Dear Apparently Parent!
Welcome to the Q&A sessions of The Apparently Parent Podcast! In these sessions, I'm answering questions that were submitted by listeners just like you. Want to submit your own questions? Click here and fill the form.
The question in this episode was sent to me anonymously by a mother who wrote:
After years of IVF I got my princess now I can’t stop worrying about her and my husband doesn’t share my fears and doesn’t help much and I feel like I’m alone in this. We fight a lot and I don’t know what will happen to us and what the implications are on our daughter, seeing her parents fight all the time.
What a wonderful question! Listen to the episode and discover how to deal with worries yourself.
- Why we worry
- How to regard our worries as just thoughts
- Two simple tricks to reduce your worrisome thoughts
- [05:03] Your Worries are Thoughts
- [08:39] Tip #1 – “My Mind is Telling Me”
- [12:45] Tip #2 – Positivity Journal
- [15:29] Some Thoughts About Couples Therapy
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Hi, this is Eran and today's session is a special one because this is the first q&a session or what I like to call it, Dear Apparently Parent.
I have a question submitted to me by one of you and I'm going to answer it. And without further ado, let's cue the intro and continue after it.
Okay, so as I've said, this is Dear Apparently Parent parent. And in these episodes, I'm gonna answer your questions, questions that you have submitted to me. Questions about parenting, about your children, whatever you can write to me and soon I will tell you how.
But before we move to today's questions, I just want to say this. And it's important for me to state that these are not therapy or counseling sessions. Of course, I'm talking to you, I'm not talking with anybody and there are no guests on these episodes. I'm fully aware that in a podcast, you can't get into all the little details of parental consultations and have an ongoing process like I can do in a private practice. Because it's just not the same thing.
And to tell you the truth, that's not the goal here anyway. My wish is that by listening to these episodes, you'll learn more about your own parenting even if it's not a question that you have submitted. You can identify with it sometimes and you can learn about your children, about yourself, learn something from it that you can maybe take into your own parenting. And I think that the question that we have today is a good example of that.
So I just want to tell you how you can send me your questions, the best way to do it is just go to apparentlyparent.com/podcast. And you will see there at the bottom of the page, a form that you can click on and you can fill up the form and send your questions to me. You can do it anonymously or not, whatever you choose is fine. And if you're on Instagram and you feel like it, you can reach out to me over there. And just search for apparentlyparent, I'm there, you can always send me a direct message and I will get back to you.
So today's question was submitted to me by a mother of a one year old girl anonymously. And she says: "After years of IVF, I got my princess. Now I can't stop worrying about her. And my husband doesn't share my fears and doesn't help much and I feel like I'm alone in this. We fight a lot and don't know what will happen to us and what are the implications on our daughter, seeing her parents fight all the time".
So that was what she wrote to me. And, first of all, dear mother, I want to thank you for reaching out and sending me this question. And I must admit that reading your question really moved me. And I want to tell you why.
When I was in university, in my master's thesis, I wrote a research about the transition into grandparenthood, not into parenthood, into grandparenthood. But I had to study a lot about the transition into parenthood. And one thing that really stood up and was really clear, is that transitioning into being a parent is never ever easy. You can rarely expect what's going to happen. And yeah, it's almost stating the obvious, right? But the thing is that you can never really expect what's going to happen and even if you read all the books and all the blogs in the world, you never know what you're going to get. There are many, many surprises.
So I can only imagine what it feels like going into this parenting phase of your life after years of trying by yourselves and then by IVF, which is never easy. And I can only guess how excited you were when you knew you’re pregnant and how you felt when you carried her inside of you and all the hopes and dreams and wishes you probably put into this.
And then one year after you got your little princess, you find yourself constantly worried and worse, you find yourself alone.
So first things first. First of all, I want you to know that you're not alone in these worries. When I meet parents, I ask them what they are worried about. Sometimes they tell me that they're not really worried. And then I'm kind of worried because being worried is such an integral part of being a mother or a father, right?
There's a famous quote by writer Elizabeth Stone and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember it correctly. But she said that being a parent is like having your heart outside of your own body all the time. So how can you not worry, right?
But the real question is whether you worry too much and what do we mean by too much? It's really subjective, right? But for me, it boils down into the question of functioning. If you find yourself constantly worried, to the extent that it bothers your daily life, with your child in your work, in your marriage, this is where things start to get problematic because all these worries, running through your head all the time, they kind of prevent you from doing what you want to do and feeling what you would like to feel and being totally present with your daughter or with your husband, etc.
Now, you didn't share with me what you were worried about. What are the contents of your thoughts, of your worries. And obviously it could be regular natural worries about your child that every parent has. But maybe you have some thoughts that are more troubling for you and about her future, about yourself as a mother, etc. So between you and yourself, you need to think whether this is the kind of worry that every parent has.
And if you don't know what worries other parents have, a good option is to talk with other mothers that you know, or just hop on Facebook groups of parenting and share a little bit of your worries over there. And even if you don't share anything, you can read what other people write about. It can give you some kind of glimpse into the worries of other parents so you can kind of know if your worries are the daily quote unquote regular warriors or is it something else.
However, I want to share this thought with you. Your worries are thoughts that spring into your mind. And as hard as it is to remember that sometimes, I want you to remember that thoughts are just thoughts. I'm not saying that your thoughts and your worries are not valid. Of course they are. They are valid. They are substantial. But however, we need to remember that our minds tend to tangle themselves with many negative thoughts in a way that makes us feel like sometimes there's nothing else but worry, and bad negative ideas and thoughts, etc.
And I always find myself telling parents that our brains, our minds, are like Velcro for negative thoughts and like Teflon coating for positive thoughts. So what does it mean? It means that when a positive thought comes up, it usually goes away rather quickly. It doesn't stick in our minds. But when a negative thought comes, well, oh boy, does it stick around, right?
Because you try to unthink it or forget about it, but it always kind of creeps back in. It actually happens for a reason and the reason is it helps our survival. If you remember in a previous episode when we talked about mindful parenting, that was episode number three - and if you didn't listen to it I'll link to it in the show notes of this episode - I talked about how our brains have this job of making sure that everything around us is okay and there is no danger around us. So this is why our minds are kind of in a constant lookout for anything suspicious, anything dangerous, and this is actually a good thing that makes us safer.
However, in our modern world, there are many dangers that were present in the past like I don't know, lions, etc, that are not really present in our future. However, this vigilant mind is still vigilant, okay, we still have this innate, unconscious tendency to look for danger. And this is why our minds tend to focus more on the negative things around us.
And many researchers have shown that people who suffer from anxiety have an even bigger negative bias they tend to notice. For example, they notice scary faces a lot quicker and more often than people who don't suffer from anxiety.
So this is just to show how our minds are constantly looking for things that may happen and this is why we see bad things coming up in our minds and it's hard for us to let them go and we need to actively do something in order to let them go.
And before I move into those active things that you can do, I want to say a little bit in the second thing that you said that is hard for you. And that's how you're left alone with the worries. You say that your husband doesn't share your worries, and he doesn't help much so you feel alone, and I'm sure it's really hard for you because being left alone is a really hard place to be in, especially in the first year of being a parent where everything is so new and overwhelming.
But I just want to say that your husband doesn't have to share your worries. Maybe sometimes it's even for the best because it can give a different perspective into your relationship, into your shared parenthood. However, if he has a hard time validating your worries, if he only tries to make you quote unquote un-worry or always trying to fix things and telling you don't worry about it, it's going to be fine, etc, of course you will feel alone and it's not going to work.
So I have no idea if he's listening to this. But if you are listening to this, hubby, let me just say this: you cannot make someone unworry. The best thing you can do is to validate her worries and it's true also for the relationship between parents and children. If your children are worried about something, it's almost futile to tell them there is nothing to worry about.
Okay, first of all, validate their worries, say something about the truth in the worry. That you can see that they are really worried and you can accept the worry and then you can move on to argue with the thought or try to view the thought in a different perspective, etc.
Validating a worry doesn't mean that you have to agree or identify with it, okay? You just need to be there for your child, for your spouse, etc. And remember, and always remember, worries are just thoughts and thoughts, they come and go like waves in the ocean, they come in they go. As they come in, they come again and they come again.
However, you can learn how to make those worries come less often, or stay shorter periods of time, etc. So now I'm coming back to you mom. But this goes for everybody. I want to share two techniques that can really help you deal with those thoughts with those worries.
The first technique is something that I call “my mind is telling me” and the second technique is the positivity journal. Okay, so what's the first technique? What's my mind is telling me? It's a simple and seemingly stupid exercise that you can do in your mind whenever you find yourself worrying about something whenever you find yourself thinking a negative thought. And what I want you to do is this. You have a worrisome thought about the future of your child, for example, you look at her and she's a little princess, and she's so cute. And you think, “Wow, she's going to get in school and not get along with other kids”. So this is a thought you can argue with, you can tell yourself if it's true or not, because we can’t look into the future.
So what I want you to do is to tell yourself this, “my mind is telling me that…”, okay? So in this example, my mind is telling me that my daughter is gonna get into school in a couple of years and she's not gonna get along with anyone. Okay? Or another example, my mind is telling me that my daughter sees me and my husband arguing all the time, and she's never gonna have a stable relationship because of it. Or my mind is telling me that I'm a horrible mother because whatever, etc.
Now, again, I'm not arguing with any of those thoughts. I'm not trying to convince you that you're a perfect mother, okay? And am I not trying to convince you that your daughter is gonna be perfect, when she's gonna get into school in a couple of years, etc. Okay, but what I want you to do is, I want you to almost literally try and take this thought away from your brain, from your mind, and move it a little bit to the side.
In the psychological literature about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy it's known as diffusion. It's like you’re fused with your worries. And we are kind of diffusing the thoughts from your mind. So again, it sounds stupid and sounds funny. But if you repeat this kind of exercise, my mind is telling me again and again and again, something tends to click in you will find it easier with time to have the worries go away more quickly.
Another thing you can add is “thank you mind”. And again, it may sound silly, but try this sometimes. “Wow, my mind is telling me that... Thank you mind for trying to protect me with these thoughts”. In this statement, there's an acknowledgment of the place of the mind that's trying to protect you without really believing and fusing into the thought and having the thoughts encompass you and engulfing you, and preventing you from seeing the world as it is.
Now, the second technique is the positivity journal. And again, this may sound simplistic or even stupid, but I want you to try it for a couple of days, a couple of weeks. And what I want you to do is to have a journal, a simple journal, you don't have to buy anything fancy, you can just take a simple notebook or notepad or even in the notes app in your phone. And every day, preferably in the evening, at the end of the day, try to write three things that happened in your day that were positive. And why is it important? If you remember I talked about the negativity bias. We talked about how our minds are like Velcro for negative thoughts and a Teflon coating for positive thoughts. So what we're doing with the positivity journal is we're trying to strengthen the positivity bias. We want our minds to stick longer to the positive thoughts, okay, and sometimes we really, really have to remind ourselves of the positive things that happen in our lives.
So as you're listening to this right now stop for a second and think what are the good things that happened to you today. And it doesn't have to be anything grand, it can be something simple like, my boy got up from his bed this morning and he gave me a hug, okay? Or I listened to excellent music on the way to work, or I had the wonderful coffee, or I had fun playing with my daughter, etc. Okay, it doesn't have to be anything grandiose or anything unique. Try to find three positive things that happened in your day. If you find more than three, that's great.
And never expect that this kind of exercise will make you feel better instantly. Okay? You have to dial in everyday, and try to make a habit out of it. Okay, before you go to bed, open your journal, open your notes app, whatever, and write those three things. And with time, your mind will drift more into those positive places, you will notice more of the positive stuff that's going on with you and your daughter during the day and you will retain them and you will remember them better. And then you will be more able to resist the worries.
Now there's one more thing that you asked about, and that’s how your fighting and how it can affect your child. Fighting and arguing can be a part of a relationship. It can be a part of a healthy relationship. And remember, it can happen a lot in that first year of parenthood because you both acclimate to your new roles, you and your husband are acclimating to something that is totally new, and totally overwhelming and you don't sleep well, etc.
But the question is, what do you do after the fight, and that's true for everyone and especially for parents, when they have a fight between themselves or with their children. The most important thing is not not to fight, it is how you fight in what you do after the fight, can you talk it out? Can you do something to repair the rupture that happened between you two guys, that's the important part.
And if it's hard for you to communicate in those situations, I would suggest that maybe you should think about seeing a couples therapist that can help you communicate better in those moments of stress. And I know what you may think. But going into couples therapy doesn't mean anything bad or wrong about you or your relationship. Couples therapy is not just for couples who are about to break up as many people may think, on the contrary. A good couples therapist will help you get out of those cycles of arguing and fighting and he or she will help you build better communications between you and your husband. And then all those arguing may subside and yeah, you will have and disagreements etc. But you will handle them better, which will have a better effect on your child. She will see her parents are not arguing and fighting all the time. She will see them in better harmony. And yes, sometimes maybe disagreeing or even arguing, but the volume would be lower, which is better.
And my personal suggestion is to find someone who is experienced with emotional focus techniques such as EFT, which is emotional focus therapy for couples, or AEDP, which is my own specialization and stands for accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. And it has a variation for couples. And the reason I'm suggesting those emotional focus techniques is because they can give you quick benefits and can teach you quickly how to communicate better between yourselves. And if you need any specific help in how to find someone in those areas, feel free to reach out to me, you can go to apparentlyparent.com you will find a contact form which you can write me or again on Instagram at apparentlyparent, just write me a direct message and I will get back to you and I will see what I can do to help you find someone in you. area.
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The Apparently Parent Podcast
On this show, I share with you my perspectives and experience of parenting and psychology.
Enhance your understanding of the relationship with your child and yourself by learning about attachment, mindful and playful parenting mindset and techniques.
Listen to me sharing my knowledge and experience both as a parent and a therapist, as well as interviews with parenting experts from around the world.
Your Host – Eran Katz
I’m a clinical psychologist and parenting counselor specializing in attachment theory. I’m also the father of two children who are my best parenting teachers.
I believe that parenting is one of the most important jobs we ever do. This is why I created Apparently Parent and The Parenting MAP. My goal in life is to help as many parents as possible become 21st Century Parents, moving from chaos to harmony and building an enduring, meaningful relationship with their children.