Family Conversation Starters: Learning to Recognize and Manage Stress

Family Conversation Starters: Learning to Recognize and Manage Stress

We all experience stress, and naturally want to be able to provide comfort to our loved ones.

This is our responsibility, and what helps us to feel like effective parents and partners. The bigger question is whether you know when your loved ones are distressed or not.

People show stress in different ways and sometimes it’s not always easy to tell. For instance, children who are depressed often don’t look sad, instead they get mad. Active children can get overstimulated and get even more active when they are feeling out of control. Some people get very quiet, some get very loud, some get obnoxious and some get funny. We all experience it and show it in different ways.

Here are some family conversation starters to learn this information, so that we can better read cues and know when to step in and to support one another:

  1. So we all feel calm at times, and we all get stressed out at times. How do you know when you are calm and when you are stressed?
  2. Where do you experience stress? Some people feel it in their bodies, some experience it in their minds, and some in their feelings. How about in your body? (i.e. heart racing, hands and feet sweaty, muscles activated, shallow breathing). Do you experience stress in your thoughts? (i.e. same thoughts over and over again, can’t stop thinking, worrying all the time, overly focused on one thing). Do you experience stress in your feelings? (i.e. sad, tearful, anxious, angry).
  3. What causes you stress? We all have different things that trigger us. Do you feel stress when you’re in trouble? When there is tension in the house? When you are bored? When you are called a certain word? When you feel blamed for something?
  4. How well do we know the members of our family. Who of us gets angry when we are stressed? Who gets super quiet? Who worries the most in our family? Who gets focused and busy? Who can’t stop talking and gets overexcited? Which of us feels it the most in their body? Who gets funny?
  5. When there’s stress in our family, what happens to our relationships?
  6. When “family member A” is stressed, what happens to us? Who notices? Who tries to help? Who gets upset too? Who is affected by it? Who turns away and gets scarce?

We discovered that our middle daughter feels tension. Any time there’s tension in our house, in whatever relationship is present, she feels it. She’s an empath, she dislikes the feeling of tension and would prefer it if everyone was just happy and calm all the time. Once we discovered this, we developed a strategy where she can come and stand close to my husband or I, anytime she feels the pressure. If she squeezes our hand, then it’s her way of saying, “I’m too stressed out and I need help calming down.” This way we know she is experiencing emotional dysregulation and can help her feel supported and calmer and not alone in these times of distress. This can help your child identify those times and feelings, and also help you as a parent better address the situation.

Knowing how our family handles stress can empower us – and cause us to change our interactions. Whether it is reframing a conversation to help prevent stress, or calming your loved one down after they have already experienced stress, knowing what causes them stress and the best way to address it will not only help your family in this crisis, but also with any difficulty to come.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels


A Child’s Anxious Stages and What To Expect Developmentally

A Child’s Anxious Stages and What To Expect Developmentally

As you parent, you come to notice a pattern in your child’s anxious stages (it may even present as clinginess) through their development. It’s helpful to understand why they are going through this. As a resource, I’ve created this guide of natural behaviors to provide a sense of comfort and what to expect through these various phases.

9 months – 12 months

Your infant’s memory is developing and you might start to see your child have “stranger anxiety”. This happens in infants across all cultures. Infants are frightened, withdraw or show distress when they are with unfamiliar people. They now have the ability to compare the faces they see with familiar faces that are in memory, which means they know that they don’t know someone. This can lead to separation anxiety, as they can remember previous separations, and recognize signs of leaving. They also remember feelings of distress. And so they protest the separation, trying to get to parent to stay.

Infants will gradually learn to regulate this. They will also learn that their parent comes back too. As soon as object permanence develops, children can remember their parents internally and feel comfort when they miss them.

18 – 24 months

Separation and fear for the toddler, is necessary for survival, as they practice going off and coming back.

They learn that separations are survivable, reunions can be trusted, and this forms the foundation for confidence in the world.

Toddlers may be more anxious about mom’s attachment, and can be very reactive at this age, because they are developing and realizing that “My parent and I don’t think the same thoughts” and “I can’t control my parent, she has separate thoughts”. Separation and individuation is both exhilarating and frightening. The toddler experiences ambivalence, I want to push mom away, but also want to cling to her. I want to be autonomous and also maintain attachment.

Hopefully this tool helps you as you navigate those first few years and the anxiety including separation anxiety that often come with it. Knowing what your child is probably experiencing will help you know the best ways to address their concerns and needs for their age.

Photo by Andy Kuzma from Pexels
Anxiety Journal Template

Anxiety Journal Template

At the moment your anxiety owns you. But let’s turn the tables and have you own your anxiety! Admit that it’s there, and then start to see how it shows up in your life. The best way to do this, is to track it. Start a daily log, and commit to doing this for a month. I did this about 15 years ago, I tracked my anxiety for 3 months, on a daily basis, and I learned so much about myself. You can create any kind of tracking system, in fact there are very good app’s these days that do it for you.

I believe it’s important to include your sleep cycle. If you are not sleeping well, you simply can’t cope in life, and lack of sleep is bound to affect your mood. People need different amounts of sleep, do you know how many hours your child needs for optimal mental health? Start seeing what their behavior and mood is like after they get different amounts of sleep. Perhaps they still need a nap, or at least some down time during the

Monitoring hydration is essential, children often get nightmares because they are dehydrated, and this can become a cause of anxiety, that is easily remedied with water. Teach your children how much water they should be drinking daily, and create a tracking system so that they can count how many glasses of water they are taking in daily.
Teach them that there are basic building blocks to mental health, and that good sleep, hydration, nutrition, exercise, fresh air and social contact are all big blocks. If they can work these basics into their routine, then they are doing a lot to combat anxiety.

Anxiety can be the result of organic causes or even a symptom of certain food types. Sugar and caffeine are natural antecedents of anxiety, but beyond this, monitor your child’s nutrition to see if there is anything else that is producing behavioral changes. Making sure that children get Fishoil, Vit D and Vit B are also basic ways to ensure their overall health.

The fact is, that feelings don’t come out of nowhere. They show up for a reason, because something has happened, or our body is trying to let us know something.

Starting a daily habit of journaling, will increase their ability to tune in to what is happening in the present moment. Then they will become more aware of what triggers them. And once they know what makes them feel bad, they can start to confront the lies and make different meaning out of information.

Here’s a helpful template to give you guidance as you take those next steps to journal.

Be sure to include the:

SLEEP: Good, Fair, Poor
TOTAL HOURS: 6-7-8-9-10
ENERGY: Good, Fair, Poor

EATING: Good, Fair, Poor
LIQUIDS: Good, Fair, Poor
FEELINGS: Mad, Sad, Scared, Glad

RATE THEM: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
1. What am I feeling?
2. What is my feeling temperature? (How do I feel from 1 – 10, 10 being anxious, 1 being
3. What am I thinking?
4. What’s the proof that it will happen?
5. What’s the proof that it won’t happen?
6. So what if it happens?
7. How can I deal with it?
8. What can I say and do to help me get through this?
9. What’s my feeling temperature now?

I hope this helps aid you in your journey to healing. Anxiety can be crippling and any steps you take to discover more about triggers and patterns can be beneficial. Also please consider Contacting Us to set up an appointment to discuss your journey and ways to move forward!

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

Is _ Okay?

Is _ Okay?

I get asked this question in its various forms, especially in Christian circles, all the time.

Is maturbation, same-sex marriage, sex before marriage, pornography, etc. okay? All these difficult sex conversations can be difficult to answer as a family. Please let me preface this conversation by saying that I am not going to give you an answer at the end of this post. My hope however is to give you a little bit of a road map on how to come to a more comfortable and confident stance by giving you some questions to ask yourself (and your partner). See, when it comes to uncomfortable conversations, often times our first response is to look for a quick yes or no answer – is it okay or not? But in reality, this does little for us in the long term because it doesn’t answer the “why?” part of these conversations, which in my experience, is essential to finding lasting wholeness and creating positive habits. If you take the time to answer “why?” for yourself and your family, regardless of someone else’s opinion, you can stand firmly on yours.

So, how do we get there? First, know that it will hopefully be through a series of conversations, rather than happen overnight. On a couple of these issues, my husband I have spent months talking through their many layers. In some instances, we sought out the counsel of trusted others whose wisdom and guidance helped us find confidence in our positions. The process can be slow, which requires patience and diligence, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. You will find yourself confidently owning your convictions, knowing you put in the work to get there, which makes having conversations with your kids around these topics way less anxiety producing!

Here are some helpful questions to consider as you discuss these (and other) nuanced issues related to sex:

  1. What is your belief in the purpose of sex?

  2. What is your personal experience with _________? Is there any healing that needs to happen around that area?

  3. If you are coming from a faith background, what evidence do you see regarding God’s posture towards it?

  4. Does this action (or acceptance of an action) help you love yourself and others more freely, and does it allow you to love God more deeply and with more of yourself? (Question from Tara Owens of

  5. If it is an action, is this part of our life known? Do we have a support system outside of our family to seek guidance if issues do arise?

I want to acknowledge that these issues are nuanced and complicated in nature, making firm answers hard to find. My hope for you is that this would not bread anxiety but that you would have peace knowing you have done hard work on your journey of seeking truth.

Blessings to you!


Play Therapy Themes

Play Therapy Themes

If you’re wondering how play therapists choose their toys, it’s according to these Play Therapy Themes.

It doesn’t matter how many toys you have, but that you have toy in each category. This gives your child a wide toy choice so that they can express what they need to. If you watch carefully, you might also start to notice different play themes coming out in your child’s play. Look for one of these:

Power and Aggression Themes

Good Guy vs. Bad Guy

Aggressor-Victim (Child as Aggressor or Victim)

Generalized Aggression



Power Overcoming Weakness

Seeking Power/Authority/Wisdom


Family Relationship and Nurturance Themes



Nurturing Others


Failed Nurturance

Self-Neglect or Punishment

Lack of Attachment/Detachment



Exits and Entrances to Family System

Control and Safety Themes





Burying or Drowning











Exploration and Mastery Themes

Sensory/Environment Exploration





Interaction Themes

Building Relationship With Adult

General Positive Interactions

General Negative Interactions




Sexualized Play

Sexual Activities

Sexual Behaviors Directed at Adult

Sexual Curiosity

There is so much when it comes to playing. It’s the beginning of a whole new world. Enjoy it, watch carefully and learn about your kiddo!

Currently Reading: Attached

Currently Reading: Attached

I’ve recently been reading Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help you Find – and Keep – Love, and I’ve been inspired by several passages and exercises I want to share with you that could be helpful for your relationships!

“People tend to become more secure when they are in a relationship with someone secure. Security “priming” – reminding people of security enhancing experiences they’ve had – can help them to create a better sense of security”


“Often our relationships with our pets can be a helpful model for how we handle our adult relationships: “They wake us up, destroy our valuables, and demand our undivided attention, yet we tend to overlook their behaviors and feel positively towards them. We can tap into our attitudes toward our pets as a secure resource within us – we don’t assume our pets are doing things purposefully to hurt us, we don’t hold grudges…”

If you can “be inspired by a secure role model in (your) lives, (you) are often successful at adopting secure ways”

“Summarize the characteristics you would like to adopt. This will become your integrated secure role model.”


“In attachment research, ‘working model’ is a phrase that describes our basic belief system when it comes to romantic relationships- what gets you going, what shuts you down, your attitudes and expectations.”

“Research into the molecular mechanism of memory and learning reveals that whenever we recall a scene – or retrieve a certain memory to our conscious mind – we disrupt it, and by doing so, we alter it forever. Our memories are not like old books in the library, lying there dusty and unchanged; they are rather a living, breathing entity.”

“Taking the inventory is a task that should be done alone. Make sure to set aside enough quiet time to work on it thoroughly, so you really get an accurate depiction of yourself from an attachment perspective.

Start by listing in the left hand Column (1), The names of all your romantic partners, past and present. These can include people you’ve dated briefly. We suggest working vertically, one column at a time. Completing the inventory vertically encourages you to focus less on each particular scenario and to achieve an integrated picture of your working model across relationships. The more information you gather, the better.

In Column 2, write what you remember about the relationships; what it was like and what things stand out most when you try to recall your time together. Once you write down your general recollections of the relationship, Column 3 allows you to take a closer look and identify specific scenarios that contribute to activation/deactivation of your attachment system.

Column 4 asks how you respond to these situations. What did you do? What were you thinking? How did you feel? The lines below the inventory are provided to help you recall those reactions.

Column 5 is a crucial next step. You will need to reassess these experiences from an attachment perspective to gain insight into the issues that affected your relationships. What attachment issues affected your reactions: Protest behavior? Deactivation? Refer to the lists as a guide.

In Column 6, you’re asked to consider ways in which your reaction – now translated into attachment principles – hurts you and gets in the way of your happiness.

Finally, Column 7 prompts you to consider new secure ways of handling these situations using a security-enhancing role. In your life and the secure principles we outline in this book…”