What to Tell Your Children When Your Marriage is Struggling

When two people choose to spend the rest of their lives together, they don’t really plan for if things go wrong.

Love is hopeful, and many of us hope our love will last a lifetime. When it starts breaking down sooner than expected, it can feel like the curtain was lifted too soon, revealing the mess we really are behind it.

If your marriage is struggling and you have children to consider, here are some tips on how to acknowledge the stress without making it their problem.

Reassure Them That Everything Is Okay

While fighting is stressful, it’s important to teach children that disagreements are normal.

Sometimes we feel passionate and raise our voices, but we do not attack or hurt each other. (Children should never have to witness any kind of emotional or physical abuse between parents. If you think they may have been exposed, help by enrolling them in counseling to cope.)

Many children fear divorce, even if there are no signs of it in the home. Fighting can fill their imagination with hypothetical scenarios of moving homes, changing schools, and losing family well before you even consider divorce. Put these thoughts to rest by reminding them they are loved and in a safe place.

Do Not Lean On Your Children For Emotional Support

Children are not appropriate confidants for parents. They are not emotionally equipped to support adults through their problems. Even if you think your child is an empathetic genius, they will always see you as the parent, the adult, the life expert.

Parents provide protection, education, and love to their children. Confiding in your child as if they’re a close friend will only weaken the confidence they have in you, leaving them feeling anxious and insecure.

Let Your Children Come Up With Their Own Family Opinions

When you break up with someone, you break up with their friends and family, too. Children of divorce are in the tricky situation of still seeing these people as family, even if you don’t. While you may want to celebrate the end of annoying in-laws, it’s best that you keep quiet around your kid.

As long as they’re not a threat, you shouldn’t deter your child from wanting a relationship with their own family. One day they may even share the same feelings you do! Let them decide without your influence.

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, You Just Have to Be Safe

Some of us remember the first time we realized, “Oh my God. My parents don’t know everything…” If your child still looks up at you with wonder in their eyes and questions in their heart, let them. The second they witness you take the low road or crack under the pressure, their view of you will shatter.

You’re allowed to be honest with your child about the hard times you’ve been through. Children can learn a lot through stories of resilience. However, burdening them with the issues you still haven’t worked out will only leave them feeling insecure about what else you don’t know.

Divorce: How to Go Over It

Share only necessary information that directly affects the child. Provide repetitive reassurance that you both love your child and assure them you are working together so their life doesn’t change more than it has to.

Never use your children as hostages or bargaining chips while you work out the details of a divorce, regardless of their age. They’re not prizes to be won, they’re responsibilities for which we care.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to model healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms for our children. Make use of your support network, put yourself first, and when all else fails, start therapy. There is no one more qualified to help than a therapist. (Plus, we give way better advice than your 9-year-old or your ex.)

Ready to get started? Schedule an appointment today.

Surviving Infidelity: How Couples Can Stay Together

Finding out that your partner was unfaithful is one the hardest things we can go through. It makes us feel stupid, broken, and all-around deflated. Many people who are betrayed by their partners feel the symptoms of PTSD. The most common ones include…

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Jitteriness
  • Memory problems
  • Up-and-down emotions
  • Flashbacks

Understand that at first, these feelings are completely normal. However, if you choose to stay, the goal is to recover fully and build a stronger bond than before. (Not just stay together out of obligation.) Mentally, we want you to be here:

  • Authentically engaged with your partner
  • Feeling confident and resilient
  • In charge of your life

How do we get you here? Well, it requires the couple to be vulnerable, realistic about the risks, optimistic about the results, and willing to face discomfort. You have to accept that the old relationship is gone, and it’s time to build a new one based on different values and expectations.

Here’s how couples can stay together after infidelity.

The First Few Weeks: Lay It All On the Table

Assuming that both you and your partner are committed to understanding and forgiveness, start by going over everything that happened. As the betrayed, you can ask as many questions as you want: Who was it? How many people know? How many times did it happen? Where did it happen? Are you done seeing them?

Be careful about asking questions you don’t want to know the answer to. Talking about it will get easier over time, so save some questions for when you’re more emotionally prepared to deal with them.

Knowing more now while you’re still freshly hurt will only create more hard-hitting, detailed flashbacks in the future.

Take Care of Yourself as You Work

These conversations will be pretty emotionally exhausting, so prepare for them like you would prepare for a long week of travel. Sleep early and often, get exercise, plan healthy meals, and have hobbies ready for mental breaks.

Anytime someone uses an all-or-nothing phrase, (“You always,” “I never,” etc.) take a break. Because now, you’re no longer looking for common ground; you’re looking for someone to be right and someone to be wrong. That’s not helpful.

When you’re both in a calmer headspace and can refrain from yelling or finger-pointing, open up the conversation again.

Learn to View Cheating as a Symptom of Deeper Issues

Before you can move past the affair, you have to acknowledge the problems in the relationship that contributed to it.

Through counseling, books, and podcasts that focus on infidelity, you will discover (and eventually accept) that the affair actually has nothing to do with you. It is a decision that belongs to your partner, and frankly, it’s embarrassing for them, not you.

While they work through feelings of shame, your focus should be on the strength of the relationship and how you choose to still benefit from it. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Learn to Forgive While Accepting That It Could Happen Again

Forgiveness requires immense emotional strength and maturity, because it implies that you can take the same beating again and survive without feeling traumatized. This is a key part of overcoming infidelity.

Don’t hide this risk in the back of your mind—accept it with your whole being. Make space for it in the relationship. Trust that doing so is courageous and necessary to rehabilitate your love.

The best (and most common) outcomes I see in counseling involve the betrayed partners becoming more authentically themselves. They develop a sense of confidence that tells them they can recover from anything. Oftentimes, they’re able to see their new relationship with pride. They’ve finally reached the end of a long, beautiful-yet-painful journey.

That can be you. If you’re struggling to work past infidelity on your own, start couples counseling today and we can help guide you to the other side. Together.

Depression During the Holidays—Tips for Surviving

For those of us with depression, the weather outside isn’t the only “frightful” thing this time of year. As the days grow darker and we spend more time indoors, our mental health can take a serious hit.

Some mentally well people get a taste of this called the “winter blues”. Others experience a temporary depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those who suffer from depression year-round can experience symptoms more than usual.

Does this mean the holidays are hopeless? Of course not! It just means we have to implement more coping strategies in the winter than we do other times of the year.

Not sure where to get started? Check out this list of ways to survive depression during the holidays.

1. Up Your Vitamin D Levels

Sunlight reaches our bodies far less during the winter, so our vitamin D levels can go down. Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to fatigue and weaker bones, causing more chronic pain in the body—two things that can contribute to depression.

Restore your vitamin D levels by taking supplements or eating foods that are rich in it. (Fatty fish like salmon or tuna, eggs, mushrooms, and foods fortified with vitamin D like cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereal.)

2. Go Outside As Much As Possible

Less sunlight means our days feel shorter and night feels constant. This makes us feel like we’re pushing to stay awake when we’re pretty sure it’s bedtime.

To give your days life again, do as much as you can while the sun’s still out. Wake up before sunrise, run errands during the day, go on an afternoon walk, and eat dinner early. Plus, physcial movement can give you those feel-good endorphins!

3. Get a Light Therapy Box

Some of us don’t have the luxury of picking our own schedules to get outside during the day. For that, we have light therapy!

Light therapy boxes are an affordable and simple way to give yourself a mood boost. To actually help, read or work near the light box so that light enters your eyes directly. Exposure to the skin alone will not help. (This is why tanning beds are not good light therapy alternatives.)

Come up with a schedule to use the box consistently so your body knows when to expect it. (Just like how we expect the sun to last for a certain amount of time during the day.)

Light therapy sessions should last anywhere between 10-30 minutes per day. 

4. Practice Gratitude Whenever You Can

We know from research that practicing gratitude weekly (or even better, daily) has significant benefits for our mental and physical health. Even people with chronic health conditions have reported feeling less bothered by symptoms after a few weeks of it.

How can you practice gratitude in your life?

One way is to get a journal and a pen. At the end of every week (or day), write five things that made you feel happy, excited, peaceful, or understood this week.

After a while, you’ll start noticing the beautiful parts of everyday around you. Life itself will feel more positive because you’re taking the time to sit, notice, and genuinely appreciate it.

Another way is to pick a family member, a friend, or an old mentor that always made you feel special. Maybe they had a knack for cracking jokes during the hard times, or they gave you advice that sank in after you could tell them in person.

Write a handwritten letter properly thanking them for how they contributed to your life. You don’t have to give it to them if you don’t want to. Doing it will at least fill your head with the warm fuzzies you’re craving this time of year. Plus, it reminds you that you’re loved.

If you need more help fighting off dark thoughts in the winter, contact us to start counseling today! It can be nice to have someone in your corner—all year round.

Is It Normal to Feel Anxiety Around the Holidays? How to Cope

Just over 60% of Americans report feeling stressed around the holidays. That’s a pretty high number for a time of year that’s characterized by joy, giving, and love.

Plenty of people deal with excess anxiety around the holidays, and for good reason. We spend time with family that we have a lot of history with. (Sometimes more history than we’d prefer.) Memories can come flooding back, and for people who struggle with trauma, it can pose a serious threat to their mental well-being.

The holidays also bring a host of logistical planning that can crush any holiday spirit. Don’t let that hold you back from enjoying the holidays the way you want to.

Let’s talk about how to cope with rising anxiety around the holidays, from the planning to the partying stages.

Let Go of the Holiday “Shoulds”

We’re two winters into the pandemic, and there’s more pressure than ever to have a knock-out holiday experience. However, just because the year was tough for some of us doesn’t mean we should have to work overtime to make it enjoyable.

Instead, drop the “shoulds”. Sure, you should deep-clean the house. You should bake cookies to pass out. You should get a real tree this year.

If you feel especially burnt out this time of year, use the holidays as an opportunity to relax. Be realistic about what you can and cannot handle. If you can’t afford extravagant holiday decor, make paper snowflakes and hang them all around the house. If you don’t want the added stress of cooking something intricate, switch out a couple of plates for something pre-made and easily re-heatable.

The important thing is that you spend the holidays genuinely connecting with others and focusing on love. You may think that checking off the copy-paste list of holiday “shoulds” will make you feel accomplished, but they are more likely to add stress to your plate.

Invite All of Your Emotions to Holiday Dinner

Save a seat for more than just joy this holiday season. Don’t whitewash your feelings because you think it’s what the family wants—come as you are. Being able to hold multiple feelings at once builds your resilience and helps to form a strong sense of purpose.

So feel your feelings! It’s ok to be sad about a missing face at dinner but excited about the annual family poker tournament after. Resisting negative feelings because you find them inconvenient only encourages them to come back again and again.

Journal through your feelings, talk them out with a loved one, or feel them deeply through art.

Take Breaks When You Need One

Some people feel confined to their seats when celebrating the holidays with family. Remember, the point is for you to celebrate, too. In order to do that, you need to feel refreshed.

There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of the room to take a walk around the block or settle into a quiet corner to read alone for 20 minutes. We all need mental and social breaks, and it’s okay if you need more of them around the family.

See Your Family At Their Best

For only one day, try to accept your family for who they are. There may be unresolved feelings, unmet expectations, or awkward cold shoulders. Accept your family as they come this year, and put in a pin in the grievances until after the holidays. Recognize that tonight is probably not the most productive night to open Pandora’s box. In January, it could be!

Remember, you are not the only one feeling anxious this holiday season. Your family may be feeling the stress, too. Things may go wrong, but you have the power to react with understanding.

Looking for emotional support and guidance after the holidays? Start counseling with us today.

Here’s How to Navigate Those Hard Conversations About How to Spend the Holidays

‘Tis the season of long text chains, strict schedules, and your dad blaming your mom when things go wrong. We understand the pain and frustration that comes with celebrating the holidays in a broken family.

This year, spend the holidays how you want to. Here is how you can navigate the hard conversations that come with attending multiple holiday events:

Be Realistic About What You Can Do

You want to say yes to everything, but one parent is in another state and the other is right down the road. If you travel to see one, you no longer have time to stop by the other. And your partner wanted to go to their family Christmas this year. Will you face the wrath of both of your parents by telling them you will not be in attendance?

If you know this anxiety all too well, it is time to get realistic about the holidays. You are only human. You cannot possibly make everyone happy, and trying to attend every event you can will only end up making you deeply unhappy and exhausted at the end of the day.

Accept that stress is going to be a part of this season no matter what. However, it is up to you to decide what stress you want to forgo and what stress is worth the fun. Choose with intention!

Separate Your Relatives’ Feelings From Your Own

Adult children of divorce tend to feel a deep sense of obligation to see their family. For especially empathetic people, this can mean feeling shame from mom or disappointment from dad—two feelings that can cause anxiety to shoot through the roof.

Remember that these are their feelings, not yours. While you can acknowledge them and apologize for the frustration, it is not your guilt to bear.

You can work on separating their feelings from yours by building healthy boundaries. Learn to say “no” with confidence, meaning without offering adjustments. If you know it will be stressful to balance another stop on your holiday road trip, do not even think of offering up, “Maybe I can leave one early…”

Once you set your boundary, come up with a ritual to “cleanse yourself” of the emotions that are not yours. Some people like jumping into the shower after spending time with others to enjoy some alone time, mentally reset, and metaphorically “wash” away the feelings of others.

Acknowledge The Feelings That Come Up

You are not a failure for feeling sad around the holidays. Not being able to see certain family members is upsetting, and sometimes just being put in the position of having to choose at all is what is most frustrating.

Remember that these feelings are completely valid, so try not to minimize or suppress them. Let yourself feel them by journaling, talking them out with a loved one, or sharing them with a therapist.

Know that you may not be the only one feeling hurt this year. While it is certainly not your responsibility to do everything your family wants you to do, it is your responsibility to treat them with love and respect.

You can apologize for the hurt and disappointment they feel without changing your plans and being overly accommodating. Offer up something like, “I’m sorry that I’m not coming to Christmas. I know you’re disappointed we can’t see each other, and I miss you a ton! I just can’t make it happen this year.”

Tense conversations tend to go over better when you validate the other person’s feelings first, but still stand your ground.

If you have a habit of dreading the holiday season, consider starting counseling today. Together, we can uncover those deeper issues so you can go on to enjoy happier, healthier holidays.

Grieving During the Holidays: Tips for Getting Through It

Grieving is complicated.

You cannot wait for the moments when you can finally feel joy again, but the second you do, you feel guilty for having a good time. The holiday season is full of chances to feel joy and love, but when the ghost of a loved one haunts your mind, it becomes hard to take those chances.

Fortunately, everything heals with time. Your grieving will eventually feel easier, but this holiday season, what can you do?

Here are some tips for getting through it all.

Set Boundaries as Needed

You are under no obligation to attend every holiday party you are invited to. Some help you feel better, while others just feel like energy zappers. Before you RSVP, check if you need a little TLC.

If you feel iffy about attending an event, push yourself to go anyway, expecting that you can leave whenever you want to. Get comfortable saying goodbyes early or turning people down when you know it is what you need. Finding balance is the most important thing.

Acknowledge Your Grief

Your feelings at this time are completely valid, even if they make little sense to you.

Maybe the family is gathering at the home of the deceased loved one for a holiday celebration. If you find yourself having a good time, let it happen. There is no reason to feel wrong or guilty. If anything, you are celebrating their life more by fully enjoying yours in a space they cherished.

You are also allowed to feel lonely and heavy in a room full of partiers, even if it feels out of place. Every emotion is valid.

Holiday parties come with opportunities to numb the pain through substances like alcohol. Avoid these for now, as they will only prolong your mental stress or lead to a public breakdown you may regret.

Plan Ahead to Fill Their Roles

Don’t let the shock of a loved one’s passing take you by surprise more than it has to this year. Plan ahead by delegating their previous roles—like organizing the annual gift exchange or cooking the full dinner spread—to other family members.

This will help keep the holidays moving smoothly without unexpected bursts of grief.

Honor Them with New & Old Traditions

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room: someone is missing from the family table. Plan to raise a toast to their life, share a moment of silence, or start an activity they would have loved as a new tradition.

If you have kids, try to keep up with the same traditions you normally do, like cookie decorating days. Consider adjusting activities so that they are reasonable for you. For example, if you are struggling with spontaneous crying, watch holiday movies from home instead of attending a play or movie theater.

Recruit help in making kids’ holiday season special by passing off some activities to grandparents, siblings, or family friends. This may even make your holiday season feel richer by staying in touch with your support network.

Volunteer at Holiday Drives or Food Banks

Take your mind off of grieving by filling your heart with the love of helping others. The holiday season comes with many opportunities to shop for a family in need, volunteer at a holiday dinner celebration, or collect warm items for people who are homeless.

Repeat Realistic and Not Overly Positive Affirmations to Yourself

Affirmations are powerful ways we can influence our mood for the better and set it for the day ahead. Try some of these this year to meet yourself where you are at:

  • I am not alone.
  • I am allowed to express my emotions freely.
  • I have done my best, and that is enough.
  • I am worthy of care and affection.
  • I am not afraid of having a good life.
  • I will persist.

Sometimes, it just helps to have someone to talk to. Start counseling today for a listening ear that understands and knows that you can (and will) get through this.

Common Relationship Challenges and How to Work Through Them

Growing up, we consume a lot of images of what relationships “should” look like. Women should receive flowers every day, men should receive a home cooked meal every night, and both should be completely aware of the other person’s needs without them saying a word.

Healthy relationships today look nothing like this. Romantic partners vary in gender and number for some people, throwing a wrench in the whole “women do this” and “men do that” training manual we were taught as kids.

While the perfect relationship may not exist, many different kinds of healthy relationships do. Let’s talk about the most common relationship challenges and how you can work through them.

1. Letting Resentment Build

Not every disagreement is a sign that the relationship is falling apart or not “meant to be”.

If you tend to hold back honest feelings out of fear of breaking up, you might need to adjust how you see conflict in relationships.

Every relationship has conflict. You may cook differently, prefer different bedtimes, or enjoy different TV shows. Disagreeing with each other or struggling to find a compromise is a part of learning how to live together and love each other. Just make sure you’re communicating in healthy, productive ways.

Be specific about your needs and stay away from all-or-nothing statements like, “You always leave the cabinet doors open.” Instead try, “I’m sure you don’t mean to, but could you remember to close the cabinet doors? It stresses me out when the kitchen isn’t orderly.”

2. Putting Up Emotional Walls

Vulnerability is scary. However, having one person in life who you are vulnerable with can make you feel safer overall, not exposed.

Some people even require emotional intimacy to tap into their sexuality. If you struggle to enjoy sex with your partner, try to open up to them more.

The goal is to feel deeply understood by your partner. If talking about your inner thoughts and feelings makes you anxious, start by spending more time together. Go on walks, play games, or attend an event.

Doing physical activities together can help you feel more in sync with your partner, allowing you to trust them more with personal, sensitive information.

3. People-Pleasing

While it’s important to support your partner emotionally, the burden should not be on you to meet all of their emotional needs. There’s a fine line between showing you care and trying to control their feelings.

Allow your partner to feel the full scope of their emotions—if they’re frustrated, let them vent! If they’re upset, let them know it’s okay to cry. Try not to make everything better before they’ve explored what they need to, as this can cause distance between you and delay emotional growth.

If they seem to be coming to you with every problem they have, try suggesting ways they can cope by themselves. Instead of offering advice, simply suggest, “Do you want to listen to your favorite album together?”

This will help them learn to cope without relying on you “fixing” them.

4. Assigning Blame

We all fall victim to perfectionism from time to time, but in relationships, it only distracts from all that is good. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness as a partner.

Make the goal be about getting your partner to open up. Avoid pointing fingers or making assumptions like, “You obviously don’t care about me because you didn’t say anything to me all night.”

Instead, communicate with compassion. Try something like, “You seemed quieter than normal tonight. I really wanted to talk to you at the party. Is something going on?”

With practice, you and your partner can overcome common conflicts like these and achieve true, deep feelings of intimacy. To learn more about where room for improvement exists in your relationship, reach out to one of our expert counselors today for individual or couples therapy.

Finding the Energy to Get the Depression Help You Need

If you found this article, then odds are you are not a mental health professional. If that’s true, then I have great news: you’re not responsible for healing your depression all on your own!

(Even if you are a mental health professional, you’re still not responsible for doing it all alone. First and foremost, you’re human.)

As humans, we need support from other humans in order to thrive. When feeling depressed, it’s even harder to identify and confidently reach out for support. So let’s start there.

Here are some small ways to find the energy to get the help you need when depressed.

See Depression as a Habit, Not an Illness

Instead of calling the whole day a waste because you went down a depressive spiral, try viewing it as a blip on the radar. Viewing it as a habit rather than a chronic illness can help reframe your thoughts so you can find more motivation, even just a little.

When you have a bad day with your depression, recognize it and accept it. Try not to automatically blame yourself or see the whole week as ruined because of one off day. It’s easier to think about correcting a habit than healing an illness because the next time you recognize a habit, you can be aware of it and take steps to counteract it.

Separate Yourself from Your Depression

Depression feeds us doubts, fears, and negative thoughts that aren’t accurate to who we actually are or what we actually think.

Try to catch yourself in the moment. The next time you have a negative thought, consider separating your internal dialogue into two speakers: you and your depression.

If you think to yourself, “There’s no point in getting out of bed. I’m going back to sleep.” Try responding to that thought directly. “That’s not me talking, that’s my depression talking. There’s plenty of reasons to get out of bed, like getting really good coffee, putting on my favorite sweater, or seeing someone I like talking to.”

Your reasons can be small, but they’re important.

Teaching yourself to replace negative thoughts with positive (or just more realistic) ones takes patience. Give yourself grace when the negative ones slip through. You won’t heal overnight, but replacing one negative thought with a positive one can be the difference between seeking treatment options or staying down in the dumps.

Stay in the Moment by Focusing on Little Details

To fight back against spiraling thoughts, make an effort to focus on little things throughout your day. Mindfulness can go a long way in keeping you present and not delving into a pool of negative thoughts and self talk.

If you’re doing something mindless, like driving, stop your thoughts from doing their own thing by focusing on the drive.

Appreciate the particular color of the leaves around you, try to memorize the order of businesses on your route to work, or wipe the dust off your radio. The more you interact with the world outside your body, the less time your head has to entertain itself with cyclical negative self-talk.

Celebrate Yourself as Often as You Can

Depression can leave you feeling intensely lonely and bad about yourself. As the person who’s been there with you the whole time, you have a pretty good idea of what you are and are not capable of.

Acknowledge it simply—it’s hard to brush your teeth in the morning. It’s not good or bad, it’s just hard.

On the days when you brush your teeth, take a moment to congratulate yourself—really congratulate yourself. Play a song you love and give yourself a pat on the back. Be proud of yourself—small accomplishments are still accomplishments.

Celebrating yourself often and in tiny ways can help you rebuild your confidence and recognize your level of control.

You may have heard the theory that doing something bizarre after locking your door will help you remember you locked it. Do the same for your successes. You’re more likely to remember them if you make the celebration something memorable, too.

Once you find something that works for you, take all that newfound energy and use it to contact our office to start counseling. Together, we can minimize the impact depression has on your life and get back to living the life you truly want.

4 Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling with Their Mental Health

It can be scary to see your kid turn into someone quieter or more agitated than they used to be. You can do all the right things as a parent and your child can still struggle with their mental health. (Especially when living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.)

According to Mental Health America, in March 2020, a whopping 83% of teens aged 11 to 17 years old tested positive or at-risk for anxiety. Even more—91%—tested positive or at-risk for depression.

While these stats are from when the pandemic started, it’s safe to assume a lot of these students are still facing the same issues. Here are 4 signs your teen may be struggling with their mental health.

1. Their mood is frequently agitated, angry, or somber.

Depression shows in different ways for different people. For some, it appears as excessive crying because of intense feelings of hopelessness. For others, it appears as a hot temper or constant irritability.

Remember that depression pairs with feelings of worthlessness, so be gentle with advice and criticism for your teen at this time. Depressed teens can be extremely sensitive to being told they failed in some way, especially those who tend to overachieve in school.

Your teen may also make comments ridiculing their own intelligence or appearance, signaling their struggle with low self-esteem, a common symptom of depression.

2. They lost interest in previously adored activities.

If your teen plays sports or practices a skill, pay attention to how much enjoyment they’re deriving from it now. Maybe they used to jog lightly on the field before, but now they can only manage to stand and stare, waiting for the ball. Or the sound of music would constantly drift from their bedroom, but now the house has become eerily silent.

If your teen is withdrawing from activities and friends to spend more time alone than they were before, they could be struggling with depression. When isolated, the easiest way for them to worsen their depression is becoming addicted to their phone.

While the online world may feel like an escape from their problems, research shows that excessive smartphone and internet use increases feelings of isolation, leading to more depression.

3. Their sleeping and eating patterns have suddenly changed.

Has your teen been more difficult to wake up in the mornings than usual? Do you hear them running downstairs for a snack at 2 a.m.? Feeling a desire to sleep significantly more or less is a symptom of depression, as it warps our levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

They may also experience changes in diet, choosing to binge eat high-fat foods or losing their appetite completely. This could relate to their loss of interest in things that used to bring them joy, or it could be because unexplained nausea or stomach pain is deterring them from eating.

4. They engage in risky behaviors.

High-risk behaviors are heavily correlated with depression for a couple reasons. One, people with depression tend to value their lives less, and two, they’re desperate to cope with the pain.

Some people prefer to numb out thoughts of anger and shame with drugs and alcohol. Others feel they aren’t worthy of happiness or good health, so they choose to self-harm as a cry for help. Some turn to unprotected sex as a means of distraction, neglecting to consider STDs or possible pregnancies before jumping into it. And if your teen is old enough to drive, they might consider racing down side roads recklessly for an adrenaline boost.

It’s important to have open, empathetic conversations with your children about their mental health.

If you’ve been noticing any of these symptoms or cries for help, call our office to schedule an appointment today. Because no one is too young to prioritize their mental health.

New Beginnings: How New Parents Can Cope with the Stress Babies Bring to Partnerships

Babies can be stressful. They’ll pull at your heartstrings in ways you’ve never felt before and introduce you to a new meaning of life itself. At the same, you could probably use another hour of sleep today. (Or two.)

Suddenly your attention diverts to this tiny, screaming bundle of joy. Sometimes it feels like you only have energy left to scream yourself.

Don’t panic—eventually your baby bird will grow wings of its own and require less constant attention, but until then, it takes hard work and intention from both partners to keep that nest full of love and support.

Let’s talk about how new parents can cope with the stress babies bring to partnerships.

Choosing Each Other 

What used to be romantic compliments in passing now sound more like reminders and demands. When 90% of your conversation becomes dominated by transactional statements, you start seeing your partner as a cog in the family machine instead of the person you fell in love with.

Newborns are demanding. Without time and energy on your side, how can you put any work into the relationship?

After the first six weeks with your child, give yourself permission to check in with your partner. Spending time together however you can will go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a fabulous steak dinner; it can be as simple as solving a crossword puzzle together or watching a TV show after the baby is asleep. Eat breakfast or dinner together or share a short walk around the block.

Prioritize each other with intention.

Finding Excitement in the Little Things 

It’s totally okay (and almost necessary, even) to mourn the loss of who you were before the baby arrived.

Some couples experience this fear that their relationship isn’t what they thought it was without the adventure and fun of pre-baby life. That’s not true.

You can keep the fun in your relationship by choosing small, manageable tactics. Try new takeout options for dinner or rent a movie from home with fresh microwaved popcorn.

The exciting outings you enjoyed before now require more work and less spontaneity. You need a stroller, extra diapers, bottles, toys to calm your baby—the list goes on. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge the truth: you’re an adult with a long list of responsibilities, and that requires some planning.

You and your partner are two adults who chose each other to make life more beautiful. Continue to choose each other by making space, keeping a strict schedule, and connecting in simple, creative ways.

Change What You Can, Accept What You Can’t

You’re at the very beginning of your parenting journey together, and there’s going to be disagreements along the way. Remember that you’re co-parenting, so let your partner parent.

If your partner enjoys playing with the baby while changing their diaper, let them. Maybe you think it’s a waste of time and it would be more efficient to change it quickly and get on with it, but it’s best not to micromanage when your partner is appropriately carrying their weight.

When things come up that you simply can’t stand, bring it up and compromise. But when you feel the need to course-correct, pause and ask yourself, “How big of a difference would it actually make if I say this right now?” If the difference is small, let it go. If it’s big, discuss with your partner.

Sometimes you’ll agree to disagree, sometimes you’ll find harmonious compromise, and sometimes you’ll pick one person’s idea over the other’s. Be prepared for anything and stay open-minded. Remember, you’re on the same team.

If the light at the end of the newborn baby tunnel seems farther away than you’d like, consider seeking professional help with one of our couples counselors. We can create a game plan that works for your family.