Amanda is a licensed counselor with a practice in Westfield, just north of Indianapolis. She counsels worry warts, distant couples & also offers online coaching packages for busy moms who want to have it all on their terms. She lives with her husband, two boys, and not-to-be-ignored cat Sphinx.
Some days I worry that my husband and I are headed for a divorce. We argue and disagree on a lot of stuff. I worry that we’re growing apart and that when the kids are gone, there won’t be anything left between us. How can I tell if things are okay?
Last month, I answered a question from a frustrated mom on how to set resolutions that she can stick with. Last year, she didn’t even make it past February before she gave up.
I assured her that she isn't alone, with less than half of adults achieving some success with their resolutions.
I advised her to use my four SIMPLE steps to nail her 2017 Resolutions. Read the full Ask Amanda article HERE.
Today, I thought I would share how I used those same four SIMPLE steps to create my own resolutions for 2017.
Q) How do you make a resolution you can actually stick with? Last year, I didn't even make it to February before giving up. I really need to make a change this year, but don't know how to get started.
With only 8% of the population actually succeeding in achieving their resolutions, you're definitely not alone in your struggles. Over half of the population does make it past the month mark with their resolutions, so there's hope for you yet!
Q) I love the holidays, but really dread having to be around some of my in-laws and other family. We look forward to being with most of our family, but others not so much. How do I enjoy the holidays and keep them from getting under my skin?
How do I stop feeling so guilty about taking time for myself? I just went back to work after staying home with my youngest. And I also want to start working out again, but I feel so guilty about leaving! I want to be able to enjoy my time away and focus on work and getting healthy. How do I stop feeling so selfish and guilty?????
My oldest is about to start kindergarten and I'm worried about separation anxiety. He gets upset easily and has a hard time calming down. I'm worried about how he'll do all day at school.
It can be so hard to cope with the separation anxiety that comes with being away from our children for long periods of time. The meltdowns and clingy-ness make it even harder.
My youngest was two-and-a-half when we first had to put him in daycare. Previously he had been with my mother, which is about as good as it gets for childcare.
Amanda and her youngest son.
Man, was it TORTURE dropping him off at the daycare. He would get a little clingy even at my parents, but nothing like this!
It didn't matter how much we hyped it up. Once we walked into that classroom, the reality would hit him and the meltdown ensued!
I literally had to peel him off of me and just walk out. Some days I could sneak out when he was distracted with a toy.
I know a lot of parents worry about how this seemingly traumatic experience might be scarring their kids for life.
Today's article will help you learn ways to better manage this anxiety and feel better about the separation.
Talk About It
Whether it's prompted by a Llama Llama book or Daniel Tiger episode, have a conversation about the transition and their feelings. It's okay if they don't seem to understand or if the talk only lasts for a few minutes.
Lay the foundation that it's okay to miss you and that you will miss them, reminding them that you will be coming back to pick them up.
List all the fun things about daycare or school. At our daycare, my youngest would get to paint and do other really messy projects that we didn't do at home.
Do Your Kid a Favor
We don't want our kids to be upset, but we aren't doing them any favors when we try to make those feelings go away for them.
You have probably heard of helicopter or lawnmower parenting, where the parents insert themselves too much into their child's life. They solve their children's problems and remove common obstacles for them.
Unfortunately, this type of parenting can cause A LOT of problems for kiddos down the road.
When children are parented in this manner, they are more likely to experience anxiety (the exact problem we think we're fixing), low self-esteem and lack of confidence, under-developed life skills (cleaning, organization, communication, relationships), and poor coping skills (low frustration tolerance, emotional dysregulation). Check out this article from Parents.com for more info.
Be the Change
Ok, so you realize you're not doing your kiddo any favors by fixing their feeling for them, but you still feel guilty and dread dropping them off.
So, how do you feel better and make everyone's life a little easier?
Change that way you think about that separation. Our anxious thoughts generate that anxious feeling.
It does not scar him for life to be so upset when I leave.
He won't hate me forever for working instead of staying home with him.
She will get along fine without me.
If we change our beliefs that the separation is so horrible, then we can change the way we feel about it.
Changing our thoughts may not directly change our children's behavior, but we can model acceptance of the situation, which shows our kids that it's really no big deal to be away from us.
I reassured myself by having faith in the daycare providers' abilities. I knew they cared about my child and were capable of comforting him. Maybe they wouldn't do it exactly the way I would, but I reminded myself he was in good hands.
I asked them one time how long he cries after I leave and they said it was less than 10 minutes, typically. I would tell myself this as I walked out, almost in tears myself.
My youngest doesn't attend daycare anymore. And now when we drive by the building, he talks about his friends and has even asked a couple times if he can go play with them, again. So, that tells me he’s not scarred for life.
Thanks for taking the time,
How do you handle separation from your kiddos? Share in the comments below!
Have a question for Ask Amanda? Click HERE.
Get ready for your monthly does of expert advice from Licensed Counselor Amanda Luthe Campbell. We bet you can relate to this month's topic: annoying husbands and how to approach them! Remember to click on the link at the bottom of the blog to submit your questions for upcoming posts or visit www.busymomslifecoach.com
Ask Amanda: Help! I love my husband, but sometimes the things he does just annoy the crap out of me. How do I nicely tell him he's getting on my last nerve?
We all agree that we love our partners. And we can all agree that, at times, they can really get on our nerves!
We've all been there.
Trying to bite our tongues,
Dying to get something off our chest,
Walking around with gritted teeth wanting to give them an earful about something they've done.
Like how my husband leaves his size 12 shoes lying around and klutzy me trips over them.
Or how he leaves his phone on vibrate and I can't get a hold of him when I need him.
How he locks himself out of the apartment.
Today's Ask Amanda article gives some practical tips on letting go and what to say when that's hard to do. For more information, go to www.busymomslifecoach.com
To Speak Or Not To Speak...
One way to avoid a finger-pointing fight is to first decide if the behavior is even worth mentioning.
Picking up his shoes so I don't trip over them? No.
Turning his ringer on in case I need to contact him. Yes.
Locking himself out of the apartment on a lazy Sunday morning and waiting patiently for us to get home. No.
If it's not worth bringing up, find something to distract yourself until the annoyance passes.
If You Can't Say Anything Nice...
If you decide to say something, try these suggestions for taking the sting out of it.
Come to the table with some solutions.
Just expressing your feelings and pointing out a problem is not always enough to get your needs met.
Be clear and direct: "I feel overwhelmed when I have to cook dinner, do all the cleaning and the laundry. Can we divide the chores? I like to vacuum and cook, but I hate to dust. What would you be willing to do?"
Try the Sandwich Technique (read more HERE).
Let's say you're pregnant and your husband forgets about a load of laundry in the washer. Then, he just dries them anyway.
"Wow, my pregnant stomach couldn't handle the smell of those clothes in the dryer (positive because you're not blaming him).
"Next time, can you just wash them again before you dry them?" (positive because a criticism is turned into a polite question).
"That would be one less thing that makes me feel like I might throw up! Thanks! I appreciate your help!" (positive and add on a smile or hug).
Make It Fair
For lasting change to happen, there must be work on both parts. We have to hold ourselves to the same expectations.
On the flipside of those little digs at my husband, there are plenty of things I do that are equally irritating or senseless to him.
Annoying each other for over 15 years
Leaving my coffee mugs everywhere.
Doing things on my phone when he's trying to talk to me.
Weird high-maintenance female things that his male brain just doesn't grasp.
So, I just try to take a deep breath of humility and make sure I'm meeting my own standards.
How does your partner annoy you?
Share in the comments below!
For more expert advice visit www.busymomslifecoach.com
Thanks for taking the time,
Contact Amanda today to get started on the path to a happier, healthier you!
The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any mental health treatment, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require psychological or medical treatment, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist in your area. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. This column and its author are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.
My mother-in-law can be pushy, aggressive, and kind of a bully. She always talks about how she is better and holds things over our heads. She has been less than welcoming to me over the years. My husband agrees that she is not a nice person. And, I know saying anything would just be a waste of energy. I don't even know how to respond and am doing my best just to control my tongue.
It's unfortunate when relatives, either biological or by marriage, behave in a way that is below even the most reasonable expectations. Hopefully, the following points can help you feel better about a feel-bad situation.
Draw the Line Somewhere
You're exactly right that speaking up likely won't result in your MIL making any desired changes. You've realized that telling her where to go won't get you anywhere.
But, you don't have to be a doormat either. We often feel like we are supposed to bite our tongues out of respect or to avoid confrontation.
Don't feel obligated to tolerate such toxic behavior just because of the role somebody has in your life.
A title does not demand more respect than that which is earned.
If you feel the need to respond when others push their opinions or agendas, channel your inner politician and give some of these comments could be:
I appreciate your concern, but we have it under control.
Thanks, I'll make note of that.
Thanks for thinking of us. I'll let you know if we need anything else in the future.
I feel differently, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
I'm comfortable with the direction we're headed.
If the Shoe Fits
We usually get upset by such toxic behavior because we expect someone in that type of role to behave differently. We expect, or at least hope, that a mother would be supportive, loving, and caring.
I lucked out with my own mother-in-law, but I know that many just don't live up to even the most mediocre of expectations.
One way to take the sting out, is to have more realistic expectations. Unfortunately, if you continue to expect her to behave like a "normal mother-in-law", you are just setting yourself up for failure.
It's just the reality of the situation. Don't feel guilty about calling a spade a spade. You didn't make her that way. She has probably been this way for years; long before you married her son.
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Less Offended
It's not always an option to completely cut toxic people from our lives, especially when grandchildren are involved. Just try to do what you can to expose yourself (and your kiddos) to her as little as possible, both in person and online.
There are going to be times when you absolutely cannot avoid being around this person. When that happens, just remember to have realistic expectations and try to care less about what she thinks or says.
Her opinion only has as much value as you give it.
Be A Role Model
Even if they are pushy and aggressive first, we don't want to stoop to their level.
Instead of feeling bad for them, feel better about yourself.
Just the fact that her behavior bothers you already means that you are more caring of others' feelings. Hold your head up and take pride in the fact that you're not so heartless!
What's the worst thing your mother-in-law ever said? Share your misery in the comments below!
Have a question you'd like Amanda to answer? Click HERE to submit to Ask Amanda: theCityMoms Edition.
Thanks for taking the time,
This is a combined question from two concerned moms.
Q) My five year old has started showing signs of anxiety, stomach hurts every night at lights out. How do I support her without being either dismissive or enabling?
I'm interested in learning more about this, too. My almost 5 year old gets overwhelmed easily and has a hard time calming down. I wonder if he has anxiety, too.
A) Anxiety can be an underlying cause of a variety of undesired behaviors in children, from inattention to sadness and withdrawal. Read more about the signs of anxiety in children HERE.
What Not To Say
You’re not alone in your concerns about being too dismissive or enabling. Often, parents are unsure how to respond when their child bombards them with worries and fears.
Avoid statements like, "It will be okay" or "Don't worry about it" or “It’s not a big deal.” These can minimize their feelings.
Instead, we want to help them identify what they're feeling and show empathy. We want them to know that even if a feeling is uncomfortable and overwhelming, we can still figure out a way to resolve it.
Try these more reassuring statements instead, "I can see you're upset" or "I can tell this is a big deal for you."
We can acknowledge and help them label their feelings in this way without encouraging the anxiety. Labeling can help them seem more concrete and easier to resolve, rather than just some vague, confusing discomfort.
Of course we want our children to feel safe and supported. We can do so more effectively by helping them generate reassuring statements for themselves, rather than relying on us to do it for them.
Trying asking questions that challenge the irrationality of the fear. “How likely is it that [insert fear/worry] will happen?” Or, “What are the odds that your fear will come true?”
A simple example might be if they are afraid of the dark or don’t want to go to sleep at night. We can reassure them about all the times they were in the dark or slept by themselves and nothing bad happened.
Ask about things they can do to feel less afraid. Or ask what might help them feel safer. Maybe they would like an extra blanket or stuffed animal.
If they're worried about a test or grade, ask them what they can do to feel more confident. 'What could you do to feel more prepared/confident?'
If they can't think of anything, ask "Would you feel better if you studied more?"
Sometimes, if the child is mature enough to articulate their needs, we can simply ask, "How can I help you?" or simply say, "Let me know how I can help."
We want to encourage self-sufficiency, but we also want them to know we are here, if and when, they need us. We don’t always have to jump to their rescue. If we are confident in their ability to handle it, then they will be to.
If they're already pretty upset, just listening (and a hug or two) can work wonders. As they talk it out, they might be able to discover a solution.
Try teaching your kiddo some Fear Fighting Super Powers, like deep breathing.
Have them pretend there's a balloon in their belly, inhaling to blow it up and exhaling to let the air out. There's a cute Sesame Street video on YouTube with Elmo, Colbie Caillat, and Common singing a song about "belly breathing." Check it out HERE.
Another Super Power is to use progressive muscle relaxation.
One kid-friendly strategy is to pretend they are an uncooked piece of spaghetti, all rigid and straight. Then, they go limp, like cooked spaghetti, to relax all over. Each time, have them count to five before switching.
They can also try it with different body parts. Start with their feet by curling their toes tight, while inhaling, and then exhale as they relax their feet. They can progressively do this with all their parts from bottom to top or head to toe.
Doing these exercise a few times should relax them or at least calm them down enough to have a more rational conversation about their fears. It might just distract them enough that they forget the whole thing!
I love these techniques because kiddos can do them anywhere without necessary equipment. Added bonus, they work for mom and dad, too!
What super powers have you found helpful to fight your kiddo’s fears? Share in the comments below!
Thanks for taking the time,