tends to set you off.
2.    Evaluate your behavior. Assess the reasons behind the times when you managed your anger well. Identify what helped you control your anger.
3.    Assess your anger. Reflect on situations when you are likely to become angry and not manage your anger well. Determine if you tend to lose your temper at certain times of day, with certain people or in certain circumstances.
4.    Watch yourself. Pay attention for a few days to how you act when you are angry or frustrated. Ask yourself if the behavior you display when you’re angry is something you want your child to imitate. Decide to practice good behavior and discontinue bad responses to anger.
5.    Express yourself. Decide how you can express yourself better when you are angry. Think of and practice situations that typically make you angry. Then visualize yourself having a positive, rather than negative, response.
6.    Communicate. Tell your child that you are working to manage your anger better. Apologize if you have mistreated him or her when you felt angry. Tell your child you will do your best to act differently in the future. Make a commitment to change.
Another good tactic is to ditch the age-old saying, “Do as I say and not as I do.” It doesn’t help you be a better parent and it doesn’t help your child grow into a responsible, successful adult. Understand that children most often copy what they see and not what they hear. Commit to being a positive role model for your child to imitate. Let your children see you manage your anger in a positive way by expressing it appropriately and calmly, without raising your voice or your hand. Doing so will speak louder than angry words ever could.
Do you agree?


Resources
This is a great “Happiness Quiz” that will give you resources and ideas on how to improve happiness. A lot of the suggestions are based on strong research: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/happiness-quiz/

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.