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    6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent

    Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning. Upon arrival they received coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears.

    “Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old, became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. “Nothing made him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle which ended up on the guy’s leg who was sitting at the next table. At that point I picked Brandon up to go outside and in the process hit the same guy in the head with Brandon’s leg. By this time everybody in the restaurant was watching. As I went out the door, it slammed behind me, shaking the glass.

    "I stood outside shaking my fist and yelling at my son. When we came back inside I sat down and looked across the table at my wife who was trying to contain the smirk on her face. At that moment I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. Clearly, I looked pretty silly, but the truth is I didn’t need that hat to make me look foolish.”

    Runkel contends that in many instances it isn’t the children acting foolish; it's the parents.

    Becoming a ScreamFree parent isn’t about becoming a perfect parent with the perfect techniques to raising perfect kids. You don’t have to have all the right answers at all the right times in order to be the parent you want to be. Instead, you just have to learn to calm down.

    “I am convinced that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control,” Runkel says. “Parents have to make sure they are being the grown up in every situation… no matter what the children do.

    "When a parent is screaming what they are really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you are doing right now.’ At that moment the parent has lost control and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.”

    According to Runkel, when parents focus on calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears.

    There are six keys to being a ScreamFree parent:

    • Give your child physical and emotional space. See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.

    • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choice do the screaming.

    • Be an advocate for your child’s development.

    • Change your vocabulary. Don’t label children or pigeonhole how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive and should be avoided at all costs.

    • See yourself as being responsible to your children - not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in WalMart, you’re not responsible for it, but you are responsible for how you handle it.

    • Know that the greatest thing you as a parent can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

    “What every child wants are parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated,” Runkel says. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unflappable, even when they flip out. Most parents’ biggest struggle is dealing with their own emotional reactivity. That is why the greatest thing we can do for our children is learn to focus on us, not them.”

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    College Prep: It's Not What You Think

    Over the last several years, attorney Courtney Bullard has advised on or participated in more than 150 sexual assault investigations on college campuses across the country.

    “I specialize in working with colleges in matters involving sexual misconduct,” says Bullard. “I conduct external investigations, oversee investigations and provide legal advice on how to ensure colleges are complying with laws that dictate how they respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. What keeps me awake at night is the fact that we are not educating our kids about these issues before they set foot on a college campus. The hook-up culture is rampant. Teens don’t know the definition of consent. Nor do they understand the realities of what they might face in college if they find themselves accusing someone of rape, or being accused of rape.”

    The media has certainly brought to light some of these cases, including the Vanderbilt University case where a guy on the top bunk witnessed the rape but pretended to be asleep because he was afraid. He was found guilty, along with those who participated in the actual sexual assault.

    “What people see on television is a very narrow picture of what is going on on college campuses across the country,” Bullard says. “What I typically see are two students getting wasted and having sex. One believes they were raped; one believes everything was completely consensual. Neither fully remembers the entire encounter. Both of them are forever impacted.”

    Before you stop reading because you think this would never happen to your child or to your grandchild, Bullard strongly urges you to think again. Most of the cases Bullard sees involve freshmen. And, it doesn’t matter if they: are going to a small faith-based institution, planning to live at home, are strong-willed and would probably never put themselves in that situation or understand consent. It could happen to your family member, even if you think these things only happen to other people. 

    “I have sat across from so many parents sitting next to their child in tears saying all of these things,” Bullard says. “I have sat across from young women who can no longer finish school because they are unable to recover from what happened. I have sat across from young men whose dream of going to medical school, law school, graduate school, etc. is over because they have been found responsible for sexual misconduct and their transcript is forever marked. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard ‘I did [fill in the blank - smacked her butt for example] because on TV that's what girls like.’ These are not criminal cases/investigations, they are investigations and findings conducted by college campuses.”

    Bullard believes parents and teens can do a better job of preparing for college life by educating themselves on these issues. Students should familiarize themselves with their college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent. Parents need to talk with their teens about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

    “For all the parents out there saying, ‘I lived large at college and I turned out okay,’ I would strongly encourage them to recognize that this is a different time with many variables that were not in play back in the day, including social media.”

    Bullard also believes teens could benefit from taking bystander intervention training so they know what to do if they see someone in a potentially dangerous situation.

    “This is one of the most powerful tools we have to make a difference when it comes to dealing with sexual assault,” Bullard asserts. “Make sure your teen has a strategy ahead of time for dealing with potential risks. Teach them how to be good citizens and do not downplay the seriousness of this issue.”

    Although Bullard is not a counselor, she is absolutely passionate about making sure teens have the necessary information to help them make wise decisions when they get out on their own. She will be teaching an informational session on June 24th for rising high school seniors and college freshmen (3:00 p.m. for girls/5:00 p.m. for boys) and an informational session for parents on June 25th at 6:30 p.m. The location is still to be determined. If you are interested in your teen attending one of these sessions, you can email Bullard at [email protected] for more information.

    “So much of the pain I deal with on these campuses is preventable,” Bullard shares. “We really owe it our kids to give them the information they need in order to have a successful college experience and future.”

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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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    Next Steps After Graduation

    Parents of graduating seniors have probably heard more than once, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to listen to your rules and I can do whatever I want.”

    Most seniors are giddy over the idea of heading off to college. They are eager to choose their own bedtime, where they keep their things and how late they stay out. As launching time approaches, many of these seniors who were super-confident at graduation start questioning themselves: What if I chose the wrong college? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I am choosing the wrong career track?

    Many parents are also experiencing a mixed bag of emotions. They are excited about their teen taking the next step, yet somewhat fearful about their future. Parents realize a big transition is coming and there are still nuggets of wisdom they wish to pass on, yet they don’t have much time to do it. They become clingy at a time when their teen is trying to be more independent. This can make for a very interesting and long summer.

    Fortunately, all of this is a natural reaction to graduation.

    What can you do to help your graduate successfully leave the nest with confidence? Here are some tips just for you.

    • Just listen. Let them talk about all of the things running through their mind. Try to do this without minimizing their feelings.

    • Remind them that they can choose to water seeds of doubt and let the lies grow or they can pluck them out quickly before the roots get too strong.

    • A little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Any new journey will by definition produce anxiety. You can’t help but wonder about this, that and the other. The little bit of anxiety goes a long way to help us perform at our best.

    • Remind them that the applicant pools have never been larger than they are now. If they received an acceptance letter, they can rest assured that the institution believes they can handle the work. The letter speaks volumes about the preparedness they bring to the college campus.

    • Don’t believe that nobody on the college campus will care. There are many people on campus who want to see their students succeed.

    • As a parent, you may be struggling too. Instead of trying to talk through this with your graduate, seek the wisdom and support of other parents who are already on this journey.

    • If you have always done your teen’s laundry, cooked their meals, managed their money and helped them get to school/job on time, STOP. Summer is a great time to learn how to do these things for themselves, since you won’t be accompanying them to college.

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    Moms' Night Out

    Most mothers, whether they work inside or outside the home, feel like their job is never done.

    “It’s true,” says Sara Emanuel, wife and mother of five children. “I constantly feel like I run myself into the ground trying to get everything done. I have to guard against living in a constant state of guilt over all of the things left on the ‘to do’ list. I know that’s not healthy, but it’s hard to turn my brain off or to think about doing something just for me because I am exhausted.”

    In addition to constantly feeling like the job is never-ending, moms compare themselves while looking at Facebook or Pinterest. And, in an informal survey, an entire group of women admitted comparing what they do for their children with what other moms are doing. 

    “I try not to compare myself to other women, but honestly it’s hard not to,” Emanuel says. “I catch myself comparing how I handle discipline to how another mom handled a similar situation, thinking, ‘I wish I had been that creative.’ I think if most moms were honest, we all spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for what we aren’t.”

    Emanuel says she believes that women in general want to look like they have it all together.

    “It makes me laugh when someone comes up to me and says, ‘You’re always so put together. How do you do it?’” Emanuel says. “I’m thinking to myself, 'You only see me once a week. Sometimes I don’t even get to shower.'”

    In reality, there are a lot of moms out there who feel alone, inadequate and like a failure.

    Andrea Gyertson Nasfell can totally relate to what Emanuel is describing. So, she joined forces with director Jon Erwin to write the script for a movie. 

    Moms' Night Out is the story of a frazzled mom, Allyson (played by Sarah Drew) and her friends. They long for a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a much-needed moms' night out. But in order to enjoy high heels and food not served in a paper bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours. What could possibly go wrong?

    “This movie was so encouraging to me,” Emanuel said. “My husband and I laughed out loud at so many of the scenes. We felt like they must have been stalking our family because those very things happen in our home. It felt good to know it isn’t just us.

    “The craziness we experience happens in every home in America. It really made me know it’s okay if things get a little crazy. I need to give myself a break. I have continuously beat myself up over my own definition of being a ‘good mom.’ I am a good mom and what I do is important.”

    If you need some reassurance as a mom, a good laugh and a moment to appreciate the beautiful mess we call “family,” Moms' Night Out is one movie you’ll definitely want to see. 

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    For the Guys: Tips for Putting Your Wife First (Without Hurting Mom's Feelings)

    When you tie the knot, family relationships change. 

    Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she's one of the first people you've gone to for advice since... well, as long as you can remember. 

    But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

    Think of it this way: You've added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

    Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but these tips can help.

    • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don't want to hear her speak badly of your bride. 

    • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don't make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat--that will only create problems.

    • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.

    • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she's ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she's REALLY ok with it!)

    • Remember, you're no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system - make sure she knows that.

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    6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent

    Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning. Upon arrival they received coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears.

    “Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old, became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. “Nothing made him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle which ended up on the guy’s leg who was sitting at the next table. At that point I picked Brandon up to go outside and in the process hit the same guy in the head with Brandon’s leg. By this time everybody in the restaurant was watching. As I went out the door, it slammed behind me, shaking the glass.

    "I stood outside shaking my fist and yelling at my son. When we came back inside I sat down and looked across the table at my wife who was trying to contain the smirk on her face. At that moment I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. Clearly, I looked pretty silly, but the truth is I didn’t need that hat to make me look foolish.”

    Runkel contends that in many instances it isn’t the children acting foolish; it's the parents.

    Becoming a ScreamFree parent isn’t about becoming a perfect parent with the perfect techniques to raising perfect kids. You don’t have to have all the right answers at all the right times in order to be the parent you want to be. Instead, you just have to learn to calm down.

    “I am convinced that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control,” Runkel says. “Parents have to make sure they are being the grown up in every situation… no matter what the children do.

    "When a parent is screaming what they are really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you are doing right now.’ At that moment the parent has lost control and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.”

    According to Runkel, when parents focus on calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears.

    There are six keys to being a ScreamFree parent:

    • Give your child physical and emotional space. See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.

    • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choice do the screaming.

    • Be an advocate for your child’s development.

    • Change your vocabulary. Don’t label children or pigeonhole how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive and should be avoided at all costs.

    • See yourself as being responsible to your children - not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in WalMart, you’re not responsible for it, but you are responsible for how you handle it.

    • Know that the greatest thing you as a parent can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

    “What every child wants are parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated,” Runkel says. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unflappable, even when they flip out. Most parents’ biggest struggle is dealing with their own emotional reactivity. That is why the greatest thing we can do for our children is learn to focus on us, not them.”

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    How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

    “What in the world do you have to be depressed about?”

    “Did something happen to make you sad?”

    “Just snap out of it.”

    Susan* has heard all of these statements her entire life from friends and family as she battled clinical depression.

    “Growing up I was a very shy person in a family of extroverts,” says Susan. “My siblings all love being social and funny. I’m the one who just wants to stay home and read. Throughout my childhood I was very moody.”

    It wasn’t until law school when she was waking up in the middle of the night with her jaw clenched that she decided to talk with a counselor. During her first session, the counselor asked, “At what point in your life did you determine it was your job to be the savior to everyone?”

    “It was at that moment that it hit me,” Susan recalls. “Up to that point, I was the person everybody came to with their problems. I learned I needed some serious boundaries in order to stop letting people walk all over me. I also learned I was clinically depressed.”

    Susan knew she had much to be thankful for, but that didn’t stop her from feeling horrible on a daily basis.

    “Living with depression is like this fog that minimizes joys and magnifies hurts and criticism,” Susan shares. “People who don’t have depression see the world in color. People with depression see the world in black and white. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts for 20 years.”

    Susan recalled a time three months before her wedding. She was driving home from work, planning her suicide in her mind. She wanted the pain to be over. Clearly, she did not follow through with her plan. Susan’s fiance was out of town on business, and she could not think of one other person who would know what to do. She got the help she needed to get through that moment, but every day is still a battle. 

    “In listening to people talk about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think people don’t understand that when you suffer from depression, it’s like every day on this earth is a living hell,” Susan says. “My depression is so severe, it often interferes with my ability to function. For me, and I think many others dealing with depression, the thought of not having to deal with the pain anymore is very appealing.”

    When asked what people say as they try to help, Susan shared that it isn’t helpful to tell a depressed person to just snap out of it, pop a pill or ask if they had a fight with their spouse. 

    “It is helpful to ask, ‘What can I do?’ or to send a text to check in or call and ask how things are going,” Susan says. “Both my husband and I suffer from depression. He knows that when I am having a hard time, the best thing he can do is give me space and let me be quiet. I know that when he is struggling, the thing that helps him most is to get out and do something.”

    Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can feel awkward. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings, however, can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

    If you want to be helpful to a person who you believe may be having suicidal thoughts, here are some things you should do:

    • Be yourself. Let the person know you care and that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.

    • Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair or vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, its existence is a positive sign.

    • Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.

    • Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

    • Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

    • Ask them how you can be helpful. They may not be able to immediately answer this question, but asking it encourages them to think about it.

    Here are some things you should not do. DO NOT:

    • Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: "You have so much to live for," "Your suicide will hurt your family," or “Look on the bright side.”

    • Act shocked, lecture on the value of life or say that suicide is wrong.

    • Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.

    • Offer ways to fix their problems, give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

    • Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).