When to Get Family Counseling?

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Most of us put things off until we can’t any longer. If you have taken time to look at getting  family counseling, you probably already know it’s time or past time to get help.  At The Relationship Center, we know issues don’t simply go away; they just demand our attention more loudly over time. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring a problem until it becomes unmanageable. Common issues include:

  • Lack of Communication
  • Damaged and Distant Family Relationships
  • Disrespect and Defiance in Children
  • School Failure
  • Destructive Peer Relationships
  • Effective Parenting
  • Abuse and Neglect

Who Gets Family Therapy?

“Normal Families.” Often, families assume they are abnormal or lesser if they need help. We use the word “normal” as a measuring stick for our lives. However, part of living is having real challenges, and overcoming requires getting help at times. All families have difficulties. Not all families overcome.

Who Needs to Come to the Session?

Initially, your counselor will meet with all of your family together to gather information, gaining an understanding of the situation. You will be asked to consider what you want to work on. Next, he or she will make recommendations on how to proceed. He or she will likely set times to meet with children or parents individually. This can vary from family to family, taking into account the particular issues present in each case.

How Long Does Counseling Last?

The duration of counseling depends on two basic variables: extent of the problems and what you hope to accomplish. First, the extent of the issues takes into account the severity of symptoms and the extent to which healthy functioning is disrupted. Second, each family must decide what they want to accomplish. If the goal is quick alleviation of symptoms via behavioral means, the counseling intervention is generally brief. However, if core issues are not addressed, long-term problems will likely rise again. This is a “band-aid” approach. A more thorough intervention involves taking time to get to the root of the problems, not simply addressing symptoms or problem behaviors. This takes longer and is more involved, but is generally more effective long-term. It is a “surgical” approach.

What If My Child / Teenager Is Really Upset With the Idea Of Counseling?

Resistance is a norm in counseling, not a rarity. As a parent, you are often put in the position of knowing what is best and making sure this occurs. Therefore, it is no surprise that counseling is like eating vegetables, frowned upon by children although it is healthy. Your counselor is experienced at dealing with resistance and it is rarely an ongoing issue. Regardless, be encouraged. As a parent, you do not need your child’s permission to improve your family situation.

 

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

Building Trust with Teen Daughters

Building Trust with Teen Daughters

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The one thing teenagers want more than anything is FREEDOM . If you are a parent of a teenager, you definitely understand the struggle between protecting your teen and giving her freedom. Before your adolescent can have freedom, she has to BUILD YOUR TRUST. Often, teenagers view trust and freedom as the same thing, but they need to realize trust and freedom are not the same. When a teenager is asking for trust, she really means freedom. It is important to make the distinction between these two important aspects of relationships. Balancing limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust is difficult for most parents. Due to the frustration this balance can create, there are those parents who blindly trust their teen even though the teen does not deserved it.  When an adolescent has not learned how to be trustworthy, she may use her freedom in an immature way.  Those parents who are fearful of giving their adolescent freedom may be on the opposite side of the spectrum: they do not give their teenager any freedom. This approach can lead to broken rules and dishonesty. How do you adequately balance limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust?

Can I Trust My Teen?

Savannah, your 16 year old, just got her license to drive. She asks if she can drive two of her friends to a movie, and she promises to come home right after she drops her friends off. As her parent, you are thinking this is a good opportunity to build trust with your daughter. You remember she has completed all her homework assignments this week, and she has been responsible in her driving. As a result of her responsibility this week, Savannah is allowed to go to the movie with her friends. About an hour after Savannah leaves, you receive a call from a couple who is a friend of you and your spouse. The friend wants to let you know she saw Savannah with a boy at the mall. This friend was concerned because she saw Savannah kissing this boy.

How would you handle this situation? Is Savannah trustworthy?

Trustworthiness is…

  • Keeping your word. If you say you are going to do something, follow through.
  • Honesty. Choosing to be truthful even when it could get you in trouble.
  • Even if you do not agree with someone, you treat him/her how you would like to be treated. When you get loud and gruff with your teen, this does not lead to her identifying what she did wrong. It will actually motivate your teen to focus on your poor behavior rather than her own.
  • Accepting Limits. Respecting the limits or boundaries set in a relationship because you understand their importance in building trust.
  • Acknowledging your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Admitting to these mistakes and taking responsibility for them is what makes someone trustworthy.

How Can I Help My Teen Build Trust?

The following are from John Townsend’s book Boundaries with Teens.  This is a great resource for building healthy boundaries with your teenager.

Stay informed about your teen’s life.

If you do not know your teen, how do you know you can trust her? It is important as a parent to stay informed about your teen’s academics, extracurricular activities, and social life. Without this information, it is easier for your teen to be deceptive. When you do not have information about her life, your teen will find it easier to be dishonest. While your teen may appear to dislike your involvement in her life, in actuality, she wants you to be interested in her activities, hobbies, and achievements. Therefore, make it a priority to be informed about your teen!

Communicate that your love is unconditional, but freedom is not free.

Your love should not be based on your adolescent’s actions or ability levels. The love you have for your daughter should be unconditional: you will always love her. Communicating your love is unconditional is just as important as feeling unconditional love. Your adolescent must be told and shown your love is not based on anything she can do. It a free gift you happily give to her.

On the other hand, freedom has to be earned. As we all know, freedom comes at a price and your teen has to learn this concept. It is better she learn it from you than the police. In order to earn freedom, your adolescent must learn how to build your trust. Trust leads to freedom.  Communicate with your adolescent how being trustworthy in a certain activity will lead to freedom.

Give your teen opportunities to build trust.

Your teenager cannot build trust without the opportunity of failure. Yes, I said FAILURE! Success as well as failure in these opportunities will provide learning opportunities for your teen. After all, no one is perfect. Failures are tough but not final. This is an important lesson. As a parent, you need to provide limits where your teen has a choice to make; if she makes a responsible choice she earns freedom, if the decision is an irresponsible choice she loses freedom.  Opportunities to build trust can be everyday tasks or specific boundaries set by a parent in order to help the teen learn to make a responsible choice. For example, when a teen starts on her homework at night without being asked this builds trust through your teen being responsible for daily tasks. If your teen is given the opportunity to go to her high school’s football game and she arrives home at her curfew time, this is a specific boundary you set as a parent that is helping your teen build trust.

Give leniency for confession and consequences for deception.

Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect. Surely, you can remember a time when you did not follow your parents’ rules. For this reason, it is important to let your adolescent know when she does make a mistake, it is better for her to tell you about it than to hide it. While there should be a consequence for the mistake, make sure it is less severe than if she lied to you about the mistake. This provides another way for you to encourage your teen to be honest no matter the circumstance.

Make time for your relationship with your teen.

With all this talk about trust, freedom, and limits, it can make a parent sound like the bad guy. While it is important to set boundaries and enforce consequences, you have to make sure you make time to build a relationship with your teen. It is important that you do not see your role as becoming her friend because you are her parent. Always make sure you thoroughly talk with your teen about boundaries and consequences. Make sure to praise her when she is responsible and trustworthy. When you do have discussions with your teen about trust, freedom, and boundaries make sure you listen to your teen. This helps your teen feel understood and develops a closer bond between yourself and your teen. Even if your teen does make a mistake, make time to have a discussion about the incident where both you and your teen have a chance to discuss what happened. It is important your teen feel heard and understood. Teens and parents both know that hearing and understanding don’t have to involve agreeing.

 

In the previous example about Savannah, how would you handle the situation?

  • First of all, you would need to give her an opportunity to explain what happened. After she has been given a chance to explain herself, you would need to discuss what she did that broke the limits you set on the activity.
  • Next, you would need to explain to her the need for her to rebuild your trust and the consequences of her actions would be a reduction in her freedom.
  • At this point she may be upset, and it would be important to give her a chance to express herself and try to understand how she is feeling. Reflect back to her what she shared with you and express your unconditional love for her.
  • Thoroughly discuss the limits around her freedom and the opportunities she will have to build trust.
  • Lastly, do not distance yourself from Savannah, but continue to build the relationship despite the mistake.

Reference: Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with parenting a teenager, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

anxiety counselors

Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

 

The post Building Trust with Teen Daughters appeared first on September Trent.

Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity

child-centered parentingWhat is child-centered parenting?

Child-centered parenting occurs when the majority of activities within the house revolve around the children. It is a common phenomenon with marital consequences. Instead of children being welcome members to the family, they are the center of the family. Those beautiful children with dimples and cute smiles come between the two most important members of the family unit, the husband and wife. A solid husband and wife relationship creates security in the hearts of the children. The opposite is also true, fighting and friction between parents creates insecurity and fear of divorce in children.

Where does child-centered parenting come from?

Well-meaning parents swallow the cultural lie that children need to be “well-rounded”. To achieve the goal of “well-roundedness” parents sign their children up for every available activity: T-ball, dance, little league, swimming lessons, karate, writing lessons, riding lessons, taekwondo, music lessons, soccer, golf, etc.

It exhausts parents physically and financially. The possible children’s events today are endless (until you run out of money). So the big question—are activities BAD? Absolutely not. It is good for children to learn to swim, swing a bat, play an instrument and play cooperatively with others. So what is the problem then?

The Major Problems

Child-centered parenting breaks down the family unit. The parents become nothing more than taxis running their children from event to event often splitting up to attend separate events. Two more problems flow from this:

The Loss of the Marriage Relationship

Experts tell us that “empty-nest” is the time of the highest divorce rate in America. Why? I believe one cause is child-centered parenting. Parents become enamored with their children’s success in a variety of arenas and take little to no time for themselves or each other. Finding themselves alone after the last child has gone to college; spouses don’t even know what to say to each other. When the nights stretch endlessly without a child’s game to attend or a play to applaud, husbands and wives watch TV during dinner and wonder who it is they are sitting in the room with.

If you are married and reading this article, when is the last time you took your spouse on a planned date? If it’s more than two weeks ago, you might be curious about why. As a marriage therapist, I often hear a variety of reasons for spouses not dating such as lack of money, time, and similar interests? Just wondering if those reasons stopped you BEFORE marriage? Ouch!

The Loss of Family Identity

What is family identity? It is the proud feeling that “we” are a unit. We love and support one another. We have fun together. We play games. We work hard. We as parents train and pass on our values to our children. It is during all of these “we” times that family identity is built. A wise person once said, “Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.” Family identity is essential to protecting your children from the pressure to be involved in activities outside of your family’s value system.

Family identity cannot be built without TIME. School-age children are away from their home 40+ hours per week. During this time, another person(s) is placing their values in your children. Then if you add 2 – 3 nights of sports, music or dance, one might wonder where you will find the time to train your children in your values or honestly just have fun with them. Home school parents are NOT exempt just because having your kids are in your home all day makes it even easier to be child-centered and not prioritize your spouse or marriage! (Just ask me, I lived it!)

Signs of child-centered parenting:
  • Infrequent or no dating by parents
  • Exhausted parents and anxious children
  • Little conversation about anything except the children’s events
  • Parents’ conversations are often and usually interrupted by children
  • Husband or wife would rather spend time with the children than their spouse
  • Needs of spouse are less important than the needs of the child
  • One or both spouses receive their emotional support from the kids instead of the spouse
  • Difficulty getting normal chores finished around the house

IF CHILD-CENTERED PARENTING sounds AWFUL–What is the answer?

The answer is SIMPLE but NOT easy.  Adjust your beliefs; adjust your actions.

Adjust your beliefs:

Although the marriage relationship is more work, your relationship with your spouse is more rewarding than your relationship with your children. OK…I can hear some of you laughing out loud right now and saying, “You certainly don’t know my spouse!”

Well…if it is not more rewarding right now maybe it is because your spouse is last on your list. [PAUSE AND BE CURIOUS] Could it be that there is never money left after the children’s events for dates, special gifts, cards, and other items that show that you care? Or you are just too exhausted at the end of the kid’s events for a great sexual encounter?

Adjust your actions:

  • Call your spouse right now and ask them out on a date. [PAUSE] Seriously, do NOT read any further before making that call.
  • Spend the first 15 minutes after work with your spouse asking about their day. Train the children not to interrupt. Find special activities for the children during this important time.
  • Scale the children’s activities back for the next season to one extra-curricular activity per child.
  • Tell your children that your spouse is more important than them because you are planning to be married WAY after the children have moved out!
  • At all times, honor your spouse in speech and action but especially IN FRONT of your children.

My desire is that your family love and honor one another. If you have any trouble adjusting your beliefs or actions, come for a season of family or marriage counseling. I would be honored to help your family have amazing relationships!

depression counselorsOver 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity appeared first on Rachelle Colegrove .

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography….Part II

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How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part II

Check out Part I here: How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography: Part I

The initial conversation is over.

We started STRONG, sending a clear message: we know about the problem (breaking the silence), we care (empathizing with our son), and we can help (our action plan).

Now it’s time to take the next step, active disciplining of our sons, guiding them into MANHOOD.

EXAMPLE TALK:

 

Who is Present: Dad and Son

Who is NOT There: Other family members or friends.  In fact, Dad has taken steps to ensure there will not be interruptions by others, which would only serve to destroy your son’s confidence in opening up.

Setting: The fire pit in the Yard.  Your son has built the fire (as was agreed upon) and he is excited to show you his handy-work.

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Son: Dad, what do you think?  Pretty good fire, huh.

Dad: Yeah, you did a great job and didn’t even burn the house down!

Son: Well, if I did you are the one who taught me to build fires.

Dad:  That’s true.  Well, let’s get to what we are here to talk about.  I told you I would follow-up with you on the issue of sex and sexual temptation.  It can be a tough and uncomfortable topic for guys to open up about, so the squirming I see you doing is pretty normal.

Son: Yeah, it’s pretty awkward. . . (trailing off).

Dad:  It definitely can be and that’s why I am going to take the lead in this as your dad and carry more of the weight.  I am just going to ask you trust me enough to follow.  Part of my job is to show you how to be a man who serves his heavenly King.  You see, we will all bow our knee in submission to something.  Our choice is whether we will bow to God or to sin.  As you get older, you are going to see a lot of boys and men proudly bowing their knees to sin, thinking it makes them more of a man.

Son: Yeah, I definitely see that at school.  Guys think it’s cool to talk dirty and try to get girls to have sex with them.  It’s really not.

Dad: I agree.  The truth is tsmartphone-459316_1920hose things haven’t changed.  Guys were doing it when I was in school too, we just didn’t have all the technology you have today.  I want to talk with you about how what we see and think about can impact us physically.

Son: But I already had the puberty talk with you, dad.  I know my body is changing.

Dad: Yes, we did have that talk, and I know you are aware of some of the facts about how your body is transitioning from being a boy to a man, but knowing some facts and really understanding what is happening are not the same.  I believe you when you tell me you want to have sexual integrity, to really tackle this issue.  If I told you gaining understanding would really help get you to your goal, would you be willing to take on the challenge, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable?

You are calling your son up, seeing his desire to live a life of integrity and inviting him to accept the difficulty as part of the challenge.  Guys thrive on being called up.

Son: Yes, but it does make me feel weird talking about it.

Dad: The enemy wants us to stay silent and alone, to be scared into trying to do it all on our own.  Why do you think he would want that?

Son: I guess it makes us weaker.

Dad: Absolutely!  Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, but the truth is he is a coward, and wants to get us alone and discouraged, too fearful to reach out for help.  When we are alone we are right where he wants us, ready to be picked off.  You and I talking, in spite of our fears, is an act of FIGHTING BACK!

Son: That’s a cool way of looking at it. I hadn’t realized that before.

Dad: Well, let’s talk about the physical part of sexual temptation.  I know you and I have talked about becoming physically aroused, getting erections, masturbation, and orgasming, but there is more to arousal than those things.  There is a lot going on in your brain.  In fact, you can be aroused without any of those things I just mentioned happening.  Have you ever found yourself noticing or enjoying looking at a girl?

Son: Yes . . . (a little bit timid).teenage crush

Dad: Sure, and that’s a form of being aroused.  What’s it like when you notice a girl you think is attractive?

Son: Well, I just think she is pretty, and kind of look at her.  Don’t guys just do that?

Dad: Guys do notice girls, but there are things going on which they often don’t take time to notice.  For example, have you ever noticed having some enjoyment or excitement when you are checking a girl out?

Son: Yes, I guess I have.  It kind of just feels good.  I don’t know why I like looking, but I just do.

Dad: I really respect your courage in being willing to talk about this.  Let’s keep that going.  When you are looking at a girl you think is beautiful, what do you notice about her?  What are your eyes drawn to?

We are giving our son a chance to talk about his natural attraction to girls without having to resort to locker room humor.  He has the chance to talk candidly with dad about what it’s like to notice and take pleasure in looking at girls.  This ability to have an actual discussion which is not crass is especially important for Christian young men who are trying to live in INTEGRITY.  Often times, we talk about the fundamentals of our sexual attraction and experience, but do not talk about the pleasure involved.  Unintentionally our boys begin to believe the only guys getting to enjoy having sexual attraction are those boys who are giving free reign to their desires.  The message turns into sex being burdensome to Christians while being fun for other guys.  Let’s pick this back up after dad and son have had a chance to talk a bit more. 

Dad:  We’ve talked a bit about the physical arousal and pleasure in noticing girls.  Now I want to examine what we allow ourselves to think about, what goes on in our minds that no one can see but God.

Son:  I know I have thoughts I wish I didn’t have sometimes.  I know they aren’t right, but sometimes it’s so hard. . .

Dad: It really can be.  What’s it like for you when you give in, when you have those thoughts you regret?

Dad opens the door for his son to talk about the challenge of guarding his thoughts in a hyper-sexual world which mislabels impulsivity as being authentic to yourself.  We rejoin the conversation a bit later.

Here are some follow-up questions to use with your son to help the two of you talk about when he struggles in his thought life:

  • What do you do after you have struggled in your thought life?
  • What are you thinking about yourself when you mess up?
  • How long do you feel down/think these thoughts?
  • Do you ever get discouraged?
  • How often do you think other guys struggle in this area?
  • What does God think about your struggle?
  • Does struggling sometimes mean you are not serious about your walk with the Lord?
  • Do you ever just want to give up? (if yes, when does that happen?)

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Cen

The post How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography….Part II appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family

chronic illness and the family

The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family

We have ALL had a sick kiddo in our family at some point in time.  The stomach bug goes around, winter colds are passed from member to member, sore throats and ear aches happen to us all.  And when our kiddos are sick, we care for them.  We pay extra attention to them, tending to the needs they have.  The family adjusts.  But what do we do when the family is impacted by a child who is facing chronic illness?  As parents, how to we manage the care of the impacted child while maintaining care for the others and ourselves?

Facing a chronic illness in and of itself is difficult to do.  Watching our kiddo face it is harder.  There is a great helplessness that comes with watching our kids battle something beyond our control.  There is an unfairness to it.  We’d do anything to switch places with them.  We’d gladly take their suffering and give them our healthy bodies.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to do that.

Several areas of our family life can be impacted when chronic illness is present.  Our marriage, other kiddos, self-care, and interpersonal relationships can all feel the effect of chronic illness.  So how do we do this thing?  How do we stay intact during this season of our life?

Let’s look at marriage:

When one of our children is sick or has a disability, the marriage can take a beating, especially when there is lack of communication.  The kiddo with chronic illness/disability requires more attention.  It’s just a fact.  There are more needs, more time is required, and the learning curve is STEEP.  This can take a toll on the marriage if both parents are not intentional about coming together and supporting each other.  Some ways of doing this would be:

  • Words of encouragement – I am thankful to journey this with you. You’re doing a great job. I’m here for you.
  • Giving each other time to rest and connect with others – Why don’t you take a nap or go spend some time with some friends.
  • Showing appreciation can go a long way in any marriage, but especially when more is required – I so appreciate all you do!

Both parties need to be intentional to ask for what they have need of. Both parties need to be a support to each other.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 states that “A CORD OF THREE STRANDS IS NOT EASILY BROKEN” – the third cord being God.  It is VITAL to steal away time with your spouse, even if it’s on the couch chatting for ten minutes before bed or snagging a tight hug in passing.  A SOLID marriage with help all parties involved.

Let’s look at the kids:

Kids are needy.  Kids are demanding.  Kids require a lot from us.  And that’s when they’re healthy!  But what about when one is needing some extra care for extended amounts of time?  Kiddos with chronic illness/disability DO require more care, and that’s ok.  Each child deserves their needs to be taken care of.  Each child deserves to be loved.  It is important, though, as parents we be intentional about building relationship with our other kiddos too We need to be intentional about not using the chronic illness as an excuse – for example “I’m too tired to do ­­­­_________ with you because I’ve been caring for your brother”.  This sort of statement will build resentment between siblings.  Instead, state facts – “I’m not able to play right now, but let’s set a time for later” – and keep true to your word.  Talk with your kids freely about the chronic illness/disability.  Let them ask questions.  Let them share their frustrations and emotions around the issues.  Help them gain understanding on why things are the way they are or why things have to be done a certain way – “I know you love peanut butter but it can make brother very sick.”

Let’s look at self-care:

This is the piece that most often gets neglected.  Self-care is important for each person to do anyhow, but it is especially important for those facing chronic illness/disability.  The demands are high.  The stress is high.  Self-care is not about being selfish.  It’s about CARING FOR YOURSELF so you can go back and care for your family, being refreshed so you can go and refresh others.  Blaming yourself is not going to be helpful either.  Racking your brain to figure out what you could have done differently won’t help.  Sometimes the best idea is simply taking a bath, going for a walk, getting away for a gym class, or taking a nap while kiddos nap. Even having a good cry can be helpful and refreshing.  You cannot give what you don’t have, so if you have nothing left, you’ll have nothing to give your family.

Let’s look at interpersonal relationships:

This is IMPORTANT.  Having other people, outside the immediate family, is beneficial.  Friends can be there when you need them to be.  Friends can encourage.  Friends can be a part of your self-care and go out to lunch or a walk with you.  Friends can help you keep perspective.  Friends can uplift you in prayer.  Interpersonal relationships help keep your eyes up and aware of what’s going on around you instead of you staying focused on what is going on with you.

Having a kiddo with chronic illness/disability is hard.  But it’s NOT IMPOSSIBLE.  Putting things in place to care for your heart, your marriage, and your family will help whether you’re new to the chronic illness/disability scene or you’ve been there for a while.  Allow yourself the blessing of being cared for by God, others, and yourself.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex

Talk About SexTalking to your kiddos about sex is probably not the most looked forward to conversation in the grand scheme of parenting. BUT it is a necessity and can facilitate a whole other level of safety within the parent/child relationship.  As parents, questions come to mind such as:

  • At what age do I talk to my child about sex?
  • Is there someone else who can do it for me?
  • What resources are available?
  • What language is appropriate?
  • Will my child be embarrassed?
  • What if I mess up?

While these questions are legitimate, they should not keep you from talking to your child about sex.

Reality check:

Your child will hear about sex from other sources.  Whether it’s other kids, t.v., radio, or media, your kids will hear about sex.  You, however, have the choice to be proactive and be on the offense OR you can be reactive and be on the defense.  By being proactive, you are letting your kiddos know that it is OK to talk about sex and it is OK to talk you, the parent, about sex and sexual issues or questions.  First messages are the most powerful.  Why not then, be the first message?

So when do we talk to our kids about sex?
When is the right time?

A tongue and cheek answer would be birth.  But really, “the sex talk” is much more than just about sex.  It is about understanding how our bodies work as well as Gods design for sex and a sexual relationshipStarting early normalizes the talk, meaning it makes the discussion less awkward.

Instead of having “the talk” – as if it were a taboo subject or a rite of passage, it becomes a part of life.  And while there are boundaries around where the conversation happens, it offers an opportunity for the conversation to happen.

Starting Early:

When your kiddos are born, you’re less focused on telling them about the birds and the bees and more concerned with how many times they’ve pooped that day.  As they grow though, they become curious – it’s human nature.  The sex talk begins with teaching our children the proper names for body parts.  While it’s cute to give our private parts pet names, essentially we are teaching our kids that those body parts are a secret and we can’t or shouldn’t talk about them.

You don’t call your stomach by any other pet name, do you?  Well, what if they say penis in public!?!?!?!  Yes, it probably will happen.  I have a son who likes to yell boobies every time we pass the bra section in Target.

That’s when we, as parents, gently teach them the appropriate time and setting to talk about penises and vaginas, and boobies too. Teaching your kids the correct anatomical name for their body parts begins the foundation and builds a framework for future discussion. Here is an example of how you might talk with your child about their body parts:

Parent:  These are what we call your private body parts.  They have purpose and function, just like our hands and feet, but we do not share these with anyone else. They are just yours.  We keep them covered up unless we’re taking a bath or going potty.  It’s important to let mom or dad know if someone touches or tries to touch you in those spots.  It’s okay to tell them “no” and tell them those body parts are just for you.  Now, *what did we just learn about?*

*This is keyit helps you to know if your child is listening.  Early on, your kiddo will just be regurgitating information you just gave them, but that’s how they learn.  Just like when we teach our kids colors – they’re just spitting back information we just gave them.  Remember, we’re building a framework.

Kiddo:  I learned that these body parts are called……and they’re just mine and not for anyone else.

As our kiddos enter school, they should already have a framework for what is appropriate touch and what is not.  This way, if they are touched in an inappropriate manner, they know that the touch is not OK instead of feeling confused about the touch because no one has taught them about it.

Keep the conversation going:

Just because you taught your kiddos the correct anatomical names of their body parts doesn’t mean we’re done having the conversation.  It’s important to keep the conversation goingall the way up until they leave your house.  Peppering in conversations about body changes, sex, waiting for marriage to engage in sex, keeps the topic normative – or less scary to talk about.

Typically, between the ages of seven to nine is a good time to teach your children about sexual intercourse.  Remember, if they don’t hear it from you, they WILL hear it from peers.  Your goal, as parents, is to be on the front end of this conversation.  During this conversation, it’s important your kiddos see you as comfortable with the topic.  If you’re frightened about it, kiddos will pick up on that and take their cues from you. Here is an example of how you might continue the talk with your child:

Parent: I want to talk to you honey, about something special and very important.  I want to talk to you about something God created for marriage.  It’s called sex. (Explain what happens.)  Now, while you’re in school you may start hearing your peers talk about sex.  Sex is something that adults participate in and not kids. I want you to know that you can always come to me and talk with me about it.  If you have questions, I’d like you to come to me and ask.  Now, what are you hearing from me in this conversation?

By keeping the conversation going, we also inadvertently help our kids when it comes to decision making in the dating world.  If we give our kids a solid foundation on the gift of sex and what it was intended for, these teachings will come to mind as they begin the dating process.

Don’t stop there:

As time continues, your kiddo will be thrown into the midst of high school.  There, where decisions are difficult and pressure is heavy, being sure of where they stand on sexual issues and potential consequences of having sex, will be helpful and hopefully one less thing your teen will have to stress about.

Then, eventually your kiddos will go off to college and someday prepare for marriageBy building a foundation and an allowance for kids to talk to you about sex, they’ll likely go back to a trusted source rather than scour the internet for information – which we all know can be very dangerous and set our kids up for unrealistic expectations.

The key to any sex talk is to keep communication lines open.  The best way to do that is to be comfortable with the topic of sex yourself.  Your kids will pick up on any awkwardness from you.  The worst thing you can do is not talk to them about sex because you’re uncomfortable with it.

Below is a list of books that are very helpful in engaging your kids:

If you need additional help with navigating this discussion with your kiddos, please contact me at The Relationship Center. I’m here to help.

family-250x250Over 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

Tips for the Single Parent

Raising children is no doubt one of the most difficult jobs there is.  The demand is high, especially when they are little and there’s more than one.  The pay is not worth mentioning either.  There are many late nights coupled with early mornings and some days just not enough coffee.Single Parent with Kids Child rearing requires patience, love, kindness, and caring.  It also requires good boundaries and firm discipline; both are needed to raise children.  And both are difficult – even in a two parent household, and can be even harder when it’s a single parent home.

In a single parent home, the majority of parenting literally falls on you, the individual.  There are brief moments of reprieve, whether it’s church or daycare or school; but the nitty gritty is gifted to you.  There is no “you handle this kids, I’m going to run around the house three times”.  There is no “I don’t feel well, can you get up with the baby”.  It’s all on you.  And, it’s hard.

What to Expect:

Often times, single parents feel like they’re failing their kids because they can’t give them what they desire to or do with them what they hopeNothing could be further from the truth.

What kids desire most, and this would be true across the board, is relationship.  Your children will be unable to communicate this to you for years to come, but when it’s all boiled down, this is what counts.  Long term, material things don’t matter.

As counselors, we frequently see the pain caused by a lack of relationship with parents, but never long term hurt caused by a lack of “stuff.”  Your child wants to know if you’re going to be there for them when they need it.  Again, they won’t be able to verbalize this.

Practical Tips for Single Parenting:

  1. Make Time for Your Kiddos:

    Especially if you work full time, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day have-to’s of life.  Carve out time just for them.  Have a game night, dance party, sports games – something that requires interaction.  Movies are fine, but there’s no interaction required and when trying to build relationship with your kiddos, interaction is key.

  2. Get Plugged In:

    Get involved in a church with a good kids program.  It will reinforce what you’re teaching at home as well as give you some adult time.  It’s a great way to connect with other people – keeping both you and your kiddos sane.

  3. Stop Trying to Please Your Kiddos:

    Regardless of who’s responsible for the circumstances, continually trying to win your child over via trying to please them will not only wear you out, but give them a false understanding of people being around to make them happy.  Remember, both love AND discipline are important.  This means that loving them does not always mean they get what they want.  When they step outside of the boundaries you have set up, there are consequences for their actions.  Consistency is key.  I guarantee your kiddos will not always be happy with you, but they will know what is expected of them, as well as, your love for them.

  4. Reinforce Expectations:

    Kids have a magical way of only hearing part of what parents say.  It can be frustrating to keep repeating yourself, but when it comes to expectations, when they hear a consistent message, it eventually sinks in.  Often times when our kids don’t meet our expectations, it’s tempting to alter what we expect of them.  This can be harmful.  Instead of pulling out the best in them, we allow them to settle for less.  And, while it may be easier in the immediate, we don’t see the effects of this – either good or bad – until many years down the road.

  5. Set House Rules: 

    What are some house rules that will help the flow of the home?  It is okay to require of them what is age appropriate.  Do they make their beds?  Take out the trash?  Help with dishes?  Set a bedtime, and keep it.  Young kids flourish on routine. Getting them to bed at a decent hour will give you the same predictability, and perhaps a few extra quiet moments.

  6.  Make Time for Yourself:

     You need to make time for yourself BECAUSE you love your children.  Recruit a friend, family member, sitter, or find a local church that offers a moms night out program.  Take time to recharge your batteries, if even only for an hour.  We call this self-care.  Some may experience a great deal of guilt for doing this. Guilt that you’re not with your kids, guilt for asking for help, and guilt for doing something pleasurable.  Guilt is not helpful. It is vital to the well-being of the family you take good care of yourself.  Families with two parents get to make time for themselves, single parent homes need to as well.  If there’s nothing left of you, there’s nothing left for your kiddos.

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post Tips for the Single Parent appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

How to Talk With Your Teen About Dating

Teen DatingIt happens so fast; one day you’re raising a toddler and the next a teenager. Raising a teenager can be overwhelming, especially when they want to start dating; I am sure you can remember your own teenage years as well as your first date.

It may feel daunting to think about how to bring up the topic of dating with your teenager.  The following guidelines will make this conversation a little easier.

1. Develop a Game Plan

The hardest part about talking with your teen about dating is having a plan. Before you have a conversation with your teen about dating, it is important to develop an idea of what you want to tell them. A good plan includes:

  • Meeting with the teen’s other parents and/or stepparents. Discuss the topic of dating and the following items:
    • Decide on a place, date, and time for the meeting. This should be a date and time that the other parent(s) can also attend.
    • The purpose of dating and how he/she can please God through his/her relationships.
    • Clear rules of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when dating. It is important for all parents to be on the same page with these.
    • Clear consequences for what happens when the rules are broken. It will be important for you to uphold these consequences.

Make sure to include time for your teen to discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and feelings about what you have talked about.

2. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are extremely important in any relationship, especially in dating relationships. Cloud and Townsend (2000), who have written many books on boundaries, describe them as a “property line; where you end and the other person begins” (p. 28). It is important for you as a parent to model and teach your teen boundaries (Townsend, 2006).

Boundaries can often be confused with rules. While similar, they still have many differences. Boundaries define your interactions with others and can also provide protection against those who would take advantage of you. While you may have a few rules that define your boundaries, the purpose of rules are more to define appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

It is possible for your teen to break one of your rules for dating, but still respect your boundaries. For example, your teen may have been out past his/her curfew which is breaking your rules. In this situation, he/she can still respect your boundaries if he/she is able to treat you respectfully when admitting to the wrong and hearing the consequences. Here are some differences between rules and boundaries (Cloud & Townsend, 1992):

Boundaries

Rules

Define you

Set limits on behavior

For protection

For control

Include feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, values, limits

Right and Wrong

Developed by individual

Developed by self or others

 

3. Develop an atmosphere of openness

When I say openness, I am not saying that anything goes in regard to your teen dating. The point here is to set up an atmosphere for your talk with your teen about dating so that it is open and safe. It is also beneficial to set up a relationship with your teen that is open where they feel comfortable to ask questions and share their opinions. Thoughts and opinions are not the same as actions, teens will often have ideas on things that make us cringe, but they may not act on these, instead choosing to honor their parents’ will.

When setting up a place and time to talk with your teen:

  • Make sure you have enough time to have a thorough conversation.
  • The place should be somewhere you can have a private conversation.
  • Let your teen know you will be talking about this topic so they can prepare their ideas and opinions.
  • It is important to have the other parent(s) involved in this conversation.

4. Listen and understand your teen’s thoughts and opinions

While you are the parent and have the last say, it is extremely important you allow your teen to have a turn to talk and discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Along the same lines, it is important that you communicate that you are open to listening to future thoughts and feelings about dating.

As a parent you may want to hear back verbatim what you said to your teen when they speak to you, but it is important to resist this urge. When your teen discusses his/her thoughts and opinions, your objective is to try to fully understand your teen’s thoughts and feelings and communicate this to him/her.

An important question to ask your teen and to discuss with them is why do you want to date? (Rainey, Raniey, Rainey, & Rainey, 2002). This question will give you information on your teen’s motivation for wanting to date, what they hope to get out of dating, and what your teen sees as the purpose for dating (Rainey et al., 2002).

This can also open the discussion of how you as a parent define dating and its purpose. It can also open the conversation on how to glorify God in your teen’s dating relationships. A few more questions to ask are:

  • What do you think is appropriate and not appropriate when dating?
  • How can you please God in your dating relationships?
  • Where will you go for your dates? What do you plan to do on your dates?
  • What do you think about the rules we have established for dating?
  • What do you think the consequences should be if you break the rules?

5. Allow opportunities for your teen to build trust

When your child becomes a teen, it can be difficult to know how much to trust them. It can be even more difficult when he/she starts dating. It is understandable to be less trusting of your teen when they start dating due to not knowing how responsible he/she can be around the opposite sex (Rainey et al., 2002).

If your teen has no opportunities to show you as a parent that you can trust them, they may become resentful and want to rebel against your rules. When I use the word opportunities, it does not necessarily mean letting your teen date at a young age. There are many ways that you can give your teen opportunities to build your trust. The following examples may be helpful:

  • Give your teen weekly responsibilities around the house. These can help your teen show you he/she can be responsible when you give him/her a task.
  • Set a curfew with your teen. If he/she respects this time, then you may be able to discuss extending the curfew. If he/she does not respect it, then you will need to discuss the consequences.
  • Discuss with your teen the expectation that he/she will inform you of his/her whereabouts when spending time with friends. Also, discuss with him/her how this can help you build trust.
  • Allow your teen to spend time with friends and members of the opposite sex under your supervision. Let your teen know that if he/she can act respectful and responsible toward members of the opposite sex this shows you that you can trust him/her (Rainey et al., 2002).  For example, volunteer to chaperone a youth group or school activity.

We are teaching our child stewardship. To those who steward what they have well, more is given, to those who do not, less.

Where does God come in to play?

This is a question that is asked all the time by Christian parents that would like their children to honor God in their dating relationships. This is an important question for parents and teens to think about and discuss. As the parent, where was God in your dating relationship? What would you change and keep the same?

For your teen, what do they believe the Bible says about dating and purity? As the parent, it is important for you to listen to your teen’s thoughts and seek Godly counsel in helping them fully understand how he/she can please God in his/her dating relationships. There is a passage in boundaries with teens that is helpful to review. One Bible verse that I find helpful is:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Guarding of your heart in a dating relationship is extremely important and is a great topic to discuss with your teen in relation to dating (Ethridge & Arterburn, 2004). Having an open discussion with your teen about this topic will continue to provide an open environment for the discussion of dating. Please see the Recommended Reading list for more ideas about advice on this topic.

If you are struggling to talk with your teen about dating or other adolescent issues, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who can help.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Recommended Reading

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

References

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1992). Boundaries: When to say yes how to say no to take control of your life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Harris, J. (2003). I kissed dating goodbye. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.

Rainey, D., Rainey, B., Rainey, S., & Rainey, R. (2002). So you’re about to be a teenager: Godly advice for preteens on friends, love, sex, faith and other life issues. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The post How to Talk With Your Teen About Dating appeared first on September Trent.

How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography

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Everyone knows the statistics about boys using pornography, unless, they live on an island in the middle of the ocean. Of course, they’d probably have internet access there too!

There is an epidemic of boys turning to internet pornography, using it frequently and developing a habit which could plague them for years to come. It’s an issue I am seeing more and more of in my office, as a therapist specializing in working with families and men’s issues. Parents come in upset, unsure of what to do, having found their son is looking at porn. It’s very important how you respond. Your son doesn’t just need an anatomy lesson, he needs a Biblical moral framework through which to understand himself and the problem.

Here is some clear, practical guidance on this particular issue from the counselor’s office:

1. Let’s Avoid the Extremes:

Responses can often arise out of one of two camps:

On one end, we have the worldly, secular perspective. Boys are just curious about their sexuality, arousal, and the female body. They will do exploring which is normal, healthy, and should be encouraged. The chief goal here is to avoid them experiencing any shame about the pornography and sexual content they are viewing. We will dress that in some kind of feminist secular morality, where we tell the boy it is okay to be curious and look at porn, just don’t objectify women.

Confused yet? Maybe he should look at sexual content in which women are featured as powerful. It’s the post-modern mindset. There’s no right or wrong, just perspective. Feeling any kind of shame is bad. This kind of thinking ends with a self-serving man who worships his own desires, spurning correction. Wow, that’s sounds bleak! Well, so life is without God.

The second extreme is not much better. Parents find out their son has looked at pornography and react purely out of fear, without any wise counsel. They respond as if the boy is now permanently damaged, beyond repair. The parents drill into the child, “We didn’t raise you to do this kind of stuff, don’t you get how serious this is”, and so on and so forth. The boy learns a few things from the experience:

  1. If you are struggling, don’t go to mom and dad, they don’t know what to do and will overwhelm you with their response.
  2. Either I am the only person weak enough to struggle with this, or other people are just hypocrites and fake.
  3. If I really loved God I wouldn’t struggle with sin.

2. Get Some Perspective:

Instead of these responses let’s try something different. Pornography use is serious. It’s an issue of lust and can be destructive to the boy’s life, just like any sin. Sin is destructive, leading us to harm. We are all born sinners leaning towards our own destruction, and will struggle with it on an ongoing basis until we die. Sexual sin is often times, in my experience working with boys, the first time they have encountered and really had to deal with their sin nature in an ongoing way.

In other words, up until this point, when the boy has said an unkind thing or taken what does not belong to him, the solution has been simple. He goes and apologizes or returns the item. He feels remorse, and in many cases, no strong desire to return to the destructive behavior. However, now enters sexual temptation.

For the first time, he is both genuinely sorrowful and ashamed of what he has done but is drawn strongly to act-out again. The boy questions his commitment, sincerity, and relationship with God. After all, if he was truly sorry, wouldn’t he stop? Do you see where this is leading? The sin natures a fundamental problem, all people must come to terms with, and for many boys, sex is the issue which first brings it out.

They can either deny the existence of sin, as in the case of a humanistic perspective, there is no God and therefore, no sin, only socially imposed morality creating unnecessary shame. Or we can accept, as the Apostle Paul did, that we all struggle with sin.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14-15 (NIV)

Here is Paul, a man who has seen Jesus, and been sent as an apostle to grow the church among the Gentiles, talking about struggling with sin. It is a humbling statement, reminding each of us, we need a savior. Parents, which of us has fully mastered our sin nature? I answer with a confident “none.” Our son’s need to hear this, not to give them an excuse to sin more, but an encouragement, helping them too understand the grace and forgiveness of God.

3. The Talk:

Now, how do we engage this boy in a meaningful dialogue, avoiding the extremes and having an accurate perspective on the problem?

Who: Present, at least initially, should be all three people (Son, Mom & Dad). Which parent has the closer relationship with the boy? That parent should take the lead in the three person conversation initially. If mother is the closer parent, this is fine. You can be part of this initial conversation. However, over time, Dads, this is a matter of you son coming into manhood and God has placed you in his life to offer guidance and direction on this journey. You should transition to the parent taking the lead in this issue. If you are uncomfortable or unsure how, speak with a counselor, pastor, or another, older man who is spiritually mature and has successfully walking his own sons through understanding sex and sexual issues.

Where: A comfortable, private environment, without distractions.

When: Not right after you, parent, found out. Talking through things while emotions are high and you have not had time to process them is unwise. Taking a day or two to put your thoughts together and get counsel is appropriate. But wait, what about the issue at hand? If I don’t address it now, that’s a mistake. No, if you don’t address it wisely, that is a mistake.

Communicate to your son this is an issue you will be revisiting, and set a day and time. Additionally, make sure he no longer has access to pornography (ie: limit internet access). Those two things you can do now. Your task, when you initially find out about your son’s porn use is to let him know and plug the holes in the boat (ie: discover routes of obtaining the material and block these access points). That’s it. There is nothing wrong with telling him this is a serious issue, and you are glad he has brought it to you. Simply tell him you will need to talk further about it later.

Length: Not long, 30 minutes max, unless your son wants to talk longer. This is typically more of a problem for mothers. It is at this point I have to remind you as a counselor, your son is not a girl.

Boys do not typically sit and talk at length about issues. They are mission/task oriented in their communication and do not do well with ambiguous dialogue.

Content: Bite-Size. We are not covering everything in one marathon talk. If you want to train your boy to cringe and hide from you every time you have a concerned look on your face, ambush him with long conversations. Think of one or two small things or “bites” you are looking to accomplish in the discussion. He can only really take in a piece at a time, and overloading him only serves to alleviate your anxiety (and then leads to frustration as he “checks out” of the conversation).

EXAMPLE TALK:

Setting Porch at the Family Home.

Present- Son, Mom & Dad.

Not Present (equally important)- Siblings, who are at a friend’s house.

DadSon, as you know, your mother and I are aware you have been looking at pornography and we are concerned about this. As your parents, it’s our job to guide you into becoming the man God has for you to be, and this material is harmful. Now, I recognize this can be very embarrassing to talk about, maybe you wish we would leave it alone, but that would be unwise.
Son: Yes, I know I shouldn’t have been looking at that stuff. It’s very embarrassing to talk about.
Dad: I hear that, it’s awkward to sit down and have this discussion with your parents.
Mom: Son, would you be more comfortable if you and your father had the conversation without me present? I wouldn’t be offended, it matters to me what you think.
Son: I’m okay.
Mom: All right, if that changes, will you let me know?
Son: Yes.
Dad: When was the first time you looked at pornography on our computers?
Son: It’s been a while, I really can’t remember when.
Dad: Had you looked at it prior to your last birthday?
Son: No, I hadn’t yet. I guess it was about two months after that, sometime in June, I think.


*Why is it so hard for him to remember? The two most common reasons I come across are deception or a combination of shame and avoidance.

  1. Deception usually happens with young men who are more immature and impulsive. His parent’s faith in God is exactly that, their faith, not his. His primary driver, in this situation, is preserve his own freedom to do what he wants.
    • Conversations about serious issues are especially boring and pointless to him. He will do all in his power to end them quickly and limit any consequences he could face.
    • He is short-sighted, sacrificing his integrity to ensure he is still allowed to go out Friday night with friends.
    • The approach with this young man will be primarily behavioral with small amounts of discussion. More specifically, he learns by having his privileges restricted by those outside of himself. He does not self-regulate (make changes himself).
    • If this describes your son, more in depth conversations will occur following the consistent implementation of discipline. Obedience will be present prior to any understanding.
  2. Shame and avoidance are present when a boy is conflicted about his behavior. Typically, this is a young man who has a personal relationship with God and a more mature perspective.
    • He does not need anyone to tell him what he is doing is wrong, he feels the weight of this for himself.
    • He experiences significant shame for his actions and has attempted to correct his behavior himself. However, the behavior has become a cycle for him. In other words, he looks at porn, feels shame and guilt, repents, promises himself he will not do it again, attempts to move forward and put the past behind him, and then stumbles again.
    • This young man feels such shame, he attempts not to think about what he has done, hence the avoidance. He works to forget what has happened, which makes recalling events difficult. In a sense, whereas the first boy deceives others, this young man works to deceive himself because reality is painful.
    • Handling this young man will involve more guidance and relationship, relying less on behavioral interventions (grounding, loss of privileges, etc).

Dad: Okay, where did you go to find the images?
Son: I didn’t have to go anywhere. I wasn’t even meaning to find them. I was playing around on Facebook and visited a friend’s page. He had some pictures of girls in swimsuits with a link. I knew it was wrong, but I clicked on the link. . . (trailing off).
Dad: Sounds like you were kind of caught off guard. Temptation works like that sometimes. So you clicked on the link, and then what happened?
Son: It took me to a page with pictures of girls, some of them in bikinis and some of them without clothes. I just kept looking and clicking.
Dad: Wow, so the link took you to a page with some very powerful images on it. You started looking and struggled to stop.
Son: Yes, and I felt terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I told myself I would never do this again.
Dad: And then what, how long did you go without looking again.
Son: Like two weeks. At first, it was easy, but then it got hard. I kept thinking about looking again. Eventually, when you and mom were out and I was alone, I went back and looked. I felt horrible all over again. I prayed again and really meant it. I told God I was going to stop.
Dad: It sounds like you have really been wrestling with this problem. You even did what mom and I have taught you to do by taking it to the Lord in prayer. I am glad you did that.
Son: But it didn’t work.
Dad: What do you mean?
Son: I kept doing it again. Pretty soon, I didn’t even pray anymore. I mean, if I was really sorry I would stop, right? Why would I keep doing something over and over again? If felt so fake.
Dad: I am hearing this has been confusing and difficult for you. Can I help you to understand it?
Son: Yes, I guess.
Dad: Good. Son, this is the first time, probably, you have had to deal with a sin issue that doesn’t go away easily. Do you remember the time we caught you lying about your homework?
Son: Yes.
Dad: We talked about it, disciplined you, and then what happened?
Son: I didn’t lie about homework anymore.
Dad: Yes, exactly. I bet you weren’t even very tempted to lie again.
Son: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t like how lying made me feel or getting in trouble.
Dad: To this point in your life, sin has been like this for you, kind of simple. However, now, as you are getting older, you are going to start having challenges like this, which are very different. It means you are going to be doing some really amazing growing in you understanding and faith. You know all those Bible stories we have taught you over the years?
Son: Yes.
Dad: Well, many of the people in those stories struggled with issues that weren’t really that easy, or simple. In fact, many of them had a decision to make: get discouraged and quit, or trust in God.
Son: I did trust in God, and He didn’t take this away.
DadThe reason God didn’t take it away is because your sexuality is a gift from Him. God made you to be sexual and does not want to take that away from you. God wants you to grow to enjoy this part of how he made you, within the plan and boundaries He has set. The issue is that Satan always tries to distort what God has given us with sinful motives and actions.
Son: I guess that makes sense.
Dad: This is a lot to take in, so don’t worry about understanding everything right away. Today’s conversation has been about getting the problem on the table. From here, I am going to help you in two ways. First, I am going to work to help you plug the leaks in your life. You and I will see where you are getting access to pornography and put some boundaries there. Boundaries help to keep us away from situations that are harmful. Believe it or not, I have boundaries for myself when it comes to the internet and what I look at. Second, you and I are going to meet to talk through this issue. We’ll set a weekly time to get together, maybe sit out by the fire pit. I know we both like that.
Son: That sounds okay. I do like sitting by the fire. Can help set it up?
Dad: Sure, in fact, I think that could be your responsibility. Well, do you have any questions or concerns?
Son: No, not really.
Dad: Well, how are you feeling?
Son: Kind of relieved. This wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Dad: Great. These things can be tough, but they can be talked about. Let’s end in prayer.


Let’s summarize the talk:

  1. We broke the silence, talking with our son about a difficult, sin issue.
      • We worked to identify when the problem started and hear a little bit of how our son felt. Notice, we did not go in depth or attempt to find out all the details. This is because this talk was the beginning, not the totality of what we are doing.
      • When we attempt to have too epic of a conversation with our teenage son, in a way, we are doing the same thing he is, attempting to make the problem disappear in one stroke. It doesn’t work and we get discouraged.
  2. We empathized and validated our son. He got to hear us recognize how difficult this is for him and how trapped he must have felt.
  3. We put together a plan of action to instill hope. We included the practical step of taking away opportunities to view pornography while also making a plan to have ongoing discussions.

This article is only an introduction to the topic of pornography and teenage boys. There may be questions or concerns you have in regards to the issue. If that is the case, you are welcome to contact Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC at The Relationship Center. We would welcome the chance to advise you.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Talk to Your Son About Pornography appeared first on Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC.

How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage

Talking to Your Child about Your MarriageIn an ideal world, marriage would be continually blissful and if there just happened to be a disagreement, it would be a trite little thing resolved in moments. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. In our humanness, we are guaranteed to face conflict at some point in time.

Conflict within the home, especially, can have a lasting impact on our children. How we deal with this conflict and what we choose to do with it can determine how our children are affected by it.

Should we tell our children what’s going on?

We can expect to deal with disagreements in marriage and have marital conflict, let’s define ‘marital conflict’ as an ongoing strenuous point in your relationship. Although we might have ongoing disagreements, many times we feel conflicted about when to tell the children or even if we should.

Your children need the heads up if the conflict has been going on for a period of time and it is disrupting the marriage:

  1. To the point of going to counseling
  2. Sleeping in separate rooms
  3. Moving to separate places

Parents often think they’re doing a service to their child by hiding everything from them and one day surprise them with the news of one spouse moving out. This can be earth shattering to a child. Imagine sending your child to school one day and everything is fine and the next day they need to face school with the news their parents are separating.

Talking to your children in an age appropriate manner can help relieve some of the stress. They don’t need every detail but having parents on the same page with their children can be stress relieving.

How do we talk to our children about what is taking place within the home?
  • It’s important to realize that children rely on the home as being a stable environment. This helps your child thrive. Marital conflict does not mean you’re going to ruin your child, but there must be clear communication by parents.
  • There needs to be a clear message from both parents that the conflict is strictly between the adults and that your child is NOT at fault in anyway.
  • Sharing with the child, dependent on age – less details when younger, more when older – the basics of the conflict, what you as parents are doing to work through it, and goals for an outcome.
  • This is best done when everyone can sit down as a family. When children can hear the same thing from both parents and have assurance from both parties, they are less likely to  feel caught in the middle. This gives the child a sense of safety and security and allows the child to focus on their developmental goals – making friends, engaging in school and other activities – and not be consumed with the parent’s relationship. This is a vital piece for children.
Here are a few examples of dialogues for different ages:

Elementary: Remember this is best done with both parents present.

Susie, mom and dad want to talk to you about something that is going on. Mom and dad are having some trouble getting along and so we are going to sleep in separate rooms for a little while so we can work on getting along. This is between mom and dad and it is no one’s fault. We want to you to keep playing and having fun. If you have any questions you can ask either one of us.” (It’s best to have both parents talking during this discussion). “We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.”

High school: Again, best done with both parents present.

Tommy, we have something we need to share with you. Your mom and I have been not getting along for some time and are having a difficult time coming to a resolution. We are in counseling and seeking help so we can have the best marriage possible. In the meantime, we are going to be sleeping in separate rooms. This is not your fault or your brother’s fault. This is between your mom and I. We are here for you no matter what and if you have any questions you can feel free to ask at any time. We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.

Here is a more detailed process on how to talk with your children:

Allow your child to ask questions.

This is a scary time for them. By allowing them to ask questions:

  • It reinforces that they are very much a part of the family
  • Communicates they are not a part of the problem
  • Shows that there is open communication

Your child may or may not have questions immediately come to them. Let them know that you understand this and are available to them when those questions arise. Some parents may face children, specifically teens, who become distant or annoyed with the conversation.

This does not mean your child is disinterested but simply is using a defense mechanism to help themselves cope with the news. As a parent, be careful not to let this determine a response of ‘they’re not interested’, ‘they’re fine’, or ‘they don’t care. None of those would prove to be accurate.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

For example, don’t promise your children that everything will be back to normal or that a spouse will come back home if they have chosen to leave. There is no way you can guarantee this, even if it is what is hoped for. Being age appropriate honest with your kids will give them a greater sense of security than if you promise things you cannot deliver.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

If you were 6 or 8, 14 or 17, what would you need from your parents during this time? There’s an age old adage that says ‘hindsight is 20/20’. Your child may not know what they need specifically from you at this time. Help them put words to their needs by putting yourself in their shoes.

Keep nasty comments to yourself.

They are not helpful in any way, shape, or form. They are destructive not only to the child, the relationship with the child and the other spouse, but to you and your child. If the conflict arises to such a degree, there needs to be a clear understanding that defaming the spouse in front of the children is simply not okay.

If you need additional help communicating with your kids about your marriage, or help with your marital conflict, please contact me at The Relationship Center.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity

Contemplating Parents

Teen: “I’m gay”

Parent: “What?”

What happens next?


Your adolescent son or daughter arrives home from worship practice and says, “I need to talk to you . . . (LONG pause). . . I am gay.

Immediately questions flood your mind and rush like a stream out of your mouth, “What do you mean? Are you sure? How long have you known? What does this mean for your future?” Overwhelming emotions intertwine with the questions: shock, fear, disappointment, disapproval, fear, and maybe even resignation for a parent who suspected the same sex attraction.

For many parents, especially evangelical Christians, this announcement comes as a total shock. As your adolescent shares and watches closely for your reaction, you sit stunned trying to reorient yourself to your surroundings and control the panic rising in your throat. Most parents react with a deep sense of loss, feelings of shame, panic, and aloneness (Saltzburg, 2004).

One Christian mom describes her reaction to her son’s disclosure as “being kicked in the gut”.

With this new information about your child, How should you react?

LISTEN MUCH/TALK LITTLE

For most parents, there is a flood of emotion ranging from sadness to anger. If possible, put aside your own emotions and listen to your child’s heart. Your child has been struggling with same sex attraction and this conversation for months, possibly years. This is a critical moment to listen. Your child has taken a great risk of rejection to share their feelings with you.

BE AFFIRMING WITH YOUR WORDS

  1. You will always be my son or daughter.
  2. Tell me how you came to this conclusion.
  3. We will work through this journey together.
  4. What do you need from me as your parent?

ASK FOR TIME TO PROCESS

Your child has spent many months processing these feelings. You will need time to find safe people to share with, read and educate yourself, pray, and grieve.

Most parents ask “What could I have done differently? Is this my fault? What caused my child to be homosexual?” While the causes of homosexuality have been widely researched and debated, at this point there are no definitive causes of homosexuality (Yarhouse, 2010).

While processing and finding resources, continue to do the things that you enjoy (i.e. gardening, reading, motorcycles). This will keep your whole life from being absorbed by this relationship change with your child.

Taking time to process and accept what you are feeling as a parent is essential to understanding for your child as well as to continue developing a healthy relationship with them.

FIND SAFE PEOPLE TO WALK THE JOURNEY WITH YOU

Most parents find this to be an unexpected and difficult journey. Dreams are shattered. Previously held thoughts of traditional marriage and family are set aside. It is essential to find a few safe people to walk alongside for strength and encouragement. Safe people care and uphold your confidence in them.

It is important not to compromise your child’s disclosure by sharing with those who are not confidential. Often times, this is where a pastor or counselor can be of great assistance. A counselor with specific training in dealing with same sex attractions is a bonus.

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Educating yourself about homosexuality helps you to gain respect for your teen and possibly gives common ground for a discussion regarding sexual identity. Conversely, judgment closes the doors of communication and potentially alienates your son or daughter.

One prolific writer and researcher around the combined topics of Christianity and homosexuality is Mark Yarhouse. He has specific resources for parents and youth pastors to help them address the topic of homosexuality with teens.

Dr. Yarhouse developed a three tier distinction to help those struggling with unwanted same sex feelings.

 Distinction PyramidThe First Level

I experience same-sex attractions” is used to describe feelings men (6%) and women (4.5%) have toward the same sex (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels, 1994).

This does not necessarily describe their behavior but is a way to understand that for whatever reason some people have attractions toward the same sex.

The Second Level

I have a homosexual orientation” describes men (2%) and women (1%) whose feelings have been strong and persistent for a significant length of time.

This would then lead that person to describe their attractions as ‘homosexual’.

The Third Level

I am gay” is a socio-cultural label that people use to describe themselves. Because most researchers do not ask about “gay identity” there are not figures to report how many adhere to a gay identity.

Essentially, this tier shows that a larger group of people have same sex attractions than choose to have a homosexual orientation. This can be helpful with adolescents who are only hearing the media message “if you have same sex attractions then you are gay”.

It is important for your son or daughter to realize his or her identity is built around many factors—one of them is sexuality.

FOCUS ON YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY

Pray, read the Word, fast, ask God for scriptures to uphold and comfort you during this new journey. Realize that God is on your side and he wants to walk beside you as you process your feelings and your loss of previously held dreams for your child.

While the disclosure of same sex attraction destroys some families, it is not necessary. There can be common ground reached for both parents and teens. As a licensed counselor and licensed minister, I am available to come along side you and your child during this journey and help you find healing. If you or your teen needs a safe place, I would love to be there for your family.

Resources

Laumann, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T, and Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Saltzburg, S. (2004). Learning that an adolescent child is gay or lesbian: The parent experience. National Association of Social Workers, 48 (1), 109-118.

Yarhouse, M. (2010). Homosexuality and the Christian: A guide for parents, pastors, and friends. Bethany House Publishers. Bloomington: Minnesota.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity appeared first on Rachelle Colegrove .