The Emotional Climate of the Family
Part 1 of 3 (Part of the Family Climate Series)
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
“It is very hard to be mad at someone when you are engaged in a ‘REAL’ hug!”
Often times, our children are the thermometer for how things are going in the family. I don’t mean to blame any parent for a misbehaving, depressed or anxious child. There are many times a parent seeks my services and by all accounts, the parent is doing “everything” right. Then again, I could give a good many examples of how my own child’s troubles could be directly tied to parental mismanagement (my own) and/or parental stress (my own).
Notice the trickle-down effect.
“The farmer in the dell
The farmer in the dell
Hi-ho, the derry-o
The farmer in the dell
The farmer takes a wife….”
Just think of it like this, only substitute “takes” with “kicks” and start with “the dad kicks the wife…wife kicks the child…child kicks the dog…to dog chews up the teddy.
The parents set the tone for the family. Some will think I am old fashioned or stereotypical, but I go so far as
to say the Dad sets the tone. Of course, in a single Mom home, the Mom most often sets the tone, unless there is a strong tone presiding with a Dad who is out of the home.
You better believe that an unhappy parent rubs off on the other parent, who rubs off on the children, who rubs off on the pets or classmates at school.
Think like…”mason jar…mason jar…mason jar…”
When you are in a foul mood, be it angry, tired, annoyed, depressed, anxious…when you are around your children, think like you are putting all of that in a jar and screwing the lid on tight! It will be there when you want to come back to it, IF you want to come back to it. With whatever strength you possibly have, bottle it up when you are in front of your children. Let the little ones be little ones. They sense everything. And even if they are in those magical self-centered years, where they really don’t even seem to notice you crying, or
fighting with their father, if you don’t exercise the muscle of restraint now, you will take this for granted when they will enter a stage where they do notice.
Model the behavior you wish to see in your child and provide a lot of good examples
You may have seen the bumper sticker, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” cited as a Ghandi quote. Well, not exactly, (see http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/be-the-change-you-wish-to-see-in-the-world-not-gandhi/). But none-the-less, that is the idea here. I have noted time and time again in my own home that it is far more effective to correct my own misbehavior than to try to correct the same type of behavior in my children. Even when a bad atmosphere has gone on way too long, still, the best remedy is to correct it in yourself first.
Let your child be a child. Don’t talk about adult issues in front of them.
And spelling things out is just plain weird, not to mention, insulting, even if your 3 or 4 year old doesn’t realize you are insulting them.
Have family meetings regularly. Try to save it for dessert.
It’s awesome to set up a family dynamic where you have family meals (a least a few dinners ALL together per week), with dessert. Everyone wants to rush these days, either to get the children to bed for some “me time” or the zillions of other things that still need to be done.
Once again, the Dad sets the tone. He can be INSTRUMENTAL in setting the tone for family meals and keeping children positively engaged at the table.
Children will eat a better meal, keep a better attitude and most importantly, WANT to stick around for that positive family time, even when they are 16. See my earlier post on Family Dinner Night.
Carry down traditions or make new ones that your children will carry down.
We want our children to be anchored to a positive family. Engage extended relatives in helping your children to learn about traditions. Make new traditions. Give your children something to talk about with people at school or in the rest of their environment that has to do with their “apple picking” experience, or “fire pit
marshmallow roasting on the first day of winter.” It doesn’t have to be Disney or other elaborate experiences. Family meals are becoming a novelty these days.
Don’t be “soft.”
If you said, “The next time you…..(fill in the blank)…., you are going straight to your room!” then do it. Children do better with order than they do with chaos. Provide them with the structure they need for learning about life and their world. Misbehaved children are not as happy as well-behaved children.
Kindle feelings of love and support. Hug often, share stories and struggles from you day. Ask each other how you can help them with something difficult. It’s very hard to be mad at someone when you are engaged in a “real” hug.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” ~Virginia Satir (widely regarded as the "Mother of Family Therapy")
And…if I can be of any help, please do delay another day in asking! A few sibling sessions, or parent sessions, with the right therapist can be just the ticket to an improved climate.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
By Tracy Lamperti, Psychotherapist
One of the most common ways that common couples get into trouble is by not properly addressing conflict.
Everyone would agree that fighting all the time is going to end up in a break up, eventually. It is the silent fighting that can go on for years that eventually leads to either a break up for a couple that looked “fine,” or an emotionless and devoid of passion couple that just agrees to stay together for the “sake of the children” or for financial reasons, or just because it’s easier than the process of divorce.
I think I can speak for most of the Cape Cod Mommies in saying that, “We want the real deal and we want it into old age and with the same person!” We have a pretty consistent divorce rate holding just below the 50% mark. In the past decade there has been a new school of thought among older adolescents and young woman that it is better to never get married than to have to get divorced. But that is not what this post is about, so I’ll take that on at a later date.
All couples have conflicts or “fights” at one time or another. When couples brush issues under the rug, it is like a slow leak. Eventually, things will be ruined. It is as if water is dripping into a bucket and you hardly notice it. Suddenly, you look and notice that it has overflowed and everything is soaked.
· One little issue builds on another.
· Resentment grows.
· Words in your own head go from neutral to negative.
· Intimacy grows less frequent.
· Time together diminishes.
· Emotion and passion falls away.
Why do couples brush it under the rug?
· It’s not a good time for a fight.
· I don’t want to start a fight.
· It will take too much effort.
· No one listens to me anyway.
· It won’t do any good
· Someone is stubborn.
· I’ll be criticized.
· There is no solution anyway.
The ground rules for “Fighting Fair”
1. Arrange a time. “I’ve got something on my mind. Would it be ok if we talk after the children go to bed?” Or as something is getting heated, “Let’s pick a time to talk about this when… (1) we aren’t so heated, or (2) when the children aren’t around.” For people who have trouble containing anxiety, this will be a challenge, but is so necessary.
2. Face each other and approach the time in good faith rather than full of steam.
3. Address ONE topic. If you want the best chance to be successful, don’t unleash a laundry list of issues on your partner. It won’t go well. ONE issue.
4. If you are the type who leans on the gas in a merge situation, when easing off the gas would solve the
problem, you might want to rethink that. Rewards come with humility and love. Easing off the gas is not equivalent to being a pushover. Listening carefully and trying to understand the other person is not equivalent to being a pushover. Keep it respectful.
5. Try to listen carefully and understand where your partner is coming from. If you are having trouble understanding, ask questions or repeat what they have said. For example, “I’m not sure if I understand. It sounds like you are saying….Do I understand you correctly?”
6. Be careful about your filters. Sometimes a person can say, “I just really need some time with the guys.
You know, shooting darts, having a beer, fishing…” We hear, “You like them better than me. You would rather be with them than the children and I.”
7. Keep it clean. You know your spouse. You probably know a good amount of where they are sensitive.
Don’t go for the jugular. You will kill the fight.
8. Never interrupt. Let the person finish. Contain yourself. When they finish, you can have a turn. If they interrupt, kindly say,“please let me finish.”
9. Remember, all of the things you tell yourself, in your own head, about your partner, when you are mad
or hurt, are not necessarily fact. Try not to let these things build up and become your reality.
10. The best place for fighting fair is the bathroom. Someone sits on the can (with the seat down of course :) ) and the other sits on the edge of the tub, or something like that. This plan disrupts your usual dynamic, brings you each to the table on more neutral ground and lightens the mood. “Meet me in the bathroom at 9:30 :) ” Pick your own creative spot, but not near where children are sleeping if the tension might be high. Walls are thin and children are sensitive.
As Valentine’s Day, the day of love approaches, fight fair and be healthy in your relationship with your partner. If you need help, seek help.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC
I recently heard the quote (and his book with the same title) by Dr. Wayne Dyer, “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Didn’t he mean, “I’ll believe it when I see it??” Absolutely not! Dr. Dyer is a new name to me, though I don’t know why, looking at his work, the length of time he has been in the field and his remarkable contributions. I hope you will check him out yourself at his blog, http://www.drwaynedyer.com/blog/.
On this eve of the New Year, many of us are evaluating the past year and setting goals for the New Year.
Yet, how do we transform our good intentions into goals attained? Moreover, how do we impart this skill to our children? Believing is the Key. Once we believe it, we will see the path to it and the good intention will be turned into a reality.
Are you living based on your perceived limits?
“Sure, I want to have family movie nights, but the family just won’t cooperate.”
“I can never afford to shop for organic food.”
“I am just not strong enough to face that issue.”
“Alcoholism is in my genes.”
“My husband will never change.”
“Johnny has ADHD.”
“My daughter’s classmates are just bullies.”
Dr. Blaslotto, at the University of Chicago, conducted a study with basketball players. Look it over yourself
here, http://curtrosengren.typepad.com/occupationaladventure/2004/10/another_visuali.html but the short of it was, the players who simply laid down and visualized free throws preformed better than those who put in extra practice time and those who were told to essentially forget about basketball.
The “winners” were the ones who could SEE themself achieving the free throw!
If you want to be a winner, and you want your child to be a winner, you have to do what a winner does! You have to believe that you WILL do it! Johnny WILL pay attention and you WILL feed your family well and
you WILL face your fears.
Others WILL support you. If you are surrounded by limits and people who think by limits, find new people to surround yourself with. Seek the help of a coach, or a therapist, or a pastor, or a personal trainer.
YOU WILL DO IT THIS YEAR, and I want the success stories to flow in this very blog!
Cape Cod Mommies RULES!
Wishing you all a safe and happy new year!
Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts about family safety in the New Year.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
We used to do a lot together…. Go on hikes, picnics, take in movies, explore new places, hold hands, cuddle up together…... Once baby came, there suddenly became less time for us. Even as baby has grown, between diaper changing, meal planning, play dates, shopping, working and just everyday life of being a parent, there just are NOT enough hours in the day. I deeply miss the days of having “couple”time, those carefree days when we discussed worldly topics and bantered back and forth about politics, life, the
cosmos. I miss the little things of being snuggled at night and as high school as it is… hand holding. Now (on both sides) it goes more like this: “I’m too tired to ________ (watch a movie, have sex, cuddle, etc, insert your choice here)”.
Let me let you in on a little secret though….. I am NOT alone! I have talked with many fellow moms and friends in hushed tones about this very topic. And not surprisingly, we all say the same type of thing. We all get irritated by the same things, we all had a change in our communication post children, we all missed the old days.
“Even the best relationships are strained during the transition from duo to trio (or more!). Lack of sleep, never-ending housework and new fiscal concerns can lead to profound stress and a decline in marital satisfaction - all of which affect baby’s care. Not surprisingly, 70% of couples in their transition to parenthood
experience conflict, disappointment and hurt feelings.” ~ Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman has done extensive studies on relationships in general and relationships post children. I highly recommend bookmarking his blog and checking it out when you can: http://www.gottmanblog.com/
It started out slowly, we were just sleep deprived and had less time for each other as most of the time focused on the new addition and how to create stability for that addition. Slowly little things went by the wayside, slowly new things irritated us about the other, slowly little things became new habits, and new habits slowly changed the dynamic of our relationship to where today, it is barely recognizable from when we started out. What happened to those two happy people?
We were fortunate enough early on to be recommended to an amazing class pre-baby through Falmouth Hospital. The Bringing Baby Home Series (see Dr. Gottman's blog and website for more info on this class) facilitated by Lee Burwell was beyond amazing. The 4 class series had great information, we met another great couple and we came home armed with tools for success. Unfortunately for us though, life got in the way of remembering to use those tools. It had all seemed so easy in class, but real life is NEVER easy. We recognized this problem and discussed options such as….. gasp….. counseling.
Relationship Counseling seems to be a taboo topic for many couples. I have heard people who think that it means “the beginning of the end”, “a last resort”, and even comments like “how would a stranger help us if we can’t help us”. Men especially seem to be afraid of seeking help. I’m not sure if this is a pride thing or not but for us it became about something more important than our pride, it was about our family. We braved the counseling and learned a lot about each other from our sessions. Counseling is definitely not at all what society thinks. Many couples have problems in their relationships, it is going to happen. You can’t expect to agree on everything in life. You have 2 different people who were raised with 2 different families, and 2 sets of life experiences. So of course you are going to get 2 sets of opinions on everything and they will NOT always be the same. Relationships take compromise and you have to invest the time in them, they take WORK. We are always making concessions on things in order to work together, but sometimes there are
things where you differ that can build obstacles in the way of your relationship and communication.
We learned that it was important to have “couple” time and to have date nights again. We also learned that we both communicate very differently, which was hindering our relationship because we were not effectively “hearing” one another and we did not understand one another’s dreams. It is okay to have a different viewpoint then your significant other, but if you can’t be open to each other’s differences you will have problems. This breakdown in communication leads to a breakdown in intimacy. And ultimately a breakdown in intimacy can eventually lead to a complete breakdown in the relationship.
The current divorce rate in the US is 50%. Of course that doesn’t even figure in the separation rate between couples who are not married. I would guess the number is probably much higher if you factor that in. What has led to this breakdown? The answer is that outside stressors have caused communication breakdowns.
People are afraid to seek help and guidance. I speak from experience when I say it really helps to have a third party to talk to. The third party is able to help you see why you are having trouble. Many times we are to close to the situation and need someone who is completely impartial to help us understand.
When children enter into a relationship, everything changes. It is important that even if your relationship does not work to where you can have a typical nuclear family unit that you still learn to communicate
effectively for the sake of the children. There are many co-parenting families out there who make it work, but unfortunately the majority of those couples still don’t because of resentment, immaturity with the situation and other obstacles. It is our job as parents to show our children how to be healthy adults and they will practice what they have seen.
What kind of partner do you want your child to be someday? Right now at the current trend in the US, this generation of children will not have had healthy examples of relationships. What kind of adults will these children grow up to be? Will they take the easy way out when things get tough or will they fight to save a relationship even if it means seeking help? It is up this generation of mothers and fathers to correct this upward trend and to model the best for our children. I would hate to live in a world where negative relationships with couples become the norm. It is okay to ask for help, it is okay that you disagree on things, it is important to fight for your relationship until you have exhausted every option; it is okay to ask for help when you are in a co-parenting situation even if it means you are the only one seeking the help….. You are NOT alone.
As I was preparing this blog piece, I was presented with an AMAZING opportunity to pass along to our loyal readers. I don’t think it was a coincidence that this opportunity came up as we were preparing to go live. Check it out below and if you are interested, send them an email to find out more, maybe it will help your relationship. Either way I encourage you to find someone to talk to if you are having problems or find a
parent support group to join together. You may be surprised at just how many couples are in the same exact boat as you are. I wish you all the best of luck in your relationships, whatever state they are in and hope you all are able to communicate effectively.
*** Cape Cod Mommies is currently seeking a professional advisor for our blog who is a licensed family/marital counselor who can blog on a wide variety of topics and how it pertains to our parents.
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