Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tweens and Social Media

Now that Facebook has finally gone public and lawsuits have been launched about the process, will the media frenzy about it subside? Attention is already being paid to other social media sites – including those aimed at kids, tweens and teens. With summer beginning and school out in the next couple of weeks, soon your kids will be having more time on their hands. Are you concerned about how they may be spending it?

Parents try to keep an eye on how and where their children are on the Internet, but the kids seem to be one step – or click – ahead in their search for freedom. And they're beginning younger and younger. While most don't have their own mobile phones until they're teens, 15% of children under 11 now have them. Although the age limit on Facebook is 13, many tweens have their own pages there. Kids are using Viddy, a video-sharing app, on their pages and they've learned to use sites such as Instagram, a photo-sharing app, to text each other.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from online predators, bullies, inappropriate advertising or their own naïve sharing of personal information. At the same time you recognize that the Internet is a part of their social and academic experience and you want them to learn how to use it responsibly. Now there are educators attempting to do just that. Playground is being developed by the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California to teach kids about Internet responsibility and privacy in addition to how to create content.

We've blogged here before about on-line safety and supervision – you can check out some of our tips for talking with your kids about the Internet. Of course you'll want to do your own homework before you decide which websites you'll allow your kids to use, if any. The American Academy of Pediatrics gives some suggestions for talking with them about time limits, your expectations for their behavior and rules they need to follow.   

If you want to get a jump on the process, here's a look at some of the virtual sites where your tweens may say they want to hang out this summer:

On the social media site KidzVuz, kids are encouraged to make and share their own videos -reviewing books and movies as well as food and clothes. They can't conduct private messaging and there is careful monitoring of comments to keep them in the protective guidelines.

Everloop is a social media site just for tweens where they can design their own pages, join groups that interest them, chat and play games. There are safety controls built in and bullying or bad language is not allowed by the monitors.

Tween girls who are interested in fashion may spend time on FashionPlayte. They can design and then order these clothes for themselves or their dolls on the site.  

Disney owned, established-site Club Penguin has activities and games for younger children to play as well as the opportunity to connect and chat with each other. With its embedded safety controls, it doesn't allow them to share personal information or treat each other with disrespect.

Now that you have some more ideas about what's happening on-line for your tweens, you can get back to planning how to get them away from the computer and outdoors this summer.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and Changing Behavior

Today we in the United States remember and pay tribute to the men and women in the Armed Forces who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms over the years. Other military personnel have given up healthy bodies and psyches in service to country. In their honor this Memorial Day and with respect for their unique bravery, we offer you links to organizations that provide assistance to soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and their families. You can make a difference by supporting their work. 
Joining Forces is a national initiative that provides members of the Armed Services and their families opportunities and support. United We Serve can help you search for volunteer opportunities to help military families in your community. 
The mission of The Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded soldiers with a variety of programs to strengthen Mind, Body, Economic Empowerment and Engagement, including PTSD evaluation. Fisher House gives families the chance to be close to their military loved ones who are hospitalized and provides scholarships to support programs improving the quality of life for military families. The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for injured and critically ill Marines and their families. 

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, TAPS, provides comfort 
and healing for those who have lost a loved one in service to America. 
Their motto, "Remember the Love, Celebrate the Life, Share the Journey," 
aptly reflects their mission.
As we remember today, with love and respect, the sacrifice of these men 
and women, we can also reflect on the ideals of service, courage, and 
camaraderie they embody. They can be role models that we seek to 
But making a decision to act differently is just the first step to actually changing your behavior.  A new book we received addresses how to begin making some of these changes in your relationships, focusing on strategies that lead to greater closeness and understanding. Dr. Georgianna Donadio has written Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy-to-Learn, Proven Communication Skills to share some of her tips for having fulfilling, lasting relationships.             

Here's just a brief look at Dr. Donadio's answers to some of our questions about changing and improving your communication techniques: 
NFR: Change is never easy, especially for people who are used to behaving or communicating a certain way for years. How does your book make change achievable?

Georgianna: It makes change possible by identifying the specific needs people have in communication exchanges. These needs and the steps to create effective and fulfilling communication have been researched for over 30 years.

NFR: A central part of your Changing Behavior is the concept of Behavioral Engagement. What exactly is Behavioral Engagement?

Georgiannia: Behavioral Engagement is the name of the set of communication skills that were developed. The name describes what the skills are about – how specific behavior engages others to create positive outcomes in communication.

NFR: What are your 12 steps for more effective communication?

Georgianna: The 12 steps are extensive to describe but here are the first few steps in summary:

Enter into your communications with a focus on the person and conversation you are having in that moment and not being distracted by other thoughts, concerns or most importantly with an agenda for the conversation or exchange you are having. Many of us are sitting with another person not really listening or being present, but rather just waiting to interject our thoughts rather than take in what the other person is sharing with us.

Sit in a comfortable, relaxed position that will allow you to be open (without crossed arms and legs) and receptive. Avoiding distracting movements such as playing with your hair, your eyeglasses, jewelry you may be wearing, etc. signals to the other person that you are actually paying attention to them and listening.

Maintain soft, non-judgmental eye contact. This creates openness and also stimulates oxytocin, which is a hormone/neurotransmitter that produces feelings of trust and love.

To get more of a flavor of her book, you can download a complimentary excerpt on Dr. Donadio's website.  

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sandwich Generation Siblings: Caring for Aging Parents

Today we're focusing on issues that may arise among siblings once parents begin to decline. If your interactions feel like when you were kids fighting for who gets the biggest piece of cake, here are some tips that may help your family right now:

Recognize why you're upset. There's likely a lot going on as you try to keep all the balls in the air. Worrying about your parents' well-being and the decisions you will have to make on their behalf is stressful. At the same time you may be facing loss on many levels - your parents as you knew them, fears about their declining health and eventual death.

Divide the responsibilities. Love for your parents and shared memories are what you have in common with your siblings. Now is the time to support each other. If you live far away but have the financial wherewithal to send money from time to time, don't hesitate - and call often. If you live local, are hands-on and don't think the others are doing enough, try to understand the guilt they may be feeling.

Talk about your emotions. Whether its frustration, sadness or grief, have a conversation with your siblings or with friends who understand what you're going through. It can be cathartic to put it all on the table and easier to sort out. And those who have been in your situation may guide you to a different perspective and possible solutions.

Focus on individual qualities. We all have unique skills and strengths. Which of your siblings has some free time and manages money well or lives close to your folks and is persuasive enough to gain their cooperation? Try to recognize these and put the best use of everyone's talents to work.

Be proactive. Arrange a family meeting and try to resolve any longstanding disputes. Include your parents in conversations and discuss their preferences about how they want to live as they decline. As difficult as this may be, it will minimize confusion and conflict in the long run.

Put what you're learning into play. You don't have to wait until you're incapacitated to consider some of these issues, write a will or create a legacy. Be a good role model for the benefit of your children. Remember, they’re watching.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Sibling Bond and Aging Parents

We just got home from the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina and a reunion with my husband’s brothers and their wives.

Visiting with family always reminds me of how the internal scripts and imprinted patterns that shape us continue their impact throughout our lives. I guess a broad range of emotions weave the tapestry of family life for all of us.

Like the sagas of Cain and Abel or Rachel and Leah, stories about sibling bonds are fascinating. Archetypal tales interest us because relationships with our own brothers and sisters can have a mix of love and rivalry, pride and resentment. And sibling rivalry, with its complex feelings of guilt, can lead to a cascade of emotions - empathy, shame, even manipulation.

Think about the specific dynamics between you and your siblings and how they have played out over the years. It’s not unusual for kids to feel that mom had a favorite - what impact did this have on your family? And consider what defines your relationships - birth order, personality, values, common interests, similar character traits?

Now look at what's going on between you and your siblings as your parents begin to decline.

The statistics are staggering. According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 65 million Americans serve as family caregivers for an ill, disabled or aging relative. That's 29 % of the adult U.S. population involving 31 percent of all households. Some provide 20 hours of care a week, and only 1 in 10 who get help from others think the care is split equally.

It’s difficult when you have to take time away from work and family. And then there’s the added stress of caring for parents in decline. When faced with this kind of dilemma, many of us revert back to less adaptive attitudes and behaviors. Siblings can become inflexible and competitive instead of cooperative and collaborative when managing family problems.

Click on ‘comments’ below and share how your family is dealing with these inevitable challenges. And log on here Wednesday for tips that may help you begin to sort things out.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: Don't Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw

Today we welcome Roger Frame, Ph.D. to our blog to chat with us and answer questions about his new book, Don’t Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw: Resolving Family Conflict. Dr. Frame, known as The Conflict Whisperer®, consults and conducts workshops across the United States on interpersonal conflict management issues. You’re sure to enjoy the book, filled with his quick humor and insightful techniques, just as we have. So let's get started.

Roger, how did you come to write this book, Don’t Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw: Resolving Family Conflict?

Roger: When I completed my Ph.D., I took a job directing a 37 county child abuse treatment and prevention program through Southern Illinois University. I soon discovered that families do not generally become abusive because they are mean people. Rather, they become abusive because they are highly stressed, and don’t know a better alternative. When we provided training and support, 93 percent of those families had no subsequent reported abuse.

I married, adopted a child, and had a thriving private mental health counseling practice. Life was good. My wife subsequently earned her Ph.D. in counseling and obtained a university faculty position. Friends commented that our son wouldn’t have a chance with parents like us. They were wrong.

As my son entered his teen years, conflicts arose. Suddenly communication became more difficult. Six months after he graduated from high school, my wife announced that she wanted a divorce. One month after the divorce was final, my employer announced that another company was purchasing them, and my position had been eliminated.

Clearly, my life was not going as planned. It would have been easy to blame the world. Look at all the grief it was causing me! But there was one common ingredient to all the distressing incidents. Me. And there was only one thing I could change. Me.

So how did you go about changing yourself?

Roger: Even though I knew a great deal about conflict, perhaps there was something more I could learn. Even though I did not have control over many unpleasant incidents, perhaps I could do better in some areas where I do have control. I began to research the topic of conflict resolution in more depth, and I found many subtle but crucial factors that might influence the outcome of critical conversations.

I began to practice them, tentatively at first. Then more confidently until, one day, my son came to me and said, “Dad, I need to turn my life around and I can’t do it where I am living. Can I move home and live with you.” I will never forget that day! Subsequently, I married a wonderful woman, and I can report that the principles work well among spouses as well.

I believe that the principles contained in this book have turned my life around. I hope it will help you as well. There is only one person in this world you really can change, and that is you. This is your call to begin today. In my private practice, I used a phoenix with the motto “New Life Emerging” as my logo. Is it time for your new life to emerge?

What are some of the main points you discuss in your book?

Roger: A major premise is that conflict is not based on reality, but rather on a person’s interpretation of that reality. Therefore, in order to resolve the conflict, both sides must understand how their partner interprets the situation, and what interests need to be met.

While many people suggest that we always seek win/win solutions, it isn’t that simple. One style of conflict resolution for all situations is no more appropriate than one style of clothing for all situations. Just as you wouldn’t wear a bikini to the prom, or your wedding dress to work in the garden, you need to vary your conflict resolution style according to the situation. The different styles all have strengths and weaknesses. You need to know what these are, and when to use them.

What other principles are important in resolving conflicts?

Roger: How you present your case will be crucial to your success. If you begin by accusing and berating your partner, they will become defensive. However, there are alternatives that we discuss in the book. Begin with facts, because they are less controversial. Provide reasons, so your proposal does not appear arbitrary. Make it safe to discuss candidly.

As I found in my own life, the teen years frequently bring more conflict into our home. This is not just because of hormones. Neurological changes that are occurring in the brain contribute as well. It is no accident that car rental companies won’t rent to people under 25 and auto insurance rates drop at age 25. At a time when stimulation seeking and risk taking are increasing, the part of the brain that inhibits impulsive behavior and considers consequences is not fully developed until the mid 20s.

Since all interactions do not get resolved the way we would like, I also discuss four elements needed to make an effective apology, and nine steps that can facilitate forgiveness when you are ready to do so. It is not necessary to reconcile and become good buddies with the perpetrator to forgive them. The chief beneficiary of forgiveness is generally the one doing the forgiving.

You have a chapter that uses fly-fishing as a metaphor for conflict resolution. Tell us about that.

Roger: I started out describing how children frequently bait their parents by saying or doing something that will get the parent’s reaction. When the parents “bite the hook,” the child is in control, the parent is caught and may soon be frying in the skillet. Then all sorts of metaphors came bounding into my head. I recalled that in fly fishing your first casting movement is away from the target followed by a movement forward. In conflict resolution you will be able to hit your target more effectively if you first understand your partner’s interests, (pull back from your interests) and then make your pitch (cast forward.) When a fish is in a stream, they must quickly decide whether or not to take the bait or lose interest. Children often complain that parents drone on and on and on, and the child tunes out. Parents must learn to make the pitch brief or the child will tune out.

Where can people get your book and seminars?

Roger: Don’t Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw: Resolving Family Conflict is available in most bookstores, and online as an e-book. I also love to do live workshops, and keynote presentations. Just contact me at my website at, or

Our thanks to you, Roger, for chatting with us here about your stimulating and engaging book.

Now, readers, the floor is open to you and your questions. Just click the "comments" link below and ask away. Roger will respond to you in the comments section.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Facebook and Mothering - What's the Connection?

With the sweet smell of Mother's Day flowers beginning towane but the chocolates well ensconced on our hips, let's talk about our relationshipswith family and friends - and why they're so important to us.

This week when Facebook goes public, its worth is expectedto be about 100 billion dollars. Yep, that's not a typo, it's $100 billion, ifthe IPO shares are priced around $35 each. With over 900 million active users,how has Facebook achieved such a record-breakingsuccess in less than 10 years? It's built its success on the assumption that weall want to connect with family and friends, telling them about ourselves indetail – our status, our timeline, our likes, our milestones, our photos, ourfriends. And a recent study from Harvard has identified why they are right.

Researchers have shown that it feels good to talk about ourselves, either virtually onsocial media sites or in person. And we spend a lot of time doing it. About 40%of the things we say on a daily basis are self-disclosure, how we think orfeel. Using brain imaging as well as behavioral criteria, they found thattalking about ourselves triggers the same pleasurable responses as food ormoney. Brain scans indicate that areas in the limbic system have more activitywhen we're sharing information about us, just as they do when we're feelingsatisfaction from food, money or sex. So it's no wonder that we choose to brag aboutourselves.

Some have said that this preference for self-disclosure mayhave played a role in the Mother's Day cover of Time Magazine – on which a twenty-something mom is breast-feedingher almost 4 year-old son. While breast-feeding can enhance physical bonding aswell as provide unique enrichment and protective nutrients to little ones, the cover story highlights the controversies stemming from extended nursing – one of three major tenants of attachmentparenting. What are your feelings about the duration of breast-feeding? About "baby-wearing?"About sharing a family bed?

Raising children is never easy and there is no one perfectway for everyone. What have you found works best for you in nurturing yourkids? How does this affect the relationship with your partner? Share yourthoughts through our "Comment" button below and become part of theconversation.

And be sure to join us Wednesday when "ConflictWhisperer" Roger Frame, Ph.D. visits to talk about his book, Don't Carve the Turkey with a Chainsaw: Resolving Family Conflict. He'll beanswering questions and introducing us to his tools for conflict management.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

You, Your Difficult Mother and Mother’s Day

Perhaps you're fed up with trying to win your mom’s approval and be accepted for who you are. Or you’re tired of feeling guilty and blaming yourself for the problems. Although we all want an emotionally healthy relationship with our mother, sometimes it’s not possible. Instead of trying to placate mom, understand that the anger is her problem and it’s not your responsibility to manage her emotions.

Silence your self doubt. It’s not uncommon for insecurity to be the legacy of a difficult mother. Challenge your negative internal scripts and put them to rest. Value those who listen as you share your opinions and desires. This will remind you that close relationships can be different from your relationship with your mother.

Begin to practice self love. You’ll feel more empowered as you list all that you have achieved without your mom’s encouragement or support. Realize that these assets belong to you alone. If you've spent a lifetime trying to be taken care of or consumed with rage about not having that kind of love, it may be hard to see yourself as the valuable person you really are. You’ll come to know that you are not defined by your mom but by what you envision yourself to be.

Notice the positives of the life you've created. When you were young, your mom's attitude or actions may have made you feel worthless or invisible. Did you fantasize about getting out from under her control and moving far away? Now that you are perhaps married, with a family and a successful life, you're no longer that helpless little girl. Admire and respect your grown up qualities - how responsible you are, being able to laugh at yourself, your fierce independence, common sense and good judgment.

As you continue working to get what you need, consider the possibility of offering forgiveness. Granted, your mom may have made it difficult to accept yourself or trust others. But know that forgiving your mother for who she is doesn't necessarily excuse her actions. And starting to extinguish the feelings of rejection and resentment can mark a new beginning for you - a Mother's Day gift that you give yourself, freeing you from the past.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 07, 2012

Difficult Moms and Mother's Day

When we’re young, it’s mom who gratifies our needs and takes care of our hurts. But she is also the first one to impose control and set limits. As we grow, memories of this primary and most powerful relationship are imprinted deep in our psyche.

It’s through attachments that we eventually learn who we are and what we feel. Some moms don’t acknowledge their kids as independent and set up coercive relationships with conditions on love and approval. In all stages of life, children with difficult mothers struggle with self doubt and worry others will disapprove of them.

Even though the media leads us to believe that all mothers deserve flowers on Mother’s Day, not all moms are lovable. So how can you protect yourself from rejection and keep your self respect while trying to regulate closeness and distance? Here are some ideas that can help you take better care of yourself on Mother's Day and throughout the year:

Let go of the dream of having a loving mother. It's hard to face the fact that you don’t have a 'good enough' mother. Once and for all, step back and stand up for you. Now is the time to shift the focus away from her and begin to protect and nurture yourself.

Be clear about what you're willing to do. Does your mother still have unreasonable expectations? Instead of her valuing what you do, perhaps she criticizes or argues in return. Make a list of what you’ll tolerate and try to keep firm boundaries. And don’t assume that you have to do it all alone. Talk honestly about how you feel and encourage family members to do their share. Some adult children have to work it out by walking away.

Refuse to respond to unrealistic demands. You may have other commitments or not feel like it. You’ll see that you create more balance by setting limits. You don't have to continue identifying with the role of the victim. Think about seeing a therapist - learning how to soothe yourself and manage your moods will put you more in control of your life.

Log on Wednesday to learn more about how to shift the focus to you, beginning on Mother’s Day.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Pledge to End Bullying Now

The emotionally charged issue of childhood bullying is back in the forefront of public attention after the opening of the documentary, Bully, earlier this month. According to the Department for Health and Human Services, between1/5 and 1/3 of teens report being bullied within any given year. While kids may often be aggressive to one another, to qualify as bullying, this behavior requires specific qualities: it is repetitive and uses an imbalance of power with intent to cause harm.

Some parents of children being bullied may feel powerless to stop the harassment and protect their children, despite their best efforts. After the suicide of their 11-year old son, Kirk and Laura Smalley were able to move beyond their deep pain and create something positive honoring Ty’s memory. They began lecturing about the problem and created a website, Stand for the Silent. It encourages others to get involved and prevent further persecutions by being supportive of the intimidated kids, empowering youth to create cultures of kindness and stand up to bullying.

Parents can help promote upstander – rather than bystander – behavior in their own children by role modeling empathic behavior toward others. Here are some steps you can take to help create a safe environment, a Just and Caring Community, for all kids:

Talk openly. And often. Use the good communication techniques you’ve learned over the years – using active listening, sending i-messages, attending to non-verbal signals, keeping your emotions in check. Encouraging honest conversations with your children teaches them to trust themselves in expressing their thoughts and feelings to others. 

Show kindness and empathy. Nurture positive relationships around you and express your gratitude for them. Lead in helping your child find healthy, non-abusive ways to resolve conflicts. Reinforce the family rules, including those that don’t tolerate behavior that is harmful to another.

Respect diversity. Broaden your own circle to include more of the rich cultural tapestry of your community. Encourage your children to accept and learn about others who are different from them.

Care for others. Reach out to help and support those who need comfort. Give back as you build an atmosphere of responsibility and compassion in your home that can extend into your child’s world at school and beyond.

Act to protect those in danger. Get involved yourself in causes you believe in and let your children know that actions can generate effective outcomes. Reinforce your teen’s commitment to create a safe school environment and take actions to defend a victim of bullying.

Bully has now been viewed by thousands of children and families across the country. The film may be uncomfortable to watch but the experience powerfully challenges all of us to work together to stop bullying.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,