A WORD FROM Dr Veronica…
We’re partly through January – have you kept your resolutions? I’ve heard most people give up on resolutions by the end of March (that long?), yet it’s hard not to think about hopes and goals when we start a new year. If you tend to set a goal or two for the year, here’s the best way to achieve success: make it small.
In Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about how very small changes are key to making important shifts in our lives. (This is good news – who doesn’t love having low expectations of ourselves!) In addition, keep your focus on the process instead of the outcome. For example, my goal should be “Eat veggies between meals” versus “Lose 10 pounds.” Small changes that are focused on behaviors are the best way to grow. Here’s to 2024 – year of low expectations!
The Big 6 | by Marissa Halstead
As children, we all have certain needs that are intended to be met by our parents. The Big 6 are the six main things that each child needs from their caregivers to create a trusting bond and secure attachment. When The Big Six are not consistently provided to children, it can affect how they experience future relationships. For the information in this blog, I am indebted to Adam Young, the host and creator of The Place We Find Ourselves podcast.
Attunement can be defined as paying attention to what someone is feeling; getting a glimpse into their inner world. Paying attention is exhausting work, particularly when we have so much going on in our lives (a tough day at work, a neurodiverse child…). When we are distracted by our own unmet needs (sleep, anyone?), desires (just one more scroll…), and pain (grief, disappointment, loneliness), it is harder to see our child’s inner world. What was it like when your parents paid attention to your experience?
Children experience big emotions. They don’t have the brain abilities we adults have (e.g. emotion language, coping skills, an understanding of time and that this too shall pass) and when emotions happen, they take over. It’s one reason why a child’s delight is one of the most pure, wonderful things in this world. Some emotions, like anger, sadness, and terror are very distressing to the child. Even though their emotions affect us, we want to be able to use our brain abilities to calm ourselves (as much as we can) and respond well to our child. What was a kind and comforting response you received from someone as a child?
Engagement refers to the level at which we get to know our children. We engage with our kids when we ask about their day at school or find out who their friends are. When we allow our kids to voice their opinions and share their preferences, we are engaging with them. Engagement shows that you see them as valuable and worthy of interaction. What was it like when your parents showed attempts to truly know you?
Cost is another difference that is often considered when choosing a counselor. Pastoral counseling is often offered freely or for a donation as a part of the church ministry. Clinical counseling almost always comes at a professional cost, but may be paid for or reimbursed by insurance companies. Both clinical and pastoral counseling offices can offer sliding-scale price or pro bono rates, but this is dependent on the specific church or clinic.
Ability to Regulate Arousal
Most of us have only heard the term arousal in the context of sexual arousal, but arousal is much broader than this. Arousal can be defined as the various sensations that you feel inside your body. This could mean your body was either ramping up (anxiety, panic, fear) or shutting down (depression, shame). As babies, we had less ability to regulate our own arousal without help. If your mother or father was able to help regulate your nervous system as an infant, and then later taught you as you grew, you most likely learned how to regulate your own arousal.
Strong Enough to Handle Negative Emotions
One reason we are created to have children as adults is the hope that we will have developed the ability to handle hard things when a child comes along. Part of parenting is learning to accept that our child will experience a range of emotion, some positive, some negative. While we aren’t able to respond positively to all situations at all times, we want our parenting to be characterized by figuring out how to respond lovingly (with both closeness and boundaries). Doing so teaches kids that they are acceptable and loved even when negative emotions overcome them.
Willingness to Repair
Here is the good news, no parent is perfect, AND THAT IS OKAY. Parenting is exhausting and life is stressful. Even the best parents are not attuned 100% of the time. The mark of a “good enough” parent or caregiver is the willingness to repair the wrong that they’ve done, not the absence of failure. This repair is done by re-attuning and re-engaging with their children so that they know the parent desires reconnection with them.
If you read this and realized that this was not what you experienced as a child, then likely relationships may be difficult for you. Parenting with security and strength can be especially hard when your own style of relating saps you of energy. If you have the desire to discuss this further, please reach out to email@example.com to set up an appointment with a licensed counselor. Your past is worth working through because it affects your future. You’re worth it!
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