The Child and Family Mental Health blog is pleased to present its first guest post, written by social worker Jennifer Kogan, a clinical social worker in Washington, DC who specializes in working with parents to solve problems, boost communication skills, and help find ways to make life more manageable. An experienced and caring clinician, Jen has more than 15 years of experience working with families in the Greater Washington, DC area. You can find out more about Jen and here practice here.
The level of anxiety that many parents feel seems to be growing all the time. Stress can be high and people have less and less down time. Television and magazine articles may offer quick and easy recipes to solve parenting challenges. However, this kind of information often glosses over reality and can leave entire families feeling unheard and alone.
Slow It Down
In this culture of unease, it can help to slow everything down. I often ask the people I work with to think about how they felt growing up in their own families of origin. What was the stress level on a scale from 1 to 10? How did their parents handle discipline with them and their siblings? How about affection? How was that displayed? Often, the answers to these questions can shift the viewpoint away from your performance and turn instead to meeting your child where he/she is at this very moment.
Wonder to Yourself
I ask parents to wonder to themselves, “What is the need that is trying to be met here?” This the best question to ask yourself first and then to pose to your child as you traverse each day’s hills and valleys.
Find Your Unity and Purpose
What can strength a family is a sense of unity and purpose. I encourage parents to nourish themselves both as individuals and then together as a couple. This is because it is much easier to parent when you are feeling joyful and strong. I introduce the idea of guided imagery (relaxing by listening to a story or music on CD) to parents. Trying this at home can empower both parent and child. Other techniques to foster a greater sense of connection include creating a family crest or symbol together and holding regular family meetings where everyone gets a chance to talk.
There will always be days, weeks, or months where stress can occur in a family. I believe that remaining open and playful can quiet the fears and allow clients to walk calmly beside their children into the world that awaits them.
-Posted by Jennifer Kogan