Why Kids Need Mean Moms

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Why Kids Need Mean Moms

By Joanne Kraft

I tried to slip out the door, but Mom intercepted my exit. “Sweetheart, what are you wearing?”

“Just black pants,” I said.

“Did you paint those on?” She called for backup. “George!”

Dad appeared. “What are those?” His face scrunched up, as if looking at something extraterrestrial.

My confidence fled. “Black pants?”

With Dad as wingman, Mom began her “No daughter of mine . . .” speech.

Great. The “no daughter of mine” rant, I thought.

But she’d made her point. As I stomped off to my room to change, I muttered, “Mom, you are so mean.

Where are the mean moms?

Call me crazy, but moms today are just too nice. They need a bit more meanness. No, I don’t mean “mean” in the technical definition of being unkind or malicious.

I don’t think moms should be overly strict and hurtful, discouraging their children’s hearts, stifling their creativity and controlling their God-given gifts. (A friend of mine had a mom like that, and it affects her parenting every day. “It’s the reason I’m such a pushover with my girls,” she told me. “I don’t want my kids to hate me like I hated my mom.”)

The “meanness” I’m talking about is found in those situations where we take the tough, loving road, not the comfortable one where life proceeds without confrontation. Mean is what your children may feel about you when you make them write a thank-you card, enforce daily chores or thwart their Friday night plans. Mean is when you push to know their friends and the parents of those friends, when you instill dinnertimes, bedtimes and curfews.

Mean moms make no excuses if discomfort is caused by loving boundaries. Children often can’t understand boundaries as being good for them. A mean mom sees the big picture. She sees the person her child can be and inspires the child until he or she catches the vision. Her slogan is: I’m not raising a child. I’m raising an adult.

Do you need a bit more meanness? Here are four ways to start:

For the four ways to start, check out the original article.

For help in being an healthy and constructive “mean mom,” please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

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How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

By RAINN

Sexual abuse can happen to children of any race, socioeconomic group, religion or culture. There is no foolproof way to protect children from sexual abuse, but there are steps you can take to reduce this risk. If something happens to your child, remember that the perpetrator is to blame—not you and especially not the child. Below you’ll find some precautions you can take to help protect the children in your life.

If your child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you aren’t sure of the situation but you suspect the child is being harmed, you can take steps to gauge the situation and put an end to the abuse.

Be involved in the child’s life.

Being actively involved in a child’s life can make warning signs of child sexual abuse more obvious and help the child feel more comfortable coming to you if something isn’t right. If you see or hear something that causes concern, you can take action to protect your child.

  • Show interest in their day-to-day lives. Ask them what they did during the day and who they did it with. Who did they sit with at lunchtime? What games did they play after school? Did they enjoy themselves?
  • Get to know the people in your child’s life. Know who your child is spending time with, including other children and adults. Ask your child about the kids they go to school with, the parents of their friends, and other people they may encounter, such as teammates or coaches. Talk about these people openly and ask questions so that your child can feel comfortable doing the same.
  • Choose caregivers carefully. Whether it’s a babysitter, a new school, or an afterschool activity, be diligent about screening caregivers for your child.
  • Talk about the media. Incidents of sexual violence are frequently covered by the news and portrayed in television shows. Ask your child questions about this coverage to start a conversation. Questions like, “Have you ever heard of this happening before?” or “What would you do if you were in this situation?” can signal to your child that these are important issues that they can talk about with you. Learn more about talking to your kids about sexual assault.
  • Know the warning signs. Become familiar with the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and notice any changes with your child, no matter how small. Whether it’s happening to your child or a child you know, you have the potential to make a big difference in that person’s life by stepping in.

Encourage children to speak up.

When someone knows that their voice will be heard and taken seriously, it gives them the courage to speak up when something isn’t right. You can start having these conversations with your children as soon as they begin using words to talk about feelings or emotions. Don’t worry if you haven’t started conversations around these topics with your child—it is never too late.

  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Teach your child how to talk about their bodies. From an early age, teach your child the names of their body parts. Teaching a child these words gives them the ability to come to you when something is wrong. Learn more about talking to children about sexual assault.
  • Be available. Set time aside to spend with your child where they have your undivided attention. Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they do come to you with questions or concerns, follow through on your word and make the time to talk.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up.
  • Give them the chance to raise new topics. Sometimes asking direct questions like, “Did you have fun?” and “Was it a good time?” won’t give you the answers you need. Give your child a chance to bring up their own concerns or ideas by asking open-ended questions like “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

Warning Signs for Sexual Abuse of Young Children

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Warning Signs for Young Children

By RAINN

Every 8 minutes, government authorities respond to another report of child sexual abuse.1 Child sexual abuse can include sexual contact with a child, but it may also include other actions, like exposing oneself, sharing obscene images, or taking inappropriate photos or videos of a child. These crimes can have a serious impact of the life and development of a child, and can continue to impact the survivor later in life. Learning the warning signs of child sexual abuse is often the first step to protecting a child that is in danger. If you can spot sexual abuse, you can stop it.

Signs that a child may have been sexually abused

It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. Some signs are easier to spot than others. For instance, some warning signs might be noticed by a caretaker or parent, and are often red flags that the child needs medical attention. Listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right or someone is making you uncomfortable—even if you can’t put your finger on why—it’s important to talk to the child.

Physical warning signs:

Behavioral signs:

  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Bedwetting or soiling the bed, if the child has already outgrown these behaviors
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
  • Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

Emotional signs:

  • Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumbsucking
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Excessive worry or fearfulness

Signs that an adult may be hurting a child

Keeping children safe can be challenging since many perpetrators who sexually abuse children are in positions of trust—93 percent of child sexual assault victims know the perpetrator.2 Keeping a child away from the perpetrator may mean major changes in your own life, even if you are outside of the child’s family.

Be cautious of an adult who spend time with children and exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them “no”
  • Engages in touching that a child or child’s parents/guardians have indicated is unwanted
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role in the child’s life
  • Does not seem to have age-appropriate relationships
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life or makes up excuses to be alone with the child
  • Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development, such as commenting on sexual characteristics or sexualizing normal behaviors
  • Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason
  • Spends a lot of time with your child or another child you know

Taking action isn’t easy, but it’s important

It’s not always easy to identify child sexual abuse—and it can be even more challenging to step in if you suspect something isn’t right. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen. Talk to someone who can help you figure out if this is something that must be reported, such as a staff member from your local sexual assault service provider. In the meantime, if you are the parent or have influence over the child’s schedule, avoid putting the child in a potentially unsafe situation.

Remember, you are not alone. If you suspect sexual abuse you can talk to someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

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What I Learned When My Son Was Diagnosed With An Eating Disorder

By Maggie Graham

When my 17-year-old son was diagnosed with an eating disorder, it happened without warning. I liken it to getting hit in the head with a 2×4: I didn’t see it coming and it knocked me flat. The months following his revelation were some of my darkest, and they were also a time when I learned more about myself than perhaps any other time in my life.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I sat across from my son’s therapist during our initial meeting, resenting her barely moments after I met her. “What does this Barbie doll know about my son?” I thought arrogantly. Everything she said grated on my nerves, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I hated the way she said “behaviors” to refer to bingeing and restricting food, often using air quotes.

I didn’t like how she called me “Mom.” “I’m not your mom,” I wanted to shout (even though I knew what she meant, how she was using shorthand to include me in the conversation). “Take the time to learn my name,” I wanted to yell at her even though that detail was the most irrelevant thing in our conversation. Somehow, harping on it gave me something concrete to hold onto, something I could criticize someone else (besides myself) for.

She interrupted me as if what I said wasn’t important (excuse me, am I not the person who knows my son best?!). I felt like a visitor to a foreign country, disoriented, grasping for landmarks and direction.

Mercifully, I bit my tongue. I never actually yelled at her (except in my head). Instead, I asked terse, concrete questions, and I exited quickly, leaving my credit card number and insurance information with the receptionist at the treatment center.

Some part of me knew that my son had his own relationship with his therapist, that I didn’t get to construct or script it, and the biggest contribution I could make to his healing was to not sabotage his therapeutic alliance with her, not matter how much I wanted to be right about her being poorly suited to help him.

Later, I realized that I was deflecting a volatile cocktail of my own emotions: Blame and anger, guilt and shame. It was easier to pick her apart, to find fault with her clinical skills, to shoot her down as a poor match for my son, to claim he was special and needed something else — that was easier to looking my own shame in the eye.

“This is the person I’m rowing with,” I thought about my son’s therapist. “We’ve got to row in the same direction.”

I let my objections stay. I watched myself resent her beauty and her youth and her mannerisms. I didn’t beat myself up about how focused I was on picking her apart, but I also didn’t act from those observations and impulses. I harkened back to learning how to meditate. That was when I was introduced to the idea that thoughts can be observed like clouds in the sky, passing overhead with some detachment, no need to react to them. “Don’t mistake the weather for the sky,” become my mantra.

I wanted to pick apart everything about his treatment, micromanage it and find fault with anything and anyone besides myself.

I grieved the relationship I thought I had with my son, and I turned towards co-creating a new relationship with him.

“This is not my son,” I thought, my brain rejecting what he was telling me. My son doesn’t hide things from me. He’s not losing massive amounts of weight without my noticing. He’s not so lost that he has veered away from us.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t,” my brain insisted. Even as irrefutable evidence stared me in the face.

Who was this person in front of me? Where was the baby I nursed? The toddler I bathed? The child I read bedtime stories to? The adolescent I drove to school? Where was he? Because that person, the one I clung to in my mind, was gone, replaced by the body snatchers when I turned my head. And I had only looked away for a moment. Somehow I had blinked, I let my attention stray, and I didn’t see him slip away.

I let myself sob. My son held my hand as he confessed how he had spiraled downward into a dangerous eating disorder in the past months. And I turned to face the person who was sitting in front of me, opening himself up for me to see.

“This is where we begin,” I thought.

I had to learn how to manage my own guilt and anxiety.

In the months following my son’s diagnosis, I slept very little. I had a laundry list of physical symptoms that pointed directly to stress and anxiety. I raced to a therapist and scrambled to line up treatment for myself: neurofeedback, a prescription for Xanax, another for Lexapro, meditation, yoga, daily exercise.

It was like someone told me the sun rose in the west.

Ironically, as my son was healing, climbing out of his hole, I slid downward, belatedly experiencing my own guilt, sadness, and pain as my son’s trials of the past few months surfaced, and I recognized how much I had missed about his struggles and pain. Cue massive guilt with a volatile twist of anxiety.

I learned some tough lessons in those dark months:

  • I could not turn to my son to absolve me of my guilt. I had to work that out on my own with the help of my therapist and coach.
  • There’s a difference between experiencing emotion and reacting to it, and understanding this distinction took massive patience and practice.
  • I leaned heavily on a practice called “mental hygiene,” where I excavated my own underlying beliefs, bringing them to the surface so that I could dissect how they were fueling my runaway anxiety.

Look, I know it sounds dramatic, and that’s okay because it still feels true. If I didn’t learn how to recognize, turn towards, and manage my own fear and guilt, it would have run me over like a Mack truck. It still knocked me down, left me reeling, and sometimes chewed me up.

I remember when my coach asked me what was good about my son’s downward spiral and diagnosis. I really couldn’t compute that question, and it took me a while to find the silver lining. It’s here, though.

His pain, struggle and dip into blackness challenged me to really learn to take care of myself. It provided a doorway for me to wade into my own darkness and do my own healing. I would say that it woke me up. It was a harsh wake-up, like the sound of a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night, disturbing and traumatic, but something that cannot be ignored. I couldn’t go back to sleep, couldn’t return to complacency, afterward. For that, I’m grateful, and I’m turning to face forward.

How to Build a Great Relationship with Stepchildren

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How to Build a Great Relationship with Stepchildren

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Whether you’re getting married for the first time to a person who has children–or getting remarried and blending a family–you’re going to be navigating some unfamiliar territory in the coming years. Like starting a marriage, becoming a stepparent has its own set of challenges and rewards, and you’ll learn how to nurture these relationships as you begin your new life as a family.

Stepping into the role of stepmom or stepdad is a daunting and delicate undertaking. Making this transition well isn’t easy, but it’s very doable. The result of treading carefully into this new territory will be building a rewarding relationship with your spouse’s children.

Today we’re sharing a few tips to help you start on the right foot as a new stepparent.

MAKE A GENTLE TRANSITION

Whatever the situation, kids tend to have mixed feelings about a stepparent entering the picture. There may be things about your presence in the family that your spouse’s kids love…and then there might be a part of them that feels resistant to the changes.

It’s natural for children to feel excited about having a stepmom or stepdad on one hand (in particular, if the child has grown up in a single-parent home and has been craving that second parent in their life). But on the other hand, they’re likely aware of the fact that they’ve made it just fine all these years without you (and at some point, you’ll probably hear about it).

While you might feel overly eager to start this relationship on the right foot, be gentle as you make the transition into being part of this family. Don’t try to establish yourself as a parent just yet, and don’t aggressively pursue a connection with the kids–instead, seek to cultivate a friendship with your stepchildren. Be patient and allow the relationship to naturally deepen over time.

SHOW GENUINE INTEREST

Let your spouse’s kids know you’re genuinely interested in them. Work to find common ground–identify shared interests, activities you both enjoy, and any relatable topics that come up between you as you’re getting to know each other. Get on their level, and actively listen when they speak to you.

Show up to support them in their activities, like ball games and dance recitals. If your stepkids are creative, show an active interest in their artwork, music, writing, and other creations. Your stepkids will come to know they have an ally in you if they know you are for them.

RESPECT THEIR TRADITIONS

It’s important for you to show respect for the traditions your stepchildren and their parent have created as a family. If you attempt to come into this family and change everything they’ve been doing together up till now–whether those are holiday celebrations or simple weekly rituals–you’ll set yourself up for failure right off the bat.

Learn about your stepkids’ traditions, and work with your spouse to preserve as many of those as possible (if you have children of your own and are blending two families, this will be tricker–but can still be done). Over time, you’ll be able to slowly create new traditions with your spouse and stepchildren, and maybe even incorporate a few of your own. But for now, be patient and willing to let your spouse and their kids take the lead, understanding that slow changes will come with time.

DON’T TRY TO REPLACE THEIR OTHER PARENT

Whether your stepchildren have lost their other biological parent to death or divorce, be respectful of their attachment to that other parent. Communicate that to your stepkids, and be direct with them.

A great place to start would be to let them know you understand the special relationship they have with their mom or dad, and that you have no desire to replace that in any way. Let them know you’re glad you’re in their life, and welcome them into yours. It’s also good to let them know that you hope to have a strong relationship with them in the future.

Once you’ve established that your stepchildren can be friends with you–and that you do not expect to replace their biological mother or father–that can pave the way for a great connection between you and them. Getting this out into the open will release them from any notion that having a good relationship with you will create a conflict of interest with their other parent.

LET YOUR SPOUSE HANDLE THE DISCIPLINE

A fundamental reality of blended families is that the biological parent has to be responsible for disciplining the children. Being a stepparent is a role governed by mutual respect and friendship, and stepping into a disciplinarian role with your stepkids could hinder that goal. Enacting discipline must be your spouse’s choice.

That said, since your unique position in the family demands mutual respect, if you’re being treated unkindly by your spouse’s child, it’s within your right to remove yourself from the interaction. Tell the child you feel disrespected and that you won’t stay in this conversation while they are being unkind. You must be clear about what is taking place, then do what you’ve said and remove yourself from the situation.

You can certainly communicate privately to your spouse about what is going on, but in the end, he or she must be the one to discipline the children for bad behavior.

If you would like help in the area of a blended family and stepchildren, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

12 Ways to Help a Teen Handle the Emotional Challenges of Moving

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12 Ways to Help a Teen Handle the Emotional Challenges of Moving

By Redfin.com

Relocation is tough for every member of a family, but especially so for the teenager that’s leaving behind a school, friends, clubs and other commitments, as well as perhaps the only home he or she has ever known. Even if the move is for the good of the family, it can be difficult for a teen to imagine living anywhere else.

It’s normal for your teen to feel upset, and there are ways to make the process easier before and after the move. Let this guide lead the way to a healthy, fresh start for the entire family — without overlooking the genuine heartache of leaving a familiar home.

Before the Move: Helping Your Teen Say Goodbye

1. Give Them Notice

First, give your teen as much notice about the move as possible. It’s important to let him or her adjust to the idea — don’t put it off in an effort to make it quick and painless. The fact is, it’s going to be painful no matter what you do, and it’s important to respect the way your teen feels. Sit him or her down, explain that the best option for your family is to make this journey together, and then listen. Be receptive to any kind of response, whether it’s excitement, shock, sadness or anger. Let your teen know you understand it will be difficult to leave, and that you’ll do everything you can to make it a little easier.

2. Focus on the Positives

When you’re young, it’s easy to dwell on the negatives, so help direct the focus to the positives. Are you moving from a small town to a city where there will be more to see and do? Maybe you’re moving to a bigger house, or to a house with a real backyard. Maybe it can even be a fresh start for your teen. If he or she has had any academic woes — be it grades, friends or behavioral issues — a brand new school with new teachers and classmates could be a great way to move forward. Don’t minimize the loss, but help the silver linings shine through.

3. Get Them Involved in Househunting

Get your teen involved in the moving process as much as possible. Let him or her help you house hunt and check out potential neighborhoods. If you’re moving cross-country, have him or her help you look at homes for sale online and ask for feedback. Scope out neighborhoods via satellite cams; see what it would be like to make the walk from your new house to school! You may even consider asking your real estate agent to take and send some recent photos of local schools, malls, skate parks, and movie theaters to share with your teen: sometimes, it really helps to create a familiarity.

Keep in mind that your teen may develop early attachments to potential new homes, so remind him or her of the need to shop around. If they become upset over what you ultimately decide is best, let them vent. Explain that you understand how frustrating it must be to have so much changing so quickly, not to mention limited control over most of it. Focus on what he or she can control. For example, he or she will have a brand new bedroom to decorate any way they like.

4. Keep the Mood Light

As you gradually pack up your belongings, keep the mood as light and positive as possible. Don’t start packing up his or her stuff without permission, but offer to help so you can make the process less overwhelming. Keep in mind you’ll need certain transcripts and medical records for the new school, so try to keep them handy but safe so you won’t scramble later.

5. Throw a Going Away Party

Help your teens say goodbye to friends and neighbors any way you can. A great idea is to throw a farewell party — maybe even a packing party if you could use the extra help! If you’re moving especially far, it may comfort him or her to devote a weekend afternoon to driving through your favorite parts of town. Reminisce about the past, but don’t overlook the excitement in making new memories in a great new place.

After the Move: Helping Your Teen Adapt and Move Forward

1. Stay Upbeat

It’s no secret that the moving process is incredibly stressful, and it’s OK to feel overwhelmed by it at times. But try your best to stay upbeat in general, especially around your teen. He or she will likely be feeling a rollercoaster of emotions: sadness over leaving home, excitement to see the new place, apprehension about a new school, and countless other anxieties. Your goal has to be to keep focusing on the positives, even amid the chaos.

2. Get His or Her Room Set up First

Give a little extra priority to getting your teen’s room organized. It’s important that with all the other changes, he or she can settle in surrounded by familiar objects. When it comes to the rest of the house, make unpacking a family activity and make it fun! If you have family in the area, recruit their help and order some pizza and play some music. Talk about which park you can’t wait to explore or which restaurant you’re eager to try. Ask for your teen’s opinion when you need an extra set of eyes. Find ways to laugh about the cabinet door that unexpectedly broke and the tacky wallpaper you’ll have to tear down. And don’t forget to take photos — you’re already creating new memories, so document them!

3. Find Your Teen a Peer Mentor

Try to network with your real estate agent and neighbors to see if you can find your teen an early peer mentor before starting school. It doesn’t have to be a student in the same grade level and it may actually help to meet someone a little older. Upperclassmen are likely to have advice about classes and teachers, know more people (and probably have a couple friends that are your teen’s age), and be able to look out for someone a grade or two younger. Your teen may feel unsure about the idea at first, so let him or her know that the door to met a potential new friend is open whenever he or she is ready. Offer to give the pair a lift to lunch some day. Give your teen the mentor’s contact information (whatever you’ve been given approval to offer, be it a phone number, Facebook page, or email) and encourage him or her to use it whenever they’re ready.

4. Register Him or Her For School Right Away

Get your teen signed up for school as soon as you can, though depending on the distance you traveled and when you arrive to your new home you may want to allow a long weekend to rest. If you move in the summer or during an extended break, don’t put off getting registration done — there could be assigned readings or other projects to consider, and you don’t want to risk your teen starting off immediately behind his or her new classmates. Find out what you can about the school’s dress code and any other major policies you’ll need to know ahead of time. You may even be able to take a tour of the school and meet some of the teachers. The more prepared your teen can feel about a brand new school, the better.

5. Find Local Activities

Look into local activities to get your teen involved in. Maybe he or she is eager to get back to a favorite sport, or interested in trying something totally new. Check with the new school for programs, as well as local youth, community, and religious centers. While you’re at it, sign yourself up for a group or class. It doesn’t have to be a major time commitment, but it sets the right example to your teen as well as gives you another opportunity to network within your new community.

6. Communicate Openly

Keep the lines of communication open throughout the settling in process. Check in to see how your teen is adjusting — especially if he or she has already started school — and continue to be receptive to however he or she feels. Allow time to vent, but help find the bright spots, especially on bad days. You want your teen to be able to feel comfortable coming to you to talk, but you also want to reassure him or her that things will get better. If he or she is shutting you out, don’t push for answers but don’t stop asking, either. Constantly remind him or her that you’re available to talk whenever they’re ready, and actively give the opportunity every day.

Encourage your teen to keep in touch with friends back home, but support efforts to spend time with new friends, as well. Offer to let classmates come over after school and to give him or her a lift to weekend activities. Social media will likely be playing a major role for your teen, and unfortunately, a new student can sometimes make for an easy target, so keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying.

7. Watch for Signs of Depression

Also keep an eye out for signs of depression, and never hesitate to seek professional advice. If your teen just can’t seem to acclimate, going to therapy may help sort out his or her feelings on the move. Let your teen know therapy is an option if he or she wants it, but be careful not to put too much pressure on the issue. It’s important he or she knows it’s not that you think something is “wrong” with them, it’s that you want them to have additional support and guidance.

It’s going to take some time for your teen to adjust to his or her new life. The best thing you can do is continue to be an outlet of support and a listening ear. Soon, you’ll be able to move forward together and truly make the most of your new home.

If you would like help with your teen or moving, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

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10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

By Gavin Ortlund

My wife, Esther, and I live in a small parsonage next to our church. So does Isaiah. So does Naomi.

With biblical names like these, you’d think Isaiah and Naomi would be the ideal roommates. But we’ve noticed that Isaiah (who just turned 3) can be pretty moody, and Naomi (who just turned 1) has a powerful set of vocal chords.

I love being a parent, and we have awesome kids. They give me so much joy. But it’s not always easy. Having kids permanently changes marriage. You try to have a conversation, and you’re constantly interrupted; you plan time to connect and you’re completely exhausted; you try to plan a date night and then realize how expensive a babysitter is. You get the idea.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about something my mom once said: being a parent, for all the strains it can put on your marriage, also allows your marriage to grow deeper and richer. It’s like going into battle with someone, coming home, and then realizing what good friends you’ve become because you were in the trenches together. So I’m learning to see this challenging season as an opportunity for our marriage, not merely a phase to endure.

After my walk with Christ, nothing should take a higher priority in my life than cultivating intimacy and friendship with my wife—not even being a dad. In fact, I know I can’t be the dad God calls me to be unless my marriage is strong. Here are some strategies we’ve reflected on that might be helpful to other young parents in a similar season of life.

Ten Strategies for Growth

1. Kiss/hug/flatter your spouse intentionally throughout the day.

Let this be the first thing you do when you get home each day. I get mobbed by my kids at the front door, who want to wrestle. I want to give them attention, but I also want them to see that Esther is a priority that nothing can displace. Little daily installments of touch, affirmation, and attention go a long way.

2. Shell out the money for babysitters and vacation, as much as you can.

It’s expensive, but it’s a worthy investment. When planning a date night, I often think, Can we afford this? But when we do it, I always think, I’m glad we did this—we needed it. It’s so important to have times of laughter, recreation, and play with your spouse. The old saying is corny but true: “Families that play together stay together.”

3. Go on walks.

This has been a game-changer for us because our kids are actually quiet in the stroller. We get exercise and sustained conversation, both of which can easily get crowded out when life is busy. If walking doesn’t work, perhaps you can pursue another hobby together. For example, if your gym offers childcare and you feel comfortable with it, drop the kids off and work out together.

4. Have creative date nights. 

We’ve developed our own weekly “date night” at home that typically involves putting the kids to bed early, reading a chapter of my grandmother’s book on marriage, talking about life, and playing a board game. Having a “date night in” saves money and reduces the tyranny of constant TV in the evening.

5. Text throughout the day.

I don’t like the way technology is always distracting me from the present, but if there’s one person with whom I want to be in a continuous text dialogue, it’s my wife. It’s a little thing that helps further our friendship, jokes, and fun. It shows I’m thinking about her. It’s a way to communicate that cannot be interrupted by a crying baby.

6. Plan times to be intimate together.

Sometimes parents of young kids have difficulty finding time for intimacy. Don’t be afraid to plan this into your weekly schedule. Planned sex is better than no sex, and it’s a way to show commitment to this area of your marriage during a busy season.

7. Carve out space to read the Bible and pray together. 

Failing to do devotions together is such a missed opportunity. Your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else does, and thus is the best person to sharpen you spiritually.

8. Take interest in your spouse’s daily life.

It’s easier to drift apart when you’re disconnected from what’s occupying your spouse throughout the day. If they work, ask them lots of questions about what’s happening in the office, and be their biggest advocate and supporter. If they stay home, help them out with the chores so that you know and appreciate all they do around the house.

9. Cultivate compassion for your spouse’s greatest weakness.

Being a parent can bring to the surface your spouse’s deepest fears, sins, and failures. It’s easy to despise those things, particularly to the extent they’re different from your own struggles. Here are a few ways to fight that judgment:

  • Remember and grieve your own sin.
  • Ask the Lord for special tenderness and compassion.
  • Don’t needle your spouse with sarcasm.
  • Speak respectfully to your friends about your spouse, rather than complaining about them.
  • Exhibit tons of patience and gentleness when discussing their weaknesses (if you need to discuss them at all).

10. Pursue your spouse’s heart. 

What are they interested in these days? What’s on their Facebook wall? What are their fears about the next 18 months? What songs do they currently like? Study them. Cultivate “inside jokes” together. Keep secrets with them, not from them (that builds intimacy over the years). Make it your lifelong goal to romance them as much as you did when you were dating, in each season of marriage.

Satan and our culture bombard us with the lie that affairs are more exciting than fidelity. One aspect of our gospel witness is to incarnate the real truth—that absolute, binding commitment is the pathway to real joy. Whatever is exciting in any romantic relationship, whatever intimacy your heart craves, whatever strength you have to offer another person—the goal of marriage is to pour all of that into one person for the rest of your life. This is God’s strategy, and it’s the most fulfilling way to live. May we cultivate marriages that point to the beauty and reality of Christ in our lives.

 

If you would like help with parenting, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Helping Older Adolescents Evaluate a Love Relationship

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Helping Older Adolescents Evaluate a Love Relationship

By Carl E. Pickhardt

(For the full article go to Psychology Today)

Actual love relationships become more frequent in older adolescence, during the high school and college age years.

Before that, “love” is more frequently confused with crushes. These are idealized projections on another person that result in a romantic attraction, mostly of the fantasy kind, which is why most crushes fail the test of reality and do not last.

It’s when loving feelings for and from another person motivate the desire to continue and deepen this attachment that it can become increasingly challenging and confusing to navigate.

The more caring the relationship grows, the more complicated to manage it becomes. Intimacy is demanding that way. And because love is such a dominant emotion, it is easy to lose perspective on what is happening  and to lose judgment about what to do.

It is when a young person is feeling frustrated, uncertain, confused, injured, or ambivalent in her or his attachment that parents of the empathetic and non-judgmental kind can be of supportive use. They can give the young person some frameworks for considering the nature and conduct of a healthy and loving relationship to help inform understanding and to guide decision-making.

To that end, what follows are several aspects of such relationships to which parents might want to speak: Treatment, Sharing, and Mutuality.

 

If you would like help with your older adolescent, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk to a coach or counselor.

Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

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Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

By Nicole Schwarz

child-angerIt’s been a walking-on-eggshells kind of day.

“That’s my decision,” you say cautiously. “No more snacks before bed.”

You pause, waiting.

And, just as expected, your child flies into a fit of rage.

“That’s not fair!” He yells, slamming his fist on the table. “I’m still hungry!”

The yelling doesn’t stop.

“Settle down!” You yell back, “If you keep this up, you won’t have a snack tomorrow night either!”

Why is everything such a battle? Why is he so angry? What can I do to help him?

HOW TO HELP YOUR ANGRY CHILD

Anger is a tricky emotion. It will take time for your child to learn these new techniques and put them to good use.

Be proactive! Planning ahead is key to helping your child manage their angry feelings.  Teach your child a variety of skills and strategies while they are calm, in a good mood, or separated from the heated situation.

  • Explore Feelings:  Anger is a master disguise for many other harder-to-express emotions like sadness, fear, and embarrassment. Talk about a variety of feelings – what they feel like inside, what they look like in the body, and what they sound like when spoken. Use books, movies, or this feeling game for examples.
  • Write a Script:  Give your child the words to use when they are upset. Teach “I-statements,” (I feel…when you…because…I wish…) or even a simple, “I feel mad right now!” You may need to model this for them at first: “You’re upset that your sister bumped you with her scooter. You’d like her to go around you next time.”
  • Change the Self-Talk:  For some children, expressing anger is a vicious cycle. They feel bad, so they act out, they get in trouble for acting out, so they feel worse. Interrupt this cycle by encouraging the good traits in your child, remind them that it’s OK to be angry and that “mad doesn’t equal bad.”
  • Give Appropriate Alternatives:  If you don’t want your child to kick the cat, direct him to a soccer ball outside. If he’s throwing toys, offer him some balled up socks instead. Work proactively to set up a safe place to express anger or cool down. (Of course, if your child is hurting others, safety is a priority).
  • Use Art:  Sometimes, words can’t express what they are feeling or thinking. Allow your child to use paints, markers, crayons, and other art supplies as a creative outlet for pent up emotions. Here are some activities to try: managing big feelings, dealing with mixed up emotions, or art  journaling.
  • Deep Breathing: Learning to calm your body and mind is key to getting your anger down to size. Yelling “calm down” in the heat of the moment is not effective. Instead, be proactive! Take time to teach your child a variety of deep breathing exercises, then practice them in calm moments.
  • Big Muscle Movements: Some children need to relieve stress through exercise, hard work, and play.  Like deep breathing, be proactive and make time for big muscle movements, like push-ups, vacuuming, or swinging throughout the day. Teach your child a yoga routine or stretch together before bed.

BONUS TIPS FOR PARENTS:

  • Calm Yourself First:  It’s easy to get swept up in your child’s emotion. Matching anger with more anger is not helpful or productive. Instead, get yourself to a calm, rational frame of mind first.  You will be able to provide your child support, and they will feel safe knowing that you are not rattled by their big feelings.
  • Self-Care is Essential:  Parenting a child who struggles with anger can be exhausting. Do not neglect taking time and space to care for yourself. I know you’re busy, but self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Find ways to fit self-care into your day so you can be available for your child.
  • Look Under the Anger:  Anger is often a go-to emotion because it keeps you from having to feel other painful or uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or disappointment. Instead of seeing your child as a “bad kid with a temper,” look at him as a “hurting child who needs help to deal with his feelings.”
  • Get Help:  Sometimes, your child’s anger is too big to manage on your own. If you feel that their anger is above and beyond what would be considered “normal” or if you just have a gut feeling that something’s not right, seek help from a mental health professional.

Stepping back, you decide to take a deep breath. (Or three)

He is still angry, but instead of seeing him as a manipulative monster, you see him as a kid who’s having trouble handling the fact that he’s not getting his way.

“I can tell that having another snack is really important to you,” you say empathetically. “You’re really disappointed.”

Instead of trying to force him to settle down, you give him space to feel this disappointment. You offer him a hug  and remain a calm presence in the room.

You know he needs to learn a better way to handle disappointment. And, it may be time to set a clear limit on after-dinner snacks. But now is not the time. You make a mental note to address these things later, when everyone is calm.

Your child can learn to manage their anger, and they need your  help to get there.

 

If you would like help with your angry child or other struggles with your child or children, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

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Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

By Nichole Schwarz

There is nothing better than hearing the sound of children laughing. Seeing your son confidently climb the ladder to the tallest slide. Getting a giant bear hug from your daughter.

Ahh…the joys of parenting.

Unfortunately, with the joy, there are also the hard times. Arguments, yelling, conflict and competition. Failure, disappointment and challenges.

Many parents feel very uncomfortable when their kids experience “negative” emotions – sadness, frustration, anger. We feel a strong desire to save them from these feelings and bring them back to happiness again.

Instead of rescuing our kids, we need to empower them! We need to let our children feel their feelings!

This is not easy.  It often takes time to see that you can still be loving and supportive without giving in or rescuing a child from a difficult emotion.

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD FEEL THEIR FEELINGS:

  • Identify the feeling: Imagine your daughter is lying on the floor of her room sobbing.  She says that she can’t move because she is so tired. She is demanding that you pick out her clothes for the day. Take this opportunity to explain the feeling she is experiencing is called, “exhausted.”
  • Empathize with their struggle:   Feeling big feelings can be overwhelming.   Both you and your child may feel the urge to just “make it go away!” Children can learn that even strong feelings will pass.   Show your support for their struggle by saying, “Trying a new skill can be frustrating!” or “Sometimes it takes a while to feel calm again.”
  •  Brainstorm alternative solutions:  Managing big feelings can be hard work! Prepare ahead of time by making  a list of ways to manage big feelings. Create a cool-down spot, practice calming skills, or make a plan.   Talk with your child about their ideas for managing big feelings, ask for input and put it into practice.
  • Look Beyond the Behavior:  Your kids aren’t going to like feeling their big feelings. They liked being rescued! You may notice an increase in behaviors at first. You may be tempted to give in or try to get the big feelings to stop. Instead, provide comfort, encouragement, and empathy as they feel the feeling.
  • Find a new way to communicate: Whining or demanding  may have  allowed your child to avoid uncomfortable feelings in the past.  Teach your child a different way to get their needs met.  You may need to feed them  the lines at first, but eventually, you can ask your child: “Can you think of a different way to ask me for help?

Remember, if your child is experiencing frustration, disappointment or anger, it does not mean you are a horrible parent.   In fact, sometimes it means that you have set an appropriate boundary for your child.

It may take time and practice to become comfortable seeing your child experience these big feelings. If this continues to be a struggle for you, please seek help from a mental health professional. Sometimes, things in our history make it very difficult to feel comfortable with big emotions – our own, and the emotions of others.