Archive for ‘Blended families’

June 7, 2018

Both must come to the table….

by Rod Smith

“I told you a little bit about friends and family that we have had to cut ties with over the years. Recently you have written about reconciliation in families. In our sad experience it always takes both parties to come to the table and if they don’t then it’s pointless. For three decades we’ve had to put up with verbal abuse, insinuations, insults, and then being completely ignored by a family member. How does one even begin to try and reconcile with such an obviously troubled, unstable, irrational, angry and downright nasty soul?” (Edited)

Reconciliation takes at least two people. If you have done your part in searching your soul and cleansing your heart and clearing a path toward estranged family members, and you are willing for reconciliation to occur, then you have done all you can do.

Forgiveness takes one person. You are able to forgive the person who has treated you in the manner you have described. I’d suggest you do so, for your sake, not for the sake of the “downright nasty soul.”

Reconciliation is always better than estrangements and tension; forgiveness is always better than resentment and anger.

There are times when reconciliation seems impossible.

May 29, 2018

Rifts, wars, schisms, in families

by Rod Smith

Extended or immediate family discontent, even family rage, is more easily solved, healed, or negotiated sooner rather than later. Wait too long and it may go on for generations.

The longer schisms linger, the deeper they become and the more entrenched and “default” the reactive behaviors become. Bitterness, cynicism set in. Cut-offs become a way of life. Walls get higher and stronger.

The stories about who did what to who expand, often beyond recognition, in the heads of those who harbor and perpetuate the conflict.

To find healing or reconciliation, the “bigger” person, or the stronger member of the family, or the one who has the highest levels of “differentiation of self,” the one who wants the healing, initiates a conversation. That conversation must be devoid of all blame and all finger pointing. He or she does the necessary preparation and decides exactly what is wanted and what healing in a particular family may look like. Such an initiative demands humility, flexibility, and a deep desire for reconciliation.

Some families have been at war with each other for so long those who started it are long buried and those on the front lines do not even know anymore why they are fighting.

Please, don’t let that be true for you and for your family.

The consequences are too extreme, especially for innocent children who are inevitably caught in the crossfire.

May 6, 2018

Abandoning mother?

by Rod Smith

Somewhat of a theme has emerged of late in my private practice. I’m seeing several parents, particularly mothers, who have difficulty treating their adult sons and daughters and their families as whole, separate entities from themselves. They appear to want mothering to continue when their mothering is over.

Yes. Mothering ends.  I’ve written on this theme often in this column.

It is as if the adult women are saying, “I raised them to have wings but I did not expect them to use the wings,” or, “I gave them wings but they need me to show them how to use them and where to fly.”

I have compassion for these parents. It is pronounced for those who have lost a spouse to death or divorce and who then see the natural separation their adult sons and daughters rightfully and appropriately enjoy as another evidence of abandonment.

If the adult sons or daughters are prone to guilt they will quickly capitulate to the pressure to take care of mother and/or come under her control. This will often expose stresses and stimulate conflict within the marriage.

It’s even more complicated when both spouses each have a parent who inflicts a couple with such expectations.

Am I suggesting abandoning mom? Of course I am not.

Remain loving, remain out of control, and remain connected. That’s what loving adults do. 

Write to RodESmith122@gmail.com

April 18, 2018

Depression

by Rod Smith

“Hi, I suffer with severe depression and cannot afford a psychologist can you help me?”

Thank you for your brief email. I am moved and sad that finances prevent you from appropriate help. You have asked your question for millions of people who similarly suffer and had the strength to contact me:

  • Depression comes in a variety of sizes, strengths, shades, and your experience is unique to you. It’s from a wide variety of sources. You’re not to blame for its access into your life. You didn’t do something to deserve or cause it.
  • Letting a handful of trusted friends into your inner circle and telling them about your experience is crucial for your wellbeing. I hope you have such friends and I hope you will let them in. Part of your healing will almost certainly come from significant integration into a caring, small community.
  • Identifying your emotional rhythms: when you are feeling good, when you are not, when you are empowered, and when you are not, and identifying the triggers bookending these rhythms, will give you clues, keys to handling yourself when things are well, and when they are not.

Writing to me took courage. I am a stranger to you. I am a face you see in your morning newspaper. I’d suggest you were in your “best self” when you contacted me, even though you may have been at your most desperate. Access that person. She’s within you. Live from her as much as possible. Let her guide your day. When she is unavailable or uncooperative, lay low, and trust your community. She’s not abandoned you. She will emerge and you will feel empowered again.

Despite the darkness that can be so overwhelming there is a powerful and emboldened woman inside you and she will come out on her own terms. How do I know this? She wrote to me. I have her email.

April 16, 2018

His ex-wife asks the children questions….

by Rod Smith

“My husband’s ex gets involved in our lives by asking their twins (12) about our lives. She snoops through the children by asking them questions about their visits with their dad and with me. I don’t like this. Some things are none of her business. How do I get this to stop?”

You don’t get it to stop. Just as you correctly think that what goes on in your home is none of your husband’s ex-wife’s business, so is what the children talk about to their mother none of yours. The mother of the twins is at liberty to ask her children whatever she wants. The children are at liberty to talk about whatever they want with their mother – and with you.

If you silence the children you may meet your short-term goals but you will also send the unwanted message that the children cannot divulge other matters you may indeed want them to speak up about.

A better option than trying to monitor conversations of which you are not a part, is to live in such a manner that you’d be proud of anything the twins wish to report to their mother.

Shutting children down is not a good idea. You may pay the price of them shutting down around you forever.

April 15, 2018

Monday’s prayer upon rising

by Rod Smith
  • May I be a source of healing rather than of hurt or injury.
  • May I value other people more than things.
  • May I apologize sincerely and efficiently when I wrong others.
  • May I be immovable about matters of my integrity but understanding when others fall short.
  • May I give my full attention when I am in conversation with others and listen more than I speak.
  • May I become the most generous and optimistic person I know.
  • May I learn to avoid using and believing damaging stereotypes.
  • May I resist knee-jerk reactions to issues of race and equality.
  • May I bring optimism to others when they most need it.
  • May I learn to avoid gossip or saying things that are unhelpful or untrue.
  • May I learn to promote the strengths of others.
  • May I learn from losing and not gloat in victory.
  • May I give my children all the freedom necessary for growth and adventure.
  • May I learn to be a listening ear.
  • May I learn to live fully in the present while designing a great future and valuing my past.
  • May I enjoy deep connection with others and necessary separation from others.
April 9, 2018

Be the adult you want your children to be

by Rod Smith

Today, and every day, be the adult you hope your children will become. How else will they learn it?

  • Stop blaming the teachers, coaches, or the school for your child’s every challenge, difficulty, or hurdle. Blame restricts maturing, yours and theirs.
  • Stop blaming the government, the economy, or prejudice for every distress or dilemma you face, unless you think blame will be a good tool for your child to take into adulthood. If you want your children to be adults who take responsibility for their lives then show them how it’s done.
  • Your children won’t forget your temper tantrums no matter how young they may be; they will emulate them.
  • Demonstrate, by your own display of excellent manners, the manner in which you hope your child will navigate life and relationships. It is true, they are going to watch and learn from multiple sources, but you are their primary resource when it comes to how they will respect and treat others. Little eyes are watching.
  • Respect, visit, and be kind to the elderly so they know exactly how to do it when it’s your turn.
  • Dismiss no one; look down on no one. Young eyes and ears are absorbing how to be in the world, and you, parents, are the primary teachers.
March 27, 2018

Prayers for our children

by Rod Smith

Prayers and desires for our children, young and older….

  • That they may find useful, positive passions, and spend their energies on things they really love.
  • That they may make their livings from using their talents.
  • That they may find and enjoy deep and lasting reciprocal friendships.
  • That they may have mutual and equal and respectful relationships with everyone they love and know.
  • That they may neither be intimidated nor intimidate others no matter who they are.
  • That they may know they are deeply loved and respected by their immediate and extended families to whom they owe nothing but the return of healthy love and respect.
  • That they may be enduring students despite their academic achievements and patient teachers when others are trying to learn from them.
  • That they may love powerfully and be loved powerfully in relationships that are free and open and devoid of jealously and pettiness.
  • That they may grow into generous and kind people who are trusted for their integrity and goodness.
  • That they may have each other’s backs while risking the natural urge to rescue each other from self-made difficulties.
  • That they may develop goals and ambitions that far surpass making a good living but that include serving others and enhancing the lives of people whom they don’t know and may never meet.
February 21, 2018

Helicopter parents

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to knock so-called helicopter parents – the ever-present, ever-serving, ever advocating parents who are perpetually running interference with schools and coaches, often in ways that can be stifling, even damaging the very children around whom they hover.

All behavior has meaning. Parents “helicopter” their children (I’m amused that I used “helicopter” as a verb) for deep, powerful and hidden reasons, reasons often vastly beyond simple formulae or fixes.

What I do know is that it has nothing to do with the child. I’d motivate for understanding, empathy, awareness, and acceptance for the helicopter parent. Perhaps it is fear driven. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust with that lack originating long before the child was born. Perhaps the child is regarded as a lifeline to something saner, something more tolerable than the parent has ever known. Perhaps the parent has been used and discarded in the past and is dead set on safeguarding the child so history will not be repeated. Perhaps the marriage is perched precariously on hopes of the child’s success.

There are reasons to fear, lack trust, to want a life more powerful and meaningful than the parent may have known.

Empathy, awareness, acceptance, and understanding may go a long way to secure the helicopter’s safe landing rather than the humor or rejection used to shoot it down.

February 15, 2018

Tribal code

by Rod Smith

Each of us brings to every relationships a backdrop of how we view the world, understand commitment, view, and value people, join groups, terminate friendships, love, and leave home, nurture babies, pack the dishwasher, engage in or avoid conflict, and many things too numerous to mention.

Everything about our relationships is influenced by who, where, and how we were reared – among countless other variables, including natural endowment, and deeply held dreams and desires.

From these countless sources, experiences, and codes, both known and unknown, each of us was handed a Tribal Code or our truth about how life ought to work. How life was done, how relationships were conducted, talked or not talked about, became the folklore, the “correct” or the “right” way to live.

Your formative years did what they were supposed to do: they formed (and informed) you.

They taught you what, and how, to see, think and feel. They showed you what “normal” is to your family, and your experience became your measure of how life is supposed to work.

Then, when entering relationships, be it in marriage or if you are talking with your child’s teacher – the person opposite you has his/her own, and different, tribal code. He/she has his/her own lenses through which to see the world.

No wonder we can have a tough time getting along!