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    Singles and the "I Don't" Mindset

    According to the Pew Research Center, the number of never-married Americans is at an all-time high. CDC data shows that in 2012, 1 in 5 adults age 25 or older had never been married. That's compared to 1 in 10 in 1960.

    Researchers attribute the dramatic rise of never-married adults and the emerging gender gap to several factors.

    • Adults are marrying later in life, and there's a significant increase in adults who are living together and raising children outside of marriage.

    • The median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960.

    • About 24 percent of never-married young adults ages 25 to 34 live with a partner. This trend cuts across all major racial and ethnic groups, but it is more pronounced among blacks.

    • Among black adults ages 25 and older, the never-married share has quadrupled over the past half century - from 9 percent in 1960 to 36 percent in 2012. For whites, the share doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent.

    • Fully 36 percent of blacks ages 25 and older remained single in 2012, up from 9 percent in 1960.

    • For whites and Hispanics, the share of never-married adults has roughly doubled over that same period. In 2012, 16 percent of whites and 26 percent of Hispanics had never married.

    Why is this happening?

    There are a variety of circumstances contributing to this "I Don't" mindset.

    • Many adult children of divorce are gun-shy about marriage. Many who watched their parents' marriage fall apart doubt their own ability to choose a good partner. They also doubt their ability to make it last.

    • Women in subsidized housing can lose their benefits when a man is in the home. Celebrity marriages are unstable. Many young people question their own chances for marital success when those they admire can't make it work.

    • Still others see marriage as a mere piece of paper with no real value.

    Survey data found a deep division in public perception of marriage's role in society.

    • Approximately 46 percent of respondents believes that making marriage and having children a priority is better for society. But, 50 percent believes society is just as well off if marriage and children are not top priorities.

    • Taking age into account, two-thirds of 18 to 29 year olds believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.

    • Interestingly, most Americans (68 percent) still believe marriage is important if couples plan to spend the rest of their lives together.

    • One in five adults 25 and up have never married, yet 53 percent would like to marry some day. And, there is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts adults, children and society.

    Perhaps millennials don't need to be convinced to invest in marriage. They may need more confidence that they can make it work - and that it's worth the effort for the success of generations to come.

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    10 Red Flags in a Dating Relationship

    The person you are dating wants to dominate your time and/or keep you from friends and family.

    He/she asks you to sacrifice your values for the sake of the relationship.

    Your significant other disrespects and discourages you instead of encouraging and honoring you. 

    Your date wants to control you – where you go, who you see, what you wear, etc.

    When talking about past relationships, your date always blames the other party for the problems in their relationship.

    Your dating relationship is in constant turmoil.

    Your date has anger issues.

    Your date is rushing the getting to know you process.

    Your friends don’t like him/her.

    You continually make excuses for their behavior.

    He/she seems to be heading in the opposite direction of where you are headed in life.

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    3 Myths About Waiting to Marry

    Not too long ago people tended to marry in their early 20s, but now the average marrying age is 29 for males and 27 for females. Why are people waiting so long to marry? And is it helping or hurting their chances of success in marriage?

    “It is interesting because today’s young singles (emerging adults) want to have a great marriage yet they keep putting it off,” says Dr. John Van Epp, author of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk (or Jerkette). “This is occurring across almost all subcultures, races and the socio-economic spectrum in both the U.S. and most European countries.” 

    For instance, researcher Katherine Edin found that marriage was a dream for most people living in poverty, a luxury they hoped to indulge in someday when the time was right, but generally not something they saw happening in the near or even the foreseeable future.

    “To understand what is happening with singles we can’t just look at their behavior—we have to ask what they are thinking,” Van Epp says. “There seem to be three prevalent myths that emerging adults buy into when it comes to marriage. First, marrying later results in marrying better. Second, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And finally, marriage takes more than it gives.” 

    In some ways, it is true that marrying later leads to better marriages. In a 2002 study of 10,000 women, marrying after 21 did contribute to improved marital stability; however, there wasn’t much difference between the ages of 21 and 30. On the other hand, premarital sex, premarital cohabitation and unwed childbearing contributed to marital instability. As a result, researchers suggest that marrying after the early 20s may increase the risks because people become set in their ways and are more likely to engage in these higher risk activities.

    The second myth – what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—is used to compartmentalize risky activities apart from their effects on a future marriage. 

    “Many singles operate under the premise that sowing their wild oats before they get married will not impact their marriage relationship,” Van Epp shares. “However, this is a myth. Research has provided indisputable evidence that the number of sexual partners women had before they married were directly related to their chances of divorce. A 2003 study found that involvement with just one partner outside of marriage raised the risk of divorce three times higher than those who had only had sex with their husband.”

    For emerging adults, there seems to be a marital horizon, the ideal age at which to marry. Those who have a more distant marital horizon are much more likely to participate in the risky premarital activities identified by research to put them at greater risk for divorce. 

    “Clearly we are seeing that it isn’t just the experience of marriage… it is the mindset of marriage,” Van Epp notes. “For instance, my daughter remembers a friend she had in high school who told her that when she dated she always kept in mind her future husband. Do not be fooled, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.”

    The third myth, according to Van Epp - marriage takes more than it gives - comes from messages that society sends to our young people. Too many well-meaning parents are counseling their kids to slow down, delay settling down, experience and enjoy life, and not to marry until they have to.   

    “The implication for the emerging adult is that when you finally get married it’s as if you stepped into a life sentence of limited options,” Van Epp believes. “The truth is just the opposite: marriage creates a framework that gives you something more than what you can gain and be by yourself.” 

    So how can you keep from falling prey to these three myths?  

    First, educate yourself on these issues so you have accurate information. It’s helpful to know that what you do now programs your future behavior. Keep marriage close on the horizon versus a distant goal. Realize the risks involved with premarital cohabitation and premarital sex. 

    “We have intentionally raised our daughters to think of marriage as a wonderful experience that could be just around the corner after they entered their 20s,” Van Epp says. “Our oldest is getting married soon. Throughout her high school and college years she dated with her future marriage in mind. Many parents are cultivating a narcissistic and compartmentalized view of dating and the 20s. I would encourage an emerging adult to move marriage closer on the horizon, to consciously work at a better attitude toward marriage and to live in a way that would not jeopardize marriage in the future.”  



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    10 Potentially Irreconcilable Differences

    The University of Washington has more than 35 years of marital research by Dr. John Gottman that determines with greater than a 90 percent accuracy rate what's going to happen to a relationship over a three-year period.

    In a national telephone survey, there were two issues that couples were most likely to report arguing about. What would you guess those two areas are?

    ANSWER: Money and Children

    Examples of common differences might include:

    • In-Laws & Extended Family Involvement

    • Balance Between Home & Work

    • Communication Patterns

    • Sexual Intimacy

    • Personal Habits & Idiosyncrasies

    • Sharing Household Responsibilities

    • Outside Friendships

    • Political Views

    • Debt Difficulties

    • Disciplining Children

    Here is the important takeaway: Differences are inevitable. It's how you manage the differences that matters. Discuss potential differences in your relationship.

    For example: Money

    1. Discuss how money was managed in your family.

    2. How would you want money managed in your marriage?

    3. Discuss: “What does money mean to you?”

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    Getting Engaged During the Holidays?

    Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her. He also shared what he appreciated about her. A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile on his face, he responded, “Yes.”

    After a few more moments of sharing, Jim asked Christie to marry him. She said yes, and everyone broke out in applause.

    According to WeddingWire, almost 33 percent of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

    “There is something special about celebrating the big moment with family and friends who are gathered together during this special time,” says Dr. Greg Smalley, co-author of Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage. “However, the memories of the ‘moment’ are often shoved to the backseat as many of these couples hurriedly launch into planning for a June wedding. Since they only have six months to get ready, they spend all their time planning for the ‘day’ instead of doing things that will help them stay married for a lifetime.”

    Smalley contends that many couples make this common mistake: They think they have all the answers for marital bliss. Then they find out they were wrong.

    “We see so many couples who clearly want to have successful marriages,” Smalley says. “The good news is most of them can be successful as long as they get the right knowledge and skills. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce.”

    A study conducted by Dr. David Olson indicates that 80 percent of couples who participate in premarital preparation report higher marital satisfaction. Additionally, studies show that couples who participate in premarital preparation are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

    “Most newlywed couples are clueless that they are getting ready to face enormous adjustments like managing expectations, dealing with disagreement and disappointment, household issues, financial decisions, intimacy in their relationship, in-laws, how to spend free time, personality differences, re-orienting old friendships and more,” Smalley says. “The key to successfully navigating these adjustments is: A) attacking the problem and not each other, and B) feeling emotionally safe with your spouse.”

    Two people who feel emotionally safe in their marriage are much more likely to reveal their deepest thoughts, feelings and desires because they know their partner will still love, accept and value them. When couples can share at this level, they're much more likely to get to the heart of issues and work through them. Interestingly, communicating at this level actually increases intimacy in the marriage relationship. The skills to do this are what couples learn through premarital preparation.

    “You can have a 'perfect' wedding day and a safe marriage relationship. It just takes some additional effort,” Smalley shares. “Building a safe relationship is key to a strong foundation for your marriage. Ideally, your marriage should feel like the safest place on earth.”

    Are you planning for the day, or are you planning for a lifetime?

    For more information on becoming a Newlywed get our E-Book "10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know" Download Here

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    Does Divorce Lead to Happiness?

    It was a turning point in the fictional marriage of Katie and Ben in the movie The Story of Us, starring Michele Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis. Katie tells Ben that she doesn’t want to end their marriage.

    “…You always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly,” she says to him. “That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up.”

    Many couples in America today find themselves at the same turning point in their marriage. Many who choose to separate often find out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Research has shown that if a person is unhappy, divorce is not necessarily the road to happiness.

    A national study in 2002 of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). The couples were interviewed twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years.

    Following this study, University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wanted to know what makes marriages miserable and discover how they can become happy.

    “We often talk about marriage like a piece of fruit – it went bad, as if it is out of our control,” says Waite. “I was interested in determining if the couples who divorced were happier following the divorce than those who chose to stay together in spite of their unhappiness.”

    Waite examined the couples who rated their marriage as "life in hell." Of the couples who stayed married, 78 percent were happy with life five years later. Only 53 percent of those who chose to separate or divorce said they were happy.

    Waite interviewed couples, asking them to tell their stories about how their bad marriage got better.

    Alcoholism, infidelity, overly-critical spouses, chronic miscommunication, irrational jealousy, and emotional neglect all fit into the equation, but the four most common issues that made marriages unhappy were: bad things happening to good spouses, job reversals, the kids and illness. Examples included: a spouse losing their job creating financial strain in the marriage, the challenges of raising children which left no time to be together as a couple, or a spouse making a poor decision during a weak moment.

    In response to the question, “How did things get better?” couples described what Waite calls the “marital endurance ethic.”

    “Couples shared something like, ‘Mostly we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and things began to get better,’” Waite says. “Many of them were influenced by friends’ advice to hang in there, that they were headed in the right direction.”

    A passage of time often has a positive effect on problems, according to Waite. Just because couples are unhappy now doesn’t mean they will be unhappy forever.

    Katie and Ben understood that fact. “There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight,” Katie said.

    Katie was able to see past their present moment and look at the big picture. She realized that her husband was a good friend, and good friends are hard to find.

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    A Practical Guide for Empty-Nesters

    You walk through the door after dropping your baby off at college. The silence is deafening. Who knew that one more person could add so much noise to the house?

    Trying to hold back the tears, you wonder what they are up to. Will they miss you? How long will it take them to call? Will they pay attention to a thing you taught them?

    Even if the past few months have been challenging, there is something about an empty nest that jolts you into a new reality. Life will never be the same. Ready or not, the next season of life has arrived.

    Experts say that couples who find themselves “alone again” often find it hard to adjust. For years - schedules, meals, activities - everything - revolved around the kids. This moment in time can feel like an identity crisis, but you never really stop being a parent. You just parent in a different way when they head off to college. Instead of directing, you now move into a supporting role.

    Right now, you may feel like you will never be the parents on television who sadly said goodbye to their college-bound child and then joyfully headed to Disney World.

    Take a deep breath and try some of these suggestions. They might make the transition a bit easier:

    • Acknowledge the change. This time offers you a great opportunity to redefine yourselves and your marriage.

    • Get some rest. Since you aren’t coordinating meals, after-school activities and other things, you can actually go to bed at 8PM if you want. Allow yourself to slow down, settle in and rejuvenate!

    • Allow yourself to grieve. It's common to feel a sense of loss or regret during this time. And, FYI: The empty nest hits men just as hard as women.

    • Resist the temptation to fill up your schedule. While you may feel a huge void in your life, instead of filling up the time and space with new commitments, enjoy your newfound freedom.

    • Ask for help if you need it. If your empty nest marriage is showing signs of withdrawal, alienation or negativity, seek professional counseling. It can help you process all that is going on.

    • Keep your sense of humor. It will definitely help you get through the tough times.

    • Stay connected. Care packages, real cards in the mail, emails and the occasional phone call are great ways to stay connected to your teen without coming across as overbearing, miserable or desperate.

    • Enjoy the silence. Remember the times you would have killed for just five minutes of complete quiet? Instead of fearing the silence, embrace it.

    • Reconnect with your spouse. You can now plan romantic dates, schedule gatherings with friends, take up something new like skydiving; AND, you can even walk around the house naked if you want!

    • Finally, CELEBRATE! 

    Parenting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Launching your child into the next phase of life is quite an accomplishment. It is important to acknowledge where you have come from and where you want your relationship to go in the future. This is your time…enjoy!

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    Does Marriage Get Better Over Time?

    Does marriage, like a good bottle of wine, really get better over time? That’s the question Dr. Paul Amato and his co-author, Spencer James, set out to answer. Amato serves as the Arnold and Bette Hoffman Emeritus Professor of Family Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University. 

    There’s lots of evidence that many people are cynical about marriage these days. In fact, many are choosing not to marry because they have seen so many marriages end in bitter divorces and they figure, “What’s the point of putting yourself through that?”

    What if there is something we are missing from the bigger picture? Most would agree that anything worth having usually takes work, grit and a long-term view. So, are people throwing away perfectly good marriages in the earlier years because the going gets tough?

    In a recent conversation with Alysse ElHage, Dr. Amato shared the findings from his research, Changes in Spousal Relationships Over the Marital Life Course.

    Amato’s study was based on a unique 20-year longitudinal sample of 1,617 spouses. The study ran from 1980 to 2000. While not recent, it is the longest-running, most-detailed study of marriage available. According to Amato, there is no reason to assume that trajectories of relationship quality are different today than they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

    In reviewing the data, Amato measured how three common characteristics of marital quality (happiness, shared activities and discord) changed over time. He split the sample in several ways, but the most important one separated the divorced couples from those who remained together. Amato believes this is key, because past studies have led many researchers to conclude that marital quality inevitably deteriorates over time. If you focus on couples who remain together however, which is the majority, then average levels of marital quality do not decline. In reality, marital happiness remains moderately high and marital discord lessens substantially. 

    While plenty of studies have focused on the first five years of marriage, little research exists on couples who have been married for decades. Amato was very interested in focusing on the 205 long-term marriages in the study. It turns out that most of the couples who had been married 40 years or more are happy. 

    One of the biggest takeaways from Amato’s study is that for some deeply-troubled marriages, divorce is the best outcome. But based on previous work, he found that many divorces are not preceded by a serious relationship problem. Sometimes boredom, rather than misery, characterizes many unstable marriages. In these cases, infidelity is often the trigger that leads one partner to leave the union. When couples stick together through difficult times, remain faithful to one another and actively work to resolve problems, positive long-term outcomes are common. 

    Amato’s research shows that positive outcomes for couples in long-term marriages are the norm. And contrary to what many people think, marital quality is not destined to decline. It tends to remain high or even improve over the decades, which should encourage most couples.

    The big question is, how did these couples help their marriages endure over time? Although Amato’s study didn’t measure for relationship education, previous research indicates that couples who use relationship education services tend to have better relationship quality and more stable marriages than do other couples. 

    “What we can say from our study is that being happy, frequently sharing activities with your spouse, and having a peaceful marriage after 20, 30, or 40 years is quite common,” says Amato.

    For couples who find themselves in a lackluster marriage, wondering if it’s worth it to stick around, Amato’s research is good news. It shows that although rough spots happen in relationships, there is hope that in many instances, nurturing a marriage can help things get better as the years go by.

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    Letters from Dad

    Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago.

    “I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of. But he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in my soul.”

    As Vaughn was going through his father’s things, he kept looking for something left from his dad to him. The only thing he found was a rusty old fishing tackle box.

    “I was mad at my dad for dying,” Vaughn says. “I was mad at myself for not trying harder to connect with him and started to throw that old fishing box in the trash. Then I decided to see what was inside. There, I found the remains of my father – fishing lures.

    "As I felt myself getting angrier, a question popped into my head, ‘Hey big shot, you are out here mad at the world. If you were to die here in the garage, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?’”

    The answer caught Vaughn by surprise. He had always told his children and wife how much he loved them. Additionally, they made it a point to go on family vacations, which brought great memories. However, when it came to something tangible they could hold in their hands and treasure forever from him, he couldn’t think of anything he had given them. That's when he had the idea for Letters from Dad.

    “I called 12 of my closest friends and asked them if any of them had a letter of love and blessing from their father – not counting cards,” Vaughn says. “Not a single one of them said yes. Then I asked, ‘What would you give to have one?’ The answer was always, ‘More than you could imagine.’ Then I asked each of them if they had ever written a letter like that to their children. None of them had. I looked at each of them and said, ‘Don’t you think we should?’”

    That was the beginning of a very special journey for these men. They decided they wanted to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love through the lost art of letter writing.

    “Men hate to write letters,” Vaughn states. “But we decided to write four letters, the first being a letter of blessing to our wives. We had some divorced men in the group. One guy chose to write a letter to his ex-wife of 10 years thanking her for making him a father. It was a healing experience for both of them.”

    The second letter the group decided to write was a blessing to their children. Since Vaughn has seven children, that was a real stretch for him.

    Vaughn's daughter, Brooke, shared that until her dad gave her a letter of blessing, her most-prized possession was a coat hanger from age 10 where her father wrote, "Hey Beck – I love you – Dad." On her 22nd birthday, she got the letter with 15 reasons why she was a blessing as a daughter. Now she says, “I have more than a coat hanger to remember my dad.”

    “The third letter we chose to write was a blessing to our parents,” Vaughn remembers. “Some of us had parents who had died so we wrote letters of tribute. The fourth and final letter was by far the hardest to write. It was for our families to read after we died. Most of us leave wills and trusts and rusty old stuff. What do we leave for our families to treasure forever?”

    After they finished writing their letters, the guys decided to continue meeting monthly just to stay in touch and walk the fathering journey together.

    Letters from Dad has increased in popularity as fathers seek to leave a legacy to their wives and children. If you hate to write or find yourself at a loss for words, the book has lots of samples. Plus, the author is happy for you to use some of the words yourself.

    Whether your children are young or old, live near or far, are estranged from you or considering never leaving the fold, you can still leave a legacy. So, consider writing a letter… or two.

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    Fathering is Child's Play

    A young girl was touring the social worker through the home she shared with her father. When she came to her bedroom, she proudly showed the woman everything in her room. With big eyes and a huge smile, the little girl asked, “Would you like to see bombs away?”

    Hesitantly, the social worker said yes. “Come on Dad, let’s show her,” said the little girl.

    Dad came over to the bed, grabbed his daughter’s arms and legs and started swinging her. Finally, he let go as she yelled, “Bombs away!” and landed on her bed. Loud, gleeful laughter followed.

    Looking horrified, the social worker said, “Stop! No! You should not be doing that.” Both father and daughter looked at her with troubled and quizzical faces and said, “We shouldn’t be doing bombs away?”

    “This is probably one of the best examples of the difference in how men and women view play with children,” said Dr. Ron Klinger, founder of the Center for Successful Fathering and author of The Common Sense No-Frills, Plain-English Guide to Being a Successful Dad.

    “Researchers tell us that children of all ages from infants to high school prefer play with dad over mom because it is unpredictable, physical, rough, dad cheats, and it’s fun. It is a test – it stretches you. You find yourself doing things you would never do. Most importantly, it is a playful form or preparation for the challenges our children will face in the real world.”

    Klinger contends that what the father was doing with his daughter was totally appropriate. While mothers are the initial primary caregivers and continue to be the nurturers and protectors, it is the father’s job to engage his children in rough and tumble play and to encourage them to take risks.

    However, the challenge for many is that nearly 80 percent of dads today did not grow up with an actively involved father in their lives. When moms say, “Don’t play so rough,” most guys don’t know to say, “But this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

    “The bonding with a child and their father is based on this rough and tumble play,” Klinger said. “This playful interaction turns out to be very powerful in teaching independence, self-reliance and courage. It also encourages children to become more tolerant of frustration. The father is introducing the child to a world that is defined by adventure and adversity, not comfort.”

    There are other benefits of rough and tumble play for children, too. They include:

    • Building a bond of affection and trust with their father;

    • Exposure to personal challenges such as riding a bike;

    • Learning to be a successful risk-taker;

    • Building self-confidence;

    • Girls growing up to be unintimidated by competitive men; and

    • Becoming resilient.

    “When a mother approaches her child, the infant’s heart rate begins to slow down,” Klinger said. “When a father approaches his child, their heart rate begins to race in anticipation of excitement and action. Babies need this to stimulate brain activity. 

    “I can remember when my own son would climb our spiral staircase and leap out to me below. The space separating us was only a couple of feet, but he was jumping from seven feet high. He was investing a huge amount of trust in me. Admittedly, this is the kind of thing that drives mom nuts, yet it's exactly what dads and children should be doing. Play is the antidote for anxiety.”

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    Don't Waste Father's Day

    Once a man took the day off to take his son fishing. His son was thrilled that his father would take a day away from important work to spend time with him, and he considered this day as one of the best days of his life. After the father passed away, his son found a diary among his dad's possessions and began reading it. When he came to the day they spent together fishing, the entry read, “Took off work to take son fishing. Day wasted.”

    Essays written for an FTF essay contest about fathers often described a warm and loving relationship between father and child, but some children were courageous enough to write about their strained relationship with their father. They described difficult circumstances and even questioned their father’s love. However, each of them seemed to hold out hope that their relationship with their father would someday be better.

    Many people, young and old, find themselves in a father-child relationship that is difficult at best. Words and deeds from the past continue to drive a deep wedge in the relationship. Deep down they would like things to be better, but they don’t know how to change the situation for the better. In too many instances, one party is waiting for the other to apologize.

    If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, here are five steps you can take to restore your relationship.

    • Be willing to make the first move.

    • Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the behavior was justified. It means you are willing to cut someone loose from a debt and move on with your life.

    • Keep your expectations realistic. Relationships do not mend overnight, so it will take time and commitment on your part. You can’t predict how someone else will respond, but you can choose how to deal with whatever it might be.

    • Accept the person for who they are. Everyone has faults. It's easy to tell a person how they need to change. It is much harder to accept them where they are with all of their strengths and weaknesses.

    • Celebrate the small steps toward restoration. Even though the relationship may not be all you want it to be, understand that even the smallest move toward reconciliation is reason to celebrate.

    Distressed relationships do not happen overnight. Through a series of events, people become wounded and keep a tally sheet; then bitterness grows into anger and relationships weaken. It only takes one person to take the first step toward mending a broken relationship. Even if the other person doesn’t respond, you can allow healing to happen in your own life. If nothing else, you will know that you have made an effort to change the situation for the better.

    Don’t let this Father’s Day be “a day wasted.” If your relationship with your father is a great one, be thankful and show it. If your relationship with your father or child is less than what you would like it to be, take heart and know that you can be the one to take the first step to repair that broken relationship.

    As you begin this journey it will be helpful to remember the three P's: Be practical, patient and persevere. You never know what might happen. A bad relationship can become better and a good relationship can become great, so never give up. It may take longer than you would like, but when you least expect it, your relationship could take a turn for the better.

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    Outdoor Family Adventures

    When temperatures are extremely hot, it's hard to think about going outside and doing anything except jumping in a pool—and even that feels like jumping into a big bathtub! 

    It’s a shame - because there are so many fun things to take advantage of in the region. When the temperatures cool off a bit and there are only a few weeks before school starts, it's the perfect time to plan some end-of-summer adventures.

    According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood has moved "indoors” over the past two decades. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.

    Children are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.

    An ongoing research project called Child of Our Time follows the growth of 25 children from the time they are born until they become adults. They have documented some interesting findings about children who play outside.

    • One of the benefits of playing outside is that children laugh more. This is good because laughter is a stress reliever and it helps stimulate the immune system.

    • Another benefit of outside play is better health. Researchers found that children who engage in outside play have the potential to have stronger bones and muscles from activities like running and jumping. They also get vitamin D just from being in the sun. When children are active, they are less likely to battle obesity and more likely to do well in school.

    • Additional studies show that children who play outside are more likely to be adventurous and open to new experiences. They tend to be better at making friends and have longer attention spans. Outdoor play fuels the imagination and teaches children how to be resourceful by creating their own entertainment.

    What are you waiting for? Put the iPhone down, pull your kids away from their gaming devices and head outside for some adventure and experience the benefits an active lifestyle can bring while making some great memories!

    If you are short on ideas, here are a few to get your list started:

    • Ride bikes through the Chickamauga Battlefield.

    • Visit the Chattanooga Zoo.

    • Drive up to Raccoon Mountain and hike around the mountaintop.

    • If you are brave and your children are old enough, check out the Zipline at Ruby Falls.

    • Grab some cardboard boxes and go sledding down the hill at Renaissance Park.

    • Teach your children how to play kick the can, hopscotch and freeze tag.

    • Experience the climbing wall, kayaks or paddle boards down on the Tennessee River.

    • Create your own Summer Olympics and get all the neighborhood kids and parents involved. Sack races, egg toss, three-legged race and the wheel-barrow race are excellent backyard Olympic events.

    • Take your teens whitewater rafting.

    • Walk the Walnut Street Bridge.

    Playing outside with your children is not only great exercise, it is a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family. If this is new for your family, your kids may balk at first but once they experience the fun, they won’t want to stop. Are you up for the challenge?

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    6 Tips for Vacationing with Children

    Are we there yet?

    He’s touching my side of the seat. 

    I’m hungry. 

    I need to go to the bathroom. 

    If you've ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to taking a trip with children.

    Whether you're taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

    Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help along the way:

    • Include your children in the vacation planning process. Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

    • Mark off the miles. Once you know where you're headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

    • Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit. Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

    • Create tech-free time frames along the way. Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

    • Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it's someone else's time.  

    • Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time. Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

    All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it's especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.

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    Are You in Too Much of a Hurry?

    As a parent, you might be in too much of a hurry if:

    • You talk on the phone when your child tells you about their day;

    • Your kids eat most meals in the car;

    • You dress your child when she can dress herself – buttoning, zipping, finding her coat, etc;

    • Your child constantly hears, "Are you ready?" or "Hurry up!";

    • Your child never completes a project at play time;

    • You don’t have time to read to your child or let him/her read to you; and

    • You don’t have enough time to talk with and listen to him/her.

    Why does this matter? All of these activities help your child develop fine motor skills critical for reading and writing.

    “In order for a child to develop holistically, fine motor skills are very important,” says Lu Lewis, early childhood educator. “When you slow down and allow your child to do the activities listed above, you allow him to learn eye-hand coordination. His hands and eyes learn to work together. For example, when you give a child something to cut out, their eyes see what you want them to cut and their hands cut what their eyes see.”

    Even simple things like a baby grasping for an object is a fine motor skill.

    When a parent always gives the rattle to the baby, it robs them of an opportunity to learn this skill.

    “A mom once asked me if it was bad if she didn’t play with her child all the time,” Lewis says. “In today’s society, I think many people believe they are not being good parents if they are not always entertaining their child. The truth is your child needs to play for a period of time with an object in order to complete a play cycle and concentrate to the point that it is etched into their long-term memory. Many educators see children in their classroom who are always dependent on an adult to complete a project for them because they have never completed a project by themselves.”

    Believe it or not, helping your child develop fine motor skills is not complicated.

    Just including your child in your day can help develop these skills. Folding laundry, talking with your child as you cook, letting him walk with you to the mailbox and allowing him to open the mailbox and grab the mail, asking him to get a pan or utensil for you, and allowing him to play in the tub with toys are all activities that help to naturally develop these necessary skills.

    “Most parents I work with really want their child to do well,” Lewis says. “Sometimes parents do things they believe are helping their child when they are actually hindering their development. The number one thing I would tell parents is to slow down, relax and let your child truly experience life.”

    In addition to including your child in your daily activities, Lewis encourages parents to:

    • Walk with your child down the street and count bricks or pick dandelions.

    • Encourage them to sit at the kitchen table while you fix dinner and string beads or sort blocks by color instead of watching television or playing on the computer.

    • Incorporate time for your child to play every day.

    “Learning is a human endeavor,” Lewis says. “It takes place from one human to another and it requires your most precious commodity, time.”

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    4 Ways to Be Part of the Racism Solution

    As the news started spreading about what was happening in Charlottesville on Saturday, it made me sick to my stomach. It weighed heavily on my mind throughout the day, and it was the topic of conversation at the dinner table and beyond.

    After watching the news and reading the Sunday paper, I posted the following on Facebook: “I am angry, dumbfounded, disturbed, sad, appalled and so much more over what happened in Charlottesville. Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. We cannot sit back and allow such sick behavior.”

    The post received many comments mostly agreeing they did not want to sit back and allow the behavior. Some asked about actions steps we can take.

    That’s what I have been mulling over the past couple of days. I’m a big believer that everybody can do something. In having conversations at my office and out in the community, several action steps have come to mind.

    • First and foremost, I think it starts with each of us committing to call out racism and inappropriate behavior when we see it. Too often it is easy just to look the other way and pretend we don’t see what is right in front of us. I remember learning the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that is a lie. Words can cut like a sword. 
    • Second, relationship coach, Dr. David Banks, makes this statement in many of our classes: “What you don’t understand, you still have to respect.” Though you may not understand or experience what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, disrespect is not justifiable. Everybody has a story. It would probably help all of us to spend more time learning people’s story instead of making assumptions about them.
    • Third, see individuals as valuable regardless of their skin color, where they grew up, how much education they have, where they work, how they speak or where they live. What would happen if we spent more time trying to help people understand their significance? 
    • Finally, get to know people outside your own sphere of influence. This is probably the most powerful thing we all can do. While it may be uncomfortable initially, people usually find out they aren’t that different. We have more things in common than we realize.

    Franklin and Tresa McCallie took this to heart a number of years ago. They began inviting people into their home for coffee, dessert and conversation. They intentionally invited a diverse group for a time of conversation around difficult topics. To date, more than 400 people have participated. Their goal was to have people participate and then replicate the experience in their sphere of influence - the workplace, school, home and community. You can actually download a toolkit from their website to help you start on the same journey.

    This all boils down to relationship. When we take the time to get to know each other, we are more likely to focus on walking life's road together in a healthy way. Hate is a learned behavior. We have to do better for the sake of the next generation.

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    How to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Kids

    Carol Dweck is a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation. In her book, “Mindset,” she  addresses why people succeed or don’t, and how to foster success through  the power of yet.

    She tells the story of a Chicago school where students had to pass a series of courses in order to graduate. If they did not successfully pass the courses they were given the grade of “not yet.” Dweck thought that was brilliant. 

    “If you get a failing grade, you feel like a failure,” she says, “But if you receive a not yet, it means you are on a growth track.”

    In an effort to more fully understand how children cope with challenge and difficulty, Dweck gave a group of 10 year olds math problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of the children said things like, “I love a challenge,” or “I was hoping this would be informative.” Dweck says they had a growth mindset because they innately understood their abilities could be developed. 

    Another group of students thought their inability to solve the problems was tragic. They believed their intelligence was up for judgment and they failed. In fact, Dweck shared that in one study the young students said they would cheat the next time instead of studying more if they failed. They also looked for someone who did worse than they did to make themselves feel better. Dweck refers to these students as having a fixed mindset - believing that personal qualities are carved in stone, which creates an urgency to prove one’s self over and over. 

    In a TED talk about mindset, Dweck asks, “How are we raising our children? Are we raising them for now instead of not yet? Are A’s so important to them that they have no idea how to dream big dreams? Are they carrying the need for constant validation with them into their future lives?”

    Dweck contends that choosing to praise wisely would be helpful to children. Instead of praising intelligence or talent, praise progress, effort, strategies and improvement. This helps build children who are hardy and resilient.

    She also points out that equality occurs when teachers create a growth mindset in their classrooms. For example, in one year, a kindergarten class in Harlem scored in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test. Many of those kids could not hold a pencil when they arrived in school. Also in one year, fourth grade students in the South Bronx who were way behind became the number one fourth grade class in New York on the state’s math test. And, in a year to a year and a half, Native American students on a reservation went from the bottom of their district to the top - and that district included affluent sections of Seattle, Washington. Dweck believes this happened because the meaning of effort and difficulty were transformed. Before it made them feel dumb, but now effort and difficulty enable their neurons to make stronger connections.

    “We can change students mindsets,” Dweck says. Every time children push out of their comfort zone the neurons in their brain form new stronger connections. Students who weren’t taught this growth mindset continued to show declining grades, but those who were taught the growth mindset strategy saw their grades improve.

    Dweck received a letter from a 13-year-old boy which said, “Dear Professor Dweck, I appreciate that your writing is based on solid scientific research. That’s why I decided to put it into practice. I put more effort into my school work, into my relationship with my family and into my relationship with kids at school and I experienced great improvement in all of these areas. I now realize I wasted most of my life.”

    Are we raising children in the environment of yet?

    Once we know that people are capable of such growth, it becomes a human right for children to live in places filled with yet. Let’s not waste the time we have with the kids in our sphere of influence. Let’s teach them the importance of mindset, praise their efforts and give them amazing opportunities to grow and become the resilient children we all know they have the potential to be.

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    16 Ways to Score in Team Sports

    If you happen to be a Tennessee or UTC fan, it has been painful to watch both football teams struggle to even get on the scoreboard. There’s usually a lot of armchair quarterbacking and coaching going on anyway, but now it has reached a fever pitch. People are calling for the coaches’ jobs and trash-talking team members.

    Don’t think it is about just these two schools. We could all list coaches who have been fired because of a losing season. One coach commented that it’s always interesting when the fate of one’s career rests in the hands of 18- to 22-year-olds. 

    After a weekend of tough losses in college football, this post appeared on Facebook:

    “ ... I grew up in a house where my Daddy was born and raised an Alabama boy and my Mama was born and raised a Tennessee girl. We never ever talked trash. Did we have healthy teasing? Sure! But never ugly at all! I also grew up with my Daddy being a referee and was taught to show respect to the umpire or referee and to never EVER run my mouth. What I have found is we have a stadium full of disrespectful people who boo kids, coaches and referees and could care less what anyone thinks. 

    “ ... I challenge anyone who has ever played a competitive sport to stop and think. Did you ever think, man I can't wait to go out and suck today?! NO! Not once did I ever think that and I bet there isn't another athlete OR COACH who has either! How about your boss?! How about if you messed up or if your team messed up and people started screaming for your job!? Tonight I hurt for a couple who I met and know are amazing because I know their love for these kids. So scream all you want but maybe just maybe it might be about more than points on a scoreboard. Maybe it's about a family, a kid who did their best but still isn't good enough but had so much pressure.” 

    This post brings up a really great point - what exactly are these kids doing? Is there more to this picture than winning and the fact that college athletics is big business that brings in money for the school? Every institution of higher learning would probably say their goal is to produce successful leaders, and for their athletes to graduate. They understand that very few of their athletes will go on to play professional sports. 

    It’s helpful to know that the prefrontal cortex of the brain where mental control and self-regulation takes place isn’t fully formed until around age 25. These coaches and their staff are taking kids who are still maturing and not only helping them develop as players, but as people. They spend a lot of time making sure team players have access to helpful resources for academics, character development, personal boundaries and decision-making. 

    Family members of coaches or players on the field also feel the sting of the boos from supposed fans when their family member or their team isn’t having a good game. Even some coaches’ family members experience ruthless bullying. People talk about players on social media as if they were NFL professionals, when in reality they are 18- to 22-year-olds.  

    So, what exactly is college football or any other collegiate sport really about? 

    When Kansas State University Head Coach Bill Snyder took over the football program in 1989, he took over the “worst NCAA Division 1 football program on planet Earth.” The team is now ranked third in the Big 12 Conference. In his book, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, Snyder outlines how he transformed a losing team into a winning team with his 16 goals for success.

    Here’s the list:

    1. Commitment - To common goals and to being successful.
    2. Unselfishness - There is no "I" in TEAM
    3. Unity - Come together as never before.
    4. Improve - Everyday ... as a player, person and student.
    5. Be tough - Mentally and physically.
    6. Self-discipline - Do it right, don't accept less.
    7. Great effort.
    8. Enthusiasm
    9. Eliminate mistakes - Don't beat yourself.
    10. Never give up.
    11. Don’t accept losing - If you do so one time, it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life.
    12. No self-limitations - Expect more of yourself.
    13. Expect to win - And truly believe we will.
    14. Consistency - Your very, very best every time.
    15. Leadership - Everyone can set an example.
    16. Responsibility - You are responsible for your own performance.

    Snyder’s list is clearly about far more than football - it’s about life. It’s about helping young men who are playing football to be winners in life, to understand a commitment to something they believe matters and to pursue excellence in their accomplishments. It’s also about helping these men understand what it means to persist against the odds, teaching them how to pick themselves up after making a mistake and carry on, and showing them what it looks like to give their best. This mindset can lead to a life of success off the field, on the job and in all of life’s relationships.

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    4 Tips for Job Exits and Relationships

    Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work, so she decided it was time to leave. She totally planned to let her boss know how she felt about things on her way out. 

    There was no way to know that three years later she would be interviewing for another job - and her interviewer would be the very person she unloaded on when she left her former workplace.

    “This is not unusual,” says Pamper Garner Crangle, President of Pamper Garner and Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies manage and measure “people problems.”

    “People get emotional and feel the need to vent before they leave a job. They often don’t care how they come across because they are leaving. But, I try to remind them that how they express their frustration is very important in the world of business. I tell people that your reputation often precedes you. If you handle things poorly at one company, chances are good that it will get around to other companies in the area. Like Sara, you never know when you will have to interview with someone you threw a tantrum in front of years ago.”

    Studies indicate that lack of loyalty is one reason people feel justified in leaving a company badly.

    "Years ago most people were very loyal to their place of employment,” Crangle says. “Today, many young people have seen their parents work in a loyal fashion for many years, sacrificing time for their marriage and family relationships, only to be downsized. So they have decided they don’t want to put in extra hours or put their personal ownership in the workplace.”

    Even if you don't feel a sense of loyalty to your company, there are good reasons not to leave on a sour note. Two of those reasons include future references and job possibilities.

    “I think sometimes people forget the importance of relationships,” Crangle shares. “In a day and age where broken relationships are all around us, people tend to think of leaving a job like trading in a used car for a new one or getting a new cell phone.”

    Regardless of whether you feel loyal to a company or not, attitude and presentation can make or break a conversation. Believe it or not, saying goodbye respectfully and finishing well can impact your long-term career.

    You can avoid burning bridges when you leave your job by following these tips:

    • Give a proper notice. Two weeks is generally acceptable, but in some cases more time can ensure a good transition. Offering to work out a longer notice gives the company options and allows you to leave on a good note.

    • Keep your comments positive. You may be unhappy and ready to tell your boss some ways to improve the workplace, but should you? Your best bet is to keep your comments positive - or at least balanced. You never know what the future holds.

    • Stay focused. When you know you are leaving, it is easy to let things go. Staying focused and completing any unfinished business is powerful when you are looking for references in the future.

    • Do a good job training your replacement. Help and support your replacement as much as possible. Even if they want the scoop about the workplace, keep your comments positive and respectful. If they ask why you are leaving, give an appropriate answer. Perhaps you could say it was time for a change or you need to experience a different environment. Or maybe you could say that your priorities have changed. You don’t have to go into detail.

    There are many entrances and exits in life, both personally and professionally. Your reputation hinges on the first impression and the last impression you leave. It is sometimes tempting to sever ties with others, but we live in a small world. Although it takes more effort, it will benefit you to maintain a good relationship with those for whom you worked. You never know when you will run into those people again.

    *Not her real name

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    Developing a Workforce

    Stowers Machinery, in partnership with Caterpillar, has a scholarship program called "Think Big." It pays recipients about $13 an hour to apprentice in the shop and it reimburses tuition and other school-related costs. The student must maintain a B average to receive the scholarship.

    Workers alternate between working eight weeks at Stowers and going to school for eight weeks. After they earn an associate degree, Stowers will hire them full-time.

    "This is a fantastic opportunity for someone, yet we have the hardest time giving away the scholarship," says Rhey Houston, Stowers vice president and Chattanooga area manager. "We have a full-time recruiter who goes to every high school in the area, looking for potential scholarship recipients, and it is still almost impossible for us to fill the slots."

    One interested young man contacted Stowers about the scholarship. He was awarded the scholarship during his school's senior night. But he worked only a few days before telling his supervisor, "I'm not cut out for this kind of work every day."

    "Unfortunately, he is not the exception to the rule," Houston says. "We have had several success stories, but they are fewer and farther between. It is baffling to me that people do not want to take advantage of an opportunity to work for a well-established company that pays well and offers full benefits including a 401k."

    Houston knows he isn't alone in his frustration. He regularly talks with companies in the area who lament not being able to fill positions.

    "I recently spoke with a guy who said, 'I can't grow my business because I can't find people to hire who have driver's licenses,'" says Houston. "Another guy told me he would be able to have five additional machines running if he could just find people to drive them."

    Approximately 9,000 people are looking for jobs. It's difficult, however, to fill more than 15,000 job openings in the greater Chattanooga area. Why is that? It's partially due to lack of education, or perhaps lack of driver's licenses.

    What is wrong with this picture? Employers are complaining they can't find qualified workers and people are complaining they can't find jobs. Somewhere along the way there is a serious disconnect.

    In an article titled The New Unemployables, Aaron Renn shares a conversation with his father, a retired quarry superintendent. While the job wasn't glamorous, his dad said they offered some of the area's best wages, full benefits and profit-sharing. Still, hiring and keeping employees was hard. The overwhelming majority of applicants weren't viable enough to interview. Plus, one-third of those he hired failed to last even six months.

    Renn surmises that perhaps what we are seeing has nothing to do with job availability or wages. It may have everything to do with the basics, instead. The basics include having a high school diploma and reliably coming to work every day.

    In the book Creating an Opportunity Society, the Brookings Institution's Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill offer a solution. They say that to avoid poverty and join the middle class (at least $50,000 annual income for a family of three) U.S. citizens need to complete high school at a minimum, work full-time and marry before having children. 

    Doing all three decreases the chances of being poor from 12 percent to 2 percent. It also increases the chances of joining the middle class or above from 56 to 74 percent.

    It's possible to combat the "unemployable" problem and break the cycle. Healthy adults must model and promote the importance of education and a strong work ethic in homes and communities. Additionally, we can mentor those who have no example to follow.

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    #MeToo and Its Effect in the Workplace

    There is no doubt that sexual harassment and assault is a real problem for women and men, and the #MeToo movement has brought attention to it like never before. In the midst of the conversation, though, it seems like it would be a huge mistake to view all members of the opposite sex as the enemy. 

    We can take advantage of this moment in time to individually and collectively do our part to make this world a better place - one where we teach and expect men and women to value each other. That will bring about real and lasting change in relationships.

    Believe it or not, there are still men who are respectful of women and are actively encouraging them, promoting them in organizations, and holding their opinion in high esteem. 

    While the #MeToo campaign has produced some long overdue constructive conversation and accountability for inappropriate behavior, there is a potential downside. Some experts believe the campaign has created a climate of mistrust between men and women, leaving many guys feeling fearful and anxious that a behavior with good intention could be taken out of context and come back to haunt them. Some guys are choosing to give up even trying to be in relationship with women.  

    It is unfortunate that many men who actually look out for the best interests of women say they are scared to death that something they do or say might be misconstrued. Opening a door or pulling out a chair is considered common courtesy by many, but some find it offensive. While they may not say anything, when a man other than a loved one calls a woman hon, darlin’, sweetie, kiddo and/or a pet name, it typically doesn’t go over well. In fact, many women would call it condescending.   

    Findings from a survey conducted by LeanIn.org found that since the media reports of sexual harassment emerged last fall, almost half of male managers say they are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity such as mentoring, working alone or socializing with women. Specifically, senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior level woman than with a junior level man, and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman. Almost 30 percent of male managers are uncomfortable working alone with a woman—more than twice as many as before. The number of male managers who are uncomfortable mentoring women has more than tripled from 5 percent to 16 percent. This means that 1 in 6 male managers may now be hesitant to mentor a woman.  

    Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard, along with his team, stumbled upon some troubling findings as they sought to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Of the more than 3000 young adults and high school students surveyed, at least one-third of respondents said: It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television; and that too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    Surely we can do a better job of teaching relationship skills early on to help girls and boys learn the difference between healthy, respectful behavior between sexes and sexual harassment. Here’s how to start:

    • Don’t leave it to your child’s imagination to figure out what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships.

    • Model respectful and healthy interactions with the opposite sex.

    • Talk about sexual harassment - what it is and isn’t. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is any repeated or deliberate action or behavior that is hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.

    • There is a big difference in flirtatious behavior and sexual harassment, but sometimes the line can be blurred. Discuss boundaries and why they are important.

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