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Archive for September, 2015

Be a better parent – 3

As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13 (NKJV)

Author Sunny Sea Gold[i] shares in American Scientific Mind one last bit of research-backed advice that has resonated with her.

Secure your own oxygen mask.  At the beginning of an airplane trip you will hear the safety information.  You will be told about the importance of wearing your seat belt, how to fasten it, how to adjust it, and how to release it.  You will be told about the location of the exit doors or windows.  And you will be told that about the oxygen masks:  “Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”

As parents, you may feel at times like you are struggling to breathe and you are no help to anyone!  Much like the airline safety announcement, the evidence for taking care of your own needs first is clear, especially when it comes to addressing medical and mental health issues.  According to Gold, “Mothers are more likely to either ignore or overreact to kids’ misbehavior when they are mired in depression.”  As she adds, “adults with ADHD also improve their parenting skills when they get treated.  All of our day-to-day health-related activities matter, too.”

It’s not just a matter of being healthy for our own good or so that we can take care of our children.  A 2015 study of national health data done in the United Kingdom suggests that parents’ way of life may be just as important as genetics in passing down obesity.  Another study from London showed that children who had two overweight biological parents were 27 percent more likely than other kids to be overweight.  In fact, adopted children of overweight parents were almost as likely to be heavy…21 percent.

Beside taking care of yourself, remember to take care of your marriage.  A healthy marriage is one of the best gives you will give your children.

Father, help me to care for myself even as I care for my children.

[i] Gold, S.S.  Scientific American Mind, March 2015

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Be a better parent – 2

Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her who bore you rejoice. Proverbs 23:25 (NKJV)

Author Sunny Sea Gold[i] shares in American Scientific Mind another bit of research-backed advice that has resonated with her.

Thou shalt not “snowplow.”  In the same way that helicopter parents tend to hover over their children, snowplow parents want to smooth the path in front of their children, trying to remove away any obstacles on their path.  However, research in self-determination theory shows that when we try to do that we undermine their sense of competence and autonomy, which may lead them to higher levels of anxiety and depression, lower grades in school, and less satisfaction with life, even into their adult life.  Both extremes – overly-involved parents or not being sufficiently involved in the parenting process – is good.  As a university professor told Gold, “Even in my college classroom I’ve had some parents e-mail me to set up their kids’ class schedule or call me about grades I gave on their assignments. I tell them that their children need to make an appointment to speak to me about it.”

As parents, we need to adjust our involvement in our children’s lives to a level that is developmentally appropriate as they get older.  If we don’t, our kids will be lacking the skills they need to function as adults.

Consider these words:  “By gentleness and patience, seek to win your children from wrong. Seek God for wisdom to train them so that they will love you and love God. When it is necessary to refuse them their desires, show them kindly that in doing this you are seeking their highest good. Love and cherish your children; but do not allow them to follow their own way, for this is the curse of the age in which we live. Show them where they make mistakes, and teach them that if they do not correct these wrongs, they can never be given a place in the mansions that Jesus is preparing for those who love Him. In this way you will retain their love and confidence…”[ii]  Parenting is a delicate balance between freedom and control; control early in life, but allow greater freedom to make their own choices as they grow older.

Father, give wisdom to guide my children without being controlling.

[i] Gold, S.S.  Scientific American Mind, March 2015

[ii] White, E.G.  Reflecting Christ, p.186

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Be a better parent – 1

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2 (NKJV)

According to the Scientific American Mind, there are more than 58,000 parenting books for sale on Amazon right now and thousands of parenting studies published every year.  Author Sunny Sea Gold[i] shares three bits of research-backed advice that have resonated with her.

Let your kids get bored.  Trying to keep your child, or children, busy or entertained throughout the day can be exhausting.  At the same time, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, scheduling lots of classes or activities for your kids may also backfire.  The more structured activities such as sports, music lessons, or other activities the six-year-old subjects of the study had, the less “self-directed executive function” they showed.  As Gold explains, “This mental process basically helps children regulate their emotions and set and reach goals on their own. And it has been linked to better health, grades and a more stable work life later on.”

Instead of trying to schedule round-the-clock activities for your children’s day, Gold suggests you let your kids get bored and figure out what to do on their own.  She quotes the authors of the study who said, “Boredom in our context of hyperstimulation may give children opportunities to exercise creativity and develop initiative, persistence, and a sense that they can influence their world.”

One very positive options is to teach your children useful tasks around the house.  “Children are naturally active, and if parents do not furnish them with employment, Satan will invent something to keep them busy in an evil work. Therefore train your children to useful work. You can clothe all work with a dignity which will make it profitable and elevating.”[ii]  Young children can enjoy and learn from simple tasks such as gardening, cooking, or cleaning around the house.  They may not do it perfectly at first, or all the time, but they will be busy and contributing to the family’s well-being as well.

Father God, may I help me children to find ways to make their own decisions and not just doing things to keep them entertained.

[i] Gold, S.S.  Scientific American Mind, March 2015

[ii] White, E.G.  Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 229

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That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, Colossians 2:2 (NKJV)

Leslie Becker-Phelps[i] gives us a few tips to survive family reunions:

Keep it light.  As she writes, “Family get-togethers are a time to enjoy each other’s company, not to hash out differences or problems.”  If you have serious concerns about one of your family members, follow Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, and address the issue before or after the event with the individual.

Accept your limits with influencing family.  Even if you may find someone’s behaviors disturbing, offensive, or self-destructive, you need to realize you do not have the power to change them. You can express concern and even offer guidance, if it is solicited, but that’s the extent of it.  And even if they request it, a family event may not be the time to have that conversation.

Ask for help.  Recruit someone in the family to help you, or for the two of you to help each other.  As Phelps-Becker explains, “For instance, to help you out, your sister might change the subject if your aunt starts critiquing your parenting. Or, you might need to support each other when you feel powerless to help a family member on a self-destructive path.”  At the same time, you need to be careful to remain generally positive rather than appearing to gang up on them.

Invite non-family. Including outside friends to family gatherings can encourage family members to behave nicely, at least in public.  You just need to make sure others are aware of who you are bringing and that you prepare your friend for any possible uncomfortable comments or actions during the reunion.  Don’t put the non-family member on the spot unawares.

Don’t forget that family reunions can be a time to strengthen your bonds and simply enjoy spending the time with your family.  It could be one of the last opportunities you have to be together.

Father God, may our time together as a family be pleasant and full of the love that only we as a family can enjoy.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/06/how-to-survive-your-family-reunion.html?ecd=wnl_men_061915&ctr=wnl-men-061915_nsl-promo_5&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Family reunions may be bad – 1

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6 (NKJV)

Sometimes family reunions can give rise to tensions and emotions which can turn quickly from happy, light-hearted banter to stinging squabbles or fights about long held resentments.  That’s why instead of looking forward to a day of togetherness, you may find yourself dreading the possibility of a major family catastrophe.  You may not be able to prevent all problems from arising, but you can reduce the chances of triggering them.  Leslie Becker-Phelps[i] gives us a few tips to survive family reunions:

Keep your expectations realistic. There’s a difference between the family that you’d like to have and the one that you really do have.  When we have an idealistic view of the family, or how the family reunion will go, you may be disappointed, frustrated, or even angry if things don’t turn out like the image you had develop.  Becker-Phelps suggests you “be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations for a good day with the family that you have.”  If you don’t, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Attend to your basic needs.  Before the event, do all you can to take care of yourself by sleeping well and by eating enough so you don’t show up as a hungry, cranky version of yourself.  And when you need a break from the family, be sure to take one.  For instance, if things are getting a bit tense, or you feel your frustration rising, excuse yourself and take a walk around the block, get some fresh air, take the time to pray, or do what helps you to calm down.

Feel the love. As Becker-Phelps says, “Remember that your concerns, frustrations, and even anger exist largely because you care.”  Consciously thinking about how you love your family can help fill you with compassion for them, and keep you from being sucked into a vortex of anger and frustration.  Consider the option of not having a family to love or be loved by, and do what you can to enjoy the time you have together.

Father God, remind me that my family is as imperfect as I am, and help me to show them and experience their love.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/06/how-to-survive-your-family-reunion.html?ecd=wnl_men_061915&ctr=wnl-men-061915_nsl-promo_5&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Happy perfectionists – 2

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Isaiah 46:9 (NKJV)

Meghan Holohan[i], from TODAY, provides several tips from experts for anyone who is a perfectionist so they may be happier with themselves.

  1. Ask for help. Because perfectionists have a difficult time with self-acceptance, and accepting others, they are not good about asking for help. The irony is that asking for help would mean they would have to admit that they are not perfect.  What you need to realize is that when you ask for help you open yourself up to the realization that other people are either in the same boat or are able and willing to lend you a hand. Think about it — either way you’re not alone.
  2. Look for cheerleaders. Because perfectionism relates to self-esteem, this is where friends and family come in. One expert recommends that loved ones say something like: “When you make a mistake, I know you feel terribly but that doesn’t change how we feel. I still love you even when you make a mistake.”
  3. Accept that you’re human. This is a very important step. It is one thing to understand that others are not perfect; it’s another thing when you, the perfectionist, accepts that you are not perfect.  But in the same way that an addict cannot begin the healing process until he/she recognizes and accepts the fact they are an addict, you may continue to be unhappy, and make others unhappy, until you come to terms with the fact you are not perfect, and that you don’t need to be perfect
  4. Visualize the option. As Holohan explains, “Perfectionists often hear criticisms when no critiques exist.” Instead, consider what failure looks like and how to cope with it.  “Give the spirit of criticism no quarter, for it is Satan’s science. Accept it, and envy, jealousy, and evil surmisings of one another follow.”[ii]  Before others criticize you, instead of being overly defensive, see yourself responding kindly to other people’s criticism.  And go easy on yourself.

Father God, only you are perfect and it is only your perfection I need.  Help me to be more like Christ every day, to be more tolerant of my own faults, and to accept my finiteness.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/5-habits-happy-perfectionists-t27596

[ii] White, E.G.  Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 351

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Happy perfectionists – 1

I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, Isaiah 45:5 (NKJV)

You might think that a perfectionist would automatically be more successful; however, recent research suggests that isn’t always the case. In fact, many people who are hard-wired for perfection often sabotage themselves.  Wanting to be perfect is almost like a compulsion which may be counterproductive.  For instance, for some perfectionists, the drive to be perfect causes them to stall when faced with an important task. Procrastination helps them cope with a fear of failure.  On the other hand, perfectionism forces others to do too much, resulting in OCD-like behaviors.

Perfectionists have a hard time accepting the fact that no one can manage to be perfect, which is one of the reasons that a perfectionist is so often disappointed.  While perfectionism exists as a personality trait and not a disorder, it may lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety. For many, because expectations are so high, goals often go unmet which explains why many perfectionists suffer from low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, perfectionism is not only frustrating for the perfectionist.  Because it is linked with workaholisim and exhaustion, it is also exhausting for people who are around them.  So what’s a perfectionist to do to be happy and healthy? While some extreme cases may require professional help, Meghan Holohan[i], from TODAY, provides several tips from experts for anyone whose drive for excellence has become a stumbling block.

  1. Be compassionate to yourself. You may be so busy criticizing yourself that you don’t realize you need to be kind to yourself. Keep in mind that you’re only human, everyone makes mistakes, and only God is perfect.  The one area where we should strive for perfection is in our character.  The way to do that is to “dwell upon the perfection of Christ, and as we behold his matchless charms, we shall desire to be like him, and become changed, reflecting more and more of his spirit of love.”[ii]

Father God, help me to realize that I don’t have to do everything perfectly all the time, but you do help me to be perfect like Christ.

[i] http://www.today.com/health/5-habits-happy-perfectionists-t27596

[ii] White, E.G.  Signs of the Times, January 26, 1891

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