Since I am not a medical doctor, I am not permitted to write prescriptions for medicine. However, I have never let this stop me from writing prescriptions for other things. ;^)
There are, after all, lots of non-medicines in the world that have great medicinal value. For example: pedicures, a night out with friends, a nap, a hug, a walk outdoors.
My most common non-medicine prescription is paper plates. I know so many parents who burn the candle at more than two ends… getting things done, supporting their family, caring for children, and more. But sometimes even the most organized, successful, do-it-all mama or daddy gets overwhelmed. (the rest of us, do, too!)
When clients tell me that they feel that they are drowning in responsibilities, tasks, and obligations, I often whip out my prescription pad and send them home to eat off of paper plates. It is as much of a metaphor as it is a real suggestion, because paper plates may or may not be something that makes your life easier. But metaphorically, I am encouraging parents to realize that a little bit of convenience in one area of their world might provide peacefulness, rest, free time, and/or positive energy in another area of the their world.
I like to say: “The earth will not be ruined with the addition of one week’s worth of paper plates, nor is the cost of a $1.50 package of plates going to break your budget.” AND, giving yourself just a 10% shortcut in life might be the very thing that helps you be happier inside and out, more peaceful, more engaged as a parent… and THAT will be the best $1.50 prescription you’ve ever filled.
So where could you take a shortcut this week?
I heard about this from Carol Jackson, who I think got it from the mama who invented it… fun idea.
One way to “make concrete” the skills a child needs to cope with their emotions is to have a basket of tools that they can use when they are having a strong/challenging emotion. Imagine a nice basket, easily accessible at home, and filled with things like:
- a soft blanket (for when you need a little reassurance/comforting)
- gum (for when your mouth needs to be busy doing something other than saying *%$!)
- music (for when you need to change your energy one way or the other)
- the dog’s leash (for when a little motion, and bilateral stimulation would do you good.) (also, this is a great way to take a break, don’t you think?)
- bath salts (for helping someone–probably mom! to slow down, breathe, take a break.)
I can imagine other things, like: ear plugs, playdough, an exercise ball or stretchy band, and a trampoline. (although I can’t quite figure out how to fit the trampoline in the basket. But you get the idea. :^)
The beauty is, the tools are great for both kids and their parents!
UPDATE: I should have said–these tools are great for when the child wants to use them. It’s pretty much never effective to tell someone they have to go do xyz to take care of themselves. And one more note: I think the best thing to snuggle with for reassurance is a loving person, but sometimes it’s good to have a backup.
I talk about icebergs at work a lot.
Did you know that the part of an iceberg you can see above the surface of the water is only 1/9th of the total mass? This is where the phrase “tip of the iceberg” comes from. So, I talk about icebergs because the image is a very helpful metaphor. Basically, it all boils down to:
What you can see about another person/relationship isn’t the whole picture.
When we see SuperMom go sailing by, perfectly put together, with her perfect children behaving perfectly… we sometimes judge ourselves, and come up lacking. But this isn’t fair. Even Supermom has her insecurities, her imperfections, her failings… maybe even her own secrets.
You can’t help but learn this lesson as a therapist. Every day, I see people, who, if I only saw them on the street, would probably strike me as so put together, so stylish, so successful. But because of the nature of our work together, they sit on my sofa and speak honestly about some sort of problem or another. It’s a real gift to me, one that I would love to share with every one of you:
You are not alone! It’s not just you! Everyone has something that challenges them, that they struggle with, that they regret! You just can’t see it in them because we all keep our inner lives (8/9th of us, at least!) hidden inside.
So, beware the icebergs ahead… Remember that everyone has more going on than is outwardly visible, and be kind to yourself (and them), since we never really know what’s going on for another.
PS. A related, great phrase–not mine but I don’t know who said it originally: “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.”