Why They Aren't Coming Home this Holiday Season

You're planning out your menu. You're readying the decor and you're ready for the holiday rush. But what you may not have prepared for is the call or text from your adult child: “I'm not going to be there this year, Mom” or “Maybe next year, Dad.”


Here's a few reasons your adult children (and their families) might not be willing to show up this year or next, if some things don't start to change:


You make them feel like a child again.


Coming home can remind you of where you came from and not in the Hallmark movie kind of way. Stepping away from dysfunction makes dysfunction even more vivid when you see it again. When your kids have been away (maybe even to college) and they come home and they see the obvious conflict, endure the unhealthy communication styles, and are made to feel like children again, they won't be inclined to return.


They don't feel wanted. Not really.


Family gatherings around the holidays can feel more obligatory, stiff and forced than warm and welcoming. Forcing your family to come together for the sake of saying you did may just not be worth the mental distress. Maybe you're thinking to yourself, “We always just did what we were supposed to. We didn't ask any questions.” And to that I ask, did that leave you feeling loved, appreciated and wanted? Have you ever considered the purpose of the gathering may have changed with time? And that the meaning of gathering is to foster connection? What if we started to set an objective for our family gatherings? Think about it...


You aren't listening.


You're talking at your kids. You're telling them what you think, what they should think, what they should be doing different and the worst part: you are assuming you know what's going on with them. You're forgetting that they CARE WHAT YOU THINK but they may not want to BE WHAT YOU THINK. And you're draining them. They walk away feeling exhausted, sitting in my office the next week trying to repair the damage and they're sick of it.


You don't respect their boundaries.


I'm always telling clients two things about boundaries. 1) The only people who are going to have a problem with your boundaries are the people who benefit from you not having them. And 2) You won't allow anyone to test your boundaries more than family/the people closest to you. This is because there is an intrinsic and hierarchical need to be accepted. Your kids let you push their boundaries because they are (naturally) afraid to stand in this world alone. In the four walls of my office, they are learning to push back. They are learning to accept themselves. And they're on their way, so you may want to reconsider.


You make them feel indebted.


You may have given your kids everything. Every opportunity, every chance, every grace. But you did not do their success for them. They did that. You should be proud. But if you're making them feel indebted to you for their success, their joys, their belongings…you're doing it wrong. And slowly but surely, they will become more and more avoidant. Don't let your adult children slip away at the hands of your self-importance.


There's no space for their differences.


The elephant in the room: Your child doesn't believe what you believe. They don't wear what you want them to. They don't have a job or a spouse or a parenting style you would have. But that's okay because what they do have belongs to them. Your child's differences do not represent your failures. They represent their individuality, their strength and their discovery.


They don't want to answer all the questions.


When you ask your child, “When are you getting married? When are you going to give me a grandchild? When are you going to get a new job?” It's incredibly short-sighted, self-centered and ignorant. Consider this: Maybe they are trying as hard as they can to make those things happen. Maybe they don't want those things. Maybe their way isn't your way. Maybe it's better. Maybe it's not. But your child is on their own path that weaves and distances from yours. This is appropriate, natural, and healthy.


Family time can surface memories of abuse


DISCLAIMER: If you are unaware if your adult child suffered CSA (childhood sexual abuse) at this point, it is unlikely that now is a good time to ask them if they did. Most people who have suffered CSA will share it with people they trust when they are ready and when they feel it's safe to do so. Often, children do not disclose abuse because they are ashamed, they are fearful of their abuser or fearful of the repercussions. According to the Darkness to Light Perpetrator Statistics, 90% of victims know their abuser and 60% are abused by a person the family trusts. You can learn more here:


https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics


This one is tough. You might not be aware that your home is representative of you child's worst memories. It is common for individuals to suddenly remember painful past memories of their abuse in the context of time spent with family or revisiting a childhood home. Asking them to come home, may be asking them to re-live their abuse. It may surface resentments and result in re-traumatization. Your child may be conflicted--wanting to please you but barely being able to hold themselves together.


So what can we do about this?


You can start by giving your child room. Room to be who they are, to take the space, and execute the boundaries they have set for their best and healthiest self. You can verbally acknowledge their differences, their strengths and your acceptance of them. You can state your support for their wellness, demonstrate an understand of their needs even if that means that they must distance themselves from you. And finally, vowing to your child to engage in your own self-discovery and betterment. Get the skills and tools you need to be a better parent to your child. Seek to create new, authentic traditions that are driven by connection and not ritual.


Authored by Daron Elam, Owner and Managing Therapist at Summit's Edge, LLC.


Resiliency

Authored by Celia Webb, APC

 

Reflecting on the recent events that our country has experienced such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the 16th anniversary of 9/11, it calls on me to wonder the impact that significant events have on our country and the citizens that live here.  In the wake of these events and those similar, I have seen some individuals emerge as stronger and more resilient.  While a portion of those individuals emerge as tenacious and stable, there is an unfortunate number that do not.  What happens to those people who don’t make the magazine covers or the viral videos on social media and instead struggle silently in the background.

Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover quickly from traumatic or significant events with little long-term impact.  However, how does one gather resiliency when everything or everyone close to them is suddenly gone.  What happens when someone just does not contain the characteristics of resiliency?

Resiliency allows someone to stand up in the face of a traumatic event, acknowledge the hurt, pain, suffering, and loss they have experienced, recalibrate to their experiences and move forward.  A resilient individual is one that can often bounce back from these events with a decreased level of anxiety, depression, and grief than someone who does not identify as resilient.

While there is no shame in lacking resilience (almost everyone struggles with this in one way or another throughout their life) it often looks like adjusting poorly to change, being unable to solve problems or at times, expecting others to do it for them.  Depending on the caliber of the event, these individuals may struggle significantly with depression, anxiety, shame and grief following these events, and may dwell on the things that have happened to them or have impacted where they are now.  

Regardless of your ability to demonstrate resilience, traumatic and significant events often impact everyone.  As we continue to experience unfortunate events as a country including severe hurricanes, mass shootings, and events like 9/11, its reminds me to refresh my self-care and resiliency skills. I have taken some tips from verywell.com on building my flexibility to change and defeat and felt that sharing them might be helpful to someone else.

  • Develop a sense of purpose and meaning for your life

  • Use positive self-talk to affirm your strengths

  • Reach out to others to develop a sense of support and community

  • Relinquish some control and accept change

  • Take care of and nurture yourself

  • Create goals

Each individual will experience every situation they encounter differently and that is okay.  If you find yourself struggling more than normal or on a consistent basis with different events occurring in your life, you may find it helpful to practice some of these tips or reach out to someone that has a higher level of training.  The most important take away is that it is a human experience to struggle, but there is a sense of community and support that can ease some of the battle.

32nd Floor Perspective

Authored by Jamie Hall, APC

 

In a world filled with so much hate, so much greed, and an unfathomable amount of acts of unkindness, even the most prolific and inspired people may find it difficult to find happiness or the good in man-kind.

It’s the day after the Las Vegas shootings. Tonight is a rare treat for me. I got off work early, did some grocery shopping and came home to an empty house. My husband is at a sporting event, and I am left to my frozen pizza and the chance to catch up on some less-than-stimulating television. But instead, also unlike my usual ritual, I find myself scrolling through news stories. I don’t often choose to corrupt my mind with the negativity of the news. I prefer to seek out videos of panda bears rolling down slides or read up on the latest NASA endeavor. But tonight, I can’t seem to help myself. Fox News, CNN, CSPAN, ABC, The Guardian…Each news outlet has it’s own update, it’s own “spin”, it’s own speculation on the topic. I keep searching. But for what? I take to Facebook and I come across posts criticizing those who continue to repeat his name, claiming it memorializes the shooter [scroll] … Those who are demanding more (or less) gun restrictions, and insisting that guns are (or aren’t) the issue … [scroll] Some blame President Trump, [scroll] others blame ISIS… Opinion after opinion, most of which only seem to perpetuate the problem. And yet, I keep on scrolling. This time I land on a post with multiple pictures of a young man. The person posting isn’t an incredibly close friend, but someone I find myself kind of wishing she were so that I could hug her and offer her support. I read her post. Over and over, I read it.  I feel her sadness. I stare at the pictures, and begin to memorize the face in each of them. She lost this person yesterday. And I hurt for her and for him and for his family. And I hurt for her hometown of Las Vegas.

It’s then that I realize; two degrees of separation is what connects myself to him. Two degrees of separation is what connects myself to a victim of a faceless man with a 32nd-story-view of the most horrific scene imaginable. Even scarier than that? Only 3 degrees of separation between myself and the man in the 32nd story window…And I wonder to myself how many more people am I connected to who fell victim to the man on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino? According to a theory proposed in 1929, each of us are a mere 6 introductions (or degrees of separation) away from any other person on the planet, and in this case, the theory is off by a few degrees.

I find myself yet again searching for something more. And it finally occurs to me that I want to know more about this man in the window on the 32nd floor. I don’t want to celebrate him, or memorialize him, or even speak his name. But I want to know more. What could possibly lead a person to such a horrific, dark, place?

In the Mental Health field, we’re trained in some ways to think like a psychopath or a criminal. Our job is to help people understand their behaviors and make sense of their emotions. This “skill” is also an occupational hazard. Because in moments like this, I still try to understand. I try to make the pieces fit, and I even go as far as to attempt to find empathy. I consider his “mission”, and consider scenarios in which he had convinced himself that this was what he had to do. I crave to know his purpose. Perhaps it was a religion-based decision, or perhaps it was simply fueled by anger and hate. I can’t be sure. And while much of me feels I need to know, another part of me is afraid to.

My fear is that we all possess this “gene” or characteristic. My fear is that we are all only separated by 6 degrees (or less) from the man on the 32nd floor. My fear is that we as humans will wipe each other off the planet because of this trait. It wasn’t until the late 90’s that research was conducted to determine what makes people happy. Did you know that? Up until that point, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals had only studied why we are unhappy, what makes us angry, and what causes depression. Multiple studies (even the happiness ones) have proven how the human brain defaults to the negative, despite the information presented to them. My fear is that the “gene” that drives our negativity, our greed, our hate, and our desire to hurt others, is growing more and more dominant.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, he knew then that happiness was not an unalienable right, rather that only the pursuit of it was. He knew how hard we would have to work to obtain it. He knew it would not be easy and that we would have to fight against our innate desire to be unhappy. My fear is that over time, we will forget how to pursue our happiness; that we will deny ourselves of it and succumb to the darkness we so often lean toward.

As I sit alone tonight scrolling through the sad, and horrible news feeds and Facebook statuses, I have to remind myself to seek out the panda bear videos and the beautiful pictures taken from the Space Station. Before I go to sleep tonight, I will say aloud the things I am grateful for, and I will pat my pup on the head, and scratch between his ears because I know it makes him happy. I will let him in the bed with me tonight because his cuddles make me happy. I will intentionally write in my journal the good things that happened today, and I will indulge in that left over piece of Tiramisu because I know that if I don’t, my husband will. Perhaps I’ll save him a few bites. I will allow myself to think of the man in the 32nd window, and create in my mind an alternate ending--where he was able to do these things too, and in that moment, he was able to break away from that cancerous gene and make a different decision…Tomorrow I will do my best to be intentional when pursuing my happiness. Because with all that’s happening in the world, I know that at least I can control that.

 

Living in the Intersection: Pride vs. Shame

Living in the Intersection: Pride vs. Shame

Authored by Anisha Cooper, APC

hen you hear the word “Pride,” what does that mean to you? For closeted folks, Pride is a sentiment not readily available due to the immense shame associated with typical prideful identities (i.e., race, gender, and sexuality), but consider this: how do YOU identify? How have these identities shaped your worldview? Your interactions with others? And, are you proud of this identity?

A Not So Happy Holiday

As the winter chill sets in and you pass your neighbor on the street or co-worker in the hall and you shout out a cheerful, "Happy Holidays," consider this: The holidays are the hardest time of year for many people and when you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", they have no idea what you're talking about.

 

Financial Stress: Divorce rates have been known to spike immediately after the holidays between Christmas and Valentine's Day each year. With the expectation that you out-give your family member or co-worker or you have to appear that your finances are in order, it's easy for people to over-spend. 

Personal Loss: There's never a good time to lose a love one, but when you lose someone during the holidays, that feelings cycles back in full blast. Sitting and watching people around you who are able to celebrate with their loved ones can be even more piercing during the holidays. It's normal around the anniversary of the loss for the individual to experience excessive crying, isolation, anger, anxiety, physical weakness, and/or spiritual questioning. Grief is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Grief and depression are not the same but they can co-exist.

Social Anxiety: Many people become extremely self-conscious or become worries about judgement from others in regular social situations. If you don't have this, then you probably haven't thought about the fact that the holidays call for lots of social saturation: the office Christmas party, the dinner at your cousin's house, that cookie exchange. All of these events can present great internal conflict for people with social anxiety. If you notice that a friend of family member is chronically cancelling on your events, be sensitive to the fact that they may truly feel like they are "unable" to attend. 

Seasonal Depression: There are speculations as to the cause of SAD and nearly 1 in 3 people are diagnosed with it, but this is just another reason that the holidays may not be so happy. It's important to note if you feel a notable change in mood with the weather. It's common for us all to want to go out a little less when that winter chill sets in. It's more indicative of SAD if you're experiencing symptoms such as heavy limbs, weight gain, increase in appetite, hypersensitivity, or over-sleeping.

These are just a few road blocks for enjoying the holidays. It's important to remain sensitive to these (and other) mental health issues that may be impacting someone's ability to "be jolly." Most people with these issues would give anything to enjoy the holidays but simply don't feel like they can. Encourage friends and family to see professional help with these issues. You will not successfully bully these individuals into finding the holiday spirit. 

 

Our New Favorite: Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our New Favorite: Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our new favorite thing is the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin (but more widely, podcasts in general) and here’s why:

They are mindful

It’s kind of a unique experience, to be focused on the incoming information in a mindless manner. The information is literally being poured into your brain without even trying, but that’s okay because it’s informational…which brings us to the next reason that podcasts are so awesome.

Suicide Awareness

Suicide Awareness

If you were not aware, the month of September is Suicide Awareness month. Some of you will read the quote about and squirm in your chair. For many, this is a taboo topic that isn’t often discussed in a public forum. For others, it’s part of a daily struggle. Suicide, particularly among the African-American culture, is highly stigmatized as the “unforgivable sin” (American Association of Suicidology). This highly tabooed topic re-entered our consciousness when young actor Jett Jackson self-inflicted a gun-shot wound. Even then, many failed to name it what it was: suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013)

Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness

Chances are, you know a family that has a child that seems different from the rest. Impaired social and developmental skills may be symptoms of a developmental disorder, such as autism. Autism can manifest in many levels, which is why it is most often referred to as a spectrum disorder. Some children and adults with autism may be highly functioning, other may appear to have difficulty interacting appropriately with others or become and others can be diagnosed as early as six months of age. For infants up to 18 months old, parents may notice that their child provides no response to people or may fixate on an object. Toddlers may not respond to their name, avoid eye contact, or have monotonous motions like rocking their bodies or flapping their arms. When diagnosing autism in children, the earlier you see symptoms, the sooner you can start therapy at Summit’s Edge and improve your child’s quality of life.

PTSD: What You Need To Know

PTSD: What You Need To Know

When you think about those affected by PTSD, who comes to mind? Do you think of someone who has lost a loved one, experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has survived a natural disaster? Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a serious mental illness that may develop after a person has been through or witnessed a frightening incident. Events such as combat, abuse, and traumatic accidents are just a few causes of PTSD. These types of events often induce feelings of helplessness, horror, or extreme fear. These individuals may become extremely agitated or they may tend to isolate themselves. Summit’s Edge Owner, Daron Elam, is a trauma and crisis counselor specializing in the treatment of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders.

Friends and Growing Up

Friends and Growing Up

As you look around and see that your friendships are dwindling, you may not be motivated to do anything about it. But what if I told you that friendships that don’t help you grow are not friendships at all. As you start your new career, maybe get married (or stay single while everyone else you know gets married), have a family, it can become very easy to slip away from friendships. In order to evaluate your current friendships, ask yourself these questions:

Intentionality

Intentionality

Usually when I tell clients to become intentional, they kind of nod and smile but they rarely know what exactly I mean. An intention is a thought put in play towards an intended thing or plan. We are constantly told to set goals, meet deadlines, get to the bottom line. But rarely do we set out intention, which is an extremely present feeling; that in making, you cannot fail. It eliminates a required result but instead connects us to our path to get where we want to go.

Georgia Cannabis Controversy

Georgia Cannabis Controversy

After Haleigh Cox, a 5-year-old who struggling with severe seizures and forces to move from Georgia to Colorado, this case spurred a conversation across Atlanta, and across our nation. Many parents, like Haleigh’s, have been petitioning for this bill to pass for other similar medical issues.

We wanted to take a moment to clarify the bill that was passed, review what is not part of this bill, and cover those issues that still remain:

Summit's Edge Attends Women's Retreat as Guest Speaker

Summit's Edge Attends Women's Retreat as Guest Speaker

Summit’s Edge Counseling Owner & Managing Therapist, Daron Elam, was invited to be a guest speaker to the ladies of North River Church and City of Refuge Residents at The Women’s Retreat: Loving God’s Abundant Life.

Loving God’s Abundant Life held their first of many annual women’s retreats on location at City of Refuge (COR). COR is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to community development efforts that lead to sustainable living for the 30314 zip code where there are overwhelming economic challenges and a lack of social, medical and psychological support. Summit’s Edge has partnered with COR in early 2015, in an effort to improve the mental wellness of their staff. Summit’s Edge and COR have an equal interest in serving the members of the Atlanta community who are living on the margins. Summit’s Edge has a vested interest in the helpless and the hurting. On this very special occasion, COR partnered with a local church, North River to present a Women’s retreat for the City of Refuge staff and residents.

When Things Go Well: Gratitude

When Things Go Well: Gratitude

In a culture that encourages us to say, “I want” rather than, “I have” it can be stifling to gratitude. Have you ever had a bad day and stopped to be grateful that you have legs? Or hair? Or the gift of sight, smell, taste? More than likely, you have somehow managed to forget. Or maybe your world has gotten so gray that you feeling something (gratitude) feels like nothing. Either way, more than likely, your last instinct is to counter discouragement with gratitude.

A Story With Substance

A Story With Substance

We love a good story. A feel-good story, a come-back story, a love story. Many are revered for their triumph over struggle. People have a funny fascination with pain and struggle. We like to see self-made people; people who beat the odds, walked through the fire, unscathed.
It is those people who get our attention and our respect. They make the best teachers, preachers, and story-tellers. We revere them because they are uncommon, unique, and unconventional.