BO KNOWS FOOTBALL, PARENTING

Father And Son In Park With American Football

Created for the 50th Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.

Numerous studies show the relationship between early childhood trauma, attachment, abuse, as well as in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.

There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in child development.

Debated are the effects of divorce, step-parenting, blended families, and single parenting on children.  In my view, the emotional health of the family unit casts more influence on the growing child than what the family looks like.

How a child turns out is affected by biopsychosocial factors:

  • Biological each child’s hard wiring and physical health (affected pre- and post-natally);
  • Psychological to include attachment, presence of abuse or indulgence, boundaries, rules, roles, exposure to trauma, etc., and;
  • Social factors found not only in the child’s experiences with the wider community and culture — religion, education, social environment, access to goods and services, technology — but also to support networks including family, extended family and peers.

More children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting — even if they haven’t been parented well, or at all, themselves.

No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that inspire dysfunction. It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves.  There’s truth to the saying, “I’m like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.”

Worrisome is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a healthier family environment than they themselves had.  Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.

Just as bad are parents who ride the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum, thereby encouraging lack of self-discipline and responsibility, materialism, boredom, entitlement, low frustration tolerance, and self-centeredness.  And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome.  Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.

Summarized by a client who honestly believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems (and was angry and confused when there were) parenting is much the same.  Love does mean having to say you’re sorry:  a recognition you’ve erred, selecting out learned behaviors from reactive ones to conscious ones, along with changed behavior, are quantifiable and observable equivalents to saying “sorry”.

Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park.  But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive modeling can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability.  She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy.  Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs.  Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  

Sign Up for a FREE Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

COUNSELING CAN REVIVE YOUR DYING MARRIAGE.

love hearts abstract

Ever feel like the love is gone? 

  • Your partner isn’t the person you fell in love with. 
  • The communication gap between you widens every day.
  • Your partner won’t talk about it.
  • You’ve been unhappy for so long it feels like it’s too late. 
  • Your relationship feels dead.

Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely you still care enough about your partner and your relationship to want to help it — if you only knew how.  

Most marriages should be given a chance to succeed.

Marriage counseling can help you restore the trust and intimacy your relationship once enjoyed so that you’ll both have a secure place to learn techniques and tools that can actually make a difference.  

  • Resolve past hurts and painful memories
  • Put an end to endless arguments
  • Overcome differences in parenting styles
  • Improve your intimacy and sex life
  • Heal from an affair
  • Grow closer together
  • Take an active, involved and interested role in the life you’ve created together

Behavioral research is often focused on the clinical effectiveness of couples therapy but the subject of couples therapy is in the out-loud American mainstream, too.  Attention runs the gamut from on-line and print articles, to films like Couples Retreat, to playing supportive roles in television dramas like The Sopranos.  

Most marriage counselors would agree that a couple’s motivation to make their relationship work is the single most important factor in determining the success of couples counseling.  Beware the seduction of obtaining a promise from your partner to “work on the relationship” if one of their feet is out the door.  Breaking up is hard to do, there’s enough hurt to go around, so sometimes one partner “buys time” by agreeing to couples counseling.  Therapy also seems to be less successful for couples who wait too long before seeking help.  Unfortunately, the average number of years a distressed couple waits before seeking help is 6 years.

If you and your partner are serious about creating the best relationship possible, marriage counseling is an excellent way to explore your relationship and help each of you uncover and overcome destructive relational patterns.  Hopefully, before 6 years go by. 

Kathe Skinner has been a Marriage & Family Therapist for 20 years.  She specializes in couples work, especially with relationships where invisible disability is part of the mix.  She and her husband David have been married for 29 years and together provide a Secular Couple Communication Workshop throughout the year.  They live with their 2 hooligan cats in Colorado Springs.

A FATHER’S DAY FANTASY

hefner and twinsFantasy’s a powerful thing.  It fuels the head trip of desire and compels the illusion of feeling good, even when there are no hands on.   Multi-billion dollar industries – from publishing to prostitution to porn – start here first.   

But how does the brain distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined?   Scientists’ hypotheses point to the involvement of different areas of the brain and the multi-directional processing among them.  

Sexual fantasies are a solo adventure usually leading to release through orgasm.  For some the mind’s eye is enough to induce a significant physical event like orgasm.  Actual visual stimulation is so powerful that doctors’ offices getting sperm samples provide men with sexually explicit magazines as a way for patients to get it up and over with.   Humans are not alone:  Species that are down the evolutionary ladder from us also purposely seek out ways to feel good “down there”.  Elephants rub, monkeys twiddle away the hours masturbating, and male dogs lust after people’s legs.

Sometimes fantasy goes wild and boundaries are blurred, creating a new “reality”.  One example is the substitution of social bonds created by in-person interaction with texting, sexting, and hook-up sites.  We’ve always looked for love in the wrong places but it’s easier now; you don’t have to take a shower to “chat”.  Carried to extreme, fantasy never becomes reality:  the lure of being anyone you choose, often without consequence, is a strong inducement to stay impersonal.

It’s long been known that our brains are hardwired for pleasure, with specific neural pathways acting as highways.  As with anything pleasurable, the possibility of overindulgence, abuse, is possible.  While most brains have stopping, or surfeit, mechanisms, other brains are glitched to go wild.  Especially worrisome is the effect on young brains of unrelenting and ever-more-present societal messages about sex.  Young brains are not yet equipped with that Jiminy-Cricket-battle between the super-ego and the id; with this age group (and for some adults), the id wins almost every time.  Understandably there is concern for young people among parents, educators, and the mental health community.

The mental health and medical communities are concerned about the rise within the broader population of sexually identified mental health diagnoses as well as the rise in sexually transmitted disease.  It’s no longer unusual to know someone with herpes; it’s even been authoritatively predicted that in ten years over half of women and 40% of men will have contracted genital herpes.

Fantasy enables our addiction to the belief that if we can imagine it, we can make it real.  It sounds snappy when Sony says it, but those are dangerous words.  Not only because that’s not always true, but because it shouldn’t always be true..  Powerful as it is, sexual fantasy is just that.  Many of us are still hanging with Freud rather than updating our belief that it’s abnormal not to fantasize when bringing about orgasm. 

In praise of sexual fantasy: 

  • Leads to sexual activity, conjoint or solo, and that’s a good thing;

  • By inducing orgasm the body rids itself of stale sperm, an evolutionary advantage;

  • Orgasm reduces blood pressure, aids sleep, counts as exercise, lowers heart attack risk, lessens pain;

  • Can infuse a dulled relationship with newness;

  • Takes us on a journey we probably otherwise wouldn’t be capable of;

  • Stimulates creative thinking;

  • Enables us to practice social skills;

  • Offers an escape from criticism that may induce self-consciousness or an inability to function sexually;

  • Makes us feel good about ourselves, powerful, potent, and desirable;

  • Enhances relationship;

  • Mostly, sexual fantasy Is fun.

Sex is the adult version of play and fantasy is our way of looking forward to playing.  As thinking beings we need fantasy, daydreaming, and imagination as a pathway to our best self.  Fantasy is a pleasure in itself. 

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose private practice focuses on couples, especially those whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability or illness for whom sexuality is often a significant issue.  It’s probable that childhood exposure to an overly enthusiastic dog is the reason she’s a cat person.  Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  With their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, she and her husband David live in Colorado Springs where she maintains a private practice and where she and David co-instruct Couple Communication Workshops.  

Copyright 2015, Being Heard, LLC

ON BEING A DAD

Created for the XLIX Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.

There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in how a child develops.

Numerous studies have shown the relationship between early childhood trauma, abuse, and in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.

Debated still are the effects of divorce on children or being raised by a single parent.  In my view, the emotional health of the parent(s) casts more influence on the growing child than the constitution of the family.

Without doubt, the wider community and culture — religion, education, support network, social environment, access to goods and services, the techno environment, and the omnipresence of media — along with the hard wiring each child brings to life and how the developing fetus is treated in utero are all crucial.  No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that incite dysfunction.

But more children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting.

It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves; look at the truth to the saying, “I am like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.” Worrisome, though, is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a family environment they themselves didn’t have. Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.  And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome.  Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.

Summarized by a client who honestly and angrily believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems, parenting is much the same.  Love does mean having to say you’ve sorry; a recognition you’ve erred,  determination to do better, and changed behavior equivalent to proving “sorry”.

Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park.  But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive attention can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability.  She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy.  Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs.  Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

ON BEING A DAD

Created for the XLIX Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.

There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in how a child develops.

Numerous studies have shown the relationship between early childhood trauma, abuse, and in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.

Debated still are the effects of divorce on children or being raised by a single parent.  In my view, the emotional health of the parent(s) casts more influence on the growing child than the constitution of the family.

Without doubt, the wider community and culture — religion, education, support network, social environment, access to goods and services, the techno environment, and the omnipresence of media — along with the hard wiring each child brings to life and how the developing fetus is treated in utero are all crucial.  No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that incite dysfunction.

But more children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting.

It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves; look at the truth to the saying, “I am like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.” Worrisome, though, is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a family environment they themselves didn’t have. Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.  And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome.  Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.

Summarized by a client who honestly and angrily believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems, parenting is much the same.  Love does mean having to say you’ve sorry; a recognition you’ve erred,  determination to do better, and changed behavior equivalent to proving “sorry”.

Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park.  But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive attention can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability.  She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy.  Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs.  Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

THAT GIRL KEEPS FALLING ON HER BUTT

fall-down-stairs.jpgMy balance, isn’t.

So when I head straight toward the bushes at the entrance to my building it isn’t surprising.

Bushes are a trigger in picturing my first (and only) experience as a new MSer in an MS support group.   Recommended by my neurologist, the group experience was meant to help me cope with the way-past-due-diagnosis of my disease.

Instead, it freaked me out.

Walkers, wheelchairs, canes, crutches – and me, invisibly disabled, in high heels looking at a future unable to wear them.

Big time downer.

Especially when a guy lost his balance and landed on his butt in a bush. That he laughed it off was horrifying.

I understand, now, the reason he laughed.  Not only is laughing at the faux pas around the commonplace common, but situations that elicit that kind of response are also all too common.

The reality he must’ve experienced then is one I now share.  Today I laugh, too.  Because it’s truly comical at times and also because laughter is socially reassuring.  “It’s alright, folks.  I’m alright.  Nothing to see here, move along.”

Knock wood, I’ve yet to experience anything dire in my navigational mistakes.  Embarrassment to be impaired in public is what hurts. Most of us don’t know what to do in a situation like that.  I put lots of effort into looking unimpaired, but when I catch sight of myself in a shop mirror, the reality of how I walk, for example, isn’t normal at all. 

When I use an assistive device, a rollator in my case, parents scold their children for staring.  I’ve yet to hear mommy or daddy use the opportunity as a teaching moment to talk about disability; rather it’s “don’t stare” before hurrying away.  No wonder society hasn’t made much progress in accepting the disabled community who, except to children, remain largely invisible.

Recently, Disability.gov blogged an article about steps to take when being newly disabled.

It’s worth a read, especially if you’re not.

Specializing in couples work, Kathe Skinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist.  She works especially those couples where invisible disability is present.   For over 10 years, she and husband, David, have been Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Programs .  Find the schedule for their next Couple Communication Workshop at http://www.beingheardnow.com© 2014 Being Heard

50 YEARS LATER: IS MARRIAGE A WEAPON IN THE WAR ON POVERTY?

waronpovertyfail

If nothing else, after 50 years fighting poverty, one thing’s clear:  America hasn’t found the right WMD.

Poverty’s still the winner.

Among the most ill-advised social programs developed to counteract the effects of single parenthood on women is one that promoted marriage as an effective weapon.   While it’s true that a healthy, stable marriage between two committed people helps in the battle against hopelessness and helplessness, there may be a population not committed to marriage in the first place.   

Whoever conceptualized that encouraging the chronically ill-prepared to otherwise marry was delusional at best; a bureaucratic butt-kisser at worst.

What were they thinking?

Not in doubt is that solid relationships can be beacons, gateways to education, employment, mental and physical health.  The kicker is that such relationships can’t just be imagined, wished for, or expected without knowing how solid relationship works and passing it on, for at least 5 generations that adopt healthy marital functioning.

Marriage, itself, is a complicated construct that, in the hard sense, pre-exists poverty.  Lack of knowledge is a set-up to failure to anything (imagine wiring a house without knowledge of electricity), especially regarding something as profoundly complicated as building a better relationship.  Put bluntly, how can anyone expect that partners raised in dysfunctional families would, by dint only of wanting to, create a functional one?  That marriage is imbued with such magical powers that, by its very existence, an intricate human condition is untangled?  Or that the people who inhabit those relationships remain, generation after generation, committed to their marriages?

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom.

Children learn what they see.  Further, children seek more than anything to belong and to be loved.  When the cost of having that is withstanding an environment that is counter to family/relationship health — e.g. abusive, withdrawing, uncommitted, adulterous, enabling, permissive, angry, addicted or violent – children often choose unhealthy over healthy.  Immature brains learn that this is what marriage and family looks like.   Even people who strongly react against their upbringing stand the risk of riding the pendulum to the other extreme, becoming overly compliant, accommodating, permissive, rigid, pious, rule-bound.

The knottiness of relationship is that each of us brings a perspective on these experiences that are often different from our partner’s. Often explosive, this confluence paves the way for increasingly unhealthy negative behaviors for each partner as well as the relationship.

Marital success is promoted when partners participate in learning relationship skills.  Partial participation, which seems the rule, doesn’t count; it’s like being “sort of” dead.  Besides, when a parent is struggling to provide the basics of life, little, if any, focus is given to the hard work needed to sustain a healthy union during formal couples education, let alone past its end.

Abraham Maslow put it elegantly when describing what needs to be in place before someone can even minimally “become”.   The condition of being poor, pregnant and female plays out on a stage of basic needs where relationship improvement is trumped by paying the rent.  In the same way, one wonders if self-esteem can be extrinsically motivated in generations raised dysfunctionally.

Poverty in America is generations-old; institutionalized; a mind-set.  It would stand to reason that any upward movement on the psychosocioeconomic ladder would also be a lengthy process.  A multidimensional process.  And a difficult one.   As we see development of the New Poor, Americans’ marital behavior will be interesting to track.  Will there be a relinquishment of the values that inspire healthy relationship?  Will difficulty bind people closer together?  And what will happen to the trillions of dollars spent on social welfare programs that, fifty years out, have been unsuccessful in eliminating poverty?

That social success in other countries is not surprising given the unique social structure and size of the United States.  While a nation as small as Finland, for example, may be socialistic success in reducing the strife of single parenthood, Finland is not the United States. Not in vastness of size, diversity, political structure, and multiculturalism.  Even in the best of situations, marriage is no less multidimensional or difficult; with behavioral and attitudinal improvement also measured in generations.

While I offer no resolution to the multiple dimensions encompassing poverty (my magic wand is broken) better minds than mine have tried and failed.

I do know that a uni-dimensional solution to single mothers’ poverty through marriage insults the problem and ignores the complexity of the fix itself.

For more insights, read Julie Baumgardner’s response to the Council on Contemporary Marriages position on this subject.  Ms. Baumgardner is the Chair of the National Association for Relationship and Marriage Education.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Colorado.  Over almost two decades, she has seen low percentages of middle-class couples who have engaged in relationship education continue to apply what they learn.  She calls the ones who have, like Adam and Leslie, “Super Stars” and their existence is cause for a smile every day.  For almost 30 years, Kathe and her husband, David, have been committed to each other and to their marriage.  As Jethro Tull once said, nothing is easy.  Read more about their programs for couples at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.
 
©2014, Being Heard, LLC