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Filtering by Category: Life - Relationships

PARENTING: FROM TIGHTLY WOUND TO COME UNDONE

Kelly Bos

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HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT TENSION

Stress appears to be the norm for most of us, and for many of us it is chronic. Most parents I know are operating at some level of stress at all times. We try and pull it all together, the work demands, the school forms, tidy rooms, a meal schedule and the list goes on. We feel it in our necks and stomachs, it is visual by the complex schedules listed on the calender, and we hear it with the constant alerts on the phone. The stress can manifest in our moods and how we parent and we fluctuate from smiling and patient to the angry and losing it.

My friend had one such she's come undone day in the car highlighted then by a ditty her daughter started to spontaneously sing about how she has two mothers, one nice and one mean. She felt ill at the lyrics, a virtual tale of two Mommies, but felt she couldn't entirely disagree. We don't want Jeckyll and Hyde parenting but so often we are running on empty and the energy to feel healthy and well enough to keep an even and balanced disposition. My life coach friend Shauna once painted a great picture of balance stating that for a tight rope walker, tension is needed and too much slack would be bad. This is the same with stress and anxiety. A little bit helps us, with motivation, resilience and the protection of ourselves and our family. It is when the tension is always high, we have an issue. This chronic stress can hinder our self regulation and cause a 0-100 reaction in seconds or a slow boil throughout the day. Sometimes you know you are actively worrying and other times your subconscious is doing it all for you (hello teeth grinding!). If you are looking to keep that balance despite what your kids have done to their bedroom, regardless of how late you were at school pick up, and independent of work stress, help is needed.

IN THE MOMENT HACKS:

BREATHE:

An easy step is to take a deep breath and unwind! It sounds trite, but it works. It fills your body with a big burst of oxygen and give you that two second break from a hair trigger reaction. Breathing also sends a message to brain that tells your body to calm down and relax which can help you gain perspective.

ASSESS:

This sets you up nicely for step two. Before blowing up, take a quick assessment of what is actually bothering you. Think about it, your kids could be up to antics in the back of the car, fighting, teasing, singing an annoying song, and some days you can roll with it. Now add in feeling ill, not getting enough sleep or the distracted stress of thinking about a mistake you made at work and quite understandably, you are more likely to lose your cool. The real things eating away at you have nothing to do with what is going on in the back of the car. If you could tease out what is going on before you erupt or emote, you will no doubt be less reactive.

BE PROACTIVE:

Are you taking care of yourself? Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities in your schedule. A good nutrition and exercise routine can be powerful. Exercise releases endorphins, and as Elle in Legally Blonde says ,“happy people don't shoot their husbands” or more to the point snap, so readily at their kids. I recently had a client share that her self care was making sure her child had everything ready for school. Although that might have made everyone's day calmer and in turn run smoother, this was certainly not self care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do for yourself, make a list of things you once enjoyed or modify things you once did that could still work for you now and be creative.

Our moods can flux, we are human, but taking time to breathe, assess and be proactive about our reactions and moods can be beneficial, not just for our relationships but also for how we feel and view of ourselves. Think about how you can create a more balanced tension in your life.

I DON'T WANT TO WRITE THE SCRIPT FOR MY CHILD'S INNER CRITIC

Kelly Bos

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HOW SELF COMPASSION CAN HELP

I've been working a lot with the concept of self compassion with my clients and in my own personal life. Self compassion has specific tenets. It focuses on being kind and talking to ourselves like we would a friend, rather than hearing that judgemental and critical voice in our head. Self compassion recognizes that problems happen, but they happen to everyone and we are part of common humanity, with all of its ups and downs, which helps us not get stuck in “why me?", a powerless feeling that might make us isolate ourself with our problem. And lastly it encourages us to be mindful and be in the now, not getting stressed about the past or the future and this keeps us from being that problem through over identification. I personally find these ideas helpful when dealing with the myriad of feelings I have throughout the day. I can fully be there for myself. And if the feelings are what I would normally deem to be ugly, like jealousy or resentment, self compassion is incredibly useful, I can acknowledge the feelings are hard for me and not assign them value or decide if I “should” have them. I comfort myself through the feeling, not judge myself for having it.

For some reason we are drawn to the self flagellation. We have beliefs that if we aren't hard on ourselves or self critical we won't make changes and become lazy or stuck. This outlook does have the occasional result which spurs us on. It could be the same in parenting, you could chastise until a desired end is reached. You could criticize so much that a child could tow the line, but what else would be produced? What might that child feel regarding their self concept? What might their relationships be like? The same is true for us. Does a good brow beating make us feel better, more able to face the challenges ahead of us? Usually not. We often shame ourselves into inertia. Would we ever say these words to a friend? There is a better way. We can be kind to ourselves and get better results and I definitely want kind self talk for my kids.

These voices often have roots. What does your negative voice sound like? And who does it sound like? You might find you call yourself similar names that were used against you as a child by a teacher or a coach. You might find that you feel the guilt that a parent laid on you every time you respond in a certain way. This brings me to my fear, if I might be the narrator and the script writer for my children, than as this key influencer I want to be aware of what and how I am saying things. When I get frustrated, use broad characterizations, tactics laced with shame, and act out of a fearful place on how a certain behaviour might reflect on me or what might be down the road if this continues, I am not speaking words of compassion nor teaching a loving response.

The good news is as I work on this in myself, I can both model this and extend this to others. This is the oxygen mask analogy on the plane. You have to give the oxygen to yourself first before you can help others. When I am living in a place of self compassion I don't have the fears, judgement, or shame directing my responses. I also stop modelling behaviours such as calling myself names when I make mistakes or am being hard on myself because kids pick it up and I am already having to redirect my daughter away from labelling herself for her actions.

The other day I was raking leaves. I was having a hard day, my feelings and thoughts were heavy and they felt intrusive. I decided to approach it with a compassionate response. It brought tears but I was okay. My daughter witnessed this and became worried for me and said she wanted to get Daddy. I told her about how when hard feelings come you can practice self compassion. You can hold yourself, tell yourself it is okay and just rest in the moment. I showed her how to give herself a loving hug and talked to her about how she too can practice it when times are tough. Other people will not always understand your feelings and thoughts so you have to be able to draw it from yourself and from your beliefs. It takes practice to change this course and awareness to change the script.  

Do You Pause When Someone Asks: Are You Happily Married?

Kelly Bos

Girl Chat

IS BEING HAPPY TABOO?

I was hanging out with some friends one night and the question was raised... Are you happily married? It was a real question for a real conversation. And so I answered, but there was this pause. I knew a little about the group I was in and a bit about their relationships, and I decided I was in a safe place to answer, and so I did. I told the truth, and the truth was, yes. I added that lately due to some stressful times, we have been a bit hard on each other, but yes we were happy.

It got me thinking about my thinking.

Why the mental pause? I knew the answer. Why did I assess whether I could simply say yes? Why did I add a bit more?

In this case, I felt comfortable with both. However, this direct question on my personal happiness had a feeling like it could be a loaded question in a less familiar situation. It is different then “are you enjoying the training at your work?” It is asking for an assessment on my view of my life, my marriage and even on my spouse. Or at least that is how it can feel.

What does this question conjure up for you?...

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The "Homework" You Should Be Working on Over The Break

Kelly Bos

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THIS IS A BIGGER PREDICTOR OF SUCCESS IN LIFE THAN ACADEMIC OR SAT SCORES

We live in a busy society. I know I am not alone when I feel guilty for having down time. I think I should be doing something. This fear of sitting still can also be projected onto our kids, and not enough value is placed on having a true break. Homework over the break is used as a measure to ward off idle hands, brains, etc. However, hammering the books is the last thing my teacher friends suggest over the summer. They want the kids in their classes to enjoy and experience a break and the experts agree with so many cautions being written about the over-scheduled child.

Perhaps it is the type of work we are encouraging. If there is to be homework this summer, don't let it be times tables and memorization; try working on activities that increase your child'semotional intelligence; their ability to be aware, understand and control their emotions and understand and awareness of those of others. This is truly the people growing lessons but sadly declining skills. The skills of empathy, self-regulation, problem-solving strategies and impulse control are very important, in fact self-regulation alone is a bigger predictor of success in life than academic or SAT scores. In Dr. Michelle Borba's book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, she states that loneliness, stress, depression, anxiety, bullying, cheating and racism increases when empathy wanes. The good news is that all of these skills for life can be taught and incorporated into things you are already doing and easily practiced.

SIX EASY WAYS TO PRACTICE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE:

1. Openly discuss that feelings have ranges.  As a school social worker, I have used this activity with students, but it is easy to use at home; simply ask your child to give different names for primary emotions. Angry could inspire words like mad, frustrated, irritated, furious, etc. Do the same for sad, happy, and scared. This helps kids evaluate the degree they were feeling that emotion and a greater vocabulary to discuss feelings.

2. Watch the movie Inside Out with your kids and discuss feelings, how we control them, and how emotions can be...

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ACCOMPLISHING YOUR GOALS WITH A LITTLE GRACE

Kelly Bos

 Photo Credit:  pixabay

Photo Credit: pixabay

MY WISH FOR YOU

As a therapist I see a lot of people looking to make changes: with themselves, in relationships, parenting, work, and the list goes on. Change can be difficult. We are hard on ourselves for not addressing things earlier, more consistently or for not having enough motivation. We blame ourselves and shame ourselves and the dialogue in our heads can get pretty nasty. We would never prompt a friend to attain their goals in the same way we talk to ourselves. Negative self talk actually reduces our capacity for self improvement. Here are four ways to implement success which don't include a huge helping of negative self talk.

Attainability:

The first step is to approach your plan in a realistic way that reinforces your sense of capability. This can often be accomplished by starting out with baby steps instead of high demand plans and schedules that set us up to fail. This helps those who put huge expectations on themselves to go from “I will go to the gym two hours every day,” to “I am going to the gym this week maybe even twice”. Once some mastery is accomplished with the first step, more steps can be taken to increase commitment enabling you to build a plan that works.

Absolution:

Another important step is to be understanding of yourself when you haven't met your goal or feel you have taken a step backwards. Understanding isn't the same as personally accepting the set back but it enables you to overcome them and move forward. If you just offered to host a New Year's brunch for the entire family after muttering never again at Christmas, let it go. Punishing yourself with chastisement is not helpful. Instead recognize that change takes time, forgive yourself and move forward.

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Assessment:

When your targets appear to be slipping away or you are taking seemingly opposite steps to the direction you want to go, evaluate the situation. Ask yourself a couple of questions like: what was your state of mind at the time?, how can you approach similar scenarios differently next time?, and what have you learned that will equip you to succeed in the future? Henry David Thoreau once said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.

Adaptation:

Embrace acceptance when the direction changes. There is so much in our lives we can't control so sometimes goals need to be held loosely, not fearing things as lost when they don't work the way we planned. For example, intentions to take an online course that is interrupted by a clear need to focus on new challenges at work can happen. In such a scenario ask yourself how this goal be accomplished? What new timeline can be established? How can this be a positive? Adaptation enables us to reframe circumstances and reshape our goals to maintain a constructive perspective.

Approaching goals gently with incremental success in mind allows for bumps in the road, makes room for knowledge to be gained and staves off shame and blame which are common, but not healthy or helpful motivators.


ATTENTION (anti) SHOPPERS: Help Is Here!

Kelly Bos

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The Why's and How's of Great Gift Giving For Your Relationship

Does gift buying stress you out? Malls make you queasy? Do you stand and stare at possible items and realize you have no idea what to buy that special someone on your list? If birthdays, anniversaries or the 24th of December catch you by surprise every year, gift giving might not be your thing. For many people it isn't. You may not feel loved or naturally express love by giving gifts and that is okay. However, giving gifts is still an act of love, listed as one of The 5 Love Languages and it just might be the primary love language of your partner. Because of this, gifts shouldn't be ignored. To someone with gifts as a love language it is truly the thought that counts and it is worth your attention.

 

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

So, now that you are thinking about it, how do you get something that will be meaningful and not just an exercise in consumerism?

Sometimes it is easy. I have this friend Amy who I love buying gifts for and love receiving gifts from because we get each other and always have. We have a long history, have similar tastes and like to shop. You might not have a lot of shared tastes with your partner, however, the ease of buying the right gift for anyone can be available to you with some simple planning and effort.

Go shopping, or worse, browsing, with your partner:

If you hate shopping, browsing is a lot to ask, but for a few times during the year, if your partner is going shopping so are you. I know my husband would definitely prefer a goal orientated shopping trip, an in and out approach to the outing, but it would save him a lot of grief to come anyway, watch and learn.

Take notes:

My brain is a steel trap on this kind of thing, as someone who listens for a living, this comes naturally and is handy for buying gifts, but even if you aren't hawk like on another's interests, you can work on this and have some success. How do you remember? Don't. Just write it down, start a computer file, or put it in your phone and keep track of a few things your partner likes throughout the year. Or buy it then. Why wait for the last hour? Get a box, hide the box and fill it with the things your partner likes or said they needed.

 

 Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Take their friend with you:

I used to joke with Amy, that I could help a guy woo her, Roxanne style, with the vast gift knowledge I have on her. Amy would be a great person for my husband to take with him, actually a number of my friends could be helpful. So if you don't know what to get your partner take the aunt, best friend, sister, etc.

Look around your house:

There are clues everywhere. Find a dog eared magazine lying around and get an issue of that magazine or one in a similar genre, notice the types of notebooks your partner uses, favourite beauty products but ignore the barely touched ones, check out clothing labels for a good idea of the types of stores they like. Also, check the browser for the wishful online basket items that have never been purchased.

Make A gallant gesture and buy what you normally wouldn't:

My husband has bought me food items he thinks are vile, magazines, even though he thinks I have too many lying around, and beauty products, which he also believes are a plenty. Why? Because he knows that I will appreciate the sacrificial gesture. I know this isn't exactly Gift of Magi with the woman cutting off her hair to buy her husband a watch chain and him selling his watch to buy her combs, but I find it sweet, and your partner might too!

Buy something, make something, do something! No excuses:

I have been a counsellor long enough to have seen many a couple say that they don't care about gifts, only to later remark with sadness about how their partner never acknowledges occasions. If you balk at the materialism of occasions, that is fine, a gift can be so many things, a donation in their name, a meaningful card, a coupon book of acts of service. It is important for acknowledgment in some way. Even for the kids. They love to see their parents exchanging tokens of affections so it is good relationship modelling.

And Lastly,

Ask:

Need I say more?

So give it a try, you still have a few weeks to watch, track clues, grab a friend, buy what annoys you, ask for a list, or make a heart felt anything for this Christmas. Don't get stuck in the difficulties of buying for your partner or the inertia of past fails. Try something new this year armed with a few more tricks up your sleeve. It will be good for your relationship.