Tag Archive for family relationships

Your Family Can Save What Loneliness Kills

Cigna made a surprising discovery when they utilized questions from the UCLA Loneliness Scale to create a survey taken by 20,000 people 18-years-old and older. ( Read about the survey here.)  The surprising discovery? Young people are lonelier than elderly people. Even more disturbing, those between 18- and 22-years-old (those tied into social media connections) noted more feelings of social isolation than older people. It seems that even though social media offers digital connections, people still long for face-to-face conversation and interactions. Without this face-to-face connection, people feel lonely.

“So what?” you ask. “I’m sorry young people feel lonelier than elderly but what does it matter?” Good question. Here’s the concern. Loneliness is deadly. Studies suggest that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking more than 6 alcoholic drinks a day! (Social Relationships & Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review). Loneliness is comparable to obesity and physical inactivity in its impact on the longevity and quality of life. Lonely young people can translate into less quality of life, less joy, even shorter lives!  Families can help prevent this type of deadly social isolation and loneliness. Here are five tips to help:

  1. Engage in meaningful family activities like eating meals together, playing games together, going on vacations, making day trips. Enjoy time with your family every day. Build positive relationships with your children, spouse, parents, and siblings.
  2. Get involved. Involve your children in various community activities. Whether you involve them in sporting activities, theatre and the arts, or debate clubs, find a way for your children to become involved in positive activities with other people in the community. Don’t just involve your children. Involve yourself in positive community activities as well. Join a reading club or the booster club. Become involved in a positive group of peers in your community.
  3. Involve your family in a local church. Churches encourage us to worship as a family and as a community. They provide us opportunities to find our place in “something bigger than ourselves” and become part of a supportive, loving community and reducing loneliness.
  4. Volunteer as a family. You might even make your volunteer efforts a weekly, monthly, or quarterly ritual. You will strengthen family bonds and provide the opportunity to meet other people outside the family, decreasing loneliness.
  5. Turn off the technology and play some games face-to-face. Nothing beats loneliness like gathering with other people and engaging in some plain-old-fashioned fun. You can get together to play cards, a pick-up game of ball, a picnic, or a board game. Whatever it is, face-to-face interaction and fun beats loneliness every time!

If you follow these tips, you’ll discover great joy in relationship. Your supportive community will grow. Your family will become more close-knit. And, as Cigna found out, your health and the health of your children will improve. You will live longer…and that means you can enjoy one another’s company and love even longer!

Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace

My wife, my daughter, and I went to a choral concert presented by the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh entitled PEACE.  We heard several composers’ choral renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace. We also heard various testimonies and readings from three people who have invested their lives in various avenues of promoting peace within our communities. The whole experience was beautiful, inspiring, and peaceful. Then we left the concert setting and returned to the world of confusion, animosity, and conflict.

Peace seems so distant in our immediate environment of division, antagonism, and hostility. Everywhere we turn dissonant, hateful chatter rises up and floods over the banks of polite boundaries and congenial discourse. Fear and anxiety, resentment and hostility are infecting the lives of our children. Peace seems, at times, a distant dream. But, as we listened attentively to the various renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem and contemplated the readings offered, I realized peace is not so distant after all. Peace is very near. It begins with a God of peace who “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist….” Peace is our original design. Peace destroyed was restored through the sacrifice of One Man who “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Paul—Ephesians 2:15). The One who sacrificed for our peace has “proclaimed peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Paul—Ephesians 2:17). Since we have been given peace it is very near to us. We need only open it, pursue it, and promote it (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

In all reality, pursuing and promoting peace are integral aspects of our daily life. We can pursue peace by sharing polite words with those you meet. We promote peace by listening, really listening, to understand those who speak. We pursue peace by opening doors for others, literally and figuratively. We promote peace in patiently merging into the various streams of life with others and generously allowing others to merge into those same streams of life. We encourage peace by offering words that build up instead of words that tear down, words that bless instead of words that curse.  We promote peace when we lift one another up, even those who disagree with you, rather than shaming and ridiculing. We nurture peace when we forgive those who have offended and apologize to those you offend.

Truly, peace is closer than we think…but it takes the investment of our words and actions. Begin the peace investment in your home as you treat your spouse, your children, and your parents with honor and dignity, decency and grace. As we do, our families will become the catalyst for peace in our communities. Yes, peace is closer than we think. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace.

Has This Contagion Infected Your Home?

A contagion may have infected your home. It spreads faster than the flu and the common cold put together. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting vaccines remain ineffective against it. This contagion can spread through your family causing misery, pain, and heartache at a speed that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers at the University of Florida (_______ Spreads Like a Disease) identified this contagion in a series of three studies.

  • In one study this contagion was caught after being in close proximity to someone who exhibited the symptoms. Once infected, the infected person’s thought life was impacted with the negative associates that led to ill-mannered and impolite behaviors.
  • In a second study, simply witnessing the symptoms of this contagion led to actual infection! The infected person began to interpret other people’s behaviors in a negative light and then respond to people based on those misinterpretations. Uncivilized and insolent behaviors increased as did harsh words and snide, cynical comments.
  • In a third study those interacting with the carrier became infected and, once infected, willingly sought revenge by withholding resources from the original carrier. Even more disturbing, the infected were capable of infecting others for up to a week after a single contact with the disease!

You can understand my concern. A contagion caught by simply witnessing the symptoms, lasts a full week, and effects how we think and act toward others is terrible. It’s practically a mini-zombie virus.

What exactly is this contagion? Rudeness. Rudeness has become epidemic. Twitter feuds, Facebook rants, and on-line opinion broadcasting are all symptomatic of a rudeness contagion spreading faster than the flu. Worse yet, rude behavior has found its way into our homes and our family relationships. Children are rude to parents and parents to children. Spouses spout off with rudeness toward one another. All the while, the epidemic spreads…and worsens…and destroys family relationships. But, there is a cure! We can stop this epidemic before it spreads any further. And you can insulate yourself from its insidious effects with the same intervention. That intervention comes in four parts.

  1. Be polite to one another. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hold a door open for someone else. Think about your spouse and children first. Show them consideration.
  2. Engage in daily acts of kindness. As well as showing one another politeness, be kind. Do a chore for another family member. Offer to help. Let your spouse or child choose the activity. Bring home a special treat. Show a little kindness every day.
  3. It seems simple, but a smile can change the world. Smiling helps reduce stress (Smile for a Happier Family). It puts other people at ease. Smile.
  4. Make eye contact. A study from the University of Haifa showed that simply maintaining eye contact reduced mean behavior and rudeness (Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility). Look at the one another, especially when you speak.

The cure sounds so simple…but powerful. I’m starting right now. Will you join me?

A Fall Frenzy of Family Fun

Fall has arrived…and with it the fall frenzy of family fun activities. In case you’re stumped on ideas for fall family fun, try one of these 10 ideas.

  1. Have a campfire. Nothing warms a cool fall night like sitting around a bonfire. Invite another family or enjoy s’mores with just your spouse and kids. You can even limit it to your spouse and make it a romantic evening. Either way, gather round and enjoy the fire for family fun. (Read S’More Family Fun for more)
  2. Go for a family hike. Enjoy the crisp fresh air, the colorful fall leaves, and time with family on a hike through your local park or a regional trail. (I enjoy Frick Park or the Laurel Highlands in our area. Where are the great hiking trails in your area?)
  3. Enjoy a high school or college football game. Put on your favorite team colors, buy some nachos, and cheer for your favorite team. You may even invite another family who supports the opposing team and give one another a little friendly ribbing at the game.
  4. Carve a few pumpkins. Sit down with your family and carve some decorative pumpkins. See who can come up with the most original carving. While you’re at it, roast some of the pumpkin seeds. Delicious family fun.
  5. Go on a hayride. You can even enjoy some hot cider while you’re on the ride. After the ride, why not find your way through a local corn maze? Laugh and have fun as you explore and discover your way through the maze.
  6. Enjoy some hot drinks. You can go someplace for the drinks or make them at home. Try hot cider, gourmet hot cocoa, pumpkin spice latte, or maple cinnamon coffee. Get a different drink for each family member and share. Drink up…cheers. (Read about the extra benefits of this hot drink for your family in A Family Fun Night with Amazing Health Benefits)
  7. Bake a pie together. While you’re at it, bake two and take one to your neighbor or a shut-in you know. (Celebrate your family with pie for a year!!)
  8. Attend a band festival. It is great entertainment to watch a variety of school band put on their marching musical shows. Enjoy some hot cocoa while you’re there.
  9. Rake the leaves in your yard into a pile and jump into the pile.
  10. Host a fall harvest party. Invite other families. Make it potluck and enjoy everyone’s favorite dish. Build a bonfire and enjoy the warm fire, delicious food, and great company. (Just so you know, going on a double date builds greater intimacy and a stronger marriage for both couples! Plug in for Family Hapiness )

Fall can become a frenzy of family fun with these ideas. Or, you can modify each one to have a romantic getaway with your spouse. Either way, enjoy your fall and the opportunities it brings to build a stronger marriage and family!

Hard-to-Swallow, But Amazingly Effective, Family Advice

Some of the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single, even alienated somewhat His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. Before I tell you the advice, I have to offer a warning. It’s hard-to-swallow advice. It sounds foreign to our ears, dissonant with the prevailing cultural norms; but, it’s still great marital advice. It comes in two parts. The first part of this hard-to-swallow marital advice is “deny yourself.” I told you it’s hard to swallow.  It’s not popular advice. Practiced wisely, however, it will lead to a strong marriage and family.

When you are completely honest with yourself, you probably know this advice is true. But we don’t like it. Culture teaches us to watch out for “number 1” rather than “deny ourselves.” Still, in our moments of self-reflective honesty, we recognize the inherent value of “denying ourselves” for families.  Think about it. Truly effective parents deny their own wishes and desires to meet the needs of their children all the time.

  • Parents deny their desire to go out whenever they want in order to stay home and put the baby to bed or feed them or care for them when they’re sick.
  • Parents deny their own wishes for new shoes or some other purchase to assure their children have nice clothes for school or get that special dinner for their birthday.
  • Parents deny themselves of sleep so they can comfort a crying baby or care for their sick child.
  • Parents deny themselves of the opportunity to avoid those things they find disgusting or gross in order to change diapers and clean up vomit.
  • Parents deny themselves of an afternoon of ease in order to run children to activities, wash clothes, or prepare snacks for their children’s visiting friends.
  • Parents deny themselves when they forget their own agenda for the moment in order to listen carefully to what sounds like child “ramblings” or to engage in child’s play.

It’s not just parents who deny self to express love in action and build a stronger family. Spouses do it as well. It can be seen in simple things like:

  • One spouse denying themselves by giving up control of the remote and watching what their spouse wants to watch.
  • Spouses denying themselves the freedom to go out with whoever they want whenever they want in order to accommodate their spouses’ desires for a night together or because they want to ease their spouses’ concerns.
  • Spouses deny themselves when they forget their own agenda in a conversation and focus on listening intently to what their spouse has to say.

Self-denial may be seen in more extravagant forms as well, like denying oneself of working extra overtime because it will take too much time away from family or being the first to offer forgiveness when a wrong is committed. The point is that healthy families practice self-denial in big and little ways every day. They “consider one another as more important than themselves” and “look not only to their own interests but to the interests of one another as well.” Joseph Campbell expressed the idea of self-denial in marriage when he said, “Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.” And, from Joseph Campbell once again, “When you make the sacrifice in marriage you’re sacrificing not to each other but to the unity of the relationship.”  To paraphrase slightly, “When you practice self-denial in family, you’re sacrificing the ego to a community we call family, you’re building the unity of your family.”

Don’t Need No App For That!

Seems today you can find an app for anything. People even feel the need to have an app before they do anything.

  • Don’t want to call certain people in a drunken stupor…”there’s an app for that.” (I think it might be better just to avoid the drunken state, but….)
  • Want to track your bowel movements (related diet, stress, bowel texture) and share “all that crap” with friends…”there’s an app for that.” Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s true.
  • On a slightly different note, want to keep track of every place in the world you have “taken a poop” (or would that be “left a poop,” anyway)…. Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
  • Tired of playing games on your device while your cat sits idly by lounging on the floor…”there’s an app for that.” Your cat can “catch” a digital mouse or fish depending on the app you choose. Now you can play your games without the guilt of your lonely cat staring at you with those big eyes. Hmmmmmm.
  • Find your teen’s behavior irritating? Show them whose boss (or whose best at irritating teen behavior) by irritating them with high frequency sounds…Yes, “there’s an app for that.”
  • Ever had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a movie but you don’t want to miss anything good? Well, you guessed it, “there’s an app for that.” This app will tell you the best times to run to the bathroom during a movie and fills you in on what you’ve missed during your trip.

See what I mean? You name it, “there’s an app for that.” Sesame Street even has a song to help teach its viewers “there’s an app for that.”  By the way, in case anyone out there can help create an app, I have a couple ideas for family apps to help families practice honor, grace, and celebration.  I want in on the act, but I don’t know how to create an app and, I guess there’s no app for that.

In the long run, though, you don’t need an app to build a strong family. In fact, focusing on your phone and internet device to play games and monitor bowel movements can really get in the way of family life.  So, I wanted to share just a few “app-free” ways to build a healthy family. The nice thing about each of these tools is you “don’t need no app for that!”

  • Sit down as a family and play a board game or a card game. While you play, talk. Enjoy one another’s company. Laugh.
  • Go for a walk. Get outside and walk along a creek or through a patch of woods or across the field. Walking in nature has a healing effect and it provides an opportunity to share. Take a walk to the store just to buy a drink. Talk and share as you walk.
  • Prepare a meal together. Then sit down and eat together. (Check out the benefits of this activity.)
  • Get your favorite book and read it out loud to one another.
  • Go fly a kite. You’d be surprised at the benefits of flying a kite.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Sit on the porch and watch the birds together (I’m doing that as I write this blog).
  • Have a campfire. Make some s’mores. Enjoy one another’s company and conversation. (A great family fun night.)
  • Go to the zoo…or the museum. Then talk about your favorite parts over some ice cream.
  • For more ideas, read this.

You get the idea. These activities are simple and there are many more. Even though they are simple, they build family togetherness. They increase family intimacy. And, you “don’t need no app for that!”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Remember Aretha Franklin’s song?  “All I’m askin’ for is a little respect…R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me….” (Listen to Aretha Franklin explain it.) Our spouse, our children, and our parents are still asking for “a little respect.” They still want us to “find out what it means” for them. In fact, respect is foundational to a healthy family. Magda Gerber (founder of RIE and passionate “educarer” of children and parents) defines respect as accepting, enjoying, and loving family members as they are and not expecting them to perform beyond their ability. Without this mutual respect, families crumble. I realize I’m probably “preaching to the choir” but even the choir falls into subtle disrespect that undermines healthy relationships. Just consider some of these subtle ways we disrespect our fellow family members when we don’t know “what it means” to them.

  • Our child falls and scrapes his knee. He starts to cry. We disrespect his feelings when we say, “Oh, you’re ok. Quit crying.” We show more respect by saying, “Ouch, I bet that hurt. Do you need some help?”
  • When our spouses do a chore and we redo it because it didn’t meet our standard, we disrespect their competence and ability. (Yes, I know…I apologize for reorganizing the dishes in the dishwasher.) A simple “Thank you” shows much greater respect.
  • Our children start a task but, due to inexperience, they take “too long.” We grow impatient and finally say, “Get out of the way. I’ll do that or we’ll be here all day.” Oops, we have disrespected their independence and opportunity to learn. We show respect by patiently waiting or perhaps offering, “I’m glad to help if you want.”
  • When our child makes a mistake and in frustration we yell, “You know better than that. What were you thinking?” we disrespect their ability to learn and grow. A respectful response would sound more like, “What did you learn from that experience? What will you do different next time?”
  • Sometimes we jump in to fix a problem for our children or spouse. Unfortunately, we disrespect their ability to problem solve. We exhibit respect by observing, waiting to see what they do to solve the problem, and offering help if they ask for it.
  • We disrespect our children’s developmental abilities when we expect “too much” of them. For instance, expecting a toddler to sit still for a long period of time…or a teen to never roll their eyes…or a five-year-old to never spill a drink. We can respect their developmental ability by letting them do the part of the task they can do and helping with the rest. We respect their developmental abilities when we patiently deal with difficulties and accidents that arise as a natural part of development. In other words, we show respect when we do not cry over spilled milk.
  • “Will you ever grow up?” and “You never help around here” are statements that disrespect our family members’ desire to cooperate. Respect for their desire to cooperate is heard in statements like “Could you help me get dinner together please?” and “Let’s get your room cleaned up together.”
  • When we tell our spouse or children “You don’t want that” or “You’re doing this whether you want to or not” we disrespect their desires and ability to choose. We can show respect for their desires and ability to choose with statements like “Would you rather do this or that?” Or, “I didn’t know you liked that. What do you like about it?”

With all the different areas in which we can show disrespect, you can see why we need to “find out what it (respect) means to me” for each family member. Disrespect is subtle. It creeps in quietly if we don’t consistently practice respect. Yet all we really want “is a little respect.” Sing it with me. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…” and then give it to everyone in your family. They’ll love you for it and you’ll love the joy it brings to family.

Smile for a Happier Family

Ever wake up feeling kind of blue and irritated? I have! When someone wakes up in a bad mood, the whole house feels the weight of that mood.  Everyone becomes more cautious and quiet, less carefree.  Smiles become scarce. The whole house seems heavier, tired,

even more depressed and burdened. When days like this occur in your home, I have a solution. Smile!  It’s research supported and fun. So, “if you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day. You’ll see things in a different way” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). In fact, research suggests you will see things different. Seeing a 4 millisecond image of a smiling face gives us a “mini emotional high.”  We also perceives the world in a more positive & interesting light after catching just a glance of a smiling face (How Smiling Changes Your Brain). Seeing a smiling face can even make bland drinks seem tastier (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Smiling helps us manage stress more effectively, too (see the LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile). When you smile even though waking up blue and irritated, your family learns “you’ll get by if you smile through your fears and sorrow…” (Michael Jackson/Charlie Chaplin in Smile)…no matter how hard the times might get.

Smiling is contagious too. Research suggests that a smile “migrates two degrees.” In other words, when you smile another person in your family will catch the smile and a second person beyond your family will catch the smile as well ( 6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). When you fill your home with smiles, even those who visit will leave smiling because “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…when your laughing the sun comes shining through” (Sing it with the Leftover Cuties).

So, build a happier family. “Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place” (Put a Smile on Your Face by Vitamin C). Go a step further and work to make your spouse and children smile. You can tell them, “All I want to do is make you smile if it takes just a little while” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). You’ll get more than a little while to make them smile too, because those who show partial smiles live 4.9 years longer than those who don’t’ smile and those who smile broadly live 7 years longer (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Go ahead, take the time and make your family smile. You’ll be giving your family the gift of life. “When U smile I smile” (U Smile by Justin Bieber)…and live longer. And “when you smile I can face the world…When you smile, I see a ray of light” (When I See You Smile by Bad English).

Enjoy the benefits of smiling in your family. “Make ’em laugh” (A classic from Singing in the Rain). Share a smile.  After all, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” (You’re Never Fully Dressed in New York).

Beatitudes for a Happy Family

Happy the family in which all family members recognize their deep need to receive and give love and acceptance. They will experience the true joys of intimate family relationships.

 

Happy the family who openly shares emotions with one another, embracing one another in times of sorrow and pain, and celebrating one another in times of joy. They will know comfort, intimacy, and freedom to be themselves.

 

Happy the family filled with humility, willingly submitting their selfish desires to meet one another’s needs while encouraging one another in action and speech. They will know the contentment of an abundant inheritance.

 

Happy the family who has an appetite for doing kind deeds. They will feast on kindness and compassion.

 

Happy the family that practices mercy and forgiveness. They will receive mercy and know the freedom of forgiveness.

 

Happy the family that replaces selfish agendas with a true desire for each family member to grow into the best person they can become. They will see the beauty in one another and themselves.

 

Happy the family that learns to pursue peace and cooperates to maintain a peaceful home. They will know the safety and security of a strong family unity.

 

Happy the family that perseveres through struggles and hardships while remaining polite and respectful toward one another. They will know greater depths of love and joy.

The Power of LOL

Our communities and our families are being devastated by addiction. Drug use is destroying –families and we need to do everything we can to stop its contagion. I know this may sound simplistic…and in a way, it is; but I have an idea to help stem the rise of drug addiction. Now, I know that what I am about to suggest will not remedy the problem. It is not a magic bullet. It will only be a small part of a much broader solution. But, what I am about to suggest can play a role in stemming the scourge of drug addiction…and you can begin right in your own home with your own family. What is it? Give your family mega-doses of social laughter. Laugh as a family. Laugh with other families. Giggle, chuckle, or let out a “belly busting” laugh. Laugh Out Loud.

Research has found that laughing together increases the release of endorphins and other peptides in the brain, especially areas involved in arousal and emotions. Because laughter is contagious, its joy can spread through your family like…well, laughter! As it spreads, endorphins are released. Everyone experiences the pleasure and calming effect of this laughter-induced-endorphin-release.  This promotes feelings of togetherness, enhancing bonding and connection among those laughing. If we can teach our families to enjoy the natural endorphins of laughing with your family (LOL), why would they want something else? And, who would want to lose the enhanced connection with family that comes through laughter. So, start laughing together early. Laugh often. Laugh hard. Laugh out loud.

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