Tag: family

Preparing for Summer with Your Family: Prioritizing Your Relationship

Summer is an exciting time for families. Your kids are home, family vacations are planned, and you may often feel like you’re connecting more with one another. However, summer can also present challenges. If you work full or part time, having kids home may bring up issues with finding childcare or summer camps and activities for them to participate in. Even if you work from home or stay at home full time, this change in how you’ll be spending and organizing your time can feel like a disruption. One important thing to keep in mind is that even though your kids are home for the summer, your romantic relationship still is a priority. Here are a few ways to prioritize your relationship during family time or catering to the summertime activities that your kids are participating in:

Date Night

Date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house, and it doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner or a show. Instead, tap into your creativity to create a “date night” that focuses on your significant other and still accommodates your summer schedule. Maybe you share a special dessert and watch a movie in your pajamas after the kids go to bed, or maybe you meet for lunch in the middle of your work day. The key is setting aside focused time for one another.

Vocalize Your Feelings

When we feel like we have plenty of time for our significant other and for ourselves, we might fall into a habit of not sharing how much that focused time means to us. This can evolve into forgetting to vocalize how much we appreciate one another and ourselves. When your life gets busy with kids being home for the summer, remember to tell your significant other that they matter to you. It doesn’t have to be a great speech, just a simple, “I love you and you’re important to me,” in the morning before your day starts can often be enough.

Make Family Plans Together

When your schedule shifts to accommodate your kids being home for summer break, it’s easy to have one person in your relationship take on all aspects of the planning. Instead, sit down together before school lets out and make plans. Whether that’s signing all of the little ones up for summer sports or deciding you’d like to take a week-long trip as a family, staying organized and unified before schedules get hectic is a great way to start things off on the right foot.

Approach Everything with Gratitude

Cherish the time you have during the summer with your family. It certainly isn’t the usual pace and schedule that everyone is used to, but change can be beneficial for the soul. Find gratitude for having your kids home, and for those special moments you share with your significant other as you continue to prioritize your relationship. The more gratitude you feel and express, the more you’ll enjoy all aspects of your season.


Truly Celebrating Valentine’s Day

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It’s the time of year where stores are covered in displays of hearts, sales on gifts for that special someone takes over advertising, and expectations for romance are at an all-time high. But are these expectations healthy? Getting involved in Valentine’s Day is overwhelming for some as they focus themselves on what they “should” be doing to express love for their partner, or what they “should” expect from their significant other, but there is a healthier approach. Focusing on the “shoulds” of life and love is always a recipe for negativity.

Valentine’s Day is fraught with expectations – many of which are implied by companies looking to make an extra few dollars on a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, or a sweet card. These things themselves aren’t inherently negative, but the pressure surrounding them certainly causes plenty of individuals to be discontented. If you’re in a relationship, there’s an expectation to make it a day that fully celebrates your significant other, more so than every other day that you love and cherish them. If you’re not in a relationship, there’s an expectation that you’re searching for love and will be thrilled if it magically comes together by Valentine’s (and crushed if you’re alone without a date).

However, these expectations are fully under our control. You have the power to shift your expectations to something more positive, and frankly, more in line with the holiday’s true intent – celebrating love. This Valentine’s Day, the choice is yours. Your day does not need to center on this notion of the romantic ideal. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that energy on truly celebrating those you love, however you prefer to do so?

Rather than focusing on what societal expectations are for Valentine’s Day this year, empower yourself to celebrate the many kinds of fulfilling loves in your life. Maybe that love is shared with a significant other, or between you and your family, or with your closest friends, or maybe it’s just the love you have for yourself and who you have grown into as a person. Love is not exclusive, and Valentine’s Day doesn’t belong only to the bouquet of roses you’re expecting from your partner.

This is a time to embrace the love you have in your life right now and joyfully revel in all the positivity it brings you. Whatever your love life looks like, take Valentine’s Day to celebrate these meaningful connections and relationships rather than dwelling on what material gifts or displays of love you expect out of your current or desired romantic relationship. This could mean reconnecting with an old friend, meeting a beloved family member for lunch to catch up, enjoying time to yourself with your favorite cup of coffee, or, yes, taking focused time to appreciate your romantic partner for all that they are to you.

Don’t get lost in the desires for romantic overtures and the pressure of expectations this season. Instead, this Valentine’s Day, allow positive energy and the powerful existence of all the many kinds of love in your life be celebrated without expectation – only deep appreciation and contentment.


Valuing Traditions in Life

With the passing of Labor Day, we are reminded of the pleasures traditions offer us. How they are a rich fabric of our lives, if we pay homage to them. Have you ever stopped for a moment and reflected on the value of your own traditions? Perhaps the grind of modern life has caused you to let go of cherished familial, cultural, or holiday customs. Carving out time for a tradition can restore your sense of connection while providing opportunities to create new memories.

Traditions are a wonderful way to catch up with people you love. They can be as simple as a once a month coffee or as extravagant as meeting for a vacation each year. Maybe your neighborhood has an annual potluck supper? By taking the time to participate, you build and strengthen relationships. You also develop a sense of belonging, which combats feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Honoring tradition helps you establish your own personal identity. When you choose to celebrate with others, whether they are family or friends, this is a beautiful expression of what values you hold dear. Often out of respect for the deeper meaning behind the tradition, you may re-arrange a work-week or forgo a routine. Maybe you and your spouse decide that every Wednesday you have a date night away from the children. Or you commit to a spiritual practice. These micro adjustments can be powerful testimonies to what you value in life. Traditions are often examples or inspirations for others to follow their belief systems.

Children adore traditions. Think back to your own family traditions; my great aunt Rose would make honey cake and my mom would make a chocolate cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting that to this day when I think of either I feel warm and fuzzy inside. Celebrating with your children can help build bonds while giving them a glimpse of their ancestral heritage. Traditions connect children to their cultural and familial past and paint a picture they can carry with them. They give them a safe sense of belonging and security in a changing world.

Traditions can be modified or adapted to better serve those participating. Perhaps your family doesn’t eat meat, rather than turkey for Thanksgiving you gather over a scrumptious vegetarian meal. All the essential elements are still there; the preparation, the togetherness, the laughter, the breaking bread. New traditions can be initiated as well at any time. They can be serious or silly. I had a friend who started a tradition of “birthday elves” for her children. She would decorate with balloons and streamers the night before her children’s birthdays. In the morning the kids would be delighted to find the elves once again had remembered them. The interesting thing was, even when the children grew to teenagers they still wanted a visit from the birthday elves!
When traditions come from the heart, they allow us time to express our emotions. To commemorate a passed loved one with an annual ceremony gives expression of the love and life of that person. Traditions give us permission to step off life’s merry-go-round and to reflect. By keeping relished traditions we create a haven for ourselves and our children; a place where we recognize the relevance of our past and the importance of our future.

As the fall season fast approaches, perhaps allow yourself time to renew the gift of celebrating traditions. Evaluate those that have meaning to you and have somehow been neglected. By weaving traditions into your life, the fabric of your life will be richer.
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Life Balance

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Balance is an essential part of life. When elements in nature become unbalanced, they eventually correct themselves. The more out of synch the elements in nature are, the more intense the correction—what we call “natural disasters.”

If a houseplant is completely ignored, or only taken care of sporadically, the plant will not do well and might even die. If you give it too little attention—keep it away from sunlight, deny it water, or fail to plant it in the right soil—you can’t expect it to flourish. This is analogous to not taking care of an area of your life. By the same token, spending too much time and effort in a particular area of life is not healthy either. It’s like over-pruning the plant or providing it with too much water or sun.

As in nature, when we experience imbalance in areas of our lives—working too much, ignoring our finances, not taking time for self-love—there will be subsequent results.

There are 4 main areas of life most of us can identify with as being significant:

  • Relationships – Our interactions with and connections to family, friends, and community.
  • Finances – The money we earn, save, invest, and spend.
  • Career – What we do (for pay or not) that contributes to our profession or career goals.
  • Self – Our spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and desires.

Every life area is important and needs attention to foster balance. When we spend most of our focus in one area—say, putting all our attention on our career—then another area will most likely suffer—for example, relationships or self-care.

Take a few minutes to determine what percentage of time and energy you spend in each of these areas. Are any of them lacking? Is there a way you can bring those areas into greater balance? What is one step you could take to do so? Perhaps it’s consolidating one or two workdays each week in order to spend that time with family. Or maybe it’s scheduling a monthly massage or earmarking 10 minutes each morning to journal. If your finances need attention, maybe consulting a financial advisor or a friend who excels in budgeting is in order. Commit to taking at least one action step in any life area that is out of balance, no matter how small it seems.

The amount of attention each life area needs may be different. Determine the amount of focus and energy that feels right for you. It may initially take a bit of focus, discipline, and effort to keep our life in balance, but like anything else we keep practicing, it will soon become second nature.


Showing Compassion in Times of Conflict

_528A relationship breakup, workplace conflict, a feud with a family member or friend…these experiences can be difficult and may involve tense communications and stress. Most of us can recall a time when we felt that someone was causing us suffering, either intentionally or unintentionally. It can be challenging to see past the situation and the other person’s actions, which can color your view of them. It is easy to blame others for our feelings.

While some of us are content with being swept up in a drama, others would rather apply a higher-self perspective to conflict. For those of us who desire the latter, how can we show compassion to people we perceive as causing us suffering?

Try a perspective shift. Keep in mind that people who are hurting tend to hurt other people. However, it is up to us how we perceive our reality. We create our own hurt by what we say to ourselves about the other person. If we change our thoughts, our feelings will change.

Be aware of what you’re feeling about the situation with this person. When you feel anger, anxiety, fear, or any kind of stress, mentally say, “Stop!” and then visualize a stop sign. This will halt the body and mind from continuing to circulate non-constructive thoughts and feelings. Take a few deep breaths while you ask your body to release any tension. Then ask yourself:

  • What are the facts about this situation? We usually have a story attached to what the other person is doing or not doing. We guess what they are thinking and what their intentions are. Think of how a lawyer might present the facts of a case in court. Hearsay, inner dialogue, feelings, and predictions aren’t useful there, and neither are they to you. Separating fact from story is helpful in avoiding emotionally charged thinking.
  • How significant is this problem in the grand scheme of my life? How significant is this in relation to the timeline of the universe?While you may not prefer that someone is talking about you, being antagonistic, giving you the cold shoulder, etc., what are they really doing to you in this moment? Recognize that your thoughts about the other person are what are causing the feelings you don’t like. Shrinking the perceived enormity of your situation can allow you to regain perspective.

Focus in on the present. Usually, nothing “bad” is happening to us in the moment. We are thinking about the past or the future, which is causing us discomfort. Take a deep breath, let it out, and tell yourself, “All is well. Right here, right now.”

Show yourself love. In times of stress, it is even more important to practice self-love. Whether it’s walking in nature, getting a massage, losing yourself in a great book, taking a yoga class…Take time for yourself doing things that are enjoyable and nurturing. Here are some of my videos explaining how to use meditation, breathing techniques, and laughter yoga to de-stress and re-center.

Although you can’t control what someone else does, you can control how you process the experience and interact. I hope these points help you to release unsupportive feelings, as well a see the conflict from a more neutral standpoint. It is much easier to deal with these types of challenges when you are coming from a calm, clear place.

 


Growing an Intimate Relationship

Are you married now? Have you thought about being married? Do you ever wonder how you can have a lasting marriage? Do you want to re-marry but are unsure it’s right?

Think about how much work you put into preparing for a career. Weddings as well often take a large amount of planning and preparation. Think about what happens after the honeymoon, though. Have you simply planned your wedding, or have you prepared for your future? Isn’t it interesting that when it comes to your marriage, preparation is often not part of the picture.

Preparation and education are vital to a lasting marriage. Here are some important steps to explore and share with your partner before and after your wedding:

Increasing Intimacy

  • Understand your own values, qualities. Explore each other’s values and qualities, such as truthfulness, trustworthiness, integrity etc.
  • Be responsible for your words and actions. Communicate clearly and often with each other. This will help you develop great communication skills which are vital to a happy marriage.
  • Develop a deep and caring friendship with your partner. Learn each other’s likes and dislikes, such as foods, entertainment, sports, recreation etc. Know that it is okay that not every interest includes both partners.
  • Ask yourself if you have the ability to be a compatible and harmonious couple. Can you laugh at yourself and each other’s foibles or quirks?
  • Consider if you both have the same values around family. Communicate your expectations. Do you want to build connections with each other’s family? Do you want to have children together? Discuss this in advance and decide a strategy.
  • Explore and discuss how you will manage money. Many couples do not discuss this and later have challenges around how to spend, how to save, etc. If you work this out in advance you will be true friends and your marriage can be a happy one. Money is the #1 reason for arguments in a marriage.
  • What are your sex role expectations? Become clear about them and communicate them to your partner.
  • As you establish a strong spiritual and emotional bond, the happier your marriage will be. By communicating clearly you will feel heard and understood and your relationship will grow.

Confusing Marital Statistics

The latest statistics on marriage in the United States say that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. This can be misleading.

They initially might make one want to work in couples’ therapy on their first marriage as it has a higher possibility of success. While this may be true, I wondered at what cost to the couple and the family. Please do not misunderstand me; I think it is wonderful for people to be in healthy working marriages. What I do not think is that staying together out of fear of being alone, ‘for the sake of the children’, or for financial insecurities is healthy. After reading these statistics I began to wonder why first marriages last longer.

Most first marriages occur when we are young and do not yet know who we are. As we mature sometimes we grow apart from our partners; developing different interests, values change too. It is not that we do not love or care for each other anymore, it is just that we would prefer a partner that shares our values and interests. Moreover, one’s sex drive does change as we age. It does not necessarily slow down but desires and tastes change.

Many first marriages are held together by a common goal of wanting, and having children. Parents want to be in the same home with their offspring. As children grow, the need for the parents to stay together may shift: the couple may notice that they have little in common. For some this is a time of re-kindling the relationship and developing new-shared interests.

Another thought I have had is that during a first marriage many people care more greatly for what their families and friends will think if they divorce. They themselves have a negative view of divorce and so assume that their family and friends will too. Sometimes this is so, but not always. Having no experience in leaving one life and creating another, divorce is very hard and scary for most people, especially for those whom have never done it before.

If a couple does choose to get a divorce they live through the initial hardship of it then grow and learn that they can build a new life. Often the new life can be more satisfying for them.

With age and the experience of a divorce most people will become less afraid of moving on and less tolerant of behaviors in others that they do not appreciate. So, a second divorce although equally challenging is easier as the fears that you will not be able to build a new satisfying life is no longer present.

If you are in a good marriage, whether it is your first or your fifth, and you are having a challenge; than a great couples therapist can be a catalyst in working out the knots.

Just make certain that this therapist is actually trained as a couple’s therapist and not an individual therapist that calls themselves a couple’s therapist. Individual therapists working with couples can actually do harm to your relationship as they do not understand that your relationship has a voice of it’s own.