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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

5 Things Strong Families Have in Common

SOURCE:  Sanya Pelini

The perfect family is a myth. Every family experiences stress-provoking changes time and time again. Some families, however, are better able to cope with tough times. Science defines these families as “strong families.”

Several studies have found that strong families share similar characteristics. Here are five characteristics of strong families.

1 | Strong families spend time together

Families that spend time together are more likely to build stronger ties than those that don’t. However, that time doesn’t count if it’s spent sitting passively together in front of a screen. It also doesn’t count if it’s spent arguing. In other words, quality trumps quantity.

Reaching an ideal work-life balance is often a challenge for many parents. However, installing simple family routines can ensure that you get to hang out as a family even when you’re busy parents. Simple everyday activities such as playing games together, taking walks together, sharing meals, sharing household chores, watching a movie together, etc. help strengthen family bonds. There is evidence that having everyday or regular routines provides family members with roots and helps families overcome moments of stress.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Little pieces of time matter too. Take advantage of the moments spent in the car or in traffic to talk to your kids about your day and ask them about theirs.
  • Create your own family rituals.
  • Schedule “hang out time” in your to-do list.

2 | Strong families foster optimism

Positive psychology research has proven that strong families have positive emotions. They have a more optimistic outlook and believe that they are equipped to adapt to change. Strong families are able to “withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges” and are also more ready to accept the things that cannot be changed.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Focus on solutions rather than on problems.
  • The book “Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness” states that “family belief systems powerfully influence how we view a crisis, our suffering and our options.” Considering challenges as opportunities to strengthen family bonds can make it easier to overcome life’s challenges
  • Explore all possible options when a problem arises.

3 | Strong families work on their emotion regulation skills

There is evidence that strong families consider stress and change normal and set up processes to help children adapt to changes and distressing situations. Strong families do not attempt to shield their children, but give them the skills to adapt to everyday situations as well as to traumatic life events. When families learn to regulate their emotions, there are more likely to respond effectively to traumatic experiences.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Develop your family’s emotion regulation skills. Emotion regulation means knowing how and when to express emotions in a respectful manner.
  • Provide your child with tools to manage his/her own strong emotions.
  • Teach your kids that while it is normal to experience strong emotions such as anger and anxiety, each individual is responsible for how he or she reacts to those emotions.
  • Teach your kids to respond appropriately to emotions by modeling these reactions yourself.

4 | Strong families promote open communication channels

Multiple studies have highlighted the importance of promoting open communication channels. A common characteristic of strong families is that they adopt an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting requires parents to hold high expectations, but to also be flexible and attentive to their children’s needs. Children raised in such family settings are less likely to turn to drugs and also have better academic, social, and psychological outcomes.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Set realistic expectations for your kids. Expect neither too little nor too much.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations to your children.
  • Foster mutual respect.
  • Be flexible. Remember that you too were once a child.
  • Listen, then react.

5 | Strong families show their appreciation for each other

We are all the best versions of ourselves when we feel appreciated. In strong families, the members know that they are appreciated. They know that their family would not be the same without them. Showing our kids we appreciate them is also likely to reinforce positive behavior and it may even help them develop a positive sense of self.

What you can do to become a strong family:

  • Focus on your child’s positive behavior.
  • Give praise where praise is due.
  • Celebrate your family’s accomplishments.
  • Establish gratitude routines to celebrate family members.
  • Show your children you think they’re awesome.

How to Ruin Your Kid for Life

SOURCE:  Tricia Goya/Family Life

Ten ways to ensure that your child will not succeed.

1. Give your kid everything he wants. Don’t deny what will truly make him happy. Overvalue money and things in his eyes.

2. Dress your child in designer clothes, no matter the cost. Show her that her outward appearance matters most of all.

3. Place your child’s needs over those of your spouse. If she cries, run to her immediately. If she interrupts, give her your full attention.

4. Entertain your child throughout the day. If she wants to play tea, put your plans aside. If she wants to watch her favorite movie for the hundredth time, forget your idea of going for a walk and getting some sunshine.

5. Plan your menu around your child’s desires. No child should have to eat something he doesn’t like. If, by chance, you want to make something other than macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, feel free to cook your own meal, just as long as you have time to fix what your child likes.

6. Sign your child up for as many extracurricular activities as she desires, even if it means giving up your evening plans on a regular basis. Don’t worry about trying to gather around the dinner table either. He can only be in the junior soccer league for so long, and you don’t want him to miss out.

7. Don’t discipline your child when she acts up. Everyone should learn to express herself in her own way. If she demands something, then applaud her efforts. At least you know that she will not be a pushover or a doormat in this world.

8. Don’t worry when your child fights with neighbor kids or even when he is a bully. Life is not fair, and someone always has to be the underdog. At least your child is learning to elbow his way to the top at a young age.

9. When your child has a disagreement with her teacher, always choose your child’s side. Don’t show up when the teacher wants to discuss your child’s problems. The teacher will want to take a course of disciplinary action and that’ll hurt your child’s feelings.

10. Don’t share your faith with your child. After all, you don’t want to offend. Let your child decide if she wants to hear Bible stories. And don’t pressure her to memorize Scripture verses. She might get disheartened if she doesn’t get it right the first time and you’ll ruin her self-esteem. More than that, you don’t want her to know there’s a God who runs the universe, makes the rules, and determines eternity. The thought is too hard, and your child might not understand. More than that, she won’t be self-dependent and strive to be a good person.

How to Ruin Your Teens for Life

SOURCE:  Tricia Goyer/Family Life

Eleven ways to ensure that your teenager will not be prepared for the future.

1. Hide your past mistakes. Put on an act that you are perfect and your teenagers are the ones with all the problems. (After all, if your teens hear what you did in your past, they might want to follow.)

2. Don’t worry about where they are going and what they are doing. You didn’t want to be hounded at that age. You didn’t want to be asked all those questions. Instead, trust that they know how they should act and where they should go.

3. Don’t worry about them getting a summer job and having to work to make money. Teens are only teens once. They need time to have fun with friends and relax. There will be time to work later. They don’t need to worry about a work ethic now.

4. Don’t force them to attend church and youth group. Things are already touchy—you have to hound them about homework, about their friends, and about their clothes—don’t make church another thing you hound them about.

5. Don’t worry about talking to them about sex and purity. You’re their parent, for goodness sake. You don’t want to bring the subject up and have them thinking about you having sex. And you don’t want to think about them in their sexual lives. There are other people more knowledgeable and trained to talk to your teens; leave it to them.

6. Completely shelter your teens from the outside world. Make sure they don’t watch any secular movies or listen to any secular music. Hide the newspapers, too. Their “world” should only be about your family’s values. They don’t need to learn about all that bad stuff out there. They don’t need to make wise media choices or deal with unwholesome people. They don’t need to see that there’s a world out there that is greatly in need of Jesus. Let someone else deal with impacting and influencing culture.

7. Tell them, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Make them accept the areas where you fall short, but expect them to do better.

8. Buy your teens whatever they ask for. That’s your role as a parent—to make your teens happy.

9. Don’t let your teen get involved in an overseas mission trip. There are all types of scary things that happen on those trips, and your first priority is to keep your teen safe.

10. Don’t become your teens’ sounding board. They’ll need to learn to figure things out on their own in the future, so they might as well start now.

11. Don’t share with your teen how important God is in your life. A personal relationship with God is personal, and it should stay that way.

Blended Families: 10 Things to Know Before You Remarry

SOURCE:  Ron Deal/Family Life

Challenges every single parent should consider before deciding to remarry.

Specializing in stepfamily therapy and education has taught me one thing: Couples should be highly educated about remarriage and the process of becoming a stepfamily before they ever walk down the aisle.  Remarriage—particularly when children are involved—is much more challenging than dating seems to imply. Be sure to open your eyes well before a decision to marry has been made.

The following list represents key challenges every single parent (or those dating a single parent) should know before deciding to remarry. Open your eyes wide now and you—and your children—will be grateful later.

1. Wait two to three years following a divorce or the death of your spouse before seriously dating. No, I’m not kidding. Most people need a few years to fully heal from the ending of a previous relationship. Moving into a new relationship short-circuits the healing process, so do yourself a favor and grieve the pain, don’t run from it. In addition, your children will need at least this much time to heal and find stability in their visitation schedule. Slow down.

2. Date two years before deciding to marry; then date your future spouse’s children before the wedding. Dating two years gives you time to really get to know one another. Too many relationships are formed on the rebound when both people lack godly discernment about their fit with a new person. Give yourself plenty of time to get to know each other thoroughly. Keep in mind—and this is very important—that dating is inconsistent with remarried life.

Even if everything feels right, dramatic psychological and emotional shifts often take place for children, parents, and stepparents right after the wedding. What seems like smooth sailing can become a rocky storm in a hurry. Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t experience difficulties. As one parent said, “Falling in love is not enough when it comes to remarriage; there’s just more required than that.”

When you do become serious about marriage, date with the intention of deepening the stepparent/stepchild relationships. Young children can attach themselves to a future stepparent rather quickly, so make sure you’re serious before spending lots of time together. Older children will need more time (research suggests that the best time to remarry is before a child’s tenth birthday or after his/her sixteenth; couples who marry between those years collide with the teen’s developmental needs).

3. Know how to “cook” a stepfamily. Most people think the way to cook a stepfamily is with a blender, microwave, pressure cooker, or food processor. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of these “cooking styles” attempt to combine the family ingredients in a rapid fashion. Unfortunately, resentment and frustration are the only results.

The way to cook a stepfamily is with a crockpot. Once thrown into the pot, it will take time and low heat to bring ingredients together, requiring that adults step into a new marriage with determination and patience. The average stepfamily takes five to seven years to combine; some take longer. There are no quick recipes.  (Read more about how to cook a stepfamily here.)

4. Realize that the “honeymoon” comes at the end of the journey for remarried couples, not the beginning. Ingredients thrown into a crockpot that have not had sufficient time to cook don’t taste good—and might make you sick. Couples need to understand that the rewards of stepfamily life (security, family identity, and gratitude for one another) come at the end of the journey. Just as the Israelites traveled a long time before entering the Promise Land, so will it be for your stepfamily.

5. Think about the kids. Children experience numerous losses before entering a stepfamily. In fact, your remarriage is another. It sabotages their fantasy that Mom and Dad can reconcile, or that a deceased parent will always hold his or her place in the home. Seriously consider your children’s losses before deciding to remarry. If waiting till your children leave home before you remarry is not an option, work to be sensitive to your children’s loss issues. Don’t rush them and don’t take their grief away.

6. Manage and be sensitive to loyalties. Even in the best of circumstances, children feel torn between their biological parents and likely feel that enjoying your dating partner will please you but betray the other parent. Don’t force children to make choices, and examine the binds they feel. Give them your permission to love and respect new people in the other home and let them warm up to your new spouse in their own time.

7. Don’t expect your new spouse to feel the same about your children as you do. It’s a good fantasy, but stepparents won’t care for your children to the same degree that you do. This is not to say that stepparents and stepchildren can’t have close bonds; they can. But it won’t be the same. When looking at your daughter, you will see a 16-year-old who brought you mud pies when she was 4 and showered you with hugs each night after work. Your spouse will see a self-centered brat who won’t abide by the house rules. Expect to have different opinions and to disagree on parenting decisions.

8. Realize that remarriage has unique barriers. Are you more committed to your children or your marriage? If you aren’t willing to risk losing your child to the other home, for example, don’t make the commitment of marriage. Making a covenant does not mean neglecting your kids, but it does mean that they are taught which relationship is your ultimate priority. A marriage that is not the priority will be mediocre at best.

Another unique barrier involves the “ghost of marriage past.” Individuals can be haunted by the negative experiences of previous relationships and not even recognize how it is impacting the new marriage. Work to not interpret the present in light of the past, or you might be destined to repeat it.

9. Parent as a team; get your plan ready. No single challenge is more predictive of stepfamily success than the ability of the couple to parent as a team. Stepparents must find their role, know their limits in authority, and borrow power from the biological parent in order to contribute to parental leadership. Biological parents must keep alive their role as primary disciplinarian and nurturer while supporting the stepparent’s developing role (read this series of articles for more on stepparenting). Managing these roles will not be easy; get a plan and stick together.

10. Know what to tell the kids. Tell them:

  • It’s okay to be confused about the new people in your life.
  • It’s okay to be sad about our divorce (or parent’s death).
  • You need to find someone safe to talk to about all this.
  • You don’t have to love my new spouse, but you do need to treat him or her with the same respect you would give a coach or teacher at school.
  • You don’t have to take sides. When you feel caught in the middle between our home and your other home, please tell me and we’ll stop.
  • You belong to two homes with different rules, routines, and relationships. Find your place and contribute good things in each.
  • The stress of our new home will reduce—eventually.
  • I love you and will always have enough room in my heart for you. I know it’s hard sharing me with someone else. I love you.

Work smarter, not harder

For stepfamilies, accidentally finding their way through the wilderness to the promised land is a rarity. Successful navigation requires a map. You’ve got to work smarter, not harder. Before you remarry, be sure to educate yourself on the options and challenges that lie ahead.

7 Ways To Protect Your Children From Sexual Abuse

SOURCE:  Joshua Straub

A few months ago, I spoke at an event on the principles of emotional safety, where a representative from the National Organization of Victim’s Assistance (NOVA) happened to be in attendance. Since then, we’ve been working together on a few projects and becoming good friends.

The mission of NOVA is to champion dignity and compassion for those harmed by crime or crisis. They work quite frequently on behalf of abuse victims.

One evening, my friend and I were carpooling back to our hotel from an event and I asked him a personal question.

As a dad,” I began, “how can I best protect my kids from sexual abuse?

Here are seven answers he gave me.

1.   Have surprises but don’t keep secrets. We don’t keep secrets in our house. We only have surprises. Think about it, secrets are never told. Surprises are always revealed. If I take our kids to get their mommy a birthday present, we’re not keeping it a secret from her; we’re getting her a surprise that will be revealed on her birthday.

Most child predators tell children that the acts are to be kept a secret between the two of them. If secrets are not allowed in your family, it’s unlikely for your child to buy in to someone asking them to keep something secret.

2.   Over 90% of perpetrators are people we love and trust. Aunts. Uncles. Stepmoms. Stepdads. Grandparents. Moms. Dads. Coaches. Teachers. Pastors. Family friends. Be vigilant of who your children are spending time with—or who wants to spend time with them.

3.   Trust your child’s instincts. If your child is skittish towards a relative or friend, don’t push or force him to like and trust that person. Too often we assume that since we trust that individual, our child should too. Allow trust to happen naturally over time and under your supervision. There could be a legitimate reason for your child’s apprehension of an individual. Don’t force it.

4.   Use the appropriate names for private parts. It’s not a “willy,” a “pee-pee,” or a “dingy.” Teach your son he has a penis. The same is true for our daughters. Calling a vagina by its proper name is important because sexual predators often use “cutesy” names to lure children. They need to learn the appropriate terms. If your children know the names of their private parts, they can more accurately, and with no confusion, tell you if it hurts or if someone touched that area inappropriately.

5.   Teach them the appropriate situations for private parts to be seen. Just as they need to be told the appropriate ways to speak to others, use a fork, or share toys, our kids need to learn the appropriate situations for private parts to be seen and touched by others. For the most part, this shouldn’t go beyond bath time at home with mom or dad or an examination at the doctor’s office.

6.   If your children ask questions, answer them. Don’t ignore or deflect questions they have about their penis or vagina. Our children are curious about everything, including their body parts. Ignoring their questions or concerns will only increase their curiosity and, at worst, lead to feelings of shame about their body, as if it’s something they shouldn’t discuss. Age-appropriately, answer their questions. Knowledge is power.

7.   They don’t have to hug and kiss everybody. There’s always the overzealous aunt or grandma in the family who wants to pinch cheeks and plaster lipstick all over our children. Many times we comply and force our poor kids to do this. If your child doesn’t want to give hugs and kisses to family members, neighbors, or friends, respect that boundaries and don’t force them. Lord knows, you probably don’t want to hug and kiss them either.

Teaching Your Kids How to Have Hard Conversations

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

If we want our kids to become stable, healthy, well-adjusted adults, we need to do a good job when they are young of teaching them to have hard conversations. It’s hard enough for spouses to do this, so our kids need our help before they leave the nest. The advent of social media and mobile devices has made communication easier but has also made effective communication more difficult, where messages are easily misunderstood, incomplete, or inflammatory.

So before they have to break off a relationship with someone, apologize for a wrong, ask for forgiveness, or share some difficult news with someone, make sure they have understood these important principles for having difficult conversations:

Communicate in person if at all possible, not digitally.

We need to avoid using social media, direct messages, emails, or texts for difficult conversations. We’ve become so reliant on electronic communication that we are tempted to use it at the worst times or in the most delicate situations. These tools are great and appropriate for quick info, encouragement, and brief connections, but should be used sparingly, if at all, for emotionally-filled or important situations. Here’s why:

  • You can’t fill in the emotional, relational gaps in 140-160 characters.
  • You cannot communicate nuance and context and emotion in written words.
  • People fill in the blanks without context. For example, what you meant to sound sincere may be easily misinterpreted as fake.
  • Digital communication can also lead to impulsive, and regretful, communication.
  • Digital communication is easier to ignore.
  • In digital communication, complex issues have to be reduced to unhelpful levels of simplicity. That’s not wise.
  • Digital communication tends to elicit reactive, not thoughtful, responses.

Bottom line: Nothing can replace face-to-face, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.

Practice the conversation with them.

This is a time when role-playing can be helpful. Take turns playing the role of your child, or the person they are talking to, and give it a go. Help them think through the strong emotions that come with the conversation, to anticipate the reactions, to process and respond to such a conversation, and to get through any awkwardness.

Think through the best time, place, and environment for the conversation.

We know from marriage that there are good times and very bad times to bring up sensitive issues. But our kids may not realize how important the setting and frame of mind can be. Help your child think through the best situation and environment that would be most appropriate to have the conversation.

Just by working through some of these basics, we can help our children be better at resolving conflict and relating to others.

We Don’t Need “Mother” and “Father” Anymore?

SOURCE:  Amy K. Hall/Stand to Reason

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”

Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.

The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

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