communication

Telling The Children by Jerry Cosby

Once the level of suffering and pain has become intolerable, when dreams have been shattered and hope for the future has been lost, one or both of the parents may decide to divorce. Telling the children is an undertaking of great importance; lives will be changed.  After wrestling with this gut-wrenching decision to divorce, most parents desperately dread the idea of making the announcement. Some parents make the mistake of allowing the children to find out when one morning the children awake to a catastrophe - Dad and his belongings have disappeared into thin air. In any case, the children will remember this day for a lifetime and reassess the understanding of it at every stage of their development. Conversation, done fully and well, will ease the pain and comfort them.  Conversations done poorly will profoundly add to their confusion, anxiety, and pain. And this devastating conversation takes place at a time when the parents are angry, hurt, and in torment themselves. Here are several suggestions.

1.     Both parents and all the children of appropriate age should be present when communicating the decision to divorce. Do not meet with them one parent at a time as they need to see the two of you together and observe your body language and hear the inflection of your voice as each of you contributes to the discussion. Meeting with them alone invites favoritism and promotes confusion and suspicion.

2.     Speak slowly and simply.  Remember they will hear what you say, how you say it, and what you don’t say.

 3.     Choose a quiet time when you and they can have a lengthy conference without interruption. Turn off the TV, telephones, and computers. Watch out for the distractions and pressures of pending homework, business telephone calls, arriving guests, and other disturbances.

4.     Make sure that you frame the conversation as a final announcement, not a pending decision.  They will hope and fantasize that you will change your mind and will continue to do so for some years.

5.     Ask them what they understand about divorce and their friends’ experiences with it. As painful as it may be, encourage them to speak up about their fears, anger, and concerns; they may have some misconceptions that you can correct. Some children will be frozen into silence. Even so, their minds will be running at full speed. Expect that they may lie about how they feel to comfort you, especially if you have been crying during the discussion.  They may also be concerned about having little or no input into the decision-making process. Not paying enough attention to their wishes often leads to a combination of anger and powerlessness which can undermine their initiative later in life and can result in resentment that carries through deep into adulthood.

6.     Assure them that they did not cause the divorce nor can they fix it. Also, that they are still loved by both parents, that they are the best parts of the marriage, and that you will continue to take care of them until they are grown, just as you always would. 

7.     Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss future plans after everyone has had a chance to think things over. At that meeting, promise to keep them informed with details of what’s happening currently and events that are coming.

8.     Arrange for a time to take them to the new surroundings. Remember to repeat some of the information as young minds can’t assimilate information on one or two hearings.

Knowing that this will be one of the worst days of their lives, will this plan of intelligently going through a family meeting counteract the effect of this massive disappointment for the children? No, it will not.  But, it will go far in reducing the fear, suffering, and loneliness of the crisis.

Jerry Cosby is an experienced mediator specializing in divorce who gives emphasis to the healing of the spouses and children.  To find out more about his services, please visit www.texasmediationgroup.com

Jenifer Costigan guest speaker on "Love, Sex and Religion"

We are proud to announce one of our therapists, Jenifer Costigan was invited as a guest speaker and appeared on the "Love, Sex, and Religion" podcast.

To listen click on the link below: 

 https://soundcloud.com/lo…/sex-therapy-feat-jenifer-costigan

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

http://www.sylviarimm.com/article_sibcomp.html

Hey! I'm Grace!

My name is Grace, and I am thrilled to be a therapist at Reconnecting Relationships Therapy. 

I would like to share with you a little of my background and experiences that has brought me to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. To be completely honest I would have not started the path to become a therapist if were not for other therapists that touched my life. They believed in my potential and dedicated their time to strengthen my God-given qualities. Getting to know other therapists in my life made me realize they all genuinely respected me as an individual, and were rooting for my success. Today, I apply that valuable lesson with every client that I get to work with. No matter my client’s background, faith, culture or past/current hardships, they deserve my respect and support to reach their personal goals! 

My approach in therapy is to empower my clients by using their natural strengths and introducing additional skills to overcome various life struggles. I do this by using a family systems model that encourages healthy communication, respect, clear boundaries, and flexibility to develop healthy relationships with self and others. 

I’ve been married for three years and do not have children. However, I do have a Papillion named Simba that I completely adore! My favorite things to do are spending time with family and friends and traveling. I have found a passion in traveling to new countries as I come to learn and experience new cultures and different ways of living life. 

Thank you for taking the time to know me on a more personal level. If you have not had an opportunity to read the self-introductions of the other therapists at RRT, I encourage you to do so. 

Please keep coming back to our blog!  We plan to continue sharing a variety of resources that encourage self-growth and positive relationships.