Monthly Archives: September, 2017

Do Holidays Make You Think You Have Fallen down a Rabbit Hole?


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Online Art Coaching Group To Create New Holiday Memories

hot air balloons at sunset colemanlifecoaching.comCreate new holiday memories! Make new friends in the comfort of your own home. Use art projects to develop holiday plans that please you. Be supported and encouraged. Become true to yourself before and during the holiday season

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Holidays for Adults with Unhappy Holiday Memories

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Self-Care to Reduce Holiday Stress

Yesterday I went to physical therapy. Yes, physical therapy. AGAIN.

There were beautiful huge pumpkins decorating the waiting room. One on each side of the door. Today is a day in the last week of September.

Halloween is at the end of next month!

The holidays are coming! Thanksgiving movies are being advertised on television. Christmas music will soon be playing everywhere. Homes, schools, and offices are decorating.

Beautiful mouthwatering candy and cookies are tempting the most patient dieter. “Tis the season to be jolly”. Or is it?

This brings up memories. Happy memories or unhappy ones. Everyone experiences holiday stress. Yet people with unhappy childhoods experience sometimes massive holiday stress.

This blog is for you. I’m writing for each and every one of you whose childhood memories are unhappy ones.

I wish to discuss a myth. This fable suggests that all you need to do is let go. Let go of bad memories. Just decide to forget about it.

That’s not the case. People say, “Just go laugh and play; you’ll feel better.

Or “Enjoy the moment.”

“Forget the past.”

These false ideas make your holidays more difficult. Stressful.

People expect child abuse to be over when you grow up. You are expected to pick up with grit and a smile. Then carry on from the most stressful memories.

You were invisible before, but now you don’t exist. People expect you to disappear into the mainstream of society and have no problems with life at all.

People assume you will just deal with it all the time, but the pressure on you is worse around the holidays. All around you are expressions of happiness and joy.

Movies, music, stores, and other people are expressing happy feelings. You place expectations on yourself and create more holiday stress. You tell yourself; “be jolly.

Happiness is an expectation and a pressure on you. Instead, you feel like Scrooge. More stress.

When you laugh and play, you feel your innermost feelings. For a person with a happy fulfilling personal history, this is wonderful. You’ll remember Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other family holidays past with fond and pleasant memories.

Sure, you have had problems in your life; but the overall picture of your personal history is mellow. You’ll remember smells, sounds, and people with warmth, joy, and feelings of anticipation.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional household, holidays were more likely to be chaotic. You lived holiday stress.

All days were chaotic, but the holidays were worse.

Many people have memories of dad or mom drunk and violent or weepy or sloppy sentimental. There are memories of dire poverty with no food or heat or furniture. Your parents might have traded your Christmas presents for drugs. Or you were beaten senseless by your drunken parent or molested by that weird Uncle So and So.

Christmas and other holidays bring up feelings and memories from the most painful events of your life.

Here are some suggestions to help you take care of yourself.

  • Tell yourself your truths.

What truths? You might ask. Your truths are those thoughts and feelings you have in the privacy of your own mind. Your truth is what happened to you in your lifetime.

Your truth consists of your beliefs, needs, wants, and ideas. You probably don’t voice them. You might not even allow yourself to acknowledge them. However, you do hear them.

If you allow yourself to know your truths, you will be able to make a holiday plan that fits your needs. You can make good decisions based on who you are, what you have been through and what exactly you need from yourself.

  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel.

Tell yourself that you are normal to feel the way you feel. Acknowledge that you have a right to feel exactly as you feel about these holidays. Remind yourself that anyone with your specific history would feel exactly as you do.

  • Try to find ways to give your approval to yourself.

Make yourself right for who you are instead of wrong. If it is normal for you to feel painful feelings during the holidays, you don’t have to pretend to be jolly. If you don’t have to pretend to be jolly, you can find healthy ways to comfort yourself.

  • Ask yourself what kind of Holiday you would like.

As an adult, you can do for yourself what you could not do in childhood. You have a wide range of options to choose from.

  • You can give yourself a traditional holiday.
  • You can ignore the holidays altogether.
  • You can spend your holidays in service to others.
  • You could spend your holiday with a church of your choice.
  • There is no correct way of having holidays.
  • You can look at all the different aspects of each celebration; then pick and choose the activities that suit you.
  • The point here is to listen to yourself.
  • Take care of yourself based on your truth, your feelings and what you want.

Decide to parent yourself. Comfort yourself with what you need.

Keep yourself safe from harm. Be kind to yourself. This may be the most difficult step in self-care.

  • Whenever you make any change in your behavior, you will run into resistance.

Resistance is sneaky. Sometimes it’s just a sense of irritation. Other times, it’s a nightmare. I often feel sick when getting ready to do something difficult. Resistance is within yourself and also from other people. This too is normal.

Accept that you will fight yourself when taking care of you. And, then proceed to do just that. Fight yourself to take care of you.

  • Taking care of yourself is a long learning process.

All that is required is that you make an attempt. Each effort, each trial for self-care is progress. Your attempts will help you relieve your holiday stress. You can create new memories for yourself. Memories that suit you and meet your needs.

Best wishes to you. Stay safe!

Do you have thoughts about how you can reduce your upcoming holiday stress?

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Your Name Is Not Hurricane: Help Children Cope with Traumatic Experiences.

river-2576847_1920Hurricanes Are Horrible but You Aren’t.

I was not in the hurricane zone. I watched it on television. I have experienced my own severe trauma. And spent countless hours with children who experienced a variety of traumas.

With all the drama on television regarding the current storms, it’s easy for people to assume that you, your family, and your children will be damaged forever by this experience. That’s not true.

Admittedly, it’s awful to be in a situation where you fear for your life. And terrible to be displaced, depending upon others for your basic needs. Everything people have experienced in these current hurricanes is horrific, but doesn’t have to forever damage them and ruin their lives.

You Can Become Resilient and Help You Child Do the Same.

Resilience means you bounce back, adapt or adjust to whatever comes. You can nurture resilience in your child.

Many people say something like “I can’t do that! I’m not strong enough.” They think people who overcome the worst tragedies are somehow different from them. But that’s not true.

It’s a myth that overcomers have special qualities. They’re not special. And they don’t have unique qualities.

They are just like you or I.

Resilient Behaviors

What they do is also ordinary. You see these behaviors every day. People create social support systems that meet their basic emotional and physical needs. Resilient people develop habits that allow them to roll with the punches and come out on top. Children become resilient when they connect to adults who care for them, listen to them, teach them to manage difficult feelings, and love them.

A Hurricane Doesn’t Have to Cause PTSD

People assume that because you’ve had a horrific experience, the trauma damages you. They believe you are tainted, or forever marked by the experience. I wrote about adult trauma in my article, Trauma Wellness

Your child doesn’t have to be damaged either. It’s a big experience. And it requires a great deal out of everyone. But it doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your life or the life of your child.

Yes, This Is Difficult and Painful for You.

Parents who tend to their children in a trauma or tragedy do double and maybe even quadruple duty. You have so many pressing life problems to solve. Then you have to tend to your own painful feelings. You turn around and see your child’s feelings. Their feelings make you more aware of your own. Your child needs your help.

Try to accept that it’s natural for your child’s feelings to be uncomfortable to you. Know that your children’s play may upset you. It can and probably will remind you of your experiences in the hurricane.

Your child may lose newly developed skills. For example, if your toddler was toilet trained, they might need diapers again. This needs patience. Those skills will come back.

One of the most difficult things to do is to allow your child the space to explore their own unique return to normal. To try new or old behavior and experiences. Try to offer support without overprotection or restriction.

Children Express Themselves Through Art and Play.

It is normal for a child to create games, pictures and stories about a hurricane. Be prepared to talk to your child about the hurricane. There are inexpensive books you can read to them, games you can play, and art work you can do together. If you have no books or electricity, you can make up stories. Just make sure that the endings of each story carry a positive message of everyone survives and thrives. Try to include feelings they have and how they managed those feelings. Also consider stories that show how children solved the hurricane problems.

It might take creativity to discover art materials. They are all around you. Some people work their art with “found materials.” Found materials include anything in the world around you. Leaves, rocks, grass, sticks, beads, and even water can be a vehicle for art.

The art doesn’t have to be permanent. You don’t need glue, paper or pencils. Found objects can create a story on the floor of a shelter for you and your child to talk about. Then your child can keep the objects or throw them away.

All these activities will help you communicate with your child.

Children Need to Feel Safe in the World Again.

This, too, can be difficult for you. A hurricane seems to take away your safety. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. Here, too, you are doing double duty. You will need to seek a way to think about how to feel safe again yourself. You’ll find your own solution to this as your work out your feelings.

Your child will be working on the same issues. They could become clingy, refuse to let you out of their sight, or have trouble sleeping. They might cry a lot.

One way to help your child is to reassure them you’re still present. You are still you. You love them every bit as much as you always did. Point out all the things that are going right in your lives. You might have to stretch yourself to do this. But everyone has some good things at any point in time.

Children Need Emotion Skills.

You can help them learn to soothe themselves when agitated, angry or afraid. Ongoing conversations with your child about the hurricane and all the life problems can help them learn from you. Use the language of emotion. Naming your emotions and theirs teaches your child the words they need for themselves.

By your actions, you can teach self-soothing, problem solving, and coping strategies. With interaction, you can teach your child the names of their feelings and all of the skills they need to master the hurricane experience. This gives them a greater sense of control over those out-of-control feelings and their lives.

Within the chaos of hurricane aftermath, create a specific time and space to communicate about the hurricane and their feelings. Talk to them about the hurricane and make sure you hear them. This leaves a child more grounded and centered. It’s the same for adults. Everyone needs to be heard. It’s one of the greatest needs humans have.

Find a way for your child to express their feelings that fits the circumstances around them. Help them learn to cope with those feelings. Lead them in solving the problems that bring out those feelings.

Books and books have been written on subjects like this. This is a short article summarizing a few ideas.

You can view the references I used to write this here.

If you would like coaching on how to help your child, contact me.

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.



The Best Way Out Is Through!


The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

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Abuse-Proofing Your Children: Adult Predators

children-817365_1280Early in my graduate training, I stumbled over some great information and advice in my studies on all aspects of trauma and child abuse. One author wrote that parents should tell your children the following. “If someone tells you not to tell your parents, they are not your friend. Come and tell me right away!

So I did. And he did.

There was an older grandfather in the neighborhood who was showing the boys pornography. My studies taught me that this is a clue. An early strategy pedophiles often use to seduce young children.

I praised my son for trusting me. The solution was easy. My child could play with that other child at our house.

Here’s another example. A local school district offered a child abuse prevention program in all of their elementary schools. Not too long afterward, a youth leader attempted to molest several young children at a sleep-away camp. They did what they were taught. They all said “no.” Then repeated their “NO” more loudly in the face of increased pressure from the predator.

These kids understood what to do. The children realized they’d be believed. They also learned they could stand up to an adult who wanted to invade their space. They believed they would not be punished for refusing to follow an adult’s wrong directions.

They told their parents when they arrived home. Their parents believed them, then reported the pedophile to their local police department.

These children were not molested or traumatized. Instead, the predator went to jail. This is a successful example of abuse proofing children.

People think any and all abuse attempts will damage their children. It’s not true. Abuse proofing your child prevents the abuse. It also prevents the damage.

Here is what you need to know to abuse proof your own child.

  • Abusers can be strangers AND people you know.

As loving parents, we fear the stranger who could harm our children. However, according to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, most abused children are abused by someone they know.

  • Child molesters and abusers look for opportunity.

This means they plant themselves where children are available. Predators go out of their way to ingratiate themselves with the parents of their child victims. Often they worked very hard to win YOUR trust. Don’t give it to them. You’ll see this by instinct. Trust that instinct.

  • Children own their private spaces just like adults.

A pedophile will make slow, yet deliberate and inappropriate attempts to invade the private spaces of their potential child victim. Teach them their right to their physical space.

  • A child’s sense of personal space and privacy changes as he or she ages.

A young child learns about good touches and bad touches. They might learn about the private parts of their body that no one is supposed to touch. As they grow, they might learn about self-expression with the right to their own ideas, thoughts and feelings.

  • Children sense violation the same as adults do.

As adults, you can understand that uncomfortable feeling you experience when someone stands too close to you, asks too many personal questions or actually takes something out of your purse or off your desk. As adults, you can learn to speak up.

  • This rule is a little more complicated for children. They live with less control over their lives than adults.

So, you might want to begin protecting your child by telling him or her to tell you if another person makes them uncomfortable.

  • Children need “NO” type words you, as parents, can accept.

Loving parents want their children to do well in life, develop friends, and be successful in school. Most parents hope to raise children that learn manners and proper behavior. Find a way within your family values for your child to say “NO” to the earliest invasion of a human predator.

  • Develop your own balance between teaching your children proper behavior and teaching your children self-protection.

This is where intuition, values, good judgment and parenting skills are vitally important. You have your home rules along with your religious and moral values. You, as parent, can use your beliefs as your guide to teaching your child how to express themselves.

  • Children need to tell someone about this violation.

Predators are difficult enough for adults to handle! Since children have fewer skills to handle predators, they need adult assistance. They have to be able to tell you.

  • They need you to hear them when they tell you.

This is probably the most painful and difficult part. Not “Auntie Nameless” or “Uncle So and So”!

  • Children should keep telling trusted adults until an adult hears them.

Teach your children to come to you. As you do, teach them to get help for themselves wherever they are and whenever they need help.

Children learn very fast when you talk directly and listen to them about the things that bother them. Try it! You’ll be glad you did.

Feel free to dialogue by using the reply form below.

Contact me for parent coaching to abuse proof your child.


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References for Your Name Is Not Hurricane

These are the resources used for Your Name Is Not Hurricane:

Aburn, G., Gott, M., & Hoare, K. (2016). What is resilience? An integrative review of the empirical literature. Journal of advanced nursing, 72(5), 980-1000.

Delamater, A. M., & Applegate, E. B. (1999). Child development and post-traumatic stress disorder after hurricane exposure. Traumatology, 5(3), 20-27.

Denham, S., & Kochanoff, A. T. (2002). Parental contributions to preschoolers’ understanding of emotion. Marriage & Family Review, 34(3-4), 311-343.

Dray, J., Bowman, J., Wolfenden, L., Campbell, E., Freund, M., Hodder, R., & Wiggers, J. (2015). Systematic review of universal resilience interventions targeting child and adolescent mental health in the school setting: review protocol. Systematic Reviews, 4(1), 186-214.

Gottman, J. M., Katz, L. F., & Hooven, C. (1996). Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology, 10(3), 243-268.

Havighurst, S. S., Harley, A., & Prior, M. (2004). Building preschool children’s emotional competence: A parenting program. Early Education & Development, 15(4), 423-448.

Havighurst, S. S., Wilson, K. R., Harley, A. E., Kehoe, C., Efron, D., & Prior, M. R. (2013). “Tuning into Kids”: Reducing young children’s behavior problems using an emotioncoaching parenting program. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 44(2), 247-264.

Houston, J. B., First, J., Spialek, M. L., Sorenson, M. E., & Koch, M. (2016). Public disaster communication and child and family disaster mental health: a review of theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence. Current psychiatry reports, 18(6), 54-63.

Jaycox, L. H., Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., Walker, D. W., Langley, A. K., Gegenheimer, K. L., … & Schonlau, M. (2010). Children’s mental health care following Hurricane Katrina: A field trial of trauma‐focused psychotherapies. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23(2), 223-231.

Kilmer, R. P., & Gil‐Rivas, V. (2010). Exploring posttraumatic growth in children impacted by Hurricane Katrina: Correlates of the phenomenon and developmental considerations. Child development, 81(4), 1211-1227.

La Greca, A. M., Silverman, W. K., Vernberg, E. M., & Prinstein, M. J. (1996). Symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children after Hurricane Andrew: a prospective study. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 64(4), 712-723.

Lunkenheimer, E. S., Shields, A. M.,& Cortina, K. S. (2007). Parental emotion coaching and dismissing in family interaction. Social Development, 16(2), 232-248.

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-268.

Madden, W., Green, S., & Grant, A. M. (2011). A pilot study evaluating strengths-based coaching for primary school students: Enhancing engagement and hope. International Coaching Psychology Review, 6(1), 71-83.

Oaklander, V. (1988). Windows to our children: A Gestalt therapy approach to children and adolescents. Center for Gestalt Development.

Oaklander, V. (2006). Hidden treasure: A map to the child’s inner self. Karnac Books.

Shaw, J. A., Applegate, B., Tanner, S., Perez, D., Rothe, E., Campo-Bowen, A. E., & Lahey, B. L. (1995). Psychological effects of Hurricane Andrew on an elementary school population. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34(9), 1185.

Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American psychologist, 56(3), 216.

Swenson, C. C., Saylor, C. F., Powell, M. P., Stokes, S. J., Foster, K. Y., & Belter, R. W. (1996). Impact of a natural disaster on preschool children: Adjustment 14 months after a hurricane. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 66(1), 122.

Williamson, V., Creswell, C., Butler, I., Christie, H., & Halligan, S. L. (2016). Parental responses to child experiences of trauma following presentation at emergency departments: a qualitative study. British Medical Journal, 6(11).