Many parents feel anxious when it comes to discussing sexuality with their children. You are not alone. Even the most confident parents may squirm just a bit when a child asks a direct question regarding sexuality that they are not prepared to discuss. Here are some resources to help you and your child navigate the important process of discussing sexual issues. Thank you to my colleague Holly Willard, LCSW for book recommendations.
Wasatch Family Therapist founder and owner Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW had the opportunity to be interviewed for the MarketWatch section of the Wall Street Journal about her experience pursuing a career while also being a mother. It is very encouraging and exciting that recent studies show that women with advanced degrees and education are also having children. Whereas in the past, women either had families or great jobs, today the tide is turning, and we no longer have to choose!
What are the factors causing this change? Fathers helping with domestic responsibilities and raising children, a mobile workforce, and increased opportunities are among the reasons that highly educated women are having more babies.
Here’s an excerpt:
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, is the owner and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the mother to four children. On Saturday, she will graduate from University of Louisiana at Monroe with a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy. “Tomorrow, I will be Dr. Julie Hanks.”
When it came to education and children, her motto for the past 25 years has been, ‘I refuse to choose!’ “Women seem to be challenging the long-held notion that an education/career and family are mutually exclusive,” Hanks says. “It’s no longer an either/or decision.”
She’s not alone. The number of highly educated women who are remaining childless into their mid-40s has plummeted over the last two decades, according to a new study by the nonprofit Pew Research Center, which crunched U.S. Census data.
LCSW Clair Mellenthin recently appeared on KUTV to discuss why some moms are unfortunately mean to other moms. She explains that it almost always comes back to insecurity: women who don’t feel good about themselves as mothers or lack confidence are more likely to lash out and belittle others. Sometimes there is tension between moms who stay at home and moms who work. This too is usually fueled by insecurity or the need for a mom to try to “prove” she is better.
What’s a good way to deal with a mean mom you may encounter? One way would be to avoid such a person, but what if it’s the mother of one of your child’s friends? Clair says that if you find yourself in the company of a mom who begins insulting others, simply giving positive input can stop the conversation. She always explains that it’s okay to be brave, say you’re uncomfortable, or even change the subject completely.
“What if I’m the mean mom?”
If you are a mom and find yourself being rude, judgmental, or mean to other moms, it’s a good idea to look inward. What insecurity or pain is causing you to project negativity onto others? Try cultivating gratitude for small things in your life to counter the temptation to be mean to others. Finding ways to be happy and confident can help you be more kind and considerate to other moms.
Watch the video for more about how to deal with mean moms.
One of the things I have learned about the most as a parent of multicultural kids is the importance of being mindful and staying in the moment. This isn’t the easiest thing to do and yet, it’s one of the best things to do. You’ll see lots of parents blogging about how they’ve stopped yelling or stopped using their electronic devices as a way to be more mindful and present with their kids. Being mindful has its benefits in that it allows you to pay attention in the moment and, as parents, to use the moment to create meaningful connection with our kids.
As a multicultural parent, the same goal applies when being mindful in those quick moments of questioning that kids give us ever so often. When it comes to addressing cultural differences, many times we experience a hesitation that is just quick enough to send a message to our kids that “we don’t talk about differences.” And, in our not-so-great moments, we scold our kids for asking an age or developmentally appropriate question based on our own discomfort around differences.
When we are mindful we can create teaching moments in response to our kids’ curiosity by engaging in the present moment as it’s happening. There is a balance to doing this because you want to do it in a way that intentionally educates, demystifies, and normalizes differences so that you can connect with your child comfortably and confidently.
Can children raised in dual-income households be happier than children raised by a stay-at-home parent? According to a landmark survey done by Ellen Galinsky (1999, 2005) the answer is yes! Galinsky found that children overwhelmingly endorse having both fathers and mothers working. It appears that the concern over who should work and how much they should work is largely limited to us as parents.
So what do children worry about? Through Galinsky’s surveys she found that children are focused on the time they have with their parents at home. They are concerned that when their parents are home, they be less stressed and tired and more emotionally available to them. Insert therapy buzzword [balance].
As parents we strive for balance, and whether or not they tell us directly, our children desire a balanced home. Here are ten practices that can support you and your partner as you work to attain balance in your home.
-Prioritize family time and well-being
-Emphasize overall equality and partnership, including joint decision making, equal influence over finances, and joint responsibility for housework
-Equally value each other’s work and life goals
-Share parental duties and “emotional work” of family life
-Maximize paly and fun at home
-Concentrate on work while at the workplace (If your home is also your workplace, make sure there is a well defined boundary between workspace/work time, and family space/family time)
-Take pride in family and in balancing multiple roles, and believing the family benefits from both parents working (rather than adsorbing the dominant cultural narrative of harm)
-Live simply, which includes limiting activities that impede active family engagement
-Adopt high but realistic expectations about household management; employing planning strategies that save time
-Be proactive in decision making and remain conscious of time’s value
Adapted from Normal Family Processes: Growing Diversity and Complexity, Fourth Edition By Froma Walsh PhD MSW
Perfectionism, the constant fear of failure and simply “not feeling good enough.” To a perfectionist mistakes are indications of personal flaws and the only way for acceptance is to be perfect. Our high expectations often leave us feeling inadequate and falling short of what we could be. But nobody is perfect at life, nothing is meant to be flawless. When we realize we are not expected to be perfect and that we are here to learn, we are able to develop compassion for ourselves and others.
This perfectionistic trait can easily be passed down to our children because they feel like they are not good enough in their parent’s and their own eyes. Here are some ideas to help interfere with this vicious cycle:
As a child, the world is full of fears and challenges, real and imaginary, that adults cannot recollect from their own childhood. Most of these childhood fears and challenges are temporary and eventually outgrown, but studies show that one in eight children suffer from an anxiety disorder and anxiety has become one of the most common mental health conditions in children. At some point in life, children will experience some form of anxiety, however, when the symptoms become distressing and interfere with normal living then the anxiety can be considered and classified as an anxiety disorder. The mind and emotions of a child are continuously changing and developing at different rates, so it may not always be easy to distinguish normal fears and challenges from those that may require additional attention. That is why it is important to important not only to assess the severity of the symptoms that obstruct daily living, but also be aware of the developmental progress of each individual child. Assessing if the fears and behaviors are appropriate on a developmental level is crucial for each child. Many situations will cause children to display anxiety; however, if they continue beyond reasonable age norms, or are intense and distressing, then it could likely be the beginning stage of an anxiety disorder. These intense or distressing anxieties can eventually cause more serious distress, destroy a family system, and interfere with a child’s development or education.
Anxiety disorders that your child could be experiencing are:
Generalized anxiety disorder. With this common anxiety disorder, children worry excessively about many things, such as school, the health or safety of family members, or the future in general. They may always think of the worst that could happen. Children with generalized anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. Children with this disorder are self-conscious, self-doubting, and excessively concerned about meeting other people’s expectations. Along with the worry and dread, kids may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness. With generalized anxiety, worries can feel like a burden, making life feel overwhelming or out of control.
Being a good parent requires a tremendous amount of time, love, and energy, but what happens when a well-meaning mom or dad becomes too enmeshed in their children’s lives? Over-involvement can unknowingly do damage to kids, who then become responsible for their parents’ well-being and happiness. On the other hand, parents who can draw a separation between themselves and their children are emotionally healthier and are actually able to give more to their families.
LCSW Julie Hanks recently discussed this topic on KSL’s Studio 5. Below are some questions she suggested to ask yourself to determine whether or not your kids define you (along with some strategies to help you reclaim yourself if you find that you’ve taken on a little too much):
I have noticed that most parents try their best to teach their children to succeed. Of course we do! All parents want their children to grow into successful happy adults. No parent wants his or her child to suffer or be unhappy. Fortunately, life will always bring struggles and hardship no matter how much we love or prepare our children. Yes, I said fortunately.
When we don’t allow ourselves as parents to struggle, our kids never watch it or learn how to do it themselves. Children can develop the belief that everything has to be okay all the time. “Mom and Dad always have it together, so I should too.” That is an expectation that will surely be met with disappointment and failure. Here are some ways you can help your children expect struggles and embrace them.