Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holiday Tension

Q. I am very worried about our upcoming holidays. The holidays tend to be a bit stressful for my husband and I as we visit family and friends we haven't seen in a while. How can we avoid tension during the holidays and enjoy this wonderful time?

A. Holiday gatherings provide chances to reconnect with family, share old memories and make new ones. Major holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, are often accompanied by major expectations. But with major expectations can come major disappointments, major tensions, and major stress!

The following may help lead to fond family memories instead of frantic family meltdowns.
  1. Plan ahead - If your extended family is like most, you will not be the only ones hosting or going to holiday celebrations! It is essential, therefore, that families are willing to “share” their family members and share the dates and times of celebrations. If it is important to you that everyone (or almost everyone) be able to attend your extended family celebration, advanced planning is necessary. This is especially important if part of the family lives in another state, or you have step-families where the number of extended family gatherings can be doubled or tripled.
  2. Communicate your expectations - You are more likely to get what you want if you ask for what you want. Don’t expect your family to read your mind or “just know” how you would prefer to celebrate. Communicate your desires, being careful to not present them as demands.
  3. Be flexible As families grow and change, family traditions need to grow and change with them. Ecclesiates 3:1-3 says, “There is a time for everything…” I would paraphrase this verse and say that there is a time for building family traditions and a time for changing or even letting go of those traditions. Life situations such as job changes, marriages and even new babies call for flexibility and the willingness to begin some new family traditions and celebration times.
  4. Be creative - Be creative in planning your family holiday gatherings. “Family Christmas” can be celebrated whenever the family can get together -- it doesn’t have to be done on Christmas Day or even in December. Some families exchange Christmas gifts the Friday after Thanksgiving. Other families celebrate Christmas in July at the beach.
  5. Be peaceful - Holiday gatherings are not the time for discussing controversial topics or dispensing advice. Romans 2:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are about to say will build up and encourage the other person, or tear him or her down. Use caution in asking questions that may subtlety suggest disapproval – such as “When are you going to get married, have a baby, or get a job?” For those who desire these things, such questions may trigger grief or make them feel stigmatized or isolated.
  6. Be prayerful - Pray for each member of your immediate and extended family and pray for your time together. If you, your children or parents are part of a blended or step-family, pray for all the people who are part of that family -- including the ex-spouses and their families. As we do so, we will be more sensitive to their needs, more forgiving of their flaws and freer in sharing our love. Prayer also causes us to look for God’s guidance and wisdom in relating to our family.
  7. Be loving - We are called to love each other just as Christ has loved us. First Corinthians 13:4­-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” During these holidays, seek to demonstrate this love to your family in honor of the Savior who was born as love incarnate.
Editor’s Note: Melanie Howard, a professional counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes answered this weeks question.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Safety Tips for this Weekend

Q. Our family plans to attend our church's trunk or treat. Our girls, however, want to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood first. Do you have any safety tips for us when we go trick-or-treating with them?

A. This time of year can be a fun-filled time for kids. They enjoy dressing up as princesses, super heroes, or their favorite movie characters. It is also the one time a year they get more candy than any other. This can be very safe time for you and for your kids if you take the right steps to keep them safe.

You already have a good idea of what to do to keep your girls safe this Sunday. You are planning to take them to a local church event to show off their costume and have fun. You can feel much more safe knowing that your child is in a place where people you know are passing out safe candy. Most sheriff's departments recommend attending a community or church-based program to keep kids safe and off streets that could be hazardous.

If you do decide to go door-to-door trick-or-treating before hand, there are several tips I would like to offer to keep your girls safe. Pedestrian injuries are the most common among children on October 31st. Four times as many kids between the ages of 5 and 14 are injured while walking on on this night compared to any other night of the year. This does not have to be your girls if you are keeping a vigilant eye on them and following some safety tips listed below.

Here are 5 things you and your husband can do while trick-or-treating:

1. Check your state's website for sex offenders in your neighborhood. Make sure your kids
stay way from those houses. (Click here to see Alabama's)

2. Teach your children to cross the street properly. They should always look both ways before crossing the street and should cross only at corners or crosswalks. Children should never dart out from between cars or behind objects. They should also always yield to cars whether they think the cars should stop or not.

3. Make sure all children have a flashlight. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and bags for greater visibility.

4. Have children eat a good meal prior to parties or trick-or-treating. This will discourage them from eating too much candy, which can make them sick, and will allow you time to check the candy out. Throw away spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious candy.

5. Only go to houses that you know or that have a porch light on. Never enter someone's house
or car for a treat.

If you would like to talk further with your child about how to be safe this Sunday, click here for a helpful list that is kid friendly.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Warning Signs of Bullying

Q. I saw last week's article on bullying via my Facebook newsfeed. Do you have any other warning signs to watch out for in my child?

A. There are several warning signs which may help you identify whether or not your child is being bullied.

Warning signs your child is being bullied:
  • Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings or “loses” things without being able to give a proper explanation of what has happened.
  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
  • Seems afraid of: going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs)
  • Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
  • Appears sad, moody (mood swings with sudden outbursts of irritation or anger), teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical ailments
  • Experiences a loss of appetite
  • Appears anxious and/or suffers from low self-esteem
  • Steals or asks for extra money from members of the family (to soften up the bullies)
Remember, bullying is difficult for kids to navigate and know how to handle. They often feel they should handle it on their own and don't want to 'tattle' on the kids in their school. However, if you see or suspect that your child is being bullied, it is an issue to take very seriously. Talk to your kids about bullying and mention to them if you see the warning signs listed above.

Also, be aware bullying can take place not only in a school, church, or neighborhood setting, but also online. Many bullies and online predators are using the anonymity of the internet to attack their victims. October is Cyber Safety month. If you would like to learn more about cyber safety and keeping your kids safe in this new frontier, check out this article on Cyber Safety.
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*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What do I do about Bullying?

Q. I am worried that my son is being bullied at school. What should I do?

A. You are right for being worried about your son. Bullying has become a big problem for kids in today's world and the psychological impact is great. Kids who are bullied tend to have a lower self esteem and are more likely to struggle with depression. There are, however, things you can do to help your child deal with bullies. First, instruct them that they can tell you or any trusted adult whenever they are being bullied. Telling is not tattling. Then try the following:

(1) Talk with your child. Ask direct questions such as: “Are there any kids at school who are picking on you or bullying you?” “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?” More subtle questions would be: “Are there any kids at school who you don’t like? Why not? Do they leave you out of things?” Reassure your child you are there for him.

(2) Talk with the staff at your child’s school. Meet with your child’s teacher. He or she will probably be in the best position to understand the relationships between your child and other peers at school. Share your concerns and ask about how your child relates to his classmates. Allow the school to set up an appointment with the parents of the bully to curtail the bullying if needed. (See footnote 1)

You may want to suggest your child do the following when dealing with bullies:
  • Do not fight back.
  • Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
  • Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
  • Calmly tell the student to stop…or say nothing and then walk away. Use humor, if this is easy for you to do.
  • Try to avoid situations where bullying is likely to happen. You might want to: 1) Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around. 2) Make sure you aren’t alone in the bathroom or locker room. 3) Sit near the front of the bus. 4) Don’t bring expensive things or a lot of money to school. 5) Sit with a group of friends at lunch. 6)Take a different route through the hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes. (See footnote 2)
If none the above works, give us a call. We will be happy to help talk further with your child or you to help your son deal with being bullied.

Be sure to check back next week to see a follow up article on bullying and what warning signs to look for in your child if he or she is being bullied.


*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.