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The Young Adult’s Guide To Navigating Family Boundaries

The Young Adult’s Guide To Navigating Family Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are the building blocks of healthy, successful relationships, but they can be a challenge to navigate, especially as relationship dynamics change and evolve. In many families, children grow up with a clear sense of the family hierarchy and an understanding that the parents set the expectations and family “rules”. It can be a struggle then, when that child grows into an adult, to know how to navigate a new relationship dynamic. Even in loving and healthy families, many young adults struggle with feeling pressure to conform to their family’s expectations from earlier years, but stifling their own needs and wants for the sake of keeping the status quo can quickly lead to resentment and relationship issues. 

 

Let’s explore a few scenarios. You’ll notice in each one of these that the example of a boundary that could be set is more focused on what you will do in response to their choices. We cannot force other people to change their behaviors to be in alignment with our needs, but we can express our needs, and inform them what we will do if those are not respected.  

 

1.  Your family dresses modestly and chooses to not express themselves through clothing, hair, etc.  You have recently found joy expressing yourself in this way, but find yourself dyeing your hair back to your natural color, covering tattoos with makeup, and dressing in clothing that you don’t like when you visit them because they make harsh comments or quietly shake their head when they see you.

The intention: “I tone my self expression down so I don’t make anyone uncomfortable and I don’t draw negative attention to myself. 

What you’re reinforcing: “I can’t be myself with these people, they won’t understand me”

A boundary that might need to be set: “This is how I have chosen to express myself, and as long as my appearance is appropriate for the event and the weather, this is how I will look. 

The outcome of that boundary: Powerful authenticity, showing up as yourself regardless of what others think. 

 

2. Your family is very extroverted and enjoys large gatherings that go late into the evening. You are an introvert and find that after a few hours, you are wanting to leave, but tell yourself you have to stay. 

The intention:  “This is what our family does, I need to stay so I don’t offend anyone”

What you’re reinforcing: “Everyone else’s needs are more important than my own.”

A boundary that might need to be set: “I love you all and have had fun, just letting you know I’ll be heading out at 10”. 

The outcome of that boundary: Signaling that your needs are important and that you do not need to explain yourself. 

 

3.  You are parenting your children in a different way than you were parented. When your child refuses to eat dinner or has a meltdown after a conflict with a cousin, other family members jump in and attempt to discipline them. You are uncomfortable, but don’t want to speak up. 

The intention: “If I jump in, I’ll offend them because they’re disciplining exactly how I was raised. I’ll seem ungrateful or like I think I’m better than them”. 

What you’re reinforcing: “They don’t see me as a capable parent. My child is seeing me not step up even though I”m teaching them something different at home.” 

A boundary that might need to be set: “I am their parent, so any discipline or behavior management is my job, even if it looks different than how you would do it. If you continue to try to discipline him, we will need to head home early. ”

The outcome of that boundary: Confirmation that you get to make the parenting choices with your own children, and your child sees a healthy boundary being modeled. 

 

4.  When you spend time with your extended family, they routinely make rude comments about your weight and eating habits. In the past, if you ask them not to, you’re met with comments like “learn to take a compliment!” or  “we’re just worried about your health”. You eventually fake a smile or laugh and go along with it. 

The intention: “They don’t mean any harm, so I’ll just be quiet when they do it.” 

What you’re reinforcing: “I’m forcing myself to be ok with these comments so I don’t upset anyone else.”

A boundary that might need to be set: “Regardless of your intention, I’m not comfortable with you commenting on my weight or eating habits. If you continue to make those comments, I’ll have to excuse myself from the event”. 

The outcome of that boundary: An act of self-love, creating an environment for yourself that does not include shaming from family members. 

 

 

Boundaries, especially those that are disrupting long-standing patterns, are almost always met with some level of shock or surprise, some level of pushback, as well as some awkwardness. Managing the discomfort that comes with setting the boundary and staying firm in what you need, is usually worth what’s on the other side; authenticity, confidence, peace, and healthier relationships.  So, if no one has offered you this before, here is your official permission to redefine your boundaries, to say no, and to value your own needs and wants. 

 

 

 

 

Pride Month: How to Support Someone Coming Out

Pride Month: How to Support Someone Coming Out

June is Pride Month, so let’s take this opportunity to go over some ways you can support the LGBTQ+ folks in your life if they choose to share their experience with you. Your response should vary based on your relationship dynamic, but in general, these are some rules to follow: 

 

Listen and don’t assume: Every person’s experience is different, so be careful not to assume anything about their experience, needs, or preferences based on what you’ve seen other people do or examples in media. If you don’t know what questions to ask, a simple “tell me more about this” or “what has that been like for you” is a good way to signal you are open to more information and that you want to know their experience. 

 

Ask questions, but don’t expect to be educated: Ask questions about their experience, but if you are not familiar with the LGBTQ+ issues or terminology, be prepared to do some research instead of asking satisfying your curiosity at the expense of your loved one. Have questions related to the specifics of laws, family planning, brain chemistry, etc.? There are so many resources online that you can use instead of placing that burden on a singular person.

 

Don’t center the conversation on yourself: Many people respond with a well-meaning, “you could have told me” or “why didn’t you tell me sooner?”, usually intending to confirm to the person that they would have been open and supportive. Unfortunately, this changes the focus of the conversation to the person needing to apologize or manage your relationship instead of sharing their experience. They are telling you now, and that’s all that matters. 

 

Manage your fears and expectations on your own: Many people, especially parents, immediately start to think about the future when someone comes out to them, and this often focuses on safety and future expectations. Well-meaning people will often say that they are “just worried about how the world will treat you”, or that they “hate that this will make your life harder. LGBTQ+ folks are acutely aware of the discrimination they will face and do not need to be reminded of that. Respond to them the way you wish the world would. 

 

Resist the urge to make a “big deal”: While some folks love the idea of a celebration when they come out, most are just looking to know that your feelings toward them are no different than they were before you knew this part of their identity and that you will support them. While some outward demonstrations of support can be appropriate (things like putting up a pride flag, making requested changes to displayed pictures or items personalized with names, or sending care packages), make sure you also engage in the same things, conversations, and activities you used to do before they came out, remember they are still the same person! 

 

Acknowledge your gratitude: Trusting someone with this information is a huge deal, so be sure to communicate your gratitude that they told you, even if was later than you would have wanted or expected. 

 

Respect their privacy: This information is not yours to share unless you have explicit permission from your loved one. It is theirs to tell on their own, how they want to. So if you’re chatting with extended family members or friends, don’t bring it up (even in a positive light!) unless that person has given their consent. There may be reasons they are not wanting to share this information with certain people, and it undermines their trust in you. 

 

Commit to using correct terminology: If you haven’t had much exposure to LGBTQ+ folks or the community, it might feel like you are overwhelmed with new terminology and “rules”. No one will expect you to get it right all the time at first, but they will expect you to be actively learning and trying. Commit to asking what identifiers your loved one uses, and be willing to correct yourself when you make a mistake. If you do mess up, simply correct yourself and move on. Long, belabored apologies are unnecessary and again put the focus on you and your loved one having to manage your emotions. Here is a resource of common terms to get familiar with: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be a Better Mental Health Ally: 7 Stigmatizing Phrases and What To Say Instead

Be a Better Mental Health Ally: 7 Stigmatizing Phrases and What To Say Instead

Chances are, you’ve either said or heard each of these phrases. While not typically used with ill-intent, imagine for a moment being someone who experiences the mental health challenges described, and how you might interpret these statements. Small, intentional changes to the words we use can have a huge impact on others, so let’s go through some common phrases, why they might be harmful or contribute to stigma, and an easy alternative for each. 

 

  1. I’m so OCD about _____.

 

We all have things we like a particular way, or feel some level of discomfort with if they are not done “properly”. However, OCD is a debilitating disorder that goes way beyond preferences or a bit of discomfort. While some people with OCD have obsessions and compulsions related to cleanliness and organization, there are many different themes, and reducing OCD to fixations on cleanliness dismisses these. 

 

Instead try: It’s really important to me that the kitchen be clean, I feel uncomfortable when it’s messy!

 

  1. Everyone is a little ADD/ADHD.

 

Everyone is forgetful sometimes, struggles to focus on tasks sometimes, and struggles to find motivation sometimes. However, people with ADHD experience symptoms like these (along with many others) every single day, to a level that interferes with their functioning. Again, saying that “we all” have some level of this downplays the challenges people with ADHD face.  

 

Instead try: Wow, I am so forgetful today!

 

  1. They’re so crazy/psycho!

 

People often use these terms to refer to someone displaying erratic or concerning behavior, whether or not it is related to a mental health diagnosis. It’s even used to refer to behavior we just don’t like, or to discredit someone. It is rarely, if ever, used with compassion, and if we are referring to people who are experiencing psychosis, delusions, mania, etc. it’s dismissive of the very real and terrifying experiences these people are going through. 

Instead try: They seem to be struggling to stay connected to reality, I wonder if we can connect them to support?

 

  1. I also experienced ______ and I’m fine!

Trauma affects everyone differently, and we do not get to decide what is traumatic to someone. Research has shown that two people experiencing the same event (car crash, natural disaster, etc.) can have wildly different responses. Your brain’s response does not negate another brain’s different response.

 

Instead try: That sounds like it was terrifying for you, how can I support you?

 

  1. It’s been _____ months/years, you’re not over that yet?

 

Trauma also has no timeline, and isn’t something we “get over”.  With help from tools like therapy, medication, and peer support many people can make incredible strides in healing from what happened to them, but trauma has lasting effects on the brain and nervous system. 

 

This also applies to knowing someone has been managing a mental health diagnosis (OCD, Depression, Anxiety, etc.) long-term. Many people do experience significant improvements to a level where they no longer meet diagnostic criteria or identify previous challenges as a concern, but many people experience chronic mental health challenges that require lifelong management. 

 

Instead try: I know this has been hard, let’s talk about how we continue supporting you. 

 

  1. That person/the weather here is so bipolar!

 

While there are scientific uses for the term bipolar, most people more commonly use this term to casually refer to something/someone that changes rapidly and without warning. Again, speaking this way is dismissive of the intense and terrifying experience of shifting between manic and depressive episodes. 

 

Instead try: The weather changes so quickly here!

 

  1. Kill me/I wanted to die!

 

For people who have experienced suicidal ideation or attempts, hearing other people casually or jokingly say things like this can contribute to the stigma that often stops people from seeking help. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts (even passive ones!) it’s important to mention them so you can find help, but if you’re trying to find an impactful way to describe frustration, embarrassment, or shame, there are better options. Suicidal thoughts are more prevalent than you might think, and shouldn’t be the punchline in a joke. 

 

 Instead try: That was so embarrassing I wanted to run out of the room!

Now that you’re aware of the potentially harmful effects of these phrases, you might be surprised to notice how often you hear them used. To be a better mental health ally, first start but just noticing when you use them or when they come up for you, then try to consciously replace or correct yourself with something like the alternatives listed. Small changes make a big impact!

 

 

 

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3 Ways to Kindly Say “No” to Invites for Introverts

3 Ways to Kindly Say “No” to Invites for Introverts

Life is challenging when you’re an introvert. What are simple interactions for many people can feel anxious and uncomfortable to you. The mere idea of taking part in certain social events can be exhausting and emotionally draining to an introvert.

While some social functions, such as business meetings, cannot be missed, there are social gatherings that can be, and it is totally okay for you to say no. This may feel almost as uncomfortable to you as actually attending the party or event, but it’s important to put your own needs ahead of others in times like these.

If you are an introvert that generally has a hard time saying no to invites, here are some ways you can do it kindly:

 

Be Honest-ish

We tend to feel a lot of pressure to give myriad details on why we can’t accept an invite to an event. If we don’t have a “good enough” excuse, some of us will blatantly lie, which then makes us feel bad.

There is no need to lie and no need to give more details than necessary. You can simply say, “Thanks so much but I already have plans.” We all have plans all of the time. You may plan on doing the laundry that night or watching Game of Thrones while eating pistachio ice cream (which is a great plan, BTW). That is the truth but it is no one else’s business but yours.

 

Be Gracious

Before saying “no,” be gracious and thank the person very much for inviting you in the first place. It will make the other person feel good that they made you feel good by thinking of you.

 

Practice What to Say

It’s easy to say no in a text or email, but when you will see that person in person, saying no can feel incredibly awkward. The best thing to do is just practice saying, “Thank you so much for asking but I already have plans that day/evening,” so that it comes out naturally and so that you feel at ease saying it.

I would like to suggest that, before saying no to an invite, you really weigh the pros and cons. I know being introverted can be challenging, but I also know that it can get pretty lonely at times. Saying yes once in a while may not be as bad as you think. While saying no to a huge, loud party may make sense for you, be open-minded and look for those new social situations you actually might be able to handle and enjoy. You never know the kind of fun you could have or new friends you could make.

 

Introversion vs. Social Anxiety

Introverts tend to feel exhausted after social interactions, but so do people with social anxiety symptoms.

How can you tell the difference between the two? Be curious about why you’re avoiding social interaction.

  • If you’re worried about what other people think about you, that is likely social anxiety.
  • If you feel nervous, worrying about the “right” thing to say, that’s probably social anxiety.
  • If you ruminate about or replay a social experience on repeat after the fact, that’s probably social anxiety.

 

A person can be an introvert AND have social anxiety. A therapist can help you honor your introversion needs, while working to overcome social fears.

 

 

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5 Benefits of a Weekly Game Night for Your Mental Health

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Our daily lives can get so busy. Obligations to work and family, as well as taking time to care for ourselves, can often make us forget to have a little fun. If the hustle and bustle of modern life has caused you to neglect your playful side, a weekly game night may be just what you need.

A game night will not only bring you laughter and enjoyment, but it will help you spend quality time with your friends and loved ones. But with so many commitments and so little time, you might be wondering if it’s worthwhile to take time out of your busy schedule to play? If so, read on for five ways a weekly game night will benefit you and your mental health.

1. Improves Relationships

Playing games with people you care about will not only improve relationships because you’re spending quality time, but it will actually strengthen those relationships through biochemistry. As you spend time close to loved ones, your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of trust and intimacy, strengthening your relationships.

2. Relieves Stress

Playing games induces laughter, and as the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter is a very simple way to help your body produce endorphins, a neurotransmitter that will reduce your perception of pain and lead to feelings of euphoria, modulating stress and anxiety.

3. Relieves Anxiety and Depression

Spending time with friends or loved ones can make you feel significant and more important; this causes your serotonin to flow more. Serotonin will boost your mood, helping to regulate any anxiety or depression.

4. Improves Sleep

As you enjoy yourself with friends around the table, laughing and interacting with them, you will naturally reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, reducing stress and helping you sleep more soundly. You’ll also exert energy as you play, which will tire you out at the end of the day and help you fall asleep faster.

5. Makes You Happy

Having fun releases your natural “happy chemicals”, or hormones, that impact your mood. When you’re laughing and having fun, your body releases dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. These hormones will naturally make you feel happier, both in the moment and in the long-term.

As you plan out your week with teacher conferences, work meetings, and lunch dates, make sure you schedule in a little time for fun. You’ll be glad you did.

Are you looking for guidance and encouragement to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful? A licensed mental health counselor can help you make changes and work towards achieving your goals. Call our office today, and schedule a time to talk.

6 Ways to Improve Your Self Awareness

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