The pandemic lingers on. Even as vaccines become more readily available, cases rise and fall. Schools go in-person only to return to hybrid model before going back to in-person with every fluctuation in COVID cases. News of “variants,” “surges,” and “waves” keep us all vigilant. On top of it all, many of us are simply exhausted after having already spent a year struggling with pandemic related changes. Our children in particular struggle with this current environment of constant change and lack of predictability. They may respond by engaging in risky behaviors. Or they may, like adults, experience an increase in depression or anxiety. Fortunately, we are not powerless in this situation. We can help each one of our family members survive this time. We can encourage and even assist one another in developing healthy coping skills through these turbulent times. Here are five suggestions to begin.
Encouraging healthy coping during the current pandemic and its related stressors begins with conversation. Acknowledge your children’s current struggles. Talk about the struggles and frustrations. Speak about the boredom. Discuss the loneliness, the fears, and the losses related to the pandemic. Remember, everything is more manageable when we can talk about it with someone, and we can talk about anything within our families.
Create healthy schedules. The pandemic has robbed us of the typical structures that provide predictable schedules. School, work, churches, community groups—they have all changed, closed, or gone online. Without a predictable schedule we tend to feel insecure. This is especially true for our children. Creating a schedule in your home can provide the predictability and security under which our children thrive. Ironically, a routine and schedule can add meaning and purpose to our lives and our children’s lives as well. Be sure to include mealtimes, school time, play time, and even game time and free time in your schedule.
Build daily routines of connection into your family schedule. Online school is lonely. Online work provides less interaction. But humans are social creatures. We need social connection just like we need air to breath. Build daily opportunities for your children to connect with you throughout the day. This may involve mealtimes, play time, or free time. It may simply mean pulling up a chair to “check in” with your child or teen.
Our children also need to socialize with peers. Parents cannot provide all their children’s social needs. Children and teens need peer interaction. So, create opportunities for your children to socialize with other children. Plan a time for your child to get together with their one or two of their peers at a park. Allow your children invite a friend over to play in your yard. Let your children go for a walk or a bike ride together. Any of these activities provide a safe way for our children to socialize. You can also set up opportunities for your children to interact with one another through zoom, face time, or some other social app.
Although social media provides a way to build social connection, a parent also needs to monitor social media use to assure appropriate usage. Determine how you will monitor social media consumption in your house. Possible ideas include utilizing a common area to charge phones overnight, shared passwords to allow periodic review of incoming media, and tech-free times (such as dinner). Also, don’t let your children get caught up in FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) because everyone looks like they’re having so much fun without me on social media. Talk about the false images portrayed on social media as we all post our happy times and best face.
These five ideas can help you keep your family emotionally healthy during the pandemic. What other ideas do you have?
One goal all parents share is the goal of raising healthy children. But that goal includes more than just physical health. We also want to raise emotionally healthy children. A large study out of Johns Hopkins University (published in 2019) found positive childhood experiences promoted the development of emotionally healthy adults…just like we want. Best of all, you can provide these positive childhood experiences in your family. You can also help bring other adults into your child’s life to provide even more. Here are the positive experiences the researchers found fundamental to our children and some ways you can provide them in your home.
Children need the opportunity and ability to talk to family members about feelings. Learn to accept your children’s feelings, their emotions. Label their emotions so they can build a strong vocabulary for emotions. Value your children enough to listen to their emotions and respond to them with empathy and understanding before problem-solving. Use emotions as a starting point to learn about your child’s priorities and sensitivities.
Children need to feel safe and protected by the adults in their home. Creating an environment in which the healthy expression of emotions is acceptable will go a long way in creating this safe environment. Obviously, assuring our children’s basic needs for food and shelter are met will also help them feel safe and protected. Similarly, forbidding verbal and physical violence while encouraging loving communication and politeness promotes safety. Your children will also feel safe and protected when you allow them to witness and experience healthy, positive physical affection. (Learn the Heartbeat of a Hug.) Make sure they witness the resolution of disagreements as well. All this will help them feel safe and protected by the adults in your home.
Children need adults who take a genuine interest in their lives. Show your children their importance to you by learning about their interests. Talk about their interests. Invest in their interests. Ask about their activities and their plans. Learn about their dreams and invest in their dreams. Help them with projects and homework. Join them in an activity of their choosing. Show them through your words and your actions that you are interested in them, that you delight in them.
Children need someone in their corner. We all want someone who is in our corner, someone who has our back. Advocate for your child. Help them face and overcome obstacles. Stand by them in the midst of stress or conflict. Support them in resolving conflicts they can resolve on their own and step in to help them resolve those conflicts that become to intense for them to manage at their developmental level. Believe them when they tell you something…and, even more, believe IN them.
Children need to participate in community traditions. Get involved with your child in community. Community may include your neighborhood, your church, and scouting organizations as well as clubs, athletics, or special interest organizations. Each of these groups will have activities and traditions in which you and your child can become involved. Get involved.
Children need to feel connected at school and supported by friends. Our children will feel more connected at school when we have a good relationship with school. So, attend parent-teacher conferences. Go to the concerts and the plays, volunteer to help at school events. Get to know the teachers. The more connected you are to the school, the more connected your child will become as well…and the more likely they will succeed.
In all these ways, you and your home can provide positive childhood experiences to your children. But there is one more way to provide your children with an abundance of positive childhood experiences. Involve other positive caring adults in the fabric and life of your child and family. This may include parents of your children’s friends, ministers, coaches, teachers, or community and club leaders. The more caring adults sharing a healthy involvement in your child’s life, the better. It will allow your child multiple positive childhood experiences to shape their lives in resilience and opportunity. So, build a village of caring adults around your child.
Schools continue to struggle to determine exactly how to start this school year. Parents and school districts struggle to determine how to balance safety, economic needs, and educational needs during this time. Sports remain an issue of debate. Will school sports’ teams compete or wait until the pandemic is resolved to enjoy competition? While all these decisions remain unresolved, life has become unpredictable for our families and our children. A lack of predictability will create a sense of insecurity in our children; and, insecurity contributes to negative behaviors and even health issues in our children’s lives. So, we need to find ways to help our children feel safe and secure even during the unpredictable nature of our world right now. How can parents do this? Here are 5 things you can do every day to get you started.
Listen. Give your children the opportunity to be heard. Get curious about their emotions, challenges, grievances, and fears. Strive to understand what lies under their misbehaviors (Read Misbehavior: A Call for Love? to learn more) rather than lecture and reprimand. As we listen and understand, our children will feel more secure. They will become calmer and more able to problem-solve as well.
Establish daily rituals. Rituals help to build daily predictability that will contribute to our children’s sense of security. They also provide opportunities to talk and build deeper, more intimate relationships (Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals). Rituals don’t have to be complicated. You can build them into your daily life. For instance, rituals might include eating a meal together, reading together at bedtime, establishing a 20-minute conversation time each day, having a puzzle you work on each day.
Invest in your relationship with your children’s other parent. A strong, healthy marriage contributes to a child’s sense of security. Let your children bear witness to your love for one another.
Spend time with your children. Children spell love “T.I.M.E.” Time is the currency of love and security for your children. When they know you will put down your cell phone, postpone a job for a moment to talk, or make time to engage with them, your children learn you value them and care enough to keep them safe. Make time for your children. (How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
Share healthy physical affection. Give a hug. Put your arm around your children. Wrestle. Healthy physical affection increases our sense of connection and an increased sense of connection makes us feel secure. Give your children a hug! (Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)
I’m sure there are more ways to help your children feel secure during this time of unpredictability. But, these five will give a great start. What ways would you add?
Four simple words can help strengthen your marriage, especially if your partner’s history makes them feel insecure in relationships. It’s true. Sometimes our family history or our history of previous romantic relationships creates a relational insecurity in us. This insecurity may “pop up” when even a subtle action, word, facial expression, or event is perceived as threatening the relationship. It may be unclear to you why your partner suddenly feels insecure. But you can glean a hint that they might feel insecure in relationship by their actions.
If they need constant reassurance and praise, their relationship history may be contributing to a sense of insecurity in relationships.
If, when you compliment them, they consistently dismiss, minimize, or doubt the compliment, they may have a history that contributes to insecurity in relationships.
If they express concern that they can never live up to your expectations, even when you have told them you love them no matter what, they may feel insecure in relationships.
If they often wonder if “you really know” them, even though you’ve shared time and conversation together, they may feel insecure.
Their insecurity may have little to do with you. It may have everything to do with their history of relationships—their relationship to the family they grew up in or their relationships with previous romantic partners. Even though the insecurity may have little to do with you and your feelings toward your partner, there is still something you can do to help increase satisfaction and security in their relationship to you…and it only takes 4 simple words.
These four words do not make up a compliment. Compliments actually trigger self-doubt and increased insecurity in people who feel insecure in the relationship. No, rather than compliment, use four simple words to show genuine interest in your partner. In a series of studies, a show of genuine interest led to increased satisfaction and security in the relationship. Which leads me to the 4 simple words that can strengthen your relationship: “How was your day?” That’s it. Four simple words, “How was your day?” Then, after you ask, listen. Show genuine concern. That’s all it took to increase satisfaction and security in relationships in a series of survey studies published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, especially for someone who feels some insecurity.
So, “put on your listening ears” and ask, “How was your day?” Pay attention to the answer and get curious. Show a genuine interest in their answer. It’s the most important way to show how much you really care.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a
new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer
obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside
information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in
relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will
provide a gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward
maturity. If so, I have just what you’re
looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
The next “cheat code” involves
making your daughter feel secure!
The Cheat Code: A Sense of Security.
Purpose: Giving your daughter A Sense of Security will…
Increase your daughter’s confidence
in the world outside the home.
Give them the freedom to learn
habits promoting happiness and success throughout their life.
Decrease behavior problems.
Value: Children need a sense of security. Having a sense of
security frees children to explore the world around them so they can learn and
grow. A sense of security includes a sense of belonging, both of which promote
confidence and courage to try new things. A sense of security will also promote
positive behaviors in your daughter, decreasing the need for discipline.
Instructions: Practical actions that will give your daughter A Sense of
Investing in your relationship with your daughter’s mother. Your daughter will feel more secure when she knows you and her mother have a secure relationship. Invest in your marriage. Keep it strong.
If you are divorced, your relationship to your daughter’s mother still matters. Build a positive, congenial relationship with your daughter’s mother. Do not make negative statements about her.
Whether married or divorced, do not says negative things about your daughter’s mother. Support her in her parenting efforts. Defend her if your daughter says something negative about her. Build a strong relationship for your daughter’s sake.
Express your affection for your daughter in word and action. Tell her you love her. Compliment her. Show her physical affection.
When you need to discipline your daughter (and you will), take time to reconnect with her afterwards.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” They can help the player advance to
a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer
obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You want inside
information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in
relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will
provide a gateway to a special power allowing you to influence your daughter
toward maturity. If so, I have just what
you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
Now it’s time for another “cheat code:” Healthy Physical Affection.
The Cheat Code: Giving Healthy Physical Affection.
Purpose: Giving Healthy Physical Affection will…
Increase trust between you and your
Enhance cooperation between you and
Free your daughter to focus on
personal growth rather than putting her energy into seeking ways to find
physical affection from other men.
Increase the likelihood that your
daughter will seek your input when she is unsure about what to do.
Communicate your love for your
Value: Healthy physical affection will soothe and calm your daughter. As an added bonus, it will nurture her ability to soothe herself. Touch also expresses love, building your daughter’s belief in her own “lovability” and self-worth. Affectionate, loving touch will help your daughter develop healthy personal boundaries that promote her safety as well. In other words, your appropriate physical affection toward your daughter will protect her from seeking physical affection in “all the wrong place” and from “all the wrong people.” (If you still wonder about the value of appropriate physical affection for your daughter, read A Page from the NBA Playbook for Your Family.)
Do you want a stronger marriage? Do
you want greater happiness for yourself and your marriage? Well, one of the
best ways to get a stronger, healthier, happier marriage is to give up. It’s
true. The best way to lift up your marriage is to give up. I don’t mean giving
up on the marriage or giving up on happiness. I mean give up your own personal
desires and making your spouse’s desires your priority…give up the need to push
your own opinion and listen to understand your spouse’s opinion. Give up your
need to have it “your way” and do it your spouse’s way. Yes, sacrifice, or giving up, will lift up
your marriage. Scott Stanley, a marriage researcher who has completed several
studies regarding sacrifice in marriage, defined sacrifice as an action
in which a person freely chooses to give
up something for their spouse without resentment (italics & bold added).
This type of action, this
“giving up,” can be as simple as watching the TV show your spouse
wants to watch rather than demanding the family watch “my TV show.”
Or, it might be as simple as giving up the last piece of pie so your spouse can
Sometimes sacrifice can be life
altering, like giving up a job to move to a new town where your spouse will
begin a new and better job…or giving up time and energy to care for a spouse
going through medical treatment for a major illness.
Overall, sacrifice often involves giving up personal control and self-gratification in favor of a commitment to our spouse’s well-being, intimacy, and growth…giving up our agenda for the betterment of our marriage. The moment of “giving up” to “lift up” your marriage can be difficult. However, the dividends for that moment of struggle are amazing—long-term happiness, growing security, and deeper intimacy. So, give it up…give it up to lift up your marriage! (For more read The Lost Art of Sacrifice in Family.)
A responsive spouse—one who not
only listens and understands but also responds with sympathy and compassion.
Who doesn’t want that kind of spouse? I know I do. And really, who doesn’t want
to be that kind of spouse? After all, I love my wife. She deserves a
Responsiveness validates our spouses. It lets them know we care for them. It reduces anxiety and arousal. It increases a sense of security in the relationship. It comforts. Overall, responsiveness is a powerful way to improve your marriage. And, a 2016 study involving 698 married and cohabitating couples suggests responsiveness does something more. It improves sleep quality. Not surprising, right? We sleep better when we feel safe. We sleep better when we feel less anxious. We sleep better when we know someone cares for us and validates us.
There you have it…another benefit
of a responsive spouse: improved sleep quality. Good sleep quality contributes
to a better rested person. A better rested person is happier, healthier, and
more able to respond to their spouse. Not only…. Oh wait. I hear my wife
calling. Sorry. I have to go. After all, a wife responded to is a happy wife
who sleeps well…and loves her responsive husband.
Nobody wants to fill their marriage with
fear and insecurity. Fear and insecurity will kill a marriage…and nobody wants
to live through a dying marriage. However, I have seen far too many marriages
filled with fear because of the subtle actions of one partner. At first glance,
these actions seem harmless. But, with a second look, you can see the damage
they cause, the fear they build, and the insecurity they create. Let me explain
three of these accidental-fear-building actions so you can erase them from your
life and marriage.
and anger. Of course, we all have moments of
impatience. However, when impatience becomes the modus operandi in your
marriage, fear is the result. The spouse and family of a chronically impatient
person feel the need to “walk on egg shells” to avoid the “next
blow up.” They fear the impatient person’s anger and never know what will
set it off…a spilled drink, a laugh at the “wrong” moment, a
difference of opinion. The whole family lives in fear when they live with an
and pride. Arrogant spouses constantly satisfy
their own desires. They think of themselves first and, although they likely
will not admit it, their spouses second. The spouses of arrogant people take
second place to anything the arrogant spouse deems important…and arrogant
spouses only believe only those things that revolve around them are important.
As a result, their spouses live with the insecurity of knowing their arrogant
spouse will not “watch out for them.” The arrogant spouse will not
keep them in mind…or serve them…or make small sacrifices for them. They live
with the insecurity of knowing their needs are unimportant to their spouse…and
that creates fear and insecurity in the marriage.
grudge. Minor slights, unintentional wrongdoings,
and interpersonal injuries occur in all relationships. Marriage is no
different. However, when one spouse holds a grudge, the other spouse begins to
fear for their relationship. When one spouse harbors resentment over a slight
they have suffered, the relationship is at risk. The one holding the grudge and
harboring the resentment begins to fear another slight. Their mind becomes
clouded by that fear and they may begin to misinterpret behaviors in a negative
light. Now the other partner experiences the fear and insecurity of being
misunderstood. A downward cycle of fear, resentment, insecurity, and bitterness
has begun. If not addressed through apology and forgiveness, this cycle only
ends in one way, a dying marriage.
These three actions unintentionally build fear and insecurity into a marriage. If you find yourself engaging in any of these three actions, stop and breath. Consider what is more important…your marriage or your impatience? Your marital health or your pride? Your long-term happiness in marriage or the resentment you harbor?
is a dragon in your house. He rests right between you and your spouse. Don’t
worry. It’s not a bad thing. He’s perfectly safe and can even protect your marriage.
This dragon has rested between spouses since the beginning of time. Couples used
to honor their dragon. They believed love could not live unless their dragon protected
it. It was a badge of honor for a married couple to tame the dragon and keep
him healthy in the home they built together. Scripture even tells us God owns this
pet dragon. It was not until the 19th century that this dragon fell
out of vogue. People began to fear it. They began to believe this dragon represented
danger to the subdued, secretive emotional life of the family. What if the
dragon wasn’t so tame? What if it suddenly went wild, triggered by some threat?
After all, there had been incidents in which the docile dragon suddenly went
wild, dangerously thrashing about in an uncontrolled fit of anger. Still, these
incidents only occurred when something or someone threatened the dragon’s owners
or if the owners did not protect the dragon’s sense of safety and security. If
the couple cares for the dragon’s home, assuring his sense of security, he remains
perfectly safe to have in the house.
dragon’s name is Jealousy. Jealousy exists when we have a special relationship
with someone. He reveals the priority we place on commitment, honesty, and
security within our most intimate relationship. In that sense, jealousy remains
a sleeping dragon until we experience some threat to our relationship. Something
that arouses doubt in our partner’s commitment or honesty or threatens our sense
of security in the relationship can make the dragon go wild. At that point,
jealousy can feel uncontrollable and inescapable. It can even be tyrannical. “Wrath
is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy” made
insecure (Proverbs 27:4). Here’s the thing. Jealousy resides in all our homes. The
question becomes: how do we tame jealousy in marriage? Jealousy remains tame when living in an environment
in which he feels safe and secure. So, create an environment of security by doing
Learn about your own insecurities. Each
of us has our own insecurities that we can cast onto the relationship from time
to time. If we view ourselves as unlovable, too fat, not smart enough, not good
enough or some other negative epitaph, we are setting the stage for jealousy to
go wild. Begin to work on yourself. Unload your own baggage. Learn to see yourself through the eyes of God.
Learn to accept yourself as having many good, lovable traits. Accept that there
are areas of growth for all of us and then begin to grow.
Build an environment of trust. Follow
through on promises. Develop a mindset that seeks to honor your spouse. Focus on
and admire those qualities that endear you to your spouse. Verbalize your
admiration and gratitude often.
Celebrate your love. Create
a daily ritual in which you sit down with your spouse to share your daily joys,
successes, sorrows, and shortcomings. Create
a weekly ritual in which you share a date with your spouse. You can go out or can
stay in for this date. Either way, dedicate the time of the date to your spouse—no
cell-phone, no interruptions…just you and your spouse.
These three practices will help you tame the dragon together…and enjoy your love.