Posts

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.

As you were raising your children you emphasized the importance of treating each other with respect, making wise choices and doing the right thing. So, why do your adult children make poor decisions?

Seriously, let’s be honest. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard not to experience anger, perhaps some guilt and even resentment toward your grown children when you watch them repeatedly treat you or others disrespectfully, make poor decisions with money or their career, or make poor choices in general.

You may even question where you went wrong as a parent…“How could this child have grown up in our home and be making life-altering decisions that are affecting them AND the lives of their loved ones and friends?” you ask yourself over and over again.

☆ While you might be initially tempted to swoop in and rescue, take a deep breath and keep reading.

Before you beat yourself up and allow guilt to invade your mind, stop. It’s highly likely you did everything you could to help prepare your child for adulthood. Questioning every decision you made as a parent isn’t helpful for anyone. 

Here are some ways you can still be a guide for your grown child and give yourself peace of mind – even if they’re making poor decisions.

Communicate.

If you have a voice at all in your child’s life, now would be a good time to ask to have a conversation with them. As the parent of an adult child, how you approach this conversation can make the difference in whether or not you’ll be afforded the opportunity to continue to speak into their life. BEFORE you have this conversation, process through your own emotions in order to be as unemotional as possible while you’re talking with them. Also, think about what really needs to be said.

This should not be a lecture or interrogation. Ask them about what they’re trying to accomplish. Express your concern for what you see them doing or how you see them behaving. You might be able to offer wisdom, suggest other people for them to talk with, or resources to assist them in getting back on track. Avoid fixing it for them

Set boundaries.

Regardless of whether you’re able to have a conversation with your child, if you’ve not already set very clear boundaries for them, now is the time. Sometimes parents feel like they’re being unloving when they do this. In reality, the exact opposite is true. This is one of the most loving things you can do to help them move forward in a healthy way. Consider boundaries such as: 

  • You’ll not tolerate being treated disrespectfully, so if they can’t be respectful, they can’t be in your home. 
  • If they’re dealing with addictive behavior, you’re willing to help them get the help they need, but you won’t support their habit.1
  • They won’t be able to access your money, even if something were to happen to you.
  • Giving them money to bail them out of financial mistakes will not be possible.  
  • Taking responsibility for their behavior in any way won’t happen.
  • Moving back home is not an option. OR if moving back home could be an option, it wouldn’t happen without a contract in place about what will happen while they are at home and a move-out date set. A warning: if you choose to let them move back home, even with a contract in place, it could be very difficult to get them out.

Avoid enabling.

No matter how old your child is, your role as parent never stops, but it does change. When they’re adults, you’re more the coach or advisor on the sidelines, not their manager. It is incredibly painful to watch your children make poor decisions and not swoop in to fix it. Unless you want your 30, 45, 50-year-old child expecting you to continue to make everything alright for them, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT enable them by taking responsibility for their actions. Don’t confuse enabling with loving your adult child.

Don’t cave.

This may require you to pull together a group of trusted friends to support you and help you stay strong. We love our children. Following through on our commitments to keep the boundaries that are in place and not rescue them can feel so unloving. It just goes against everything in us as parents. Yet, standing strong and following through with what you said you would do is actually the most helpful thing you can do for your child to encourage movement in a healthy direction.

Manage your emotions.

Parenting adult children who make poor decisions can be like a roller coaster ride. One minute you think you are making progress and the next day you are in the pit again. It’s tempting to let them have it, but don’t. You do need to be able to process your emotions, but don’t do it with your child. Talk with a trusted wise friend or seek out counseling. Let the tears flow, put words to the disappointment, anger and resentment you feel, grieve what you thought would be that is not, and make a plan for how you will continue to live as fully as possible even in the midst of your adult child living in turmoil. This is vital.

Don’t let their behavior put a damper on your love for them.

Sometimes it’s hard not to take your adult child’s behavior personally as though they are doing it just to get back at you. While that is possible, it isn’t necessarily true. They still need to know there is nothing they could do to make you love them more or love them less. Your love for them isn’t conditional.

Live your life.

When people ask you how you are, in your heart of hearts, you feel like you are only doing as well as your children are doing. At some point, we have to separate our adult child’s behavior from ourselves and choose not to let them rob us of all of our joy in life. I’m not saying we don’t grieve. What I am saying is, we don’t allow it to consume us.

It’s funny—as our children move from one stage to the next, we think to ourselves, “Wow, I’m glad we are past that.” believing the next stage will be easier only to find out the current stage has its own set of unique challenges. When we finally believe we’ve arrived at a place where our adult children can function on their own, we find even this season of parenting has its own set of challenges, especially because they can do so much damage that is completely out of our control, but we can be impacted immensely by it. 

Being the parent of adult children who make poor decisions or behave badly is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and tenacity to do what you know is in their and your best interest. Stand strong. Love powerfully. And, in those moments when you are weak and deviate from the plan, give yourself some grace, get back up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Sources

1Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation. (2018, August 24). Boundaries in Addiction Recovery. 

2Smith, K. (2018, March 14). What Is the Difference Between Supporting and Enabling? PsychCentral. 

Image from Unsplash.com

8 Reminders for a Great School Year

Decrease stress and drama with these steps.

Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? It seems like just yesterday that kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break.

Are you ready to kick off a great school year with less stress and as little drama as possible?

Here are eight reminders to help parents set the stage for a great year:

  1. It’s okay to say “no” when commitments get too demanding. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they participate in too many activities. Ask yourself, “Are we in control of our schedule, or does it control us?”
  1. Saying “no” can be for you, too. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to more drama. Ask yourself, “Will my family benefit more from this activity or from an unstressed parent?”
  1. Routines and structure at home will help everyone. Having consistency at home is best for children and parents alike. When you set a bedtime, morning, and getting home routine, you’ll actually decrease stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Ask your family, “What’s one routine we can start that will help everyone after getting home from school?”
  1. Intentional evenings create smooth mornings. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before bedtime can make the morning better. Anything you (and your kids) can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! Ask your family, “What’s one thing we can all be responsible for every evening to help our mornings go better?”
  1. Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. Start by giving each child a short list of responsibilities as their contribution to the family. It’s tempting to do things yourself because it’s faster or easier. But it’s good to develop the habit of delegating stuff you know they can handle. When you face the temptation to jump in and take over a task, tell yourself,  “Giving room for independence will have a bigger impact on my child than if we’re late.”
  1. You will always be one of your child’s teachers. As a parent, you’ll always be your child’s first teacher. But the job isn’t over just because they’re in school! From homework help to life skills, try to be active in your child’s education. Ask your child, “What is one subject you feel a little nervous about? Is there anything I can do to help support you in that subject?”
  1. Technology is a tool. Technology is almost always a huge part of education, so setting screen limits and technology boundaries can be tricky! You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media. Ask your child’s teacher, “What role does technology play in the classroom? And what are the expectations for technology at home?”
  1. Regular family meetings can help keep communication open. Set a weekly time for the family to all sit down together – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, and see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school. Plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. Ask your family, “What are two things you’d like us to talk about more often?”

Getting into the swing of things as the school year starts doesn’t have to take till fall break! Make time for your family to connect and communicate – it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free and great start to the school year for your family!

Other blogs:

8 Ways to Manage Family Time – First Things First

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

How Technology Affects Families – First Things First

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

,

What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent

You can come together and move forward as a family.

Parenting has evolved since I was a kid. But not necessarily because of cultural shifts as much as access to information. Research, blogs, and social media have made it easy to access information about how our parenting impacts kids. This information can help us to better understand the long-term impact of our parenting. It also reshapes what this generation sees as good or bad parenting. Parents often search for information to help them when they view their spouse as a bad parent.

Before we look deeper into this, let’s clarify what a “bad” parent looks like. 

If your spouse is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to your child (or you), this article isn’t for you. I strongly urge you to stop reading and seek help. Contact the National Children’s Advocacy Center. The following information is not intended for your situation or to condone that type of parent.

For our purposes, let’s take a look at the parenting styles to define what a bad parent looks like. There are four main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. An uninvolved parenting style is typically characterized as being distant with little communication. They may ensure their child’s basic needs are met but are involved little beyond that. An uninvolved parenting style is considered bad parenting.

If you think your spouse is a bad parent, you may feel like they:

  • Show little or no affection to their children.
  • Don’t provide emotional support for their children.
  • Don’t set rules, boundaries, or expectations.
  • Don’t know their child’s friends.
  • Have no involvement with their child’s education.

We have to acknowledge that parenting, like life, has seasons. You may look at this list and say, “Yep, my spouse isn’t involved with our child. They’re a bad parent.” I would ask you two questions first. 

  • Is this a busy season?
  • Do they have a desire to be more involved?

Your spouse may be in a busy season due to work or life demands. I don’t want to justify their actions, but there is a difference between a bad parent and a busy parent. 

If you think your spouse is a bad parent and you’re reading this, you know something needs to change.

How do you help them become a more involved or better parent?

→Open the lines of communication.

You recognize there’s an issue. You may have to take the first step toward your spouse. A good rule is not to bring up these issues when frustrated. An argument isn’t going to bring resolution. 

Schedule a coffee date with your spouse. Let them know how you feel without being accusatory. It may be challenging, but using “I” statements to express your feelings is an excellent way to discuss frustrations in a relationship. 

Perhaps you could start the conversation like this: “Lately, I’ve noticed some distance between you and our son. I want to ensure that you’re getting the time with him he needs. Is there something I can do to help us get on the same page?”

→Seek to understand.

Our parenting style is often a result of how we were parented, good or bad. Your spouse parents the way they do for a reason. Discuss these questions to dive deeper:

  • What were the parenting styles in each of our homes?
  • Which patterns do we want to change about how our parents raised us?
  • What healthy habits do we want to maintain?

This conversation is as much about your parenting as their parenting. You may gain insight into why your spouse parents the way they do. You may learn something about yourself. This may open up some emotional wounds. If so, don’t be afraid to seek help from a coach or counselor.

→Find common ground.

Look for good parenting resources that you can discuss together. Identify the common parenting values in your family. Do you both value responsibility, hard work, or helping others? Establish goals for your parenting. What do you want your parenting to result in? Write down the positive parenting contributions from your spouse. Build on these positives.

→Avoid good cop, bad cop.

There will be disagreements over how you both parent, but those are conversations for the two of you. As you and your spouse become better parents together, try to avoid fighting in front of your kids. Present a united front. Remember, you’re a team. Your child needs to see that the two of you care for each other and them.

Just because you think your spouse is a bad parent doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. You can come together and move forward as a family. It’s gonna take work, some compromise, and lots of conversations. The process is worth it for your kids, your marriage, and future generations of your family.

Sources:

Baumrind. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior. https://doi.org/10.2307/1126611.

Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1242-x.

Other blogs:

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**

Image from Pexels.com

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.

The term “default parent” has become more popular in the last few years. Essentially, the default parent is responsible for most of their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs. If you and your spouse are parents, one of you is probably the default parent. And if you have to ask who it is, it probably isn’t you. The default parent carries most of the parenting load, which can be exhausting if you are overloaded with responsibilities.

Parenting may never truly be 50/50. 

One of you may carry more responsibilities due to circumstances or a preference. What’s important is that the two of you agree on who will do what regarding parenting. Remember, first and foremost, you two are a team. Parenting takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes both of you working together.

So, fellow default parent, let’s have a quick chat. You’re probably exhausted and stressed out (to be honest, most parents are to some extent). You may feel unheard or neglected. You may be on the verge of burnout. And you may even be resentful toward your spouse. All of this can hurt your relationship. I don’t want your relationship to suffer.

It’s time to talk to your spouse about being the default parent. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Be aware.

Awareness is the first step toward change. You recognize you’re carrying most parenting responsibilities, but it doesn’t have to be overbearing. Let the following statement sink in: “Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I have to.”

Remember that communication is key.

Good communication truly is the foundation of many solutions in a relationship. If we don’t talk to each other, how can we expect our relationship to grow and thrive? Schedule a time with your spouse to sit down and discuss what parenting looks like in your marriage.

As you have this conversation, you’ll want to keep a few do’s and don’ts in mind:

DON’T talk about this when you’re frustrated.

DO set aside a time with no distractions.

DON’T accuse or put all the blame on them.

DO express how you feel using “I” statements.

DON’T interrupt when your spouse responds.

DO listen to understand.

DON’T jump to conclusions about how you became the default parent.

DO seek to understand your spouse’s viewpoint.

Most importantly, be respectful with your spouse. Remember, marriage is a partnership, and you’re on the same team.

Write it down.

Make a list of everything you do to keep the house and family operating. Ask your spouse to write down everything they do, too. Don’t write it for them. You may think you know what they do and don’t do, but assuming isn’t helpful. After you’ve written it down, have a conversation about how best to address the imbalance.

Acknowledge what you both do in parenting and why it’s important.

As parents, it’s valuable to acknowledge what you both bring to the table. Stress the importance of what you both do. Even if you think your spouse doesn’t do enough when it comes to parenting, show appreciation for what they do for the family.

Reset (or set) expectations for who will do what.

Maybe you became the default parent because of circumstances. Maybe you stayed home with your newborn, then took on all the responsibilities and never stopped. Perhaps you have a more flexible schedule and can absorb more responsibilities. Maybe being the default parent was a conscious choice that you and your spouse discussed. Regardless of how you got here, it’s time to reset expectations. 

Own the responsibilities you take on, and only those.

Trust that your spouse will take care of what they have agreed to be responsible for. They don’t need to be micromanaged or reminded constantly. Instead, encourage them and let them know you appreciate what they own. If it’s their responsibility, it’s their responsibility. I know people get frustrated when they ask me to do something and I respond by saying, “Let me check with my wife.” But she keeps the family calendar. I’m conscious of not committing us to something without checking with her first. 

This shouldn’t be a one-and-done conversation, either. Circumstances will change, and every stage of parenting brings on new challenges and responsibilities. Revisit this conversation often to check in with and check on each other. You’re a team, and your marriage is healthier when you move in the same direction.

Sources:

Modern Marriage – Till Chores do Us Part – Today’s Parent

Roskam et al. (2022). Gender Equality and Maternal Burnout: A 40-Country Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 53(2), 157-178.