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It’s day 195ish, but it feels like forever since COVID-19 and quarantine first rocked everybody’s world. Instead of things clearing up and people going on about their lives, life seems to be getting harder. For many, most days feel like slogging through thick fog and it’s really hard to see the road ahead. 

Perhaps you or someone you know is really struggling at the moment, wondering if the sadness is due to all that has happened or if something bigger is going on like depression or some other mental health issue.

First, let me just say, you’re not alone! We’re living in a moment in time where everything—marriage, parenting, work, socializing with friends, even the most normal things—seem more difficult than they should be for many people.

Second, regardless of whether you or someone you care about is sad or dealing with something else, the good news is, help is available.

Sad? Depressed? How do you know the difference?

Glad you asked!

Feeling sad and down about things like job loss, finances, marital issues, a child giving you a run for your money, or a breakup is normal for a period of time. But, when you:

  • Can’t seem to shake those feelings and you begin to feel hopeless and desperate; 
  • It feels impossible to think clearly; 
  • Making a decision seems out of your reach;
  • Work is consistently challenging;
  • Things that used to bring you joy in life don’t anymore; 
  • Food doesn’t interest you or you are eating way more than normal; and 
  • You’re either not sleeping enough or you are sleeping all the time and still feel like you don’t get enough rest.

These are like blinking caution lights warning you something is not right. There are some things you might be able to do to help move you to a different place, though.

Here Are 5 Ways to Work Through Depression

Surround yourself with a supportive group of friendsnot necessarily people who are experiencing the same thing you are, but people who seem to be mentally and emotionally healthy right now. Ask them to walk this road with you and help hold you accountable for changes you’re trying to make.

Create a new bedtime routine. Lying in bed watching television or scrolling through social media doesn’t count as rest. Stop all screen time at least an hour before you plan to get some shut-eye. If silence makes it hard for you to sleep, download a white noise app or purchase a white noise machine. Maybe you could try a simple fan in your room. Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping… and well, those things that you typically do in bed (like sex). Otherwise, keep your bedroom as kind of a safe place where your body knows it’s time to relax and rest. 

Get moving. Exercise has been shown to be one of the BEST ways to combat depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good hormones that can make you feel better about yourself. It also can help you get out of the negative thought cycle that feeds depression. Exercising on the regular can give you more confidence, it’s something you can do with others and it is a super positive way to cope with and manage depression. Don’t forget, being outside, getting enough vitamin D, drinking plenty of water, and fueling your body with healthy foods are all powerful weapons for fighting depression. 

Pay attention to how much news and negative information you take in every day. Remember, the motto for the newsroom is, “If it leads, it bleeds.” Their whole goal is to be sensational to draw you in. The more you are drawn in, the more it will affect you. It’s a vicious cycle. Your brain doesn’t know it’s the fifth time you’ve seen information about the plane crash, murder, latest political blunder, or car wreck. All of this impacts you mentally and physically whether you realize it or not. Put a time limit on how much news you watch. The same applies to social media.

Eliminate as much stress as possible. Think through all you have on your plate. Is there anything you can let go of for a while to reduce the stress in your life? If you can’t let go of certain activities, can you ask others to help you? 

In addition to doing all of these things, be bold and ask for professional help. Plenty of counselors are providing telecounseling and Zoom sessions right now. If you don’t know where to look for help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is 1-800-662-4357. 

If you’re worried about someone you care about, don’t be afraid to step up and say, “I see you. How can I help?” Guiding them through all the above is a great place to start if they’re open to your support. 

Photo by Inzmam Khan from Pexels

I was walking in the grocery store the other day and I ran into a friend from high school. We started talking and she asked me about my cousin who went to school with us. Our mutual friend asked how she is doing.  I was actually caught off guard because, in reality, I didn’t know how my cousin was doing. She and I have lost touch. I started to think about how disconnected I was feeling from other family members including parents, siblings, and extended family. Then, I considered my children. They don’t have the same memories that I have with my extended family. How can I bridge the gap that has occurred? How can we, as family, stay connected across the miles?

Here are 7 Ways To Stay Connected With Long-Distance Family:

1. Old Fashioned Snail Mail

Mailing correspondence may seem old-fashioned but it is tried and true. Handwriting letters has become a lost art. Letter writing allows you to share in your own words what is happening in your life. It provides a window for your family to see into. Postcards are another tool you can use. If you see a postcard that reminds you of a family member, write a note saying, “I saw this, and I thought of you.” This lets your family know that although miles divide you, they are still on your mind and in your heart. 

2. Create A Family Newsletter

Whether you choose to do this monthly, quarterly, or yearly, it provides updates to your long-distance family. It shares with them: honors, awards, funny moments, celebrations. Let your children help design it and have input into it. Make a family logo and motto to go at the top along with a name like, “Keeping Up With The Joneses” or “Watson Family Gazette.” You could do this online or make it a family production and put it into print. ☆ You could make a “chain letter” that gets added to by a family member and mailed to the next person on the list and keeps circulating around your family, keeping everyone in the loop. 

3. Send Care Packages

Every holiday season, as a child, I would go with my grandmother as she mailed holiday packages to my uncles who lived out of town. In the boxes would be a pound cake, fruit cake, cookies, preserves, and other sweets. You don’t have to choose the same items. You can create your own theme with the box. One theme could be Our Town. Select items representing the town you live in. You could choose My Favorite Things where you select items your sister, aunt, cousin, or dad loves. Or, even a box of Things That Remind Me Of You.

4. Travel Together

It may be fun to select a location midway between you and your siblings and spend some time there together. It may be fun to coordinate time in the summer with the grandparents and cousins and call it “Cousin Camp.” It may be a blast to schedule a multi-family vacation to the beach, mountains, amusement parks, etc.

5. Book Club

For many, storytime is an integral part of their bedtime routine. Create space for grandparents who live out of town to be “guest readers” via phone, Skype, FaceTime, Messenger or video. Another idea is for the adults in the family to choose to read the same book and then have a discussion about it. Even the kids could read the same book and draw pictures about the scenes or main characters.

6. Go Virtual

Technology is an innovative way in which families can stay connected. It may look and even feel different from the past. Nevertheless, it allows family members to maintain connections. Don’t be afraid of trying some “high-tech” ways to stay in touch with your long-distance family members. Here are some examples:

  • Have Virtual Dinner Night: Each family makes the same meal and you sit down ‘together’ at the same time to eat via ZOOM, FaceTime, Google MEET, etc.
  • Create Family Group Texts: Families can create a text message group or utilize a messaging app to share information with each other.
  • Virtual Game Night: Families can choose to play online games (PlayStation, XBOX), board/card games (UNO, Battleship), Minute to Win It, or Charades via ZOOM or Google MEET.
  • Schedule Weekly/Monthly Calls: Families can utilize whatever platform they have available (i.e., Facetime, ZOOM, Skype). On the calls, birthdays, special awards or everyday moments can be shared.
  • Facebook: Create a Family Facebook page where you can post pictures, videos, etc.
  • Family and Friends Movie Night. (Netflix for Chrome) Families can watch the same movie at the same time while being in their own homes. Then use FaceTime or ZOOM to talk about it.

7. Cardboard Cutout 

Select a fun picture of the family member you choose and get a life-sized cardboard cut-out made. It allows your kids to recognize their family members. It’s also a way for that family member to be “present” at events such as a spelling bee, soccer games, or track meets.

If you’re feeling disconnected, that’s when you need to be intentional about communicating and connecting with long-distance family members. Whether you choose to make a phone call spontaneously or you send out a calendar invite for everyone to group chat, making that first step to check-in can change the direction of your connection

Don’t get discouraged if everyone can’t make everything. We have to recognize that we’re all dealing with life in some form or fashion. Also, remember to stay in touch with family and friends who live close to you. In this current time, everyone could benefit from a call or note letting them know someone is thinking about them.

The nip of fall is in the air, which means Halloween and fall festivals should be right around the corner. Sadly though, this year may look very different. Some festivals have been put on hold and many parents are uncomfortable with trick or treating. If you’re looking for fun ways to celebrate Halloween that don’t involve trick or treating, you’ve come to the right place!

Here are seven ways you and your family can celebrate Halloween without feeling like you’re missing out.

  • Make your own costumes and take family photos. Have some fun prizes for the most creative, out-of-this-world, colorful, funniest, scariest, and judge’s choice. Let the entire family vote on the costumes.
  • Create a Halloween-themed scavenger or treasure hunt that involves candy in all the places where they actually find the “treasured item.” This can involve making fun clues. They could do the hunt individually or as a team.
  • Host a neighborhood Halloween Costume Parade for adults and kids. Families can walk or bike together while social distancing. You could even pool your candy and make bags ahead of time to hand out at the end of the parade. (The upside to this is you don’t have too much of a sugar high for the kids. The downside is there isn’t enough candy for the parents to steal. Just sayin’…) 
  • Have a pumpkin-painting contest. Let everybody choose their own pumpkin and give them a set amount of time to decorate it. You may or may not want to limit the materials they use. Categories could include: scariest, silliest, most unusual, most original, best use of materials, best traditional, most unique shape and most adorable. Winners could get candy, gift cards or some other fun prize.
  • Build a fire and roast S’mores. No fall celebration is complete without a bonfire and roasting marshmallows for S’mores. While you’re eating S’mores, play Build a Story. Here’s how: one family member starts the story with a sentence and the next person adds a sentence to build onto the first one. See how long you can keep it going. If you want to get really creative, build the story around a theme like Halloween, fall or some other topic.
  • Plan a Halloween menu and be creative. Let your kids help you come up with Halloweenish goodies. Think eyeball cookies, deviled egg spiders, gummy worm ice cubes, pumpkin-face cuties, “finger” foods, etc. (You get the picture.) Then have a Halloween/Fall party or meal with your family.
  • Play Minute to Win It or other friendly “competition” games. We all know trick or treating involves getting the “good” candy you love (YES, please). But, you also get the “blah” kind you’ll still have to hand out next Halloween. Buy everybody’s favorite candies instead! Then give them as prizes to the winners from the different Minute to Win It games.

No doubt this year will be different in a number of ways. Although many are choosing not to have corn mazes, fall festivals, trunk or treats and trick or treating, it doesn’t have to be disappointing for you and the kids. Launching off of these ideas and some of your own family traditions, there’s lots of fun to be had for sure!

Thanks to Frank Luca for sharing their work on Unsplash.

Do you feel like you’re at your wit’s end?

Are you tired of juggling home, work, and school?

Do you look at others and they seem to have it all together while you can’t figure it out?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’re not alone. You may have finally gotten your schedules synchronized for the summer. Now it’s time for a “new normal” back to school. There are so many different scenarios around going to school this year. Nevertheless, having a plan containing structure as well as flexibility can keep you from jumping off the deep end.

Here are some strategies to help you keep your head above water as you handle virtual school while working.  

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Over-communicate with the people in your life. Be clear and concise in your communication. Find out what is the best way to reach out to your child’s school/teacher (phone call, text, email, Class Dojo, etc.). Talk with your children. See how they are feeling about going back to school or having to attend school virtually. Have an honest conversation with your supervisor in order for them to be aware of your situation. With your spouse, articulate what you need and how you need them to assist the family during this time. For example: I need your help with the shopping or I need you to handle homework with the kids. In order to stay on track, have a weekly family meeting to plan for and discuss your schedules, activities, and meals for the upcoming week. 

2. Have Realistic Expectations.

The word, “unprecedented,” has been used many, many times to describe what we are experiencing. Our lives are not the way they were in the past. As a result, having realistic expectations of yourself and your family can minimize stress. Your spouse may not wash dishes or clothes the way you do, and that’s okay. Recognize the tasks of washing the dishes and/or clothes that are done. Even better, you didn’t have to do them

3. It’s Okay To Ask For Help.

Now is the time to lean on friends and family. Right now, families, in conjunction with friends, are creating educational co-ops. (Especially if the children are doing school virtually.) It allows families to rotate where the kids are week by week. You may have them this week, and they are with another family next week. Some families are enlisting grandparents to help with transportation to and from school or activities. You may consider hiring a family helper who will watch the kids after school, help with homework, and/or take them to afternoon activities. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength

4. Create A Schedule.

It is important to plan and prepare while also being open and flexible. Items you should consider including in your planning: child’s daily drop off and pick up times, time to sign in to class virtually, virtual daily class schedule, your work hours (any mandatory and/or scheduled meetings), lunch break, as well as your spouse’s work schedule (including meetings), meals planned for the week, extracurricular activities, and family time.

5. Be Mindful Of Your Stress Level.

Recognize the importance of managing your stress levels. Stress, whether it comes from work, parenting, or everyday life, can have negative effects on your mood and immune system. Seek ways to moderate your stress. These may include finding time for you to exercise (a walk in the park, a bike ride), getting the right amount of sleep, and eating a well-balanced diet. Utilizing your friends and family as support for you and your family also can minimize stress

In your wildest dreams, you probably never considered you would have to handle virtual school while being a working parent. Being productive during this season means using all the tools you have at your disposal (friends, family, co-workers, any additional resources). If this time has taught us anything, it is “we are better together.

Image from AdobeStock.com

Right now, days seem to run together, time has seemed to stand still, and the past 6 months have felt like an eternity and a split second all at once. Life before COVID-19 is becoming more and more of a distant memory… Were we ever actually allowed to go to the movie theater? Or the bowling alley? Or out on the town? This date night is all about bringing back those good-old classic date nights, only this time while in quarantine! Below are a bunch of typical first dates. Pick one (or more!) to do together, COVID-19 style! Be sure to take along the list of questions to ask each other during the date night, too!

QUESTIONS TO ASK ON YOUR DATE NIGHT:

  1. What has been the hardest part of quarantine/COVID-19/the past 6+ months?
  2. What has been one good thing to happen recently?
  3. Do you think we’ve gotten closer or further apart over the past few months?
  4. What do you miss the most about the date nights we used to go on?
  5. If you could have one thing back that you haven’t been able to do since COVID-19, what would it be? Why?
  6. What’s one thing the two of us can do to help us/our family adjust better to our situation right now?
  7. What did you not miss while in quarantine?
  8. What’s one thing I can do to help you feel more stable/secure in the next week?
  9. How would you describe this time to our future kids/grandkids?
  10. What has been the weirdest part of quarantine/COVID-19/the past 6+ months?

DATE NIGHTS TO CHOOSE FROM:

GLOW IN THE DARK BOWLING:

Supply List:

  • 9 Water bottles
  • 9-18 Glow sticks (depending on size)
  • A soccer ball or similar ball
  • Blacklight (totally optional, but really fun!)
  • Tacky 80’s pop playlist (also optional, but really fun!)

Instructions:

  • Open up the water bottles.
  • Crack and shake the glowsticks to activate them.
  • Drop 1-2 glow sticks in each of the water bottles and put the lids back on.
  • Arrange the water bottles in a triangle like bowling pins.
  • Take turns trying to knock down all 9 water bottles with the soccer ball!
  • Keep score of number of “pins” knocked over.
  • The first to 100 wins!

MOVIE AT THE THEATER:

Supply List:

  • TV or Projector
  • Movie or streaming service
  • All your favorite theater snacks & drinks!
  • Cozy blankets
  • Blanket fort (optional)

Instructions:

  • Make/buy all your movie theater snacks (don’t forget to butter the popcorn!).
  • Make a blanket fort (optional, but takes it to the next level!)
  • Decide on a movie. Here are some ideas…
    • Research movies that came out the year you or your partner was born, the year you got married/started dating, or a random year of your choosing. Then watch the first movie you can find from that year!
    • Pick out 10 different movies. Assign them numbers 1-10 (or do alphabetical order). Have your partner pick a number 1-10, and watch that movie!
    • Grab a pair of dice. You roll one, and your partner rolls another.
      • Your Dice: 1: Rom-Com, 2: Mystery, 3: Action, 4: Drama, 5: Historical, 6: Adventure
      • Dice 2: 1. Starts with A, 2: Starts with T, 3: Starts with S, 4: Starts with M, 5: Starts with N, 6: Starts with R
  • Snuggle up to your partner and enjoy your in-house theater!

“THRIFT” SHOPPING:

Supply List:

  • Your clothes closet or dresser

Instructions:

When’s the last time you went through your clothes? If you’ve got pieces from the 90’s stuffed in the back of your closet, this date night will be a fun one for you. Set a timer for 7 minutes. You go to your partner’s closet/dresser/wherever clothes are kept, and your partner will go to yours. Your goal is to find the oldest/funniest/craziest outfit possible for your partner to wear for the rest of this date night! Go all-out with watches, purses, socks, jewelry, etc.

Once you have an outfit picked out, you and your partner have to wear them for the rest of the date night! Pick another activity on this list to keep the fun going.

ENJOY A CONCERT:

Supply List:

  • Your favorite band t-shirt
  • Stadium food (go all-out with nachos, pizza, etc!)
  • A recorded live video of your favorite band (take a look on YouTube! A lot of artists have put together live videos for their fans to watch at home!)

Instructions:

So live concerts are off the table for date nights this year… But what if you enjoyed them from home instead? Since March, a lot of popular artists have put up or created live shows for their fans to enjoy from the safety of their own home! Just look up your favorite artist on YouTube and search “live full concert.” Be sure this date night turns into a dance party, too!

INDOOR MINI-GOLF:

Supply List:

  • Golf clubs (use a broomstick if you don’t have clubs!)
  • Golf balls
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Plastic cups
  • DIY obstacle course (get creative with stuff from around your house!)

Instructions:

  • Set up your obstacle course on a carpeted area of your home (or lay down blankets if you don’t have carpet!) Here are some creative ideas to get you started:
    • You can use an open, upside down 3-ring binder to create a “hill” to go over,
    • Line up pens/pencils or books to create a pathway/funnel,
    • Use a chair or table as a “tunnel” it has to go through,
    • Crumple a blanket on the floor to make a “sand pit,”
    • More great ideas here!
  • Place a plastic cup on its side at the very end of the course.
  • Keep count of the number of hits it takes to get the ball into the plastic cup at the end of the course.
  • Take turns trying to get the ball through the obstacle course in as few hits as possible!

Want more at-home date ideas? Check out our ultimate list here!

Should I take a gap year or go off to college during a pandemic? That’s the question for many students during COVID-19.

A recent survey found that 16% of high school seniors planned to take a gap year instead of heading off to college or taking classes online this fall. In a pandemic-free world, less than 3% of graduating seniors planned to take a gap year off.

Many parents may be experiencing mixed emotions at this moment. Some are relieved their teen decided to take some time off and are thankful that tuition isn’t due for the time being. Others have significant anxiety about what exactly will happen over the next 365 days. For some, it’s a little bit of both. It isn’t like normal job or volunteer opportunities students would typically do in a gap year are readily available. Plus, travel is certainly out of the question. 

It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. Taking a proactive approach to having your teen under your roof for an additional year (or just a semester) can help prevent unnecessary drama and tension in your home. You’ll definitely want to have clear discussions about boundaries and expectations if you want to avoid constant disagreements and resentment. Here are some thoughts to get you going.

Make time to talk about how they are doing.

A lot of young people are experiencing a ton of emotions about so many rites of passage not going as planned. Not going away to school is just one more thing to add to the list. Being supportive and allowing them to process their thoughts and feelings can help make space to move forward. Having those conversations can also help you see if they might be struggling. They may even need help managing anxiety or depression during this uncertain time.

Ask your son/daughter to come up with a plan for the year.

They should be able to clearly articulate their goals as well as how they plan to accomplish them. And, if their plan is going to require financial support or other resources from you, they need to be able to show you what those are.

The Edge Foundation encourages students taking a “COVID-constrained” gap year to consider incorporating some of the following suggestions from College Transitions and others into their plans:

Volunteer for a political cause or candidate.

2020 is an election year with many important national, state and local races. Students taking a gap year during the pandemic could make calls/assist with a candidate’s social media outreach from the safety of home. They could also volunteer to work the polls. Since so many older poll workers are needing to take a break due to COVID-19, the timing is perfect.

Get help from a mentor.

If students are unable to attend college in person, this could be a good time to tap into networks of those who can advise them about college and career goals. Global Citizen Year is one organization that helps students tap their parents’ networks or send emails asking leaders in fields of interest if they’re available for a 15-minute Zoom chat.

Take online, college-level courses.

There are plenty of good (and sometimes FREE) courses in virtually every area of study. These courses can help students explore and deepen their knowledge in their area of interest.

Do work for a community nonprofit.

Many local charities and nonprofits are facing staffing shortages to help serve community needs during this time of crisis. If this work involves working directly with people, students will need to follow public health guidelines about protecting themselves from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Work locally for an essential business.

Over 60% of American families have already experienced a reduction in income. Working while following CDC guidelines can help students earn and save money to help with future college expenses. 

Learn a foreign language online.

Using an online platform like Duolingo can help your young adult sharpen their foreign language skills. Learning another language can be useful in college and beyond! Bilingual individuals enjoy a greater array of opportunities. Plus, they make more money, on average, than their monolingual peers.

Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to rules and expectations.

It’s not helpful to leave it to their imagination what you expect of them during this time away from school. Be clear about what treating your home with respect and observing your rules looks like. Especially in light of COVID-19, discuss your thoughts on having friends over, socializing with others and then coming back home. You’ll also want to talk about helping with chores and laundry, helping themselves to food whenever, any limitations on nighttime hours or activities, etc.

Do you have expectations of them financially?

Will they pay rent? Do you expect them to do certain things in exchange for living under your roof? This is particularly important for the development of their sense of responsibility and independence. It is also practical, as household expenses will certainly climb.

While your teen may not have actually transitioned out of the house yet, he/she most likely believes that in a non-COVID-19 world they would be out on their own and functioning more like an adult. This is totally normal. Their expectations for living at home during a gap year or semester may be very different from what you have in mind, though. Since they are still progressing through their transition to adulthood they may not consider how their actions impact everybody else. As their parent, you have a unique opportunity to help them navigate all of these things while they find their way. 

Photo by Liam Anderson from Pexels

2020 might be the year everyone wants to escape from and/or forget for so many reasons. This means we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of us are looking for ways to escape the pain and fear. One of the escapes that has seen a dramatic increase in use during the coronavirus pandemic is porn. 

A variety of sources report a 16 to 30% increase in use in the U.S. since March. India reports a 95% increase. Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website, reported an 18% increase in users after making its premium content free for 30 days. 

To give you some perspective, check out these porn usage statistics from 2018 tabulated by Webroot Cybersecurity:

  • Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography.
  • $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet.
  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites.

Let those stats sink in for a second. Staggering to say the least.

Coronavirus and Porn

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Justin Lehmiller explains that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting not just the amount and type of porn being produced. It’s also affecting how much porn people are consuming and what they’re searching for on major sites. According to Lehmiller, people are not just searching for porn, either. In one month’s time there were more than 9 million searches for coronavirus-related or pandemic porn, as in people wearing masks, surgical gloves and gowns engaging in sex.

He explains that porn searches are up, in part, because a lot of people are at home with more time on their hands than usual. But, he and other experts say there are other potential reasons for increased porn site visits. Some of those reasons include using sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with fear of disease and death, plus loneliness and the dramatic increase in experiencing anxiety, stress and negative emotions.

The Impact of Porn Addiction

So what about this “gift” that Pornhub has given to people, married, single or even teens, in the midst of COVID-19? The truth about porn is, most people don’t realize how pornography reaches out and grabs people. Research shows that when a person sees pornography, the brain releases endorphins that are 200 times more potent than morphine and more addictive than cocaine. They also give you an enormous false sense of well-being. Fight the New Drug likens it to eating junk food. It seems like it is really good and satisfies you in the moment. However, it actually leaves you wanting more and never feeling full.

Additionally, research consistently indicates that pornography use can hurt a couple’s relationship. This is especially true when one person is frequently viewing pornographic images online.

In an open letter discussing the dangers of porn, Drs. Julie and John Gottman argue that intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people. But when one person becomes accustomed to getting pleasure from porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse. Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. 

Here are some red flags that may indicate your spouse is involved in this highly addictive activity.

  • Is their body language open and does he/she respond appropriately when you ask questions? Does your spouse look you in the eyes when he/she talks to you? One lie often leads to another. You may ask a simple question and get a very complicated answer or an answer that was different than the day before.
  • Does your spouse have appropriate boundaries? They seem to live in drama and chaos all the time. They may ask you to record yourself or take pictures of you getting out of the shower or at intimate moments. 
  • Does your spouse use lots of sexual humor and innuendos, even when the conversation has nothing to do with that subject?
  • Is your spouse preoccupied with sexual behaviors? Is he/she constantly wanting to push the boundaries and experiment sexually in ways that make you wonder where they got the idea from? 
  • Does he/she exhibit inappropriate anger? This anger appears to come from nowhere. For example, if you ask about household cash flow or what time they will be home, he/she explodes. 
  • Have they lost interest in you sexually? Or has their demand for sexual activity increased, although they seem to be “elsewhere” in the midst of sex? If so, sex at this point is not about intimacy. Instead, it’s about control and power and what he/she can get you to do. 
  • Do you seem to constantly have money problems? No matter how much money you have coming in, there just is never enough to cover the expenses.   

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and people being quarantined, many have commented on how they really didn’t realize how much they really needed in-person, face-to-face experiences for their emotional wellbeing. The research is clear: while a person may be using porn as a coping mechanism, the thirst for it is insatiable. And it still leaves them feeling empty, unfulfilled and needing more.  

Helpful Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with porn addiction, the Fight the New Drug and The Addiction Center sites may help you determine best next steps.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What is your teen asking you about the future? Do you have answers?

“What am I gonna do about school and soccer, Dad?” my 14-year-old son asked me. I didn’t know. I’d been asking myself the same questions for weeks and didn’t have any answers. It feels like new information comes out every day that undermines my decisions. Everything feels tentative. The future feels like a collection of shreds and patches. 

The last few months have left the foreseeable teen future uncertain. Your teen may be feeling a lot of anxiety: What will school look like? Will I be able to get a part-time job, play sports, play my favorite instrument in the band? What about prom and graduation?

And don’t forget their favorite part of school—seeing their friends. There’s so much unknown for them to process.

Don’t forget, they are old enough to wonder about your adult future and the family’s future. You may feel secure about your job situation, your finances, the health of family members—and something like divorce may be totally out of the question. This doesn’t stop your teen from worrying about those things.

All of these unknowns can easily translate into anxiety, stress, and depression for your teenager. (They can for us adults, too.)

When it comes to the important things in life, we all prefer certainty to uncertainty. But our adult brains are developmentally better suited to live with some uncertainty than our teen’s brain is. Their brain is still developing and processing so many unknowns (that they are invested in) can be particularly difficult for them. How can we help them?

[Read this blog that describes what is happening to teens developmentally.]

1. Model The Behaviors And Attitudes You Want For Your Teen

  • Self-Care: Tending to your physical health and emotional health.
  • Mindfulness: Deep breaths. Self-awareness. Focus. 
  • Critical Thinking: Decisions based on the most reliable information.
  • Optimism: “We are going to come out on the other side even stronger.”
  • Resilience: “We are going to take it one day at a time as a family.”
  • Gratitude: “We still have a lot to be thankful for…”
  • Service: “How can we help others who are struggling?” 

These are all things that your young adult needs to navigate uncertainties they will encounter as future adults.

2. Acknowledge When The Future Is Unknown & When You Just Don’t Know

We want to have answers for our teens and they often expect us to have them. It can be tempting to try to “fake it” or give the answer we think will make them feel better in the moment. Besides being disingenuous, in the long run, it will undermine their confidence in you. You don’t want to be seen as a source of false hope and misinformation.

It is totally appropriate (and honest) to admit it when we don’t know. Saying something like, “I don’t have enough information yet to confidently make a wise decision about that,” doesn’t undermine your trustworthiness and reliability; It enhances it. Your teen can relax (hopefully) and know that when you do make a decision it will be based on the best information and what’s best for the family.

3. Become A Student Of Your Teen 

Be on the lookout for the ways your teen might be struggling with anxiety and stress and depression. A very talkative teen may become quiet. A very quiet teen might become talkative. A normally social teen may become withdrawn. A teen that normally keeps to themselves might suddenly become a social butterfly. Look for any changes in their normal behavior. 

Keep in mind that sometimes teens deal with difficult emotions in unhealthy ways. Be on the lookout for outbursts, disrespect, risky, or harmful behavior. Watch their eating and sleeping habits. As you address their behavior, be sure to address what the real issue may be underneath it.

4. Be Open And Create Space For Your Teen To Express Their Anxiety

Teens will often “show” you when they are struggling before they will “tell” you they are struggling, but there are things you can do to keep the lines of communication open:

  • Make sure your teen knows you have an “open door” policy and that they can talk to you about anything, anytime.
  • Take advantage of car rides and other times you are alone with your teen that don’t feel like you are angling for a “big talk.” Teens often open up when you are doing something else, like cooking or watching television.
  • It’s okay to ask questions like, “How are you feeling about school this year?Then practice active listening skills.
  • Don’t “freak out” at what you hear. Keep that poker face.
  • Don’t ask a million questions, probe gently, empathize, and be a good listener.

5. Recognize When You Are Out Of Your Depth And Get Your Teen Help

Anxiety, stress, depression, and anger are significant and often complex problems—especially in the lives of teens. It is totally appropriate and necessary for you as a parent to recognize when you have reached the limits of how you can help your teen. Don’t stop there. Reach out for help. Contact a counselor.

The unknown is, well, unknown. It is normal to experience fear and anxiety concerning the unknown. There are lots of things that your teen cares deeply about that are just flat out up in the air at the moment. Don’t feel bad that you can’t make the unknown “knowable” for your teen. Model how to face the unknown, be there for your teen, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until the unknown becomes known.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things very uncertain right now, and your kids can sense it. The good news is, you can help your child navigate through the unknown.

As we approach the school year, many parents, perhaps like you, must make the choice of whether to have their children attend school in a face-to-face format, online, or a combination. And even if your kids do grace the halls of their school this year, things will be different, with teachers (and possibly students) wearing masks, social distancing measures, and a heavier concentration on sanitizing (to say the least). 

Schools are planning the best way they know how to provide both safety and a quality education this year for kids, but let’s face it: we’ve never been in this situation before, and there’s no standard operating procedure in place for this. 

All this adds up to the fact that you and your kids face a great unknown in a few short weeks. Just what will this school year be like? It’s a question of uncertainty

As adults, we know what it is to go through those seasons where you don’t know what’s going to happen, and many of us still feel a sense of anxiety during times like these. 

But for children, the uncertainty of what their school year will be like can be especially distressing. And though they may feel an extra measure of anxiety and stress from facing that unknown, you can help your child through it. 

So what can you do to help your child work through this season of uncertainty? 

1. Acknowledge the unknown to your child.

Open up the conversation with your child about not knowing exactly how the school year is going to go. Explain to them whether there’s a decision to be made, and what that may look like in terms they can understand. 

Avoid having decision-making conversations with your child present or asking them what they would choose. Chances are, they will tell you what they would prefer; however, there are factors they cannot understand, and to them, their decision-making is permanent. They need to know that the final decision comes from you, the parent. As a parent, you have to educate yourself and decide what is right for your family. Keep in mind the decision you ultimately make could change based on new information, and you’ll want to let your child know that. 

★ Depending on their age, express the idea of the unknown in language that says, “Because COVID-19 is still a concern, school is going to look different this year. This is the decision I/we have made as your parent(s), because, right now, we think it’s best for our whole family. We hope things won’t change with our decision, but if they do, then we have to figure out the next best thing. But even if we don’t know what it’s going to be like, we are going to be okay, and we are going to get through this together. I’m here to help you through all of it. We aren’t just going to survive—we are going to thrive!” 

2. Don’t “pre-purchase” anxiety.

After reading the first bullet point, you may be nervous that you are injecting a huge dose of shock and anxiety in your child. And of course, they might be at least somewhat apprehensive; that’s to be expected. But don’t let this shake you. Talking about it helps your child process the idea of not knowing what to expect and builds resilience to the stress of unknown situations as they grow.

The important thing to remember is to check your own anxiety at the door. Children follow the cues for anxiety, stress, and depression from their parents (that’s you), and if you are freaking out over an uncertain school year, you are “pre-purchasing” anxiety for your child. It’s okay for you to feel a certain amount of distress for your kids; just remember they are looking to you as a model for regulating emotions and handling their fear. 

3. Normalize what they’re feeling.

Let them know that how they are feeling about the uncertainty of the school year is okay. You don’t want them to feel ashamed or abnormal because of any kind of anxiety or fear they may have. The key is not to fix their emotions, but to help them work through them. Encourage them to identify what they are feeling: Do you feel scared? Nervous? Angry? Keep in mind that they may not know how to articulate what they are feeling. Help them put some words to the emotions. When you can name something, then you can begin to work through it. 

4. Identify what your kids can control.

Anxiety and stress often come from a feeling of losing control. So, helping your kids understand what you can control in the midst of the unknown helps to alleviate those negative emotions. For example, they can ask for help anytime. They can come and talk to you if they are feeling overwhelmed. They can stay organized with their school work. And they can take care of themselves.

★ Additionally, be sure to establish a routine at home when the school year begins. Keep regular meal times and bedtime routines. Routines and structure help give kids a sense of consistency, security, and control, especially in the midst of uncertainty

5. Coach your kids in doing self-care.

Doing intentional things to care for themselves may be your child’s best tool to work through the fear of uncertainty. But this isn’t necessarily natural to them; you’ll have to guide them on a daily basis. Encourage them to get some kind of outside time each day. Help them to go to bed at a decent hour and get plenty of rest each night. (According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 6 and 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night.) Set a limit on screen time, too. Intentional self-care helps uncertain times seem less daunting.   

Times are definitely uncertain. But one thing we do know: this won’t be the only time your children face the unknown. There is a bigger picture here. Life is full of unpredictability. What we teach them now about how to handle uncertain times will go with them into adulthood. And let’s be honest: the unknown of the school year ahead is survivable. You can manage it. And your child will get through it. Helping your child through this unknown will help them strengthen their resilience and grit for a lifetime. 

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Family. Have you ever wondered how you can share the same parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents, a common bloodline, yet see things so differently and have so many different opinions? COVID-19 has highlighted the differences in belief systems, political views, economic status, and so many other issues that can lie within a single-family.

These differences can become polarizing, causing serious divisions and potentially irreparable damage to your family unit. You’re probably reading this because you’re aware that your family is at risk of ripping apart. And of course, you want to do everything you can to keep it together.

How can you keep COVID-19 opinions from tearing your family apart?

Call it Out. You may be the one who has to say, “I’m afraid that we’re going to allow this virus and our opinions on this virus to tear us apart.” You may have to ask, “All of the memories, experiences, love, and connectedness that we’ve shared as a family over the years, are we willing to throw it away because of our opinions about the virus? How do we make sure that doesn’t happen?

The awareness of the virus is infiltrating so many of our thoughts, plans, behaviors, and lifestyles. You may have to be the one who is intentional about shifting the focus to what it means to be a family. Family is the one place that you remain a part of despite the differences. So you learn how to thrive in the midst of difference. Bringing to everyone’s attention the need to be intentional about staying connected as a family in the midst of the virus can be powerful.

The family is bigger than one person. Don’t carry the weight of trying to control how others may or may not prioritize the family. No one person can carry the full weight of keeping the family together. Family means different things to different people even within the same family. Recognize what you can control. Leverage your influence to help your family see the bigger picture. 

Understand your need to be emotionally and mentally healthy. A healthy and secure you will have more influence than an unstable, insecure you. Your family may have helped you develop a sense of self. However, do not depend on your family for your entire sense of self. You can’t depend on your family’s acceptance and agreement to feel validated and complete. If you do, you can run the risk of trying to keep the family together out of fear or a personal need for fulfillment. 

Don’t invest energy trying to change the mind of others. A person convinced against their will is still of the same opinion. Let that sink in. Rarely do I see arguments and debates where someone actually changes their mind. I still haven’t heard of someone changing someone’s mind using social media. Often, the more we try, the more we can slip into trying to control others or lose control of ourselves.

Respect. Leading a conversation about what it means to respect one another can help the family set boundaries and be intentional about respecting one another’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Sometimes we can become so passionate about our position that we totally disrespect the position of others without even realizing it. As a family, having a clear understanding of what it means to respect one another’s differences can help family members coexist with the differing opinions.

Model healthy behavior. Be the one to talk less and listen more. Recognize that people are motivated by different things. Some have good motivations, and others not so good. Manage your emotions and be willing to try and understand your family. If you can help people feel heard, valued, and understood, then you’ve helped your family members know that they matter even if their opinions are different.

Acceptance of choices. Some family members are going to be extremely cautious and follow all of the CDC guidelines. Other family members may believe the virus isn’t a big deal and act accordingly. Some may feel like family members don’t care and are putting others at risk. Others may believe some are acting totally out of fear. A family is made up of individuals who have the freedom to think and feel whatever they choose. Give individuals the freedom to be who they are and you do what you need to do.

Make decisions based on what you know about the virus and your family members. This can be difficult because it may mean we don’t get to see certain people. When a person shows you who they are, believe them. There are conversations you may not need to have with family members because it always sparks animosity. Remember, everyone is learning how to live with COVID-19 in our world. Learning to live with differing opinions can take time.

Look for ways to show that you care about one another. Host virtual family game nights and Zoom family calls. Send one another care packages. Send messages of love and support. COVID-19 can have you so focused on what we can’t do that we forget what we can do

Set aside time to be intentional about spending time with one another and talk about other topics. This helps to remind you that the family is stronger and has more history than COVID-19. For example, celebrating birthdays. This has been a wild year! Instead of letting a birthday go by with just a card or phone call, consider celebrating virtually and making it a big deal because this year will be one for the books for sure! 

✭ Beliefs, opinions, and thoughts regarding COVID-19 dominate social media and news outlets. It hasn’t escaped family dinner tables and Zoom calls and it’s affecting everyone’s ability to show love and care to the ones we care the most about—family. This can cause fear, stress, loneliness, and anxiety. People develop their own expectations—some reasonable and some unrealistic. Family members will respond to change in different ways

You CAN’T control what family members say and do. You CAN focus on being your best self while at the same time working to care for and understand your family. As you model respect and value for each person, you can hope that the love and care you have for your family will help others see that the family is bigger than the virus.

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