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Family drama is for your mama....

One of the topics that come up often is how to deal with “family drama”. It seems as though everyone,
including me, has some sort of family difficulty. Around the holiday season can be a time we are
excited to see our families but also cringe when we realize what is in store.

There are definitely two types of ways to deal with family
drama. The first one is empowering yourself to set clear and consistent boundaries with family members. The way to do this is very similar to discipline and “I-Messages” with your children. You
use feeling words with a direct, but imperative tone. For example, a person could set a boundary by
saying, “I know you are trying to help me but when you say this to me it makes me angry. I think we should just agree to not approach this topic”. It’s important to remember to ask yourself:

  1. What are you needing from this person

  2. How can you get your point across in a firm, but
    clear tone

  3. How will you handle it if boundaries are crossed

If you’ve tried letting family members know how you feel and
it seems as though they just don’t “get it” and won’t change, then you’ve got
to get to the next step: figuring out a way to know they are going to be this
way but it doesn’t have to affect you as much.
This is easier said than done. It’s quite difficult to let mean words slide away and not have a feeling or
emotion. So my thought is this. Go into these family situations knowing “this is how this person is going to be but I
can work on it not affecting me as much”. The way we work on this is through positive self talk. Have a word or phrase you can tell yourself in your head if they continue to agonize you. Tell yourself, “It’s okay, I can
make it through today”.

So the key is to try and set boundaries with your family
members, but also going further if needed. I truly feel as though people try to
live the best life they know how to but sometimes the dynamics of difficult family
members are just there. So prepare yourself for the challenge. Figure out how to “not” own and take on what other family members put on you is important. You might not be able to change them, but you
CAN change how you react.

Fighting the winter blues

Does this time of year feel difficult for you? Have you ever heard of the winter blues? Seasonal depression, often
called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year
at the same time, usually starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or
early summer. It is more than just "the winter blues" or "cabin

Usually most of the same symptoms of depression
occur as regular depression, including sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of
interest in their usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, and
inability to concentrate. In addition, symptoms such as extreme fatigue and
lack of energy, increased need for sleep, craving for carbohydrates, and
increased appetite and weight gain seem to occur.

With a decreased amount of sunlight, these
symptoms might get worse over the months.
So in order to help yourself deal with these emotions there are simple
things to do to prevent SAD from coming back.

  • Try to spend some amount of
    time outside every day, even when it's very cloudy. The effects of
    daylight are still beneficial.

  • Begin using a light box upon
    the onset of low sunlight (fall season), even before you feel the onset of
    winter SAD.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and
    include sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the
    FDA. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving
    starchy and sweet foods.

  • Try exercising for 30 minutes a
    day, three times a week.

  • Seek professional counseling,
    if needed, during the winter months.

  • Stay involved with your social
    circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support
    during winter months.

A good cause....

As I pondered about a good topic to discuss on my blog this
week, I decided that I wanted to tell you all about my friend’s son, Cooper, a
one year old baby. Cooper’s mom noticed from four months on that her son was
not moving as much as he should be. He met all of his previous milestones and the
pediatrician told her he was just a “lazy baby”. As a mother’s instinct often takes over, she
felt something could be wrong, so she sought a second opinion and took him to a
new doctor. Much to her dismay, Cooper was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy
type 1/2. She was then told the most devastating news a mom could ever hear. Her
son could live two months or two years. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must
have felt after this moment. An array of
emotions and shock taking over. Sadness, anger, frustration, asking why? It
just didn’t seem fair or right. What
happened to her perfect healthy boy?

I am writing about Cooper this week not only to try and
raise awareness for this cause and to help with Cooper’s medical needs, but
also to tell you the story of how this mom turned her son’s situation into a
positive experience. She has chosen not
to let this disease define who her son is and take over their lives. They are choosing to fight. Placing Cooper in physical therapy classes,
raising money for his medical needs and getting the word out about this genetic
disorder to raise awareness is her focus.
So Cooper’s parents choose not to be victims. They aren’t letting Spinal Musular Atrophy
run their lives. THEY are running their
lives and dealing with it as each day comes.

I love this story because it really shows how bad things can
happen to wonderful, amazing people, but that it doesn’t mean we can let it
ruin us. We can choose to deal with our
life’s struggles and control how we react to them instead of letting it affect

If you would like to know more about Cooper’s story please
check out Cooper’s Crusaders on Facebook at:!/pages/Coopers-Crusaders/143624949059654?sk=info

There is also a website for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at :
or you can email their cause and donate to help with medical expenses at
: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

It's back to school time

The new school year is just around the corner and the last
few days of summer are to be savored. Squeezing every moment of freedom out of
summer is what your kids want to do, but nothing ruins that feeling of freedom
more than ending the summer in panic while trying to get ready for school.

Although parents are usually ready for this time, it
often causes a lot of stress for school age children. Some kids love school and can’t wait to go
back, but others aren’t so lucky. You
might find yourself struggling with how to help your child get ready to go back
to school.

With a few simple preparations during this last week you
might find the transition a bit easier

1. Establish a realistic routine with reasonable
bedtimes and wake ups. (Start practicing this several days before school

2. Make gathering school supplies a “fun”
time. After you get your list, include
your child in this activity.

3. Host an “end of the summer” party or get together
where your children can reconnect with their school aged peers

4. Help your child come up with positive ways to
address any problems they might feel
they have (bullies, cliques, etc)

5. Visit the school to help your child get re-acquainted
with the building. Find their teacher, locker, gym, classrooms

6. Help your child find new opportunities (such as
clubs and sports)

7. Discuss with your child how to handle your
feelings related to school (try journaling their thoughts down and discussing

Perfectionism: Does it help you or hurt you?

Have you always been the kind of student who strives for perfection in,
well, everything? Do you push yourself super hard to be the best and feel bad
when anyone does better than you? While having ambition and drive can be great,
perfectionism isn't necessarily a trait that always has positive results. It
can drive students to be stressed, overworked and actually much more unhappy
than they would be otherwise. Still not convinced? Here are some of the
downsides to aiming for perfection.

It can impact happiness.Does working long hours and having
little time to spend with friends in a meaningful way really make you happy?
Being perfect means nothing unless you're enjoying your life. Sometimes you
have to let go of control to do that.

You may get extremely stressed out. Trying to keep up with
meeting the highest standards in school, work and other activities can be
exhausting and immensely stressful. Many times, its not even necessary to be
perfect to excel, so it might be time to think about how hard you're really
pushing yourself.

It may make you very judgmental. Not only of yourself, but
of others as well. This may make it hard to make or keep friends who feel they
can never match your lofty ideas of who they should be or how they should act.

Your goals may be unreasonable. It's great to set high
goals for yourself, but there are times when certain goals are just plain
unattainable. Failing to meet them again and again can send you spiraling into
self-hate and destructive behaviors.

Sometimes the best lessons in life are in failure. Perfectionists
are by nature terrified of failure. While failure isn't ever fun, sometimes the
lessons learned by not being perfect are much more profound and life changing
than those learned through success.

You won't ever be enough. When has a perfectionist ever
done enough? Tried hard enough, put in enough effort, attained a high enough
level of performance? The answer is never. While it's admirable to always aim
to be the best, its impractical and impossible to push yourself to always be

Being a perfectionist isn't always a bad trait, but it does have its
downsides. If you're the type that can never settle for less than the best,
sometimes it might be nice to give yourself a break, kick back and just relax.
It could do wonders for your happiness and stress levels, making you even
better when you get back to work.

How to Handle Your Anxiety

Do you ever feel worried, have a sudden attack of panicky feelings or a fear of a certain situation or object. You're not alone. Over 18% of Americans struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. People with anxiety usually feel of worried, nervous, fearful, apprehensive, concerned or restless. Normal feelings of anxiety often serve as an "alarm system," alerting you to danger. Sometimes anxiety can be out of control, giving you a sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason. This kind of anxiety can disrupt your life. So what can you do with all these feelings?

One of the best ways to tackle anxiety is to attack it head on. We spend so much time trying to "avoid" difficult feelings and emotions that it adds more flames to the fire. In my experience, I try to work with individuals on truly experiencing the difficult emotions. Try using self-talk to tell yourself "I do feel scared right now, but I will be okay". Acknowledge your difficult feelings, don’t hide from them. Once you can go to that scary place, do what you can to process it. Some ways to process these difficult emotions are self-talk, journaling and talking to a friend or counselor.

The goal is for YOU to be in control of your emotions instead of them controlling you. Think of your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10. One being no anxiety and 10 being an extreme catastrophe (death, fire). When we think of things on an intensity scale, it helps us put our thoughts into perspective. We might think, "My anxiety is always at a 10", but once we change our thinking and realize 10 should be for extreme situations, we can transform our thinking to realize, "hey this is maybe a 5 NOT a 10".

When processing your emotions some questions to ask yourself are (what triggers my anxiety, what level of anxiety do I have, what would it be like if I could control my anxiety, how will I reward myself if I can handle my anxiety?). Be sure to experience your feelings, use the 1 to 10 intensity scale and figure out what you need to lower your anxiety. Remember, you are in control of your emotions. Start telling yourself this is the first step towards believing it!

Turn Your Resolutions Into Reality

As every New Year approaches, we begin to feel empowered to finally make a change in our lives. We reflect back on the previous year and ponder "Did I make my resolution into a reality?" More than likely the answer is "no". What happens to that goal we made for ourselves as the year comes to a close, whether is was to exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, save money, or reduce stress? Research shows that 80% of New Year's Resolutions usually fail by the end of January. The main reason for failure is the mere fact that these expectations and goals are set to high and become almost impossible to reach. Although our emotional wheels are churning with a twinge of motivation when January 1 hits, turning resolutions into reality can be successful with a goal-focused plan.

When setting a goal it is important to keep this in mind: be as specific as possible, while leaving the generality to a minimum. With a goal-focused plan the main steps are simple: identify a category for change, discover the specific steps needed to make the change and visualize it! Why not start now. Think for a minute about one area of your life you'd like to focus on for positive change, whether it's food, exercise, stress, emotions or family to name a few. In order to make sure you can truly achieve this goal, decide if it is realistic. For example, saying "I want to lose 20 pounds in a week", is unlikely to occur, and thinking this could happen is setting yourself up for failure. A more realistic approach would be setting a goal such as "losing 30 pounds in 6-9 months".

Once you have identified the main topic, the next step is to dissect this goal into specific parts. Think about the following in terms of days, weeks and months: write down at least three to four specific ways you can reach this goal, how you will know it's reached and how you will reward yourself when it is accomplished. By breaking your goal down into more specific areas, you will discover your goal is more within your reach and less overwhelming. Some examples of specific short-term goals for losing weight are figuring out "how many calories can I eat per day, how many minutes will I exercise per day, how often will I write in a food journal, how can I identify my emotions before I choose to eat and how many pounds can I lose per week/month".

The final step (after you've identified the main areas of your goal and broken it down into three or four sub areas), is to transfer these thoughts into a visual reminder and make yourself accountable. Visual reminders can be any type of motivation that helps you remember your goal and the steps to complete it. Some examples include a note, chart, poster, banner, or journal entry to name a few. With a visual reminder, review it at least twice a day and post the reminder everywhere you can think of. Motivation is the key! Do everything in your power to remain positive and set small milestones along with rewards. The more you remind yourself of the steps to reach your goals, the more apt you are to be successful.

Setting resolutions is just the beginning. To turn your resolutions into a reality, involves careful preparation, deep thinking and a commitment to change. Often times the majority of resolutions seem to be goals we have attempted to previously achieve. The reason we continue to make effort in conquering our goals is simple: we see an area of our life which needs improvement. So why not start the new year off right. Use a goal-focused plan along with a positive attitude to make this years resolution a reality. Happy New Year!

Helping Kids With Realistic Gift Expectations Over the Holidays

Do you ever feel like when the holidays come around, all kids are saying is "gimmie, gimmie, gimmie?" Their gift lists become endless and you feel overwhelmed. Money is tight, but you don't want to let your kids down. You might feel the only way they will have a good Christmas or Hanukah is the amount of gifts they get. Well maybe it's time to change how you do things over the holidays, so you don't feel so stressed. Whatever happened to the times when there was just one gift given, instead of 10? One thing you can do when your kids are making their "huge" list is to ask them to name the one gift they really would like most. Allow yourself to be okay sizing down and not feel guilty. Think about having your family "adopt an angel", so they can see the joy of giving to someone in need. Changing your holiday tradition might also help. Instead of focusing on "what is Santa going to bring me", work with your kids on a fun tradition you can all do together. For example, have a family night around that time and do something fun that doesn't cost money. Some examples include playing a board game, cooking together, making a your kids the holidays don't have to be so focused on how many gifts they will get, but on the time you spend together. Another thought is to have your kids pick a family member to "be an elf" for. That means they will do kind acts for this person. Put all of the family names in a hat and have everyone draw a person. Then have them complete two nice tasks per day for that person (such as a chore). So overall, change your approach to the holidays. Instead of focusing on buying a ton of gifts, make it more about family time. Your kids might remember a gift for a while, but the family memory will never be forgotten!

The Ups and Downs of Parenting - Hold On!

Does this sound like you...."I can do this", I thought as the roller coaster climbed higher and higher up the first hill. I even felt brave enough to hold my arms up in the air. "Who needs to hold on?" I asked myself. Then the roller coaster seemed to stop in midair just before careening down the other side at what seemed like 100 miles an hour. Now I knew the answer to the question, "Who needs to hold on?" "I do!"

I held on for my life not knowing whether to cry or laugh. The bumps, the turns, the twists sending me upside down. It was terrifying! It was thrilling! When it was all over, I raced back into line so I could go through the same exhilarating experience again.

Raising children is much like riding a roller coaster-thrilling, terrifying, and full of ups and downs. The ride gets really interesting during the child's adolescent years.

Some bumps and unexpected turns are bound to occur, but the ride doesn't have to be a sheer vertical drop. You can do a lot to make you children's transition from childhood to adulthood a more serene, often enjoyable, passage for your family. And it may be comforting to know that you are certainly not the only family on the ride.

In order for a child to grow into that responsible, caring, and mature adult, he or she needs to know where they can gain resources, advantages, and qualities to successfully maneuver those ups and downs which will come their way.

Our children can receive these assets if they are supported, cared for, and taught to be self-sufficient. We, as adults, need to model the social and emotional resources that will provide a sense of security young people crave. The more assets a young person has, the better equipped he or she is to make wise choices, handle the pressures of daily living, and find meaning and fulfillment in life.

You can use these assets to help you choose the ways you want to intentionally build the strengths of your child. Try using this checklist as a start or create your own.

Today I will:

  • Ask how my child is doing
  • Really listen to my child
  • Act responsibly
  • Be honest with my spouse, kids, friends, neighbors-even salespeople
  • Offer my child opportunities to contribute to the family and to others
  • Notice what's happening in my neighborhood
  • Ask what my child learned, liked, and didn't like in school
  • Tell my child about my day
  • Keep track of what my child is doing
  • Provide a quiet place for homework
  • Know when to turn off the TV
  • Give my child ways to grow in body, mind, and spirit
  • Tell my child one thing I love or appreciate about her or him

About Jackie

As the managing director of North Texas Counselors Jackie is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor, National Certified Counselor, Registered Play Therapist and author of 7 books. She has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science in Counseling degree from Texas Woman's University.