Category Archives: Family Counseling

Attachment – the key for connection

Attachment - the key for connection

Do you ever wonder why we are doing the things we do in our relationships, whether they are working or not? Some people seem to know the secret to love and being loved, while others just can’t seem to find happiness in any relationship they encounter. As today’s individuals are getting more isolated and as many as 40% to 50% of marriages end up in brokenness, is there any hope for those who struggle to make sense of what’s going on?

We are “hardwired” to connect

There is now general agreement among scientists that human beings are designed to connect. We have an innate tendency to desire good relationships with people who are important to us. Researchers have long shown that people who enjoy stable and satisfying relationships in life are healthier, more productive, and live longer. Our relational well-being does translate into our emotional well-being and physical health. If we know it’s important and care enough for it, why is connecting with people so difficult?

One of the major explanations for interpersonal problems is through the Attachment theory. The theory describes that as we are growing up, we internalize experiences in our most significant relationships at a core level, which then becomes a script or an “operational manual” of what a relationship is about. Since British psychiatrist John Bowlby first described how interactions between babies and their mothers appear to correlate with how the babies tend to behave, over the years the attachment perspective has influenced the work of many psychologists, including American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, who identified distinct attachment patterns. People who provided us with these significant relationships are our “attachment figures” and the script serves as our “attachment filter” that influences a life-long pattern of how we interpret relational encounters and respond. Now it is widely acknowledged that the primary relationship between us and the caregivers has significant influence in shaping our social aspect of personality, even to the level that as adults we will continue to behave toward romantic partners similar to the patterns of attachment that we develop in childhood.

Highlights of adult attachment patterns

People who grow up with a primary caregiver who are responsive to their needs develop a secure attachment style. As children, they could turn to their primary caregivers for comfort when they are upset and the caregivers often would respond accurately by satisfying their needs and/or calm them down effectively with some form of soothing. As adults, people with this secure attachment style are generally stable and able to hold healthy relationships with warmth, reassurance, and acceptance. They are not afraid to experience even intense negative feelings in relationships; they are more likely to seek social support when they’re stressed; they also perceive themselves as having more available support. The empathy also equips them to have the ability to see and act confidently in response to the needs of others. They report less conflict with others, better conflict resolution when it does occur, and more satisfaction in relationships with friends and loved ones.

On the contrary, people can grow up and develop an insecure attachment style when the early experience with a caregiver was unpredictable, inconsistent, neglectful, or even abusive. As a result, two types of insecure style tend to develop – Anxious or Avoidant. Both have the same vulnerability of being very sensitive to interpersonal issues and easily perceive conflict in relationships. These styles tend not to be good at expressing feelings and using effective communication to solve the issues.

People with an anxious attachment style often find themselves entangled in a constant ambivalent state. They may not be sure where they stand in a relationships. Although they desire connection, nothing seems to be good enough to assure them or make them happy. They seek validation in close relationships for self worth but often find it disappointing. They are especially inclined to be worried about rejection or abandonment, hence tend to have lots of ups and downs, which in turn could make their partners feel like walking in an emotional “mine field”. The typical response to this intensified anxiety is to protest. They might be prone to be dependent, clingy, jealous, irritated, demanding, and constantly complaining about the relationship. They often eventually face an outcome of losing the relationships due to this anxious ambivalent state.

The avoidant type tends to repress their feelings. They are the ones who are hard to get or have difficulty making a commitment and will keep romantic partners at arm’s length. Once in a relationship they become the dismissive partner. People with avoidant attachment style find it difficult to listen empathetically to thoughts and feelings of those they are close to. Although they desire connection, they tend to use a number of substitutes for closeness. Yet no matter how many personal accomplishments are achieved, the sense of validation remains eluding. People with avoidant type attachment style tend to perceive others as not reliable, dependable, or trustworthy, and they think that they must rely on themselves to meet all their needs. This mindset may create an underlying and simmering anger toward people and the world. Oftentimes addictive behaviors are developed to repress that anger.

Healing relationship wounds

As we can see, prolonged exposure to unhealthy experiences in early life creates relationship wounds. These wounds perpetuate themselves by affecting our interaction style with others hence may hinder relational intimacy. Relationship wounds need to be healed through healthy relationships.   Here are some suggestions to start the process:

  • Understand more about your attachment style. Start a journal for reflection regarding your relationship history – what your earliest experiences were like and how you tend to think, feel, and act in present relationships.
  • Identify people in your life from the past to the present who are generally safe and stable and with whom you can interact on a regular basis. Research has shown that such role models in life can be a very helpful and powerful tool to help us learn how to obtain an “earned secure attachment” later in life. These role models can be family members, close friends, mentors you find at work or faith communities.
  • Develop a greater sense of self-awareness. Learn to treat yourself and others with compassion and acceptance. Learn to see interpersonal interactions with reality-based lenses. Learn new skills to connect with others and ways to respond to issues in a positive manner – you will have to do less suppressing and/or less protesting. This will help change the way we react to the vulnerability with less emotional sensitivity to increase the chance of having a better relationship. You can do this through education, observation, and receiving feedback from the safe people you identified.
  • Commit to practice what you learn and continue to monitor your progress. Changes take time. When you feel a pull between your old pattern and the new way of connecting, make a conscious effort to re-engage with the new way. Gradually, you will be re-writing the script at your core level and on the way to creating a healthy relationship style.

Working with a professional therapist or counselor has the benefit of helping you develop a structured plan and accountability for achieving long term goals. Call Perspectives of Troy Counseling Centers at 248-244-8644. We can help.

By Jo-chen Hou, PhD, LLP

Parenting Tips For Divorced Parents (Pt. 3): Family Counseling In Michigan

parenting tips

Continued from Part 2

Help Your Child Transition From House To House

Children do not always like change. The concept of going back and forth between houses can be frustrating and stressful at first. Do what you can to make this transition easy on your child. Talk about the visit in a positive manner, and remind your child about a transition a couple days before it happens. “Are you excited about seeing your dad this weekend?” Help your child pack a little in advance, and tell your former spouse about important information before you drop off the child (he hasn’t been feeling well lately, he needs to do a book report this weekend, he hasn’t been sleeping well, etc.). The only conversation that should happen when you drop off the child is “Have a great time!”

Drop Off – Don’t Pick Up

Ideally, you should always drop off your child at the other parent’s house. Neither of you should pick up the child after a visit. This seems silly and potentially inconvenient, but it sends a better message to the child. If you pick up your child from your former spouse’s house, that may be perceived as you taking the child away. This isn’t the case, of course, but that’s how your child may see it. If you always drop your child off at the end of a visit, the transitions will feel much more natural.

Spend Time With Your Child After A Transition

When your child gets home, ask him or her about the visit. Don’t approach this from a gossip perspective (“What did your father have you doing this time?”). Take a genuine interest in what went on in your child’s life while he or she was away. Spend some quality time together reading a book, watching a movie, doing homework, or something else along those lines and ask your former spouse to do the same.

What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Want To Leave…

There may be days when your child refuses to go over to your former spouse’s house. This may have nothing to do with your previous partner, so try not to jump to conclusions. Get to the root of the problem – ask your child why he or she doesn’t want to go over there. Stay calm, and promote the positive reasons for the visit. Talk to your ex in the meantime and see if he or she knows why your child is refusing to leave. Work together to come up with the best solution for your child.

For more information about co-parenting after divorce, contact Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers in Michigan to work with a family counselor near you.

Parenting Tips For Divorced Parents (Pt. 2): Family Counseling In Michigan

divorced parents

Continued from Part 1

Be Cordial Around Your Children

You may not have a great relationship with your former spouse, but your children do not need to see that. If the children are present during your interactions, try to remain as cordial as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to act like you’re still married. Simply avoid negative comments and altercations that may worry your child. If you need to have a less-than-pleasant conversation, do so when the children are not around.

Keep Your Former Spouse In The Loop

If you have primary custody of your child, try to keep your former spouse informed about big life developments. For instance, if your child significantly improves his or her grades, your former spouse should have a chance to congratulate him or her on that milestone. If your child gets into a fight at school, the other parent should know about that as well. Stay in communication with your former spouse about big events in your child’s life, and hopefully he or she will reciprocate that communication.

Set A Schedule That Works For Both Of You

When it comes to visitation, doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, and other needs for transportation, try to set a schedule that works for both of you. If your former spouse works nights, it’s logical for you to take on any night-time transportation requirements. If you work on the weekends, that would be an ideal time for your child to see his or her other parent. Talk to your former partner about your schedule and his or her schedule to come up with the best accommodations for each of you – again being mindful of the child’s needs above all else.

Maintain The Same Rules And Bedtime Schedules

Children need structure in their lives in order to grow and thrive. They cannot get that if there are different rules in each household. This is where co-parenting comes into play. Even though you are no longer married, you and your former spouse must agree on a universal plan for parenting, bedtime routines, disciplinary actions, and more.

If differences in your parenting styles were part of the reasons for divorce, you may want to work with your family counselor to come to a mutual agreement. This is a third party mediator who can provide an outsider’s perspective on what would be best for your child.

Continue to Part 3

Parenting Tips For Divorced Parents (Pt. 1): Family Counseling In Michigan

coparenting

Getting a divorce is difficult on everyone involved. This is a particularly trying process if you and your former spouse have children together. You must learn to work with one another even though you no longer share a marital bond. In this guide from our family counseling center in Michigan, we will provide parenting tips for divorced parents to ensure your children get the care they need.

Do Not Put Your Children In Between Arguments

You may feel the need to vent from time to time. There is nothing wrong with that, but you need to be careful whom you vent to. Your children should not be a sounding board for your post-divorce disagreements. If you are having a conflict with your former spouse, resolve it together, not with the children involved. Do not pass messages through your children like, “Tell your father he can…” or “Tell mom that I said…” These will only confuse and stress out your children.

The best way to get your frustrations, thoughts and emotions out is to talk to an unbiased counselor. You can see a family counselor so your children can also get help after the divorce, or you could speak to an adult counselor who specializes in post-divorce therapy. Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers offers a wide range of counseling programs. We will pair you with the best counselor or therapist to suit your needs. Contact us today to learn more.

Share Parenting Responsibilities And Expenses

In most divorces, one parent will be asked to pay child support to the other parent. This money is supposed to pay for half of the child’s monthly expenses, or as much as the parent can afford on his or her income. Outside of that ruling though, you should try to work with your former spouse to split parenting costs and responsibilities. For instance, if you take your child to the doctor this month, your former spouse may take him or her to the dentist the following month. One parent may drop the child off at school while the other picks him or her up.

There are countless ways to divide costs and responsibilities, so you will have to find a proper balance in your relationship. It may take a little time to work out the kinks, but you will find a rhythm eventually.

Continue to Part 2

Are Cell Phones Hurting Your Family Relationships? MI Family Counseling

cell phones

The traditional family dinner in Michigan doesn’t look the same as it used to. Instead of home-cooked meals and fun discussions about the day, many families find themselves grabbing bags of fast phone in between text messages and social media notifications. This brings up an important question: Are cell phones hurting your family relationships? If so, what are some steps you can take to strengthen your family bonds and get back on the right track? Let’s explore the impact cell phones have on modern day families and what you can do to adjust that.

The Transition Of Social Engagement

Phones and other forms of technology give people constant access to friends and family members from around the world. For children and adults alike, this shifts social engagement outside of the household and into the digital realm. As tempting as it may be to check emails and texts at home, doing so takes away from your time with the family. Real bonds aren’t established on Facebook. They’re made in person, at home with the ones you love.

Cell Phones And Social Media Are As Addictive As Drugs And Alcohol

Every time you get a notification from social media or a message from someone you love, a small amount of dopamine is released in your brain. This is the same chemical that gets released from drugs, alcohol, gambling, and more. With a cell phone on hand, you have constant access to an additive substance – one that many people don’t acknowledge as truly addictive. This isn’t to say that it’s wrong to have a phone, but you need to recognize when it has consumed too much of your life. That’s when you need to take a step back and re-evaluate the role technology plays in your family environment.

Setting Healthy Boundaries For Cell Phone Usage At Home

Cell phones are fine in moderation. They are great for emergency situations, and they do provide extra opportunities for social engagement. Like any addictive product though, they should only be used in moderation. Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries in your family:

  • No phones at the dinner table. Leave your phones in other parts of the house on silent while eating dinner as a family. (Yes parents, that includes you!)
  • No phones during family bonding activities. If you are going out together as a family or watching a movie at home, put all of your phones away to spend time with one another. You can bring one phone in the car if you like in case of an emergency.
  • Talk about special events before posting them on social media. Your family should find out about big events in your life directly from your mouth, not from a general post you make online.
  • Set a “bedtime” for your cell phones. This limits the amount of time you spend on your phones and ensures you all get a sound night of sleep.

Talk to your family about reducing cell phone usage in your household and see how much of a difference that makes in your personal relationships.

Top 7 Ways To Reduce Financial Stress Around Christmas: MI Family Counseling

holiday financial stress

Christmas is a particularly stressful time for families, at least when it comes to finances. Gifts, wrapping, decorations and food can all take a toll on your monthly budget. If you are already struggling to make ends meet, the stress is even more overwhelming. Our Michigan family counseling center is here to help you reduce those stress levels so you can enjoy spending time with your spouse and children.

Here are the top 7 ways to reduce financial stress around Christmas.

Set A Budget Or Gift Limit For Each Child

As a parent, you naturally want to give your children everything they want and more. This can put unnecessary stress on you during the holidays, and it sends a bad message to your children. Whether you have one child or a dozen, set a budget for each one of them or limit the number of gifts you get for them. Try to keep the budget or number of gifts uniform for all of your children. This may be difficult if there is a big age gap in your household, so use your best judgment.

A good rule of thumb to follow for children’s gifts is: 1 gift they want, 1 gift they need, 1 gift they wear, 1 gift they read.

Prepare As Early As Possible

This tip may not help much this year, but it could reduce your financial stress in years to come. Prepare for the holiday season as early as possible. If you’re a person who likes to decorate a lot for Christmas, take advantage of the sales that happen after the holidays. You can get timeless decorations that will last for years to come at 50-90% off regular store prices. This is also a great time to buy wrapping paper and ornaments that will not be outdated next Christmas.

With regards to gift shopping, it is easier to get a few things each month than trying to buy it all at once. For toys and clothes though, it may be hard to predict what your child will like several months down the road. In that case, put away money every month so you have a Christmas fund saved for when November and December roll around.

Focus On The Memories, Not The Things

Try not to let the material side of Christmas get the best of you. Focus on making great memories with your family instead of stressing about what you are going to buy them. This teaches your children the value of spending time with one another, and it saves you the hassle of buying countless gifts year after year. There are plenty of free holiday activities for families in Michigan, so you can have a great time without adding to your financial stress.

Keep Other Stress Sources To A Minimum

Stress is one of those emotions that only gets worse if left alone. It can quickly build on itself until you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Reduce your stress in general as much as possible, and you will have a clear mind to tackle financial obstacles. Don’t worry about family members coming over or meals you have to cook. Focus on tackling each task on its own, and the rest will work itself out over time.

Have A Group Gift Exchange (Perfect For Large Families)

Group gift exchanges are great for large families. Instead of every single person buying everyone else a gift, each person only brings one or two items to Christmas. You could play Dirty Santa, Secret Santa, or a variety of other party games related to gift exchanges. Set a price limit for the gifts people bring to these events so everyone has the same expectations and experiences. You will still have the fun of unwrapping presents and giving something special to someone else, but you won’t have the headache of shopping for an army.

Don’t Go Above Your Means

In our family counseling sessions, we have talked to countless parents who turn to payday loans and other quick money sources to pay for their holidays. This may seem like a good solution now, but it will only lead to more financial stress later on. There is nothing wrong with being on a budget. That’s ultimately how you will save money. Figure out what you can realistically spend and abide by that number as much as possible.

Avoid Making Personal Purchases

We’ve all done this at one point or another. We notice something we like while out shopping for someone else and instantly think, “I’ve done so much for others – I deserve this!” There is nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time, but you have to keep your current financial situation in mind. If you truly need whatever it is you are trying to buy, it will be available for purchase after Christmas.

Anger Management Tips For Parents: MI Teen Counseling

anger management tips

Every stage of parenting comes with its own challenges. From the terrible twos to preteen drama, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride. Perhaps the most frustrating stage of all is the teenage years because your child is old enough and smart enough to argue on a whole new level. Before you let this get to you, check out these anger management tips for parents of teens, courtesy of our Michigan teen counseling center.

Watch For Signs That Your Child Is In A Bad Mood

Most teens will let you know they’re in a bad mood early on, not necessarily in what they say but rather in what they do. Your teen may become quiet, withdrawn, or disinterested in family gatherings. He or she may overreact about small issues or start crying about something minor. If you know your child is in poor spirits, try to adjust your behavior to avoid triggering a blow-up. You may still face an emotional upheaval, but do what you can to reduce the risks.

Sympathize With Your Child…Genuinely

It’s easy to write-off every complaint as a teenage tantrum, but that’s not always the case. Think back to when you were your son or daughter’s age. Problems that seem insignificant now were all you thought about at the time. That is what your child is dealing with, so you need to try to listen to your teen as much as possible. Identify the root cause of the problem and do what you can to fix it. Your teen counselor can help you with this process so the entire family can enjoy a happier experience.

Don’t Let The Back-talking Get To You

It’s important to teach your children to respect their elders. No matter how much you drill that into their heads though, chances are you’re going to get some back-talk from your teenager. This is one of the biggest causes of anger management issues for parents. They get overwhelmed with the disrespect and retaliate with verbal aggression. Having a screaming match is not going to solve the problem at hand, and it won’t teach your child how to react in a confrontation. Try not to let the back-talk get to you, and see what your teen is trying to say underneath the argument.

Find Creative Bonding Techniques

Family bonding will help balance out the arguments. You will get to know your son or daughter better, which will let you understand his or her emotional outbursts. Find special activities that the two of you can do together, from sports to music to working on cars and more. The stronger of a connection you have with your child, the less likely you are to argue with one another.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a teen counselor in Michigan, contact Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers at (248) 244-8644.

Top FREE Holiday Family Bonding Activities In Michigan

holiday family bonding

Looking for a great way to bond with your family over the holidays? Michigan offers a slew of fun-filled adventures for people of all age ranges. Best of all, many of these events are completely free to attend, so you don’t have to spend money during a financially stressful time of year. Check out these top free holiday family bonding activities in Michigan.

Driving Around To See Christmas Lights

This time-honored tradition has become less popular over the last few years. People are more inclined to stay home and watch TV than getting out for a drive with the family. While you will technically spend money on fuel, it’s a small price to pay for the joy and excitement you get. Drive around some nearby neighborhoods in advance to see which ones have the best light displays, or ask people you work with what they would recommend. Then you can take your family to the biggest and brightest spectacles in town.

Note that this is also a great option for date night if you and your spouse want to get out by yourselves. Go to a nice dinner and then drive around shortly after sunset. You can entertain yourselves for hours and create tons of precious memories along the way.

Church Events

Most local churches will have some sort of holiday or Christmas festival this time of year. These events are almost always free to attend, and they include great fun, singing, story-telling, and more. If you currently attend church, you may ask your congregation leaders about upcoming events. You could also watch local news stations or read the paper to find out about events happening in other churches. Celebrate the birth of Christ with a great community of people.

City Light Festivals

In addition to driving around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights, you could visit lighting festivals in cities near you. There are several of these in Metro Detroit, MI and surrounding areas, so you’re sure to be able to find something your family will love. In most cases, it is free to drive or walk around the light festivals. You will have the option to pay for additional experiences though, like a carriage ride or petting animals at a nativity-themed petting zoo. This information should be listed on the website or promotion page pertaining to the event, so you can find out how much money you might need in advance.

Free Santa Pictures

Some places charge money to get a picture with Santa, but that isn’t always the case. For instance, many pet stores will have Santa visits throughout the month so people can get pictures with their pets. These are free or inexpensive, and you can bring the whole family along. Explore the many holiday events in Michigan and see which ones are right for your family.

MI Child Counseling: When Do Children Stop Believing In Santa Claus?

santa claus

Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas – whatever title you call him in your household, chances are Santa has played a role in your child’s life. A staggering 83% of five year olds in America believe in Santa, but that number drops to 33% for nine year olds. This brings up an important question: When do children stop believing in Santa Claus? What should I do to help my child during this transition? Here are some answers from our child counselors in Michigan.

When Do Most Children Stop Believing In Santa Claus?

There are several different circumstances that influence a child’s belief (or non-belief) in Santa. For instance, a child with older siblings may stop believing at a younger age because his brothers and sisters no longer believe. A child’s religion could also play a role in when he or she stops believing. About half of children across all religious groups stop believing between the ages of 5 and 8, while another third stop believing between 9 and 12. Our child may change his or her beliefs before or after those age groups – if he or she chooses to believe at all.

Signs Your Child No Longer Believes In Santa Claus

Most children will start asking questions when they no longer believe in Santa Claus. “Is Santa real?” “How does Santa accomplish X, Y, and Z?” The questions can come in many forms, but they are signs that your child is contemplating the concept of Santa.

Your child may also show resentment when you say something about Santa – “Mom, I know that was you.” Some children slowly transition out of the belief without any direct conversation about it. The parents just “know” and the children just “know.” There is no need for discussion.

What To Do When Your Child Asks Questions About Santa

You can choose how long you want to keep the magic alive in your household. If your child is older and is getting bullied at school for believing in Santa, you may need to have “the Santa talk.” Your family counselor or child counselor can help you through that process if your child is in therapy. Be as honest as you can, and respect any questions that your child asks you. Your child will be confused at first, but ultimately he or she will appreciate the honesty.

MI Family Counseling: Family Bonding Strategies For Thanksgiving Break

thanksgiving break

Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to bond with your children and make lasting memories for the future. Even if you have to work for part of the holidays, you can still find ways to make the most of your children’s time out of school. At our Michigan family counseling center, we love seeing diverse families coming together during this special time of year. Here are some family bonding techniques you can use over Thanksgiving break.

Cook As A Family

If you are preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, let your children do some of the prep work with you. Pick age-appropriate tasks for each of them, like adding ingredients to a mixing bowl or rolling out pie crust. You could use this as a math exercise as well – “What is 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup of flour?” “If I want to double the ingredients, how many potatoes will I need to use?” Don’t be afraid to make a bit of a mess and laugh along the way. This will all be time well spent.

Have A Family Movie Night

There are so many great family movies out at this time of year. You could choose to go out to the theater for your movie night, or you could watch something at home. The key is to pick a movie that everyone will get something out of. If you have older kids, you may choose a slightly more “mature” movie than you would with younger kids. Ask your children what they would want to watch and make a decision as a group.

Play In The Leaves

Clean your yard and have a little fun at the same time with a leaf pile party. As a family, you can rake up all the leaves in the yard into one big pile. Then you can take turns jumping in it. You will of course have to re-rake and bag all of the leaves when you are finished, but that won’t take too much extra time. If you have a leaf vacuum, you could use that at the end to make the process even easier.

Make Fall Decorations Together

Most kids love to make crafts. Let them participate in the decorating process. You could make classic turkey hand paintings or something more elaborate like a table centerpiece. The internet is full of craft ideas for kids, so all you have to do is find something that suits your children’s ages and skill sets.

With the tips above, you are sure to have a great time this Thanksgiving break!