Teach Your Child To Apologize

We have all seen parents in a standoff with their child saying, “Now Peter, I need you to say you’re sorry” and the child just silently stands there or states in an angry voice “I’m sorry”. Is this how it is supposed to be? Can’t we do better than this? How is it done?

One reason why children don’t like to apologize is because it doesn’t make things better and it is miserable. Often times the parent will hear the apology and then follow up with a lecture about what the child did wrong. They may say, “That’s good that you apologized but I want you to think about …” and “Are you really sorry? I’m not sure you are.” It goes on and on. The child may feel like it is a sermon about the them being thoughtless or selfish. Children will try to avoid this experience if possible. 

What a parent can do to improve this experience;

Let your child calm down. It is hard for a child to see the hurt they have caused when they are emotional themselves. Allow them to take a timeout and then talk about what happened after.

Help your child see the experience from the hurt parties perspective. I think this could be the key to a true apology. Can your child learn to empathize? You could say, “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?” This would be a start. 

Ask your child, “What can you do next time that would be better? Maybe instead of hitting they could come to a parent or teacher for help or they could walk away, for example.

Accept the child’s apology. Once they do apologize then let’s move on. You can get to other teaching points at a different time. 

Be a role model.  Some parents hesitate to apologize because they feel the child will see them as weak or lacking authority but this is not the case. It shows your child that it is OK to admit that we have made a mistake. Children can see that something is not right and if the parents can acknowledge that a mistake has been made and they are going to fix it, the child will actually see the parent as being fair and honest. Someone to be trusted and respected. 

Praise them. As an adult we know that an apology is not always a pleasant experience but in order to encourage our child to do something that is unpleasant we can praise them. 

Each child is different so these points are suggestions and something for a parent to consider. You each know your child, some are very sensitive and others may be strong willed, some are young while others are older.  Yet teaching your child the importance of a sincere apology will help them to maintain healthy relationships so it is a valuable skill for them to understand. 

If you need any guidance or support, you can call us at Save My Family Today, 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Secret Every Parent Needs to Know

Here’s the one thing every parent of every child needs to know.  Are you ready for it?  Your kid wants to be validated.  That’s it.  

Validating the feelings of your children helps them to feel understood. To help your child feel understood, it means you keeping your ego and desire to lecture in check. Validating your child’s feelings also means that you don’t judge him or her. Instead, you simply acknowledge his or her feelings. This takes focus and discipline as parents. As I share with my clients, the best discipline you can give your child is having the self-discipline to be patient, empathetic, and loving—especially when he or she is not acting lovable. Contrary to what many frustrated parents may think, particularly during those stressful times of conflicts, validating feelings is not condoning bad choices or giving in to defiant behavior.

“Validating” means giving your child or teen that all important, and seemingly elusive, message that “Your feelings make sense. I not only am giving you permission to feel what you feel but I am also welcoming and accepting your feelings in a non-judgmental way.” Validating your child coveys deep empathy. This will help build your child’s self-esteem and reduce his or her defiant behavior, which is often the languange choice of children who do not feel understood.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein lists the following three most effective ways to validate your kids.

-Communicate your intent to listen without judging or blaming or shaming and calling yourself out if you stray from this empathetic stance.

-Be sensitive to, and acknowledge how difficult and even embarrassing it is to be “different” when he/she wants to be like everyone else.

Acknowledge the problems in his/her life and that they matter. Many children and teens I counsel repeatedly share that their parents minimize or dismiss their struggles.

To do these things you must be intentional.  You must want to grow closer to your kids.  You must have a desire to build them up.  No matter what age.  Start now, be consistent and observe the change.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

What is Needed to Build a Fulfilling Relationship

I believe that to maintain a healthy relationship it requires you to be intentional about it. I avoid saying that your relationship takes work because that sounds arduous. I want you to enjoy the effort that you put into your relationship. You may ask; “What exactly is needed to build a relationship that brings each of us fulfillment?”

First off, it might be helpful to think of your relationship as a great adventure instead of a task to be worked on, this will create a more willing attitude. It requires us to be curious about each other, be vulnerable with your self and to venture outside your comfort zone. In order for this to happen there needs to be a foundation of trust. You will only be willing to be vulnerable and brave if you feel like you can trust your partner to be kind. 

When a partner shares a thought or concern they hope that they will be heard and will be shown a consideration of what they are sharing. If you are the one listening then you need to avoid judgement, contempt, criticism and anger. The interaction needs to be a positive one or over time the one sharing will avoid this type of openness. When you share a thought you want your partner to value you and you also wants to know that they care about what is happening in their life, your thoughts and your experiences. 

Here is a simple practical step that each of us can incorporate into our day. Start each day knowing something about what your partner’s day will be like. This requires you to take time to talk about each others day, either in the morning or the night before. Know what is stressing your partner or what they might be excited about in their day. Check in with them at some point and ask about that particular concern. The fact that you care enough to ask about some aspect of their day will build in your partner a feeling of being cared for and considered. This will also build a foundation of connection, like the two of you are on each other’s side and supporting each other through each day.

Dr. John Gottman a best selling author and researcher who studies relationships says; 

    “You’re writing your own love story every time you turn toward each other. Every time you offer comfort. Every time you really listen. Each and every time you put your partner’s interests above your own.”

These simple behaviors of showing comfort, listening and considering your partners interests will build the foundation of trust and care that each relationship needs to stay strong. I do recommend that you not think of it as work but it does take energy and a conscious effort. A healthy relationship is worth the investment. 

If you need any guidance or support, you can call us at Save My Family Today, 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

5 Things Your Kids Don’t Need Even in a Pandemic

It’s likely our kids aren’t pondering the direction of their life and what it should and should not entail during this pandemic.  To some degree, it’s our job to do it for them especially when they are young.  Instead of focusing on what more to give them, I encourage you to focus on not giving them these 5 things with the guarantee that it will change their life for the better.  And, full disclosure, I borrowed some of this from bigger blogger, Jenny Rapson.

Your kids do not need…
1. A personal servant: your job is not to raise children but to raise adults.  Most adults do not have someone following them around picking up their stuff, doing all their laundry and magically making meals appear.  Most adults, even the really busy ones, do these things for themselves.  It’s your job to teach your kids time management so they can take care of their stuff and become independent.  

2. A Participation Trophy: your kids don’t need a ribbon or a trophy for showing up. They deserve a ribbon or a trophy for preparing and working hard.  Giving our young ones awards for just being somewhere, no matter the amount of work they do or don’t put in encourages entitlement and takes away motivation to do their best.  They are thinking, after all, no matter what they will get an award, right?  What we want them to feel rewarded for is commitment, hard work and contributing to those around them.

3. An Overloaded Schedule: Iknow as adults you are busy and your days are full and at times you can barely manage it all even during a pandemic.  News flash… your kids might feel the same way and they haven’t even finished high school.  Kids need to learn how to incorporate down-time and self-care in to their schedules.  So many of them have anxiety and it’s no surprise because they are going from one event to another, almost seven days a week on top of school.  This takes away from family time and rest.  This time of shelter-in-place can be a great time to reset.  A time to revisit what your family needs as a new normal unfolds.

4. Custom-made Meals: brace yourself because for some of you this is going to be a tough one.  Your kids need to eat what you make for dinner or go hungry.  Back to the point of them not needing a personal servant.  No more making different meals for each different family member.  

5. More Real-World Knowledge Than They Are Ready For: there is a danger in sheltering our kids too much.  There is also a danger in telling them too much about our harsh world too soon.  As much as is possible, allow knowledge of the world to come in age-appropriate waves.  A healthy way to expose them to the “real world” is through community service to those less fortunate than themselves.  It’s good for them to know that there are people who need help and are suffering and that, even as kids, they can make a difference.  But they don’t need to know about the atrocities, tragedies and heartaches happening in the world because they don’t have the emotional skills to cope with that information yet.  

So, there you have it.  Your kids will have happier, healthier and less stressful lives without these 5 things.  Don’t give your kids too much, too soon.  Even with the best of intentions, it’s not good for them now or for their future.  

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Support Growth and Transition in Your Relationship.

If you have a relationship with a partner that has lasted for years than I expect that you each have grown and changed over that time period. If you met in your 20’s and now you are in your 30’s or beyond than you each are different people in many ways. Relationships are not just two people coming together and that’s it, they are stories of transformation and change and in a healthy relationship you have allowed this to happen and supported each other in it. 

The goal is that each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other person. Your partner will change at a different rate and in a different way than you do. They don’t see the world in the same way as you do and they don’t have the same needs but the goal is not to make them like you but to learn from them and support them as they grow. Ask yourself these questions;

  • Do you have a unique and specific way of connecting with your partner and refreshing the relationship when you feel burned out or distant?
  • During the time of connection do you feel safe and supported in your thoughts and beliefs?
  • Do you feel like your partner values and accepts your growth and ideas?
  • Are your life dreams similar and compatible? Or if they are different do you feel supported in yours?
  • When you are working through a struggle do you feel like your partner listens and helps you gain understanding, facing it with you?

One way to support growth is to build into your relationship rituals and behaviors that allow for change to happen. If you are only living parallel lives, and not making the time to connect and share in each others growth then you will eventually grow apart. The rituals that you create in your lives together are important and will keep you connected. 

Possible rituals could be a weekly date night, a shared meal at home or a time before bed to relax and connect after your day. During these times the objective is to learn about each others thoughts and feelings, be supportive and non-judgmental and listening well. It is not a time to correct your partner or fix their problems for them but just a time to find out what is happening with them. This time allows you too gently try to find out what is stressing your partner or making them fearful. Creating a safe space to share their interior world. It is important not to let too much time pass between checking in. 

I encourage you to commit to a ritual that will create space for you both to grow and learn together. Seeking understanding of each others inner world and sharing the growth and transitions together that supports your relationship.

Written by Lisa Strong

Build Trust and Security Into Your Relationship

Trust and security are the foundation for a healthy relationship. But how do we nurture these feelings in our relationship? I believe that we do this by letting our partner know that they are a priority in our life and we are committed to them. When we are committed we are all in and we are not coming from a place of self-interest but we are considering the cost of any choice for our partner too. 

You don’t want your partner wondering “How important am I to you?” or “Do I come first in your life?” These acts cause a sense of doubt that can grow into insecurity and fear. A healthy relationship needs trust, a knowledge that you can count on each other and that your concerns are important to each of you.

Can your partner count on your word? Do you stand by your word by saying what you mean and meaning what you say. To build this trust you need to stop saying things that you won’t follow through on, or that don’t represent your true feelings. If you continue to not follow through then your partner will learn not to count on you.

Here are a few examples of behaviors that break trust in a relationship;

  • Not showing up on time
  • Not making your partner a priority
  • Keeping secrets
  • Lying
  • Humiliating or putting down your partner in public or private. 
  • Not being there when your partner is hurting or sick

We can show commitment to our partner in the small acts that respond to their needs. When our partner sees us listening and supporting them then they feel the commitment but if we dismiss them or turn away during their time of need then this is seen as a betrayal. I am not referring to a significant betrayals like infidelity, it could be something small like looking at your phone instead of listening to a concern. These small betrayals build up and diminish the sense of security and trust in the relationship.

When you have learned that your partner is trustworthy and committed then you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of always coming from a place of suspicion and questioning. Doesn’t that sound nice? When we are repeatedly challenging and questioning our partner this is exhausting for both parties. No one wants to have to doubt their partner and I certainly would get frustrated if I feel like my partner is always doubting me. So to avoid this dynamic we have to make it a priority to build trust and let your partner know that you have their back and you can be relied on. 

This takes work and can be challenging because once you are in a relationship and you are committed to your partner then it is no longer all about you and your needs. But the sacrifice is worth it to have a partner in life that you can trust. 

Written by Lisa Strong

Balancing Relationship Needs During This Time Of Pandemic

In my last newsletter I wrote about a child or teenager’s need for autonomy and how making room for that can be a challenge during Covid-19. Well this is also true in any relationship, how to find a balance between our own autonomy and our dependency. In our everyday lives we manage this balance, we have our work, our friends and connections outside our relationship with our significant other. This separateness allows for independence and autonomy. But as partners we also have agreed to a dependence in the relationship. We accept the fact that we need to consider the other persons wants, needs, values and beliefs. Now with Covid-19 the demand to consider our partner and release some of our independence is required and this can be very challenging. 

We as Americans like our independence and we are used to getting what we want and it is not usually a challenge for us. So now we are all at home, possibly 24/7 with our partner. We need to achieve that balance again as best we can during this challenging time. If we don’t take proactive steps to keep our relationships healthy, it could buckle under the pressure. Here are seven actionable tips that you can begin using today to help your marriage or partnership through this stressful time.

Be open and vulnerable.
Instead of demanding your way or dictating your rules and yelling instructions. Recognizing and communicating that you’re afraid can change the conversation, and it’s a lot easier to be compassionate toward a worried partner than an angry one.

Be kind to yourself
When you’re feeling triggered or anxious, Try to notice when you speak to yourself harshly, and experiment with saying something kinder. Imagine what you might say to a close friend who was stressed. Bringing more kindness to your own fear and anxiety will help you bring more kindness to your partner’s as well. The first priority is to notice when you might need space and create it for yourself. This might mean noticing irritability, fear, tension, or tiredness and deciding to go for a walk, agreeing to have some not-talking time before returning to a difficult conversation, calling a friend or family member, or doing something on your own at home, like reading a book or working on your own project.

Instead of criticism share observations.
Next time you’re tempted to tell your partner what they should do or criticize what they might have already done, try instead talking about the concrete behaviors you’re observing and your feelings, wants, needs, and beliefs about them. Instead of barking “Wash your hands,” perhaps try “I’m feeling nervous that you interacted with the delivery person. I would feel more comfortable if you would please wash your hands before you keep making lunch.”

Remember to be understanding.
If your partner’s behavior has been unusual, give extra attention to their mood, and remember not to internalize it or read into it. If you’re concerned you’ve somehow triggered them emotionally, simply ask directly and calmly. If they say their mood has nothing to do with you, believe it. Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best amid the chaos, just as you are. Make it a point to say please or thank you to each other, even for the littlest things. Tell jokes, laugh when you can, enjoy things together including intimacy both emotional and physical.  The goal is to weather this storm together, as a team and above all, be kind to each other.

Acknowledge and accept your differences
Talking about and naming the differences in how you are responding to the coronavirus is an important step to de-escalating any coronavirus conflict. Freshen up on your active listening skills so you can hear the other person’s viewpoint and have them feel understood for their differences. You don’t have to agree with how they see the situation, but having them feel heard and understood will go a long way to creating more harmony at home.

Carve Out Alone Time
Couples thrive when there’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart. No matter your living situation, the essential ingredient is communicating when you need alone time, as this is likely to be different every day. And when your partner requests a similar break, honor it. This is the independence that many of us may need to feel.

Routine
For many people, anxiety is fed by two main things: fear of the unknown and wanting to control the future. One tool that is helpful with this fear is setting up a routine for yourself and your family. Planning meals, scheduling exercise times, devoting specific hours to work or outlining a plan of attack for a DIY project, can restore some semblance of normalcy to your otherwise-upended life. Our brains love structure, and the grounding effects of routines are powerful. The COVID-19 situation is evolving, and new developments may require tweaks to these plans, but by getting a handle on the day-to-day you can minimize your anxieties while fostering teamwork.

As I have said before it’s a lot to handle right now and these are challenges that none of us could have predicted. Let us know at Save My Family Today if we can help.

Written by Lisa Strong

What Your Teen and Child Needs From You During Pandemic

Are you concerned about your child or teenager during this time of social distancing? I am sure you are and I want to offer some support. As a child grows there is a need to assert their autonomy, to become independent of their parents. This is a good thing and as their parent it is your job to help them transition into an independent functioning adult. But now, during this time of Covid-19 your family may be challenged by extreme inter-dependence. Families have been thrown together 24/7 and it may not be going well for you. Children no longer can get away, they don’t go to school, they can’t visit friends, they can’t play sports or other extra curricular activities. Instead they are stuck at home with parents who may be stressed, fearful, and challenged in their own ways. Parents face new work demands, financial stresses and a complete change of routine. 

How can families manage this challenge and continue to be sensitive to a child’s need for a growing independence? How do we care for young people whose wings have been clipped? I have a few suggestions to consider.

Nurture the relationship. 

As the parent it is easy to focus on your role as the one who sets the rules and keeps things running but don’t forget that parenting is not only about the managing aspect but it is about a relationship and you don’t want to loose sight of this. I suggest making time for one-on-one interaction with each of your children. It makes your child feel secure and important. Listen to them, offer empathy, your child has a right to be sad, angry and frustrated about their losses. Make space for the disappointments. Kids are giving up a lot. School is not only about lessons and learning, it is about social interaction, fun and activities. Kids may feel like what is left is the vegetables with none of the dessert.but there also may feel some relief or even joy because they can avoid some challenges that  they were facing at school. A hard group project, peer pressure, or awkward and embarrassing social interactions. Don’t shame them for feeling this relief. Recognize that for them there may be an upside of the disruption as well. Whatever it is that they are feeling, you want to give them time and let them know you care and you’re listening. 

Recognize comparison. 

You may be requiring social distancing while other parents are still allowing their kids to hang out as usual. Talk to your child about this discrepancy, you could say, “I know that other parents are still having kids over, but we can’t support that choice, we want to support what the experts are recommending.” Tell them that when they have to turn down an invite that they are fee to blame you, the parents. When your teenager can’t see their friends in person, it seems only fair to loosen the rules on how much time they spend connecting online. But all bets aren’t off. There still needs to be clear guidelines so that other concerns are considered like school assignments, physical activity, sleep, and face-to-face interactions.

Treat Teenagers as Problem-Solving Partners

Don’t hesitate to recruit teenagers’ help. Instead of presenting them with a suggested daily program, Talk to them about what you see as important and then ask for their input as well. Once you each share your concerns then negotiate with your teen and show them that you are considering their needs as well. When doing this remember to be realistic and keep it positive. Being realistic involves looking at your child as an individual and knowing what they are capable of. If they are not a reader then it would be unrealistic for them to read a book quietly in their room for an hour each day. Think about who they are.

Allow Privacy and Time Alone

Teenagers are going to need some privacy and alone time. Don’t take it personally if your teenager wants to close themselves off in their room for some time. While you are free to request or require your teenager’s presence, think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of consideration when making requests. For example, saying, “We’re going to need you to supervise your sister for a couple of hours, but we know that you have plans too. How should we do this?” might be a good place to start.

It is a lot to handle right now and these are challenges that none of us could have predicted. Let us know at Save My Family Today if we can help.

Written by Lisa Strong

Unspoken Expectations Are The Seeds Of Resentment

With the COVID-19 our lives and daily routines have radically changed. If you are at home with a spouse, partner, family members or friend then it can be a time of tension and frustration if you lack communication. The title of this newsletter, Unspoken Expectations Are The Seeds Of Resentment, is a reminder to speak to your loved one about your expectations, your thoughts, your fears and your needs before you become resentful, angry or frustrated. 

We have experienced a lot of loss in this time, loss of finances, loss of our freedom, loss of community and the loss of feeling safe. How are each of us to manage this? Do not try to handle it on your own without talking to those in your home. We need to manage our day in a way that can bring back a feeling of control and security. We each have our own ideas of how to do this.

Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of your relationship and your ability to cope with the changes. Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they are realistic.

There is a difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations and the unrealistic expectations, even when spoken will still result in frustrations because they are unlikely to be fulfilled. 

Unrealistic expectations are;

  • Believing that an unverbalized expectation will bring you what you want, this is just  wishful thinking and making a false assumption. 
  • Expecting others to do what is in your interest, but not their interest, is unrealistic. We need to consider our partner. This is not a one sided discussion. After listening to each other you can work out a plan that is acceptable to each person.

How to discuss realistic expectations;
Don’t assume that your expectations are clear. Your partner can not read your mind. so you need to spell it out.

  1. Clearly state, discuss and agree upon the expectations. This involves actively listening and considering each others concerns without judgement. Then collaborating together to establish a plan. 
  2. Adhere to the expectations. There is no benefit if you make an agreement and then do not follow through. This again would result in frustrations. Your plan may need to be altered. For example, you may have decided that the family should all get up at 7:00 AM but after some time you realize this not realistic for your family so you renegotiate the terms of what is expected. That is OK as long as each of you is in agreement. This is all new territory for us so there will need to be modifications to our initial expectations. 
  3. Expecting life to always turn out as planned is guaranteed to lead to disappointment because as we can see today, life does not go as planned. None of us could have foreseen this shelter-in-place scenario or COVID-19 danger. So the disappointment and emotions you feel are understandable. Please continue to share with your love ones those emotions and support each other and working together. 

If you need extra support we at Save My Family Today are available to meet with you via Zoom, an online conferencing website, to give guidance, support and knowledge of how to navigate this uncertain time. It is imperative that you stay not only physically healthy but emotionally and relationally healthy as well. Give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

How To Manage Shelter In Place With Those You Love?

Now is a time of extreme stress on many families and relationships. The COVID-19 shelter-in-place order has triggered a lot of fears and anxiety in each of us. If you are at home with your family, a friend or spouse then the tension between each of you may be high and that is what I want to address. 

Here are some reasons for the anxiety you or your family member may be experiencing.

  1. The life as we had been living it has changed and many of us do not do well with change. 
  2. There is uncertainty in the future and this uncertainty makes us nervous.
  3. There are financial concerns, will I loose my job or be furloughed or my pay be cut? How will we manage? 
  4. Will I or my loved one get the virus? Will they get sick and I won’t be able to help?
  5. Will I be left alone if I get sick, will it be painful and will the doctors be able to help me?

This list of concerns only touches on many of our deepest fears and we all respond to these triggers differently. On top of all that, you are now living in close quarters with other family members, trying to manage children or learn how to do your job remotely, this is a situation that can get ugly unless we make a conscious effort to manage it in a healthy way. 

We have been told to eat good food, exercise and isolate ourselves and all of these things are good practices and needed but I want to talk about how to communicate your anxiety and how to listen to the others in our home so that the tension will minimize. 

Here are some suggestions for your relationships.

  1. Be patient with each other. This is not a time to push each other to do something that is uncomfortable. Some of us might want to keep busy, others might want to be left alone, some might want to talk about their feeling and we each need support.
  2. Remember that this is not his problem or her problem, it is a problem you both need to share and find a solution that works for each of you. You are a team and need to work together. 
  3. Listen without judgement, do not shame your partner for feeling like they do, do not tell them to get over it or minimize their fears by saying “we will be fine, don’t worry” They want to feel heard and supported. 
  4. After listening, then show understanding. Acknowledge their fears, show that you understand them. Validate how they feel and let them know that their feelings are important.
  5. Ask how you can help and work together to find a strategy that will bring some relief. This might be a new routine, a time to share with each other and just verbally process feelings together, or it could be giving your partner some space. This will be individual to each of you. 

We all can acknowledge the severity of this situation and the extreme challenges that it brings. 

If you need extra support we at Save My Family Today are available to meet with you via Zoom, an online conferencing website, to give guidance, support and knowledge of how to navigate this uncertain time. It is imperative that you stay not only physically healthy but emotionally and relationally healthy as well. Give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong