Friday, September 26, 2008

Financial Infidelity

By John Wagner, M.S.
Certified Advanced Imago Relationship Therapist


A trend that seems to be invading contemporary marriages and committed relationships more and more is what has come to be called “financial infidelity”. This type of infidelity occurs when a spouse is spending money or puts money in an area that is being kept from the other person in the relationship.

The first area that comes to mind is probably the worst type. That occurs when it is being used to engage in an extramarital affair. Not only is there a betrayal relationally but money is being used to support this affair. Often this type of infidelity leads to large sums of money being used which could have been used in the marriage.

Ruth Houston, the author of “Is He Cheating On You” says the following nine behaviors may be indicators of a spouse’s infidelity:

-Credit card statements that reflect charges for flowers, jewelry or other gift items that the spouse did not receive.

-Unauthorized or surprise withdrawals from joint bank accounts.

-Deposit slips or bank statements that indicate the existence of a previously unknown checking or savings account in the wife’s/husband’s name only.

-The liquidation of assets (stocks and bonds, stamp or coin collections, artwork, etc.) without a plausible explanation.

-Misrepresentation of or failure to mention raises, bonuses or overtime pay.

-Income tax returns that reveal unexplained or previously unknown travel-related deductions.

As a purist in working with couples in Orlando, Florida, I see this issue on a regular basis in relationships. Examples of issues that come up are telling your spouse you bought something on sale when you didn’t is a lie. Hiding five figure credit card debt is a Big Lie. One husband wrote that he used to lie about how much he paid for things and hides purchases from his wife. He didn’t want to fight with her “over spending that much money,” or whether the spending was necessary. One husband I worked with would do major expenditures on his expensive sports car and not inform his wife.

Trust is so important to create an environment for couples to make it over the long term relationship. It is important to remember in biblical times the life span was around 35 to 40 years and when a couple were married the length might be 10 to 15 years. Now with many reaching the century mark we could be married 45 to 65 years as my parents were.

Lies do nothing but erode trust, compromise the teller’s integrity and can make the person who is lied to feel really, really bad and unimportant. Lies may signal significant problems in the relationship.

Personally, I think the problem lies in the philosophy many bring to the marriage around finances. So many couples I work with feel that it is my money and your money. That philosophy is so contrary to the idea of Covenant Marriage from a biblical perception. In covenant what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine.

As an Imago Relationship Therapist we try to encourage couples to enter into contracts over these types of issues. Our position is first that the marriage has to be the priority. In any decision does it take into consideration is this good for the marriage? If it is not, then we should not proceed. When my marriage is the priority I might lose something that is important to me and my wife may lose something that is important to her, but the return on that relationship investment brings back such a return of utter bliss that it is well worth it.

For finances a contract might look like an agreement to not spend over a certain amount unless both agree to it. There needs to be some level of autonomy for each person so that it does not feel like an allowance is being asked for. Contracts can help greatly, but a certain level of trust needs to be stabilized first.


John Wagner Bio:
Dedicated to helping individuals and companies achieve greater results as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Life Coach, and Family Business Consultant in practice since 1992. His primary focus is in healing relationships and managing major change in businesses. Served in the business world for firms such as W. Clement Stone, Sears, Merrill Lynch, and Gordon's Jewelry as sales manager and sales trainer. Known as a national relationship specialist and succession planning specialist. Graduated in 1967 from University of South Florida and in 1994 from Troy University with a M.S. degree in psychology. He has been on national TV talk shows and radio shows and traveled the U.S. doing seminars for reaching your potential in life

Marital Factors which can lead to Marital Failure

Financial & Career
Conflict over spending issues (unresolved spending conflict can linger for years)
Excessive debt (credit cards, late payments, IRS, low FICO, student loans…)
Excessive lifestyle (house, cars, entertainment, travel, recreational vehicles…)
Business success or failure (especially with family or home based business)
Inability to maintain stable employment (or seek job training to increase options)
Lack of income or feeling used financially by spouse who doesn’t contribute
Excessive business travel or weekend work that prevents relationship time
Workaholic or exhausted from the driven need to accomplish greater success
Married to their job instead of to their marriage partner

Emotional
Anger issues (sarcasm, resentment, criticism, bitterness, passive-aggressive, etc.)
Rage, violent temper or episodes of violence (including unresolved past fights)
Stress or burnout (including chronic physical problems or stress related disorders)
Suffocating emotions (jealousy, low self-esteem, insecurity, codependency, etc.)
Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, prescription medication, eating disorders, etc.)
Gambling, pornography or other addictive and secretive behaviors
Criminal behavior, illegal activity or forcing spouse to participate in any unethical acts
Immaturity, ego or selfishness, including the compulsive need to always be ‘right’ or win
Loneliness, rejection, phobic disorders or social isolation disconnected from family or friends
Mental, psychological or psychiatric problems or failure to seek professional help for these issues
Violation of treatment plan or meds to regain emotional stability (e.g. ADD, bi-polar, OCD)
TV addiction to escape reality (soaps, sports, sitcoms, shopping, news, movies, etc.)
Internet addiction to avoid relationship (chat rooms, IM, virtual relationships, email pals, etc.)
Video or computer games to escape reality and relationships (role playing games, online gaming)

Relational
Communication problems, misunderstandings, total silence or failure to listen
Intimacy problems, sexual frustration, sexual distance or lack of sexual desire
Emotional affair or continual flirting for attention from the opposite sex
Sexual behavior with another person outside of the marriage relationship
Sexual behavior with a fantasy image or virtual relationship (sexual addictions)
Unrealistic expectations of marital role or marital responsibilities for each partner
Power & manipulation (or controlling behavior with spouse, children, family or others)
Abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual or threat of abuse with spouse or children)
In-law interference or extreme conflict and dysfunction from extended family system
Abusiveness toward pets or other people especially if threats of a weapon are involved
Parenting struggles (child management, blended family issues, absent or controlling parent)
Household management of chores & clutter or the failure to respect the time & schedule of others
Unresolved legal conflicts (past support or custody issues, business disputes…)
Feeling overwhelmed & exhausted from trying to make the marriage work alone

Spiritual
Religious differences or lack of worship together through a shared house of faith
Dishonesty, lying, misrepresentation, half-truth, ethical violations or other breeches of integrity
Attacking, disrespectful, disloyal, rude or hateful toward other faiths, cultures and belief systems
Not living consistent with personal values and morality or failure to work on character flaws
Trust violations, since trust is the foundational element for any successful relationship

Developed by Dwight Bain, Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator
(permission to reprint providing you leave contact information- 407-647-7005) www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Caregiver Stress

the Dangers of being a Good Samaritan

by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

“Don’t take life so seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive,” was the simple advice I saw on a greeting card once and it makes sense, especially when thinking about the incredible pressures placed on those in the important role of caregiver for a loved one. You’ve got to lighten up the load to prevent major burnout. Many times it’s easy to overlook just how tired, frustrated or angry someone feels when they are buried in the dozens of day to day tasks required of a primary caregiver. This special report is designed to help you spot the warning signs when you’ve done too much for too long and don’t have enough energy left in the tank to help anyone, including yourself.

There was a popular song many years ago that had the lyric, “he ain’t heavy- he’s my brother” which isn’t exactly accurate. If you are piggy-back riding your brother, sister, child or any other family member, their actual weight is still the same, but because you love and care for them you have extra energy to serve them. Love will allow you to carry someone you care about for a while- but after a while they do get heavy again and you will feel the pressure to want to take a break. That’s normal and not a sign of lack of love, rather just a sign of being human. So what does it mean to be a ‘Care-Giver” anyway?

To be a Caregiver is to provide financial, relational, physical, spiritual or emotional support to someone who is unable to live independently like: — newborns or small children — those recovering from an injury or illness — aging loved ones — anyone facing a terminal illness — those who are disabled in some way (physically, mentally, emotionally)

This just about covers parents and people from all walks of life and all ages, so it probably impacts you or someone you care about. Let’s un-package this important issue to understand the dangers of being a ‘good Samaritan’ and find out how to avoid the often overwhelming stress that can come from being a compassionate parent, adult child or primary caregiver.


Let’s start by defining the difference between CARE-TAKERS and CARE GIVERS. A care taker provides a level of compassionate service for someone in need, often for a fee or salary of some kind. They may feel a special calling to help out, (like nurses, teachers, doctors, counselors or pastors), yet at the end of the day, it’s their job and they are compensated in some way for their services. Caretakers can do their important work in many ways, for instance they can work with children, with patients, wounded people, or by managing property or running a museum. It’s important work, often tiring, but not usually overwhelming enough to create compassion fatigue or massive distress because there are clear boundaries, defined duties and reasonable expectations, as well as defined hours of service.

Being a care-taker is much less complicated than being a care-giver. Caregivers do the same work, but often with greater intensity, since they often aren’t compensated in some way and just work out of the goodness of their hearts to show compassion to the person in need. They often give and give expecting nothing in return, yet that is often why they run out of energy and burnout. They don’t have defined hours, schedules or budgets. It can get very stressful, very fast because you can’t do everything for everyone all the time without it leading to caregiver stress. Consider the following warning signs from my friend June Hunt to see if you are experiencing this type of roadblock to healthy relationships.
-The Caregiver Stress Checklist from author Dr. June Hunt In asking yourself these questions, honestly assess your feelings to determine if it could be time to seek professional help to overcome caregiver stress.
· Am I easily agitated with those I love? · Am I becoming more critical of others? · Am I having difficulty laughing or having fun? · Am I turning down most invitations to be with others? · Am I feeling depressed about my situation? · Am I feeling hurt when my efforts go unnoticed? · Am I resentful when other family members are not helping? · Am I feeling trapped by all the responsibilities? · Am I being manipulated? · Am I missing sleep and regular exercise? · Am I too busy for quiet time with God? · Am I feeling guilty when I take time for myself?
- Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress:
___Physically- exhausted and worn out
___Emotionally- resentful, stressed, bitter ___Relationally-feeling used or unappreciated
___Financially- overwhelmed or depleted

It’s right to care for people in need. It’s healthy to show compassion, those are good things and make us feel better for having made a difference in the lives of others. You can show care in a lot of ways and should. Consider the Meanings of the Verb “Care?” ·To have a personal interest in, or be watchful over, to be affectionate toward, to look out for, to be concerned about, to provide for, to give serious attention to and to keep safe. Caring is important- but there are some hidden dangers if you care too much.
Hidden facts about the Good Samaritan

There is no better example of being a compassionate caregiver than the timeless story taught by Jesus about the Good Samaritan. You may remember the story- a man is mugged by thieves and left for dead on the side of the road. Then a pastor and a lawyer pass by on the other side to avoid getting involved, finally a man from another cultural background stops, applies first aid, transports the victim to a respite center and pays for his care. Jesus showed that the person who really showed love for his neighbor wasn’t the most religious or best educated, or even from the same culture; rather the one who showed the greatest compassion was the only one who fulfilled the great commandment to 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

This is a life changing spiritual teaching for anyone, yet don’t miss some basic factors to protect the good Samaritan from compassion fatigue. Yes, he jumped in to help a stranger, yes he showed great love for another human being, but he didn’t do it alone! The good Samaritan started a healing process in the life of a wounded man and allowed others, like the inn-keeper to be part of the team to make a positive difference in helping a man rebuild and recover. When you are part of a team helping someone going through a crisis, you are less likely to burnout and that’s a good thing for everyone so you can have a lot more energy to help others for years to come.

Self Care comes first

Chaplain Max Helton worked next to me at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks in New York on 9-11-01. He taught me a wonderful process in dealing with overwhelming situations. First, focus on ‘self-care’ then ‘buddy care’ and finally ‘other care’. This way you can protect your own energy, help others facing the same caregiving challenges and then together be much stronger and more focused to better serve others. It can be done, but it can’t be done alone. God designed us to work together in partnership with others. Moms and dads, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fellow church members, neighbors, co-workers, community members, basically anyone could be in a situation to be a caregiver, but remember the principle to not go it alone. Let others help you.

If you are facing a major caregiving role alone, let me challenge you to reach out for some help. It could come from friends, family, pastors, churches, a MOPS group or other supportive group, but whatever you do, don’t try to do it all yourself. Caring is good, exhaustion isn’t. If you are aware that you are feeling pressure to do it all, take the checklists and insights from this article to review with someone close to you for an objective point of view just to keep you from the stress of caring too much that you get lost in the process. Or perhaps you have a friend, co-worker or family member that appears to be struggling with compassion fatigue that you could invite for a cup of coffee to review the key points and then open up a discussion on how you might be an encouragement to help them better manage the stress of caring for someone in need.

You don’t have to do it all alone, but you do have to openly bring up the subject to let the people who care about you know that the pressure is building and that you need some help. Here are some strategies to guide you with a sense of balance as you willingly share your heart of compassion without getting crushed from too much care.

► How to prevent being so full of “care” that you can’t care for yourself1) Be aware of the common stress signals that come with being a caregiver
___ irritability or moodiness
___ feelings of resentment
___ loss of sleep or feeling frequently exhausted
___ increased susceptibility to colds and flu
___ feeling guilty about taking time for yourself

2) Be aware of the pressure of caregiving and that it builds over time

3) Be aware that as caregiving goes up, additional coping skills should go up too

4) Be aware of your own needs and don’t be afraid to ask for help
"You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -- pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically -- to say 'no' to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside. The enemy of the 'best' is often the 'good.'" - Stephen Covey
5) Be aware of the resources around you, and be willing to take a respite

-Ways to add compassionate care- Send cards and handwritten notes - Make visits to the hospital or nursing home - Send flowers or small gifts - Provide food and occasionally an entire meal - Volunteer to be a driver (transportation)- Entertain children or other family members - Shop for needed items - Set aside time for regular reading aloud - Take walks and do other outdoor activities - Offer to do laundry and housecleaning - Be a willing and attentive listener - Extend emotional and physical affection - Provide financial assistance – Pray for someone in a crisis and ask others to join you in providing spiritual support for those in great need.
6) Be aware that sometimes you need to just sit in the floor and laugh or cry

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which
are the real ones after all." -Laura Ingalls Wilder

7) Be aware that care-giving is hard work and often times you may want to quit, yet it is still one of the most loving acts of Servant Leadership
For the heartsick, bleeding soul out there today who is desperate for a word of encouragement, let me assure you that you can trust this Lord of heaven and earth.
There is security and rest in the wisdom of the eternal Scriptures. I believe the Lord can be trusted, even when He cannot be tracked. Of this you can be certain: Jehovah, King of kings and Lord of lords, is not pacing the corridors of heaven in confusion over the problems in your life! He hung the worlds in space. He can handle the burdens that have weighed you down, and He cares about you deeply. He says to you, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psm 46:10 - James Dobson, PhD

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors information intact in the box below.

About the Author:
Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally; Dwight is a member of the National Speakers Association who partners with the media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.
Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by receiving the weekly eNews from the LifeWorks Group team of counseling & coaching experts. Simply visit our website and sign up for this valuable electronic resource as our gift since we are dedicated to make life work better for you. http://www.lifeworksgroup.org/

Friday, September 12, 2008

“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”

The Disconnection Stage of Love

By JOHN WAGNER, M.S., L.M.H.C., N.C.C.

There is a gradual movement from the romantic stage, which can last from six months to two years, to disconnection. One of the biggest illusions in our culture is that the honeymoon stage will last forever, if you just find the right partner. We begin to discover this disconnection stage through disappointment with our partner which leads to disillusionment leading to coercion and then to an impasse.

Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand sang “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore” which tells the story of couples disconnecting.

You don’t bring me flowers, you don’t sing me love songs
You hardly talk to me anymore when I come through the door at the end of the day
I remember when you couldn’t wait to love me, used to hate to leave me
Now after lovin me, let I now
When its good for you and your feelin alright
Well I’ll just roll over and turn out the lights
You don’t bring me flowers anymore
It used to be so natural, talk about forever
But used to be’s don’t count anymore, they just lay on the floor till we sweep them away
Baby I remember all the things you taught me, I learned how to laugh and I learned how to cry
Well I learned how to love and I learned how to lie
So you think I could learn how to tell you goodby
You don’t bring me flowers anymore
Well you think I could learn how to tell you goodby
You don’t say you need me, you don’t sing me love songs
You don’t bring me flowers anymore.

Couples do not want divorce, they want an end to pain. It is so difficult to understand how someone we could have been so in love with, a relationship that made us feel “brand new” could get to the place where “you don’t bring me flowers anymore”. We can learn how to have that dream relationship if we are willing to go through the work to find that.

The individual who is anxiously attached will appear as clinging, have difficulty with separation from their partner; need consistent contact; tend to idealize their partners and overlook their partner’s faults to avoid separation. An avoidantly attached individual will attach to objects and work as well on projects, be uncomfortable in social situations, will tend to withdraw and become defensive.

This state of impasse leads to disconnect from the person they were so in love with during the honeymoon stage of love. This is the point where the couple could decide to leave each other through divorce or evolve into an invisible divorce and stay married for the kids, church, God, or family. The problem with leaving the relationship is that we eventually meet someone else and start the whole process again or the couple stays in a passionless marriage. Neither is the will of God for He says in Deuteronomy that He wants our marriages to be like “heaven on earth”.

I really believe that what happens as we move out of that limerence state, we begin to see negatives that we could not see before. It is almost as if the “love cocktail” blindfolds us so that we are not aware of these negatives. Below the surface we are aware, but we do not want to acknowledge it. After a while the negatives seem to be overwhelming. I really believe that most of the positive traits are still there, we just cannot see them. That is why we can act a completely different way towards others outside of the relationship.

Often there is conflict about issues like control, neatness, doing one’s part, closeness or space, feeling unimportant or alone, etc. We often find ourselves needing to be right during conflict. The danger signs gradually begin to appear. John Gottman calls them the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Through his over 20 year research of what makes marriages work, Gottman has been able to develop with 93% accuracy, a couple’s potential of staying away from divorce. He does this by hearing how the couple deal with conflict. When he hears communication style using the four
horsemen, the relationship is on rocky ground if something doesn’t change.

Actually, this is the greatest opportunity to grow into the individuals God wants us to become. Harville Hendrix states that “conflict is growth trying to happen”. If we can learn to meet the needs of our partner the way they need them met and not the way we think they need, then we can have the dream relationship we have longed for.
The message we send in the “honeymoon stage” is “if you leave me I will die”. The message we send in the disconnect stage is “if you don’t leave me I’ll kill you”. The real answer is to evolve to the third stage of love, unconditional love.

EXCERPTED FROM JOHN’S UPCOMING BOOK
“HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING”
Find out how to pre-order an autographed copy by calling John personally at the LifeWorks Group office- 407.647.7005

The Four Relational Germs

By Dr. Howard Markman & Dr. Scott Stanley

Dr. Howard Markman and Dr. Scott Stanley have discovered through over 20 years of research that there are four main risk factors (germs) that can lead to divorce. In their excellent book, Fighting For Your Marriage, they share that we greatly increase our chances of staying in love and in harmony if we avoid these four negative patterns. Here are the four main "germs" that can produce too much anger and possibly lead to divorce:

1. Withdrawal during an argument.
Here one mate closes the other person out after an argument starts. For example, statements like:
"I'm not talking about that any more, it's too hurtful.""I'll just leave the house if you continue talking about this. End of discussion; it's over.""That subject is not open for discussion."

2. Escalating during an argument.
Here, the argument can get ugly. Escalation is when a person starts defending or trying to win an argument. Here, he or she volleys back and forth with shame and defensive statements. For example, shouting, blaming each other, using degrading names directed at your mate and trying to win the argument instead of cooperating as a team to solve the disagreement. Statements like the following might be used during escalation:
"Don't you ever accuse me of that again!""It's your fault that he talks to me like that, you're a great example!""Forget it then. Go out with your friends, see if I care! Stay out all night, you like them better than me anyway."There is usually an over use of the word "you" in an accusatory manner.

3. Belittling each other during an argument.
Here, one mate accuses the other of being "dumb" or "stupid" in their thinking or feelings. Somehow, one mate is trying to belittle the other and prove that he or she is better than the other is. This is the most destructive potential divorce risk pattern. It is also the opposite choice of honor.
"That's the dumbest statement I have ever heard.""When will you ever get it right?""You've been thinking from the wrong part of your body."

4. Having exaggerated or false beliefs about your mate during an argument.
Here, one mate may believe that the other is trying to ruin or weaken the marriage on purpose.
"You're always including your family. They've been between us our whole married life!" "You don't see it do you? You're too negative and it's driving me away!" "You say you're sorry, but you keep doing the same mean things over and over. You'll never change!" The major problem with this fourth germ is that what humans believe about another, they tend to see and hear even if it isn't true. In other words, what you believe about another person (positive or negative), you will find evidence of that belief in everything he or she does or says.

Excerpted from “Fighting for your Marriage”
by Howard Markman, PhD & Scott Stanley, PhD
Reprinted with permission of the Smalley Relationship Center
Find this book and others to build your relationship at http://www.smalleyonline.com/

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why You Must Read Biographies

by Ron White, best-selling author

"Don't worry boy, it will be alright. I've took this road you are walkin' down. I've been in your shoes. It is just somethin' that you have got to go through. I had this same talk with my dad."
Those were the words I heard from my dad at the age of twelve, when my heart had flushed my eyes with tears because the life of my dog was flickering out. Through the years I have taken walks down the same road with my dad and I've heard different versions of the same speech when business was tough, friendships ended or I wasn't feeling my best.

Sometimes it is nice to know that what you are going through isn't an experience unique to you. There is comfort in knowing that others have been there and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Often, when you are in the midst of the tunnel – the only thing that catches your focus is despair, discouragement and depression. Yet, it can turn your day around when someone ventures into the tunnel – walks with you and grabs your hand to say, 'I've been here...hang in there. I turned out alright and you will as well.'

Unfortunately, we don't all have someone who will tread into the tunnel and walk beside with encouragement. This is why it is so important to read biographies! A biography is a unique way to have a successful person walk beside you as you examine the story of their life. You will often be surprised that the most successful people of all time experience the same struggles as you.
Einstein was divorced, Lincoln battled depression, Ronald Reagan had his heart broken by his first wife and Sam Walton went broke twice. Where did I learn these facts? From the biographies I read! Did it make me feel better because they had hard times? Yes and no. I never delight in someone else's pain. On the other hand, it is without question that Einstein, Lincoln, Reagan and Walton were monumental successes. It is refreshing and inspiring to read that they were also human and have walked down the same road that you and I have.

What an encouragement it was when my business was struggling a few years ago to read Sam Walton's biography and my eyes halted on the page where I read that at the exact age I was – at that time – that he was in an almost identical financial spot! I put the book down and a smile spread across my face. If you don't know who Sam Walton is, he started a small company called Wal-Mart a few years ago and it turned out okay.

Reading Sam Walton's biography was a neat way for me to get inspired and reminded that some pretty successful people have met discouragement head on and succeeded. In a sense while reading that book a message from the spirit of Sam Walton said, 'Ron – I have been there. It is hard, but don't give up. The reward is worth it. Now press on.' I did and I will be forever glad that I did.

Now, go to the bookstore and pick up a biography. By the way, if you are in a rough spot or experiencing some heartache... "Don't worry boy, it will be alright. I've took this road you are walkin' down. I've been in your shoes. It is just somethin' that you have got to go through. I had this same talk with my dad."


Reproduced with permission from Your Achievement Ezine. To subscribe, go to www.YourSuccessStore.com All contents Copyright © YourSuccessStore.com except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide.

Moving Beyond Back to School Stress

by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Summer vacation ends with the first RING of the school bell, yet for many students it's not just the end to relaxing days, it's the beginning of major change and stress. Back to school stress is a common emotional reaction that every child has to deal with from elementary through college years. Most kids transition through this adjustment within a few days to a week and settle in for the challenges of the school year ahead. However, it's getting more common to see children developing stress related disorders that affect their sleep, diet, energy and mood. In extreme cases its possible that this build up of emotional pressure can grow and lead to other problems like childhood anxiety, depression and social phobias. Thankfully there are a number of things that you can do as a parent, (or teacher) to help a child move from feeling overwhelmed by back to school stress by building in some strategies to bring early academic success.

These principles will assist you in preventing your son or daughter from losing even a minute of the excitement of achieving the next level of academic success to the sometimes hidden, but still damaging effects of childhood stress and trauma. Remember, there are no simple answers to solve complex problems, but there are always options available to help you empower your son or daughter to turn negative pressure into positive performance. Think about the pressures facing your child this time of year as you consider each strategy to maximize the benefit to help them grow stronger by moving beyond back to school stress.

What is it about the school year beginning that creates so many problems for so many kids?

Think about it, you are facing a brand new sea of faces who don't know you, you don't know them and you are going to have to deal with them for almost a year of your life, whether or not you even like them or know if they will like you or not. Kids can be mean and aggressive to the 'new kid' so it's no wonder our children get stressed out. Most adults would run away as fast as possible to not have to deal with that kind of pressure, yet for guys and gals in most school settings don't have a choice. School is beginning and there's nothing that they can do about it. Who can't remember the pressure of facing new people and teachers who couldn't pronounce your name, while layering on the difficulty of trying to learn new subjects, while trying to fit in and find your place on campus without running into big bullies who cruise the halls looking for kids to intimidate.

Face it, back to school time is a tough adjustment for everyone and sometimes can feel very overwhelming to even the most skilled student. It's normal to feel pressure in a new class setting, especially before an academic routine is established. Take this seriously and plan on directly addressing any issues that come up, because it's been my experience that by taking direct action on pressures facing your kids that it dramatically helps normalize the problems that may build up as a 'secret' weakness inside your child now by getting things out in the open. Better to take time to sort through the stressors facing your child now, focus on some positive strategies to over come the pressure and move forward in strength than to let the pressures go on to create problems for years.

Here are some strategies to guide you in helping your son or daughter to get past the' back to school stress' toward experiencing a new emotion, peace instead of stress and motivation instead of moodiness. Consider using the beginning of this new school year transitions as an important time for you to review with your kids as they begin to map out building the best year of their lives academically, spiritually and in their relationships with others.

The formula is easy to remember because it spells out the word, "S.T.R.E.S.S." and following it will take this normal pressure off of your child so that they can quickly focus on using the strategies to build back to school success.

S- Schedule

This is an essential part of building stability and is the best place to start. Move everything possible to get things in your home onto a regular and structured schedule. This especially includes sleep time for kids of all ages, along with regular meal times, homework time, worship time, goof-off time, play time and on and on. The key here is to structure in the most important things first, so in case some of the lower priorities are missed, the main and most important issues are addressed in keeping your home environment the most stable and peaceful place possible.

T- Talk

One of the worst questions to ask a school-age child is this worn out line; "So, tell me what you learned in school today?" If your son or daughter responds by saying that the toilet water flows in the opposite direction in South America as it does here in the US, don't panic. A simplistic question can't generate a well thought out answer from anyone, but it can get a response, which may or may not be accurate, and often could even be inappropriate. Better to create an environment that will be dedicated to open and honest discussions than one that has 'pat' answers to poorly worded questions that says to a lot of kids, wow, you really didn't want to take time to bother with us today, or worse, 'just tell them what they want to hear because they don't really care anyway.' I'm sure that you want to know more about the pressures your son or daughter is facing than they could imagine, and as you better learn to think through the main issues to format questions ahead of time you will continue to see positive change and growth slowly replace the negative fears, which is what we want to see take place. Develop some basic questions about the back to school stress that is facing them ahead of time so that you can figure out the best way to discuss the fact that things are moving along quickly for them in lots of ways, which is normal, but still scary sometimes until you face it and grow past that fear.

R- Rest

We've already talked about the importance of regular sleep and maintaining a balanced lifestyle, however, this strategy is based on building in times to just kick back. Back to school is a challenge and for some kids, the daily disciplines are a continual challenge of deadlines, seemingly endless tasks and not feeling as if you fit in anywhere. Taking time to rest your body and mind with calming music, play time with pets or on a bike trail, or by playing with blocks to not make every waking second about homework, class assignments and daily chores. Remember that the Bible teaches that God created man on the 6th day, but that man didn't go to work until the 8th day. Do you know what happened on the 7th day? That's right, God rested as a role model for men to rest. Work came after rest, and the most focused work comes when we know how to maintain the timing of scheduled times of rest to 're-create' the positive energy within our soul to move forward in strength.

E- Equip

This strategy is about building in regular times to help a child develop confidence and strength, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Think about what a lot of parenting is really about anyway. Training up a child to go out into the world with the strength to make it and the confidence to try it. Equipping includes being able to help a child say 'no' because you were strong enough to move ahead and model self-discipline on issues that required a firm hand that was dedicated to you learning what needed to change first and then getting to work making those changes. Children who are well equipped tend to launch out into the world and accomplish early success because they know how to work hard, yet to keep things in balance like they saw their parents model for them.

S- Strengths

Anxiety and pressure tend to grow up in direct proportion to how in control, or how out of control we feel at the time. Prayerfully considering the strengths of each of your children, then testing or asking other teachers or parents for their impressions is actually quite valuable because so much can be done to help that child know how to dramatically remove the dangers of this dysfunctional patter, more stress = less control; less stress = greater control of the guidance needed to move your child from stress to success in the days ahead. That's good news for parents and great news for children. Take the time to understand your child's strengths and then the time to build on those qualities and you will begin to see more success and more success and a happier child in the process. That's how it goes when you build on strengths and work directly on a plan to break generational patterns and move to a new level of strength and peace.

If you want to learn more about building on a child’s academic or personality strengths, check out the parenting strategies to build strong kids from best selling parenting expert Mel Levine, MD, who is a behavioral pediatrician and pioneer in this area of research on guiding kids past stress to achieve greater levels of success. Dr. Levine is one of the most trusted professionals on the subject of helping parents find the learning style to best fit the needs of your child and someone who has taken time to help me better understand key concept in helping kids to reach their potential… “every child can learn- they just learn differently.” Once you understand that concept and can zero in on your child’s learning style you will see your son or daughter achieve more with less stress because they are working from their strength zone.

S- Spirituality

God put us on this earth for a purpose. We've all heard that, and we've also heard lots of things from people with very opposite, yet very strong opinions on lots of other topics. What makes a spiritual connection to God a key part of this strategic approach? Simple, God is real and I believe that He is everywhere and plans out our steps, even when we can't see what he is doing behind the scenes spiritually. Even when you can't be there for your child, God can and teaching this spiritual strategy to a small child will reassure them that God will never leave them or forsake them. That's comforting to the healthily people involved and brings hope to those who may have been burned by overly religious people with all the wrong reasons. This issue isn't really about a church service as much as it's about an honest and realistic relationship by reaching out to God through prayer no matter what stress you may be facing today.

Knowing that parents are involved in dealing with issues in a healthy way is always a key in gaining access into the heart of a child, which will aid in the increase of communication and trust as they see that you really do care about them and that you want their best. This trust grows through your investment into the life of that child in how you plan out your time with them as an important member of the family. Remember that they are learning more every day just by watching your responses to every day life than from anything that you will say to them. Dr. Dobson's sage advice rings true on this issue, "values are not taught to children, values are caught by children." Role model healthy ways to connect with them as part of a secure and loving family and you will see stress reduce as it's replaced with which is always what we want our family life at home to be like any time of the year.

Stay positive as you prayerfully plan for results:

Build strengths into your home now by focusing questions and seeking prayer for God's wisdom and guidance about which elements of back to school stress is most affecting your son or daughter so that they can begin to release pressure by directly dealing with the most important elements first. Every child is different, so if they see it differently than you, or whatever is described as a growing problem in his life seems to be of little consequence. Remember that if the child is struggling with some factor of back to school stress that moment, then that becomes your priority for that moment automatically. You need to work toward gaining a level of stability in order to move forward onto bigger and more complex issues in the future. Pick your battles as the old saying goes, since the school year will be long and some issues, (especially within peer relationships), can heat up pretty fast which can fill your home with conflict, difficulty and resentment.

I tell clients in many types of stressful situations that the most important time is the next 24 hours and our initial goal is to not make a stressful situation worse with other impulsive decisions or words. This positive change occurs as you take time to study, understand and then apply the key elements you have learned to connect to your child in stressful times to build a connection to grow through the stress, as well as the confidence to know that getting through the stressful times now is the best indicator that your family will get through any other time well as long as you all are together growing into the family that God designed you to be. That confidence brings a peace that no stress can ever take away, which is the greatest gift a child could ever experience from their parents, deep and lasting security from being accepted and loved in the safest place on earth-their family.


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About the Author: Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. A critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally; Dwight is a member of the National Speakers Association who partners with the media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 100 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org