Patricia Featured in Time Magazine Cover Story


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This week (August 12th issue) find me featured in Time Magazines cover story “Having It All Without Having Children”. A woman has a choice to have children, more and more couples are choosing to remain childless. Read Time’s article to learn what research and experts like myself have to say about this important life decision.


Summer Time Activity: Dino/Monster/Robot Feet


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Monster feet

Here’s another summer time activity to give you a chance to use art to bond with your child, and maybe to keep them busy! This technique can be used to make dinosaur, monster, or robot feet!

As a reminder, it’s important when you use art to keep your child’s development in mind.

Appropriate age range is 3-8. 3-4 year olds will need lots of help with constructing these and parents should expect to do a lot of it themselves. 5-8 years will love to design their own feet and construct them. Tissue paper can be cut by the older child if they are patient and wanting to do something more controlled. Other children would rather rip the tissue paper as it can feel more freeing.  Obviously no child in this age range should utilize a hot glue gun.

These are great for pretend play and lend themselves easily to emotional and sensory expression. Your child can use them to stomp around, physically releasing pent up frustration or tension.  You can also guide your child into talking about feelings. What is the monster feeling now? What does the monster do when he or she is angry? What kinds of things make the monster sad? Children speak and learn through play. And it makes it easier to talk about hard things when they aren’t directly talking about themselves. This is a perfect activity to use to help a new preschooler or toddler talk about transitioning to a new teacher or school, or in saying goodbye to an old friend. Hope this project produces lots of roaring and stomping in your house.

Materials:
– empty tissue boxes
– duct tape
– tissue paper
– Mod Podge or glue stick
– sponge (for toe nails)
– hot glue for toe nails and fur
– Extra embellishments. What do you have lying around the house? The pictured above have shredded paper and feathers to add some more fun.

Use the duct tape to reduce the size of the opening a little bit and to reinforce the opening so it doesn’t tear easily. Mod Podge or glue tissue paper to each box. Cut triangles out of a sponge for the toe nails. Once the paint or Mod Podge is dry then hot glue the toe nails to the box. Finally using your hot glue add any extras to create the final effect. Depending on the tissue box these can be a little slippery, which for some kids will make it more fun but for others a little intimidating.


Making The Decision To Become A Parent: Considering Envy


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make decision to become a parent

There are many things that make the decision to become a parent difficult. One of the most challenging things to understand is how envy partakes in the decision making process.

The thing that makes the decision about having children so difficult is that it’s full of loss. Whether a person decides to have a child or not, they will experience a loss. Becoming a parent means a profound loss of freedom, which research shows can lead to a decrease in happiness. Deciding not having a child also means loss.

For some it means learning that their life won’t be going in the direction they always thought it would, for others it means letting go of a relationship that will never be, and for most it means wrestling with feelings that they are “bad” for being somewhat unconventional.

What complicates the decision further is that whenever there is loss, the risk of feeling envious rises. When we are dealing with pain, others lives can look so complete. It can appear that everyone has their ducks in a row, this makes us feel bad and makes it harder to understand what we truly want.

Keeping envy in check is so important, obviously having a baby to feel equal to others rather than because that’s what you want isn’t going to lead to happiness. When you understand what triggers your envy and why you are experiencing envy it gives you power to know yourself. Then you can make a decision based on what you want rather than what you “should” do.

Whenever engaging in a difficult decision it’s important to keep comparing yourself to others to a minimum. The reality is that whether you are a parent or not, life is hard and unpredictable. As humans we share in the fact that difficult things happen. In addition we are emotional and all experience anger, pain, envy, and fear. Holding this reality in mind will help you from elevating others position and lowering your own.

I support woman in making this decision. In accepting their strengths and limitations surrounding child rearing. And in helping them truly understand that no one is perfect.


Summer Time Art Activity: Chalk Spray


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chalk spray

Art is a tool parents can use to bond with their child. Ensuring that the art activities you provide for your child are age appropriate is important. If a child’s development is too ahead of a project they will be bored. Excessive boredom leads to insecurity and disinterest. If a child’s developmental abilities are too behind a project then they will become discouraged. Discouragement leads to perfectionism and disinterest in trying new things. I’m frequently asked for art project ideas so this summer I am posting a few activities. Ill give a supply list, instructions, and  suggested ages for each project. Of course a child’s individual abilities and interests should always be considered and is known best by the parent.

Chalk Spray
Suggested Ages 3-6 Years

Supplies:
1 tsp. washable tempera paint
1 cup of hot water
1/2 cup of cornstarch
squirt of dishwashing liquid
1 squirt bottle

1.   Add cornstarch to one cup of hot water whisking to mix so that there are no clumps.

2.   Add one teaspoon of washable tempura paint and a squirt of dishwashing liquid.   Mix well.

3.   Pour it into squirt bottles and shake well.

Kids can make designs and pictures on driveways, sidewalks, walls, ect.   Consider spraying items down after use to avoid staining. And remember, keeping expectations low means more fun!


Sneak Peak Book Review: Having One Child….Or None


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There’s a reason why studies show a decline in happiness when someone becomes a parent, having a child means a loss in freedom. For better or worse, that isn’t an easy adjustment. Therefore being a parent is not for everyone. Making the decision to have one, two, three, or four children should not happen quickly. A slow thoughtful decision as to why you are or are not motivated to have children can help you tremendously.

I’ve heard so many clients in my practice just assume that having children is right for them. Many females are given messages growing up that they are supposed to be a mom. Having this conviction can make it hard to access any thought processes outside of that arena. However, challenging the fact that you want to be a mom because that’s what women do will make you happier whether you decided to have a child or not. It will limit regrets down the road, it will increase your sense of internal power and confidence, and it will help you live an authentic life.

Even harder than deciding to have children at all is the decision to have more than one. Why this appears to be true I don’t exactly know. It seems to me that it’s more acceptable for a woman to have none than to have “only” one. There’s a myth in our homes and larger society that siblings are best, that we are hurting our child if we don’t breed more people. However, that’s not what research shows. And I can certainly tell you that many psychotherapists like myself, agree that siblings are complicated.

So breaking down the belief that siblings are best is an important part of making the decision to have more than one. You must challenge your inner voice and convictions so you can truly base it off of your needs rather than some idea you’ve internalized along the way.

Lauren Sandler’s new book “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One “ can be a great tool to challenge those inner convictions. The most marvelous thing about her book is not all the research she shares discussing the benefits of being only one (though who knew things were that good!), but is her honest sharing of the challenges of being only one. She doesn’t idealize the singleton child, she gives a clear picture on some of the benefits and challenges you and your child can expect. This sharing of both sides is so important to helping someone factor in all things during the decision making process. In addition to her honesty about singletons, she helps break down the idealization connected to siblings, and the belief that more people means happiness.

She challenges the American ideal that we can have it all, and should. She shows that being a singleton or having a sibling comes with a certain amount of challenges. And rather than try to save our children from some future hurt or pain, she reinforces the importance of parents focusing on our own needs. Thoughtfully telling parents that we have just one life to live, and are equally important as our children. And reminding me of the fact I always share, happier parents mean happier children, which means happier families and communities.

Lauren’s book is thoughtfully written and quite funny in parts. I highly recommend this book be read. It seems to me that breaking down the stigma attached to “only” one not only will help women individually, but will help us all in our plight for equality. For the ideals of Feminism are founded in us having free thought and the power to feel like we have a choice.

Lauren’s book will be available for purchase on June 11, 2013.

 


Minimize Summer Stress


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minimize summer stress

What stress and the summer?!?! Many think its not possible, but in reality most people do experience a slight increase of stress during the summer months. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. The kids are out of school. For parents summer means filling in the gap of school. School provides kids structure and something to do, when summer hits working parents have to find child care and stay at home parents have to figure out how everyone is going to spend their time to combat boredom. Both situations create more stress.

2. It’s hot. While for some heat is a blessing, for most it’s very hard. Here in LA heat comes with heavy air. Both can increase stress on the whole physical system, causing emotional struggles such as irritability and a decrease in tolerance.

3. We don’t have the freedom of childhood anymore. Adults are reminded more persistently during the summer months that they don’t have the summer freedom they did in their childhood. Memories of the summer can make responsibilities feel heavier, and adulthood feel less rewarding.

4. Travel. Whole traveling is full of fun, it’s also stressful. Especially during the summer months where hotels, roads, and airplanes tend to be more crowded.

So I always say that consciousness beats stress. Being aware of what difficulties you will face in summer only helps you plan coping skills to keep your stress levels lowers. Build in time alone, quiet activities, and try to keep your routine as much as possible. This things will help you minimize summer stress.

To support parents I’ll post art activities for you to use with your kids this summer to help! Including materials as well as developmentally appropriate ages for projects.


Mother’s Day Volunteering: Art and Attachment


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Art with kids

Yesterday I volunteered at the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force’s event “Speak Up When You’re Down”. This event for low income families was in honor of Maternal Health Awareness Month and Mother’s Day 2013. I decided to educate families on how to use art as a tool for attachment and bonding. Art not only helps minimize anxiety and depression, but it’s also a great self care tool for moms; since many children sit and focus while making art. I provided supplies for children and their parents to make a Thaumatrope. A Thaumatrope is a disk or card with a picture on each side, either side can be attached to a string, or a stick can be attached on the bottom. When the image is twirled quickly the two pictures appear to combine into a single image. With the stamps and markers I provided, the older kids made some creative Thaumatropes and the younger kids had a ton of fun drawing and stamping. Creating a Thaumatrope with your child creates a great opportunity to talk about change, perception, and possibility. Parents can use the metaphor within this project to talk to their children about ideas such as: things are not always as they seem, by changing one thing you can see a whole situation differently, or take a step back and view a whole situation before making a decision or conclusion. This project concretizes these difficult concepts for children, making them more understandable and interesting! Following the pictures there is a supply list and directions for the activity.

Volunteering

Art and kids

What you need:
A round stick, such as a chopstick (I prefer this to string since it is easier)
A circle cut out of heavier paper and big enough to make an image but not too big that it flops around (a circle 4.75″ in diameter is a good size).
Tape
Drawing materials (and you can add stamps like I did).

Have your child draw two images on each side. When they are done tape on the stick (make sure they leave room in their drawing so nothing gets covered), then spin away. Hope this activity inspires you to use art to bond, learn, and communicate with your child.


Even Mad Men Don Draper Can’t Escape the Past


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No matter how successful or attractive he is, one thing becomes clearer and clearer, even Mad Men Don Draper can’t escape his past. Flashbacks in Season 6 of Mad Men reinforce the fact that Don’s behaviors in the present are a result of the past. By showing us a young Don’s experiences surrounding sex, we gain clarity on why Don continues to find sexual intimacy outside of his committed relationships. We’ve always known that Don struggles with monogamy, but why exactly? Why does he continue to make problems for himself by engage in infidelity? For the first time, we have a better understanding of what sex means to Don and how the past creeps in on his present. Emotionally we then can identify with Don more deeply, as we connect to the pain of the man through the feelings of the child.

Listening to an interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, I realized something; the unfolding of information about Don is similar to what I experience as a therapist. Much of why we do the things we do as adults are unknown to us until we start therapy, the job I have as a therapist is to make this clearer. Both the client and I have to learn the story. By piecing together present day’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with the memories and sensations of the past my client and I are creating a story. Each week we understand more about my client’s true self and the ways in which their past creeps in on the present. And each week as I get to know my clients child self, I connect more to them as adults.

This process of unfolding and piecing together is equally engaging to me as watching Mad Men. For just like I don’t know where Don is headed, what choices he will make next, or his full childhood story, my client and I don’t know that either. Sure we both get frustrated at times; the defense mechanisms get in our way. But unlike most of my clients who feel judgment towards themselves about this, I do not. I understand this to not be a fault of my client, but more of a reality of the human experience. So I encourage my clients to understand why they are judgmental of themselves, so we can incorporate that also into their story.

Many people in the beginning stage of therapy tell me they don’t think the past is affecting them. They want to talk about the present and only need help in solving a specific problem. Many get frustrated when I search for information about the past, and many don’t understand the value of putting the pieces of the past together. I often wish I could wave a wand to help someone understand their story, but alas the complexities of a human make this impossible. The fact is, is that the past is important; Don Draper is surely showing us that.


Want More Sex In Your Relationship: Make More Psychological Space


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Want More Sex In Your Relationship: Make More Psychological Space

The fact is, is that for most  couples  sex becomes less frequent the longer they stay together. Different couples have different responses to this phenomena. For some friendship is enough and neither person feels negatively impacted, for others the change in sexual patterns increases stress and conflict, and in worst case scenarios, a distance occurs that results in either infidelity, separation, or divorce.

While some couples find the situation more difficult than others, most wonder why the change has happened to them. They always promised to themselves and each other that they would not become on of “those” couples. Life is certainly partly responsible for this occurrence, when a couple has been together awhile they tend to have bigger things on their plate than they did during their early years. Buying a house, moving up the career ladder, and having children all impact the couples levels of stress. Higher stress means less sex.  In addition, these big aspirations can be exhausting.

But theres another reason why sex decreases, and that is a lack of separation. When attachment grows a strange thing can happen. We can feel securer in some ways but less safe in others. A person might feel better about staying home on a week night, more comfortable leaving the house in their “crazy” hair, or leaving the door open when they pee. But simultaneously a deeper anxiety grows. The risk of loosing that person becomes more looming. We become aware that it will hurt bad if that person is gone. Our behaviors shift and change to protect us from this anxiety.

Even those in the most trusting relationships have to manage anxieties around loss, since death takes all of us at some point. Many people start to blend with their partner in an effort to control their anxieties of loss. They might not say what’s on their mind as frequently, they care more if their partner is angry, they compromise more on their needs, they try to avoid conflict, or they become more agreeable.  Too many of these behaviors causes less psychological space, and in turn harms a couples sex life. In her book “Mating in Captivity”, Esther Perel discusses the animal instinctual drive needed to engage in sex. That to have passion, the couple must on some level must think solely about themselves and their own needs. They must be driven to want orgasim, and that orgasim itself is a very individual experience.  That to keep sex in a relationship, each person must temporarily set aside the fact that they know their partner as well as they do.

Negotiating the balance between sexual individualism and the every day relationship walk of compromise is tricky. Couples must talk about how to reclaim the instinctual passion once lost. They must try to take risks with each other again and be conscious of when they are playing things too safe. They should prioritize doing things that create more psychological space.  They must remember that while too much conflict in a relationship is destructive, a relationship needs some conflict in order to be alive, engaging, and sexual. They should notice if they are agreeing to things because its easier, if they are believing in their partners opinion rather than taking the time to develop their own, or if they need to build more tolerance to anger and conflict.  So if you  want more sex in your relationship, make more psychological space.


Psychotherapy In Silver Lake


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Psychotherapy In Silver Lake

I was recently asked about Silver Lake and how I decided to open an office in the Los Angeles Eastside Community. I thought others might be interested in my answers and why I provide psychotherapy in Silver Lake:

1. How long have you been in Silver Lake?
I’ve been in my Silver Lake office for two years. It’s located on Silver Lake Blvd just south of the reservoir. I’ve had an office on the Eastside for four years and was located downtown before I was in Echo Park.

2. What made you want to open shop in Silver Lake?
I enjoy how quiet and peaceful the area is, and how the reservoir brings the community together. People are out walking, talking to others, and spending time in my neighborhood. I like that it’s located in the diverse Los Angeles Eastside community. Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park are all so different. The environment, energy, and people change tremendously when you go from one place to the next.

3. What is the dynamic of the neighborhood and why is a good fit for therapy?
When I first set up shop on the Eastside my office was located on Sunset Blvd. While Sunset Blvd is amazing for a variety of reasons, it isn’t the best location for a psychotherapy office. My current office is quiet. It gives people a chance to take a pause and to reflect upon themselves and their life. It’s hard in Los Angeles to find an area like Silver Lake. It’s unique.

4. What do you want to focus on in the next two years?
I believe that mental health is important. I want to continue to help people heal from their anxiety and depression. I believe that happier people mean a happier community. I hope to continue positively impacting the LA Eastside community by helping individuals, families, and couples feel happier.

5. Any local charities you favor?
There are some very active and important organizations in the LA Eastside community. Here are a few of my favorites:

Echo Parenting & Education http://www.echoparenting.org/
826LA http://826la.org/
Echo Park Film Center http://www.echoparkfilmcenter.org/
Barnsdall Art Center http://www.barnsdall.org/
Queens Care Family Clinics http://www.queenscarefamilyclinics.org/
Echo Park Animal Alliance http://www.echoparkanimalalliance.org/about.html
Silver Lake Reservoir Conservancy http://www.silverlakereservoirs.org/


Patricia O’Laughlin, licensed therapist and Art Therapist, providing EMDR and therapy to individuals, couples, teens, and adults. Silver Lake/Los Feliz, Los Angeles. therapy@patriciaolaughlin.com or (323)761-2221.