Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: Good Idea or Bad Idea

Q.  I'm am so excited about the New Year and the thought of having a new start in my life.  But I was wondering, as a believer, is it a good idea to make a New Year's Resolution? 
A. We’ve all heard friends and family, even ourselves say “I’m going to get in shape,” or “I’m going to quit a bad habit.” We usually hear these announcements at the end of December, in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines a resolution as making a firm decision about something; “the act of answering, solving.”  When we resolve to complete a task, we are stating that we will follow through and complete a specific goal.

A majority of individuals, however, do not follow through with these well-intentioned resolutions. Proof of this is the fact that self help books and gym membership sales skyrocket in December and January, yet drop off tremendously in February. These types of decisions are sometimes emotional or “knee-jerk” reactions, and are short-lived much of the time. On the other hand, well planned, proactive decisions have a much better success rate. In other words, our ability to see a resolution completed is directly related to our type and level of motivation. If we are motivated by worldly standards or desires, even if we meet our goal, we fail.

On the other hand, if we are truly seeking to become more like Christ and are genuinely working in and through God’s will, we will be successful, regardless of how the world sees us. So, should we make resolutions for the New Year, or does the exact date matter? Romans 14:5 states, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”2 This passage reminds us that we need to choose for ourselves what we believe and how we act, based on the most solid information possible; the best place to start is the Bible.

The New Testament repeatedly encourages believers to put off vices and put on virtues. Any day is a great day to reconcile sins of the past and set new goals in any and all areas of life, including January 1st. So, go ahead and make those New Year’s resolutions, making sure you’re resolving to improve an area of your life that will honor Christ and bring glory to Him!

*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.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Teach Your Child the True Meaning of Christmas

Update: A great new activity to do with your little one would be instead of making a ginger bread house, make a nativity scene.  Click here for instructions and check out this cute picture.  How fun would this be to make with your children while telling them the story of Jesus' birth.

Q. I have been talking with other moms and we all seemed to be stuck on how to teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas. We struggle with the candy canes, Santa Claus and presents to teach our kids it is all about Jesus' coming. Do you have any suggestions? (Originally ran December 2010)

A. This is very common question. Just Google "teaching kids true meaning of Christmas" and you will come up with many ideas and suggestions. I believe the answer starts with us as adults. We sometimes struggle to keep the perspective of this time of year on the true meaning of Christmas. How much more difficult then is it for children entangled by gifts, Santa, and parties to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

First, let's define the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about presents to buy or receive, or about fancy parties or events. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but rather need to be in the proper perspective. So what is a proper perspective? December or Advent is about being thankful for God's grace in our lives so much so that he sent his ONE and ONLY son to die on a cross for our sins. (John 3:16) That is wonderful grace! He didn't have to do it, but he sent his son as a baby only to save mankind, by dying on a cross. This time of year is to celebrate the Messiah's arrival on Earth and to thank our Lord for doing so.

The best gift is not an iPad, iPod, new cell phone, game, or toys, but it is knowing and desiring Jesus as their Lord and Savior.The hope for parents is that your children will know the greatest gift they can receive any time of year is eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

So how do you do this? Here are some wonderful suggestions from other parents out there who are working hard to teach their kids the meaning of Christmas:
  • Read the Birth of Christ of the Book of Luke several times
  • Give to Others
    You can sponsor a child in your own town and take kids shopping with you to buy the presents the sponsored child wants. Spend time talking to your child about how some kids do not have anything for Christmas. Also, pray with your child about the sponsored child you are buying gifts for. You can even do this with an international agency to send money to kids overseas. Have your kids do things around the house to make money to send. This is making them a part of the giving process.
  • Attend a Christmas Eve Service as a family
  • Have a Birthday Party for Jesus
    Make a cake for Jesus and have your kids sing "Happy Birthday" to him. Spend your 'party' time talking about this is the time of year that Jesus was born. Jesus was born so that he could grow up and live a perfect life. He then gave his life for us, that we might live forever.
  • Buy a nativity scene for children to play with" Click here for Little People Nativity
    A year ago, a friend of mine did this with her son. He had learned the story of Christ's birth and knew something bad was going to happen to Jesus. He then decided that he would put Spiderman and Superman in the nativity scene to protect baby Jesus. This is a great example of a child who obviously felt a connection with the story of Jesus. So much so, he wanted to protect him. Having a nativity he can play with gave him that since of connection.
  • For older children, take them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to let them see what poverty really looks like
  • Ultimately, make sure your perspective is in the right place. Most likely, your kids will follow your lead.
Jesus' birth brought the greatest joy any of us can experience. I want to challenge all families to look at Christmas in a new light this year. Let us know how it works for you or if you have other traditions or ideas. Just post a comment for all to see and share your experience.

*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, November 29, 2011

5 Ways to Increase Success at Holiday Dinners

Q. We have many family dinners to attend over the next several weeks as Christmas approaches. I dread them every year because it feels like something always goes wrong. What are your suggestions for creating success at these family dinners?

A. What a great question! First off, let me tell you that you are not alone. Many people find the holidays to be very stressful due to family conflict or circumstances. Sometimes this is the only time of year that you and your loved ones are all in the same room. That can be a whole lot of personality in on place.

Below, I have listed five things you can do to increase success at family dinners. Hopefully by spending some time planning for your family time and preparing your heart, you can create success this holiday season!

1. Keep Conversations Positive and Include Everyone
  • Don't bring up subjects you know will create divisiveness or topics that are not pleasant. If you know that you or one of your family members disagrees on a certain topic, this is not the time to debate out who is right and who is wrong.
  • Instead stick to topics that are broad that everyone can contribute too. You might even ask direct questions of those who don't participate as much.
  • Click here for some great conversation starter ideas.
2. Eliminate Distractions - Unplug
  • Don't have the television on in the background or any other electronic distractions. Focus your conversations on each other and what is going on in your lives.
  • Also, encourage others to have their cell phones put away. People seem to divide their attention between family and their smartphones and texting. This takes away from the family atmosphere we are trying to create.
3. Provide an Activity for Young Children
  • One of the more distracting things that can happen at family dinner is children who are bored. Children do not enjoy sitting around just talking. Most of them need a tactile activity.
  • You could simply cover the kids' table in butcher paper and provide crayons, or you could go so far as to have coloring sheets out for when they finish their meal.
  • Encourage each child to participate. Maybe even some of the adults would want to get in on the fun
  • Click here for some coloring sheet activities.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
  • This can be one of the more crucial items on our list. Know ahead of time who is coming to dinner and set your personal expectations of the people in line with reality.
  • Don't set yourself up hoping that the one relative that is always cranky or negative will be different this year. Remind yourself that is their issue, and they do not have to steal your joy about the season.
  • If all else fails with your expectations, find something else positive about the dinner to focus on. Do not allow yourself to ruminate over what is going wrong when there are possibly many things that are going right.
5. Pray, Pray, Pray
  • Before you even step foot in that house for family dinner, bathe your time in prayer. There are several things you can pray for, but most importantly, pray for your own attitude and heart.
  • You can also spend time praying that God will allow you to show HIS glory no matter what is going on around you.
  • "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones" Proverbs 17:22 - Come ready to share a joyful heart and the overflow and abundance of this will surely impact your family.
I hope you find these 5 Ways to Increase Success at Holiday Dinners helpful. You can also check out these articles from previous years on how to deal with other stressful holiday situations.

How to Handle the Holiday Blues
Dealing with Grief at the Holidays

*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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Value of Gratitude as a Part of Mental Health

Q. With Thanksgiving coming this week, I was wondering if there is any benefit to gratitude as a part of mental health? 

A. Today's question will be answered by Renay Caroll, counselor in Cullman and Oneonta. Renay has been on our staff since 1997 and has a great deal of counseling experience in a wide variety of areas.  

"It seems gratitude often comes during or after a time of leanness or loss in our lives.  Survivors of the April 27 tornado disaster report gratitude their lives were spared even in the devastation of having lost their homes and property.  Those with illness report gratitude over receiving a good report from testing.  The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were grateful for having survived disease and Indian attacks to eat the crops they worked so hard to produce. Many of us will express our gratitude to our soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom in past and current wars.  In my own life, my deepest sense of gratitude has been experienced at the birth of my two children and the homecoming of my soldier husband from Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Gratitude is a mental attitude and kind feeling which teaches us to give and receive affection, help and support.  It teaches us interdependence and reminds us of our connectedness to others; that we need other people and they need us. We give and receive gratitude with others through words of affirmation, gifts and behaviors which express appreciation. By expressing and receiving gratitude, we are acknowledging that we need each other and that we are not an island unto ourselves. 

When we evaluate the value or benefit of gratitude for healthy mental health functioning, we view it on a physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual level. 

Dr. Robert Emmons, UC Davis University of California through his Emmons Lab, notes of gratitude that  “grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.  The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.  Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.”  (“Measuring the Grateful Disposition,” The Gratitude Questionnaire(GQ-6) Document,  August 10, 2011).
Expressing gratitude can physically, emotionally and mentally benefit us by reducing our stress levels in the body, helping with anxiety management, and controlling of thoughts and emotions.  By focusing on positive thoughts, feelings of gratitude can emerge.  World Book Dictionary defines gratitude as a "kindly feeling because of a favor received; desire to do a favor in return." (World Book Dictionary, Vol 1 A-K,Chicago:  World Book Inc., 1994, p.930).  In Philippians 4:6 in the Holy Bible we are encouraged not to be anxious but rather to pray with thanksgiving or gratitude. 
Healthy social functioning requires a sense of gratitude in our relationship with others. With the unemployment rate hovering at 9%, many people are expressing gratitude to employers for their jobs.  As a country, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to our military soldiers, police and fire fighters for all they have done and continue to do to protect us and the freedoms we enjoy.  The 10th Anniversary 9/11 Memorial Remembrance was a fitting expression of our country's grief and gratitude.  We are grateful for our Founding Fathers and the sacrifices they made to allow this great country to be birthed into existence.
Children need to be taught thankfulness and gratitude in relation to their parents' provision for them.  Otherwise, children grow up with the expectation of privileges given and the belief that society owes them a living.  Through the provision of parents and the teaching of a work ethic, children learn to appreciate their parents' hard work to provide for their needs.  Likewise, they grow to become contributing members of society seeking to 'make the world a better place' for themselves, their families and others.
What marriage relationship would not be vastly improved by more frequent use of the words 'thank you'.  These "words of affirmation" as Gary Chapman refers to in his book The Five LoveLanguages speak a language of love all their own.  Expressing genuine gratitude in the daily interaction of the intimate relationship of marriage can make the difference in a nurturing marriage relationship or one that is declining. Finding creative ways of expressing gratitude in the uniqueness of your marriage relationship allows for individual growth as well as oneness in marriage.
Expressing gratitude to friends and family members can often be done best on those days special to the individual and/or couple.  Who does not appreciate cards and facebook messages on birthdays and special days during the year expressing gratitude for that relationship.  
Gratitude is a quality or characteristic of good character and many religions would promote gratitude as a healthy perspective for approaching life.  In the Christian tradition, the spiritual benefit for expressing gratitude in our relationship to God is found in the Holy Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where we are encouraged to have joy or "rejoice," to pray constantly giving thanks for everything understanding that to do so is “God's will in Christ Jesus for you."  In the book of Luke, the story of the 1 leper who returned to give God thanks when 9 others were also healed reminds us that most of us neglect to express our gratitude to God.  In Psalm 106:1 we are encouraged to thank God for His goodness and enduring mercy.  Psalm 69:30-31 states that God is pleased when man "magnifies Him with thanksgiving."  From a simple prayer of blessing at meal time to an extended daily prayer time, God desires our acknowledgement that "every good and perfect gift is from above. . ."James 1:17.  The spiritual benefits of gratitude allow us to function in a healthy relationship with God.  Jesus Himself gave thanks to the Father leaving us an example to follow.
Gratitude on its deepest levels is expressed in an awareness that God is the Giver and Sustainer of life.  In times of plenty and in times of loss, gratitude to God is an acknowledgement that the gift of life itself is a gift which comes from God.  On all levels of functioning - physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually - may we practice gratitude so that we may experience its full value in our lives. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6"

*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, November 1, 2011

How To Help Children When Mom or Dad Are Deployed

Q. I have two children that I will be the primary caretaker of during my husband’s deployment in the military.  What should I do to help prepare them for when he leaves and while he is gone?
A. Tommy Smith, counselor in Andalusia, Frisco City and Brewton, will be answering your question today.  Tommy was deployed in Saudi Arabia and Iraq with the Army Reserve in 1989-90 for Desert Storm.  He is a retired Army Chaplain.  Tommy has been with Pathways for almost 10 years.  You can email Tommy at

"I remember when I was deployed, my commander on the very first day said to me, 'Chaplain I want you to start today thinking about the day our unit comes home.' He was saying, he wanted me to begin at the outset to prepare myself and our fellow soldiers for a good homecoming. A good beginning will set the stage for a good ending. This is also very true for children who are about to see dad or mom leave on a deployment.

Children’s reactions to separation from a parent because of military service will vary with their personalities and ages. Children are often fearful and confused about what is happening. They sense the fear of a parent. The stay at home parent worries about how she will manage responsibilities and how the deployment will affect the children. You want to prepare your children  for success not failure during this time of uncertainty for them, for you and your husband!

Here are some tips designed to help parents and children. Talk to your child about what is going to happen. Families stay connected by showing love, and by building trust and cooperation within the family. Talk about the many ways you will be able to keep in touch with each other.  This involves both parents. Of course there are now many ways to "stay in touch" with Dad once he is deployed. But before the actual separation takes place, it is important that both parents be involved in communicating to the child what is happening and seek to do some predicting for the child, so that the child will have proper expectations.

We do not fear the past, only the future, so you want to eliminate as much of the unknown for your child as possible by encouraging your child to talk about his or her feelings and fears. Keep your routines and home life as normal as possible, this helps the child feel secure. Assure your child that you are confident in this new adventure. Seeing mom and dad confident that everything is alright will help the child with the assurance he needs.

Make sure you are completely honest with your child about what is taking place, explaining in age appropriate ways. That means you need to know as much as possible yourself about what is happening. Meeting other military families that are experiencing separation is also helpful. Having someone who understands and encourages you while you are alone is a blessing, don't do this alone. We all need a support group. Both of you could go together and seek the prayerful support of your local pastor and church fellowship.  

I have listed some great resources below that you can connect to. You need to take seriously all of the help being offered from your husband's military unit, the briefings for family, etc. Prior to the deployment date the unit is busy preparing to leave and time together may be difficult to schedule. Even though this will be a very busy time, the two of you need to spend time together building up the closeness and the understanding that prepares you for the separation.

So, what is it that the child needs most from dad and mom at this time? 
  • Assurance that although apart for awhile the family will remain  strong and will be together again as soon as this deployment is over.   Remember that the children tend to do as well as the parents do in handling emotional struggles. If you are doing well emotionally, the children will feel safe and loved. 
  • Keeping things in order and having routine and structure will help greatly. 
  • Parents often are not aware of how much things like the lack of sleep affect children. Children who do not get proper sleep are more anxious, have more difficulty paying attention and can become more irritable or aggressive. 
  • Also respect the fact that you must also take care of yourself since you are the primary caregiver. 
  • Remember that when children have proper boundaries and structure, and their lives are somewhat predictable, children feel safe and loved! 
  • The greatest need of the child is to know that he is loved unconditionally by mom and dad. This love is communicated not only through words but through spending time with the child and especially affectionate touch. When your child is lacking these things or when he or she is feeling disconnected, he will likely withdraw or act-out. 
  • If the child has difficulty adjusting to the changes, her grades may fall off or he may start acting out in ways you haven't seen. If you see your child needing help don't wait, get help.

It is always good to share with the child's teacher that dad is deploying. Many teachers are doing a great job helping at school by helping the whole class understand the sacrifice of men and women who are serving our armed forces. When teachers have given this type of great support, the child seems to do better adjusting to the absent parent serving in the military.

Don't forget prayer! Regular prayer together helps each member of the family, especially when they are able to talk with God about concerns and fears. Seek the peace that only the Lord Himself can provide. Make this a spiritual journey with confidence that your Heavenly Father loves and cares for each one of his children."

Other Resources: 
Video for Teenagers

*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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Safety Tips for Trick or Treating

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? (Original story ran 10/28/2010)

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 trick or treating season, 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 4, 2011

Importance of Imaginative Play

Q. We are a very busy family and don't have a lot of down time at home. I worry about my kids being over scheduled. I remember as a kid playing in my room for hours, but my kids seem to want me to entertain them. What can I do to help facilitate imaginative play for them?

A. Today's Ask Anne question is being answered by Rod Campbell, our Pathways Professional Counselor in Oxford, Ashville, and Gadsden. He not only has three children himself, but he also works with kids on a daily basis using the power of play. Click here to see our article on What is Play Therapy?

So you’re busy taking care of some household chore when you suddenly notice that strange noises are coming from your son’s bedroom, and that the noises sound a bit like he may be crying! So you quickly run down the hall to discover him playing contentedly in the floor with 2 Hot Wheels cars. The “crying” sounds were his version of engine noises! He doesn’t notice you, and for a few minutes you watch him quietly as a whole story unfolds. You hear “I’ve got you now!” and “Bring that back or I’ll crash you!” along with other snippets of dialogue between characters you do not know. It’s unclear at first, but then you notice a pattern. There is a good guy and a bad guy, and eventually the good guy wins. You notice that when the good guy wins, your son smiles, and seems to be a bit proud of himself.

It’s easy to think this is a simple, normal occurrence. In many ways it is totally normal, but it might not be as simple as it seems at first. Imaginative play can be very powerful for a child. During free-form imaginative play your child has the opportunity to practice being anyone or anything he or she chooses. He can be an airplane, a football player, horse, parent, teacher, fish, or one thousand other things. While “trying on” these different persona he can experiment with power differences by giving or receiving orders; develop social skills by playing out conversations or by acting out and resolving conflicts; work on sharing skills by having multiple characters learn to share a single toy. The options are literally endless!

Think for a moment about the life of a small child – say a4-year-old girl. Her mother picks out her clothes. Her parents tell her when to get up, when to take a nap, when to go to bed, when to eat, what to eat, when to take a bath, etc. At church and school, teachers similarly order the rest of her day. It is only in imaginative play that she can be the teacher, the parent, the police officer, the doctor, the chef. Experimenting with these roles gives a child the opportunity to be the hero, to make a difference, to feel good about herself or himself. The smile on your son’s face when he caught the bad guy is a reminder that his self confidence has been impacted.

It is important that parents support imaginative play. Parents should be proactive to limit the time children are allowed to play video games, watch TV, or play on the computer. By requiring our children to make use of the more classic interactive toys like cars, dolls, Lego’s, action figures, dress-up clothes, play dough, puppets, stuffed animals and the like, we allow them the time they need to engage their imaginations and stick with it long enough to benefit from the experience. Parents can also ask children to describe their play without making assumptions. For instance, the dolphin your child is playing with might have been re-imagined as an airplane in the absence of the real thing. A simple “Looks like you’re having fun! Tell me what’s happening” can go a long way toward understanding how your child has imagined his world.

Also, try to avoid using too much positive reinforcement. This may sound strange, but often when your child asks if something looks or sounds good, they don’t need you to give a positive response as much as they need you to validate that as long as they like it, you do too. Let their play be their play, but join them in it. Let them call the shots, be the boss, be the director of the play. I can’t tell you how many tea parties, puppet shows, and battles I’ve taken part in with my kids over the years. The one common denominator in all the experiences has been the joy that comes to a child’s face when a parent enters the child’s world instead of requiring the child to enter theirs!

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What is your child's learning style?

Q. I want to make sure I help my child succeed in school this year. Do you have any advice as to how I can best help him?

A. As the new school year starts up, this is on the mind of all parents. We want to see our kids succeed in school and find learning to be fun. Learning is the basis of all future knowledge. But for some kids, learning can be a real struggle. And, for some parents, helping your child to learn can be a real headache or battle.

One of the best things you can do for your child is to determine his or her learning style. Wikipedia defines learning as "the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice or study or by being taught." Each of us learns in one of three main ways: Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic/Manipulative. Most school-age children will be visual learners, but almost all will learn something from all three learning styles.

Click here to take an online quiz to determine your son's learning style.

So what is your child's learning style? Read through this list and see into which category your child falls. Also read through the list of the things he can do to best help him learn.
  • Visual learners process information by reading, looking at graphics, or watching a demonstration. They may grow very impatient with listening to an oral explanation. They can do very well with studying a chart or graph though.
Help him learn:
    • Use flashcards
    • Draw out illustrations
    • Use a color coding system
    • Take notes and review with him later
  • Auditory learners prefer to listen to explanations over reading them. They may like to study by reciting out loud.
Help him learn:
    • Talk it out with a partner
    • Teach it to someone else
    • Listen to books on tape
    • Set the information to a song
    • Kinesthetic or manipulative learners learn better by touching objects or taking a hands-on approach. They will have trouble sitting still to study. They may also need to write the information down or do a hands-on activity to really grasp the subject.
    Help him learn:
      • Write the information over and over
      • Highlight or underline in a text
      • Have them move around while they are looking at information
      • Encourage frequent breaks

      It is important to note that learning styles can actually change over time for your child. As they grow they learn new ways to grasp information and their styles evolve. It is also important to practice other ways of learning with your child. Those who can learn in different ways can process and absorb more information than those who are reliant on only one way of learning.

      Do you want to help your child branch out of his learning style? Try this example:

      • When helping your son with math homework, first have him complete a worksheet or do practice problems (visual learning). Then you can have your son do the problems out loud with you by reciting times tables or addition problems (auditory learning). Finally you can play a game with your son where he actually uses objects or snacks to show how the math is done (kinesthetic/manipulative).

      By tailoring homework and other activities to your son's learning style, you will help him succeed this year. Good luck and we wish your son the best.

      - Some information take from:

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

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Helping Children Deal with Job Loss

      Q. I lost my job a few weeks ago. We have two children still in the home. I was surprised by how much it affected them. How can we help our children deal with my job loss?

      A. With these tough economic times, it has become all to normal for us to hear this question. You, like many families, are facing a very hard road ahead. Losing your job is not just a loss of income, but a loss of security and identity. The grief that comes with a job loss affects kids too, not just adults.

      For children, they see the strain and stress that the job loss creates in their parents. Often, parents are more angry, easily upset, or even depressed. The amount of anxiety that creeps into the home greatly affects the way children feel or function in their every day lives. Once anything this large affects the family system, there will be a trickle down affect to all those in the household.

      The first thing we would suggest is to be honest with your kids. You do not want them to hear about the job loss from someone else. This only creates more panic and anxiety. Be age-appropriate in the information you give them. Listed below are a few age-graded suggestions:

      • For Children Under 5: Be simple and concrete. Children at this age are most concerned about their personal safety and need assurance that they will be cared for. They need to know that the job loss was not their fault and they have done nothing wrong.
      • For Children 6-9: They are concerned with right and wrong and may have trouble understanding that job loss may be unfair. Provide information as they ask for it.
      • For Children 10-12: They can put facts together in more complicated ways and can understand the everyday effects of job loss. They can contribute ideas to budget planning.
      • For Teenagers: They are capable of understanding the consequences of the job loss and can discuss issues in more detail. They understand the more subtle effects as well. They can be helpful in problem solving. Fears that they won't be able to go to college are common at this age. Discussion is important.**
      Also, make sure to assure your children that while some financial things might change, their needs will always be provided for. Help them understand that money management is key and that you guys have to find more creative, cheaper ways to have fun as a family. Talk about playing board games, going to the park and other fun free activities you will engage in together. It is important for children to know that fun does not have to equal money.

      And finally, as much as possible, keep the household routine the same. The less changes the children see in their everyday lives, the better they will fare. Maintain the same behavioral boundaries. Don't be tempted to loosen the rules just because you feel sorry for your children. Children thrive on consistency and knowing what to expect; this includes knowing where the boundaries are and knowing you will keep them inside those boundaries.

      If you or your child are showing high levels of stress, seek professional help or enlist the help of the child's school counselor. If either of you begin to loose too much sleep, start eating more or less than normal, having more headaches or stomachaches than normal, or having more emotional outbursts, you may benefit from some professional help. Be alert to the changes in your child and yourself.

      **Information cited from "Job Loss Affects Children"
      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.

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

      Thursday, August 25, 2011

      Grace Filled Marriage

      Q. I saw the last two articles on love and respect in marriage. I really want my spouse and myself to try marriage counseling, but we just cannot seem to budge on some issues. Is there any hope for us? Can you give us some ideas of what we could do to create some movement toward healing?

      A. Your plight is not uncommon from what I hear daily from couples in my office. Oftentimes, couples come to counseling after their issues are deeply entrenched and resentment has started to set in. However, as a counselor, when I see these couples in my office, I do have hope for them. I believe that God can truly transform a marriage through the power of GRACE. Grace is loosely defined as giving or receiving a good thing that is unmerited.

      With the power of relational grace in marriage, so many couples can finally start to make movement toward healing from issues. But if two individuals refuse to be the first one to make changes or to let go of hurt, they will continue to be deeply entrenched. Relational grace can really loosen the soil for forgiveness and change to take place. Scripture says, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph 4:32, ESV). When I can get couples to begin to live out this verse in their marriage, wonderful things begin to happen. Relational grace creates a vulnerability and opens the other spouse up to want to be different and change his or her behavior.

      One of my favorite books for counselors on this subject is Counseling Couples in Conflict by James Sells and Mark Yarhouse. In their book, they talk about how marriage counseling is not intended to just put out fires, but to grow grace in marriages. They use the analogy of a garden to describe growing grace. They say, "Gardens don't naturally grow in the aftermath of a fire; weeds do. Gardens are planned. Gardeners are selective as to the particular foliage that is cultivated and will be permitted to flower. Grace and justice are the plants to be grown to replace the use of defenses in the presence of pain. Counselors don't just put out fires, they teach the couples how to grow gardens." (pg. 123)** These are gardens of relational grace.

      So, my encouragement to you is to look at the level of grace you give in your marriage. Do you allow room for difference between you and your spouse? Do you expect them to do things or handle things the way you do? Do you allow for mistakes or do you expect perfection? Examine for yourself if you are embodying Eph. 4:32 as a spouse. You might just be surprised at how being the first one to offer relational grace and room for errors can really help make that movement toward healing.

      If you don't feel like this is something you can accomplish on your own, feel free to contact a professional counselor or your pastor. Sometimes we need an outside 'gardener' to come in and help us 'weed' out the criticism and hurt before we can have healthy 'plants' of relational grace.

      **Excerpt taken from Counseling Couples in Conflict by James Sells and Mark Yarhouse, Intervarsity Press, 2011.

      Jim Sells will be at Pathways Professional Counseling in Birmingham, AL Sept. 27th presenting on this topic for counselors and pastors. For more information, click here.

      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.

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

      Thursday, August 18, 2011

      Love and Respect: Part 2

      Q. I saw last week's article about how wives can show respect to their husbands based on Ephesians 5:33. I am feeling very disconnected from my wife just like last week's reader was from her husband. Can you tell me how best to love my wife? I feel like we speak two different languages.

      A. What a profound statement! "I feel like we speak two different languages" is a very true, valid feeling. Men and women do 'communicate' very differently. Ephesians 5:33 says, "However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." We are told here to show affection for our spouse in two different ways. Husbands are to love their wives, and wives are to respect their husbands. What a perfect illustration of how we speak two different languages. Even Scripture points that out to us!

      So how can we help you speak your wife's language? If you want to love your wi
      fe in the best way possible, you have to show her love in very practical ways. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, does a fantastic job of outlining how to show your wife love. He uses six categories of ways to speak your wife's language, based on the acronym COUPLE: Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty, and Esteem.** These categories are expanded below:

      Closeness - Your wife wants face to face contact and to feel connected to you. (Go for a walk together; hold
      hands; try focusing on what your wife is actually saying.)
      Openness - Open up to your wife emotionally about what is going on with you. (Tell her about your day; pray with her; ask her how she is feeling.)
      Understanding - Take time to listen to what she has to say instead of coming up with solutions. (If you see something that needs to be done, just do it; listen and repeat what she says to you; and don't make her justify what she is feeling.)
      Peacemaking - Tension and sin will exist in marriage. Be willing to say, "I'm sorry." (Admit when you are
      wrong; meet her halfway in a compromise; reassure her after a hurtful time that you are not angry any more.)

      Loyalty - Reassure her that you love her and are in this for the long haul. (Compliment her in front of others; keep your commitments you make; avoid looking at or talking lustfully about other women.)
      Esteem -
      Show her that you honor her and treasure her. (Open the door for her; give her encouragement and praise
      ; talk about how you are proud of her and that you see the hard work she does.)**

      If you do something in these six areas each day, your wife is bound to respond. Scripture says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, (Luke 6:31)". To begin showing your wife love - regardless of her actions - is to fulfill what Scripture calls all Christian men and women to do. Once you start to break the negative cycle of miscommunication and lack of connectedness in your marriage, your wife will most likely respond. Give it a try. Don't give up too easily either. It may take a little time for your wife to recognize you are now speaking her language and to come around.

      If you do try something in all these areas and your marriage is still not where you want it to be, give a professional counselor a call. Don't wait too long to work on your marriage. It is better to resolve issues early before a great deal of resentment enters the marriage. You can show your wife you love her by taking the issues in your marriage seriously and recommending the two of you seek out professional help.
      Remember, God will honor your hard work!!!

      For last week's article for wives on how to show respect, click here.

      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.

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

      **Excerpts are taken from Eggerichs, Emerson. Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. Thomas Nelson: 2004.

      Wednesday, August 3, 2011

      Love and Respect (Part 1)

      Q. I feel like my marriage is not enjoyable any more. All my husband and I do is fight and avoid each other. I have asked him to go to counseling with me, but he refuses. Is there any benefit to me coming alone? (For Part 2, click here)

      A. I wish I could tell you how often I hear this from callers seeking counseling. It is a sad event when one spouse wants to reach out for help, but the other spouse does not. It can be a very desperate and lonely feeling.

      Let me express to you though, there is hope. There is a benefit to coming to marriage counseling, even if your spouse refuses. There are many things we can do to possibly make your marriage better. Just think of all the commands given to us as husbands and wives. These commands are not contingent upon whether or not your spouse is fulfilling their commands or not. We are still commanded to obey God's word. An example of this might be Prov. 27:15 "A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike." This proverb gives you something to begin working on right now that you have control over!

      One of my favorite resources in this area is the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs**. Dr. Eggerichs does a fantastic job of expressing Ephesians 5:33 and how it is applicable to your marriage. The verse says, "However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (ESV). What a powerful verse for marriage.

      Now you may be asking, "What does this have to do with me?" Well, the reality is that you can fulfill your biblical obligation of respecting your husband regardless of his actions. Scripture does not tell us that we only are to respect our husband if he is deserving of that respect, but rather it just says to do it. (Disclaimer - I would never tell a spouse to put themselves in any physical danger. This applies to safe situations.) Your husband has a need for respect. He needs to know that you value him and will treat him with that respect. This is a basic need for most men. When he starts to see your respect for him, he is more likely to want to change himself. When one part of the marital duo starts to change, it usually creates change in the entire marriage.

      So what does this look like? You can practice this respect model even today:

      1. Tell your husband what you respect about him, like how hard he works for the family, for the little things he has done around the house, for getting the bills paid, etc.

      2. Show him you respect him by running ideas and plans past him, rather than making them all on your own. Say, "I wanted to get your opinion on this before I decided ... .

      3. Encourage him with your words.

      4. Build him up in front of others. The next time you are at a social gathering, talk about the wonderful side of your husband and the good things about him.

      5. Build him up in secret too. The next time you're with your girl friends, make it a point to say positive things about your husband.

      6. Do something nice and out of the ordinary for your husband. Buy him a treat, make sure his favorite shorts are washed, or schedule a date night for the two of you.

      The hope is that by employing these ideas in your marriage your husband will begin to see a change in you and want to change himself. You can remind him that you want your marriage to be better and you are willing to take the first step. If you do not feel like your marriage is improving at the rate or pace you would like, seek out your pastor, trusted mentor or professional counselor. All of these people may be able to help you gain perspective or figure out what else you can do to improve your marriage. Just don't stop trying. Marriage is a sacred covenant and deserves to be honored with your hard work. God will honor your work.

      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.

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

      **Some excerpts are taken from Eggerichs, Emerson. Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. Thomas Nelson: 2004.

      Thursday, July 21, 2011

      Cyber Safety and Your Children

      Q. I have recently started to wonder what I should be doing to protect my child on the internet. Facebook, chat rooms and email all scare me a bit. I don't want to just give my child free access. Any suggestions?

      A. So many parents have the exact same question and it is something we should be talking about more. Bob Dewhurst, Vice President ABCH of Ministry Development has a great deal of experience in this area and will be answering your question.

      "Thousands of investigations are launched annually across the U.S. related to child cyber predators, and the number is growing.
      Internet communication tools such as social networking, chat rooms, e-mail and instant messaging can put children at potential risk of encountering online predators. Because of the anonymity of the Internet, children are susceptible to trusting and developing intimate relationships quickly. Predators take advantage of this anonymity. Often, children are unaware of the dangers.
      Boy using Computer
      Parents can help protect their children by knowing the risks and being involved in their Internet activities.
      How do online predators find and develop relationships with children?
      • Through social networking, blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging, e-mail, discussion boards and other Web sites.
      • Knowing the latest music, hobbies and other interest of children.
      • Listening to and showing sympathy concerning problems children are experiencing.
      • Seducing children through attention, affection, kindness and even gifts.
      • Attempting to ease the inhibitions of children by gradually introducing sexual content into conversation or possibly showing sexually explicit images.
      • Trying to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the child.
      How can parents and caregivers minimize the risk of children becoming victims?
      • Talk to your children about potential dangers online and the risk of sex predators.
      • Use parental control software.
      • Ensure that limits on the use of social networking sites are followed. Most require the user to be at least 13 years of age.
      • Young children should not use chat rooms - the dangers are too great. As children get older, direct them toward well-monitored kids' chat rooms. Encourage even your teens to use monitored chat rooms.
      • If your children take part in chat rooms, make sure you know which ones they visit and with whom they talk. Monitor the chat areas yourself to see what kind of conversations take place.
      • Make sure your children never leave the public chat room area. Predators may attempt to lure children to areas where one-on-one chats can occur. This is referred to as “whispering.”
      • Locate your Internet-connected computer in a common area of your home where monitoring can easily take place. Do not allow Internet usage in a child’s bedroom.
      • Young children should share an email address with the family instead of having their own address.
      • Instruct your children not to respond to instant messages or emails from strangers. If your child uses a computer outside the home such as at a school or the library, learn about the safeguards that are used.
      • If, after taking all precautions, your child does meet an online predator, don't blame them. The offender always bears full responsibility. Take decisive action to stop your child from any further contact with this person and contact the police.
      How can children reduce the risk of becoming a victim?
      • Don’t download pictures or files from an unknown source — they could be sexually explicit.
      • Use e-mail filters.
      • Tell an adult immediately if anything happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened.
      • Choose a screen name that does not identify the gender of the user.
      • Do not reveal personal information or information about the family to anyone online and do not fill out online personal profiles. This includes social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space and others.
      • Stop any e-mail communication, instant messaging conversations, or chats if anyone starts to ask questions that are too personal or sexually suggestive.
      What can be done if your child is being targeted?
      • If your child receives sexually explicit photos from an online correspondent, or if she or he is solicited sexually in e-mail, instant messaging, or some other way online, contact your local police. Save any documentation including e-mail addresses, Web site addresses, and chat logs to share with the police.
      • Check your computer for pornographic files or any type of sexual communication - these are often warning signs.
      • Monitor your child's access for all live electronic communications, such as chat rooms, instant messaging, and e-mail.
      Source: Some of this information is found in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation publication “A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety.”

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      Attachment and Theraplay

      Q. I heard your counselors were giving a talk on Attachment and Parenting this week at Camp of Champions. I am an adoptive/foster parent myself. Can you tell us a little bit about what this all means?

      A. You heard correctly! Rachel Copeland, Rod Marshall, and Lisa Keane will be speaking on the topic Attachment and Bonding in Children. They will specifically focus on our foster parents and house parents with Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries. If you are interested in learning more about the treatment approach that they use in working with these kids click here.

      I felt like your question could be best be answered by one of our foster parents who wrote about her experience. This mom has seen her child go from very little interaction or affection, to being very loving and cuddly. Read her story below. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Enjoy!

      "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

      We had been familiar with Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH) for a while when God brought someone into our path who encouraged us to consider becoming respite foster parents. Children would stay with us for a short visit and then return to their foster home, much like an aunt and uncle would do for their nieces or nephews. Caring for a foster child for a few days at a time didn’t seem nearly as overwhelming as full-time foster care had.

      By the next summer we had been trained and approved. Then the kids started coming. Sometimes it was one child, and other times it was a group of brothers and sisters. They would stay just a few days at a time, but we fell in love with them all.

      This continued for several years until I became pregnant with our first child. We were preparing to take a break, but God had other plans, and He introduced us to Lauren*. She stayed with us often, and each time our burden for her grew. As my due date drew near, we put our respite services on hold – for everyone but Lauren.

      Sometimes I’m still not sure how it all came about. What I do know is that God showed us very clearly that she was supposed to be a part of our lives. We became the full-time foster parents of Lauren when my son was just two months old. Three-and-a-half years later, she would become a part of our family forever as our adopted daughter.

      Sometimes God speaks in a whisper, and other times His directions are so straightforward it seems as if He has rented every billboard in the city. There were two verses God used to speak to us during that time. The first was James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The second was 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

      I now know why God made His will so very clear to us. He knew the difficulties that were soon to follow, and knew that anything less than this ear-deafening proclamation would have left room for us to doubt this was His will.

      When Lauren first came, we were aware of her motor skill delays and other physical and emotional obstacles she was facing. Along with her beautiful smile came many doctor visits, therapy sessions and tantrums. An experienced teacher, I had taken classes on behavior management in addition to the seminars I had attended as a foster parent. The problem was, none of these approaches were working with Lauren. It didn’t matter how consistent I was, how cute the chart, how desirable the reward. Time outs were never effective because I couldn’t get her to sit in the time-out spot – much less stay there for any length of time.

      Four years later, Lauren was a permanent part of our family, yet we were still searching for something that would help her overcome her need for control and problems with anxiety. Beyond this, I had begun to lose hope that Lauren would ever truly love me. Though she had improved some over the years, she still did not like to be touched. She would stiffen whenever I tried to sit with her or show her affection. I often felt that she saw me as her servant more than anything else.

      During this time, I found out about a new play therapy that was being offered through Pathways Professional Counseling, the counseling ministry of ABCH. We had tried play therapy before, but this was different. This focused on four areas: structure, engagement, nurture, and challenge. The child and parent together participate in structured therapy times that are designed to address the child’s needs. (More here)

      I was so encouraged when I met with the therapist after our initial evaluation. She understood and could see the deep emotional issues Lauren was experiencing.

      We are now finished with our weekly Theraplay sessions, and the changes in Lauren are amazing. As with any child, there will always be issues to address, but for the first time I have hope. I am equipped with a new set of parenting tools, have a new perspective on behavior management, and have discipline techniques that work. Every time she climbs in my lap to sit with me or gives me a hug, I am thankful all over again.

      This process has led me to think about my relationship with God. An important aspect of the therapy was correcting some of the incorrect perceptions Lauren held by frequently telling her how much we loved her and were there to take care of her.

      I can often have incorrect thinking in my relationship with God. To combat this, I must flood my mind with truth by reading Scripture. Just like Lauren, I often want to be in control and do things my way. God is there with a place of rest and peace saying, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Instead of fighting or stiffening my back, I need to learn to rest in the One Who loves me completely and has my best interests at heart."

      *Name changed for privacy.

      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.

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

      Thursday, June 9, 2011

      Premarital Counseling

      Q. I just got engaged! My fiance and I are ecstatic! We had heard it was a good idea to have professional premarital counseling, but we just get along so great. I am not sure we need it. Can you help me understand the benefit of premarital counseling?

      A. Congratulations on getting engaged! This is quite an exciting time for the both of you. The next several months will be focused on wedding planning: church, reception, cake, invitations, guest lists and many, many, many more things. Unfortunately, when you say "YES!" most brides- and grooms-to-be get caught up in the wedding planning and not the marriage preparation. Your wedding day is important, but it is not as important as planning for your marriage.

      In their book, Counseling Couples in Conflict, Dr. Jim Sells and Mark Yarhouse site a study which found that those couples who participated in premarital counseling had a 30% increased chance of a successful outcome in their marriage. A increase of 30% is pretty significant given that the average rate of divorce today is a little less than 50%. So good premarital counseling gives you a statistical boost toward marital success.

      In premarital counseling, you and your fiance will have many goals to accomplish. We generally use a program called Prepare and Enrich by Life Innovations. As an administrator of this assessment, the counselor or pastor must first be certified. This means they have attended specialized training and have learned how to best use the outcomes to help couples.

      During your counseling sessions that follow the assessment, you and your counselor will look at all of these areas:
      • Explore strength and growth areas
      • Strengthen communication skills
      • Identify and manage major stressors
      • Resolve conflict using the Ten Step Model
      • Develop a more balanced relationship
      • Explore family of origin issues
      • Discuss financial planning and budgeting
      • Establish personal, couple and family goals
      • Understand and appreciate personality differences*
      All of these areas will be hot spots at some point in your marriage. By going through premarital counseling, you will learn how to best address each of these areas and you will know what to expect when the hot button issue arises.

      We of course, highly recommend premarital counseling. I personally know that it can make a major difference in how a couple functions during those first few years of marriage.

      The other added benefit of premarital counseling is that you have now built a relationship with a counselor that you can call on if things start to get stressful in your life or marriage. One of the most important tips we give in premarital counseling is to not let an issue get too far or allow too much hurt to build before you seek help. The sooner you come in the better off your marriage will be.

      Good luck with the wedding planning and we pray God's peace and grace over your marriage.

      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.

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

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Planting Seeds of Faith

      Q. We have a 5-year-old son and want to know how best to share our Christian faith with him. How do we help our son understand what it means to accept Christ as his Savior and Lord?

      A. What an honor it is to answer this question for you. There is no question more important than one about the salvation of a child. Rod Marshall, VP of Counseling for ABCH&FM/Director of Pathways Professional Counseling, has a very informative answer for you.

      "As a Christian parent, you think about sharing your faith with your child or children. While the thought may bring excitement and hope, for many it can also bring nervousness and anxiety.

      There are some things that parents of very young children can do, however, to begin planting seeds that may lead to their children accepting Christ as their Savior and making Him their Lord as they grow older. These things are also valuable for older children and teens as they search for God or learn how to live the Christian life.

      • Make sure you have an active and healthy spiritual life. You cannot give away that which you do not possess. Do you pray and read your Bible regularly? Do you share your faith as part of your lifestyle? Do your children know you do these things? You should not practice the disciplines of faith as a show for your children, but if they are an integral part of your life, your children should know why you practice these habits.
      • Allow your child to participate in living out your family values. Buy Christmas for a family in need and let your child choose the toys. As a family, seek out opportunities through your church or a local charity to minister to others.
      • Pray with and for your child. Teach them Bible stories and sing to them. Read more here about the Power of Parent-Child Play.
      • Display the joy that comes from Christ-centered living. Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to God’s people. We cannot always be happy, but we can always be filled with joy.
      • When there is disagreement in your family, someone needs to be punished or things have gotten rocky, ask yourself if you are exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If you are not, ask God to allow you to display them during challenging times. Your children learn volumes about your faith and values when they watch you deal with struggles.
      • Practice Ephesians 4:29 where Paul says: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Strive to choose only words that will build up your children and spouse.
      • Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about your faith. Explain to your child why you value your faith.
      • Find a community of faith (a local church) that will join with you and walk alongside you in raising your child to become a mature Christian. Pray for your children’s friends and their families. Seek opportunities to connect your child with children whose parents hold the same values as you do.
      • Finally, make sure you are living out your values. If someone was watching you, would they know by the daily decisions that you make that you are a follower of Christ? Do your children learn honesty and integrity and hospitality and charity by watching you?"
      With these ideas, your children are sure to see your faith lived out daily. Remember, children learn better from observation rather than lecture. Teach your child through your actions by walking with Christ daily and through your words by explaining why you walk with Christ. If you have any questions about today's blog or want to post a comment please do so below. We would love to answer any specific questions you might have.

      *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.

      Thursday, May 5, 2011

      Top Ten Parenting Tips to Build Resiliency in Kids

      If you are looking for our article about Helping Kids After Disaster, click here.

      Two week ago we had an article how to raise resilient children. This week, we want to provide you with a Top Ten list of ways to teach resilience.

      1. Be Empathetic with your child - kids need to be validated and understood. We are not saying you must agree with your kids, but it is important to acknowledge their point of view. When you are being empathetic with your children, you are also teaching them how to employ those skills in their life. This will help them in future relationships. Say things like, "I know you really want to have a cookie right now, but dinner is just a few minutes away." You acknowledged what your child was feeling, but still communicated a limit.

      2. Communicate with respect - ask yourself the question, "How would you feel if someone talked to you like you talk to your child?" Would you be likely to listen to what they have to say? Regardless of how your child is behaving, they still deserve to be treated with respect. If you communicate with respect to your child, you are teaching them that even if they are upset or angry, it does not give them license to yell, scream or say mean things. You must model this for your kids.

      3. Be flexible - it is important for you teach and model there is more than one way to solve problems. Be willing to listen to their suggestions and avoid power struggles. This will not spoil or overindulge your child; rather it teaches them flexibility. Given where you can and allow them to have some input into the problem.

      4. Give undivided attention - schedule time in for your kids. Find 5 or 15 minute fun activities you can do with them. Any undivided attention helps a child to feel special. When a child feels special it will increase their self-esteem and self-image. Read here for more information about The Power of Parent Child Play.

      5. Accept your kids for who they are - it is so important to the life of a child that you accept them for their personality and interest. Do not attempt to change your child if they are shy or quiet. It is okay if they do not want to play piano or cannot shoot a basketball. When you accept your child for who they are, you communicating that they have worth and value in who God made them to be.

      6. Give Kids a chance to be helpful - kids learn by doing. If you want to teach your child to care for others and be compassionate, include service project, mission trips, or giving opportunities in their day to day lives. By getting them to think about someone else, you are teaching them the concept of empathy. Adopt a compassion child, give to your local children's home or serve together. They will learn responsibility and altruism.

      7. Treat mistakes as learning experiences - avoid shaming your child for their failures or mistakes. Instead, let those experiences be teachable. Make sure to stay away from comments that put your child down, such as, "Your a bad kid" or "You always make mistakes" or "You never learn". Instead, focus on the behavior by saying, "That was not a good choice" or "I know you can do better than this". Then work with your child to brain storm how they could have handle it differently. You are giving them hope and instilling confidence in them that they can make better decisions.

      8. Stress your child's strengths - make sure you are pointing out all the good things about your child too. Take this challenge: For the next 30 days, point out one thing your child is good at. It can be his personality strengths, abilities, skills, qualities, etc. Your child won't know what is going on.

      9. Let your child solve their own problems and make decisions - if you want to raise a child who knows how to be a problem solver, you have to let them try on their own. By stepping in and taking care of their problems for them, you are communicating that you don't think they can do it. But by allowing them to fail sometimes and encouraging them to keep trying, you are communicating they can master the skill. You must show your child you have confidence in him before he can have confidence in himself.

      10. Discipline to teach - the word discipline is derived from discipleship. Discipleship means to teach. Our goal is to teach our children how to live right in the world and to build them up so they can share with others. Use your discipline as a time to teach your child. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

      Don't forget to read more about resiliency here and take the Resiliency Mind Set Quiz.

      This list is taken from Brooks and Goldstein's Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope and Optimism in your Child (2001)