Tag Archives: communication

What do you do if your child walks in on you?

Yup, I am going there. I am talking about sex. If you are a parent chances are you have, at least, had some close calls when it comes to your children getting too much of a personal view. So what do you do if your child walks in on you having intercourse? 

It can be an embarrassing and terrifying experience for both involved. It is a touchy subject that can evoke a range of emotions. But, it is healthy. So before you even begin to have the conversation cut yourself some slack. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with guilt or embarrassment and instead consider buying a lock for your bedroom door, take a breath, and clear the air with your child. 

As it goes with many highly emotional situations, your first instinct might not be the best so before you address the situation make sure to take a couple of minutes to gather yourself. Don’t assume your child saw everything. In many cases, the child likely didn’t see too much but probably still has some questions. Avoid going into too many of the juicy details and talk calmly to your child. Ask he/she/they if they have any questions about what they saw? Explain that you were having special time with your spouse—something that you do when you are an adult and in love. 

Young children likely don’t know what they saw, which makes it easier on the parents. If your child is out of preschool, however, they are smarter than you might realize. In that case, don’t gloss over the details. Be honest. It is better to address the situation head-on than to beat around the bush. 

Think about your child. Put yourself in their shoes. What do you think they are feeling? Confused? Embarrassed? Scared? Nervous? Draw on what your child already knows. If you have talked about this stuff before, start the conversation with “remember when we talked about..” 

Lastly make sure that you have the conversation in private, away from anyone that might make things more uncomfortable. Reassure your child that everything is ok, these behaviors are healthy and normal when done in a responsible way with someone you care deeply about, apologize to your child so that he/she/they knows they did nothing wrong. And, don’t wait for your child to come to you. They probably feel pretty shaken about the whole thing. Go to them and be open. 

It might feel like you have permanently scared your child but I assure you that is not the case. Be open and honest with them and things will blow over with ease. You will recover. 

Does humor help communication?

There is a reason comedians are popular. It is because they keep things interesting. They make people think about life in different ways. Humor can be a powerful tool when it comes to communication. It helps people to feel comfortable and to breakdown barriers. It helps to make the uncomfortable more easily received. 

For people who suffer from social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others, humor can be a vital tool in getting them to open up. There are plenty of situations in life that are not pleasant, everything from routine physicals at a doctors office to parenting troubles. There is also a lot about this world that is boring but that we have to accept as “facts of life”— car repairs, paying bills, work meetings, the list goes on and on. Humor helps to make all of these things a little easier to take. 

Research (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication) shows that people find it difficult to receive information from someone who has little or no sense of humor. Laughing with another makes people more receptive to new ideas. Humor allows us to approach things that might be otherwise threatening in a non-threatening way. 

Recalling a funny memory in times of distress can help provide comfort. Making light of a serious situation to bring a smile to a person’s face can help to bring them back to earth. Lighthearted humor ignites thoughts, opens us up, and grabs our attention. Not to mention, it eases our stress. You could be having the worst day but when you change your thought process to think about the humorous side, things get a little easier. 

In therapy, humor helps counselors and clients establish a rapport. It can help to put things into perspective and accept the information we are receiving. Humor encourages further communication. 

So, next time you are faced with establishing a boundary or addressing a problem with a coworker, child, spouse, etc. consider using humor to get your point across. 

Ask Mabel: How can I stop myself from cheating?

Dear Mabel: Help! I am married and I feel like I am slowly falling for a guy at work. It started with happy hour, then instant messaging, and lately we have had a few conversations about maybe meeting up outside of the office. I love my husband, I really do. But I have to admit that I am enjoying flirting. It’s fun. How can I stop myself from cheating? I don’t want to but I am feeling the temptation.

Signed, Annie from Philadelphia 

Mabel: Hi Annie, we are all human and it’s not uncommon to develop feelings towards another individual even when we are married. Obviously, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed such as your internal conflict and the connection between you and your husband. You need to examine why you are attracted to this other person and what struggles might be occurring in your marriage that are making you feel like you need to look elsewhere?

However, kudos to you for wanting to do the right thing and avoid betraying your partner. It’s not easy to fight these feelings and urges, but it can be done. It’s important to remind yourself why you want to protect your relationship with your husband. Why is your marriage important to you? What do you love about your husband?

As difficult as it may be, it all shall pass. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Relationships are similar. They need a few key components to germinate: time, proximity, and chemistry. Without one of those, a relationship can not survive for long. So what do I mean by those components? Well, time is the amount of time you are in contact with the other person, whether in-person, phone, or online chatting. Proximity is the physical distance between two people (this is why long distance relationships are hard). And, chemistry is liking each other, attraction, and common interests. Since you are flirting with this person, there is obvious chemistry. In order to avoid acting on that chemistry, you need to eliminate the other two components—time and proximity. I don’t expect you to quit your job, but you do need to separate yourself from this other person. You need to end the instant messaging, avoid happy hours where he is present, and decrease any time spent with this person in a non-professional setting. You can get through this if you take the right steps. Staying focused on your marriage and working to get through whatever struggles may be causing you to stray can help to keep your mind and heart in the right place. 

What to do when your daughter says she’s fat

We frequently think of teenagers as being the ones struggling with image issues, calling themselves “fat,” and starving themselves. But, body image issues can start much earlier. 

Recently the mother of one of my daughter’s six-year-old classmates told me her daughter had stopped eating ice cream because she thinks she is the “fattest in the class.” Last year, my daughter had the same issue. She wouldn’t eat because she also believed she was the “fattest in the class” and kept repeating how she thought she was “fat.”

I approached the situation by reminding her that only a doctor can diagnose weight issues. We talked about the meaning of “diagnose” and I asked her to stop diagnosing herself. I also talked to her about science and data, showing her her growth chart. I showed her where she was at and what is considered overweight. The data showed that she was not overweight, confirming that she had no reason to think otherwise. In the end, I told her to stop comparing herself with other kids because we all come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. I encouraged her to let the growth chart speak for itself. Since that conversation, my daughter no longer calls herself “fat” and has resumed eating normally. 

Whether you have a young child or a teen, it is important to deliver a similar message when talking to them about weight. You need to halt these thoughts before they lead to a lifelong self-image issue. As parents, we have the ability to correct these unhealthy thoughts. Rather than brushing them off and insisting that our children eat even when they are refusing for these reasons, present them with the data. Teach them how to think about things logically as a child and you will be setting them up to be a happier adult. 

How to ask for a prenup

Explaining to your fiancé your desire to have a prenuptial agreement can be difficult. It is a touchy conversation that often can result in an argument because, in order to talk about a prenup, you have to talk about divorce. 

Talking about divorce before you have even walked down the aisle can seem counterproductive. It might come off as hurtful. Or it might seem to your partner that you are not fully invested in the relationship. But, let’s be real. Divorce rates are staggeringly high. Half of all marriages will end at some point. Even if you insist that won’t be you, different people have different reasons for wanting that prenuptial document. Maybe you witnessed a friend or family member lose everything in a messy divorce and you want to protect yourself. Or, maybe you just want to feel like you are being responsible. Whatever the reason, if it is something you feel passionately about then you need to have a conversation. 

So, how do you approach such a sensitive topic?

1.) Prepare — Before starting the discussion, grab a piece of paper and fold it in half. Write down ten reasons why you want a prenup on one side and then write down potential responses from your partner on the other side. Being mentally prepared for the discussion and what might come up is key. You need to have a deep understanding of what you want and why you want it. Be authentic and honest with your reasoning. 

2.) Have a conversation, don’t issue demands — Instead of saying “we are getting a prenup,” say “let’s talk about a prenup—what do you think about getting one?” Wait for he/she/they to answer before responding.

3.) Stay calm—Avoid being defensive or argumentative. Don’t get worked up that your partner may not agree with you. That will only make it worse. 

4.)Really listen, ask questions — Have an open mind. Listen and try to see your partner’s perspective as well as your own. 

5.)Talk about it as early as you can — Don’t wait until the week before your wedding to have this conversation. Even though you might know what you want, your partner might not have thought of it in detail. They will need time to assess their feelings and maybe some space to consider your reasoning. If the conversation does not go over well consider approaching the topic again at a later date.

Getting a prenup does not mean your marriage is doomed from the beginning. It just means you want to be prepared for the worst case scenario, and that is ok. The best thing you can do is keep communicating with each other about your thoughts and feelings. 

What do you think about prenups? 

Shut up and show up

Have you ever heard the phrase “shut up and show up?” There is a reason it exists and the underlying meaning can be a powerful reminder to all of us. It is saying stop all the talking, the broken promises, the excuses, the word vomit spewing from your mouth and instead show people you care through your actions. 

Actions speak louder than words. You can tell someone you care but until you actually step up to the plate with a kind gesture, a caring action, your words mean nothing. By “showing up” you are telling this person that you are here for them and that they are worthy of your attention, your time. 

Our time is a valuable commodity, especially these days. We are constantly flooded with media and overstimulated. Our attention and our minds are being pulled dozens of directions at one time. It is up to you to make the conscious choice, the conscious effort to put your actions where your mouth is. Show people what they mean to you by physically being there in some way or another. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic or over-the-top. Simple gestures like helping a friend who is hurting to run an errand, delivering meals to a sick family member, putting the phone down to watch your daughter’s dance recital, or getting up early to make your spouse breakfast—its these small gestures, these simple actions that show others you care. 

So stop promising to do this or to do that. Stop telling your friends or family you care and then skipping out on them. Instead, show up. Be there. Show them they are worthy. 

How do you show up for those you care for? 

What to say when someone calls you a “bitch”?

Sometimes it happens. We are viewed as a “bitch” to others because we are busy or anxious and trying to get things done quickly or efficiently. Or, we are standing up for ourselves or someone else. But, what do you say? How do you handle being called a “bitch”? 

That word can come off as hurtful. First of all, there is no need to “take it as a compliment.” After all, it is not a very nice word. There is also no need to go the high road, or the low road, with the person. You don’t need to ignore it and you don’t need to feel bad about yourself for being called such a thing. 

There are two key ways to tackle the situation: 

1.)React in a funny/snarky tone— you could say “I get bonus points for that, right?” Then go back to what you were talking about and blow it off. Don’t take it personally. Don’t dwell on it. It is just a waste of your energy. 

2.)Be a leader in the situation— if you are standing up for yourself or another, or a cause that is near and dear to your heart, you could say “we are here because we care about xyz and name calling doesn’t solve the problem.”

It is all about setting a boundary but maintaining morale. By reacting in a funny tone you are showing the other person that you are not going to let their name calling get you down. By being a leader you are telling them that your actions have a purpose and name calling is pointless. Both reactions set a boundary with the other person that their words are not going to go any deeper than just words. They aren’t accomplishing anything by saying those things. 

It is unfair that women who stand firm and are strong in their beliefs can come off as “bitchy” when in reality they are just passionate. Understand that if you are subjected to such name-calling that it is because you are a strong, passionate person, and that is something to be proud of. 

Why don’t kids talk to us about sexual assault

Sexual assault is a very real thing, and unfortunately, sometimes our children fall victim to it. So why if they were hurt, would they not come forward and talk to us—especially since we are their parent. We love them and want to protect them, and it can be hard to understand why they would keep something like this a secret. 

Similar to the reasons why our teens don’t open up to us, there are some obstacles to sharing this super sensitive and scary information. Not only is it uncomfortable to talk about but our kids fear they will get in trouble if they give all the details. Maybe it happened at a party they weren’t supposed to be at, or out with friends they weren’t supposed to be out with. They may have gotten drunk or did drugs and they fear consequences. They don’t want to be blamed for being a victim and they surely don’t want to get in trouble for being or doing things they know are wrong. 

They also want to protect us. Our kids, believe it or not, love us similarly to the way we love them. They don’t want to hurt us and they don’t want to see us get upset. They want to protect us from distress. They know how upset their parents will be when they hear their child has been treated this way. Us parents don’t know how to deal with this kind of thing. We start to feel like we are to blame, we might have intense feelings of wanting to “kill” the perpetrator, we want to be reactive to the situation. There is no protocol to deal with this kind of horrible experience. Parents want to protect their children forever and always, and our kids don’t want us to feel like we aren’t doing that. 

The best thing we can do is start the conversation with our children. Open the doors to communication so they feel that no matter what they can come to us. Be sensitive with them. Be calm. Let them know that if they are ever sexually assaulted they need to tell someone. 

Check back tomorrow for our post on preparing to talk to your children about sexual assault, and opening those lines of communication.

Five Reasons Teens Don’t Tell Us Anything

If you are a parent of a teen, chances are you have felt out-of-the-loop at some point or another. You feel like your teen doesn’t talk to you anymore. They don’t tell you anything. They don’t include you on what is happening at school, in relationships, or with friends. They don’t share their worries or their stresses. They lock themselves in their rooms or hide behind their phones and shut you out. 

But, why? Why is it that teens don’t talk to their parents? 

1.) They don’t want to get in trouble — This one comes up a lot in therapy. We teach them courage. We help them look at what is better: hiding the problem and making things worse, or coming clean, taking responsibility and facing things head on. 

2.) They don’t have the communication skills— They simply don’t know how to talk about a subject, they don’t know how to approach it when speaking with a parent. In therapy we teach teens communication skills. We teach them how to be effective communicators and to think things through before starting the discussion. 

3.) They want to protect us — They don’t want us to feel uncomfortable or to worry about them. They don’t want to feel like they are adding more to your plate. In therapy, we teach teens that it is up to the adult to protect the child, not the other way around. 

4.) They fear judgment — They worry what are mom/dad going to think of me. They worry about disappointing their parents. In therapy, we teach that it is ok to be authentic and we help them to navigate judgment in a healthy way. 

5.) They want to be independent— They are teenagers. Of course, they want to feel like they are on their own. They think it’s cool to not tell their parents things. They want to figure it out on their own. In therapy, we teach healthy independence and when it is ok to ask for help. 

We want our teens to feel comfortable sharing things with us. The best thing you can do as a parent to help facilitate conversation is to be calm and approachable. Don’t jump to conclusions. Take your child to do special things, like go out for coffee or go for a walk in the park or to get ice cream. Those things will give them a place where they will feel more comfortable opening up to you. You can always seek out the help of a licensed counselor to help your child learn healthy coping and communication skills. 

‘I don’t want my kid to feel uncomfortable’ is more damaging

When doing therapy with teens, I often hear from parents that they don’t want their “kid to feel uncomfortable.” They do want their teen to learn how to relax, to be less anxious, to cope with their feelings. But, they don’t want uncomfortable topics to come up. They shy away because they think they are protecting their child.

Parents often ask why I would approach uncomfortable topics in therapy. The truth is we don’t want to discourage these topics from being talked about. When we avoid these things, we are sending the message to our kids that they can’t come to us to express themselves. It makes them want to protect us, adults, since we are the ones uncomfortable talking about these things. 

Our teens need to know that they have a place to come and talk and share their experiences, their fears, their worries. They don’t need to learn the courage to talk about these subjects. They need to have the courage to tackle them. 

Uncomfortable things happen to everyone. We all think things, worry about things and are faced with things that are confusing, stressful, and awkward to share. Our teens especially are faced with these situations because they are in an awkward growth period of their lives. With a lot going on in friendships, relationships, and themselves. They need to feel safe to approach these topics so they can come up with healthy solutions to tackle them. By discouraging the discussion of things because they are “uncomfortable” we are forcing our children to go elsewhere for solutions or to keep it all trapped inside. 

How do you approach things that are “uncomfortable” with your teen?