Chico Center for Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy and Counseling services for Children & Adults | Support for Parents

(530)321-2970

Chico therapist An Bulkens, LMFT is psychotherapist and counselor in Chico, California.  An Bulkens specializes in psychotherapy and counseling for young children  (toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents) and support for parents, with a special emphasis on  early childhood psychotherapy, and counseling  for preschoolers and Kindergarten aged child.  She also offers parenting skills support. She offers psychoanalytic psychotherapy for adults.  Her approach is grounded in  Lacanian Psychoanalysis. She was also trained as a clinical psychologist in Europe, Belgium.  Her education emphasized developmental psychology and psychoanalytic therapy. 

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Balancing Empathy with fostering a sense of Competence

In reflective parenting it is important to maintain a balance between being sensitive to your child's emotions, while also setting limits or boundaries. It is important to walk the line between the two. Whereas too little empathy can get in the way of a child's sense of wellbeing, too much can interfere with his his sense of competence.

With too much empathy we mean that a parent can feel so empathic that he or she feels the same upset as the child. When a parent feels the child's distress too strongly, there is a tendency to jump in and fix things for the child. This does not give the child the opportunity to figure things out for herself. Competence is built when children are encouraged to take on challenges, to problem solve, and manage disappointments on their own - with the support of the parent. 

A true empathic response implies that you have just a taste of what the child feels. The parent senses something in herself of what the child is feeling, but it does not coincide. Although the parent is connected to the child, he is also separate. 

Reflective parenting aims for empathy coupled with helping kids to develop grit and resilience!

Resilience: Resilience requires optimism and an ability to reevaluate the situation.  It rests on the belief that for the most part situations tend to work out and openness to the possibility that if one way does not work try another way! If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

A child tries out to be on a team but does not make it, and is upset and angry. If they are resilient relatively quickly they come out of it, because they realize not everyone can get everything they want and that it was good for them to at least try.

Grit: Grit involves having goals, a willingness to work hard at pursuing them and not being afraid of failure. Grit involves passion.

A child who plays basketball wants to get better. They practice dribbling or shooting baskets for an hour a day. At their next game the child make lots of mistakes. That week they try even harder and practice for 2 hours every day.

Reflective parenting encourages parents to build confidence by promoting Grit and Resilience in your child.

  • Encourage children to be more optimistic and assume things will work out.
  • Encourage children to believe in their ability to solve problems and meet challenges.
  • Allow children to manage the situation on their own, as much as possible.
  • Inspire children to try their best.

“I know you can do it! I know you are capable to handle this!” “I know you want me to help but let me first give you a chance to handle it.” “It is more important to me that you try your best, than whether or not you win.” “Even more important than how I feel, or if I am proud of you, is for you to consider if you tried your best, and if you feel you are proud of yourself."

Child therapy and trauma II

For the child to master those invasive experiences, these excitements of his body which bombard him or her in the first years of  the child's life, he will need to turn to the Other to help him 'make sense' of them, to help him 'manage' this excess.  When this Other person is experienced by the child as absent, then the child is left to his or her own devices which might lead to anxiety - separation anxiety. It is this anxiety which lies at the base of fear of the dark, being alone, or finding a stranger instead of a familiar face. It is a reaction with respect to the absence of the person who helps manage this 'excess.' It is anxiety connected with an absence of a symbolic elaboration of this anxiety.

The child will typically attempt to master this anxiety by entering language, by starting to speak. Language will help the child to master the anxiety, to manage it. There is a double movement of the parents inviting the child into this world of language, while the child at the same time has to be willing to take the step into language. This is not always easy, as we see that a lot of children cannot make the choice to speak so easily. 

This anxiety has to do again with a 'structural' trauma and is not always easily perceived by parents and caregivers. But psychotherapeutic work can help a child that is stuck in anxiety move forward towards a growing ability to 'symbolize' this anxiety.

To schedule an appointment call An Bulkens at (530) 321-2970

An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

Tel. (530) 321- 2970    |   186 E 12th ST,  Chico, CA 95928