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Anti-Racist Parenting Conversations

Parents, and especially white parents, have important work to embrace around being, and parenting, in anti-racist ways.  Let’s start with two steps.

#1: Understand “anti-racism.” 

I believe that most everyone in my life would describe themselves as “not racist.”  If asked, they would disavow racist ideas and actions.  However, as I have learned embarrassingly recently, it is not enough to just be “not racist.”  We have to learn how to be, and actually practice being, “anti-racist.”

Racism is a machine.  A machine that influences thoughts, actions, and results.  Where white people are concerned, it generally works behind the scenes, and to our benefit.

I’ve thought of myself as “not racist” my whole life, but at the same time, I was benefitting from that racist machine.  I didn’t create or feed that machine, but, -and this part is important: I never used to do anything to dismantle that machine, either.  (*The killer realization?  Realizing that I had worked to dismantle other machines—like sexism—but the one that benefitted me, I left alone.)

If you say you “aren’t racist,” and you want to live according to your values, you must work to dismantle the racist machine.  This is what being “anti-racist” means.

#2:  Talk to Your Kids. 

When the lessons are really important, parents teach things proactively. (eg: safety)  We need to add teaching about racism to that list.  We must educate our white children about racism, how white supremacy works, and ways they can help dismantle the machine.  We need to speak openly about skin color and institutionalized racism in this country.  We need history lessons, values-based lessons, and concrete examples in their current lives.

I bet many of you have had conversations with your kids about things like strangers, approaching houses on Halloween, looking both ways, not climbing on the fence at zoos and the Grand Canyon, etc.  Parents of older kids have probably talked about vaping and dark alleys and parking lots and parties with alcohol.  We do that because we believe it will help keep our kids safe.  It’s (past) time white parents took the same approach to parenting about race.

Our country is literally on fire today, and no conversation around tonight’s dinner table is going to fix that.  But… what if we each had a hundred conversations over the next hundred days?

What anti-racist conversation can you start at dinner tonight?

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Anti-Racist Conversation Ideas (aka Lessons to Share)

  • Policing issues. White kids should know that black parents sit their children down and have “the talk” with them about what to do if/when they interact with police.  Why isn’t that a thing in white families?  Why do white families generally think of the police as public servants, heroes even, whose job it is to serve and protect, but black families generally have a different relationship with the police?  Note: I do not recommend showing the George Floyd video to kids.  Watching a real murder is (or should be) traumatic.  Trauma doesn’t facilitate learning and growth.
  • Black Lives Matter. Where did this phrase come from?  Why is it offensive to instead say “All Lives Matter”?
  • The tendency of White people to use calling the police as their personal enforcer when they are displeased about what someone Black is doing. (IE, BBQ Becky, Amy Cooper, Permit Patty)  (If you want to go really deep—maybe with a teenager—see if you can connect this type of citizen-enforcement behavior with colonialism.)  By the way, I think the Amy Cooper/Central Park a great video to show to kids, because it’s obvious racism, weaponizing white privilege, and it’s not graphic violence.
  • White women as a group are known to inappropriately touch black strangers’ hair. See if you can help your child imagine a parallel between bodily boundary crossing today and slavery past.
  • What are your child’s school mascots? Are they people?  Why is that wrong?
  • Who was the real “Jim Crow;” what’s the history there, drawing a clear line from that to why blackface is not okay.
  • What was “red-lining” Does it impact your current neighborhood today? Connect red-lining and property values and acquiring inter-generational wealth.
  • Does your town (or school district) have streets, buildings or statues that honor Confederate War Heroes? Were they named or erected in response to the civil rights movement?
  • “I don’t see color.”  What’s wrong with that phrase?
  • Why is wearing a Native American headdress offensive? (similarly, the  inappropriateness of wearing another culture’s traditional dress for Halloween)
  • What is “voter suppression?” Consider pulling up an old “Literacy test.”  My home state of Louisiana used this one—which was to be completed in 10 minutes, and one wrong answer meant the test-taker would fail.  https://sharetngov.tnsosfiles.com/tsla/exhibits/aale/pdfs/Voter%20Test%20LA.pdf
  • What is a “Micro-aggression?” Can your child think of any racial microaggressions they have witnessed?
  • What is a “Micro-invalidation”? Has your child ever seen a teacher avoid calling the name of a child when that name looked “foreign?”
  • Is there a history of white people avoiding responsibility by claiming innocent intent? Can a poor response to being told that we’ve offended make things even worse?  Whose experience should be focused on?

This is all only a start.  There’s more work to be done than just conversations, but we can at least start here.

Last note: I did a parenting webinar called “Talking with Kids about Race” a year or so ago with a friend and colleague: Jeffrey Swan. The webinar is now free to watch.  Please do go check it out. 

 

Book Recommendations about Parenting & ADD/ADHD

Taking Charge of ADHD by Russell Barkley

Super-parenting for ADD by Edward Hallowell.  (He also has a podcast with about a million episodes.  Free and easy to access!)

Late, Lost, and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn & Laurie Dietzel

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you click the links and then buy. (and if you do, thanks!)

Puberty Book Recommendations

The Care and Keeping of You (The American Girl book). These people know their market!  This book is known and loved by a gazillion people.

There’s also a “Part Two” version for older girls.

This one was recommended to me as a more inclusive puberty book for girls:

And for boys, I like this one but FYI it does refer to boys developing an interest “in girls” (ie, it is heteronormative.)

And if you want a book that offers some information about puberty plus reproduction and other sex-related topics, this is always my favorite for kids 7 (ish) and above:

And for kids in 6th grade (ish) and above:

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you click the links and then buy. (and if you do, thanks!)

Divorce-related resources on this blog

There are several articles, a video, and a webinar on this blog, created specifically to help parents through the divorce process.  They are collected below for easy access.

Please feel free to email me with questions or to set up an appointment for parent coaching around divorce, co-parenting, or however you think I can help.

Note: This was originally published in 2012, but every time I add to this, I repost it with the current date, just to make it a little easier for myself & others to find the post again!

After a Lockdown: Tips for Teachers

A mom friend got caught in a lockdown at her child’s school recently, and she posted about her frightening experience on Facebook. Another friend asked if anyone helped the kids re-regulate their nervous systems when it was over. Unfortunately, the answer was no–kids were just released to go on to the next thing, probably still scared and with adrenaline still pumping.  I realized then that nervous system regulation is something that therapists think about a lot, but teachers probably don’t get tons of training on.

Basically, when a person is in a stressful situation, your nervous system escalates like it might have to fight an attacker (heart rate up!  breathing fast and shallow! etc.)
Your body wants to Move! Fight! Run!

But if you have to stay still and silent (like in a lockdown) it can cause additional stress, even trauma.

So when these lockdowns are over, everyone’s bodies need a little relief.  It’s healthy and helpful to physically express some of that pent up energy, and then to connect with another safe person, and to try to calm the body down again. The good news is that there are many things that a caring adult can do in that situation to provide a little relief and support to kids, even in just a few seconds.

What I really wish is that no child would have to experience lockdowns ever again.  Until that day though, this infographic is for teachers (*) who are interested in knowing more and having more tools that can be pulled out if you need them, even if you only have 60 seconds to spare.

(*) teachers, staff, parents, administration, anyone who finds it helpful!


Here’s the infographic in pdf form: Lockdown infographic.  If you think it will be helpful to a teacher (anyone) in your life, you are very welcome to share it with them. Please don’t edit it.

Hat tip & gratitude: Kate, Melissa, Amy, Kris, Katie, Jack, Carolyn, Margaret & the Austin MHP FB page for ideas and feedback!

Update: Right after I finished the infographic, I saw that someone had shared this link and this video with me.  Good info on the link, and the video is of Israeli children singing a song that their kindergarten teacher wrote for them to help them cope with their bomb drills.  I loathe that these dangers exist, but I’m all about making the best of what we can.

Posts related to therapy

Finding and Choosing a Therapist for Yourself or Your Child

Q: When should a parent seek professional help?

An insider’s guide to getting the most out of your child’s therapy

Divorce & Teens

I had the pleasure today of being interviewed by my friend and colleague Barb Steinberg.  She’s a teen life coach, and asked me to speak with her about parenting teens through divorce.  You can watch the interview (just 25 minutes) below.  We talk about some of the ways that teens might react to divorce, what parents should know to look for as a sign that their child is having a really hard time with the divorce, signs about when to speak to a professional, how to talk with kids about divorce, and more.

 

And if you haven’t already seen these–there are several more helpful blog posts related to Parenting through Divorce on this website–see them here.

Up & Moving: Parenting Hacks that Work

photo: kajsa cc

It’s late January, and the outside temperature at 6:30 this morning was in the 30s.  Our thermostat inside says the house is 71 degrees, but even I didn’t think that getting out from under the covers sounded like a good idea this morning.  My kids?  They were even less interested in getting up, getting ready, and going outside to go to school.  Mornings are such a hard sell, especially on school days, especially when it’s cold & dark, especially when we didn’t go to bed on time the night before.  Just, yuck.

My clients often talk about the stress they feel related to getting out the door on time on weekdays.  There is so much that needs to be done, the timeline is usually tight, it’s a “pinch point” in a family’s day that often leads to stress, conflict, and bad feelings.  (not to mention tardy slips.)

There are a few really effective and good-feeling tools at improving this daily routine that I’ve discovered over the years, and I’d like to share them with you.  Join me for a FREE and short webinar where I’ll share parenting hacks for getting your kids awake, up, moving, and out the door… with 57% less* unhappiness.

Wednesday, January 30, 12 noon.

Register here.

(*) I made that number up.   The hacks are good ones, though.  :^)

Don’t try this one:

photo: Dave Austria cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex Ed is a Human Right

I discovered on the World Health Organization’s website some years ago a page that (broadly) included Sex Ed as a human right.  The idea makes absolute sense to me, and I’ve said that phrase many times ever since.  Recently I needed to find the citation… and it took me for-ev-er.  So, for my future self or anyone else… here’s a link to the WHO’s “working definition” about sexual health and sexual rights.  They say:

“The fulfilment of sexual health is tied to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in international and regional human rights documents and other consensus documents and in national laws.”

and they list things critical to the realization of sexual health, including

“The rights to information, as well as education.”

So, it’s still just a “working definition” and not something that’s been fully ratified or whatever political process needs to happen for it to be an “official definition” but I’m putting it here so I can find it again the next time I need it!  (and to share it with you, too, of course.)  :^)

The International Women’s Health Coalition lists “comprehensive sex education” as part of their definition of sexual rights here.

In 1994 the United Nations convened the “International Conference on Population and Development” which also addressed sexual rights, and specifically the right to sexuality education.  Wikipedia entry here.

National Sexuality Education Standards are here.

Finding and Choosing a Therapist for Yourself or Your Child

Haystacks! photo: John Pavelka cc

Finding and Choosing a Therapist for Yourself or your Child: Way More than You Ever Wanted to Know

Finding a good therapist who is a match for you and your particular needs can be frustratingly difficult.  I often help people find therapists, and have found that most have similar questions about the process.  This post is an FAQ for anyone considering, or already looking for a therapist for themself or someone they love.  Keep reading for a brief explanation of different types of therapists, finding a therapist with or without insurance, how to choose the right therapist for you, and a couple of other pieces of advice from the perspective of someone in the business.  Let’s start with:

Who’s who?  There are several credentials that you’ll find in the (Texas) therapist community. A brief list:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

These four all have Master’s degrees, years of supervision working under a more experienced therapist, and are licensed by the state.  These therapists might be in a clinic, a non-profit, or in private practice.  This is the bulk of who provides therapy in the state of Texas.  Other states have similar providers but might use different credentials.  The difference between an LCSW and an LCSW-S is that the LCSW-S has taken additional training  in order to officially supervise LMSWs towards their clinical licensure.

  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

A psychiatric nurse practitioner has a Master’s degree in nursing, and might offer therapy and/or medication management. They may be supervised by a psychiatrist.

  • Psychologist (Phd or PsyD)

Psychologists typically have a doctorate and are licensed.  Some psychologists do therapy and some do testing, and some do both.  A full psychological assessment is both very handy and resource-intensive (time and money) but can make a very positive difference in complicated or unusual situations, or where treatment isn’t producing the expected results.  That said, you don’t need a psychological assessment before starting therapy—all therapists do some level of assessment before starting therapy.  People often keep their same therapist but see someone else for assessment—the assessing psychologist typically writes a report and consults with the treating therapist to maximize the usefulness of the assessment.

  • Psychiatrist (MD, DO)

A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor with a specialty in mental health issues and medication.  It’s unlikely that you’d see a psychiatrist for therapy, although some do.  Typically people see a psychiatrist for an initial assessment and then much shorter “med checks” every few weeks or months.

  • LPC-Intern/LMFT-A/LMSW/Coaches & unlicensed providers

LPC-Intern: Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern.  (sometimes inappropriately abbreviated LPC-I.) They are not fully licensed and are typically just a year or two out of grad school.  Pros: they are likely cheaper and have more availability.  Cons: lack of experience and everything that goes with that.  That being said, everyone was new once.

LMFT-A: Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist-Associate.  This is similar to an LPC-Intern but with a few administrative differences.

LMSW: Licensed Master Social Worker.  This is a fully licensed social worker, but they aren’t clinically licensed—this means that to provide therapy they must be under someone’s supervision, and this should be clearly noted.  These are often also early career professionals.

Coaching, or anyone without a license, is a completely ungoverned profession.  You may end up with someone who is a fantastic provider (I know some,) but you can just as easily end up with someone who was in a different profession yesterday, hung out their shingle today, and thinks that a romantic relationship is an appropriate outcome for services.  Buyer beware.

Other letters!?!  (SEP, EMDR, LPC-S, PACT, LSOTP, RPT, etc)

With any primary professional therapy credential, you’ll find therapists who have additional certifications, trainings, modalities, and extra letters behind their name.  Many have the word “supervisor” or “-S” somewhere, which means that they are certified to be supervisors of early-career therapists in their field.  All therapists are required to take “continuing education” every year, and some participate in trainings that are more intense and offer an additional credential at their conclusion.  This can be helpful to look for IF you already know that a particular modality is important to you, but it is worth mentioning that research shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is THE most important factor in determining the success of that intervention (ie, more so than the modality used by the therapist.)

Finding potential therapists–insurance

If you have & want to use your health insurance, start there. Call their customer service and ask for a list of mental health providers at both masters’ and doctorate level.  If you can filter that list, ask for therapists who specialize in kids (if that’s what you want) or geographic convenience.  Do not start by calling therapists and asking if they take your insurance–that’s going about it backwards, trust me.  There are way more therapists than there are therapists who take your insurance.  (Side note about geography: therapy is a weekly or bi-weekly commitment for weeks/months/years… ideally the fewer obstacles to keeping those appointments, the better.  If you need a specialist you may have to cross town, but at least start by looking in convenient geographic places.)

Finding potential therapists–private pay

If you can pay full fee, you are in the fortunate position of having far more options.  You can ask others for referrals, or you can look on online directories like the NASW’s Help Starts Here, Psychology Today, Good Therapy, Network Therapy, etc.  Some of the online directories will allow you to apply different filters in your search–very helpful.  You can also just Google; try searching for “therapist” and your zip code or city and state.

Interview potential therapists!

Once you have found a few potential therapists, it’s time for a pre-interview.  This step is important. Call 3 or more and have a 10-15 minute conversation with each before scheduling an initial appointment. In this brief call:

  • Clarify deal-breaker issues that you couldn’t determine online like: are they accepting new clients, fee, location, insurance, hours, etc. Do this before going in to your personal details.
  • Share a little about why you are seeking counseling and what you are looking for.
  • Ask the therapist a few questions about their practice, too. Does that therapist think you sound like a match for them and their practice?  Does the therapist have experience with your situation/problem/lifestyle/age/etc?  If you have any super-important beliefs or preferences, mention that and ask if the therapist is very comfortable working with that thing.  Your therapist doesn’t necessarily need to live/believe as you do, but being able to resonate with you despite not being “same” does matter.  Does the therapist use a directive or non-directive approach—ie, who leads the session?  (this is a question for both adult and child therapists, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer really—it’s personal preference.)
  • Feel free to say that you are talking to a few therapists before you schedule, and that you’ll circle back if/when you want to make an appointment.  This will not hurt the therapist’s feelings–a good therapist recognizes this as appropriate due diligence.
  • After you get off the calls, ask yourself how the call felt. Did conversation flow?  Was it easy or hard to talk with this therapist?  How well did they ‘establish rapport’ with you?  This matters a lot.
  • It’s also the reason I recommend calling several potential therapists—you’ll be able to compare/contrast that rapport much better after having had essentially the same conversation with 3 different people.

A few more random thoughts

I hate to say it but: some therapists are bad. There are therapists out there who probably shouldn’t be practicing. You can sometimes avoid them by getting recommendations from people you trust, so consider asking around if you haven’t already. (doctor, friends, co-workers , family, neighbors, lawyer, guidance counselor—lots of people might be a source of referral.) If you do use someone’s referral, they probably would appreciate hearing back from you later with your feedback on that referral (I definitely do.)

Even if a therapist is a great therapist, it doesn’t mean that they are a great therapist for you.  If you come in for a first appointment with someone and it doesn’t feel right, it might indeed be that they aren’t actually a match for you.  It’s ideal to tell them that in session; they ought to process it with you and give you referrals who are likely to be a better match.  (And if you find yourself rejecting multiple therapists, by the way, it might not be the therapist.  Just sayin’.)

There are a lot of different kinds of therapy, and FYI if you’re looking to do deep work, the intake, assessment, and initial relationship-building process will take multiple sessions.  (which means that evaluating whether the therapist is right for you might need more than an initial session, too.)

A person who is a good therapist may not be a good businessperson/practice manager. The skill set is very different. You might encounter great therapists who are a little slow to return calls (sorry) and who don’t have nice websites… or even any website at all!

Couple of thoughts about insurance: It might be helpful to know that insurance companies pay therapists a contracted rate that varies between companies, and if you are having a hard time finding someone on your insurance, it may be that their reimbursement rate is so low that experienced therapists aren’t willing to work with that plan.  Additionally, ask your insurance if they offer “out of network benefits.”  If they do, you might be able to see a therapist not on their list and file yourself with the insurance company for partial reimbursement. Know, too, that the insurance company may only reimburse for particular diagnoses (and a diagnoses is required) and may also limit the number and frequency of sessions.

One note regarding therapy for kids: kids don’t typically do “talk therapy” until around adolescence–most therapy for kids is play therapy. There are different kinds of play therapy, too, including both directive and non-directive types. (Picking the ‘right type’ of therapy for kids is its own post for another day.) It often takes longer for kids to move in to the “working phase” of a therapeutic relationship. Expect sessions where “all” your kid does is play (board games, with toys, throw a football, etc.) Trust that the therapist wants therapeutic growth for your child and is working to make that happen in the way that they believe is most effective.

So. More than you ever wanted to know about how to choose a therapist. Let me know if it’s helpful and/or if there’s something good to add to this!