managing tense family conflict during the holidaysFor many, the holidays conjure images of family happily gathered around a home cooked meal or relaxing in front of a warm fire. But for others the family scenes they envision are of perpetual conflict and tension. What some consider a pleasant, memory-making time, others view as a nightmare to endure. Tense family relationships can not only spoil a festive holiday for the ones in conflict but possibly for the entire family.

So what can you do? Plenty. If you’re the one in conflict consider yourself in the driver’s seat. You have the ability to steer this conflict where you want it to go. This doesn’t mean it will work out the way you want. It does mean that you can take action to try and change the way it’s affecting you and possibly those around you. The choices you make will probably depend on your needs and how willing the other party is to engage with you on working it out.

Here are three suggestions for dealing with various types of relational conflict between family members over the holidays. [click to continue…]


You can build a new relationship with your children. It takes time and deliberate effort. But the payoff is worth it.

So, it is no secret that we live in a fast-paced world and we aren’t going to slow it down much by ourselves. But we can focus our limited attention in ways that seem to slow it down enough to make meaningful contact with our children. And that is something worth your limited time. You want to stay connected to your child and the best way to do this is to deliberately make an effort to talk with them. Here are a few suggestions of how to slow down your world and your child’s enough to make meaningful points of contact. [click to continue…]


stress-1Everyone talks about stress and knows it is not good for us but far fewer seem to know how to manage the stress in their lives.

The key to effective stress management boils down to two principles:

  1. Being proactive with the things you have control over
  2. Learning to let go of those you don’t have control over

Sometimes it’s very difficult to know which variables you can and can’t control.

We tend to think of stress almost exclusively as events that press in on our lives from the outside, such as car accidents, unreasonable bosses or financial troubles. But, the majority of our stress in contemporary life is psychological in nature, In other words, it isn’t the events that cause us stress but how we respond to stress. The stress response is triggered by our perception of the situation. [click to continue…]


stop-mental-illness-stigmaPeople with mental illness have traditionally not been treated well. A brief survey of history will reveal that those with mental health problems have been treated differently at best and with dehumanizing brutality at worst. The assumption we tend to make about mental illness is that different is dangerous. We are quick to categorize unconventional or socially inappropriate behavior as mental instability. This perception that all mental illness represents danger, instability or incompetence can easily lead to unintended discrimination and stigmas that are extremely difficult to change.

But, it appears that attitudes toward mental health are changing for the better. A recent national survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide found that 90% of Americans see a connection between a person’s mental health and their ability to function healthily in daily life. Most of those surveyed viewed mental health as important as physical health to overall wellbeing. That’s good new for the estimated 43 million Americans (about 1 in 5 people) that live with a diagnosable mental disorder.

The faces of mental health stigma

Mental health stigmas are perpetuated by many sources. The medical and psychiatric communities like to assign people diagnostic labels such as “bipolar, schizophrenic, depressive” and “neurotic” to name a few. These labels, while helpful for insurance purposes, can easily begin to define the person as an illness instead of a person with a condition. For example, [click to continue…]


I talk with a lot of worn-out people. Most of these people are overworked and on the verge of burnout. They say they want more work-life balance in their lives but this goal seems to elude them. Most of these folks typically work an average 40-50 hours a week, in addition to their commute. That is manageable for most people. What puts them into the overworked category and primed for burnout is the “second shift.”

This second shift begins when you leave your full-time job and start the endless list of activities that leave you little or no discretionary time to replenish your physical and emotional reserves. These second-shift activities include: running errands, picking up kids at various locations and buying dinner before arriving home. This is followed by a hurried meal, more chauffeuring, a meeting, helping with homework, putting kids to bed, phone calls, dishes and paying bills. There may be even more that you try to squeeze in before you fall into bed exhausted. The overworked or burned out person typically tries to make up for a lack of time by “stealing” from their sleep. They wake up tired the next morning to start another day of the double shift. Do you know anyone who keeps a schedule like that? [click to continue…]


boundaries in romantic relationshipsYou may not give much thought to the existence of boundaries in your daily life, but they are everywhere. For example, when you are driving on a two lane road, you stay to the right of the center line, especially if there is a car coming from the opposite direction. You are entitled by law to drive in your lane but not on the other side of the road.

If you are a homeowner, you may have a fence that rests on the dividing line between your property and your neighbor’s. The fence acts as a physical reminder of where the different properties start and stop.

At work, you might have cubicle walls or an office that define your work space from that of your colleagues. The computer and desk may not technically belong to you but those are typically seen as your space.

Relationships need boundaries

All healthy relationships have boundaries. In fact, a relationship cannot be healthy if clear boundaries are not in place and respected. Here’s a visual example of how it works: [click to continue…]


emerging adulthoodSociologists have identified a new trend among young people and refer to it as “emerging adulthood.” Emerging Adulthood is a term that applies to young adults who do not have children, do not live in their own home, or have a substantial income to become fully independent in their early to late 20’s. It is a period where young people delay commitments to vital roles such as career, relationships, and financial obligations until they are more “stable.”

While there may be some benefits in this developmental delay, there are some concerns as well. Let’s look at marriage as one important trend. [click to continue…]



perfectionWhen I think of someone I would call a perfectionist, I envision a person with impossibly high standards who relentlessly pursues their goals. While it is a positive trait to have high standards and goals, a perfectionist is driven by more than goal achievement. Behind the quest for achievement and success is a fear of failure and a desperate need for affirmation. This person might say: “If I do this project perfectly, then no one will be disappointed or be critical of me.” The problem though is [click to continue…]


resilienceEvery person faces difficult, sometimes life-altering, events at various points in their life. These events might include the loss of a job, a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a natural disaster or other situations that bring unwanted changes. Some can even be traumatic. Your ability to cope with these stressful life events has much to do with how resilient you are.

What is resilience?

Resilience is your ability to adapt to adversity or unexpected changes that occur in your life. For example, say you have an accident that puts you in a leg cast and keeps you from driving for three months. Some people might respond to this unfortunate event with despair and focus on all the things they won’t be able to do. Others would acknowledge the inconveniences that go along with this situation but put their energy toward finding ways around the obstacles put in their path by the accident. What’s the difference between these two responses? [click to continue…]


motivating teens

Why does it seem so difficult to motivate your teen to do noble things, such as excel in school, make socially responsible decisions and clean their room? This question of motivation is an ongoing dilemma for many parents. But, it is not as difficult a problem to solve as you might think.

What seems to some parents as irresponsibility and lack of motivation in their teen is really misplaced motivation. Most adolescents want to be successful and responsible in their behavior but get caught in a cycle of confusion that undermines their desire. To understand your teen’s developmental need to succeed and feel good about what they do, let’s first [click to continue…]