This morning I attended a talk on “Changing how to talk to and about ourselves,” given by Shawn R. Ernoehazy, MFT, the Program Manager at Harbor Oaks Outpatient Behavioral Health Center in West Sacramento. She addressed the monthly Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment meeting in Sacramento. As an avid student of the human condition, I spend time in the field with addiction treatment experts to inform prevention strategy for parents and educators. Below are some of the insights that I gleaned from her presentation.

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Shawn R. Ernoehazy, MFT, is the Program Manager at Harbor Oaks Outpatient Behavioral Health Center in West Sacramento.

Ms. Shawn R.  Ernoehazy, MFT, spoke this morning at the Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment. She is the Program Manager at Harbor Oaks Outpatient Behavioral Health Center in West Sacramento. She uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as the framework for her work as a therapist. While working with clients in the outpatient setting, Ernoehazy discovered that the key to success was addressing the relationship with self. Guided by the work of Brene Brown, Carl Rogers and many others, she began coaching clients to make small changes in how they talked about themselves. This improved her clients’ ability to have empathy and compassion for themselves as well as others.

Enroehazy presented self-talk as love language. “Loving yourself is not selfish,” she said. “In fact we need to love ourselves with all our heart.” Pointing to the description of the character of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), she explains how patience, kindness, not envying the good fortune of others, protecting, trusting, and perseverance are all qualities that promote resilience, acceptance of self and others, and decrease harsh judgments of self and others.

This is what makes us relatable and enable us to be of genuine service to those we are charged to provide care. “As the ‘helper’, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first,” she said.

For parents and educators this truth that the thoughts we think about ourselves impacts how we can relate to the child. For we know that people do not care about what you know until they know you care. This is true for children. Imparting wisdom so that children can learn how to become trustworthy citizens and lifelong learners cannot happen if we are harboring hostile thoughts about ourselves.

Below are some tips shared by Enroehazy that can be helpful for parents:

Be mindful of your judgments. Judgment involves hostile thoughts that can impact the dynamic with your child in a negative way and inhibit communication. Often we carry judgments we accepted from our childhood into our adult lives without realizing it.

Fact versus opinion. Facts involve objective reality, while opinions are based on judgments based on personal perspective. Try not to treat someone’s opinion of you as a fact.

Your inner critic is not your enemy. You can interpret your inner critic as harsh, or you can simply take responsibility for your mistakes and choices and learn from them.

Separate your behavior from yourself. When you feel guilt, it is a recognition that you did something wrong. When you feel shame, you identify with what is wrong; you become wrong. This does not make you more relatable, and more likely to be harsh when others do things that are wrong.

Talk to yourself in third person. Rather than making “I” statements to yourself, use your name instead. Talking in third person mode gives you a measure of objectivity which can be a kind of permission to be kind and hopeful, rather than only critical. Third person self-talk helps regulate emotion.

Examine the thoughts in the garden of your mind. Below are some examples of how to recognize judgment thoughts. Identify and pull out these thoughts like weeding a garden.

  • “You always…..” – Always statements
  • “You never….”  – Never statements
  • “My life sucks…” – Global statements

Proactively managing self-talk is one of the most important things a parent can do for their child. It is easy to be influenced by the high-anxiety lifestyles that youth and families are navigating on and offline. In this way, to me the blessing of parenthood is that it is an opportunity to pursue a better version of yourself in order to benefit your child. Everybody wins.

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About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.