Don’t Stress Out Your Relationship Over the Holidays


By Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC

Unfortunately, for so many people, just hearing the words “Christmas” or “Holidays” produces stress and anxiety.  It is definitely the busiest time of year, filled with things that can create anxiety and stress. There is so much to focus on.

For a moment, let’s focus on relationships. When January rolls around do you wake up and see the man next to you (your husband) and say, “Who are you and where did you come from?” If so, you might be neglecting your relationship during the Holidays. It’s easy to do with so many obligations, commitments, and fun things to do.

Here are  a few helpful tips/reminders of how to keep up your relationship in the midst of the potential chaos:

1. Keep limits on your activities. It’s easy to feel like we have to do EVERYTHING! There are so many fun things that we want to do and many events that we are obligated to attend. However, it’s important when filling the calendar to decide as a couple or family how you want to chose to spend your time. I would encourage you to put it into 3 categories: [Read more…]

If You Get In A Hole, You Have To Get Yourself Out


By Tamara Wilhelm, MA, LMHC, LCAC

One of my favorite things to do is listen to my husband’s grandparents tell us stories about things they’ve experienced in their life. One of the stories that sticks with me the most is one his grandmother told about getting her car stuck in a pothole.

Grandma was out running errands in a shopping center one day and was driving in the parking lot. It had been raining hard, and a very large pothole had filled up with rain water and was not visible to drivers. As she drove over the pothole, her tire got stuck in the pothole (can I reiterate this was a very large pothole!) and her car was immobile. She was stuck.

Grandma proceeds to call grandpa to let him know she’s stuck in the hole & needs his help. His response? “You got in the hole, you get out of it!” Ouch. She was furious. She needed help. Now she was stuck and alone.

Now I doubt grandpa knew what he was doing at the time. To most of us, it looks as though he’s being a rude and unsupportive husband. However, at closer look, he’s not enabling his wife. Instead, he is forcing her to figure out things for herself. [Read more…]

How Do You Model Conflict?


By  Joleen Watson, MS, NCC

I remember being somewhere around the age of 10 and witnessing my parents have a fight about– and yes, I’m being serious– the size of the garden (insert laugh track here).

Even at the age of 10, I somehow knew their fight couldn’t possibly be about the size of the garden, and of course, it wasn’t.  My parents rarely fought, so they were engaging in a power struggle, which just happened to be about the garden.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but their fight about the size of the garden (and both of them needing to prove how “right” they were) was teaching me something about conflict that I would later need to “undo”.  On the other hand, I remember my best childhood friend sharing with me that she never saw her parents fight– not even once!

This was modeling something about conflict for her, as well.

Of course, neither of these are healthy ways of modeling conflict.  You could find as many parenting books as the day is long to discuss different ways of teaching conflict resolution skills, but what is your relationship model for conflict and what is it teaching your child?

Here are some common things we hope healthy conflict will  teach our children:

  1. The art of negotiation– when appropriate.  Healthy relationships are about successful negotiation.  It’s important to model for your children how to do this.  If one person has the majority of the power in the relationship, there probably is not much negotiation going on.  Of course, most relationships have things that are non-negotiable, such as morals and values.  Teaching your child when it’s appropriate to negotiate and when it’s disrespectful will help them learn healthy boundaries with others.
  1. How to have a voice.  Having a healthy voice means teaching your child to put words to their feelings and not feeling like they are “wrong”  or “bad” for disagreeing, even when they don’t get their way.  Sometimes it can be confusing in our family systems about what the unspoken and unwritten rules and messages are about having a voice.  If one person tends to be overly passive and the other more direct and forceful, a child may not learn to incorporate the two and have a healthy voice.
  1. You can still feel love when you are angry.  Many times, people who grew up in households with a lot of conflict feel like they aren’t loved when someone is angry with their behavior or a choice they made.  Confusing the two can cause a person to bottle up anger for fear that they will be “unlovable”.  It’s important to teach a child that you can feel angry (in an appropriate way), while still feeling love.
  1. Anger is NOT rage.  Anger is a feeling;  rage is a behavior.  If we grow up in an environment that confuses the two, we will most likely become afraid of a feeling that is healthy and normal.  Anger can sometimes be confusing though, because it can be what we call a “secondary emotion”– meaning that often times, there are more vulnerable feelings underneath our anger.  For example, if your spouse arrives late for your date night, your instant feeling might be anger, but underneath it, you might really feel hurt or rejected.  It’s important to learn how to communicate the underlying feelings to show your child that anger can be expressed appropriately, and without having to “act it out” in an unhealthy way that is rage.
  1. You don’t always have to be right, especially if you want to be happy. In other words, you don’t have to be the one who is “right” in knowing the exact size of the garden!  I doubt either of my parents felt very fulfilled when they found out who was “right” that day.  And I doubt that either of them felt more emotionally connected and pleased with their relationship after one of them was crowned the “right “one!  Long before the days of Dr. Phil, I had a graduate school professor who used to say “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”.  This also includes not doing everything perfect!  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, no matter how hard we try.

While these lessons certainly don’t encompass all of the things we hope to teach our kids about healthy conflict, hopefully it provides a good starting place for evaluating your own relationships and how you manage conflict.

How do you model conflict in your relationship and what are some important lessons you hope to teach your children?


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Nostalgia, Paranoia, and Propaganda: Toys these days….


By Alexa Griffith, LMHC, NCC, RPT of Imagine Hope Counseling Group

If you have children in your home, then like me, you are surrounded by toys.

Toys are in your vehicle, kitchen, toy room (not in their assigned places but that is another blog), under covers, under couches, and lurking on steps when you least expect them.  They are on commercials (“Mom, I want that”) and even have lives of their own in Disney’s Toy Story Movies.  But unlike Woody and Buzz Lightyear, children’s toys do not think, feel, or act for themselves.

Children are active and engaged in directing the play with the toys.

There has been some chatter on the news and on talk radio in response to a recent book called “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” by Peggy Orenstein.  This chatter included many vast opinions on “princess” apparel, dolls, themes and the like. [Read more…]

“No one is perfect… that’s why pencils have erasers!”


By Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW

If you heard someone say, “I’m perfect”, you would automatically discount their word. They are lying. It is an impossible goal.

So why are there so many perfectionists in the world? Many people I work with in therapy struggle with this issue, including myself! Our emotional brain says, “Strive for it”, while our logical brain says, “You’ll only fail”. But the emotional brain’s power takes over, and we try over and over again.

Wise Words about Perfectionism

A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.  ~John Henry Newman

Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.  ~Rosalynn Carte [Read more…]