Navigating LGBT Parenthood with Your Partner

The phrase “traditional family” no longer means one mom, one dad and two-point-five kids. Today’s families are diverse, with many lesbians and gay men forming a family unit through adoption, foster care, artificial insemination and other means. Research estimates that between six to 14 million children live with at least one gay parents in the United States alone.

Though it is, in some ways, simpler for LGBTQ adults to become parents in today’s more-inclusive climate, that doesn’t make it an easy proposition. Parenting is hard enough, but raising a child in an LGBT partnership or as an LGBTQ individual can be particularly challenging. This is especially true for those parents who live outside of bigger metropolitan areas with larger gay populations, where there is little to no chance of interacting with other LGBTQ parents.

Here are some of the most common concerns I hear from my LGBTQ clients when they begin to think about starting a family:

What About Role Models?

A big concern in the community is that a child will suffer from not having a male or female role model present on a daily basis. But research has shown that children of two moms and two dads grow up to be perfectly healthy and happy, in some cases more so than children who grew up in heterosexual households where a mom and dad were both present.

What About Homophobia?

It’s understandable that LGBTQ parents would worry that their child would be taunted, or even assaulted, because of their “non-traditional” family structure. No parent can 100% guarantee that their child will never be taunted or bullied, for any reason. LGBTQ couples and individuals should talk candidly with their children and prepare them for any possible negative interactions with peers. The best thing to do is to set an example by always standing tall and proud in the world, and not shying away from a confrontation while not escalating it.

What About Cost and Legal Issues?

LGBTQ parents can’t simply try to conceive, there is much more thought, planning and cost that goes into starting a family. Statistically, women make less money than men. When you factor in that getting pregnant can be incredibly expensive, you begin to understand why so many lesbian couples decide to hold off on becoming parents until they are financially stable. For many, this means waiting until their late 30’s or even early 40s.

Same-sex parents must also tackle legal issues. For men, who will be the sperm donor, if trying to conceive through insemination? Women must determine who will carry the child. Much thought is necessary when considering custody and adoption arrangements, particularly if parents live in a state where getting legal recognition for both parents is next to impossible.

Navigating these complexities can be overwhelming and stressful, to say the very least. My clients have found it to be tremendously helpful just to have someone who will listen and try and help them explore all of their options. I am also able to help couples work through any tension they may be experiencing because of this stress.

If you are an LGBTQ individual or couple who would like some help navigating the often-emotional journey of becoming a parent, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Support LGBTQ Teens Coming Out

The LGBTQ movement has made some landmark strides in the past decade. The “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, health insurance discrimination has been prevented, and same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. This, in combination with greater awareness and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in society and the media, has helped LGBTQ teens find the courage to come out to their families and friends.

Though it is easier for teens to come out today than in generations past, that does not mean they do not need support, and plenty of it. Here are a few important ways you can support LGBTQ teens in coming out:

1. Encourage Authenticity

There are different levels of coming out. Some teenagers may find the courage to say the words, yet still have a hard time fully expressing themselves. If left unchecked, this muted self-expression can lead to anxiety and depression down the road. Try to find ways to let young people in your life know they can be 100% authentic around you.

2. Help Create Safe Spaces

Take a look around your local community to see if there are safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. If not, what can you do to change that? You might want to consider contacting school board officials and encourage them to adopt inclusive policies. Another way to ensure your community is safe for LGBTQ teens is to not tolerate hate speech. There are also many resources online that offer the best practices in creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.

3. Join the Fight

Though the LGBTQ movement has come a long way, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure full LGBTQ equality. You can join the fight and stay up-to-date on local, state and federal advocacy.

If you know an LGBTQ teen who needs some extra support and encouragement while coming out, you might suggest they speak with a professional counselor who can facilitate communication with family members and also offer coping tools and strategies.

How to Prepare Your Toddler to Be an Older Sibling

Telling your toddler that they are no longer going to be your only baby, is one of the toughest tasks you’d face as a parent. Becoming an older sibling is a huge transition for toddlers to make, and the arrival of a new baby brings a lot of changes to a family. It’s natural for parents to shift most of their attention to the new baby. However, it’s often hard for the older sibling(s) to adjust to these changes. They may start feeling jealous or neglected and react to these feelings by acting out.

You can make this transition smooth for your toddler, and make them excited to become an older sibling by preparing them adequately. To make this process easier, here are 5
simple ways you can prepare your toddler.

1. Break the news properly – Tell your toddler in a simple way, that ‘mommy is carrying a new baby, and you’re going to become a big brother/sister.’ Toddlers have a limited understanding of time, so it’s better to tell them when you’re almost due. By then you’d be showing, and they don’t have to wait too long to meet the baby.

2. Reassure them – Spend more time cuddling and doing fun activities with your toddler. Reassure them by saying things like ‘you will always be my special baby’. This will help with any feelings of jealousy and confusion they may be experiencing.

3. Make them part of the process – Take them through the pregnancy journey with you. Read books about babies together, and let them help you pick stuff for the new baby. Show them pictures from the ultrasound, let them feel the baby kick and ask them questions like, do you think the baby is going to have brown hair like you?

4. Give them a present – Give them something they’ve always wanted and say it’s from the baby. It will make them feel like they have a new friend.

5. Give your toddler tasks – It’s important to make your child feel like they’re taking on the new, huge role of being a big sister or brother rather than losing their position as the baby of the house. Let your toddler help you with little things like handing you diapers, and picking out clothes for the baby. Remind them that they get to do cool things like teaching the baby how to play their favorite games and songs.

Your kids are going to be the best of friends eventually, but remember that it’s not going to happen immediately. Be patient with your toddler and let them see that having a new sibling means they get a new playmate and best friend who’s also family. Walk with them through the process, and always reassure them of your love.

If your toddler is having trouble adjusting to having a new baby in the house, you can contact me to book a session.

The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the most painful things each person must face. The shock of your beloved friend or family member having passed away, along with the finality of their death is difficult to deal with.

Everyone Mourns Differently

The process of mourning is a very personal experience. Because grief is so personal, each person reacts differently to the death of a loved one; your instinct may be to reach out and connect, and the instinct of your friend or relative may be to retreat, distract themselves with work or hobbies or shut down.

Your relationship with the deceased was a unique one, so the process in which you grieve the loss will also be unique and personal to you. The close friends and family that you would expect to be there for you in one of the most challenging times of your life may not be present in the way you’d hoped or anticipated. Even your spouse or partner may not provide the comfort you’d expect.

Relationships Impacted by Grief Will Change

Although it’s disappointing and hurtful to experience what feels like a breakdown in your relationships when you need them the most, you must realize that your friends, family and spouse are likely also affected by grief, and going through their own process of mourning.

It’s also important not to rely solely on your spouse for comfort. It’s healthier for both of you, and will ease the stress on your marriage, if you have other people to turn to for help.

The impact of grief is an incredible strain on your existing relationships, as who you are as a person is temporarily altered as you struggle to cope with the loss and find a way to move forward. Your close friends and loved ones may have difficulty coping with how you’re mourning, causing them to pull away temporarily. They could also be very used to seeing you as a source of strength, and a pillar, and seeing you in this vulnerable state (in addition to possibly dealing with their own grief) is more than they can bear.

Seek Out New Sources of Support

Maintaining relationships takes effort, and they’re vulnerable to the difficulties we face as we move through life. You may need to turn to distant family members, other friends or acquaintances, make new connections through bereavement groups or seek professional help from a mental health counselor to find solace and understanding.

Although we can expect bereavement to change our relationships, we can also expect some semblance of normalcy as everyone affected copes with the loss over the passage of time. By forgiving friends or loved ones who weren’t there for you as you dealt with your grief, you can re-establish lost connections.

If you’re having difficulty with your relationships as you grieve and need some understanding and guidance, please give me a call and we can set up an appointment to talk.

 

Advice on Staying True to New Year’s Resolutions

Be honest, did you make New year’s resolutions this year that you have yet to stick to? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that typically 77% of people are only able to keep their resolutions for 1 week, 64% keep them for one month, 50% for 3 months, and only 19% are able to keep their resolutions for over one year! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11920693)

If only New Year’s resolutions were more like leather sofas during hot summer months, we’d all be able to stick to them easily. But no matter what we do, it sometimes seems impossible to lose that weight, stop smoking, or learn a new language (among many other pledges).

If you’re feeling guilty for not being able to stick with your resolutions, here are some ways you can stay true to them:

Be Sure They are Doable

Many people set themselves up for failure when setting unrealistic goals. If your resolution is to lose 50 pounds by summer, that may not be realistic for your personal situation.

In order to be successful, you’ve got to pick the right resolution, meaning, it has got to be personal to you, it has got to be achievable by you, and you have to create a plan to get there.

Take Baby Steps

If your resolution is to exercise more, don’t plan on working out for two hours each day, six days a week. Your body won’t be able to handle that if you’ve been inactive for some time. It will feel painful and you’ll want to give up. Instead, start small and build gradually. Decide to go to the gym twice a week for half an hour, then three times a week for an hour, etc.

Tackle One Resolution at a Time

Maybe you want to lose weight, build muscle, learn Mandarin, and start writing that novel. These are all great goals to have, but good luck tackling all of them at the same time.

Your best bet is to prioritize and tackle one goal at a time. Is your health at risk? If so, losing some weight should probably be a priority. Will learning Mandarin help you get that job promotion? Then maybe that should be on top of the list. Only when you feel you have a handle on one goal and have made progress should you consider adding another resolution to your “to-do” list.

You may also want to ask for support from friends and family. Accepting help from those who care is one great way to make sure you stick to your goals. Also, consider seeking help from a trained therapist. Mental health professionals can offer powerful tools that can help you uncover obstacles, where they came from, and tools to help you overcome them.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you stick to your resolutions and move your life forward.

Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child

If your child is sensitive to the emotions of others, worrisome and easily overwhelmed by changes or new people and environments, you may have a highly sensitive child. Parenting can be demanding, and parenting a highly sensitive child can present additional challenges. However, with a few simple strategies, you can better manage everyday problems and create a more peaceful home for the both of you.

Change Your Viewpoint

First, it’s important to change your viewpoint. Your initial reaction might be to see your highly sensitive child’s special needs as a detriment, rather than an asset. However, highly sensitive children tend to be more creative, insightful and empathic. With proper guidance and understanding, your child will grow into a happy and well-adjusted adult.

Encouragement and Praise

Your highly sensitive child will maintain his sensitivity into adulthood. Therefore, it’s crucial that he learn as a child to embrace and manage his emotions. Feeling shame about his sensitivity could cause him to develop anxiety and depression as he ages.

Validate your child’s feelings by encouraging him to express himself, and listen when he speaks. Encourage your child to manage his emotions rather than suppress them. Don’t ask or expect your child to “toughen up.”

Your sensitive child will also benefit from praise on a job well done, as this will help him develop confidence in himself.

Help Them Prepare

Sensitive children can become easily overwhelmed by new environments and people, so a little preparation can be helpful to both of you. For example, if your child is headed to a new classroom, prepare him a week or so in advance by visiting the school, playing in the playground and meeting some of the teachers. Reassure him that it’s natural to feel a little anxious, and that the other children are nervous as well.

Create a Safe Space

It’s often important for highly sensitive children to retreat to a quiet place where they can be alone with their thoughts. Their safe space can be a literal space you’ve created, or it can be as simple as a container of crayons, blank paper and their favorite stuffed animal in a quiet area of the house.

Get Involved

If you notice that your child tends to isolate or have great difficulty in social situations, try volunteering for field trips or as an occasional recess or lunch monitor. Encourage your child to participate by interacting with the other children. When he sees you having fun, he’s more likely to go from observing to participating.

With love and gentle guidance, your highly sensitive child will develop a confidence and self-acceptance that will carry him into adulthood. If you or your highly sensitive child needs guidance and support, please give me a call to schedule an appointment.

How Sex Might Change During and After Pregnancy

Many couples are thrilled to find out that they will soon be expecting a baby. Hours are spent picking out the perfect name, perfect paint color for the nursery, and perfect crib or bassinet.

And then a reality suddenly dawns on them… how will being pregnant affect their sex life? Will they even have a sex life anymore? While there are no medical reasons that couples can’t have sex during a normal and healthy pregnancy, they may find their desire for sex waxes and wanes. This is perfectly normal.

What to Expect (in the bedroom) When Expecting

During the first trimester, most women feel exhausted and, well, nauseous. Her breasts may have also become extremely tender. It goes without saying that things in the bedroom might cool off a bit in these first few months.

But not to worry, many women report that their libido gets a second wind during the second trimester. It is during these three months that women are the most physically comfortable. However, it is also during this time that women really begin to show. These physical changes may throw men a little. They may start to worry that they will hurt the baby, and some may simply not feel as attracted as they once did.

The last trimester can be challenging for couples simply because the baby has gotten so big, and finding positions that are comfortable for everyone can be… a bit difficult. It is during this time that women can feel extremely uncomfortable and unattractive, and yes, okay, maybe even a wee bit cranky. During this time, it’s a good idea for couples to find a way to connect without sex.

Sex After Delivery

It’s common for couples to reassure each other that once the baby is born, their sex life will go right back to what it was before they got pregnant. This generally isn’t the case. For starters, healthcare professionals suggest women wait around 6 weeks after giving birth to resume having vaginal sex, even if the baby was born via C-section, as the body needs time to heal. Oral sex, however, is fine.

Once it is safe to begin having sex again, and once the woman feels up to it, most couples find they are simply too tired to have it! Some women may find their minds and hearts to be in the mood, but their body does not cooperate. Numerous hormonal changes can leave the vagina feeling dry and tender. That’s why it is important to listen to your body and take things slow.

The most important thing couples can do, as they wait for things to return to normal (spoiler alert: once you have a child, nothing will ever be normal again, and that’s a wonderful thing!) is to communicate truthfully and honestly with one another.

If communication is strained, or if you think the new mother might be suffering from post-partum depression, it’s important to seek help from a professional therapist. He or she will help you navigate the tumultuous emotions that come along with birth and parenthood.

If you or a loved one would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How Biofeedback Can Help with Anger

Anger is a normal human emotion, however, if it’s not managed properly, it can have disastrous consequences that have the potential to hurt you and others. A lot of people don’t know how to process anger properly. They pile up their frustrations and emotions until they reach a breaking point and explode instead of dealing with the anger in a healthy and rational manner.

Most people express anger irrationally and this causes them to feel bad about themselves, especially if they hurt other people in the process. However, you don’t have to struggle with your anger. Biofeedback and Neurofeedback techniques offer skills that help people manage anger effectively. 

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback techniques offer individuals the skills they need to manage anger effectively. Biofeedback focuses on controlling the power of your mind, to make you aware of what’s going on deep inside you and help you harness more control over your emotions and overall health.

So, How Does It Work?

 Researchers haven’t managed to figure out exactly how Biofeedback therapy works, but what they do know is that it enhances relaxation. The Boston Children’s Hospital conducted a study on children who had received biofeedback therapy with the use of a video game program. What they found was a breathrough. They found these children that were exposed to biofeedback therapy had better control over their reactions to daily frustrations compared to before the treatment.

Several relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and mindful meditation are used in biofeedback therapy. A biofeedback therapist will help you to control different body functions using different relaxation excercises. For example, biofeedback teaches deep breathing as a relaxation technique. Focusing on the breath and breathing deeply will allow the executive control center of the brain to keep the midbrain and emotional centers balanced. This allows the mind to view situations objectively rather than reacting impulsively.

There are different types of Biofeedback techniques that can be used to monitor different bodily functions. For anger, Neurofeedback techniques are used. Neurofeedback helps create a stronger connection between the emotional center of the brain and the executive control center. This way, you learn to gain better control over your emotional responses and behaviour. Anger is then expressed in a healthy and rational way.

Biofeedback is a well-researched technique that helps individuals learn to control responses that many believe are impulsive or uncontrollable. If you or someone you love is struggling with anger issues, biofeedback may be the solution you are missing. I use neurofeedback and biofeedback to help people manage their anger in a positive and healthy ways. Please contact me to book a session.

Self-Care Tips for Special Needs Parents

The concept of selflessness is often seen as a virtue; and yet, if we fail to fulfill our own needs and nurture ourselves, we are less able to help and serve others.

As a parent of a child with special needs, you probably spend most of your days so busy with the demanding needs of your family that you neglect to take care of yourself. For parents of special needs children, a little selfishness is an absolute must. In order to give the most of yourself, you have to be your best self. To be at your best, a committed regimen of self-care is a must.

Sleep

Among the most fundamental of needs is rest. Adequate sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. A full night’s sleep will boost your energy, mood, memory and creativity while lowering stress levels.

Nutrition

Good nutrition is not just a benefit to you as a parent, but it has a long-term impact on your children as well. You’ll teach them healthy eating habits that will carry on into adulthood as you improve your own health and longevity. Keeping your meals and snacks colorful with fruits and vegetables will provide energy and help you stave off lethargy as you boost your mental clarity.

Sunlight

Taking your child on a short walk to the local park or playground will benefit both of you as you get in some much needed sunlight and a bit of exercise. According to the World Health Organization, just five to fifteen minutes of casual sun exposure will provide you with the vitamin D benefits of the sun; this includes a general feeling of well-being along with numerous health benefits.

Support

Play dates are a great way to integrate your special needs child socially, but it also benefits you with some much-needed downtime. Make a list of friends and loved ones you can call or video chat with when you need to talk. Look for community support groups to find other parents in your area you can turn to for advice and understanding. You can also seek the professional guidance of a mental health specialist for additional support.

Meditate

Meditation can seem like an unnecessary indulgence or a waste of time to a busy parent, but numerous scientific studies have proven the many health benefits of meditation. Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Meditation is easy, and something anyone can learn. Simply type “how to meditate” into a search engine or on YouTube and you’ll find several guides on how to get started on this simple practice.

If you’re a special needs parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Ways Play Therapy Can Improve Your Child’s Life

Children have great imaginations, and they use it in every aspect of their lives. Play is a huge part of children’s lives and they create imaginary scenarios with their toys all the time. If something is going on in a child’s life, one of the best ways to discover their true emotions is by watching them play.

Play therapy is a psychotherapeutic treatment, specially developed to help children between the ages of 3 to 12. A play therapist works with the child to explore and resolve their issues through the therapeutic use of play.

A safe space called a playroom is created. This allows the child to play with specially chosen toys, encourages them to express their feelings and helps them develop healthier behaviors. A a variety of techniques such as drama, storytelling, sandplay, painting, drawing and creative visualisation can be used.

Who can benefit from play therapy?

– Children who are constantly aggressive and willfully disobedient.
– Children who are ill or grieving
– Children who have depression, anxiety or attachment problems
– Children who are involved with fostering or adoption
– Children with conditions like autism and speech problems

Here are some ways play therapy helps children:

1. It helps them heal from past traumatic experiences- When children go through traumatic events, the negative experiences can create emotional and behavioral problems. Play therapy helps them make sense of the traumatic experience, by using their imagination to express themselves through toys. For example, a child who has witnessed domestic violence may make his toys fight each other. Play helps the child unpack emotions, understand the experience better and heal.

2. It enhances creative thoughts and ideas- During play, children use their imagination and creative skills to learn through play. During play therapy, children get to create different scenarios with different endings. This gives them a better understanding of what’s happening in their lives, and helps them cope.

3. It helps them deal with difficult emotions and situations- Play therapy involves activities that helps the therapist discover how the child deals with difficult emotions and situations and help the children address these difficulties. For example, a child may feel like they caused their parent’s divorce by being naughty. The therapist can help correct this wrong belief and help to eliminate feelings of guilt by encouraging positive thoughts.

4. It gives the child emotional support and helps them communicate their problems and concerns with others- In play therapy, children learn to work through difficult feelings and memories that they may not know how to put in words by expressing themselves symbolically with the use of toys. This helps the adults in their lives understand what children need in order to provide the right type of help and support.

Play therapy is quite beneficial to children, and kids who go through play therapy show great
improvement and display a higher level of confidence. Working through difficult feelings through play can be deeply restorative for children.

If you would like your child to see a play therapist, please contact me to book a session.