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August, 2017: Expectations

Expectations is defined as: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future (don't you just love when paragraphs start off with a definition?) This month, we will focus our video series on expectations, those that we have for ourselves, for others, for our futures, etc. 

First, let's talk about the expectations that have for ourselves. These expectations are often extremely high, things like "I should never be unhappy," or "i should be able to do everything." The problem with this is that our expectations are often unachievable, and because we believe that they "should" happen, we often feel as though we have failed. In the therapy community, we call this a cognitive distortion, to believe in a long list of "shoulds," which are usually not possible. That being said, I am not suggesting that you do not have expectations for yourself, quite the contrary. We should always try to have high expectations, we also have to give ourselves a little bit of grace if we are not able to meet our expectations, and we should not treat ourselves as though we are failures if we do not meet them. 

Then let's talk about our expectations for others. We often have expectations for others that, much like for ourselves, are much too high, or are unattainable. And then when people fail to meet our expectations, as they will inevitably do, we are angry with them. This is often true for our romantic partners, friends, and even with our children. The problem with this is that, first, it may not be their expectation. If you are angry with your child for not getting straight A's, you might stop and consider whether or not they are even working towards that as a goal. Second, we are not "in" anyone elses head, and we should always assume that people are giving 100% of their ability, so if someone is not living up to your expectations, it may have less to do with them, and more to do with what you have decided they should be able to do. 

Expectations for the future is a tricky one. It is interesting to me to talk with people about their expectations for the future. I think that it is about a 50/50 split. About half the people I talk with believe that everything is going to be great, because of all the things they are going to "do," which is, as you can imagine, one of those lists that we can not ever get through. Some people expect that life will never get any better, and not in a good way. Neither of these is a healthy view point. Life can always be better, but it can only be better as long as we live in reality and accept what we can actually do. 

Expectations are tricky, and it is often hard for us to make good decisions about what we should expect from ourselves and others. I encourage you to stop and think about what you expect from yourself and others, and to really try and think about whether or not it is realistic to actually think that you can meet those goals!

Make sure to check out our facebook every week to see our new videos, and get more information!

June, 2017: Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict seems to have become a dirty word to most people. Many people spend hours of their day trying to avoid conflict, and sometimes they will not be true to themselves, just so that they can avoid it. This is unfortunate, because conflict is a necessary part o life. In many ways, conflict is how we truly get to know another person's character. For this month, each week we will focus on another conflict resolution strategy/category, with the goal of providing people with some new strategies to address their conflicts, so please make sure to be looking at our Facebook each week for a new video!

For now, here are a few tips on how to address some conflicts:

Conflicts between parents and children are not only going to happen, they are necessary to happen. Why? After all, parents generally do not want for their children to challenge them. For the most part, I would not disagree with that. However, the way that children learn how to be adults, is via their interactions with their parents. If children never learn how to "fight fair" or get along with others, while still being able to express themselves, they will be missing a big piece of what is needed for a healthy relationship! Respect is number one, even in the midst of conflict there should always be respect, and this is perhaps where parents struggle. It is important to encourage children to express their needs, thoughts, etc, as long as they do so respectfully. This is most likely to happen if parents are able to similarly be respectful. Often parents want respect in the midst of conflict, but they do not necessarily want to give respect to their children. Their expectation is that they get the respect first - but that is rare to  happen. The most effective strategy for improving conflict resolution skills in your children is to tell them that they are able to disagree, as long as they do so respectfully, and then give them an opportunity, as them about something that you know they will disagree with - and practice!

Conflicts between intimate partners are similarly important. If two people say that they never argue, or disagree, then it is likely that someone is not being truthful in how they feel. Who remembers the movie Runaway Bride? In each of her relationships, she "likes" the way that her partner eats their eggs, and she does not know how she likes her eggs. Why? Becuase she does not want to argue about how the eggs are cooked. It seems silly, but often people do this. I am not saying we should never compromise, or that it is okay to fight all day every day. What I am saying is that it is vital that people are able to say how they actually feel, what they actually think, etc. Make sure to check back to our Facebook on 6/12 to hear LMFT Kacie Ferriera talk about interpersonal conflict resolution. 

Friends and acquaintances will often also have conflict, and this will often lead to people leaving these friendships behind. I can not tell you how many people have told me that it is just "too much work" to try and get along with other people who disagree with them. What a sad world that must be! How boring it must be to have everyone just agree with us! The most important thing to remember with friends, loved ones, children, etc, is that all people have different opinions, and will often have LOTS of very strong opinions. The problem with strong opinions is that they often are treated as though they are truth. I certainly understand this. There are plenty of things that I fully believe in and feel as though they are truth, but I recognize that not all people agree with this. If we take personally the beliefs of others, particularly if they are not beliefs that we share, then we will likely struggle with many people around us. Please make sure to check back to our Facebook on 6/19 to hear LMFT Yancey Folkendt talk about conflict resolution amongst friends. 

In considering all individuals, think of the following three things when going in to a conflict, and see how it works:

1. Everyone deserves repsect, even if you do not like what they have to say. 

2. If you take people's feelings and beliefs personally, you will struggle not to personally attack them, which immediately stops the conversation. 

3. Think about what words you use when you are having conflict with others - are you using blaming or shaming words? If you do, then it is likely that you will struggle in your conflicts with others!

We thank you so much for continuing to follow us here, and on Facebook, we can't wait to see you back here in July!

April 2017: Attitude is a Matter of Choice, Even when Mood is Not

Let's stop for just a moment and look at some definitions. Attitude is defined as a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a persons behavior. That last part is the part that is important, attitude is what we give out on the outside, our behaviors. Mood is how we feel on the inside, and sometimes that is outside of our control, either becuase of things that are going on around us, our mental health, or a host of other things. 

This month on our videos we are going to be talking about attitude. The first week is about the "golden rule" and doing unto others as we would have them do to us. We often tell children this, but as adults we are not great at it. If we really think about it, most of the time we are good to those who are good to us. Except that that is not really the way that it is supposed to work. If we are good to others, they will be good to us. We also tend to forget about the humans around us. You know those people down at the DMV? They are humans too. And children? They are also humans and deserve to be treated well. What about police officers, social workers, and therapists? We are all human, and even though we might be doing a job, we deserve to be treated well. 

So how do you focus on your attitude? First, we know that if you smile for just a few minutes, your bad mood will recede, and you will start to feel happier. Even more, we know that if you greet someone in a postiive way, they will likely reciprocate, and then your mood will also improve. I challenge you to smile at the cashier the next time you go in to a store, and really sincerely ask them how they are. You might be surprised at the level of service that you get - just by offering a smile and a sincere question about how they are!

And remember, the person who you are "taking out" your anger when you are frustrated or mad, is likely not even the person who has done something wrong, or who has the control to change things. If you have been on the wrong end of this, I hope that you are abe to remember how important it is to have a positive attitude. It's amazing what a little positivity will do for you!

March 2017: Communicating with Children

I have had the pleasure of working with children and families for more than 15 years, and I honestly mean that it has been a pleasure. I feel that it is an honor to get to meet with children, see them grow, and support families in being successful. The biggest thing I have learned in the past 15 years is that communication is the single biggest tool that we have to be successful. The problem is that sometimes we wield that tool like a hammer, when the truth is, it is supposed to be more like a looking glass to help us where to go next, or a nice warm blanket, intended to make us feel better.

Let’s talk for just a second, though, about children. First, children’s brains are not only quantitatively (size-wise) different, but they are also qualitatively different. They look different than adult’s brains, they function different than adult’s brains, and they are not active in the same spots as adult’s brains. So why does this matter? Because everything that we do, and everything that our children do, is directly because of our brain. Nothing happens without our brain, and so if our children’s brains look different from ours, then we should clearly expect for their behavior to look different too. Second, if it is not our children that we are talking to, we need to be very careful about how we approach them. It is unlikely that we know everything about their life, and may have no real idea about what their parents expect of them. It is important for us to be on the lookout for children’s behaviors, and try to listen carefully to what they have to say, but be very careful about what you are communicating to them (this blog is largely about communicating with your own children, but certainly could be applied across a variety of settings)

There are things that we can do to improve communication with our children, remembering that communication is a two-way street (if you are constantly saying things like “I don’t care what you have to say, listen to me, then you are not actually communicating, you are dictating).

Here are some things to remember:

  1. Your child is allowed to have whatever feelings they have, and deserve the same respect that you expect from them. If you make statements like “you do not have any right to be mad at me,” then you are communicating to your child that their feelings are not okay, and they will stop being honest with you about how they are feeling. This also generally leads to an increase in aggressive behaviors and defiance. If you do not care about their feelings, why should they care about yours? You are the grown up and they are the child, that means that it is your job to be in control, not their job.
  2. Your children are communicating with you verbally (sometimes), but are also communicating with you with their behaviors. When I see children for therapy, I always ask parents what has been working and what has not been working. I do not do this so that I can get “mad” at children, or so that I can ascribe some new consequence to a bad behavior. I do this because happy children do not hit their siblings, and happy children follow directives. Children who are healthy and in a good place emotionally generally do well at school, or seek out support if they need it. If your child is having a number of behavior difficulties, stop for a moment, and take a look: what are they trying to tell you? If they are hitting, then they are telling you they are angry. What are they angry about?
  3. Your child is watching you, and all the other adults who are around them. If you tell your child something, please be sure to do that as well, otherwise you are sending mixed signals about what is acceptable. For example, if you tell your child that there is never a good reason to lie, but then you tell them to say that they are younger so you can get them in to a movie theatre or theme park cheaper, you will confuse them. Your child does not have the cognitive capacity to understand that! Understanding true “grey areas” of life does not happen until a child is AT LEAST 12-15 years old. Thus, you have to be willing to “walk the walk,” and not just talk the talk. Remember, too, that your children are watching all the other adults around them as well. So when you are allowing your children to be around adults, please make sure that they are adults who you want to see your child emulate.
  4. Listen to your child. This is a tough one for a lot of parents, but your child has a lot to say. Can you imagine what would happen if you came home and said “oh my gosh, my boss is such a jerk, he yelled at me today for no reason” and your partner said, “well you must have done something wrong, he would not have yelled at you for no reason”? That would likely not be a conversation that would end well! But how often do we say to our children: “I don’t want to hear it from you, I already know exactly what happened, Ms. X already told me, and she would not have yelled at you for no reason.” The benefit of talking to your child is you can get their perspective (and every perspective is different), but how in the world are you going to help change future events if you do not know what is going on in your child’s brain, and you cannot specifically address what they said happened?
  5. Finally, use lots of “I statements.” An I statement is something like “I feel sad when you hoard food, and I feel angry that we have ants in your bedroom now.” Often times we will say things like: “You make me so mad when…” When you tell a child they can MAKE you feel a certain way, you have just told them that they are in charge of your feelings, and thus in charge of you. This is anxiety provoking for many children, as they need for you to be in charge not only of your own stuff, but also in charge of their stuff too. For some children, it becomes a power trip, that leads to power struggles in the future where they will do whatever it takes to trigger the anger again. This will also model for your child how they can do the same thing “I feel angry when you do not let me have a cookie,” which is a statement that can be responded to, rather than “I hate you” when told they cannot have a cookie.

While communication clearly includes the words that you say, it is about so much more than that. Communication is the method in which we connect with others, know how they are feeling, and know what we need to do for them. If your communication with your child or children is poor, that is something that needs to be addressed ASAP.

If you, or someone you know, feels that they could benefit from improving their communication skills or their communication within the family, please call us at 559-573-4194 or email us at vmscounselingservices@gmail.com

Make sure to check our Youtube page for a short video on communication skills and strategies, as well as our Facebook, Linked In, and Pinterest pages for regularly uploaded new content! See you all back next month!

 

February, 2017: The Love Languages

Love is a confusing language for many people, it is, in fact, something that often causes break ups, divorce, or people to couples counseling. The interesting thing about love is that, for most people, how we accept and give love seems very natural. Most people do not think about how they express and accept love, they simply go forth with their life, assuming that everyone around them knows how they feel. 

But there are different languages of love, and if we do not try to speak the language of our partners, our children, our family members and friends, then the people closest to us might not recognize that they are loved! Love languages are a two way street. It is my job both to try to speak the love language of my husband, but it is also my job to know how he gives love, and to “watch out” for those things, even if our love languages do not “match.”

There is no good or bad love language, and there is no right or wrong way to express love. People may speak different languages with different people, and so it is important to really pay attention to what the other person’s needs are. 

So, what are the love languages:

  1. Physical Touch: physical touch is a broad category that includes many things. This includes sexual intimacy, holding hands, kissing, backrubs, etc. Individuals who have this particular love language want to touch their partners, children, or parents. People often assume that this is “for men only,” but it is important that we recognize that many people find connection through physical affection – which is more than just sex!
  2. Quality Time: people who speak the language of “quality time” just can not get enough of you! They spend all day with you, and then complain that they have not had enough time. This can appear needy or clingy, and to some extent that may be true. But people who crave quality time want real connection during that quality time, time when they can spend real time with their partner, or parent, or friend.
  3. Gifts/Presents: the love language gifts/presents is often considered to be undesirable, after all, no one wants to be considered to be greedy. This is not the purpose of this love language, the cost of the gift is not important (hopefully). Instead, it is the thoughtfulness of the gift, it is the thought that this other person spent money, or time, putting together or making this, and thus was thinking about me outside of the time we are together.
  4. Words of Affirmation: “I love you” seems like the most perfectly simple way of expressing love, and most people use this phrase. People who require words of affirmation to feel loved do love that phrase, but they also like phrases like “I love spending time with you,” or “I am so proud of you.” You could give these people 100 gifts and they would be thankful, but they would feel more fulfilled with simply telling them that you were happy to see them.
  5. Acts of Service: mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, and picking up the house are all things that would trigger a person who has an “acts of service” love language to feel loved! People who have this love language will feel the most connected when something nice has been done for them.

Are you interested in finding out your love language or the language of your child or children? Check out www.5lovelangauges.com for further information directly from the source!

So what does all of this mean? How do you apply this to your life? As part of a family, it is our job to try to speak our family member’s love language. I would like to challenge you to identify what your love language is and share it with your partners, pointing out some of the things that would help you to feel loved. Knowing what your partners love language is will also likely help you feel loved. Just consider a partner whose love language is Acts of Service, every time they mow the lawn for your, imagine them saying “I love you.” Be on the lookout for different ways that people around you are taking time out of their own life in order to make you feel good, even when you do not necessarily realize it!

Make sure to come back March 1st for next month’s blog topic – and check out our Facebook page, Twitter, and Pinterest daily for new content! We would love to hear your feedback and your thoughts about your language of love?

 

January 2017: New Years Resolutions - How to Make and Keep Them!

I am the only person that I know who has successfully kept a New Years Resolution for an entire year. I do not say this to toot my own horn, there are certainly plenty of times that I have not followed through on something I said I was going to do. I say this because I want for people to know that it is possible to stick with a New Years Resolution, although it is difficult. I once read a study (although I could not tell you now who conducted the study, or when the study was done, so take this information with that in mind) that showed that most resolutions have been dropped by January 21st, and the remainder are finished mid-way through February. So why exactly is that? When people seem so intent during the Holiday’s that they are going to make changes, why is it that we cannot stick with it? The number of explanations that are possible is too great to fit in this blog, but the primary problem that I have seen is that people go “too big” on their resolutions. Want to lose weight? Nope, people say “I am going to eat healthy, stop drinking, stop smoking, exercise seven times a week, stop watching television, read more, and go to church.” All of those are excellent goals! But all together? At the same time? That is a recipe for failure. The goals are so big and overwhelming that they seem unattainable, because all at the same time, they ARE unattainable.

So here are some tips on creating and KEEPING your resolution:

Tip #1: Make it small and reasonable

The problem with the above ideas are that they are all together. If the concept is overwhelming, it will be difficult to keep. Instead, think small, not big. Maybe it is getting up 15 minutes earlier, or cutting out alcohol during the week. If the goal is small, then throughout the year you can add in more changes, as you meet your goals.

Tip #2: Make little goals as you go

Is your goal to run a marathon by the end of 2017? Then make your goal for January to be able to run 1 mile without stopping at the end. Want to lose 100 pounds? Figure out how much weight you want to lose each month, so that you can find yourself being successful throughout the year. The more successful we are, the more likely we are to keep trying!

Tip #3: Make it something you actually want to do

If you have decided to quit smoking or drinking because you know someone else wants you to do that, it is unlikely that you will be successful. Why? Because you do not want to do it, and making changes is HARD work, and if you do not want to do it, the work seems too hard. This does not mean that you should not take in to consideration what others are telling you, but if you genuinely do not want to do something, it is unlikely you will make it out of the first week of January with your resolution in tact.

Tip #4: Be okay with mistakes

You will, in fact, fail at your resolution. There will be days where you do not feel well, or when you go to a mid-week work party, or days where you simply feel exhausted and as though you can not move forward. Making a mistake does not mean that you should completely give up on that resolution for the remainder of the year. Quite the contrary, when we make mistakes and come back from them, that is when we learn the most.

Tip #5: Start with today

If you have not made a resolution for the year yet, do not make one for next year, or next week, or next month. Start now. People often put off change, and when you put it off, you lose your passion and excitement for what you wanted to do. It can be difficult to start immediately, after all, we want to get “just one more” time in, and if that is the case, then we may not be ready to make the change that we are trying to make.

Tip #6: Get a buddy

When we are accountable to someone else, we are much more likely to actually follow through. This could be someone who actually does the change with you, but it could also be someone who just checks in with you about it. Make it someone who can challenge you without losing the friendship, and someone who you respect enough to be honest with. If you can not accept the challenging from them, or if you think they will not hold you accountable, then that may not be the right person.

Tip #7: Be confident

It is important to believe that you can change, and that the change you want to make is going to make you a happier, healthier person. If you believe you will fail, you will…if you believe that you will be successful, that will also be the case.

I want to encourage each of you to really consider what your New Years Resolution is, and remember that if you start today, in three months you might be ready to add on another change, but for today, make it achievable. And then? Go and share it with us on our Facebook or Twitter Page, and find a whole community of people who would love to hold you accountable! Thanks so much for joining us here at VMS, please make sure to check our Facebook and Twitter out for weekly videos and other fun content, and on the first of every month for a Blog post that will help you make your day’s just a little easier!

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