Saturday, September 24, 2011

Becoming Your Own Best Friend

Everybody could use a supportive best friend who has your back,challenges you,and encourages the best in you.Maybe you already know them,and your new best friend is you.How can you become a wonderful friend to yourself?

Pay attention to your need for inspiration and positive input.If you are acting like a good friend to yourself,you will always be on the lookout for contact with people who lift you up and make you want to be a better person.Be on the lookout for interesting workshops,speakers,books,places,and experiences which will get your personal energy level up.Make plans that you look forward to,and which keep you having a growing edge.People aren't happy when they are bored,and some fresh ideas and input are refreshing.

Don't let anyone mistreat you.Stand up and be a champion for yourself.Move away from anyone who is toxic,negative,critical,or needy enough to swallow your spirit whole.Notice how you feel after spending time with people you know.Do you feel energized,relaxed,and refreshed? Or do you feel drained and worn out? Reschedule accordingly! Set limits and boundaries,with work and with family and friends.Surround yourself with only quality people who are courageous,honest,and kind.

Remember your rights as a human being.You have a right to be yourself.You are allowed to have your own thoughts,feelings,and ideas.God made you unique,and if you can't give yourself permission to be yourself,noone else can.Speak up.Don't allow anyone to belittle or demean you.It's your your own best friend,to be protective of you.

What serendipity to find a wonderful best friend who has been there beside you all this time.Imagine that!

Treat yourself kindly.Do extreme self-care.Exercise,eat,and sleep intentionally,like you are here to last.Get rid of the Russian Olympic judge in your head who runs a negative commentary.Forgive yourself,and forgive others for not being perfect.Realize we can hit our own restart button anytime,and become a better parent,partner,or person anytime.While we can't redo the past,we can live well today.Allow yourself to apologize,and begin again.Eliminate your internal critic.

Try not to judge yourself or other people.It's not our job.Generally,most people do the best that they can at the time,and when they know more they can do better,in relationships,and in life.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Helping Your Child Through Your Divorce

People dream about falling in love,getting married,starting a family,and living happily ever after.Nobody dreams about getting divorced,tearing that family apart,and sharing custody of the children you love with an ex you're angry with.I always strongly encourage parents to work it out if you possibly can.The facts are that in the U.S.,half of all marriages do,sadly, end in divorce.

If you do have to go through a divorce,it is incredibly important to pay attention to your child's developmental stage and needs as you transition through the divorce process and beyond.Parents need an adult listener to talk to during this difficult time.Your child needs a good relationship with both you and your ex-spouse.It is easy and tempting for adults in the painful trauma and loss of divorce to reach out to their children for support.Don't do it.The boundaries between adult and children are incredibly important.Long-term it's only doing more damage to your child to try to get them to align with you and support your position against the other parent.

Parents separating and the setting up of two---rather than one--households,can feel like a free fall for children and for teens.It's upsetting to deal with all the change and transition between the households.Try to get the focus back on the children or teens as soon as you can.Reestablishing routines,such as bedtime,storytime,family meals,game night or movie night,homework times and places,worshipping as a single parent family are all helpful.

Minimize distractions.You are more needed than ever by your children in the time period during the separation and divorce,so this is not a good time to date someone new and add an additional change for your child or children.Limit your work hours the best you can when the chidren are with you.

Watch out especially for your oldest child or a child of your own gender,who may want to get close and partner you emotionally.It's not their job! Over time,they will be so grateful if you protect what is remaining of their childhood instead of having them make you feel better.Get professional counseling if you are having trouble doing this.You really do want your child or children to have the very best relationship they can have with both you and their other parent.

Children and teens need to feel reassured that both you and their other parent still love them, and that they didn't cause the problems.Be aware of any leakage of anger and hostility about your former partner.Count on even small children listening to your cell phone calls.I have had children tell me they hate hearing one parent badmouth the other on phone calls to friends.Some children even figure out a parents codeword for the ex-partner.In general,don't blow off steam about the child/children's other parent when they are with you.It takes self-discipline,but you will help get your children through this with less trauma.

Structural family therapists note that the family is destabilized in a divorce,and one or more children will probably want to leave the sibling subset and come join the remaining adult in the home in the executive unit.Don't let this happen,and instead do the personal growth to become a strong and capable single-parent.You will be so glad later that you didn't lean on your child or children.Your goal should be to help the children to continue to grow and develop as normally as possible,despite your divorce.Teens are especially vulnerable when parents divorce,because they are so aware of everything,and they are trying to individuate from the family just as the family they always knew is disolving.

Longitudinal studies of the children of divorce lead by Center for the Family in Transition research psychologist Judith Wallerstein show us that children of divorce have their own grief process,apart from their parents grief.Children of divorce often reeperience their grief at various developmental milestones in their own lives.Children fare better if both parents stay invoved--financially,emotionally,and physically.

It can be helpful for your child or children to speak with a therapist with special expertise in treating children and teens.It is important that the therapist is not aligned with mom or dad,but is a safe place for the young person to sort out their own feelings about the changes in their family,and to help them adjust.

Parents could also use support:parent coaching,a divorce support group,and/or individual counseling.Even a little coaching can make a huge difference in staying on-track with your parenting role and working through your own feelings about the divorce.

Divorce means loss for adults and for children.How things are handled,and using care in maintaining adult/child boundaries will help stop the emotional bleeding,and help everyone move along to have a good life anyway,despite the divorce.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Emotional Vampires---Know Any?

Who are your emotional vampires? The way to spot an emotional vampire is to notice how you feel after you spend time with them.If you feel refreshed and happy,they are not one.If,on the otherhand, you feel depleted,exhausted,and like all the blood has been sucked out of you, you may have been hanging out with one.

Emotional vampires are downers.They whine and complain.They love to blame others and take no personal responsibility for their part in any difficulty in any situation or relationship.They find conflict enjoyable.They pick fights,and issue ultimatums.They need to direct MOST of the conversation.There is very little of you in the interaction.Negativity and other toxic emotions swirl around the vampire like the Peanuts character,Pigpen, who is surrounded by a cloud of dirt.

You cannot do a makeover on an emotional vampire type of personality.Your only recourse is to save yourself.Limit the exposure you have to this toxic individual.Rebalance yourself by spending time alone restoring and calming yourself.
Actively schedule time with other people who you can be encouraged by.Get their toxic influence neutralized by exercising regularly and doing other forms of extreme self-care.

Basically,as soon as you identify the emotional vampires in your life,it is very important to begin managing their impact on you through all means available.Drive your own car.Limit the amount of time you can see them.Develop broken record statements to respond rotely to their avalanche of negative thoughts,feelings,and experiences.Don't be naive and think you can help solve their world view.Their mindset is causing the problem,and they are the only person who can change that channel.Mindsets are an inside job.

Energy vampires and emotional vampires in your life? Identify their draining dance as soon as possible,move as far away as you can,and keep a close watch on how your emotional and physical health are impacted by these individuals.Halloween season or not,nobodys' life is improved by letting vampire clients,coworkers,friends,or family feast on you.Healthy relationships provide support and encourage both people. Emotional vampires leave you needing intervenous feeding,and deplete you for hours or days afterwards.Carry on,and watch out for these vampires.Carry BIG limits.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Relationships Thrive

You can't plant a garden and forget to water,feed,or weed it and expect it to grow.If you do that, you will walk outside and find it dead at some point.Close relationships also take tending to be at their healthiest. What skills does it take to make your closest relationships really satisfying? Here are a few:

1. Be intentional about spending time together.A relationship can't thrive on e-mails,text messages,periodic phone calls,and ignoring each other. Step away from the technology,and have some fun together.In his research on happy couples,John Gottman found that the happiest couples have high-energy fun together on a frequent basis.While small and school-age children often seek out fun with parents and grandparents,we have to reach out more creatively to engage teens.Join teens on their turf,and invite them to bring a friend,or sweep them away for a meal out with you one-on-one.

2. Recognize and celebrate the positive.Catch your partner,child,or family member doing something positive,and compliment them.Be specific.Most people feel thirsty for positive feedback,and besieged by negative feedback.You can create circles of encouragement in your relationships by pointing out positive effort,persistence,creativity,follow-through,and courage.You can create a relationships where you bring out each other's highest self.

3.Build positive momentum.Cherish your shared history by making photographs of good times spent together visible in your home environment.Couples can create an "us" bulletin board in their space,where favorite moments of your shared history are celebrated.Identify fun traditions you can look forward to,like date nights for couples,game nights for families with younger children,or family meal traditions that are unique to your family.

4.Resolve differences directly and effectively.Learn to fight fairly in your relationships.If you have a problem in a close relationship,talk in confidence with that person directly.Don't be triangulating by talking to a third person.Stick to one topic.Listen to the other person from your heart,for understanding.

5.Apologize when you have done something to hurt the relationship.Own up.Ask for forgiveness.

6.Be generous:with affection,with kindness,with your time,and with forgiveness.

7.Imagine yourself in the other person's shoes.Empathize.Be aware that situations in life and in relationships look different from the other person's perspective.Be conscious that the other person may have different needs and wants; relationships are a team-sport,and it's not always all about you.

8.Ask for input from the other person about any ideas they have to change,improve,or upgrade the relationship.

9.Listen.Really listen,putting away distractions.It feels wonderful to REALLY be heard in your closest relationships.

10.Let the other person know what you love about them,and often.Today is the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist strikes in the US,and a good day to remember that life is indeed fragile,and that it's important not to take the people closest to you for granted.Taking advantage of the moments we have with our loved ones is crucial,as noone is promised tomorrow.

We each have it in our power everyday to take care of our closest relationships so they flourish and grow fully.Very little in life means more than our closest bonds.Since relationships are never in a static state,but always dynamic,we either deepen our relationships by our daily behaviors,or we passively outprioritize them with other things.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reinventing Yourself

As the season changes to fall,the warm summer weather fades,children and teens are back at school,and its time to freshen up our lives a little.Just like the year has seasons,so do our lives.

Over the last week,I read a new book about the last third of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis' life,went she began a career in publishing at age 46,as her children were late teens,and she was not as needed by them."Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis",by Greg Lawrence(Thomas Dunne Books,2011)is a warm and interesting portrait that examines the question of how Onassis reinvented herself after the passing of her second husband.For many years,Jackie was overshadowed by the powerful men in her life,and her role as wife and as mother.In her mid-40's,she really didn't have a clear purpose,and was ready to keep her mind busy with a new one.

JKO didn't need the money she would earn as a book editor.She only earned a few hundred dollars a week to start,and she had plenty of money in her trusts from both previous marriages.The author suggests that Jackie had always loved reading,and found authors interesting,and their work important.

Even Freud knew that we need two elements in our lives:love and work.Just one is not enough,and may put unnecessary srain and pressure on your work or personal life.The two elements balance each other in creating a more deeply contented person.Caroline Kennedy,in a recent interview done in advance of the September,2011,release of her new book,states that her mother often expressed wanting both meaningful work and love for both she and her brother,John.

Creating a meaningful life means reconsidering the mix of people,purposes,and use of time periodically.Different developmental stages for us as individuals,and as families,offer us opportunities to consider:

1)Am I contributing in the way I want to others?

2)Is there a new challenge or skill I would like to master?

3)Are there unlived experiences I want to pursue now,while I am healthy?

4)Does the way I am spending my time still make sense now?

5)Am I bored?

In Lawrence's book,the writer follows Jackie's battle with cancer,her early death,and how it impacted her friends in the publishing industry,and those outside of it.Scott Myers is noted for remarking when he was told of Jackie's terminal cancer,"This was a true tragedy,because I got a strong sense that this woman,at this point,had life figured out.She had surrounded herself with this constellation of cultured,wonderful people,she had many interests she cared deeply about,she was constantly immersed in new and stimulating ideas.She had strong family ties,her personal life was solid,and that she had places that she loved..."

So both the year, and our lives, have seasons.Adapting,reinventing,and updating are key skills that make individuals successful in creating a meaningful life.Making our passages is a critically important life skill.