Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: healthy relationships

  • Post Featured Image

    4 Must-Dos for Parents After Divorce

    Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author of The Boy Crisis, says that “Dad’s time trumps Dad’s dime.” 

    “More than 100 psychologists and researchers got together. They wrote in unanimous consent that the children need their father about equally to their mother in the case of divorce,” says Farrell. 

    Farrell explained that for years researchers believed that children did better with an involved father because intact families had more money and lived in better neighborhoods. However, researchers controlled for virtually every variable and found that father involvement plays a vital role in the health of a child. It’s not just about the money he may provide, although that is very important. It is the combination of presence and provision.

    “The degree of difference between the health of a child who has both father and mother involvement, who has four things after divorce is so different from the health of the child that doesn’t,” Farrell says. 

    Farrell goes on to say that whether babies are born prematurely or full-term, the importance of the father being involved is enormous. 

    “Prematurely-born children are more likely to develop their brains better and get out of the hospital sooner and have more psychomotor functioning when the father is visiting the hospital as much as possible, according to research from Yale University,” he says.

    “The father breathing on the child when it’s first born helps the bonding process to occur and changes the dad’s brain,” Farrell says “The sooner the father gets involved with the child, a whole nest of neurons in the male brain begins to develop and connect with each other that mimics the mother instinct - overlapping with mother instinct. Oxytocin levels go up, testosterone levels go down. Dads connect emotionally with their children.”

    According to Farrell, in the event of an unavoidable divorce, here are four must-dos for your child to have a reasonable chance of doing well.

    The first one is ensuring an equal amount of time with mother and father. Being in checks and balance mode with each other never means the father going away and working 80 hours a week and coming back when he is exhausted and the children are in bed. Farrell asserts that children need more than a Disneyland Dad or just a visitor on the weekends. They need time, and plenty of it.

    The second must-do is for the mother and father to live within a 20-minute drive time from each other. This gives children greater stability and creates less resentment, because if parents live further away, the kids may have to give up activities or friends in order to see the other parent. 

    It’s also important that children are not able to hear or detect bad-mouthing or negativity from one parent about the other. If one parent responds negatively about something concerning the other one, it can affect the child’s intimacy with one or both parents. Bad-mouthing isn’t just by words, it’s also via body language and tone of voice. Farrell says that many parents will swear that their kids did not overhear them saying something negative about the other parent while on the phone, but the child could detect the difference in the tone of voice, even from another room.

    Finally, it’s beneficial for the kids if parents spend significant time doing consistent relationship counseling, even if it only happens every few weeks. If parents only seek counsel in an emergency, the chances are you need to solve the problem sooner, and you are more likely to make the other parent wrong and you only see the other parent when you are emergency mode. Therefore, you don’t have the chance to think and feel through with compassion the other parent’s best intent to solve the problem and make decisions.

    “Before you make a decision to have a child, do the research on why children need a significant amount of father involvement so that you don’t raise a child on your own and think it is just fine to do so and think that having a stepfather or you doing the father-type of role is going to be enough,” Farrell says. “If you believe your new husband is going to be a better stepfather than the biological father is a father, know that almost always the stepfather perceives himself to be an advisor, and the dynamic between a biological mother and stepfather is one where the biological mother does make the final decision. All of the dad-style parenting that a stepfather could potentially bring to a child’s life, like roughhousing, is likely to be inhibited by a biological mother with a lot more power and potency than she will use with the biological father. There’s a tendency for the stepfather to back out of equal parent engagement and just become a breadwinner.”

    Since research consistently shows that both parents are the best parents, Farrell expresses concern for unmarried biological moms who are living with the father. Farrell wants these moms to understand that when Mom is the primary parent, it often leads to the father being uninvolved and feeling that he is not valued. In situations like this, many fathers leave the child’s life within the first three to four years. 

    A word of caution here: While there is no question that some parents are unfit when it comes to filling the parent role, careful evaluation may be necessary to discern whether an ex is truly not fit to parent, or if it would "just be easier not to have to deal with them." If your thought process is more along the lines of, “I made a mistake marrying them. I want to start life over again without them. I don't like them. I don't like dealing with them,” it might be wise for you to reconsider your stance.

    There’s a big difference between safety and abuse issues and misunderstanding the other parent’s reasoning, thought processes or parenting style. If the goal is for children of divorce to be healthy in adulthood, it is important to follow these 4 must-dos after a divorce when it is possible and safe to do so.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 7, 2019.

  • Post Featured Image

    10 Tips for Getting Fit as a Family

    There seems to be constant buzz about how little time busy families spend together. Even during summertime, between work, screens, music, sports, and other commitments, families stay on the go.

    According to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for Healthier America” survey released in 2015, some 78 million Americans are obese, which puts them at an increased risk of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 

    In 2018, the adult obesity rate was at or above 35% in seven states and at least 30% in 29 states - but in 1980, no state had an adult obesity rate above 15 percent. Among children and teenagers, 31.8 percent were overweight or obese and nearly 17 percent were obese, including 5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and 6.5 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 19 who were severely obese. 

    "In order to build a national Culture of Health, we must help all children, no matter who they are or where they live, grow up at a healthy weight," said former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "We know that when we take comprehensive steps to help families be more active and eat healthier foods, we can see progress."

    Regular exercise, adequate rest and healthy eating can be the difference in a family that lives, plays, learns and works well together and one that does not. 

    “Research shows that children need regular exercise to build strong bones and muscles,” says Teresa Wade, Health and Fitness Director at the Sports Barn. “Exercise also helps children sleep well at night and stay alert during the day. Habits such as these, established in childhood, help adolescents maintain healthy weight despite the hormonal changes and social influences that can lead to overeating. Active children are more likely to become fit adults.”

    Getting your family in shape does not have to be costly, but it does require you to move away from the screens and do something. Here are some suggestions for busy families who want to get and stay active during the summer months.

    • Schedule a regular time throughout the week for physical activity. 
    • Take turns selecting a weekly family activity. 
    • Start a log of daily fitness activities for each family member. 
    • Adapt all activities to suit those with special needs and preferences. 
    • Help everyone find something active that makes them feel successful. 
    • Buy equipment or toys that promote physical activity.
    • Discover what free and low-cost physical activity spots are nearby (park, bike trail, hiking trail, tennis court, swimming pool, etc.). 
    • Limit screen-time.
    • Use physical activity as a reward instead of food (e.g. Family goes skating). 
    • Emphasize the importance of having fun and learning. Avoid a push "to win." 

    “I encourage families to slow down a bit, schedule time in your week to be active together - actually pencil your family into your planner,” Wade says. “If you wait for it to happen, it isn’t going to happen. Believe it or not, exercise can be fun. Start slowly with something like walking or biking in the neighborhood. When my grandchildren are with me, we often take a walk around the block at night before we go to bed. It is a wind-down time and helps us connect before the end of the day.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 31, 2019.

  • Post Featured Image

    3 Keys to Deeper Friendships

    Shasta Nelson has spent more than a decade studying loneliness and friendships. Nelson is a healthy relationship expert and author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends. She is currently working on her next book, “The Business of Friendship: Making the Most of the Relationships Where We Spend Most of Our Time,” to be published by HarperCollins Leadership.

    Nelson surveyed people to find out how fulfilling their friendships felt from one to 10, with 10 being the most meaningful satisfaction. About 60-70 percent respondents rated their relationships five or below.

    Nelson realized that while people might be in friend relationships or marriage relationships, there was a gap between the kind of relationships people want to have and the kind they actually have. In fact, 80 percent of the complaints about friendships centered around wanting more and deeper connection. She found that people know more people than ever before and are supposedly more connected, yet they are lonelier than ever.

    A 2018 CIGNA study of 20,000 people found that nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone. Additionally, 1 in 4 rarely or never feels as though people really understand them, and 2 in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful.

    According to Nelson, modern day loneliness is not because we need to interact more with people; It is due to lack of intimacy. Frientimacy is a relationship where both people feel seen in a safe and satisfying way. When people say they are lonely, Nelson doesn’t believe that answer is to go out and make more friends, but to deepen current relationships.

    “I ask people this question: ‘Do you feel as loved and supported as you need at this point in your life?’” Nelson says. “If the answer is yes, that’s fabulous, but often the answer is no. When that is the case, I encourage them to consider who in their life they would want to build a more meaningful or closer relationship with and then make a list. Start prioritizing those relationships. 

    “Some people say they have no names to put on their list. For these folks, their journey right now is to get out and meet people who have the potential to be future friends. There are a couple of ways you can do this. Going to places you already frequent like school, work, faith-based or civic organizations - proximity and geography matters. Then be intentional about getting to know them better. The second way is to reach out to people you know and ask them if there are people they think you should know. Take advantage of opportunities for introductions to meet new people at their party, book club, discussion group, etc.” 

    Nelson says the more insane your life is, the more you need meaningful friendships. 

    “Often when I am speaking to moms’ groups, I ask them to write what they remember about their mom and her friends,” Nelson says. “A good 70 percent of women have a hard time completing that assignment. I suspect it happens partly because so many moms try to nurture their friendships at a time that doesn’t inconvenience their kids. However, 30 years down the road, your daughters can’t tell me who your friends are. Friendships need to be modeled. Don’t downplay that part of your life. Deep, meaningful friendships make us better.”

    Once you have identified people on your list, Nelson says to then practice the three things that are the basis of every healthy relationship: positivity, consistency and vulnerability, also known as “the frientimacy triangle.” 

    1. Positivity is about feeling supported, kindness, acts of service, affirmation - all the things that make us feel good. 
    2. Consistency is the hours logged, the history built, interactions and knowing there is consistent behavior in the relationship. This is where trust occurs. 
    3. Vulnerabilit is where we share, reveal, let people beyond the formal living room, talk about what is going well and not so well, history, dreams, and where you feel safe to ask for what you need.

    When we have high levels of each part of the “frientimacy triangle,” we feel seen, safe and satisfied, which is what people want and need. We then have the ability to take existing relationships to a completely different level.

    Our bodies are craving this and are literally dying without connections. World-renowned physician Dean Ornish states, “I am not aware of any other factor in medicine (than intimacy and love) - not diet, not smoking, not exercising, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery - that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes.” 

    According to Nelson, loneliness is as damaging to our bodies as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, the equivalent of being a lifelong alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising, and twice as harmful as obesity.

    "How you answer the question, ‘How loved and supported do you feel?’ will tell us more about your health 15-20 years down the road than any other factor,” she says.

    If your relationships aren’t where you want them to be, Nelson encourages you to take action and do something different. Not only do we have the opportunity to make our own lives richer, we can enrich others' lives with our positivity, consistency and vulnerability.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on April 7, 2019.

  • Post Featured Image

    Embracing the Second Half of Life

    A few years ago my mom attended the Wednesday night program at her church. Afterward, she called me and shared the speaker’s topic: “Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” Then she asked me the dreaded question: “You really don’t want all these treasures I have accumulated through the years?”

    While I appreciate the sentimental significance of some of her things, I honestly appreciated the speaker’s point. This is just one of the complicated moments the second half of life often brings.

    Our daughter surprised us with a visit a few days ago and as we were talking with friends, someone commented to her, “I can’t believe you’re 25!” She responded, “I know, I realize I’m halfway to 50!” 

    It occurred to me that if she’s halfway to 50, I’m halfway to 114. Whoa. This second half of life does have a way of sneaking up on us. Growing old is hard, especially when you still feel young and vibrant, but your body is screaming, “Not!”

    Recently, my mom shared that her best friend was really struggling with giving up driving. She was trying to help her understand that it really was a loving gesture from her kids. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like when I have to have that same conversation with her or our daughter has to make that decision for one of us.

    Plenty of us are independent folks, and the idea of losing that independence is really scary. In fact, many of us are unwilling to think about it, much less have some of the difficult conversations we need to have with our loved ones. When it comes to living life well to the end, what will your legacy be where relationships are concerned? 

    Many of us can look in the rearview mirror and think about situations or relationships we wish we had handled differently, perhaps with our children, our own parents or a close friend. Sometimes we believe it’s too late to do anything about it. If you’re reading this, you still have time.

    While working on my Master’s in counseling, I completed an internship on one of the cancer floors at UTK Medical Center. I will never forget the many times I walked into a room where the patient was literally ready to die but held on because there was unfinished business with the people standing around the bedside.

    Do you have unfinished business to take care of with the people who mean the most to you? It is abundantly clear that people take their relationship with their parents to the grave. And, I can tell you based on research, a parent’s words and actions matter.

    I recently heard a very successful man share that his parents have never told him they loved him, and he become very emotional. There was this big, burly, manly-man in his 60s who still longs/wants/needs/wishes to hear his parents say I love you. 

    What is your relationship like with your children? Do they know you love them and believe in them? If that’s a hard place for you, remember that you can’t control their response, but you can control what you do.

    When our daughter was growing up, I used to tell her that I loved her but I didn’t like her behavior. Over time I transitioned to telling her there is nothing she can do to make me love her more or less. That doesn’t mean I will agree with all of her decisions, but I want her to know I believe in her and I love her, period. If I unexpectedly died in my sleep, I don’t want her to wonder how I feel about her. 

    A young man in his 30s with a brain tumor was talking with his father after a medical appointment, and he reminded his dad that our life on this earth is “terminal.” There is some serious wisdom. A lot of us hate talking about dying, yet it’s inevitable. So here’s another question: How do you want to live until you die? That’s a huge part of your legacy, and you are teaching those around you.

    There is no super-secret formula for this. We are all different. Whether it’s driving, turning over the reins of the company, moving out of the house you have lived in forever or getting rid of your stuff, what do you want to pass on to the next generation?

    If you don’t already have a plan, there’s no time like the present to create one and share it with your loved ones. Make sure there are no surprises, because it’s often the surprises after someone is gone that create huge rifts in families. Talking about it might be hard, but it’s healthy. It really is important for us to model, even for adult children, how to live and die well.

    Finally, perhaps life hasn’t gone as you planned it and anger and bitterness have taken up residence in your heart and mind. Instead of talking about it, perhaps you behave badly and take it out on the ones you love the most. Growing old sometimes stinks, but there are lots of shifts and decisions to make, and things to talk about. Seeking help in this area isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and health. 

    Moving forward, how will you go about creating a meaningful life with your family and friends?

  • Post Featured Image

    10 Things Healthy, Happy Families Do

    Have you ever had one of those moments where everything seemed to be going right and suddenly, for some unexplained reason, a meltdown occurs?

    It could be your 4-year-old, your 14-year-old, or even yourself. A perfectly fine moment ripped to shreds in seconds and you ask yourself, “Why me? I don’t recall signing up for all this drama.”

    This is one of those "good news, bad news" moments. The bad news is meltdowns come with the territory. Any parent who has walked the road will tell you even with the “easy child” there were trying moments.

    The good news is you’re not alone. If you compared notes with families everywhere, you would find that everybody deals with drama; some of them just have less of it. And that’s what people want: less drama, more fun and adventure as a family.

    Experts examined the qualities of healthy, happy families and found that there are specific things families can do to decrease drama and increase family well-being. Here they are in order of importance. 

    • Problem-solve. Couples and families who are able to identify a problem and agree on a solution tend to do better over time.
    • Affirm. Families who verbally express high regard for one another and show interest in other family members and what is happening in their lives tend to be healthier.
    • Openly communicate. Weekly family meetings where schedules, chores, and issues are discussed teach children how to express their feelings appropriately, how to listen to others and how to problem solve.
    • Have well-defined boundaries and organization in the family provide security for children which helps them feel in control and safe.
    • Establish family rituals and traditions. Studies show that family meals, no matter when they occur, can improve educational performance, lower depression rates in girls and boys, decrease the risk of alcohol and drug abuse and help children feel more connected. Family traditions connect children with family history, giving them a foundation upon which to build future generations.
    • Build trust. Children and adults in a healthy family environment experience high levels of trust. Spouses place trust in each other and model what it means to be trustworthy in a relationship. Children learn they can count on their parents to meet their needs.
    • Discuss sexuality. Age-appropriate, ongoing conversations about body image, the opposite sex and healthy relationships are common in healthy families.
    • Develop family history. Children who are loved and nurtured typically grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
    • Share religion, faith and values. Sharing the same faith beliefs and values plays a significant role in family health.
    • Support community connectedness. Families who are well-connected in the community and know where to find help in times of need appear to be healthier than those who are disconnected.

    The more of these characteristics a family has, the more likely they are to be resilient in difficult times. Healthy families find ways to adapt, adjust and stick together as a team no matter what life hands them.

  • Post Featured Image

    Boys and Porn

    In Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the demise of guys, he states that boys are flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.

    In response to Zimbardo’s talk, Dr. Gary Wilson explains why guys are flaming out and what we can do about it. He bases his reasoning on years of research concerning the neuroscience of reward, sex and bonding.

    According to Wilson, most boys seek porn by age 10. At that age, a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex drives the boys. Thanks to high-speed internet, boys have access to unending novelty. The boy's brain releases dopamine with each new image, and he will keep going as long as he can keep clicking.

    Eventually, the brain wires itself to everything associated with porn such as: being alone, constant clicking, voyeurism, shock and surprise - instead of learning about real sex, which involves interaction with a real person, courtship, commitment, touching, being touched and emotional connection.

    Porn Is A Serious Addiction

    In 2009, a Canadian researcher attempting to study the impact of porn could not find any college males who weren’t using porn, so he had no control group for his research. He asked 20 male students who had been using porn for at least a decade if they thought porn was affecting them or their relationships with women. All of them said they didn’t think so. However, many of these males were dealing with social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression and concentration problems.

    “Of all the activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to be addictive,” says Wilson. “Everything in the porn user’s life is boring except porn.”

    Interestingly, there are thousands of men, young and old, who are giving up porn. Why? Because it is killing their sexual performance.

    A guy in his 20s reports, “I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for the last eight years. I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, severe memory impairment, tried numerous medications, dropped out of college twice, have been fired twice, used pot to calm my nerves, and have been approached by women but they quickly left because of my weirdness.

    "I have been a hardcore porn addict since age 14,” he says. “I stopped porn completely two months ago. It has been hard. I have quit all of the medication I was taking. My anxiety is nonexistent… My memory and focus are sharper than they have ever been and my erectile dysfunction is gone. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

    “Widespread youthful erectile dysfunction has never been seen before,” Wilson says. “This is the only symptom that gets their attention.”

    The high-speed internet has taken porn to a new level and it is messing with our children. Watching porn digitally rewires boys’ brains in a totally new way for change, constant arousal, novelty and excitement. This creates real issues when it comes to romantic relationships that grow gradually and subtly.

    Do your children know what healthy relationships look like? Have you taught them about the perils of the internet? Are you paying attention to their computer use?

    It’s time to take back our boys. Their health and future relationships are hanging in the balance.

  • Post Featured Image

    Can Your Kids Ask You About Sex?

    Research says that young people who "sext" are more likely to have sex, and that dating violence is on the rise. 

    So, picture this scenario: Your child sits down at the dinner table and asks, “What is sexting? What is sex?” or “How do babies get inside their mommy’s tummy?” 

    In response, would you:

    A. Laugh and change the subject?

    B. Get irritated and tell your child that those questions are not appropriate at the dinner table?

    C. Thank your child for asking such a great question and either seek to answer it or tell them that you will talk with them about it after dinner?

    Just thinking about answering these questions has and will cause anxiety for many parents. When asked about talking with her children about sex, one mother replied, “My parents didn’t talk with me about it. I think I would just die if I had to talk with my son about it. He’ll figure it out.”

    Let's consider that statement for a moment.

    When young people are left to figure things out for themselves, the results can disastrous. Parents can help their children/teens understand that relationships based on sex aren't healthy or cool by talking openly with them about topics such as sex, love, lust and romance. It's also an opportunity to help your child think about how certain actions now can impact their goals for the future.

    If you are on the fence about talking to your children about sex, sexting and the like, consider the benefits.

    • Children develop an accurate understanding about their bodies, and about sexuality, instead of getting inaccurate information from friends or the media.
    • They learn that talking to you about sex doesn't have to be embarrassing.
    • You equip your child with information they need to make wise choices for the rest of their life.
    • You are teaching them life skills like self-discipline, problem-solving and planning for the future… skills that will help them move toward productive living.

    So, here are some helpful tips for taking the plunge and starting that conversation with your kids:

    • Be an askable parent. Encourage open communication. Tell them it is okay to talk with you. If you don’t know the answer, find the answer together.
    • Don't overreact. The number one complaint from teens is that parents jump to conclusions when they do ask questions. The goal is to keep the dialogue going.
    • Take advantage of teachable moments. The latest sexting research, the pregnancy of a friend and television sitcoms are teachable moments.
    • Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen as your child shares. It is a great way to learn what they are thinking. Hint: If you want to know what is really going on, do carpool duty and keep your mouth shut.
    • Less is more. State the facts, be honest and keep it simple and age appropriate.
    • Share your expectations and values, too. Whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or something else, tell your children what you expect. Be clear about your family values.

    The best way to protect young people is to educate them. Are you an askable parent?


  • Post Featured Image

    8 Ways to Show That Truth Really Matters

    Trusted news anchor Brian Williams shared an amazing story about being in a helicopter when it was shot down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The only problem with the story? The crew on the helicopter that was shot down didn't remember Williams being on their helicopter or the others flying in formation with it.

    When Williams was confronted about his story, he ultimately admitted that he was not on that helicopter. His misstep cost him his coveted evening anchor seat, at least for a time.

    Williams isn’t the only one who struggles to remember details accurately. Many employers are finding job applicants with embellished resumes – not necessarily a bold-faced lie, but stretching the truth for sure. Many students who feel the pressure of applying to colleges and needing to stand out in the crowd have found “creative” ways of describing their high school career and extracurricular activities.

    Most parents know that dishonesty at any level creates an atmosphere of mistrust within relationships. That's why among the character qualities they try to instill in their children, telling the truth is close to the top of the list. Yet those same parents are often dishonest in front of their children.

    Some may remember the episode of Andy Griffith where Andy was trying to teach Opie the importance of being honest. Opie sold his bike to a friend, but failed to tell him all of the things that were wrong with the bike. Andy told Opie that he would have to tell his friend the truth about the bike. In the midst of the bike saga, Andy has the opportunity to sell his home. When the potential buyers came to look at the house, Opie began telling them all of the things that were wrong with the house. Andy got mad at Opie for telling the “house secrets.” Totally confused, Opie looked at his dad and said, “I thought you said it was important to tell the truth no matter what.”

    Telling the truth is honoring to individuals and helps build healthy trusting relationships. But it is important not to stop there. Parents need to help children understand how to be honest in difficult situations and why honesty is the best policy.

    Here are some helpful suggestions for parents:

    • Make sure your behavior is honest.
    • Share about a time when you were dishonest and the consequences of your actions.
    • Model honest expression that shows respect and compassion for the other person.
    • Start when your children are young teaching them the difference between honesty and dishonesty.
    • Look for teachable moments on television or in real life to show the consequences of not being honest.
    • Praise your children when they tell you the truth.
    • Teach your children about the benefits of doing the right thing and being trustworthy.
    • Model integrity, because you are your word. If people can't trust you, you'll miss out on many great opportunities in life.

    Many will testify that it may take a really long time, but truth always reveals itself. Do you want to be a truthful or deceitful person?

  • Post Featured Image

    9 Ways You Can Be Your Teen's Best Friend

    Lots of celebrity moms go out on the town and party with their famous kids. But while some teens might think it sounds really cool that a mom would party with them, most young people say they don’t want their parents acting like they do.

    According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Adolescence Isn’t Terminal, It Just Feels Like It, some parents believe they need to become their teen’s best friend in order to navigate the teen years.

    Many parents believe that teenagers know enough to make good decisions with little or no guidance from their parents. However, brain research has shown strong evidence that when it comes to maturity, control and organization, that's just not the case. In reality, all key parts of the brain related to emotions, judgment and thinking ahead don't finish forming until the mid-20s. This means teens definitely need their parents actively involved in their lives.

    “Sometimes as the parent you have to make decisions that will not be popular with your teen, but are in their best interest,” says Leman.

    Teens do not want their parents to act like them, talk like them or dress like them, either. Despite grunts, attitude and carrying on, young people do want you to act like their parent.

    “Kids who have parents who try to act, look and talk like teenagers tell me that they feel very self-conscious and embarrassed when their moms or dads attempt to be teenagers,” Leman says.

    If you really want to be your teen’s best friend, here's what Leman suggests:

    • Make your home the center of activity. Instead of your child always being somewhere else, make your home the place they want to be with their friends.

    • Listen to your teen when he or she is ready to talk. Being approachable is the key, even if it is 1 a.m. and you go to bed at 10 p.m. This gives you a chance to continue to build a close relationship in the midst of your child's growing independence.

    • Be an imperfect parent. It isn’t about you being perfect. Admit your mistakes and don’t be afraid to say, “I am sorry.” Share stories about when you were a teen. Be real.

    • Spend time with your teen. Make it a point to notice what they do well. Be approachable. Guard against becoming a critical parent who only notices mistakes and weaknesses. Be REAL with your teens: Real, Encouraging, Affirming, and Loving.

    • Expect the best from them. Keep your standards realistic. Expect them to make good choices. Research shows that daughters with affirming fathers are most likely to marry a guy with those qualities.

    • Don’t snowplow the roads of life for your teen. When they fail, let them experience the consequences. There is no better time for them to fail than when they are at home around people who love them. You can actually help them get back on their feet.

    • Love and respect your mate. Young people learn how to treat their future spouse by watching you. Model the behavior you want your children to practice when they are married and have children of their own.

    • Never beat or bully your child into submission. Take time to think about what you will say or do and the outcomes you are looking for. Shepherds use their rod to guide their sheep, not to beat them into submission. As parents, our role is to guide our children and teach them how to live as productive citizens.

    • Pray for them daily. The teenage years can be very challenging. Make sure your child knows you are on their team and you love them unconditionally.

    “Your goal as a parent is to help your children become all that they can be,” Leman says. “The best way to steer our kids through the stage of adolescence is to know ahead of time what type of children we want to raise.”

  • Post Featured Image

    Steps to Help Your Kids Handle Conflict

    Conflict. Just saying the word makes some people break out in a sweat while others want to run for the hills. Surprisingly, some people enjoy engaging in conflict, although most people prefer to avoid it at all costs. While many think that conflict is bad, it’s actually neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with it that can create either a negative or positive experience. The reality is, conflict is part of life. The good news is, engaging conflict properly can lead to some really powerful outcomes.

    Life can be stressful for sure. We often face complicated situations that require navigating differences of opinion, problem-solving and sometimes, agreeing to disagree. One of the greatest things parents can teach their children is the art of managing and/or resolving conflict at home, at school, in the community or on the job.

    If you are a parent, consider how you currently handle conflict. You’ve probably heard that it’s always best if your kids don’t witness an argument, but taking your disagreements behind closed doors all the time isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s a learning experience when young people see their parents disagree, work it through and make up. That’s the first step in helping children prepare for dealing with conflict in their own life, especially in those moments when you aren’t around.

    It's also helpful if you don’t step in every time your child disagrees with someone. Instead, ask your child about the issue at hand so they learn to identify what they are irritated or angry about. Then ask what they think their next best step might be. This will help them learn how to think critically and brainstorm potential next steps. It may be tempting to just point things out to them, especially if you are in a hurry, but it’s far more helpful in the long run to teach them how to do this for themselves.

    Ask your child about their role in the conflict. It’s easy to assume it is totally the other person’s fault when both parties may have contributed to the situation at hand. Helping your young person understand how they may have contributed to the issue could give them some insight into their own behavior and how they might want to handle things differently in the future.

    Before deciding what happens next, it is wise to address the feelings connected to the offense. Stuffing those feelings doesn't help, but neither is physically attacking someone or doing something else to get back at them. Teaching children how to constructively handle their emotions will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the best lesson is experiencing how it feels to be treated a certain way. As a result, they will know how not to treat people in the future.

    Finally, it’s time for your young person to decide their best next move and take action. They might want to rehearse a conversation with you before facing the other party. Writing out their plan might be beneficial. If you’re hoping for a constructive outcome, perhaps both parties could respectfully share their perspective of the situation. Even if nothing gets resolved at this point, they are making progress. 

    Throughout this process, your child learns how to handle conflict themselves, which is a major confidence-builder. They will also learn how to slow down long enough to identify their feelings, brainstorm the possibilities when it comes to managing or resolving the conflict, and come up with a constructive way to move forward. These tools can’t be purchased at the hardware store, but they are certainly valuable ones to have in their toolbox.

  • Post Featured Image

    How Taking a Break Benefits Moms and Kids

    Some moms think leaving their children with someone else, even for a short time, is not an option.

    “I know moms who feel guilty if they are not with their children 24/7,” says Leslie Parrott, therapist and co-author of The Parent You Want to Be. “It is almost as if leaving the kids with someone else would be a sign of weakness. Yet, I know many moms are tired and stressed and long for a break.”

    Dr. Parrott knows exactly what it is like to long for a break. She gave birth prematurely to her oldest son, and he required round the clock extended care.

    “Even though I felt some guilt about leaving John in the care of someone else, I knew I needed some time away to relax and re-energize. Taking care of a medically fragile baby is quite stressful. Scheduling 1 ½ hours away for quiet time, twice a week, helped me to be a better mom. I realized I could not pass on what I did not possess. If I was exhausted, my son picked up on that and was fussy as well.”

    Children need to understand that attachment can remain firm even when there are brief parental absences. When they have the opportunity to rehearse this, they learn that there are other people in their lives who love them and can take good care of them.

    “If parents never give their children the opportunity to experience these absences, when it is time to enter kindergarten or they are separated for some other reason they often experience extreme anxiety,” Parrott says. “I remember my father telling me about his first day in kindergarten. He had never been away from home before so he was very nervous. His class went outside for recess and when the bell rang, he panicked. He could not remember where to meet the teacher, so he just walked home.”

    Being away from your children can refresh you. It may also give you fresh perspectives about them, Parrott advises, even though some parents may feel anxiety about leaving their children.

    “There have been times when I have gone away and come home and received a report on my children from their caregiver, allowing me to see them through her eyes,” Parrott says. “Things I don’t see because I am around them all the time are the very things our babysitter points out to me. I get the benefit of her wisdom. One time, upon returning from a trip, my friend asked me if I had noticed how much John had matured. ‘He is implementing his politeness skills with everyone,’ she said.

    “I think that moms who deny themselves the luxury of time away and time for their marriage truly believe they are doing something heroic. What I have experienced with many of them is they are tired, stressed and frustrated. And, their heroic acts don’t create the results they imagine.”

    When considering the parent-child relationship, the parent’s call is to always be the healthiest person in the relationship.

    If you have never been away from your kids, Parrott encourages moms to do something different. Here are some suggestions:

    • Schedule brief absences. Even short periods of time away from your children can be refreshing for your family.

    • Don’t worry about making sure everything stays the same. In reality, a short change in routine won't damage the children.

    • Find friends you trust, with children the same age as yours. This was a blessing for the Parrotts. The children became such great friends that they begged to get together again. The next visit became a play date for the kids and the parents!

    “I truly believe the best gift I can give my kids is the gift of love from other people besides their mother and father,” Parrott says. “I walked in the door on Saturday night from an out of town speaking engagement. The children were all ready to get out the keyboard because our babysitter had taught them a duet. They don’t know how to play the piano. I could tell she had spent time coaching them and doing something different than I would have given them even if I had been home. I smiled as I watched them play and thought to myself, ‘This is good.’”


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!


  • Post Featured Image

    7 Ways to Treat Your Family Well

    The family is attempting to go to an extended family gathering. Dad is waiting impatiently in the car. Mom is running through the house yelling at the kids to hurry up because they are running late.

    Daughter number one “can’t find anything to wear” and is having a meltdown. Mom tells teen son to comb his hair because “it looks like you just crawled out of bed.” He informs her it is supposed to look that way. The youngest doesn’t want to leave the new puppy home alone so she is taking it along for a ride in her backpack. Finally, the entire family is in the car. But someone in the back is in someone else’s space and the arguing begins.

    Dad threatens to pull the car over. Mom is flustered. Parents threaten the kids: “If you do one thing to embarrass me, you’re grounded! When we get out of this car I expect you to smile and act right.” Bickering continues as the car pulls in to their destination. The doors open and the entire family, including the puppy in the backpack, steps out of the car with smiling faces.

    Let the cover-up begin.

    If you haven’t experienced this with your own family, you probably experienced it as a child: fighting like cats and dogs in private, but being on your best behavior in public… until you are alone again and then pick up where you left off.

    What would happen behind closed doors if people acted like someone was watching? Would your conversation, tone of voice and behavior be different? In many instances, the answer is probably yes. 

    So, how about trying something different? Instead of doing the same routine, be creative and shake things up a little.

    • Try being more patient with each other.
    • Give family members a head start for getting out the door by setting the time 15 minutes earlier.
    • Watch your tone of voice. It is amazing the tone people use with loved ones, but wouldn’t think of using with co-workers or friends.
    • Laugh. When your child decides to try out the new cookie press with chocolate chip cookie dough, they'll see that the chips won’t fit through the press on their own. Replace your irritation with laughter, and ask yourself, “Is it really worth getting angry?”
    • Treat each other like you want to be treated.
    • Have a contribution jar handy. When family members miss an opportunity to be on time, respectful, etc., they can make a financial contribution to the jar. At the end of the quarter, donate the money to your favorite charity.
    • Model what you would like to see happen in your family. If you are typically uptight, yelling or negative, try lightening up. Avoid yelling, and look for opportunities to be positive.

    Someone once said, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” While this is true, you can choose to treat them at least as well as you treat your friends. If the environment around your house feels chaotic, tense and uncomfortable, change is possible. Do something different!