How to Set Effective Boundaries During the Holidays

The fall and winter holidays are upon us, and many people have visited their trusted psychologist in Littleton to ask “how can I set boundaries with my relatives?” You love your family (at least, most of them!), and you want to have a good time with relatives during the holiday season , but how can you accomplish this feat at the busiest time of year while still having time for yourself? Read on to find out about why boundaries are important, how to set them, and how to stick to them.

Boundary suggestions

One of the biggest complaints that people bring to counseling in Highlands Ranch is that they do not have enough time to do all the things their visitors want to do, take care of family and household, and maybe keep up with work, especially for busy professionals. For this reason, setting boundaries on your time and energy is important. For example, letting grandma know that you’d love to go shopping with her, but you are expected to be at work until 3 p.m., is perfectly reasonable. Likewise, if you are invited out, consider it perfectly fine to mention to your party that you will need to leave by a certain time to meet other obligations. Other good ideas for boundary-setting include how far or long you can drive (safety concern!), how much time you can socialize versus taking time for yourself (showering, relaxing, connecting with your partner, etc.), and how much you want to spend financially. By knowing yourself, you can communicate these needs effectively.

Why set boundaries?

Just like boundaries in sports games make the game more fun (instead of a wild free-for-all), boundaries make your life better . Many couples struggle when family visits, and find out in couples therapy that both wished they could have spent more time with one another. You are likely to find that you have more energy, less resentment, and genuinely enjoy yourself better. Plus, taking the time, space, and setting the boundaries you need keeps you from burning out and getting angry at your loved ones just for being around you.

What if I feel mean?

For those who are used to meeting everyone else’s needs first, it can be easy to feel mean or harsh when setting boundaries. Here are some examples of responses you can give when someone questions your boundaries:

“Self-care is one of my top priorities so I can be the (dad, sister, friend, granddaughter, grandfather, etc.) I can be.”

“Remember last year when I was grouchy and snappy all day? Time alone makes me nicer.”

“I love hanging out with you, but quiet time is great for the brain. Would you like to borrow a book or some headphones to listen to music?”

“I can’t right now, but I am looking forward to being refreshed when I see you (at the next planned time.”

Remember, you need to put on your “oxygen mask” before assisting others! If you can’t seem to make boundaries stick, considering seeking out an experienced psychologist in Littleton to help!



How Play Therapy Can Help Boost Performance at School

November is the dreaded month where many children receive their report cards and parents start meeting with teachers for the first or second round of parent-teacher conferences. Often, this results in a consultation with a child behavior psychologist in Littleton to talk about behavior, grades, and social skills. While all parents want their children to succeed, some kids just can’t get one or more of these important elements together, making parents wonder “how can I help my child succeed?” Fortunately, play therapy can help  with young children and even some older ones at times. Read on to find out how!


The biggest concern that most parents have for their elementary school students is behavior issues. Many parents seek out children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch to address issues of aggression, anger, sadness, anxiety, and all the “acting out” that comes along with it. Whether your child is poking peers with pencils, bouncing around the room like a jackrabbit, or too scared to walk through the door, play therapy can be a safe place for her to explore her feelings and practice acting in a different way. Instead of making the child herself do these actions, play therapy starts a step back. Puppets, dolls, or even Lego people can take the pressure as children learn tools to feel stronger, control impulses, and keep disruption to a minimum. These skills carry over into real life as well.

Grades and Academics

While therapy is not about teaching academic skills, the skills that your child will learn while working with a play therapist in Littleton will help him to develop the tools he needs to succeed. Through play, your child may express that he does not feel like his work is good enough to turn in, or he might reveal being teased for being the “teacher’s pet.” Whatever is holding your child back will be easier to express through play.

Social Skills

Nobody likes talking about the things they do wrong, especially in social situations. Even young children can identify these experiences as “so embarrassing!” Instead, exploring the social skills of toys or playing socialization games can help children make up for this challenge in a way that is non-threatening and effective. See our tips for building social skills  for more ideas!

Play therapy is generally used with younger children, in the 3-12 year old age range, but can sometimes be good tools for teens who struggle with verbal communication or are unwilling to engage in traditional talk therapy. From the time humans are infants, we explore the “real world” through the safety of play; using this in a therapeutic setting can have powerful benefits.



Is Social Media Making You Antisocial?

Imagine a world without social media. Hard, isn’t it? Okay, here’s an easier challenge: Imagine the 1990s! While the same can’t be said for children, most adults these days remember at least a little bit about life before the explosion of social media, so we can exist without it. However, most of us choose not to, and it can have some consequences. Psychologists in Littleton regularly meet with people who want to “break up” social media  and reconnect with people at the same time. Read on to see the pros and cons of social media and how you can do it the best.

Social Media: Cons

It seems like everyone hates on social media these days, so let’s start with all the reasons why! First up is privacy—or lack thereof. Does everyone on your feed really need to know all those details? Unless you have very carefully customized groups and filters set up, you’re probably oversharing. This can come back to bite later, and can be frustrating when you get “leaked.” Even if you’re careful, many big social media companies have been accused of privacy violations in the past few months. Further, research has found that people who use social media more tend to be less connected, not more, and to feel less lonely. Unlike other relationships, where friendships, intimate relationships, and more often cross, relationships on social media often only have one point of contact… break it, and the relationship is off.

Social Media: Pros

This is not to say that social media is all bad! In fact, when people use it in certain ways, such as to connect with family, friends, or contacts from whom they are very far, it can improve socialization and make people feel less lonely. Some use social media to find groups to spend time with in real life, and some simply cannot get out much due to physical or mental illness or transportation limits. Social media has helped thousands of people reconnect after many years, and some have found close family and friends on these sites.

How to Find Balance

Remember, social media is a tool. Just like you can’t use your hammer for everything, you can’t use social media for everything, either. Pay close attention to where your attention goes—are you ignoring real, caring people right in front of you to engage in “connections” that may or may not be real on social media? Are your kids following in your social media footsteps  and appearing stuck on these sites or apps? Are you giving up time at work, self-care, or time with family to spend time on social networking sites? If so, evaluate the rest of your relationships and see if you can find balance anywhere. For help, a psychologist in Littleton can help you sort through these issues, and if social media is affecting your relationship, you can find help through couples therapy. Contact Dr. Steve Lazarus today to get started.





Fright, Gore, and Candy: A Psychologist’s Guide to Halloween

One of the most interesting parts of working as a psychologist in Littleton is seeing the excitement of children preparing for Halloween. Some kids will start planning their costume for next year as soon as they take their current costume off, some will run miles for candy, others could care less. This is also a time when many parents ask questions such as “how much candy should my child eat?” or “what is too scary for an elementary school student?” Fortunately, there is some flexibility in these answers. Read on to find out suggestions from a child behavior psychologist

Scared, yet?
Many parents are surprised to find out that popular events are too scary for children. Everything from community haunted houses to theme parks typically have age warnings, and as a parent, you should check on these. Further, if you know your child is generally anxious, or if he or she has specific fears (clowns, snakes, spiders, etc.) that would make him or her not enjoy the event, skip it and try again next year. A little scare is fun—which is why children seek out scary things—but go too far and your child could have a miserable time.

Violence and Gore

Today’s trends for scares include blood, guts, gore, and weapons! Some children are ready for this make-believe world; others are too strongly affected. Some ways to tell if your child is not ready for this sort of action include if they are very frightened, begin reenacting violent scenes or events, or if they have repeated nightmares. The levels vary from family to family and from child to child, so make sure to do your research to keep your child safe.


First and foremost, remember that your child’s physical health should always be evaluated by a physician. For kids who have a standard, unrestricted diet, the issue is more about self-control than health. Even if your child binges on an entire bag of Halloween candy and throws it all up, he or she is not likely to do permanent damage… but you may not want this outcome! Addressing this can be part of your long-term parenting goals of helping your child plan for the future and regulate their own behaviors, so try to offer some flexibility. Some kids are able to self-regulate, especially when parents help by sneaking in a healthy meal before trick-or-treat time (you can’t eat as much candy if you’re full already!). Others need help, and tools such as exchanging candy for toys, allowance , or even “points” for children using a point or star chart  can be a good way to curb that sugar intake while still helping your child build good self-regulation skills. Good old fashioned rationing also works well, and lets the child know that while he has “earned” the candy, parents are still in charge of making it responsible to eat.

For help throughout the year, consider meeting with a child psychologist or child therapist in Highlands Ranch for great ideas!