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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

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

Is My Relationship Breaking Down?

Is My Relationship Breaking Down?

In the early stages of your relationship each partner is highly attentive, spending a lot of time together sharing interests, talking about concerns, thoughts and feelings as well as showing appreciation for each other. When these things start to disappear couples can feel disconnected and discouraged in the relationship. It starts to feel like things are breaking down.

One sign of a breakdown can be a shift in focus which can happen when one person redirects their attention from the relationship to something else, this can be work, a hobby, friends or another social activity. The two people start to live parallel lives and it may feel like you are becoming roommates and loosing the connection.

Having separate interests can be healthy for a relationship but there also needs to be quality time together. Don’t overreact and shame your partner for branching out to do something new, you want to still support each other, encouraging new interests and ambitions but it is also ok to share that you are feeling alone or that you miss the time together. Don’t wait too long to say something or else resentment builds up and it becomes harder to reconnect. Be proactive and initiate a date night or other time to connect.

A lack of intimate conversations can also feel like a loss of connection. There is a difference between simply talking which is just giving information without the need for a response and intimate conversations which is enjoyed by both persons. An intimate conversations is used to pull the two of you together and learn about each other. There can be a focus of attention on something of mutual interest, or a sharing of feelings and concerns. There is a give and take from each partner and undivided attention with no TV, cell phone or other distraction.

This type of communication brings a connection. You can make an effort to make this happen by simply making time, setting aside the distractions and focusing on each other without judgement. Ask questions about their day, their concerns and interests or what is causing stress. Then come along side and show that you are a team and you are there to support.

The last breakdown I will address here can be a waning of appreciation. Early in a relationship we like to do nice things for each other because they are appreciated and acknowledged but when these loving gestures become expected without acknowledgment they become more of a chore. We all want to hear some gratitude and acknowledgement for what we do without this we begin to get resentful and irritated with each other.

Take time to show you are thinking of your partner and you appreciate them. This can be done with a text, a simple gift or note, stepping up and helping out and lightening your partners load. Doing something that shows you see them and have been listening and that you care.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.
Written by Lisa Strong

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

You’ve protected your kid from failure, discomfort, rejection and pain for far too long.  Despite your good intentions you have harmed them.  Yep.  While you meant to help them you have hurt them.  If students are in their late teens or early twenties when they first face their own very normal human trait of imperfection and experience failure, they’ll lack the “brush it off, get back on the horse, try again, persevere through it” mentality they could-should– have cultivated in childhood.  We need to normalize struggle.

Kids need to know that failure, pain, discomfort, hurt and making mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of.  Instead, they need to understand that such experiences can be lessons and even open up new possibilities.  But this starts with the parent backing off enough to let their child experience, well, life.

Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said “With some of our new cadets right out of high school, if you raise your voice they get teary-eyed.  Like no one has corrected them on a behavior before.  You’ve got to be able to have a setback, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and drive on.”

Harriet Rossetto of Beit T’Shuvah rehab facility in Los Angeles said  “A lack of resiliency is common among addicts.  They find that they can’t cope with failure or pain so they self medicate.  In contrast, studies have shown that the best predictor of success is a sense of resiliency, grit, capacity to fail and get back up.  If you’re prevented from feeling discomfort or failure, you have no sense of how to handle those things at all.”  I could not agree more.  So how do we build resiliency?  We will discuss this much more in my next blog but for now the answer is simple: let them fail and let them feel the pain of their failure.  Love them through it but don’t fix the situation for them.

I said it’s simple, not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

How Does Your Own Childhood Effect Your Parenting?

How Does Your Own Childhood Effect Your Parenting?

As a child in any family we learn to adapt with behaviors that allow us to survive. We take on a role that serves us well. You may be the responsible one, the rebel or the quiet one that does not want any attention. Now that you are a parent, are you seeing some of these learned behaviors in your own parenting? This can be a good or bad thing. How did the style of parenting that was used with us play a role in how we parent our own children? We don’t want to pass on family dysfunction so let’s look at our behavior and implement the good and correct the bad.

Are you imitating your parents behavior because that is all you know? Sometimes we unconsciously recreate the type of environment that we grew up in because it is familiar and therefore comfortable. A negative example of this is when we become the controlling or overbearing parent to our children because it is familiar and feels comfortable and known. Just because it is known does not make it the best for your family. Each family, each child and each individual is unique and the style of parenting needs to be adapted to what is best for the individual.

As a child we may have developed behaviors that helped us manage our own childhood environment. For example if a parent was verbally abusive we have learned to avoid confrontation and so we don’t stand up for what we know is needed. As a parent this behavior will not serve your child well. They need to be taught what behaviors are appropriate and this may cause conflict if they don’t get what they want. Parenting requires a controlled and loving strength in the face of confrontation. Don’t fold and give in just to keep the peace.

Sometimes our child’s behavior will trigger a reaction in us that is exaggerated for the situation and you think, “Where did that come from?”. Your reaction is not really from what your child did but from something it may have reminded you of. Maybe that is how your parents reacted to a similar situations. Children will cause chaos, things will get broken or spilled, it will be loud at times, there will be clutter but all of these things are normal and manageable but if one of these things triggers an over reaction on your part, then look at that and explore why that is happening.

We also have an inner voice that speaks to us words and thoughts that we heard in the past. We may have had a very critical parent who often questioned if we were capable of a task and filled our mind with doubt. Well parenting is a very challenging task so we need to hear a voice of encouragement and support. Hopefully we can get this from our partner and/or other relationships but if not then we have to retrain that inner voice.

All of these reactions come from a gut impulse to a stimuli that was set in motion in your childhood. Learning to respond in a controlled and appropriate way instead of reacting on impulse will break the cycle of dysfunction and allow us to function in a way that is best for our unique family.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Parent an Adult Child

How to Parent an Adult Child

It’s tricky when the human you have cared for, protected, guided, provided for and loved with all your heart becomes a human who doesn’t need so much of that anymore.  Where does that leave you as the parent?  What is your new role?  Here are a few do’s and dont’s to consider.

1.  Only give advice when you’re asked for it.  This is a tough one, I admit.  But don’t let yourself off the hook or make excuses for yourself.  You want to jump in, protect them from making a mistake, be the buffer between your adult chid and heartbreak.  But this becomes counterproductive in two ways.  First, your now adult chid still doesn’t have the ability or permission from you to make their own decisions which is emotionally thwarting. Second, they will stop sharing ideas, dreams, fears and experiences with you because they do not want your advice but you keep giving it anyway. If they want your advice they will ask for it.

2.  Encourage instead of warn or criticize.  As adult children they may live different lives, have different values and need different things than you.  That’s ok!  Unless they want to break the law or want you to break the law then let them live their life fully.  When they say they are taking a trip to a remote island don’t tell them to put on sunblock or to look both ways before they cross the big bad foreign street.  Instead, tell them how exciting it sounds and that you hope they have the time of their life.  When they talk about getting another job or buying a home or riding their bike across the country stop yourself from warning them of all that could go wrong and remind yourself that they will figure it out, they will make a mistake here and there but will learn from it and that you are there to listen, encourage and only give feedback when they ask for it.

3.  Have fun with them.  You’re both adults now!  Isn’t that great?  You can build a new relationship of mutual respect.  You don’t have to look after them when you go out to eat or go on vacation together.  You can relax and learn all about this person who is growing and learning and living an independent life.

4.  Listen and learn about what they are interested in.  I know a mom who has a son in his late twenties who travels the world with a back pack and his bike.  It’s his passion.  His mom, however, won’t exercise even for a million dollars and is happy to stay home and relax on her front porch without ever leaving the country.  But she delights in listening to her son’s stories even when he tells her he had to sleep outside on the beach in Spain because he was too late getting in to the town he hoped to find a room in.  She doesn’t scold him, warn him, tell him how worried she is to hear that.  She just laughs and kindly rolls her eyes.  This invites her son to tell her so much more than if she were to react with judgement or disinterest.  They have a beautiful relationship.

Having a relationship with an adult child can be tricky because it’s all new for both of you.  Instead of fighting to keep control fight to let go and watch what blossoms.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

What’s Wrong With Being a People Pleaser?

Why are some of us so frustrated in our families, feeling like we are serving everyone else and our needs or wants are not being attended to?  Why is this happening? It may be because some of us are people pleasers and can’t or won’t communicate our needs to our family members. The result is that the family just goes on with what they want and they get it because they speak up and make it happen.

You may be the pleaser in the family so you are often meeting the needs of the other family members but at the end of the day you realize that you are frustrated because you didn’t get your needs met.

How does this keep happening? How come your family members are not meeting your needs? It is because you haven’t expressed them clearly and you haven’t required them to take you seriously. Often times if you are a pleaser you are not comfortable with conflict. Your role in the family has been to avoid conflict and smooth things over.

As children a pleaser was given the choice to either follow the rules set by others and receive praise or to stand up and challenge the rules and expectations and receive a withdrawal of affection and a feeling of abandonment. So this child learned to not challenge or create conflict. They have to renounce their own thoughts, feelings, needs and desires in order to stay connected and approved of. Also to avoid feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.

After doing this for years they loose the ability to nurture and care for themselves. They don’t know how to communicate their desires in a healthy way. It often comes out in anger and frustration. There is a difference between pleasing and serving and it comes down to the motivation. Is the motivation to avoid conflict or is it to relate with respect and care? Here are some examples.

Pleasing in parenting; Your child has lost their favorite toy. You hate to see him/her so sad and disappointed and don’t want to face the tantrum so you replace it right away.

Serving in parenting; Talk to him/her about responsibility and appreciation. Work on a plan so they can earn back what they have lost. Help and support them in the process.

Pleasing in a relationship; You don’t agree with your partner on an issue, for example how to spend your money, so you give in and give up. It’s just easier than fighting about it.

Serving in a relationship; Take time to talk about it and listen to your partner to gain an understanding of their perspective and share your perspective. Then work together to problem solve, speaking with respect and considerations until you work toward a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

Communicating honestly and clearly can be frightening for a pleaser, they fear loosing the affection and connection to the other person. It is something that needs to be learned in a safe and trusting environment. Seeing this behavior is the first step toward healing. You can learn to communicate your needs in a healthy way.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us! Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong

 

How to Know When Your Kid Has Too Much Power

I stood there watching equally dismayed and fascinated as a mother negotiated with her four year old about bedtime.  I went from dismayed to appalled when the four year won… no designated bedtime for him.  What?!  I could not believe it.  But then I started thinking about how much power over parents almost all kids have now days.  How much?  Too much!  This is harmful on several levels.

Kids,  at any age, aren’t mentally capable of using their power wisely and for their own good.  If they get everything they want and when they want it this creates a deep sense of anxiety.  It would be the same if I became President of the United States.  I’d have no idea how to use that power wisely because I have not been prepared for that.  If I were behind the desk in the Oval Office I’d have full blown panic attack.  I’d be begging people to tell me what to do because I’d be in way over my head.  The difference is that I’m old enough to know that I was in over my head whereas kids usually can’t make that distinction.  That may not be the perfect analogy but you get the idea.  Kids crave reasonable and loving boundaries, limits and guidance.  And it’s your job as the parent to put those in place.

So how do you know if your kid has too much power over you and over his own life?  There are two glaring red flags to watch out for.

1.  Constant negotiation.  I hear it all the time from parents with kids of all ages.  They tell me that everything is a negotiation, from bedtime, to what to eat, to when they will do homework, what chores they will complete and so on.  While I do believe kids should have choices they need to be age appropriate and only allowed when the child demonstrates the ability to manage themselves on that particular topic.  Appropriate choices are good as long as they have oversight by the parent with the child’s wellbeing at the forefront.

That four year old I mentioned earlier ended up going to bed anywhere between 11pm and 1am.  He was always late for preschool and was having constant meltdowns because he was exhausted and lacked structure and routine.  It was his mother’s job to dictate bedtime.  If she wanted him to have a choice about sleeping time then he could have chosen which set of pajamas to wear… that’s an example of age appropriate decisions.

When it comes to teens there is often a negotiation about curfews, bedtime, screen time, which classes to take.  The key is to have a reasonable conversation.  Narrow down the healthy options then let them decide.  But it’s harmful and unhealthy to give them full reign over their life at 14, 15, 16 and so on.

2.  You see that your kid is experiencing undue anxiety and stress.  This can come in the form of a tantrum, losing his temper, crying over something minimal, losing motivation or trying to gain more and more control.  If you observe any of these things in your child then it could very well mean he has too much power.  And when any of us get power we usually want more, in fact, we feel like we need more and more to make ourselves feel secure.  But the truth is they need less power and more guidance, loving boundaries and limits.  It may sound counterintuitive but I believe it’s the truth.  Again, kids need choices and autonomy but it must come with limits and oversight.  They are not equipped to have unlimited power (or close to it) over their own lives.  That’s why they have parents.  That’s why they have you!  Otherwise, they feel overwhelmed and anxious.  So step up, set limits, enforce boundaries and guide your child as he navigates his life.

Clear Expectations Brings Security to Your Child

Are you saying things like, “clean up your room” or “get yourself ready for bed” without ever clearly explaining what that means. Clean up your room could mean that you just don’t want to see anything on the floor or it could mean that each toy should be in its proper bin. You may be unhappy with the job that your child does because you never took the time to teach him/her to do what you expect. By showing your child what you expect you can reduce frustration and bring a sense of security to your child.

It may just be easier to do it yourself but that is not thinking of the long term goal. You want to raise children who feel capable and have a strong work ethic. I think children thrive when they feel useful. So before you ask them to do something, you can do it with them, come alongside, giving guidance. It may take repetition and support. Focus on what they are doing well, don’t nit pic at their mistakes. Your positive attitude can be contagious, if it looks like it is easy and fun for you then they will be more willing.

When explaining your expectations to your child make sure that the expectations are reasonable. Consider the child’s age and ability, their attention span and understanding. We want them to be able to succeed.

Once the expectation is clear and you have taught your child where things go for example, then you need to check on them in a reasonable amount of time to see if they did what you asked. If you don’t follow through by checking then you are not able to either praise them for a job well done or teach them what they may have missed and how they can do better. Checking on them shows them that you mean what you say and it is important to listen. If they have chosen to totally ignore your request then you will need to give them the consequence.

Having clear expectations also applies to behaviors outside the home such as how to behave in a restaurant or the grocery store. Before entering the grocery store for example, get their attention and explain the type of behavior you expect. Should they hold your hand, have one hand on the cart or maybe sit in the cart? Tell them they need to keep their voice at a reasonable volume, no running or grabbing things off the shelf. No whining if they don’t get what they ask for. Once you have explained what appropriate behavior is then you explain what will happen if they behave, maybe they can get a cookie from the bakery, or if they do not behave, you will have to leave the store and there will be limited screen time that evening. Then you must be willing to follow through with these consequences, either good or bad. They need to know that you will stand by your word.

Children do not know what is appropriate behavior unless you teach them. You want them to learn to handle themselves in public, to care for themselves at home and to contribute to the family.  Parenting requires you to teach and to follow through. You will bring security and clarity to your child when they know you are a person who is showing them the way with love and consistency.

If you are struggling with any aspect of parenting, you are not alone and we can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong

What is the Ugly Duckling Syndrome?

Remember that story about the ugly duckling? It’s a good metaphor for the time period from when kids emerge as little chicks and the time they finally grow into swans.  There is that awkward middle period where they are not quite sure who they are or where they fit in. Symptoms of this difficult age might include the gangly arms and legs they haven’t quite grown into yet, or baby fat they haven’t quite outgrown, voices that range from squeaky to scratchy, acne, and personality changes that seem to come and go in your child daily.  

We have all experienced this ugly duckling stage (if you need proof, go ahead and pull out your old yearbook). But this awkward and clumsy period in your child’s life may be more important than you remember from your own childhood. Now more than ever, the middle school years are crucial for developing into a healthy teenager and adult.  It seems the issues and challenges that were facing teens in high school are now being introduced to kids in junior high, or even before! In today’s world, parents need to foster and build a healthy relationship with their kids in the formative years, because that is when they need it the most. Here are some things to consider.

UNDIVIDED ATTENTION

Studies show the tween and teen years are some of the most influential in a child’s life. The question is, how can we use this time to make the greatest impact? Without hesitation, I would say that parents can have the biggest influence by giving their kids undivided attention. Focusing attention on your child is like investing in Google stock. It has great value now, and will only keep growing. When you drop what you are doing to listen to your daughter talk, you are demonstrating that she has worth and importance in your life. When you set aside time every week to take your son out to dinner, you are indicating that time with him is precious. There is no substitute for the undivided attention of mom and dad in the life of a child.

Youth groups, sports, clubs and school have their place. But they are poor replacements for a caring parent. There is a temptation to think that coaches, pastors and teachers are better equipped and better trained to speak into the life of your kid. But that’s not true! Those other adults can be great allies but can never take the place of a parent. It is vital that moms and dads grasp their unique position in relation to their tweens and actively engage with their children.

UNREAL EXPECTATIONS

Another way parents can positively impact their child’s formative tween and teen years is to let go of those unrealistic dreams and expectations for their kids. It is very natural to have plans for your child. We envision what our son will look like, talk like, act like. Our daughter will play volleyball, go to college, get married, give us ten grandbabies.

However, often times our kids don’t turn out the way we thought. Perhaps in these ugly duckling years your kid puts on a little weight. Your son shows no interest in sports. Your daughter would rather play the accordion than the piano. Your middle-schooler wants to be a forest ranger instead of an architect. It is safe to say that the things you envision for your child may not come to pass.

Instead of pushing your expectations upon your children, use ugly duckling years to build your relationship. Let go of your dreams, and work to understand and appreciate the person your son or daughter is becoming on their own. Show an interest in what interests them. Ask good questions that display your desire to know about their lives. Cheer them on in their successes, and help pick them up in their defeats. The majority of conflicts that happen in the home are the result of our expectations shattering. But when we focus on relationships and learn to appreciate our children for who they are, the struggles between parents and adolescents diminish, and the home becomes a much more peaceful place for kids to grow up.

UNMITIGATED FORGIVENESS

Lastly, parents can invest in the lives of their tweens and teens by frequently employing the use of two phrases; “I’m sorry”, and “I forgive you.” Trust me, it can be done!  When parents make mistakes (and you do), you need to be the first ones to apologize. And when our kids make a mistake (and they most certainly do that!), moms and dads need to be quick to extend grace. By asking for and offering forgiveness regularly, you’re imprinting on young minds the importance of forgiveness and the understanding that there is no epic fail or blunder that will ever stop you from loving each other. There’s great freedom for a child in knowing that no matter how goofy, clumsy, moody or unruly they become, they are still loved.

Take advantage of these in between years and begin shaping your child into the responsible and mature teenager and adult they will become. The ugly duckling stage doesn’t last long. But it’s a powerful time period where your child needs your undivided, gracious attention more than ever.

Sound hard?  Truth be told, it can be!  But you don’t have to do it alone.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help.  

Written by Lisa Smith