by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 24, 2021 adult therapy, friendship, mindfulness, relationship, relationship resolutions0 comments
It is widely acknowledged that making friends as an adult can be a huge challenge for many and there are real reasons why this occurs. There is something very special about the connections we nurture in our childhood and teen years and if you are one of the lucky people who remains near and close with your childhood friends you will easily note how irreplaceable those special connections are. In childhood and even more so in our teen years school places us in a school environment where we are forced to interact with our peers and in that stage of development, connecting to a community of peers is paramount. The developmental object is to pull away slightly from the primary family and develop close connections with friends, creating a safe sense of belonging. Teens and kids approach the domain of friends with less inhibition and fear of what could go wrong, the younger the child is the more that this is true.
As the years go on, our needs for socializing get side stepped for practical matters such as managing professional life and raising a family. Time really does present barriers as well as our fears and anxieties that prevent us from reaching out and walking up to strangers to start a conversation. If you are reading this article because making friends as an adult has been a challenge for you, then you are likely already familiar with your own list of reasons why you haven’t been able to nurture as many connections as you like. The goal becomes to focus on what can be done to overcome this and with that in mind we can look at the 5 best steps to making more adult friends.
- Get your interests in order, don’t have a hobby yet? Well get one, common interests are a great connecting factor, think about where and how you spend your time, are you a stay at home mom, are you clocking 60 hour work weeks? Do you work out? Do you love puzzles? Think about your unique interests and life and start to think about building community with people who are similar to you.
- Find meet up events, the great blessing to social media and other groups is that they allow us to connect with many others. Meetup is a big favorite, there are also singles groups, friend finders, facebook groups and more.
- Don’t stop with the virtual world, no matter how much facetime and zoom we are doing, there is no replacement for in person connection, create at least one monthly opportunity to attend an in person groups.
- When you are at the event, it is easy to become anxious and psych yourself out before approaching a new person. You might wonder what you can say or fear how you can handle pauses in the conversation, the underlying fear is often that the person will think you are strange or reject you. The most helpful mental reframe you can use is ‘every person there is feeling the same nervousness.’ In fact you can further coax yourself by remembering that you can help someone else to feel less nervous by approaching them first.
- Be the first to follow up! Often we wait for the people we meet to follow up and say how nice it was to meet, we miss connections that way. Always be the first to reach out and bring people together by offering an invitation, that is the secret of super connectors!
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC is a nationally certified counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. Stephanie specializes in providing therapy that emphasizes whole person wellness often including mindfulness and other evidence-based practices. She has been featured on local television, radio, and countless articles where she acts as a thought leader on mental health and wellness. Stephanie is a loving wife, an ardent yogi, and a dog mom of two. Stephanie enjoys her daily meditation practice, trying new wellness tips, prancing through the world with belly laughs on her breath.Learn More
Losing someone close to you can invoke many complex emotions like sadness, pain, loss, and hurt. These feelings are natural and a part of life, but with complicated grief, or complicated bereavement disorder, such feelings don’t fade with time or improve. Their emotions might be so intense that it disrupts their daily life.
Living with complicated grief can bring up dysfunctional behaviors and unconventional thoughts. This chronic form of suffering can make it impossible to return to a healthy state of life. When normal grief does not go away, complicated grief occurs.
Think of complicated grief like being in a heightened state of mourning that prevents you from accepting and moving forward. Often this looks like intense sorrow and pain and constantly thinking about the loss of your loved one. You may find it challenging to think about anything else but your loved one’s death. But also, complicated grief could also arise from separation as well as life transition such as loss of job.
Losing someone close to you is a distressing and natural event that everyone faces at one point or another throughout their lives. It is entirely normal to go through a period of sadness, numbness, regret, guilt, or even anger. However, these feelings eventually fade and are replaced with acceptance and the ability to get on with life.
For most people, the grieving experience follows a natural sequence and timing of events:
- Acceptance of loss
- Experiencing the pain and grief of your loss
- Adjusting to a new reality without your loved one
- Having new relationships
Complicated grief does not allow you to move through these stages in a healthy time frame.
Examples and Signs of Complicated Grief
Complicated grief can look like normal grief, except that symptoms usually fade over time with normal grief.
Examples of complicated grief may include:
- Avoiding thinking of their loss
- Obsessively thinking of their loved one
- Intense longing for their loved one
- Feeling a loss of purpose in life
- Constantly reminding themselves of their loved one
- Suicidal thoughts
- Unable to accept their loss that occurred at least six months ago
- Feelings of loneliness
- Lack of interest in taking care of one’s self
- Reckless and self-destructive behavior
- Inability to resume their regular routine
- Avoiding activities or places that remind them of their lost one
- Loss of appetite
- Stress and anxiety
If these symptoms persist for more than a month and significantly impair your life, then it may be time to seek help.
Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you have suicidal thoughts to receive support and assistance from a compassionate, trained professional.
Healthy Ways to Cope
The best way to cope with complicated grief is by seeking out professional counseling and therapy. Treatment can help you focus on your condition and begin the process of healing.
The most common treatment option is called bereavement therapy. A bereavement counselor will show you ways to monitor your grief and stabilize your emotions. You can also join a bereavement support group to talk about your feelings of sorrow, pain, and loss. It’s important to know that you are not alone and that other people experience the same emotions.
Other forms of therapy can help you cope with your situation, such as traumatic grief therapy. Help is always available, and you can find ways to find happiness and peace again.Learn More
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Learning about mental health and why it is important to take care of breeds promise for a happy, healthy community. Beginning in America in 1949, this outreach program has grown to include over 150 countries. Today, in 2021, its’ purpose of raising awareness and educating the public about mental health is more important now than ever before due to the effects Covid-19 has had on the world.
Even before the pandemic, mental illness was a global public health crisis. One in five people were affected by a mental health condition and many did not seek treatment because they were scared or uninsured. Now, those numbers have grown and, to date, are unable to be calculated. Health authorities just know they are increasing, and mental health is becoming a growing problem.
What, exactly, is mental health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is:
“… a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Many times, suffering with mental health is mild and can be completely overlooked. Sometimes it can be hard to identify a mental disorder especially in oneself, and sometimes it can be accepted as being normal when it should not be. Mental health professionals can formally diagnose and treat disorders when they have a patient, but most people do not understand they need treatment or are afraid of the stigma. This is where raising awareness comes in. It is important to understand what is positive and normal within the realm of mental health and what is not and act accordingly. A life may depend on it.
Mental health affects thoughts, feelings, and actions. Examples of mental disorders include anxiety, depression, eating disorder, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorder. Mental health problems affect individuals, their families and loved ones, as well as their communities. Mental illnesses also affects that persons’ income, employment, education, homelessness, community participation, and life expectancy.
It is common for many people to suffer with mental health to one degree or another. Some cases are severe, and others are mild. Either way, mental health can be improved. When someone wants help, but declines seeking it, their struggle may seem real, but it is unnecessary. Speaking with a therapist can help and studies show that people with mental health issues can be treated, get better, and even recover completely.
Receiving care can be costly, though, so recently President Joe Biden’s administration released large amounts of aid for a system of care for the mental health needs of adults and children. With suicide rates unusually high among black youth and LGBTQI+ demographics during Covid, he stated: ”I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, healthcare providers, and research institutions to raise mental health awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives.”
Treatments like counseling and therapy, services, and community support is available more now than ever before and these approaches do work. Living a normal life is within reach. You just need to start the journey to recovery. Seek help. We are here for you.
There is hope.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 30, 2021 anxiety, Anxiety and Stress, anxiety therapy pittsburgh0 comments
Anxiety management in a healthy sustainable way!
Here is the ultimate listicle of healthy ways to reduce and manage anxiety symptoms beyond meditation and exercise because while both of those do work, they might not be in everyone’s tool bag. Here are 10 simple and effective therapist verified ways to help.
- Blow bubbles! This works two ways, one who can be anxious when they are looking at a shiny bright bubble? But seriously, bubbles require us to blow our air out, when we are blowing out we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. It is also speculated that anxiety and panic can be induced by a CO2 sensitivity, this is helped anytime we blow out slowly. So go ahead, let your inner child emerge and blow some bubbles!
- Try a hot bath! Hydrotherapy works, this is all about vasodilation, when we take a warm bath our blood pressure increases but what goes up must come down so we float into a state of deeper relaxation after, if you can take your bath with candlelight and a good book, even better!
- Count down from 100 backwards. Many anxiety management techniques help us to focus on something other than the anxiety, counting backwards works well!
- Scanning techniques, focus on what you see around you, you can even use the alphabet, start by looking around for something that starts with the letter A, then B. Some people respond best to this by writing out their answers too.
- Listen to soothing music, sound can be very therapeutic because our heart rates do respond to auditory stimulation. If you listen to something below 60 BPM (Beats per minute) you will naturally bring down your heart rate too.
- Progressive muscle relaxation is a system of focusing on each muscle group and squeezing them, holding the tension for 10-20 seconds, then relaxing. You start at your toes and slowly move up to the crown of your head. After working through each muscle group you squeeze every muscle and then relax. This is effective because we are best at relaxing after being active!
- While most of us want to harness our calm without any pharmacological intervention, that is not always possible. Some mental health and medical diagnosis respond only to medical treatment. With that in mind, some forms of stress can be aided by using herbal remedies, herbs such as hops, valerian, and lemon balm are especially calming. Consult your local herbalist for more tips on herbs!
- Do some gardening, soil and contact with the earth works on multiple levels to help us relax, it doubles as physical activity and we also know that nature therapy via time spent outdoors has excellent stress reducing benefits. Go ahead, plant a flower or tree, not only with you enjoy its beauty but you will get a relaxing dose of wellness while you are at it.
- Lower your heart, literally. I know we aren’t including exercise but a low impact yoga stretch called child’s pose can be achieved by getting onto your knees, then bending forward from your waist to lay your head and shoulders on the ground. Your heart gets a welcome rest when you are inverted this way and your heart rate automatically goes down!
- Phone a friend, this is especially helpful for women who are experiencing anxiety, women get a stress reducing benefit from talking to supports about their stresses. Feeling overwhelmed, talk it out!
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
When it comes to setting goals, it isn’t hard to think of where you’d like to be in six months, a year, or even five years. Making steady progress towards these goals is another story entirely. Here are six concrete steps you can take towards achieving your goals, even when your motivation is running dry.
1. Dress The Part
While the COVID-19 pandemic has welcomed a new era of casual dress that mostly means working in sweatpants, studies show that getting dressed more professionally can affect your mood and attitude toward your goals.
Many psychologists agree that wearing comfortable clothes that one wouldn’t usually wear to the office signals to the brain an “I don’t care” attitude. Doctor Sheva Assar, a clinical psychologist, adds that getting dressed in the morning could increase motivation for the remainder of the day, getting people out of the “cycle of staying in that place of inaction.” Getting dressed in the morning is a small step, but it’s a symbolic one.
2. Visualize the Future
One important step in the direction of a better future is being able to visualize it. Writing daily affirmations and even creating a vision board can help someone see the daily steps they could take towards where they want to be in five years. Meditation can also help a person set aside time to imagine an ideal future for themselves. This type of meditation can become extremely detailed, giving the person the clearest vision of what they want in the future and the steps it will take to get there.
3. Find S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
For years, the business world touted the achievements made from SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals. However, people are not businesses, and these types of goals miss some of the empathetic, human elements needed for success in one’s personal goals. Instead, set SUCCESS (Subjective, Urgent, Committed, Concrete, Evaluate, Shared, Support) goals. This research-backed strategy has been shown to create more buy-in for the individual, thus increasing the likelihood of follow-through.
4. Nurture Relationships
Having a supportive network of family and friends can go a long way in achieving one’s goals. One might hesitate to share their goals out of fear of embarrassment if they don’t end up meeting them. However, studies show goal-sharing creates a kind of positive peer pressure, and that by sharing one’s intentions, a person is further committing to that goal.
5. Accept the Inevitability of Setbacks
When it comes to even the most disciplined of people, setbacks are going to happen. For example, someone might have a goal to exercise three times a week but then get struck with an illness that prevents them from doing so. Accept that life happens and sometimes gets in the way. Don’t give up despite these setbacks.
6. Create a Reward System
Making concrete progress toward a goal? Time to treat yourself! A reward system isn’t just a fun way to celebrate progress–it’s also a research-backed way to help you keep working at your goal. A study out of the Journal of Consumer Research found that immediate rewards could help participants stick with a goal. It’s a win-win way to recognize your accomplishments and keep yourself on a steady path toward your dream future.
If you feel like you still can’t get a handle on motivation, you could be experiencing symptoms of depression and other mood disorders, as they can limit one’s motivation. If you think your lack of motivation could be coming from a mental health disorder you should seek professional help.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 12, 2021 best counselor for me, counseling pittsburgh, pittsburgh, relationship0 comments
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talents, spirit over ego, others over self.”
– Dean Jackson
The Attitude of Great Listeners
Developing effective and compassionate listening skills is absolutely essential in order to maintain a strong and healthy relationship. Becoming a great listener is not only vital for flourishing romantic relationships, but it is also a skill that is relevant in all aspects of life. Effective listeners are effective people. Unfortunately, these skills are not often taught, and the result is that listening skills don’t get much emphasis or development in our society.
This two-part series will focus on helping you to understand the basics of effective and compassionate listening and also teach you how to put those basics into practice. Following these simple guidelines can have a tremendous effect on both your romantic relationships, and your ability to reach your goals. In this month’s Part I blog post of “How to be a Great Listener,” we will cover the attitude of compassion that is necessary to be a compassionate and effective listener. In our next blog post, we will address the technical skills of listening that will build on this compassionate attitude!
Learning to Listen is like Learning to Ride a Bike
Learning to be a great listener can be a difficult process, often times in the beginning it feels awkward, clumsy and a bit uncomfortable. Many times, when working on listening skills in couples therapy, people tell me that this type of communication is not “them.” They may say that it does not feel right, that it is not natural, or that these listening skills do not feel authentic. My response typically sounds something like this, “I appreciate that you are letting me know that this feels unnatural, and that is okay. When I was first learning to be a counselor, this type of listening felt unnatural to me too! Thankfully, listening is a skill, it is not a personality trait, and just like any other skill it can be developed!” I tell my clients that at first it might feel unnatural, but as they develop these listening skills, they will become more personal, and will feel more natural. It is just like learning to ride a bike, or to type on a keyboard! At first, the movements may feel forced and uncoordinated, but with practice and attention, soon these skills become more familiar, they open up new and exciting avenues of exploration and expression! The same goes for listening, however when you listen, you get to explore one of the most beautiful sceneries to ever exist, the intimate world of another human being. Although becoming a great listener can be challenging at first, it is a skill that can truly transform our lives!
Great Listeners are Compassionate & Effective
Becoming a great listener can be broken down into two major aspects which come together seamlessly to allow the listener to be both compassionate and effective. The first major aspect of listening is adopting and expressing an attitude of compassion. The second major aspect of listening is developing specific listening skills and techniques to listen effectively. This post is going to focus on the compassionate listeners attitude. Most of the time we are so consumed in our own world, that we do not take the time to intentionally step into the world of another and to see the word through their eyes. In order to be great listeners, we have to possess a willingness to humbly (& momentarily) put aside our own perspective and opinion and be willing to truly witness the person in front of us. The attitude of humility and genuine interest equips us to post-pone our own agenda and to tune in to what the speaker is saying. Your goal is simply to understand.
The Golden Rule of Effective & Compassionate Listening: Don’t Problem Solve
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” Tich Nhat Hanh
Listening is more than just hearing; it is a willing and active participation in the life of another person. The attitude of compassionate listening is embodied in this one rule: don’t try to problem solve. One of the most common pitfalls that hinders the compassionate listening beautifully described by Tech Nhat Hanh (a global spiritual leader, peace activist, and poet) in the quote above, is the urge to jump into problem solving. When someone tells us about a difficult situation they are encountering, it can easily bring out our insecurities and trigger the experience of anxiety. It is intimidating to think that we might not be able to help our loved ones in a satisfactory way, in the way we think they need to be helped. Not only is it intimidating, but it can also be embarrassing. Whether it is a major life dilemma, or a small frustration, we might think to ourselves, “Oh no, this person needs help, what can I possibly say to help this person?!” We can feel overwhelmed by a sense of insufficiency and experience a sense that we must do something.
Problem-solving capabilities are the primary reason that humans have survived throughout history, so it is understandable that our first instinct is to try to fix the issue, but most of the time following the impulse to offer a solution can be damaging. More than a solution, the person experiencing a dilemma or difficulty needs the presence of another person willing to simply be with them.
Instead of problem solving or advice giving, try to tune in to what the person is experiencing. Seek to really understand what they are going through, and what emotions they are feeling. Exhibiting the willingness to sit with someone in their difficulty, conveys a sense of unconditional acceptance to that person. When we listen to someone’s difficulty and seek to truly understand their experience, we say “I accept you as you are, even when you are stressed, depressed, or anxious, and I see you as you are, completely acceptable, no matter how you are feeling.” It is essential that before jumping into problem solving, or trying to make your partner feel better, you show your partner that you really hear what they are saying. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our unconditional acceptance of the ones we love.
We are social and emotional beings that thrive on human connection. When our partner is telling us about their experience, often times, they are seeking to connect with us. They aren’t just telling us a bout a difficult situation, they are also building an emotional bridge of connection. If we miss the emotions, then we will miss the bridge, and our partner will end up feeling isolated, unimportant and invalidated. Human emotions are not problems, and they cannot be solved. Emotions are processed through expression and when you ask about those emotions you create an opportunity for processing, as well as validation. Although it might feel right for us to immediately jump into problem solving or advice giving, it is a sure way to invalidate your partner and crush the connection. Deeply listening to your partner’s difficulties is an opportunity for you to show your partner, how important they are through your presence, your patience, and your attention! If your partner wants your advice, they will likely ask for it, but unless you first show your partner that you truly understand their experience and care about their feelings, problem solving is likely to be a burnt bridge of connection. Problem solving in itself is not bad, but it is essential to listen and reflect your understanding back to your partner first, and problem solve later (like, way later). Implementing this golden rule of listening becomes much easier when we have a humble attitude complimented by some practical skills and techniques!
Your Presence is a Precious Gift
Your attitude is a tremendous tool that can set you up for success or put you on the fast track to failure. In order to be a great listener, you must embrace an attitude of humility and generosity! Effective and compassionate listening requires a strong focus on the person speaking, rather than yourself. Sometimes, the most difficult aspect of embracing this attitude is that you have let go of your own insecurities. If you hold on to the belief that you “aren’t good enough,” you will never be able to give your partner what they need most in their times of difficulty and dilemma. Whether it is an everyday frustration, or a major life transition, as humans we all long for companionship. All of us want deeply to be seen, and to be known, and at the same time, all of us are terrified of what might happen if we allow ourselves to be seen and to be known. There is nothing greater you can give someone than the gift of your human presence, of your human heart full of compassion, of being someone that is willing to sit in solidarity with the discomfort of the one you love. This is truly the gift of listening. It is not simply being silent and allowing your ears to hear. It is participating in the life of another through actively showing them, “you matter to me, your experience matters to me, your emotions matter to me, and I am willing to listen.” Through communicating in this way, you invite them to truly be themselves in an authentic and organic manner. It has often been said that the greatest gift one can give a friend is their life, and there are countless stories of people who have given their lives so that their loved ones could survive. To build on this belief of sacrifice, we should take into account the fact that one’s life can only be lived in the present moment. When you give another human your full and undivided attention, even if just for a moment, you give them your life, for life can only be lived in the now. Through letting go of your insecurities and humbly believing in the power of your human presence, you allow yourself to become a source of healing through solidarity. This is the essence of compassion, “to suffer with.” It is through embracing your own human value that you allow yourself to give another the gift which all of us long for, to be known, to be seen and to be accepted. This type of presence and belief in the power of the human spirit opens up the opportunity to extend profound empathy.
In this first part of learning how to become a great listener we have covered the basic attitude of compassionate listening. Your attitude is everything! Remember, listen first and problem solve later, way later! Jumping right into problem solving before you truly understand your partner is a sure way to crush an opportunity for compassionate connection. Have confidence in the fact that your presence is enough! Simply sitting with someone and seeking to understand their difficulty can have a profoundly healing impact on someone who is experiencing difficulty. But how do you do that?! Tune in to our next blog post where we cover how-to’s of expressing empathy and the do’s and don’ts of putting this attitude into practice!
Culture of EMPATHY Builder: Carl Rogers – page 1. (n.d.). Retrieved April 03, 2021, from http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Experts/Carl-Rogers.htm
Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2016). The Gottman relationship guides. Seattle: Gottman Institute.
Rogers, C. R., & Kramer, P. D. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view on psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 12, 2021 social anxiety, treatment for anxiety disorder0 comments
Traditional psychotherapy has been the usual approach to dealing with issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. It can involve real and tiring work including reliving uncomfortable memories and feelings out loud for multiple therapy sessions. Historically, this has been the responsible process to identifying and resolving deep issues about thoughts and feelings and functioning in the world. It has been the popular and accepted route to mental wellness. Many people have avoided getting the help they need because they do not want to be subjected to any further stress. They don’t want to do the work.
Happily, there is an alternative.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a new and non-traditional psychotherapy. It uses a patient’s rapid, rhythmic eye movements to lessen the effects of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events. During a typical session, which can last up to 53 minutes, the therapist moves their fingers back and forth in front of the patient’s face. Sometimes they use an object instead of their fingers, similar to the way hypnotism was portrayed in old movies by swinging a long-chained pocket watch. They have the patient follow these hand motions with their eyes while recalling the distressing event. Eventually the therapist leads the patient to discover more pleasant thoughts, diverting their attention away from the distressing event. The effects of this process are, diminished debilitating memories. This is achieved without talk therapy or medication.
If you are someone who suffers from a specific phobia, such as the fear of flying, EMDR could help you. Replacing negative emotions with positive ones through the EMDR process has provided a sense of security for those afraid to fly. One study which examined a woman who was afraid to fly after the attacks on the United States on September 11, showed positive results quickly. Following only one session she was able to fly on multiple occasions without fear.
If you have had a bad experience at the dentist, studies have shown this non-invasive approach has proven effective in reducing effects of dental phobia. Quoted directly from a study which implemented EMDR: “The most important result of this study was that a high number of patients overcame their avoidance behavior and visited the dentist regularly following treatment.” This study included several 90-minute sessions and proved to be effective in reducing anxiety and changing behavior. Fear of going to the dentist was no longer debilitating.
EMDR is used for a wide range of issues such as panic attacks, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. If you are someone who suffers from any of these issues or a similar one, this therapy has proven to be successful in eradicating effects of negative experiences. Taking adverse thoughts, memories, emotions, and sensations and rewiring them in the brain has produced a higher level of control and normal functioning.
Although psychotherapy can be stressful, not getting help can also be stressful. If you are ready to seek mental wellness, EMDR is a proven, specific, and results driven approach. EMDR allows negative experiences to become manageable and you to be well.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 29, 2021 healthy relationships, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Nothing can fill a parent with trepidation quite like watching their teenager enter the world of dating.
While you may feel some “mama bear” instincts to shut it down, your teen needs you to be there for them. And they’re probably craving to know (without telling you): what does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Instill these five teachable habits to help your teen build healthy relationships.
Relationships rest on emotions, words, and actions. Teach your teen that emotions can’t be controlled, but words and actions can – and they form the basis of a communication.
Actions communicate broad messages like “I want to be here” or “I like you”. But words are the real powerhouse of healthy communication.
Especially when swept away in the beginning, your teen may feel like they can read their partner’s mind. But at some point, this illusion will end. Hurt feelings often result.
Save your teen trouble by teaching them to air out issues before they happen. Remind them to speak gently when opening a conversation. It helps all parties feel like they can say what’s really on their mind.
If your teen and their girlfriend/boyfriend know where they stand on relationship status, sex, and expectations, to name some heavy-hitters, they can navigate from a thoughtful place.
Clear boundaries set a relationship free. They remove the guesswork. Teach your teen the nuts and bolts of boundary setting in a relationship.
Your sounding board can help them get in touch with their inner voice. Inquire in a helpful way. “Do you want him to text you that much?” “Do you feel ready to take your relationship with her to that level of commitment?” Encourage them to answer from their gut instinct.
Then let them know they can request a boundary directly, i.e. “I only want text a few times a day”. Make it clear that if the person involved with doesn’t respect that boundary, it’s a red flag.
Help your teen understand what constitutes physical and emotional safety in a relationship. Encourage them to take time away from the partner to reflect on how things are going. Remind them that any relationship worth keeping will be there when they return.
Highlight the difference between safe and unsafe. Safe should feel comfortable, open, trusting, unpressured, and generally easy. Unsafe situations will evoke feelings of pressure, hiding, secrets, shame, and general ickiness.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Your teen may feel nervous about getting to know somebody they like. It can be scary to put yourself out there! Give them foundational talk skills to help get over that knot in the throat.
A powerful but underrated conversation skill is asking open-ended questions. Coach your teen to say “How do you feel about your biology class?” instead of “Do you like biology?” Questions like this can really get the conversation flowing. Your teen’s crush will feel their care and interest, and your teen will feel empowered to listen and share.
Enjoy the Fun
Provide gentle but realistic perspective for teenage relationships. The person they date in middle school and high school, in all likelihood, will not be who they marry. It might not even last a few weeks or months. And that’s okay.
Emphasize that relationships are about learning at this point – and fun! If they’re not having fun, encourage your teen to set a boundary to change or end the relationship. Support their discovery of what’s fun or not fun for them.
These building blocks will help them down the road. In the meantime, they’re building happy memories and growth-oriented relationships that uplift them in an often tumultuous season of life.
For more relationship support for you and your teen, consult the following resources:Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 14, 2021 child counseling, child therapy, family counseling, family counseling during corona virus, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Whether you’re a parent or caregiver, weathering the pandemic with children has probably felt like a pressure cooker at times. Boredom, turmoil, and anxiety arise when faced with remote school days or filling long afternoons sans extracurriculars.
Kids look to the adults in their lives to help them cope with this complex, global situation. How can we make strong mental health choices to protect them?
Start By Helping Yourself
It’s difficult to support others when you feel unsupported. Take some moments at the beginning of each day to center yourself. You could wake up a little early to do a 20-minute yoga class. Perhaps digest the headlines over a quiet cup of coffee. Even stopping to breathe deeply for one minute can make a difference.
Now that you are calm, transmit that to your children. Start with basic facts about COVID-19. Dispel any scary rumors that may be circulating. Especially be aware of internet and TV messages. Assure them that, although we do need to take it seriously, adults are working to keep everyone as safe as possible.
When your child has a question about the coronavirus or lockdown life, take the time to listen. Give them space to air out their concerns. It may help to provide multiple modes of expression, like drawing, playing, and talking.
Measures of Control
We all like to feel some control of our lives, however small. The same goes for young people. Fortunately, the safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 translate into simple activities. Guide kids to wash their hands, wear a mask in public, and stay at least 6 feet away from anyone outside their pod.
Lighten the mood when you can. Hand-washing can be made into a fun game with songs. Mask crafts add color and art to something obligatory.
Social distancing may especially distress kids who miss their friends. Take some extra time to emphasize why it’s important to keep distance. Explain that the infection spreads when people are in close contact with each other. Assure them that it’s temporary, and they will see their friends again. Meanwhile, engage in remote or outdoor socializing when possible.
Middle schoolers and high schoolers may benefit from graphics that demonstrate how “flattening the curve” works. This helps them understand the bigger picture and empower them to be part of the solution.
Come Up With Fun Distractions
On the bright side of lockdown, we have so many opportunities to spend quality time with our kids. When we’re safe at home, there’s no need to ruminate on pandemic worries. Have a family meeting where everyone lists a hobby or interest they want to grow during quarantine: puzzles, art, reading, writing, music, gymnastics, bird-watching… Maybe you all make a pact to work on doing the splits by the end of quarantine. Maybe you remodel a room and turn it into an art studio or sublime reading nook.
Most of us have some kind of dream home project that’s been sitting on the shelf. Time to get into it! The antidote to worry is action.
We Can Pull Through This
If the stress of the pandemic seems to be wearing on you and your children, make the wise choice: seek counseling. Zoom makes family therapy readily available, and it’s just as effective.
It’s true that we’re all in this together – if your family feels overwhelmed, you don’t have to tough it out alone.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 3, 2021 healthy relationships, marriage, marriage counseling, marriage counseling near me, marriage counseling pittsburgh, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford, meaning of rituals0 comments
Creating a love that lasts takes time and commitment. One of the keys to this kind of love is intentionality. Intentionality is acting in a deliberate manner that shows your partner that you love them. It might look like cooking a nice meal for your partner, or getting them a special coffee, or maybe another gift like flowers. Being intentional is a necessity to maintain romance and foster a fun and exciting atmosphere in your relationship! As a couple it is important to foster a sense of intentionally, not just toward your partner, but toward your relationship as a whole. Taking time to create Rituals of Connection is one of the best ways to intentionally foster love and intimacy. Rituals of Connection are specific times of interaction, both informal and formal, that help couples come together and build intimacy. Building rituals of connection is a way to deepen your connection and create shared meaning in your relationship.
Rituals of connection can be simple and informal, like sharing meals together, the way you leave for work, coming home from work, working out together, and even rituals before bed. They can also be more formal and scheduled, such as planned relationship check-in’s, weekly dates, scheduling times for intimacy and romance, and routine times to release stress. Rituals of Connection also include how you as a couple celebrate achievements, anniversaries, and even hosting friends in your home.
Why is it important?
Rituals of connection create a sense of healthy anticipation and expectation for emotional intimacy. They provide ways for you as a couple to connect emotionally in a manner that is personally meaningful. You might be thinking that having this type of structure in your relationship would kill spontaneity, but it actually does the opposite! Planned out Rituals of Connection build intimacy and a sense of oneness in the relationship, and this actually increases that likelihood that you will go off the cuff and do something spontaneous. Having a planned ritual is not a structure that holds you back. It is a strong foundation that empowers your relationship to explore the world around you and grow as a couple.
The Top 5 Rituals of Connection to Create in Your Relationship
- The Daily Stress-Reducing Conversation – a Stress Reducing Conversation is a great ritual of connection to introduce into your day to day routine. A stress reducing conversation is a conversation where you simply take some time to listen to each other. It is a conversation where you simply take turns listening to each other about things that are stressing you out that don’t have to do with your relationship. This is a great time to decompress and reduce stress from work or hectic to-do lists. It is a time to listen to your partner without trying to problem solve, or correct, but just to hear them out, and understand the stressors that they are experiencing in life.
- The Weekly “State of the Union” conversation – The weekly State of the Union conversation is a weekly conversation in which you and your partner review your week in terms of your relationship. It is a time to talk about the things that went right in your relationship that week, to show appreciation for each other, to process or discuss any problems or difficulties that may have occurred, and finally to ask each other, “What can I do next week to make you feel loved?” The State of the Union conversation is a great way to stay up to date on your own relationship, set goals, and ensure that you are on the same page with your partner.
- The Weekly Date – Don’t underestimate the importance of having a weekly date! It doesn’t always have to be fancy or extravagant even having a coffee date, or maybe simply going on a walk is a great way to build your relationship. Having a weekly date is a great way to maintain a sense of adventure and fun in your relationship. Often times it can be overwhelming to plan a date, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just do something! The weekly date ensures time to build emotional intimacy and check in with each other.
- Daily Cuddle Time – Couples need to be physically connected as well. Taking time each day to cuddle, hug, hold hands and kiss is a great way to connect and let your partner know you love them. Whether it is while reading, watching a movie, sharing a glass of wine or a cup of tea, being physically close to your partner builds connection and shows affection.
- Rituals about Sex – For many people talking about sex is uncomfortable, but discussing sexual needs and desires is a key component in creating a more satisfying sex life and expressing your love and connection to your partner. In love that lasts, sex is built on a foundation of friendship. Having conversations about how you would like to initiate sex and love making is crucial! Another crucial aspect of this ritual of connection is to discover a way to say “no” to sex, that works for you as a couple. It is important to be able to communicate needs to each other without ending emotional connection.
Discovering how to integrate these essential Rituals of Connection into your relationship strengthens and illuminates that bond that you share with your partner. These five rituals of connection are just a few of the many ways that you can work to establish a strong lasting relationship with your partner. Take some time this week to talk to your partner to see how you can integrate a few of them into your weekly routine!
Doherty, W. J. (1997). The intentional family: How to build family ties in our modern world. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2018). The seven principles for making marriage work. London: Cassell Illustrated.