Forming New Habits

 

With the new year merely hours away, many people are considering making healthy changes for 2016.  Some choose to take up a cooking class or go skydiving, but on average most of us focus on making a health conscious effort to work out, stay away from processed foods, or quit smoking.  The latter is most difficult for us to conquer since these types of behaviors have become part of our lives for too long.  When attempting to make changes there are two things to consider in helping you reach your goals:  establishing a support system & changing your environment.

First of all, what is a habit?  It can be defined as something that we do often enough that eventually becomes automatic.  We make an association between the behavior and the goal.  “When I do this, I get that.” A pattern begins to emerge and in turn becomes a habit.  So, we eat a bag of cheesy popcorn after a long day at work.  It provides us with a sense of relief.  The next time we suffer another grueling day, we are more likely to turn to that bag of gold to cheer us up.  After a while, we learn that eating cheese spray popcorn makes us feel better.

Now you want to break the bad habit.  

  1. Support System -  Get a buddy system set up.  A research study reported that couples who supported each other and committed to making the same changes together were more successful than those who did not.  Holding each other accountable can be helpful in staying on track.  Also, it can be nice to know that you can relate to each other and have a good understanding of the level of difficulty you may each be experiencing.  Having someone join you while working at a new behavior can also make it more fun than going at it alone.  Set small, realistic goals, and celebrate as you accomplish each one.  Ask your partner or find a friend who is looking to make similar changes to increase your success rate!

  2. Change in Environment – When dealing with an old habit, chances are you are stuck in a routine or pattern.  In order to tackle this problem, it may be necessary to change your surroundings.  Cues exist in a pattern to elicit the old habit.  These cues serve as reminders to perform the habit.  You can trick and alter the cue by changing your environment.  Research has demonstrated that moving to another city or going on vacation are great ways to form new habits since the same environmental cues no longer exist, so pay attention to when and how the habit occurs.  For instance, if you find that you need comforting after a hard day at work, put that cheesy popcorn on the highest pantry shelf!  Place more desirable products at front and center.  Basically, make it easier to do the things you want to do and harder to do the things you no longer wish to continue.

Changing a bad habit into a good habit will take time and patience.  Studies have shown that new habits can take anywhere from 15 to 254 days to be fully established.  The key is to repeat new behaviors until they become as stable as the ones prior to them.  At the same time, allow for slip ups.  Habits are not easy to break and you may find yourself guilt-ridden over the cheese spray coma you are experiencing.  It is okay.  Give yourself a break.  You will start again the next day.  

Good luck!  I wish you the best! And have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

How to Turn Up the Heat!!!

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Are you and your partner stuck in a sexual rut?  Are you getting bored with your mundane sex life?  Have you been together so long that you feel like you’ve run out of new and exciting things to try?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, let me take just a few minutes of your time to tell you about some of the many ways you can heat up your bedroom during these cold winter nights!  

  • Start with Foreplay:  This means instead of just getting straight to business, build up the excitement and anticipation.  This can be done in ways such as kissing, exploring each other’s bodies using your hands and mouth, and stimulating each other’s genitals manually and orally.  For those of you who may need a little help in the “how to do foreplay” department, you can start your foreplay by using a pair of sex dice.  With this type of game you each take turns rolling a pair of die and it instructs you what to do (suck, lick, kiss, blow, etc.) and what body part to do it on.  

  • Initiating Sex:  It can get pretty boring, and possibly even frustrating, if one partner is the one who is always responsible for asking for sex.  Switch it up!  Both partners should be responsible for keeping your sex life alive.  

  • Be Spontaneous:  When was the last time you and your partner were out in public when you got the urge for a quickie in the bathroom stall?  Or even right in the middle of the kitchen?  I’m not talking about all the time—or else it wouldn’t be spontaneous, right?!  However, every once in a while, amongst your busy schedules, being spontaneous sexually can heighten your, and your partner’s, interest in sex.  It can also increase the intensity of orgasm.  

  • Introduce Toys:  There are so many sex toys out there now that your possibilities are seemingly endless!  Shop together and pick out the toys you think will be best for the both of you.  There are solo toys specifically for men and women that can be used during masturbation, while being watched by your partner, or even handed over to your partner to use on you.  These types of toys include male masturbators (aka strokers) or vibrators and dildos.  There are also a lot of toys the couple can use together, such as vibrating penis rings, “U” shaped vibrators, and penis sleeves.  

  • Explore Each Other’s Fantasies:  There’s not much out there that can connect you and your partner more than knowing each other’s deepest and darkest sexual secrets.  By talking and acting out each other’s fantasies you will learn more about your partner than you ever thought possible.  This will allow you to please your partner based on their desires and directions, and it will help you find new ways to turn your partner on the next time you want to initiate intimacy.  

  • Maintain Eye Contact:  By this I don’t mean have a staring contest!  I just mean lock eyes from time to time, especially during orgasm.  This may be awkward for some because most people are used to closing their eyes during the big release.  However, if you look into each other’s eyes during these moments, you are allowing your partner to connect with you and see just how much pleasure they can make you feel (and who doesn’t want that boost to their ego!).  Don’t worry either, no matter how silly you may think your “O” face is, that’s probably the furthest thing from their minds!

Remember, these are just a few ways you can crank up the heat in your sex life; there are a lot more out there.  Some of these suggestions may not be for everyone, but as long as you go into any sexual experience with an open mind and trust in your partner, you’ll never know what you may discover together!  

 

 

What is the ratio in your relationship?

Can you remember the last time your partner made a positive comment about you? Or do you feel regularly criticized by your partner instead?  When negative interactions outweigh the positive ones in your relationship it may be hard to even recall the positive qualities in your partner. Although there are no quick fixes to ensure you will live a fairy tale relationship with only positive interactions with your partner, there is a strategy I will discuss in this post that can lead to a happier, more stable and connected relationship. 

Dr. John Gottman, researcher and clinical psychologist, has studied couples for many years to find out what makes marriages successful or end in divorce. He found that expressing fondness, encouragement, and admiration toward one another could go a long way in maintaining a strong marital relationship. This may seem obvious, but in addition he found that happy and stable couples share more positive feelings and actions than negatives ones even when facing conflict. Happy and stable couples may continue to experience some negative interactions, yet the key is in the balance. According to Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. This means that for every 1 negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be 5 positive feelings or interactions. 

So if you feel that your relationship is not practicing the magic ratio, here are some things to help you start increasing positive feelings or interactions. 

Show Affection

  • Hold hands, hug, kiss
  • Offer a back rub or foot rub
  • Sit together while watching TV
  • Say “I love you” 

Show care and concern

  • Buy your partner his or her favorite dessert while out on an errand
  • Write a short email, send a card, or a thoughtful text message to your partner
  • Write a note of encouragement 
  • Let your partner know it matters to you when they are concerned
    • Example: “it sounds like you had a really rough day at work today.” 

Show thankfulness

  • Recall and share with your partner ways that they have been helpful or caring
  • Thank him or her for what he or she does for you
  • Compliment your partner
  • Point out positive qualities you genuinely appreciate and admire

Listen to understand

  • Be aware of your verbal and non verbal expressions when listening to your partner
    • Example: nodding your head and maintaining eye contact
  • Tell your partner how you understand his or her perspective
  • Listen carefully and completely to your partner before commenting
  • Avoid providing advice too quickly, listen completely first

Be respectful

  • Acknowledge your partner’s opinion and let them know you think it is important
  • Avoid name calling or being sarcastic towards your partner’s comments
  • Be open minded with your partner even when you do not agree

Lighten up!

  • Be playful 
  • Engage in activities in where you both can laugh 
  • Joke around with each other, but avoid jokes that are sarcastic or hostile towards your partner
  • Share memories with your partner about when you first met
  • Share your feelings with your partner when you feel good or happy, especially when they have been brought up by your partner

Aim for the magic ratio and watch your relationship blossom! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Storytime!

One of my favorite pastimes is reading.  When I was a young girl, I would check out the maximum allowed books at a time and then return for more before the given due date.  Then as a new mom, I discovered my passion for reading to my kids.  This type of reading is very different from reading alone.  It’s more interactive and can be very entertaining.  I found that reading was a great way to connect and bond with my children, and at the same time, it provided my girls with the foundation for learning and building creativity.

There are many benefits to reading, for both kids and adults.  Reading can help us overcome stress, protect us from memory decline, increase empathy, and improve comprehension and language skills. Some studies have shown that keeping our minds active by engaging in a stimulating activity, such as reading, can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, it’s important to instill a love for reading at an early age so that we can reap the benefits for years to come.   And it’s fun!     

Here are some tips to make reading enjoyable for you and your kids.

  • Start reading to your kids at an early age.  Young children won’t have a long attention span, but short picture books will suffice.  As they get older, reading time can increase.    

  • Provide a positive home reading environment.  Express a good attitude towards reading.  Let them know how much you find it to be rewarding.  Expand their horizon and vocabulary by supplying your child with various types of books.        

  • Make it a routine.  Bedtime is a favorite!  It’s a great way to decompress after a long day and spend quality time together.  These are memories you and your child will treasure for a lifetime.  

  • Be curious.  Get kids thinking by asking what they suppose will happen in the next page or two.  Will the mouse get the cookie?  What do you think he’ll want next?  The more interested you seem, the more intrigued they become.

  • Use funny voices.  Use a variety of voices for different characters.  I personally loved Charlie and Lola by English writer, Lauren Child, since it gave me a chance to perfect my British accent!  And in a kid’s voice at that!  

  • Point and sound out words.  Recent research shows preference for sounding out words like C-A-T, rather than memorizing the whole word.  Pointing helps children learn the process of reading from left to right and top to bottom.  Reading aloud and pointing is a great tool in guiding kids to make the connection between letters, words, and meaning.

As the weather cools, snuggle up and read a good book with your kids.  Or if you feel the need to get out and interact with others, story time at a local bookstore is a great way to meet other parents and children of similar age. Kids grow up way too fast, and they’ll be reading on their own before you know it.  So take the opportunity while you can!  You’re building memories with your kids and making a difference in their overall well-being and health.         

 

What's Really Up with Herbal Viagra!

I’m sure you’ve all read about, or at least have heard about, the big sex scandal that is surrounding Lamar Odom.  Before we begin, let’s do a little recap.  Mr. Odom had a four-day stay at a legal brothel in Nevada where it was reported that he had been mixing alcohol, cocaine, and herbal Viagra pills.  On the fourth day there, Mr. Odom was found unconscious in his bed.  In a few of the articles I have read, the brothel owner stated that Mr. Odom had taken about 10 of the herbal Viagra pills within his four-day stay there.  This trending story has inspired me to write this blog for you guys on the benefits, as well as the health concerns that come with taking any herbal Viagra supplement. 

There are numerous pills out there that are labeled as male sexual enhancement pills, all which are not FDA approved.  The main reason why the FDA does not approve these is because they contain an ingredient, which is not listed on the package, called sildenafil, or more commonly known as Viagra.  Sildenafil is never listed on the packages because one has to have a prescription from a doctor in order to obtain Viagra; whereas anyone can simply buy an herbal Viagra pill from a gas station or their nearest sex shop. 

Lets start with the good news, the advantages to taking an over the counter Viagra.  Due to the main ingredient being sildenafil, it will work just like Viagra does.  These pills will help increase blood flow to the penis, resulting in a stronger, firmer erection.  These pills will also increase the girth size of the penis, again, because the blood vessels running along the shaft are dilating, allowing more blood to flow through.  These pills are also known to help increase a man’s stamina; therefore he will be able to last longer than he normally does.  Also, after the man ejaculates, these pills will help him regain another erection in less time than it usually takes.  

Now on to the bad news…these pills do come with some health and safety concerns.  All of these pills are vasodilators, meaning they help the blood vessels expand, which in turn lowers a man’s blood pressure.  Most of these pills come with a warning on the back stating that the user should talk to their doctor about taking the pill prior to using them; especially men who are already dealing with high blood pressure, have heart problems, and/or have diabetes.  Mixing any other medication, especially pertaining to these health concerns, can be very dangerous, if not fatal.  Most of the pill packages even advise not to take more than one pill within a 72hour period—which Mr. Odom exceeded.  

All in all, I hope the Lamar Odom scandal didn’t scare anyone away from trying any of the over the counter herbal Viagra pills.  I do, however, hope that it has shed some light onto the risks and consequences that can result from not paying attention to the warning labels and not talking to your doctor first.  These pills can, after all, help boost a man’s confidence and liven up your sex life!

Coping Skills With Our 5 Senses

Coping Skills are those strategies that we use to deal and process life stressors, conflict and emotions. Coping skills can range from positive and healthy to negative and unhealthy, all depending on how they are used. Do your current coping skills help you overcome and manage stress and emotional turmoil? Or do they hide issues and emotions that are usually not worked through? Using healthy coping strategies on a regular basis will help provide balance in your overall mental health and provide support when life gets harder. If you already use coping skills on a regular basis, congratulations, keep adding and refreshing more skills to your coping spectrum!

Being in the mental health profession, I have been able to observe coping skills that have been effective for many of my clients. Provided below are some of these coping skills that I have either utilized myself or seen to be helpful for others. Read the ideas below and explore what unique combination of coping skills could help you today!
 
Physical
• Chew a piece of ice or eat some ice cream or drink cold water
• Breathe! Take 5 deep breaths: think about releasing tension and negative thoughts each time you exhale.
• Move Around: stretch, take a walk, exercise
• Take a shower, feel the warmth and imagine your anxiety washing away
• Hug a friend or a family member

Visual
• Watch your favorite movie or comedy show
• Allow yourself to daydream for 10 minutes
• Look at pretty things: flowers, art, or study the sky
• Paint, draw or doodle
• Look through old pictures
 
Olfactory
• Peel an orange or lemon and notice the smell of the oils
• Place a fragrance that is pleasant for you on your wrist: lavender, peppermint of favorite perfume
• Do some baking-enjoy the mixture of aromas and soothing movements of mixing ingredients
• Make herbal tea and focus on the smell while you enjoy your drink
 
Hearing
• Listen to music that helps soothe you
• Read a quote or favorite scripture out loud
• Sing
• Pause and listen to 3 sounds you hear around you (Ie..rain drops, wind, laughter)
 
Speech
• Have a conversation with someone who listens and you can trust
• Name 5 positive things in your life
• Write yourself an “I love you because…” letter
• Make a to-do list: focus on top 3 to decrease feeling overwhelmed
 

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE DISCLOSURE

For many survivors, the discussion of past child sexual abuse (CSA) is a difficult one to have.  More often than not, these group of people wait at least five years before disclosing their traumatic story to another soul.  And, even though the abuse occurred when the victim was a child or an adolescent, the majority do not disclose until they reach their adult years.  A great part of the victim’s life has changed, and sadly enough, their struggle is one that they endure in a covert and yet, emotionally tumultuous manner.  

Family dynamics plays a big part in deciding whether or not to reveal their abuse.  Too often, sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a family member or close family friend.  This complicates matters for the CSA victim.  The young individual is greatly betrayed and can lose trust in adults.  Consequently, trust and intimacy are two valuable components that are necessary to achieve a healthy relationship.  Interpersonal relationships become compromised.  Women of CSA are more likely to be re-victimized in their adult relationships.

As the individual attempts to continue on in their day-to-day life, it becomes a struggle to juggle their secret and maintain a life that appears “normal.”  CSA victims can be affected in many ways.  Some suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or depression.  Other symptoms include hypervigilance, irritability, sleep disorders, low self-esteem, panic attacks, promiscuity, and more.  There are many challenges the victim will face.  But even more daunting, is the idea that they feel alone and misunderstood.

After years of secrecy, it can seem difficult to come out and speak about the past abuse. Seeking professional help is recommended.  Working with a therapist, the CSA survivor can make decisions on how, when, or if he or she will disclose to family or friends.  The adult survivor can begin to explore and examine the results of CSA in the safe and confidential environment of counseling.  Together, a plan can be made to help ease the process of disclosure and discover healthy ways to cope with negative thoughts and emotions.  No longer does the survivor have to walk alone.

“Hummingbird shows us how to re-visit the past for the purpose of releasing it instead of being caught in a permanently backward flight pattern. It also helps us to see that if we step aside we may see our life differently. Hummingbird teaches us to transcend time, to recognize that what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now. It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate its sweetness.”

– Constance Barrett Sohodski

 

 

Hall, M., & Hall, J. (2011). The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Counseling implications. Retrieved from http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/vistas11/Article_19.pdf

University of Montreal. (2010, January 22). Disclosing sexual abuse is critical. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 7, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119121422.htm

Youth Villages. (2012, April 13). In child sexual abuse, strangers aren't the greatest danger, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120413100854.htm

Surviving the Damages from an Affair

What exactly is an affair?  Many people have different definitions for this word.  Some people believe an affair is having a sexual relationship with someone outside of the relationship, others believe becoming emotionally attached to someone else is considered having an affair, while some believe the act of watching pornography could be considered an affair.  This is why it is so important to communicate individual expectations with your partner in where healthy boundaries and limits can be established in order to protect your relationship.  

If an affair within the relationship does occur, it can be very detrimental to the relationship, as well as to the non-offending partner.  However, just because damage has been done, does not mean it cannot be repaired!  It won’t happen overnight, but with the guidance and support of a skilled professional, it can be done.

You may be asking yourself, “How?”  A licensed therapist will be able to help the couple identify the underlying contributions to the affair.  The shared responsibility of these contributions may not be equal; however, addressing each partner’s role in the relationship could provide clues on issues that weakened the relationship prior to the affair.  This can help the couple prevent these circumstances in the future.  A therapist will also help the couple with improving their communication patterns.  They will learn how to “communicate more sensitively, how to listen with more respect, how to talk about sensitive issues without anger or criticism, and how to offer more positivity…” (Heitler, 2011).  The most difficult aspects of surviving the affair are forgiveness and trust.  Be prepared for the long haul while repairing these pieces.  It can, however, be done while working with a therapist through the anger, pain, and fears. 

Once the communication gate is open and flowing, and the partners have repaired trust, it may be time to explore restoring the couple’s intimacy.  In the beginning, sexual intimacy may be compared to the intimacy that occurred during the affair.  The therapist can help the couple come back together in order to achieve more enjoyable and pleasurable intimacy that may have been missing or lacking previously.  

With all of this being said, in order for the couple to survive this rainstorm, both partners have to be willing to repair the damages together.  This can all be done with the support and help from a professional therapist.  Some couples even report developing an even stronger and more intimate relationship after surviving the affair!

References:

Bloom, Charlie & Bloom, Linda. (2010, May 10). Is there (marital) life after an affair? [Web log post] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201005/is-there-marital-life-after-affair

Heitler, Susan. (2011, Nov 1). Recovery from an affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201111/recovery-affair

McCarthy, Barry W. (2012, Jan 2). Sexual recovery from an extramarital affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/whats-your-sexual-style/201201/sexual-recovery-extramarital-affair

Pre-engagement vs Pre-marital counseling? What's the difference as long as you go?

   
  
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   At first the comparison of Pre-engagement and pre-marital counseling can seem so similar and unimportant. Yet considering the differences, pre-engagement counseling may provide many dating couples additional benefits to the relationship and confidence in making a lifelong commitment!  Here are a few  IMPORTANT  factors to consider in regards to pre-engagement counseling:         Engagement/ Pressure:  Proposals, shinny new engagement ring, and the excitement of telling everyone the great news, can really compromise the objectivity of the relationship. The priority of working on the relationship may easily turn into planning the wedding day instead of working on and finding a resolution to the conflict that may be remaining within the relationship.           Time Constraint:  Couples seeking pre-engagement counseling do not have the same time crunch as couples that have already set the wedding date. Pre-engagement counseling can allow dating couples to openly share fears and hopes in sessions without worrying about how emotions will interfere with the couple’s timeline. In some cases, couples may need more than 8 sessions to resolve or practice new skills they are learning. Rather than couples that have a short engagement, which may not have sufficient time or desire to address issues prior to the wedding.         Confidence in your Decision:  Attending pre-engagement counseling can provide both the couple and each individual the time and place to explore such an important decision with a trained professional. A couple can also benefit from expressing their thoughts and feelings to a professional who is trained in marriage and relational issues and will remain an unbiased third party. It is important to consider the motivation and readiness each person has to make such a commitment. By taking the time to explore your relationship in counseling, individuals can discuss expectations for the marriage and find a compromise if necessary prior to making the commitment.  So whether you are currently in a serious relationship or questioning if you and your partner are ready for marriage, please consider pre-engagement counseling! Pre-engagement counseling may seem as an unromantic plan or unnecessary, yet with staggering divorce rates this is just another way to invest in your relationship!

At first the comparison of Pre-engagement and pre-marital counseling can seem so similar and unimportant. Yet considering the differences, pre-engagement counseling may provide many dating couples additional benefits to the relationship and confidence in making a lifelong commitment!

Here are a few IMPORTANT factors to consider in regards to pre-engagement counseling:

      Engagement/ Pressure: Proposals, shinny new engagement ring, and the excitement of telling everyone the great news, can really compromise the objectivity of the relationship. The priority of working on the relationship may easily turn into planning the wedding day instead of working on and finding a resolution to the conflict that may be remaining within the relationship.

        Time Constraint: Couples seeking pre-engagement counseling do not have the same time crunch as couples that have already set the wedding date. Pre-engagement counseling can allow dating couples to openly share fears and hopes in sessions without worrying about how emotions will interfere with the couple’s timeline. In some cases, couples may need more than 8 sessions to resolve or practice new skills they are learning. Rather than couples that have a short engagement, which may not have sufficient time or desire to address issues prior to the wedding.

      Confidence in your Decision: Attending pre-engagement counseling can provide both the couple and each individual the time and place to explore such an important decision with a trained professional. A couple can also benefit from expressing their thoughts and feelings to a professional who is trained in marriage and relational issues and will remain an unbiased third party. It is important to consider the motivation and readiness each person has to make such a commitment. By taking the time to explore your relationship in counseling, individuals can discuss expectations for the marriage and find a compromise if necessary prior to making the commitment.

So whether you are currently in a serious relationship or questioning if you and your partner are ready for marriage, please consider pre-engagement counseling! Pre-engagement counseling may seem as an unromantic plan or unnecessary, yet with staggering divorce rates this is just another way to invest in your relationship!

From Sibling Rivalry to Sibling Revelry: It CAN Happen!

“Mom!  Jimmy hit me!”  

“Well what were you doing to him?”  

“Nothing!  He started it!”

Do you find this being typical dialogue in your home?  At some point in parenting, if you have more than one child, sibling rivalry will rear its ugly head.  We can’t escape it entirely, but there are ways to lessen this problematic situation.  

Let’s begin by defining it.  According to Merriam-Webster, it is a “competition between siblings especially for the attention, affection, and approval of their parents.”  Oh man!  That sure does put parents in an awkward position.  

Who argues?

Although all kids have a tendency to argue, the closer-in-age and same-gender children tend to have more drama than any other set of siblings.  Being similar puts kids at a higher advantage for promoting competition.  The closeness in age can put pressure on the younger one to keep up with the older one, and if they are of the same gender, both kids can find themselves competing for the attention of a specific parent.  

Normal or Not?

You often hear parents explain, “Oh, they fight like any other normal set of siblings.”  But what is normal?  Compare one person’s perspective to the next and it may be completely different.  A better way to examine it might be to consider how often sibling rivalry occurs in the home and how intensely it is experienced.  How does their rivalry affect the family dynamics and each member individually?  

In 2012, a research study indicated that conflictual sibling rivalry is closely related to negative behaviors such as aggression and anti-social tendencies (including substance use), whereas healthy sibling relationships are linked to positive interactions with friends and intimate partners, a greater ability to adjust to academic pressures, and improved prosperity and mental health. In a separate study (2013), sibling aggression is closely linked to the decline of positive mental health.  Additionally, whether aggression comes from a sibling or a peer, the effects on well-being are the same.   

On a positive note, recent research shows that parents can also benefit from practicing conflict resolution with the kids in the home.  During the study, as parents taught and guided their children to communicate positively with siblings, mom and dad were able to borrow the same tactics.  Parents became better at managing their own emotions, therefore improving their overall mental health.  

So what can you do?

Avoid comparisons and labels.  Comparing one child to the next only promotes competition. Instead, acknowledge their own interests and express your support for their individuality.  Oftentimes, children are given labels in the family such as “the smart one” or “the artsy one.”  It may seem harmless, but placing labels can actually restrict the child from attempting something they find to be challenging.  

Don’t get caught in the middle.  Don’t act as a judge or try to determine who is right and who is wrong.  This only creates more conflict and hostility between siblings.  First, allow siblings to resolve their own arguments, although if you see the argument escalating or getting out of hand, then it is time to step in.  Never allow kids to become physically abusive with one another.  Nonetheless, use this opportunity to guide them to making good decisions about communication.  Listen to what they are trying to say to each other and steer clear from making criticisms.  Many times, kids have difficulty expressing themselves which only frustrates them even more.  You might try something like, “It sounds like what your brother is trying to say is…” or “What do you hear your sister say?” Ask each child to clarify if the message is coming across inaccurately.        

Spend “quality” time with each child.  Spend time with each child and as a family.  This does not mean you have to spend a lot of money or a great deal of time.  Life can get pretty busy but a 10 minute “quality” conversation can go a long way with kids.  Put the phone away and make sure your child gets your full attention.  Ask questions and show interest.  The more your kid feels connected to you, the less they feel the need to act out or compete with their sibling.  

Aside from taking certain steps to minimize sibling rivalry, it’s necessary to understand the longstanding emotional and mental effects that can occur if ignored.  Although sibling rivalry might be all too common in our society, it does not excuse us from being proactive.  As parents we want to see our children thrive and grow, and part of becoming that healthy individual means learning to resolve conflict with others.  The early relationship building experiences a child receives can leave a lasting impact on their mental health for years to come, but also your own!  

 

References

Feinberg, M.E., Solmeyer, A.R., Hostetler, M.L., Sakuma, K., Jones, D., & McHale, S.M. (2012). Siblings are special: Initial test of a new approach for preventing youth behavior problems. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(2), 166-173.  doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.10.004

Ravindran, N., Engle, J.M., McElwain, N.L., & Kramer, L. Fostering parents’ emotion regulation through a sibling-focused experimental intervention. (2015). Journal of Family Psychology, 29(3), 458-468.  doi: 10.1037/fam0000084

Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2013). Association of sibling aggression with child and adolescent mental health. Pediatrics, 132(1), 79-84. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3801

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