Connecting Parents and Children: What is the Recipe?


One of the most popular bands of all time sang – “All you need is love.” But as a mother of two, I can say that even though love towards your children can be the most intense and beautiful feeling that a human can possibly experience, I strongly believe that in this case, love is not always enough. I hate disagreeing with The Beatles, but even to unconditional love, there is a lot more involved.

As a therapist, I frequently hear that parenting is not an easy task. When the child grows older and starts showing their own desires, it can be difficult for the parents to keep the children and certain situations under control. The tantrums can be frequent and the inability of dealing with it, increases the issues and decreases the positivity in the relationship. Having different perspectives and goals starts in childhood and are intensified as the children reach adolescence. This last is a very critical period in someone’s developmental, with a likely removal from parents’ relationship and some risk-taking behaviour, what can contribute to family conflict.  

Some parents believe that having an authoritarian style is the key to success, as some of them had this type of education and in a sense, they see how it “worked.” But studies indicate that it can lead to distance between the family members, creating a disruption in the relationship instead of a strong bond. So, using control, punishment and verbal aggression may not be the best approach in a parent-child or parent-adolescent relationship.

It is true that children and adolescent need rules, responsibilities and learn with the consequences of their actions. But it can surely be done in a gentle and assertive way. To value your child’s emotions, listen to their wishes and see their perspectives doesn’t mean to let them lead parenting. It means that you can validate their feelings and have the chance to explain yours too. And when dialogue is not possible, mutual agreements can take place. This will surely get you together and the fruits will be seen in the relationship: more harmonious with less misunderstandings and conflict.

Being an assertive parent is the good balance to teach your child responsibilities with love. If you, parent, dare to stop the autopilot and allow yourself to listen, learn and try things from a different angle, your child will react more collaboratively, with a widened repertoire and a better self-regulation and self-awareness skills. To conclude, as I can’t stand disagreeing with one of the most sensitive souls in the world, I can say that if you are battling with your offspring, “Life is very short (…) for fussing and fighting, my friend.” Dare to learn and do things in a different way. And if you fear to dare, or are struggling with the process, we are here to support you.

Written By:
Andrea Fernandes Thomaz
Counsellor & Psychotherapist

SACAC Counselling

How to choose when you are not sure.

It’s the thing which spooks the financial markets. It’s something difficult when prolonged and intolerable on a permanent basis. It’s a general state of being – still! Any idea what I am talking about? Yes, you’ve guessed it – or maybe you haven’t – it’s uncertainty! 

Since children are always growing, they exist in a constant state of uncertainty. As parents, they will often come to you with it. Sometimes, you too may feel that there is something up with your child but you are not sure what. Given that it can be experienced as diversely as corrosive, intriguing or expressive, it begs the question; what do you do with someone’s uncertainty?

Well, in mental health terms, it depends on who you ask. A psychiatrist will often unleash a diagnosis on you, accompanied by medication in an attempt to define and address it. Uncertainty becomes more certain. Similarly, a clinical psychologist will seek to clarify the difficulty through understanding and helping educate you about it. This learning process develops a range of possible treatments, based on the idea of removing (and often replacing) the uncertainty. Counsellors may advise in different ways in order to guide you towards a more certain position, or along a clearer path. Psychotherapists, like me, tend to think about it a bit longer, gradually exploring uncertainty with you until you feel resilient enough to manage it yourself. 

Perhaps your own reaction to these options may help you find a suitable support for your child, should they need one. It might also help clarify your role. Uncertainty underlies all of mental health, since you can’t see it, touch it or even believe in it at times. To address it, we must address ourselves too. Are you like a psychiatrist? Some of us like to vaporise uncertainty, using our minds and bodies like lasers to seek out and destroy it. Others like to be educated and draw strength from definitions, terms or titles – it may be easier to know what to do if you know what it is, as a psychologist might say. Many, particularly children, like to feel that others know best and as long as you can trust them enough, their guidance can be supportive. 

Not so many, if I am honest, are comfortable doing what many psychotherapists refer to as ‘sitting with it’. This openness to difficulty is a brave and somewhat blind step – do you take many of those? Would you have someone work with your child from the presumption that their role is to let the child, in their own way and at their own pace, tell them? This is called listening, which may sound a bit wet in the face of a good paragraph from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) V, but is perhaps the basis of all forms of support. The difference across professionals is in the way they listen. 

Psychotherapists may seem to listen to everything. It is a liberating experience to be offered someone’s complete attention and one which we all had, or hoped for, when very young. Such interest helps to notice what may have become part of someone, or what may hold them back. The relationship itself is therapy and can foster resilience through experience. But it needs to be contained in something solid, otherwise it loses meaning. You pour your drink into a glass, not into the air. Therefore, the structure of psychotherapy sessions – a fixed time, setting and approach, with agreed equipment – is formalised and almost rigid in comparison with our dispensable world. This is so that within it, space becomes very open. 

This is not a plea for psychotherapy but a clarification of the work. Your approach to uncertainty may define your approach to problems in general. Grasping it may help you when choosing support for your children. If they are having a difficulty, perhaps consider what they seem to respond to. Then maybe think about you; what do you value? Between these positions, support may clarify itself. In doing so, you also unlock your own potential to support your child, as well as your current limits. It is from here that support can stand alongside you, where it is best-placed to help. 

PS. As you are still reading this, thank you for sitting with the difficulty. 

Written By:
Robert Leveson
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC & APACS)
SACAC Counselling

References:
American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition; American Psychiatric Association Publishing https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Hypnosis, Affirmation, Meditation: What’s the Difference?

As a hypnotherapist, one question that I am asked very frequently by my clients is:
“what’s the difference between hypnosis, affirmation and meditation?”
In this article I attempt to clarify the difference between these three practices that
share similarities, and major differences.

First of all, we need to understand that all human beings are always suggestible to some extent. Sometimes, we are more guarded and our suggestibility level is low, some other times our suggestibility is high, for instance, when we are seeking the advice of an expert, authority or similar. For example, if we go to the doctor and we
are not medically trained ourselves, we are much more open to the suggestions of the doctor and trust his advice. We are also more susceptible to messages that are repeated over and over again such as television, commercials, propaganda and similar things that can cause us to eventually think, feel and behave in certain ways.

What is suggestibility? It is the ability of all human beings to be influenced, to accept suggestions to the degree that it changes the way we think, feel, and behave. So, hypnosis is a trance state that brings about a heightened state of suggestibility. When we go see a hypnotist, he/she is guiding us into a heightened state of suggestibility to give us suggestions, taking us through hypnotic techniques such as parts work, age regression, metaphors or others that help us receive suggestions for the positive changes that we want to make in ourselves about how we think, feel and behave. Trance is the act of focusing the attention on one thing at the exclusion of everything else. Hypnosis requires trance to bring about the heightened state of suggestibility to impact the way we want to change.

Affirmations instead, work at the normal level of suggestibility that people naturally
have. To receive or give ourselves affirmations we don’t have to be in a state of trance. As an example, in a natural state of suggestibility people are influenced by commercials and professionals in their field, people we can trust as when we see in a commercial, sports figure, or another authority figure, a known doctor who suggests we try a certain product.

When we think about affirmations, what we are doing is that we use specifically crafted positive suggestions for how we want to think, feel and behave; I can say to myself: “when I speak in public I am calm, relaxed and competent” and I am repeating this over and over again to let the positive beliefs sink in and affect the way I want to think, feel and behave.

How is meditation different from hypnosis and affirmation then?
Meditation is not done with the intent of increasing the individual suggestibility. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and it was originally meant to help deepen
understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, we focus our attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding our mind and causing stress. While we are meditating we are ‘entranced’, meaning that we are focusing our attention on one thing as breathing or “OM” or something else but not with the intent of becoming more suggestible.

Hypnosis, meditation, affirmations don’t promise to solve all our problems, and there’s no guarantee of everlasting happiness. Life, with all its challenges and uncertainty, will still happen. What these practices can do is change how you choose to relate to, react to, and view yourself and the circumstances happening around you.

Written by:
Laura Spalvieri
Hypnotherapist, Counsellor, Psychotherapist & Transactional Analyst

SACAC Counselling

Sending your Child to Therapy? What to Know about Parent Consultations.

Who and What my Child’s Therapist is About

During your first parent consultation, the therapist will start with an intake interview with you to gather information about your child. This may include current parenting strategies and any difficulties your child has been experiencing that brought them to therapy in the first place. This is also a time where you can ask your child’s therapist what their approach to working with children is and what therapy with a child looks like. Some child therapists specialize in working with specific conditions or utilize specific therapeutic approaches to work with children and if you have specific questions, this would be a good time to ask these questions.  

How Parent Consultations Work

After the initial parental intake session, your child’s therapist may call for subsequent parent consultations. These meetings allow for you to consult with the therapist if you encounter any difficulties parenting your child, and provide opportunities to refine and practice any new parenting skills introduced by your child’s therapist. Similar to coaching, your child’s therapist may help you to troubleshoot difficulties, and more importantly, support and encourage you on your parenting journey.

Does Parenting Work Suggest I am a Bad Parent?

Parents who bring their children in for therapy may sometimes feel guilty and ashamed for their child’s difficult behaviors. Rather, parents who have brought their children in for therapy are investing in enhanced emotional health and well-being for their children and that takes much courage and sacrifice from a financial and time perspective. I am always appreciative of parents who have taken the step and effort to send their children to therapy. You have taken the first step to make things better for you and your child. When your child’s therapist suggests some parenting work, it is not only an invitation for you to oil the gears to be more helpful support for your child, but is also an opportunity for you to enhance your relationship with your child. The child-parent relationship is an invaluable part of life that not only allows both the parent and child to enjoy one another better but also makes it easier for you to parent your child with this foundation that you are building and contributing to.

Parents’ Involvement in Parental Consultations

Although your child is attending therapy, it is crucial that you are actively involved in supporting your child. This collaboration ensures your child has the best chance of getting better. What this involves is actively learning and applying the strategies introduced by your child’s therapist. You may not find yourself successful the first few times but this is perfectly normal and to be expected in learning something new. You can be as involved as you want in parent consultations. However, since you have already invested time and energy, why not try getting as involved as you can to see what differences that can lead up to? Most children may not thank their parents for trying, but like gardening, it takes time for fruits to bear.

Written by:
Isabelle Ong, Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
Clinical Mental Health Counselor for Individuals & Groups, Children, Adolescents, Couples & Families
SACAC Counselling