Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our Family is So Busy! Finding Ways to Create Meaningful Moments and Memories

With all the talk of “simplifying,” it seems people are busier than ever.

This increased pace is quite understandable given the impact of changes in the economy over the last decade.  In general, salaries have remained flat while the price of goods has increased.  So not only are people having to work more hours simply to keep up, they are also now commonly expected to take on extra duties as their companies pursue cost-saving strategies of eliminating positions and “right-sizing” their workforces.

In addition to these economic factors, there have been significant cultural changes in how people view “good parenting.” Parents now expect themselves to spend more intensive time (i.e. “quality time”) with their children and to pour more resources into their children than ever before—think elite sport teams, summer enrichment activities, leadership workshops, SAT prep courses, etc.  It’s no wonder parents and children alike are reporting increasingly higher rates of stress, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and anxiety.

Although there are no quick fixes for these challenges of modern life, one strategy I use comes from the work of psychologist Mary Pipher.  In her book The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families (2008) she documents the ways that society not only strains parents but also undermines parent-child relationships. Pipher describes important research on the three most meaningful experiences people remember from their childhoods: family meals, vacations, and time spent outside.  As I reflect on these experiences, I suspect that each helps cultivate more present-moment awareness and connection—two factors that we now know are essential for health. The good news is that with intention, these are experiences many of us can more regularly incorporate into our family’s general rhythms.

Family Meals—Connecting around meals has been an important ritual through the ages.  The meals don’t have to be home-cooked, though, and they certainly don’t have to be organic or vegan.  Even the most basic meal of pasta or soup can create a space for reconnecting at the end of the day when accompanied by simple rituals such as setting the table, lighting a candle, or saying a blessing.  Due to hectic schedules, shared meals may not be a regular option for some families.  But investing in creating togetherness in this way, even if only once a week, can increase our family experience of connection and belonging.

Vacations—Too often, people think vacations must mean expensive trips to faraway places.  What I’ve learned, however, is that the positive impact of a vacation is less about destination, and more about its ability to provide an opportunity to connect in different—and more meaningful—ways.  When we take a vacation, we help ourselves re-focus on being together, creating shared experience, and being present with one another.  This is especially true if we are able to leave technology behind.  Vacations really don’t have to be fancy or costly; in fact, the more simple, the better.  Vacations can include day trips, car trips to visit relatives and friends, or camping at a state park.

Spending Time Together Outside— The soothing and restorative effects of being in nature have been well documented.  Additionally, we tend to interact differently with each other when we’re in the outdoors—we’re less distracted, more focused, and less stressed.  Having a picnic in the backyard, taking a walk in a park, going fishing, lighting a small bonfire—these are outdoor experiences that can help strengthen connection, and create positive memories.

As with any intention, it’s important to remember that it’s not “all or nothing.”  We don’t have to do these things all the time, or do them perfectly!  Even if we can increase the frequency of these experiences only by a couple of  times a month or year, they can help us strengthen our families, solidify our connections, and provide moments of pleasure and respite from the crazy, fast-paced world in which so many of us now live.

By Kayce Meginnis-Payne, Ph.D; Psychologist at Grew, Morter & Hartye, P.A. in Raleigh, NC. She works with adults experiencing anxiety, depression, and problems with interpersonal relationships. She also specializes in helping people heal from behavioral “addictions” such as perfectionism, people-pleasing, and codependence.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

DBT Family Skills Group

Dealing with an emotionally sensitive child or adolescent can be challenging, aggravating and bewildering.  Parents often struggle with managing their own feelings and needs while remaining connected and compassionate to these sensitive children who seem to demand so much. We are happy to offer a 12-week workshop series designed to provide parents with the skills to better cope with and support their emotionally reactive child or adolescent.

DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, as developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD of the University of Washington-Seattle, is a skills-based training that has demonstrated effectiveness in helping emotionally sensitive/reactive people to manage their lives more effectively.  The Family Skills Training Core Foundation Skills taught in this workshop are based on The DBT Family Skills Training Manual by Perry Hoffman, PhD of Cornell University.  Most people who have gone through training in DBT agree that this is “basic training that everyone should have.” We all need emotional awareness to be the best parent/friend/spouse possible.

As parents, you have read the books and followed recommended child rearing practices,  However, if your child has mood regulation difficulties he/she can quickly escalate their behavior to the point where the whole family seems to rise and fall with the mood.  Safety can become an issue as well as what the other children in the family are being exposed to.  We also know that biological vulnerability plays a large role here, and often one parent or another is up against the same challenges.  When parents are involved in changing, the child/adolescent receives the most effective modeling possible. An underlying principle in DBT is that we are each doing the best that we can AND there are more skills to learn!  The changes you make now will benefit future generations to come.

In this workshop, parents learn the same DBT skills that their child is learning, in order to help the entire family to communicate and function in a healthier way. As a parent, learning DBT Skills will allow you to:
  • Help everyone in the family to get their needs met.
  • Help understand the difficulties encountered by those who are emotionally sensitive and reactive.
  • Improve family communications and relationships.
  • Gain a common language with your child or adolescent and support his/her in learning new coping skills.
  • Provide structure to constructively and safely problem solve.
  • Reduce the level of emotionality in the family when talking about difficult issues.
  • Increase respect for your child’s efforts in trying new skills, along with encouragement to implement them.
  • Reduce shame and blame, providing new understanding and a problem-solving attitude.
  • Assist family members in changing aspects of family functioning for the benefit of future generations.

DBT skills Include:
  • Core Mindfulness Skills
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills
  • Emotion regulation Skills
  • Distress tolerance Skills
  • Validation Skills
Each FST series runs for 12 sessions.  We will be meeting weekly on Tuesdays starting January 27, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM in the group room at GMH.  The sessions are $60 each and the whole 12 weeks is offered as a package ($720 total; payment can be made in installments).  A discount for two members from the same family is offered ($50 per session per person; $1200 total for two). Although we normally file insurance for our patients, insurance does not cover skills based training programs.

Space is limited so that each group member gets maximum benefit.

Co-lead by Mary Anne Hartye, PhD and Biancamaria Penati, PhD in Raleigh, NC. They have been working together as a team to help children and adolescents, and their parents, for over 18 years. To sign up for the series, please leave Dr. Hartye a message at 919-406-6179.
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