School Tips for Single Parents (and those who feel like single parents)

school.jpg

If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine what it’s like on an island with no village…stressful! As the school year gets underway for the kids, I wanted to give single parents (and those who feel like single parents) some powerful tips to manage the school year.

·  Continue to have meaningful family time that is not based on the extracurricular activity schedule and grades. We have to be very intentional about sending the message that family is a priority and family time is not earned.

·   Don’t wait until you get the report card to ask about progress and grades. This may be especially critical for older children who are no longer bringing home Homework Folders for parent signatures. Log on to parent portals and have encouraging dialog along the way.

·   Encourage your child to get involved. As single parents, you may assume you have to do it all and miss opportunities for your children to help you help them. This means to teach him to advocate for himself in an effective way (if developmentally appropriate). For example, let’s say your daughter knows she is not doing well in language arts. Rather than you immediately contacting the teacher for extra credit on her behalf, ask your daughter how she has already tried to help herself. Then ask what her options are and help her think through each choice. This approach not only sends the message that academic achievement is important but nurtures character development that can be applied in non-academic settings.

·   Know your child’s learning style. Single parents often make the mistake of assuming the children is exactly like the person raising them. Not so! Perhaps your son has a different learning style so do not take it personal if your tutoring is not effective. Be willing to ask for outside help and influence.

·   Focus on effort and not outcome. Single parents face a lot of demands and stress, so they can become very critical of themselves and the kids.  Kids may struggle to meet your spoken/unspoken expectations. Be careful not to overlook hard work just become the outcome was not favorable only reinforce A1 scores/grades, top class ranks, first place, etc. While it is hard to be the coach and the cheerleader as a single parent, remember that your voice can soon echo and become their thoughts. Let them hear you validate yourself, them, and others by praising attributes like perseverance, determination, dedication and discipline. 

**You can do this!!**

~Dr. Q. Perry

4 Ways the Newest Royal Couple Can Inspire Your Relationship

Royalty.jpg

The Royal Wedding was a wonderful celebration for all the world to behold. Now that the amazing fairytale dust has settled, there are 4 important lessons we can learn from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

·Be a couple with purpose – While we adored the romantic ideal of the newlyweds, it is important that we not lose sight of the couple’s commitment to their principles. The couple was very purposeful in who was invited to their wedding celebration. Guests were carefully selected based on their service to others and only close friends and family were invited to their personal reception.  Discuss your goals as a couple and align your activities and endeavors accordingly.

·Stay together through the storms – The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle received a lot of criticism and even racism prior to getting married.  Often, the emotions are so high that both partners struggle to keep outside conflict from impacting their relationship. However, the Royal Couple remained steadfast, focused on their relational goals, and did not publicly allow opposition to put a wedge between them. When this happens in your relationship, try to put boundaries around the relationship in order to withstand outside conflict.

·It’s okay to break tradition – There are many ways the couple broke tradition including Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex’s ethnicity, citizenship, marital status and religious affiliation. However, His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex was able to see past the list of traditional deal breakers and find his true love. The couple’s individuality was also noticed in some aspects of their non-traditional Royal Wedding (i.e. cake, music selection, guestlist, sermon presenter).  Examine what aspects of tradition you and your spouse want to keep and which aspects you want to modify.

·Support one another’s individuality – Although the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will have joint tasks, it is refreshing to see how they have supported one another’s individual missions. For example, Prince Harry has been an avid supporter of HIV/AIDS campaigns and the Invictus Games and we have seen photos of his then fiancé, Meghan Markle attending his events. Many times, partners become so focused on the relationship and his/her partner that they forget to maintain a sense of individuality with respect to personal values and interests.

~Dr. Perry

Don't Forget About Her...

Empty Bed.jpg

As Mother’s Day approaches, the world prepares to honor all women who have played a role in the lives of their children. I’m pleased that our culture has expanded our sentiments beyond biological mothers to include godmothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, aunts, mothers-in-law and even those who have lost their mothers. However, there is one group that is often overlooked and that is women who struggle with pregnancy loss and/or infertility.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and the American Pregnancy Association, 10-15% of couples in the U.S. struggle with infertility.  As I’ve grown personally and professionally, this has become an important topic to me because these women often suffer silently with guilt, shame, sadness, and confusion.  They put on a smile or “like” at yet another celebrity baby bump photo or suffer through another baby shower for someone else.

Studies show that some women may feel the emotional aftermath long after the miscarriage or failed fertility treatment. I appreciate influential women like Gabriel Union, Pink, and Celine Deon for boldly sharing their stories. I also applaud all the organizations and professionals who work with this special population. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, but as Mother’s Day nears, lets show some compassion to our dear sisters.  For some women, Mother’s Day may be a reminder of a painful reality rather than a celebratory holiday.

Here are some tips that could make Mother’s Day (and other days) special for a special woman in your life who has experienced a miscarriage or infertility.

  • Acknowledge her experience as a genuine loss (of life, dreams unrealized, identity etc).
  • Encourage her to see a therapist with experience treating women/couples with infertility needs.
  • Help her find a support group (in-person or online).
  • Avoid insensitive remarks (e.g. You can just adopt.; You can have my kids!; Just forget about it and it will happen.)
  • Ask for her permission to share photos and stories of your Mother’s Day, family outings, child’s development etc.
  • Give her permission not to participate in events that might make her uncomfortable or upset like baby showers and kid birthday parties.
  • Avoid sending the wrong message about God (e.g. You must not have enough faith.)
  • Donate funds to a maternal waiting home or other charity in honor of her rainbow baby.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers (biological and otherwise), women with rainbow babies, and women who have been unable to conceive but are mothers in their hearts!

~Dr. Perry

Upgrading Your Coping Skills

Stressed man.jpg

Did you know coping skills are not always healthy? Yes, that’s right. Usually, when we hear the word “cope” the assumption is usually bent towards a positive interpretation.  Because of that, we may not know some of our coping skills need to be upgraded. In this article, I teach you a simple way to evaluate whether your coping skills are working for you or against you.

First, make a list of all the ways you cope. If you are not exactly sure what are your coping skills, ask yourself questions like ‘What do I do to feel better when I’m stressed? How do I occupy my mind when I’m worried? Where do I go when I’m overwhelmed?’  Let’s say I have identified these coping skills: exercising, drinking, prayer.   

Next, evaluate whether the coping skills you’re using are effective.  In other words, what is the immediate and long-term impact on your mood and well-being?  Let’s look at a few examples below:

a) DRINKING:  Helps me fall asleep, takes my mind off the problem so I feel better (NOW); Wake up in the middle of the night, mind returns to problem, now I feel worse (LATER)  

b) EXERCISING: Helps to distract me from my worries and I feel good (NOW); Feel pleased with my progress towards healthier lifestyle; I can think clearer about my problems and decide a plan of action; I feel inspired (LATER)

c) PRAYER: I can talk to God about all my problems right now and I feel better (NOW); I sit and wait for God to “fix” everything I told Him about and when I don’t see anything happening, I feel discouraged, frustrated, and confused (LATER)

Now that I’ve taken a look at my list, I can see what is working for me and what coping skills I need to keep, upgrade, or toss.

a) DRINKING: Excessive drinking doesn’t seem to help me all that much so, I can decide to upgrade this skill by drinking only in moderation and not use it to deal with problems. However, I may decide to cut this skill altogether.

b) EXERCISING: This coping tool appears to be an all-around benefit because I feel better immediately and although my problem hasn’t magically gone away after exercise, I can better cope with it (and I may look good while doing it J ). Looks like this is one I need to keep.

c) PRAYER: I realize my way of praying is passive, which means I’m putting all the responsibility on God. I’m not only down about my problem, but now I’m frustrated with God. This way of coping doesn’t seem to be helping me in the way it should. Maybe I can decide to upgrade this coping skill by learning to pray actively, which means I will talk to God about my problems and put some actions with my faith. I may not see the immediate results I’d like, but I feel encouraged now that I am an active participant in my faith journey.

As you review your list, it’s okay if you realize some of your tools worked in the past but they are no longer working. Brainstorm more effective ways to help you deal with daily stress. Remember that coping skills may fall in different categories (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) and there are different types of coping skills like self-soothing, distraction, self-love, creative expression, thought-challenging, etc.  Try to identify a variety of skills in different categories so you can have them readily available in your toolkit when you need them.

To help you get started, I've included a free simple worksheet here.

Why Therapists Are Not On the Couch

empty couch.jpg

What a privilege it is to walk alongside someone as they share the contents of their heart and see a life transformed?!  As mental health professionals, we pour out so much and by the end of the all, we can find ourselves running on empty.  While our work can be fulfilling, it does run the risk of unpleasant emotional experiences. Maybe you are secretly familiar with some of these experiences such as compassion fatigue, burnout, depression, anger, anxiety, envy (of a colleague’s career success), low self-esteem, feelings of failure (when business isn’t thriving or when clients don’t have the outcome we hoped for), or shame (about your incongruent personal life).  I used the word “secretly” because we are taught to manage our reactions when others are in distress.  Nevertheless, we often forget to nurture our own hearts and water our own seeds.

How do you manage these times in your life?  In spite of our best self-talk, there are times when we need our own gift.  However, I have found that we are one of the last groups of people to go to therapy. Let’s explore and address some of the common reasons therapists don’t go to therapy:

  • “I am a therapist so I should know how to deal with my problems.” People incorrectly assume that therapists should not have problems because we have so many tools, and sadly, we buy into that unrealistic expectation of ourselves.  Remember, objectivity is one of the main ingredients that make therapy so effective.  As such, your skills are likely significantly diminished when your emotions are invested in your personal struggles. Having your own therapist can help you process apply and learn new skills.
  • “I don’t want my colleagues to think I can’t cope.” Hopefully, you are surrounded by supportive colleagues who would inspire you to do what is best for you.  If asked, you can give answers that don’t violate your privacy (e.g. “Yes, I go to therapy periodically for good mental hygiene”).  
  • “My therapist won’t be a good enough therapist for me" or "I might judge his/her therapy skills.” We know what it’s like to have a client make negative assumptions about our work before we ever get started. Make an effort to write down your questions and thoughts so you and your therapist can address your concerns from the outset.  Like any relationship, the therapist-client relationship requires trust, so trust your therapist enough to take off your therapist hat and be fully present in your treatment. You deserve it!
  • “My clients may think I can’t to help them if they find out I’m in therapy.” I encourage you not to believe and perpetuate the myth that therapists need to have all the answers before helping someone else. Further, it is not likely that your clients will find out you’re in therapy unless you tell them. Because therapists maintain professional boundaries, there would be few, if any, therapeutic reasons to introduce this into your work with your clients. It will be your clinical discretion whether and how you answer if asked by a client, “Have you ever been in therapy?”
  • “I can’t afford it.” Like many of our clients, we can experience financial strain and may forgo getting professional help when needed. If this is the case, perhaps you can consider joining a support group for professionals or develop a treatment plan with your individual therapist that is cost-effective but still heart-effective (e.g. less frequent sessions with specific at-home assignments). 
  • “I may lose my license.” This is an understandable concern because the thought of losing your license can be scary and disturbing.  I’m sure your professional association has an ethical stance on handling personal problems. For example, the American Psychological Association set forth ethics that require psychologists to “take appropriate measures” if their personal problems may interfere with competently engaging in work-duties. I hope you would actually consider professional support as one way to protect your license. If needed, your therapist can work with you to develop a plan to limit or temporarily defer your professional duties.     

I’ll never forget my undergraduate psychology professor’s response when a classmate asked if all therapists are required to have their own therapist. She confidently replied, “It’s not required, but it’s a damned good idea.

Mental health therapists, let’s make sure we are not unintentionally sending mixed signals by suffering in silence while promoting mental health in public.

 

***It’s okay for therapists to need therapy! ***

 

~Dr.  Q. Perry

"Valentine Blues" (for Couples and Singles)

blue flower.jpg

Giving and receiving love is one of the best experiences of a lifetime and Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday when that love is expressed. During the course of life, you may find yourself in a season of singleness or a season of strain in your romantic relationship. If this is the case for you, it may be hard to cope with a day that seems full of love, passion, and affection for others but can trigger difficult emotions for you like sadness, loneliness, grief, and/or jealousy. Here are a few tips to help you cope with the “Valentine Blues.”

For Couples

  • You and your partner may agree to take a holiday break so neither of you feel obligated to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
  • If you both decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, try not to compare the day with other celebrations you’ve shared as a couple as this could add to your pain and take away from the current moment together.
  • Avoid comparing your relationship with other couples. For example, if both of you decide to celebrate with a wonderful dinner for two at home, it does not mean you love one another less or your relationship is doomed if your best friend and his wife celebrate with a romantic, 3-day staycation.  Also, it would be unfair to compare your relationship during this phase to another couple who is in a more joyful time in their lives.
  • Make a list of a few realistic ways you can improve your relationship that are not contingent upon your partner’s behavior (e.g. I will dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to talk to my boyfriend without electronics/social media distractions.)
  • Consider couple’s therapy with a trained professional.

For Singles

  • Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t judge or criticize yourself for feeling uncomfortable emotions.
  • Acknowledge your distress, but don’t allow the sadness of Valentine’s Day to lead you to make unhealthy decisions (e.g. returning to an unhealthy relationship, impulsively diving into a new relationship, engaging in unsafe sex, over/undereating, abusing street drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication, and/or excessive shopping.)
  • Avoid comparisons: You may be in a different phase of life than someone else. For example, it would be unfair for you to compare your single life (1-month post breakup) to someone who has been happily single for 3 years.   
  • Don’t let other people’s posts on social media be the measuring stick for your life. Remember, people are not likely to post unfiltered images of their life.  
  • Consider individual or group therapy with a trained professional.

Whatever your season in love, allow it to develop or heal naturally without doing anything to rush or prolong it.

xoxo

~Dr. Q. Perry

Meaningful Ways to Support Caregivers

caregiving.jpg

Caregiving is one of the most demanding yet thankless jobs in the world. Duties can range from medication management to helping with personal care, from part-time to full-time, and from paid to unpaid.  Because injury, illness, and death are common human experiences, all of us have either been a caregiver or knows a caregiver.  In fact, the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP estimated about 43 million people were caregivers at some point in 2015.  It has been my privilege to experience caregiving both personally and professionally and those experiences have given me valuable perspectives and greater appreciation for the “normalcy” of life.  Here are a few critical lessons I learned about caregiving:

1.  Although caregivers are usually women, men may be caregivers and they need support as well.

2.  Caregiving is not only limited to aging and dying parents.  It also includes caring for disabled children, adult children, spouses, siblings, extended family, and neighbors.

3.  Most importantly, caregivers need care too!

While November is National Family Caregivers Month, their tireless efforts deserve year-round caregiver appreciation.  There could be times when the care recipient or loved one of the caregiver feels helpless and unsure how to make a difference.  Even when asked, caregivers often say ‘no’ or they are unsure how you can help.  However, small gestures may be more significant than you know.  If you are looking for ways to support a caregiver in your life, I’ve put together a list of ideas to help you get started.

  • Give permission to vent as the caregiver may experience guilt for having feelings of frustration, fear, anger, and sadness.
  • Recommend caregiving support groups (in person or online).
  • Encourage the caregiver to go to his/her own medical appointments. Some caregivers consider taking care of themselves as “selfish” or experience anxiety about their own symptoms and so, they avoid their personal appointments.
  • Purchase gift cards to UberEATS/meal prep services or get others to chip in to prepare convenient meals.
  • Run errands (e.g. pay bills, grocery shopping, take pet to vet, pick up prescriptions, take kids to activities).
  • Offer your service by helping with house cleaning, house repairs, car maintenance, and yard work or offer gift cards for those services.
  • Treat the caregiver to personal care services (e.g. barber/beauty salon, pedicure/manicure, massage).  See if such services are available in-home.
  • Offer in-home respite to give the caregiver a meaningful break.
  • Be patient. There will be times when the caregiver is busy or tired and cannot answer calls/texts in a timely manner.  Try not to take it personal if his/her tone is curt or out-of-sorts.
  • Make care baskets (with snacks, water, socks, playing cards, inspirational reading, puzzles, pen, notepad) to be used in-home, during long appointment days or extended inpatient stays.
  • Celebrate the caregiver by praising his/her personal achievements and roles outside of caregiving.
  • Be the point of contact for emergencies to make calls to others so the caregiver is not tasked with making numerous calls.
  • Be discrete with the information the caregiver shares.  Don’t assume he/she wants everyone to know what was shared with you.
  • Assist with navigating legal matters, if necessary.
  • Be considerate: Don’t call the caregiver to dump your problems on them. Be mindful of unintentionally put more on his/her plate.
  • Keep caregivers organized by maintaining a calendar of the caregiver’s appointments and important dates/deadlines.

In whatever way you choose to appreciate a caregiver in your life, know that your support is priceless.

 

With a warm heart,

~Dr. Q. Perry

5 Surprising Ways to Build Your Brand

Nowadays, it seems that most everyone is about building their brand or showing you steps on how to build yours. I don’t doubt that these strategies are useful, but I think we must be careful to first build our character because your character IS your brand.  See, talent and gifts will certainly make room for you. This means it will open doors for you, but what happens once you cross the threshold? Your character is what will keep you there.

Think about it - there are tons of every type of business you can name. What sets apart each company is not only the service or product, but the manner in which they are delivered. You might be thinking, “Everyone already knows good customer service is key.” True, but what I’m referring to are those integral qualities that make up the foundation of your brand such as honesty, integrity, discipline, dedication, accountability, respect, etc.  What good would it do to market and promote your brand when your character, attitude, and personal life are in opposition to your company’s vision or mission statement?  Let your brand be an outpour of or reflection of your true character, not a fake, filtered image for the public and press.

branding.jpg

Because YOU are your brand, consider the following tips to develop your business:

1.  Examine life experiences that have helped you develop character. What lessons have you learned? Bring these experiences forward and apply them to your professional ethics.

2.  Identify your life values and personal mission.  For example, if my personal mission is to “get money at all costs” (aka greed), then that will show up in my business ethics.  If I have a tendency to disregard the needs of others, how could I promote a brand that my employees and clients could support?  Your core life values should be consistent with your company ethics.  Remember, you are not building a brand; you ARE the brand!  

3.  Take a personal inventory to discover your areas of strength and growth edges. Nurture your strengths and develop your growth edges by adopting a mindset of continued personal education and progress.  You can work towards this goal by activities such as studying self-help books, attending personal growth seminars, subscribing to positive blogs (like this one), seeking help from a therapist, getting a mentor or studying a person’s life (dead or live) whom you admire. 

4.  Stay open to feedback from reliable sources.  How do you respond or react to feedback? Are you defensive? Is your personal identity secure enough to humbly tolerate suggestions, compliments and complaints?  Having genuine people in your corner to both cheerlead and challenge you are paramount because it gives you practice in responding to comments you may not agree with or want to hear.

5.  Genuinely support other people in their endeavors to excel.  Admittedly, this can be hard, especially if you worry that someone’s business may be getting more attention and success than yours.  However, it becomes easier when you acknowledge and deal with negative thoughts and vulnerable emotions (Yes, they are normal.).  Once you are secure in your own path of life, you can authentically celebrate the success of others around you because you know you are putting in the ground work to make your brand phenomenal too.   

If you read these tips and determine that you have a lot of improvements to make, that’s okay!  ALL of us have work to do.  A wise woman once told me, “It’s better to get it right, than to get it fast.”  Now I encourage you to take the time you need to build your character.  Couple your character with your creativity to build a dynamic brand!

I know you can do it!

~Dr. Q. Perry

4 Ways to Deal With Burnout

Burnout3.jpg

It is becoming increasingly recognized that Western culture tends to parade and esteem those who are busy.  Come on, let’s be real.  Don’t you want an extra badge of honor when you talk about working 60 hours a week on your job and then going home to run your kids to activities and events all over creation, clean your entire house, make homemade treats for the potluck, listen to your best friend’s woes, and still have that perfectly filtered “#Iwokeuplikethis” picture on social media? It’s no wonder we are burned out!

You may assume that because of the type of work you do, you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t get burned out. You may also assume you were trained or built to go at breakneck speed.  These are myths.  When your job gifts you with so much responsibility and influence, there may be seasons in life when that approach works or is even necessary. However, if you examine your life over the past several months/years and realize you have consistently had a chaotic schedule, unexplained moods, and poor quality relationships, then perhaps this is more than just a season…it’s become a lifestyle.

Burnout is a term coined by psychologist, Herbert J. Freudenberger in the 1970s. He defined it as the "extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” If you are unsure whether you are burned out, reflect on these questions:

  • Have you felt unmotivated or disinterested in your work for more than a short span of time?
  • Do you notice you are not as satisfied with doing the tasks you once enjoyed?
  • Do you lack empathy or the drive to go the extra mile?
  • Are you isolating yourself more and more from your employees or coworkers?
  • Do you seem more irritated and angry on the job?
  • Have others noticed the change in your attitude or quality of your work?

If these questions are consistently true for you over a period of time, then maybe you are experiencing burnout. Feeling burned out means it is time to address your unmet needs.  Consider the following tips:

  1. Go back to the drawing board and recall your passion and reason for doing the work you love.
  2. Make a list of all your commitments.
    • Examine whether you are genuinely passionate about the tasks on your lists or whether you have agreed to take on some tasks because you’re afraid to say ‘no’, want validation from others, or pursuing some other short-lived, unfulfilling outcome.   
    • Are you engaged in the tasks on your list because you want to avoid dealing with the real issue (e.g. loneliness, disappointment, grief, depression, failed marriage etc.)?
  3. Nurture your personal relationships.  You may have to sacrifice some time on the job to maintain or restore the quality of your personal relationships.
  4. Fully refresh yourself. Your career is only one aspect of your life. Take some time to care for your body, mind, and spirit, too. Here are some ideas to get your thoughts flowing:
    • Pray, meditate, exercise, go to therapy, listen to music, read a non-required book, listen to an uplifting podcast, visit a museum, plan a vacation/staycation, watch a movie, get a massage, take a long drive, prepare a meal, visit your favorite restaurant, go to the lake…

I hope you rekindle your fire soon!

 

~Dr. Q. Perry