On Fire to Inspire

Featured Image -- 121Some of you may have noticed that almost a year ago my business suddenly hit pause when we had some personal family emergencies come up, but slowly I’ve been building it back up to a steady pace. Today was super motivating, however, because I got to mingle with some great people at the Support the Blue 5k and 10k for police officers in Fresno, CA. Police officers and their families are some of my absolute favorite clientele because they are dedicated to their calling (not just a job) and most of the time, its completely thankless. Just imagine for a minute kissing your partner goodbye every morning, not knowing if they’ll live through the day especially when the odds may very well be against them. Or how about working graveyard shifts for months and feeling like you never get to see your spouse or kids? Need a coach for your kid’s soccer team? Probably won’t be you…because your job requires you to be at the edge of your seat, ready for anything, and fearful of nothing. THIS is what I want to help with. A good, healthy, and supported person- does good, healthy, and supportive work. Together we can find ways to live out our callings, but still prioritize family, friends, and our sense of self without the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Today I was re-inspired to follow my calling, and go after those I believe I can help- no matter what hurdles might come my way.

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Miss Northern Idaho Brings Attention to Military Kids

“it is much less common to see a video of a family packing up their home to move for the fifth time in 3 years, or to see a child kissing a picture good night because their parent is overseas.”

Branching Out

Lucy Maud Montgomery had the right perception when she wrote about military families in her novel, Rilla of Ingleside: “Our sacrifice is greater than his…our boys give only themselves. We give them.”

America has done a significant job in promoting our servicemen and women, with national holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. However, how many people would know what month is the Month of the Military Child (it’s this month!)? How many people take the time to consider the accomplishments and struggles of military children?

Unfortunately, many Americans do not realize the sacrifices of military “brats” are insurmountable compared to the daily lives of their peers.

My purpose in my platform within the Miss Northern Idaho, Miss Idaho, and the Miss America organizations is to raise awareness of the challenges and blessings that come from being a military child.

Because of my platform, military children will know that they are…

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Breaking Down Barriers for Military Spouse Mental Health Providers

This is an amazing article that basically sums up my experience being a military wife and mental health professional. It’s been a struggle, but for the love of my children and their safety… I just don’t make the greatest stay at home mom. THIS is where my heart lies, and come hell or high water- I will push on…

Branching Out

Military life isn’t always easy on a spouse’s career. Heck, it’s rarely easy. No matter what you choose to do, you have to contend with the changes that this life brings to the table. We know what this military life brings, we adjust, we change, we move forward, even with those challenges. It certainly doesn’t make it any easier to maintain a career we love, but we find ways to make it work somehow.

For those of us who are in the mental health field, trying to find the right school, internship, supervision, getting licensed (or re-licensed) and finding a job can be a significant challenge. Add to this already difficult situation, a few PCS moves, deployments, and shifting licensing requirements from state to state and it becomes nearly impossible. When you realize we have spouses who are dealing with barriers to becoming mental health professionals, you have to…

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10 Quick Parenting Tips

hippy-logo

Here are some tips I laid out in a presentation I did for HIPPY-

Meet them where they are at

Ages 3-5:

Intellectually: Kids are getting more and more imaginative- creative play, fear of monsters, playing more socially- starting sports/ school, vocabulary is momentously expanding, and they have begun to understand time.

Physically: They’ve increased agility, hand eye coordination, and frustration now with understanding more of the world and not yet being able to have their body keep up with their imaginations.

Emotionally: They are experiencing temper tantrums which are like a neurotransmitter storm going off in their brain. It’s not manipulative, it’s not something they learned to do necessarily, but again, that frustration with matching emotions to appropriate levels of behavior.  They are only just learning how to navigate the differences between fantasy and reality, and dabbling with humor/ sarcasm, so you see them trying out things just to test your reaction and its appropriateness for the situation.

Sometimes my children work through problems like me and I totally get it. Other times, they work through things like my husband and I’m left completely baffled. I think this is because our personalities are determined by our DNA (in part) before we are even born- that serotonin, dopamine drip is set up to work similarly to mom or dad. This is why depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, addiction… all of these things are/can be hereditary.

  1. Validate your kids.

-Take their emotions seriously. You may know better, but if you act condescendingly to your child, that’s how they will learn to deal with others. This is their reality, it’s all they know, and the world is scary and still somewhat unpredictable- teach them empathy.

  1. Respect your child’s biology.

-Never make jokes or jeers about your partner or your child’s biological parent. That’s their DNA, you’re making them feel insulted about. Instead, try to explain that perhaps they do have traits like their parent in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Making it known (without judgement) helps a child to learn that they are not alone, they are not uniquely difficult, and try to help them find the positives of their personality.

  1. Model an appropriate hierarchy in your household.

-There are traditional relationships and symmetrical relationships. Both are fine, but in both, the parents are above the children. They need parents; They have plenty of friends. If you want to avoid being too controlling or bossy, treat them like a respected individual but do not indulge them or treat them like a best friend. You can come down to their level, they cannot come up to yours.

  1. Teach them to apologize.

-Model this for them by apologizing to them, too.

There are two parts to an apology: I’m sorry. And- Can you forgive me? See, apologies can still leave the victim feeling unvalidated. “What?! I said I was sorry!! What more do you want from me??” Teach your children to ask another for their forgiveness- letting the victim have a say in it as well, also encouraging and validating the attempt to apologize. Not only that- but teaching them to forgive! This is great conflict resolution skills. Speaking of which- its ok to argue and cry in front of your children. Keep it appropriate- no hitting or screaming or cursing…but DO give your kids a chance to see how to manage conflict.

  1. Allow for as many natural consequences as possible.

Ex: your child steps on a toy and hurts their foot- there it is! Natural consequences- “It doesn’t feel good does it? Maybe you should pick up your toys so you don’t get hurt.” Child doesn’t want to eat dinner? They claim they are hungry at bedtime. “Hm, it doesn’t feel very good to go to bed hungry, huh? Maybe you should eat with us at dinner time.” Trust me, this will be a blessing for the teenage years when they don’t want to listen to you anyway. Teach them to identify the natural consequences, so they don’t always have to be looking to you for guidance/reprimanding.

  1. Routine

– Make each day relatively predictable such as bedtime:  bath-pajamas-brush teeth- read a story-say a prayer-kisses- and set the clock. (Deklan has a clock which turns blue for night time and yellow for when it’s O.K. to get up. You can find it here on amazon: “Tot Clock”

http://smile.amazon.com/My-Tot-Clock-New-Improved/dp/B00NC10YFA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456891961&sr=8-1&keywords=tot+clock

-Don’t make too many exceptions to the rules which may confuse them- like my son who always wants candy for breakfast. I say no, and explain that candy isn’t healthy to eat for breakfast, but then there have been times that I’ve given him yogurt with a few M&Ms on top, or chocolate chip pancakes. Sometimes, I get lazy but I have to be aware that this may confuse him, and then make strides to explain the exceptions to the rule/ or at least be understanding as to why he’d feel confused about that.

  1. Decision Making- Healthy choices

-This tip builds confidence, but still gives them a say in what they would like to see happen. Give them choices which are both beneficial to you and your child. For example:

“Do you want peas or carrots with your dinner?” Do you want to nap before or after you have lunch?” Google the book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline for more examples.

  1. Teach them limits/ boundaries:

-Often this subject comes up around the topic of screen-time, and sugar. Just like you would a baby, try to set up your child’s environment as best you can so that they can’t make mistakes like (my child) gets up at 5 a.m. to play Ipad… Instead, we put those things away to where he can’t access them until we are up to supervise him. Another helpful rule we implement- “No tablet after dinner.” This tells him, it’s time to wind down… rest your eyes from the lovely blue light….

  1. Explain WHY? As much as possible

-Don’t overuse the word NO. “No” should mean- absolutely not. “Stop.” should mean that’s the end of this. Also, yelling  (if possible) should be kept as a last resort. If you sound loud all the time over everything, how will they know when this time you REALLY mean it?

Alternatives to the “soft” no: I don’t think so, Not this time…, maybe later…, just a minute… these are wishy washy- which is fine- just be intentional

-STOP alternatives:  Encourage them on what TO do instead- “Use your words, keep your hands to yourself.”

Don’t simply teach your child to OBEY, but help them to understand so they can make healthy decisions even when you aren’t around.

  1. Encourage them.

-Be specific as to what impresses you. “That was really nice of you to help your sister…” or  “Thank you for being patient”

When I want my son to truly break a habit I give him stickers for every good thing he does and I’m GENEROUS with them. It helps me calm down and see that he IS a good kid and I am having a positive effect on him. Also, it allows him to be encouraged for even the small things that maybe I take for granted. This helps him stay motivated in a store, helps him focus on the positives… etc.

Remember: There is no single right or wrong way to raise your child, and even I don’t do this correctly 100% of the time, but that’s a part of being human and teaching your child to manage the real world. Good Luck out there… we all wish there was an instruction manual. book too

 

 

Military Couples Therapy

How far we’ve come from the handwritten letter…

I grew up as a military “brat” and I’ve now been a military spouse for almost 5 years. Yup, just a drop in the bucket for some couples, but I like to say I went to the school of (at least a few) hard knocks. From frequent moves, to 5 deployments, losing friends, and setbacks in my career, I have experienced the meaning of military family- and this is where my passions for marriage and family therapy for military couples blossomed from.

My grandmother, now 90, often shares with me tales of having written letters to my grandfather during WWII and wondering if he ever got them. Even if they had been delivered, was he still alive? Now, I tell her stories of these seemingly magical inventions like skype and text messaging that allow myself and my family to stay connected from afar. As a part of a drastically different generation, my kids have grown up kissing computer screens and mailing care packages to Daddy. It’s our norm. cuteproFamily Therapy Solutions, Wichita Falls, TX

And so it goes with shamelessly talking on the phone in the checkout line, answering texts and emails all through the night, planning entire days around when your partner is likely to call… this is it. We make it all work. In counseling military couples, however, I notice that even with the luxury of instant messaging, couples seem to have more problems than they did before. Our expectations of carrying on a truly “normal” relationship throughout time zones and war zones are substantially higher. We’ve become so accessible that I think we start to take for granted the other hardships to being separated.

For example, many families say they sometimes feel as though they don’t miss their spouse after a while. While everyone’s relationship is different, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume the couple has fallen out of love. It’s more like SURVIVAL. Especially with kids around, you just don’t have time to be sniffling about being lonely for months or years at a time. You have to just get through it. Also, families note a period of adjustment (read: intense fighting) after their partner returns home. Again, for better or for worse, we just get in a groove of how the days will go, and as soon as you throw another human being with thoughts and feelings into the mix, it gets complicated. All the sudden there’s more laundry, more food to cook, more  video games…and the conversations…you can’t just multitask like you used to and text back when you’ve got the kids ready for school! Now you have to actually be present in the moment with your partner, look into their eyes instead of your cell phones, and take turns listening. Easier said than done!

I want to start this blog because it’s time we tear down the curtains. People need to know that these things are normal! It’s ok to have that voice that feels angry or confused, or lost at some point in your marriage. Heck, you may even screw up big time- but you weren’t the first, and you won’t be the last to have struggled, and hopefully this blog will help some people feel less isolated when life’s challenges arise.

Happy to Help!together1

-Erin Calahan, M.S., LMFT-A, LCDC

Tips on how to “Fight Fair” and Gary Chapman’s Love Languages

Take the 30 day Marriage Challenge!

Marriage Challenge from iMOM.com