Archive for August, 2019

August 29, 2019

Teenage boys and conversations about dad’s and divorce

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

“In the context of divorce, what do teenage boys expect from their fathers? This was discussed when teenagers have shared time with both parents and when there are conversations about the ‘absent’ parent.”

These broad suggestions are tough to implement especially in the context of a so-called “nasty” divorce – some are more civil than others.

A useful filter is the knowledge that there was a time when the former spouse was a deeply loved person with whom vows were publicly exchanged.

• Teenagers expect honesty. I’ve never met a highschooler who prefers sugar-coated or patronizing information. Most (appear to) “move on” rapidly.

• Ask questions rather than unload unsolicited information. The teenage boys I have counseled usually have zero interest in their parents marriage or divorce.

• Avoid conversations about the other parent when angry, feeling betrayed, or when financially stressed. Teenagers often “read” or attribute inappropriate self-blame.

• No matter how mature, or loving, resist making your child your friend, confidant, companion, or therapist. He (she) is not.

• The reasons for the divorce are (usually) none of the child’s business and ought to stay that way. I concede, sometimes it is obvious or public knowledge.

• Don’t turn an ex into a hero or villain. Your child already has a take on the reality.

• Teenagers want their parents to be strong, happy, productive and disinterested (not uninterested) in their teenage lives so they too can be strong, happy, and productive.

I hope there’s something helpful here.

August 27, 2019

Over, under, healthy – parenting

by Rod Smith

An unsolicited discussion guide for parent groups and schools

What over protection says to children:

  • You are not really capable and need all the help you can get.
  • Something missing or wrong inside you and you’ll never survive this rough world without vigilant oversight and extra help.
  • Someone is always watching out for you and picking up for you so there’s no need to grow up.
  • Your community will always rescue you. 

What under-protection says to children:

  • You are not worthy of love or protection.
  • Something missing or wrong inside you so fight off anyone who may see it or find out. 
  • You are alone and in the way.
  • A community, if you find one, can use you and turn on you.

What healthy parenting says to children:

  • You are treasured and capable and will sometimes need help and encouragement.
  • Every day you are becoming better prepared to be a fully functioning and loving adult.
  • You are whole and have everything it takes to face life’s many and beautiful challenges.
  • Every day, little by little, you need adults less and less because you can do more and more for yourself.
  • Your community loves you and expects you to achieve and become all you ever wanted to achieve and become.
  • The world is yours – go to it.
August 22, 2019

Things to encourage…….

by Rod Smith

It’s a well-worn cliche but love really does set people free. It really does seek another’s highest good. At least in the early stages, love ought to be more fun than feel like really hard work.

Encourage Freedom 

However close you may be as spouses or lovers or to a best friend, nobody wants to feel monitored or compelled to reply instantly to calls or texts. However much you may love hearing from each other nobody wants to feel anxious every time there is a text or an email or a phone call.

Encourage Space

Everyone desires space to think and to plan. We all need independence, time to be carefree, to relax and to not feel the pressure of carrying the load of an intense relationship. Autonomy is a God-given desire living within us. When it is squelched or infringed upon it doesn’t feel good no matter how much love may be in the mix. Armies invade, love doesn’t.      

Embody Trust

Nobody wants to feel obligated, guilty, on-edge, or feel surrounded by egg-shells or landmines. No one wants to watch every word, monitor every thought or be grilled about every feeling and thought. No matter how close you are nobody wants every move to be questioned, every word to be analysed, and every response to be assessed.

August 21, 2019

It all begins at home……..

by Rod Smith

Emotional wellness and health, like charity, starts at home. 

Wellness, or the lack of it, is always most evident with immediate and extended families. 

Our families see and experience the best and the worst of us. They have our triggers, our hot buttons, our passwords. They know much of our histories, they can get under our skin. It is within the family that most of us are faced with most of our most challenging emotional work. 

When we get to work on growing and become empowered within our families, our health usually permeates to all areas of our lives.

If you are sufficiently brave:

Approach family members with whom you have conflict. Do you part in making amends. The resistance you feel as you read this, if you feel any at all, is evidence of the need for issues to be addressed. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict even if you think you were not the problem. The healthier person is the one who initiates.

This suggestion does not apply to people who have cut themselves off from family for reasons of self protection. When any form of abuse or cruelty has occurred within a family it is never the victim’s fault and nor ought the victim be expected to seek amends.

August 21, 2019

Identifying highly functional people

by Rod Smith

Highly functioning people may not be the people with the highest salaries, the most prestigious titles, or posses the most social clout. They are people of all ages who:

  • Are able to be with their parents without becoming reactive, shutting down, or regressing into childhood mannerisms. They are able to be with their elderly or needy parents without becoming patronizing or authoritarian. They are able to discuss care for elderly parents with adult siblings without becoming reactive, vindictive, or childish.     
  • Are able to hold their own with all people without resorting to judgements, insults, or stereotypes.
  • Resist group pressures  – group-thinking, group-feeling, group-fleeing, group-seeing – and are able to think (and see, and decide) for themselves when in a crowd, especially when the crowd is family. 
  • Have the courage to speak up to authority when it’s necessary with calmness, politeness, and reason. At the same time they do not attempt to reason with the unreasonable.
  • Take responsibility for their actions, debts, conflicts, and do their part in finding solutions to the dilemmas and difficulties they face. They don’t blame anyone or anything for their problems and dilemmas.
  • Resist the pressure to over-function (do for others what they are fully capable of doing for themselves – polite favors and niceties excluded) and under-function (expect others to do for them what they are fully capable of doing for themselves) especially when it comes to immediate family.   

It is with family, extended and immediate, that our emotional health issues are usually most successfully triggered. It is within the family that most of us are faced with most of our work. Get it growing and right in our families and our health usually permeates to all areas of our lives. 

August 16, 2019

Love and trust are not a trade

by Rod Smith

Love and trust are gold and glue in all relationships.  

The one who says “I love you; I trust you” is the one doing the loving and trusting. 

When I love and trust my sons I am the one who is choosing to place my fallible love and my capacity to trust in them. 

My willing choices have nothing to do with them but reflect the kind of person I want to be. 

By loving and trusting my sons, and anyone else for that matter, I am minding my own business. 

My sons, and anyone else, do not have to do anything in return. 

They do not have to love or trust me back. 

Of course it is wonderful when things are reciprocal but love and trust (and honesty and truth) are not currency in a trade.

As a consequence of exercising my fallible ability to love and to trust my capacity for both has been stimulated and rewarded and, even though I often fail, it’s made everything, everywhere  more beautiful. The return on investment has been well rewarded.

If a son, or anyone, breaks my trust or tests my love I am faced with the challenge to love and trust again and again because that’s the kind of person I want to be. 

May I join you in this journey?

August 13, 2019

Is he or she a “healthy” date?

by Rod Smith

Several ways you can tell you are dating a really healthy person (or not):

  • He/she has a life already and is not waiting for you to complete it. There is no desperation in tone or behavior. There are no threats if you are unavailable!
  • He/she has a job and is not looking to you for a loan. There is no talk of the big sale that’s just about to occur or the ship that’s coming in or the horse that’s going to win. If there’s talk of incredible international fame waiting in the wings you’ve just seen a red flag. 
  • He/she has ongoing and positive and frequent and open conversations with his/her family. It may not be perfect but there are no permanent cut-offs or talk of hating anyone. A person who says things like, “I hate my brother / mom / dad,” is showing you the menu so you know what will be served.
  • He/she is both planned and spontaneous – yes, it is possible. Planning occurs because it’s wise (you get more done) but plans can be modified if something more exciting comes up. Emotional health and spontaneity are very close cousins.

(All of the above are in response to real (usually on-line) dating circumstances.)

August 8, 2019

Endure….. this is not an insult

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Endure with me – this is meant to be helpful and not an insult:

Keep in mind as we evaluate our lives and relationships that we are mammals.

We are individually loaded with instinctive drives and have group behaviors that make this evident to even the casual observer.

But, we are each much more than a mammal; together, much more than packs, flocks, droves, crashes (rhinos) or herds.

Deny this and we limit our self-understanding, understanding of others, and of groups.

You may have noticed:

We herd. We love to get together. We quickly establish hierarchy, pecking orders. Observe large crowds and you will identify behaviors that parallel behaviors observable in game parks.

We are territorial. Look no further than the fences around homes; watch elders suss out to accept or reject new members.

We desire leadership. We recognize it in some, not in others. We respect it until we challenge and dethrone it.

We flock, storm, intimidate, and, when necessary, we freeze or take flight.

We have routines, habits, and expectations of nurturing and protecting when it comes to the young and the elderly that are mirrored in the wild.

So what?

Our mammalian traits are inescapable assets.

But, we are more: we are human.

We can think, plan, learn from errors, record history, exercise vast imaginations, and offer our communities amazing cooperation and generosity and, individually and collectively, enter enduring dialogue with the very Heart of God.

August 5, 2019

Seen any poor parenting lately?

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to judge what appears to be poor parenting: the mother who can’t let go, the dad who can’t say no to a three-year-old, the elderly parent who gets scammed by an adult son or daughter and on and on and on….. 

I’d suggest some caution. 

You probably have little idea of what the family has endured to deliver them to this point. What you observe has history. The most powerful forces may predate the participants by generations who may themselves be unaware of the generational tides giving rise to the behavior. 

Off-spring, of all ages, usually have inordinate power over parents. They have our number and know our hot buttons. They know we usually ache when they do. They know we have to resist involving ourselves in things that are none of our business. What you are observing is people on a tight-rope of love, compassion, dreams, desires, successes, heartaches, and failures. Rational behavior, especially to the outside observer, is not that easy. 

The parent is simultaneously trying to enjoy the present, while hoping for the future, and scaling the walls of the past. Many a parent was never reared with any plan, skill, or imagination. He or she simply “got older” and now, in trying to do better for his or her children, is fighting battles to which you, the critic, may be absolutely blind.