Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Verbal Self-Defense Written by: Devie Forrester, BA, Student

This article is inspired by an interesting read.

Suzette Hagen Elgin, in her book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self- Defense, reminds us that the old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” does not necessarily hold true. Words can hurt and when they do, they hurt terribly. Many of us have a working knowledge of forms of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual etc). How acquainted are we with verbal abuse? Could this be a form of abuse that we experience daily, be it on the receiving or giving end? Who do you call when you experience verbal violence?
According to Elgin, when someone has been verbally abused, they often find themselves struggling to find the root of the pain and aggression that they feel, directing their anger inward rather than toward their aggressor. Very few of us are trained in verbal self-defense.

There are four basic principles of verbal self-defense.

Know when you are under attack

How easy is it for us to exit a conversation feeling “silly”, “paranoid” or “childish”. If you find yourself assuming these labels for your feelings, you are at risk for being a victim of verbal abuse. Verbal abusers avoid those who are prepared to fight back. Potential victims need to be aware of the signs of abuse even when those signs are subtle or non-verbal.

Know what kind of attack you are facing

An understanding of our opponent’s strengths and skills (weapon) is of utmost importance. The usual and expected scowl or loudness of someone’s voice is not a reliable indicator of potential abuse. Looking for the obvious may be misleading.

Know how to make your defense fit the attack

When your opponent attacks, you must respond with equal intensity. Your response must be “exactly enough”.

Know how to follow through

The most difficult part of defending oneself verbally is usually in follow through. Once we have decided on our response, we must stand our ground and carry it out to the end.

Verbal Behavior Patterns
Nationally known family therapist, Virginia Satir, developed a system which describes five verbal behavior patterns in the form of personalities.

The Placater – is the person who is often referred to as “Good Old…..” Afraid of being left alone or abandoned by angry people, the placater acts out of fear. Common speech patterns of the placater are “oh, you know me – I don’t care” or “nothing bothers me! Do whatever you like”.

The Blamer- is often bossy and desires to be in charge; fuelled by the perception that no one cares respects or has affection for him or his feelings. Two blamers will most likely find themselves in screaming matches. Blamer can be heard saying, “you never consider my feelings” or “Why don’t you always insist on having your own way, no matter how much it hurts other people?”

The Computer – is a pro at masking feelings. Driven by the fear of being found out, the blamer would rather give the impression that he has no feelings. Computers may say “no rational person would be alarmed by this crisis.” Or “there is undoubtedly a simple solution to this problem”.

The Distracter – is a chameleon. Always in a panic, he must say something even when he knows not what to say. The distracter moves rapidly through other patterns, anxious for a fit.

The Leveler –
is either the easiest or the most difficult type to handle. The person reasons, or levels with you. When a leveler is genuine, he says what he feels. The leveler does not generally struggle with communicating.

Do you see yourself in any of these patterns? Do you see your attacker? Regardless of what you see or who you see, let us remember, not so much to focus on the process of defending ourselves but the outcome of our actions. Let us find that balance between turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:1) and asserting ourselves. As we strive to gain understanding of the behaviors and motives of those around, consider the one who created them, recognizing that He is allowing them to pass through various levels of spiritual and emotional growth. While coming to terms with the level at which we find ourselves, we must be prepared to relate and respond to others at their current level. James 1:19 puts it best.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Bio: Devie is a Marriage and Family Therapist Student who has a passion for healing and restoring broken and wounded relationships. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica and she has a strong desire to guide and empower her clients to obtain their peak potential in both their personal and professional lives. Devie is committed to each client, which has proven to transform their lifestyle in many ways including spiritually & emotionally.
For More Information Contact:
The LifeWorks Group, Inc
1850 Lee Rd. Suite 250 Winter Park, FL 32789
407-647-7005, www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Monday, February 12, 2007

Memories in a Box Written by: John Trent, http://www.strongfamilies.com

After we fade into the distance, our children will have the pictures we’ve left behind. Dad, you’d be captivated – and learn something – by reading a great children’s book. It’s called The Memory Box (Whitman), written by Mary Bahr and illustrated by David Cunningham. It’s a great-tugging story that communicates a clear challenge for every father.

The book tells about a boy’s relationship with his grandfather, captured during a summer vacation at his grandparents’ cabin. The grandfather has just learned he has Alzheimer’s disease, and he wants to make sure important memories won’t be forgotten.

“It was your Great-Gram who told me about the Memory Box,” Gramps says. It’s a special box that stores family tales and traditions. An old person and a young person fill the box together. That way, no matter what happens to the old person, the memories are saved forever.”

For the rest of the grandson’s vacation, you can imagine what happens. Every fishing trip, they not only catch fish, they also snag a small memento or picture that lands in their Memory Box. On the day they picked blueberries, another reminder was tossed into the box. Grandpa also found some old pictures to put in the box – pictures of his grandson at his second birthday party, a shot of Gram in her wedding dress, even one of Gramps in his football uniform…back when he had hair!

As the summer progressed, so did the Alzheimer’s. The grandfather began to forget things and get lost in the woods. Finally, it was time for the boy to return home. “As the car hit the top of the hill,” the boy says, “I watched Gramps slowly disappear into the horizon. And I hugged my Memory Box.”

One day your child and mine will see us fade into the distance through age or illness. Like that boy, what they’ll have to hold on to are the pictures we’ve left behind. Remember the shirt you were wearing when you played catch the other day? You might not remember, but a child will – plus what you said and how you looked at him.

Writer Robert Fulghum put it this way: “Don’t’ worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Children perceive life in concrete terms, so they watch and remember, storing away pictures. The abstract concepts of the gospel – love, atonement, repentance, reconciliation – become concrete as kids observe your life, one picture at a time.

What does your child see in the life you’re living? Does he recall the way you looked at him with disapproval when he spilled his milk at dinner again? Or is it a picture of you sliding with her on a sled? Are there plenty of pictures of you kissing your wife, praising you mother, or keeping your promise to be there to see them receive their award?

Regardless of your child’s age, I challenge you to do something new this summer – make your own Memory Box. With your child, fill you Memory Box with tiny treasure and snapshots of times you have spent together. Leaving behind positive pictures can bring comfort and encouragement long after we’re gone.

For additional free resources & articles visit:
The LifeWorks Group, Inc.
407-647-7005 or www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Monday, February 05, 2007

THE IMPERATIVE OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE AFTER THE ADDITION OF CHILDREN Written by: Linda Riley, LMFT

The Bible tells us that children are a gift and a blessing. Research tells us that marriage has many positive effects on children, but are children handicapped by a weak marriage? Among other advantages, children who live with happily married parents are:

1. Less likely to be seriously abused
2. Less likely to end up breaking the law or going to jail
3. Less likely to be depressed or have other mental problems
4. More likely to stay in school and do better academically
5. Less likely to have developmental and/or behavioral problems
6. Less likely to use drugs and be sexually active

People are essentially lonely and can feel very isolated in modern life without the refuge of marriage and family. Family provides a haven from loneliness wherein we can feel accepted, loved and valued. Intimate relationships are built on the security of these feelings and when marriages don’t function properly they compromise the family’s ability to provide children with the acceptance, love and self worth that will determine their own capacity for intimacy. We first experience intimacy within our family and from this arena learn how to achieve intimacy in all our relationships. Though children may burden marriage and redefine the relationship, it is imperative that couples prioritize their intimacy in the interest of not only themselves but also the children. When we add children to a marriage, we cannot neglect ourselves, our spouses, our children or our marriages. How do we manage to focus on all of it with the right balance? Maybe the most important ingredient is flexibility, a willingness to keep changing and evolving.

The birth of a child can cause a marital crisis; a baby changes the roles and responsibilities of both husband and wife. A child alters a couple’s daily schedules, goals, finances, social life and even their sex life. A significant number of couples report a decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of the first child. But, it is important to remember that marriages are supposed to change as we go through life transitions. Recognizing that it is normal for a child to change their relationship helps couples cope with the transition better. Marriages, like all relationships, are never stagnant; their dynamic constantly shifts in response to myriad internal and external circumstances. The status of a relationship is always in flux and a successful couple must constantly adjust to and monitor these changes. Children are only one of the many factors that force a marriage to adjust. In our efforts to meet our children and partners’ needs, we grow and stretch towards God’s plan of sanctification. In this way, our marriages and families facilitate our compassion and help breakdown our self-centeredness.

The Arabic poet philosopher Kahlil Gibran speaks about pain and joy flowing from the same source to explain how those we love can hurt us the most. The experience of marriage can at times be painful; it can cause us to feel anxious, fearful, insecure, angry and frustrated. Marriage is hard work. But, if we remain committed as we go through its transitions, we build a deeper and stronger relationship and are rewarded by the fulfillment our effort brings. Marriages are partnerships and rely on our ability to show our partner that he or she is the most valued person in our life. Most of life’s pain results from not having been loved well and therefore not being able to love others well either. Scripture clearly states that love is the most important calling we have as Christians.

As a marriage counselor, I believe our marital struggles reflect lessons about love and dating that our families of origin failed to teach us, and so began long before our marriage commitment. Thanks to the pain experienced by our early mistakes and failures, we often harbor a tremendous fear of vulnerability that inhibits our ability to be emotionally intimate. In our culture, we more readily attempt sexual intimacy, jumping into bed for connection instead of revealing and sharing our characters with one another and achieving emotional intimacy. Often we miss the connection between emotional and sexual intimacy because the model of our family of origin didn’t teach us one existed. This is further complicated by modern dating practices, which frequently disconnect emotions from sexuality, protecting us from vulnerability at the cost of relationship fulfillment. The common practice is to “try on” partners only to discard them if and when our tastes change or in pursuit of someone “better”.

It is vital to their future relationships that children in Christian homes see a different approach to life, love and marriage. They need to witness strong commitment, the persistence through difficult times and life transitions, unselfish love and parents who are both emotionally and sexually intimate with one another. Although it is more challenging to create this kind of marriage after the birth of children, we must rise to the challenge because future relationships are modeled on those of the past. As our understanding of intimacy relates to our childhood model, our children’s ability to foster successful relationships in their futures depend on the precedents we set at home right now.

Married partners may well experience a temporary loss of intimacy with the addition of children and the necessary redirection of energies from one another to the new baby. This initial imbalance is normal; we only need to anticipate and recognize the changing relationship in order to reestablish intimacy on these new terms. Communication is essential in all intimate relationships. We need to make sure we are setting aside time for talking and listening to maintain an understanding of our partners’ intrapersonal lives. It is also crucial to make opportunities for alone time as well as couple time. Maintenance of your marriage not only ensures continued fulfillment for you and your spouse, but also provides your children with the framework for their future happiness. The recognition that a strong marriage is the most solid foundation a child can grow from helps couples prioritize their marriage. An atmosphere at home of acceptance, value and unconditional love gives children the sense of security and stability that enables them to develop positive identities and fulfilling relationships of their own.

Written by: Linda Riley, A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Counselor who has counseled family's and couples for over 22 years. Her focus has been with enriching relationships and understanding relationship dynamics. Promoting personal growth and building healthy self-concepts to help her clients achieve maximum results in their personal and professional lives. For additional free resources and articles please visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or 407-647-7005.

Friday, February 02, 2007

THE MORE, THE SCARIER: Helping your children adjust to a new baby in the house By: Aaron Welch, LMHC

I must confess that I absolutely adore children. No lie. Ever since I was a child myself, I have enjoyed holding little babies, playing with toddlers, and interacting with elementary age kids. Heck, I even love spending large amounts of time with teenagers, which most people believe qualifies me for an institution (and not an institution of higher learning, either). When I was as young as 8 or 10 years old, I was volunteering to work in our church nursery. At age 15, I was willing to wash hundreds of dishes just so I could go to as many weeks of camp in the summer as I could. As a teenager, I was working as a member of faculty for weeks of camp where I could work with kids. At around that same age, I began to pray to God that He would allow me to have a family of my own someday. I know it seems unusual but, here I was, fourteen or fifteen years old and already hoping to have my own kids.

Well, it took me longer than I expected but those prayers were finally answered in the affirmative. In the last four years, I gained a stepson (who is now eleven), another son (now three), and only a week ago, we brought home a little girl as a new addition to our home. I am tickled pink! I often tell people that being a parent is the hardest and greatest job in the world. However, as the day approached that this new baby girl was going to enter the world, I experienced a new emotion in regards to children; fear.

It’s true. I started to really get scared of the repercussions of bringing home another infant. I think my fears revolved around the strong bond I have with my sons, who were already in the home. I have worked hard over these past years at developing a loving, secure bond with the two boys in the home. I love both of them greatly and those relationships were going well, especially with the toddler. I have always been very close to my son. I worked at it but it wasn’t hard work, as it was my lifelong dream. However, I have been very intentional in making sure that my son was confident that daddy loved him, valued him, and would spend time with him. Thankfully, those efforts have been rewarded a hundred times over. He is as secure a toddler as I know (sometimes too secure, which gets him into trouble).

When my wife discovered she was pregnant with another child, I was ecstatic. After all, I was the one whose ideas of family were very reminiscent of the Osmond family choir. :) My wife believes I secretly had designs on having enough children that I could start my own baseball team. Seriously, the thought of a new baby was very exciting.

And then it hit me. Fears began to swarm around me like a host of bees, stinging me with insecurities and doubts. What if I was unable to love the next baby like I had been able to love our other kids? What if I DID love the baby so much that our other kids felt abandoned? What if all the security I had built up in the life of my toddler crumbled under the pressure of sharing daddy with this new family member? What if I couldn’t sustain the level of love and affection as our family grew larger? What if my heart wasn’t big enough for any more kids?????

Over these past months, I have done my best to prepare for this new dynamic. I have read books on the topic. I have interviewed other parents who have already blazed that trail in their own families. I have shared that fear with other men who were preparing for the same changes. And I have searched my heart for answers. The following suggestions are compiled from all of these sources and more. For those of you who are approaching the birth of a new baby and have fears about the adjustment that new baby may bring, these tips are for you. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been for me.

1. Deepen your bond with your kids BEFORE the new baby arrives. If you are still in the preparation stage, take time now to spend extra time with the children who are already in your home. If you have a strong relationship with them before the newborn arrives, it will give them a stronger foundation to handle the change.

2. Be intentional in your time. After the new baby comes, time will become even more of an issue than it already is. Very rarely will you find that you just have some “free time” to spend with your older children. You will have to deliberately carve out time for your kids. You must do this, or jealousy will be more likely to rear its ugly head. Be creative in taking time for your kids. Even a nighttime walk to the park and back with just your older children will go a long way with reminding them they are still special to you.

3. Make sure you and your spouse work as a team. Again, this does not happen by accident. You and your spouse must share time with each child in the house. Both parents must show that each child is important. Very early on, mom usually spends a little more time with the newborn but dad can still take over enough that mom can spend quality time with her other kids. This is very important both for the newborn (to bond with dad) and the other kids (in not feeling left out by mom).

4. Involve your present children in taking care of the baby. One thing that has worked very well for us, and in the lives of other families, is to include both of our older boys in caring for the baby. Our toddler cannot get enough of touching her hair gently, carrying diapers to the trash can, or getting her blanket when she needs it. Even our older boy changed his first diaper the other day which was so miraculous we thought the heavens would open and we would hear the “Hallelujah Chorus”. :) Now, we must monitor this involvement from the boys as they do not know the nuances of taking care of a newborn but this involvement has gone a long way in their acceptance of their baby sister.


5. Allow your present children to take the initiative with the baby. Perhaps I should have placed this as number 4. The first day we brought our daughter home, we were somewhat apprehensive on how she would be accepted, especially by our toddler. We did not force the baby on him but merely allowed him to approach her of his own volition. Again, this paid off handsomely. Because he didn’t feel smothered or pressured to accept her, it made him far more willing to do so. If anything, we now have to curtail his urges to be around her too much. I mean, BABIES HAVE TO SLEEP YOU KNOW! :) So, I know you want your children to accept the baby but here is some advice: Don’t force it, encourage it.

6. Use healthy touch with all of your children. Healthy, appropriate touch is needed by the newborn as well as all of your children, no matter how old they are. Even teens need a high-five or a pat on the back, as well as hugs. Of course, the younger the child, the more they need physical affection. Make sure you give lots of it to everyone.

7. Always greet your older children first. This was a tip that a friend of mine gave me that he said has worked in his home. He said that, if he is leaving for work or coming home from work, that he always approaches his older child first. To approach the baby first can make the older child feel as if he has lost his position in the home. This idea is subtle, not difficult, but I thought made a lot of sense. The baby doesn’t know better but your older child will.

8. Don’t rub it in! Of course you must show love and affection to the baby in the presence of your older children. But please, at the same time, be sensitive to your other kids. If you have a toddler son and bring home another boy, it cannot be good to tell the newborn, “you’re mommy’s little baby now”, or something similar. Be careful that you don’t say things to the newborn that was always reserved for your other kids. Love on the baby. Give the baby lots of kisses and hugs but be balanced in your affection you show your other kids.

9. Carve out a unique niche for each child. If you can help it, don’t sing the same songs to the newborn that were special songs between you and your other children. Don’t use the same nicknames. Try to watch saying the same pet phrases. Make it your goal to have a new nickname for each child. Learn a couple of new songs to sing to this new baby. It doesn’t mean you can never overlap but try to individualize your affection for each child

10. Don’t freak out! Remember, none of us are perfect. Our kids are not perfect. No family makes a perfect transition with a newborn. If things don’t go as smoothly as you hope, don’t overreact. Just know that your heart is big enough to love all your children. Give yourself and your family time to work through the bugs. You can do it and hopefully these tips can help.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together

The LifeWorks Group, Inc.
1850 Lee Rd. Suite 250, Winter Park, FL 32789
407-647-7005, www.LifeWorksGroup.org