Author: <span>Beth Church</span>

How to be an Ally in Mental Wellness With Our LGBTQIA+ Community

Written by: Bismah Khan, MA, LLP
Edited by: Julie Braciszewski, PhD, LP

 

Many of us want to support and prioritize mental health for our LGBTQIA+ loved ones but may feel lost in how to do so. Wanting to learn how to support effectively is already the first step in the right direction. 

If you identify as an ally (i.e,; a person, often heterosexual/cisgender, who supports the wellness and equality of LGBTQIA+ individuals and community), you can show your loved ones you care and accept them by some simple actions. 

Visual Actions 

Using simple visual cues to let the LGBTQIA+ community know you are a safe person or organization can go a long way in casual or initial interactions. Individuals who identify under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella regularly experience fear and discrimination, and offering a quick visual cue can help pave the way for reduced anxiety and open communication. Putting an ally sticker on your laptop or water bottle, stating your pronouns in email signatures or when meeting someone new, showing up to local Pride celebration events such as parades, fundraisers, or festivals, are very visual ways to communicate your support.  

Verbal Actions

You can use your own unique voice to lift up the LGBTQIA+ community by expressing support and sharing information.  Pride Month acknowledges the progress the LGBTQIA+ community has made while recognizing the individuals whose sacrifice and hard work made such progress possible. Take some time this month, in between all the celebrations for the community, to also educate yourself on how societal issues disproportionately impact the LGBTQIA+ community while also brushing up on your LGBTQIA+ terminology. 

Open and Genuine Connection 

Fostering a mindset of openness and genuine connection during Pride Month allows you to grow while expressing empathy and validation. When individuals experience genuine empathy and connection, it positively impacts mental wellness. Allow others to share their experiences with you – whether that’s related to discrimination and hardship or joy in being in a queer relationship. Learning about individuals’ unique experiences and well as LGBTQIA+ history, are great ways to show your mindset of openness and genuine connection. 

My hope is that whether you have a friend, child, partner, acquaintance, or co-worker who is part of the queer community, this blog provides you with some easy and meaningful ways to show your support. I hope this Pride month is full of rainbows, celebrations, joy, and sense of community for you. 


Resources for queer individuals/allies: 

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/

https://www.glsen.org/

https://www.sageusa.org/

 

Parenting Burnout: Redefining Self-Care

Written by: Jessica Hauser-Harrington, PhD, LP

Parenting is hard, and it’s ok to say so! 

We often think of burnout as an occupational hazard, but it applies to parenting, too. The seemingly endless demands and expectations put on parents, both large (rising costs of child related-care) and small (another spirit week?!?), can leave parents feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and at the end of their rope.  Additionally, parenting children with emotional or behavioral difficulties brings added challenges and stressors that may lead you to feel isolated or different from other families who may not experience these things. We know parenting burnout is real, but we also know there are real ways to battle and overcome it! 

The hard fact is, we live in a society where people only show the happy, highlight reels of family life on social media, which can lead to feelings of frustration, jealousy, and even hopelessness. We are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to parenting. An important part of battling parenting  burnout is being mindful of the messages we are letting sink in from social media and wider culture. What is actually important to you in your parenting? Find small ways to live these values and make sure expectations fueled by the unrealistic, curated version of parenting on social media do not take root in your mind. You’ve got this, and you are doing amazing! 

If you yourself experience depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other mental health conditions, daily parenting tasks may feel even more overwhelming and tiring. Trauma or baggage from your own childhood certainly impacts parenting. In addition, so many parents feel that they lose part of themselves and their identity when they become parents. Addressing these issues can really reduce parenting burnout. At Monarch, we treat children and their families as a unit. Parenting support is often a key component of your child’s treatment, whether that is done as part of your child’s appointment or in separate parenting sessions. Our clinicians also work with parents in individual therapy to address issues related to their own health and wellbeing. Whether it is learning cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to challenge automatic thoughts, dialectical behavioral therapy to build distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness techniques, or mindful self-compassion skills, our therapists will work with you to customize your treatment plan to help you become the parent you want to be.  

You’ve probably heard the phrase “self-care isn’t selfish” before. It’s not only true, it’s necessary for parents! You cannot pour water from an empty well. Taking time for yourself, whether in the form of exercise, meditation, hobbies, socializing, therapy or simply taking time to be alone, helps to refill that well and recharge your batteries. You are a better parent when you are well-rested, well-fed, and have things to look forward to aside from your children.

Here are some self-care suggestions that can help combat parenting burnout:

  • Find and use your village, whether that’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, or trading off childcare with other families you know and trust. Ask for help and offer it in return.
  • Set aside protected, non-childcare, non-housework time for each parent during the week, whether that’s 45 mins or 2 hours. Make sure the time is equitable for both partners (a 1-hour spin class ≠ 4 hours of golfing)
  • Being a stay-at-home parent is a job too, make sure you get “time off”
  • Pursue your own hobbies, learn something new
  • Embrace the two-fer: go for a walk or take a class with a friend
  • Put those dates on the calendar! Dinner and a movie is great, but think beyond a weekend night: it can be a coffee break, a walk around the block with the dog, or meeting up on your lunch breaks. The same goes for getting together with friends—if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen!
  • Learn to say “no” to the things that don’t serve you and your family. Your children don’t have to play every sport or every instrument or participate in every extra-curricular under the sun. You don’t have to volunteer for every school event. It’s ok to have a quiet stay-cation or holiday at home. Say no more often..
  • Try not to compare yourself to other families, especially to parenting “influencers”, no one’s house is that clean all the time! If you’re on social media, seek out more realistic, relatable accounts.
  • If your child has a diagnosis or health condition that adds extra challenges to parenting, seek out diagnosis- or disorder-specific support groups for families and parents for resources and social support.  

Further reading for parenting books that include parents’ well-being as part of their guidance:

Self-Compassion for Parents: Nurture Your Child by Caring for Yourself by Susan M. Pollak, EdD

Parenting with Sanity & Joy: 101 Simple Strategies by Susan G. Groner

How Not to Lose Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent by Carla Naumburg, PhD

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham

Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Clarke-Fields, MSAE


If you are considering individual therapy sessions for additional parenting support, contact us and speak with one of our specialists!

Laying the Foundation: Encouraging Healthy Emotional Expression in Children

Written by: Alyssa Hedke, MA, TLLP

Starting in infancy children begin the chaotic (but delicate) process of experiencing and expressing emotions. How they choose to express those emotions may not always match what they are experiencing. A simple miscommunication can quickly turn into a chaotic moment, or even worse, a dysregulated kid. For example, children often express anxiety through irritability, control-seeking or tantrums.  As caretakers, we have to learn at turbo speed how to respond to our child’s needs for our survival. But as children grow, they continue to feel more complex emotions with limited knowledge on how to productively express and regulate themselves.

Feelings are a natural part of the human experience- they are our guidance and motivation system. But emotion regulation strategies, especially for intense emotions, do not necessarily develop naturally and must be purposefully taught and developed. There are natural and organic ways to incorporate conversations about feelings into our daily lives that are effective and beneficial to laying the foundation for healthy emotional regulation.

Model the I-Message

Laying the foundation begins with caretakers modeling what we want our children to say and do. As adults, we play a crucial role in modeling healthy emotional expression for children. We can  move our internal experiences to the surface and express them in a clear, structured pattern.. Expressing how you are feeling out loud and how you are processing and working through an emotion creates normalcy and a comfortability  in conversations around feelings. Using a reliable pattern or structure in communication teaches your child an important tool for regulation and expression. 

A commonly taught practice for children is the I- Message. The I-Message is a simple three sentence approach. You can learn to make I-Messages by filling in the blanks:

“I Feel_______”

“When_______” 

“I Need______  / Can You Please_____?”   

“I Feel  _______”:

The I-Message begins with taking ownership of our emotions and normalizing the experience  by speaking in the first person. An example would be saying “I felt angry” instead of “They made me angry”. No one makes us feel any emotion. We all have feelings and it’s natural to feel them! It’s beneficial as adults to include conversations about all feelings; especially feelings that may get glossed over with kids in conversation like embarrassment, guilt, shame, shyness, and nervousness. This helps children be more comfortable approaching adults about uncomfortable or distressing situations. 

“When ______”:

Even though no one made us feel an emotion, it’s important to talk about how an interaction contributed to us feeling an emotion. It’s important to tell others how their actions affect us.  Instead of saying, “Jack made me angry when he didn’t include me”,” try saying this;I felt angry when I think I’m being left out.”  

“I Need _____/ Can You_____”:

Lastly, advocate for what you need in the moment which teaches more emotional regulation and problem solving skills!  An example of this can sound like,I needed to take a few breaths. I am going to call Jack and set something up for us to hang out soon. That will make me feel better.”  Or, “Can you please talk with me next time this situation happens so we can solve the problem together?” Modeling the link between an emotion and the resulting choice you make is very powerful for children to see, hear and witness.  

By modeling this pattern of communication over and over again, across many situations our children learn that emotions are a normal and important piece of solving problems, getting their needs met, and having healthy relationships. 

Full disclosure – this process is more challenging with kiddos who feel emotions intensely! We would love to help support you to use this, and other skills in your child’s emotional development. 


Schedule an appointment with an MBH clinician today!