Pregnancy and Postpartum · Depression · Mental Health · Parenting

Support for the avoidant parent

Sure, you and your partner have talked about having a child. In theory, it seemed fine. But now that your baby has arrived, it feels harder than you ever expected. It is exhausting trying to connect with this unresponsive baby. It feels like everytime you pick up your child, he or she knows to scream at the highest decibel. And while you’re feeling stuck, your partner has somehow become the baby whisperer, whipping out breasts, bottles, and toys and magically making this tiny human succumb into a peaceful and serene state. This post is for parents who are feeling avoidant and helpless. It is for the fathers and mothers who are painfully aware of feeling incompetent, and continue to think “I’m not good at this”. I want you to know, it can get better. I hope the following points leave you comforted and empowered. 

Stop comparing yourself with your partner

I hear a lot of fathers commenting that their partners can do it better. They see their partner staying patient and rocking the baby, doing midnight feeds, and changing multiple diapers. They see how the baby settles shortly after these interactions.  While it’s wonderful to see your partner becoming a successful parent, it can bring up a lot of our own insecurities. It’s really hard not to compare. When your partner picks up the baby, the baby calms down. When you pick up the baby, your adorable little human screams bloody murder. It makes a lot of sense that you feel avoidant.

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If you have always found security and confidence by doing things well, parenting can bring you outside your safe zone. Rather than work with this struggle, it’s easier to encourage your partner to take the lead since he or she is doing it better. I imagine you already know the consequences to this decision. Sure, the baby is calmer, but your partner is fried. Their arms are aching from constantly holding the baby. They haven’t slept or showered properly in days. And, chances are high, that they are frustrated with you for not taking a more active role. Meanwhile, your own insecurities of being a competent parent continues to worsen. 

Parenting is not always about doing things right. It involves time, patience, and some trial and error to figure out how to best help your little person. Chances are that you have a screaming infant on your hands for the first little while. Please know that this is normal. Your partner has also gone through this trial and error period of being hollered at, and it does get better. If you hand over the baby, your confidence does not improve. It only reinforces to you that your partner is capable and you are not. 

Forget perfection

There is a steep and fast learning curve with parenting. We make mistakes, work through the stress, and try again. We don’t have the option of quitting, and so we keep going back and figuring things out. The stress of doing things perfectly can make us avoidant in getting started. Rather than perfection, please accept that you will screw this up. Accept that you are going to make mistakes, and this will lead to tears (some of it will be yours and some will be from the baby). This is perfectly normal even though it sucks.

avoidant parent. struggles to bond with baby. postpartum depression.

While there are umpteen books and blogs out there about parenting strategies, no one has published a book for your child. Take what you know and try it out. Watch your baby’s cues to see if he or she responds well, or freaks out. It tooks me months of rocking my child to sleep and feeling frustrated before I realized this strategy wasn’t working. We’ve all gone through the nightmare of bathtime and the stress of barely keeping the baby above water. Some of us keep losing the soother- the only thing in the whole world that will make your child stop wailing. It happens. We all make mistakes, and it makes us human.

 We don’t know what will work until we take the time to try it, evaluate its efficacy, and continue or introduce a new habit. This is a normal part of learning new skills. We all start with a keen awareness of our incompetence. We practice and fine tune our skills, and eventually get to a place of being unconsciously competent. Wanting to be a perfect parent right from the start prolongs this very normal learning experience. 

Making mistakes is not the issue. Usually that error in judgment lasts a mere seconds before it’s done. However, our mind can keep us fixated on this mistake, and we get easily sucked into a world of shame, embarrassment or guilt. That small moment plagues us for days. Gently remind your system that you are human and you are learning. Mistakes are inevitable, and you did not do it maliciously or intentionally. You can and will learn from these errors. 

Assess if you have postpartum anxiety or depression

While we often think of postpartum mental health as a mom’s issue, this is just not true. 1 in 10 dads have postpartum depression, although only 3% of dads actually seek treatment. 1 in 7 mothers have postpartum depression. Unfortunately, there is limited research available about sexual minority couples, and the published statistics vary widely. That being said, postpartum mental health does not discriminate based on sex, culture, socioeconomic status, education, or age. It can happen to anyone. 

avoidant parent. struggling to bond with new baby. new dads. postpartum depression and perinatal mental health.

When it comes to depression, symptoms can include lack of energy, disinterest, poor sleep or eating habits, or limited social interaction. Postpartum mental health shows up differently. We want to pay attention to signs like irritability, anger, excessive worries, avoidant behaviours, and poor concentration. Because these are painful struggles, many people try to cope by drinking, avoiding parenting, or getting into arguments. Unfortunately, our friends notice that we are drinking a lot and disengaged with the baby, but they don’t recognize that we are struggling with postpartum depression. 

When it comes to mental health or any diagnosis, we need a treatment plan. This can include: help with emotional processing, behavioural changes, professional interventions, medication, or increased social support. Mental health does not go away with sheer will power. It is legitimate and painful, and requires proper attention. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a helpful assessment that can confirm if you are struggling with postpartum mental health. I would encourage anyone who is questioning their postpartum experience to take this self-assessment.

Exposure therapy can help

If you are struggling with your mental health, you do not have the effort or patience to invest into a new relationship. Depression will make you feel irritable and unmotivated, and anxiety will cause you to worry or panic. Your system just wants to shut down. When we shut down from our relationships and our environment, we address the problem briefly. We find temporary relief because we don’t have to spend time with the newborn. This relief is short-lived because, let’s face it, that baby is not going anywhere. Unfortunately, we fall into this repetitive pattern of feeling overwhelmed by our emotions, and avoiding the stress. This works temporarily until we face yet another scenario where we feel overwhelmed.

 I encourage you to take small steps to help your system see that you can become a strong parent. Exposure therapy involves creating a consistent and gradual plan to do things that you are fearful or avoidant of in order to build your confidence and reduce your fears. We want to first create a list of tasks that provoke anxiety and avoidant behaviours. Then we start with fears that are unpleasant, but manageable, and practice this repeatedly. It is only when the distress goes down and the confidence increases, that we move on to a more challenging task. Everyone’s exposure plan will differ based on his or her comfort zone and anxiety level. The following post explains exposure therapy in more detail, and I encourage you to reach out if you’d like to fine tune or problem solve your specific circumstance. 

Finding the balance between Me and We

Parenting can be a serious buzz kill for our social lives. Chances are that your kid is passing out by 7 PM, which means you’re likely starting a bedtime routine by 6:30 PM. It’s hard to nurture our hobbies, interests, or social lives if you need to be home by that early hour. Parenting can also influence our career path. Signing up for that new project or taking a promotion are incredible opportunities that you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. That being said, these activities mean more hours away from home. 

There is not a simple answer that will help you find balance between your interests and ambitions with your new parenting role. However, I’d recommend first sitting down with your partner and working on a plan. Parenting should not be an all-or-nothing experience. You should not give up all your interests, friendships, or goals. However, being a parent does involve some compromise. You may not be able to take on every project at work. Or, if you do, you will face the wrath and frustration of your kids and partner. It’s hard to win at everything, and we need to let go of the expectation to achieve it all. Instead, pay attention to your priorities. Some activities will feel easy to drop, whereas others may cause a lot of resentment. Fight for the priorities that matter.

While routines and schedules are not sexy, they do ensure you have time for yourself. It’s helpful to speak with your partner to ensure you both have time to do your own things. This might involve you taking on morning chores in order for your partner to go to the gym. As a result, he or she is more flexible about you playing hockey and hang out with your friends during the evenings. The predictability in knowing Mondays nights are yours to do as you please will help settle your anxiety.

There will come a time when your child is old enough to be more self-reliant. He or she will not need you to play such a supervisory role. When this happens, sign up for more things. Until then, work with your spouse in understanding what priorities you would like to invest in during the next few months. Talk about this plan regularly so that there are no surprises and there is room to make changes. 

The pressure to do it all

As the sole parent attending work, you may feel a huge financial responsibility on your shoulders. You may also come home to a very drained spouse, and your guilt prevents you from taking time for your own self-care. Perhaps the added stress of taking care of another person can feel overwhelming. 

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If you are feeling these types of pressure, pay attention to how you respond. Some parents will work more hours in hopes that they can manage this new financial burden. Some will feel resentful towards their baby or family because these changes feel so hard. Others will become avoidant, and spend all of their time outside of the home. All of these reactions are understandable given how much this postpartum year has left you unsettled.

If possible, take a moment to slow it down and reflect. What is it about this responsibility that is worrying you the most? What makes you doubt your capacity to manage these new tasks? Is your system aware that the financial strain will improve once your partner re-enters the work force? Would it be helpful to look at your budget and make changes so that you don’t spend all day working ? Are you feeling guilty because you are struggling to “fix” your partner’s exhaustion? Does your partner want you to take on this role? By understanding the root cause of our pressure, we are able to make wiser choices. We don’t have to react in impulsive or avoidant ways, and can instead focus on problem solving, communicating, or setting realistic expectations. 

Talk about it 

There are many supports and resources for new mothers, and I recognize that the same level of support is not readily available for dads and partners. A highly effective intervention for postpartum mental health is an increase to our support network. There is significant healing that happens when you are supported by others who truly understand and appreciate the hardships of the postpartum year. This can involve leaning on your parents, friends with older children, neighbours with newborns, or a local support group. It’s helpful to speak up, and receive support and compassion from the other end. It helps to talk with others who can share advice or normalize your experiences. 

Reach out

There are many ways you can build a bond with your baby. While you can remain avoidant, this behaviour tends to bring a lot of consequences. If you or your partner is struggling with this new role of parenthood, reach out. You do not have to struggle in isolation. 

Best wishes, 

Kasi 

Pregnancy and Postpartum · Depression · Mental Health · Parenting

Will I have postpartum depression again?

For anyone who has survived postpartum depression, you know how painful and unsettling life felt after your baby arrived. During that first year, you are overwhelmed with feelings of irritability, helplessness, anger, rage, sadness, and anxiety (just to name a few). The fear of ever facing this experience again causes many parents to hesitate about having another child. There is nothing that they want to avoid more than those intrusive thoughts, hours of sobbing, or crippling anxiety. I hope this post will offer you some support and guidance in considering your next steps.

You have the right to say no

Pressures for nuclear families are constantly pushed at parents. I hear many well-intentioned family members asking when moms will be pregnant again, and expressing concerns that their children will be lonely if they do not have siblings. Firstly, let’s all agree that these folks need to chill out. No one should tell you what your family should look like. There are many, many single-child families who have wonderful, happy lives. If you have decided that one is enough, please rest assured that you are making the right decision. After all, it is your body, your lifestyle, your family, your income, and all of your resources. While loved ones may comment, at the end of the day, you have to take care of this little person. You are absolutely entitled to decide that you don’t want this option.

Many factors will influence your mental health

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There are a lot of vulnerabilities that influence mental health. When it comes to postpartum depression, the list can include: poor sleep, stress, hormonal changes, physical wellness, relationship struggles, financial worries, history of mental health, multiple children, and complicated pregnancies/deliveries. This is not an all-encompassing list; however, it does address some important influencers during the perinatal period.

History of mental health struggles (including postpartum depression with your first child) is only one contributing factor. Postpartum depression symptoms typically decrease between one postpartum period to the next, showing that we have the capacity for healing. Research has found that there is high variability of whether parents’ symptoms of postpartum depression increase or decrease in future deliveries.

What does this all mean for you? Just because you had postpartum once does not guarantee you will have it again. If you had experienced significant distress in your first experience, err on the side of caution and seek support as soon you are pregnant. Postpartum depression is treatable. Your recovery experience improves when you do not prolong suffering.

You know more today than you did during your first pregnancy

Many first time parents feel nervous and uncertain about taking care of their babies. I mean, why wouldn’t we? If we are not surrounded by babies all the time, or if it’s not within our line of work, it makes sense that we are not experts on this topic. Since there are many unknowns during the first year with our child, we can feel inundated with worries about the baby’s well-being and our own capacity to parent.

Postpartum depression. perinatal mental health. Worries about having a second child.

As cliché as this may sound, practice makes perfect. Consider how vulnerable you felt when you first took your little one home versus how you felt six months or even 2 years in to parenting. You’ve gone from feeling incompetent to suddenly having a knack for diaper changes, effortless feedings, and confidence in bedtime routines. That level of skill and knowledge took you weeks of trials and errors before you could confidently move forward. This is the beauty of having a second child. That level of uncertainty and worry still exists; however, it is significantly more muted than the first time experience. You are much faster at handling all of those questions from your first time simply because you have the experience in your tool belt.

Understand your vulnerabilities

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As painful as it may seem, I encourage you to sit down and reflect on your first-time experiences of pregnancy and postpartum months. What was hardest for you? When did you struggle the most? Did you have support available, and was your support team actually helpful? Were you able to rely on your partner? What kept you down on your hardest days? When did circumstances improve? Did you use medication, or were you able to manage without? What resources did you bring in the last time?

Knowing what was hard the first time can give us a working plan of how to handle the situation differently this time around. Some moms are so clear that they do not want to have another child while COVID-19 is still a concern. Other moms are aware that sleep training is what they needed in order to feel more stable. Many moms know that attending counselling and couples counselling helped them work through anxieties as they surfaced. It sucks to have to learn from our hardships. Knowing what did and did not work can help you decide what to do differently this time around. When you have the awareness, you have a lot more control and influence over the situation.

Find a community

The stats are very clear. About one in seven mothers and one in ten fathers experience postpartum depression. Yet, we live in a world where we suffer silently. Joining a support group, or connecting with other safe parents is one of the best things that you can do for your system. Let go of the pinterest-moms in your world. Don’t try and find validation from your next door neighbour who always looks well-presented and has the most well-tempered baby. These people will (hopefully, unintentionally) make you feel lousy. FInd parents who help you feel less alone. Your worries are similar to the stressors that others have also experienced. Find those who have survived postpartum mental health, and hear about their experiences. Learn what worked for them to not only have this level of encouragement, but to also find strategies that you want to employ.

If you experienced postpartum depression with your first child, it’s highly likely that you felt overwhelmed or frustrated with parenting. The circumstances are much more complicated if you are a single parent, or if your partner works long hours. While this is no one’s fault, feeling isolated in your parenting is an important factor to keep in mind. Gather your support team and come up with a plan that will support your needs. This may involve asking your mother to stay with you for the first week, or asking a friend to check in daily. You might contact resources like a lactation consultant, a postpartum doula, or a sleep-training specialist earlier into your postpartum experience. Your support team can be informal like friends or family, or professionals. Irrespective, these folks are helping you to fill in the gaps. There is a reason for the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” No one should be expected to do it all alone.

Move your body

When we struggle with depression, our body wants to shut down, isolate, hide, or retreat. This makes a lot of sense when the world feels too much. Of course, you want to escape and disengage. It’s far safer in your home than to socialize, take the baby out, or pretend that everything is normal. When we stay hidden away, we can get caught in this safety net for a long time. Sure the world may feel safer when you’ve stayed away, but it’s also felt bleak and painful everyday that you’ve been hidden. If you are ambivalent to have another child because of this shut down experience, there are strategies that can help. There are many coping strategies that can be employed to use address anxiety and depression. The key is to find the right set of skills that fit for you.

One effective distress tolerance skill is to increase our activity level. I get that exercise is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I want to emphasize how quickly it can help you in getting out of a funk. When it comes to a crisis situation, getting even 2-5 minutes of intense exercise will force your physiology to change. Your shut down system is forced to be more alert with this sudden intensity. After this burst of working out, we have about 15-20 minutes of reprieve. We feel more regulated and think more clearly. This gives you a chance to look at your current setup and schedule. You may find you have more capacity to get out of your room, go for a walk, or call a friend. Things that felt unmanageable, suddenly feel more accessible.

Seek treatment

Postpartum mental health is not based on will power. Crying everyday, or stressing about spending time alone with the baby is not a normal part of parenthood. If this is your experience, I want you to know that it does not have to be like this. Postpartum myths can prevent us from seeking out help, and I can appreciate that these are genuine barriers. Whether it’s due to internal shame, external pressures, cultural expectations of motherhood, or any other factors, it can be hard to shift away from this perspective. However, the best part of working in perinatal mental health is that I know it gets better. I see mothers improving within a year or two of delivery. This may involve regular therapy, a community of support, various coping strategies, use of medication, or a combination of interventions. With support, postpartum mental health can improve.

Postpartum depression does not have to define your experience

If you are feeling scared of having postpartum depression again, please reach out. Just because you struggled with your mental health the first time does not mean it will happen again, or that it has to get as bad. There are numerous preventative and reactive interventions that we can incorporate to help you feel more resilient. Reach out when you feel ready.

Take care,
Kasi

Pregnancy and Postpartum · Parenting

Building a bond with your baby: Strategies to help when you struggle with postpartum mental health

When it comes to postpartum mental health, many parents struggle to building a connection with their little ones. There may be feelings of resentment that our lives have changed. You may feel too tired to want to play or sing nurseries. Your anxiety feels too high for you to be comfortable spending time alone with your infant. Whatever the reasons may be, you’ve been coping these months by maintaining an emotional distance from your child and feel desperate to build a bond with your baby.

I want you to know that attachment can be formed irrespective of postpartum mental health. Our relationships can always grow and develop, even when the onset was rocky. The first five years with your child are pivotal, and there are many things that can be done from hereon in to nurture this new relationship safely and without overwhelming your nerves or emotions.

The following strategies will help you feel more secure to meet your baby’s needs. No, they’re not all about singing songs or giving massages. I recognize that singing and massages are great options, but not everyone is at this starting point. So, let’s start slow so that we can get you to a place of feeling more confident to building a better relationship.

1. Introduce your infant to activities that you enjoy doing.

bonding with your baby, attachment, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, strategies to cope

When the bond with your baby is already feeling tested, it’s incredibly hard to push ourselves to do “baby-focused” activities. Your motivation and desire to encourage tummy time or play peek-a-boo is next to nil. When you feel this way, it’s not helpful to ask you to force it. This may work for a day or two, but a stressful event will likely bring you back to square one. Instead, I want to encourage taking small steps that will feel more manageable for your system.

When you focus on your hobbies and interests, you’re often able to relax. There’s less pressure to perform. You have less anxieties about ensuring you’re “doing it right” and, instead, can just enjoy the task at hand. Whether it’s going for a run, cooking a meal, painting, reading a book, playing dungeons and dragons, there are creative ways to bring your baby into your world. Bust out that jogger to take your little one on a run with you. Introduce your baby to different smells, and speak to her about the different spices that are going into your meal. Show her the different colors you’re using while painting. Read outloud from your book so that your baby learns new words. Have her roll large dice for your various rounds in a board game. There are ways to still be you and foster your own interests while including your baby.

2. Build confidence with a support person

When you’re feeling insecure about being a parent, the pressure of parenting independently can feel like too much. Let your partner, friends, or family members know how you feel. Your sense of overwhelm with the baby does not mean you cannot be a good parent. Attachment struggles are a common sign of postpartum anxiety. Rather than avoid your baby all together (many have been here!), or become flooded with frustration or resentment, try and share the load.

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Speak with your family members about spending more time together so that you can grow into this role. It’s easier to play with the baby or learn to handle colicky moments when you have a safe friend or family member supporting you. Your trusted person may give tips (tell them to cool it if it feels too much), or may provide you encouragement as you try. They may be wonderful at providing a distraction, so that you’re less focused on doing things perfectly. This support should also include your friend providing you a time out when you have met your limit and need to take a breather.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A word of caution that it can feel tempting to step away and allow your family member to take over. But if you are hanging out with your little one and there’s a fellow adult around, the conversation feels easier, and there’s less strain to manage by yourself. When you’ve had enough practice with your infant, speak with your support person about coming over for shorter visits. By slowly reducing the amount of support available, you are practicing gradual exposure. This type of practice helps you work set realistic goals within your window of tolerance, and slowly build confidence as you spend more time independently parenting.

3. Make sure you are getting enough time to sleep.

postpartum mental health. building bond with your baby. sleep.

I know this point sounds strange as far as suggestions to improve the bond with your baby. However, one of the biggest turning points for postpartum mental health is having enough rest. You will never feel at your best if you are working off days or weeks of sleep deprivation. Trust that you will feel calmer, more energetic, more engaged and more like yourself when you’ve had sleep. Once you’ve had a solid week or two of rest, check in on your feelings towards your baby. Are you still feel that intense aversion or fear or has it shifted a bit?

For new parents, I strongly encourage working collaboratively to at least have longer segmented sleep. This might mean that one parent takes an early morning shift so that the other gets to sleep in. Or vice versa, whoever is the night owl takes on the later evening feed so that the other can rest. Understandably, parents will have to consider their comfort levels with pumping or formula feeding. While this is a personal choice, I want to emphasize that your system will feel significantly better after having at least four solid hours of rest.

4. Eye contact and Communication

Eye contact and verbal communication are effective ways to building a bond with your baby. These verbal and non-verbal cues help foster language skills and emotional intelligence in your little one. Your baby starts to recognize faces, understand facial cues, and builds a sense of safety with you. By communicating more, your baby will pick up on various words and gain a stronger understanding of language.

attachment and bond with your baby. Eye contact. postpartum in moms and dads

Maintaining eye contact can be incredibly difficulty, particularly if you struggle with attachment traumas or social anxiety. This strategy may not feel right for everyone, and I encourage you to be kind to yourself and where you are in your healing process. If it feels manageable, try and look directly at your baby while breastfeeding, changing diapers, and when doing any tasks related to your little one. Feel free to look away when the baby loses interest or is over-stimulated. I want to emphasize that doing even a little bit is better than nothing at all. If you are able to maintain eye contact while changing a diaper but feel overwhelmed during breastfeeding, work with that capacity.

Many parents with postpartum depression struggle to spend time with their babies, and it’s a big ask to encourage them to speak to their infants more often. If you are not “feeling it”, you don’t have to coo, speak in baby-talk, or sing nursery rhymes. Keep it simple. Describe what you’re doing in that moment with your baby, even it if it sounds like a tedious play by play. Talk about things that interest you in front of your infant so that they hear the variance in your speech patterns. Have conversations with other adults in front of your babies so they can witness different verbal and non-verbal expressions.

5. When there are no words, use hugs.

Perinatal mental health. Crying, fussy baby. Improving bond. improving attachment

Sometimes the baby cries, and it’s the most aggravating experience. You can’t figure it out. You have tried changing diapers, feeding, rocking, and nothing is working. Rather than stress yourself further, if you have the ability, focus on just holding your baby. There’s no need to walk around or figure out a soothing gait. Spend that effort on giving your baby a gentle hug. Touch is one of the most reassuring options for your infant and it provides them a sense of safety. Having that skin to skin contact, when you don’t know the right words or actions to take, can help both you and the baby feel calmer. Building a bond with your baby can involve a variety of different strategies, but sometimes the simplest action of being held can be enough.

6. When there are no words, walk away.

time outs. improving bonds. frustrated dad.

I know this seems contradictory to the previous point, but this is to give you the option to decide your current capacity. I encourage you to start with hugs when you are capable of this action. When you feel you cannot take it, and you are at your max, it’s essential that you have permission to put the baby in the crib and walk away. Giving ourselves timeouts is a wonderful option to take a break, find ways to regulate, and try again after a few minutes. I encourage using a distress tolerance skill (e.g. dialectical behaviour therapy skills like ACCEPTS or changing temperature) during your timeouts as it is a fast way to calm your system.

7. Plan your day

Boredom can be a significant trigger for many people. When you are bored, your mind starts to wander and, oftentimes, you’re back to that pattern of anxious, racing thoughts. Boredom can lead you to that rabbithole of social media where you fall into the trap of comparing your life to others. Boredom can be a common push factor towards drinking. When we are aware that boredom plays a role in our emotional struggle, we can form a plan. When your mental health improves, your ability to build a bond with your baby also improves.

While parental leave can be wonderful, it can also involve long and tedious days. In many ways, going to work provides us a lot of stability: we have a consistent routine of getting up, tasks to accomplish, opportunities for social interaction and consistent break times. If we know what the day will include, it can ease our anxieties, and we can plan ahead for boredom.

So, what will you do this week? Can you try and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day? Do you have opportunities to socialize each day? Are there playdates that you can schedule, outings that you can plan, activities that you’ve wanted to try out? Are there new play gyms that are available in your city? Will you register for a new online parent and baby class? Are there some new and exciting activities or hobbies that you’ve been wanting to take up (with or without your little one around)?

8. Building a bond with your baby does not require perfect parenting

Parenting has become a dreaded term. It’s a job that involves a lot of effort and patience on your part, and very little on the part of your babies. And as with any job, you may be striving to do it right. While your intentions are commendable, the desire to parent well can sometimes lead to additional stress.

When it comes to providing for your baby, “good enough” is more than enough. We are not able to get it right all the time, and it’s unrealistic to expect this of anyone. There are always going to be factors that pull our attention and that prevent us from being able to attend to our child’s emotional cues. In reality, we only get it right about 30% of the time. Other times, we are completely missing the mark on our babies’ cues or working to repair that misattunement. This is perfectly normal and expected in all parents. Rather than getting our hopes up to parent perfectly, we can focus our attention on repair if we have made a mistake. Repair work may involve: apologizing if you’ve been cross, paying attention if your child is trying to engage you in play, or providing that gentle hug if your baby gets frightened by your exasperated sigh. Our expectations can ease when we know that we will only get it right 30% of the time AND that this 30% attunement is what we can expect even in the most loving and secure of relationships.

Reach out

Everyone’s situation is unique. I don’t want to assume that the points I’ve listed out are going to meet your specific needs. If you are struggling with postpartum mental health and you’re concerned about the bond with your baby, reach out for a free consult. Postpartum mental health is treatable. You can get better, and your relationship with your child can be positive.

Take care,

Kasi

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Pregnancy and Postpartum · Mental Health · Parenting

A Note for all “Mothers”

On Mother’s Day, we are bombarded with social media posts doting on all the maternal figures in our lives. While there is no denying that there are some fantastic mothers out there, not all of us feel lucky to have this type of positive influence. Many mothers do not feel confident enough to call themselves fantastic parents. Working in the perinatal field, I am surrounded by mothers who struggle with this internal assessment of whether they are good enough parents to their children. On this Mother’s Day, I wanted to gather a few quotes that I hope will offer some comfort and guidance as you move through your own journey of understanding or experiencing motherhood.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

I love this quote for recognizing that, as parents, we are working with a blank slate. Our interactions, guidance, compassion, and boundaries are all critical in teaching our children how to navigate in the world. In many ways, we will do an excellent job in offering the secure attachment to let them explore and gain independence. However, some of our own anxieties can come forward to affect the ways in which we influence our children. This does not have to be a deal breaker. Relationships grow. They can strengthen and weaken. Making a mistake or being imperfect is not a life sentence for your children or your relationship with them.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

We all carry wounded parts within our system. These wounds stem from trauma, heartbreak, grief, or other hardships we have endured in our lifetime. Sometimes, however, our wounds are not our burdens but those of our parents and the generations before them.

Your mother will pass many adaptive and effective qualities on to you. Other times, she will pass on teachings from her own hardships. Experiences like war, poverty, and racial injustice have taught the generations before us how to survive. Your mother’s emotional system had to change in order to adapt to these events. Accordingly, she may be anxious around police officers, she may push for frugality over spending, and she may express bitterness or anger towards a certain group of people. These behaviours are learned survival tactics. She needed them to manage in her world. It’s easy to pass on these tactics to you. These adaptive needs suddenly become part of your story, and you learn to navigate in the world using these behaviours, even though they may, or may not, be as relevant today.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

I loathe when social media bombards us with pictures of idealistic parenting. I’m referring to those images of a parent serenely staring at her child (who is dressed to the nines and displaying perfect manners). Let’s face it: that is not reality. My child has meltdowns, just like yours. There are times when I have to coach myself before going to a grocery store or completing errands because I know my patience will tested. Being a mother can be very fulfilling. It’s full of love, laughter, elation, warmth and so many other beautiful feelings. Just as equally, motherhood knows exactly how to push your buttons. Your child is incredibly brilliant in knowing what will make you explode. And it is absolutely normal for you to want to some compassion and understanding (as well as a break!) during these moments.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

Following a birth trauma, we can get stuck in the narrative of how we conceived, carried, or delivered our child. This unsettling onset of motherhood can hold us in a state of frustration, guilt or even anger. Our traumas keep us caught in the past, and prevent us from fully enjoying the present moment with our newborn. Moreover, our trauma can keep us stuck in grief when we did not have the chance to welcome our baby into our lives.

For any parent who has experienced a birth trauma, I want to emphasize that healing is possible. Working through traumatic events can take time and support. Every mother goes through processing and acceptance at a different pace. However, PTSD does not nullify the fact that your life has changed. No matter how your birth experience turned out, your world has suddenly shifted. You may have brought home a new addition to your family. Your family may have lost the possibility of including a new member. No matter what has happened, your world looks different today than it did yesterday.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.
What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

I love comparing these two quotes. Our kids can ground us and guide our lives. It’s easy to get sucked into their world doing after school activities, focusing on their development, and helping nurture their interests. However, as parents, our ultimate goal in child rearing is that our kids become independent people who no longer rely on us in this same way. In preparation for this eventual transition, I like to remind all mothers to not lose themselves completely in the process of parenting.

When we’ve done parenting right, our kids will leave us to live their own lives. It’s a big shift to suddenly focus on ourselves instead of them. To prepare for this change, nurture parts of yourself throughout their entire development. This may involve taking an hour to yourself at the end of the day, or going on mini-vacations on your own. It may mean developing your career alongside your childrearing. You were your own person before becoming a parent, and it’s important to not forget this pivotal detail.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.
What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

These are messages that I love to remind my perfectionist side. While my education has taught me how to provide therapy and support the emotional side of life, I am not an expert in all things related to motherhood. I recall panicking the first time my child had a fever. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I had to help my little one learn to sleep independently. There are countless memories of us trying to rush out the door on time for work, and of me losing patience.

While we want to be experts at everything, it’s next to impossible to achieve this goal. Your child did not come with a manual, and they will constantly throw new issues at you to figure out. Give yourself the time and patience to screw up and learn from these mistakes. You will not always be calm, you will not always know the right answer, and you will not always look like you have it together. That’s okay. We learn from all these experiences. Surround yourself with others who are also learning and can resonate with this need for patience and forgiveness. This is your support system that will get you through those hard moments. Mothers come in all different shape, sizes, capacities, histories, strengths and weaknesses. There is no formula that will be make us perfect parents, but we can do well in this job.

What does it mean to be a mother? Mother's day. Maternity. motherhood. kasi shan therapy offers counselling for mothers experiencing trauma and perinatal mental health.

I had to include this quote only because Matilda was one of my favourite books as a kid. But in many ways, Roald Dahl is right. Our kids can be ridiculous. They can be the obnoxious and make terrible fart jokes. They can be surly and give us the sassiest comments that make us want to scream. However, by the end of the day, we (usually) have our rosy-colored glasses back on and finding them to be magnificent, charming creatures.

To my fellow mothers, mothers-to-be, women who wish to be mothers, and maternal figures, I hope you all recognize your strength and patience in this process. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a special day if you don’t wish to celebrate it. Mother’s Day should not be only one day of the year that you are appreciated. I hope these quotes and messages offer you comfort and get you through this day. If you need support, please reach out.

Warmly,

Kasi


Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Parenting · Pregnancy and Postpartum

Wanting to be a better parent

Every caregiver can appreciate the desire to be a better parent for their kids. We can also appreciate how this goal seems unachievable when we are snapping at our little ones after the third tantrum of the morning. The desire to be a better parent comes from good intentions; we want these tiny humans to develop into healthy adults. For those parents who are overwhelmed, fearful of screwing things up, close to burn out, or just feeling generally lost, I hope this post offers you some guidance and comfort.

Accept that perfection is impossible:

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

The perfectionist part of me hates this title. But this is a message that I tell myself as often as I tell my clients. In order to be a better parent, we have to get rid of this notion for perfection. We are not going to be perfect, and truthfully, we don’t have to be perfect.

There was incredible research done by child development expert, Dr. Ed Tronick, in the 1980s. He and his team showed the impact of attuning to our children. Meaning, when your child reaches out, is distressed, or needs attention, how do you respond? When it comes to secure attachment, we want to ensure our children are safe, soothed, and seen.

However, Dr. Tronick emphasizes that it is impossible to be attuned all the time. We are going to be busy, and have other responsibilities that pull our attention away. We cannot always respond when our toddler wants us to play or when our teen wants to talk. In fact, in his research, Dr. Tronick found that even the “best parents” were only attuned to their kids 30% of the time. Furthermore, this 30% is enough to raise secure and healthy children.

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

This number always floors me. While our perfectionist parts may want us to excel, it’s important to recognize that, our relationship to our kids can remain healthy and strong irrespective of making mistakes. This doesn’t mean that we’re being jerks the remaining 70% of the time. However, when our kid asks to play, and we’re busy putting away laundry or making supper, we cannot meet our child’s current needs. This is considered misattunement. I hope the guilt reduces when you hear that these moments of misconnection are not harmful. Your kids will be just fine, and will continue to have a secure relationship with you, despite these moments of being unavailable.

Own your mistakes.

This 30% guideline can also be helpful when we have moments of anger, frustration, irritation, or any other difficult emotion towards our child. This is normal! You are going to screw up. I am going to screw up. It sucks. Anger is a normal emotion for humans. However, anger can either stay in our heads as unpleasant thoughts or come out in some form of regretful behaviour. If the latter occurs, it’s essential we address it.

One of my favourite skills to address these regretful moments is a therapeutic apology. This term comes from Emotion-Focused Family Therapy. A therapeutic apology is a deeper acknowledgement when we have made a mistake. It involves validation, and taking the time to voice what these events must have been like for our kids. Therapeutic apologies also offers the commitment for change, and a promise for a better relationship.

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

You may dread bringing up the past once the conflict is over. It may feel messy to stir up a wound that is starting to recover. However, we don’t know the impact that these moments have had on our kids. Following divorce, domestic violence, substance use, and any other mental health stressors, our kids are affected. Despite their denials, dismissals, or refusal to talk about things, kids are influenced by these events. While we may not want to bring up the past, a therapeutic apology supports kids in letting go of any burden or weight they carry because of these events. Being a better parent involves taking the time to acknowledge our past mistakes. These meaningful acts help us repair relationship ruptures, and creates safety in the home to admit our mistakes.

Role Modeling

Our children look to us for guidance. The manners in which we handle difficult situations shapes the ways our children manage their world. Gone are the days when we proclaim, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Role modeling can seem daunting, but truthfully, it’s an opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, you are going to screw up (again, read the sections above!) However, you can strategically plan how you will role model. What can you take the time to show your children? If your child experiences anxiety, how can you role model staying calm? If your child struggles with negative self-talk, how can you role model self-compassion? I like to ask parents to think of what behaviours they would to see increased in their child. Then we create an action plan of how these parents can showcase this specific behaviour to their children.

Talk about the good and the bad

I find that it’s helpful to talk to our kids about when we are having good days and bad days. We want to explain things to them in child-friendly ways versus rehashing all the nitty-gritty details. However, it’s important for kids to know that stressors happen to everyone. We can share that we had a difficult encounter with our boss, and explain how we intend to carry forward. We can also normalize that some problems are not easily solvable, and that it can take time to consider options.

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

Many of us are raised in an emotional-avoidant culture. We don’t talk about difficult topics, and instead focus on happiness, sunshine, and rainbows. This doesn’t help our youth. They will face hardships as they grow up. Learning that hardships happen for others can help our kids realize they are not alone. It can give them a framework to compare and assess their own troubles. It will also provide our children with more coping strategies and problem solving if they encounter similar situations.

Plan for Melt Downs

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

The hardest part of being a parent to a young kid is the meltdowns. They happen, and it’s awful… especially when it’s in public. It’s important to take a moment and reflect what is being triggered in you during these moments. Are you frustrated that they’re not listening? Are you stressed because others are watching you? Maybe there’s a sense of helplessness in not knowing what to do. In taking the time to consider what parts get activated for you, you are better able to support your system. You are able to spend time with this triggered part, understand it’s fears, it’s protective intents, and build trust within your system (these are skills from internal family systems therapy).

Once you are feeling less triggered, you have more space to be a better parent. You’re able to stay present and attuned. This can mean holding your child and supporting them co-regulate. It may involve sitting down with them and asking for clarity in why they are feeling so intensely. And, in some cases, it may mean setting some limits about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Setting Limits

Setting limits can be tough, and the best way to lose this game is through inconsistency. Take some time to consider what typically sets off your child. Or, just as importantly, what behaviours drive you bonkers?

I encourage having a conversation with kids about rules and expectations. While this may or may not stop the behaviour, it also gives the chance for kids to share feedback and problem solve how they want to handle these moments. It’s important that you and your kids are aware of what is inappropriate behaviours, and what will be the consequence (e.g. removal of privilege). Once these ground rules are established, it’s essential that we follow through.

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

Because it is important to carry out the established consequences, it helps to only pick a handful of behaviours you’d like to reduce. If you try and change too many things, it’s easy to lose track. So, pick your battles. What behaviours are most important for you to reduce? For example, in our household, we have set consequences when it comes to being physically aggressive.

I would highly recommend setting a consequence for a short period of time (e.g. for young kids, no longer than an hour; for school age kids, a maximum of a day; and for teens, no longer than a few days). When your child has broken curfew, or taken the car without permission, I get that you want to ground them for a month. However, this gives our children zero chance to redeem themselves. It also means you have to carry out the set punishment. Can you imagine following through on a consequence of no TV for two weeks? You will lose it as much as your kid. With older teens, rather than learning from the consequence, they are just focused on being angry at their stubborn parents.

Shaping behaviours through praise and attention

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

When you think of all the behaviours and skills you’d like to see in your kid, what’s most important? Let’s say that you’re noticing your daughter has a pattern of getting angry and slamming doors after arguments about curfew. You can remove a privilege whenever the door is slammed, but how do you reinforce what she is meant to do instead?

We’ve already discussed role modelling appropriate behaviours. Beyond this, it’s important to recognize whenever your child is doing well. This means paying attention to times when your daughter speaks calmly, walks away to take some space, and when she does home before curfew. When these occurrences happen, how do you reinforce them? While we can use rewards to help increase behaviours we want to see (e.g. extra dessert for every time you tidy up your room), praise and positive attention are equally effective.

As a forewarning, your teen will still scoff and roll her eyes when you praise her for talking calmly. However, on a daily basis, your child is bombarded with negative attention. Whether it is due to these arguments, social pressures, poor grades, or feedback from teachers, she is aware of her flaws. Positive attention is pivotal. We seek approval. When you can express this approval in a genuine manner, your child will slowly respond.

Make play a priority

We all have busy lives, and we cannot invest 10 hours to minecraft, even though our kid may beg. However, being intentional about setting aside some times for being with our kids is important. Spending time that doing activities that your child enjoys (and that you can tolerate) will allow some space for this relationship to heal. We can seek out quality time in various ways. This can involve chatting during a car ride home, watching a favourite show with them, playing video games, or inciting them with a promise of Starbucks if they would be willing to hang out.

wanting to be a better parent. parenting. EFFT. Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

Your kids will not always be enthusiastic about this type of attention. But we do not grow close to people who we barely talk to or see. It’s important that we carve out these opportunities, even though it may feel like pulling teeth with your teenager.

As always, the consistency matters. You can be clear to your kid about your intentions. It’s okay to say, “I miss you, and wish we were closer. Can we go for ice cream?” It’s helpful to let them know, after supper is when we get to hang out as a family and play cards. Having this consistency helps them recognize you mean it when you say you want to spend time. Especially for older kids, if there have been a lot of conflict, they’ll feel cautious in trusting you. As with any other relationship, rebuilding this trust takes time and patience.

Know that you are doing your best

Depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other form of mental health can affect the way you would like to parent. Daily life stressors, like a busy work schedule, demands from other children, or financial constraints, can affect the way you’d like to parent. We cannot always control these variables. However, the security and positive bond you have with your child is incredibly healing.

This post offers general strategies, and every person comes with their own history and unique set of needs. For support related to your own family and parenting, please contact me for a free consult. Stay tuned for further parenting supports via an Emotion-Focused Family Therapy workshop for advanced caregiving.

All the best,

Kasi

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Mental Health · Parenting

Using validation to improve your relationship

When it comes to some challenging relationships, we all recognize that miscommunications and frustration seem endless. It feels like every conversation hits a roadblocks, and both you and the other person walk away feeling hurt, pissed off, and unheard. So how do we work through these blocks so that we can improve our relationship with these individuals? Whether you are a family member, a partner, a friend, or a work colleague, validation is an incredibly simple and powerful skill that can help reduce conflict and improve your relationships.

What is validation?

Validation involves acknowledging how another person’s thoughts, behaviours, or actions make sense given the context. This means finding even the smallest piece of the other person’s argument that you can appreciate and find valid or reasonable. Not only do you need to recognize this understanding, but you’ll need to take the time to express that understanding to the other person.

Validation to improve your relationship. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling services online and in Kitchener, ON.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

There might be some guess work when it comes to validation. After all, you can’t know for sure what a person is thinking or feeling unless they are actually stating these points. However, can you look at the situation with an empathetic perspective, and guess as to what may causing them to behave this way at this time? If not, can you ask them to help you understand why they feel so passionately about a certain stance?

Let’s take an example of parenting teenagers. Let’s say that, most recently, your arguments have been about curfew and arriving home on time. Typically, when you and your teens get into a conflict, it is the most exasperating conversation. It feels next to impossible to find any points that your teens are voicing that makes sense. In the end, you all end up screaming at one another, and the relationship stays rocky.

Validation to improve your relationship. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling services online and in Kitchener, ON.
Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

If you could step back from the conflict at this moment, is there any understanding for why your teenagers want to push back a curfew time, and how that makes sense? If you were in your teens’ shoes, what might they be feeling? What does staying out later mean to them? What opportunities are they hoping to meet by staying out later? Would having a slightly later curfew mean more time with friends? Would it mean they feel like they belong in their peer group? Are they worried about not having time with their partners? What do they worry will happen if they don’t get to have this time? If they are worried about their social status, does it make sense that they are pissed off right now that they can’t stay out later? If they are wanting to spend time with their friends, and feel socially isolated right now, does it make sense that they are arguing so strongly?

Validation is not approval or agreement

Validation to improve your relationship. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling services online and in Kitchener, ON.

I tend to lose parents in trying to see things from their teens’ point of view because they worry that validation will mean approval or acceptance of their behaviour. And of course, at the end of the day, you don’t want to condone them to stay out later. You’re worried about what kind of trouble they’ll get into at later hours. You’re concerned about safety and whether their peers will be making responsible choices at this time. You’re tired of being anxious, and staying up late in order to ensure they’re coming home safely…. Did you notice what I just did there? I focused on validating how you may be feeling. I didn’t agree with you or claim that your point of view was correct. However, I focused on trying to find kernels of truth that I can appreciate from your point of view, and expressed how they are valid and reasonable. When you read these words of validation, how did they land with you? Did you get more upset or was there some softening on your part?

When we validate, it helps us shift out of stuck patterns of all-or-nothing thinking, where either you are right or the other person is right. When we are focused on findings things to validate, it forces us to pay attention to how an experience might be for another person. This can be tough because our natural instinct is to focus on our own emotions, thoughts and feel affronted that the other person “doesn’t get it.” By taking their perspective, it helps us move away from the extreme all-or-nothing framework that we often get caught in when we’re angry. Validation helps us shift into more dialectical thinking, teaching us that there can be more than one side to an argument.

Validation to improve your relationship. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling services online and in Kitchener, ON.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Once the emotional intensity goes down during an argument, there is more capacity to work together and find options that likely fall somewhere in the middle. When we express words of validation, the other person will feel more understood, and therefore, more amenable to talking. While the actual problem will still need to be addressed and resolved, you’re both more grounded in order to have a conversation that improves your relationship rather than cause harm.

When it comes to validation, I try and follow the rules of Dr. Adele LaFrance, founder of Emotion Focused-Family Therapy Dr. LaFrance recommends working validation in sets of threes, meaning, can you find three points to validate? Let’s assume that your partner is really angry that you didn’t wash the dishes. If you were to say the following validating statement to your partner, how do you imagine it would go?

I can really appreciate that you’re frustrated right now. (1) You’ve had a long day at work, and (2) you’ve been so excited to come home and relax, and (3) seeing the pile of dirty dishes would feel so cumbersome when you already feel so tired.

Notice how in the above statement, there was acknowledgement of how your partner may be feeling, thinking or behaving, and how you can genuinely empathize with these factors. If you’re feeling stuck with how to validate, try and begin with statements such as:

  • I can appreciate that you
  • I could understand how you…
  • I could imagine that..
  • It makes sense that…

Stuck places: When does it go wrong?

  • Not knowing what to validate: If you really feel stuck, and can’t guess what to validate, simply ask. Ask the person to help you understand why they feel this way or to explain why it’s so important that they push this specific agenda. By asking for clarification, it will give them a chance to express their feelings, and also provide you some opportunities for potential validation points.
  • Using BUT after you validate: There is no other way to kill a beautiful validating sentence than using “but”. It negates the initial positive statement, and focuses more on selling your point of view. It’s not that your point of view is wrong. However, validation is all about helping to lower the intensity of emotions so that the other person will be more willing to listen and work amicably. This won’t happen if you’re agenda is to convince them that you’re right (even though you may be right! Nevertheless, it doesn’t change their willingness to work with you).
  • Forgetting to be mindful of our tone and non-verbal cues: What’s the point of saying all these lovely words if we don’t express them in a genuine and gentle fashion? Your friend will not feel understood if you’re rolling your eyes and scoffing while you tell him/her/them that you get it. So check in on your external presentation. Can it soften? How is your volume? Does it need to lower? What is your body posture like? Is your tone clipped or curt? Can you express your interest in hearing what the other person has to say?

So the next time you find your in a stagnant conflict, give validation a try and let me know how it goes. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out.

Parenting

3 tips to improve your parenting style

How do you find your parenting style? Does it meet the standards you’d set out for yourself? Are there times where you look back and cringe, wishing things had gone differently? Are there moments where you’re proud of how you handled a tough tantrum? In the next few posts, I will be sharing some strategies to improve your parenting style with your kids. Give it a try and see how your relationship can grow!

Strategy One: Be mindful of HOW you are talking.

STEP ONE

I challenge you to do absolutely nothing different except start observing the way you communicate with other people. Notice how your tone, posture, volume, eye contact, and other verbal/nonverbal communication skills shift when you’re speaking from one person to the next.

father talking to his son
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

STEP TWO

Start noticing how you are talking to your kids. Surely they are not the only people in your life who you find baffling or irritating. How do you approach them versus anyone else outside of your home?

family preparing food in the kitchen
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

STEP THREE

Write a list of communication changes that are manageable right now. Do not wait until the ‘perfect time’ to make these changes- your kids will not be around on only ‘perfect days’. Would this change involve having more eye contact when you speak with them? Do you need to switch to a gentler tone? Do you tend to multitask when you’re around them? Are there any passive-aggressive comments being made? (No judgement! We’ve all done it at some point.)

notebook
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Pick ONE strategy and try it out consistently for two weeks. Check at the end of your two weeks to see if it made a difference. If it does, awesome and congrats! If it doesn’t, go back to your list and try another. Good luck, parents!
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Kasi

Pregnancy and Postpartum · Parenting

5 reasons why parents don’t seek treatment for postpartum depression

We know the rate of postpartum depression is quite high, and that it affects approximately 1/7 moms and 1/10 dads. The symptoms can vary from uncontrollable tears, rage, lack of appetite, and endless worries. It is meant to be a beautiful time where you build a bond with your newborn, but this emotional roller coaster doesn’t allow you to nurture this relationship. So, what gets in the way of seeking treatment for postpartum depression (PPMD)?

When it comes to accessing help, there are five common misconceptions that create a barrier:

1) Postpartum depression is a “mom” issue.

False! Firstly, there is no way to live with a family member who has mental health struggles and not become affected in some way or form. Mental health has a ripple effect. Secondly, the impact of adjusting to life with a baby is equally stressful for dads, adopted parents, and caregivers. In fact, these other support persons can also experience postpartum depression. PPMD can affect anyone, irrespective of age, race, culture, education or financial status.

What prevents you from seeking treatment for postpartum depression? Here are 5 common Myths. Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy if you are struggling with postpartum depression.
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

2) If I ask for help, they will take my baby away.

This comment gets whispered often, and my heart breaks every time I hear it. I think the Children’s Aid Society has done an incredible job over the years in supporting children in staying safe. At the same time, I think our history has been marred by CAS experiences that have created caution and distrust.

As a social worker, I can clarify that my duty to report is solely in situations where there is genuine threat to a baby. Postpartum parents struggle with their own emotions and this, in turn, makes it hard for them to take care of their child. The intent is not to be physically harmful towards their child. In fact, the primary stressors I witness in postpartum parents are guilt and insecurity. They are struggling because they worry of not being a good enough parent. There is guilty about not spending enough time with their baby or their loved ones. These caregivers stress about how they cannot provide for their child as well as they would like. None of these worries are a concern about child safety. Instead, this is a parent who is expressing suffering, and they should be treated with compassion.

3) I can’t have postpartum depression; I’m not crying or sad all the time.

Depression is often described as a heavy cloud that hangs over us, making it hard to feel motivated, enjoy life, or be ourselves. It’s understandable to dismiss symptoms of PPMD because it doesn’t show up in the same ways as depression. With PPMD, there are a variety of different symptoms that can be seen, including:

  • sadness
  • overwhelmed/stressed
  • scary of unwanted thoughts
  • flashbacks/trauma about the pregnancy or delivery
  • anxiety
  • sleep troubles
  • emptiness
  • rage/irritability
  • appetite troubles
  • lack of energy
  • avoidance
  • disinterest
  • fear of being along
  • fear of being separated from baby
  • concentration difficulties
5 myths that prevent a parent from seeking treatment for postpartum depression. Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for support
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

4) I won’t get better or This is how parenting is supposed to be.

Postpartum depression is treatable! With effective support, parents can recover. Moreover, treatment is more efficient when support is offered sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, many parents assume “feeling bad” is normal during postpartum. There is an adjustment period involved when a baby comes into the home. However, if the stress in adjusting is overwhelming, and if it does not get better with time, it warrants some extra support. Others may make flippant remarks like, “get used to it.” It doesn’t mean your emotional struggles are any less real, nor should they minimized.

5) I didn’t think I had it. I was fine for the first few months.

Postpartum depression does not show up right away, and so it can often be missed. Postpartum Support International recommends that we assess for perinatal depression throughout the pregnancy (every trimester), as well as at 1, 2, and 6 months postpartum. There has also been new research indicating the benefits in assessing at 9 and 12 months as parents begin to return to work, and they face another large adjustment period. Because some parents may not have noticed clear indicators of stressors before this time, it is easy to assume that what they are experiencing is not postpartum depression.

What prevents you from seeking treatment for postpartum depression? Here are 5 common Myths. Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy if you are struggling with postpartum depression.
Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

Fellow caregivers, if you are struggling with PPMD, know that it is not your fault. There is no single cause for having PPMD, and there are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that increase your vulnerabilities. If you, or your loved ones are needing support, please reach out.

Parenting

Being a “good enough” parent

The beauty is in repairing our relationships, not about being perfect.

This year, I began a new part-time job working with a postpartum mood disorder program. Surrounded by new parents, I couldn’t help but think about all the joys (and horrors) of pregnancy and that first year after my son was born. For those of you who know me well, you’re likely aware that I can be a perfectionist. I fought many battles in my head during those months – Am I spending enough time with my son? Does he feel enough love? Am I disciplining enough, or am I being a pushover? Is he crying too much? Why don’t I have the skills to make him stop crying? Will this kid ever go to bed? Unfortunately, the relief came to me after I returned back to work and started reading more on attachment theory. While I’d love to believe that I’m totally in sync with my kid and can respond effortlessly, he and I both know I’d be lying. Ed Tronick (psychologist behind the Still Face Experiment) and his team completed some research in the 80s focusing on parent-child interaction. They found that parents are only correctly “in tune” (correctly understanding and responding to our kids’ emotional and social cues) with their kids about 20-30% of the time.

Being a good enough parent. Are you looking for support with parenting? Contact Kasi Shan Therapy. Treating trauma and postpartum/ pregnancy mental health.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Sure when our babies communicate with us we try to respond, but we all make mistakes. Sometimes our kid wants to play, and we fail to respond (also known in my house as 5 AM when I’m too focused on gulping down my first cup of coffee to truly care about the world of Hot Wheels). Luckily, research shows that my lack of enthusiasm towards plastic cars (often followed by a whiny complaint from my charming toddler) will not destroy our relationship. The key to a good relationship with our kids is in the repair work. This may mean we read a story together after I’ve inhaled that first cup; or, I do some mindful breathing to help me regulate so I can handle the tantrum. Most of our errors get repaired quickly when we tune back in with our kids and understand their emotional needs. In the grand scheme of things, a negative interaction will not make or break our relationship, so long as our kids feel the repair work.

Being a good enough parent. Are you wanting support with parenting? Contact Kasi Shan Therapy. Treating trauma and postpartum/ pregnancy mental health.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

So, what’s the moral of this story? As parents, we just have to try our best. Some days we’ll be great at picking up on our kids’ emotional cues, and our attentiveness and empathy will be on point. Other days, we screw up. So long as we continue to work on getting back in sync, we’ll be okay, and so will our kids. My son will not care about the one morning when I growl at a hot wheel or lose my patience when we’re running late for work. The ratio of this ‘attachment rupture’ is balanced out when I join him in belting out the Spiderman theme song in the car every day.

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