Archive | July, 2012

4 Predictors of Divorce and Their Antidotes

28 Jul

According to John Gottman, there are 4 predictors of divorce.  He refers to them as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.   He also graciously offers antidotes for each one.

1.  Criticism 

Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong:

 Generalizations:  “you always…”  “you never…” “you’re the type of person who …”  “why are you so …”

Antidote to criticism:

Use a gentle start up.  Start with an “I” message.   “I feel __________ when you ______.  I need you to ____________.”

2. Contempt    (this is the most destructive one.)                                                                                        

 Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her:

  • Insults and name-calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”
  • Hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery
  • Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip

Antidote to contempt:

Claim responsibility.  “What can I learn from this?  What can I do to make it better?”

Validate your partner.  Let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes.

 3. Defensiveness

Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack:

  • Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”
  • Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said
  • Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “I did this because you did that…”
  • Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing
  • Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying
  • Whining “It’s not fair.”

Antidote to defensiveness:

Practice getting undefended.  Allow your partner’s utterances to be what they really are: just thoughts and puffs of air.  Let go of the stories that you are making up.

4. Stonewalling

Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.  Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness:

  • Stony silence
  • Monosyllabic mutterings
  • Changing the subject
  • Removing yourself physically
  • Silent Treatment

 Antidote to Stonewalling:

Re-write your inner script.  Replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating.

Remember that you chose your partner and you are on the same team.  If you feel you are not being heard by your partner, chances are, they are feeling the same way.  Slow down and don’t get sucked into the fight.  Focus on the feelings that your partner is experiencing and steer clear of the four horseman.  They are the end of your marriage.



Imparting Values to Your Children and Having the Sex Talk!

26 Jul

If we value our children we must help them to develop a value system that benefits them and positively impacts the world in which they will live.  Before you can teach values, however, you must decide which values to teach.  This means stopping to think about what you believe is important.

What do you want to teach your children about life?  What about aging, health and well being, relationships, sexuality, religion and spirituality, money and finances, education, and grief and loss?   These are big parts of life that most of us experience and have struggled with at some point.

If we hope to influence our children, we must live with both intention and attention – we must know what we want to teach them and make sure that we do so at every opportunity.

Talking About Sexuality

Many parents find the issue of sexuality to be especially difficult to talk about with their children.  We often ask them to point out their eyes, ears, nose, belly button…. And then we skip to their knees and toes!  The end result of such omissions is that children end up with no vocabulary for important parts of the body.  The other alternative is the cutesy names like “pee pee”, and “nana”, and all the other ones you’ve heard over time.  It is really important that a child knows the correct terms for different parts of the body so that they can be comfortable with their bodies, and how they work, and how to take care of them.  Using words that are not “dictionary terminology” may give the impression that the body part being talked about is somehow shameful.  Additionally, when the child needs to seek help, it is important that they have a language (vagina/penis) that can be used with confidence and understood rather than a nickname used by the family, especially when abuse or health care is at issue.

Ideally, there won’t just be the one big “sex talk”.  If you have little conversations along the way, it will be less of a big deal and kids will be comfortable when the topic comes up.  In fact you can start around age 3.  At this age, be sure to define sex for kids.  As defined in the dictionary, sex is to be designated male or female.  In other words, it is more than just sexual intercourse and we can start with the basics of gender and names for body parts.  Remember, sexuality is a topic that is greatly affected by a child’s stage of development and environment.  Note that when it comes to discussing sex and sexuality with older children, you’ll want to be prepared to talk about emotions, beliefs about love, being needed and wanted, and self esteem as it is appropriate based on their age and level of understanding.  While we cannot always be there to protect and inform our children, we can definitely model how we like to be treated in a relationship, in addition to providing a safe and nurturing environment and sharing with your children how to seek help when they need it.  Most importantly, parents can help the children think for themselves or do some critical thinking about how their behaviors and actions can affect their self esteem, safety, and growth.  A parent can model the family’s values and beliefs, affirming both parent and child as loving people worthy of both love and respect.

Recommended Books:

  • It’s Not the Stork: A Book  About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends by Robie H. Harris
  • It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris
  • Deal with It!  A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life as a gURL.  By Rebecca Odes
  • The Guy Book: An Owner’s Manual by Mavis Jukes
  • GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens 2nd edition  by Kelly Huegel

Please feel free to share other tips and resources you have found useful in your approach to talking to kids about sex!


Gifted and Talented: What It Means To Be Wired Differently

25 Jul

Most people think that GT is a label that begins in school and ends in school.  While most schools have made a concerted effort to identify and serve our gifted and talented children, they often fall short when it comes to understanding the emotional needs of this unique and very special population. 

Thanks to the work of Polish psychologist, Kazimierz Dabrowski, we now know so much more of what it means for these individuals to be wired differently than the peers.  We are beginning to embrace the knowledge that their individual make up isn’t something that is turned on the first day of kindergarten and left behind upon graduation from high school.  This is so much more than a school label.  It is who they are from the inside out and who they will remain for a lifetime.   Dabrowksi exposed us to what he calls the “overexcitabilities” and OE’s for short.  The gifted are extremely sensitive in a variety of areas.  It’s a stimulus-response different from the norms.  It means that in these 5 areas, a person reacts more strongly than normal, for a longer period than normal to a stimulus that may be very small.  It involves not just psychological factors but central nervous system sensitivity.

The 5 areas are:

  • Psychomotor
  • Sensual
  • Imaginational
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional


This is often thought to mean that the person needs lots of movement and athletic activity, but can also refer to the issue of having trouble smoothing out the mind’s activities for sleeping.  They may display lots of physical energy and movement, fast talking, lots of gestures, and sometimes nervous tics.


Here is the “cut the tag out of the shirt” child who will limp as if his leg is broken when only a sock seam is twisted.  They also have a love of sensory things – textures, smells, tastes, etc. or a powerful reaction to negative sensory input (bad smells, loud sounds, etc.)  They tend to be sensitive to bright lights an harsh sounds.  A baby who cries when the wind blows in his face, a child who plugs his ears when the automatic toilet flushes.  The child who is awed to breathlessness at the sight of a beautiful sunrise or cries hearing Mozart, etc.


These are the dreamers, poets, “space cadets” who are strong visual thinkers, use lots of metaphorical speech.  They day dream, remember their dreams at night and often react strongly to them, believe in magic and may take a long time to “grow out of” Santa, the tooth fairy, etc.


Here’s the usual definition of “giftedness”.  Kids with a strong “logical imperative” who love brain teasers and puzzles, enjoy following a line of complex reasoning, and figuring things out.  A love of things academic, new information, cognitive games, etc.


This includes being “happier when happy, sadder when sad, angrier when angry,” etc.  There is an intensity of emotion, but also a very broad range of emotions as well as a need for deep connections with other people or animals. Unable to find close and deep friends, they may invent imaginary friends or simply make do with pets or stuffed animals.   They are full of empathy and compassion.  A child who needs a committed relationship will think herself “betrayed” by a child who plays with one child today and another tomorrow and refers to both as “friends.” This is also the OE that makes the kids susceptible to depression.

Dabrowski believed emotional OE to be central — the energy center from which the whole constellation of OE’s is generated.

Highly gifted people tend to have all 5 of these, but different people lead with different OE’s. The engineer types lead with Intellectual, the poets with Emotional and Imaginational, etc. but variations in the levels of the individual OE’s explain a great deal about the temperamental differences we see!

These five describe the unusual intensity of the gifted as well as the many ways in which they look and behave “oddly” when compared to norms.


Adapted from Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities: A Layman’s Explanation by S. Tolan

Emotional Needs Assessment

23 Jul

All human beings have certain needs in common. Some of these needs are easier to fill than others. Needs for food, shelter and clothing are sometimes hard to fill but we manage to do it. Other needs are just as important but easier to ignore – our emotional needs. Take this needs assessment and see where you are at.
Needs Assessment

Parents are often quick to say “There isn’t time for me right now.” But in reality, we must take care of ourselves if we are to take care of others. We cannot give what we don’t have! Having our needs met involves other people, but ensuring that they are met is still our responsibility. How do we do that?

Below are a few ideas to get you started.

• Talk with others and share your thoughts and feelings.

• Ask for what you need in an open and honest voice (without demanding, whining, or asking someone to read your mind).

• Ensure that your support system includes more than one person.

• Build relationships with people who are willing and able to give and receive emotional support.

• Be a person worthy of respect and trust.

• Give what you most want to receive.

Becoming aware of our needs allows us to focus time and attention on building the kinds of relationships that will help us meet them.

If you have suggestions for other ways to get your emotional needs met, I’d love for you to share by leaving a comment. Thanks for reading!

Stages of Grief after a Miscarriage

23 Jul

Some women will go through all of these stages; others will go through only some of them or will experience them in a different order:

Denial and Isolation

Many women hold out a slim hope that the doctor was wrong and that they are not, in fact, having a miscarriage at all. You might find yourself doing hours of research on the Internet looking for another explanation for your miscarriage symptoms.

Perhaps you don’t want to see anyone –- not even your spouse or partner. You might resent anyone who speaks to you or you want to hole up at home and not take phone calls or go to work. Social interaction may feel exhausting, and you may just want to be by yourself.


You may look for someone to blame for the miscarriage. Many women blame their doctors for not seeing the signs earlier and for not being able to prevent the loss from taking place. You might blame your partner or find some reason to blame yourself. (Try to remember that miscarriage is very rarely anyone’s fault and usually cannot be prevented.)

You may feel resentment toward the medical clinic you attended if its pregnancy loss support protocol was inadequate. Your friends and relatives may infuriate you with thoughtless and unintentional hurtful comments. (Try to be gentle with the people in your life and remember that they rarely intend to hurt you — they are usually just trying to help.)


If you are religious, you may try to bargain with a higher being and promise specific good deeds if you get pregnant again quickly and do not have a repeat miscarriage. Or, you may conduct hours of research on how to prevent miscarriages and search for anything that you can do to minimize risk of another loss, such as leading a healthier lifestyle or trying alternative medicine tactics.

If you have this inclination, remember again that you probably did not do anything to cause your miscarriage and that most miscarriage causes are completely out of your hands. Working toward a healthier lifestyle is nearly always a good idea for any person, but just beware of creating any unrealistic expectations for yourself or believing any claims that something is a “miracle cure.”


You might wonder if you will ever have a baby. You may convince yourself that you just aren’t meant to be a mom, or that you are being punished for some reason. If you are trying to conceive again, and you are not getting pregnant as quickly as you would like, you may despair that it will never happen. If you do get pregnant again, you may feel intense anxiety and a conviction that you will miscarry again.

Images of babies or pregnancy in public and in the media might bother you, leading you to turn away when you see families with young children or women with visibly pregnant bodies. You may not be able to handle attending coworkers’ and relatives’ baby showers or visiting newborn babies. You may end up flipping the channel when commercials come on featuring pregnancy tests.


Although the pain of your miscarriage may always be with you, it will at some point become easier to deal with. You will be able to look back and be sad that the miscarriage happened, but your feelings of sadness will not feel nearly as overwhelming as they did in the beginning. Many women will not reach this stage until after giving birth to another child.

Whatever you are feeling, please remember that it’s normal and that it won’t always feel as overwhelming as it does in the beginning. You will find that you are stronger than you think and that, over time, coping with the miscarriage will become easier.

Source: 2006. Memorial Hospital, Inc.

It’s time to HALTT and think before you react!

21 Jul

Parents who are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Triggered often struggle to be who they want to be for their children.  To be in HALTT mode means we need to stop and catch our breath before reacting to a child or a situation.  When we are in HALTT mode, it takes 1) thought  2) attention to our own physical and emotional condition and 3) some parenting skills to respond to children with love and care.

 H- Hungry:  When we are hungry, we can’t focus and our attention gets short.  When our blood sugar level gets off balance, we start acting grouchy!  Making decisions becomes difficult.  The stomach growls, “Get out of the way, I need to eat!  No more patience!”

A-Angry: Angry people cannot hear.  When we’re angry, our breathing tends to be shallow and fast.  The heat gets so intense inside our bodies that it almost seems as if an explosion is building.  Completely out of patience; we send the message, “Don’t mess with me!”  No matter what someone else is doing, they are wrong.

L-Lonely:  Loneliness saps us of our energy.  Sighs… wondering… sadness… But NO conflict please!  We are often very needy when lonely, yet sometimes want to be absolutely alone.  We tend to communicate, “Nobody cares about me and now I don’t care about anyone else either!”

T-Tired: Tired for most of us means exhausted. When we’re tired we’re in no mood to discuss anything.  We feel overwhelmed and all we want to do is sleep.  Decisions seem harder to make and we don’t have the energy to argue – although we can snap at anyone who tries to push us!  All we want to say is “Go away!”.

T- Triggered:  To be triggered is to feel your body reacting – and many times you do not know why.  We want to fight, or we want to run.  We may feel outrage, disgust, or intense sadness way out of proportion to what is currently happening.  In some way the person, the message, or the situation in front of us reminds us of another time and place that was painful.  Often we are easily agitated, even ready to cry.

Hungry?  Angry?  Lonely?  Tired? Triggered?

Take care of these things first.  Delay making crucial decisions.  Realize that when someone is in HALTT mode, that person will have a tendency to react rather than respond.

When I am working with parents and teaching HALLT, I often add in Chronic Pain which can definitely affect someone’s mood and cause them to want to react rather than respond.  Are there others that you think are worth mentioning?  Ilook forward to your comments.

Your Teenager’s Brain

19 Jul

Teenagers Brain handout

When you are at a loss for what to do with that crazy teenager living under your roof, your best bet is to try to understand what is going on in their brain.  I’ve included a handout for you to print out and put on your fridge as a friendly reminder that they aren’t crazy, you aren’t crazy and it really is going to be ok.  Once you understand there really are some big changes going on in the brain, it will be a little easier to breathe and remind yourself that “this too shall pass”.  Check out the tips and see what you can do to positively affect your teenager’s brain.