Navigating Complicated Interpersonal Dynamics During the Holidays

For many individuals, the holidays are marked by wonderful moments. However, we cannot deny “the most wonderful time of the year” can also be influenced by significant stressors, such as feeling pressure to find great gifts, planning and preparing for large gatherings, feeling obligated to travel to the different yearly family parties, triggering moments provoking loneliness, sadness, and grief… Even though there can be a real part of us wanting to enjoy the holidays, there can also be another part dreading it. 

Of course, the holiday season is already looking very different this year. The global pandemic and its various impacts have forced us to slow down, required us to socialize and practice self-care creatively, and brought different types of losses and grief. As a clinical psychologist, I am supporting clients dealing with their disappointment and sadness for not celebrating the holidays as usual. I am also validating clients who feel relieved for not dealing with the same level of pressure they usually experience.

Through my clinical lenses, I also see this as an interesting opportunity for self-reflection and possible adjustments in our way to navigate those contentious relationships and hopefully finding more ease in dealing with them.

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych.

One difficulty that seems somewhat alleviated this year – but still present – is the obligation to face complicated interpersonal dynamics. Whether it is a problematic relationship with a parent, a sibling, in-laws, or friends, we now have the perfect reason to limit contact and staying home during the holidays. Through my clinical lenses, I also see this as an interesting opportunity for self-reflection and possible adjustments in our way to navigate those contentious relationships and hopefully finding more ease in dealing with them.

Reflect on your ideals

The other’s unmet ideals often fuel complex relationships (e.g., your parent, sibling, friend, etc.). When the other does or says something that triggers deep frustration, sadness, or disappointment, this emotion is most likely related to a need or ideal of this person that is once again not met. 

Example: When a mother makes a cold and critical remark, the immediate feelings of anger and sadness are linked to a wish of being validated and recognized by her – not just related to this one critic. The ideal of having a warm and encouraging mother is still not met; the hope of gaining her recognition is crushed once again.

Validate your needs and emotions

To regulate the emotions resulting from an unmet ideal, validating the feelings and taking authentic ownership of the underlying need is essential. It is normal to feel disappointed in a relationship context, but we can also offer ourselves what we need, such as kindness, recognition, or motivation.

Example: The anger and sadness resulting from being criticized by the attachment figure is normal. The need to receive encouragements and warmth is valid. Being able to validate the emotions and needs will lower the emotional activation and meet that need internally (e.g., “I am allowed to feel this way, I can recognize my own achievements”). 

Practice differentiation

The difficulty of a loved one meeting our ideals and needs is often mostly related to them and not entirely to us. Because of their limits, experiences, and requirements, sometimes they cannot meet our ideals. Practicing healthy differentiation, or recognizing what belongs to them and what belongs to us, can help mitigate negative emotions.

Example: The mother is very harsh on herself, not celebrating her positive actions and attributes – therefore, it is hard for her to do it for others. Her tendency to be overly-critical towards others belongs to her self-critique and does not reflect others’ worth or abilities.

Enjoy the good you can get

It is often not because some needs and ideals are not met that the whole relationship is negative. After validating emotions, identifying and meeting underlying needs, and differentiating from the other, it is much easier to feel good from the interaction.

Example: Even if the mother is critical, she is caring and warm in other ways, such as cooking for the family, playing with her grandchildren, often calling, sending thoughtful gifts, etc. The one critic hurts, but it does not represent the entirety of the relationship. 

Assert needs and limits to others

At times, asserting needs and limits is necessary to maintain a healthy relationship and to be able to connect with the other. Talking with “I” statements when we are emotionally calm can help us get what we need from the discussion and offer an occasion for repair.

Example: Point out that the remark made a few days ago was hurtful, and what was wanted was encouragement. Doing so can help get support from the mother and cause her to reflect on her tendency to be overly-critical. 

In summary, navigating complicated relationships can be difficult – especially during the holidays. Taking the time and space to reflect and adjust our own internal experience can positively impact our well-being and interpersonal relationships we deeply value. If you need support to learn how to cope with complicated relationships in your life, professionals at CFIR can offer support and possibly help you move towards repairing them.

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

The Eating Disorder that Dropped like a Bomb: A Mother’s 20-Year Journey of Caregiving

(originally posted via National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED))

I started the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED) back in 2012. At the time, our daughter had been suffering from anorexia and bulimia for two decades – it still feels impossible to reconcile the amount of time it’s had a grasp on her life. 

The life of a caregiver supporting someone living with a mental illness is a series of never-ending harsh realities. Here is mine: 

Twenty years ago, the word “caregiver” was not in my vocabulary. When you hear “caregiver,” most people think of seniors being looked after and cared for by their adult children – who may even be seniors themselves. I come from an entirely different caregiver population – (though I’m a senior myself!)

My caregiving journey began in 1999. Little did I know that our youngest daughter, [who was] almost 16 at the time, was struggling with self-esteem and anxiety issues. An eating disorder was about to become a devastating bomb dropped on her and the rest of our family.

When she first got sick in high school, her friend came to tell me that she was throwing away her school lunch. Around the same time, she became a vegetarian, started making and requesting ‘funny foods,’ and began exhibiting strange kitchen behaviours. Her overall attitude also started to change. 

“Where do we go from here?” I remember asking myself.

Our first thought was to speak with her pediatrician. At the time, we were so naïve and didn’t know we were about to get caught in the whirlwind of an unknown illness. We had no idea where we were heading.

I still remember my husband frantically charging through downtown Toronto to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) to gather names of therapists, doctors, dieticians, nutritionists – anyone we could call or reach out to for help. There was no Google at that time, and the internet was in its infancy.

At the beginning of our daughter’s illness, I waited anxiously to attend a weekly peer support group for mothers – a life-saving program. 

I vividly remember sitting in this group and watching the facilitator ask those in the room to share how sick their daughters were and for how long. Some said three years, others said five years, and some even said ten years.

“Yeah, right, we will be done with this in a year,” I remember thinking. Unfortunately, this was not my reality, and I became one of those mothers. 

We tried everything to help her, from tough love to unconditional love, from having her living at home to refusing her living at home. From a publically televised intervention, to her residence in safe houses, renting basements, incarceration, inpatient and outpatient programs – the list goes on. Being an Eating Disorder caregiver is no easy feat.

Never in our wildest dreams (or nightmares) did we think we would be taken down these dark roads with our daughter who had everything a kid could want. We were loving parents doing everything we possibly could within reason for her and her older siblings. We even uprooted our lives and moved houses in the hopes of making our lives’ better’ and giving her privacy in our basement.

In 2016, I took her to the E.R. to be rehydrated – over 20 times. I would drop her outside and let her call me when she was done. I was getting to the end of my rope.

During that time, my only respite was that I knew she was safe in the hospital. She was too sick to run out with people watching over her. I was ‘free’ for a few hours – imagine having to think like this.

To this day, our hearts sink whenever we receive texts or telephone messages from her and have had to create an alert system so our own stress levels are lessened.

One significant lifestyle change we have made, with her agreement, is placing locks on the fridge and freezer. The only groceries in the kitchen are spices and seasonings. The rest are locked away. My grandkids are accustomed to asking “for the key to get a snack.” These adaptations are still realities in our lives.

Having an Eating Disorder is not a choice. Some people believe Eating Disorders are just a rich, vain teenage girl’s sickness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Eating Disorders affect all genders, racial, ethnic, and religious identities, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds.

No one can condense twenty years of a living nightmare into a short blog post. But it is enough to paint a dark picture of the life my family and I have had to live with, affecting us all both emotionally and financially.

There is good news, though. After 19 years, our daughter has finally started her ascent up the mountain of recovery. She is driving again after 12 years of not being allowed to; she’s gained weight and is content. It feels like we have our daughter back.

We are finally starting to feel that all of her strength, love, and will to lead a quality life suppresses the voices stemming from her mental illness.

Although the stress and worries of being a caregiver will never leave us alone, we have remade our lives as a couple and continue living and are committed to enjoying our lives (which we do!) I count my blessings every day.

About the Guest Blogger: Wendy Preskow is the President and Founder of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED).  NIED is a not-for-profit coalition of health care professionals, counsellors and parents with children suffering from Eating Disorders. NIED’s team aims to help bring about positive change in both the availability and quality of treatment of Eating Disorders in Canada.

Finding Work-Life Balance While Working At Home

More and more, organizations are adapting their work modalities and environments, and therefore changing their employees’ experiences. Telework is increasingly encouraged in the current workplace, mainly to facilitate a better work-life balance for workers and optimize their levels of productivity. However, the working-from-home scenario of the past is much different than our new pandemic reality, where full-time telework is imposed. 

Various factors can complicate working from home. These factors may include dealing with more distractions, having to care for kids (or other members of the family), technological issues, feeling disconnected from a team, or not having access to specific resources we usually have in the workplace. For many individuals, these factors add up to one significant challenge: finding and maintaining a sustainable balance between their work and personal life. Here are a few tips that can help set a healthy integration of your work and personal spheres:

  • Create a designated workspace: If you have the space in your home, organizing a work station that allows you to have all the tools you need to do your work, is ergonomically friendly, and is not too close to main distractions is worth it. It can be as simple as reorganizing furniture or adding a separating curtain around your desk.
  • Establish a flexible routine: Maintaining your typical routine might work best for you. If you are used to getting up, showering, eating breakfast, and walking to work, why not do the same steps before starting your workday at home? Keeping up with your usual routine will also ease the transition of returning to your workplace. However, if you find your regular routine does not match with your new reality at home, being flexible and creative with your schedule could help you find a work-life balance that fits better for you. For example, you may want to adjust your work hours to moments of the day when you feel most productive, or less likely to be distracted by familial obligations. 
  • Connect with colleagues: One of the positive benefits of being physically at work is connecting with colleagues in-person, celebrating successes together, and finding social support. Maintaining regular contact with your team is not only helpful for your work but can also be a great morale booster.
  • Keep house chores for after work hours: You don’t need to take care of your to-do list at all times because you are at home all day. If you get overwhelmed with everything that you need to do with work and home responsibilities, separating the two can be very helpful.
  • Take breaks: Personal and social breaks are essential, even when you are at home. Although many teleworkers usually would make time for a break while at the office, they won’t allow time to have one during work-at-home hours. Taking a walk, doing some stretches, calling a friend, eating lunch outside, or taking a coffee break will help to maintain focus and productivity, and a general sense of well-being.
  • Avoid working after work hours: You don’t need to work more because you’re working from home. Maintaining clear boundaries with your work will help you to find a better balance.
  • Communicate your needs to other members in your home: Signaling your needs and limits to other individuals living with you will help to maintain your work-life balance. It is ok to express your requirements – this will also allow others to respect your boundaries and express their own. 
  • Adjust expectations: It’s important to remember to adjust our self-imposed pressures and expectations. Given the current global climate, it may very well be impossible to be as productive as you wish you could be, and it is reasonable to experience lower motivation and higher levels of stress. Be kind to yourself, as your self-judgment is probably hurting more than it is helping. 

Full-time telework certainly has its perks, but maintaining a satisfying work-life balance can be demanding as well. If this new reality continues to be challenging and causing emotional distress, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Clinicians at CFIR are here to help you identify strategies that will improve your day-to-day work and life routine, and better manage the difficulties you are experiencing. 

Dr. Karine Côté, D.Psy., C.Psych. is a psychologist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Côté provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of psychological and relationship difficulties related to mood and anxiety disorders, trauma, eating disorders, sleep disruptions, and interpersonal betrayal. She works from a humanistic approach and integrates therapeutic techniques from gestalt and object relations psychotherapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

How to Talk to Children about COVID-19

Children are often more perceptive than most adults may give them credit for; they may be wondering why their mom and/or dad are home more, why they aren’t in school or why their routine has changed, or why they can’t go see their friends or even leave the house. It’s essential to tackle these questions head-on and in a manner that satisfies their curiosity and helps to put their mind at ease. 

Self-Reflect

Talking to your children may require that you self-reflect about your concerns and feelings. Be aware that you also may be projecting your insecurities or anxieties on to your children and recognize that you may also need additional support or guidance during this time. Also, make sure that you do your research first so that you can adequately answer any questions that may come up. 

Listen and Teach

Ask your child what they already know or have heard about the virus. Be sure to dispel any myths and elaborate on critical pieces of information like the importance of handwashing. It’s also important to talk to your children in a manner that is appropriate for their age/ level of development. Also, try putting things in terms that they can relate to or understand. It’s important to teach but not to overwhelm. 

Validate Their Feelings

Your child may be confused, scared, or anxious about the changes they are experiencing. It’s important not to dismiss their feelings and to reassure them during this time that what they are feeling is very reasonable. Don’t overcommit or overpromise on things that you may not have control over to solely help them feel better – it’s important to be reassuring but also realistic. 

Create a New Routine, and then keep it Consistent 

Children thrive on stability and knowing what to expect. Help give them that consistency by developing a new routine for them. For example, create a daily schedule that outlines their activities for the day. Setting up a plan in case things suddenly change or take longer than expected can also help provide them with further assurance moving forward. Have your child get involved in the planning process so they can feel empowered and confident moving forward. 

Many people are feeling stress and anxiety during this uncertain time, and children are no exception. The mental health experts at CFIR can help you navigate how to have these meaningful discussions with your children. Clinicians at CFIR are offering secure video and teletherapy sessions during this time to ensure continuity of care. Please reach out if you would like to have a safe, confidential session from the comfort of your own home.

Dr. Brianna Jaris, C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist at CFIR. She has extensive experience in psychological assessment and diagnosis and the treatment of a wide range of psychological issues, including trauma, depression, anxiety. She is currently the head of CFIR’s Trauma and PTSD service. 

Building a Successful Stepfamily

by: Alice Lurie, M.A., R.P.

Are you struggling in your new stepfamily? It is important to ensure that all stepfamily members have reliable information about what is typical in stepfamilies and how to work toward building healthy stepfamily dynamics. Stepfamily success is built on strong one-on-one relationships before strengthening the larger stepfamily system. Specifically, the couple relationship and the parent-child relationship need to be stabilized before other step relationships are focused on. Often, solutions to step-issues are about finding a middle ground and having empathy and compassion. This is especially important as step-relationships tend to accentuate and polarize differences in families (Papernow, 2013)

In some ways, stepfamilies do not function the same as nuclear families do yet many stepfamily members enter into their new family relationships with hopes or dreams of “returning to a normal” life pathway that was disrupted by death or divorce (Papernow, 1993). The more tightly stepfamily members hold on to expectations that may not apply any longer, the harder they will experience stepfamily formation and the more likely they are to experience significant difficulties in it. Building realistic expectations based on information about how stepfamilies function most effectively is important.

Stepfamilies tend to have more conflict than first families (Martin, 2009). This is distressing for adults and children alike, and can leave the adults more likely to give up before the family has had a chance to stabilize if they are unaware of this dynamic (Hetherington 1988). At times it can be challenging to integrate a step-parent into a child’s life. The manner of integration is crucial to how this relationship will evolve. Clinicians at CFIR are skilled in providing support to develop a healthy blended family environment.

References

Hetherington, E. M. (1988). Parents, children, and siblings six years after divorce. In R. Hinde & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), Relationships within families (pp. 55–79). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, W. (2009). Stepmonster (1st ed.). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Papernow, P. (1993). Becoming a stepfamily (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Papernow, P. (2013). Surviving and thriving in stepfamily relationships: what works and what doesn’t (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Alice Lurie, M.A., R.P. is a registered psychotherapist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Ottawa. She works with adults and couples to support them to relieve distress and overcome difficulties related to anxiety and stress, depression and grief, anger management and emotional regulation, and career and workplace issues.

How to Keep the Happy in the Holidays While Co-Parenting

by: Laura Moore, B.Sc. (Honours)

The media markets the holiday season as a “picture perfect” time to connect with your family; these unrealistic expectations are especially challenging while trying to co-parent. Letting go of “perfect” and working together with your previous partner during one of the most stressful times of the year may feel nearly impossible. Remembering every co-parenting situation can look different, the following tips can make it possible to keep the ‘happy’ in the holidays while co-parenting.

Plan Ahead But Be Flexible 

Create a holiday plan at least a month or more in advance of the holidays. This plan may be derived from your parenting plan or your separation agreement. While making this plan keep in mind the extended family and still encourage these connections on both sides. Although planning ahead is of the utmost importance, remaining flexible over the holidays will reduce upset for yourself, your previous partner, and your children. Believe it or not, the holiday schedule may be much more important to you than to your children.

It Starts with You

This holiday season (when you know you are going to be alone), make plans to see loved ones. Also, seek the help you need from a therapist to work through some of the grief and loss you may be experiencing during the holidays. In this process, you will begin to let go of expectations and find moments of happiness as you embrace new traditions. Allow space for you and your children to be upset and move away from the expectations surrounding the holiday season. By creating a safe, calm, and positive space for yourself, the effects will trickle down to your children as they often rely on you to help regulate their emotions and see the whole picture. Continue to collectively focus on what you do have together and not what you don’t have.

Less is More 

It’s not the presents that make the holidays so special; instead, it’s the presence of the ones we love. It is essential to communicate with the other parent about items that are off-limits for holidays and what is on your children’s gift list this year. Do not try and outdo one another; this will put a lot of pressure on you and make gift shopping and planning activities quite stressful. Try not to overcompensate with excessive activities and planning, and try to spread out the holidays. Most importantly, enjoy some of the simple pleasures of the holiday season. Doing so will allow you not to lose sight of what is most important!

Communication 

Communication should be purposeful and child-focused. When you show empathy and care to your previous partner, it allows your children to see you still have a relationship with the other parent in a positive way. Schedule a phone call to talk about the upcoming holidays. If communication is difficult for you and your previous partner, possibly invest in a gift for one another this holiday and use a communication app, either 2houses or Our Family Wizard. Most importantly, do not use your children as a way to communicate messages back and forth between you two.

Connection

Although you may experience feeling you are alone, your previous partner is probably struggling just as much as you are. Have your children buy a present and make a card for the other parent. Letting your children love and communicate with the other parent will not affect your child’s love for you. As much as splitting the holiday season is new for you, it is also a new concept for your children. Encourage your children to consistently communicate with the other parent via phone, video call, and text. Create a shared album and add pictures to it each day. Also, your children will enjoy any chance where previous traditions can still be shared with both parents.

You cannot go wrong if you put your children first and let them be your guiding light as you navigate the holiday season while co-parenting. The “good enough” holiday season will happen when we let go of our expectations and enjoy what we have created for ourselves at this moment. Remind your children that no matter who they spend their holidays with, the holidays can create a magical feeling that will be in the memories for years to come!

Laura Moore, B.Sc. (Honours) is a therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto. She is completing her Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto. Laura works with adults and couples in therapy, to support them to overcome challenges related to depression, stress, grief and loss, trauma, and relationship conflicts. Her current research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.

Navigating the Teenage Years

We were all teenagers once, yet sometimes trying to understand what’s on your teen’s mind is harder than advanced high school calculus. What can make matters worse is when, in your parental quest to figure out your teen’s thoughts, feelings and motivations, both you and your child end up having a conflict and/or experiencing feelings of confusion, frustration, and at times, ultimate helplessness.

While teenagers sometimes aren’t as vocal and open with their parents, a crucial step in a parent confronting a teenager’s psychological challenges is helping them identify the source and then exploring options to address it.

“My teen is withdrawing from the family.”  

“You’re not the boss of me.” Or “You just don’t get it!” How many times did you say this to your parents as a teen? How many times have you been on the receiving end of those words? One of the most widespread challenges of adolescence is the parent-teen relationship. Parents often grapple with a balance between providing support while allowing teens to make their own decisions and life choices. Here are some things you can do:

  • Accept: Your teenager is exploring an unfamiliar life stage – – one in which friends and classmates are considered the most influential. You can continue to play a very prominent role in their lives often by merely letting them know that they can reach out to you when they need to. 
  • Avoid why questions: Checking-in with your child is essential. But try to avoid “WHY” questions. What you believe to be a simple question of curiosity might be interpreted by your teen as the ‘Third Degree’ leaving both of you equally frustrated. Instead of saying, “Why on earth did you do that?” maybe try rephrasing the question as “What did you hope would happen?” 
  • Plan activities: Shared interests (or maybe not…) Venturing into your teen’s world to learn about a new videogame might be an opportunity for him or her to teach YOU something new. Or maybe you can offer to teach your teen a new skill. Whether it’s teaching your teen a new recipe or how to change a tire – that might be another way to connect – – but remember: DON’T FORCE IT!   
  • Share your own experience:  Often times, teens appreciate hearing about their parents’ own teenage experiences. Feel comfortable sharing your own adolescent experiences and give your teen the opportunity to ask you questions. Most importantly, try to make connections between your skills and your teen’s current ones. 
  • Monitor screen time: Like it or not, screens – – whether they are smartphones, tablets, portable games, video game consoles, computers, and TVs – – have become an integral part of teenagers’ daily lives. If you’re hoping it’s a stage, I have news for you – – this is unlikely to change soon. As such, setting limits on screen time use for the entire family (e.g., dinner time, movie nights) will encourage face-to-face communication among family members, without teens feeling singled-out.

“My teen experienced a traumatic event. How do I offer support?” 

Talking about a traumatic event, at any age, can be overwhelming. Teenagers might not know who they should talk to, how to talk to someone, how much is appropriate to share, or where to start. Some teens might feel more comfortable talking to a friend, a sibling, or a mental health professional. Meeting your teen at a level where he or she feels comfortable is KEY! If your teen has reached out to you for support, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Try to stay calm/composed: Although you, as a parent, are also experiencing heightened levels of emotions, it’s vital for you to remain calm for your teen when talking about his or her traumatic experience so you can foster feelings of safety and security. 
  • Avoid judgment: Traumatic experiences often lead to feelings of self-blame and guilt. It’s crucial to listen openly and empathically, and, most importantly, convey the message that this was NOT the teen’s fault. 
  • Show openness to questions: Allow your teen to ask questions and try your best to answer these questions openly and honestly. 
  • Know your limits: if your teen is having difficulty talking about the experience with you, don’t take it personally. It’s not uncommon for a teenager to “not want to share” with a parent (at least initially). What’s most important is that your teen receives appropriate support. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional for guidance. 

“My teen can’t seem to meet school deadlines or focus in class.” 

High school has never been easy. At some point or another, many teens experience difficulty in school – whether it’s their ability to focus in a particular class, study for an exam, or find the motivation to do homework. For some teens, these daily difficulties pose challenges to their overall learning experience and impact their overall functioning.  As teenagers advance in school, academic demands increase, and challenges sometimes become more apparent. As a result, it is essential to understand when these challenges might be a sign of a learning disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or more commonly referred to as ADHD):

  • Has your teen experienced changes in attitude toward school/school attendance? For example, a teenager who previously enjoyed school now demonstrates resistance or a negative attitude toward school. 
  • Has your teen expressed emotional concerns like feeling anxious or overwhelmed about completing school work or writing exams? 
  • Has your teen complained about difficulty keeping up with school work/devoting an excessive amount of time to homework compared to other classmates? 
  • Has the school expressed concern regarding challenges (e.g., applying skills and knowledge, impulsive and disruptive behaviours, difficulty with focus) that are interfering with your teen’s ability to reach his/her academic potential?
  • Is your teen experiencing consistent difficulty with planning and organization, remembering details, and time-management? 

If you answered “YES” to any one of those questions, a psychoeducational assessment might provide a clear understanding of your teenager’s cognitive and academic strengths and challenges. In addition, an assessment might also inform you and your teen of appropriate accommodations that can be made at both the secondary and post-secondary level to ensure that your teen performs at an academic level reflective of his or her abilities.

The Challenges of Parenting

by: Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C.Psych.

Parents often feel challenged by the shifting parenting strategies required to respond to their children’s changing developmental capacities and needs. When child-caregiver interactions meet children’s developmental needs, positive mental health outcomes are more likely in the short-term and down the road. 

Developmentally Sensitive Parenting: Child-caregiver interactions are essential to a child’s development. These interactions have a long-lasting impact on our children’s self-development, the quality of relationships with others, and their overall psychological well-being. Parenting requires sensitivity to a child’s emerging developmental needs. 

Sometimes parents are unable to respond to developmental milestones, which then affects the child’s self-development. When parenting is out of sync with these critical developmental milestones, it can be disruptive to healthy development and potentially compromise the security of the parent-child bond and the mental well-being of the child. In these circumstances, children and adolescents may begin to experience psychological symptoms and distress. Psychologists at CFIR can help you to parent in a manner that is sensitive to these developmental milestones. We help you develop strategies to respond to your children’s changing capacities and needs.

Parenting through Separation & Divorce: Parenting a child in the context of separation and divorce can be challenging. Learning how to talk to your children about separation and divorce in a developmentally-appropriate way is vital to support children to deal with this challenging life transition. Often emotional distance, anger, and hurt in the primary couple relationship will have tainted home life for an extended period before separation or divorce. Loss and grief experienced by the family breakdown and the eventual termination of the parent’s relationship have a reverberating effect on children. Learning how to deal with children during the separation and divorce process effectively supports parents and their children to ensure healthier psychological outcomes. Psychologists at CFIR can help you to address parenting issues in the context of separation and divorce, including navigating through emotionally challenging conversations associated with the various transitions involved in separation and divorce (i.e., leaving the family home, child access, co-parenting).

Co-parenting: In the aftermath of divorce, parents are often challenged to create a new parenting relationship, especially when children are young. Although the couple relationship did not work, parenting continues to be a shared responsibility. Developing an effective co-parenting strategy minimizes the impact of separation and divorce on children. Often this requires divorced parents to establish a collaborative plan of care, even though their relationship is ending. Our clinicians can help you to resolve your co-parenting conflicts and produce a satisfying co-parenting relationship in the aftermath of separation and divorce.

Step-parenting: Bringing a step-parent into a child’s world can be challenging. Often parents are unsure of how to integrate the step-parent into the child’s world. The role of the step-parent requires clarification in a manner in which the child’s relationship with both of their parents is not harmed in any way. Step-parents have a role to play in their stepchildren’s lives, but the process of integration is crucial to how this relationship will evolve. Psychologists and clinicians at CFIR are skilled in supporting you to develop a healthy blended family environment.

Read more about our Child, Adolescent & Family Psychology Service.

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