Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: healthy relationships

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    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.

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    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.’”

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    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!

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    Tips for Setting Dating Standards With Your Teens

    It is vital for young people to set and stick to dating standards as they build relationships. The role of a parent is that of teacher and encourager, not dictator.

    Before your child gets to the level of maturity where he or she is ready to date, you should decide upon your dating standards. Determine how old your teenager must be to date. Set a curfew and describe in advance what the consequences will be for breaking this curfew and STICK TO THEM.

    Additional expectations should be that your teen must always tell you:

    • Where he/she will be;

    • A phone number or numbers where he/she can be reached;

    • Who he/she is going out with;

    • What they will be doing; and

    • When he/she will return.

    • If they don't know the answers to these questions, they don't go out on the date.

    • If he/she is going to be late, a courtesy phone call is expected to let you know about the situation; this does not excuse coming in after curfew and the consequences set.

    • If your teenager is a female, let her know in advance that you expect her dates to come to the door to get her and to meet her parents.

    • Your teen should always carry enough money to get a cab/bus ride home if necessary.

    Items for discussion before your teen dates:

    • Why does he/she want to date?

    • What does he/she hope to have happen?

    • Has your teen considered group dating? What are the benefits of group dating?

    • If you have a daughter preparing to date, does she have an emergency plan in case her date becomes forceful or violent? The "It won't happen to me" plan is not good enough.

    • Encourage a first-date activity to be something that provides opportunity for lots of conversation.

    • Talk with your teenager about treating their date with respect. What does that look like?

    • Discuss the potential for hormonally-charged situations and how to avoid them.

    • What kind of messages might your teenager send by the kind of clothes they are or are not wearing? If you are the father of a teenage daughter, think about this subject very carefully, and make sure your daughter knows that men can be easily aroused by…you fill in the blanks for her. Instruct your sons to be respectful.

    • Who will be paying for the date? The parents or the teenager? What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a date? Instruct your teenager that just because someone buys them dinner doesn't mean they owe them anything.

    • Make sure your teenager knows that you are there for them and willing to listen if they need to talk.

    • If your teenager is female, talk about the dangers of dating guys much older than them.

    • Discuss the idea that dating is about developing a growing friendship--NOT about having sexual involvement.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    10 Steps for a Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy

    Dating is a big deal for most teenagers. 

    Many parents will tell you that questions like, “When will I be old enough to date? And when I date, what time will I have to be home?” start coming long before their teen is really old enough to date. Some parents go to great lengths putting rules in place for dating. There's even been a show on the topic – Eight Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

    Regardless of the dating age in your household, perhaps the most important question is, “Is your teen prepared to date?”

    “In our rush to teach young people sex education, I believe we have left out some of the important basics like: If you have a crush on someone, how do you let them know you like them? How do you start a conversation? How can you tell if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy?” says Marline Pearson, author of Increasing Your Relationship Smarts, part of Love U 2, a comprehensive relationship curriculum.

    “Teens are on a journey to learn about love, relationships, themselves and their emerging sexuality. As they jump into relationships, teens are in the throes of powerful feelings of attraction, rejection and a myriad of other emotions. Most teens want affection, respect, love and connection. Yet, our young people get little guidance on navigating the world of teen relationships and the sexual culture. While we tell them what to say ‘no’ to, we do too little to help teens build the healthy relationships to which they can say ‘yes.’”

    Pearson believes we need to help teens understand things like infatuation. Yes, you have strong, wonderful feelings, but you won’t see clearly for 3-6 months. It could be the first step to love, but it isn’t love at first. When you think you are falling in love with somebody, you are really falling in love with an image of who you think the person is at first. You have to put in some time to see if your snapshot is accurate.

    Since most teens want to date, they are usually willing to participate in any conversation they believe will help them reach this goal. Parents can take advantage of this place in time to prepare their teens for dating.

    If you want to help your teen develop a low-risk dating strategy, try Pearson's tips below.

    • Seek a good match: Look for common interests. Pay attention to how the person acts. Do you find them interesting?

    • Pay attention to values: People give off clues all the time as to the values they hold. A relationship is doomed if the other person shuns your values.

    • Don’t try to change the other person: Performing an extreme makeover on another person never works. Sometimes people are so desperate to be in love they try to make you into something you are not.

    • Don’t change yourself: Don’t be somebody you are not just to get somebody’s love and attention. If you find yourself trying to alter who you are to get someone’s love, that is a problem.

    • Don’t run from conflict: Expect good communication.

    • Don’t play games, manipulate, pressure, be phony or use power plays to get what you want.

    • Ask yourself these questions: Does this relationship feel controlling or nurturing and supportive? If physical touch wasn’t part of the relationship, would there be a relationship?

    • Have a bottom line: You need to have a bottom line for how you expect to be treated. Never tolerate abuse. Expect respect. People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you.

    “Teens today live and breathe in a culture emphasizing casual sex and casual connections where no relationship can be trusted to last and where even the most important family bonds can’t be counted on,” Pearson says. 

    “Teens are short on positive models. They have few road maps that will lead them into healthy relationships and away from destructive ones. Teaching your teen about committed and healthy love relationships is one of the greatest gifts you can give them and it will last a lifetime.”

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    Technology and Relationships

    Have you ever thought about how today’s amazing technological advances affect relationships?

    There are very few places where you can’t technologically connect in some way. You can place calls whenever and wherever. It’s fairly inexpensive and there are no additional fees. In real time, you can show or tell anyone what you are eating, post your latest fashion escapade or something that just happened. Who would have guessed you can actually conduct business halfway across the planet with someone you may never meet in person?

    Why would anybody need to read books anymore or memorize anything when with a few keystrokes the information can be on a screen in front of you? The world has never been so flat when it comes to communicating.

    How does all of this impact relationships?

    What if you get an email from a friend who lives out of town who is really struggling? Inventions like Skype or FaceTime make it feel like you are practically there live and in person, which is good. But does it replace being able to hug someone when things are tough?

    Do you remember calling home from college once a week to talk to your parents? It required remembering all that happened during the week before and that also meant there were many things you had to figure out on your own because mom and dad weren’t available at the drop of a hat to give you their best problem solving maneuver. So - how are young people impacted by constantly being able to be in touch with their parents when life gets challenging versus taking a stab at trying to figure it out for themselves?

    Have you ever experienced miscommunication in a text message? For example, take the word “fine.” You text your spouse saying you want to go out to eat tonight. Your spouse replies, “Fine.” There are tons of ways to interpret that word and the person's intent behind it.

    How about boundaries? At first, constant connectivity was super-exciting for everyone. Now people realize that being reachable anywhere and anytime may not be so great. Constant pings at the dinner table can make it challenging to have meaningful conversation with family and friends.

    There is a fair amount of chatter these days about how digital devices and other technology have changed thinking and behavior. Is technology overload a thing? Does constantly switching back and forth between incoming text messages, email and the task at hand affect attention span? Has creativity diminished?

    And, have we replaced meaningful conversation with friends and family with photos and the snippets of life we see on Facebook?

    Ask yourself. How can you enhance your most meaningful relationships if you change or limit the way you currently use technology?

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    How to Stay Close After Bringing Baby Home

    Jake and Lou Anne used to live in a loft and have people over all the time. But once they decided to have a family, they moved to a house in a quiet neighborhood. And, their friends came over significantly less often.

    “It was definitely a dramatic change for us,” said Lou Anne. “It was hard to give up our two-seater convertible, but we knew it wasn’t a family car. We had hoped we could keep it and add a family car, but since we couldn’t predict our expenses after Cara’s birth, we traded it in.”

    Their daughter arrived in October of 2005. Even though she was an "easy" baby and had a great temperament, she still rocked her parents' world.

    “We were pretty on-the-go kind of people before Cara arrived on the scene,” said Jake. “That has come to a screeching halt. Lou Anne and I really enjoy each other’s company and spending time with our friends. It has been an adjustment just trying to figure out how to have time together, much less work in our friends,” Jake said.

    While Jake says the changes in their life have truly have been just that - changes, not sacrifices - many couples know that bringing home that new bundle of joy can cause everything from joy to total frustration. Even when you know that life is going to be different, going from spontaneous and carefree to a schedule and being responsible for someone else can throw a good marriage into a tailspin.

    In her book, Childproofing Your Marriage, Dr. Debbie Cherry says there are two major threats to the marital bond when couples have their first child: lack of time and lack of energy.

    Intimacy can be greatly affected by:

    • feelings of grief at losing couple time,
    • sensing disconnectedness from your spouse,
    • feelings of jealousy about the amount of time and attention the baby receives, and
    • the loss of energy from caring for the baby.

    If a couple does not recognize these threats and deal with them openly, they may begin to feel even more alone and isolated from each other.

    “You really can’t measure the love and joy that comes with having a baby,” Jake said. “At the same time, I think it is really important for Lou Anne and me to have time together. We consider personal time, couple time and family time equally important."

    The couple spent the first year trying to get in the groove of how to do all three.

    Time is a precious commodity, especially for new parents. Things that you used to take for granted - like afternoon naps on the weekend, taking your time in the bathroom, sex, watching your favorite sitcom or grabbing a bite to eat - become things that practically have to be scheduled into your day.

    If you are a new parent, Cherry offers several helpful suggestions for you:

    • Develop a couple-centered, not a child-centered relationship. For the first time in the relationship, couples have to choose who really comes first. Starting here and now, determine that the couple comes before the children. If children are number one, their never-ending need for attention will eat up everything you have to give, and the rest of your life will suffer because of it. Love your children, provide for them and meet their needs. But remember that one of their most important needs is to have parents who really love each other.
    • Become co-parents, not compulsive parents. Moms and dads alike can fall into the trap of believing they are the only ones who can adequately care for their baby. Somehow they forget that many parents have come and gone before them and have learned to capably care for these helpless little creatures. Becoming a compulsive parent creates isolation and will eventually lead to parenting burnout. Breaks and daily support from each other are a must for parents.
    • Talk to each other every day. Check in with each other regularly. Talk about changing expectations and needs, and division of labor. Discuss your disappointments and fears about parenting. Communication involves both talking and listening. Be the best listener you can be if you want your spouse to continue to share his or her deepest thoughts, feelings, fears and needs.

    “I think one of the most important things we keep in mind is that we are on the same team,” Lou Anne said. “I really depend on Jake. We try hard to be respectful of each other and to mind our manners. When you start stepping on each other’s toes, then it becomes a matter of ‘that’s not fair,’ and things go downhill quickly. Cara has been a blessing. Our goal is to keep our marriage strong so we can be a blessing to her through the years.”

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    6 Guidelines for Teen Dating

    During a young mom's conversation with her 8-year-old daughter about her school day, the girl revealed she had a boyfriend. In her infinite wisdom, Mom said, “You are really too young to have a boyfriend. You should have lots of boys as friends at your age.”

    The little girl sighed and said, “I know, but when I am 14, I will be old enough to date.” Somewhat surprised by the comment, the mother asked her daughter what you do on a date. Without hesitation, the daughter said, “You have sex.”

    With all kinds of thoughts reeling through her head, the mother asked where she got that idea. The little girl said she had heard it from school friends who heard it from their older siblings.

    That mother was shocked. But, should this really be a surprise? Have you ever talked with your teen about the purpose of dating or what happens during a date?

    In an informal teen survey, many stated that the only dating conversation they'd had with their parents was about curfew and expectations concerning drinking and driving. Many parents believe that, “Nobody talked to me about dating and I turned out pretty good so what’s the big deal?”

    Studies show that teenagers crave intimacy, and that adolescents start to date between 12 and 14 years old. In 1924, the average age was 16.

    Research, however, has shown that serious adolescent relationships before either partner is emotionally mature can detrimentally affect identity formation - and even life and health. And, adolescents who date because of peer pressure or a need to belong can experience significant disappointment.

    Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, broken hearts and depression are common themes among those who work with teens. Plus, an estimated 15 percent of teen suicides are due to the breakup of an unhappy dating relationship.

    When teens receive mixed messages from many directions about relationships, having parents who are willing to engage in a discussion about dating smarts is definitely a plus.

    In his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, Sean Covey defines the difference in intelligent dating and brainless dating.

    Intelligent dating is dating successfully, being selective about who you date, hanging out and having fun, remaining steady through the natural highs and lows of romance, and keeping your own standards," says Covey. "Brainless dating is dating ineffectively, dating anyone who has a pulse, becoming centered on your girlfriend or boyfriend, having your heart broken repeatedly, and doing what everyone else seems to be doing.”

    Studies indicate that many of today’s teens are taking dating far too seriously. One out of three teenage girls report experiencing physical violence from a dating partner. Yet many of them stay in the relationship stating, “But I love him,” or “A bad relationship is better than no relationship at all.” Instead of understanding that teen dating is about meeting many different people and that breaking up is not a sign of failure, they're convinced they will find Mr. or Mrs. Right in high school. Truthfully, very few people actually marry their high school sweetheart.

    These six guidelines from Covey for intelligent dating are great jumping off points for discussion between parents and teens:

    • Don’t date too young – Dating too young can lead various problems, including getting taken advantage of, getting physical too soon, or not knowing how to end a relationship.

    • Date people your own age – Dating someone who is several years older than you isn’t healthy.

    • Get to know lots of people – Getting too serious too soon can cut you off from other relationships. Don’t be too eager to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Date a lot of different people and have fun.

    • Date in groups – Group activities are often more fun, and there is safety in numbers.

    • Set boundaries – Choose what kind of people you will date BEFORE you start dating. Decide what is off limits and don’t change your mind for anyone.

    • Have a plan – Before going on a date, prepare for the unexpected.

    Teaching teens dating basics early on can save them a lot of heartache. In addition to talking with parents, adolescents can also benefit from healthy dating relationship skills classes.

    These classes teach the fundamental components of establishing healthy and stable interpersonal relationships with family, friends, dating partners, and eventually, husbands and wives. Additionally, they help adolescents recognize important factors in healthy relationships. And hopefully, the skills they learn can equip teens to make thoughtful decisions about relationships before entering into marriage.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    Teens, Technology and Romance

    Today's teens have always had technology in their world, from learning colors and counting to playing games, watching movies and Skyping with their grandparents. Since teens are digital natives, it's logical for technology to play a role in relationships, especially romantic ones.

    In 2014 and 2015, the Pew Research Center survey examined American teens' (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices. The online survey and focus group results are telling.

    Though 57 percent of teens have digital friendships, teens are far less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teens with dating experience (76 percent) say they have only dated people they met in person. Only 8 percent of all teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media, and most of those introductions are on Facebook.

    Still, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Teens also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. Among all teens:

    • 55 percent have flirted or talked to someone in person to express their interest.

    • 50 percent have let someone know they were romantically interested by "friending" them on social media.

    • 47 percent have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.

    • 46 percent have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.

    • 31 percent sent them flirtatious messages.

    • 10 percent have sent flirty or sexy pictures, or videos of themselves.

    Overall, 85 percent of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Sometimes teens expect even more.

    • 11 percent expect to hear from their partner hourly.

    • 35 percent expect to hear something every few hours.

    • 38 percent expect to hear from their significant other once a day.

    Teens say texting is the top way to spend time together, which is interesting since they aren't actually together.

    Additionally, phone calls, in-person time and other digital means for staying in touch were in the mix. As for spending time with their current/former boyfriend or girlfriend, teen daters preferred:

    • Text messaging: 92 percent

    • Talking on the phone: 87 percent

    • Being together in person: 86 percent

    • Social media: 70 percent

    • Instant or online messaging: 69 percent

    • Video chatting: 55 percent

    • Messaging apps: 49 percent

    Thirty-one percent of teens who dated reported that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day. They use the internet or cellphone to ask where they are, who they are with or what they are doing.

    Teens were also surveyed about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors they may have experienced in relationships.

    • 15 percent (or 5 percent of all teens) say a current or former partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

    • 16 percent have been required by a current or former partner to remove people from their friends list on social media.

    • 13 percent said their current or former partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.

    • 19 percent report that a current or former partner has used the internet, digital media or a cellphone to threaten them.

    • 8 percent report that a current or ex-partner used information posted on the Internet against them, to harass or embarrass them.

    After a relationship ends, 22 percent of teens state that a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them. Fifteen percent report that a current or former partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.

    Technology connects us in many ways, but teens need more information about technology and romantic relationships.

    Although dating is an opportunity to get to know someone, identify common interests, see if your personalities get along and whether you enjoy each other's company — it is different from marriage.

    Teens still need your help to understand the meaning of dating and what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, help them understand that:

    • Posting mean things is poor form and disrespectful.

    • Demanding passwords is inappropriate.

    • Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.

    • Demanding to know who, what, where, why and how from someone is controlling, dishonoring and disrespectful behavior.

    • Texting back and forth is different from spending time with someone.

    Don't assume your teen knows how to successfully navigate romantic relationships. Take every chance you get to teach them how to respect and honor others.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    How Technology Affects Families

    Do you remember when the only television at home was in the family room? Or when your family traveled in the car and everybody looked for license plates from all 50 states? Now, practically every vehicle has a DVD player and every home has several televisions. Technology is everywhere.

    In the last 50 years, technology has exploded. It is no longer in a fixed location with limited capability and parental supervision. It is literally unlimited and extremely difficult to regulate.

    At a conference on strengthening the family, author and clinical counselor, John Van Epp asked:

    • To what extent will families allow technology to be fused with their relationships?
    • Are families unplugging devices to really plug into each other?

    Based on several studies, it appears that families aren’t doing a great job of connecting.

    Consider these examples.

    A group from Boston Medical Center watched family interactions in fast-food restaurants, specifically looking at how caregivers engaged with children. Out of 55 families, 40 parents were doing something with their phone. The researchers refer to this as “absorption with the mobile device.” When a child started prompting a parent for attention, the child got in trouble for interrupting the parent.

    UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs conducted an intensive in-home, four-year study of 32 families on this issue. Ochs found the primary theme in these homes was multi-tasking among family members. She cites an all-too-familiar conversation between parent and child: “My parents always tell me that I can’t do homework while listening to music, but they don’t understand that it helps me to concentrate.”

    Strengthening his case, Van Epp cited David Myers’ work as the director of the University of Michigan's Brain Cognition Lab. Myers is very clear that the brain does NOT multi-task. It may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision), but when engaging in distinctly different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch. It jumps from one thing to another. Myers debunks the myth that students are great multi-taskers, stating, "The bottom line is you CANNOT simultaneously be thinking about your tax return and reading an essay."

    “This constant multi-tasking that people are doing results in dopamine 'squirts.' These lead to an addiction to constant techno-activity,” Van Epp said. “Yet, studies show that downtime for the brain is essential to the development of identity, morals, empathy and creativity.”

    Van Epp issued a challenge: Lay your smart phone down. See if you can go for an hour without picking it up.

    “Research shows that technology is actually producing higher rates of anxiety among children and adults,” Van Epp said. “Apps are influencing child development and short-circuiting identity formation. They're also discouraging face to face interactions and creating superficial intimacy.”

    If you still aren’t convinced this is an issue, check out Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain in the New York Times. And for good measure, watch Gary Turk’s Look Up video on YouTube. 

    “We must begin balancing technology and real time with loved ones,” Van Epp said. “We can’t let technology define us. Advances in technology can never replace gains in family interactions.”

    So, what about you? Will your family unplug devices in order to really plug into each other?

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    What Girls Need to Know About Successful Marriage

    When Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was a girl, her father gave her some rules for selecting a husband.

    • He should be a man of good character and conscience.
    • He should be a man who will make a good father and be a good provider.
    • The last rule was: No asthmatics. (Her father was a doctor and an asthmatic.)

    Dafoe Whitehead has been married to a man who exuded all of these qualities for more than 40 years. The one area in which she rebelled: her husband is an asthmatic.

    “Things are different now for girls,” says Dafoe Whitehead. “Both of my girls are single and in their 30s. In college, someone told one of my daughters that to think about marriage shows a lack of ambition.

    "The reality is, we have left a lot of teaching about love, sex and marriage to the popular culture – reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc. Young women today hear messages of heartbreak and failure, heartbreak and cheating, heartbreak and lying. There isn’t a lot out there about being successful in marriage.”

    According to Dafoe Whitehead, only 20 percent of young adults came from broken homes in the late 70s compared to 40 percent in the late 90s. Many women have personal experience with divorce. These young people gather a lot of misinformation along the way that, if acted upon, will significantly lower their chances of marital success.

    “I believe there are five pervasive messages of failure that young women are receiving today,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

    These misleading messages are:

    • Teenage sex has nothing to do with having a healthy marriage later. Two-thirds of today’s teens believe it is okay to have sex if you are in love. Unfortunately, the consequences of teen sex can last a lifetime--but the relationship usually doesn’t.
    • It is okay to have kids first because you can find a guy later. The highest percentage of unwed births today are to women in their 20s. Although they hope to find a guy later on, evidence shows that their chances of successful marriage, or every marrying at all, decline.
    • People should live together. The evidence suggests that living together does not increase one’s chances of having a successful marriage, but there is strong evidence that it increases the chances for divorce.
    • You cannot prepare for a healthy, successful marriage. There are many who believe having several bad relationships is the only way to have a good one, and that heartbreak is unavoidable.
    • Your chances of divorce cannot be changed. The mantra for today’s young people is, “Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.” They believe that a successful marriage is a roll of the dice. Not true. There is a lot you can do.

    “The truth is, young women in their teens and 20s should have tremendous hope for a successful marriage in the future,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

    A lot can be done in the teen years to prepare for a healthy marriage later.

    Making a Love Connection is an excellent resource to help teens make healthy decisions. At the heart of its hopeful message is the issue of sequence or timing. Young women can significantly improve their chances of having a healthy marriage by finishing high school, waiting until after the teen years to marry and having children after marrying. This sequential order also dramatically decreases the chances of poverty or divorcing.

    If you are looking for a committed relationship, don’t settle for any old guy, and don’t settle for living together. Most women want a committed relationship.

    Marriage is typically a public ceremony, leaving no doubt regarding the couple’s commitment to each other. Moving in with someone is private, and the only witnesses may be the moving people. One young lady said, “I really didn’t care about wedding vows, but when I lived with my boyfriend we didn’t vow to do anything.”

    If you want a healthy marriage, here are some things to consider.

    • Plan to complete your education in your 20s.
    • Marry before the age of 30. In general, research shows that people who marry in their 20s are distinctly happier than those who marry later.
    • Date with the intention and thought of marrying. Know what you are looking for in a mate and don’t date guys who aren’t marriage-minded. Frequent places where you are likely to meet the kind of person you'd want to marry.
    • Don’t wait until you are engaged to get marriage education. Get as much relationship education as you can, value the knowledge and share it with others. People who know better do better. 
    • Finally, consider a small wedding if you're planning to marry. Many people delay the ceremony until they can afford a huge bash or a destination wedding that causes stress and fatigue. Focusing on the relationship instead of the big day itself has its perks. It allows couples to get a good emotional and financial start. Plus, it gives them more time together instead of creating debt and overwhelming tasks with the potential for conflict.
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    What to Teach Kids About Marriage

    In a Wall Street Journal article called The Divorce Generation, Susan Gregory Thomas tells the story of her marriage. She met a guy, and they fell in love. Then, they moved in together. His parents warned them that being roommates and pals was totally different than being husband and wife, but they paid no attention. Instead, she and her boyfriend opposed their parents' advice. They thought it was old-fashioned and sexist.

    “Like many of my cohort, the circumstances of my upbringing led me to believe that I had made exactly the right choices by doing everything differently from my parents,” says Thomas.

    Thomas thought her marriage would last forever. But nine years later, she found herself in the midst of an unwanted divorce.

    A Generation of Divorce

    “Gen X children witnessed the beginning of a divorce epidemic. This led to a divorce culture, which led to the conclusion that marriage can be a source of pain and loss,” says Dr. John Van Epp, clinical counselor and author. “These failed relationships convinced people to believe that relationships are good, but relationship definition is risky.”

    According to a 2004 study by Generational Differences, Gen Xers were one of the least-parented and least-nurtured generations in U.S. history. Census data shows that almost half of them come from broken homes and that 40 percent were latchkey kids.

    In a 2005 article by Kate Hughes in the Journal of Sociology, she states, “Adult children of divorced parents’ failed marriages and broken families brought a fragility that led to risk-diminishing strategies.”

    "Many parents sent messages to their children like, ‘Don’t marry young. Establish yourself first. Be sure. Be REALLY sure. The goal is to minimize your risks,’” Van Epp says. “Consequently, Gen Xers took the messages of apprehension a step further to avoidance. Can we form relationships without defining what they really are?”

    Family Structure Matters

    Van Epp believes it's a myth that lack of structure in a relationship is safe. Compared to children living with their own married parents, children 12-17 living with cohabitors are:

    • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems,
    • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school, and
    • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

    Additionally, the rates of serious abuse are:

    • Lowest in intact families,
    • Six times higher in stepfamilies,
    • 14 times higher in always single-mother families,
    • 20 times higher in a biological cohabiting family, and
    • 33 times higher when mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the biological father.

    “Structure gives a framework to the relationship and defines the roles,” Van Epp says.

    “People don't understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases their risk for experiencing exactly what they want to avoid in relationships. Whether married, single or divorced, you can teach your children about dating, partner selection and how to build healthy relationships that don’t create risks.”

    The answer is not to avoid marriage, but to teach people how to do it well. This begins when parents build their child's confidence (not apprehension and avoidance) about how to successfully navigate romantic relationships and establish a secure and lasting marriage.