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Whether you are the married child, in-law or parent, it’s important to have a close relationship with all family members. This may include visiting each other at your homes. People tend to feel taken care of when included.
A friend asked, “What’s the matter with children today? Our son doesn’t invite us to dinner. He was married four years in July, and we’ve been invited to his house twice. And that’s because both times I said I wanted an invitation for my birthday.

“He and his wife are good to us in every other way. They’ve taken us out several times to dinner and invited us to several plays. But it’s hard when we don’t know about their house, and how it’s decorated, or what they’re doing in their garden. As far as I know, they like us. And neither his dad nor I have been critical when we’ve been to their home. It’s a nice house. It’s neat and tidy. I don’t understand the problem. Should I just call and say, ‘How about if I stop by today with some lunch?’ Or should I say something more directly?”

I said, “Well, let’s think of why they aren’t inviting you over. Has there been a riff or bad feelings about something in the past?

“No,” said my friend, “not anything I’m aware of. And when we get together, or when they come to our house, we genuinely have a good time.”

“Is it possible they’re too busy,” I asked. I know they both have demanding jobs. And he’s taking some night courses, and she has a large family. “Right,” my friend said, “but they can’t be so busy that they never invite us over.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe her parents never entertained and she’s not used to it.”

“That may be,” said my friend, “but our son comes from a family where we always had family and friends for dinner. Another thing, they have a well equipped kitchen and beautiful crystal and china. Why don’t they use it?”

“Do they entertain other people?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” my friend replied.

“Well, it takes a lot of work,” I said, “especially when you’re new at entertaining. With cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, it can take all day to get ready for guests.”

My friend agreed.

“It seems to me you ought to talk with your son.” I suggested, “Tell him that you would like to be invited over to his house for a meal, or just a visit. Would he and his wife be willing to start inviting you every few months?

“If your son hesitates, you can ask if there’s something wrong, something you’re not aware of. Have you or your husband offended him or his wife in some way? Does his wife feel uncomfortable with the two of you? Is there anything you might do to get invited more often? Then be sure to listen to what your son has to say.”

When children first get married, they need time to set up their own house and to decide how much they want to see their parents, and how much entertaining they will do. Also, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law may feel anxious about fitting into a new family.

Parents, too, find it difficult to let go and adjust to a different type of relationship with their married child.

If you’re newly married, make sure you let your folks know how important they are to you. You can do this with a weekly telephone call and an invitation once or twice a month for dinner or an outing. Also, stay interested in their lives. Find out about them as people, what’s going on with their jobs, their social life, their dreams and disappointments.

If you’re a parent with newly married children, respect their privacy. Don’t pop in on them unannounced or ask them about their money or when they plan to have children. Also understand that they may have different standards of housekeeping from yours and different values about their life-style. Above all, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. And then be careful how you give it.

Chances are great that if you had a good relationship before your child got married, you’ll have a good one after he or she has said, “I do.” Often, however, both parent and child go through a period of adjustment.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Parents: Stop the arguing, lecturing and explaining yourself over and over. Such behaviors on your part are non-helpful and non-productive.

If your child is a preschooler, avoid eye contact. In other words, don’t look at her. Instead, give her a nice pat on the shoulder or back. If you’re sitting, you can even lay her over your lap and give her a backrub. This gives attention without interrupting your telephone conversation.

If your child is older and keeps interrupting, simply turn your back. Don’t stop your conversation and have a conversation with her. Children need to learn to wait, be patient, and to respect others.

Suppose your child is having a “bad hair” day. You can hear her in the bathroom stamping and whining and saying she hates her hair. In this instance, do nothing. Don’t go in and suggest that her hair looks fine, or how she might wear it differently. It’s her problem; do not make it yours.

What if you ask your child to do something, such as carry in the groceries, and he refuses? If you don’t have anything that needs refrigerating, let the groceries sit. Tell him you expect him to bring them in before he eats, goes out to play or watches television. Then let it drop. It won’t be long before he brings in the groceries. Once they’re in the house, thank him and inform him that the next time he refuses to do something, there will be a consequence. Don’t get into a lecture, simply lay it out matter-of-factly.

It’s rare to find a child who doesn’t shout, “I hate you” when he’s not getting his way. When he delivers this message, don’t tell him, “You’ll be sorry,” or “I don’t like you so much either.” Simply walk away. Disengage. When he calms down, he’ll most likely backpedal and tell you he’s sorry. If he doesn’t, you should bring the issue up by saying, “The next time you don’t get your way or you’re upset with me, I except you to control yourself and not yell that you hate me.”

If your child asks you to drive her to the mall, and you don’t want her to go to the mall, or it doesn’t fit with your time schedule, tell her, “No, not today.” If she presses, and she probably will, tell her no again. If she tries to engage you in a discussion regarding why not, you might choose to give her your reasons, but don’t get into a long discussion or a shouting match. Repeat firmly your original stance, “I’m not willing to drive you to the mall.” Then walk away.

Talk to any parents and you’ll hear them moan and groan about their child’s messy room. Some parents have dealt with this issue by stating, “As long as the mess stays on her side of the door, I can live with it.” Other parents believe it is their right and responsibility to expect some semblance of order.

If you’re part of the latter group, you do have leverage. Such statements as “no television or computer until you clean your room,” “no rollerblading with your friends until you clean your room,” and “no car until you clean your room ” do bring results.

When your child hits you with that famous moan, “But, it’s not fair,” meaning it’s not fair that he has to empty the dishwasher instead of his sister, or that he has a curfew, don’t get into a debate about who does what or what his friends’ parents think. Say nothing. Or say, “We’re not talking fairness. Empty the dishwasher, Bobby.” Or, “We still expect you home by 11:30.”

Arguing or lecturing or explaining is not necessary with these issues. Be firm, keep your responses short and simple, and keep your temper out of it.

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When parents stand their ground, children may not be happy.
“This week I developed a backbone,” a mother told me.

She decided to get tough when she looked at her daughter’s pay stub and discovered that she had earned less than $60 during an entire semester of college. Why? Because her daughter chose to work only a few hours a week. “And she only takes four courses,” said the mother in disbelief.

“Her father and I are working hard to pay bills and scrape by and give her spending money”

After seeing how little her daughter was working, the mother vowed that she no longer would give her money to go out with friends for lunch, or go to the movies, or make long distance telephone calls. “My daughter has money in the bank,” said the mother, “so she can spend her own money. And if she runs out, she can work more.”

Here are two more stories of mothers who found their backbone. “Last week school was canceled because of snow. My house was full of boys ranging in age from nine to fifteen,” said Julie. “I made snacks, dried their wet clothes in my dryer, repeatedly cleaned up the wet floor, and kept some sense of order. One little boy stayed for dinner and then watched a movie with us.”

The next day when this mother announced she was going shopping with her friend for a few hours, she took all kinds of grief from her 10-year old son. Where was she going, he wanted to know. “Why can’t I go too? What am I supposed to do all day? When will you be home?” he whined. The kicker came when he asked, “Well, will you at least take me to the mall tonight?”

When these tactics didn’t get him the results he wanted, he confronted his mother about her spending. He said, “You told me I couldn’t buy anything for a month, but you’re going to.”

The mother said nothing.

Another mother had a similar experience. “The first day it snowed, a friend of my daughter’s came over,” said the mother. “They baked cookies. Then four other teenagers came by the house, and they all went sledding. When the six of them came back, my husband and I were watching a mystery on television. The kids wanted to watch a football game, so my husband and I gave up our mystery and the kids watched the game in the family room. We went upstairs to read because we don’t have cable upstairs and the mystery was on cable.” The daughter’s friend also spent the night.

The following day, this mother announced that she would be taking her car. She had to work that morning and was going shopping with her friend in the afternoon. The daughter had a fit. “What about me?” the daughter wanted to know. “I need the car. We were planning on going to lunch and shopping.”

“I’ll drop you off at the mall,” the mother suggested. The daughter declined.

“Can’t you take your friend’s car?” the daughter begged. “She can drive her car.”

The mother said no. She wanted to drive her own car because it had four-wheel drive. The mother found her backbone.

One thing to keep uppermost in mind when parenting: Do not expect your children to be happy when you put yourself first or take care of yourself instead of them. Don’t expect your children to be happy when you say no. Don’t expect your children to say, “I’ve had enough fun, Mom; now it’s your turn.

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Lots of tools for raising a healthy, happy child. Family time is important.
Are your children happy?

Even though happiness is genetically linked, only about 50 percent of happiness is driven by genes. The other 50 percent is driven by what happens to a child on a daily basis.

One of the most important contributors to a child’s happiness is doing things as a family. Nothing feels so good as when a family goes biking, hiking or spends part of the day at the zoo.

I know one family who has designated Wednesday nights as family night. This is the night nothing interferes. They have dinner and then play board games. Even the 17-year old participates. “Once you set a night and stick to it month after month, year after year, it becomes the expectation,” says the mother, “and our children look forward to it.”

Another happiness ingredient is working together. Spending four hours cleaning the backyard, the basement, and the house each Saturday morning encourages a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of being part of the team. We’re a family. We’re in this together. One for all and all for one.

Research shows that children tend to be happier when parents set expectations and rules. Children do better when they have a set bedtime and when they are expected to do certain chores each week, pick up after themselves, control their language, and show respect for other family members. When parents have expectations, it conveys to a child that he has worth. And meeting these expectations helps a child feel more in control of his own destiny.

Feeling happy and content is also a by-product of feeling loved. Pats on the back from parents and “I love yous” sprinkled throughout the week are essential. Applause for a job well done recognizes a child’s accomplishments.

Happiness involves living in the present. Everyday should be a time to build family relationships. This means: “Let’s talk as we do dishes.” “Let’s put on a CD and dance.” “Let’s watch a movie and enjoy each other’s company.” Too often parents put happiness till later, saying, “Next weekend when go to your cousins…” or when we go on vacation….” Children feel happier if they have God in their life. God is someone to talk to when they feel anxious and stressed. Or when no matter how good they try to be, they can’t change something in their lives.

Children are happier if family members get along and are respectful of each other. This means no screaming matches, no name-calling, no constant criticisms. Nor should a parent use a child as a confidante, telling him the other parent is not okay. It means an older or younger sibling is not allowed to tyrannize the family.

If you want to raise a happy child, ask yourself if you are following these guidelines. And if you’re lacking in some areas, now’s the time to make changes. Most parents want to raise and live with a happy child. If you follow these guidelines, you can succeed.

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Teach Children to Overcome Their Anger.
With the help of a few techniques, your child’s anger may be eliminated.

Eight -year-old Peter has had a problem with his anger since he was a toddler. Anytime something doesn’t go his way, he turns ugly. The most recent incident was when his mother went to pick him up from his friend’s house. Peter refused to stop playing with his friend and get his coat on. When his mother tried to take his arm, pull him off the floor, and help put his coat on, Peter starting kicking his mother and screaming, “I hate you. I’m not going home with you.” Twenty minutes later Peter’s exasperated, embarrassed mother was able to extricate Peter from his friend’s house.

Bea is 13 and also has an anger problem. When told to do a chore such as empty the dishwasher or watch her younger sister, she will answer, “I’m not doing it.” When her mother tells her she’s a member of the family and she needs to help out, she often comes back with, “Who cares? You can’t make me.” The last time her mother said, “You’re right, I can’t make you clean out the dishwasher, but you’re grounded this weekend,” Bea marched over to the refrigerator, opened the door, and started throwing everything out on the floor.

Both Peter’s and Bea’s parents reported that their children have never had a problem with anger at school, and, in fact, are well-behaved there. This is helpful for me to know as a therapist. Armed with this information, I explained to both sets of parents that Peter and Bea have the ability to control their anger. How do I know? Because they do so at school. What they must now learn is to control their anger at home.

Things I suggest for anger control:

Have a family counsel. Tell your child that anger is an okay feeling, but using anger inappropriately by yelling, screaming, belligerent acts, or mean-spirited behavior can no longer be accepted. Ask your child for his cooperation in controlling his anger. Also remind your child that you expect him to control his anger at home just as he controls it at school. If you, the parent, have a problem with controlling your anger, chances are your child will point this out at the family pow-wow. Agree with the confrontation and decide that you, too, will work to control your anger.

Writing down how one feels stepped on and abused is often helpful in dissipating feelings. Ask your child to write down why she feels angry. Reassure her that within a half hour of her putting pen to paper, you will read what she has written and write back your response.

Another technique: Ask your child not to allow himself to explode when he feels angry. When he feels anger coming on, tell him to purse his lips tight, set the timer on the stove for four minutes, and breathe deeply until the timer goes off. Once he’s controlled himself for four minutes, he’s won the battle.

A similar technique is to suggest to your child that when he feels himself getting angry, he rush to a chair, sit down, close his eyes, and see himself playing on the playground at school or swimming in a pool. This is called imaging. It helps the mind to calm the body and dissipate the adrenaline that accompanies angry feelings. Suggest that when your child feels furious, instead of gritting his teeth and doing something mean, he should try to sing his favorite song in his head or repeat a favorite joke to himself. I told one little boy this, and he looked at me like I was nuts. But the next time I saw him, he couldn’t wait to report that it had worked.

Invite your child to say over and over in her head during the day for the next several months, “I choose not to get angry.” Repeating this affirmation reinforces the decision not to become angry.

Just as children need help learning to tie their shoes, write a report, iron a shirt, or throw a ball, they need help learning to control their anger. Take the time to give your children this skill– a skill that will serve them the rest of their life.

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Having happy children may take some extra work, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Are your children happy?

Even though happiness is genetically linked, only about 50 percent of happiness is driven by genes. The other 50 percent is driven by what happens to a child on a daily basis.

One of the most important contributors to a child’s happiness is doing things as a family. Nothing feels so good as when a family goes biking or hiking or spends part of the day at the zoo.

I know one family who has designated Wednesday nights as family night. This is the night nothing interferes. They have dinner and then play board games. Even the 17-year old participates. “Once you set a night and stick to it month after month, year after year, it becomes the expectation,” says the mother, “and our children look forward to it.”

Another happiness ingredient is working together. Spending four hours cleaning the backyard, the basement, and the house each Saturday morning, encourages a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of being part of the team. We’re a family. We’re in this together. “One for all and all for one.”

Research shows that children tend to be happier when parents set expectations and rules. Children do better when they have a set bedtime and when they are expected to do certain chores each week, pick up after themselves, control their language, and show respect for other family members. When parents have expectations, it conveys to a child that he has worth. And meeting these expectations helps a child feel more in control of his own destiny.

Feeling happy and content is also a by-product of feeling loved. Pats on the back from parents and “I love yous” sprinkled throughout the week are essential. And applause for a job well done recognizes a child’s accomplishments.

Happiness involves living in the present. Everyday should be a time to build family relationships. This means: “Let’s talk as we do dishes.” “Let’s put on a CD and dance.” “Let’s watch a movie and enjoy each other’s company.” Too often parents put happiness till later, saying, “Next weekend when go to your cousins…” or when we go on vacation….”

Children feel happier if they have God in their life. God is someone to talk to when they feel anxious and stressed. Or when no matter how good they try to be, they can’t change something in their lives.

Children are happier if family members get along and are respectful of each other. This means no screaming matches, no name-calling, no constant criticisms. Nor should a parent use a child as a confidante, telling him the other parent is not okay. It also means an older or younger sibling is not allowed to tyrannize the family.

If you want to raise a happy child, ask yourself if you are following these guidelines. And if you’re lacking in some areas, now’s the time to make changes. Most parents want to raise and live with a happy child. Following these guidelines, spells success.

 

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Planning to remarry this year? Before you book the caterer and the band, best have some straightforward talks about your future married life.

One man I know is ready to take the plunge. Two problems loom large however. He’s a neatnick and she’s a slob. He reports that she’s trying to be more tidy – hanging up clothes and shutting bureau drawers. But her nonchalant attitude over putting things away is going to be a stumbling block to closeness.

Another issue. He has a thriving business and is well off financially. She has little financial worth. Although ready to say “I do,” he’s not ready to share all his money. Should he have his business evaluated and work out a prenuptial agreement? Or should he just tie the knot and hope they live happily ever after?

Another couple face a different dilemma. She has a teenage daughter. When her boyfriend tries to tell this girl what to do, the mother finds herself feeling resentful. She wants to marry but doesn’t want her new husband involved with parenting. What will this man do when this child gives him trouble, leaves her messes around, demands to be driven somewhere?

Couple number three are trying to work out a different sort of problem. He has two children and a nice home that is almost paid for. She has two children and rents her home. When they marry and move into his home, she wants her name on the house title. He’s reluctant to put her name on the deed. His reasoning: the house is his children’s inheritance. If  he dies before they’re raised, the money has been ear -marked for their education. Because he has an ongoing medical problem, life insurance is out of the question.

When planning to remarry – if you really want the marriage to work – write down all concerns.

Here’s a list to get you started.

Where will you live? Is the type of house important? What about the school district? I’m working with a woman who is determined to live in a particular school district. Except her fiancee doesn’t feel comfortable in that area of town.

Who will do the cooking, grocery shopping, repairs? Just because your ex-wife did the cooking each night, it doesn’t mean your new wife enjoys the kitchen.

How will you budget your money? Will everything go into one account? How will you decide who gets to spend what? Even when couples decide to split expenses, resentments arise because one mate frequently has more spendable income.

If someone is coming into the marriage with a home and a savings account, are things to be shared from the get-go? Older men frequently marry younger women. The man has the money, the woman has the looks. The man wants her to sign off on his money, but he gets to enjoy a young wife. What’s fair?

If one of you has children, and 60% of couples who remarry do, consider the following:

– Who will physically take care of the children? I’ve seen too many couples in therapy where the wife is resentful because her husband expects her to do most of the work with his young children.

– Are your ideas of disciplining similar? If one of you is laid-back and the other somewhat demanding, problems will occur. Negotiate now.

– If your mate makes more money, do you expect him to foot the bill for your child’s education? Maybe his plan is to use his savings to retire early. Is he willing to forgo his plan to pay your child’s tuition bills?

– What about having a child? If only one of you has children, it’s likely that the childless individual will want an heir.

Other considerations before tying the knot a second or third time:

–   How do you want to spend your weekends? If one of you likes to stay home and the other likes to be out and about, there will be conflicts.

–   How about vacations and retirement? If one of you is expanding your career and the other is slowing down, how do you intend to handle differences in play time?

If you can take the issues in this column, thoroughly talk them through, and come up with specific agreements, you will have lessened or eliminated future marital problems.

 

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