Welcome to In the Moment Notes



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Emotional Neglect and the Highly Sensitive Person

As I’ve highlighted, the child who is an HSP has special sensitivities right from birth. As deep thinkers and feelers, their nature is thoughtful and emotionally responsive. They are more overwhelmed by external stimulation than most. HSPs also have greater emotional reactions and more empathy for others.

Imagine what it’s like to be a deeply thoughtful child with intense feelings growing up in a family that doesn’t understand this powerful force within you. Your feelings are ignored and discouraged.

Instead of seeing you as thoughtful, you might be considered weak and perhaps slow, simply because it takes you longer to process feelings and interactions with others. It may seem as if the family around you operates on a much different level, almost as if they live on a different plane than you. They don’t "get" you and you don’t "get" them.

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Kathleen Notes: Being born as an HSP means a deeper and more profound form of CEN, as they experience most things in life with an intensity that most people just don`t.

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Self-Doubt Is Corrosive: How to Address Its Root Cause

Growing up in an emotionally neglectful household, you miss out on learning that your emotions are your most valuable source of guidance, direction, and understanding. Yet emotions exist within your body and are activated as long as you are alive. Living happens on an emotional level; there’s no way around it.

As you live your life, you create memories, and these memories are elicited by feelings. So, what you feel when you experience something becomes a part of your memory and stays with you for a lifetime.

When you operate in the world attempting to ignore or suppress your feelings, you are limiting your ability to create meaningful experiences and lasting memories. This puts you in a compromising situation.

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Kathleen Notes: An understanding of how emotions inform your logic can help you to correct self-doubt and trust yourself.

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Emotional Neglect and Emotional Invalidation Aren`t the Same

Imagine you’re a child and your feelings are ignored or discounted when you turn to your parents for support.

Now imagine you’re a child who gets punished or yelled at when you express how you feel.

If you had to choose one, which would you rather experience?

Neither option sounds pleasant. Children who grow up in emotionally neglectful homes experience one or both scenarios many days of their lives. Since it’s not something they are consciously aware of as it happens, children think this treatment is normal and right.

Childhood emotional neglect occurs when your parents under-attend, under-respond, and under-validate your feelings throughout your upbringing.

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Kathleen Notes: An important distinction!

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It’s science: Attachment is the key to raising more emotionally stable children

Self-regulation refers to overall calmness, appropriate emotional responses, and goal-directed behaviour. This ability doesn’t start to develop until late toddlerhood. This is because the emotional right brain is more dominant than the logic left from about 25 weeks gestation until the age of two.

Of course, infants can suck on their fingers and stop crying or roll over to get a better reach of their ball, but this is not sufficient evidence to prove they can soothe themselves when overwhelmed. From infancy and beyond, children need our help to regulate their emotions.

Though the untrained eye may think responding to a child’s emotional needs is coddling, it is not. Coregulation refers to the development of emotional regulation in conjunction with caregivers.

Mothers, or other caregivers, either “up-regulate” emotions by building on the baby’s coos, smiles, or play (e.g., teaching peek-a-boo). Or, “down-regulate” emotions by holding, shushing, or offering words of comfort (e.g., “Mama’s here. It’s okay.”).

The research on co-regulation shows that mothers who are sensitive to the needs of their babies and respond with compassion and warmth have infants who tend to be calmer, soothed more readily and more curious and engaged.

As a mother and her child co-regulate, secure attachment develops. This has far-reaching implications for the child’s life.

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Kathleen Notes: Attachment is foundational to how a person`s sense of self is formed. A healthy foundation is necessary for healthy awareness and acceptance of emotions.

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How to Ruin Your Relationship in 5 Simple Steps
So, about that title: I’m a marriage and family therapist whose goal is to help people improve their relationships. So why am I providing you with five simple steps to assure the destruction of your partnership? Because day after day, I see clients who are sabotaging their relationships. And most of the time, they don’t even know it.

Understand the Bad to Get the Good

In essence, becoming aware of these five steps will teach you how to protect, care for, and improve your relationships. Because if you want to be a force for good in your partnerships, do the exact opposite of these harmful behaviors that I see every day:

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Kathleen Notes: Sometimes knowing what to avoid is as important as knowing what to do!

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Camping: Family Bonding Time At Its Best
Wouldn`t it be amazing if your family could take a break from the daily grind this summer? What if that break could also help you hit the reset button on screens with a "dopamine fast," get everybody in the family moving, facilitate some nice family bonding, and give your kids a chance to climb trees, chase fireflies, and roast marshmallows?

Whether you go for a week or a weekend, camping has all the ingredients for a fun, safe, affordable and meaningful family vacation. It`s also a great learning experience for children of all ages. In one large study, parents said that camping benefitted their children by giving them more freedom, independence, confidence, and responsibility within a safe setting, as well as the opportunity to appreciate nature, escape from technology, and bond with family.

Yes, it takes some planning. But that`s part of the fun, and a great learning experience for your child!

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Kathleen Notes: Good times and great memories in the making..

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You Can Use This Video to Help Heal Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs as they raise you.

You can see from this definition that Childhood Emotional Neglect is not something that your parent does to you. Instead, it is something that your parents fail to do for you.

For example, your parents fail to notice enough when you are upset, hurt, or in need of help. Or they fail to ask you enough what you feel, what you need or what you want. So it’s not an actual event, it is quite the opposite. It is, in fact, an event that fails to happen.

This is why I have so often said that most Childhood Emotional Neglect is typically invisible and unmemorable. It weaves itself into the fabric of the family, and endures quietly in the everyday drumbeat of family life, with emotions in the family falling under the radar day after day after day after day.

No one talks about feelings or names them, no one teaches the children about feelings, and no one validates what anyone else is feeling enough. Which is not to say that none of it ever happens at all; but simply that it does not happen as much as the child needs.

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Kathleen Notes: Most of my clients have seen this video. Words fail to describe it but it`s a powerful 2.5 minutes...

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The Sad Truth About Antidepressants

Modern medicine is full of many miracles. But are antidepressants one of them? A growing body of evidence suggests the meds taken by millions of Americans may not be the solution depressed people want.

During the past century, we witnessed the eradication of some serious diseases, the development of cures for previously incurable illnesses, and medications to help manage the symptoms of what could otherwise be life-threatening conditions. Yet, despite the progress that has been made in numerous realms of the medical field, there has not been an equal degree of advancement in the treatments for mental health disorders, including depression.

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Kathleen Notes: Sadly, medication is not the "silver bullet" that many people hope it to be. In connection with doing the hard work of counseling however, it can be a useful tool.

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Parenting a strong-willed, sensitive child: This is what you need to know

Shortly after she was born, many described my baby girl as an old soul. As an infant, her eyes were wide with curiosity. With a serious expression on her face, it was as if she was analyzing everything.

As an infant, she was a happy baby. However, she got overstimulated easily and was quick to let me know when I needed to take her out of a crowded room.

Her first day of preschool was another example of how her personality plays out.

She had her backpack ready days before the first day of school. Once she was packed, she was furious she couldn’t go to school at that instant. When the first day of school came, she lept with joy. When we pulled into the parking lot, she told me to wait in the car and let her walk in on her own.

Considering the fact she was three and not thirteen, the answer to that demand was a definite no.

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Kathleen Notes: Parenting is tough all by itself...

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Is My Spouse Controlling or Just Caring?

Ron Welch, author of The Controlling Husband, didn’t realize he was a controlling spouse. But then he heard one of his sons say something demanding to his wife, Jan. Soon after that, Ron listened as another son ordered Jan to take him to sports practice. 

“I started to lecture them both,” he said. He told them, “Don’t talk to your mother that way! You better start showing her some respect.” 

In a Focus on the Family podcast, Ron shares how God opened his eyes to his controlling behavior. “I remember God slapping me across the head and saying, ‘And who do you think is teaching them to disrespect women? I’ve taught you a different way to value your wife. Why are you doing this?’ There was this inconsistency between my faith and what I was.” 

Kimberly Wagner also admits to having previously been a controlling spouse. She didn’t realize what she was doing at the time, either.

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Kathleen Notes: It can be a fine line. Looking inward (tough sometimes) and being open to the feedback from others are essential first steps. Dr Phil says "you can`t fix what you don`t acknowledge."

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Need to Improve Concentration? Try This

Movement on a regular basis keeps kids healthy and fit for school. The benefits of sports have been demonstrated in numerous studies. Now a research team in the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has, for the first time in a study, confirmed the correlation between physical fitness, concentration and health-related quality of life for primary school pupils. 

The study involved 3285 girls and 3248 boys from Bavaria`s Berchtesgadener Land district. The key criteria were physical strength and endurance, the ability to concentrate and health-related quality of life, as determined by the scientists according to internationally standardized test procedures.

The results of the study show the higher the level of children`s physical fitness, the better they can concentrate and the higher their health-related quality of life. While the boys did better on the fitness tests, the girls performed better in terms of concentration and quality of life values.

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Kathleen Notes: Regular exercise helps focus, mood, emotional regulation and so many other aspects of physical and emotional health. What if each school day started with some form of movement?

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Empathy: Foundation of Emotional Health

I see parents and children make breakthroughs every day. And guess what makes the most difference? Empathy. If we can actually see things from our child`s perspective, everything changes.

Empathy doesn`t mean agreeing with our children, or letting them do whatever they want just because we understand why they want to. But it does mean that while our children don`t get everything they want, they get something better:  Someone who understands and accepts them, no matter what.

It also means that once we understand our child`s perspective, we can intervene to help them meet the needs that they were trying to meet all along, from feeling connected to feeling valued. And when we meet kids` needs, they behave better.

Empathy is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It’s also the foundation of effective parenting, according to John Gottman, the author of Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. Why?

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Kathleen Notes: Empathy is the "glue" of relationships...

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The Difference Between an Emotionally Neglectful Parent and an Emotionally Attuned One

As a psychologist who works with adults and adolescents, I am in a unique position to observe the results of different types of parenting as they play out through adulthood.

Nevertheless, I found myself baffled for an entire decade. Patient after patient sat in my psychotherapy office telling me that they felt that something was wrong with them.

“I am not happy, and there’s no reason for it.”

“Other people’s lives seem rich and colorful, but I feel like I’m living in black and white.”

“I feel empty. Something is missing, and I have no idea what it is.”

“Even when I’m surrounded by people, I feel alone.”

I was baffled not only by the vagueness of their complaints but even further by the lack of an explanation for them. Many of these people insisted that they had been raised by loving parents, and had fine childhoods. They felt there was no reason for their lack of engagement in life; so they blamed it on themselves.

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Kathleen Notes: Attunement in the moment is vital to a connected relationship of any kind..

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How to Know the Difference Between Selfishness and Strength

Let’s start with a little test to see where you are on this.

Selfishness Quiz

Read through this list of personal actions, and label each as either “strong” or “selfish.”

  1. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you have to get home to your children.
  2. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you are really tired, and need to go home and get some rest.
  3. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you don’t want to miss the Red Sox game on TV.
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Kathleen Notes: Take the quiz and learn the difference....

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Handling Boredom: Why It`s Good for Your Child

“Mom, Dad....I’m bored.”

Makes you feel put on the spot, right? You might even feel like you`re a bad parent. Most of us pressured to solve this "problem" right away. We usually respond to our kids’ boredom by providing technological entertainment or structured activities. But that`s actually counter-productive. Children need to encounter and engage with the raw stuff that life is made of: unstructured time.

Why is unstructured time so important for your child`s healthy development?

One of our biggest challenges as adults, and even as teenagers, is learning to manage our time well. So it`s essential for children to start encountering the experience of deciding for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time.   

Maybe even more important, unstructured time gives children the opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is how they discover who they are. It`s the beginning of creativity; how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create.

So the best response to "I`m bored," is:

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Kathleen Notes: Bored kids are kids who become creative, self determined problem solvers....great stuff!

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5 Questions To Ask Your Emotionally Distant Dad

Every human being has a deeply held need to feel known. Funny thing about men of a certain age: many were raised to not talk about themselves, to not need much, and to not share much.

If you are a Gen X, millennial, or Gen Z, your dad is likely either a baby boomer or was raised by baby boomers. Many, many men of these generations grew up in families that actively, or perhaps subtly, squelched their emotions and discouraged them from talking about their feelings and themselves.  

This type of child-rearing was not necessarily a result of mean or unloving parents at all. It was simply a product of the common child-rearing wisdom and mores of the time.

Sometimes it takes a little prodding to find a way through that tough, outer layer of anti-emotion. You just need to know what to ask!

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Kathleen Notes: It`s after Father`s Day, but go for it anyway!

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An Age-By-Age Guide to Helping Kids Manage Emotions
We are all born with emotions, but not all those emotions are pre-wired into our brains. Kids are born with emotional reactions such as crying, frustration, hunger, and pain. But they learn about other emotions as they grow older.
There is no general consensus about the emotions that are in-built verses those learned from emotional, social, and cultural contexts. It is widely accepted, however, that the eight primary in-built emotions are anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, and shame. These are reflected in different variations. For instance, resentment and violence often stem from anger, and anxiety is often associated with fear. Secondary emotions are always linked to these eight primary emotions and reflect our emotional reaction to specific feelings.
These emotions are learned from our experiences. For example, a child who has been punished because of a meltdown might feel anxious the next time she gets angry. A child who has been ridiculed for expressing fear might feel shame the next time he gets scared. In other words, how we react to our kids’ emotions has an impact on the development of their emotional intelligence. Emotional invalidation prevents kids from learning how to manage their emotions. When we teach kids to identify their emotions, we give them a framework that helps explain how they feel, which makes it easier for them to deal with those emotions in a socially appropriate way. The emotions children experience vary depending on age:
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Kathleen Notes: A super useful list!

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7 Signs You Grew Up With Immature Parents — And It`s Affecting You Now

If you have spent much time around a small child, you have probably seen how emotionally extreme they can be. Laughing hysterically one minute and in the depths of despair the next, they can switch emotions quickly and unpredictably.

Of course, children are this way because they are, by definition, emotionally immature.

They have not yet had an opportunity to learn how to recognize their feelings, manage them, take responsibility for them, or use them the way they are meant to be used. That is natural.

But the ramifications don`t end in childhood. There are many people aged 25 and older who are mired in emotional immaturity. ?

So, what happens if one of those emotionally immature people is your parent? It can set you up for some serious challenges not only in your childhood but throughout your adult life, too.

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Kathleen Notes: Maturity is all about responsibility. In this case it`s about taking responsibility for your emotions and how you handle them.

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Raise a Child Who Loves to Read
Forget Baby Einstein. Research shows that reading to children and discussing the book as you read is the single best way to increase your child’s IQ.

That`s not just because you`re helping your child develop reading comprehension. You`re also nurturing a deep love of reading. And when children love to read, they choose to read independently, become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who don`t. School performance correlates more directly with children`s reading scores than any other single indicator.

Does your child read every day, not because it’s assigned, but just for fun?  Most parents buy board books for their babies and say they hope they`ll love reading. And yet, by middle school, most kids stop reading books that aren`t assigned in school. In the USA, by the end of middle school, two-thirds of all students do not attain proficiency in literacy and comprehension skills.

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Kathleen Notes: Reading with your child increases positive affects in mental, emotional and social development..good stuff all around.

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7 Warning Signs That Your Child Is a Bully and What to Do About It

Being bullied in childhood is associated with a range of negative effects, with physical changes taking place in the brain and a greater risk of anxiety, depression, suicide, and substance abuse. It’s devastating for any parent to discover their child is being bullied—but finding out that your child is the bully can be just as troublesome.

There are warning signs that may indicate whether your child may be prone to—or already engaging in—bullying behavior. When faced with such a situation, the initial instincts of a parent may generate feelings of denial, anger, dismay, or indignation. But it’s a better idea to evaluate the situation with a calm head, sit down with your child to discuss the issue, and take gentle steps to point toward healthier ways of interacting with peers. Read on for the potential signs of bullying and some healthy ways to face it.

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Kathleen Notes: A good article on a sensitive topic...

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Teaching Emotional Intelligence When Emotions Run High
When storm clouds brew, even the most well-intentioned parent can get triggered and escalate the upset rather than calm it. But when your child wrestles with the more "difficult" human emotions, he needs your help to learn how to manage them. This is the most important time to teach emotional intelligence -- meaning to help your child develop the abilities to soothe himself, regulate his emotions, and get along with others. Here are six ways to help your child develop a more emotionally intelligent brain, every day.    ...more

Kathleen Notes: Hard to do but it`s helpful to know that the calmer brain is able to calm the more excited brain. You have to be that calmer brain.

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When We Feel Safe

When people feel safe, they have access to all parts of their brain, including an area called the prefrontal cortex, which helps us learn, use logic and reason, and predict how our actions might affect someone else. 

Since the world we live in is not always safe, God designed our brains with an incredible capacity for protection. When we feel threatened by something or someone, the brain “shuts down” parts of itself—most importantly, the prefrontal cortex—in order to save energy for more important activities, like staying alive! This state is often referred to as the “fear brain,” and it instinctively reacts to perceived threats with a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. In that moment, we’re either going to attack the threat head on, run away from it, or freeze, unable to do anything. 

This is important for those of us who are growing in our awareness of the effects of trauma. When children live in constantly chaotic and unsafe environments, their brains are in a chronic state of fear. It’s like a gear shift that gets stuck; even if the environment and circumstances change, the brain is unable to shift back to a healthy state. 

Living in the fear brain looks like:

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Kathleen Notes: If you don`t know the affect of trauma on the brain, this is a good resource.

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In The Moment Notes...

Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.

I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
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Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!

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