Tag Archives: family

family of two

Two people can be a family, too.

There is this traditional idea of what family looks like that is just not realistic. I often hear clients tell me how they don’t want to have children but they fear that doesn’t make them a “real family.” That is just not true. 

Your family can be complete at two.

You don’t have to be married with children to be a family. You just have to be a more than one-person unit. Two people can be a family. All too often I hear of the family struggle because other people in their lives expect them to have children, to “complete” their family. Mom or grandma keep pressuring you to “take that next step.” But, that might not be your path and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your family CAN be complete at two. If that is what feels right to you and your partner, then that is the path you should be on. Kids are not a necessary part of a family unit. 

Many couples these days are becoming “pet parents” rather than child parents. But, even so, you don’t need a pet to be a family. Your family is what YOU make it. It isn’t about anyone but you and your partner. 

Family doesn’t have to be blood.

The Census Bureau definition of family is two or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption living in the same residence but that in and of itself is still a traditional take. More and more research is showing that a family doesn’t have to be the result of blood, marriage, or adoption. It can simply mean two or more people who are a unit. 

This is the modern family. The ever-evolving modern family comes in many different combinations, and that is truly a wonderful thing. As human beings, we are not one-size-fits-all. We all have different things that make us unique, so why should there only be one definition of family. 

All that really matters is you are happy.

half siblings

Why we need to stop saying “half-siblings”

The world of relationships and family dynamics that we live in now looks quite a bit different than it did 30, 50, or 100 years ago, but for some reason, we still feel compelled to point out these differences. There are blended, adoptive, same-sex, single-parent, non-married parent households and more. Many of these families contain siblings who have different parents which makes them by scientific standards “half” siblings. But, who cares?

Yes, we know that technically these children are “half” related by blood but so much more of their relationship is “whole.” Frankly, I think this is one of the most beautiful things about family and about being human. We can choose to love one another wholly despite science.  

I have a friend who is 15 years older than her “half” sibling but that has never mattered. They may have different biological fathers but they still treat each other like whole siblings. They still love each other with whole hearts. When someone refers to them as “half” related, it hits them hard. It can especially hit a young child who doesn’t understand why someone would say something like this almost like a punch in the gut. It might feel harmless if you aren’t the one on the receiving end, but it is not. Why do we have to keep reminding these people of their differences? Why does it matter? It doesn’t. 

That is the wonderful thing about family. It is often composed of so much more than a blood relationship. It is a bond. A love. It can be so strong sometimes even for the people who have no blood relations at all. Your family is what you make it. 

Leave the genetic results for the doctor’s office. Leave it in the places where it is necessary for health reasons. Let us stop voicing it in ways that it can be hurtful, harmful to others. It is unnecessary and does no one any good at all.

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

abandonment article

Feeling abandoned can be painful

When we think of painful life experiences many times we jump right to trauma, but abandonment can be just as raw and painful as physical or emotional trauma.

Abandonment, such as a parent or grandparent who suddenly leaves a child, can stay with a person through their whole life. It can be easily triggered by other situations, such as a significant other who doesn’t call one day or forgets to say goodbye before they leave for work. When it is triggered it often floods the person with fear, panic, and intense shame — why am I not worthy of someone sticking around? What is wrong with me?

Raw Pain

That pain can be just as raw as it was on the first day of abandonment. That intense fear of being abandoned again can develop into harmful coping strategies that actually increase the risk of being rejected. This could include being clingy to a significant other, getting upset at missed phone calls or missed connection, severe jealousy, or complete isolation from others, to name a few. It can be a never-ending spiral of events.

Deserves Attention

If you or someone you love has experienced some type of abandonment it is important that he/she/they recognize that experience deserves some attention. It can seem easiest and safest to push that experience deep within and to not share it with anyone, but it will only compound and lead to more abandonment down the road. Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional can help to confront those feelings and develop healthy coping strategies, leading to healthy relationships.

Teaching kids independence through chores

Getting children to help around the house can be a great benefit for parents, while also teaching children accountability, responsibility, and independence. Kids who are expected and required to complete chores around the home gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into taking care of the family.

Chores also help to increase self-confidence in children. They gain a sense of accomplishment at getting things done and doing things well. Chores teach self-sufficiency, which is, after all, our primary goal as parents. 

But, even though the benefits are mounting it can be hard as a parent to loosen the reigns and allow our children to take over household tasks. After all, it is much easier most of the time to do the cleaning ourselves. Children have an intrinsic desire to be independent and as a parent it is important we nurture and sustain that. And, once they get the hang of a task they can be super helpful. It just takes some patience and calm instruction. 

Start small. Have your children help with age-appropriate tasks that are safe and easy for them to get done. For example, you can have them put plates in the dishwasher, help to clear the table after meals, water plants, throw dirty clothes into the hamper, pick up toys, get the mail, collect garbage around the home, strip sheets off beds, feed animals, help with meals, etc. As they get older you can add things like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and even mowing the lawn.

Make a list and come to an agreement with your child to help avoid nagging. Sticker charts can be helpful and incentives like allowance or activities can also be motivating but they are not necessary. Don’t feel like you have to reward your child with anything more than a “good job” for the chores they have done.  After all, that is not real life. You don’t get $1 every time you do a load of laundry, so they don’t need to either.

Meal Prep

Ways to Get Your Kids Involved in Meal Prep

Mealtime can be hectic, but there is no reason you have to do it all yourself. Getting your kids involved in meal preparation can have a lot of benefits for both you and your children. 

When children feel invested in the meal they tend to be more willing to eat it. They get excited that they were able to help. They feel accomplished and more confident. Children also tend to be more willing to try new things, expand their pallets, and eat healthier when they are involved in the preparation process. Not to mention it is a good bonding moment for parents and children and helps to create healthy habits.

Everyone Can Be Involved

It is also important to note that this task is appropriate for both male and female parents and their male and female children. Everyone can be involved in the cooking and meal prep process. It is important we show our children that time in the kitchen is for the whole family, not just females. 

What are some ways to get the kids into the kitchen without adding to the chaos?

1.) Ask their opinion on what they want to eat for a couple of meals during the week — Get the cookbooks out and let your kids look through them and decide on one or two meals they want to eat during the week. Encourage them to switch it up so they aren’t picking the same meals every week. 

2.)Take them grocery shopping — After your kids pick out the meals they want for the week, take them to the store to get the stuff you will need. Let them help pick out the produce and get the boxes off the shelves.

3.)Allow them to use their hands — When prepping the meal give your kids a couple of tasks, it could be washing fruits or vegetables, putting salad greens on a plate, pouring ingredients into a bowl, measuring, stirring, etc. 

4.)Have them set the table— Not only can your kids help with the meal prep, but they can also help set the table. Allow them to get the drinks out, put the silverware on the table, and arrange things the way they choose. 

5.)Get them cleaning — They can also help to clear the table, load dishes in the dishwasher, and wipe down countertops or eating spaces. 

And, lastly, you can have them choose the music for dinner one or two days a week. It doesn’t take much to make your children feel like they were part of the creating of the all-important family dinner, and the benefits can be huge. 

family dinner

Meals as a family have many benefits

Life can be hectic. Between shuffling the kids around, getting your work done, and taking care of life’s many chores it is easy to let family dinner time fall by the wayside — but that is exactly why it is so important. 

Research shows family dinners are among the most important things you can do as a family. Children who eat family dinners do better in school, eat healthier, and make better life choices; and parents who have family dinners report lower levels of stress, according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Of course, skipping family dinner is going to happen and that is ok. But, next time you are thinking about “just going through the drive-thru,” think about this:

1.) It is good for yours, and your child’s, waistline — A study by the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School found that children ages 9 to 14 who ate dinner with their families ate more fruits and vegetables and consumed less soda and fried foods. Their diets were also found to be more complete with essential nutrients. Not to mention a homemade meal packs more nutritional punch than the fast food, or pre-packaged version, and you control the portions. 

2.) Family meals are good for your child’s mental health — Children who eat with their families are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, or develop an eating disorder. They are also more likely to feel their parents are proud of them, and delay sex, according to a study by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. It reinforces the child-parent connection and grows that bond.

3.) Your kids are less likely to abuse drugs — Having mealtime together at least five times a week leads to lower instances of drug and alcohol abuse, according to a CASA report. The study found that teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs and try illegal drugs other than marijuana.  

4.) Your kids will do better in school — Teens who have family dinners regularly report higher grades. The time at the table allows children to have face-time with adults to ask questions, and also allows children to pick up on vocabulary and learn more about world events.

5.) It is a time to relax — Sitting down for a meal and being in the moment as a family can be a huge stress reliever. It is a time for adults to forget about the craziness of the day and be one with their family. It is a good reminder of what matters in your life.

6.)It is cheaper — A family dinner at home can cost half as much as eating out, and you usually have leftovers. While eating out can also be family time, it is frequently filled with more distractions making conversation a little more difficult.

Making family dinners more frequent in your home is a small change that can have a big impact. It is important to remember to also keep the TV off to minimize outside distraction and allow more conversation. Check out the Family Dinner Project for conversation starters, allow your child or teen to have a say in the meal, and put on a little dinner music to make the experience something everyone looks forward to. 

distressed teen

Ask Mabel: How do I help my distressed teen post-divorce?

Dear Mabel, 

I have been struggling with some issues my children are having and was wondering if you had any ideas. I got divorced 11 years ago after my ex-wife was derailed. After much struggle, I did finally get full custody of our two children, with visitation rights granted to their mother. The children have continued to be with me ever since.

Several years after the divorce, we found out that my ex was selling the property that should belong to my children and thus began a lawsuit. During the legal process, we found out that my ex and her husband had abused the children. The court ruled that she could no longer bring the children back to her house and could only meet outside a few hours a week. Shortly after, their mother decided to forfeit her right to visit.

Since their mother has stopped visiting, my youngest daughter who is now a teenager has become more withdrawn. She doesn’t say much to her sister and me, is very impatient and shows resistance. I don’t understand why. She does play games and laugh with friends and has good grades in school so I don’t put a lot of pressure on her. After all, I feel like personal safety is the most important and she is now safe.

Lately, I have been thinking about how they were in the years after the divorce. There was one time when she was about eight years old that I went to pick her up from her mother’s house. She was very timid at this time, cared a lot for others, but was also afraid and confused and would take my hand anywhere we went. I have tried for a while to understand why she might be like this. I think her character is very delicate, and these family incidences have really hurt her.

Now she is shutting down. She is pretending she no longer cares and refuses to communicate with us about her pain and frustrations. I have talked to her sister about it and she agrees that she is in a lot of pain. I want to help but I don’t know what to do. What do you think — (1) Should I go to their mother and ask for her to resume visits? (2) Is this just part of adolescence?

Thank you for your help.

 Sincerely, 

Mike from Wyoming 

Mabel: 

Hi Mike, This sounds like a tough situation. I am glad you are reaching out for help. Your daughter may or may not be going through pain from her mother’s abandonment. Only by talking to her, then you would know. I’m wondering if you and your daughter have any one-on-one time together to foster a father-daughter relationship. If not, it may be a good time to start. She probably won’t immediately open her heart to you. It takes a few tries. Be consistent. Talk about fun stuff first to build trust and relationship.

I wouldn’t recommend forcing visitation from the mother. The mother is an adult. If she wants to visit, she has her own free will to initiate contact. If a parent doesn’t want visitation, she may treat the children negatively. She might not want to be involved and in turn may resent the child. 

Moreover, because there is a history of abuse, we don’t know whether the children want contact with their mother. The children are older now, they have a mind of their own about how they feel towards each parent. If the mother initiates contact, ask the children first to see what they want to do. Don’t force the process on the kids. Your daughter may have mixed feelings about seeing her mother. Keep the conversation open-ended and avoid saying “it would be better if you see your mom.”

Also, I would consider getting your daughter help from a licensed counselor. She could greatly benefit from having someone outside the family to talk to who might be able to help her sort through things and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Sincerely, 

Mabel

Social media may be affecting your self-esteem

It is commonplace these days to pick up your phone at any moment of downtime and peruse social media platforms. Research shows as many as 77 percent of us, according to Statista, have at least one social media account. 

Maybe you frequently post pictures of your kids or your dog or read about the happenings of old friends or colleagues. Whatever your reason for turning to social media, its use could be impacting your overall mental health. 

It might seem harmless, a way to combat brief moments of boredom in our constantly moving world. How could seeing what your friends or even strangers (if you are part of a group) are up to impact your mental health? It’s because whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are comparing yourself to others. You are thinking “wow she looks great,” “they have such a beautiful family,” “I wish I was that successful,” the list goes on and on and on. 

The Best of the Best

Let’s get real here — the majority of pictures and posts we are seeing on social media are the best of the best. They are painting these perfect pictures of our families, our careers, our travels, and our friendship circles. 

A variety of studies, according to Healthline, show a link between social media use and decreased overall self-esteem and increased anxiety and depression (especially in our children). People have reported feeling more lonely after visiting a social media platform. It is kind of odd when you think about it — the very thing that is supposed to bring us closer together may actually be making us feel more alone. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to social media— increased awareness of certain issues, sharing of news, communities of support, and an ease to connect with those far away from us. But, it is also important that we recognize the negative impacts these types of behaviors are having on our health. 

Take care to recognize the amount of time you are spending on these websites and how you feel when you get off of them. Then, work on limiting yourself so that you don’t continue to harm yourself mentally and emotionally. Choosing certain times of the day or week to unplug is important. 

How many times a day do you turn to social media? How does it make it you feel?

Ask Mabel: Co-parents disagree on electronic use

Concerned Client: My husband and I have a blended family. I have three kids and he has two. My children are with us most of the time, while his share time between our home and their mom’s. Lately, my husband has been trying to manage the amount of screen time my kids get when they get home from school. He doesn’t believe they should have any. Instead, he would rather see them do their homework or play outside. He thinks any tablet time is setting them up for bad habits as adults. His kids usually go to their mom’s house after school and they have as much screen time as they like, and he can’t do anything about it. 

I am frustrated because I have always let my kids have an hour when they get home to relax and unwind with their tablets. They play games, watch shows, whatever their heart desires. I think it is important that they are allowed this freedom. I feel like my husband is micromanaging my kids because he doesn’t have a say in how his kids spend their time after school. I don’t like it. I don’t think he has a right to step in on this issue. I have always been on board with co-parenting to a point but I feel like my husband is lecturing me on something that I don’t think is a big deal because he can’t say these things to his ex-wife. 

What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Mabel: It is hard for kids in these situations. Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what the adult issues are, his kids might feel like second-class citizens because they see your kids getting screen time and they are not allowed. It is important that you and your spouse try to find a middle ground. Put aside your adult issues and find a way to unify the situation so that all the children have the same rules. 

If there is inequality in the household, his kids may not respond to your parenting. They will have the conscious or unconscious impression that you always side with your kids, and your kids are treated better than they are. Screen time might not seem like a big deal, but I am sure to the kids it is a huge issue.