Articles for the Month of June 2015

Good Parenting Need Not Be a Casualty of Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

 By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC

Oftentimes divorced parenting feels like parenting with a cartoon thought-bubble over your head:
As you tuck them in, the thought pops in, “Are they really going to be okay?”When you swing through a drive-thru after soccer practice, up pops the thought, “A ‘conventional’ family would have time for dinners at the table.”After weekend drop-offs at your ex’s home, in pops the worry, “Have I ruined them for their own future happily married lives?”Divorce affects your family. It changes your life and theirs. But it doesn’t have to spell disaster.You have the opportunity to show them how to build a successful future, whatever the circumstances.Try a few of the following strategies for raising happy, well-adjusted kids in a divorced household:

Provide Stability, Role Models, and Structure…as Usual.

Generally speaking: Letting go of their two-parent household is not easy, but your leadership helps ease the transition. Kids thrive in a safe, well-ordered home environment, divorce or no divorce.

Your kids need you to behave maturely, provide wisely, and protect them diligently in ways that are comforting, calm, and familiar. You’re still the boss and though they may say otherwise, they count on it.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the solo responsibilities or depressed by divorce, consider counseling for yourself or your family, if necessary.

Practical tips: Maintain your family routine as much as you are able. Keep the bedtime routine. Continue weekend activities or family game nights. Show your kids your family life still matters and will go on.

Hold to Your Standards: Keep them Real, Realistic, and Reliable.

Generally speaking: Divorce is tough on everyone, but don’t let it transform your parenting, family, and future into something that deviates from your core values and beliefs.

Be who you are. Maintain your focus. Divorce need not change those things.

Show your children that though you’ve taken a detour, you’re still on the road together, headed to somewhere healthy, happy, and whole.

Practical tips: Don’t try to make up for the divorce with lax expectations or “Disneyland” parenting. Set boundaries for your own household; follow through with consequences.

Expect push back, but don’t excuse it. If good grades, chores and respectful interaction have always been expected, they should still be expected. Teach children that hard circumstances don’t dictate character, responsibility or success.

If your faith, family gatherings, or regular time with community groups are sources of comfort or support, don’t give them up now. Show kids that divorce is no reason to give up what matters most.

Acknowledge, Express, Communicate. Repeat.

Generally speaking: It might be tough to face your kid’s feelings, hear their concerns, and listen, listen, listen. Still, respectfully discussing issues concerning your relationships is vital.

Allowing them to put it all out there does 4 key things:

  • Lessens anxiety. Facing worry and fear steals a lot of their power to control you.
  • Increases understanding. Empathy, connection, and self-esteem will blossom.
  • Lays a firm foundation for an open, honest, trusting relationship.
  • Gives them the tools to manage their feelings in a healthy way.

Practical tips:

  • Communicate that you and their other parent love them very much.
  • Communicate that you still respect and care about the other parent, if that’s the case. Affirm his or her place in your kids’ lives.
  • Give children time to deal with the changes by communicating them clearly, setting clear limits, and providing acceptable means for expressing their feelings.

Finally, recognize that no family is an island.

Your divorce journey needn’t be one of isolation or prolonged grief.

Call on a therapist or support group to help steer your parenting.

Soon, you’ll find your way.

How A Gut Check Can Improve Your Mood

Gut Bacertia

Gut Bacteria Affects Mood

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on June 29, 2015

We feel what we eat.
Deeply, in our guts.
It’s true.More and more recent research confirms it. Your gut is literally filled with the stuff of emotion; and if we don’t address the needs of our bellies, many of us will find ourselves very sad, very anxious and in need of a gut overhaul.  A gut check may be just what we need!
Let’s look at the science:

Your gut contains healthy bacteria in the lining of the digestive tract.

That wealth of “good bacteria” is called the microbiome.

The digestive tract and its bacteria are actually the nexus of our nervous system, hormonal system and immune system.

Gut bacteria pull out the vitamins we need for use elsewhere in our bodies and help our cells respond to damaging germs and foreign invaders. Also, a delicate and important balance of the molecules that regulate emotion, and manufacture important neurotransmitters like the brain messenger, serotonin, occur there.

What happens in the gut keeps us healthy, physically and mentally.

If the digestive tract is so closely linked to our mood, it makes sense that improving digestion and bacterial quality/quantity in the tract lining could improve a mood disorder.

How do we improve digestion and the microbiome?
  • Probiotics.

Why? Probiotics are teaming with the good bacteria that also aid in obesity prevention, provide hormonal balancing, and support optimal kidney function, among many other benefits.

In 2012, Dr. Kristin Tillich led a team of researchers who conducted a study that proved a “gut-brain” connection. The UCLA study tested human brain functioning of 36 women, following four weeks of eating probiotic-laden yogurt. They reported, “The intake of an FMPP [probiotic] by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.”

In a 2013 press release, Dr. Tillich noted, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”

  • Prebiotics

Now, there’s also solid evidence to support the use of prebiotics to ease depression and anxiety specifically.

How do we know? In the first-ever human study on the subject, researchers at Oxford University discovered that ingesting prebiotic bacteria seemed to inspire an “anti-anxiety effect.”

What’s a prebiotic? It’s a non-digestible food that feeds the body over and above what could be provided through diet. It helps maintain the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut.

In a study published this year, a dose of prebiotic reduced participants’ desire to focus on the negative. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” was reduced in female participants as well.

Stress and negative attention are huge factors in depression and anxiety disorders. The positive aspects of prebiotics in the 2015 research were so significant, researchers say it is as helpful as ingesting an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug.

So, the real question is how can we claim some of those benefits for ourselves?

Facilitate better bacterial balance in your body by:

  • Eating a high-fiber, plant-based diet
  • Avoiding a high-fat diet
  • Avoiding high sugar foods
  • Ingesting more complex carbohydrates

Increase your consumption of probiotic foods that contain good bacteria. Try:

  • Yogurt with live active cultures
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented pickles

Increase prebiotic foods that feed beneficial bacteria. Eat:

  • Banana
  • Whole grains
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes

These findings, supported by scientific evidence, suggest that it is possible to improve our sadness, fear responses, and other stubborn mood problems through diet.

How exciting and empowering when it comes to taking charge of our mental health!

Positive Rituals Make Life More Meaningful

Make Life More Meaningful WithPositive Rituals

Make Life More Meaningful

Julie and her best girlfriends began scheduling an annual September weekend getaway many years ago. It started as a way to regroup and encourage each other, before tackling the job of acclimating their children to a school schedule after weeks of summer vacation. Now that the kids are all grown up, they can afford a few extra days together and look forward to hours of sharing and laughing. They cherish the conversations that phone calls and texts just don’t seem to stimulate. No one was willing to give up the ritual that now symbolized changing seasons and a reconnection with the people important to them.  It’s positive rituals like these that make life more meaningful!

Do you have positive rituals in your life?

Often, the word “ritual” is associated with some sort of spiritual or religious practice. But positive rituals can also cover a much wider scope of activities and ideas. Rituals can act as a fundamental part of how we connect with ourselves and other people in deeper, more meaningful ways.

What are some ways positive rituals can enrich our relationships and support mindful interaction? Consider the following ideas:

1. Plan weekly “together time.” Engage your family in setting aside time for each other. Make it a weekly point of anticipation. Look forward to getting together every week for game nights, movie nights, or a family bike ride. Whatever the activity, make being together a regular, positive occurrence.

2. Use past family rituals as a positive ritual primer. For ideas, you might look at some of things you did with your family of origin to spark new ideas for your own family and friendships. Did you and your family members regularly attend any musical, theatre, or sporting events in the past? Did you have annual summer block parties with neighbors or family friends growing up? Perhaps you could incorporate those ideas into your current life.

3. Be creative, unconventional, or goofy with your rituals. There’s nothing like originality to keep rituals fresh, memorable and to add to the depth of connection of those who share the experience. Those who celebrate an “un-birthday” together, meet in the park on Fridays to read poetry, or plan themed, monthly progressive dinners with family and friends will build stronger connections and a wealth of fun memories.

4. Accentuate meaningful life events and people.  Honor special anniversaries. When did you meet “the one”? What day did you finally forgive the person who hurt you most? When did you smoke that final cigarette? Mark those significant periods with a ritual meant to appreciate the journey and honor your current situation.

5. Create rituals to support relaxation and well-being. Take time to relax together at the end of the day. Make a point of minimizing the media and slowing the pace. Look forward to positively ending the day with lullabies or stories for young kids or a few moments to check in and put the day to rest with older family. Couples also benefit from a bedtime routine that allows you to go to bed and rise together.

6. Chuck meaningless rituals. Let go of negative, draining or unproductive rituals that just get in the way of what holds real significance for you and those you care about.

Positive rituals make life more meaningful. Find strength in your connections and enjoy who you are because of them. Mark your moments and celebrate your connections.