Teaching Courtship

We are all familiar with the public service announcements almost begging parents to talk to their children about drugs, alcohol, internet safety, sex and safe driving. Have you ever wondered why aren’t parents encouraged to talk about love and dating?  We know that when parents talk to their children about smoking and share their values about sex or alcohol that they can influence kids to make better choices.  We should also be reminded to teach our children about healthy relationsips, courtesy in dating, and how to protect themselves.

Almost ¾ of all 8th graders are dating and more than half of them will experience some form of dating violence (either emotional, physical, or sexual). Dating and healthy relationships should become a major lesson for our children before sending them out to find a partner.  In a world filled with distorted images of love and intimacy- ranging from unrealistic fairy tale romances to sexually explicit- our children need guidance now more than ever.

Previously, your dating advice may only have consisted of telling your child to wait and have sex after marriage or when they fall in love.  Stop to consider all the other endless questions you have now introduced, but are not providing answers for.

When will I know I am in love? Is sex something I should be offering to everyone I think I am in love with? What if I never marry? What if I am in love, but don’t want to? What if they are in love, but I am not? What if sex makes me not love them anymore or makes them not love me? Is sex the only way to show or prove my love? How will I know if it is better to have sex now or wait till I am married? Should I be dating people I think I want to have sex with?

And don’t forget about all the questions that are not being considered. Do I have to date every one that asks? What would a date be like? Do I have to keep dating someone if I don’t like them? Do I only date one person all the time or can I date more than one person? How do I say no to someone I don’t want to date? Can I end a date if I am unhappy? What if my date or the place we go makes me uncomfortable?

So many teenagers and young adults today are creating relationships without any concrete ideas about what a “good’ relationship is really like. They may be basing their realationships on temporary supports instead of lasting ones or they may feel they are not dating properly if they are not in a solid relationship within a certain time or at all. Many go out into the dating world looking for a relationship that’s “not like their parents”.  Either growing up with parents who do not seem to truly love or like one another or in single parent households, children may find themselves creating a list of dont’s without ever considering what they do want.  Even children that grow up in homes with two parents who have a healthy relationship are struggling to really define what it is they are seeking in a partner.

Setting a good example is the best lesson. Our children, even the teenagers, take their cues from us. If we are not providing a reliable example they turn to the world; scary thought! Happily married couples may begin a heated discussion as the kids walk in the room, but table it until everyone is in bed.  Children do not need exposure to every disagreement and they need to learn to keep their disagreements private, but if they never see you work through an argument then how do they learn what conflict resolution really looks like?happyMarried couples should continue dating regularly and make their children aware of their dating. Going out as a family is a perfect time to publicly display the courtesies of dating for your children to observe. Single parents may be dating but exclude their children from the process.  Of course you can’t have your teenage son picking out your next boyfriend, but you can talk with him about the qualities in a man that would make him a good mate. Regardless of the status of our own love life, our children need to hear from us about what a loving, mutually satisfying relationship is about.  

Posted in Dating 101, Longterm Relationships, Love or lust, Parent Child Relationship, talk to your kids, Talking with Children | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mend the Bridge; Don’t Tear it Down

No matter how much you love your friends at some point you’re going to fight. It might be something stupid or it might be caused by a serious mistake or poor choice. Regardless, friend fights hurt. They often split groups and people take sides. They can last a few hours or even a few months and can leave you feeling alone. Don’t think your friendship cannot be saved; it can. If you really want your friendship repaired you will need to be humble, even if the reason behind the fight is not your fault.

The silent treatment is a common practice that may seem like a perfect solution at the time; it isn’t. Being silent is always a bad idea as it never solves anything and only pulls you further apart.  If your friend is trying to reach out and talk to you, don’t ignore them. It’s fine to take a few days to cool off and gather your thoughts, but don’t let that period of time last too long. If this fight is between you and another friend, it’s fine to discuss it with your other pals, but don’t drag them into the fight and get them involved. This isn’t their battleIf you start making your other friends choose sides you are not only coming off as childish, but you are putting your other friendships in similar jeopardy.

Leave it OFF social media! Publishing your anger or situation on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ is the worst mistake to be made. Don’t even think about posting any incriminating photos on Instagram! Your fight is between the two of you only and involving the rest of the world will only make reparations almost impossible. Once it is on the internet it is there forever. No matter how much you delete it. After your problem has been resolved you do not want it coming back to haunt you in the future and, I promise you, it will.

Whatever the fight is about, you each have a side. Take some time and listen to what your friend has to say and do so in person. Once you’ve both cooled off, set up a time to talk. You need to give them a chance to explain thoughts and reasons behind their anger. You would want to be given the same opportunity. Talk everything out in a calm and collected way. Fighting through text or emails will not improve anything. If you have not already noticed intentions, inflections, vocal tones, mannerisms, and gestures that give our words expression and deeper meaning will not come across in text. One phrase in plain words can be harsher than those spoken in a soft voice with gestures of hope and reconciliation.

Always, always, always apologize. It takes two to fight. You may not have been the one to make the mistake, but you were the one to react the way you did or say what it was that was said. Think carefully over how the argument started and the moments or days to follow; do not expect your friend to apologize first. If the both of you are willing to apologize first you are more likely to reach a completely repaired friendship that was closer than previously, because now you know your friendship can weather any problems. repair

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Factor your Children into the Move

moveOne of the most problematic and overlooked issues within the moving process is children. No matter how much you involve them as you hunt for your new home, the actual move will have an extreme effect on them. Every parent needs to take the time and effort to address needs, worries, thoughts and wishes to ensure your children are not feeling tossed about.

Moving affects even the youngest children. From a young age kids can recognize their environments – and home is somewhere they feel comfortable and secure. As they get older, you factor in other concerns such as school, friends and even how attached they are to their bedroom. No matter how great your move really is, you have to remember that they may not see it that way to start with.

Communicate with your children at all times. You may not think they are paying attention, but the information will filter in somewhere! Tell them why the move is necessary and ask their opinion. Allow plenty of opportunity for them to voice concerns and really listen to any positive feelings they may have. Not hearing anything positive from them? Try asking them what they would like in a school and give them time or have them with you while you do your homework- researching appropriate schools. Don’t have a choice? Let them know that. Even the most complicated situation can be dumbed down and edited for the smallest children.

Treat your move as a positive thing and they’re most likely to do the same. According to the age of your children you may see various reactions ranging from over-excitement to apathy to downright resentment. Help them talk through their feelings about the move and explain why you are moving. Even young kids can understand reasons. You can avoid having rebellious children who feel they have no control over the change. Involvement and being honest is the key. They may still act out in stress, pretty much par for the course, but they won’t make the process purposefully harder if they know why, how, when, and have a say in the matter at all times. Their “say” does not mean they have the power to change the situation, but it will give them a better sense of control.

Don’t just tell them you’ll be packing up their stuff, let them help and encourage them to pack and unpack it themselves at the other end. If this part worries you teach them how. If they do something wrong tell them why. If they do something right or think of a way you had not concidered give them full credit. Talk to them about your new home and let them plan redecorating their bedroom or help them think about where their furniture will go. Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends and tell them they can phone or email as much as they like and have friends come visit once you’re settled. Take time out of moving for last time sleep overs and play dates. There is no such thing as “there is no place” and “we are too soon to leave”. Just as you are mentally and emotionally preparing in your own way, you need to give a little and allow them the same courtesy. Most of their old friendships will die a natural death if there is distance involved (just don’t tell them this – it’ll make them feel worse!).

The timing of your move can have a serious impact. Sometimes we have no choice but, if you do, talk to your kids about when you plan to move. Teenagers often find it hard to change schools during a school year, for example, when they’ll stand out as the new boy/girl. It’s easier to get lost in the crowd at the beginning of the year when everyone is settling down again. Younger children, however, often benefit from moving mid-school year, as they aren’t so embarrassed by the attention. Though many families tend to gravitate towards moving during a holiday (other than summer) this may not be your best option since your family may need to celebrate something to help relieve stress.

The actual process of packing up for a move can alarm some children – especially if they don’t like disruption. Try to leave the packing up of their stuff until late in the process and then let them help you – no matter how young they are – and explain that their toys and games will soon be back with them. If your older kids are protective of their privacy give them some boxes and packing tips and a deadline to pack then let them get on with it. With young children be prepared for constant questions through the moving process – kids will often show their anxiety by asking the same things over and over again. Don’t pack up favorite toys and comforters etc., until the very last minute – they’re going to need them! Kids of all ages should be allowed to have a bag or box for the moving day and the next few days after that to cover their immediate needs. Let them choose what goes in here – if they have stuff they want it’ll take the pressure off you on your moving day and until you start getting them settled into your new home.

You’ll probably find you have the most problems with kids approaching or in their teenage years – especially if you’re moving to a different area. By this age kids have built a solid base of friends, are settled in their school and are extremely self-conscious. This can make them VERY difficult through the moving process. The key is to remain firm but to communicate with them. Don’t apologize for the move – if it’s necessary they are old enough to accept this. Do talk through what might be worrying them and try to reassure them. The older your kids are the longer it will potentially take them to settle into their new home and you need to be ready for this. In all cases you may well see the effects of moving on your kids for weeks after the move is done.

One of the biggest kid problems is the actual moving day. Young children can get overexcited and get underfoot. It’s always good to involve your kids in the process but you also might want to think about letting them do something else for the day instead. They might actually prefer to spend the day with friends or family having some fun rather than moving. Don’t just make a decision on their behalf however – if they’re old enough ask them what they want to do.

As for your older children, it is common to feel they might be more of a hindrence then help and better to be off elsewhere, but allowing them to bow out can be permission for them to be rebellious on the other end and they might believe that if they refuse to pack or unpack then the move will not be permanent. Being a parent does not mean making their lives easier. We are teachers and our main goal is preparing them to leave our homes. Moving is now a regular part of today’s economy and they must be trained to have the mental and physical strength as well as the knowledge of the process or they will not be capable self sustaining adults.  Teach them how to use a dolly and how to properly lift and carry boxes. Show them how to pack the truck and give them the chance to have an opinion of how to piece the puzzle of boxes and odd shaped items. Assume they are doing something wrong for lack of knowledge and not a driving desire for sabatoge.

Alternatively, you may all have a long journey ahead of you before you get to your new home. This is where your box/bag of essentials will be useful – they can divert themselves by playing with toys or listening to music etc., while you manage the drive or the move. In these cases you might also want to buy them a new toy or treat so they have something to look forward to on the journey.

Finally, when you reach your new home it’s a good tip to give priority to setting up their room first of all so that they can start to see their furniture in their new surroundings. You don’t have to unpack and arrange everything but a few pieces of familiar furniture will help. Babies up through teenagers will feel more comfortable if they spend the first night in their new home in their own cot or bed surrounded by their own furniture and stuff.

Posted in Parent Child Relationship, Spending Time Together, talk to your kids, Talking with Children | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Work for a Kindness Revolution

Unfortunately, at a time when many are worried about doing everything they can to keep their jobs, the general mood at many workplaces is pretty somber. Just when kindness can make our work a little easier, the days go just a little faster, and everything just a little bit better we tend to keep our heads down just to try to survive the next line of layoffs.

It’s ridiculous how unkind we can be to our coworkers. If you are all working in the same place, even if you might be in different departments, you are on the same team; working toward the same goals. The general nastiness or indifference for one another affects everyone negatively breaking us down as individuals and as teams. It is impossible to think that our lack of kindness doesn’t affect the work environment. If kindness is lacking at your workplace, here are a few simple ways you can start a kindness revolution at your organization:

Lead by example if you are the leader at your organization. Make kindness a focus and pledge to be kind to everyone you encounter from vendors to clients to colleagues. Give your permission to call you on it when you forget your pledge. If a lack of kindness has been a problem for a while, you might have to move slowly. After all, you wouldn’t want your coworkers to walk in one day and think you’ve been brainwashed.

Put an end to petty criticism. Boy, are we tough on each other! We criticize just about everybody and everything. We talk about one another’s hair, clothes, cars, etc. We scrutinize every little word and laugh at each other’s mistakes. Give each other a break! Negativity should not be your default reaction.

Welcome new employees with open arms. Often it’s the new guy who gets the most abuse at work. It’s interesting that organizations can be short-staffed with everyone putting in extra time and effort, just praying the boss hires someone to lessen the burden, and then when the new guy does start, he is welcomed with less than open arms. What is up with that? 

Recognize one another’s strengths, not weaknesses. In many workplaces, kindness goes out the door when younger and older employees must work together. Young employees get frustrated when their older colleagues can’t use the latest technology quickly and efficiently. And older workers become frustrated with their younger counterparts’ different work ethic. The problem is that the parties on both sides of the age gap are focusing on what they view as the other’s weakness. Encourage all to value what their teammates bring to the table. Remind everyone that there is a reason each of them was hired.

Be nice to the “others.” Many organizations suffer from intra-office turf wars. What results is departmental teams that are sometimes outright nasty to one another – the Sales team can’t stand Purchasing. Purchasing can’t stand the Warehouse. No one gets along with IT and on and on! The reality is everybody works hard. Try a little kindness with the people who work in other divisions. You might be surprised how it actually makes things better for you.


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Positive Friends

Friends are important to growing up, and the ability to choose those friends with encouragement from parents can help them develop better and more meaningful relationships. Kids will meet new people, join new groups, change friends, and develop new relationships many times before they truly find the group that they “fit” with.

Challenge your kids to get to know others from different backgrounds and perspectives and inspire them to judge appropriate friends for character rather than appearance, neighborhood, or style. In addition to exposing your kids to more diversity, it will also help them learn more about themselves. Avoid criticizing friendships, but be honest with your kids when you’re concerned. Avoid condemning friends or you may encourage your children to be more critical of others and less receptive to your worries. Be open and willing to listen to what she has to say, and talk about what makes you nervous. If you feel that one of your child’s friends is having a negative influence on him, invite that friend to spend time with you and your child together so that you can have a positive influence on the relationship. Do not be afraid to interfere if you believe a chosen friend may have a destructive influence on your child and be sure you voice your concerns to your child, asking their opinion and giving that opinion importance.

When talking about a friend who has a negative influence on your child, focus your comments on that friend’s behaviors, not on personality. For example, instead of calling your child’s friend irresponsible for smoking, you could point out that the behavior has a negative effect on health and recommend ways for your child either help that friend or determine if the relationship is worth continuing.

parentSet limits on how much time your child spends with her friends—it’s important to develop positive relationships with family members as well.  Engage your family in service and volunteering (or join a social group) through a local congregation, school, or other nonprofit organization—these events can be great places to meet new friends, and often result in new positive relationships.

Posted in Friendship, Neighborhood Relations, Parent Child Relationship, personal growth, talk to your kids, Talking with Children, togetherness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being Shut Out

It’s a complaint regularly heard from people looking for help for their marriages: “I feel distant from my spouse.” “I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.” “My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.” “I don’t know if I love him anymore.” Instead of physically leaving the relationship, one spouse checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death. Sometimes it’s a slow slide into complacency, and other times it’s a little more sudden. If it’s a sudden abandonment, there is likely some event or incident between the couple that needs to be resolved. If more gradual, there are probably a lot of little things that have gone unresolved and are taking their toll on the relationship.

Emotional abandonment is unforgiveness taken to its extreme conclusion. When we feel that our spouse has hurt us and we refuse to forgive them, we look for ways to protect ourselves from being hurt again in the future. Closing off our heart from the other person is an easy way to do this, but carries the consequence of isolation. Overcoming unforgiveness requires humility and seek forgiveness for our own wrongs, and it also requires that we be willing to graciously extend forgiveness. This forgiveness step is based on a desire to re-unite.

Callous treatment gets old really quickly. Whether it’s discourteousness, unkindness, or something worse a small hurt us created that grows into deep wounds. Each partner needs to look at their own behavior regularly and consider whether they are treating their spouse well. A mate, above all people, needs to be treated with gentleness and respect. They deserve to be treated as something precious.

Sometimes the problem is a little less obvious. It is easy, especially for men, to just assume that the relationship is going along just fine, and so don’t put in as much effort as perviously. Starting to take their spouse for granted, leading them to think that they are not important. When the marriage slips from being one of the top priorities in the heart of one or both spouses, the other person feels abandoned. Other times it is insufficient time for  the truly important; things like romancing and talking. A marriage relationship cannot thrive if contact with one another is limited to a quick bite of supper or a brief chat before bed.

Emotional detachment does not just happen out of the blue; there is always something behind it. If one or both of the spouses has an inability or fear of talking through the issues in their relationship, then this kind of disconnect will be the likely result. Usually both know there is something wrong, but they are hesitant to bring it up for one reason or another or prefer to deny the truth.

Identify the cause and to begin to deal with it. Don’t settle for living in isolation. Agree to talk about the problems that exist between you. If you’re going to resolve issues, there needs to be a mutual commitment to listen to the other person’s concerns and to work towards improving the situation. Don’t corner your spouse with an unexpected lecture, but set a time and agree to start to work through your issues.  A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. It’s time to re-enter one another’s lives again. Small gestures of warmth, acts of kindness, and efforts to rekindle the romance between you will go a long way toward renewing your bond with one another.

Somebody has to break out of the negative cycle and respond differently. Nothing breaks down emotional barriers like unconditional love.abandon

Posted in Friendship, Intimacy in Marriage, Longterm Relationships, togetherness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When and what not to tell your kids

Parents who talk to their kids about their own, past drug use may not be helping their kids to avoid drugs. “Talk to your kids about drugs,” has been a refrain sung to parents by anti-drug activists and in public service message for decades.  But if these conversations include information about your own past drug use it could send potentially harmful mixed messages. talk The more parents talk about regret over their own use, the bad things that happened, and that they’d never use it again those more children feel they might have a different experience.

Kids might be interpreting it as “Mom and Dad used, and they’re still here”.

Mixed messages— including ones sent by telling children that if they are attending a party and find themselves unable to drive or are facing a drive with a drunken friend, they should call home — in general are potentially problematic.  About 80% of teens have their first drink of alcohol before graduating high school— and most parents themselves were underage drinkers when they were teens. At least half of all adults with families tried marijuana and a significant proportion did much more than that.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Don’t lie, but exercise caution against volunteering the information unnecessarily. Every situation is different and there is no predicting the reaction of every child or teen to learning their parents had previous experience with substance abuse.

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