Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: healthy relationships

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    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?


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    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?

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    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.”

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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