The Practice of Parenting

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][The Practice of Parenting]

    • 00:11

      VALERIE JENCKS: Hi, Lauren?

    • 00:12

      SPEAKER 1: Hi.Hi, yeah.

    • 00:13

      VALERIE JENCKS: Hi, nice to meet you.Come on in--

    • 00:14

      SPEAKER 1: Nice to meet you.

    • 00:14

      VALERIE JENCKS: --and have a seat.

    • 00:15

      SPEAKER 1: Thank you.

    • 00:15

      VALERIE JENCKS: Billy?

    • 00:15

      SPEAKER 2: Yes.

    • 00:16

      VALERIE JENCKS: Nice to see you.

    • 00:16

      SPEAKER 2: Nice to see you.

    • 00:17

      VALERIE JENCKS: Have a seat.So tell me, have you been in counseling before?

    • 00:22

      SPEAKER 1: No.

    • 00:23

      SPEAKER 2: No.

    • 00:23

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK.Neither of you?

    • 00:24

      SPEAKER 1: No.

    • 00:25

      VALERIE JENCKS: So what I'd like to do todayis I'd like to spend a couple of minutestalking to you about what it is that I do and how this works.And then I'd like to spend the rest of the sessionhearing from you about what's bringing you in.Hi.My name is Valerie Jencks. [Valerie Jencks, FamilyTherapist & Motivational Speaker]I'm a licensed marriage and familytherapist, a licensed clinical professional counselor,and the founder and executive director

    • 00:47

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: of Prairie Family Therapy.So what's bringing you in today?

    • 00:51

      SPEAKER 1: Well, I'm an attorney.And on a good week, I work 80 to 100 hours a week.And Billy is a wonderful stay-at-home dad,but I feel like he sometimes excludes mefrom family events, family gatherings,

    • 01:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: because I'm working.

    • 01:14

      SPEAKER 2: It's clearly perception, I think.I don't think we do that.I mean, I can understand it, I suppose, but I don't see it.That's just a thing.

    • 01:23

      VALERIE JENCKS: I chose family therapy as a specialtybecause I had majored in sociologyin my undergraduate college career.Sociology is about the study of peopleand systems and cultures.Family therapy is working with people within their systems

    • 01:44

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: and cultures.So the profession naturally lent itselfto my undergraduate degree.There are a lot of different specialtiesin the mental health fields.The marriage and family therapy specialtydiffers from the others by its emphasison working with relationships and relationship systems,

    • 02:08

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: whereas a lot of the other mental health professionswill focus on more individually-orientedmodalities.So someone who is going into general counselingmay take one or two courses in marriage and family therapy,

    • 02:28

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: whereas somebody who goes into marriage and family therapywill have two years of graduate programsspecific to marriage and family therapy modalities.First of all, you have a very nontraditional arrangement.It's becoming more commonplace, but it's stillnot a popular configuration where you're staying at home.

    • 02:51

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: And it sounds like there have been some challenges--

    • 02:53

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah.

    • 02:53

      VALERIE JENCKS: --that are happening.

    • 02:54

      SPEAKER 1: Yes.I mean, when I'm at work, I'm concentrating on work.But my children always-- they come into my mind.And sometimes I get distracted, and Ithink that actually makes me end upworking more hours than I would due to my thoughts goingto my family, that I'm missing out.I'm missing out on all the moments.

    • 03:18

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And I don't think that Billy keeps me involved or upto date with those moments as much as he could.I mean, last week it was story time at Lilly's preschool,and he didn't tell me about it.And I could have left.I could have taken a lunch and goneto see him read to the class.

    • 03:40

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: But you didn't even tell me about it.

    • 03:43

      VALERIE JENCKS: What's your understandingof how Lauren is feeling?

    • 03:46

      SPEAKER 2: I guess it harks back to when I was working as well.I mean, there is that sort of fearof missing things and not being a partof the daily life of our kids.I get that.But I didn't take it as a personal-- attack isthe wrong word, I guess, but.

    • 04:06

      VALERIE JENCKS: The most common problemsthat bring parents to family therapy in this day and agehave to do with our changing lifestyle as a society,specifically technology, dual working parents.All of those things have really changed

    • 04:26

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: how families structure themselves and the problemsthat come up as a result.Up until around the 1980s, a traditional familyconfiguration would have been a primary breadwinner,most likely the husband, and a stay-at-home parent,

    • 04:47

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: most likely the wife.And our society supported those roles within the family system.Right around the end of the 1980s, the beginningof the 1990s, we saw an influx in womenentering the workforce.And what happened to our families' structures

    • 05:09

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: is there needed to be shifts regarding role responsibility.Now we're starting to see parents arguing about who'sresponsible for doing the laundry if they're bothgoing to work full time.And the stress and the burden of coordinating the children'sactivities, now it rests upon two parents rather than

    • 05:35

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: one specific parent whose job it is to coordinate schedules.So you're feeling like Lauren is feeling like you'reintentionally excluding?

    • 05:48

      SPEAKER 2: I don't think intentional.I mean, I think it's more of a perception maybe that she has.

    • 05:53

      VALERIE JENCKS: Lauren, are you feelinglike Billy's intentionally excluding you from things?

    • 05:58

      SPEAKER 1: Yes.And I don't think that you're necessarily doing itfrom a bad place, but I think you intentionallyleave details or events out so that I don't haveto worry about being there.I don't know.I don't know what your reasoning is.

    • 06:15

      VALERIE JENCKS: So what we've discovered todayis that the two of you have some issues that a lot of couplesare experiencing in this day and age.And because so many couples are experiencing this,we actually have a parents group thatis meeting in a half an hour, if you can stay around.I would really like for you guys to participate in that.

    • 06:36

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah.

    • 06:37

      SPEAKER 2: I think we could do that.

    • 06:38

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah, that would be great.

    • 06:39

      VALERIE JENCKS: Family therapy sessionsare structured in a variety of different ways.Sometimes children might be includedas a diagnostic tool for the therapistto be able to observe the dynamics and the communicationstyle and patterns among the family members.Other times, parents may be coming in

    • 07:01

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: to work on issues pertaining to their roles as mom and dad.In recent years, one of the thingsthat we're seeing more and more ofis a common problem of isolation.And that is that mothers and fathersare so busy that they no longer have timeto interact with other parents.

    • 07:22

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: So we've started to offer parenting groups,where we might not get involved in the intimate detailsof a specific family situation, but we are, through a groupprocess, able to address some of the more common issues,such as scheduling and feeling overwhelmed

    • 07:45

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: and misunderstood by each other.One of the benefits of having a parenting groupis that it really plays on our innate need for connectionwith each other.Human beings are born to need contact with each other.And today's lifestyle, with our hectic schedules and hustle

    • 08:10

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: and bustle, chauffeuring here and there,really isolates us from each other.So a parenting group allows parentsto come together to be able to connect in a healthy way.They can be validated by hearing other couples talkabout their struggles.

    • 08:31

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: They can listen and say, hey, we may have problems,but we're not as bad as they are.There's a benefit in coming together in a community,and these parenting groups create a community that'sneeded but no longer exists.All right.Well, thank you for coming today.

    • 08:49

      SPEAKER 3: I'm really excited to get started in this group.

    • 08:52

      VALERIE JENCKS: So one of the thingsthat I would like to do today is to identifysome of the common issues that you allare having so that we can address those in the upcomingweeks.This group will be going on for the next four weeks.Every week, we'll come in and what I'd like to dois I'd like to have a topic that we're

    • 09:13

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: addressing each week that's of interest to you.The cornerstones of good parentinghave changed over the years.Historically, good parenting was a lot easierto define because we had traditional roles for a mother

    • 09:33

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: and a traditional role for a fatherthat was supported by a society.Now we have a variety of different roles and familytypes.We have biracial parents.We have LGBT parents.We have grandparents who are raising children.

    • 09:54

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: We have single parents.So there isn't a standard by whichto identify a cornerstone of parenting anymore.We're a bit like pioneers crossing the prairie inventingthe wheel as we go along.That being said, there are a few things

    • 10:14

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: that still stand out as far as what good parenting isidentified by.Focus on children.Are the children's basic needs being met?Is there healthy interaction?And is there healthy structure being provided in the home?

    • 10:35

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: All of those family structures have created an environmentthat doesn't really specifically tell parents how theyshould parent their children.Consequently, we have a variety of parenting styles.Parenting styles have changed incredibly

    • 10:57

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: over the last decade.The advent of technology has changed how parents communicatewith each other, how they communicatewith their children, how their children communicatewith each other.And along with that is a myriad of problemswhen it comes to the internet and how

    • 11:19

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: to supervise and monitor children's relationshipsthat they develop online.I've had an opportunity to meet with each of you as a couple,and we've talked a little bit about some of the thingsgoing on.And one of the things that has been identifiedhas to do with scheduling, and thereare so many different things.

    • 11:40

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: What I'm going to do is I'm going to write on this boardhere and just shout out what some of the thingsare that you're coming up against.I think, Lauren and Billy, you weretalking about some issues around scheduling and time management.Do you want to share?

    • 11:56

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah.I feel like Billy doesn't keep meinformed of all the activities that my children are involvedin.

    • 12:03

      VALERIE JENCKS: And so you're having a hard timebeing able to participate in your kids' activitieswith your husband or without your husband?

    • 12:09

      SPEAKER 1: Both, because he doesn't tell me.

    • 12:10

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK.Kids' activities.OK.What else?Katie and Adam, when I was talking to you,one of the things that you were talking aboutis having some time for each other.

    • 12:21

      SPEAKER 4: Right, yeah.He's out of town so much, sometimesit's hard to just pick a night to do something together.

    • 12:26

      VALERIE JENCKS: And he has a teenager, an almost teenager,and a baby, so.OK.Culture has always played an important partin establishing acceptable parenting standards.If you think about the foundation of the United Statesas being a bunch of immigrants from different countries

    • 12:48

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: who brought over their parenting styleswith them, over the course of several centuries nowwe've been able to meld those cultural idealsinto our own American ideal, our own American standardfor parenting.We're in a shift right now because of how

    • 13:09

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: people's roles as parents are changing, as I mentioned,the family configuration changes.We're in this shift of being able to adopt a different kindof cultural norm for parenting.So right now, the norm is variety.And Jonathan and Audrey, one of the thingsthat you were talking about is finding time with your kids,

    • 13:33

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: correct?

    • 13:34

      SPEAKER 3: Yeah.I I'm not home very often.So having to choose between time with my husband,or time with all of us as a family,or time just alone with our daughter is really challenging.

    • 13:44

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK.And you're feeling that too.

    • 13:46

      SPEAKER 5: Yeah.My work schedule's pretty busy.And we have a hard time between-- her mom liveswith us and the nanny.And we want to be able to connect with our daughter,but neither one of us are there, so.

    • 14:00

      SPEAKER 3: Sometimes we feel like somebody elseis raising her.

    • 14:03

      SPEAKER 5: Yeah.

    • 14:04

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK.Scheduling kids' activities, time together without the kids,and time together with the kids.Is there anything else that you can think of that you'restruggling with right now?

    • 14:17

      SPEAKER 1: Also, alone time.

    • 14:19

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK, alone time.That's good.Can you say a little bit more about that?

    • 14:25

      SPEAKER 1: Just time to either be by myself to regroup.Or I have a book club and wine clubthat I would like to spend time with,anything away from the kids and husband and career.

    • 14:37

      SPEAKER 2: And I can agree with thatas well, because I'm at home with the kids all day.So it's also there's things that I have fallen off ofand would like to get back into outside of the homeand stuff like that.

    • 14:50

      VALERIE JENCKS: The state plays an important rolein establishing acceptable parenting standards,specifically the legislation that'spassed in regards to funding of different programsand resources available to parents,such as after school programs, before school programs, school

    • 15:11

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: lunches.All of those things, when you have both parents whoare working, they become increasinglyimportant to keeping families on track and making surethat kids are well supervised and taken care of.Are there any other things that are coming up for people

    • 15:34

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: that you're thinking about, that you'd reallylike to be addressing?

    • 15:40

      SPEAKER 3: On a parenting level, I sometimes worrythat our daughter will think that I'm absent or notaround as much as she would like.And that's a perception that I reallywant to be able to manage while she's youngand still do my career and do what I do for a living,but also be a good mom and be there for her.

    • 16:00

      VALERIE JENCKS: So in some ways, Audrey,it sounds like, similarly to Lauren,you're finding that the balance between your career and beinga mom is a struggle.

    • 16:11

      SPEAKER 3: Right.And I want to model to my daughterthat I can also have a career and bea good mom, because that's somethingthat I would like for her also.

    • 16:19

      SPEAKER 1: I'm glad to hear you say that.I don't feel as alone.It's not very common for a woman to have sucha booming career and children.I feel like a lot of other motherslook at me like I'm a bad person.

    • 16:35

      VALERIE JENCKS: How about you dads?How is it for you?

    • 16:38

      SPEAKER 6: Well, I'm pretty busy at work.I have a lot of hobbies that I liketo do whenever I'm not at work.And I just feel that there's a very tough balancebetween everything I'd like to do as well as raising a familyand taking care of my children and my wife.

    • 16:52

      SPEAKER 4: I understand that.Sometimes it's a little frustratingwhen Adam vents about his responsibilities.Sometimes I feel like we have trouble connecting on the factthat I'm at home with both kids all day,and it's hard to empathize some of these concerns.

    • 17:15

      SPEAKER 4 [continued]: Sometimes I don't feel like he's hearing my concerns.

    • 17:18

      SPEAKER 6: Well, I feel like if I'm alwayson the road, that sometimes I liketo come back home and blow off a little steam with my hobbies.

    • 17:26

      SPEAKER 4: I totally understand, yeah.I know you travel a lot, and it must be really stressful.But it's also stressful to be at homeand not be able to go on the road or many places at all.

    • 17:39

      VALERIE JENCKS: One of the things that I thinkit's important for people to know about family therapyis that it isn't a substitute for individual therapy,and individual therapy should neverbe a substitute for family therapy.They are two completely different modalities.Individual therapy looks at the problems that the individual is

    • 18:02

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: bringing in and that individual's perspectiveof those problems.Family therapy looks at the context, the system,that the individual is functioning, the systemthat the individual lives in.Now, out of the corner of my eye,I saw a lot of head nodding going on over here.

    • 18:23

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: This really struck a chord for the two of you.Can you say a little bit more about that, Billy?

    • 18:28

      SPEAKER 2: Yeah.Our relationship is that they're reversedof what we are, that we're a complete mirror image of that.And I go through a lot of that with the-- and empathy's huge.Because, I mean, I know what she's doingand what I'm doing, and making that work is tough.

    • 18:45

      VALERIE JENCKS: Would it be safe to say that you're allfeeling misunderstood by your spouse on some level,that you're so busy and your lives areso different that you're having a difficult time connecting?

    • 18:60

      SPEAKER 2: I think it's fair.

    • 19:01

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK.Well, I think that we're off to a really good start.We've identified some very good points-- scheduling, the kids'activities, fitting that in so it's not overwhelmingand everybody feels like they're participating,time together, and then there's the alonetime, the time for regrouping and resetting

    • 19:26

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: all of those things.So this is the initial meeting.And for each meeting, we will have a homework assignmentfor you guys to work on.So choosing from this list of thingsthat we identified, what I would like each of you to dois to go home and put a date night on the calendar.

    • 19:47

      SPEAKER 2: I think that's good, yeah.

    • 19:48

      VALERIE JENCKS: OK?I want you to schedule a time where you actually physicallyremove yourself from the home and the childrenand you go somewhere.And it could be a walk in the park.It could be a bike ride.It could be a dinner out, a show.But there's a couple rules, OK?

    • 20:11

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: No cell phones, and you're not allowedto talk about the children when you're together.OK?

    • 20:19

      SPEAKER 5: That's good.

    • 20:20

      VALERIE JENCKS: All right?And then we'll see each other next week at the same time.What I would say to anyone who's interested in becoming a familytherapist is be a client of family therapy first.It's so important that therapists actually

    • 20:41

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: have personal experience of beingon the other side of the proverbial couch.It allows someone who is a family therapistto experience their clients' experience personally.The other thing that I would suggestto anyone interested in becoming a family therapist

    • 21:02

      VALERIE JENCKS [continued]: is to take sociology courses.Sociology is the study of people and systems.Family therapy is working with individualswithin their systems and looking at that context.And a sociology major is perfect for laying the foundationto becoming a family therapist.[MUSIC PLAYING]

The Practice of Parenting

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Valerie Jencks discusses her work as a marriage and family therapist and what the job entails. Family therapy emphasizes relationships and relationship systems, unlike other types of mental health treatment, which usually focus on the individual. Jencks explains how she got into the field and provides an example of a group therapy session.

SAGE Video In Practice
The Practice of Parenting

Valerie Jencks discusses her work as a marriage and family therapist and what the job entails. Family therapy emphasizes relationships and relationship systems, unlike other types of mental health treatment, which usually focus on the individual. Jencks explains how she got into the field and provides an example of a group therapy session.

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