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    5 Ways to Say "I'm Sorry"

    Have you ever had someone apologize in front of a group of people and one person thought the apology was sincere while you thought it was not? If so, you are not alone. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, people speak different love languages and they also speak different languages of apology.   Read More...

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    3 Secrets to Preventing Infidelity

    Extramarital affairs have rocked many marriages, and unfortunately, you might think that cheating is inevitable in marriage. According to psychiatrist and author Dr. Scott Haltzman, however, that is just not true.“Affairs are complicated,” says Haltzman.   Read More...

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    Thoughts on Dealing With Grief and Loss

    Dan Summerlin loved sports and had started a softball team at his church, First Christian Church. While he was playing on the FCC team, his arm broke while he was throwing the ball from shortstop to home. Little did Dan and his wife Scottie know that his arm breaking would lead to the discovery that Dan had cancer. From his diagnosis in May of 2016 until the day he left this earth on July 30, 2017, Dan Summerlin lived life largely.   Read More...

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    The Impact of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing on You

    For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage an...  Read More...

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    How Family Structure Benefits Women, Men and Kids

    Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference - unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.“As Baby Boomers we were told these things:Marriage is old-fashioned and confining...  Read More...

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    What Your Child Needs to Know Before Starting Kindergarten

    Many parents feel pressure to make sure their child is actually kindergarten-ready. But, are they really focusing on the things that ultimately prepare their child for future success?

    Knowing their name, being able to tie their shoes and going to the bathroom by themselves are important for sure. But did you know that social competency skills such as being able to listen, share material with others, solve problems with their classmates, cooperate and be helpful are every bit as important, perhaps more so?

    Researchers from Penn State analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania and found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Kids without these social competency skills were more likely to face negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.

    The researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student's social competency score, he or she was:

    • Twice as likely to graduate from college;
    • 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
    • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.

    For every one-point decrease in the child's score, he or she had a:

    • 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
    • 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
    • 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;
    • 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and an
    • 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

    The research shows that high-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children well for the future. Never underestimate the importance of a stable home in the life of a child.

    No matter your child's age, you can help them learn what they really need to know. Parents and extended family, child care providers and neighbors - everyone really - can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.

    Try these strategies to help children develop social/emotional competence:

    • Let them figure out how to solve their own problems (within reason).
    • Instead of making decisions for them, help them make decisions.
    • Teach them about emotions and help them understand other people's feelings.
    • Give them opportunities to learn what it looks like to share with others.
    • Provide experiences where they can be helpful.
    • Teach them how to express themselves appropriately with direction.
    • Be intentional about giving them instructions and helping them follow through on what you asked them to do. This will serve them well when it comes to listening and following instructions in the classroom.
    • Give your child the chance to engage in activities with others where they learn to cooperate without being prompted.

    Providing these opportunities is beneficial, far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for their children, easy isn't always best. Step back and see what they can do - that's some of the best kindergarten prep you could ever do.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 17, 2019.

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    What Single Parents Need to Know About Dating

    Dating after divorce or death can be complicated, especially if children are involved. As people navigate the world of dating and blending families, they have asked Ron Deal, stepfamily expert and author of Dating and the Single Parent, the following questions plenty of times: How soon is too soon to start dating? Should I introduce this person to my children?

    “On the topic of blended families, someone once said, ‘People marry and form a blended family because they fell in love with a person, but they divorce because they don’t know how to be a family,’” says Deal. 

    Deal believes the key to dating as a single parent is to include the children in the bigger picture.

    “Certainly, it depends on the age of the children,” Deal shares. “A younger child is more open to new adults in their life, but you don’t want to introduce your 4-year-old to a person that you just started dating. You don’t even know whether you like this person. Wait until you think this relationship really has a chance of going somewhere, then you bring them into the picture with intentionality.”

    For older children, elementary and beyond, Deal suggests talking with them about it first. Ask, “What if I started dating? How would you feel about that?” This way, you are putting it on their radar that this might happen. 

    “Once you know that the relationship has potential, it is important to create opportunities for everybody to be together and for additional conversations to take place,” Deal says.

    Deal strongly encourages couples to discuss a few things before deciding to move forward with marriage, though.

    Some couples decide to test the waters with the two families by living together first. This creates ambiguity for the children. When children experience this uncertainty, it creates chaos and empowers resistance. If they don’t like the idea of the families coming together, the ambiguity leads them to believe they could actually make the whole thing unravel. 

    Deal believes what a stepfamily needs more than anything are two adults who have clarity about their relationship and the future of the family. By having conversations ahead of time, you are valuing the “we,” and then the children. If you can’t come to an agreement on your parenting styles, Deal believes this is just as serious as marrying someone with addiction issues. The outcome of these discussions should be part of the equation as to whether or not you get married.

    “At least half to two-thirds of dating couples don’t have serious conversations about how they are going to parent when they bring their two families together,” Deal says. “If your parenting styles are vastly different, this can be a deal breaker.”

    In many instances, one parent has been making all the decisions for the children. Now add a second adult into the mix who isn’t their biological parent. What will you do when your child asks to do something and your answer would typically be yes, but your new spouse doesn’t agree with that?

    There is no question that negotiating parenting and romance all at the same time is complicated. You have to manage the complex moving parts, but Deal believes that if you are going to make a mistake as a blended family couple, err on the side of protecting your marriage.

    “The goal here is to protect your marriage, which is why it is so important to talk about these things prior to getting married,” Deal asserts. “Biological parents have an ultimate responsibility to and for their children, but if you make a parenting decision without consulting your spouse, it isn’t helpful to your marriage. The goal is to co-create your parenting response. You cannot have two different answers for two different sets of kids. That unravels your “us-ness” as a couple.

    “It typically takes four to seven years for a stepfamily to find their rhythm,” Deal adds. “There is no rushing it. You can’t will it into being. There are certain aspects of your family that will merge faster than others. Even in the midst of figuring out how to make it work, your marriage can be thriving.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 10, 2019.

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    What Husbands Need From Their Wives

    During the 2019 Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute’s IMPACT dinner in February, Katty Kay, a British journalist, author and broadcaster, spoke about the importance of confidence and competence, specifically in women.

    Kay shared that both she and her husband travel a lot. Whenever she was headed out of town, she lined up extra babysitters, made sure the refrigerator was stocked and made lists: lots of lists of all the kids’ activities and such to ensure that her husband didn’t forget anything. At some point she realized that she was going to all of this extra effort in preparation for leaving town, but that when her husband went out of town, he just left. This irritated her a bit.

    She had a conversation with him about it that went something along the lines of, “Whenever I am going out of town, I take the time to do all of this pre-prep for you to make sure everything gets taken care of. Yet when you go out of town, you do nothing.” 

    His response to her was, “Yes you do, but I did not ask you to do that.” 

    So the next time she went out of town, she did nothing. And, lo and behold, the house was still standing and the kids were taken care of when she returned home.

    Katty Kay is definitely not the only woman to fall into the trap of believing that if she doesn’t map everything out, things will fall apart while she is away. In fact, more than likely, a majority of women do the very same thing. 

    Here’s the deal. According to research, men want to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside? 

    Despite all the well-meaning intention behind the pre-prep, the message men receive isn’t, “I love you so much that I am doing all of this for you before I leave town.” The inadvertent message is, “I’m not confident you have the bandwidth to remember everything that needs to be done so I will put a safety net in place to make sure none of the balls get dropped.”

    Research conducted by Harvard-educated analyst, Shaunti Feldhahn, found that three-quarters of the men surveyed, if forced to choose, would give up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.

    In an effort to try and better understand this, Feldhahn was speaking with a friend who stated: “I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough.” When she asked what he meant, he said that they recently had friends over for dinner. Afterward, his wife needed to run to a meeting so he cleaned up the kitchen. Upon returning home, the wife kissed his cheek,  looked over his shoulder and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. Feldhahn asked the husband if there was anything his wife could have done differently and he said, “Yes, she could have said thanks.”

    Feldhahn explains that when women are thinking about something, they usually process out loud so there’s no question what they’re thinking. On the other hand, when men think and process, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Her research showed that in most cases, instead of questioning the husband’s decision, saying, “Help me understand,” will result in a long, well-thought out explanation.

    For example, one wife went out to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

    Feldhahn asked the husband to help his wife understand what happened. He explained that when he went to the fridge to get the milk, he realized if he gave the kids milk for dinner there wouldn't be enough for breakfast. He was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep. They had been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so he didn't want to wake her up just to go get milk. He decided to give the kids juice, which he diluted by half with water so they wouldn't have as much sugar. After the explanation, the look on his wife's face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.

    Katty Kay’s message to the women in the room was this: The need for perfection is often the very thing that holds us back at work, home and in life in general. Just because you may not have it down perfectly doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do the job. Just because your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen just like you would doesn’t mean you have to go behind them and “fix it.” Women have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try. She also said that learning how to fail and still move forward is important. And finally, as women grow in their confidence and competence, they should pass it on.

    Ironically, the very things women don’t want people doing to them, such as pigeonholing them, penalizing them for taking risks and questioning their competence, is the exact thing women often do to their husbands.

    Feldhahn believes it's important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Just like Kay pointed out that women don’t like feeling or being seen as incompetent or lacking in confidence, neither do men. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn't measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it and seek to understand.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 3, 2019.