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Ok, this one might seem like a stretch – – –  hang in there with me.

My husband forwarded me this article about teaching math — http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/a-better-way-to-teach-math/.

As a former math teacher I found it interesting. As Power of Two Head Coach I found it fascinating!

Here’s my take on math and marriage.

  1. Both are based on solid skills knowledge.
  2. Both take lots of practice to make those skills come naturally.
  3. Most folks have great intuition about how to do both. It’s when there’s any pressure or challenge to the situation that this basic good sense gets totally chucked.
  4. Nearly everyone can learn to be first rate at both with some bite-sized, incremental learning.

When I used to teach middle school, springtime may have meant flower blooming and sun shining.  And, it also brought the terror of parent-teacher conferences.  I’m not sure how I escaped graduate school without even one word of advice on how to keep discussions with parents running smoothly.  Likewise, these tips can help to build smoother consultations with parents about their children’s treatment.

Here are a few tips I wish someone had shared with me!

Have a plan– Share the plan. It helps to have a plan of how you want to use your time together, to share that plan at the beginning of the conference and to use a clock to  help you stick to that plan.  “Hi Mr. and Mrs. Adams.  It’s such a pleasure to meet with you today.  We have a 15 minute conference slot scheduled.  What I’d like to do is take about half that time to hear from you how the year has gone, then I would like to look together at a few pieces of Amy’s work.  I’ll send you home with a sheet about what we’ve covered in class this year and a folder of other work she has done.”  Then use the clock to stick to this plan.  Tempting as it is to let timing be a bit lax, parents appreciate when conference start and stop on time.

Be a HOW/WHAT detective. I used to think that the most important part of a conference was to prove how much I knew about each child.  I thought a conference meant I needed to prove just how professional and on top of things I  was.

In fact, conferences are a unique time to ask questions of parents and to help them feel like they are a part of the team.  Placing the focus more on understanding how the parents see things can be eye-opening as well as incredibly soothing for parents.  “What has been best about this year from your perspective?”  “How do you feel about Sally’s math skills?  “What will Jonah be doing this summer?”  Somehow it’s almost more reasurring as a parent to be asked the right questions then to be given the right answers.  Especially, if the right questions are followed with a nice clean work portfolio to bring home and review.

Be a YES . . . AND AT THE SAME TIME Ninja master. Your job, no matter how off-the-wall, annoying or otherwise opposed to how you see things a parental perspective may be, when talking with parents your job is to always start by figuring out how they are correct– and then to go on to really chew on what what you’re learning from them.  “YES, Mrs. Smith, I can totally see how it seems that Andy gets lost.  There are lots of kids in our classroom, and I do have to rely on the kids to work independently.  He also is such a sweet and calm child, he really never draws attention to himself.”   Then, once a parent feels you really get their concerns, the door is open to add yours.  “AND, AT THE SAME TIME one of the most important skills at this grade level is for children to begin to do much more independent work.  I actually try very hard to step back and give the kids quite a bit of independent space so they can begin to learn how to organize their work on their own.”

I have been working with a number of wonderful military families.  It’s a stressful life — many of these couples have spent the VAST majority of their marriage with one spouse deployed and the other trying to hang in there on the home front.

Then, when the deployed spouse gets home, it’s hard.  Really hard.  And often hard in surprising ways.  One of the most common themes I hear is that, instead of having a romantic reunion, the couple finds themselves in a sexless, tense marriage.

What can you do if your marriage, no matter what the reason, feels like roommates instead of lovers? Here are a few things to try.

1.  Focus on rediscovering romance.  What made things sizzle when you first became romantically engaged?  What activities did you enjoy doing together?  What new things did you try?   Try putting down all the wear and tear and daily grind, at least for a week or two, and focus on spending fun time together.  Try something new.  Revisit an old haunt.  Ship the kids to a friend’s house for the weekend and go hiking just as a couple.   Enjoying each other’s company is an important piece of laying the groundwork to get the chemistry sizzling again.

2.  Explore concerns.  Your job, as the spouse wanting to bring the sizzle back, is to be a concerns sleuth.  Warmly, gently ask your spouse to help you understand what are the thoughts and feelings he/she has around sex these days.  Your job is to listen with open ears — even if things are hard to hear.  Your job is to make it possible for your spouse to share that they are worried that having sex will lead to a flood of uncontrollable emotions (especially likely for military spouses with PTSD) or that they find the extra pounds you put on not so attractive (very hard to hear, and very good to know!) or that they feel guilty touching you because their thoughts (or more) have strayed.  These are all hard to hear, and at the same time, understanding your spouse’s, likely very real concerns, will put you back on a path of being a TEAM to figuring out how to move forwards.

3.  Sometime NIKE has it right– just do it!  Sometimes, one spouse is just never in the mood.  It happens a lot when you’re getting older, stressed out, too busy and/or just slow-to-warm up.  Sometimes, as un-romantic as this sounds, scheduling a night, or morning, or afternoon for sex is really helpful.  When it’s “date” time, light some candles, put on music, put fresh sheets on in the bed, and, well, test what happens if you both just give it a whirl.  Then talk about what you could do on your next “date” to improve the experience for you both.

 

Duh.  Of course Dad is important.

At the same time, when one is encouraging a Dad to be more involved (or helping a Mom who may not be on great terms with Dad to keep him involved) with his kids, it can be helpful to have a few facts at one’s fingertips.

Here are two of my favorite research findings brought to you courtesy of http://www.fatherhood.gov.

  • Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
    • Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.
  • When non-custodial fathers are highly involved with their children’s learning, the children are more likely to get A’s at all grade levels.
    • National Center for Education Statistics. October 1997. Fathers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools; National Household Education

In other words, does Dad want a smart kid with great grades?  Then be there to play, go hiking, listen to music and toss a football!  Oh yah, and come to parent-teacher conferences as well!

P.S.  Want an inspiring and  fun resource for dads looking to get serious about spending time with their kids?   Check out this blog — http://www.AdventureDad.org

It is easy to lose focus in therapy.   Therapy can become a meandering journey, a bit of a boat adrift in the sea of life struggles — tossed and turned with each new week.

Or therapy can set a clear destination – a goal, a distant shore towards which each session in it’s own way is heading you closer.

There are several ways I like to help my clients (and me!) make sure we all know where the boat is headed and that the course we are charting will take us towards that destination.

1.  Early in treatment articulate a clear goal.  Sometimes this will be a vision of what “better” might look like.  For other people a laundry list of concerns that will be resolved.  In other situations it may be relief from symptoms like depression, anxiety or marital tension.  Every so often is a new skill set– parenting skills, marriage skills, boss-management skills.

2.  I review this goal before each session to make sure that the course I am charting is heading us towards our destination.

3.  I often encourage clients to pursue treatment in blocks of about 5 sessions.  Move towards the goal for a handful (or handful plus) of sessions, then re-group.  Sometimes the re-group is a pause in treatment.  Sometimes it is just a few moments in a session to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I find being clear about the destination to be particularly important to keep right at the fore when working with people who come to therapy with a broad range of things that just aren’t working in their lives and/or longstanding history of depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.  There can be so many directions to explore, so many different ports that one might go calling in.  However, by visiting them all, one risks losing momentum.  Better, I think to pick a destination, sail to it, savor it.

And then one can always pick a new port to go calling next!

As someone who has done quite a bit of work with both children and with parents, I often find myself trying to decide which is the more optimal point to intervene — with parents or with their children.

For example, when a teen is struggling in school,  in part because things are tense at home where is the best starting point?

Certainly getting direct help for the teen is important.  Providing academic support, an open ear, and tools for problem solving about how to keep one’s own life stable and healthy is of the essence.

At the same time, help as close to the source of the problem tends to be quite effective.  That would suggest working with the parents.  Likewise, any professional help is going to have some limited time-frame.  Parents are forever.  Thus, helping parents to get to a place they can provide the kind of help their child needs might have more longevity.

Every time I start to ponder this question, I realize the answer is the chicken AND the egg come first.  Yes, get kids direct help.  And, yes, get parents better resources too.

In the end, I think the right question is  not parent or child, but what for the parents and what for the children.  If all of us working with parents made sure to always ask “what am I also doing for the child?”  And, if all of us working with children made sure to always ask “what am I doing the parents?” maybe we’d have less cracked eggs and more healthy chickens in this world.

Affairs are horrible painful.  They are painful for the couple.  They are miserable for children who find out what happened.  And, for the most part, they also end up being terribly painful for the “third leg.”

And, at the same time, affairs are one of the most preventable causes of marital distress.

How?

Four simple rules:

  1. Save conversations about anything intimate, revealing, special, exciting etc for your spouse.
  2. Know your family history.  If your parent(s) cheated, you need to be particularly alert to avoid making their mistakes.
  3. Try to be home with your family for dinner.  If you have to travel or do business dinners be very careful!
  4. Stay away from ex’s and old friends of the opposite sex– especially if you just rediscovered them.
  5. Be open and honest when either of you have situations that start to feel uncomfortably charged or concerning.
  6. Keep your marriage strong, intimate and loving.

Want to test you savvy?  Click on the picture or here for a fun interactive quiz.