National Suicide Prevention Month 2016

SuicidePrevention-Teaser

Today is the start of National Suicide Prevention Month.
I recently read about a mom who lost her 14 yr old son to suicide then her 18 yr old son a week after the memorial.
This week I spoke with a parent who was still grieving losing their adult child, a few days before they had a scheduled appointment with a counselor.
Have you lost a friend or family member to suicide?
I’m praying for you today.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention site and the American Association of Suicidology sites are also helpful.

The problem can seem overwhelming but seemingly small acts of kindness, compassion, just listening and being there for others can make a huge, life-saving difference.
Someone you know or cross paths with could be struggling with depression and contemplating suicide.
If you are hurting and struggling, one thing that makes any suffering worse is suffering alone.
Don’t suffer any longer or more than you have to. Reach out and get some help, tell someone what is going on inside.
If you don’t have someone or know who tell, feel free to message me. I’d be happy to help and help figure out what to do next.

Three ways sharing your stories can help your kids

Three ways connect with kids

Looking forward to starting a month of connecting with my kids and helping other parents connect with with theirs on The Words I Would Say Facebook Group on Sept. 1st.
It’s a month long event to help parents spend less time on social media, watching TV and the news and arguing about politics and more time talking and telling their kids stories.
There’s a few other benefits for writing or talking to your kids. Here’s three ways.

The first is that sharing your stories connects them to their past and helps them make sense of it.
It gives them a sense of heritage and belonging.
It tells them where they came from.
Our stories form a significant part of our identity and when you are share them with your kids, it becomes a part of theirs.

The second place that connecting with your kids through sharing stories and memories helps them is in the present.
When you take the time to intentionally communicate and share yourself, you give them a sense of how important your relationship with them is.
With whatever they may face this year, it can help them know, that they aren’t alone.  It’s an opportunity to turn away from Netflix or sports or being productive and prioritize them; to help them experience how important and special they are through your actions and attention.
Some of the writing prompts will be of the when-I-was-your-age variety; when you as mom or dad share what you thought, felt and did at their age it can help them realize you understand what they may be going through. At least a little bit.

The third place that writing or talking to your kids this month can help them with is the future.
Sharing your memories and stories, positive and negative, can help them make important decisions about their future because stories and experiences are a great way of illustrating and teaching your values, your lessons learned (mistakes), the way you think and see the world and your heart and passions.  It’s also great way to help them discover and explore theirs.
And some day, when you aren’t around anymore, your words and your wisdom, the time you took to share memories and you, may help them through some rough seasons and bad days. The words we say are a big part of the legacy we leave them.

This month long event will be fun, it’s for staying connected in the busyness of the start of the school year.  It’s also about leaving a legacy, something that will endure in their lives. Something they can hold onto and remember; the best parts of you.

I hope you’ll join me this month and that you’ll have a great time connecting or re-connecting with your kids through your stories and memories.

The Importance of the Day After Father’s Day

The Importance

I hope you had a good Father’s Day.

Have you seen the movie Interstellar, remember where Matthew McConaughey is watching a video of his kids?

That was basically me during church yesterday.

Father’s Day can be super emotional as a dad when you love your kids so much.
When there’s some hurt or distance between you and your kids.
When your Dad is gone.
Or all of the above.

Father’s Day is a great time to re-evaluate how you’re doing as a Dad,
to recommit to the role, to stepping up, reconnecting,
to being more present, being more intentional and purposeful.
To being a great, loving father.

Father’s Day is a great place to start over with your kids.
Every day is but especially Father’s Day.

What I realized today, driving home, the day after Father’s Day is as important or more important.

The day after the gifts, the BBQ
The day after the church service and the card.
The day after, when you’re back to normal, to your work schedule,
after the come-to-Jesus talk.

Your wife, your kids are in that in-between place,
the place where they want to trust what you’ve said,
hoping that you’re going to follow through.
And they’re hoping this time is going be different.

But they might be guarded and defensive.

This is where your actions need to line up with what you committed to.

Because a decision becomes a day,
a day becomes a week,
a week becomes a month,
a month becomes a year,
and your years become your life together together with your kids.

Maybe your wife and kids aren’t the ones holding onto hope today.
Maybe they’ve already given up.
Maybe you’re the one that’s hoping it will get better.

This is also where you need to battle through the fear of rejection, irrelevance and inadequacy.
Along with the fear of the unknown and negative self-talk.

This already hit me this weekend before Father’s Day and today the day after.
I’ve been working on communicating more directly and honestly with my kids.
And it’s not easy.

When it gets hard, the thoughts come

“See, it won’t work.”
“They don’t want to be closer.”
“If you had done a better job as a father, this wouldn’t be so hard.”
“They’re too busy.”
“It’s too little, too late.”

Harsh, nasty thoughts
that can make you want to fall back to familiar territory and give up on pursuing them or going deeper.

The way things are may make you feel alone.
But the temptation to stay the same tells you
at least it’s a familiar alone, a loneliness of your choosing.
It isn’t the aloneness that makes you feel out of control because
it’s vulnerable and dependent on the choosing and freedom of your kids.

I just want to encourage you to push through.

It might take more than a push, it might be a battle and one of the hardest things you’ve ever tried.

Keep going.

You won’t know, and you can’t control, if they want a relationship with you still.

You can control, and let them know, how much you want it.

If you didn’t make a decision to step things up, to reconnect
I encourage you to do that.
Think about it.

It’s not too late.

Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting: Part 2

Eight Practices to Let go ofPart Two of Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

You can view the first four practices in part One.

These are from a Periscope video I filmed last year. You can watch the video or read the edited transcript below. The transcript includes one practice I forgot to mention in the video.

Practice #5 is Authenticity

The next practice for letting go of perfectionism and performance is to practice authenticity and to practice imperfection. To courageously let others know who you really are warts and all. And doing that with your kids.  I think this is really hard in some families especially if Dad is really busy with work. If he’s just kind of tired and exhausted and distracted and focused on sports and hobbies; if he’s just distant and disconnected.  And so the kids wonder: “What does he really think of me?” It’s sad, that can be such a trap, at home for kids and for families where “Dad pays attention or Dad shows up, when I play soccer or play baseball.” and “Dad gets excited and pays attention to me when I’m doing really well, in sports, but if I’m not, then he’s not really into me.”

Practice #6 is Getting Support and Accountability

Practicing vulnerability is hard. I hear and see this when people talk about Facebook how it’s hard to be vulnerable, it’s hard to tell the truth about where you struggle. And what happens to a lot folks is they struggle on their own, keep it hidden, until it gets unmanageable and then things blow up and it leaks out somewhere.

So, tell others the truth.  Share with safe people. You don’t have to broadcast everything to anyone, but finding folks that you can really disclose who you really are can help you learn to trust that it’s worth it. One of the best things that our family has done this year (we took a break for a while) but we’ve got a small group of friends from church that we get together with once a week  and that’s been great to get support and talk with other parents about where they’re at and where we’re at. To get encouragement and support.

Practice #6 is the practice of having fun as a family. One practice I forgot to include in the video is a suggestion from my son: practicing having  fun and being playful.  Humor and laughing at yourself. If you struggle with perfectionism or anxiety, it can be difficult to loosen up and laugh. My son likes to invent board games and weapons out of cardboard.  My youngest and I like to express playfulness with verbal and physical comedy.  It’s hard to be perfectionistic when you are trying to make someone laugh by making goofy faces!

Humor can be threatening and misused.  As with the other practices, if this is something new or difficult for you, you may need to go slow and get some support for this one.  Our favorite memories as a family are the times we can laugh together, when the kids can tease me.  It reminds me to take a break from all the weighty matters matters in life.  It also helps me not to take myself so seriously and to be too hard on myself.

Practice #7 is Self-Care  clearing your mom or dad if you struggle with perfectionism is to practice self care. For folks that have faith and are believers part of that self-care can be a prayer and worship.  Managing your stress as a mom, as a dad, by simplifying an overwhelmed and busy schedule can really help with with healing up and and getting off this rat race, this treadmill and getting some perspective about what why are we doing, what we’re doing, why are we so busy and tired and overwhelmed.  Practicing self-care and pulling back to evaluate what you’re doing as a family and who are you trying to please and who are you doing it for can help you figure out things.  To figure out what things are unhealthy, things that need to go, things that in your schedule that you need to cut out or have healthy boundaries about and say “no” to.  This will give you the space to pay attention to your heart, to pay attention to your stress level and pay attention to your kids and be aware of how they’re doing.

“Shifting from human doings to human beings” you’ve heard that phrase.  It takes time. It takes time to just enjoy sitting and being and not doing anything. I think stillness, the discipline of stillness and solitude and silence and not being busy is increasingly being lost.  I know we feel that as a family running around, especially right now with Christmas performances, concerts and things like that. But it’s great to just be able to spend some time, an evening, or a bit of time in the morning disconnected from screens, not having to be entertained but just hanging out and talking and going for a walk or just enjoying the deck and the sunshine.

So, that’s what I’m going to go do. I hope that you guys have a great weekend. If you’re a mom or dad that struggles with perfectionism in yourself or with your expectations and perfectionism or controlling behavior and speech with your kids I hope that some of these things might resonate with you.  I encourage you to take action one or two practices. If it seems overwhelming, just get started.  I hope the best for your family. If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below or tweet me on Twitter and send me a message. I would love to hear if you have any questions or if you have any suggestions for future blogs or videos. 

Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting Part 1

Eight Practices to Let go of

Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

Here’s a recording of a Periscope video I did last year on perfectionism in parenting and an edited transcript below.

Today’s blog will be the first four practices.  The next blog will be on the second half and include an additional practice I forgot to include that my son recommended to me.

Here’s three signs that you might have an issue with perfectionism in parenting I didn’t included in the video:  feeling Stressed out, Shouting a lot and struggling with Shaming your kids or feeling Shamed.  If you feel that way or notice this going on, if you notice decreased joy in your role and work as a parent, if you feel decreased closeness with your kids even if you spend a lot of time with them or if you talk a lot with them but don’t feel connected at a heart-level, I hope watching this video or reading this blog will help you and your family.

Transcript:

This is something I work on with a lot of adults. I see the effects of their parents’ perfectionism, their stress and anxiety, on them. I hesitate to talk about this a little because I don’t want to come across as shaming parents. Because that’s one thing about perfectionism: shame feeds it and it doesn’t help to feel bad. Feeling bad about your parenting doesn’t help, long-term that doesn’t sustain change. Feeling bad about who you are and how you’re doing as Mom or Dad just feeds that vicious cycle.

At the same time, I do want to encourage parents to be aware of how protectionism affects their kids because that’s one of the ways that perfectionism is harmful to kids and families is that it makes parents really self-focused and selfish.

My kids are 19, 16 and 12 (now) – girl, boy, girl – and this topic, this issue of perfectionism and performance-based love and acceptance is something kind of near and dear to my heart because I just want my kids to experience grace and unconditional love. But it’s so tough and we can we can slip and get sucked into focusing on behavior, focusing on how we look outwardly to other people to other families and get caught in comparison and jealousy and things like that.

So, a little bit about my family for some context then we’re going to talk about practical ways to let go of perfectionism. One of the key ways that this is a challenge and difficult – or has been in the past – for our family, is that each of my kids have been involved in musical theater and music and performance so we’ve had lots of talks about “How do you balance working hard, to do your best, to do things with excellence to do quality work and not get sucked into your self-worth and your approval and your sense of yourself being based on what you do?”

I’ve always tried to affirm and notice the kids for who they are regardless of how well they do with auditions or school work, test results in projects to turn in things like that. But it’s tough, I got to admit, I can slip it into that myself and brag and boast about when they do well.  And with social media that’s a challenge that I see and I hear folks talk about a lot in the counseling office about feeling discouraged and anxious, less than, not good enough, because they see how well other people are doing, how well other families are doing, how well-behaved other kids are in the grocery store or at church and they start feeling discouraged and feeling like they’re failing as a parent.  So here are eight practices, I hope will be encouraging to you.

Practice #1: Self-awareness. To replace performance and perfectionism and getting caught in that trap, the first practice is self-awareness and identifying what’s driving any type of perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance or controlling behavior as Mom or Dad.

For me, one of the things is insecurity. Honestly, when my kids are doing well that’s a boost, that makes me feel good. And we want to be proud of our kids but I notice – self-awareness – that I know I’m getting off track and getting unhealthy when how well they’re doing…I’m more concerned about how I feel, how that makes me feel better, than how they feel and how that’s growing them and how that’s helping them gain some self-confidence. And I’m losing track of what their experiences, and what they’re going through, are teaching them about life and character and forming them into the people that I hope that they will be. So self-awareness, practicing self-awareness about where you’re at with this, can be really helpful.

Practice #2 is Patience: the other thing that can help with parenting and communication is being patient with your kids.  You might have heard the phrase “tiger mom”, it’s from a book written by a mom who really drove her kids down in California. (I didn’t read the book, I’ve read some articles and interviews with her.) There can be a culture of pushing kids academically with music, with extracurricular activities, with the kind of the goal of making it in the ultra-competitive college application process and hoping that they stand out.

The desire as parents for our kids to be successful and be able to graduate high school and get a job and take care of themselves – that, that’s legit – but it really helps to get some perspective and to be patient with their growth, and patient with their maturity level. Allow them to be kids. Stretching them but not pushing them to the breaking point and causing lots of stress and anxiety. I talk with a lot of single adults who are still struggling to find their way they don’t have it figured out and their parents really pushed them.

Having your kids just follow your agenda and expectations doesn’t set them up for success because then they don’t have the ability to problem-solve and discern who they really are and what they end up doing, or pursuing, doesn’t end up being a good fit for who they are, the way of doing things, their personality, their strengths, their temperament. That can be really confusing and disillusioning: when you pursue a college degree, a career path, and get the message that “this is going to make you happy and this is going to make you successful” and you’re just miserable.

Practice #3 is practicing Presence.  This is a whole other topic (blog), but just listening well, spending time with your kids to hear how they’re doing with school how they’re doing with relationships, how they’re doing personally is practicing presence. Listening for how they’re feeling and viewing themselves, what their self-image is, what the messages that they’re telling themselves are, can be really helpful.  But that means spending less time on TV. That might mean spending less time on social media or even Periscope. Setting healthy limits so that you can spend time because those conversations come in the middle of spending time, in the middle of the rhythms of the day and rhythm of the week.

Practice #4: Praise and Positivitity. Another practice is praise and positivity.  And that can be with yourself.  Our kids observe and know the things that we really believe based on the things that stress us out and make us fearful and anxious.  They sniff out the hypocrisy in the things we really value. For example, if we are really critical and negative of other people, other families, then they pick up on “That’s not OK.” and “This is what Mom and Dad are expecting and if I don’t want to be criticized if, I don’t want mom or dad to think poorly of me, then I’d better not look like or act like that person.” And if we speak critically or negatively of other families that can be damaging because they likely pick up on where we’re judgmental and that makes them at risk to be perfectionistic and inauthentic with other people.

So work on your issues.  Don’t pass on your negativity.  Don’t pass on your anxiety.

I’ll post the next four practices is part two of this blog.

If you struggle with perfectionism as a parent or with the affects of a parent’s perfectionism, what do you think of these practices so far?

How might you incorporate these practices in your life this month?

On Being Strong and Known To Your Kids

On being Strong for and Known to your kids

What they don’t tell you about being a dad
(whoever “they” are)
is that as your kids become young adults,
young men and women,
you are faced with a choice,
a choice to be this idealized version of “Dad”
or to let them in, to who you are.

Really that choice is always there but it’s especially hard as they get older.
They have more power to be disappointed in you.

But what I’ve learned so far
is you don’t stop being Dad, “superman”, their “hero”, their “knight in shining armor” any more then they stop being your “princess”, your “boy” or your “baby” when they get older.
You just become a different type of hero, you start to play a different role.

They may not look “up” to you in the same way but they can look “in” to you, if you let them.
Instead of the the final word, you become an advisor.
You point them to the truth and let them discover what they need to for themselves, on their own but available.

As Dad or Mom, you still go first, initiate, the more real you are or become, you lead the way and show them how to be real too.
Like the Velveteen Rabbit taught us, to be real is to be loved.

I’m learning how to replace the need to be respected with the connection of being known and trusted by speaking deeper harder truths to my kids,
things that, if I had heard and learned earlier, I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to figure out on my own.
Things that don’t have to do with what’s on the outside, things of our hearts and who we are.

It’s not that they don’t need my advice but letting them in on the stories and process of how I came to came to that advice – explaining the Why and How I learned the advice I’m sharing, not just telling them What to do – helps them become the whole-hearted and resilient people I hope they’ll become.

As a parent, and especially for dads, the lie is that if you are weak and vulnerable, they will be anxious,
lose their sense of security,
their sense of being protected,
that you always have to be strong for them.
Never let them see you sweat,
never let them see you cry

The truth is, we show them the truth of how real life works
when we are vulnerable and we show them something more than
being strong
and being “OK”.
We teach them about faith.
We teach them about relying on God, on God’s grace and love.
We teach them to rely on others, on community and good friends, not our own strength and performance.
And we teach them to be connected in their humanity and imperfection
by connecting with them in this way.

Vulnerability is risking them thinking less of me
to give me a chance at really connecting with them.

I’m giving up being strong for the kids for being vulnerable with and being brave with them.

 

One thing I love about reading and writing

One thing I love about reading and writing is that reading, or crafting, one exquisite sentence can make your whole day. It's like returning home and going on a grand adventure all at once. (1)Hi guys, it’s day 5 Mental Health Awareness and I’m falling behind in my goal to blog twenty times this month (been watching the Blazers vs. Golden State a few evenings).

I’m working on a blog (or two) on Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting but in the meantime here’s a quick thought on reading and writing I had driving home today.

It’s very much like counseling: finding yourself and discovering something new, at the same time.

One of my favorite parts of working with clients is when they say something true about themselves that they hadn’t realized or when they say it in a way that makes it clear that they aren’t just saying it with their head but they are believing it in a new way or really believing, deep down inside, for the first time.

Are you a writer?  What are you writing about these days?

What are you reading?  Do you have a favorite sentence you’ve read recently?

For the perfect Christian Mom

A poem for the Christian Mom

A early Mother’s Day poem for the mom who’s already planning the perfect Mother’s Day for herself and the family.

Afraid of anger
Ashamed of tears
She’s always smiling
But hasn’t laughed in years

Tons of friends
Always on the phone
Everyone loves her
Yet she feels so alone

Husband won the lottery
Such a great wife
“Proverbs 31” woman
Weary of life

Immaculate house
Everything in place
Driven to perfection
What she needs is grace

Grace from the hiding
Grace to let go
Grace for the fears
Grace to be known

Starting counseling is brave and awesome

Counseling makes your fears smaller and your dreams bigger.

Counseling is awesome because it makes your fears smaller and dreams bigger.
I hear amazing things sometimes in counseling, especially from introverts.
Really, counseling is like the TED Talk stage for introverts.
In those moments, what’s amazing is not that they put on a great performance.
It’s that they finally stop.
Performing.
It’s not crafted and rehearsed, they set aside the pretense and give voice to what’s true and real inside.
Unfettered.


The thing about smart people anxiety and the multi-layered introspection of introverts and creatives is that they (we) often over-estimate our fears and underestimate our strengths.
Anxiety seems so loud resounding and rolling around in our own heads.
And this is one great way that counseling is so much like writing, they both help us stay true to ourselves while at the same time, helping us discover ourselves.
They both give us perspective on what thoughts to give credence too and which are lies.
Which ones to take captive and which ones to release.
Yeah, counseling can be tough, it’s hard to see people struggle with grief and pain but I love it because I regularly get to watch people be incredibly brave and authentic and that is extremely inspiring.

When being great parents disconnects you as a couple

Being a great parent doesn't have to cost you your marriage.Reconnecting when being awesome disconnects you.Day 3 Mental Health Awareness Month, a repost from a FB post for parents: 

In the pursuit of something awesome, like being a great parent, sometimes moms and dads become less than awesome as a spouse.
Just realized this morning, that that is something I am passionate about helping families with.
If you ever find yourself in that space, here’s something I hope will help you talk about it (and maybe skip a session or three of marriage counseling).
Make gentle invitation to a hard conversation with your spouse.
Don’t let feeling neglected, resentful and/or distant build up.
Try saying this, parts of it, or something like it:

I don’t like how this feels right now.
I don’t like where we are right now as a couple.
I miss you.
I don’t want you to feel attacked or blamed but I’m unhappy and I need your help.
I’m sorry for my part in getting us to this place.
I’d like to talk about this.
This is important to me.
I want to be close to you again.
Let’s make a time to talk about it.