Category Archives: Family Counseling

How to Avoid Holiday Stress | Stress Management Tips

avoid-holiday-stress

Does the thought of the upcoming holidays have you in a panic? From cleaning the house to preparing food to getting presents for your family, there is a lot to think about doing this time of year. Before you overwhelm yourself with tasks and pressure, check out these holiday stress management tips from Perspectives Counseling Centers.

Plan and Prepare as Early as Possible

Stress quickly goes away when you have a plan in place. You may still feel nervous about achieving the plan, but at least you know what to do when the time comes. Start planning for the holidays as early as possible. This includes buying stocking stuffers for your kids, gathering food items that will not spoil, choosing recipes to cook, and doing some of the deep cleaning tasks that you might have been putting off. Create an itinerary for the big holiday so you have a step-by-step to-do list for cooking, presents, and other activities. Then all you have to do is follow it.

Note that having an itinerary also gives you a chance to add to your list when you realize you’ve missed something. You can think about the day from every possible angle and feel well prepared for the celebration.

Don’t Stretch Yourself Too Thin

This applies to all forms of commitment. For instance, you and your spouse may have multiple Thanksgiving dinners to go to between your two families. Rather than trying to cram all the celebrations and to one day, you may be better off spending Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other side of the family. You could also ask one side of the family to celebrate the day before or after Thanksgiving, and then you would be able to spend several hours with each family stress free.

If you are hosting for the holiday, be realistic about how much time and money you have available for food. You could provide the protein while others provide the sides and desserts. Work it out so you are not the one carrying the full burden of the holiday on your shoulder. It is perfectly reasonable to ask for help.

Keep Gifts to a Minimum

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on every gift you give this Christmas. For children, followed the rule of: something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read. You might splurge on one big item that they want, but keep everything else on a minimal budget.

If you have a large family or a big friend celebration to go to, you may suggest having a Dirty Santa party instead of getting people individual gifts. With Dirty Santa (aka White Elephant), each person brings one gift. That’s it. You can still have a great time, but you don’t have to stress about buying multiple gifts.

Focus on Making Memories

The holidays don’t have to be perfect. They’re about making memories with your loved ones. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and don’t worry about every little detail. It will all come together in the end. Enjoy this special time of year, and focus on what matters most.

Tips for Maintaining a School Night Routine

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In the first part of this guide, we discussed how to create a school night routine. Now we are going to focus on maintaining that routine and making it a consistent habit. Your children may be resistant at first, but they will ultimately feel better and perform better in school if they stick to a nightly schedule. Here are some tips for keeping up with your school night routine.

Follow through with the Rules You Make

If you tell your children to be in bed by 8 PM, stick to that. If you say 5 more minutes on a video game, mean it. If you allow your child to watch one episode of a show before bed, stop after that one episode. Following through with your rules establishes a clear set of expectations for your child. Saying no is hard the first few times, but it gets much easier when your child knows what’s expected of him or her.

Create a Nightly Checklist Your Child Understands

Children respond well to checklists. They can see the tasks that need to be completed, and they get instant gratification when they are checked off the list. If your child is old enough to read, you may be able to write this nightly checklist out in words. If not, use pictures to symbolize different tasks for the night – picking up toys, brushing teeth, reading a book, etc. Find a visual system that works for your child.

Set Alarms for Different Nighttime Tasks

If your child is old enough to have a phone, set alarms for different tasks each night. For example, you may have a warning alarm 10 minutes before the TV has to go off, then another when the TV must be turned off. You may have an alarm for nighttime medicine or for taking a bath. Alarms do not work for everyone, but they are good reminders for many children.

Avoid Using Rewards to Encourage Routines

You may be inclined to reward your child for sticking to the school night routine. However, doing so may send the wrong message. Completing daily hygiene routines and doing homework isn’t something that should be rewarded. That is just a natural part of growing older and gaining more responsibility. Encourage your child to abide by the rules, but don’t rely on rewards to achieve that. Your child needs to learn that sometimes, you just have to do things you’re not excited about.

Lead by Example

Your child watches your every move. If you have a nighttime routine, your child will mirror that. Of course, your routine doesn’t have to be the same as your child’s. You should try to live by some version of the same structure though. Leave your phone in another room for dinner, brush your teeth at a certain time, put work away during family time – do some of the things you are asking of your child. This will keep your family progressing as a unit.

For more parenting tips or to schedule an appointment with a family counselor near you, call Perspectives Counseling Centers.

 

Setting a School Night Routine | Family Counseling in Michigan

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Now that the school season has started, it’s time to get everyone on a routine. You may have spent the summers staying up late and sleeping in as a family, but the school year requires a bit more structure. Here are some tips for setting a school night routine, courtesy of our family counseling centers in Michigan.

Benefits of Having a School Night Routine

Before we describe the ideal school night routine, we want to explain why it’s important to have a routine in the first place. Children do best in structured environments. They learn the value of responsibility, and they gain a sense of independence. School night routines also improve academic performance because children wake up well-rested and ready to absorb new information. It only takes a week or so to get children in a routine. Stick with it, and you will see rewards from it.

General Guidelines for a School Night Routine

Every family is different, so you may need to adjust these steps to suit your needs. Here is a template for a successful school night routine:

  • Complete homework before dinner time. For older children, you may ask them to complete their homework before you get home from work, or you may designate homework times throughout the night based on their workloads. For younger children, you may allow them to eat a snack when they get home from school and then do their homework, if applicable.
  • Eat dinner around the same time every night. Not only will this help with consistency, but it will also aid in digestion. The body thrives on routine just as much as the mind does. If your children know they will eat around a certain time each night, they will feel full and energized all day long.
  • No technology at the dinner table. No phones, no tablets, no TVs. Reserve dinner time to talk about your days and interact with your children.
  • Designate a time for television and electronics. This will vary from family to family. For instance, you may watch certain shows or movies as a family after dinner. You may allow your children to play video games for 30-60 minutes after dinner. You may allow everyone in the family to have 45 minutes of social media time before spending time as a family. That is up to you.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. This should include cleaning/chores, showers/baths, brushing teeth, winding down for the night (perhaps with a book or 30-minute TV show), and a specific bed time.
  • Continue the routine into the morning. Set a time for your child to wake up in the morning, and schedule breakfast around the same time every day. Allot enough time for your child to wake up, get dressed, eat (if he or she is eating at home) and get to the bus stop (or other transportation arrangements).

Adjusting to Suit Your Family’s Needs

As we mentioned above, that schedule may not work for everyone. Feel free to make adjustments to fit your family. You might make one night a week completely free of technology, where you play board games or go for a walk as a family. You may need to vary the schedule for a shared custody arrangement. The goal is to keep your school night routine as repetitive as possible.

Try to Stay Consistent over the Weekend

Your weekend routines may be different than your school night routines, but the two should be complementary. You can let your children stay up later, but try not to adjust the timing too much. If you let your children do whatever they want over the weekend, it will be harder to get them back in the routine on Monday.

Continue to Part 2 where we discuss Tips for Maintaining a School Night Routine.

How to Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity (Part 2)

online-activity

Continued from Part 1

Watch Your Child’s Social Media Activity

This is a topic that receives some controversy. Some parents believe it is important for children to have their privacy. This allows them to form independent opinions and feel a sense of responsibility. However, that privilege should only be available when a child is truly ready. It may take years of monitored social media activity for a child to understand the responsibility that comes with using the internet.

If your child has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, know the login information. Have the accounts linked to your email address so you can get into them no matter what. Check your child’s messages and talk to them about any suspicious activity you notice. If your child has a phone, you may also need to do this with SnapChat and other communication apps.

Limit Your Child’s Time Online

It’s much easier to monitor your child’s online activity when it only occurs during a certain frame of time. You may let your child online for a short period of time after school or before bed, depending on how old he or she is. If your child as a cell phone, you may have him or her leave the phone with you overnight. You can also turn off the internet after a certain time period so you know your child is not online. Set guidelines that suit your family.

Lead by Example – Show Your Child What You Do Online (and When)

Show your child the right way to use the internet. Avoid being on your phone or tablet during family time. If you are online, let your child see what you are doing when possible. Children mimic what they see – the good and the bad. If you maintain a healthy relationship with the internet, your child is more likely to do the same.

Communicate as a Family

If you saw something funny online that’s kid-friendly, share it with your kids. Show them that you have nothing to hide about your time online. If they want to show you a video that they found entertaining, pay attention. This encourages your children to remain open about their online activity. If someone they do not know contacts them, they are more likely to tell you about it.

We encourage open communication for all family matters. If you need help building communication skills in your household, consider family counseling. Perspectives Counseling Centers offers family counseling in Michigan, with specialized counseling for teens, kids and adults. No matter what your family dynamic is, you can have a strong relationship with every family member. Call (248) 244-8644 to schedule an appointment with a family counselor near you.

 

How to Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity

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Children are born with technology at their fingertips. They learn how to use computers, smartphones and tablets at a very early age, preparing them for life in the modern world. This constant access to the internet comes with consequences though. Children may be exposed to inappropriate content or improper influences just by browsing online.

In this guide from Perspectives Counseling Centers, we’ll help you monitor your child’s online activity so you can ensure his or her safety.

Why It’s Important to Be Informed

The internet seems harmless at first glance, but even seemingly innocent platforms have dangerous information on them. For instance, there are many inappropriate YouTube videos that target children, even though they contain sexual and violent graphics. The titles and thumbnails look like kid-friendly content, but a closer look at the videos shows images you may not want your children to see.

Child predators often use social media platforms to talk to children. Websites that start out as innocent may have ads that lead children down a dangerous rabbit hole. Simply put, the internet gives your child access to a world of information he or she may not be old enough for. Parents have to take action to limit and control that access.

Use Parental Controls Where Applicable

One of the easiest ways to block children from inappropriate content is to use parental controls. You can use parental control apps and web browser extensions, or you could set parental controls within a website. For instance, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube have kids accounts that only feature child-friendly content. If your child is allowed to visit these websites, you can make sure he or she only navigates that section of the site. The types of parental controls you use will depend on the device your child uses and how he or she accesses the web.

Talk to Your Child about the Internet

Children must be taught to use the internet properly, just like they must be taught to read or put on clothes. If your child needs help researching for school or using the computer in some manner, do what you can to assist him or her. It is better for you to teach your child than for him or her to start looking around alone.

When you feel that your child is old enough, talk to him or her about predators and other dangers on the internet. This is just like preparing your child for peer pressure or bullying at school. You hope your child never faces those issues, but if so, it’s best to be informed.

Continue to Part 2

How to Date as a Single Parent | Adult Counseling Sterling Heights, MI

dating single parents

Dating is tricky for everyone, but it can be particularly challenging for single parents. Not only do you have to juggle a new relationship, but you have to worry about how your children will react along the way. At our adult counseling center in Sterling Heights, MI, we help people just like you find balance in their work and personal lives. Check out these dating tips for single parents so you can conquer the dating world with confidence.

Take Care of Yourself before Seeking Someone Else

Before you start dating, make sure you are content with who you are, what you want, and what you do not want for the future. Many adults jump into dating hoping to find their other half. In all reality, you should find someone who complements the whole person you already are. If you are dealing with low self-esteem or resentment from a previous relationship, work through those issues before you start dating. Our adult counseling services in Sterling Heights can help you do just that.

Avoid Dating Immediately after a Breakup

If you have just split from your former partner, wait a little while before you start dating again. This will give your children time to get used to you on your own, and it will be easier for them to see you dating in the future. If you bring a new person in the household right away, your child is naturally going to resent him or her. This sets a bad tone for the relationship from the start.

Be Transparent about Having Children

When you begin dating, be transparent about having children. The ideal partner will accept you and your children as a package deal. If you wait to tell that person about your children, you may find out that he or she has no desire to be a parent in the future. You’re not just looking for a partner. You’re looking for someone who could potentially help you raise your children down the road. You need to make sure whoever you’re dating is prepared for that responsibility.

Create Time for Dating, without Sacrificing Family Time

You deserve to have some time for yourself. There is nothing wrong with having a scheduled date night or finding spare time to spend with your significant other. The key is to balance dating time with work and family time. If your children visit their other parent every weekend, spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend then. If you have a long lunch for work, you could set up lunch dates with your partner. When it comes to family time, give your children your undivided attention – no texting, no social media, and no phone calls. Otherwise, they may feel like your new partner is taking away from their quality time.

Plan Introductions Carefully

Eventually there will come a time when you introduce your significant other to your children. Approach this with caution. You may spend a few weeks getting your children excited about meeting your new friend. You should also talk to your children about fears they may have about you dating. Explain to them that this person is not going to take you away or replace their other parent.

This is a topic you may want to discuss in family counseling. The counselor can help you explain matters in a way that your child will understand, hopefully creating a pleasant environment for the actual introduction.

If you’re a single parent in Sterling Heights, MI looking for someone to talk to, contact Perspectives Counseling Centers. We have many adult counselors who specialize in dating, parenting, self-esteem building, stress reduction and much more. Get matched with the best counselor for your unique needs.

When Should My Kids Meet My Boyfriend? Parent Counseling in Michigan

kids meet boyfriend

You’re in a new relationship and you feel a real connection with the person. You enjoy each other’s company and see a potential for true love in the future. There’s just one catch – you’re a single mom.

As a dating parent, it can be difficult to find the right time to introduce your boyfriend to your children. This guide is dedicated to dating single moms trying to do what’s best for their families.

There Is No “Right” Time

Before we assess different scenarios, we need to make something perfectly clear. There is no right time to introduce your partner to your children. Your unique situation will dictate the appropriate time for your family. This includes your child’s age, your past relationship history, your maturity level, your child’s maturity level, and much more. If you’re looking for a specific timeframe, you’re not going to find it here. Rather, we will explore how you can assess your situation to come up with the best time for your specific needs.

Do Not Introduce Your Children until You Have Commitment

Ideally, you should wait to introduce your boyfriend when he actually holds the title “boyfriend.” However, we realize that labels aren’t always common in today’s society. That’s why we clarified the need for commitment. If you are in a committed, monogamous relationship, you have both agreed that there is some sort of chemistry between you. If you’re still in the fleeting stages of dating, you do not want to get your children involved. They may become attached to someone that is only in your life for a moment. Then they will face disappointment when that person is no longer around.

If you are not using labels for your relationship, you still need to wait until you are in an exclusive relationship.

Wait until You Feel Confident in the Relationship

If you’re still hesitant about the long-term potential of your relationship, it’s not appropriate to involve your children. They will feel your hesitation, and they may alter your decisions in the future. You may stay in a relationship you are not happy with because your child likes your partner. You may also feel the need to get out of a good relationship because your child is not happy with the situation. Wait until you are completely sure of the relationship before introducing your children.

Use Your Relationship History as a Guideline

Do you have a history of breaking up after a few weeks? Or perhaps your cycle is to date for three months, find something wrong, and then break up. Whether you want to admit it or not, you have some sort of dating history. Use this as a guide for when you should introduce your boyfriend to your children. If you’ve made it past the three month breakup zone and you’re still happy, that’s a good sign this one is here to stay. There is less risk introducing your children at that time.

Ask Your Counselor about the Introduction

If you are seeing a counselor or therapist, talk to him about your new relationship. If you feel like it’s time to complete the introduction, your counselor can tell you how to go about this process. There is no way to predict your children’s reaction, but this will give you the best chance at success. Your counselor will also let you know if it is too soon to do this introduction, so you can pull back if necessary.

For more advice for single moms, contact our parent counseling centers in Michigan. We have multiple locations in Metro Detroit, MI, and we work with single parents of all ages.

Self-Care Tips For Parents | Family Counseling Center Troy, MI

self care parents

Parenthood- one of the most rewarding yet overwhelming and frustrating roles an individual may undertake.  As a parent, I often find myself trying to “keep up” with other parents–signing my kids up for tons of activities and often losing sight of myself.  It is extremely important for parents to practice self-care. Today we will review the three tiers of self-care so you can apply them to your daily life.

Tier 1 – Exercise

Exercise is extremely important for your mental health. It is a great coping skill for stress and boosts mood by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are natural hormones created by the body that create a feeling of euphoria or combat depression.  Exercise helps to give you extra energy to keep up with your little ones without feeling as tired.  A couple of ideas to add exercise into your routine are waking up 30 minutes earlier for a morning workout or walk, making time to exercise after the kids go to bed or exercising as a family by going for walks, bike rides and spending time playing at the park.

Tier 2 – Sleep

With children, sleep often becomes a rare treasure.  On average an individual of any age would benefit from 8 hours of sleep per night.  Sleep not only helps the body to recover, but a good night’s rest benefits a person’s emotional well-being.  Studies have found that lack of sleep is linked to depression, anxiety, increased difficulty for decision making and difficulty with mood regulation.  Be aware of your sleep routine and how much sleep you are getting each night. Try to take care of yourself and improve your sleep by going to bed a little earlier or taking a quick nap when the kids are at school or napping themselves.

Tier 3 – Yourself!

The third tier of self-care is self!  Often parents lose sight of themselves.  They become absorbed within their child’s life and activities.  It is great for a parent to be involved, but it is also okay for the parent to take a little time for themselves.  Some examples of self is finding a hobby, joining a class, or meeting up with friends.  Taking time to remember the person you were pre-parenthood and what that person did for fun.  Discovering an enjoyable activity or even just getting out of the house (besides work of course!).  Maybe planning a date night with your significant other to allow yourself a little break.  As a part of self-care, it is important to have a support network to share your parenting successes and to problem solve your struggles. Support helps us to feel connected and not alone.

Establishing Self-Care Through Therapy

If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed, notice a change in appetite (increase or decrease), have trouble sleeping (not kid related), feel fatigued, irritable, lack of energy, lack of concentration, withdraw and hopeless, you may benefit from speaking to a therapist because having children can be a huge adjustment.  A professional therapist can help develop appropriate coping skills and self-care strategies.  Please contact Perspectives Counseling Centers at (248)244-8644 to learn more about our family counseling programs in Troy, MI.

 

Why Isn’t My Therapy Working? Counseling Centers In Michigan

why isnt therapy working

Do you feel like you aren’t getting enough out of your therapy program? There are several reasons why this may happen, and some of them are beyond your control. At our counseling centers in Michigan, we strive to ensure that every patient experiences a positive change as a result of their therapy, regardless of their reasons for visiting us. Here are some answers as to why your therapy may not be working and what you can do to improve your progress.

Therapy Only Works If You Want It To

Take a moment to think about how dedicated you actually are to your therapy program. Are you following the advice of your therapist, or are you just going through the motions? In order for therapy to work, you have to be 100% committed to the progress. For example, if you’re asked to write in a journal, you have to physically write down your thoughts – not just store them in your mind. This may seem silly and excessive, but it is a vital part of the process.

Some patients will refuse to follow their therapist’s advice as a way to subconsciously sabotage their success. In other words, they do not feel worthy of change or they do not desire change, so they prevent themselves from taking full advantage of therapy. Consider how much effort you have put into your recovery and see if that is the source of your frustration.

Results Don’t Happen Overnight

Think about how long it took you to get where you are. Years of addiction, abuse, self-deprivation, or living in a toxic relationship led to your current condition. You cannot reverse those effects overnight. On average, it takes at least one month to recover from every year of negative experience. If you were in an abusive relationship for 6 years, it may take 6 months or more to change your negative thought patterns and restore your self-confidence.

When you begin therapy, ask your therapist how long you should expect to start seeing results. This varies drastically from one patient to the next, but it will give you realistic expectations for your recovery program. Follow your therapy plan with patience and diligence, and your results will occur in due time.

You May Have Been Misdiagnosed

We don’t like to jump to the conclusion that a patient has been misdiagnosed, but it is a possibility. This is especially true if you never went through a formal psychological evaluation, which would have given the most accurate diagnosis for your symptoms. If you have been misdiagnosed, you may be in the wrong type of therapy program. Talk to your counselor about this possibility, and consider getting a psychological test to identify the underlying concern.

Ask Your Therapist For Suggestions

Your therapist has direct insight into your success or lack thereof. If anyone can pinpoint why your therapy isn’t working, it’s your counselor. Ask your therapist if there is anything you can do to improve your recovery, like joining a support group or reading books that supplement your therapy sessions. If you do not believe the current treatment plan is working, ask when the best time would be to try another option. Should you wait for a little while or make the switch right away?

At Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers in Michigan, we have counselors and therapists in a wide variety of specialties. We will match you with the best professional for your unique needs so you can get the most effective help possible right from the start. Contact the counseling center nearest to you to learn more.

Reduce Family Fights During The Holidays | Family Counseling In MI

family fights

The holidays are a time of joy and laughter, but they can also be a source of stress and tension among family members. Some folks may naturally not get along with one another, and others may lash out due to the pressure of the get together. To preserve the happiness of the holidays, use these tips for reducing family fights.

Divide The Responsibilities

Putting together a holiday meal is a lot of work and financial expense, especially if you have a big family. Rather than leaving that up to one person, divide the responsibilities among several family members. Of course, these need to be people who can be trusted with the responsibilities. Otherwise there will be stress from not having enough to drink, eat, serve food with, etc.

An easy way to split responsibilities among family members is to have the hosting family provide the main course (turkey, ham, etc.) and then have everyone else bring side dishes, drinks and desserts. Establish which people will be bringing each food group so you do not end up with eight side dishes and only one dessert. If anyone wants to provide extra food beyond their requested dishes, they can do so on their own volition.

Avoid High-Stress Topics

If there is a certain topic that tends to create arguments year after year, try to eliminate that from the evening. Example: Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Joe have completely different political views. If everyone agrees to keep politics out of holiday conversations, you’re less likely to have an argument develop. If the topic still comes up during the night, try to distract from it with a new subject as quickly as possible.

Create A Fun-Filled Itinerary

It’s hard to argue when everyone is having fun. Plan some games to play as a family that will keep everyone laughing and entertained. There are tons of ideas online for easy games you don’t need any special tools for. You could agree to play Dirty Santa (White Elephant) instead of buying individual gifts for everyone. This will save you money and give you an actual game to play together.

Focus On The Positives

Something will most likely go wrong at some point in the night. That doesn’t mean the holiday event is a complete failure. Focus on the positive elements of the evening. Compliment family members who are normally treated poorly during the holidays. Thank everyone who helps with the preparations, even if they only help in a small way. Your positive attitude will spread to those around you, and you can cherish special moments with family and friends.