Keeping the lines of communication open

Julie had a bad case of empty nest syndrome. Her son had left four years earlier, they had since moved to a new town, and she was unemployed. After she dropped her daughter Karen off at college, the first moth was really difficult.

“When my parents dropped me off at college, my mom was crying uncontrollably.”

It wasn’t that Julie was worried about Karen and her capabilities to live on her own… She was sad because she was going to be gone.

Check out Julie and Karen’s tips for staying in touch.

1. Write down your feelings.

All relations have ebbs and flows. That’s why writing an email or even in a mother-daughter journal really helps keep the lines of communication open. The advantage of email is that it provides time to think, so that we don’t say something rash that we might end up regretting.

2. Start a tradition.

Julie and Karen run races and travel together, try and find things in common that you can make into an annual event.

3. Keep in touch.

Karen and Julie say they try to make each other a part of their everyday lives. They exchange emails every single morning, and even if it’s mundane stuff, they still let each other know what is in store for their day.

Karen’s parents stayed involved in her life during college, coming to all of her home basketball games and a lot of her away games.

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7 tips for communicating with young children

Caroline is a child psychologist, but when she’s dealing with her own kids, sometimes all the knowledge she has goes out the window.

“When Isabel was first born and I was looking at her, my first thought was, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’” she said. “With kids, everyday is a new adventure. Every day brings new things. While my professional training has helped in those moments where I need to be patient, it’s still very different when it’s my own child.”

Because children’s brains are still developing, Caroline suggests keeping things as concrete as possible when communicating. Kids don’t pick up on subtlety and innuendo like adults do, so while a long sigh may be intended to let them know you are nearing your wit’s end, using your words will work a lot better to settle them down.

Keep these things in mind as you communicate with your children:

1. Keep things clear, concise and simple.

Sometimes, explaining and rationalizing all the reasons behind something is not helpful. Your kids don’t understand where you’re going with it, so you’re likely to lose them.

2. Have empathy for where they are.

Understand that certain things, like blowing out the candles or seeing mommy leave for work or the first day of preschool, are really big and important in their minds. Try to see life from their perspective.

3. Schedule time to catch up.

Create deadlines and intentions for things you want to accomplish with your children, just like the deadlines you have at work. Make time to find out if anything’s bothering your kids, and they’ll be more likely to approach you when they are upset.

4. Use distractions to your advantage.

The shorter and quicker you can communicate about a conflict and move on, the better. Give them something new to think about by saying, “No, you can’t do this. But let’s do this instead.”

5. Keep your messages consistent.

The more consistent you and your partner are together, the more that everyone will understand the expectations. If my husband and I are on the same page, then our kids are getting the same messages from both of us.

6. Pick your battles.

Decide what’s really important and what just isn’t. Because they are kids, some things are okay. If they want ice cream before dinner one time, it’s okay. But when it has to do with their safety or good behavior, for example, then it’s important to give it complete attention.

7. If you say ‘no,’ say it quickly and firmly.

“I’ve found that when I say no, but I feel guilty or don’t really mean it, my kids pick up on that,” Caroline said. Learn to say “no” and mean it. In our family, we have a saying: “No is no.” It’s almost like a song—and for my kids, the bottom line.

Being a professional psychologist has helped Caroline take a unique approach to parenting.

“It’s helped me look at life from my kids’ perspective,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but I feel like my husband and I are able to communicate with my kids, which makes me really happy.”

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Dating secrets every women must know

Wendy wanted to know what men wanted. She wanted to understand why they stuck with some women and ran away from others. After interviewing 100 men for her book The Girlfriend Test, she had an epiphany.

Men can’t pinpoint what they want any better than women can, but whatever rules they have, they stick to them no matter what.

Unlike men, women tend to bend, budge and contort themselves to be liked and desired. It may work for a little while, but it’s not a sustainable way to be. Mainly because it’s fake.

“Whatever a man’s rule is, he’s really committed to it, and he owns it, and he’s looking for a woman to fit in with that,” said Wendy. “We should be more like men in that regard. Women need to stick to their guns.”

The most damaging thing we do as women is false advertising, Wendy says. Instead, we just need to be who we are and be proud of it. Be promiscuous or be selective or be asexual, but be what you are and don’t try to be anything else.

Of course, be safe, be healthy – physically and emotionally healthy – but make rules for yourself and stick to them.

“You have to look at some your issues and stop fantasizing about how things could be,” said Wendy. “You have to learn to be really clear about what you want and what is achievable, and to be able to communicate that in a kind way. Once you do that, you’re ready to start dating.”

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Winning the relationship blame game

Francesca knew that something in her love life was off.

She began to see a patter in her dating. “I’d meet this really wonderful person, sexy and interesting. I’d say to myself, he’s going to be the one. He’s going to make me feel great for a really long time.”

But after a few months, Francesca would notice a change in the man she was dating. He’d stop courting her the way he used to; he wouldn’t bring her flowers; he wasn’t kissing me the way he used to.

Quite frankly her relationships were a tragic mess.

Francesca always thought that it must have been the guy that was the problem and that her relationships would be easy if only she could find the right one. To her, the men she dated were always the wrong one. So she would leave. After a while, Francesca realized that it wasn’t just bad luck that was ruining her relationships.

“I realized that there was a common denominator in all my relationships, and that was me.”

At first Francesca made up excuses for herself, she thought “Maybe it’s that they are younger than I am, or they are prettier than I am.” And as easy it easy for all of us to make up excuses, it usually isn’t the case.

After she went through a total self-evaluation, one thing that she learned about herself was that she was constantly criticizing her men and making sure that they knew that they were the ones who were in the wrong during arguments. She learned that there are two totally different ways of going about approaching your partner with an issue you may have.

Now Francesca puts a more positive spin on asking for the things she wants. Once the positive reinforcement started kicking in, Francesca’s relationships began to get a lot easier and a lot more fun.

“Everybody wants to be valued, but it has to start somewhere. I decided that it would start with me.”

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5 secrets I discovered for better communication

Anna is a therapist in a clinic, spending most of her time working with couples who have communication problems.

“I am interested in their communication styles and how that affects not just the relationship between them, but also the entire family and people around them.”

Communication is not something we are not formally taught. As Anna points out, “We learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but when it comes down to talking about the tough issues, most of us are just doing what comes naturally. And that is not always best.”

Anna suggests starting out with five simple things. A couple can focus on these in or outside of therapy, and they can really help to improve their relationship.

1. Practice self-awareness.
When you get home at the end of the day, doing a quick little mind scan to raise your self awareness can make all the difference.

“Ask yourself, what’s happened in my day? What might I be upset about? Then, either decide to leave it at the door or come in and talk with your significant other about it. By being more aware of your feelings and your experiences, you’re less likely to direct it at your significant other.”

2. Take a break.
When you are having a hard time communicating or find yourself getting upset, don’t be afraid to ask for a break.

Tell your partner you are going to step out of the room for a little bit. It gives both of you some time to think about what’s going on, why you’re getting upset and helps you figure out exactly how you want to go about addressing it.

3. Use the speaker/listener technique.
First, pick an object, any object. Car keys, feather duster, wheel of cheese, whatever.
Second, whoever holds the object is the only person that can talk. They are the “speaker.” And the speaker’s responsibility is to deliver a message about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, their opinion on the subject in as clear a way as possible.

Third, the “listener,” is the person not holding the designated tiki torch. Can you guess what their job is? Right. Just listen. Try to understand exactly what your partner is saying. The point isn’t to try and problem-solve or to argue or debate back and forth—it’s just about simply listening to what the other person’s saying.

4. Laugh it off.
At the end of the day, we really love our significant others. We love who we’re with. And you need to remind each other about that, even in an argument. Find little ways to touch your significant other, make jokes and remind them that in a couple of hours you’ll be doing something that’s less tense and more fun. Make a funny face. Share an inside joke. Trip up the stairs. Just do something to break the ice.

5. Be forgiving.
Everybody argues and everyone gets upset with their significant other, but when the arguments over you need to forgive each other and put it behind you. If you don’t, it’ll come up in the next argument. And before you know it, there are so many layers of resentment and anger that you can’t get through it to remember why you care about the person.

Remember that fighting isn’t necessarily unhealthy. You have to voice your opinion. You have to get mad sometimes. You’re working together as a team, and that’s not always going to go smoothly. But after it’s done, you have to put it away.

Following these five steps can help improve communication and improve your overall relationship whether you practice it on your own or in therapy. It’s hard work learning to speak the language of love, but it’s worth it.

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Get More out of Being in the Bedroom

Beth’s parents started dating when they were in eighth grade, and they’re still together today.

“I had a traditional white-picket-fence and start-having-kids-now type of upbringing,” she says. “I was raised with the solid belief that you find that one person who is the perfect fit. It seemed really boring to me, but I thought maybe they knew something I didn’t know.”

Like most of us Beth tried over and over again to have one long term monogamous relationship.

“I would date them one after another, and the only support I got was when I was miserable,” she says. “Everyone around me could relate to the bad stuff.”

Beth grew up in Virginia and lived by the rules of Southern hospitality. It carried over to her relationships with men. She found herself always putting their needs before hers, getting to know what they liked rather than figuring out what she liked. She was the pleaser in the relationship.

And that made her feel miserable and forgotten.

Because she’d never demanded attention, she not only knew what she like, but she also didn’t have the first clue how to ask for it.

“I was practically mute when it came to the subject of my body or my desires,” she says. “The shop was totally closed for business.”

Like most women, Beth felt almost apologetic for any sexual desire that she had. She said learning to communicate was an incredible challenge because sex is such a charged subject and it usually carries some shame with it.

Unable to figure things out on her own, Beth moved to a retreat called One Taste to study sensuality and to liberate her sexuality. She practices deliberate communication and helps others break through feelings of shame and embarrassment so they can finally know what all the buzz over sex is about.

If you want to get more out of your time in the bedroom, here are some of Beth’s suggestions for finding the right words.

1. Ask for a cup of tea.

In her former life Beth describes sex as, “leaving my body behind and hoping the other person would feel good in the process, so that afterwards, we could possibly feel more in love.”

Beth says that if you’re not that experienced with asking specifically for what you want, start by teaching someone else how you like your tea.”Do you like soy milk in it? Do you like cream in it? How many tea bags do you like? Do you want it on a saucer, or do you want it just in a large mug by itself?”

Start with something that is not threatening. There’s no possible way that your brain can talk you out of thinking the way you like your tea is wrong. Once you’ve mastered receiving your tea graciously and without apology, you can take it from there.

2.     Start using accurate, deliberate and open communication.

She found out quickly that it wasn’t just the moment of climax that makes sex good. It’s the whole process of exploring one another.

“None of us can read minds, so we have to be willing to ask our partner what we’d like or ask them to stop,” she says. “It’s not just like, ‘Okay, we’re partners, but you go do your thing and bliss out and I’ll see you on the other side.'”

Through open communication and non-judgment Beth is finally able to be open about what she wants in the bedroom. It doesnt’ always come naturally or instinctively, and she admits she still gets tongue-tied and intimidated, but she knows that honesty is the best policy — especially when it comes to sex.

“I don’t want to live in what could have been; I want to live in the actual reality of finding out who I am and what I want,” she says. “I can feel now.”

Just as it took Beth time to warm up to talking dirty, it will take you time too. Start with these basics, and remember, practice makes perfect!

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