Most parents may notice that kids have worries, at one time or another. Even beginning at very young ages, carrying into middle school or high school. The picture book You’ve Got Dragons, written by Kathryn Cave, helps children and parents understand the language of worries, or “dragons.” How they grow, hide, and what they feel like inside. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about, when you have “dragons.” Sometimes parents don’t know how to help, or what to look for. The illustrations and humor will let your child escape into a world where worries become “dragons,” while getting good advice on how to take care of them.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively and positively. Kids who understand their emotions, can name them, and can manage them are better able to cope with stress, manage relationships with others, and communicate more effectively.
There are four main characteristics of emotional intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent people are self aware. They recognize their own emotions.
Emotionally intelligent people can self-regulate. They can control how they react to their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.
Emotionally intelligent people are empathetic. They understand other people’s emotions.
Emotionally intelligent people have social skills. They can build connections with others.
The best way to teach children emotional intelligence is through modeling. Parents who take time to develop these characteristics in themselves will gain the benefits of emotional intelligence in their own lives, but will also pass these traits on to their children. To help learn these skills AND pass them on to your child here are some activities to do together:
1. In order to be aware of emotions children need to be able to name them. Younger children can look at flash cards depicting various feelings and copy the faces as parents tell them the name for that emotion. Older children can identify times they felt that emotion and what they did about it. (Flash cards can be found by googling “emotion flash cards”, or you can make your own.)
2. Using an emotion thermometer (again, google is your friend), you can teach children how to recognize what it feels like when they are experiencing strong emotions, and provide them tools for “cooling down the thermometer”. These skills can include: talking to a friend or adult, asking for help, counting to ten, taking five deep breaths, or practicing some mindfulness. There are lots of mindfulness for kids clips on youtube or available as apps on a smart phone.
3. One great way to instill empathy in children is to get them involved in regular acts of service. Afterward, listen to your child share with you how the act of service made them feel? Discuss how the service made the recipient feel.
4. Social skills are best developed by lots of practice. Create plenty of opportunities for your child to interact with other children. Go to parks or children’s museums, set up play dates, get to know the kids in the neighborhood. Give your child space to explore and interact with other children. Give them opportunities to work out problems themselves, and step in with guidance when they need it. If your child needs extra help developing social skills, contact our office at (801) 944-4555 for information on the next available social skills group for kids.
There are lots of ways to develop theses characteristics, the important thing is to regularly incorporate these kinds of activities into your child’s life. Doing so will help them (and you) manage stress and anxiety, communicate more effectively, and build stronger relationships with those around them.
Sharing diversity with children can have a woven like presence in the basic fabric of your life if you allow it. It is not a particular or singular act. I have found that there is somewhat of an approach or framework to how families can successfully embrace diversity and cultural competence as a family. These are ideas I share with clients as well as use with my own children and family.
Exposure: As a family embrace the diverse world around you. Spend time in various environments that host various ethnicities. Enjoy and participate in various events throughout the community and celebrate exploring these varying cultures as a family. Select and enjoy books, music and shows in your home that introduces various ethnic backgrounds and their customs.
Inclusion: Embracing others ethnic backgrounds goes well beyond talking about ethnicity and cultural differences. Go out of our way to spend time in places and spaces that welcome diversity and display inclusiveness and cohesion amongst varying cultures. Build friendships organically with all types of families from various backgrounds.
Modeling: By way of language, dialogue and behaviors. Children do as we do not as we say. Walk the walk of inclusion, acceptance and welcome open dialogue about ethnicity and diversity related topics in your home. Create an open fluid dialogue about current events, differences in lifestyles, ethnicity and customs within your home and family.
As our society evolves into a very polarized place remember that you have the power to create and set the tone for the environment in your home. Breathe love, acceptance and tolerance into your world and the world of your children.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many people are excitedly stocking up on chocolates and bears, making reservations, and trying on endless sexy ensembles for that perfect February 14th date. However, what if you’re not one of those people? What if you’re not single, but your relationship is currently not in a great place, and you can’t stomach the thought of trying to fake it through an awkward dinner with your spouse? Don’t panic! Here are a few ways that you and your partner can still make it through enjoy Valentine’s Day without a major dose of anxiety and tension.
Whatever you do, don’t let the day sneak up on you. If you wait until the night before to start thinking about it, you’ll definitely find yourself stressing. Take control of the situation now, and start planning out what you would like the day to be like. Do you and your partner want to try and do something together that maybe doesn’t include romantic pressure, but that could be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable? Would the two of you rather plan an evening at home with your kids and make it a family affair? Do you want to do absolutely nothing but watch movies in your pajamas? The point is, prepare ahead of time so that you and your partner both know what to expect.
Although Valentine’s Day is marketed as the romance-seeped, blissful, sex-filled holiday of the year, let’s try to remember what it’s really about…LOVE. What is love? Well, that’s a loaded question! Love is many things besides romance and sex-it’s friendship, caring, empathy, respect…the list goes on and on. Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you and your partner seek to connect with each other on a different level. For example, you could agree to give each other the gift of respect for the whole day, and agree to practice talking kindly to each other. Or, perhaps you feel like roommates, and maybe you could do an activity together that allows you to try and be friends for the evening. If even any of that is just too much, consider seeking connection with the other people you and your partner love and care about. Maybe you take cookies to a neighbor, or have some trusted friends over for dinner. Whatever you do, seek connection-don’t spend the day soaking yourself in feelings of loneliness.
Again, while Valentine’s Day is promoted as a day to think solely about your partner, it might be a good idea to do something nice for yourself too! Especially if the day is going to be hard for you this year, make sure you and your partner encourage each other to practice some self-care. Go get a massage, spend the morning reading a good book, or go for a walk. Self-care can be done together or separately, but either way it can feel soothing and comforting on a day that may otherwise be filled with painful reminders.
Best of luck to you! I hope no matter what your current relationship situation is, that you are able to find peace, connection, and happiness this Valentine’s Day. And remember…it’s just 1 day. :0)
The word “Millennial” is rarely used in a positive way. How is it that an entire generation has become the punchline of society’s best joke? Perhaps we use humor to ease the sense that something is terribly wrong and we feel helpless to change it. College counseling centers are bursting at the seams with newly hatched “grown-ups,” depressed, anxious, legitimately struggling to make it. Others, who may fare better emotionally, seem to possess an unparalleled sense of entitlement. There are endless ideas about what has gone wrong. Among those most commonly put on trial are “spare the rod” and “everybody gets a trophy.” While it is beyond the scope of this article to examine those theories, there are a few generally accepted approaches that can help parents get on the right track toward raising responsible, well-adjusted children in these rapidly changing times.
Parents can help kids form realistic expectations about life in the adult world. They can also provide the opportunity and support for children to practice valuable coping skills. To achieve these goals, parents should allow their children to routinely experience three normal life experiences and then teach them how to manage the resulting emotions:
Children need love and affection from parents to become healthy adults. They do not, however, need to always get their way. In fact, if a child learns to expect that their every desire will be continually fulfilled at home, it sets them up for future high conflict relationships and dissatisfaction in general. Parents should allow kids to regularly experience disappointment and teach them how to cope with the related difficult feelings. These childhood lessons can minimize grownup tantrums, the kind that occur when adults melt down because they did not get their way or things did not turn out as planned.
Children can learn valuable lessons from painful mistakes. However, when parents frequently rush to rescue their child, they teach the kid to expect that others will take ownership for their errors and thus share responsibility to solve their problems. Many parents do not want their children to experience sadness or failure so they come running to save the day. If this scenario becomes common, the older teen and adult may come to expect that employers, college professors or friends should sacrifice to solve their problems. Parents can prevent this sense of entitlement and instead promote self-confidence and problem solving skills by resisting the temptation to helicopter parent. This is not a heartless approach. Parents should offer support in the difficult growing process; a healthy dose of empathy can help kids learn to manage the emotional bumps and bruises that naturally accompany their missteps.
Nagging kids to do chores is no fun; however, requiring them to frequently complete these household duties has big payoffs. It teaches them that people must fulfill certain obligations to be part of a group. Children who learn this lesson from a young age tend to be more successful in relationships, academics, and career. When children are required to contribute to the family, it prepares them to live in a world where others will expect them to do their share.
Parents do their children a disservice when they shield them from the natural growing pains of life. So, the next time you are tempted to write the teacher a note because your teen failed an exam, or put your 9-year-old’s laundry away for the third day in a row, take pause, and ask yourself this question: What does this teach my child to expect from others? That they can always get their way, or that someone else should clean up their messes in life? If so, you may want to consider changing your course of action. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults and all of us would like to live in a world where grownups are prepared to manage disappointment, take responsibility, and pull their own weight.
Sometimes in our love relationships, we have been hurt or let down so often by our partner that we begin to develop an adversarial relationship. We are always on guard to protect ourselves from further pain. Our relationship becomes us vs. them in an attempt to wall off our heart from the one who knows us best, and therefore knows how to hurt us the most. Most of the time in these situations, our partner isn’t trying to hurt us. Our partner is hurting themselves and like us, is trying to protect from further pain.
In the book Love Sense, Dr. Sue Johnson describes what happens in these relationships:
“When emotional starvation becomes the norm, and negative patterns of outraged criticism and obstinate defensiveness take over, our perspective changes. Our lover slowly begins to feel like an enemy; our most familiar friend turns into a stranger. Trust dies, and grief begins in earnest.”
She goes on to say that the “erosion of a bond begins with the absence of emotional support”. This is key. In order to keep our most important relationships strong and healthy, we have to actively work on being an emotional support for our partner. We need to be there for them, and we need them to be there for us. Emotional supportiveness creates a teammate mentality. Instead of problems turning into us vs. them scenarios, they are approached with the couple as a team, facing the enemy (or the negative cycle) together.
One roadblock in our ability to be there emotionally with our partner is our hurt and anger.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Its purpose is to act as a shield, protecting our more vulnerable (primary) emotions. If my husband doesn’t call me when he said he would, it’s easier for me to lash out at him in my attempt to make sure he knows how hurt I am. My lashing out is likely to cause him to feel defensive and respond with anger of his own (because he is also using anger as a shield to protect himself). If I take a moment to breathe, and calm myself before commenting on his missed phone call, I might say something like, “when you don’t call me when you say you will, I feel really hurt. I worry that I’m not important to you, and you mean so much to me that it hurts in my chest to think that I don’t matter to you.”
Instead of expressing my secondary emotion, anger, I’m expressing my primary emotion. Fear. Fear that I don’t matter to my partner as much as he matters to me. I’m being vulnerable and asking my partner to reassure me and be vulnerable in return.
If my partner responds to my vulnerability with criticism, it reinforces my view that he is not a safe person to turn to, and the emotional bond is further damaged. If he responds with reassurance, the emotional bond can be strengthened. “I’m so sorry I didn’t call. I got so busy with my meetings that I forgot. I know it means a lot to you that I call when I say I will, and I’m sorry I let you down. You do mean so much to me.”
Dr. Johnson describes three questions that we can ask ourselves and our partners when we are working to strengthen or repair our emotional bonds.
1. Are you Accessible? (Will you give me your attention and be emotionally open to what I am saying?)
2. Are you Responsive? (Will you accept my needs and fears and offer comfort and caring?)
3. Are you Engaged? (Will you be emotionally present and involved with me?)
Dr. Johnson combines these into one “core attachment question”. ARE you there for me?
Sit down with your partner and talk about these questions. Do you feel like your partner is accessible, responsive, and engaged? Are you accessible, responsive, and engaged with your partner? When have you been successful at answering “ARE you there for me”? When have you struggled? Think about the last struggle and look for the primary emotions under the struggle. Try being vulnerable with each other.
The stronger our emotional bond, the easier it is to deal with the frustrations that crop up in every relationship. Sometimes the damage in our relationships has gone on for so long, or is so emotionally painful that we need help in repairing it. Couple’s therapy can help break the cycle of negative interactions and allow emotional bonds to be rebuilt stronger than ever.
Want To Make 2017 Totally Rock? Toss out those awful resolutions. Set Solid Goals Instead!
I find it absolutely crazy each year that we set resolutions. We do so with vigor and zest believing that this will actually result in success. We promise to do better than last year. We swear that we’ll lose weight. Be nicer to our co-worker. Stop being lazy or procrastinate. When we find that our New Year’s resolve failed miserably, we can feel like a failure.
Seeking Help! What Works in Setting Goals?
Research shows that many people who set New Year’s resolutions have bailed on them by February 1st. Many more waffle by March 1st. Wow! Terrible success rate. What actually works? I provide these 5 simple and very doable ways of making 2017 rock for you.
#1) Set Reachable Goals! Many people set Mount Everest type goals that are absolutely not going to happen. These goals include losing 30 pounds by March 1st, or getting a 30% raise before the end of the year. This just doesn’t work. I would suggest that rather than reaching for Mount Everest why not stretch for the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains? Once you’ve reached your doable goals at lower elevations, then you can set more challenging goals to build on. Something akin to reaching Mount Olympus east of Salt Lake City. The critical key is to make your goals doable. It actually makes a ton of sense and shockingly it works!
#2) Make Your New Year’s Goals Exciting! I find it shocking that we set goals that are boring. Mundane. Borderline dumb. And then wonder why we don’t want to do them. Surprise! Goals such as exercising. Becoming healthier. Or losing weight are laudable…yet pretty dang boring! Why not add some zest to your goals. For example, if you find going to the gym boring, don’t be surprised if you sabotage your goal right away. Yet if you like to hike and set a goal to hit the backcountry trails 2-3 days a week, don’t be surprised when you actually look forward to exercising. It actually makes so much sense.
#3) SetYour Goals For the Year! This may seem tough but it absolutely works. I’m not suggesting that each goal must go for a full year. Rather, break your goals into 3 to 6 month intervals. At the 6 month time frame, you simply fine tune or update your goal to prepare you for the next 3 to 6 months. This takes you out of feeling pressure to perform. Perform. And perform. At the 6 month mark, if you’re rocking one or two specific goals, continue the goals. If not, rethink your goals. Reset them. Make them work better for you. Believe me, it works!
#4) Stay Away From Resolutions! To reiterate my earlier key point, setting New Year’s resolutions absolutely doesn’t work. Consistency works. Goals work. Moving forward works. Finding a work out partner or buddy works. Get it? Please don’t buy into the “quick fixes” the infomercials often promise…and with very little effort. Buy into setting goals that will have you making steady improvement toward achieving your goals.
#5) Revisit Your Goals Regularly In reviewing your goals, build in reward(s) for reaching even the most basic of triumphs. In fact, make sure to absolutely celebrate your successes and often. If your goal is to visit the gym 3 times per week during February, awesome! However, if you manage 1-2 times per week celebrate the awesome success. Not the “I’m just too lazy and will never achieve my goals” vilification! That’s negative self-talk that will get you nowhere for sure…and the subject of another blog in the future.
Where Do I Go From Here?
You may actually be telling yourself, “that makes total sense Michael but I still feel overwhelmed with the idea of ongoing exercise.” Thank you for being honest! People often feel this way. Take a deep breath. Please try to keep a good and healthy perspective. Many of us have heard the wise advice to start small and gradually increase your workout energy effort. Exactly! Even more important could be finding a great workout partner to help motivate you. Get you over the hump of negativity.
Make sure and be extra kind to yourself in your quest to reach your 2017 goals. You’re going to blow it once in a while. Expect it. You’re human. That’s actually quite natural. What’s not natural is to simply bail on your goals because you’re not being perfect. Simply pick yourself up and move forward.
Remember! Consistency, excitement, and an awesome workout partner are all recipes for success. May you be your own great chef this year in your healthy recipe for success!!!
Michael Boman, LCSW is a relationship, marriage, and healing outdoors expert working at Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, UT. He is accepting new clients who want to begin their journey of a healthier and happier lifestyle in 2017.
Anxiety actually works to suppress the spinal reflex that triggers arousal. So, if you want to have a hard time maintaining an erection or lubricating, get really worked up and anxious.
2) Don’t communicate with your partner about what you like sexually
If you want sex to be unpleasurable, do not tell your partner what kinds of touch you like and where. Keep those secrets locked in a vault and keep your partner guessing. Sex will become an experience you need to white-knuckle.
3) Obsess about the physical flaws you think you have.
A good way to make sex horrible is to get into your head, and out of your body. If you overthink how you look, it will go bad. Some research indicates that sex is more pleasurable when you view your own body as sexy. So whatever you do, don’t focus on your physical strengths.
4) Obsess about the physical flaws you think your partner has.
Make sure you focus on the parts of your partner’s body you wish were different. If you really want to go for the gold, consume a lot of media and pornography that has unreasonable expectations about body types of a sex partner that reflect a minute percentage of the population.
5) Say YES when you really mean NO
One of the best ways to make sex suck is to make it confusing. Have horrible boundaries and say yes when you really mean no, then you can make sure you are your partner are never on the same page.
6) Never or always initiate sex.
An important part of good sex is for both partners to feel wanted. In order to make it awful, make sure the patterns around initiation get super lopsided. You can make sure to increase feelings of insecurity and resentment.
7) Don’t brush your teeth.
You may not know, but smell, memory, and emotion are closely connected in the brain. Since sex is such an emotional experience and your partner is cued into their senses, you could try to make them feel icky by smelling Disgust is the exact feeling you want your partner to have during sex.
8) Have sex in an environment where your children and pets can interrupt at any moment.
If you want to make sex awful, certainly don’t focus on making it great. Don’t focus at all for that matter. Put yourself in a really distracting environment so you have a hard time focusing on the sensations and emotions you feel. Environments with many interruptions are ideal.
9) Try to read your partner’s mind during sex.
What ever you do, don’t ask your partner how they actually think and feel about your sex together. Make as many assumptions as you possibly can. This way, you can assure you have no idea how they experience you during sex, which means you will likely be missing the mark when it comes to meeting their sexual desires.
10) Don’t take care of your health
Try and be as unhealthy as possible. You don’t want to be in good physical shape in order to make a physical encounter like sex awful. You need to be in the worst shape possible. Make it really hard to maneuver and keep your stamina. An added bonus is that increased weight gain jeopardizes one’s ability to maintain an erection. In fact, most erectile dysfunction is due to weight gain limiting circulation, not mature age.