Does your life reflect what you say you value?

Most people would say that the people in their life, spouse, close friends and family members are very important to them. That they really value these relationships. But what I often see is that little energy and time is being put into the healthy preservation of these relationships. Where do we invest our time and what does that focus tell others?

Social media and social pressures are a huge enemy of the family. It is a distraction. Sometimes we use distractions as a coping mechanism for the stress in our lives. Why are we avoiding the real interactions with the ones we say we care about? Why are we allowing this distraction to pull us away from family? We must get something from it, something that feels more comfortable and validating than a true human interaction.

Real interactions can be uncomfortable, we sometimes don’t know how to respond or what to do and especially with the people we say are most important to us. The interactions can be stressful. Even time with our children playing a game may seem stressful and more demanding than what we get from social media. We can even use social media to avoid being alone with our thoughts, this social media distraction is much more comfortable.

What do the people in your life see you valuing. You may say that your relationship is important but do you take the time to talk about your day and to listen to them share there lives with you? Do you show concern? Do you take time to go on a “date” and spend time focusing on this person who you say you value?

What do your kids see? Do your kids get more than 30 min. in the evening with you? Do you spend more time scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching cute puppy videos on Youtube than you do with your own child. And when you are with your child are you so busy taking pictures of them and posting them that the child is not getting your full attention?
Your child wants to be important to you, not the social media world, they want your attention. Can you spend time playing a board game with them, or cheering them on at their activity and not have them see you checking your phone.

If you say that you value your family or those people in your life that you call family then show them. People watch what you do not just what you say. Children are looking at your actions. Let’s show them that you value them by giving them a call, spending time, making these people a priority and this will be the first step to Save Your Family. Don’t wait for the crisis where your spouse feels like you don’t care or your child is rebellious, depressed or overwhelmed with stress . This is what we see each day in our business. Take care of the things you value. Save Your Family Today and we won’t have to be called tomorrow.

Written by Lisa Strong

Is Suicide an Option?

There are 121 suicides per day.  Per day!  Many wouldn’t consider suicide as an option but clearly some do.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the States.  One in 25 suicide attempts results in death.  This means 3, 025 people a day attempt suicide. Due to these alarming numbers the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has deemed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  

As a professional in the mental health industry and having lost my cousin to suicide four years ago I know first hand that suicide is an option to some and the rest of us need to inform ourselves on how to help.
Here are some warning signs and practical ways to support.

Warning signs 
If a person talks about:
• Being a burden to others
• Feeling trapped or stuck
• Experiencing unbearable pain or overwhelming emotions
• Having no reason to live or believing they have no hopeful future
• Killing themselves
If behaviors include:
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
• Experimenting with ways to kill themselves
• Acting recklessly
• Withdrawing from activities
• Not planning for the future
• Isolating from family and friends
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Giving away prized possessions or sentimental gifts
• Previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide attempt

If a person exhibits:
• Depression
• Loss of interest
• Rage
• Irritability
• Humiliation
• Anxiety
What you can do:
• Take suicidal comments seriously
• Validate the person’s feelings by acknowledging and accepting their feelings instead of rationalizing them away
• Be compassionate and gentle as the person is already feeling extremely sensitive and is trusting you by being vulnerable
• Let the person know you are concerned
• Remove all means of self harm
• If the person appears to be an immediate risk to hurting themselves do not leave them alone and if necessary call 911 for help
• If they are not already doing so, encourage the person to talk to others about their feelings and to see a professional
• Be available to talk, to listen, to comfort and, when appropriate, to “distract” them by doing something together that may give them a sense of peace
*above information from National Institute for Mental Health and
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Two Things to Keep In Mind:
• Most people who are depressed and suffering want things to change and to be better even more than you do.  If it’s difficult for you, imagine how difficult it is for them.
• If a person attempts suicide but isn’t able to complete the act be careful not to minimize the severity of the attempt. Be sure to take the attempt seriously.
There is no single cause or “cure” for depression and suicidal ideation.  It’s different for everyone.  Chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, living with a mental illness, experiencing prolonged stress are all risk factors.  But with support a person can overcome, learn to cope, survive and even thrive.  

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness month.  Spread the information!

The Four Things Your Child Needs

School is not only about academics, there is much more to learn. It’s no longer the 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Parenting expert Dr. Bob Barns talks about a different set of R’s, the 4 R’s including Recreation, Routine, Responsibility and Relationships. Teaching these areas will help a parent guide their child to be a more well balanced person.
Recreation may be thought of as a sport like soccer or baseball and these are healthy for the body as well as teaching teamwork and how to win or loose. All are good lessons but there are other recreations that might also be considered like music, art, model airplanes, cooking, these other activities that may be more appealing to your child. These activities can help a child learn to use their free time in ways that challenge and entertain. We can teach them how to fill the void with things other than computer games, T.V. or social media.
Routine refers to teaching our children time management. Children may not seem to appreciate a routine but it does give them structure and security as well as teaching them self discipline. There is a time to get up in the morning and go to bed, a time to get homework done or do chores. You tell them what is expected and then make sure you follow through and enforce the routine. As they take on more of the responsibility on their own then you can become more flexible.
Responsibility includes school assignments but there are also responsibilities at home. We have dumbed down our children and do not require much of them in the home. The family is a team and we need to all work together so the home runs smoothly. That means giving each child an age appropriate responsibility in helping. It is for the sake of the family and the child. It is a training opportunity.  Don’t forget to celebrate the victories, the affirmations will encourage and support the idea.
Relationships include the family and others. But in terms of the family we need to be proactive and schedule time with each of our children and our spouse. If this is not done then these important times get pushed to the side. Some parents tell me they don’t know what to talk about alone with their child so I suggest providing  a distraction, meet over a meal, do a puzzle or build something. This provides an opportunity for conversation and we need to listen. Doing this allows us to disconnect from the pressures of our world and social media and allows an opportunity to relate to each other.
The 4 R’s will create a family that works together and can enjoy each other. This is something worth the effort.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Ensure Back to School Success

We made it through summer and the school year is upon us!  For some this is a welcomed change but for others it brings up new challenges.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on the right path and to help you stay on it.

First, have a discussion (a two way conversation) about what you and your child want for this school year.  What things do you want repeated and what things would you like to see change?  The best way to approach this is for you to ask that question and let your child answer, uninterrupted.  Then you can share your thoughts in response.  Write these things down… not as a list of rules to be governed by but as a way to solidify the conversation.

Next, talk about expectations.  The following topics seem to be the biggest challenges and areas of conflict so address them up front.

Grades: ask your child what they think is a reasonable grade or mark for each subject.  They may think they can ace Spanish class but feel that math will be more of a challenge.  Write down the grade or mark you both agree on for each subject.

Electronics: with the school year starting will their be different expectations for screen time, games and electronics than there was for the summer?  Have a discussion about what seems reasonable regarding how much screen time they can have on a week day, weekend, what time screens need to be turned off and turned in at night and how you will monitor this.  Hint: the simpler the better.

Curfew/Social Events: it is important that kids at any age learn how to manage their time, their stress and their work load.  With school starting there are often sports and other extracurricular activities that are demanding on everyone’s schedule.  Some families limit the amount of sleep overs in a month (as these tend to exhaust kids because they get little sleep but spend so much energy socializing).  Some families require a set amount of “down time” for their child meaning they have to be home resting, vegging, connecting with the family on a relaxed level and taking care of their overall mental health.  Curfews are necessary and need to be clearly articulated ahead of time.

Remember, this is a discussion.  You can not lay out all the expectations and walk away.  Invite them in to the conversation and encourage their participation.  Make compromises where possible.  Most importantly, keep this as simple as possible and absolutely be sure you can enforce any agreed about terms.  Without enforcement or monitoring there is no point in doing this.

To maintain success and build communication, revisit this conversation on a monthly bases.  What is working, what isn’t?  Be flexible if necessary.  Ask your kids how you can support them and what they need from you to succeed.  It’s a new year… let’s start off with clarity and hope.

Written by Lisa Smith

Teaching Children to Look Out, Not In

Teaching our children the value of caring and serving others is a responsibility of parenting. A healthy family cares for more than themselves. One of the things we need to teach our children is that the world does not revolve around them. In this age of social media we are continually taking pictures of ourselves, posting what we are eating or doing, putting our thoughts online for all to see and glorifying every aspect of our lives. Really people, we are not that important. We need to show our family that although we love and value each other, there are other people that our lives can reach and touch and we can have an impact.

We can teach our children to reach out to more than each other. How can we do this? The ways to do this are many and they change as the child grows. When a child is young we can remind them of the needs of others and role model service. Involve them in making  a meal or a card for someone in need. For example if you learn that your neighbor just had surgery or lost a loved one then bring them dinner and have your child make a card. Then deliver this together. Look for opportunities to serve those around you.

Another possible project is going through your child’s clothes or toys and then take them and donate to an organization in your community. Try to show them where their donation is going and how it is helping. As the child gets older then they can do more to help, possibly volunteering for a service day to clean up the beach or clean the house of someone in need.

This is not something that you can just require of your child but it needs to be a way of life for the whole family. Something you all consider and do. You are the first example of this for them. They hear that you are putting value on this and so they will learn this too. As they get older there will probably be push back where they would rather sleep in than go to serve. But this is not optional in your family. If you can show them that this is a way of life for your family then they will learn to see that life does not only revolve around them, there are others with needs and serving others can put life in perspective.

There is value in teaching children to be sensitive to the needs of others and exposing them to a larger world. They will learn of the struggles and needs of others. They will meet different types of people, they will learn to consider others and take the focus off themselves.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Deadliest Mindset of All and the Cure

It’s the worst disease a human being or an entire society can catch. It’s a disease that rips the soul out of a person yet leaves the heart still beating. It leaves people alive physically but broken mentally. It leaves weakness instead of strength. It leaves dependent individuals instead of independent ones. It results in playing a game of “pass the blame” when things don’t go as planned. It’s a disease I would not wish on anyone. It’s called “entitlement mentality.”

The online definition states, “An entitlement mentality is a state of mind in which an individual comes to believe that privileges are instead rights, and that they are to be expected as a matter of course.”

It just sucks the initiative, the self-determination and self-esteem right out of a person!  I have seen it in many of the thousands of families I have worked with.  And it just kills me!

A hardworking, self-made person pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. They work hard. They never give up. They fail many times before they succeed. They have a family. And, often driven by love, blinded by love, these parents desire to ensure that “my kids don’t go through what I had to go through.” They seek to shield their kids from the pains they had to endure.

But what many parents fail to realize is that by depriving children of hardship, we deprive them of the very experiences and learnings that shaped the parents! If a child grows up getting everything they want, having every sharp corner in life covered by Mommy and Daddy, then suddenly this is how life really is in their belief system. A good life is no longer a privilege, but a God-given right. They shouldn’t have to work for it. Living in luxury is an expectation. And there is anger if one doesn’t get it, and get it easily.

So what is the vaccine for this deadly entitlement mindset? Adversity. Many people who suffer from entitlement simply don’t understand reality — the reality of how the world lives. That life is about largely suffering and overcoming that suffering. That life’s greatest moments are in the achievement of something that took effort. There is no lasting joy in getting everything in life handed to you.

The role of adversity in developing a person’s full potential has been well documented. Renowned blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer (the only blind man to summit Everest) even wrote a book on it called The Adversity Advantage.

So, what’s my point?  Let your kids suffer!  Allow them to feel pain, disappointment and even regret.  (Don’t confuse this with inflicting suffering or pain, the world and life do enough of that.)  Remember that need is the greatest motivator of all.  If they need something, get out of the way and let them figure out how to get it.  Don’t give it to them.  Raising happy kids is not the goal!  This leads to entitlement.  Raising resilient, content, responsible kids is the goal and by default they will be happy in life because they will be happy with themselves.

Written by Lisa Smith

How do I Handle my Child’s Emotions?

Your home is an internship for your children to learn to handle their emotions and themselves socially when they are challenged. To learn to communicate feelings, resolve conflict and show care in a loving relationship. Your child should not feel like they have to fight you and justify their feeling. That is a good way to send them over the edge. Then what do we do when our child is dealing with a strong emotion, either sadness, anger, frustration or fear for example? We want to help them through these emotions in a healthy way. Giving them tools to understand and deal with the emotions.

Here are some dos and don’ts for how to handle an emotional child.

Don’t demand that they be immediately rational, they are at that moment being emotional which is opposite of using our rational brain. If they are hysterical or throwing a tantrum then leave them alone for a time until they can be calm enough to talk to you.

Do show the child empathy. Talk to them about what they are feeling. Are they scared or frustrated? As they become calmer ask them to explain what upset them and listen to their story.

Don’t tell them that there is nothing to be upset about. They are upset already so there must be something upsetting them.

Do let them tell their story, help them by asking questions about what happened. This may be hard at first but when the child realizes you are there for support and that you are calm this will give them security.

Don’t do all the talking, be more of a listener.

Don’t argue and deny their emotions. Let them know it is OK to have strong emotions.

Don’t add the word “but”  Saying, “I see you’re disappointed but…” erases everything you just said.

Do reflect back what they have told you, this will validate their feelings.

After the child has calmed down and feels like you have listened to them then you can teach them an appropriate response to the frustration. Tell them what is acceptable and what isn’t. Now that they feel heard and know that you have shown care and respect for their feelings they will be more likely to listen to your guidance. This is when you parent and teach them what the boundaries are.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

We’ve all been there.  Your patience has been tested to its limit and your tolerance level has reached its max.  This is usually when consequences for your child’s bad behavior come flying out of your mouth that are extreme, impossible to manage and even more impossible to sustain over time. But when action flows out of that emotion it is guaranteed not to be one of your finest parenting moments.  So what do you do? Recognize the value of discipline and the harmful repercussions of punishment.

Punishment produces some very negative characteristics in your children: guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, regret, self-pity, fear, and more. Because it’s focused on the past, children feel helpless. They can’t undo what they’ve already done, and they can’t change the circumstances that their behavior has produced. Punishment doesn’t give them a means to right their wrongs.  The tools they need to understand how to right a wrong aren’t included in the punishment pack­age. It is simply retribution that leads to a lot of negative emotions.

Discipline, on the other hand, is future-focused, always pointing toward future acts. It has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with righting what was done wrong. The purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense, the purpose of discipline is to train for correction and maturity. The origin of punishment is the frustration of the parent, the origin of discipline is a high moti­vation for the welfare of the child. The result of punishment is fear and shame, the result of discipline is security. Discipline always holds the child’s best interests, not the parent’s anger, in the forefront. It is never out of control.  Consider this:

Parenting Myth: Discipline requires parents to penalize their child as payback for an offense.

Parenting Reality: Discipline means applying appropriate consequences to encourage a child to make better choices in the future.

What messages are you sending your kids? Few parents will bluntly declare that they’re penalizing a child for his misbehavior. We don’t express punishment in terms of vengeance. But when the veins are popping, the voice is escalating, and the parent towers intimidatingly over their children, the message is easily confused. You may have discipline in mind, but your children probably inter­pret your outbursts of anger as pure punishment. It needs to be clear in their minds that you are imposing boundaries for their good because you love them.

Written by Lisa Smith

 

Is Anger Killing Your Relationship?

Anger can come in many forms, the obvious is verbal or physical attacks but it can also be less direct like slamming doors, stomping around the house, mumbling under your breath, sarcasm or the silent treatment. These unhealthy and damaging attempts to solve a problem can attack a relationship like a cancer. If left untreated then it will grow until it kills the relationship.

When one of the people in the relationship responds with extreme anger it sends a message of disrespect and punishment to the other person.The person responding in anger wants you to know that they are going to punish you for not cooperating with what they want.

Why do we resort to anger? There are many different reasons but a few are listed here;

  • We feel like the other person should know what we want. The need seems obvious but this is not always the case. Many times the other person does not understand.We have expectations but they were never clearly stated.
  • We feel like we have made so many sacrifices that it is obviously their turn to step-up to the plate. But again this is an unspoken assumption.
  • We want our way and do not want to compromise. We become resentful because we feel justified and entitled to what we need.

Communication and care are the antidotes to the anger. Learning to share your need in a way that is nonaggressive and listen to the response in a respectful way is very challenging and foreign to many people. Defensiveness, selfishness and resentment cause a response that puts up walls. The goal is to work as a team and seek a resolution that will be satisfying and lasting to each party.

In a caring relationship there is the goal of cooperation not competition. The solution is a win-win not a loss for anyone. The way to come to a solution that will last is to have both parties buy into the solution. Dr. Willard F. Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs calls this “Policy of Joint Agreement”. When both parties have come to a compromise that they can both live with enthusiastically then it is something that will last and will not cause further resentment.

How does this happen? First the angry spouse needs to take responsibility for his or her anger and recognize that their anger is killing the relationship. They can’t blame their partner. Change happens through communication and understanding. Let’s be clear, what do you need? Then brainstorm solutions until a compromise is achieved. This is done with respect and care of the views of both parties. There can be no judgement, criticism, disrespect, or demands.

I know this is not easy. We have developed patterns of interacting that are comfortable but not effective. This change takes a willingness and effort but cutting out the anger, just as you would cut out the cancer, will bring healing.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Impact of Overparenting at Every Age

Bear with me as this is a bit longer than usual but I’ve been sitting with it for some time and believe it’s extremely important.

As parents, we all have that innate desire to protect and provide for our kids. Yet, at some point we must ask ourselves: Are we doing too much for them? When do our actions cross the line from guidance to enabling? Overparenting is proven to be very damaging to a developing child.

When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence.  Not to mention we are keeping from establishing any amount of stress tolerance.

When they are young it’s little acts like pushing them in a stroller instead of letting them walk or giving them a snack before they even feel hunger.  When they are older it’s making their bed, preparing their breakfast, waking them up in the morning and doing their laundry.  All of this teaches them to believe they need more looking after than they actually do. When they are teens and young adults we justify this by stating how busy our kids are.  If they are too busy to take care of their own basic needs and responsibilities then they are too busy.  Society’s recent pro-parenting shift has its positives. Children are people, and they deserve to have a voice within their home. Parents should always aim to treat their kids with respect, interest and consideration. However, the trend of helicopter parenting has been taken to extremes and, in that, we are also witnessing pro-parenting’s negative effects.

The following statistic touches a nerve for me and I will be writing more about it in the coming months.  A 2011 PEW research survey found that “40% of 18 to 24 year-olds currently live with their parents, and the vast majority of them say they did not move back home because of economic conditions.” Staggering!  Young adults who move out then back in with their parents, whether for financial reasons or not, have led people to refer to them as the Boomerang Generation.  I personally believe there is value in investigating how the raising of our children might play some part in their lack of independence in adulthood.  In many cases we are doing them a grave disservice.

Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.

Often, the reasons it is difficult for us to let our kids explore and develop their autonomy has more to do with us than with our children. As parents, it is invaluable to be aware of when we are using our children to fulfill our own needs. How much does our desire to protect them come from them vs. our own need to be a protector? How often are the hugs we give them to provide affection, and how often are they to take affection from them?

So much of parenting involves how we feel about ourselves. As psychologist and author Pat Love has said “The best thing adults can do as parents is to have their needs met by other adults and not by their children.”  I love that! Our kids need us to be the best, most developed and most fulfilled versions of ourselves in all areas of our lives in order to feel independent and secure in theirs. That way, they can emulate and learn from us without feeling they must fill the voids we experience in our own lives.

When we give our kids too much power, we start to act like victims to our children instead of the teachers, caregivers and role models we should be.  It’s no great coincidence that many of the children we see being spoiled or indulged also appear unhappy and dissatisfied. The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.

Written by Lisa Smith