Is It Time To Talk To My Partner About What’s Bothering Me?

In a relationship when something is not right we have options as to how to handle it. We can avoid it and push away our concern but this usually results in frustration, resentment and a possible angry outburst. We could jump right in and tell our partner how their behavior irritates us but this could result in defensiveness on their part, hurt feelings and more anger. So how do we bring up the things that are bugging us and when is the right time. 

You need to be in the right frame of mind. You are ready to share your concern when you can…

  1. Be clear on what do you want to achieve? Before you approach the other person think about what you want to achieve. The goal is not to always get your way but it can be to come to a solution that will work for both of you. The relationship is more important than getting your way. Get clear in your own head what you want to share.
  2. Put the problem in front of the two of you. It is something that you are going to work on together. It is not you pointing fingers or blaming. 
  3. Be ready to listen, ask questions and accept that you may not fully understand the issue so you are open to new understanding.
  4. No shaming or blaming but you can hold each other accountable Be open to owning your own part in the concern.
  5. Model vulnerability and openness that you would like to see in your partner.
  6. Be ready to genuinely thank your partner for their efforts and what they do rather than only criticizing them for their failings or picking apart their mistakes.

When you are ready to share the specifics I suggest keeping it simple and concise so that it can be understood and received. State the facts of what is happening and how it is making you feel. It is easy to get sidetracked and bring up the past, other concerns or exaggerate. This is not a good idea, it confuses things and gives opportunity for rebuttal. In the end it is helpful to state what you need from them. Provide a possible solution and then ask “what do you think?”. This way you are not dictating but asking your partner to work with you to find a solution. 

Unless you and your spouse change your habits and activities so that they make you both happy, instead of only making one of you happy, you will eventually find that your relationship is broken down.

You are not always going to agree but I want you to respectfully disagree. Try to understand your spouse’s reasoning. Present the information that brought you to your opinion and listen to the information your spouse brings. You are working together to find a solution.

This is not always easy and may take time to learn to communicate in this way but it is worth it. If you need help then give me a call.

Written by Lisa Strong

When Your Teen Isn’t Ready to Go Back to School

I hear the sighs of relief and the shouts of joy from parents as the first day of school draws near.  I also hear the groans and the tears from the teens who are experiencing the back to school blues.  

This time of year brings a mixture of frustration and excitement for teens. They love getting new school clothes, seeing their friends again and driving themselves to school, for those who have a license. But they don’t relish the returning structure of earlier bed times, homework and the possibility of getting Mr. or Mrs. Meanest-Teacher-Ever for a teacher.

Even though our teens have been through the going-back-to-school scene for years, they still need our help to make that transition as smooth as possible.  Consider these practical things you can do as a parent.

Express expectations clearly. Now is the time to establish expectations and goals for the coming school year.

  • Do they need reminders about who can be in the car with them when they’re driving?
  • Are you revisiting curfews?
  • Are you creating space for homework? It’s a great idea to set up a special area for kids to do their homework — not in their room where they are isolated and have too many distractions. Talk through the what, when, where and why. That will cut any arguments during the school year over getting his work completed.

Have those conversations before school starts so your teens understand your expectations.

Go over their schedule with them. Several weeks before school starts, your teens will probably receive their class schedule. This is a good time to talk with them about their classes and teachers, along with any potential problems or concerns. Then together, strategize ways they can respond to those issues in a healthy way.

Help them get organized. Sometimes the stress of the new and unknown can overwhelm teens. By guiding them to take baby steps, you can help relieve some of that stress. I know one family who together pulled out all the notebooks and binders and put them in order of class schedule, marking each subject and period number. So simple, but it dramatically reduced their teen’s stress. Help your teens think through how they’d like to organize their locker, supplies and clothes. By brainstorming with them (not for them), you can bring a sense of excitement to an otherwise mundane task.

Once you and your teens have eliminated possible stress points, you can focus on making sure stress stays at bay by balancing school, social and personal time.

Encourage sleep. Teens need sleep — and a lot of it. But with smartphones, Netflix and extracurricular activities, sleep often gets pushed aside. And when teens are sleep deprived, they’re cranky and don’t handle stress well. All the adults can relate to this!  Since a regular bedtime is healthy and necessary for academic success, start at least a week before school by making sure your teens get to bed at a decent hour. (Studies suggest they need at least nine hours of sleep a night.) That also means they disconnect from technology. Have them leave their mobile devices and laptops outside their bedroom at night. I know parents who have a technology “box” where everything gets stored by 9 p.m. Why let your teens get distracted through the night with texts and other temptations to stay awake?  And trust me when I say they DO get distracted throughout the night by technology even if they swear otherwise.

Limit extracurricular activities. No, your teens don’t have to be involved in everything. This could be a whole other blog but don’t get me started on that.  Let them pick an activity a semester. If the activities are adding to their stress load, however, you don’t have to feel guilty about saying no.  This is a life lesson about balance. One that, as parents, we need to be modeling.  

Milton Berle was probably thinking about teenagers when he said, “The human brain is special. It starts working as soon as you get up, and it doesn’t stop until you get to school.” Of course he was kidding (or was he), but parents can do a lot for their teens by teaching them that with school, along with so many things in life, it’s the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Starting on the right track with good back-to-school decisions can help teens, and parents, adjust to a new school year.

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

Can Your Child Learn From Observing If Their Eyes Are Always On a Screen?

Screen time is no substitution for observational learning. As our society is changing the overuse of electronics is a concern in regards to children’s learning at each age of development. Children learn so much about their world through observation and copying behaviors they see and the use of electronics is limiting their observations because their eyes are on a screen instead of watching the world around them. 

Consider young children, as new parents we see that when our children are very young they are watching us and learning from our behavior. We call this observational learning or modeling. Children will pick up a behavior and reproduce it and we as parents can often see ourselves in their behavior. Hopefully they are picking up on the good behaviors and we are trying to be good role models for them. We will hear them saying words that we say or reproducing mannerisms of ours. 

This is exciting to see how quickly they learn and how observant they are. But my concern is that very young children are watching us with our phones, they see how the phone is coming into the relationship. Some parents are constantly taking pictures of their child which distracts from the moment. So in this instance with very young children the phone is interrupting the interaction between parent and child.

As the child gets older the ability to learn through observation continues to be blocked by the phone or other electronic device. When my own children were young, before cell phones, I took them to a restaurant as an opportunity to teach them how to behave in that setting. Now parents go to restaurants and everyone at the table has their own device and no one is interacting. The observational learning is no longer happening. The child is missing the opportunity to engage in face-to face interactions with adults and peers. This is how social skills are learned and when they miss this lesson it can result in social anxiety as they get older and lower quality relationships overall. They need to learn how to read non-verbal cues, communicate effectively with others and develop relationships with others.

Then comes the teen years and this is when they become consumed with their own phone and miss so many opportunities to learn and experience the world around them. Continued use of the electronics results in a need for continued stimulation and an inability to delay gratification. According to Dr. Nicole Beurkens;

     “Because of the continual stimulation they tend to get bored more easily when life is not fast paced enough. This leads to a lower frustration tolerance and  the tendency to give up on tasks and situations without persevering or problem solving before moving on to the next thing.”

We need to remember what is important in parenting and what is the goal? I believe that  teaching our children to function in the world so they can hold a job, have relationships and handle the challenges that face them as they grow older is a goal. So it is our job to give them an understanding of how to interact with others, how to handle frustration, how to delay gratification and problem solve on their own. They need to be interacting with their world in order to learn these skills. Make sure you are creating an environment that allows this to happen and they will have the tools they need when it is time to leave home.

Written by Lisa Strong



                      

The 3 Things Your Teen Fears Most

What your teens fear most is quite different from what may keep you awake at night. Most parents’ worries are theoretical and future-based — fear for their teens’ safety at school and their ability to compete in an increasingly tough world, college applications and their kid getting a job.  Teens, in contrast, fear what is already directly in front of them. While social media stretches their global perspective, what’s on their minds most is narrower than what you might think.

Dr. Kevin Leman believes that three innate fears drive teen reactions. He also believes there are antidotes to each of those fears that only you can provide.  When you know those fears and what your teens need most from you, you can provide what’s already within your control — lasting antidotes to help them power through and develop resilience.  Let’s get to it!

Fear No.1: REJECTION
Who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? But with teens, this craving trumps all else. Worse, in the peer jungle, liking is based on who’s highest on the food chain for the day, so rejection is hard to escape. I’ve had many clients who’ve been ditched by a best friend then refuse to leave the house for days because they were so crushed.   I’ve had others who lived and breathed sports only to get cut from a team then want to quit everything and change schools.  Not exactly demonstrating resilience.  Here’s the rejection antidote… unconditional love and acceptance at home.  Since rejection is part of life, learning how to handle it positively is critical. If your teens end up in the dirt of the peer heap or fail to make a team or club, listen, empathize, and then offer perspective. Do not judge their feelings or compare them to your own.  With this kind of love and support your teens can learn to take rejection in stride and become resilient.

Fear No. 2 UNCERTAINTY
Your teens may act like nothing bothers them, but they worry constantly. Ever-present on their minds is the survival-of-the-fittest peer environment in which even those on the highest rock can be dethroned at any moment. That makes their world outside your nest rocky, but throw in uncertainty at home — like a parent who has unpredictable work schedules or whose parents are getting divorced — and the uncertainty can be paralyzing.  The uncertainty antidote… stability at home.  When your teens arrive home, they need a safe, calm atmosphere where they can sort out their thoughts and the events that threw them a curveball that day. You are the constant in their rapidly evolving universe. They need to know you’re there, not leaving, will accept them and that they are a priority over your work.  And remember, role-modeling unchanging character, priorities, and most of all, a rock-solid presence guarantees a foundation stronger than any uncertainty your teens face.

Fear No. 3 BEING THE TARGET
Fear can reign in competitive or vicious peer groups. Anything “different” about your teens, including clothes, “loner” status or the simple fact they’re breathing next to an insecure guy who needs to ensure he’s top dog, paints a big target on their backs. With the ease of spreading rumors on a smartphone, it’s not just face-to-face bully encounters anymore. Social media’s anonymity and few , if any consequences mean anyone can say anything about anyone at any time and share it at the press of a button, and it’ll remain indefinitely in the electronic universe and your teens are acutely aware of this, all the time.  The antidote… is a balanced perspective and a “we’re in this together” guarantee. Bad things do happen, and people can be so mean sometimes.  Both are facts of life, so it’s better to prepare your teens before it happens, if possible. Share a time when you were targeted. Point out that many bullies behave as they do because they’re insecure, and taking someone down makes them feel temporarily important. Knowing that truth and knowing you have their back removes some of the sting.

Every time your teens step out your door, that trio of fears hangs heavily over them. Is it any surprise, then, that they sometimes react to that high stress by picking on a sibling or even you? But when you understand what’s really going on behind the attitude-of-the-moment, you can provide support for their daily trek into the teen jungle.

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

The Challenge to Identify Your Values and Stand Against The Flow

Living in Orange County and raising a family here brings its own challenges. There is pressure to succeed both socially and financially. Our children are watching us and learning from our behaviors what is important to us and what we value. Being clear in our own heads of what values we want to pass on to our children will guide our behaviors. But life is complicated, because of the pressure to succeed and compare ourselves to others we can loose our way and I believe this is making our families unstable.

It does take effort and courage to identify your core values and then to stand up for them. Social media has created an environment that is high in intensity. Setting yourself apart can feel very vulnerable. As our children grow up they are much more concerned with fitting in and having “likes” so to identify yourself and your family as something different than the norm is frightening. 

For example as we are raising our family there is pressure to keep up with everyone else including what they have, how their house looks, what toys their children have, what clothes they wear and what they are doing socially. That may mean you have to work more hours than you want too to earn the needed money and you’re missing time with the family. Is that really what you want?

There is also pressure to enroll our children in multiple extra curricular activities because you want them to have every opportunity and not to fall behind, but then we realize that we are always rushing and not having meals together at home. Or your child is invited to so many activities and going to these events brings expectations. You may have to bring a gift, take time away from something else or feel like you have to reciprocate and put on your own event.  But if you don’t participate then your child may fall out of acceptance in this social group, you yourself won’t be connected to these parents and you may have to stand alone in your value of family time and a slower pace. 

We need to consider that your child is watching you and if you don’t stand for something different, they will feel the pressure themselves to keep up and perform. Why wouldn’t they, what they are seeing is you succumbing to the pressure to keep up and if that is what they see then they make the assumption that it is what you value.

Some values supported in earlier generations were, faith, integrity, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic and the value of being selfless. These showed themselves in a family with religious attendance, family dinners, community service and holding our children responsible for their actions. It concerns me that some young families are getting caught in the current of social pressure and not taking time to evaluate their values and what they want to teach their children.

I am not promoting a set of specific values but I am encouraging you to think about what you want to show your children that is important to you and this takes thought and intention. It does take effort to fight the current.

Written by Lisa Strong

Is the Effort or the Result More Important?

I had just finished a very full, long, challenging and draining week.  My best friend noticed I was looking especially defeated and worn out.  I went on to tell her that I was frustrated that the outcomes I’d hoped for, worked so hard for that week had largely gone unmet.  I spent a few minutes berating myself before she interrupted and asked me if I could be proud of all the effort I had put in rather than disappointed that I didn’t get the results I had expected.  The question left me speechless.  I’ve been thinking on it ever since.  Is the effort or the result more important?  I’ve been wondering if I’m being too easy on myself to just pat myself on the back and say “good try.”  I started thinking about this from a parenting point of view as well as a coach and hard-working small business owner.  

Most parents tell their children that effort is what matters.  But as adults we have to produce good results to be successful.  That’s quite a mixed message and one worth sorting out.  

Anthony Moore, a well known blogger said “The process is infinitely more valuable and important than the result.

When you commit to the process — never giving up, creatively overcoming setbacks and obstacles, trying new strategies — a powerful metamorphosis happens. You literally transform in the process. This change is the real value. People who “just want the prize” miss this entirely. They don’t realize how valuable and powerful the transformation is, which is only possible from taking the hard way around.

In the words of James Allen from As a Man Thinketh:

“Even if a man fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.”

If you want true, lasting success in any area, you must undergo the process.”

I believe in this case the word “process” could be interchanged with “effort.”  If we want true and lasting success we must put in effort at every turn.  Sometimes that effort will yield us the exact result we are hoping for.  Sometimes, however, that effort will stretch us, grow us, train us, strengthen us and transform us… allowing us to be a better version of ourself.  Yes, we must put in maximum effort and we must often allow ourselves to rest in that and feel proud of it.  And we must know that this kind of effort will inevitably bring the results we hope for at some time and in some way, even if not exactly what we expect.

So, my answer to my own question… both, effort and results are important.  True effort will always bring results in one form or another.  And that is what we need to teach our children… and each other.

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 Being Rude Will Cost You and Your Family

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Forbes, 1972

Isn’t that the truth?!  Sadly, the truth is also that we don’t always treat others well.  We get caught up in ourselves, in our busy-ness, in our lists of things to do and even in our feeling better or smarter or more together than others. Before you know it, we are handing out sarcastic replies, snapping at the people around us, escalating situations with mean and hostile words, picking fights and putting everyone in their place.  It feels good in the moment… but then it often immediately feels horrible right after.  What’s most important is that this kind of behavior on our part doesn’t only effect us but it effects our family and others close to us.  Consider the results of an eye-opening experiment described in the book Everyday Emotional Intelligence:

“Participants who were treated rudely by others were 30% less creative than others in the study.  they produced 25% fewer ideas and the ones they did come up with were less original.”

It keeps going.  “You don’t even have to be the recipient of rude behavior; simply witnessing incivility has negative consequences. People who had observed poor behavior performed 20% worse than other people did.”

The lesson?  When we treat others rudely, they feel diminished, they can not become the best version of themselves and it breaks down the family unit.  We ask and expect our kids and spouses to help out, step up, resolve conflict… but are we helping them do that?  Are we providing the encouragement and emotional safety they need?  Or are we bringing in our own stress, anxiety, anger, discontent and pain to the home?  Are you snapping at your spouse?  Your kids see it and it hurts them. Are you treating servers, workers, customer service people rudely?  Your kids see it and it hurts them.  Are you lashing out at your kids or provoking arguments?  Your kids see it and it hurts them.  

When you feel off-centered, out of control, overwhelmed or anxiety ridden… step away.  Literally.  Go to another room and breathe deeply.  Take a walk.  Sit outside in the fresh air.  These are proven ways to lower your stress level immediately and will put a buffer between your emotions and your mouth.  

Remember that when you pull up at home after a long and chaotic day it’s the people inside of that home that matter most and deserve the best of you.

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

Does You Relationship Feel Like a Competition?

Competition is the American way. Who is the best athlete, student, employee, or even friend? Who is the best? But when it comes to a marriage and relationship with the person you love it should no longer be about competition, in fact the two of you are supposed to be on the same team. You are partners, you are there to support and look after each other. Having each others back. So why does it feel like your partner has become the enemy or you are trying to win in an argument? 

When there is a conflict between the two of you the goal is not to win but to come to a solution that works for both of you. A win/win solution. If it is a win/loose solution then the person who looses ends up feeling resentful or used and after time these feelings will rise to the surface. If it is hard for you to compromise and your Moto is “My way or the highway” then this is a problem. In a healthy relationship you consider your partners views and feelings when you are making a decision. It’s not all about you. 

Trying to outshine you partner is another red flag in the relationship. If your partner does something that results in praise or a reward, the healthy response would be to be happy for them and to congratulate them but if you feel a need to upstage your spouse or minimize their accomplishment then this will result in bitterness. It is important to allow your spouse to take the limelight sometimes. Let them have their moment and hold your tongue or join in on the praise. As the spouse you should be their biggest cheerleader. 

Another red flag would be keeping score of who has done what for whom. Bringing up past hurts and mistakes is one way to remind your partner of their shortcomings and moving them down in the score column. In a disagreement this does not help move you on to a solution. You may want to be recognized for your contribution by pointing our all you have done, moving yourself up in the score column, but this sends a message of “I’m doing more than you”. Your goal should not be to make your contribution known instead it should be to focus on working together for a common good. 

It’s important to take notice if there is some competition going on in the marriage. Try to understand some of the underlying reasons for it. One reason someone pushes to be on top and win may be because they are actually insecure and may overcompensate by pushing to be on top. They are afraid to be vulnerable and show those insecurities. If you notice this in your spouse then talk to your spouse about what you are noticing and try to find ways to work together as a team rather than trying to step on one another to get ahead.

Written by Lisa Strong


4 Habits to Support a Healthy Relationship

Do you ever feel like relationships are hard?  Sometimes it can feel like there’s one thing after another that causes tension or gets in the way of the connection we are looking for with the other person.  

Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship does take effort. I understand that you as an individual have pressures put on you each day and the immediate demands often press in on you and distract you from the fundamental foundational goals of maintaining your relationship. Here are 4 things that will help your relationship to stay strong.

  1. Build on the knowledge of your partner. This means make it a priority to check in with your partner, catch up and talk. Know what are their daily habits, likes, dislikes, fears, stresses, joys, worries and hopes. This is something that continually needs to be revisited and this is achieved by communication and asking open ended questions. This is not a time for judgement or criticism it is a time to listen. 
  2. Build your fondness and admiration for your partner. This is the antidote for contempt. If your mind is always focused on the negative your behaviors will follow. It is fundamental that you feel your partner is worthy of being respected and liked. A way to rekindle this fondness and admiration is to scan for qualities and actions that you can appreciate. Let your partner know what you observe and express your appreciation. Refocus your thoughts on the positive.
  1. Turn towards your partner instead of away. There are many times in your relationship when your partner will reach out for support. It may be as simple as them expressing concern about their job or moaning about the laundry. When these things happen do you ignore them or give unsolicited advice or do you show understanding and empathize? Coming to their support shows your partner that you are their teammate and partner in life. Validate their feelings and show you care.
  2. Let your partner influence you. Couples that allow their partner to influence them will have happier relationships. This is when each is willing to share the power. Each person is showing the other respect and honor while listening to their partner’s feelings and opinions and taking those opinions into account. Your partner and you should work together to solve conflict and sharing the power is the first step to compromise and coming up with a win/win solution.  There has to be the feeling that each person has an influence for a compromise to work. 

Being aware of these building blocks and keeping them in the forefront of your mind will help you maintain the health of your relationship. Don’t let the demands of each day distract you from the goal of maintaining your relationship.

We understand that all of this is easier said than done.  It takes practice.  We can help you improve the relationships in your life and gain the tools and skills that will help you achieve  that.
Call us today at 562-537-2947 to find out more about how we can help you.

Written by Lisa Strong

6 Ways to Monitor Your Teen and Social Media

Like it or not, for better and for worse, social media is here to stay.  The question now is how you’re going to monitor it with your teen.  There are lots of options but I’ve narrowed it down to six common and effective tips.

1. Set the ground rules.  When is social media access allowed and when is it not?  What sites and content are acceptable, which are not?  These ground rules should apply to the whole family whenever possible.

2. Educate Yourself!  What sites are your kids on?  What is the difference from one site to the next?  I understand it’s easy to be overwhelmed or feel like you don’t have the time to learn all there is to know about social media but you must. You can’t bury head in the sand.  

3.  Use All of the Privacy Settings.  All the devices your kids use should have strict privacy settings. These settings include who sees online social media posts, what social media sites are permitted and virus blocking on all devices.  Safety first!

4. Insist on full access to all social media accounts.  Of course your teen will argue this on the basis of privacy.  But this is a non-negotiable parameter.  Teens are less likely to share inappropriate content and more likely to stay safe when they know you will check up on them.

5.  Teach them how to protect their online reputation.  Teens don’t give this much thought so  it’s your job to teach them.  Kids can be impulsive and may not think about how their social media usage affects their ability to get a job or college entrance in the future.

6. Be a good example!  Whether we want them to or not, our kids follow our lead. Let’s be a good example in this area as we practice smart online usage and etiquette.  I promise they are watching.

Social media doesn’t have to be a bad thing… but it does have to be monitored. 

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