iStock_000072976509_SmallBy Jordan Holland, MFT Intern

As a mom of an almost 1 year old, I get caught up in all the changes that have happened in my life over the past year. It seems like you can’t prepare enough for the new blessing that is about to come into your life. Even when well-meaning friends, family members, and Pinterest posts do their best to prepare you, it seems like the majority of my experience within the first few months of having my daughter were wrought with the question: “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” Now that I have had times to think on this, I think it is because no new mom’s experience is the same. This might seem like Captain Obvious has come knocking on the door, but I think this is an important statement. It is not meant to isolate it is meant to validate. Too often we as moms try and share our experience, and instead of just being listened too, we get cut off as someone tells us that they “went through the exact same thing.” There is definitely a time and a place for these comments, but I think they get thrown out too often, and honestly it’s difficult to tell if the person sharing is trying to be supportive, or if they are caught up in their own reminiscence that they cease to really be engaged in what the new mom is saying. I have even caught myself doing this with some of my pregnant friends. Honestly, there can be so much power is sitting with a new mom (this includes moms who are welcoming a new baby no matter how many kids they already have) and really hearing their experience. This is a time where there is so much going on, and there will be growing pains no matter what, because finding a new normal is not easy!


In my own journey of finding a new normal, I have realized how much I need to be listened to, and through that I have a heightened sensitivity to the fact that so much in parenthood is not talked about. I am not just talking about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, but even this subject has a huge gap: either you are thinking about hurting yourself and your baby, or you “just have the baby blues.” Maybe it’s just me, but the emotions of a Postpartum life are more complex than being written off as “just the baby blues,” when people confirm that you are not a danger to yourself or your baby. You are not sleeping, you have the weight of being solely responsible of a brand new human, and your emotions are thrown out of whack due to surging hormones. For me there were days where I looked outside and just burst into tears, and I didn’t know why. While those early days are a blur of nursing, no sleep and watching a lot of Fixer Upper, one thing that vividly stands out is feeling fear. I was afraid to tell people that I was struggling with my emotions, and I like to think of myself as having a pretty good handle on emotional regulation. I was afraid of judgement, of being seen as a bad mom, or of being dismissed, because either someone experienced the “exact same thing,” (this should have been obvious to me considering the fact that I am not an individual with my own experiences, and emotions, duh). I think my biggest fear in dismissal was the opposite though, I was terrified of being dismissed, because what I was going through might have been different than someone else, and instead of trying to hear and understand what I was saying, they would write me off as exaggerating.


Here’s the thing, I am writing this post, not to lament my experience, but to share it and use it as a tool for support for others. Whatever women may be experiencing post baby it is their experience, and they deserve to be heard, not constantly berated with stories, advice or thoughtless questions. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to have that first person be willing to sit, and hear me. I believed I was able to walk forward into motherhood with more confidence when I knew I had the ear and support of someone who wanted to know my thoughts and feelings about being a new mother, and let their need to “share” take a backseat for a second, and every new mom deserves this! Whether you are a new mom because you have had your first, adding a new addition to your family, or a new step-mother or adopted mom you deserve the opportunity for support while you find your new normal. Here are a few thoughts and general guidelines for working through this:


  1. The statement: “It takes a village” could not be more true! Find your people to help you adjust without judgement. This means listening to you, letting you cry in front of them, or knowing when to let you have space without making you feel guilty for “being too stingy with your new baby.”
  2. Find a way to process this surge of emotions, this can mean journaling, talking or doing something relaxing. This might seem like a crazy suggestion, because really, who has time to journal after a new baby, but sometimes things need to get out. Sometimes we can be so full of emotions and difficult thoughts that it impedes our rest. We all know how essential rest is with a new baby, so find a way to constructively process.
  3. Talk to someone, you are not meant to go through this alone! I cannot stress this enough, and you deserve to have someone who is willing to sit with you during the highs and lows of finding a new normal. You deserve someone who will laugh with you, and cry with you; not because they are trying to take your experience, but because they value you enough to partner with you during this difficult season.
  4. Celebrate where you are and what you are doing. You are the best possible mom for your children, because of the simple fact that YOU are their mother. This is huge, and worth celebrating! Even when the insecurities of finding this new normal seem overwhelming, try to remind yourself that you are doing exactly what you need to be doing by caring for your children, and when it comes to them specifically, no one can do it better than you!




WAS THIS PAST SCHOOL YEAR TOO HARD… or just a plain ol’ DISASTER for your child?

Some reasons it could have been,and considerations to make over the summer.

By: Brandi Carey, MFT Intern#71187

Peer Conflict, Bullying, and Lacking Self-Confidence

While most schools have a zero tolerance bullying policy, I know that some kids still feel victimized by conflict and/or bullying at school. Being teased or mistreated by “friends” is devastating, and can cause a lifetime of emotional upheaval resulting in significant distress, low self-confidence, and poor school performance. If your child has experienced negative peer relationships at school, take this summer to open up the communication and learn more about their experiences.

Often times, just showing concern about your child’s struggle with peers and engaging in conversation about it is enough to improve your child’s confidence. They may begin talking about their successes and resolving conflict on their own. Unfortunately, if the conflict or bullying has gone on for too long, children develop false beliefs about themselves. They might exhibit or show signs of more severe behaviors such as self-harm or substance abuse and they may feel withdrawn, anxious, and agitated. Children need to feel supported and showing your concern can make a big difference.

When it feels like your support at home may not be enough, getting counseling may be the next step. Learning to express thoughts and feelings, identifying faulty thinking and coping skills, increasing trust and reviving a lost self-confidence are just a few of the many benefits to realize. Within just a short amount of time, many children respond to therapy and begin implementing skills and new thinking patterns. They will become equipped for the challenges at school with a new perspective (not to mention how it could impact their life long after school is over). What a better time than summer break to get this straightened out?

Lack of Focus, Motivation, and Communication

Gone are the days of limited school choices! We are lucky to have a plethora of schooling options for our kids because it allows parents to make decisions that suit their family need, child’s personality, and academic goals. However, even the best school environment isn’t enough if your child lacks focus, motivation, or effective communication tools. Schools are eager to help a student succeed and will go great lengths to be sure parents are a part of the plan if you show interest. Often times, improvements in motivation, focus, and communication can result with a few changes. A new seating placement, behavior plan, reward system, or routine could be enough to improve your child’s experience.

If you’ve tried all the above and are still not seeing the results you were hoping for, it might be a good idea to have a counselor assess your child’s mental and emotional status. A therapist may be able to help identify if the uncooperative behavior can be further explained. For example, the behaviors could be caused by a child’s adjustment to family stress, a recent change in schools, or some other overwhelming situation. Maybe your child has a difficult time going from one subject to another or moving from one setting to another – we call this transitioning – and helping your child transition at home will help their transitioning at school. An attention deficit may be at issue if your child is anxious, frequently interrupting organized activities, acting impulsively, or even tuning out altogether. At a minimum, seeking therapy is an opportunity to learn more. We encourage you to consider all of it, and let us help you sift through the possibilities to come up with a plan to address the issues.

Absences and Tardiness

Certainly, a sick day or a late morning on occasionally is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about frequent absences that have caused the school district to send you a nice letter informing of their attendance policy, or a teacher showing concern at conference time, or even the shameful feeling you might get when running your kid to the office late for the 5th time in a month. Does any of this sound familiar – even a little?

The problem here can be very complex or rather simple to resolve. Implementing a night-time routine would be the first level of attack in order to rule out other more serious obstacles like blatant opposition, refusal to cooperate, depression, or some medical condition that could require further assessment. In any event, routine is a good place to start.

Night-time Routines

For many families, weeknights are so busy and chaotic! Between sports and extra activities, obligations and work schedules, (and possibly the favorite TV program that ends at 10:00p.m. on Wednesdays), little energy and time is left for dinner, homework, and a plan for bed time. Having a strong school-night routine tends to set both you and your child up for success in the morning, and so it is that a consistent bed-time based on the child’s age is very important. It’s no secret that we need sleep, but did you know that elementary aged kids require 10-11 hours of sleep each night? Adolescents need at least 8 or 9 hours, too! Considering that school starts at roughly 8:00 a.m. (and allowing time to wake up and get to school) I calculate a bed time no later than 9:00 p.m.! A little planning is needed, but I’m sure with some foresight, organization, and intent, a good bedtime routine that works for your family can become a reality!

Certainly, a routine may not be easily implemented for a number of reasons; maybe difficult blended family dynamics, scheduling conflicts, or other stressors are standing in the way. Counseling can help shift family dynamics and clarify priorities by offering a solution focused approach to many difficult situations. Please take the opportunity to get the help you need; counseling can make the difference for your family.

We know how you feel, Mom and Dad; we at Kristen Ewers Family Counseling Center are here to help. Call us today to figure out an affordable counseling plan for your loved ones. They are worth it.

Being emotionally available to our children is necessary, just being physically present is not enough and even very young children will spot the difference, as adults do. For example, imagine how different it feels to talk to your partner who is really ‘with’ you compared with when they are listening – while watching TV! As parents we can be doing all the ‘right’ things but may allow ourselves to become too busy to really ‘be with’ our children. Can parents do this all the time? Of course not, but if we can really be with our children more often than not, and at times when they really need us, that is good enough. A secure attachment doesn’t mean always getting it right, but it does mean repairing the relationship when necessary. A great practice is from your child’s earliest days, talking out loud about feelings (your child’s and your own) will begin to help your child to eventually label feelings and realize that they can be shared. As your child gets older, s/he will realize that intense feelings can be named (mad, sad, glad, and afraid) and discussed with another, thus ending a need to act them out.


Sometimes a child will let their parents know what they need in a direct way, for example raising their arms to be picked up; at other times they may be less direct, such as coming in close to their parent when they want a cuddle. However, if a child has learned that their parent is uncomfortable meeting some of their needs they may behave in a misleading or contradictory way, for example, appearing as if they want to play when they actually need comfort. It can be helpful to consider what lies behind our children’s approaches to us.

For example, asking for help with a task like putting on their socks may be more about seeking emotional support than actually requiring our help. Recognizing this helps parents to respond more effectively to their child’s needs.

Circle of Security also helps parents understand what they bring to their relationship with their child, and how subjective their perceptions of their child can be. Parent’s own upbringing influences the areas which they struggle with and reflecting on their responses is vital. Certain needs of their child can activate painful feelings for the parent. For example, a parent may feel abandoned when their child is moving away from them, and may therefore encourage their child to be overly reliant on them (usually unconsciously). The child may then act like they need comfort a lot of the time.

None of us get it right all the time, and (thankfully!) it is not necessary to do so, but if we are trying to recognize and meet our child’s needs, both for attachment and exploration, they are off to a great start.

So I think, from my own experience as a mom, and from countless conversations with other moms, that the thing we most need to learn is this concept of delight. I think grandparents do this much more easily than we do, because they aren’t carrying any of the pressure of how this child turns out! The idea of delight is simple, yet so complicated as well.

Our delight must be:

  • Genuine
  • Warm
  • Caring
  • Respecting the child as a person of worth
  • Focused on the child’s way of being rather than way of doing
  • Accepting of the child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Unconditional
  • Seeking to understand
  • Encouraging
  • Empathetic
  • Present
  • Express enjoyment of the child’s world
  • Trusting of the child to set their own direction
  • Follows the child
  • Believing the best in the child
  • Patient

Can you think of a time in your life when you had the experience of being “delighted in” by someone that was significant to you? Most of us can picture that experience clearly right now. Maybe it was a teacher who showed you love and compassion, a grandmother who you would run to and bury your head into her chest, a coach who encouraged you, a parent who really loved to watch you play… These are the snapshots that I call to mind as reminders to me of how to delight in my children. These people weren’t extraordinary. They were ordinary people who took the time to make me feel valued. This speaks to the depth of my heart, encouraging me, comforting me. I don’t have to be amazing, I just have to be willing. I have to remember this as I parent my kids.


Be encouraged, you can do this. All you need to remember is this: At the heart of secure attachment is a child’s recognition that s/he has a parent who can be counted on to lovingly provide tenderness, comfort, firm guidance and protection during the inevitable difficulties of life. But more than that, is a parent who delights in their child for who they are. It’s that simple.

Delighting in our children begins as we learn to delight in their unique BENT. Let’s face it, some kids are harder to connect with than others. Some kids challenge us as parents to learn how to delight and encourage their unique bent. Every child is precious, but even good parents can become discouraged by frustrating aspects in their child’s makeup and personality. Add other complicating factors, including the hurried pace of life and learning differences, and even the best of parents can become overwhelmed. Even as a “good” parent, you may become discouraged if you don’t understand why your child behaves as he or she does.

For now, just know this: You’ve been given an exclusive opportunity: the chance to nurture a child who is like no other. So learn to choose the child you’ve been given. And learn to delight in them.

Life Words

One way to do this is through using Life Words: I have certain life phrases that I say to each one of my children regularly. I want them to hear and know how much they are enjoyed. Take your daughter/son and look them directly in the face and say:

  • I’m so glad God gave me you as a daughter/son.
  • You bring me so much Joy.
  • I really like reading to you.
  • It’s so fun to have tea parties with you.
  • I had fun with you today.
  • I love being your mom/dad.

What’s sweet is that since toddlers are mini parrots many times they end up saying the same things to you later. These Life Words are a way of communicating DELIGHT.


Let’s look back at the chart to our bottom half of the circle. In Part 1, we looked at the Secure Base. In addition to that, children need a safe haven to return to. Children come to their parents and move away over and over again. As children get older they are likely to venture further from their secure base, and stay away longer, but still need to know that they are welcome to come back. Security of attachment requires a caregiver who is sensitive and responsive to her/his child’s needs. Your willingness to answer subtle requests for attention, comfort, holding, exploration, and discovery (with you nearby) will provide an increased sense of security for your child.

Our tasks:

  • Protect your child, when things are too overwhelming or even dangerous, draw them into you.
  • Comfort them – as you draw them in, provide comfort to them.
  • Hold your child – Babies and toddlers soak up affection and love through their skin. Holding your child not only provides pleasure and reassurance, it is essential in helping to soothe and organize difficult feelings.
  • Eye contact – Gaze into your baby’s eyes from the first day of life, and pay close attention to when your child wants to look back. At about six weeks, your child will regularly focus in on your eyes and read what they are “saying.” Lots of pleasurable eye contact will translate into a feeling of reassurance and connection for your baby that will spill over into childhood. Now just a captured glance across a room is enough for my 9 yr old to regain her sense of security. She doesn’t need to come back to me physically, she comes back to my safe haven emotionally by remembering that I am here, that I love her.
  • Delight in your child– here it is again. This idea is so profound, so significant to attachment that it is found on both sides of the circle. Your child need to feel welcomed back to you. If they “explored” just a few steps away, or they have been off and running for 30 minutes, when they return they need to experience your delight. Too often we have an annoyed response when our kids come back to us. Maybe we are in the middle of a chore, or a conversation, and their interruption is inconvenient, so we usher them away with a “Go back and play”, not realizing that they need to come into our safe haven in order to feel secure enough to play again. We need to learn to greet them with delight EVERY time. A smile, a hug, an encouraging word, allowing them to drink their fill of us before they go out again.
  • Another need is help to organize their feelings. Babies and children need support when they face feelings that are too intense to manage by themselves. This support is most effective when parents accept the child’s feelings and don’t try to get them to feel something different. Easier said than done!


So embrace your child’s unique bent, work on using Life Words, create security of attachment and delight in your child today!

The concept of “attachment” has found its way into much writing and talking about parenting, but what does it mean, and more importantly, how can parents help their child to develop a secure attachment? Attachment is the lasting emotional bond that a child forms with a specific person that provides safety, comfort, soothing, and pleasure. This mother-child attachment bond shapes an infant’s brain, profoundly influencing their self-esteem, their expectations of others, and their ability to attract and maintain successful adult relationships

Almost all children will develop an attachment but the nature of attachment varies, depending largely upon the care-giving style of their parents. Children who are securely attached are more likely to be resilient under stress, have better relationships, and enter school ready to learn.

The Attachment Bond Shapes an Infant’s Brain

For better or worse, the infant brain is profoundly influenced by the attachment bond—a baby’s first love relationship. Research has found that when the primary caretaker can manage personal stress, calm the infant, communicate through emotion, share joy, and forgive easily, the young child’s nervous system becomes “securely attached.” The strong foundation of a secure attachment bond enables the child to be self-confident, trusting, hopeful, and comfortable in the face of conflict. As an adult, he or she will be flexible, creative, hopeful, and optimistic.

Our secure attachment bond shapes our abilities to:

  • feel safe
  • develop meaningful connections with others
  • explore our world
  • deal with stress
  • balance emotions
  • experience comfort and security
  • make sense of our lives
  • create positive memories and expectations of relationships

As you read through that description, I am sure that every one of you thought to yourself, “YES, I want THAT, for my child”. But how do I know that my child’s attachment to me is SECURE?

Drawing on attachment research a group of American psychotherapists have developed a user-friendly graphic illustrating the different needs children have of their parents, named the Circle of Security (COS) (Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell, 1998). When a child can move safely through the circle, it is indicative of a secure attachment with their parents. In this graphic the hands represent the parent, and the circle represents the child moving away to explore and coming back when necessary.


To develop a secure attachment, children require their parents to fulfill two key roles. Firstly (on the top half of the circle) the parent’s role is to be a secure base from which the child can move away and explore their world. Secondly, children need a safe haven to return to.

The Secure Base

Exploration: For a baby this may be subtle, looking away from mom as something catches their interest, for a toddler with new-found mobility, it may be more obvious! Our toddlers and preschoolers are always out exploring something! This is an important role as it is through exploration that a child’s learning occurs.

The important thing about exploration is that children are more likely to explore when they feel safe and look to their parents for cues that it is OK. We have all seen that child that is hesitant to explore, that clings to mom, rather than venture out. In fact, that might be your child. You may make excuses to your friends about your child being “just shy” or “slow to warm up”, but you can sense your child’s anxiety about leaving you. This has more to do with the child’s relationship with you than it does anything else. If you can understand what your child needs from you to feel safe to explore, it can make this transition easier.

There are several distinct needs that a child has while exploring.

  • First, they need to know that you are watching over them. They need to know that you are managing their safety so that they can feel safe to explore. Think about the number of times your child turns back to you for a reassuring “you’re ok”, before continuing to explore.
  • Sometimes they need help, ideally just enough to do the task themselves, without the parent taking over. This is called scaffolding.
  • Third, Children need their parents to enjoy their adventures and achievements with them. These are the “You did it!” moments. Whether that be celebrating a first step or first time down the slide by themselves.

As parents, we understand these first three tasks fairly well: watch over them, help them, enjoy with them. That seems like basic stuff to many of us. But the child’s needs don’t stop there. And if this is all that you provide your child, you will raise a child who is focused on achievement, on pleasing others… a child with a fragile ego and poor attachments in their relationships. Why? Because you are missing an important piece. Because our job isn’t just to watch over, help when necessary and enjoy their accomplishments…

  • But perhaps most significantly they also need to know that their parents delight in them, just for being who they are (as distinct from what they do) and experiencing lots of genuine delight is likely to lead to a secure attachment.

So how do we delight in our child as they are exploring? By focusing on WHO they are more than on WHAT they do. It was so timely this week that a friend shared an article on Facebook that was titled something like “6 words that will change your child’s life”. In this article the author spoke about how in multiple interviews with major athletes of all kinds about the role their parents played in their success one theme emerged. The most profound statement that these parents made to their children wasn’t an encouraging, “Great shot”, nor was it a correcting, “Hey you just need to tighten up your swing”. No, the most profound statement:

“I LOVE to watch you play.”

There it is. No pressure, no expectations. Just enjoyment of the child themselves.

My kids are involved in a LOT of activities: soccer, swim team, dance team, taekwondo and on and on the list goes and grows. At the end of every practice that I take my children to, their question is the same, “Were you watching?” But the real question isn’t just “Did I see”, but did I Enjoy… did I DELIGHT? When we delight in them, we can stop watching their skill, and start noticing the joy on their faces, the strain as they work through a task, the pain of a miss… we can empathize with their feelings and stay intimately in tune with them. We worry less about performance, and focus more on the amazing gift that is our child.

Delight In Your Child

Babies are actually “hard-wired” to experience joy with their caregivers in the early months of life. Researchers are finding that mutual joy is the basis for increased brain growth. Our children need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they give us JOY. What Delight communicates: I love YOU, I like YOU. My love and my like are not dependent on what you do (or don’t do).

Sometimes, as parents, we struggle to delight in our children, especially when they are exploring, because we are too focused on performance expectations. Sometimes we sit comparing them to other children and wish that they would be more… outgoing, athletic, focused, articulate, or less…serious, assertive, artsy, emotional.

Part of the challenge of delighting in our child is to delight in your child as an individual.

Try it today!