The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

Everything listed under: Couples Therapy

  • Tantrums: Part Deux

    More Tantrum advice

    "To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today." -Unknown (www.parenting.com)

    Let's talk more about tantrums. Can there really be too much information about this topic? Here are a few things to consider from the physiological angle of behavior in children:

    • 90% of brain development occurs as early as before age 5
    • Full development of the brain occurs by age 25
    • Critical period of life/brain development occurs between age 5 and puberty
    • Last part of brain to develop is the frontal lobe – brain’s top executive functioning
    • “Neurons that fire together wire together.” (Hebb’s axiom)

    Source: Psychology Today     

    Remember: A child’s brain is like a house under construction.

    Let’s get into Dr. Thomas Phelan’s 1-2-3 Magic program. Here are some things to consider, institute techniques and manage parents’ behaviors:

    1. Counting: 1-2-3, then take 5

    2. Kids are NOT little adults

    3. Don’t engage in a power struggle

    4. Be a united front with the other parent

    5. Your authority is non-negotiable

    6. Routine, routine, routine

    7. Time-Outs and Reverse Time-Outs

    8. No spanking (that’s a parental temper tantrum)

    9. Be the master of “quick exit”

    10. Use tantrums/behavioral outbursts as teachable moments

    These tenets can be found in Dr. Phelan’s books and on his website. We at Meghan L. Reitz & Assoc. use this program consistently with our young clients and their families. 

    Be sure to be a role model, live your own life, let your children love you and work on your relationship with your significant other. Being an effective parent means being a healthy adult. We cannot be successful in navigating a child’s emotions and behaviors if we do not take care of ourselves.

  • On Love

    On Love

    Attention couples! Let’s talk “love.” Are you struggling to connect with your partner? Has the spark faded? Feeling disengaged or complacent? Then you’ve come to the right place. 

    Our society has done a number on us in terms of our expectations for romance. Fairy tales are what play out in movies and things seem to “just work out” without much effort or energy by the characters. Love seems to be this euphoric wonderland. But what about reality? What about the struggles of life and the impact those have on a relationship? Mounting deadlines at school or work, raising children, family obligations- where does the romance fit in? 

    Like anything that is important or takes a priority in our life, it takes time and effort. We can’t expect a plant to grow without sunlight, water and nourishing soil. The same goes for our relationships. Once the “honeymoon” period wears off in a relationship, the flaws that we used to consider cute and endearing become annoying and sometimes even off-putting. There’s a fine line between lust and love. It gets blurred. And humans don’t have linear emotions. We are complicated beings with a whole lot going on in those heads of ours. 

    So how do we foster our relationships? How do we regain what we feel we’ve lost? Is it possible to repair what we see as broken? The good news is that we can take both proactive and even retroactive measures to address these questions. Here are a few tips if you are in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship: 

    • Be honest- build the foundation of your relationship from a solid place. 
    • Be mindful of your expectations- gut check how you feel things are going. Something doesn’t feel right? Listen and address. Have too high of expectations? You’ll always be disappointed. 
    • Pace yourself- have you heard of the phrase “fools rush in?” It’s easy to dive head-first into a relationship, confusing love with lust and moving things along at a speedy pace. Slow down. Enjoy moment to moment. 
    • Balance- don’t give up your family and friends. Try to balance time spent with your significant other while also fostering your already existing relationships. 

    What about those of us who have been in a long-term relationship and things seem fizzled out? Let’s touch on some ideas to reignite the spark: 

    • Know your partner- do you know your partner’s hopes and dreams? Likes and dislikes? Get to know them again. 
    • Communicate- healthy communication is the key to “getting” your partner. Do you tend to blame or be defensive? Try empathy and active listening instead.
    • Attune- join with your partner. Be present with him/her and be interested in what he/she is saying or doing.
    • Date your partner- carve out time to spend with your partner. The kids have gone to bed? Perfect. Check-in with each other. How are things going in the relationship? Play a boardgame. Fold laundry together. Do something and connect!

    As these are just a few thoughts on love and relationships, if you need a heavy duty tune-up, reach out to a couples therapist who can help you more successfully navigate your relationship. Sometimes we need a little outside help to lead us down the right path. 

    “The grass is greener where you water it.” - Neil Barringham 

    Resources: The Gottman Institute, Emotionally Focused Therapy with Dr. Sue Johnson

  • How to Slow Down a Heated Situation

    Ever felt a little out of control or that you were having an out of body experience when angry or really upset? This is actually somewhat of a common feeling that all of us have at one time or another when we are feeling extreme stress, pressure, or anger. Our emotional mind takes over and the logical takes a vacation. When we become extremely upset, we tend to not think clearly, say things we don't mean, and maybe even behave out of character in a negative way.

    The first thing to remind yourself is that everyone gets angry. It's a very normal and acceptable emotion to have. We are taught that anger is "bad" or should somehow get stuffed inside. The real issue is how we deal with this very real and human feeling.

    Second, ask yourself if you fit into one of these categories?

    1. Confrontational- You like to resolve things right at the moment; it's difficult for you to leave your partner, friend, family member, etc. time to think about how he/she wants to deal with something; you want a quick fix; you're impatient.
    2. Avoidant- You would rather avoid the problem; you tend to shut down in arguments or confrontations; you have difficulty coming up with solutions and hope the issue will "just go away;" you feel attacked when someone is angry or upset.

    If you tend to fit into one of these categories, most likely you have a partner or SOMEONE in your life that is exactly the opposite. When these two types of individuals are trying to hash out an issue, you can see how this can get "heated" very quickly. In fact, it's quite common that we usually have a romantic relationship with someone who is the opposite of the category that we fit into.

    Here are some "Rules of Thumb" to keep in mind and utilize to slow it down a notch:

    • Identify and recognize if you tend to be avoidant or confrontational.
    • Identify and recognize if the other person tends to be avoidant or confrontational.
    • Work on equilibrium- if you tend to be confrontational, work on managing your anxiety and allowing the other person time to come back to you; if you tend to be avoidant, work on giving yourself an expectation to come back to the other person in a reasonable time frame to cope with the issue (use this time to make notes or collect your thoughts)
    • Take a TIME OUT- when we are emotionally charged we will not resolve much. Calling a time out and a time in can be very important to give each person time to calm down and come back to a more logical state of mind.
    • Call a TIME IN- don't forget to come back together. Hoping the problem will just go away will help ensure the problem will keep coming back again and again- and probably be worse than before.
    • BREATHE- we forget to breathe when we are angry and frustrated. Take some deep breaths.
    • Writing down what's troubling you can help you collect and organize your thoughts.
    • Slow the conversation down by stopping thinking about what YOU'RE GOING TO SAY NEXT and instead FOCUS ON WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING and then respond.
    • Remind yourself that most people have good intentions and speak out of hurt and don't tend to be malicious. Do you love this person? Do you care for this person? Remind yourself that we often speak out of anger because the underlying emotion is hurt, sadness, or disappointment.
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