Parenting Generation Stress: Are you passing down your anxiety around food to your kids?

by Shira Myrow LMFT, Meditation Teacher, Curriculum Director @ Evenlfow.io

How much are our food choices driven by the need to control what we and our families eat as opposed to what is our responsibility to provide?

How much are our food choices driven by the need to control what we and our families eat as opposed to what is our responsibility to provide?

I remember babysitting a very smart 9 year old girl many years ago. She joked with me how her mom was a health nut. The kind of embarrassing mom that brought a box of raisins to birthday parties to substitute for birthday cake. She’d be the only kid who couldn’t eat a slice of birthday cake and the kids teased her mercilessly about it at school. This little girl  went on to have a severe eating disorder in college.  And her mom was completely mystified. She was so careful and so conscious about raising her children on healthy food. Her mother’s commitment to healthy food was about  anxiety, fear and control. She was sure sugar was going to ruin her daughter’s health,  it ended up undermining her psychological well being.  She robbed her daughter of the opportunity to come into a healthy  relationship to food on her own terms. she passed down her anxiety around food to her daughter.

Much of the messaging we get from doctors and experts and less well meaning sources--like advertisers and the media--- is designed to instill fear that we’re harming our children if they eat too much of one type of  nutrient or don’t get enough of another.

And it’s the relentless fear-based messaging that can easily foster a sense of stress and anxiety for us as parents. It’s not difficult to see how the natural desire and good intention to make responsible healthy choices can turn into obsessive hypervigilance not only around our diets but those of our children.

The directive to eat healthy food, which includes making dinners from scratch, is deeply tied our very definition of motherhood. Recent studies have shown that regardless of socioeconomic class, it largely falls on the shoulders of women and single parents, whether they work or not. So much of our self image as nurturers is embedded in our relationship to providing food as parents. Our choices speak volumes about our individual values, our morals and our lifestyle.

Nearly two-thirds of American mothers (64.4 percent) work, which means in most families, either both parents work or the household is headed by a single parent.  Providing reasonably nutritious, good tasting meals begin to feel burdensome and joyless  with the hurried pace of modern life, lack of time and resources, and the constant stress of not always being able to provide our ideal of good food.

If we’re perpetually driven by fear, anxiety and  guilt, we’re also ensuring our kids internalize the unresolved issues we may have with food.  

We also unconsciously pass down our lack of trust with ourselves and our neurotic energy around food to them. How much are our food choices driven by the need to control what we and our families eat as opposed to what is our responsibility to provide?  That’s the ultimate question. As conscious parents, we have to provide responsibly--but also within reason.  And accept the limitation and let go.

Cultivating a mindful eating practice can become your ally.  It can help you slow down, be present with your food and pay more attention to hunger and satiety cues. You can lead by example. Mindful eating is the practice of of becoming fully present with your food.  When you set an intention to pay attention to what you are eating but also check in with your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, you can learn to naturally self regulate.  Over time this awareness can shift your relationship to food, as you learn to discern whether you are eating out of psychological hunger  (emotional overeating for example) or true physical hunger. This awareness invites you to listen to your body and stop when you notice your body is full. You can easily share this practice with your children.  

You can also learn to modify your expectations: You are always going to be in  some kind of relationship to food, your body,  your health  and to that of your children even after they’re grown. The complexity isn’t going to go away. But modifying your expectations and releasing some measure of control  around your children’s ability to create their own relationship to food can free you from the impulse to over-parent. It’s not an all or nothing proposition.

Whether you make small changes or let go of impossible standards, bringing compassion and mindful awareness to the dinner table can help ease the sense of burden and frustration.  Take the time to acknowledge that your intention is to love, nurture and provide for your children in a culture that doesn’t always support the ideal it espouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Your Adult Children: The Do's and Don'ts by Kristine H. Johnson, LMFT

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Those were the days…

In the early years, we were the center of our children’s lives.  They not only relied on us for basic survival and nurturance, they also looked to us for guidance, advice, leadership, and modeling.  For many parents, this was a very rewarding time of intimacy, love, and satisfaction.  Our kids depended on us and sought out our wise counsel.  

And then…

Their world expands and the natural process of separation/individuation (which is absolutely necessary for their own development) begins to create some distance. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and hurt feelings result in anger, resentment, and a sense of deep loss.   

As a parent, how do you shift your role, become sensitive and open to what they are telling you that they no longer like, want, or need of the relationship? I work with clients who are either an alienated parent or an Adult Child(AC) who has chosen to “cut off” their relationship with their parents for various reasons. 

Having a rupture in your family does not mean it cannot be repaired.  It takes flexibility and the deep commitment to treating your AC as an adult.  Your relationship is based on your shared history, but there comes a time when that is not enough.  Difficult as it may be, it means stepping back and redefining your role.  

THE DON’Ts

Don’t give your adult children advice unless they ask for it…

 It can be so easy to jump in and give advice, based on your own life experience.  You may think “you know better” and have a right to deliver that advice for “their own good.” Yet From the AC’s point of view, it can feel like criticism of what they ARE doing, whether its about career, finance, or relationships.  Unless your concern is about their health, safety, or fear that they may abusing others, you should refrain from jumping in and assuming they want to hear what you have to say.  Proceed with caution.

Don’t make comments…

I know you can’t help yourself.  But you are no longer allowed to comment on their weight, physical appearance, haircut, clothing choices—except when you have something positive to say.  You are also not allowed to do the above about their friends, prospective mates, or children. Though you may feel like they don’t care what you think, they do!  And negative feedback verbally or in your body language—raising eye brows, rolling your eyes, sighing—are heard loud and clear.  They don’t want to hear it!  They are looking for support and acceptance not a critical voice.  

Don’t be defensive…  

You feel that you have sacrificed so much for your child.  You worked two jobs, gave up on your own dreams, and prioritized your child’s needs above all else. You have!  That is your truth.  Yet, it might not reflect your child’s experience of their relationship with you.  Yes, you worked two jobs, but your child felt like the job was more important than they were; they missed a consistent connection to you. One child may feel you favored another child, leaving them behind. They appreciate all you’ve done, but it is more a reactive gratitude, especially when you bring it up as a litany of all the things you have done for them and how much it cost over their lifetime.  

Don’t criticize their parenting…

You made your choices of how you raised your children and its time to let them make their decisions about their children. You may want to stop them from making the same mistakes you did.  You can’t see that they (partner to partner)may want to do it differently. If you see a situation you feel is unsafe or negative for the child,  approach your AC in a private, loving and open way. Don't be offended if they don't take your advice; it is not a personal criticism of how you raised them.

THE DOs

Do listen and try to understand their point of view…

If you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, that you did your best, and then put a wall up when hearing your AC’s view of your shared childhood, they will stop telling you their honest truth.   Distance will grow between you and the relationship will sour.  There is nothing so healing as an honest acknowledgment of the pain you caused others without being defensive.  

Even if you’re convinced you’re the more accurate historian in the family and your memories are the “right” ones, know that your child has different experiences than you did.  Incidents that had little meaning to you loom large in their hearts and minds.   Be able to listen to their own interpretation of their lives without jumping in and presenting your point of view, especially when it is one of denial. 

Do write things down…

Often, a well-intentioned, thoughtful letter can work better than a conversation.  The emotions can de-escalate and give both sides the opportunity to review and read over many times.  A sincere apology, without defensiveness, can make a world of difference.  In addition, I recommend that you write down your thoughts in a journal that reflect the feelings that arise as you go through what is almost always a difficult transition.  

Do have humility…

It takes a lot of strength to admit when you’ve made mistakes.  It requires a willingness to examine and take responsibility for words and actions for which you have regret and feel shame.  But it is important to remember that when you can do this in a calm accepting way, the power of a sincere apology cannot be overestimated. You can’t just offer a blanket “I’m sorry,” though, and expect dramatic results. It’s not enough.  You also need to dig deeper into your AC’s dissatisfactions and address those underlying feelings

Do persevere…

There is a saying about raising children:   “Days are long, but the years are short.”   This reflects the fleeting passage of time when raising children.  I believe it also applies to rifts in families where there is dissonance.  Those days when you are at odds with your grown children feel especially long, but the years that go by in this state go by so quickly.  It is important to embrace the opportunity to change that dynamic so that you can enjoy each other before its too late.

Are open relationships the shape of things to come?

YST Couples Therapist Shira Myrow weighs in for Mind Body Green

YST Couples Therapist Shira Myrow weighs in for Mind Body Green

An open relationship certainly seems alluring on the surface: sexual gratification and novelty without the harm or shame of betrayal, especially for long-term monogamous couples who are no longer sexually satisfied. It is entirely possible that open relationships can work for some people and may be the shape of things to come. But that path needs to be taken mindfully, with careful consideration, and no illusions about the pitfalls. The ideal of the open marriage may be as much of a fantasy as an idealized monogamous marriage is.

Our culture has developed unrealistic expectations about sex, often fueled by unfettered access to online pornography and dating apps that promise constant and immediate opportunities for sexual gratification. The idea of being able to have it all—a primary partner and a diverse sexual life—is tantalizing. However, when the New York Times publishes articles on the joys of open marriage, it often gives short shrift to the very real pitfalls.

As a couples therapist, my clients are often struggling to manage the unresolved, unconscious issues open relationships bring up. The inconvenient truth is we bring our unprocessed issues to every relationship we’re in—particularly when we feel threatened by insecurity, anxiety, possessiveness, attachment issues, and jealousy. No matter how consciously an open arrangement may be negotiated,there are no guarantees that partners can maintain control of the situation or that love and sex will stay neatly compartmentalized. It gets messy.

All of these variables can complicate any marriage—opening it will only increase their volatility.

The problems only multiply in an open dynamic unless you’re dealing with people who are very communicative, psychologically secure and willing to live with disappointment, resentment, and frustration. Individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar and borderline disorders, addiction, trauma, abuse, and narcissism are inherently unsuited for this kind of situation.

Sometimes only one partner fares well in an open scenario while the other partner struggles and becomes resentful. Or worse, one partner falls in love with a secondary relationship and abandons the primary relationship altogether.

 

That’s the irony here: Transparency and full disclosure don’t ensure that no one gets hurt or betrayed. Children are often the first and most vulnerable casualties. And children are primarily the reason many couples get married in the first place: to create a stable structure for a family.

Sex advice columnist Dan Savage, a longtime proponent of "monogamish" marriage, says most gay couples inherently understand males need multiple sexual partners and have much less of a problem with incorporating the need for sexual variety into their partnerships than heterosexual couples do. But making the switch to a radically different paradigm is far more challenging if sexual fidelity is part of the foundation of your partnership.

And here’s the rub: Not only is it normal to be attracted to other people; it's normal to be curious about ways to explore those feelings. But there are no easy answers. If you’re contemplating opening your relationship, it might be wise to engage a therapist who can create a safe space for this discussion with your partner.

Here are a few important questions to ask as you begin to test the boundaries in your relationship:

1. Where is the line between privileging your personal sense of entitlement to happiness and prioritizing your relationship’s security and your partner’s feelings? How would you propose to avoid crossing that line were you to open your relationship?

2. Is frustration, boredom, or lack of interest within your relationship a shared responsibility, or are the feelings of discontentment something that is your responsibility to address?

3. Are passion, creativity, connection, adventure, and intimacy shared values in the relationship?

4. Are you asking your partner to shoulder those qualities?

5. What are the implications of an open scenario for you, your partner, and your children?

Sex therapist Esther Perel is absolutely correct in her assessment that long-term monogamy is buckling under the weight of the unrealistic expectations we have foisted upon it. While there are no easy solutions, there is room for thoughtful discussion. Before pulling a trigger, we can certainly become more compassionate, more curious, and more mindful about imposing our expectations onto our relationships or partners. And we can consciously nurture a sense of connection, joy, passion, and creativity between our partners and ourselves.

To see the full article on Mind Body Green click on the link below.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/are-open-marriages-the-future-of-relationships

Curious about meditation? Our mindfulness expert Ashley Graber weighs in: The Complete Guide To Online Meditation Resources for Mind Body Green.

I've been studying and practicing meditation and mindfulness for 10 years. I’ve taken courses, read articles, and practiced for countless hours. Over these years, I've discovered there are a lot of sources for meditation guidance out there, but some are better than others. Having done the legwork, I can share with you my favorite apps, videos, blogs, online courses, and free resources to help you start or deepen your practice.

Western thought-leaders

People like Jack KornfeldTara BrachSharon SalzbergJon Kabat-ZinnJoseph Goldstein, and Ram Dass started practicing body and mind meditation and mindfulness when many Westerners were still calling it "voodoo." If you want to learn about the history of meditation in the West, start by reading their stories.

One of the best teachers out there for approachable secular meditation and mindfulness is Elisha Goldstein. He writes and teaches in such a way that anyone who wants to understand these practices can get started right from where they are. His six-month online Course in Mindful Living offers accountability pods and monthly zoom sessions with a mentor. His Center for Mindful Living also has a live online weekly meditation on its Facebook page. If you're looking for daily inspiration, sign up for his Now Moments newsletter.

Meditation for children

If you're looking for ways to help your children get into mindfulness, I'd recommend a few potential resources. Dr. Charlotte Reznick has spent her career helping children and teens heal through the power of imagination. Mindful Schools is the leader in teaching educators how to implement mindfulness practices in schools. They also have a Fundamentals Course, perfect for anyone trying to get a practice started or wanting to bring these practices into their home. Inward Bound Mindfulness Education offers great retreats for teens.

Informational online meditation content

Mindful.org is an amazing resource for all things meditation and mindfulness. It can be read in digital or print form. It focuses on making these practices accessible with content on mindful living, mindfulness in the workplace, and practices for both beginners and advanced meditators. It offers inspiration by featuring stories of meditators from every walk of life.

Sounds True has published more than 500 titles on everything from the spiritual journey and meditation to psychology, creativity, health and healing, self-discovery, and relationships. These programs, ranging between one and five hours in length, can be purchased in audio format, CD, or book form.

Mrs. Mindfulness has a wisdom-rich website packed with simple teachings and tips for anyone and everyone interested in meditation. One highlight of her work is the monthlong mindfulness summit, featuring 31 leading teachers and a neuroscientist. You can participate in many elements of the summit for free.

Western Insight Meditation (Vipassana)

If you're interested in Western Insight Meditation (or Vipassana), the type of meditation taught by Gotama the Buddha, Dharma Seed offers access to over 20,000 talks—for free. Dharma Seed’s origins can be traced back to 1983, when founder Bill Hamilton started making recordings of meditation hall teachings on cassette tapes. The talks and meditations come from centers like the Insight Meditation Society(IMS), Spirit Rock Meditation CenterGaia House, and New York Insight. You might find a talk from last night or from 30 years ago.

The science of meditation

For those of you looking to link practice and science, Berkeley's The Greater Good is your site. This site aggregates scholarly articles, videos, quizzes, podcasts, and more to help bridge the gap between science and practice.

Meditation apps.

We can't forget to dig into meditation apps. If you’re looking for a free app, Insight Timer has many different types of meditations to choose from. PausAble app is an interactive meditation app designed to bring you straight into the moment. Headspace is a popular app for beginning meditators. And for folks looking for deeper content, Evenflow combines insights with specific subjects to target stress points in real time for when you need help most. Its goal is to help you take your mindfulness tools off the cushion and into daily life.

These practices are simple but not easy. With these resources, you will be on your way to weaving the practices into your everyday life. My advice: Consistency, support, and always remembering to breathe are the keys to a fulfilling meditation practice.

Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your July horoscope, then find out why holding on to past relationships is the worst thing you can do for yourself.

To see the full article on Mind Body Green click on the link below.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/online-meditation-mindfulness-resources-for-every-level

Esther Perel: An Intimate Window into Couples Therapy

Esther Perel, a renowned sex and couples therapist, has a new weekly podcast called Where Shall We Begin where listeners can hear a variety of real-life couples explore their relationships in therapy. 

"There is no school for relationships, no place for us to learn the tools for rebuilding and repair, to learn to straddle the many contradictions that roil in all of us. Where Should We Begin? is a way for me to create meaningful, deep and open conversations. As you listen to these intimate, unscripted sessions between real life couples, I think you will find the language you’ve been looking for to have conversations with the people in your own life." Esther Perel

If you're considering couples therapy, these intimate sessions give you an insider view into the process. 

Yes, it's your fault.

Lately, attachment theory is getting heightened attention, due to its relevance in the explanation of our current relationship patterns. This article demonstrates how early caregiver relationships show increasing impact on our daily lives. Find out what type of attachment style you have by reading this piece by New York Times.

Do you envy your children? How taboo emotions can reveal the skeletons in the closet, including unresolved trauma.

We have all spoiled or indulged our children at one time or another. Perhaps we have given them bribes or too many sweets to get them to cooperate and behave.  At the time we justify the bribe because we don’t have the patience or energy to enforce a disciplinary action--- which may mean tears and resistance. Sometimes the indulgences just become a habit.  But eventually it backfires when we realize our children expect to be placated and catered to inappropriately and then feel resentful and ambivalent about our role in creating “spoiled brats.”  

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