Nov 14th

Self-injury: Cutting, Self-Harm or Self-Mutilation

By Wendy Walker, MS, LP

Calli-Institute-Self-Harm-Wordcloud-BlogSelf-injury, also known as cutting, self-harm, or self-mutilation, occurs when someone intentionally and repeatedly harms herself/himself in a way that is impulsive and not intended to be lethal. It can be frightening for a parent to discover that their son or daughter is engaging in this behavior.

Self-harm is rarely a problem that occurs in isolation. It is often a way to manage conflict or distress and a tool to manage emotions that feel unmanageable to an individual. The person may have a difficult time regulating, expressing or understanding their emotions. Adolescents often say they feel empty inside, lonely and unable to express strong emotion.

Self-harm is often hard to detect because it is secretive. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that several signs may indicate self-harm behavior. These include unexplained burns or a cluster of scars or cuts, difficulty handling feelings, relationship problems or avoidance of relationships and poor functioning at work and or school.

Common areas for self-harm are the wrists, fists, and forearms, however any area of the body is possible. Those engaging in such behavior may wear clothing that is inappropriate for the season as they try and conceal the scarring. Also, using heavy wrist bands, bandages or other coverings is common as one tries to conceal their wounds.

The following are some forms of self-injury:


  • Cutting
  • Scratching
  • Burns (using matches, cigarettes or hot sharp objects such as knives)
  • Carving words
  • Hitting or punching
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects
  • Pulling out hair
  • Persistent picking designed to interfere with wound healing
  • Breaking bones
  • Drinking something harmful

Persons who engage in self-harm are more likely to be highly self-critical and poor problem solvers. Age is one of the biggest risk factors for self-injury, with teens and young adults being at a greater risk. According to Mental Health America, research indicates that self-injury occurs in approximately 4% of adults in the United States and 15% of teens with an even higher risk existing for college age students. Other risk factors include; friends who self-harm, being neglected or abused (sexually, physically or emotionally) and persons who question their personal identity or sexuality.

There is no sure way to prevent a loved one from self-injury. Reducing the risk involves individuals and communities including parents, schools, medical professionals, co-workers and coaches working together and communicating openly about what they are seeing.

  • Offer help. Those at risk can be taught alternative coping skills and to rely on their own strength and resilience.
  • Encourage expansion of social networks. Many people who engage in self-harm often express feeling lonely and disconnected. Forming connections and improving relationships can help decrease the disconnection.
  • Raise Awareness. Adults, especially those that work with children, should be educated about the warning signs. Group discussions and educational programs can be helpful in raising awareness.

If someone you know is engaging in self-injury consult a mental health professional that has expertise in this area to obtain an evaluation or assessment, followed by a recommended course of treatment to prevent the cycle from continuing.

S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self-Abuse Finally Ends)
Information Line: 1-800-DONT CUT or 1-800-366-8288


Oct 31st

Children and The Good Divorce

By Jennifer Tagg, MA, LMFT

The Good Divorce. Is this some literary example of an oxymoron or a new way to think about a common dynamic in some relationships? It’s probably fair to say that couples don’t go into their marriage vows with some clause that says, “Till death do us part, but if we do realize that this relationship isn’t healthy for us, let’s at least decide to have a healthy divorce.” Perhaps this is one of those ideas thats easier said than done; however, I would challenge that if you aren’t saying it, considering it, or envisioning what a good divorce could look like, you’re probably less likely to experience one.

Divorce is filled with dynamics that couples will have to work through (effective communication, agreement on financial issues, etc.) which ironically may have led to them seeking the divorce in the first place. A common point of struggle for couples considering divorce is how it will affect their children. If the question is whether to stay married for the children or get divorced for the children, you may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps an alternative question is how can we have a healthy relationship for our children and with our children? This is what you want to model; this is what you want your children to experience. Asking this question may be a good place to start in answering the dilemma of how to have a good divorce.

Consider the following taken from 

The Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce

Every child whose parents divorce has:

1. The right to love and be loved by both of your parents without feeling guilt or disapproval.
2. The right to be protected from your parents’ anger with each other.
3. The right to be kept out of the middle of your parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
4. The right not to have to choose one of your parents over the other.
5. The right not to have to be responsible for the burden of either of your parents’ emotional problems.
6. The right to know well in advance about important changes that will affect your life; for example, when one of your parents is going to move or get remarried.
7. The right to reasonable financial support during your childhood and through your college years.
8.The right to have feelings, to express your feelings, and to have both parents listen to how you feel.
9.The right to have a life that is a close as possible to what it would have been if your parents stayed together.
10.The right to be a kid.

Divorce is often a trying experience highlighting many differences with a partner you once may have been very aligned with. Working to find alignment, even in the slightest of ways, can be a starting point for working through conflicts that arise. Allowing your children to be a point of alignment and staying focused on their needs and rights can be a beacon toward a healthy way of being–a good divorce.


Oct 17th

Let’s Talk About It!

By Cathy Malmon, LMFT, LICSW

Sexual-Health-Calli-Institute-Couple-sitting-on-bedThis is the slogan that World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) uses for World Sexual Health Day, which is celebrated every September 4.Historically there was a fair amount of shame, discomfort, and stigma in discussing sexual issues. Sexual health only addressed disease and unwanted sexual outcomes. In 1975 the World Health Organization (WHO) developed and published a definition that went beyond the focus on the absence of disease or unwanted sexual outcomes.


Sexual health is the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality communication and love.” –WHO, 1975

Thinking about sexual health as something to enhance communication as well as being positively enriching was new. World organizations followed with definitions that added to the WHO definition. The Pan American Health Organization and the World Association of Sexology (WAS/now the World Association for Sexual Health) provided a longer version. In part:

Sexual health is the experience of the ongoing process of physical, psychological and social-cultural well being related to sexuality. Sexual health is evidenced in the free and responsible expressions of sexual capabilities that foster harmonious personal and social wellness, enriching individual and social life.” WAS/Pan American Health Organization

The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) is an organization that had its inception during the social hygiene in the twentieth century. At that time venereal disease (VD) or what we now call sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs/STIs) was a prevalent concern for social health organizations. Sexuality was not considered an acceptable topic to discuss in the prevailing Victorian attitudes. Early work of ASHA concentrated on education and awareness among the armed forces. As ASHA developed it expanded its efforts to network with organizations like Federal Council of Churches, White House Conference on Child Health and Protection, National Organization of Public Health Nursing, National Congress of Parents and Teachers. Education and public awareness of sexual issues began to be more openly discussed.

The Kinsey reports published in 1948 and 1954 created controversy on a national level. ASHA organized a national conference that brought together leaders in the field of psychology, medicine, law, religion, anthropology, education, sociology, and law to exchange views about the significance of Kinsey’s information. The goal was to look at the information as scientific data rather than pornography. Walter Clark, ASHA president from 1937 to 1951 commented, “The truth never harms…And it seems reasonable to hope that when today’s older generation, conditioned against frankness in sex matters passes away and today’s youth takes over tomorrow’s world, the truth about sex shall indeed make them free- free of the diseases, the exploitation, the ignorance and superstitions which for ages have burdened and blighted society.

Fast forward to 2006 and beyond. WHO broadened their definition of sexual health to include statements that addressed human rights safety, violence, or coercion free sex, sexuality expression and gender identities.

In 2013 the American Association of Sexuality, Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) revised their vision of sexual health. The Vision of Sexual Health affirmed the rights to:

  • Freedom of their sexual thoughts, feelings and fantasies
  • Freedom to engage in healthy modes of sexual activity, including both self-pleasuring and consensually share-pleasuring
  • Freedom to exercise behavioral, emotional, economic, and social responsibility for their bodily functioning, their sexual liaisons, and their chosen mode of loving, working, and playing.
  • AASECT believes that these rights pertain to all peoples whatever their age, family structure, backgrounds, beliefs, and circumstances, including those who are disadvantaged, specially challenged, ill or impaired.

The World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) is a multidisciplinary, worldwide group of scientific societies, non-profit and professionals in the field of human sexuality. Their Declaration of Sexual Rights was revised in 2014. These sexual rights address diversity, freedom to choose sexual expression, equality and non-discrimination, privacy and rights to education, scientific progress, justice, rights to form, dissolve marriage and other types of relationships.

Modern society has an opportunity to embrace sexual health in a manner not seen before. It starts simply.



  • IT is sexual activity.
  • IT is sexuality.
  • IT is reproduction
  • IT is communication and connection on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level.
  • IT is pleasure.
  • IT is free from exploitation, discrimination violence, and bias.
  • IT is possible for every age, every gender, orientation, body type and physical condition.
  • IT is OK to talk about.


World Health Organization (WHO), 1975 and 2006
World Association for Sexual Health (WAS)
American Sexual Health Association (ASHA)
American Association of Sexuality, Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Revised by AASECT Board of Directors January 2013


Oct 3rd

Happy 25th Anniversary, World Mental Health Day!

By Tessa Gittleman, Mental Health Professional

Calli-Institute-World-Mental-Health-DayOn October 10th, 2017, everyone from mental health practitioners to national governments are encouraged to #LightUpPurple and celebrate World Mental Health Day. Founded in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), World Mental Health Day has the singular mission of improving the quality of mental health services around the globe. In order to accomplish this goal across 96 different countries, WFMH thought it best to focus on highlighting a singular issue that is relevant to every citizen of the world. The theme for 2017 is: Mental Health in the Work Place.

In our practice, we often hear client’s report feelings of being overwhelmed by the seemingly boundless increase of stress in one’s life due (or related) to work. This is not unique to Minnesotans. According to the WFMH statistics, 1 in 5 people in the workplace struggle with a mental health condition. These mental health conditions, when left untreated, can take an immense toll on an organization’s overall productivity and environment, as well as the individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

Globally, the WFMH projects that work related stress directly and indirectly costs governments, not including any value assigned to the individual’s suffering. For example, the contribution of mental health disorders to the overall cost of disability pensions in Germany has tripled over the last 20 years. Indirectly, mental health conditions, especially those related to stress, have been proven to increase risk of cardio-vascular, muscular-skeletal, and chronic health conditions that cost the individual, the employer, and the government more and more money each year. While most research has focused on the impact of mental health in high-income countries, such as the U.S., it is estimated that there are even more people with mental health issues living in lower and middle-income countries. Having fewer resources to overcome mental health conditions, the individual and the nation unfortunately remain stuck.

Today we encourage you to do an internal assessment of your work-life balance. Are you struggling with chronic stress to a point where it is affecting you mentally or physically? Do you know someone who could use a little extra support in that arena? Do you believe that workplaces both here and abroad should do more to support mental health concerns? If you answered, “yes” to any question, we highly encourage you to #LightUpPurple, and celebrate World Mental Health Day Oct. 10th, 2017.

If you would like to learn more about World Mental Health Day, please click here or visit: 


Sep 20th

Learning to Peacefully Co-Exist with Anxiety

By Tessa Gittleman, Mental Health Professional

Do you feel as if situations and people around you are growing more and more anxious? You are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Study, anxiety has increased dramatically since the 1950’s . It has increased so much so, that the average high school student’s anxiety is equal to that of the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.

Today, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health concern in the U.S., impacting over 40 million adults and 25% of children (ages 13-18) . According to that same study, while anxiety disorders are thought to be highly treatable, fewer than 40% of those suffering ever receive treatment. In children, untreated anxiety disorders are at higher risk to struggle in school, neglect important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. In adults, untreated anxiety has been linked to depression, lack of healthy relationships, and chronic physical illness .

So why don’t people get help? For many years stigma prevented those with anxiety from seeking help. Today, individuals struggle to find the healthcare coverage, time, or transportation to attend counseling. Besides, a psychological wound is easy to ignore. We can put it in a nice box in our mind, and store it away to address when we get the chance or are otherwise forced to. At least, we like to pretend that’s true.

Guy Winch, Ph. D. and author of Emotional First Aid has one idea on how we can take control back from the anxiety epidemic; what if we tended to our psychological wounds with the same importance as physical wounds? What if we became more aware of how our brain reacts to loneliness and failure? What if we could break the cycle?

In Dr. Winch’s TedTalk, he argues that:

By taking action when you’re lonely, by changing your responses to failure, by protecting your self-esteem, by battling negative thinking, you won’t just heal your psychological wounds, you will build emotional resilience, you will thrive. A hundred years ago, people began practicing personal hygiene, and life expectancy rates rose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades. I believe our quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene .

This approach may sound easy, or even logical. However, in reality, practicing emotional first aid is hard. To simplify things, Dr. Winch offers seven techniques for managing your emotional well-being that you can start practicing today:

1. Pay attention to emotional pain — recognize it when it happens and work to treat it before it feels all-encompassing.
2. Redirect your gut reaction when you fail.
3. Monitor and protect your self-esteem. When you feel like putting yourself down, take a moment to be compassionate to yourself.
4. When negative thoughts are taking over, disrupt them with positive distraction.
5. Find meaning in loss.
6. Don’t let excessive guilt linger.
7. Learn what treatments for emotional wounds work for you.

To hear more of Dr. Winch’s TedTalk, click here.

While anxiety may be inevitable, and sometimes even helpful, it can also leave people unnecessarily paralyzed. If practicing emotional first aid in your own life feels overwhelming, impossible, or otherwise leaves you feeling helpless, it may be time to reach out for help. Even if therapy is not the right fit for you, there are many resources you can access from the comfort of your own home. Know that you are not alone in your anxiety, and that there are people fighting to end the anxiety epidemic.


1. Twenge Ph. D., J. M. (2000, December 14). Studies show normal children today report more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950’s. Retrieved   September 06, 2017, from
2. Leahy Ph. D. , R. L. (2008, April 30). How big a problem is anxiety? Retrieved September 06, 2017, from
3. Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2017, from Anxiety and Depression Association of America at:
4. Anxiety and Physical Illness. (2017, June 6). Retrieved September 6, 2017, from
5. Winch, G. (2015, February). Guy Winch, Ph. D.: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sep 7th

Light a Candle

By Cathy Malmon, LMFT, LICSW

Calli-Institute-Light-a-Candle-Suicide-PreventionSeptember 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) asks us to:


Light a candle near a window at 8PM
To show your support for suicide prevention
To remember a lost loved one
And for the survivors of suicide.


There are no “survivors” of suicide. There are unanswered questions, complicated grief patterns, collateral damage to family friends and communities, along with a gaping hole in the fabric of a family’s life.

Kay Redfield Jamison is Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive illness. She wrote An Unquiet Mind, which is a memoir about her own struggle with depression, as well as Night Falls Fast, which addresses suicide. Dr Jamison writes from a personal and professional understanding of depression and suicide. At twenty-eight years old, she attempted suicide.

The statistics can be easily found. Understanding suicide means understanding the mind behind the suicide. With understanding we can recognize and attempt to aid those at rise but also try to understand the profound effects on those left. Dr Jamison writes: “For some, suicide is a sudden act. For others, it is a long considered decision based on cumulative despair or dire circumstance. And for many, it is both: a brash moment of action taken during a span of settled and suicidal hopelessness. (Night Falls Fast, Jamison.) There is no clear way to predict a behavior that can be both deliberate and impulsive.

The biggest influence on suicidal behavior is psychiatric illness. Mental illness is not a predictor of suicide but it is a factor cited in the deaths. Other predisposing factors cited in Jamison’s work is acute intoxication from drugs or alcohol, personal or financial crisis.

“Drugs and mood disorders tend to bring out the worst in one another: alone they are dreadful, together they kill,” (Night Falls Fast, Jamison.)

What sets the grieving to suicide is initial sense of denial, including the denial to the actual cause of death. If the death includes a police or insurance investigation, the intrusiveness can prevent the family from being able to grieve. Losing a family member to suicide can be traumatic enough but reliving the method of death adds to the trauma.
Family members can experience a range of emotions including, guilt, sense of failure, disbelief, suffering, bewilderment as well as anger and rage. Spouses who lose their spouse to suicide can feel blamed or questioned, often by themselves and sometimes by community gossip or by other family members. Siblings can bear a sense of responsibility. Any and all emotions are expressed, sometimes in a dizzyingly short amount of time.

Augsburg College hosted a workshop on Forgiveness and The Family. I interviewed several people who had lost family members to suicide for my talk on Forgiveness and Suicide. These family members reported that there seemed to be avoidance of the topic. Several people said that they felt stigmatized. “I’m so sorry for your loss would have been the one thing I needed,” said one woman I interviewed.

How do people get through the impossible- rage, anger, guilt, and sorrow? How do they move through the well-intentioned gestures of sympathy, the unintentional absence of support and pick up their stride once more? Therapy, family and friend support, faith, passages of time are helpful. So is talking to others who have survived another’s suicide.


Light A Candle


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
American Association of Suicidology 
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Night Falls Fast Kay Redfield Jamison, 1999

Aug 22nd

Transitioning the Family From Summer to School

By Tessa Gittleman, Mental Health Professional

Calli-Institute-Transitioning-the-Family-from-Summer-to-School-Back-to-SchoolWhen school lets out for the summer, kids and parents alike tend to enter a stage of bliss. Home becomes a little sweeter, the weight from academics is lifted, and the only worry in the world is how to pack so much fun into so little time, right? When school lets out for the summer, kids and parents alike tend to enter a stage of bliss. Home becomes a little sweeter, the weight from academics is lifted, and the only worry in the world is how to pack so much fun into so little time, right?

Something starts to happen around the 4th of July. An anxiety starts to creep in as the realization summer is already halfway over. By the time the state fair hits, the whole family can feel the school season looming.

No matter how many times the family makes the leap between school and breaks, successfully transitioning the family’s norm is a HUGE feat. Things we hear about most in our office range from the child or parent’s feelings of anxiety or worry, to the entire family’s reactivity towards each other. Simply purchasing school supplies off a prescribed list can feel like you’re going into battle.

After hearing years and years of client stories, and having our own experiences with the “Back to School Blues,” we were able to compile a how-to guide for getting back into the groove of school.

1. Ease back into the routine
It generally takes 1-2 weeks before it feels “normal” to be back in school. You can expedite the transition by starting the school-time sleep regiment 1-2 weeks before school starts, allowing your body to adjust.

2. Take a moment to think about what you can look forward to
Are there friends that you miss? A teacher you can’t wait to see? Is this the year you get to dissect a frog, or did you get the better teacher in a specific subject?

3. Work smarter, not harder
Most schools have some sort of syllabi or course planner available online. Go over what the school year looks like ahead of time. Map it out with your child and work ahead when possible. Get into the habit of doing homework as assigned to prevent falling behind later in the year.  Think about picking clothes out the night before, packing your backpack before bed, and creating a meal planner to optimize your lunch and dinner choices.

4. Connect with the teacher ahead of time
Teachers are generally receptive to any advice or feedback you have in helping your child be successful in his or her class. Worried about the timing of a big project and a trip you have to take? The earlier you tell them, the more likely they are to accommodate your unique needs.

5. Start stretching your mental flexibility
No matter how structured you are, or how ingrained your routine is, things happen. Whether it’s work, the weather, a sports tournament, or a standardized test, life throws curve balls at the most inconvenient of times. Learning to adhere to your routine without letting it drive you is an important skill to have and model. Awarding the most deserving member of your family with the “Gold Medal in Mental Gymnastics” can also be work as an incentive for children who struggle with change.

Aug 8th

Calli Institute’s Crash Course in College

By Tessa Gittleman, Mental Health Professional

Calli-Institute_Crash-Course-in-College_college-students-moving-inIf you have an entire dorm room full  of stuff ordered from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, know which textbooks need to be picked up on campus, and have been diligently exploring your new college class’ group on Facebook, this post is dedicated to you.

Whether you are going to a school in your same city, or going as far away from your hometown as possible, some things about the college experience are universal. You’ve heard from friends or family about the nostalgia of their, “college years.” You’ve seen movies depicting stereotypical experiences, such as “Pledging vs. Academics,” or the rigors of being a college athlete. You’ve also probably done your own research on what to expect, hidden gems around the campus, or what clubs you want to join, and are praying that your roommate isn’t absolutely insufferable.

Some things about the college experience aren’t as well known, even if they are still universal. For example, you should never wear open-toed shoes to a party (glass breaks, beverage spills make the floor sticky… you get it). Another example is how weird re-entry home can be over breaks. While you’ve had incredibly trans-formative experiences at school, your home has gone on without you. Returning home for that first break can be frustrating for both you and your parents; do you have a curfew?, can you come and go as you do in college? It is an adjustment for both you and your parents, so take it slow and keep the lines of communication open.

So what happens to your mental health when challenged by all the new stressors?
According to a survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institution (HERI) of 2016’s freshmen*:


  • 84% felt anxious
  • 51% felt depressed
  • Get moving with at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • 41% felt frequently overwhelmed
  • And – 47% Anticipated seeking personal counseling

(* Source:
No matter how many Snaps, Facebook Posts, or Instagram moments people post about the good times, be mindful that those filters don’t actually change the fact that: learning to “adult” is seriously hard sometimes. Don’t be afraid to talk about the bad times if you’re having them. Ask if you see someone else struggling. Go find your RA if you need help in the moment, or visit the college counselors office if you need more regular assistance. And at the very least, remember that, “C’s get degrees,” and there’s always next semester.

Jul 25th

Minnesota’s Crisis Connection

By Cathy Malmon, LMFT, LICSW

Two separate headlines in the Star Tribune within 3 days of each other pointed out the mental health crisis here in Minnesota. It echoes the larger issue of the mental illness crisis currently in our country.

The July 10th issue of the Star Tribune had an article:  “Minnesota mental health crisis hot line closing Friday.” The July 14th  edition of the paper reversed the news. “Crisis Connection hotline rescued, at least temporarily.”

Why is this news important and why should we care? You will and should, if you or anyone you know has ever struggled with mental illness, this is very disturbing. Mental illness can include those brief moments where it seems that there is no solution except despair and hopelessness. A human voice can mean the difference between despair and hope.

Crisis Connection provided that human element for almost 50 years. The phone lines were manned by trained volunteers who answered the phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provided immediate short-term counseling, referrals to clinics and helped callers develop a plan to get them to a better physical and emotional place of safety. There were approximately 20,000 calls handled annually. (Minnesota mental health crisis hot line closing Friday, Star Tribune, Chris Serres, July 10,2017)

It is a single mental health line that covered the entire state of Minnesota. Each county is obligated to provide mental health crisis lines but access can be confusing to someone in crisis. The Crisis Connection phone number is a constant after-hours resource listed on clinic and therapist’s answering machines as well as website crisis resources.

The issue was and continues to be funding. Canvas Health who offers other critical services in Minnesota including a range of adult programs, services to children and families, housing, transportation, chemical health and other psychological services was being drained by the financial output for Crisis Connection. The calls were too many and the funding sources were too little.

The temporary safety net is coming from a federal grant for suicide prevention. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH will provide $139,000 which will keep Crisis Connection operating through September. (Crisis Connection hotline rescued, at least temporarily, Matt Sepic, July 14, 2017) An announcement on the Canvas Health website on July 14 said that other funds had been secured which will allow Canvas Health to remain open through the spring of 2018 ( The crisis of Crisis Connection is now averted—for now.

Crisis Connection will now continue operating. Our collective attention would be well served to be aware of the mental health situation in Minnesota. I think of the possibility of knowing even one of those 20,000 callers.

“We are incredibly grateful to MDH and its leadership, as well as other funders, for recognizing the importance of this critical public service to the people of Minnesota,” said Matt Eastwood, Canvas Health CEO. “Because of their willingness to step forward to help keep these crisis lines open, lives will be saved.”

Please keep remembering the importance of this public service resource.

• 24-hour Crisis Connection (612) 379-6363

Jul 11th

Purposeful Parenting

By Jennifer Tagg, MA, LMFT

Calli Institute Blog-Mom exercising with baby in stroller“Beware the Sleep Deprived Mom” A friend gave me a mug with this inscription on it after the birth of my first child. Foreshadowing?? Yes. The other day as I was feeling particularly ornery and not bringing my best self to the table, my children suggested I should be drinking out of this mug. Touche.

I share this vignette as I write this blog in the hopes of coming from a place of authenticity and vulnerability–vulnerability, not defined as weakness, but as a place of courage which transforms our relationships (Daring Greatly, 2012). Perhaps this also becomes an excellent approach toward parenting: coming from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. As parents, we are connected on some level by the truth that the endeavor of raising children is humbling, exhausting, and utterly . . . joyful. And we are likely seeking not only survival of this process but also the experience of creating someone/ something meaningful all the same. I think that as parents, we can create greater value in our experience and in our children’s experiences by approaching our interactions with intention and mindfulness. This awareness transcends beyond our engagements with our children and also encompasses our sense of self. These strike me as fundamental starting points to approach the idea of purposeful parenting.

Let’s talk about the value of self care in the role of purposeful parenting. My “intention” is to start with this as a building block around how we parent (and so it doesn’t get skipped toward the end). Now, for anyone challenging this notion with the idea that you don’t have time for self care, consider the following:

Self care creates a ripple effect of positive energy. As we take care of ourselves, we create, renew, and restore our own energy reserves. As a result we have more to give to our children, families, and relationships. Think of the analogy of the instructions given by the flight attendant to first place your oxygen mask on before assisting those around you. Same rules apply here.

Self care allows us to model healthy practices for our children. Self care shows our children how we work to regulate our emotions. We validate how easy it is to become overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, etc. and that we are capable of managing our behaviors and feelings. In addition, we give our children tools and show them how to use those tools responsibly. One of the best gifts we can give our children is the awareness that we are not perfect. We don’t set them up to think they need to be perfect and we teach them how to be resilient in those learning moments.

Self care need not be limited to the self. Let me expand on this idea. I encourage the idea of self care to include those areas that bring a sense of wellness to the self. This could include things done alone, but may very well include time spent with others or time doing those things that will leave you feeling rejuvenated. In other words, self care could involve time with your children if that is what is needed to fill you up at that moment.

As you increase awareness of self, you increase the ability to be aware of what may be driving your child. This awareness lends itself to being purposeful in our parenting. Consider these ideas:

All behavior has a purpose even if it’s unknown to the individual. Being purposeful in our parenting involves our ability to be curious and consider factors that may be influencing dynamics taking place for our kids. It gives you an edge as a parent to consider the bio/ psycho/ social dynamics and engage from a mindful place. For example, looking at what may be driving a behavior (Is my child hungry, stressed, or trying to establish independence?) will impact our intervention in that moment.

The way we engage with our children has impact on the outcome of that interaction. If you want your child to feel loved and secure, you engage in a way that is nurturing. If you want your child to be responsible, you give them responsibilities to practice. The list goes on. If we consider what we want the outcome to be, we shape our own intervention in that moment. We probably wouldn’t intentionally seek an outcome that leaves our children feeling ridiculed or shamed; if we approach our interactions with an awareness of what we want to happen, we naturally move toward that desired outcome. The main idea here is that when you bring your intention and purpose to the parenting arena, you increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Even the best intentions won’t lead to the perfect outcome. Give yourself grace as a parent. Remember, this role is not about achieving perfection. It may be about catching ourselves in those “sleep deprived mom” moments and pausing to consider a redo on a situation that is going haywire. If we can create value and act with intention in the most trying of moments, we can know that our vulnerability will have paid off and our parenting has achieved its purpose.

Happy Parenting.

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