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Play Therapy: How to Play With Kids and Be More Present

Nathan Watkins, LMFT was on The Right Fit podcast with Michelle Pomeroy, talking about play therapy. Please click here to listen and learn!

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Give the Gift of Love

Do my kids know I love them? Should I tell my children everyday that I love them? Is it enough to give them hugs and kisses or should I be doing more to show my love? What else can I do to connect emotionally to my kids? These are just some of the numerous questions I get asked by parents. If you’ve asked these questions, or ones along the same lines, you are not alone! While there are many parenting books, there is not one way to parent a child. Children are unique, and therefore, need to be parented in different ways. What works for you may not work for your sister or your neighbor. 

That being said, there is one thing that all children need: love. A healthy attachment to parents, and an underlying feeling that they are loved and supported, are fabulous stepping stones for a successful future. Many parents question how to adequately show love for their children in such a busy and screen filled world. The best way to show love for your children is to find out how they feel loved. 

Gary Chapman is the author of the book “The Five Love Languages.” This book is about the love languages that couples feel and how to use those to connect in  your relationship. His book “5 Love Languages of Children” is a fantastic tool for any parent who is wondering how to effectively show love to their child. It talks about ways to identify your child’s love language, how to then show it, and discipline through that love language.  There is power in realizing the specific way that your child needs to feel love. If you don’t know what category they fall into simply ask them! Opening up that line of communication can be a great way to get to know your child. 

Another great book about identifying and talking about emotions is John Gottman’s book “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.”  In this book parents are coached through different ways to talk to their child about emotion and then how to regulate said emotion. It is a fantastic read for any parent who wants to know more about emotion and how to teach their child about that. 

Many times an inability to talk about emotion stems from the way you were taught to talk about and process emotions growing up. We know from years of research that creating a loving relationship at home is one of the best indicators of future success. If you are struggling with identifying your own emotion, and unpacking that is difficult, coaching your child through difficult emotions may be too hard. Therapy is always a great place to learn tools that will emotionally strengthen you, and will allow you to then strengthen your relationships with your children and spouse. 

Now get out there! Tell your kids you love them. Give them a hug. Make their bed for them. Buy them a candy bar. Go for a walk with them. Find the specific way they feel loved and show it to them in that specific way. It will be a great exercise for both of you. 

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Five Do’s and Don’ts of Separation Anxiety

Do Implement a Good-Bye Ritual

         Brainstorm with your child a short ritual you will both perform every time you say goodbye. This could be a secret handshake, a special song, a mantra you say together or a combination of words and touch. Anything that is meaningful for both you and your child will work.

Don’t Use Tough Love as a Go To

 Karen Young of Hey Sigmund explains how fighting against our natural fight or flight instincts is a losing battle.

“We humans are wired towards keeping ourselves safe above everything else. It’s instinctive, automatic, and powerful. This is why tough love, punishment or negotiation just won’t work. If you were in quicksand, no amount of any of that would keep you there while you got sucked under. You’d fight for your life at any cost. School is less dramatic than quicksand but to a brain and a body in fight or flight, it feels the same.

            Instead, empower your children by teaching them how this primitive part of our brain works and breathing exercises they can employ to combat them.

Do Encourage Your Child To Express Feelings Through Art

            One of the most therapeutic and helpful things your child can do to understand and combat their anxiety is to explore their fears and experiences through art. A study conducted by Khadar et al. (2013) showed that the boys with separation anxiety developed more adaptive behaviors and emotions, and the children tended to share more feelings and improved their communication skills. This particular study used the medium of paint, but drawing, sculpting or any other medium that appeals to your child can be used.

Don’t Teach Your Child to Fight Their Anxiety

         Instead, teach your child to recognize and verbally point out what they are feeling and where in their body they are feeling it as an outside observer. Have your child thank their anxiety for doing its best to keep them safe. But use their thinking brain to then tell the anxiety that they are safe and that they’ve got this.

Do Externalize the Anxiety

         Have your child describe their anxiety—what it feels like, what it says and what it looks like. Then have your child design a creature that embodies anxiety. Have your child name the object and talk through the aspects of the creature your child creates. This gives you and your child a way to visualize, separate their feelings from who they are and a new language to speak about their anxiety.

If your child is experiencing separation anxiety that is concerning you, please schedule an appointment with me by calling 801.944.4555

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Repairing and Building Closer Relationships Through Play Therapy

https://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-repairing-and-building-closer-relationships-through-play-therapy

Please follow the link above to view Clair Mellenthin’s segment with KUTV on Repairing and building closer relationships through Play Therapy.

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The Red Flags Of Child Abuse

If you have been wondering what our Director of Child & Adolescent Services, Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S has been up to, here are a few of her recent TV segments and magazine articles to catch up on!

The Red Flags of Child Abuse – Fresh Living KUTV

Spring Clean Your Soul – Fresh Living KUTV

I Became a More Peaceful Parent Using These 4 Strategies – Hilary Thompson – MOTHERLY

https://www.mother.ly/life/peaceful-parenting-is-my-goal-and-im-slowly-imperfectly-getting-there?fbclid=IwAR0uq2Ru8_SWC1bK6VFrBGgA2H2Of3XIvVWER6sojQSVxKD2mTNocTBdun4

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How to Communicate Your Needs: Family Looking Up Podcast

How to Communicate Your Needs: Family Looking Up Podcast

I recently sat down with the ladies of “Family Looking Up” to discuss how women’s assertiveness can help our families. The conversation included clearing up misconceptions about assertiveness (such as the false idea that it equates to being aggressive or selfish) and also how women can view their own needs as being equal to that of their children and their partner. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your communication style, practice self-compassion, and say no without guilt, take a listen!

Click here to learn more about my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Relationships.”

 

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How To Cope As A Solo Parent: Studio 5

How To Cope As A Solo Parent: Studio 5

We often hear of the challenges that single parents have, but another group sometimes get overlooked: solo parents are those who are not divorced or widowed but carry a very large portion of the family load because their spouse is often away. Whether it’s due to military service, religious commitments, or irregular work hours, many parents (women in particular) find themselves shouldering the bulk of the home and family responsibilities. Here are some strategies to cope as a solo parent:

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How To Get Along With In-Laws: Good Things Utah

How To Get Along With In-Laws: Good Things Utah

Marriage is a wonderful change, but it certainly brings some challenges, not just for the couple involved, but also for the in-law relationship dynamic. I recently sat down with the Good Things Utah to share my top 3 tips for daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws:

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The Forgotten Sibling(s) of a Child with Special Needs: How Parents Can Show They Remember

Parenting a child with special needs presents unique rewards and challenges. I once heard a mom compare her experience to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” With all the twists and turns on the journey, it can be hard to focus on passengers in the back seat: the child’s sibling(s). Sometimes all you catch is a quick glimpse from the rear-view mirror, before your attention is called ahead to the next major bump in the road.

Before I address this topic any further, it is important to acknowledge that most parents of kids with special needs feel exhausted, guilty, and at times, overwhelmed. This article is not meant to induce more of those feelings. After a long day struggling with the needs of one child, the last thing you need is to be wracked with guilt about how it affected their sibling(s). This is hard to avoid, because quite frankly, many days your child with special needs will get more of your time and energy than your other kids. It’s the cold, hard truth; you can’t change this, and your other child likely knows it. The sooner you accept and acknowledge this, the sooner you’re on your way to giving your “backseat kid” what they may need most on those hard days: a listening ear and true understanding.

As a child therapist, I have spent many hours counseling parents that children, like everyone else, most want to be truly seen, heard and understood. In most cases, parents can do a “good enough” job giving this to their children. Hopefully, it is a relief to know that you don’t need to fix all your child’s problems or eliminate their struggles. You don’t need to have all the answers! But you do need to listen to them when it counts – to hear in a way that communicates: “I see you, and all your feelings are okay.”

For children who have a sibling with special needs, parents might be unaware of just how much is going on below the surface, both positive and negative. I recently spoke with a teenage girl who said this about how her brother’s autism affects her:

  • “I feel rejected by my family because often my turn never comes.”

  • “My sibling’s problems are more important than mine. No matter what I’m feeling some days, it feels like it doesn’t matter in the family.”

  • “My brother gets more attention for his interests because he talks about them so much. He doesn’t understand how I have interests that are important too.”

  • “I get to feel accepted because autistic people tend to be more accepting of others.”

  • “I get to watch him overcome his challenges and grow.”

  • “Sometimes people generalize autism as one thing, but it is a spectrum. They don’t get it, and that’s frustrating. Autistic people can be really different from each other.”

  • “I learn a lot because my brother knows a lot, and his mind goes so fast.”

  • “People can be mean and say rude things. They don’t really understand what people go through because they don’t live with it. It hurts and makes me mad. It’s hard because some things they say are true.”

  • “Sometimes it feels like he’s my mom’s favorite. It’s feels so unfair because she treats him differently. He gets more attention for his accomplishments.”

Before you ask your child what it’s like for them, prepare yourself for an honest answer that may be difficult to hear. It can help to take a deep breath; remember that your child’s struggles, no matter how difficult, can be opportunities for growth and learning. Having done this, it’s okay to ask directly about your child’s experience. You could phrase the question like this: “What’s it like for you? You know, living with your sister’s __________ (insert the name of the sibling’s disability)?” Then try to really listen and not talk much yourself. While you may be tempted to respond by saying something like, “I’m sorry … I just do the best I can,” resist. Just focus on hearing and reflecting what your child is saying; if they laugh, laugh with them, if they cry, cry with them, and above all, hear them. You can do this because in your own way, you get it; although you’re in different seats, you’re on this wild ride together.

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Avoiding Unrighteous Dominion: Mormon Marriages Podcast

Avoiding Unrighteous Dominion: Mormon Marriages Podcast

I recently sat down with Nate and Angilyn Bagley to discuss issues relating to unrighteous dominion in marriages. This phrase comes from the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 121:9 that reads, “[w]e have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority…they will begin to recognize unrighteous dominion.”

Influence By Fear or By Love

As a therapist who has worked with Mormon clients for over twenty years, I’ve seen unrighteous dominion manifested in a variety of ways: making major decisions (such as financial or employment) or in any other way being controlling and manipulative. Unrighteous dominion can extend to children as well; when a mother or a father using shame or intimidation with their children, this is another example. And any type of abuse certainly falls under the category of unrighteous dominion.

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