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10 Tips for Managing Screen Time During The School Year

It takes patience and consistency to find what works best.

We live in a digital world, so screens are a huge part of our everyday lives. And with school back in session, kids use screens more frequently during the day. Managing screen time during the school year is a big deal for all of us. And since we all spend a lot of time with technology, it’s up to us to help our children have a healthy relationship with their screens. 

Managing screen time during the school year is essential for our kids’ development. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, too much screen time can have side effects, including:1

  • Sleeping problems.
  • Poor self-image.
  • Less time spent outdoors.
  • Lower grades.
  • Attention disorders.

Define how much screen time is enough.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a set recommendation for kids 6 and older. They do recommend that parents set consistent limits and ensure that screens don’t replace sleep and physical activity.2

Explain to your kids that too much time sitting watching screens is not healthy.3,4 Establish consequences if they break the rules you set for them.

Practice what you preach. 

The hardest part of managing your child’s screen time may be managing your own. Kids learn by watching. They will establish their relationship with technology based on your relationship with technology. If you always have the TV on or scroll through your phone whenever you have free time, they will probably do the same. 

If you want your child to learn responsible technology use, model it for them.

Adjust the limits based on the day.

Different days may call for different screen limits. For some families, school days may mean no screens. For others, screen usage may be significantly reduced during school nights. Weekends may get extended screen time. You know your family and should do what’s best for your household. The most essential aspect of screen time is balance. Kids need physical activity and creativity. Make sure they are spending time being active, whether structured or unstructured.

Make bedrooms screen-free.

Keep TVs, video games, and computers in common areas. This keeps kids from disappearing with a screen for hours. It also helps you know what they are using screens for and how much time they spend on them. Screen-free bedrooms are a little more challenging with phones and tablets. Charging devices (even your own) overnight in a common area can be helpful.

Studies show that using screens before bedtime makes it harder for kids to fall asleep. It also reduces sleep quality. And when kids are tired, it’s harder for them to learn.5 

Give your kids other options to keep them active instead of screen time.

They can take walks, ride bikes or scooters, or play outside. Offer other indoor activities, like board games or crafts. Set aside time to play with them. Kids need to be active daily. Even if you can’t be active with them, you can encourage and support them in their activities.

Have them earn screen time during the school year (and beyond).

It’s okay to make your kids complete homework and specific tasks or chores before you allow them to have screen time. There are different ways parents can put this into practice. One option is that homework and chores come first. Then they can have a set amount of screen time depending on how long it is until bedtime. Another is to allow them to earn screen time by completing chores. You can create a system where a task earns X amount of screen time.

Encourage your children’s creativity.

If your child loves watching videos or playing video games, encourage them to create their own. My daughter loves to make videos when we travel. She wants to show others the places she visits and tell them about her experiences. We don’t share these, but she is learning how to vlog. When she gets a little older, she can learn how to create these and make them shareable. 

Engage with your child’s technology. 

Watch videos with your kids and learn to play their games. Both of my kids enjoy watching YouTube creators. We watch with them so we can understand what they are watching, but also learn with them. My son loves to watch a former NASA engineer, and my daughter enjoys cooking videos. We’ve learned a lot as a family through their videos. It’s also common in our house to have family video game nights. Let’s just say MarioKart tournaments get intense!

Look for ways to engage screens as a family through games, videos, or apps.

Use mistakes as teachable moments. 

As your child learns more about technology and screens, they will make mistakes. They may accidentally visit an inappropriate site, watch content you would not approve of, or go over their screen time. Mistakes are great learning opportunities. 

Questions to consider moving forward:

  • What’s one way you can improve your own screen-time habits?
  • What are routines you can start to encourage physical activity and creativity?
  • What area in your house can you designate as a tech-charging zone?
  • What are activities your child can engage in that don’t involve screens?
  • What task can your child complete to earn screen time?
  • What’s one show that your family can watch and use to grow together?

Managing screen time requires patience. Pick one or two of these that you can implement, and choose the easiest for your family. The key is consistency. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right all the time. Remember, their mistakes (and ours) make for great teachable moments.

Other articles:

Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time

How Much Should You Limit Kids’ Screen Time and Electronics Use?

Screen Time for Kids: Guidelines, Boundary Setting, and Educational Recommendations

Sources:

1American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen Time and Children.

2American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and media tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3U.S. National Library of Medicine. Health risks of an inactive lifestyle.

4Barnett, T.A., et al. (2018). Sedentary behaviors in today’s youth—approaches to the prevention and management of childhood obesity: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000591.

5Chang, A.M., et al. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112.

Moreno, M.A., et al. (2016). Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2592.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Parents

Clear communication can help you honor each other.

When you were a child or teen, your parents set rules to protect you and help you learn independence. But now that you’re an adult, there’s been a shift. Roles look different. There is a need for different boundaries: boundaries set with your parents, not by them.

This is new territory for you and your parents.

You’re learning what it means to be self-sufficient, and your parents are finding out they’re no longer in control – to whatever extent they have been. Stress and tensions can rise quickly. Chances are, you’ve seen traits in your parents that may not be healthy. Or maybe you’ve simply decided to do things differently from your parents. There must be boundaries for your relationship to continue in a healthy way.

Without healthy boundaries, tension can easily build from things your parent may do, like:

  • Frequent unexpected visits.
  • Offering unsolicited advice about your relationships, social life, or career choices.
  • Purchasing items for your home, personal life, and/or children without asking.
  • Disregarding your opinions or choices and offering what they think is best for you.

This lack of boundaries can be frustrating. They may have the best intentions, but you must help them understand that you’re an adult. If you don’t address it, it may cause a rift between you and your parents. So now’s the time to set some boundaries. Addressing issues in the parent-adult child relationship leads to higher relationship quality.1

Here are some expert tips from therapists on how to set boundaries with your parents.

Remember the why of setting boundaries.2,3

Feeling anxious is normal because you love your parents and don’t want to hurt them. But remember, boundaries are essential for all types of healthy relationships. Without boundaries, there’s confusion and frustration. You are allowed to have your needs met, so practice self-compassion and remember that you’re doing this because you care about yourself. And you care about your relationship with your parents.

Seek outside advice if necessary.2

Approaching a difficult conversation with your parents can be scary. You may even need to seek professional help to prepare yourself for talking with them. A therapist can help you identify and address any toxic behaviors. If you recognize that your parents’ unhealthy behavior has caused poor boundaries, a therapist can help you and your parents resolve any deep relationship wounds.

Try to stay positive.2

This doesn’t need to be a fight between you and your parents. It may take time for them to accept what you’re saying and adjust their actions. However, if you stay positive, they may be more accepting of what you have to share. Help them understand that you love and respect them but that roles in the relationship have changed.

Have an open conversation.2

We all have a desire to be heard and understood. This goes for your parents as well. Approach the conversation with concern about how they’re doing. They may be lonely since you moved out. They may be concerned. Express your needs and wants by using “I” statements like “I feel like you’re…” No one likes being accused or blamed.

Be clear and concise.3

Before approaching a conversation about boundaries, ask yourself what is bothering you and why. If you have a clear understanding of your concerns, you’ll be better prepared to communicate them clearly. And when you’re ready to have the conversation, be respectful but direct about your desires.

→Instead of saying, “It’s really annoying when you drop by unexpectedly. Stop doing that,” try saying, “I appreciate that you want to come and visit, but I feel flustered when people drop by unannounced… Could you call before you come by?”

Show appreciation.3

Show your gratitude for the care and concern they have for your life. Express that you recognize they want the best for you. Show them you value their presence and role in your life. You just have a desire for how they show up in your life to look a little different.

Know your limits.3

Be clear about where you draw the line. If your primary concern is that your parents frequently drop by unannounced, then be clear about what you’d like to happen. Maybe you have a busy schedule and a social life, and you’d prefer to spend time with them on the weekends only. If that’s best for you, there is nothing wrong with setting limits like this. 

Be conscious of your feelings. You must do what is healthy for you.

Setting boundaries with your parents can be scary, but you can do this. Be clear, kind, and loving. You’ll be grateful that you addressed this issue, and your relationship will be better for it. Effective boundaries lay the ground for healthy, positive relationships.

Helpful reads:

How to Set Boundaries with Your Parents (and Stick to Them)

Boundaries in Relationships and Stress

What To Do When Grandparents Undermine Your Parenting – First Things First

What to Do When You Disagree With the Ones You Love – First Things First

Sources:

1Birditt, K.S., et al. (2009). “If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything at All”: Coping with Interpersonal Tensions in the Parent-Child Relationship During Adulthood. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016486

2Ertel, A. (2022, February 4). How to set boundaries with parents: A therapist’s guide. Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/setting-boundaries-with-parents/

3Mancao, A. (2020, March 25). 6 Steps to setting healthy boundaries with parents (and what that looks like). Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/setting-healthy-boundaries-with-parents/

4Buck, C.A. (2015). Establishing effective personal boundaries. Vanderbilt University Medical Center. https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/news-resource-articles/establishing-effective-personal-boundaries

There’s been a lot of social media buzz lately about a practice that is impacting teens and young adults. It’s called “love-bombing.” This term may be new to you, but the concept will sound familiar. 

A 2017 University of Arkansas study described love-bombing as “excessive communication during the early stages of a relationship to gain control and power.”1 In 1992, a study described this type of behavior as the “Charm Tactic,” or being heavy on the charm to initiate a relationship or keep it going.2 These two studies, done 25 years apart, paint the same picture of someone who overwhelms another with charm, gifts, and adoration to win them over and control them. Does the concept sound familiar now?

As parents, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our children. This goes beyond physical safety to include emotional and sexual safety as well. Being love-bombed can be damaging to your teen. But there are signs that you can be on the lookout for.

If you see these signs, ask questions to learn more and help them know what’s happening. I don’t have to remind you, but your teen probably thinks they know better and doesn’t want you involved in their relationships.

Signs of Love-Bombing

*This list isn’t all-inclusive3,4, nor does someone have to exhibit all of these signs to be a love-bomber. Love-bombing tactics can vary.

1. Excessive compliments

Who doesn’t love compliments? There’s nothing wrong with compliments, but constant praise can be a red flag. Suppose your teen is embarking on a new relationship, and their significant other is already expressing intense love for them. In that case, it’s time to ask some questions. If you hear them say things like, “I’ve never met anyone as perfect as you,” or “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone,” ask your teen how that makes them feel.

2. Expensive gifts

Love-bombing often includes trying to buy someone’s love with expensive gifts. The purpose is to make the love-bombed one feel like they owe their gift-giver something. A healthy relationship can’t be bought. So if your teen frequently receives gifts like new AirPods or Beats headphones, shoes, or clothes, those are red flags. 

3. Consistent texts and messages

Love-bombers want all your attention. In this digital age, it’s normal to communicate, especially early in a relationship, but calling, texting and messaging 24/7 is excessive. And if your teen doesn’t answer or respond quickly, their significant other may get accusatory. 

4. They want all your teen’s attention.

If your teen isn’t with them, they become angry. They may try to invite themselves anywhere the family goes. You may also see your teen withdraw from other friends or social activities to appease this new relationship. In a healthy relationship, each person respects the other’s interests.

5. They try to convince your teen they’re soulmates.

While you can meet your soulmate as a teen, someone shouldn’t be trying to convince your teen they’re soulmates. If they are trying to convince your teen that their relationship is like that in a romantic movie, raise a red flag. They may be trying to pressure your teen into a relationship they aren’t ready for.

6. They get upset with boundaries.

Love-bombers don’t usually like boundaries. They want all of a person’s time, attention, and affection. When your teen establishes boundaries regarding their time or access to technology, the love-bomber may get upset.

If your teen tries to slow down the relationship, they may also turn up the manipulation. 

7. They are needy.

Whatever time your teen gives them is never enough. They want all of it. You may notice your teen getting less and less excited about talking or spending time with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

If you notice any of these signs in your teen’s relationships, your teen may be the victim of love-bombing. They are young and may not see any of this as an issue. But, what do you do?

Don’t attack their partner.

This may isolate your teen and prevent them from confiding in you.

Don’t say, “You’re not allowed to date them.”

Did that work for your parents? It didn’t work for me. That may just make your teen want to stay in the relationship.

Show curiosity.

Ask questions from time to time and respect their responses. Ask them how they feel about their relationship. Find out what they gain from it as well as what they give.

Establish dating rules.

If you feel that the relationship may be unhealthy, establish a rule that their partner must come to your house to spend time together.

Give them plenty of time and positive attention.

Sometimes our teens will enter into unhealthy relationships because they crave attention.

Talk about what a healthy relationship looks like.

Make teaching your teen about healthy relationships a regular part of your conversations. Look for examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors and talk about those.

If you think your teen is being love-bombed, help them see the signs of manipulation before it becomes abusive. Help them see their self-worth and to love themselves for who they are. If your teen needs it, don’t be afraid to seek help from a counselor.

Other blogs:

How to Be a Supportive Parent – First Things First

9 Ways You Can Be Your Teen’s Best Friend

How to Help Your Teen Deal With a Breakup – First Things First

Sources:

1Strutzenberg, C. C., et al. (2017). Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation. https://scholarworks.uark.edu/discoverymag/vol18/iss1/14

2Buss. (1992). Manipulation in Close Relationships: Five Personality Factors in Interactional Context.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00981.x

3Lamont, C. (2019, December 16). Love bombing: 10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/love-bombing

4Laderer, A. (2022, February 9). 9 sinister signs that you’re getting love bombed, according to relationship therapists. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/sex-relationships/love-bomb 

Other helpful articles to read:

What is Love Bombing?

Is it Love, or Love Bombing?

How to Handle Narcissism in a Relationship

How to Keep Your Marriage Strong Over Summer Break

Be intentional and turn toward each other this summer.

School’s out, and my kids are excited about a fun-filled summer. Mom and Dad… not as much. Don’t get me wrong; I love summertime. But summer schedules can be hectic when you’re juggling different camps, vacations, and activities. Sure, the school year is crazy busy, but at least it’s consistent. Summer schedules are a little more challenging. Are any other parents feeling the crunch?

Summertime can add more stress to your marriage as well. Focusing on our relationship can get lost in the frenzy if we aren’t careful. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can keep your marriage strong over the summer, too.

Here are a few ways to get you started:

Date each other.

A regular date night is crucial to the health of your relationship. It can be so easy to fall into a routine in your relationship, especially when kids are in the picture. This is where date night comes in. Dating your mate takes a little more coordination if you have young children. If you don’t currently have a regular date night, now’s the time to start. Create a shared calendar on your phone (if you don’t already use one) and schedule one date night this month. Then flip to next month and plan another one. Keep it going. I mean it! Stop reading right now, and get those summer date nights on the calendar. I’ll wait…

Okay, now that you have dates scheduled… they are scheduled, right? Here are a few more ways to keep your marriage strong.

Make time for intimacy.

Before you put the calendars away, go ahead and schedule some time to get intimate. Wait a minute! Isn’t sex supposed to be spontaneous? Sure, but if you have little kids, you know the reality. Spontaneity is hard to come by. If you’re not intentional, it’s easy to let your sex life fall into the background. But your marriage needs sexual and physical intimacy. And what gets put on the calendar often gets done, am I right? So, decide how often and when and schedule it. Just to clarify, this is a conversation for the two of you. And don’t worry, just ’cause it’s scheduled doesn’t make it boring. [Read 3 Ways to Have Better Sex in Marriage.]

Share a hobby or activity.

Identify at least one common hobby or activity and make time to do that together. You may need to break out the calendar and schedule it depending on the activity. But there may be hobbies you can do at home while the kids play. This doesn’t have to be a family activity, but it can be if you both agree that you’ll enjoy it just as much.

Daily check-ins.

As you’re going in different directions, getting the kids places, and working, it can be easy to spend less time talking as a couple. Carve out some time each day to check in with each other. Maybe it’s over coffee in the morning. Perhaps it’s 30 minutes outside together at the end of each workday. 

When you check in on each other, give your spouse space to vent. If one of you is working from home while the kids are out of school, you may need an avenue to let go of stress. Give each other space to share what’s going on.

Show appreciation daily.

Nothing says love like appreciation, so don’t forget to show your appreciation to the one you share a life and home with. Here are some easy ways to show how much you appreciate your spouse:

  • Send a text telling them how much they mean to you. (Bonus points if you’re specific about why you appreciate them.)
  • Leave Post-it notes for them. If they leave for work, leave them in their bag or lunch. If your spouse stays home, hide notes somewhere they will find them throughout the day.
  • Say it out loud and often. And say it in front of others, especially your kids. 
  • Give them a break (or at least a few hours) to do whatever they enjoy most.

Invest in your marriage.

Take an online course together. There are loads of resources to help strengthen your marriage during the summer or any other season. You can focus on intimacy, communication, parenting, or other topics. Investing in your marriage now strengthens it for the future.

Speak your spouse’s love language.

If the two of you have never taken Gary Chapman’s Love Languages assessment, now is the time. We all have a primary love language, and when someone speaks it to us, we feel loved and appreciated. We also usually express love using our primary language, so learning your spouse’s love language is crucial to helping them feel loved. 

Hold hands.

An easy way to keep your marriage strong is to simply hold hands. Holding hands releases endorphins, a mood-boosting chemical. It also releases oxytocin, making you feel more bonded to your spouse. And it’s a stress reliever, too.

Make this summer a great one for your marriage. Not because of a big trip, but because you both chose to be intentional and turn toward each other.

Other blogs:

The Importance of MeaningLESS Conversations – First Things First

How to Talk About Sex in Marriage – First Things First

8 Ways To Care for Your Spouse’s Mental Health – First Things First

Sources:

Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction

Walsh, C. M., Neff, L. A., & Gleason, M. (2017). The role of emotional capital during the early years of marriage: Why everyday moments matter. Journal of family psychology: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 31(4), 513–519. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000277

Goldstein, P., Weissman-Fogel, I., Dumas, G., & Shamay-Tsoory, S. G. (2018). Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (11), E2528-E2537. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1703643115

10 Tips for Surviving Summer Break

You can thrive this summer when you all know what to expect.

The end of the school year is right around the corner. This time of year is filled with field trips, field days, school programs, and parties. Then, it all comes to a close, and another school year is behind us. Bring on the summer!

It’s time for camps, vacations, and activities. Kids love summer. On the other hand, parents may not always be the biggest fan. Schedules change, and routines shift. Summertime often involves a lot of calendar juggling and planning.

Summertime doesn’t have to stress you out, though.

Here are some tips for summer survival:

Put a calendar in your kitchen or living room that everyone can see and keep up with.

If your summer looks like ours, there are lots of camps and activities to keep track of. The best way to make sure you’re all on the same page is to post a highly visible calendar. Get creative with colors for each family member. Just remember to make it simple enough that it doesn’t get overwhelming.

Schedule a weekly family meeting.

Summer schedules can change from week to week. A great practice is to schedule a weekly family meeting to discuss what’s coming up. Sunday evening could be an ideal time. Include the whole family and get input from the kids.

Adjust your school year routines, but don’t throw them out.

Kids need structure. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you should throw all the routines out the window. If you’re like us, you still have a work schedule for the summer. Bedtimes may look different, and morning routines may shift, but structure brings security for your kids. We push bedtime back during the summer, and the kids usually wake up a little later. Just remember that you’ll have to adjust back to school year routines in a couple of months.

Schedule downtime for you as a family.

It’s tempting to stuff the calendar with camps and activities to keep the kids preoccupied. Make sure to schedule downtime and game nights for the family. Leave some time for the kids to be kids and entertain themselves.

Give your kids space.

Some kids need time to recharge (some parents, too). Set aside time for individual play or rest. 

Be flexible.

Schedules are great, but also be flexible and spontaneous. Life happens, and plans change. That’s ok. 

Make a chore list.

Kids are home more over the summer and have more free time. Make a list of all the chores around the house and assign everyone tasks. Get creative and post the list on the fridge or near the family calendar. You can even schedule out when chores need to be done. No matter your child’s age, there are age-appropriate chores for them.

Clarify expectations regarding technology.

Set ground rules in your house for screen use during the summer. We put timers on our kids’ tablets and gaming systems. There is a daily cutoff for technology. Also, consider requiring chores to be done before they can use the tech.

Schedule a date night with your significant other.

While working on that calendar, schedule a date night for you and your love. Intentionally make time for the two of you.

Ditch the pressure.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to make this the best summer ever. Your kids don’t need lots of activities and trips. They need you! It amazes me what my kids classify as the best days. It’s often just time spent together.

Make this summer a summer they’ll never forget – not because of trips or adventures, but because you enjoyed it as a family. Summers get more hectic as your kids get older. Take advantage of time with them when they’re young and make the most of it with these summer survival tips. Have a great summer!

Sources:

Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2019;13(2):142-144. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1559827618818044

Malatras, J et al. First things first: Family activities and routines, time management and attention. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 2016; 47: 23-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2016.09.006.

Managing Expectations for Mother’s Day

Break down these 3 barriers so you can all win and feel the love!

Have you ever asked your spouse what they plan on doing for you on Mother’s Day? Raise your hand if they’ve replied:

Shoot… Is that THIS weekend? 

or

Whatever you want to do, Babe.

or

Umm… nothing. You’re not my mom. 

All wrong answers. That sinking feeling of being unappreciated, taken for granted and forgotten drowns out any last-minute plans they may try to scramble together. The damage has been done. 

Your expectations to be thought of and celebrated have been shattered to dust. And if this isn’t the first, second, or third offense, you may even feel numb to it now. Disappointment is inevitable. No point in getting your hopes up, right?

You’ve probably figured out by now that motherhood is a thankless job. It’s not just what you do – it becomes who you are. It’s like breathing… and it’s natural, instinctual, automatic. But it’s also grueling, emotional and exhausting. So having your family acknowledge all that hard work AND celebrate it one day out of the entire year is not asking for too much. 

But what trips up most couples is actually that – the ASKING part. “What are you going to do for me?” is a loaded question if you already have unspoken expectations of what you want.

But shouldn’t my spouse care enough to look at a calendar and plan ahead? Shouldn’t they know me well enough to know what I’d want to do/how I’d like to be celebrated? Shouldn’t they realize that even though I’m not THEIR mother, I’m a mother, and that’s what this holiday is all about?!

First, that’s a lot of shoulding… So let’s break down some expectation barriers together so we can all win on Mother’s Day.

Barrier #1: You expect your spouse to think and act like you.

It’s easy to believe that everyone (including your spouse) sees the world the way you do. This sets you up for some pretty unrealistic expectations and 

disappointment. You want your spouse to magically know and do exactly what you would do (and probably are doing for your own mother). Maybe you expect them to…

  • Speak the same love language as you. For example: Your spouse may think a signed card shows they care, while you long for a handwritten, thoughtful love letter. Or they may think flowers are the universal language of love, but you find them impractical and a waste of money. Or they may tell you to take the “day-off” and go get a massage or do your nails or whatever you want… but your love language is Quality Time, and you want to celebrate with your family (without any of the normal responsibilities of motherhood…)
  • Have the same skills as you. For example: Your spouse is a spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of person. They don’t enjoy planning. So they wait ‘til the last minute to figure out what to do. But this seems lazy or unthoughtful to you (a planner) when really, it’s their natural temperament. Or they are very logical, and thinking of creative ways to show love is like speaking a foreign language to them. So they get you a super practical gift like new towels or a car charger when you want something meaningful.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your spouse is a unique individual.

They are not YOU. And that’s a good thing! Our differences make us stronger. Talk about your differences. You most likely are speaking different love languages, so discover what each other’s love language is and try to speak it fluently and frequently. If you already know each other’s love languages, a simple reminder can go a long way! 

Barrier #2: You expect your spouse to read your mind.

Whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30… your spouse cannot read your mind. We joke about this – but when was the last time you’ve thought or said, “You should know what I like! I’ve only told you 1 million times!”? Been there, said that way too often.

The real issue here is that you long to feel seen, understood, and known deeply. This requires intentionally working on your emotional intimacy, which is an ongoing process of growing in your understanding of each other’s feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, motivations, etc. You know what you want and need. But it changes over time and throughout different seasons of life. 

Break down the barrier by telling your spouse exactly what you’d like for Mother’s Day and why it’s so important to you.

Sharing what would make you feel the most acknowledged, valued and celebrated doesn’t diminish your spouse’s effort; it encourages it. The more you tell your spouse how you feel loved the most and why, the more your spouse has the chance to love you in that way… and the deeper your emotional intimacy will grow.1 This doesn’t mean you have to plan the whole day. You just have to clearly communicate what you want or need. Leave the little details up to your spouse! 

Barrier #3: You expect your spouse to be perfect.

No matter how hard your spouse tries, they’ll never be perfect. Expecting perfection sets unrealistic standards that will make them believe they aren’t good enough. It’ll push them away, and you’ll end up experiencing the opposite of what you wanted to feel.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your expectations may be unrealistic.

Take a moment. See if maybe you’re setting the bar too high so that it feels out of reach to your spouse. Have you criticized their efforts in the past? If you have, there’s a good chance they don’t want to fail again (and maybe they think they can’t fail if they don’t even try…). Think about what your spouse is good at and enjoys doing – that still fills your love tank. Telling them exactly how you’d feel loved and appreciated will set them up for success and set your expectations at a realistic level. 

So this year, instead of asking what your spouse will do, try telling them what you’d like to do first. 

Take the pressure off of them to decode your side-eye sighs and do your spouse a favor:

  1. Spell it out.
  2. Be clear and specific before any resentment starts to build. If you’re a planner, talk about it a couple of weeks in advance.
  3. If you like surprises, give your spouse a few options for things you’d like to do and let them choose!  

You DESERVE to be celebrated, Mama. Mother’s Day is a great opportunity for your husband and family to do that. So be honest and open about what would make you feel appreciated and loved. 

Source

1McNulty, J.K., et al. (2004). Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage: Should Couples Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst? 

Easy Ways to Make Your Wife Feel Loved on Mother’s Day

Celebrate and appreciate Mom for who she is and all she does.

It’s May, and you know what that means… Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to celebrate the women who have been influential in our lives. My mom, grandmothers, and mother-in-law have been significant in shaping me into the person I am. 

But, this day is about all the moms in my life. And my wife is the most significant mom (don’t worry, my mom knows it’s true). She’s the one I chose to do life with. She’s the one who made me a dad. So, celebrate your mom, grandmothers, and mother-in-law, but also celebrate your wife. And I don’t mean just helping the kids make her feel special. Guys, you should make her feel all the love as well. 

Here are some ideas to help you make sure that your wife feels all the love this Mother’s Day:

  • Make a video asking your kids what Mom means to them. Here are some questions to kick you off. What does Mom say the most? What is Mom’s favorite thing to do? Of all the things you love about Mom, what do you love the most?
  • Have the kids create a song about Mom and perform it for her on Mother’s Day. 
  • Help the kids make her breakfast or lunch. It doesn’t have to be extravagant… just from the heart. Let the kids lead out and choose what they want to make.
  • Let her sleep in on Mother’s Day. This is a big win in my house. We all know moms need rest.
  • In-Home Spa Day, anyone? My 6-year-old likes to paint nails and give foot rubs. You can all pamper Mom as a family.
  • Homemade cards are always a win. Encourage the kids to make cards that represent their personalities.
  • Does Mom love to travel? Spring is an excellent time for a day trip. What’s within driving distance in your area that she would love to visit?
  • Is Mom crafty? What is her favorite craft? Whether she likes to paint, knit, or anything else, get some supplies together and create as a family. 
  • Does Mom love movies? Watch her favorite movie as a family. Create a movie theater experience for her, complete with popcorn and her favorite snacks.

Here are a few more ideas specifically for you fellas:

  • Plan a date night or weekend getaway for just the two of you. Work out the details yourself.
  • Be intentional about speaking her love language on Mother’s Day. 
  • Give her a massage. I don’t just mean a shoulder rub. Break out the massage oil and pamper her.
  • Clean the house. Moms often feel the pressure to have a clean house. Take care of this for her.

Most importantly, let’s show Mom that she is loved and appreciated.

Research shows four factors had more effects on helping moms feel supported in well-being and parenting:

  1. Feeling loved unconditionally.
  2. Feeling comforted in distress.
  3. Authenticity in relationships.
  4. Satisfaction with friendships.

I’ve learned over the years (from both my mom and my wife) that celebrating Mom is less about the cost and more about the thought and heart that’s put into the gift. That’s what matters most. 

Don’t let anything stop you. Make this the best Mother’s Day ever!

Sources:

Who mothers mommy? Factors that contribute to mothers’ well-being. Dev Psychol. 2015 December ; 51(12): 1812–1823.

Other blogs:

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day With a Difficult Mom – First Things First

Mom, Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Celebrated – First Things First

Should Your Adult Child Move Back Home?

You can foster independence and responsibility while you set boundaries.

Do you have an adult child living at home part-time or full-time? Are you considering this kind of arrangement? You might be struggling as you think about how to nurture and honor their adulthood while still being the adult parent in your home. I’ve got essential principles and practical help as you set boundaries with adult children. Let’s begin by examining the adult in the somewhat strange term adult child

Everyone begins life being cared for by others. And if we live long enough, we each end our lives being cared for by other people. Somewhere in between is the chapter of life we call adulthood

Adulthood: When you bear the responsibility of taking care of yourself.

If you’re a parent, you’ve brought a child into this world who began life utterly dependent on you. But as any toddler will show you, the desire to be independent is built in. It’s human nature for the toddler to protest and say, No, I’ll do it myself. That’s a healthy predisposition. Remember: The ultimate goal of parenting is to transition a dependent person into an independent person. 

Parents raise future adults who do life themselves. 

The toddler can’t actually do it themselves, and we don’t expect them to. But when is it reasonable to expect your adult child to be responsible for themselves and no longer dependent on you?

The transition can be tricky. It typically occurs between the late teens and early 20s. How do you know when your child is an adult? Every individual is different. You know where your young adult is from a developmental standpoint. But there are some significant signposts.

At age:

18Legally accountable. Vote. Enlist in the military. Marry without parental consent.

21 – Can buy tobacco, alcohol, and in many states, cannabis.

25Rent a car. 

26Latest age they can be on most parents’ health insurance.

What do you see when you look at those numbers? From 18 to 26, there’s a window of time where adult freedoms and responsibilities kick in. Hopefully, we prepared our kids for the “training wheels” to come off during their teenage years. At 18, the training wheels are definitely beginning to come off. By the early to mid-20s, the transition is complete.

Your toddler is now an adult peddling through life on their own.

Remember: Adulthood  = Independence + Responsibility.

★ If we don’t give our adult children responsibilities, they can’t be independent and reach adulthood. This only extends their childhood and delays their maturity.

There are legitimate circumstances that may cause your adult child to be at home: College, unemployment, experiencing childbirth, illness, even a broken marriage or partnership. Our goal as parents is to promote independence through education, employment, financial stability, and ultimately, living on their own. Moving back home (in most cases) should be a temporary arrangement marked with tangible goals leading to their moving out.

MINDSET SHIFT:

Think of an adult child living at home as more like a housemate and less like a teenager. Your name is on the mortgage or lease. Sure, there should be healthy conversations. But you get the final word.

★ Something(s) To Think About. As parents, we have an impulse to do anything we can for our kids. Know your limits. Understand the healthy freedoms & responsibilities your adult child needs to grow into an independent adult. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Will there be an agreed-upon end date? 
  • What signposts can you put in place to mark educational & occupational goals? 
  • Will you be dealing with a young person who has drug or alcohol issues? Significant mental health issues? 
  • Will your child be bringing a baby with them? 
  • Despite your good intentions, realistically, can you handle this? 

Avoid problems before they happen. Address and agree to boundaries before an adult child moves back home (if possible). Put them in writing. Sign them like a rental agreement or contract

What are sensible, reasonable requirements or conditions you would have for a housemate to reside with you? 

1. They’re reasonably easy to live with. They respect you, your property, and your boundaries.

Start here. You and your adult child living at home will occasionally experience friction. That’s reasonable. They’re adult family

(If it helps, think of your adult child as a stranger who is renting a room at your place. There would undoubtedly be limits.) 

Sadly, there are numerous cases of adult children intimidating, manipulating, or even verbally and physically abusing their parents. You wouldn’t put up with that behavior from a renter. You can’t tolerate such behavior from your adult child. Basic respect is a minimum requirement. Understand what abuse is in all of its forms.* 

2. They’re a contributor, not just a consumer – a giver, not just a taker.

This arrangement shouldn’t just be a net financial gain for your adult child. It should instill discipline and be instructive. Catch this: The person doing the work is learning and growing. The person sacrificing is the person developing character and life skills. This person must be your adult child. 

What resources do they have? Income? What amount can they reasonably contribute? Tough Love Alert: If your adult child is enrolled in school, they can probably work part-time. If your adult child isn’t in school and is unemployed, their job is to find a job. 

What about time & energy? Your adult child can help with household cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and meal prep & clean up. Organize these responsibilities with systems and schedules. Focus on clear communication. If you’re providing childcare while your son or daughter is at work or school, factor that into the division of labor. (I know, I know, but this is your grandchild, right? Call up a local daycare or preschool. Understand the value of the service you are providing.)

3. Hopefully, this is a harmonious, temporary situation.

Don’t be surprised if adjustments take some time, it’s difficult, or it isn’t working out. It’s ok to feel bad if your adult child is in a tough spot in their life. It’s understandable to want to help. Maybe you can. Perhaps you shouldn’t. What’s certain is that you can’t be motivated by guilt or a well-intentioned, “I can fix this.” Let that stuff go. Be the parent your adult child needs today. To let them play video games 24/7, “borrow” money constantly, or take advantage of you is to stunt the growth of their adult independent living skills. You love them too much to do that

4. If you allow your adult child to move in with you, the situation should be right for you both.

Communicate and set boundaries upfront. Agree on how you’ll know the arrangement is working and can continue to an agreed-upon end date. As difficult or uncomfortable as it may be, communicate the signs and consequences that will bring an end to this arrangement. 

Remember: Your adult child is becoming the person they will be for the rest of their life.

*Domestic Violence Hotline

Do you feel unsafe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.

Sources:

Adult Children: The Guide to Parenting Your Grown Kids

Rules, Boundaries, and Older Children: How to Cope with an Adult Child Living at Home

Rules for Adult Children | Boundaries for Adult Kids Living at Home

Adult Children: Relating to Them in the Best Way – Dr. John Townsend

Setting Boundaries with Adult Children — Lilley Consulting

Emerging Adulthood

Resources:

7 Ways To Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions

Keys to Multigenerational Communication – First Things First

The Art of Communication – First Things First