Tag Archive for friendship

One Key Factor Promotes Lasting Relationships

One key factor promotes lasting relationships. What? At first I was surprised then curious…so I read on. They key factor promoting lasting relationships was confirmed by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia. They had analyzed the data on “thousands of couples” involved in two large British surveys and the Gallup World Poll.  After accounting the couples’ ages, gender, income, and health conditions, they “found” one key factor promoted lasting happiness marriages and relationships. One key factor! Specifically, happiest couples all said their significant other was their closest friend. In other words, having a deep friendship with your spouse increased happiness and life satisfaction (Read Science says lasting relationships rely on a key factor for more).

Other researchers have confirmed this finding. In particular, Dr. Gottman noted that the “determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship!” That’s right, friendship in marriage even improves sex life! (Read Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets) Gottman even identifies the building blocks of friendship in marriage: building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another to work as a team. So, if you want your spouse as a best friend and if you want happiness in a lasting marriage…

  1. Enhance your love maps. A love map contains all the relevant information about our partner’s lives, from birthdays and anniversaries to greatest fears and dreams. It represents what we know about our spouse’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Of course, love maps needs constant updating as the experiences and feelings that make up our maps change as we go through life. So take time to talk with your spouse every day. Find out about their day, their challenges, their joys, their sorrows. Learn about them. If you’re stuck on how to do this, try the “20 question game” in this short article on love maps.
  2. Sharing fondness and admiration builds friendship as well. Sharing fondness and admiration is a habit of mind in which a person identifies and verbalizes appreciation for their spouse on a daily basis. This may be as simple as saying “thank you” for what your spouse did during the day or as intimate as noting character traits that you admire in your spouse. You can make fondness and admiration a part of your marriage with a simple math equation (Don’t worry, it’s not new math!).
  3. Turning toward your spouse rather than away involves responding positively to their requests for attention, affirmation, affection, or connection. Of course friendship grows when spouses respond to one another’s bids for connection on a regular basis rather than turning away. Gottman actually found that couples who turned toward one another 86% of the time remained married after a six year period whereas couples who divorced in that time period only turned toward one another 33% of the time. Responding to our spouse’s builds friendship. Turning away because of preoccupation, lack of concern, or just putting our energy elsewhere destroys friendship (Read RSVP for Intimacy in Your Family for more info on turning toward).

The one key factor in a happy, lasting marriage is friendship. If you want a happy, lasting marriage, keep nurturing the friendship you have with your spouse. Build that friendship by enhancing your love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another every day…starting today!

Friendships in Middle School Begin at Home

Researchers from Penn State University followed 687 families for three years. Each family consisted of a mother, a father, and an adolescent child. The three year period spanned the adolescent’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years…the dreaded middle school years. (Read more here.) The study examined whether family relationships impact friendship during middle school. Of course, the short answer is “yes,” “you betcha,” “without a doubt.” But, the study did expose a couple of very interesting nuances to that “yes.”

First, a mother’s rejection, a father’s rejection, and the overall family climate not only predicted changes in the quality of the adolescent’s friendships but their sense of loneliness as well.

Second, feeling rejected by one’s father in 6th grade predicted social anxiety in 7th grade and social anxiety in 7th grade predicted loneliness in 8th grade. This was significant for rejection by one’s father but not so much in regards to one’s mother. It seems (in agreement with other research) that rejection by one’s father impacts how confidently a person moves into the world outside the home.

So, if you want your children to have the ability to develop and maintain high quality, positive friendships in middle school, nurture and strengthen your relationship with them. Their ability to form positive relationships outside the home begins at home…with you. Dads, this seems to be especially true for your relationship with your teen. Here are a few key ways to strengthen your relationship with your children.

  • Spend time together…lots of time together. Enjoy uninterrupted time with your children. Put aside the distractions (cell phones, papers, TV) and get to know your children. Learn what they like and who they like. Talk about classes, interests, strengths, and fears. Learn about their struggles in the community and which peers present them with the biggest challenges and why. Enjoy fun stuff and endure boring stuff…together. You’ll be surprised by how much you learn. And, you’ll be amazed at how cool your children really are.
  • Listen more than you lecture. The more you lecture, the less they’ll talk. The less they talk the less you will know them.  On the other hand, the more you listen, the more they’ll talk…and the more you’ll get to know them. Listen intently. Listen patiently. When they say something that arouses your urge to lecture, Don’t Do It! Instead, show empathy for their feelings around the topic. And, get curious about their thinking about the topic. Ask them questions out of a genuine curiosity to know them better. As you do, they will continue to talk…and you will get to know them better.  They will continue to talk…think…and learn. They’ll learn about the topic and you’ll learn more about them as they review their approach to the topic out loud.  All you have to do is listen and….
  • Problem-solving together. Our children will approach us with concerns and struggles when they know we will listen and empathize. As they recognize our efforts to understand their concern and their point of view, they will open up to discuss and problem solve with us. We will have created an environment of mutual respect that allows for cooperative problem solving. In the process, we will also deepen our relationship with our teen.

Practice these three actions and you can help prevent pervasive loneliness in your middle schooler. You will also increase your middle schooler’s confidence in making friends and the quality of their friendships.

Your Child’s Toolbox for Play

Maria Montessori once said, “Play is the child’s work.” All work requires tools, not just any tools but the right tools. It does no good to cut a 2X4 with a hammer or a screwdriver to pound in a nail. No, we need the right tools for the right job. Play is a child’s job. In play, children work to build independent skills. They work to gain confidence and become better problem-solvers. Children gain an understanding of their world and how to navigate that world through play.  “Play is the child’s work;” their maturity and wisdom depend on them doing this work with the right tools. What are the right tools for the work of play? Good question.

  1. Toys, of course…but not just any toys. The best toys to get a child’s job done right are those that encourage imagination, investigation, interaction, problem-solving, exploration, or invention. Magda Gerber notes that the best tools, the best toys, for a child’s play, “don’t do anything.” Children must actively engage in and interact with the toy and those enjoying the toy with him to have fun, which brings us to tool #2…
  2. Imagination. Sometimes having too many toys get in the way of getting the job done. Encourage your children to play imaginative games in which they pretend to be various characters and act out various roles. Give them play clothes and costumes, action figures and dolls, props and room to pretend. Like Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Encourage imagination. (Read Make Your Child “a Head Taller Than Himself” for more.)
  3. Boredom. Boredom is a fundamental tool for learning to entertain the self. Boredom encourages your child to better use the tool of imagination. Boredom sparks creativity. It promotes resourcefulness. Boredom teaches children to entertain themselves. I’m not promoting constant boredom, but some boredom is a great tool in the toolbox of your child’s play. (Read 3 Responses to the Summer Mantra “I’m Bored” for more.)
  4. Friends. Children also need time to play with friends. They learn so many skills while engaged in play with friends, skills like communication, compromise, negotiation, and problem-solving to name a few. Set up play dates. When problems arise, step back and let them solve the problem on their own. Step in only when if they absolutely need your assistance. (Become Your Child’s Friendship Coach will offer more suggestions.)
  5. Outdoors. A recent study suggests outdoor play increases executive functioning skills and decreases inattentive-hyperactivity symptoms. Unstructured play in a natural/outdoor setting is also linked with improved mental health and better emotional regulation (Year round outdoor play can boost kids’ performance in school describes more). So, encourage your children to get off the video games and play outdoors as often as possible.

Make sure these 5 tools remain in your child’s toolbox for play so they can do the work of play in the most effective and productive manner possible. You’ll enjoy watching them build a mature, independent, and kind adult through the children’s work of play.

Become Your Child’s Friendship Coach

Social skills are foundational to the human experience. They bring us into relationship with others. They give us the opportunity to experience community as well as the joy of intimacy. They enable us to communicate our needs and clarify our desires. They empower us to work together and accomplish greater things. They help us develop friendships. In other words, social skills serve as a foundation to our relationships, our values, and our growth. Let that foundation weaken and the whole house starts to crumble. I mean, the whole house starts to crumble. In fact, poor social skills contribute to poorer mental and physical health (the whole house). One researcher actually notes that poor social skills increase loneliness and chronic loneliness is “as serious of a risk [factor] as smoking, obesity, or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise (Read Poor Social Skills May be Harmful to Your Health for more). In brief, our children fair better physically and mentally when they have good social skills. Fortunately, social skills are learned over time and that learning begins in the family. Parents are their children’s first and most significant social skills coach, their friendship coach. How can a parent become a great friendship coach to their children? Here are 6 tips to help you get started.

  1. Enjoy time with your children. One of the best ways to coach social skills is by modeling and practicing them yourself. Interact with your children and practice good social skills in the process. Treat them politely. Show them how friends treat one another. Share. Laugh. Play. Set boundaries. Express emotions. Negotiate disagreements. There is no better coach than one who can play the game well and engages his trainees in the process. Enjoy time with your children. (I love the time of Enjoying Your Child–Priceless!)
  2. Talk about thoughts and feelings with your children. When you watch a movie, talk about the subtext of thoughts and feelings that motivate a character’s actions. When a friend interacts with your children in a way they don’t understand, talk about the subtext of thoughts or feelings that may contribute to that interaction. Explain how your own thoughts and feelings contribute to your actions. Label feelings you and your children experience. The broader a child’s emotional vocabulary, the more understanding they become…the better friend they become. (More tips @ Teaching Your Child to Handle Emotions)
  3. Allow for individual style. Not everyone is an extravert. Not everyone jumps into social settings. Some people are more introverted. Some slowly warm up to activities and interactions. Allow for those differences in style. Let the introvert enjoy interacting with small groups and the extrovert enjoy the loud social settings. Allow time for your children to slowly warm up to an activity if that is what they need. Allow your children to move quickly into an activity if they are comfortable doing so. Allow for those individual styles and don’t force your children into a style that does not fit their personality. (Read Honoring Variety)
  4. Create opportunities for social interactions. When your children are young you do this by scheduling play dates. As your children get older, they can become involved in various groups like scouting, church youth groups, choirs, musical groups, sports’ teams, or volunteer groups. You might also consider family games nights with various board games that encourage social interactions. Invite other families over for game night. Play a few games together then let the children go off to play together while the adults chat for a time.
  5. Turn off the technology and “go face-to-face.” Technology has a way of limiting social skills. Twitter does not allow children to learn the art of reading facial cues or hearing voice tones. Facebook does not let us see the ups & downs of life since people tend to post the happy days. “Face-to-face” interactions, on the other hand, teach us to understand facial expressions and interpret voice cues. They help us learn how and when to ask for clarifications that can deepen our understanding of one another. With this in mind, limit technology. Encourage face-to-face interactions. (More @ Welcome to the Dead Zone for more)
  6. Give your children space. It may sound contradictory to give our children space, but they need time to practice the skills they are learning without our intervention. They need the opportunities to resolve conflicts, negotiate difference, and enjoy age expected interactions with peers. After all, practice makes perfect. So, take a breath, step back, and let them go. Give them space to practice on their own. (Good Parents Do Nothing!! tells more)

Well “Coach,” follow these tips and you are well on your way to “Coach of the Year.” And your children will develop the social skills necessary to navigate their world independently and successfully!

A Neglected Ingredient in Your Child’s Happiness

Many factors contribute to the emotional health, happiness, and success of our children. As parents we work hard to bring those factors together in our children’s lives. After all, we want happy, successful children. We want children who have resilient emotional health. To that end, we seek out opportunities for our children. We introduce them to positive activities, steer them toward healthy peer interactions, teach character, and encourage gratitude. In the process we often overlook one very important ingredient…an ingredient that, if left out, will neutralize the effectiveness of all the other ingredients put together. This often neglected ingredient is taking care of our own emotional health and happiness. If parents do not take care of their own emotional health, their children’s health and happiness is at great risk for several reasons.

 

four childrenFirst, children imitate their parent’s emotions. As early as 6-days-old children begin to imitate their parent’s emotions. Within months they are basing their response to the world on their parent’s emotions.

 

Second, people tend to become similar when they spend time together. Specifically, the person with the least power tends to become like the person with more power. In a parent-child relationship that means children will become more like their parents…for better or worse, happiness or not.

 

Finally, a person’s happiness is influenced by the happiness of the people he or she is connected to. A happy family will likely create a happy environment and raise happy children. In other words, a happy child lives in a happy family.

 

That’s all well and good We know that we, as parents, must take care of their own emotional health and happiness in order to raise emotionally healthy, happy children. The tough part is doing it. Here are four ideas to incorporate into your lifestyle to help you take care of yourself. You might think, “But I don’t have time.” Consider this…do you have time to increase your children’s happiness? Taking time to increase your happiness will increase your children’s happiness and security. It’s worth the time, isn’t it?

  • Build supportive adult relationships. Make some friends and nurture those friendships. Go out for a cup of coffee and talk with your adult friends. Do you grocery shopping together. Get together for lunch. Find a way to build and nurture supportive relationships with other adults.
  • Learn to create quiet time for yourself. This will involve not only training yourself to take some quiet time, but teaching your children to allow you that quiet time. Go for a walk. Walk the dog. Read a book. Meditate. Choose your modus operandi for quiet time and enjoy some every day.
  • Get some physical exercise. You can go to the gym. In fact, go to the gym with a friend and you will be knocking off two of these ideas “in one fell swoop”! If you don’t have the time to go to the gym, go for a walk. Get an exercise video and exercise at home. Physical exercise has a myriad of benefits to enhance your happiness. So enjoy a little exercise.
  • Last, but definitely not least, strengthen your marriage. A strong marriage enhances happiness for husband and wife. A strong marriage improves our parenting. A strong marriage offers a buffer against stress. A strong marriage…the list goes on. A strong marriage is a little taste of heaven. Nurture your marriage and your marriage will multiply the joy in your life…and your children’s lives.

6 Simple Ways to Build Happy Families

My oldest daughter is leaving for college this month. As she prepares to leave, I have thought about how I want her to remember her time growing up with us. (Yes I know, I should have thought about that 18 years ago; and, I did begin thinking about it then. I guess the woman who said, “You’re a slow thinker” was right.) Anyway, I hope my daughter recalls our family as a family filled with happiness. I hope that in the process of growing up, we have taught her the skills needed to create happiness in her own life as well. Here are some ways that you can build a family environment of happiness as well…before your daughter gets ready to leave for college!

     ·     Teach generosity. Generous people are happy people. To create a happy family, practice generosity. Practice generosity toward one another. Practice generosity toward those outside your family.  Tip with generosity. Share with generosity. Model generosity.

·     Encourage exercise. Research has shown over and over that exercise contributes to happiness. So, as a family, develop an active lifestyle. Go for walks together. Ride your bike. Hike. Walk to the store once in a while rather than taking the car all the time. Work out together. Play Ultimate Frisbee. Enjoy physical activity as a family.


·     Teach to plan ahead. Anticipation builds excitement and happiness. Think about the excitement we experience as we anticipate the generous sharing of Christmas or the achievement of some goal we have worked toward. You can build this anticipation by involving the whole family in planning for various family celebrations such as holidays or birthdays. My kids love planning a surprise for their mother’s birthday or Mother’s Day; and, even a small surprise builds joy and happiness. Discover your children’s interests and help them set small achievable goals in those areas. Watch their excitement and happiness grow as they achieve these small steps. 


·     Listen to music. Enjoy music together. Sing, dance, and make music together. Or, join a choir as a family. Enjoy a concert. It is hard to be sad and unhappy for very long when you are enjoying music together. (Read this to learn more about the power of music for families)


·     Build friendships. Develop friendships with people with whom you can share adventures. Not only can you experience the adventure with your friends, you can also
 recall the adventures with your friends. Recalling our shared adventures is almost as fun as the actual adventure…sometimes even more fun. Develop friendships as a family. Encourage your children to develop friendships as individuals.


·     List three good things that happened. At the end of each day, tell your family about three good things that happened today. Listen as they tell you about three good things that happened to them. Studies have found that recalling the good events of each day can increase happiness and decrease depression.

 Practicing the six activities above can help fill you family with joy and happiness. Your family will be a place filled with happiness, a place your children will remember as happy. As your children start families of their own, your home can remain a place of happiness, a place your grandchildren will want to visit because of the happiness that fills every corridor…and that will definitely increase your happiness!