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By Ashley Underwood, LCSW – Dec. 17, 2019

Imagine this scenario: you have a busy and stressful day at work and at the end of the day you get in your car and drive home. The next thing you know, you are parked in your driveway. You made it home, but you don’t remember the process of getting there; the stops, the turns, the motions. You get so used to the usual route home that little thought or focus has to go into the process of driving.

This is an example of being on autopilot. Many of us often live in this state, where actions and words are said and done without thought or focus. When we function on autopilot, we are more likely to say or do things that can be harmful to others.

Why does this impact how we parent our children?

Children need their parents to be the best versions of themselves, thinking through their responses rather than reacting to them. When parents act on autopilot they are not present in the moment and are more likely to react to children impulsively than responding to them with thought.

Some examples of parent reactions might be yelling, cursing, screaming, slamming things, etc. These types of reactions can create an atmosphere of stress between children and parents, as children often feel attacked for things they do. Responding to children requires us to be aware of what is happening, what we are thinking and what we are feeling. That is difficult to do when we are on autopilot.

How can we decrease reacting and increase responding to our children?

One tool that can reduce living on autopilot and increase being more present in the moment is mindful awareness. When being mindfully aware of what is happening in the moment and what we are thinking and feeling in the moment, we are more likely to provide our children with responses rather than reactions.

This also helps model the type of behavior we want from our children. We want them to think through their choices and pick the best one before acting impulsively. The stress of everyday life can make it difficult to live in the moment though, which is why practicing mindful awareness daily is key for mastering this tool.

What are ways to practice mindful awareness?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction practice), “mindfulness or mindful awareness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”  This awareness can be practiced in a variety of daily activities including eating, showering, walking, brushing your teeth, etc.

The key to it though is rather than just going through the motions of these activities – we are paying attention to our senses (what we see, taste, feel, hear, and smell) and we are describing those things without judgments, only the facts. Mindful awareness can also be practiced through meditation, yoga, tai-chi, dance, music, and so much more.

For a more extensive list of mindfulness activities please visit https://www.rachaelkable.com/blog/50-easy-and-fun-ways-to-practice-mindfulness.

By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, Dec. 5, 2017 –

There are a lot of things to be unhappy about in our world today.  Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to politics and current affairs, and many are not shy about expressing their feelings. If you open up your social media news feed and read through the comments, you will see a lot of negativity.

What about you? Have you taken a look at your own attitude and behavior lately?

We try to raise our children to be well rounded individuals, to know the difference between right and wrong and to handle conflict appropriately.

Sometimes things are said just for the sake of stirring up an argument with someone who posted their opinion.  We feel hurt by things people post, and want them to know they have offended us.  But what is the right way to handle this conflict?

We must remember that our children are observing our reactions to these situations and they are often mirroring our behavior.

As a parent, I am entitled to my own beliefs that influence how I raise my child.  However, I am also responsible for ensuring they conduct themselves in a way that is respectful.  Perhaps it is time to review the idea that we can “agree to disagree.”

Be mindful of how you respond to situations you disagree with.  I am also guilty of uttering something under my breath about the latest news.  What I would like my child to take away from the moment is that I don’t agree with what is being said or done.  But your child is also hearing the words you are saying and thinking of how to apply it to situations in their young life.

Unfortunately, our bad behaviors may teach our children to handle a situation in an inappropriate way and they may ultimately be punished for it.  We are setting our children up for failure by not keeping our own reactions in check.

The next time you are watching the news and disagree with what is being reported, take a moment to think about how you should respond.  What do you want your child to learn from your reaction?  How would you like them to react to a difficult situation at school when you are not present?

The first step in expressing yourself in a positive manner is by starting with “I feel.”  Surprisingly, many children don’t know how to describe their feelings, so it might be helpful to have a list of feelings available for them to look at while instructing them in this skill.  “I feel angry” and “I feel sad” are some examples.

Once the child understands how to identify their feelings, you can begin teaching them to identify what is making them have this feeling. For example, “I feel angry when you tell me to pick up my toys.”

Practice modeling this behavior around your children and continue to encourage them to use their words instead of acting out inappropriately.  As always, be sure to praise them for using their words in a respectful and appropriate manner.