Chico Center for Psychotherapy

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


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. 

Filtering by Tag: Parenting

Co-parenting your child

Counselors  and therapists working with children and their parents are often confronted with the difficulties for a child of living in two households. It becomes increasingly difficult for the child when the parents do not, or barely communicate, and when miscommunication between parents build up. As I mentioned in the last post, a common effect of this is that parents perceive that the child is lying. However, this 'lying' is an effect of the parents not communicating, and the child wanting to protect both parents, and wanting to please each parent. This 'lying' can add to the conflict between the parents, who think that the other parent is instigating the child to lie, leading to an increase in alienation between the families, and complicating the position of the child. 

The practice of shared parenting has been recognized by the research community and by legal and mental health practitioners as the preferred parenting arrangement after divorce, and being optimal to child development. It is recognized that shared parenting is the most effective means for reducing high parental conflict. Of course this applies to situations where there is no substantiated family violence or child abuse. 

However, in my experience there is a lack in services to help families to support in their shared physical custody. It often is just 'shared' with respect to the 'time,' and the 'sharing' at other levels seems to be left to the child (hence the tendency to 'lie'). For this collaborative parenting to be successful, there needs to be an accessible number of family relationship centers that offer family mediation and other relevant support services outside of the court system. In this county it seems that mediation is immediately linked to the 'court.' There is a need for governments to help establish such networks.  To help parents create an environment for their child where 'shared' parenting is not just a 'time share.' Because when it is only a time share, without any further communication between the parents, the divide between the parents can get so big, that it is as if a wall is constructed within the child. The child lives in one world when living with one parent, and in another world when living with the other parent. It is as if the child is not allowed to have 'shared parents.' Each parent thinks he is the only parent for the child, and acts as if the other one is not there. The effects for the child can be devastating even when 'on paper' there is 'shared custody.'

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

The terrible two's: How to handle your child's loud and clear 'NO!'

It can be a shock for a parent, when their sweet and loving baby suddenly turns against them with this loud and clear no. Sometimes parents experience it as a rejection, a withdrawing of the child's love. And understanding it this way can lead to a cascade of misunderstandings between parent and child, and to a souring of the relationship.

However, this NO is indicative of a very important shift in the child's position: from being a baby who could not conceive of anything other than doing what the parent wants, towards becoming his or her own person! This is a moment to be celebrated. As Dolto points out: The child says 'no,' to be able to do 'yes.'   What does this mean?  That the child says no, 'because you ask me, and I do not want to do whatever you ask me, as I am my own person'.  However, the child immediately follows up with a yes, 'but I want to do it for me, because I am a becoming a big boy, or a big girl, and I want to do things on my own, for me.' 

If the parent understands this, these ‘two's’ do not have to be so terrible. Typically, when the parent does not insist, or refers to another adult of importance for the child as making the same request, the child will eventually do it. The child will do it not to please the mother or father, but to become his own person, and not just a 'child' that is commanded like a pet, or a little kid. 

If the parent reads this no as a rejection, but as a positive intention of the child moving towards developing his own personality, separated from the parent, the child might feel that the parent is needing him or her to stay this parental extension. The child might get the message that he is there only for the sake of pleasing the mother, satisfying her needs, but is not respected in his or her own desires. If a third element or person does not intervene to bring about this separation between the parent and the child, it might be the beginning of difficulties for the child, and for the parent – child relationship.  The child might move back and forth between compliance and revolt and opposition. But stuck in this dynamic the child stays stuck to the parent in what can sometimes become an infernal dynamic for all parties involved. In that case therapy might help both parent and child to help bring about the separation that has not had a chance to occur. It is precisely this separation, (which indeed will imply  a certain loss), that will make a connection possible between parent and child.  A connection that will be much more pleasurable than the infernal dynamic of opposition and reconciliation.

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


Parental Guilt

Child therapists often deal in their work with parents with the parents' feeling of guilt. Parents might feel that they have made mistakes in the early years of child rearing. They feel that the opportunities are missed and that it is now 'too late.'  It is true that a child's character is formed by the age of 6, and that this character is shaped by the type of relationships this child has had.  But this does not mean, if these early relationships were difficult that the child will necessarily suffer or be 'damaged.' 

The important thing is not to try to compensate for what did not happen in the past now.  What has happened, has happened. It would be much more important for the parent to talk to the child about it. The parent could tell the child that she realizes that she might have maybe done too much for the child, and not have left enough room for the child to make her own mistakes.  She can say to the child that she wanted to give the child everything she did not have as a child, and was maybe too 'giving,' and maybe smothering.  That she realizes that her child will have to find her own way, separate from her, that she cannot keep holding her hand. That part of her wished maybe that she could keep holding her hand, but that she also feels how important it is that her child can go her own way, and how proud she is of that as a mom, and that she can trust that the child can go her own way.

Or in the other direction: it would not make sense to starting to feed a 9 year old the bottle because the parent realizes that he was maybe not feeding the baby enough bottles when he was a baby. Although there are certain kinds of therapy that focus on compensating for what is missed, on closer investigation it is much more the symbolic dimension, the ability to symbolically work through the early trauma which is the healing factor.

In this context I also think of the young mother of a 15 month old child, who is prone to arguments with her spouse.  Although she tries to change this, the urge to argue is sometimes so big that she cannot resist.  After she got in a big argument in the presence of her son with her spouse she apologized to her son, and talked to him on how she was working on this issue.  She was surprised how attentively her son was listening to her as she was talking to him 'heart to heart.' Admitting our mistakes to our children in a genuine way, talking to them truthfully, in an open way, is a powerful tool that can mitigate possibly traumatizing experiences.

If you want to talk to a therapist,  call An at (530) 321-2970

An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

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