Posts by Jamie Criswell
Making Way for our New NormalNovember 5, 2020
When we were toasting to a new year on January 1, who would have thought we’d spend most of 2020 quarantining and social distancing due to a global pandemic? I certainly didn’t. It has brought couples and families together for better or for worse. There have been unexpected financial burdens, medical crises in your family, and hours of home schooling. We have mastered Zoom, Skype, and every other virtual communication platform to connect us to colleagues, families, and friends. Although we may feel there is too much togetherness at times, we are still longing for CONNECTION.
In a time with so much uncertainty, we still want to be seen, heard, and valued. When both partners are working from home, you may feel there is constant communication.
But is it meaningful communication? Our computers and cell phones are our link to the outside world. Longing for normalcy and for connection outside of our family, we have become addicted to our phones. So, put down your phone and spend quality with your significant other!
Have a picnic dinner by candlelight
Make some sandwiches or order take-out. Throw a blanket on the floor and enjoy each other’s company.
Bake cookies and deliver them to an elderly neighbor. Find a ministry collecting canned goods and clean out the boxed / canned items from your pantry.
Pull out the board games
Have some friendly competition. Play three games – and the (winner) best of three gets a backrub from the one who loses.
Get your hands dirty
Start a winter vegetable garden. Use your herbs or vegetables when you cook a meal together.
Bring out the pencil and paper
Sketch each other. Pay attention to each other’s details as you draw the portraits. Clothes optional.
We may be longing for normalcy, for the life we had pre-COVID-19. But we were exhausted and disconnected. Cherish this time of less obligations and less distractions. Cherish the simplicity. Let’s connect, REALLY connect. May we all remember what it means to really embrace the ones we love, and may this become our new normal.
If you need help connecting with your spouse in a meaningful way, contact one of our licensed therapists.
The Benefits of Unstructured Time For ChildrenOctober 4, 2020
The 2020-21 school year is well underway and “classrooms” look a lot different this year. With split schedules and virtual learning as the new norm, parents have been having a particularly difficult time dealing with all of these uncharted waters. With flex schedules, you might have
noticed that your child has more unstructured time than usual – but this isn’t always a bad thing! Unstructured time for children can actually provide some benefits to help your child’s growth.
Incorporate Self-Directed Play
Self-directed play is a wonderful skill for children to develop. It sparks their creativity and imagination. Self-directed play doesn’t have to have any structure. It’s an open-ended form of play that encourages children to become independent and creative. It’s also is a great way to use unscheduled time because your child is still learning (in a less obvious way). Being creative can also help your child destress from whatever school work they still have to complete via e-learning.
It’s OK To Be Bored Sometimes
There are millions of activities that your child can partake in when they are not completing school work. It’s important to teach your child to not only embrace this time but also leave it up to them to entertain themselves. By doing this, they will be able to discover the activities they truly enjoy. Your child will never know how to handle boredom if you are always providing a structured solution. Teaching them at a young age to find ways to entertain themselves with activities they enjoy is an excellent way to make sure they have a strong foundation.
Encourage ‘Out Of The Box” Thinking
Lastly, remember that a little bit of daydreaming is okay! Research actually shows that daydreaming can lead to creativity and “out of the box” thinking. This is another great benefit of having more unstructured time in an e-learning environment. Daydreaming can also help improve your child’s memory. Provide structure during blocks of learning but know when it’s time to take a break to enhance their focus.
While we might not have all the answers for some time, it’s important to do the best you can with what you have. Let go of perfectionism! Remember that you don’t have to have a plan for every minute of the day. Children are naturally creative and allowing them to harness this creativity can be one of the silver linings found in these challenging times. We can help!
Managing Maternal Mental Health During COVID-19September 11, 2020
Becoming a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world! Every experienced mother knows that motherhood comes with a unique set of challenges. Now, COVID-19 has presented another set of stressors for mothers forcing many to balance various roles.
These are unprecedented times. We know that women and mothers often bear a disproportionate share of the brunt of family stress. As a mother, managing your maternal and emotional well-being is more important than ever.
Make Time For Self-Care
As a mother, you devote so much time and energy into caring for your children that it’s important to take some downtime yourself. Take a walk, read a book, meditate, watch your favorite show, or take a long hot shower.
Remember that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential! Small acts of self-care can help move you forward in positivity and wellness.
Connect With Your Children
As we said before, becoming a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs in the entire world! Even though all of the stress and chaos of current times, it’s important to connect and spend quality time with your children and families. Go on a nature hike, play a board game, or make dinner together. Don’t let the pandemic stand in the way of creating family memories.
Talk About How You Feel
Worrying can occupy a great deal of your time and energy and drain you both physically and emotionally. It’s important that you don’t carry the burden entirely. You want to truly enjoy motherhood, not just survive it.
This is especially important to remember during a pandemic. Therapy can help you release those feelings in a safe space. You can learn to control your reactions and to make a plan for taking care of yourself while you’re taking care of the little kids.
Elizabeth Edwards has a passion for working with women and couples struggling with parenting, perinatal and postpartum concerns in our Fuquay-Varina office. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support!
How To Maintain A Relationship With Your ChildAugust 14, 2020
COVID-19 has changed almost everything in our current life. It’s true that life looks different right now. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all bad! There are still good things in life and, if you think about it, some things haven’t changed at all.
Our children still need and crave our affection, attention, and affirmation. COVID-19 could provide a perfect opportunity to invest in our children like never before. Many of the distractions of our everyday lives are not present perhaps leaving more time to connect with our families.
It is important to remember that every child needs and appreciates different things from their parents. During this season, here are some ideas to maintain your relationship with your child.
Let them be the expert at something
Really strive to have your child teach you or talk to you about something they are passionate about. This gives them the opportunity to “be the expert” which not only will boost their confidence but also draw you closer together as they see that you care about what they are interested in.
Work to spend 30 minutes per day with your child uninterrupted.
Let them take the lead. Do they want to read with you? Play with you? Draw with you? This small deposit of time will reap dividends for your relationship.
Include them in what you are already doing. Think of ways to include them in your everyday life. Are you cooking dinner? Invite them in. Are you working out at home? Include them or take them with you on that run.
Ask open-ended questions
Instead of asking “Did you have a good day?” Ask “what was your favorite part of today?” This naturally will keep the conversation going and will give you more insight into what is going on in their world.
Set An Example
Lastly, treat other people in your life with respect and love. Our children learn how to treat people and can tell if we care for others. When children see this, they often personalize this to themselves.
When we speak lovingly to our spouse or other family members, our children learn to respect and that we as parents value relationships with people. Children will then internalize this and know that we as parents care about them as well.
If you are struggling to maintain and enrich relationships with your children, we can help! In addition to family therapy, we offer many other forms of therapy and services at our Raleigh and Fuquay Varina offices.
Written By: Elizabeth Edwards, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
3 Essential Tips to Build Parent-Child Relationships While Homeschooling This School YearAugust 5, 2020
School looks a lot different this year not only for families in Raleigh, but for families across the nation. In March, U.S. schools were not prepared for an overnight shift to virtual learning. Now, months later, virtual learning is still looking like the best option for many many families amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
However you are feeling about back-to-school plans this fall, there are ways you can move forward in positivity and strengthen relationships with your children this school year. Here are a few tips from Foundations Family Therapy’s Founder Jamie Criswell who has been homeschooling long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focus on Quantity over Quality
The age-old debate about which is more beneficial, time or quality, is never more at play then when you suddenly find yourself struggling with both. How do I possibly give my child well planned out instructional time, fun time, family time etc. while also working, taking care of their younger siblings, cleaning the house and learning how to help with online learning?
We believe that “done is better than perfect”, which also translates to quantity (the amount of time) is better than quality (the perfect way to spend time) in this case. That could mean spending 10 minutes doing something your child/teen enjoys with them. Maybe build in a quick break between online learning for a walk, or turn up the music for a quick dance session.
Perhaps a 10-minute play session with Barbies or legos is just what your child needs. A simple block of just 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day can go a long way in letting your child know you care and enjoy spending time with them.
Have Lots of Grace
This whole online learning space and being home more hours than away is still new (even if you’ve now been doing it since March). You and your child are likely still coming to terms with things not being back to “normal” like we all hoped they would be by now.
Your child could be grieving the loss of what they thought school would look like this year. Lack of sports and other activities can also be disappointing.
Understand that they are missing their friends and are likely frustrated that this fall will likely not bring a return of those social interactions in the way they hoped.
You may be dealing with frustration and fear over how you’re going to juggle working with online learning and childcare. We understand! Give yourself and your child some extra grace. Be quick to forgive and recognize that each of you may be more easily agitated, angry, or sad. Acknowledge these feelings for yourself and help your child acknowledge theirs. Let them
know that you’re trying your best too and that while it may not look the way either of you wanted, there are some good things that can come from it. Try to focus on those, maybe even listing a few positives from each day with your child.
Talk it out
One thing that is sure to happen is miscommunication. Practice using the speaker-listener technique with your child to make sure that you both are feeling heard. Use “I” statements, feeling words, and short statements to describe what you would like to say. The listener can then reflect back on what they heard to ensure clarity. It goes like this:
Speaker: “I am frustrated with this assignment and I need help with understanding it”
Listener: “I hear you saying that you are frustrated and you would like for me to help you?”
Speaker: “Yes, that is it”
Though it may seem like a simple exercise, we often don’t practice it and both parties end up feeling not heard. It probably looks something like this:
Speaker: “I can’t stand This, it makes no sense!”
Listener: “What do you want me to do, you have to do your work!”
Speaker: “I’m done!”
This scenario may sound familiar and often ends in frustration and anger for both parties, with each of you feeling unheard, helpless, and not supported.
Taking the time to practice speaking and listening can help a lot when things become difficult or emotions are running high. Helping each person feel heard and understood goes a long way in building and protecting your relationship with your child (this works with partners too!) and leaves everyone feeling more connected.
Above all this school year, go easy on yourself! Remember that we all are doing the best we can! Find a plan that works for you and your family. Create schedules and routines that can help keep you on track and don’t hesitate to reach out for support!
A big part of reaching out for support is making your emotional health a priority as we continue to face these challenging times. If you or someone you love is struggling with adjustments to the new normal, we have therapists in Fuquay Varina, Raleigh and North Carolina providing in-office and telehealth services to help you thrive.
The Emotional Impact of COVID-19 On TeensJuly 29, 2020
Parenting is hard, especially during these unprecedented times. We’ve all been asked to adjust, adapt, and change our lives which isn’t easy for anyone.
When our world changes suddenly, because of things like COVID-19, it is common to experience changes in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry are typical in stressful situations. And, even though we’ve been adapting to COVID-19 for 6 months, it’s still not easy.
Consider the stresses your teen may be experiencing. Social distancing and virtual learning can be really hard for teens who thrive on connection and socialization. Here are a few signs of stress to watch for and factors that may affect your teen’s emotional responses.
Watch Out For Unhealthy Eating or Sleeping Habits
Proper nutrition and sleep are an essential part of our overall wellness. Sleep is critical to our overall health and the effective functioning of our immune systems. It also impacts our emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety.
Healthy routines may have flown out the window over the past few months but it’s never too late to get your family back on track. Try to establish flexible routines that provide structure…especially around eating and sleeping! Stock up on healthy foods and snacks. Avoid sugary drinks and high-fat foods.
Even though teens may be less receptive to having a strict “bedtime”, you can find creative ways to make sure your teen is getting enough sleep each night. Aim to do things at roughly the same time each day. That doesn’t mean your teen has to set the alarm for 6 a.m. just because they used to when school was open. But try to stick to a daily regular bedtime, wake time, and learning schedule.
Talk About Excessive Worry or Sadness
Anxiety and depression are on the rise across the country. Help your teen feel supported and heard by keeping the lines of communication open. They need to know they can come to you to talk about any concerns or worries. Take a few moments each day to talk with the teens in your life about how they are feeling and what may help them during this difficult time.
Remember to lead with compassion and understanding. Sometimes, the anger we express towards a person the person we are trying to support can be more reflective of our anger over feeling helpless. As parents, this response is particularly strong with our children. It’s easy to miscommunicate our anger and stress. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too!
Help Them Concentrate
Whatever school looks like for the 2020-21 school year, it’s important to help your teen develop and grow emotionally and academically. Approach the school year with a positive outlook and new mindset even if it’s not what you hoped for. Remember, families across the country are finding ways to adjust to this new normal so you’re not alone.
Help your teen stay focused by creating routines and structure. Outline expectations and provide support in whatever way possible. Be available to communicate and help your teen with school work. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when you need it! Many parents are wearing a teacher’s hat for the first time. Be sure to tap into all of your resources and find ways
to channel your frustration in healthy ways when times get tough.
Above all, try to remember your own experiences as an adolescent. When you were upset, what did you need most from your parents? If your teen is struggling, we can help! The teen counselors at Foundations Family
Therapy are experts at talking to teenagers. We like working with teenagers. That may sound strange to some parents, but as therapists, we truly believe in your teen and enjoy working with them.
Schedule an appointment today with our Fuquay Varina or Raleigh, NC therapists.
Self-Improvement Tips That Will Help You Move Forward In SuccessJuly 16, 2020
Successful people often have a few common characteristics that have helped them move past their mental roadblocks and into a thriving mindset. There are hundreds of videos and self-help books out there that share success tips and tricks but success boils down to self-improvement and personal growth.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you move forward in success…
Develop A Growth Mindset
Successful people are not afraid of making mistakes and taking on challenges. They leave their fixed mindset behind…the one telling them they’ll never change and their environment will always stay the same… to move into a growth mindset.
People who have a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They always take away lessons from the negative things that have happened in order to build resilience.
While setbacks happen to everyone, you can keep moving forward in positivity even after a few steps back. That’s what resilience is all about!
For example, instead of thinking, “I really don’t understand this new program at work. I’ll never understand it so I give up!,” try thinking with personal growth in mind, “I don’t know it yet, but I will learn.”
Don’t let the fear of failure be the voice that stands in the way of your success in life.
Create a Plan
Personal development plans help you stay on track and meet your goals. They are a good way to attain more self-awareness and figure out what aspects of personal development have been working and which aspects you need to improve.
Not sure where to start? Grab a notebook or journal and make a commitment to write each day. Evaluate your vision and your values. What does success look like and feel like to you? Create small and measurable steps to get there.
Include periodic check-ins with questions like…
Am I taking care of my mental and physical health?
Am I coping with stress effectively?
Are my goals aligned with my life vision?
Coping with Stress
Coping with stress in a healthy way is an important part of the journey to success. Stress can blur your clarity and focus. It can have an effect on how you eat, sleep, or think. Stress can dampen your productivity and create problems in meaningful relationships.
Managing stress is an important part of your overall health and wellness. Try incorporating some common stress-relieving habits like meditation, exercise, socializing, reading, or simply changing up your environment.
It is also important to know your triggers when you feel extremely overwhelmed and need a break. We understand. You’re tired of just surviving each day. You want something different. You’re ready to take your life back, to gain control over your thoughts and feelings, to repair your relationships. You were made for more than just surviving; you were made to thrive.
Our team of licensed therapists in Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh help struggling individuals, couples, and families gain hope, reclaim their foundation, and move from surviving to thriving.
How To Curb Negative ThinkingJuly 3, 2020
We’ve all been there…
Lost in a downward spiral of negative thinking. It’s a self-defeating cycle fueled by doubt and anxiety. It continues to build and gain momentum like a snowball down a hill taking out everything in its path.
These feelings are only intensified for those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Negative thinking can easily feel like quicksand if left unmanaged.
The good news is you can stop negative thinking in its tracks and move forward in positivity. Here are a few things to keep in mind…
One of the best ways to stop negative thinking is to refocus your energy on the current moment. Stop and be present. The next time you feel yourself spiraling into negativity, remember to shift your thinking to the here and now.
Mindfulness techniques work to help keep you present and focused on the current moment. There are several mindfulness practices you can use to stop anxious thoughts from flooding in. Focus on your breathing. Let go of all the “what-ifs” and negative self-talk.
Tune Into Your Thoughts
You are not your thoughts.
When your thoughts are negative, they can make you feel sad, angry, and confused. Remember, thoughts are never the real you! Let your thoughts come…process them…and let them go.
As you process your thoughts, think about why you might be feeling a certain way. Many times, there’s an underlying cause to your negativity that you can work out on a deeper level. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support!
Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries in all areas of your life can help you thrive! Boundaries are important in relationships with others and with ourselves. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by learning when (and how) to say “no”. Also, don’t fall victim to the comparison trap social media sometimes presents.
When you feel your thoughts spiraling negatively, take a step back.
Stop and listen—ask yourself why they are happening.
Once you do, set some boundaries that will prevent a downward spiral of negativity in the future.
Everyone experiences negative thoughts from time to time but it’s important no to let them spiral and ruin your entire day. We’re here to help you to gain control over your thoughts and feelings. Give our office a call today!
Is Your Family Struggling With Staying At Home? Family Therapy In Raleigh, NC Can HelpJune 18, 2020
When will the coronavirus threat pass?
When can I safely make plans with my friends again?
How will the economy turnaround?
At this point, it seems like we have more questions than answers. There are so many unknowns as we continue to move through these challenging times. Lockdowns and regulations are starting to take an emotional toll on families. But even during these uncertain times, there are plenty of ways your family can move forward in positivity and strength.
Communication is Key
Being part of a family unit is hard and COVID-19 has made that strain even harder for some families. We are all imperfect individuals coming together trying to connect, engage, and balance multiple personalities, goals, dreams, demands, and constant changes. What we crave is connection, support, love, calm, and acceptance.
Some families are adjusting to telework and may find it difficult to get their work done due to lack of childcare, confined spaces, technological issues. Other families are struggling with lack of social freedom (especially in teens). We all have unique struggles as a family.
With all of these additional stressors, communication is more essential than ever! It helps provide clarity, respect, and understanding during these challenging times. Sometimes we miscommunicate. Other times we forget to say important things. Help your spouse and family members by communicating what’s important to you. And, on the flip side, don’t forget to listen to what’s important to them.
Anger Is A Secondary Emotion
Oftentimes kids will show anger on the outside, but on the inside, there is usually a lot of fear or sadness. All of the COVID-19 transitions and adjustments can add to the anger and confusion kids experience. At Foundations Family Therapy, we can help angry kids manage their behaviors, express their feelings in a healthy way, and increase
their communication. Your child is struggling right now. Child counseling at our Fuquay Varina our Raleigh counseling office can help.
How To Bridge The Distance Gap
Now, some families are separated from loved ones like grandparents because of COVID-19 safety regulations. Humans are wired for connection and affection making self-isolation and loneliness rising concerns. The good news is there are ways you can connect, communicate, and nurture relationships from miles away.
Our Family Therapists help families learn to communicate better and reconnect from near or far. We treat the entire family as a unit to help each person feel heard and valued within the family system. Through family counseling, you can move through these difficult times and come out on the other side even stronger as a family.
Above all, it’s important to remember that our current state is temporary. The world has gotten through pandemics before and sooner or later this too will pass. Find the good in each day and use this time of ‘togetherness’ to cultivate healthy, stronger relationships with those you love. We’re here to help strengthen your family unit so you can move forward in positivity and love.
3 Essential Steps To Becoming An Active ListenerJune 11, 2020
Hearing is something we do every day.
We hear the sound of a lawnmower or the sound of a beeping car horn. Our sense of hearing is not necessarily something that we can just “turn off” – it’s involuntary.
On the other hand, active listening is about tuning in to a conversation with motivation and purpose. Active listeners tune in with an intention to connect and participate in a conversation – not just hear.
Active listening can help nourish meaningful relationships in your life. Use these 3 tips that can help you become a more active listener in your relationships.
Master Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal conversation has a lot of deep meaning. You can learn to read and use body language in ways that help build better relationships. Eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and posture affect the way you are communicating.
These nonverbal cues can signal interest, affection, or hostility without saying a word. Before you engage in a conversation, think about all of your nonverbal cues and what they communicate.
Put down your cell phone and shut off the TV! Active listening is about making a conscious decision to hear what people are saying. It’s about being completely focused on others—their words and their messages—without being distracted.
Active listeners can tune out distractions and noise to tune into the conversation at hand. In its most basic form, active listening is when someone is listening for meaning and feeling and not just content. When you eliminate background noise and distractions you are signaling that the conversation (and your relationship) is a priority.
Mindfulness is an essential part of active listening. When you are mindful, you make a conscious decision to focus on the moment at hand. Mindfulness helps you focus on the here and now which is an especially important skill set. We’re so often triggered by words the words we hear that it’s hard for us to understand what’s really being said.
Remember that mastering communication and the art of active listening is something that takes work in any relationship. The good news is that it’s an achievable goal.
At Foundations Family Therapy, we provide counseling to help strengthen relationships. Whether you are trying to work through something small or on the brink of divorce, counseling can help if you and your partner are ready to work on your relationship. Give us a call today!