Tag Archive for: Kacie Shipman

By Kacie Shipman, LSW – July 20, 2022 –

Children and adults may react to stress in different ways. Trauma and stress can cause the brain to feel challenged or threatened, and the part of the brain that reacts is often on high alert. Our instinct is to protect ourselves, often by fleeing, fighting, or freezing from our perceived danger.

When individuals have experienced trauma or are in high stress situations, their behavior can sometimes become confusing to others. The term “trigger” is often used to communicate what caused someone to enter a state of dysregulation. Our brain works in a way that allows us to react before we think. It is a means of protection, although when trauma has been experienced our brain can set off false alarms.

What causes dysregulation? Our body has five great senses: taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing. For example, a certain smell may trigger someone to experience dysregulation before thinking. If abuse was experienced in a home that often smelled like coffee, the smell of coffee alone could trigger the brain to go into a protective defense mode. This correlation is easier for adults to recognize than children.

Children in a high alert state are not able to reason. It is crucial to help the child regulate their body and mind so they can process stressful situations later. There are many ways to help children and adults regulate, or “calm down.”

It is impossible to know what difficulties others have experienced. That is why it is crucial to treat everyone as if they are functioning in a high alert state or have experienced trauma. Regulating children through their environment can be very impactful in managing behaviors that are difficult to understand.

For instance, if a child is often misbehaving, it’s important to track those incidents. There is a possibility that behaviors may be occurring in a predictable pattern. Making small changes in the environment can help eliminate stressors. Creating a safe relationship with a child can also create an environment where their brain is able to stay at a level of calmness with the ability to reason more than react.

The most critical part of supporting an individual with trauma is maintaining your own self-regulation. Being supportive in a non-confrontational way will encourage the brain to recognize the situation as safe and non-threatening. Understanding our own triggers and challenge areas will help us stay regulated in moments that may provoke unwanted emotions.

Practicing self-regulation skills can be done in many ways including yoga, meditation, or journaling. Finding a positive and encouraging support team who understands the impact of trauma on children can be a tool to maintain ongoing work with those who have experienced it.

By Kacie Shipman, LSW – May 12, 2021 –

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word communication as “the imparting or exchanging of information or news.” Communication goes much deeper than words alone. Every day we communicate through various means of technology including news and social media, through body language, and through our actions.

Communication starts at birth and continues throughout our life span. From infancy, babies use ways to communicate their needs to be fed, soothed, or changed. During the toddler years, as language skills develop, so does our communication style.

As parents and caregivers, we model and teach communication. Much of our communication as adults is learned from the environment in which we were raised. Learning to communicate well is an ongoing challenge and takes daily practice.

There are many ways to teach effective communication at any age. During the baby and toddler stages, rolling a ball back and forth helps practice taking turns speaking. It is important to speak clearly to children learning to talk so they understand the correct pronunciation of words. Requiring the child to use words early in life rather than pointing or grunting encourages them to use their voice in communicating needs.

At any age, it takes much practice to develop good listening skills. Teaching children to listen well can take a lot of patience. Practicing listening skills with young children can be done in fun ways, such as playing a game of “Simon Says.” This allows them to practice and develop the skill of listening before acting.

Other communication skills that are important to teach early are body language and manners, which are often part of a pre-school curriculum. Body language can include facing the person that is talking, nodding, and not interrupting. If you child interrupts during a phone conversation or other important adult conversation, talking with them about the importance of not doing so when it happens will help them succeed.

A goal of positive communication is learning to understand the other person’s point of view. Understanding is crucial during communication. Miscommunication begins with misunderstanding. Even when you disagree with your child, repeating an overview of what they said or what you heard is a good start.

Validation is a key component in communication. Webster identifies validation as “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.”  Validation does not mean that you agree with what the person says or believe their opinion as fact. It does mean that you validate their right to have their own beliefs and they are respected whether the statement is one that is agreed upon or not.

By validating someone’s feelings or thoughts, it makes them feel valued and builds upon the skill of understanding in communication. Often times as we move into adulthood opinions become stronger and deeper.

Communication skills help a person succeed in life. People crave relationships, and when good communication is used those relationships can thrive. Communication can not only help in personal relationships with significant others and in families, but in professional relationships as well.

If as an adult you find yourself struggling in relationships or in interactions with others, please seek a professional therapist to help you learn to communicate more effectively. It is never too late to start.

By Kacie Shipman, LSW, Nov. 21, 2018 –

The holidays are coming, and many people have special family traditions they enjoy observing this time of year.

Family traditions hold values and beliefs that are passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions help children feel a sense of belonging and consistency in their family.

Identity is often found in the traditions and values of our families. These traditions can be very simple, such as eating dinner together at the table or watching a movie together every Friday. They are activities that take place in a consistent manner and show the importance of togetherness.

Family traditions help bond families together, as they link generations. Children that have traditions implemented into their lives are found to be more resilient and well-adjusted. Traditions can teach children values about religion, heritage, and culture.

In an article by Bill and Kate McKay titled “Fatherhood, Relationships, and Families,” they state, “Researchers have found that family traditions and rituals can provide comfort and security to children, even if a main source of their stress originates from within the family itself.”

It is also important to keep things positive during the time of bonding. Be intentional in setting aside time, such as during dinner, to keep the conversation positive and upbeat. The greatest source of bonding occurs during times of high emotions.

Establishing a family game night is a great opportunity for many laughs and positive interactions (as well as stress relief). By establishing routines, you are showing your children that quality time with them is important.

Consistency of family traditions is especially important during challenging times, such as moving to a new area, parents’ divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Grief is often a time when families bond through rituals, such as taking flowers or special items to the burial grounds or planting trees or flowers in memory of their loved one. Creating a traditional way to remember those who have passed away can help in the grieving process.

Volunteering is another tradition that many families take part in together. Working together opens up important conversations regarding personal views on helping others. It also provides children with important life lessons, while spending important time bonding as a family. Identifying your values and what is important to you can be a good start in brainstorming ideas for new traditions to implement into your family.

Family traditions often occur during holidays and special events, but they can be implemented into routines throughout the year. Even if your children are grudgingly participating in your traditional events, they will someday appreciate the effort that was put into them.

You are giving your children so much more than the activity itself; you are passing on family values and life lessons. When you are observing your family traditions this year, remember there is a deeper meaning you are instilling in and providing for your children.