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 support

Chico Parenting Support: free parenting workshops

I wanted to share some information about upcoming parenting workshops.  I have been planning on starting a reflective parenting group but it is still in the works.  I would like to share the parenting workshops that are coming up, conducted by Lynn Haskell.  Lynn has been active in the community working with parents and young children for many years, and will be offering the free parenting workshops at Butte College.  The workshop 'NO DRAMA DISCIPLINE' is based on the book by Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD. It is an interactive workshop that includes exercises and group participation.  The focus will be on parenting pre-school to school age children.

May 24    Week 1/4  Rethinking Discipline, your brain on discipline

May 31    Week 2/4  From tantrums to tranquility: Connection is the key

June 7    Week 3/4  1-2-3 Discipline: Redirecting for today, and for tomorrow

June 14 Week 4/4  Addressing Behavior: As simple as R-E-D-I-R-E-C-T

To sign up call Butte College Foster/Kinship Care Education at 530-897-6235 to sign up.



Talking to your child about what you want to forget

As a child therapist I often work with children who have only one parent consistently in their lives.  Often when parents separate there are strong negative feelings towards the former partner. This might even be more so in cases where there was physical or verbal abuse between the parents. When the relationship was extremely traumatic for one partner, there might be the tendency afterwards to avoid bringing up the partner, the other parent of the child. It can be very hard to find the words to talk to the child about the person that has caused them so much pain and hurt. And when the other parent happens to not be in the picture anymore it can be easy to completely 'forget' about him or her.

Never talking about a child's absent biological parent however can become quite problematic for the child. Parents often don't see that. They might say: 'He never asks, so we don't say anything.'  However, it could be that the child is aware that it is a very sensitive subject and that he better not brings it up. But the child knows it has another biological father/mother and will try to makes sense of this absence with whatever means he has at his disposal, according to his developmental stage.  

A boy told me that he thought his biological father who he had not seen since he was 2,5 years old was dead, that he had died from a very bad disease. However, his bio dad was still alive. When I met with the child individually he said that he did not know whether his biological dad was dead or alive. He said he had never seen his biological dad at first, but then said he remembered one thing: His dad had told him to stay in his seat, but he had gotten up and he had eaten from his dad's plate. His dad got mad at him, and then left and never came back. He cried, and cried after that. We could say that although he might know at some level his dad is alive, somehow he is dead to him, as he had not become present in conversations he might have had with the other parent, who was too pained by the relationship to address her child about his father.

The child's understanding of why his dad suddenly left out of his life: 'I did something wrong, did not listen to my dad, and I took something that belonged to his dad. This made my dad so angry that he left me forever.'

The radical absence, 'dead' of the father from his life is also illustrated by the fact that he does not realize that his last name came from his father. He thought that both his first and last name were chosen by his mother because she liked them. The idea that both his mother and father could have chosen his first name, but that his father had given him his the last name, that he himself had received from his father before was completely new to him.

The parent might be relieved to be free from the abusing spouse and might be happy to forget about that part of her life, but the young child is at a different stage.  It will be important to become to be able to talk to the child about this other parent, the absent one. This will help the child to open himself up to new perspectives that might help him eventually move away from the interpretation he had of the father's disappearance at a very young age.  

In my work with parents I often think together with them about how to talk about very difficult past experiences that have touched the parent's life and the child's life. The process of creating a narratives that is in line with their the 'truth' but also allow for the child to have a positive sense of themselves as the child of both their father and their mother, can be a very rewarding experience. 

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

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."

Brochure: Help for Children and Parents in Chico

Are you looking for help for a child that is dear to you? Are you struggling to make sense of your child's behavior? Or do you know a family that needs help? Check out my new brochure: 'Helping Children and Parents', and call me with questions you might have, or if you would like copies for interested people.

Reflective vs reactive parenting

This is an older but still interesting post on 'reflective' parenting from Psychology Today.  Reflective parenting helps parents to 'reflect' on the intentions, thoughts, desires, goals... that are motivating their children's behavior. A parenting approach that takes this reflective stance, rather than reacting to the behavior without considering what might be behind it, is proven to improve the parent-child relationship: it leads to an increased sense of connectedness between the parent and the child, and helps the child regulate his or her emotions and behaviors better.  In this approach it is not crucial that you come up with the right reason underlying your child's behavior. As the mind of another person, and also of your own child, will always remain to some extent opaque, this approach implies that it is not crucial to find the the exact right motivation of your child's behavior.  More important is to have the reflective, wondering stance towards your child's thoughts and intentions.  

An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

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