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Avoiding Parenting Clashes With College-Age Kids: Studio 5

 

They’re back! College kids are home for the summer and while it’s normal to butt heads a bit during summer break, therapist, Julie Hanks, says there are ways to avoid clashes and enjoy the summer together.

As your college-age children come home for summer it’s important to address and renegotiate these “hot button” topics head on, before different expectations turn into sources of contention. Be proactive and address topics together adult to adult. It can be tricky to navigate the rules because they are technically an adult, but you still your home. Here are some common sources of conflict among college kids and parents and some tips to help you smooth the transition to parenting adult children during the summer months.

1) CURFEW

Curfew seems to be the most common topic of disagreement between parents and adult children. I’ve recently heard a fried say, “I know he’s an adult, but I just can’t sleep if I know he hasn’t come home yet.” I said, “You slept just fine for the past nine months while he was away at school!”

Revise house rules together ASAP

You are no longer legally responsible for your child’s behavior and whereabouts, but you do have the right to set guidelines for what goes on in your home. For nine months away at college your adult child has made choices for him or herself on when to go to bed, when to eat, how to spend money, how to spend her time. Don’t expect old house rules to apply to your college-age child when he or she returns home for the summer.

2) CHORES AND MONEY

It is reasonable to expect your adult child to contribute to the household in some way either financially or through participating in household chores. How much should I expect? Should my daughter get a summer job? Who pays for what? Do I make them pay rent? Should I pay for their car or gas? There are no right answers.

Focus on your boundaries, not theirs

Decide what you will and won’t do instead of trying to dictate what they should do. For example, you may decide not to do your adult child’s laundry. If son’s laundry is piling up all over the floor and he has no clean clothes, the best approach is to do nothing. Don’t nag or criticize. And if your child is asking for money to go out with friends say, “I will pay for your dinner if we’re going out as a family, but if you’re going out with friends you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.”

3) TIME MANAGEMENT

Many adult children look at summer as a break from the pressures of schoolwork, finals, and endless hours of studying. They want to relax and reconnect with old friends, and have more unstructured time. Parents, on the other hand, might view their child’s “break” from school as being lazy and unproductive, and may even wonder, “Have I failed as a parent?

Reflect, don’t direct

Reflect what your adult child is doing or saying without telling them what to do and how to do it. Instead of nagging about them sleeping in until noon say “You must be really tired”. Actively encourage their positive efforts and goals.

4) FAMILY TIME

While you may envision your college child spending a lot of time with the family, he or she may have different expectations. Previous norms of family dinners, family reunions, Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, and other holiday traditions may need to be renegotiated with your young adult.

Invite but don’t expect

Invite your young adult to participate in activities, but don’t expect them to join in every activity. Keep up your own interests and social activities, too. I came across this suggestion online and thought it was brilliant and may help you make the needed shift in expectations with your college-age child:

“Treat your returning child like a foreign exchange student — someone who might be persuaded to share your quaint customs (such as having breakfast before noon), while passing on a few of her own (such as the vegan cooking she learned from her roommate).” (USAToday.com)

5) RELIGION

“He won’t go to church with our family” is a common complaint I hear in my clinical practice with families when college kids come home for summer. During several months living away from family adult children may start to question his or her family’s beliefs Religious differences or having a child leave the faith can parents wondering, “Where did we go wrong?”

Place connection above conformity

Your child will have changed while they were away from school – in ways that please you, and in ways that disappoint. Even if you don’t love the choices and beliefs your child is making, be curious about your child’s thoughts and feelings in a way that allows room for open dialogue and mutual respect. Remember that your connection with them is the most important thing. This is the time of life where you child needs to room to sort through what he or she values and believes.

Pre-baby Counseling Keeps Marriage Strong: KSL TV News

I am all for pre-baby counseling. We don’t really talk about how traumatic the birth of a child can be to the marriage relationship–loss of attention to spouse, sleep deprivation, jealousy, miscommunication, financial and time stresses, additional household duties…I sat down with Scott Haws this morning (bright and early) on KSL TV News to talk about pre-baby counseling for couples and why I think it’s a great idea…

Watch the news clip

Read more on KSL.com

Behind the scenes clip before the show…


Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero: Studio 5

Help Your Child Be A Real-Life Hero

In a culture consumed with pop stars and super heroes, it’s hard to spot true heroes. Find out what real heroes are made of and how to help your child be a real life hero. Therapist, Julie Hanks, LCSW explains the difference between role models and heroes.


What do you think of when you hear the word “hero”? For many, the word “hero” has become synonymous with celebrities, inventors, sports figures, musicians, and other individuals with special gifts or powers, excellent performance, or other noteworthy accomplishment.

Social psychologist Phil Zimbardo, PhD, claims that as a society we’ve “dumbed down heroism”. Not every good, kind, generous, smart, talented, famous person is a “hero”. There is a difference between role models and heroes.

Helping children become heroes in their own life story

1) Redefine Hero

What is a hero? Heroes don’t have to have magical powers or be involved in monumental feats. Zimbardo defines a hero simply as “a person who acts on behalf of others or in defense of integrity or a moral cause” and involves these 4 parts:

  • Voluntarily action
  • In the service of others or moral cause
  • Involves personal risk
  • Without expectation of personal benefit

Last Christmas my 8-year-old son showed heroism in a simple, yet touching way, when he left this letter for Santa on Christmas Eve. While it’s a small gesture, it was the opportunity for me as a parent to celebrate those budding heroic qualities.

“Thanks for bringing presents, but iff you think I don’t need it than give it to people who doesn’t get presents”

2) Watch for Heroes Everywhere

Once you’ve redefined what a hero is, you can take note of every day heroes in your community, in your family, and literature and movies.

Disney’s animated movie “Mulan” is an entertaining movie, with lively characters, and it can also be a springboard for conversation with your children about the 4 parts of heroism. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your children.

What value or moral cause prompted Mulan to go to battle?

Why do you think Mulan volunteered to fight in her father’s place?’

What was Mulan personally risking by making the choice to join the army?

What are some values that are important to you?

Are there any situations where you can act like a hero?

Jason M. Robison posted this on Facebook, “We teach our four children that being a hero is rarely glamorous and very often unpopular. We keep our eyes wide open for examples in the community that we can point out to them.”

3) Encourage Social Awareness and Action

The greater more people who witness an emergency; the less likely anyone is to do something about the situation. This is called the bystander effect. Help your child to understand this tendency and encourage them to act. They have the power to change the group norm by taking action on behalf of someone.

Encourage your child and teen to speak out, and to even challenge authority, in defense of another or one of their core values, even if it’s not popular.

Our children and teens come up against opportunities every day to be heroes. It may be as simple as sitting next to a lonely classmate in the lunch, walking away from a group of friends when they start to gossip, or reporting an act of bullying that they witnessed on the playground.

On Facebook, Vickie Johnson De Blasio says “We teach our kids that a hero does their best to improve the lives of others, without looking for acknowledgement.”

4) Teach and Nurture Heroic Virtues

Talk about your family’s values and the importance of developing character. Cultivate integrity, courage, compassion and social awareness in your family life. Families are losing the oral tradition of storytelling, and technology is taking over conversation and reading times. Provide your child opportunities all have examples of heroic figures with qualities that children can emulate in your family history, in literature and in religious text.

I’ve often heard my neighbor and dear friend Rene tells her three young children, “You can do hard things.” That simple statement can help her children see themselves as standing for something greater than themselves. Another family member frequently asks his son daily, “Who’s life can you bless today?”

Sharing stories of heroic family members can help nurture heroic virtues in your child. In 1856, one of our distant family relatives, Ephriam K. Hanks, volunteered to rescue a group of the Mormon Pioneers who were starving and stranded in a bitter winter storm. When he heard about the plight of the Willie and Martin handcart companies he was ready to risk his own life to help bring them to the Salt Lake Valley.

5) Be a Hero

The best way to inspire and teach your child to cultivate the hero inside of them is to be a hero, to cultivate your own heroic nature. I often hear children and teens in my clinical practice complain about how their parents lecture too much. We can do better at living heroic qualities instead of simply talking about those qualities.

As an adolescent, I remember going with my dad on Sunday’s to visit widows in my church community and neighborhood. We took them food and sat and talked with them. As a young child, I thought it was a boring and a waste of time, but looking back now it was a powerful lesson on the ability to make a difference for someone else.

Get more information on Dr. Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project

Pack Rats-Why We Hold On To Stuff & How To Let Go: Studio 5

Is your stuff taking over your house? Find out how to tap into the emotions that keep you from letting go and de-clutter your life.

Studio 5 Contributor and therapist, Julie Hanks, explains why we hang on to stuff and how to let it go.

In recent years shows about home organization have cropped up on just about every network. From the Style Network’s Clean House, A&E’s Hoarders, to HGTV’s Mission: Organization, we are obsessed with people and their “stuff”; with watching self-proclaimed “pack rats” learning to de-clutter and transform their homes and their lives.

Just like excessive clutter and collectibles can get out of control, an excessive focus on cleanliness and order can become problematic. I call this end of the spectrum the “neat freaks”. In April Women’s Health Magazine I was interviewed for an article called “Worried Sick” about a woman’s story of becoming obsessed with cleaning and detoxifying her home. Read the article online.

Why We Hold On To Stuff

Perfectionism

Believe it or not, just like neat freaks, pack rats are often perfectionist, too. But, instead of wanting a perfectly organized bookshelf, a toxin free home, or uniformed stripes on the vacuumed carpet, “pack rats” are paralyzed by not being able “to do it all” says Judith Kohlberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization (source). Messy folks tend to feel overwhelmed by deciding what to keep and what to let go of, so they put the decision on the shelf, literally.

Solution: Decide On the Spot

Remember, there is no “wrong” choice. Too often small decisions feel like moral issues when they are merely preferences or benign choices. Dr. Gerald Nestadt Director of Johns Hopkins Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic suggests that when you pick something up is the time to decide its fate. Either put it in its place or throw it away (source). This is a means of preventing unnecessary clutter from ever entering the house.

My kids bring stacks of papers home each week and I frequently move the same piles of papers to several different locations around the house for months. But since working on this segment, I’ve actually tried to decide the fate of each paper the moment I touch it and it works! My kitchen counter isn’t cluttered with various piles of school papers. The things I decide to keep are stacked in a cute basket on the counter.

Solution: Face Your Fears

Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen if I throw this paper away or if you donate this piece of furniture? Is your fear that you might regret it? Is it that someone may be upset with you? That may have to pay to replace it? My favorite question to ask myself is “Can I buy it back on Ebay if I change my mind? ”

Several years ago I worked with an overwhelmed client whose home was littered with piles of books, papers, clothes, and she felt unable to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Her daughters didn’t want to have friends over because they were embarrassed of the clutter and chaos. My client’s family of origin didn’t have enough money to provide for my client’s needs or wants when she was a child. Through therapy she discovered that she was holding onto things because she was afraid of not having enough, like she felt as a child. Being surrounded by “stuff” gave her a sense of security that she and her family would always have more than enough. Through facing her fear of not having enough, and through grieving her early losses and unmet needs, my client was able to find the motivation to let go of much of the possessions she was clinging to.

Sentimentality

You may hold on to things as reminder of fond memories of the past, of close relationships, or of people who have passed on. Consider that the meaning isn’t in the object itself, but in the meaning you ascribe to that particular treasure. You have the power to change the meaning you give to an object.

Solution: Keep Just One

Holding onto boxes of every piece of art that your child draws doesn’t freeze time. Saving boxes of clothing from your great grandma’s closet that you’ll never wear won’t bring her back to life. So, hold on to one of the dresses or your child’s favorite drawing and let the rest go.

I recently posed the question on Facebook “What things do you collect and find it hard to let go of?”. The most common answer was “things that my children have made”. Art projects, papers and cards made by your children are precious gifts, but you don’t have to keep ALL of them. Try applying this rule and keep one per year.

Solution: Take a Photo

If there’s an item with particular meaning or special memory associated with it take a photo of it before you toss it, sell it, give it away, or donate it. Just because an item is associated with a special memory doesn’t mean that you have to keep the actual item.

This idea recently came up in a conversation with my mom, who collects vintage kitchen items. I asked her what it was about vintage kitchen items that were so sentimental. She described memories of her mother in the kitchen. The kitchen was the heart of my mother’s childhood home, and subsequently the kitchen was also the heart of my childhood home as my mom raised 9 siblings who are all grown. I suggested to my mom that she take photos of her favorite items and make a collage on her kitchen wall instead of cluttering up her home by keeping all of the actual items in her living space.

Frugality

“I might need it someday” or “I paid for this” aren’t necessarily good reasons to hold on to clutter things but are common reasons for doing so. While being frugal is an important trait for financial responsibility, it can become too much of a focus and lead to holding on to too much stuff. It’s crucial to balance financial concerns with the emotional and relational costs of having a disorganized or in extreme cases, a hazardous environment.

Solution: Toss It After 2 Years

You know those partially finished crafts that you bought, or those piles of fabric collecting dust, or that closet full of old clothes that you’re holding on to just in case you get to that size again, or those shelves of books you haven’t touched in over a decade? If you haven’t touched something for two years then maybe it’s time to let them go.

According to a recent survey on SmartShopper, the average woman owns about 17 pair of shoes. I own 17 multiplied by 7! I realized that my shoes represent being prepared for any event, and they represent that I have options in my life. I also realized that some are also attached to memories. So, I am challenging myself to give away the shoes I haven’t worn for 2 years.

Solution: Put People Before Things

If there’s no place for company to sit down because your couch is covered with collectibles, or your family is standing while eating dinner because the dinner table is covered with boxes of your treasures your are paying a high relational cost. If your stuff is taking priority over your relationships or starting to impact your sleep, work, and other parts of your life its time to take action and ask for professional help. If your piles of stuff put your family’s health at risk or create physical danger it’s time to seek professional help to understand the emotional and mental roots of you’re your relationship with your stuff.

In an A&E’s Hoarders episode a grown woman Darcy shares her pain about her mother choosing to live with “nameless faceless trash” first, and has distanced from her Mom. This extremely sad case illustrates how out of control things can become when you cling to things over people. Watch A&E’s Hoarders Episode 26.


New Study Shows Facebook Boosts Self-esteem: Studio 5

Need a quick ego boost? Check your Facebook profile. It just might make you feel better about yourself.  Therapist, Julie Hanks, weighs in on new research that says Facebook makes you feel better about yourself.

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor on KSL TV’s Studio 5, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central and Latter-day Woman Magazine

How To Celebrate Our Differences: Studio 5

Therapist, Julie Hanks, says the first step to embracing other women is to accept ourselves.

Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the honoring of differences, not simply in the enjoyment of similarities. -Unknown

It’s common for women to view other women’s differences choices, talents, age, race, religion, or marital status as divisive instead of inspiring. Here are six ideas designed to help women come together, to learn from each other, and celebrate our diversity.

1) Accept Yourself

Judgment, criticism, envy of other women is rooted in our own fears and insecurities.

Self-acceptance is the first step to embracing of differences in others and entails embracing our choices, unique talents, weaknesses, and life circumstance. Life is about growth and relationships are the soil in which we learn and grow.

It’s taken me years to accept my passion for education. I used to think, “I have small children. Why do I feel such a great desire to go to graduate school?” I used to compare myself to other women with small children who were content and fulfilled without complicating their lives with graduate school. Now, I have a deeper appreciation of my own personal desires and goals, making it easier to embrace other women’s choices.

“I really believe that one of the big reasons we feel threatened by other women’s choices is out of a feeling of insecurity about our own. The women who I feel like are able to celebrate that we all have our own paths are the ones who are at peace with the choices they have made.” – Katie Clifford

2) Eliminate The “Shoulds”

Believing that other women “should be more like me” creates feelings of judgment and criticism that create distance from other women. Conversely, “I should be more like them” leads to self-judgment, low self-worth, and anxiety.

One of the largest lines drawn in the sand between women seems to be the “working vs. stay-at-home mom” divide. This is a false dichotomy because all women work! It’s easy to talk about this divide in such extremes. Most mothers I know work very hard at whatever they are involved in and they are fiercely dedicated to their children.

“Maybe we could all start by being honest about the inherent struggles that come with each of those choices. If both “sides” felt comfortable being open about their lives, it would make everyone feel less defensive and find some common ground.” – Katie Clifford

“There is pressure on both sides of (the working vs. stay-at-home mom) issue. Social and religious pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be home. Financial pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be working. Every woman and every family are different. As we let go of the pressure we feel from others, we are less likely to pass that on to the people around us. I think we need to start a “Girl Code” where we focus more on loving and supporting each other! We are AMAZING when we come together!” – Amy King Walker says

3) Let Differences Inspire You

If you find yourself getting caught in the deflating game of “she’s so much better at (fill in the blank) than I am”, consider letting another woman’s gift, skill or trait be a springboard for the development of that particular gift or character trait. For example, younger women can look to older women for perspective and wisdom from life experiences, and older women may be inspired by younger women’s energy and passion.

I’ve mentioned my friend Sarah on the show before. She’s well into her 90’s so to say we’re in a difference age category is an understatement. Years ago when I was a new mother, she inspired me to view every life challenge as an opportunity to develop love and faith in my heart. Though she had been through many losses in her life, including the death of her first child, her husband’s substance abuse, she had used those experiences to develop deeper love and faith and inspired me to do the same.

“I have a friend who has never married and she is 40. She has 3 fantastic dogs that she loves, and she competes in Ms. Fitness competitions. All of my friends have aspects of their lives that are different than mine. I don’t have time to do all of these things, so I can benefit from them and their experiences.” — Mary Evans

“One way women can associate with one another is to share their talents. I have learned to sew from another woman in my church group.”– Kaija Purvis

4) Go Below The Surface

Judgment and criticism often stem from seeing only the superficial aspects of another woman’s life. Once you go deeper and get to another’s heart and mind, pain and joys, it’s so much easier to understand their choices and celebrate the differences. People make sense once you understand their story.

This is one aspect of clinical practice that I absolutely love. Every time I go to work I get to see into client’s hearts, families, hear their pain and their strengths, and hear their real stories. I have found that it’s always easier to accept and understand someone, even if they’ve made destructive choices, if you know and experience their story. People make sense.

5) The Grass Isn’t Greener

It’s easy to look at the lives of others with jealousy and envy when they have what we think we want. Every situation has five positive aspects and five very difficult aspects. No woman “has it all.” Seeing the diversity can help you appreciate what you do have.

Married women can learn to better appreciate their imperfect relationship from their single friends who wish they were in a committed relationship. Single women can learn to embrace their independence, freedom, and emotional space by learning to their married friend’s relationship situations.

“After a visit with an elderly widow, I am grateful for my hectic household, or a divorced friend might make me appreciate my husband more that day. A disabled friend makes me thankful I can shovel the driveway or mow the lawn.” – Debbie Nowers

6) Seek Out The Unfamiliar

Instead of gravitating socially to those who are just like you, when you walk into a room, or party, or gathering, actively seek out someone who is different from you — difference age group, different marital, socioeconomic status. Ask yourself, “What can I learn about her? What can I learn from her?”

“I celebrate differences with my friends by getting involved in things that they like. We invite each other to participate not only in fun activities, but also to tag along to business and family functions.” – Shawna Henry

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Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with Julie at www.drjuliehanks.com.

Think Like A Man: Studio 5

Think Like A Man on KSL TV’s Studio 5

It’s no secret men and women think differently. Men ask for what they want, while women fret over feelings. Sometimes it pays to think like a man. We have 5 reasons to give it a try.  Therapist, Julie Hanks, says sometimes, women should think like a man.

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Are gender differences in thoughts and behavior primarily biological or environment? No matter what the origin or our differences, nature or nurture or both life experience has shown all of us that men and women think differently.

According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, more men fall under the category of systemizers, skilled at figuring out how things work (think car repair, computer technology, math, science) and tend to out-perform women in visual spatial tasks. More women are what Baron-Cohen calls empathizers who are interested in how people work, responding more accurately to subtle emotional cue and responding appropriately. Overall, research demonstrates that women are better able to accurately assess other’s emotions and respond to social cues. Women tend to outperform men in verbal tasks.

Interestingly, according to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, your gender doesn’t necessarily determine your brain type. Baron-Cohen found that about 17% of men have a female “empathizing brain”, 17% of women have a male “systemizing brain”, and some participants had a “balanced brain” with equal strength in systemizing and empathizing (source). Curious about whether you have a “male” or “female” brain?

Take a brain test here.

Regardless of whether the gender differences are based on socialization or biological differences, we can learn from men’s strengths and practice “thinking like a man” in situations where it will better serve us. Here are five ways that women can benefit from thinking like a man:

1) Be Decisive

For men, a problem shared is a problem to be solved. Men look for solutions, and confidently make decisions. Women are more likely to get hijacked by emotion first, delaying decision-making. When they do make a decision, women are more likely to spend time wondering if it was the right choice.

To think like a man give yourself a time limit on making a decision, and once you’ve made your decision, don’t second guess yourself. You will gain the confidence in your ability to make good decisions and reserve some of your time and energy to focus on other things.

I had a friend who looked for dining table for 5 years because she wasn’t sure she would make a good decision, didn’t want to choose the “wrong” table, and didn’t want to waste money. If she had given herself 30 days to look at tables and then was going to make a decision, she would have been just as happy with her choice and enjoyed gathering her family around a beautiful table for the past 5 years.

2) Move On Quickly After Making Mistakes

After making mistakes, men are better at leaving their mistakes in the past. Patricia Bryans at North Umbria University in England studied the recalling mistakes in the workplace. Though she wasn’t researching gender differences, Bryans notices that men generally told neat stories, found the details difficult to recall, and portrayed themselves in a positive light, whereas women told complicated, detailed stores and continued to be emotionally distressed about their mistake. (source)

To think like a man try framing your mistakes as “learning experiences”, not character flaws. Try writing down the situation in the simplest story possible. Include in the story facts and feelings, and then dispose of it the story. You’ll feel better about yourself because you will have contained the situation on paper and symbolically gotten rid of it, and you’ll have the emotional freedom to focus on other aspirations.

In my therapy practice, I’ve noticed that when talking with clients about a past divorce, men will likely say things like, “She just freaked out and I couldn’t deal with her anymore” or “I just decided that I wanted to be with someone else.” In contrast, women will go through this very complicated story with dozens of theories of why it failed, how they feel about it. Several years ago I worked with a female client who was distraught about her divorce that happened years earlier, and couldn’t seem to move past the despair and confusion. One of the ways I helped her was to simplify her story and boil it down to “the marriage didn’t work out” or “he chose to be with someone else”, take responsibility for her part in the marital demise, accept the simplified story, and stop ruminating over every detail of her past marriage.

3) Make Sex a Priority

A colleague recently shared this quote that I thought was right on when it comes to gender differences and sexual desire. “Men are willing as long as they’re able. Women are able as long as they’re willing.” Men are better able to focus on physical desires and enjoy the emotional and physical benefits of sex. Women will get to the physical intimacy if everything else is check off their “to-do” list.

To think like a man try putting sex at the top of your priority list one day each week. Plan for it, think about it, and initiate physical intimacy. Broaden how you view yourself to include “lover”, in addition to wife, or mother, or daughter, or employee. Prioritizing physical intimacy will help your husband feel more loved, adored, and attractive. In addition to the relational benefits of intimacy, there are personal health benefits to prioritizing and engaging in lovemaking — a stronger immune system, reduced stress, increased self-esteem, improved heart health, and burning additional calories.

A few years ago, I met with a couple struggling sexually. The husband was broken hearted and felt rejected by his wife sexually. He felt insecure, unattractive, and disconnected in his marriage because she seemed indifferent about their sexual intimacy. I helped his wife hear and understand his feelings of sadness and fear, and helped him understand what she needed from him in order to awaken her desire. I helped his wife prioritizing lovemaking relationship by scheduling one night weekly where she was “in charge” of initiating lovemaking. Additionally, we worked on ways to increase the number of times she thought about her husband sexually each day, and worked toward resolving some emotional blocks she had due to her early family history of sexual shame. I’m happy to say that they are now enjoying a fulfilling marriage.

4) Worry Less About Other’s Feelings

Men seem to have an easier time asking directly for what they want without guilt because they are generally less “in tune” about other’s feelings. They are unapologetically taking time off for self-care and recreation — a game of golf or watching sports, while women tend to spend time figuring out what they want, if they deserve it, and how their desires or choices will impact others.

To think like a man try asking unapologetically for what you want and need in order to feel rejuvenated and allowing others to have their emotional response without taking responsibility for their feelings. It’s OK is your kids are occasionally disappointed or your husband is irritated or inconvenienced.

Recently, a friend of mine, a high level health professional, was negotiating her employment contract at work. She shared with me how difficult it was for her to think of it as a business deal and not a relationship. In that situation, she had to practice asking strongly for what she wanted.

5) Take Things at Face Value

Men tend to believe what people say without over analyzing or digging for hidden emotional messages. They generally say what they mean and assume you’ll do the same. For example, if your husband asks you if it’s ok if he goes golfing and you say “Yes. That’s fine honey. I don’t mind.” He may hear “yes” even if you delivered the yes with sarcasm.

To think like a man try sticking to the facts of a social interaction, focusing on the actual words that were said. You may feel a sense relief as you give up trying to decipher other’s hidden messages. An added benefit is that you’ll send the message to others that you expect them to say what they really mean.

One of my personal pet peeves: women who don’t believe what I’m saying, or who try to second guess, or apologize incessantly. An example of this scenario is when a friend asks if I can babysit their children. Here’s how the conversations goes.
“Yes, I’d love to have your kids come over today,” I say.
“Are you sure? Are you sure it’s OK? It’s not too inconvenient?” she asks reluctantly.
I respond, “If I weren’t OK with your kids coming over I would have told you ‘no’. Trust me to mean what I say.”
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Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

How To Stop Overreacting & Keep Your Cool: Studio 5

Over-reacting is when your emotional response doesn’t match the current relationship situation. There are general types two kinds of overreactions: external and internal. External overreactions are visible responses that others can see. For example lashing out in anger, throwing your hands up and walking away from a situation.  Internal overreactions are emotional responses that remain inside of you that others may or may not be aware of.  Examples of internal overreactions are replaying over a situation over and over in your head wondering if you said the right thing, or overanalyzing a comment made by a friend or loved one.

In her book “Stop Overreacting” author Dr. Judith P. Siegel suggests asking yourself the following questions to assess whether you or not you have a problem with overreacting:

Do you often:

  • Regret things you say in the heat of emotion?
  • Lash out at loved ones?
  • Have to apologize to others for your actions or words?
  • Feel surprised at your seemingly uncontrollable reactions?
  • Assume the worst about people and situations?
  • Withdraw when things get emotionally overwhelming?

Dr. Siegel also identifies 4 general triggers for emotional overreactions:

  • Envy – when someone gets something we want and we think we deserve
  • Rejection – humans are hard-wired to need connection and inclusion with others and exclusion triggers same brain receptors as physical pain.
  • Criticism – universal need to be approved of and accepted
  • Control – desire to get what we want and protect what’s important to us

How to stop overreacting:

1-Don’t neglect the basics

Sleep deprivation, going too long without food or water, and feeling overly stressed leave your mind and body vulnerable to exaggerated responses. This seems like a no-brainer, but for many women in the name of “taking care of others” they let their own basic self-care slip and ironically, it is their loved ones who are likely to end up on the receiving end of their emotional overreaction.

2-Tune in & name it

A stiff neck, pit in stomach, pounding heart, tense muscles can all be signs that you’re in danger of overreacting, of being hijacked by your emotions. Becoming more aware of physical cues actually helps you to stay ahead of, and in control of your response. Naming your feeling activate both sides of your brain allowing you to reflect on your situation instead of just reacting to it.

Recently, my teen daughter was expressing some intense hurt feelings about our relationship. While she was talking, I noticed a hot feeling rising in my stomach, and defensive thoughts.  Tuning in to my own body allowed me to slow down my own response so I could hear what she was saying and respond calmly.

3-Breathe before responding

When you feel like flying off the handle take a deep breath. Deep breathing slows down your fight or flight response and allows you to calm your nervous system and choose a more thoughtful and productive response.

Try taking a deep breath next time someone cuts you off in traffic. In my recent Facebook poll, overreacting while driving was the most commonly cited scenario for overreacting. Just imagine if all drivers took a breath before responding making hand-gestures, or yelling obscenities, the world would be a kinder place.

4-Put a positive spin on it

Once you’ve identified what’s going on in your body, you can intervene in your thoughts. When we have intense emotions it’s easy to go to a worst-case scenario as an explanation for whatever you’re reacting to. “They’ve never liked me” or “She always criticizes me”. Watch for all-or-nothing words like “always” and “never” as clues that you’re heading toward a worst-case scenario.

If someone offends you consider the possibility that the insult is not about you. Maybe the neighbor who snapped at you was just given a pay cut at work and feeling discouraged, or the person who cut you off in traffic is rushing to the hospital to see the birth of his first child. Make up a back-story that makes sense and puts a positive spin about whatever is triggering your emotional response.

5-Identify and resolve emotional “leftovers”

Notice patterns in your overreactions. If you find yourself revisiting a feeling or situation over and over again, there is likely a historical component to it that is being triggered that needs to be addressed.

In my therapy practice, I worked with beautiful, smart women who often became tearful and depressed when she heard about friends getting together without her.  She felt extremely insecure and rejected.  Her heightened sensitivity to being excluded by other women in her neighbor, even though she had many friends and was usually included in social gatherings was fueled by emotional “leftovers” in her past. She felt emotionally abandoned by her parents, ostracized by peers when she was young, which heightened her sensitivity to rejection as an adult. Through therapy I helped her to heal the earlier relationship wounds so she can be free to respond more clearly to present social situations.

Not all intense responses are overreactions

It’s important to note that not all intense emotional responses are overreactions. The distinction is whether your response matches the situation. In some instances, a quick and extreme response is necessary to protect our loved ones or ourselves.  I recall a time years ago when my oldest child son was a toddler riding his trike down the street. He was riding ahead of me because I was pregnant and a lot slower than usual. As I noticed a car slowing backing out of a driveway as my son was approaching the driveway I found myself sprinting toward the car, screaming at the top of my lungs with arms flailing frantically as I tried to get the driver’s attention and avoid a horrible tragedy. Luckily, the driver noticed me and stopped her car just short of my son. My exaggerated response was necessary to save his life and was not an overreaction.

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.  Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

How to Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem: Studio 5

When to worry about your child and how to help!

Self-esteem, a popular construct used to describe an individual’s inner experience, has two parts: how you define yourself, and how you evaluate yourself. It’s easier to evaluate your own experience than someone else’s subjective experience, even your own child. Here are some signs of healthy self-esteem, some examples of when you should be concerned about your child’s self-esteem, and how you can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

Hallmarks of healthy self-esteem in children and teens:

Competence

is possessing skills to face life challenges at their developmental stage.
Important skills for young children are basic social skills to get along with peers, to work out disagreements, or new activities like to learning to throw a football, or how to read. For adolescents, top skills are having social skills to navigate the complexities dating relationships or development of study skills to succeed in school.

Confidence

is belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, and in one’s experience. The felt assurance he or she is valuable and capable. Confidence is being open to new experiences, and willing to risk looking silly.

For example, my 8-year-old son went skiing for the first time last month. While he was a bit nervous, after only an hour he was skiing without the constant help of my husband. After a few hours was skiing on his own and enjoying himself.

Connection

is the ability to feel close to family and friends, to give and receive affection, to share thoughts and emotions, and to seek comfort and help when distressed. Empathy for others and for their own experiences is easily felt and expressed.
In my therapy practice, I have seen hundreds of children and adolescence who look exceptional on the outside – straight A’s, leaders at school, beautiful, athletic, but who are feeling worthless inside. Parents are baffled by their child’s internal pain because they “look fine” and “have so much going for them”. What many of these parents fail to realize is their child’s need for a genuine emotional connection with their parent and for the skills and permission to say, “I don’t want to play this sport”, or “Dad, it hurts me when you yell at me”, not just praise for their outstanding performance.

Coping skills

are the ability to handle a variety of situations and emotions and to accept and learn from mistakes without self-doubt, self-loathing, and excessive guilt. It’s also the ability to experience a full-range of emotions, find healthy expression of emotions, and to and bounce back from disappointments, and to take responsibility for choices without blaming others.

When should you worry about your child’s self-esteem?

1- Excessive focus on performance

In an effort to build self-esteem, it’s common for parents to push a child to excel in a particular sport, or academic endeavor, musical instrument, or to notice and praise a particular personality trait over and over. If your son’s self-definition is based on being a star baseball player, what happens if he doesn’t make the high school team? If your daughter labels herself as “the smart one” and gets a C in chemistry, it may shake her self-esteem. If your child self identifies himself as “the nice kid”, and then feels intense anger, he may deny the anger instead learning from it and finding a healthy was to express it.

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