World Kindness Day

Whenever you turn on the news these days chances are it is not covering a very happy story. It’s likely about something involving violence, hatred, anger, tragedy, or disaster. For whatever reason people tend to latch onto what makes somebody different, with the impression that different equals less. That can make it feel like the world we live in is a pretty sad, desolate place. There just doesn’t seem to be enough positivity or happiness to outweigh all of the nastiness and disgust. Sometimes it feels like there is a lack of kindness.

If you dig deeper, however, there isn’t a lack of kindness at all. Rather, there is a lack of awareness of the kindness we encounter on a daily basis. There doesn’t appear to be a true appreciation for those people that share and exude kindness on a daily basis. So, how can we remedy that? Where do we begin? Well, November 13th is World Kindness Day, so perhaps we can use that as a springboard to bring kindness back into the spotlight. Here are a few suggestions.

Keep it up. If you’re somebody that already shares kindness with those around you, don’t stop! Although it can be easy to feel discouraged, the world needs your positivity and caring nature now more than ever.

Initiate. There may be an opportunity to share a moment of kindness with someone but you don’t necessarily want to stand out or draw attention to yourself. Don’t be afraid to be the person to share kindness! Chances are there’s somebody else that is watching and needs to see your example.

Notice. Look around you more often and obverse the random acts of kindness. You may be surprised by how many caring people you encounter without even realizing. That awareness will open your eyes to the beauty of kindness.

Defend. It’s typically people that are marginalized in society that are on the receiving end of hatred, violence, and anger. If you see someone that can’t protect themselves or is viewed as “different”, be their defender. Stand up for them and help them realize that they are in fact valued and loved.

Nudge. Sometimes people need a gentle reminder that their actions are wrongfully motivated or are outright harmful. Push those people back in the right direction by reminding them what true kindness looks like.

Empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of people that are different than you. Instead of responding with judgment try and understand their situation in life and how a simple act of love can be just what they need.

Support. Kindness can take many different forms. It can be an outward act of giving and caring. Sometimes, however, it’s just being a simple ear to listen to or shoulder to cry on. Be the supportive presence in the lives of those that are struggling.

Seek. It’s one thing to be more generally aware of opportunities to share kindness. It’s another thing to actively find and create those moments. Don’t just be complacent with acknowledging the kindness around you – be somebody that makes it happen for other people to notice.

You may think that kindness has vanished from the world. Depending on where you look there may be some truth to that. However, kindness still exists. It’s still present. And it still makes an impact. Instead of letting negativity, hatred, and despair dictate how we view the world, let’s flip the script. On World Kindness Day, on in the days to come, let’s view the world through a lens of kindness.

Good Neighbor Day

Do you ever stop to think about the people in your life whose names you may not know? The family that lives next door, the man that works in the office down the hall, or the greeter at the gym? These people aren’t family, friends, coworkers, or even necessarily acquaintances. But these people are more integral in your life than you may realize. These are the familiar faces that you see on a daily basis, people you likely take for granted. September 28th is Good Neighbor Day, so what can you do to better appreciate those nameless neighbors in your life?

  1. Recognize. As you go through your day, take time to be more aware of the people you interact with. Chances are, there are people that you see and interact with more frequently than you realize. As you leave your house look around the block and observe the people that live in your neighborhood. As you make it in to work or school, try and recognize the people working in the offices or rooms next door. When you go to the gym, acknowledge the person greeting you as you walk in. At the grocery store, is it the same person that checks you out each week? Think about all the places you go to on a regular basis, and more importantly, the people that live or work there. These people help bring consistency to your life.

 

  1. Appreciate. Now that you’re more aware of these neighbors in your life it’s time to start appreciating them. Think about their Think about the fact that they too are an individual going through their day and that you are an fundamental part of their daily routine as well. With each small interaction you have the potential to make an impact on their day. Wave to your neighbor mowing the lawn as you leave the house. Smile and say hello to the woman working in the office next door as you both walk into the building. Say an extra thank you to the man checking you out at the grocery store.

 

  1. Do more. It’s “Good Neighbor” Day, not “Simply Acknowledge the Existence of Your Neighbor” Day. This is a day to do something a little more special for these anonymous passersby in your life. Invite that family next door over for dinner. Instead of just saying hello to the people you share an office space with, stop them and ask them how their day is going. When you go into the gym or grocery store, learn the names of the people assisting you. Perhaps doing something so direct and personal is out of your comfort zone. There are more subtle ways to be a good neighbor. Leave a gift card in your neighbor’s mailbox. Pay for the groceries of the person behind you in line. Give a friendly note to the greeter at the gym.

 

Being a good neighbor is more than just going about your business and not causing issues. Every time you step out your front door you have the potential to be a positive presence in your local community. A good neighbor doesn’t just put their head down and avoid human interaction – a good neighbor seeks out ways to appreciate their fellow neighbor and brighten their days. September 28th is a great day to start being a good neighbor. But don’t let it stop there. Every day is a great day to be a Good Neighbor.

 

Power of Encouragement

“You can do it!”

“Keep going, don’t give up!”

“Great job!”

Imagine how amazing it would be to have a friend follow you around all day, shouting these words of encouragement whenever you need them. Whenever you’re feeling stressed or upset, there’s your friend to lift you up through the power of positive words. Whenever you’re ready to give up on your homework or quit your job, your friend is there to tell you how capable you are of succeeding. The moment you get distracted or feel lost, there’s your friend to get you back on track by reminding you of your goal. Sadly, we don’t have anyone that has the time to just follow us around all day. But that doesn’t mean those moments of encouragement don’t exist. In fact, moments of encouragement surround us, so long as we allow them and look for them. Sometimes that encouragement is as obvious as those phrases listed above.  Oftentimes, however, that encouragement is much more subtle and discreet. September 12th is National Encouragement Day, so let’s talk about the power and importance of encouragement and the impact it can have on our lives.

We’re all Struggling
Everyone gets discouraged. It’s just human nature. We all have those days where absolutely nothing seems to be going well and nothing we do seems to work. The mistakes we make are magnified and blown out of proportion. We just want to give up. In those instances it can be easy to convince ourselves that we’re just not good enough or that we’re the only one that’s struggling. But guess what? Everyone is struggling. Every person we encounter has their own baggage, their own obstacles, and their own personal afflictions or temptations. It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not the only one fighting personal battles in our lives. Once we understand that we’re not the only person struggling it will become clear that we’re not as alone as we thought.

The Power of Words
Think about a time in your life where you were struggling. Was it painful? Was it overwhelming? Did you feel alone or lost? Now think of a time where you were trying to accomplish a goal. Did you feel like giving up? Did you doubt yourself or your abilities? After reflecting on those times in your life ask yourself about the people that helped you the most. How did they help you? What type of support did they offer? Chances are they encouraged you through the use of positive, uplifting words. It could have been something as simple as “I’m here with you.” Words of encouragement don’t need to be the motivational, “pump you up” type of speeches you hear in a football locker room at halftime. Sometimes the simplest words of encouragement make the most impact. Has a simple hello ever lifted your spirits or brightened your day? Has a coworker given you a compliment on a day where you just didn’t feel good enough? Those are just a couple examples of instances where subtle expressions of encouragement and support can help someone feel immensely valued.

Do you ever stop to think about just how impactful words can be? Sometimes it’s not just the words themselves but the intent behind them. Sharing words of encouragement is very intentional and personal. Whenever you offer encouragement to someone you are reminding them that they are not alone. When you say things like “Good luck” or “Keep trying” you are really saying, “I want YOU to succeed. I’m rooting for YOU. I’m here for YOU.”

A Very Special Gift
We all possess one very special gift – the power to be the encourager. Everyone has the ability to positively change somebody’s day – maybe even their life – by simply offering kind words of support and encouragement. If you see somebody struggling or hurting, try and place yourself in their shoes. Think about the times you’ve felt alone. Think about the times you didn’t feel like you were enough. Then remind yourself of the encouragement you received and how much that helped. YOU can be the one that helps this person rediscover their own self worth. That’s a pretty incredible feeling. Go through each day thinking about the fact that the power of your words can be just what is needed to help  someone achieve their goal or feel accomplished.

Let’s celebrate!
So, how can we commemorate National Encouragement Day? Here are a few steps you can follow to have a successful National Encouragement Day.

Step 1.
Be more aware. Keep in mind that everyone is struggling with something. Be on the lookout for signs that somebody is dealing with something difficult. Maybe they seem less talkative than usual or perhaps they look physically frustrated or stressed. Open your eyes to the world around you and look for opportunities to be the encourager.

Step 2. Be intentional. If you do recognize somebody struggling, don’t be afraid to act. You may not feel like your words of encouragement are enough to make a difference. If everyone had that mindset, though, then nobody would ever help anyone. So be willing to be the person to offer those words of support. And remember, through your encouragement you are reminding that person that they are enough and that they are valued.

Step 3
. Be encouraged. That sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately it can be difficult to accept words of encouragement. We may assume the other person is just saying those words or that they don’t genuinely mean it. We may still be operating under the impression that we’re not enough and those words of encouragement are empty words. But again, remember that those words of encouragement are outward signs of love, support, and acceptance. Allow yourself to receive those words and let them serve as motivation and inspiration to keep on moving forward.

Step 4. Don’t stop. National Encouragement Day is a great way to remind ourselves of the importance of positive words and supportive acts of kindness. But don’t let it stop there. Encouragement is a powerful tool that should be utilized every day. Seek out opportunities in your daily life to lift up those around you. Remind yourself of the wonderful gift you have to be the encourager and positively impact someone’s life. And don’t forget to allow yourself to be encouraged. Think of all those times words of encouragement impacted you. Make an effort each day to feel that encouragement in your life and in turn share it with those around you. This can be a difficult task, but just remember…YOU CAN DO IT!

National Fostercare Month

Happy May!
May Is National Foster Care Month. This month is designed to highlight to the community that we each play a part in effecting the lives of children & teens in foster care. If we, as a community don’t…who will?  What are YOU doing to support or lift these vulnerable youth up?  As many know, our office provides mental health support to foster families, foster children and biological families. We want these children to know that they are important, they are valued, they are loved.

Realistically, many families in our community are unable to foster…but that shouldn’t prevent them from getting involved. These youth are in tough places.  These kids only know what they have been exposed to, lets expose them to something bigger and better.  What can YOUR family do?   
 
Here’s how you can support foster families and foster youth: 
 
  • Do homework with or tutor a foster child/teen – Did you know that many children who come into care are significantly behind their peers academically? Every hour you spend with a foster child will make an impact. This doesn’t have to be through an “official” program. You don’t need to be an educator, just someone who can spend time quizzing spelling or site words, helping with math problems, reading books or assisting with projects.
  • Donate outgrown or new clothes to foster families – Did you know many foster children come into care with only the clothes on their backs, sometimes even that is taken away?  Any clothes you donate will be used and appreciated by the foster youth and foster families. You can donate to local foster organizations, directly to childrens division or put in facebook marketplace groups free to local foster families.
  • Become a CASA – Did you know that in court there are a lot of politics? There are alot of children who are caught in the middle. CASAs are neutral, and become a vital part in updating judges on how the children are and what’s in their best interest.  CASA volunteers are always needed!  Here’s where to find more information about CASAs in our area! Click here!
  • Be a mentor or a special adult to a foster youth –  Research says that children need someone who can be unconditional, many foster children do not have that. This can be picking up the youth and hanging out for the day. This can be teaching the youth a new hobby or going to their sporting events/extra curricular activities to cheer them on. Being present in a child’s life is a powerful tool to showing the child that they matter, that they are important.
  • Be a mentor to the biological family – Our foster youth’s families need mentors too!  Many biological families are *stuck* …they feel like they are alone.  Consider taking the opportunity to assist them in their recovery and healing process by driving them to parenting classes, or drug screens. Maybe sitting with them at court or in meetings that can be scary for them.   Cheer with them as they stay clean for 1 month or celebrate with them when they get their first over night visit with their kiddos. Maybe take them out for lunch so they can see YOU parent YOUR kids, as an example of what it should look like. By supporting the childrens’ biological family this allows them to build the skills and confidence to be a better parent to their children.
  • Assist with extra curricular activity – Some foster families struggle with connecting foster youth to extra curricular activities because of the cost. Other foster families struggle with not having enough time to devote to bringing their foster youth to practices/games/tournaments.   Individuals or families in the community can donate old sports equipment, pay for sports fees, or even offer to drive them to practices or games.  Every little bit helps connect these kids to opportunities.
  • Make a meal Did you know that most foster families have 2-4 weekly appointments per child in their home on top of other age appropriate extra curricular activities? Sometimes a meal is a powerful way to show that you support them and the work they are doing. This small gesture is always appreciated by foster families.
  • Volunteer at FAST, Butterfly Haven or Foster & Adoptive Care Coalitionor really any foster & adoptive non-profit that connects foster families with resources – Did you know how awesome our community is here in Saint Louis?   Here in our metro we have many wonderful organizations dedicated to supporting foster children and their foster families.  These organizations are so important in supporting the families to take care of these vulnerable children.  Here are some links to these organizations:  Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition; Foster and Adoptive Support Team; Butterfly Haven
  • Become a babysitter or respite for a foster family – Did you know that one of the biggest needs of foster families is to have a break or to have extra support in parenting? Sometimes it helps to have someone watch a kiddo while you go to court or maybe take a weekend off.  If you know a foster family who has medically fragile, behavioral or special needs children, having additional support in the community is beneficial for self care.
  • Work with your city, county, state and federal representatives to change laws and statutes to benefit children & foster families. – Did you know that some laws are outdated? When you see people running for positions, be asking – “What are you doing to support our most vulnerable populations?”  When you have an opportunity to talk to local leaders ask, “What are you doing for the foster children in your jurisdictions?”
  • Listen, be unconditional, avoid judgement – Did you know many foster families are approached in public about the way they parent or by their childrens’ behavior.  Educate yourself on trauma, and be present with the foster family.  It helps to have someone in their corner who can listen to their struggles and not judge them for something they do not have control over.
  • Run Errands – We all know how busy raising children can be.  Now add in court, caseworkers, various therapy appointments, parent child visits times 2 or 3 or 6. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone offer to pick up a box of diapers or take one youth to buy a new pair of shoes. These little deeds can make a huge impact.
  • Simply ask.  – Ask the foster family or foster youth what they need or what you can do.  Maybe they need help putting together a new bike they bought for a youth. Maybe they need someone to drive their middle school kiddo to a friend’s house. Maybe they need someone to play with the new baby while they take a shower.   It doesn’t hurt to ask.


#nationalfostercaremonth #takesavillage #fostercare #focusontheimportantthings

 

Grief Defined and Discussed

Grief is defined by most people as a feeling of suffering or loss that often occurs after the death of a loved one. While death causes one type of grief, there are many other times we experience grief. Any major life changes such as a breakup, loss of friendship, illness, or major injury can lead to feelings of grief because of the loss of life (or part of it) as we knew it.  Therefore, a better definition of grief is: The physical, emotional, somatic, cognitive, and spiritual response to an actual or threatened loss of a person, place, or thing to which we are emotionally attached.  While the experience of grief is different for everyone, it is often associated with certain feelings, physical sensations, thoughts or beliefs, behaviors, and experiences. While it is difficult to define “normal” grief, one may experience the following:

Feelings:
– Numbness
– Denial
– Anxiety
– Shock
– Anger
– Loneliness
– Fatigue
– Yearning
– Relief

Physical symptoms:
– Nausea/upset stomach
– Fatigue/lack of energy
– Shortness of Breath
– Tightness of Chest
– Panic Attack-like symptoms

Common thoughts:
– Confusion
– Disbelief
– Sense of presence
– Lack of concentration
– Dreams/nightmares

Common behaviors:
– Absent-minded behavior
– Appetite disturbances
– Sleep disturbances
– Social withdrawal
– Dreams of the deceased

Common experiences:
– Denial
– Anxiety
– Depression
– Anger
– Guilt
– Fear
– Bargaining

There are many theories of the stages of grief. While each one has a different number of stages with different names, they are all alike, consisting of some combination of these or similar experiences. The most important thing to remember is that everyone experiences grief differently. You may experience different stages for different lengths of time than your friends or loved ones, even if grieving the same loss. It is an important process that allows us to come to terms with the loss
we have experienced and find a new normal.

 

Leah Coady is a therapist with Step By Step Counseling. She holds the credentials of a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor.

Trauma and EMDR?

Word has gotten around in recent years about how effective EMDR therapy can be.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; you can read more about it here.  As you may already know, EMDR was developed as a therapy to help those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This brings us to a question I have heard from some of my clients considering EMDR: What constitutes trauma?   To answer this question I could quote from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or even from the dictionary, or I could provide a list of traditionally “traumatic” events.  But this list couldn’t possibly be exhaustive and, more importantly, it is not my job to say what is or isn’t traumatic for another person. So I’d like to suggest using a different word altogether: impact.  Certain life events impact us in a way that leaves a lasting impression.  The type of impression it leaves can be influenced by our age at the time of the event, how physically and mentally well we were at that time, who else was there, how long it occurred, whether or not it was repeated, and what happened immediately after.

I have heard clients say things like “this shouldn’t be that big of a deal” or “other people have been through worse.”  Please keep in mind, as professionals we do not rate emotional pain on a scale and our initial response to stress is usually involuntary.  Our “fight or flight” instinct works for us without asking permission first. But sometimes that instinct sticks around past when it is needed.  EMDR can help your brain learn the danger has passed and it is okay to move on.

So if something is weighing you down it doesn’t matter what you call it; trauma, impact, baggage, stuff.  Remember healing is possible.  EMDR can help.

Katherine Kruse is an adolescent and adult therapist with Step By Step Counseling. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor and EMDR Therapist.

Collaborating With Professionals

The desire to protect our children, youngsters and young adults, can be a strong emotion for parents.  Protecting a child’s privacy is essential, however there are circumstances where it could be helpful for the adults involved in a child’s life to have insight into some of the more seemingly private aspects of their lives.  Whether that means talking with a child’s teachers about a change happening at home, or speaking with their pediatrician about a child starting therapy; all of these adults have a child’s best interests at heart and are able to do their job best when they have the whole story.

Teachers with students that begin to act differently in class may find it difficult to continue providing the finest educational experience possible if they are unaware of some of the pieces of the puzzle.  If a students is arriving late to school everyday because they have to help a younger sibling in the morning, alerting their teachers and school professionals can help alleviate some of the stress this can cause between the student and the attendance office.  Pediatricians who are unaware that a child is receiving therapy services will be unprepared when speaking with the parents and/or children, hindering the collaborative process which allows physicians to make the most accurate analysis.  Coaches will be able to assist children to perform their best when they are able to tailor practices to a child’s particular situation, collaborating with parents is essential.

By collaborating with professionals in your child life, it helps the professionals understand what’s going on and allow them to be more proactive in caring for your child.  Collaboration ideas:

  • Update personal information with school professionals, physicians, coaches, etc
  • Meet with teachers and coaches in person to discuss your child’s performance
  • Keep key players informed of major life changes in your home

 

 

Zones across the Week

Going along with the theme of Zones of regulation, in the past few blog posts, as a parent or caregiver, you can track your child’s zone across the week. Some parents can use this option, to reward good behaviors that they might see. Tracking can be as simple as having a sheet of paper with all 7 days written on it with a blank next to each day or it can be set-up in more table like manner with the 7 days across the top of the table and the four zones on the side of the table. Each day you and your child can think about how they mostly felt that day. While a child can fluctuate in and out of the zones throughout the day try to think about the day overall and what zone would you label that day. Be sure to reinforce the idea that having a green day is having a good day. Optional: At the end of each week if the child has more green days than yellow or red days, reward your child in some manner whether it be money, sweets, a toy, etc.

For more information please see the reference below:

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). Chapter 3: GO!!! In The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control (pp. 86-90). San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Checking In with A Child’s Zones

Piggy backing onto the last blogpost about the Zones of Regulation, one thing that you can do as a parent or caregiver is a Zones check-in. This helps a child be able to verbalize how they are feeling. It is a simple activity that you can hang on the fridge or somewhere out in the open. This activity is to help the child recognize what zone they are currently in. On a sheet of paper or dry erase board write “I feel ______, I’m in the ______ zone.” As a parent/caregiver, you can make color coordinated squares that say Green zone, Blue zone, Yellow zone, and Red zone. These will fill the “I’m in the (Blank-insert square) zone.” You can also cut out different feelings that coordinate to each color zone. For example, write Happy on a green square. Having multiple squares can make it easy to change the zone and feeling. As a parent or caregiver, you can also do this as an activity with your child to explain to your child what feeling coordinates to what zone. Communication is key and it can be important as a parent/caregiver to ask your child how they are feeling and what zone would go with that feeling. This helps the child to recognize and comprehend what they are feeling and how it relates to each zone. It is important to note that a child can move through different zones throughout the day. If you realize that your child is starting to move into a different zone, then you can go back to that dry erase board or paper and switch out the zones and feelings. This can let your child know that you are paying attention to them and help them to see that they might be losing self-control.

For more information please see the reference below.

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). Chapter 3: GO!!! In The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control (pp. 96-99). San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

The Zones of Regulation – Review

Are you looking for a way to help the children in your life, identify their moods and control their emotions?   The Zones of Regulation were created to help children learn self-regulation and emotional control. Self-regulation also known as self-control or impulse control is the ability to control one’s emotions, needs and impulses in order to meet the demands of the environment in a socially acceptable way. The Zones of Regulation is a way to teach children how to develop and progress self-regulation by educating them how to recognize and communicate their feelings. The zones can also teach children how to effectively use different tools and techniques to move throughout the zones. There are four zones of regulation: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red.

Blue Zone: This is when the body is in a low state of alertness and the body or brain is moving slowly. Typical emotions can include: Sad, Tired, Sick, Bored, Shy, Depressed, or Hurt.

Green Zone: This zone shows a regulated state of mind or being in control. This zone is optimal for schoolwork and being social. Typical emotions can include: Calm, Happy, Focused, Proud, Good, Relaxed, or Thankful.

Yellow Zone: This zone is when the body/mind is in a heightened state of alertness where a child can be squirmy, sensory seeking and starting to lose some control. Typical emotions can include: Stress, Anxious, Silly, Annoyed, Frustrated, Overwhelmed, or Nervous.

Red Zone: This zone is when there is an extreme heightened state of alertness or very intense feelings. Typically, a person is not in control of one’s body when in this zone. Typical emotions can include: Aggressive, Anger, Elated, Yelling, Panic, Terror or Explosive Behavior.

For more information please see the reference below.

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control. San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.