I have been thinking about common messages that I talk about in session. A huge one is “quit being okay.” People try to put on a brave face, keep it together,or struggle through when facing difficult circumstances. While its admirable and at times necessary, this is a survival mode. It is not what getting better looks like.
Culturally, we hold a little bit of a distorted value. We admire seeing someone who struggling through something and doing it gracefully. We say “she is really doing well with it” or even “she is having such faith in view of this trial”. If our life is in a mess, we should be in a mess. Not continuously hysterical or non-functioning but sad, angry, hurt, lonely. There are certainly times in our life, we must feel these negative feelings. To not feel these is to be unhealthy. (Please note the vast difference between feeling something and acting on the feeling.) You won’t stay in this place forever. If you don’t allow yourself to ever stop here, you will keep carrying these feelings with you.
We will all have times during which we are not okay and we shouldn’t try to be. Yes, in front of our kids, when around acquaintances or on the job, we might need to keep it together. The road to being better always goes through being worse first. Life gets harder so that we rise to the challenge, so that we reach out for help, so that we question ourselves and so that we are shaken enough to let go of good/bad things to reach for something better. If you are currently overwhelmed, give yourself permission to not be okay. To cry. To think irrationally. To be angry. To have no motivation. It is through this season, you come through the other side to something better.
Quit being okay, so you can be better.
Here are some book recommendations from my summer reading thus far:
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Development. By Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
A common mistake that parents make is not understanding how differently children think than adults. This book helps parents understand how the brain develops, how it communicates across different parts of the brain and how to understand children’s behavior in light of their brain development. Good reading and easily application for parents of elementary age children. My favorite chapters are chapters 2
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace who you are. By Brene Brown
Brene Brown’s work is very popular in the psychology/self help field now. Her primary job as a researcher gives her books support and are not just a packaging of her own personal ideas. The Gifts of Imperfection would be a good read for someone struggling with self-esteem, perfectionism, over-pleasing others or anxiety.
Daring Greatly: How to Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we live, love, parent and lead. By Brene Brown
Most people are not seeking out a book on how to be more vulnerable but Daring Greatly is a good recommendation for those who struggle to connect in relationships. I like chapter 4 the most.
My daughter is doing great with the toddler stage of establishing independence and autonomy. At least, that’s what I say on a good day. On a trying day, I might say she is stubborn and opinionated. She has recently assumed command of picking out her own clothes. I had to check myself the other day, when this was her outfit:
Initially, I didn’t want her to wear that. I asked myself why?
Me: “Because I don’t want people to think I dressed her like that.”
Analyzing Me: I am sure it is evident to others that she picked out her clothes but why do I care what other people think?
Me: “Because I want them to think she looks cute.”
This is where the gears grinned to a halt in my head. I wanted to her to dress in a way that appealed to others. If I told her that she couldn’t wear that outfit (aside from the fit changing would create), I would be sowing the idea of your appearance should please others. Or even worse, you should dress in a way that makes yourself attractive to other people. Yuck!
This is not at all the message I want to be subtly ingraining in her. I learned that if I am not careful I will unconsciously start her off seeking other people’s approval and discounting her own opinions and choices. So now most days she wears what she wants – as long as it matches the weather outside and the needs of the occasion. Much to her dismay, I still have not let her go out wearing her Snow White costume but she did get to wear her pink tutu. Someday we will get to the idea of matching and coordinating colors.
More importantly though, I am trying to be sensitive to the subtle messages she receives. Not long after this, we were at the mall and I saw there was a perfume poster with a naked women with her arms folded across her chest. At her age, I didn’t have to address this one yet. When she is older, we will have to talk about why you see ads mostly with naked women and not men, why neither is okay, what is beautiful and how you show your beauty.
So in hopes of a strong self image in the future, who knows what you will spot her wearing today. I will be proud of her choice and be happy to have one less battle to fight.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
- I like this book because it is short enough to read a 1-2 sittings and is very easy to apply to your relationships.
Divorce Busting: A step by step approach to making your marriage loving again by Michele Weiner-Davis.
- The first part of the book might be a little slow but the second half has some great applications for struggling relationships.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson.
- Dr. Johnson has developed a very successful method of couples therapy, the model I most often use with couples. Her self help book is an in depth read which can give couples a new understanding and direction for their relationship.
10 Great Dates Before You Say I Do by David & Claudia Arp and Curt & Natelle Brown.
- A great book to help couples prepare for marriage. Each chapter focuses on an important topics for premarital couples and has sections to complete individually and to talk through as a couple.
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by Dr. John Gottman.
- Gottman focuses on the often ignored or misunderstood role of emotions and emotional development. His techniques have been validated by research.
Scream Free Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel.
- Scream Free focuses on how parents can change what is going wrong by learning how to control how they respond to their children.
Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster Cline and Tim Fay.
- This is a parenting classic. Love and Logic’s approach is understandable, easy to apply and the book gives lots of examples. Also look for their adapted versions for teens and young children.
How to Talk so Your Kids will Listen & How to Listen so Your Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
- Another classic in the parenting self help field. This book provides a wealth of examples on how to apply their ideas to daily situations.
Forgiving the Devil by Terry Hargrave
- A great book if you have been hurt by a loved one or had a long standing damaged relationship. Focuses on forgiveness, moving forward, and rebuilding relationships.
30 Day Love Detox by Dr. Wendy Walsh
- A good book about dating for modern singles. Walsh uses a lot of research and an evolutionary biology perspective to support her conclusions. I might take a different stance on some issues but I believe it is very helpful for singles who are navigating new dating scene that has changed vastly.
The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner
- A classic book for women about handling relationship, where the root of bad relationship patterns come from and how to change yourself.
Tips for Parents on Media Coverage of the Tornadoes
(information taken from a handout created by National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.NCTSN.org.)
While the media (television, radio, print and the internet) can help inform and educate you and your children during tornadoes, media coverage unfortunately also has the potential to upset and confuse. As parents, you can protect your children by helping them understand media coverage while limiting their exposure to distressing images.
The impact of media coverage will be different depending upon whether you are:
- A family currently evacuated viewing for the first time your home or neighborhood
- A family who have loved ones in the affected area
- A family who has been affected by tornadoes in the past
- A family not directly threatened who is viewing news about the impact that tornadoes are having on others (loss of their home, belongings, pets, school or church buildings)
Children and families who suffer loss in the tornadoes are the most vulnerable to negative effects from excessive media viewing.
Understanding Media Exposure
- Media coverage can produce increased fears and anxiety in children.
- The more time children spend watching coverage of the tornadoes, the more likely they are to have negative reactions.
- Graphic images and news stories of loss may be particularly upsetting to children.
- Very young children may not understand that the coverage and repetition of images from an earlier or past event is a replay. They may think the event is continuing to happen or is happening again.
- Excessive exposure to the media coverage may interfere with children’s recovery after an event.
What Parents Can Do to Help
- Limit Your Children’s Exposure to Media Coverage
- The younger the child, the less exposure he/she should have.
- You may choose to eliminate all exposure for very young children.
- Play DVDs or videotapes of their favorite shows or movies instead.
- Consider family activities away from television, radio, or internet.
- Watch and Discuss with Children
- Watch what they watch.
- Discuss the news stories with them, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read, or heard.
- Ask older children and teens about what they have seen on the internet, in order to get a better sense of their thoughts, fears, concerns, and point-of-view.
- Seize Opportunities for Communication
- Use newsbreaks that interrupt family viewing, or internet or newspaper images as opportunities to open conversation. Be available to talk about their feelings, thoughts, and concerns, and reassure them of their safety and of plans to keep them safe, if needed, such as where to seek shelter during a tornado warning.
- Clear Up Any Misunderstandings
- Don’t presume you know what your children are thinking; ask if they are worried and discuss those worries with them, reassuring them as needed.
- Ask questions to find out if your children are understanding the situation accurately; they may think they are at risk when they are not.
- Monitor Adult Conversations
- Watch what you and other adults say about the tornadoes or the media coverage in front of the children; children often listen when adults are unaware and may misconstrue what they hear.
- Let Your Children Know about Successful Community Efforts
- You may want to share positive media images, such as reports that families safely sheltered or stories of people or animals brought to safety.
- Reassure your children that many people and organizations are working together to help the community. This will give them a sense that adults are actively taking steps to protect them, their home, their pets, and their neighborhood.
- Educate Yourself
- Learn about children’s common reactions to tornadoes or other natural disasters.
- Know that many children are resilient and cope well, but some may have continuing difficulties. These reactions vary with age and exposure to the event.
When Your Family is Part of the Story
- Know Your Limits
- Decide if it’s a good idea for you or your children to talk to the media. While it’s natural to want to tell your story, the media may not be the best place to do so.
- Think about what you are willing and not willing to discuss. You have the right to set limits with reporters.
- Ask the reporter for the purpose of the story and its content.
- Protect Your Children
- Make sure the reporter has had experience working with children in the past.
- Talk it over with your children before they are interviewed. Assure them that there are no wrong answers.
- Let them know they can say “no” to any question and they can stop the interview at any time.
- Be present when your children are being interviewed. Stop the interview if they becomes upset or distressed in any way.
- After the interview, discuss the experience with your children. Praise them for doing a great job and listen carefully to any concerns they have.
- Prepare your children that the final media story may be very short or may be edited in ways that do not reflect their experience.
Further information about children, families, and tornadoes can be found at the website of the
National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.NCTSN.org.
Step 2: Assess the Damage
Once you can subdue the bleeding, step 2 is to assess the damage. When you are not dodging verbal daggers from one another, you have some space to start identifying the roots of the conflict. If you are fighting about anything and everything, then you are not talking about the right thing. The task at hand is to get to core issues driving all these fights. Step 2 is only successful as an individual activity.
Think about your recent fights and the things that bother you about your relationship or partner. You can surely make a list of problems and dislikes. These are likely not the core problem but rather a symptom of it. Getting to the core is one of the hardest parts .
Ask yourself: What is it that continues to hurt me in the relationship? What is it that I react to the most strongly? Why does it bother me so much? What does your partner do that sends you through the roof and why do you believe they do that? What are the feelings or needs that are not getting met? What is it that you miss most about your relationship when it was better?
These question hopefully will begin to point to a few core issues. You know you are getting close when you can capture most of what is wrong for you in a few phrases (ex:“I don’t feel cared about.” “I can’t ever please her.” “I don’t think you take my problems seriously.”) If your list still has more than 3 things on it, consider revising. Are these things connected? Do what is the common thing that you think about when these things happen? How do you feel then these things happen? Are the answers similar?
Getting to the core of the issue is more of an art than a science. Your understanding of it will likely be fine-tuned as you go. If both partners can separately start to identify the core issues for them in the relationship, then you can start working on the core instead of fighting about the surface layer.
A last tip: in thinking about how to phrase these to your partner, figure out a way to say it without starting with you don’t, you aren’t, etc. Start with yourself: I feel, I don’t like, I want.
Step 1: Stop the Bleeding
The first step in first aid when someone is bleeding is to apply pressure to stop it. The first step when a couple is in continuous conflict is to stop the bleeding as well. Continuous negativity has one of the most toxic effects on relationship quality and satisfaction. If your arguments leave you feeling like you have been in a boxing match, your relationship can not sustain through this for a long period of time without experiencing some steep consequences.
A first step is to agree as a couple to stop a fight when it starts to enter the point of no return. Establish a line of when an argument is productive and when it is harmful. Some examples of this line might be: shouting, name calling, making threats about leaving, tit-for-tat arguing (you did this…but you did…only because you…), bringing up the past, etc. The key isn’t where the line is drawn but that you both agree to hold the line. You must have this conversation when you are both calm and not in an argument.
Stopping toxic fights can give your relationship the space and safety to reassess and heal. Once you stop the bleeding, then you can assess the damage and work to repair it.
Welcome to my new blog!
I have decided to start blogging to share some information and thoughts about families, couples, and children in hopes of helping people improve their relationships. Read at your leisure and I hope that you find something that sparks a new thought for you.