Tag Archive for identity

Four Shares of a Happy Marriage

To nurture a happy, healthy marriage we have to share. Although it sounds obvious and simple on the surface, it reveals a deeper challenge. Couples naturally share a bed, belongings, and a home, but I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about sharing deeper aspects of our lives together. Let me share just four of the deeper aspects of life that healthy couples share.

Healthy couples share an identity. First and foremost, healthy couples share the identity of being committed to one another. Marriage becomes a large part of their identity. Married men and women are no longer seen as single, but as one part of a couple. They are husband or wife. (I may be introduced not as “John,” but as “John, Alicia’s husband” or simply as “Alicia’s husband.) The community sees them as a couple and treats them as a couple, invites them as a couple and introduces them as a couple. Healthy couples reinforce that identity through shared rituals and routines. Rituals such as going to bed together, celebrating holidays and milestones together, and creating shared hobbies and memories all strengthen a common identity that promotes deeper intimacy.

Healthy couples share the load. They operate as a team. They are available to one another. As a result, no one person bears the full burden, the whole load, of maintaining a household and a healthy marriage. They both participate in the tasks of managing a home and nurturing a strong relationship. They also share in the task of raising their children. Both participate, both remain present and available, both engage in raising healthy children. Healthy couples also remain available to one another to hear the emotional load of losses and celebrations, the practical load of managing times of busy-ness, and the mental load of managing daily stresses.

Healthy couples share intimacy and mutual support. Each person sets aside self-centered routines and individualistic lifestyles by keeping their spouse and marriage in mind. They shift from living for “myself” to living for “us”. They no longer think only in terms of “me” but in terms of “we.” As a result, healthy couples cherish shared moments and create shared memories. They grow confident in their spouse and their relationship. Intimacy grows. They know they are not alone but with a trusted companion for life.

Healthy couples share fun times and play. They celebrate their lives together. They engage in fun activities and trips together. Many times, they celebrate “inside jokes” and memories known only to them. They experience new things together, laugh together, and play together. They take vacations and experience adventures together. They enjoy fun times and play.

All in all, healthy couples share love with one another, and in their love, they learn to share their lives with one another. They entwine their lives together knowing that the “tiny threads” of daily life bind us together in joy and health.

Why Wait?

I had the opportunity to visit my extended family recently. It is always a joy to spend time with them. Because we live 500 miles away, we don’t get to visit as often as we’d like. Nonetheless, my wife and I recently had the opportunity to take my parents “on the journey” to visit our family.

This visit held special meaning as one of my aunts and an uncle passed away since our last visit and, due to the pandemic, we had missed the family gatherings celebrating their lives. So, as you can imaging, pictures and stories occupied much of our time during this visit. We recalled fun times and hard times, joys and struggles. Stories I had never heard confirmed what we already knew… and added a few surprises. We laughed together. On occasion, I saw eyes well up with tears. But, we all learned of a family heritage filled with love, resilience, and joy. Our grandparents’
dream of a family that honored and celebrated one another was affirmed.

As the visit progressed, I realized how much we share stories every time we get together. I remembered the joy of recalling our common history and celebrating the places where our histories diverged. I recognized how much each person has to offer one another because of those places where are stories varied while our common story held us together. And, I realized how important those stories are to our family identity as well as our individual identities.

With all this in mind, I have to ask: Do you take time to share your family stories? It’s a good practice to do so. Don’t wait for someone to pass away. Share your stories now. Our family stories build our family identity. They provide us with hope in times of struggle. They lay a foundation for honor and love while reaching forward to a future built on joy and community. Why wait to share your stories? Start sharing those stories today. Your family will reap the benefits for a lifetime.

You Mean THINKING Can Ruin My Marriage?

Well, not all thinking can ruin your marriage but….

Middle age man doubtful and very serious.

You know poor communication or contemptuous communication can destroy your marriage. You’ve probably heard that a lack of connection with your spouse or turning away from your spouse’s attempts to connect can ruin your marriage as well. Perhaps you’ve read about the negative impact of contempt on marriage…or the destructive power of lying on your marriage. But, do you realize a thinking style based on the fear of rejection can destroy your marriage? (Read The Thinking Style that Damages Relationship for an overview of the study showing how fear of rejection impacts relationships.) It’s true! When a person enters a marriage fearing rejection, the marriage is at risk. Fear of rejection causes a person to think about their partner abandoning them. Fear of rejection also leads to the fearful person constantly seeking reassurance and asking about the security of their relationship. They may even try to force their partner to remain in the relationship through verbally eliciting guilt. Or, on the other hand, the person with a fear of rejection may comply with everything their partner says or does…which only serves to weaken the relationship (Shut Up & Put Up to Ruin Your Marriage explains more). Unfortunately, these behaviors, engaged in out of a fear of rejection, only serve to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. They push the partner away and may ultimately lead to destroying their marriage.

Don’t worry though. I have three ideas to help you overcome the fear of rejection and so change your behaviors, strengthen your marriage, and nurture a sense of security in your marriage!

  • Many times, fear of rejection flows from an insecure parent-child attachment. So, if you’re a parent, you can help your children avoid a fear of rejection by developing a secure, loving relationship with them. By doing so you help protect their future marriage from the fear of rejection. If, however, you are an adult with a fear of rejection, learn to nurture yourself. Think about the relationship you had with your parent. What was missing? What led you to feel insecure? What caused disconnection between you and your parent? Then, parent yourself. Provide yourself with those things you missed from your parent. Nurture yourself with encouragement and love. When you make a mistake, show yourself compassion and then consider how you can avoid that same mistake in the future. Trust yourself to grow and learn from mistakes. Give yourself a hug. Acknowledge your successes each day. Compliment your own effort. These actions will contribute to the next suggestion for overcoming the “fear of rejection.”
  • Develop your identity and a secure sense of self. You can do this by acknowledge and capitalizing on your strengths while acknowledging and working to improve in areas of weakness. Participate in your own growth. Develop hobbies that support your interests. Try new things. In this way you will develop a greater sense of independence and competence…and that will not only reduce your “fear of rejection” but strengthen your ability to grow in intimate relationship as well!
  • Befriend people who will honor you. Develop relationships with people who show compassion and understanding, kindness and encouragement. Make sure your partner is a person who will engage in mutual respect, a person who will value you for you and who enjoys seeing you grow as an individual as well as in relationship to them. That may sound like a tall order, but a partner like that is well worth the wait!

Fear of rejection can ruin a marriage, but you don’t have to let it. Nurture yourself. Develop a strong sense of identity. Befriend people who be mutually supportive in relationship with you. When you do, you may feel the “fear of rejection” slipping away…and good riddance!

How to Discipline Before You Even Need To

I don’t know about you but I hate to see my children upset, struggling, or in pain. Still, sometimes they misbehave and suffer as a result of that misbehavior. They make foolish choices and struggle with the consequences. As hard as it is to watch, it’s in their best interest to let them suffer. I have, however, discovered a way to limit those moments of suffering and thus our own struggle with watching them suffer. Limit them, I say, NOT eliminate them. It’s a way to teach them disciplined behavior and how to make wise daily actions before trouble begins. It’s not 100% successful, but it certainly made a huge difference in our home and in any home in which I’ve see it implemented. I’m talking about establishing daily routines.

Routines will help your children and your family discipline before you even need to. Many of the benefits of routines stem from the predictability they add to family life. When children know what to expect, positive things happen. One great benefit of routines is watching your children learn disciplined behavior before suffering the consequences of poor choices! Let me share a few other benefits your children will experience when you establish healthy routines.

  • Children become more cooperative and less oppositional with routines in place. Power struggles decrease as routines become the norm. Morning routines replace nagging. Bed time routines replace fighting. Children learn to follow the routine because “that’s what’s next” and what’s next is a healthy, wise lifestyle choice.
  • Children gain a sense of mastery and independence with routines in place. As children learn the routine, they require less prompting. They learn to do more on their own. For instance, a dinner routine which includes setting the table, clearing the dishes, and loading the dishwasher becomes a family activity in which everyone participates and learns how to complete each step independently if needed. A morning routine contributes to competent self-care and an independent ability to prepare for the day, which will be a great benefit to the whole family in middle school, high school, and college.
  • Children gain a sense of security from healthy routines. Routines add predictability to the day. When transitions and changes occur, those routines add stability. Predictability and stability equal safety and security for children. Children who feel safe and secure in the family listen better and misbehave less often. For instance, children who know their parent will read with them before they go to sleep experience a sense of safety in the relationship that allows them to open up and talk about the important events of their life and day.
  • Children gain a stronger identity through routines. Routines help define who we are as a family and as individuals. We are ‘readers’ who read together every night. We are ‘independent people’ who don’t need our mom to get us up for school every day. We are family, supporting one another as we talk during family meals. We are ‘campers’ who go camping one a month. We are ‘people of faith’ who practice our daily and weekly prayers and services. You get the idea: routines build identity.
  • Children bond with family through routines. Family dinners, bedtime routines, routines of taking leave, routines of reunion, and holiday routines all provide the opportunity to bond with family and express love and affection for one another. They provide the time to share experiences, talk about the day, and practice values together.

Overall, routines provide the structure and opportunity to teach appropriate behavior. They allow you to discipline even before it’s necessary! (For more ideas on the benefit of routines and what routines you can establish read Mundane Opportunities for Quality Time and Add Meaning to Life by Building Routine.)

6-Step Resiliency Strengthening Program for Your Children

Resilience: the muscle that gives our children the strength to bounce back from adversity, persist through obstacles, and stretch through the pain toward maturity. It is an essential muscle for all of us, especially our children. Our children need resilience to experience greater happiness and more success. If you are wondering how you can coach your children to strengthen resilience, let me share this 6-step resiliency strengthening program with you. Try it out and watch your children’s muscles of resiliency grow strong.

  1. Show your children they matter. Let them know you care about them and rely on them. You can do this by giving them your time. Engage them in activities. Learn about activities that interest them. Make time to listen, really listen, to your children as well. Doing so will show them they matter to you. Invite them to participate in household chores with you so they know they matter to your family and home. Become involved in a volunteer activity together, something that makes a difference beyond the home. These activities teach your children they matter to you, your family, and your community. They also discover that their actions influence the world around them and they can wield that influence for positive ends.
  2. Become your children’s dream catcher. Learn about your children’s interests and passions. Research opportunities for them to gain new experiences in their areas of interest. For instance, buy a book or movie related to their interest. Enroll them in a camp focused on their interest. Introduce them to other adults and children with similar interests. This will cost you some time and maybe even some money. But, it will teach your children they matter (see bullet #1) and it teaches them how to seek out opportunities for themselves. Catch your children’s dream and help make it a reality. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dream for more info.)
  3. Eat at least one meal together each day. No TV, no phones, no texting…just sitting down as a family to eat and talk. A shared meal is a great way to give your children undivided attention. It’s a wonderful time to talk about the accomplishments and struggles of the day. During that interaction, you can focus on gratitude as well as the inevitable obstacles of the day, both of which promote resiliency. You can also share the family story…. (Check out The Lost Art of Family Meals and Project Mealtime.)
  4. Share family stories. Your children will love to hear the stories of your life as a child: adventures you enjoyed, how you met your spouse, lessons you learned, etc. Tell stories about family members who overcame struggles and obstacles as well. Family stories build identity. Let your family stories build an identity of growth, perseverance, and resilience for your children.(Try telling The Story That Will Change Your Family Life! for a great start.)
  5. Acknowledge effort. Rather than simply praise your children for the trophy or ribbon they bring home, talk about the hard work and effort they invested to make it possible. Recall the obstacles they overcame and the times they persisted in the face of hardship. Relish in the story and teamwork of the effort undergirding the accomplishment, not just the end result. (Build Your Child’s Success Mindset give more on acknowledging effort.)
  6. Problem-solve as opportunities arise…and opportunities will arise. Problem-solving begins with listening intently and earnestly. After the problem is completely disclosed and understood, simply ask, “What are you going to do?” Let your children respond and listen as they begin problem-solving. Gently give input to refine their ideas, suggest possibilities, and guide toward positive solutions. Listen, ask, and expand rather than lecture, direct, and solve…that will teach your children problem-solving.(Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory to learn the benefit of letting your children experience the difficulties of life rather than solving the difficulty for them.)

There it is: a 6-step resiliency strengthening program. Implement it today and you will love watching your children grow more resilient as they mature.

Give It Away for Family Fun

This family fun night is such a positive experience you might choose to make it a way of life in your family. I know several families who enjoyed this activity so much they decided to Village-it takesmake it a regular part of their lives. And why not? It gave them a sense of accomplishment. It even enhanced each family member’s self-confidence and boosted their happiness. This family fun night also had a positive effect on everyone’s physical and emotional health. Over time, it improved the children’s social skills. Oh, and one more thing: it gave the whole family a greater sense of purpose and identity. Sound too good to be true? Well, you will have to try it to find out! Oh wait. I haven’t told you what this family fun night is… or how to have it. Sorry about that. Let me briefly explain this family fun night.


You can experience all these benefits and more by volunteering together as a family. Volunteering as a family creates a wonderful night of family joy.  It’s true. You can volunteer to work with your church, your community, or another organization. You will have fun and experience all the benefits above. Whether you volunteer through an organization like Habitat for Humanity, your local humane society, a local nursing home, or your church you will finish your time of volunteering feeling good. Your family will grow more intimate, empathetic, and appreciative as you work together to help other people. Once again, I have to offer a word of caution. When you give it away for family fun you may find you enjoy it so much that it becomes a regular part of your family life. But then again, that’s the goal—to have fun as a family on a regular basis. Now get out there and give it away for some family fun.


PS–If you are not sure where to volunteer or how to begin, take a jaunt to Volunteer Match for some great ideas.

12 Inexpensive & Fun Family Summer Ideas

The countdown to summer is coming to an end. School will soon “let out” and summer will begin. Do you have any fun family summer plans? I often find it difficult to come up with summer ideas due to financial constraints and time limitations. If you find yourself with the same struggle, try a couple of these ideas.

  • African American Family Parents and ChildrenVisit a local amusement park or water park.
  • The pools and beaches are opened. Go swimming.
  • Take a hike through the woods, in the mountains, along the lake…wherever you find the most enjoyment.
  • Turn on the sprinkler in your back yard, don some shorts, and run through the water. This is a great way to cool off on a hot day without even leaving home.
  • Fly a kite. (Check out A Family Activity that Does All That for more about the benefits and joys of kite flying).
  • Attend an outdoor concert in the park. In Pittsburgh, you might enjoy a concert in Katz Plaza, one of the local county parks, or on the Point (especially during the Arts Festival). Do a little research on the internet and you will find plenty of free, outdoor concerts to attend.
  • Enjoy a picnic or cookout with your family. You might picnic in your back yard or take it to a local park. You can eat hamburgers and hot dogs or grill fish and steak. Whatever your preference, be sure to enjoy your time together. And, don’t forget the s’mores.
  • Enjoy some bird watching. We have a growing number of hawks that I enjoy watching in our area. You can also find eagles’ nests in several places now. Or, simply put a bird feeder in your back yard and enjoy watching the sparrows, blue birds, cardinals, and finches come to eat. You can also put up a hummingbird feeder and watch the hummingbirds buzz in and out to grab a snack. All the birds are amazing to watch.
  • Do some back yard camping. Set up a tent in your back yard and spend the night. Throw in some stargazing while you’re out there.
  • Watch an outdoor movie or two. Several local parks schedule “movies in the park.” It’s free and fun. So, pack up your snack and head to the park on a cool night to watch a movie.
  • Catching fireflies is always a fun activity for the family. Get a jar and poke some “breathing holes” in the lid. Put your fireflies in the jar and watch them light up. Let them go before daybreak so you can catch them another time.
  • Go for a family bike ride. Hit the Rails to Trails for a great time riding together. Enjoy the beautiful scenery while you enjoy your ride. Be sure to pack plenty of water and some snacks. If you really want to splurge, stop for ice cream on the way home.
  • Most important, have fun with your family this summer!


What ideas do you have for fun family activities?

Happy Families Bounce Back

I have heard people say “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m not sure I like that saying, but there is some truth in it. Not only will it you stronger, it will make you happier as well. That’s right. Happy people are resilient people. Happy people bounce back. They learn from adversity and grow stronger through it. That’s true for families as well as individuals. Happy families, like happy individuals, bounce back and grow from adversity. So, if you want a happy family, build a resilient family. How can you help your family develop resiliency? Try these five ideas.

  • A father helps his daughter on the playgroundSupport one another. Families that support one another have greater resiliency. Support one another in pursuing interests. Support one another through difficult circumstances. Support one another in times of joy as well. Rejoice with family members who rejoice. Weep with family members who weep. Problem solve with family members who face problems. Encourage one another. Supporting one another demands that you develop an intimate awareness of the lives of your spouse and children. So get involved.
  • “Humble up” and ask for help. Model your willingness to let others help you. Let your spouse and children experience you asking them for assistance, advice, and support. Sure, you may feel vulnerable asking for that assistance. However, your spouse and children begin to see how important they are in your life and how much you value their input. They will also learn that resilient people seek out and accept help when needed. Be the role model for resilience by asking for help.
  • Think straight about failure. Failure is not the end of the world; it is temporary. Failure is not the end of the road; it is the beginning of an adventure. It is a learning opportunity. As such, you can celebrate failed attempts and the lessons learned from those attempts. Celebrate the lessons learned, modify your effort, and do it again. That is bouncing back. That is resilience. That will bring greater happiness.
  • Recall family stories of adversity overcome. Every family has stories about overcoming adversity: the aunt no one thought would finish school but did; the grandfather who overcame alcoholism; the mother who struggled with reading in school but eventually learned to read and now enjoys it; the father who overcame inadequate material resources to finish college…. You know the stories in your family. Share them with one another and point out the fact that overcoming is in your blood. You can bounce back just like others in your family have bounced back.
  • Celebrate family victories. Victory means much more than success. In fact, the greatest victories may come in the face of obstacles and seem like “just getting by” at first. However, on further observation you will find that these times of “just getting by” laid the groundwork for greater victories to come. So, celebrate when family members overcome difficulties. Celebrate when family members put effort into some pursuit. Celebrate “come back” experiences, effort invested, and attempts made (whether “successful” or not). Celebrating these experiences is celebrating resilience!


These five tips can help your family develop the resiliency to bounce back to happiness. For more ideas to develop family happiness, see:

Nurture Your Children’s Success

Every parent wants to raise successful children. We want children who work to the best of their ability, children who willingly face a challenge and learn from it. However, 36% of children in the US will not attempt a difficult, strenuous task. Instead, they quit. Take a moment and think of the irony. We want to raise hard-working, successful children, but only 64% of us are doing so. The remaining 36% of us are raising quitters! That’s harsh…and somewhat frightening. I have to ask myself, how can I be in the 64% who raise hard-working, successful children? How can I be sure to raise children willing to face a challenge and learn rather helping to raise a generation of quitters? A study of nearly 50,000 participants (read more here) may provide us with the answers we seek.  This study suggests the following actions can help us raise hard-working children.

  1. Establish clear, respectful structure in your home. A structured home includes age appropriate rules and routines. Children given structure and routines tend to outperform peers without structured routines. And, consistently enforced limits allow children the sense of security needed to explore, learn, and grow.
  2. African American Family Parents and ChildrenLet your children make choices AND experience the consequences of their choices. Allow your children the freedom to make mistakes. But don’t stop there. Support their learning from those mistakes as well. Enduring the pain of watching our children suffer the consequences of bad choices can lead to us rejoicing in the wisdom they carve out of that learning experience. Children make good choices, too. Don’t forget to celebrate the victories they experience as the result of those good decisions.
  3. Praise your children for their hard-work and effort, not the outcome. Whether they succeed or fall short, acknowledge your children’s effort and persistence. As you do, they learn the value of persistence and hard-work, both of which lead to greater success in the long run. Praise them for trying new things as well, even if they do poorly at first. This will teach your children to take reasonable risks, which also leads to greater success in the long run. (see 5 Mistakes to Avoid and Ruin Your Child with Praise).
  4. Keep screen time to a minimum. Screen time takes away from family time. Additionally, grade point averages began to decrease slightly after 30-45 minutes of screen time a day. After two hours of screen time, a more dramatic drop in grades began to occur and by four hours of screen time grades dropped a whole letter grade. More time spent on video games and TV viewing also leads to less sleep and more emotional volatility. Replace screen time with family time (Learn more in New Teacher in Town).
  5. Enjoy family time. Family time contributes to higher grade point averages and more emotional stability. Family dinners, attending religious services together, and playing board games, in particular, promoted healthy outcomes. If you struggle for family time ideas, check out some of our Family Fun night ideas.


These five practices will nurture your children’s success and help you raise hard-working, successful children.

A Family Fun Night with Amazing Health Benefits

Did you know…

  • Homemade Peppermint Hot ChocolateDrinkable chocolate was used in France during the 17th century to fight against fits of anger? Today, research has confirmed that chocolate reduces the level of stress hormones in people highly stressed, which may reduce anger in such situations.
  • Antioxidants in hot cocoa are almost twice as strong as red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea, and four to five times stronger than black tea. And, more antioxidants get released when we drink “hot” cocoa as opposed to cold things. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, which translates to reducing the chance of cancer and heart disease among other things.
  • Hot cocoa contains flavonoids which can help improve blood flow, help lower blood pressure, and improve overall heart health.
  • Drinking hot cocoa can also help you think better by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. (Read more about these four benefits on the Mature Mother Network)
  • Hot cocoa contains phenethylamine. This chemical will stimulate the nervous system and trigger the release of endorphins and increases the positive effect of the neurotransmitter dopamine (which is part of our reward system). Dopamine and endorphins help us feel good, relieved, and satisfied.
  • Hot cocoa can also increase brain levels of serotonin, boosting a sense of well-being. (Read Cocoa, The Health Miracle for more details of these benefits)


As you can see, hot cocoa carries more than just a punch of good taste. It brings added health benefits, too. And, hot cocoa can make for a great family fun night. Who doesn’t like to gather with loved ones and sip some hot chocolate while sitting in a comfy room sharing conversation and games? Of course, to really make a great Family Fun Night, don’t have any old hot cocoa. Make it a home-made cocoa or gourmet cocoa. Check out Something Swanky or Our Best Bites for a few ideas. Add to the fun with a “hot cocoa bar” filled with candy canes, whip cream, marshmallows, and more. What are you waiting for! Get out there and enjoy the health benefits of a Family Fun Night with hot cocoa!

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