Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, April 30, 2012


When the documentary Bully opened this month in theaters all over the U. S., it revived the national dialogue about childhood bullying. The film follows three students and their families over the course of one school year and two families whose children took their own lives in desperation. The filmmakers have created TheBullyProject website which provides resources and motivates us all – parents, children, families, educators – to act towards eliminating bullying.

Bullying is pervasive in our society today – research indicates that one in three children have been involved in an incident, either as perpetrator or victim. It’s been estimated that 13 million children in the U.S. are bullied each year, with 3 million being absent from school each month because they feel threatened there. Children with special needs are especially vulnerable – they’re 60% more likely to be attacked by bullies. If your child or someone you know is being tormented, you can reach the bullying helpline, 24/7, at 1-855-201-2121 for help and support.

Here are some actions you can take as a parent if you fear your child is being bullied:

Prepare yourself. Slow down and be ready to have a private conversation when you don’t have any major distractions. Sometimes a familiar setting can include a minor diversion to help your child become more comfortable sharing – in your car, when you’re playing catch, working on a puzzle, completing a chore together.

Talk with your child. Create an atmosphere of trust by using your active listening skills. When you’re speaking, ask open-ended questions in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way. Don’t interrupt his responses. Try to keep your emotions in check and be clear in the message you are conveying. Be available and let your child know that his feelings and thoughts are important to you.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication. It may be difficult for your youngster to open up and verbalize facts and feelings so notice her body language. And express your own support with physical closeness and comforting hugs as well as your words. You may not learn all the facts at one time so be patient and come back to the issues later.

Be positive. Let your child know that you are on his side, it’s not his fault and he doesn’t deserve to be bullied. Role model your own constructive behavior and good communication skills at home. Arrange for her to spend time with friends in a safe environment outside of school so that she can develop personal strengths. Discourage them from bullying others in response.

Contact your child’s school. Once you have a clear understanding of what’s been going on, write it down so that you have a straightforward narrative about the problem. Identify the appropriate people in your child’s school to contact and communicate your concerns to them. If your school has an anti-bullying policy in place, follow the procedures outlined there. The administrators have a responsibility to eliminate harassment, protect your child from harm and create a positive environment for learning.

On Wednesday, we’ll continue the discussion of bullying and give you some suggestions for preventing your own children from harassing others and for encouraging them to stick up for a threatened friend.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Teen Daughters and Conversion Disorders

Are your daughters feeling the pressures of adolescence? Parents at Le Roy Junior-Senior High School in upstate New York are still concerned, months later, as their teens continue to experience verbal outbursts, involuntary movements and tics. Although Sigmund Freud first described this combination of symptoms as Mass Hysteria, the difficult to diagnose condition is now known as Conversion Disorder.

It’s a rare condition with both psychological and neurological factors. These young women are left frustrated, behind in school and socially isolated. Not able to live a normal life, families want answers for these psychologically triggered yet real sensory and motor symptoms.

After an investigation and a battery of health, soil and environmental tests, the Le Roy administration and state health officials report no known environmental or infectious cause. Some speculate that, in essence, the brain makes the body sick. And there may be a combination of underlying causes: a history of trauma or abuse, pre-existing anxiety or stress, a personality that is highly suggestible.

In this situation, a high school cheerleader woke up from a nap one day with uncontrollable tics and stuttering. Known as the bellwether, a key group member can exhibit behavior that deviates from the norm, and then others develop similar symptoms. It’s not unlike other adolescent reactions, even bullying or suicide. The group's social status and close proximity, as well as the teenager’s need for acceptance and belonging, may foster unusual and dangerous conformity.

If you’re parenting teens, you’re probably not dealing with something as serious as conversion disorder. But adolescence is a developmental phase that’s full of potential pitfalls and no one gets through unscathed. Increased awareness and support can help your kids - these practical insights may be a good place to start:

Remember what it was like for you growing up. What did you do to bond with and feel accepted by the group? And how did you respond to peer pressure? Share your experiences with your kids and give them emotional support as they learn to manage their teen relationships.

Don't hide your concern. You really can't anyway. Your growing kids pick up signals from you even when you think you're protecting them. At the same time, don't burden them with pressures beyond their ability to handle them.

Keep the lines of communication open. Discuss what they're worried about, as you come face to face with your own fears. The more you are able to discuss the strains affecting all of you, the better you can begin to cope with them.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: Lauren Brooks and Kettlebells

We’re pleased to be hosting Lauren Brooks here on the blog today. She’s the author of Kettlebells for Women: Workouts for Your Strong, Sculpted and Sexy Body.

For those of you who don’t know, kettlebells are iron balls with handles that allow you to move the weight in a natural swinging motion with your hips. They provide an all in one workout that results in increased strength, conditioning and fat loss all at once. If you’re ready to know more about this unusual and effective kind of workout, let’s get started:

Nourishing Relationships: We all know how passionate you are about teaching kettlebells. Please tell us a little more about what inspired you to write this book for women.
Lauren Brooks: Writing a book about kettlebells allowed me to take everything that I’ve learned and believe in and put it down in an easy and welcoming step by step format. For the last 7 years, I have watched hundreds of transformations in people who have added kettlebells into their life. Many have had the opportunity to use my kettlebell DVDs. The majority of my fan base is female because my experiences made it easy for them to relate to me not only as a woman, but also as a mother who has gone through two pregnancies.

Many women have this fear that if they lift anything heavy they will get big and bulky muscles and thus not look feminine anymore. Others may glance at a kettlebell and immediately think, “There is no way I can do that, it looks too hard and I will probably hurt myself.” I am hopeful that my book will prove to women of all ages and fitness levels that they too can learn how to successfully incorporate kettlebells into their fitness regimen.

NR: Can you tell me a little about why you chose the book cover that you did? Most female fitness books have someone looking more cheery. Why the serious look?

LB: The serious look was to highlight that this book cuts right to the chase. There’s no fluff or fillers. I wanted to show that it’s all about building strength and toughness, yet leaves room for plenty of femininity. There is a time and place for cheeriness, but “Kettlebells for Women” is about focus.

NR: What would you say is the main premise of your book?
LB: This book is about showing women of all ages that they can unleash an incredible power inside themselves. No matter what fitness level or age, any woman will benefit tremendously by increasing her strength and conditioning in this primal way of movement. The feeling of being empowered, confident, and incredibly sexy is exactly what has happened for the ladies whom I know have incorporated kettlebells into their life. This book guides you in such a way to make it easy enough for anyone to follow. I’ve seen that even husbands, along with men in general, are getting inspired to join their women in these workouts. Like any new exercise, having several private sessions would ensure safety. However, once the form and technique is achieved, the beauty of this program is it can be done almost anywhere.

NR: I understand you have released 6 workout DVDs. Would you say that the book is a better option to start with?
LB: For the last 4 years people all over the world have been learning from and working out to my kettlebell DVDs. I generally recommend beginning with my first DVD, “The Ultimate Body Sculpt and Conditioning with Kettlebells,” since it has an extensive tutorial section along with a couple of follow along workouts. My workout partner in that DVD is in her mid 50’s and she truly sets the bar high as far as what people are capable of doing at any age. The book is a perfect companion to any of my DVDs. It breaks down around 100 different exercises using pictures and descriptions, which should enhance the learning curve.

NR: Is this something that people of any age and fitness level can benefit from?
LB: I have personally worked with women and men of all ages and all fitness levels. It’s getting very popular for the baby boomers since it’s approachable, fun, doesn’t take a long time out of the day and the results are fantastic. I have lots of happy clients who are between the ages of 30 and 80. They are all reaping the benefits of moving better and improved strength and conditioning, thanks to this easy, no nonsense approach to healthier living. Chronic knee pain is suddenly diminished along with hip and shoulder pain. Glutes are firming up, arms are toning, and everything else in life, such as carrying groceries, playing with children and improving in all sports for that matter, is just getting better!

NR: Where can I find the book and how do I get started?
LB: The best way to get started is to purchase a kettlebell ranging in weight anywhere from 15-18 pounds. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s much lighter than you think when it’s used properly. My 50 and 60 year old clients are currently able to swing 53 and 60 pound kettlebells with ease! They are little ladies too! You can find the book and DVDs on my website. I look forward to hearing from everyone and can’t wait to hear about more journeys of optimal strength, fitness, health and happiness.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Lauren. Learn more about Lauren and her work on her Facebook page. And now, readers, it’s your turn. I know you have some questions as well as concerns about your fitness program. Lauren will be checking in throughout the day - so here's your chance - just click on "comments" below and fire away.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

World Malaria Day

This Wednesday is World Malaria Day, a subject close to my heart. Twelve years ago my husband and I spent three months traveling and working with Global Volunteers in Africa. And in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean, he contracted malaria.

It wasn’t until a week later, when we were doing volunteer work in a remote Tanzanian village, that he developed a high fever and collapsed. The local shaman, who was sick with a bout of malaria himself, diagnosed the problem. My husband is a physician and argued that it couldn’t be true because we were taking anti-malaria medication and he didn’t have many symptoms of malaria. At which time the shaman asked him, just how many cases of malaria have you treated?

Although we had a frightening few days, the outcome was positive. And we were comforted by the local people who came by with vegetables from their gardens and healing prayers. But many in developing countries aren’t so lucky - the statistics are staggering. There are an estimated 216 million cases of malaria each year and 90% of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 70% of the deaths are children under five - that's equivalent to one child dying of malaria in Africa every 30 seconds. As the world becomes more aware of the dire consequences, there's an increase in programs and sponsors for Malaria No More.

More than sixty best selling business authors and social thought leaders collaborated to write End Malaria, a book about living a life of meaning. And this book is meant to save lives, as the entire profits go to charity for the purchase of malaria bed nets. When insecticide-treated nets are used properly by three-quarters of the people in a community, malaria transmission is cut by 50% and the mosquito population drops by as much as 90%. It is estimated that less than 5% of children in sub-Saharan Africa currently sleep under any type of protection from mosquitoes.

Stepping up feels right. It takes a few clicks to buy a book, and you'll remember how it feels to save a life. End Malaria was born from the passion for generativity, that is giving back, of Michael Bungay Stanier, senior partner of Box of Crayons and Seth Godin, creator of These innovators found a way to sell a book, make a difference and save lives. A win/win for everyone, don’t you think?!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mommy Wars Post Tax Day

Moms continue to reflect and speak out about the economy – the nation’s and their own family’s. Women recognize that life can be full of stress and anxiety, especially when extra financial worries erupt at tax time. Whether you’re a work-at-home mom or pursue a career outside the house, we can all choose to attack the problems, not each other. These tips can help you become part of the solution as you develop a personal safety net to fall back on now and in other difficult times:

Reconsider your assumptions, refocus and reframe your thoughts. When you look at things from a different perspective, you’ll be able to come up with fresh ways to deal with the stresses you face. Expressing your gratitude for the gifts you have will create a better mood for you and those around you.

Gather information from counselors, Internet sites, seminars or self help books about how to minimize the impact of pressures you are now experiencing. Find out what resources are available in the community to help manage your tensions.

Practice relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Learn deep breathing or guided imagery to help you unwind and settle down. Go for a walk early in the morning and enjoy the sights, sounds, and aroma of the world just getting up. If you have a few minutes in the house, refresh and relax by putting your feet up and listening to some soothing music.

Ask for help and turn to those around you for support. When you let your friends and family know what you need from them, they are more likely to come to your aid. Clarify what’s necessary to achieve your goals. When you’re not feeling so overwhelmed by your responsibilities and commitments, your outlook will be more positive and optimistic.

Communicate honestly with your spouse, growing children and aging parents. Talk out disagreements before they become heated, out of control arguments. Don't put a lid on your emotions, just on expressing them in an aggressive manner. Instead, develop a direct, assertive style to express your needs. When conflicts arise, agree to be flexible and cooperative as you work toward reaching a compromise.

And lets use this same conversational etiquette when we talk with each other – about taxes, moms, women’s roles or politics. November is still six months away and we can help set a civil tone for the dialogue.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day Minus One and More

Women are used to multi-tasking, thinking about and dealing with many issues at the same time. Still, your head may be spinning today with the complex activities going on - Emancipation Day, the celebration of President Lincoln’s freeing of slaves in the District of Columbia 150 years ago, Patriot's Day with the 116th running of the Boston Marathon and Tax Day tomorrow when 144 million income tax returns are due to be filed.

Women and taxes are in the news again as the debate continues between moms who work in and outside the home – begun by Hilary Rosen’s comment about Ann Romney - while the Senate discusses the so-called Buffet Rule. Is our society ready to redefine caregiving as productive labor, with support and tax credits? Wherever you stand on these issues, you know that for women it’s a struggle to balance the logistical, emotional and financial demands of work and family. When you’re also caring for an aging parent, you may begin to feel overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities.

If you're a Sandwiched Boomer supporting both your growing children and aging parents, you may have already consulted with a tax advisor about claiming both sets as dependents. After all, you want to conserve as much of your nest egg as you can. With your reduced funds being stretched ever thinner in this economy by the generations surrounding you, Tax Day thrusts your finances front and center.

What about also considering the non-monetary contributions you make to your family in flux? The time, energy, thoughts and emotions you devote to your children and elderly parents can exhaust your core just as your expenses deplete your cash reserves. Are you beginning to feel like a woman on the verge? Instead, use your Tax Day perspective to try out these tips to improve your health and wellbeing:

Maintain balance as you invest your energies in family, career and yourself. You may not be able to attain the perfect level of achievement in any of these, but you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment in your growing strength. To avoid burnout as you shift between caring for your kids and your parents, set aside time for yourself.

Take better care of yourself. When you cope with stress before it becomes chronic, you're better able to take care of your loved ones as well as yourself. As you strive to limit your responsibilities to others, you'll find you have more time for fun and fulfillment in your own life. Go for it – you know you deserve it.

Check back with us again on Wednesday for more tips to help you through tax time. And for some suggestions about coping with stress due to economic troubles you may be facing, consider our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Get Ready to Refresh Your Marriage

If you’re new to this blog, scroll down to Monday and read the post about how to make a good marriage better. There you’ll find practical tips and links to get you off to a good start. And below are a few more ideas that may help:

Ask for what you need. No one’s a mind reader. Sometimes, out of frustration or resentment, couples stop talking. Recommit to understanding each other’s anger or disappointment. If you meet halfway, you’ll both get more of what you want.

Invest in your own happiness.
It will relieve pressure and your partner won’t have to be a major source of your wellbeing. By taking action in your own life, you'll feel more confident, have a better attitude, be more interesting and your relationship will reap the dividends.

Express your gratitude often. Compliments serve as positive reinforcement at the very times when you may be taking each other for granted. If you find yourself distancing, try to see your partner in a different light. Purposely look for qualities you love in each other. And when you’re thinking something positive, say it out loud.

Only you know what it’ll take to make you feel more fulfilled. Communicate it directly yet be flexible as you make your way through differences and disagreements. A shift in the dynamics can result from something as simple as a weekly date night or training together for a marathon. And being satisfied with small changes will bring more pleasure and greater intimacy into your relationship.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

How to Make a Good Marriage Better

You know what they about a stable marriage that’s moving along with no major hurdles - ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But you may feel that your relationship just hasn’t reached its full potential or that something is missing. Believe it or not, you can break out of the routine and recapture some of the magic.

According to the field of interpersonal neurobiology, the brain is constantly changing. And that has a lot to do with your daily interactions. All relationships, especially loving ones, alter the brain circuits that shape memories and emotions. Think about when you first met your spouse - the immediate attraction, the flow of attachment hormones, the we-can’t-live-without-each-other interdependency.

This alchemy continues throughout life, and how we treat each other matters. In a loving relationship, we can change each other’s neural functions when we decide to be more mindful, attentive and compassionate. And holding hands is enough to reduce stress and minimize physical pain. So whether you want to release euphoria-inducing chemicals like dopamine and adrenaline or change the wiring in your brain, here are some ideas to consider:

Invest emotionally. Make time for each other just as you would for any valuable asset. Remember why you fell in love and keep romance alive. A gentle touch or quick hug releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces stress levels. When you're feeling tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel relaxed, closer, more loved. Studies show that celebrating positive events predict greater relationship satisfaction than commiserating over negative ones. The efforts you both make will be returned in multiples.

Eliminate boredom. Although lightheartedness is often one of the first casualties of hectic family life, when the kids grow up you may feel a void and realize your relationship isn't exciting anymore. Do you wonder who is this person and what did I first see in him? If so, talk to your partner about how you feel, without judging or accusing. And come to the conversation prepared with suggestions for change. Plan some adventures and discover new activities you both enjoy. Take on a physical challenge together and train to make it happen. Have fun together, laugh and bring humor into your daily life. Being playful can lead to greater intimacy.

Interested in sharing how you've worked to change your relationship? Just click on ‘comments’ below and follow the prompts. And log on Wednesday for more practical insight about refreshing your marriage.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Attaining Happiness Without a Winning Lottery Ticket

Is happiness really as simple as a warm puppy? Stopping to smell the flowers? Or as materialistic as a winning lottery ticket? There have been scores of philosophers and theologians over the years attempting to define happiness and to identify its components. But recently Michael J. Fox, living with Parkinson's for over 20 years put it more plainly:

I really love being alive. I really love my family and my work. I love the opportunity I have to do things. That's what happiness is.

If you're working to increase your happiness, perhaps you've already begun with the strategies we talked about earlier this week - increasing your gratitude and engaging by using your character strengths. Today, using Fox's formula of affirmative focus, family and meaningful work accomplishments, we have four more tips for you in the quest to attain true happiness.

Savor the pleasurable events and emotions you experience. First immerse yourself in these activities, being mindful so that your experience is rich and deep. Then set aside time later to re-live and enjoy the event and your feelings all over again. You'll find that your body becomes more relaxed, your thoughts more focused and your mood more upbeat.

Build and nurture personal relationships. Studies continue to show that positive relationships provide a buffer for the stresses we all encounter and are correlated with greater happiness, well-being, optimism, improved health, even a longer lifespan. And they work to create an upward spiral - the happier we are, the more we attract additional positive relationships.

Create a meaningful life by helping others. When you make a commitment to help others, your altruism also benefits you by increasing your levels of joy and contentment. Receiving a windfall of money - like that coming from a lottery win - doesn't actually lead to a long-term rise in happiness when spent on oneself, once basic needs are met. Yet spending a portion of that money on others - either as a gift or as a charitable donation - is correlated with an increase in happiness.

Set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. Striving for and accomplishing a goal leads to increased self-esteem and a sense mastery and efficacy. When you overcome challenges along the way, it creates even deeper well-being and feelings of control. And the optimism that you have about future meaningful successes can generate authentic happiness.

President Abraham Lincoln, who went through great trials and difficulties, shared his view:

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

How happy will you decide to be? Can you get there without depending on a lottery ticket?

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Monday, April 02, 2012

So You Didn't Win the Lottery...Now What?

If you're reading this blog post today, the overwhelming odds are that you didn't win the record-breaking lottery over the weekend. Americans spent $1.5 billion in their magical thinking quest to win the jackpot, fantasizing about how they would happily spend the $640 million that was to be paid out to the winner. As it happened, there were three winners so the final after-tax take home this year for each will be about $100 million. Still, nothing to sneeze at.

Are you wondering how others have fared after winning the lottery? In many cases, not well. Over 1/3 of past winners were in serious financial trouble within five years, some facing bankruptcy. Others saw their health deteriorate or addictions spiral out of control. Relationships often turned sour, with friends or family taking advantage of them. And after an initial spurt in elation, most were not any happier than they were before winning.

So now that you don't have to spend time counting your fortune or interviewing and hiring a wealth adviser, here are two approaches to think about as you seek to achieve the authentic happiness you thought a winning number would bring:

Bring your experience of gratitude into the forefront. Keeping a gratitude journal can help you become more aware of what brings you pleasure. Several times a week, count your blessings and write about three specific experiences for which you were thankful that day. They could include a dramatic sunset, warm hug from a friend, tender compliment from your partner, touching story, beautiful violin concerto, delicious dessert. As you focus on these and choose not to take them for granted, you'll be increasing your level of joy. Express your gratitude to others who have made a positive difference in your life - you'll feel happier and so will they.

Engage in the world around you using your personal strengths. When you're absorbed in a challenging activity you love and are skillful at, you'll feel more alive and authentic. Your energized focus and immersion in the task at hand create flow. This peak experience is accompanied by deep feelings of fulfillment and happiness. Identifying, developing and utilizing your character strengths at work and in your leisure interests bring you flow and a sense well-being that is genuine and lasting.

For more practical and winning tips for achieving happiness, check in with us here again on Wednesday.

If you had hoped to use your lottery winnings to help with finances after your kids boomeranged home, we've also got some useful strategies for you. Log onto our interview on the Fox Business website with boomer Casey Dowd, Repopulated Empty-Nests: What to Do When Your Kids Move Back Home and let us know how our tips work for you.

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