Why A Child Psychologist Can Be An Important Member of Your Family’s Village: An Interview with Dr. Pamela Loman

Discover how to thrive in your relationship & your parenting!

When I first heard the title “pediatric psychologist,” I couldn’t help but think of someone who’s so clinical in their approach they’d have little to offer kids, certainly not the people skills to relate to them. While the moniker “child psychologist” seemed better, I still assumed a link to pathology, to something being very wrong with a child to need those services.

Pamela_red

Dr. Pamela Loman

I was wrong, as confirmed in my interview with child psychologist, Dr. Pamela Loman. Dr. Loman powerfully explains how child psychologists—at least the best ones, among whom I include Dr. Loman—support families through a range of life transitions and challenges, and serve as consultants over the lifespan of a family’s evolution. Dr. Loman works with kids and parents navigating changes that are as commonplace as starting school or welcoming a new baby, or as specific as dealing with the loss of a loved one or exploring a possible medical diagnosis, such as ADHD.

I urge every parent to listen to my interview with Dr. Loman to better understand the broad scope of circumstances for which your family might benefit from consulting with a child psychologist, and to also better comprehend ways in which couples’ dynamics  support, or stifle, children’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. Plus, Dr. Loman offers some great tips for self-care and what to look for in a child psychologist. To download the interview, click the green/white icon on the audio player.

If you live in Sonoma County, check out Dr. Loman’s child psychology practice. Also, learn more about Dr. Loman’s Discovering Joy retreats, which she co-leads with Dr. Nicholas Egan. These are workshops to which you can travel from anywhere!

Discover how to thrive in your relationship & your parenting!

The Power of Collaborative Divorce: Interview with Marc T. Christianson

Click here for your FREE copy of Parenting Tools for Divorce or Separation. Click here to listen to my interview with family law expert, Marc T. Christianson. 

Even under the best of circumstances, the decision to divorce is stressful. The stress only increases when we have children together, not to mention when we’re in conflict with our soon-to-be-ex. As someone who helps parents attain co-parenting effectiveness, I’m just as eager to support those efforts among couples who part ways, as those who stay together. For better or worse, so to speak, while we’re not always spouses for life, we remain parents for life. Finding productive ways to limit the fallout of  divorce on our kids (and ourselves) is always helpful.

In my interview with family law expert, Marc T. Christianson of Tacoma, WA law firm, McKinley Irvin, you’ll learn about some of the common challenges of courtroom divorces and  alternatives to that approach, most notably collaborative divorce. One of the  advantages of pursuing collaborative divorce, which Marc explains late in the interview, is that it significantly lessens the emotional and financial stress of divorce for parents and reduces the negative impact of divorce on our kids. While listening to legal advice and explanations is  challenging for  many of us, myself included, I  encourage those of you contemplating (or in the midst of) divorce to listen to Marc’s interview all the way through, especially because he also offers great tips for finding a divorce attorney. For more information on Marc and his firm, visit the McKinley Irvin website.

Click here for your FREE copy of Parenting Tools for Divorce or Separation. Click here to listen to my interview with family law expert, Marc T. Christianson. 

Moms’ Bodies and Relationships: Interview with Lara Catone

Discover how to thrive in your relationship & your parenting!

Before moms give birth, many worry about their post-baby bodies; postpartum, they’re bombarded with advice from friends and the media about how to get their  pre-birth bodies back. While some moms succeed in morphing back into past proportions–Hollywood stars, most notable among them–a lot of women find their bodies either changed forever or, when standard crunches and exercise fail, unsure how to drop weight and/or diminish mummy tummies.

While none of this is, specifically, a relationship issue, the impact on moms’ marriages can be profound: how we feel about our bodies, how comfortable we are in them, how sexy or unsexy we feel–which includes how we look (or don’t look)–directly affects how we relate to our spouses, how much we invite or repel intimacy, sexual or otherwise, how we respond to compliments or lack thereof.

Lara Catone Sexual Wellness & Yoga Expert

Lara Catone
Sexual Wellness & Yoga Expert

Meet Lara Catone, a yoga and sexual wellness expert, who has created an  exercise program that throws out the shaming approach of so much postpartum exercise info, and offers women a supportive, physiologically-based way to reconnect with and shift their bodies. In fact, as Lara notes in my recent interview with her (see link below), going crazy with crunches can make matters worse for those whose core muscles  separated during  pregnancy and birth .

I wanted to learn more from Lara about the impact of birth on women’s bodies–yes, yes, I hear some of you yelling: “I’ll tell you about the impact of birth on  women’s bodies!!!”–not only to increase understanding, but also to find solutions, and  learn more about the effect of all of this on moms’ relationships, while offering advice on what spouses can do to help.

Long way of saying, listen to my interview with Lara (click on the white/green icon on the player to download). Apologies that the audio-interface ain’t pretty, but Lara’s expertise and insights are wonderful!

To learn more about Lara Catone and her upcoming online exercise program to help women flatten their tummies, and get their sexy back, check out yogafordiastasis.com and www.laracatone.com.

Discover how to thrive in your relationship & your parenting!

Managing Relationship Issues During, and About, the Holidays

I originally wrote about this topic three years ago, when I’d first started this blog. Much of what I wrote then remains true and, because I’m as keen to remind myself of some of the tips that I offer others, I wanted to revive and revise this post now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on how to best manage differences of opinion with your spouses, and your kids, about holiday traditions, about where to spend the holidays, etc, so please feel free to comment on this post.

I’m writing this on Halloween, a fun holiday that gives me great joy, since both my kids adore it (my daughter is Super Girl this year and my son is Scooby Doo). But if we’re talking about favorite holidays, Thanksgiving wins hands down.

I’ve attributed my favoritism to the fact that, as an ex-pat Canadian, I didn’t grow up with the national fanfare and non-denominational appeal of U.S. Thanksgiving, which means I don’t have any childhood baggage around the holiday. No distressing family memory, no assumptions about what Thanksgiving merriment should look like.

In the absence of that baggage,  Thanksgiving has seemed—to me at least—like an opportunity for festive inventiveness, a day to be designed and redesigned annually to reflect my shifting experience of gratitude.

Now that I’m married, and a mother, I’ve been thinking about how to keep that inventive spirit alive and how to approach any number of occasions, not just Thanksgiving, in a way that both honors my own and my wife’s distinct holiday yearnings and reflects what we want to create together as a family.

Like many things that are passed from one generation to another, how we celebrate holidays—including, where and with whom—gets naturalized over time:

We’ve always done it this way and we always will.

Yet as parents in committed relationships, we often juggle two different sets of family traditions. When that happens, it’s not uncommon for couples to spend so much time negotiating, or battling over, holiday details that we forget to discuss and, better yet, discover what kind of holiday we—as a couple and as parents—want to create for ourselves and our family.

How do we  create our family traditions?

A great first step, assuming you’re spending the holidays with your, or your spouse’s, family of origin (meaning, the family you grew up with), is to approach this season like a an explorer charged with discerning the unique tribal practices of your hosts.

Your job is to be curious about those practices—even if you grew up with them—to better understand their importance and their symbolic value to the tribe.

Once you’ve had a chance to record data about your and your beloved’s holiday traditions, both of you jot down those that are most important to you, those that honor each of your priorities and values.

Next, share your discoveries with your spouse. Don’t be surprised if, it turns out, that what you value most about your childhood traditions is more about how they enhanced your sense of self or family than the practices themselves.

Understanding what we don’t appreciate about some of our own or our spouse’s holiday traditions is equally useful; by inverting what we dislike, we often find what’s important to us and what we want to honor in our own family.

Once you’ve done this legwork, ask yourself and your spouse:

What traditions feel non-negotiable?
What about those traditions is so important to me and to you? 

If you find that one or more of those traditions spark disagreement, consider:
Given how important this tradition is to me, how do you think we can find a way to honor it, at least to some degree? OR

How might we honor each other’s traditions—even the ones we dislike—in a way that’s respectful? How can we communicate our different perspectives to our kids and still reflect a team spirit, even if we don’t agree with each other’s priorities? 

And, perhaps, most importantly:
If we were to set aside both our families’ holiday traditions and imagine starting from scratch, how would you describe what this holiday means to you and what you’d like it to mean to our family?

What new or revised traditions might capture the spirit of your holiday vision?

Many of us experience holidays (or pressure from parents or in-laws about holidays) as  sacred. Conversely, some of us bridle against holiday fanfare so much that it’s hard to imagine the merits of any past traditions.

Whatever our story, holidays offer our relationship and family an opportunity to understand what we do and don’t appreciate from our own childhoods and what unique traditions we can design for our own children.

In that sense, we’re not just explorers this holiday season, we’re time travelers; inspired by  holidays of yesteryear, we’re primed to  bridge the gap between our pasts and our kids’ present.

What “Family Culture” Do You Belong To?

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture published a very interesting report last year about American families. The report centers on “telling the complex story of parents’ habits, dispositions, hopes, fears, assumptions, and expectations for their children.” While there’s little in the report, specifically, about parents’ relationships with each other and about co-parenting philosophies,  the  findings are fascinating  not only because of what they tell us about our perceptions of parenting, and of childhood, but also as they impact the environment in which craft our co-parenting efforts and  vision of what parents’ relationships do, or might, or “should” look like. You can find the report here.

Conflict’s bad for kids, right?

Discover how to thrive in your parenting & your relationship!

When I spoke recently to a group of preschool parents on the topic of positive communication, one of the dads raised his hand:

“So if my wife and I are committed to communicating positively with each other and our kids, we should avoid fighting in front of them, right?”

Conflict has a bad rap in our culture, especially when it occurs between parents. It’s not unusual for us to avoid it, or shut it down as quickly as possible when it erupts, or assume we’re on the path to divorce if it’s a regular occurrence.

Truth is, not only is conflict unavoidable, it’s an important component of human relationships, romantic and otherwise.

Which is why I gave that dad the most straightforward response I could muster:

Yes and no.

Yes, there are some styles and topics of conflict that it’s best to avoid in front of our kids. No, it’s important to disagree in front of them, if we do so constructively, because that will teach them what positive conflict looks like.

Here’s a brief distinction between destructive and productive conflict:

Verbal and physical aggression certainly constitute destructive conflict, but they’re not the only forms. There are fight-topics and approaches to those topics that are also, ideally, off-limits it terms of exposure to our kids: avoid arguments about the kids, including disagreements around discipline, and don’t put your child in the middle (or let kids put themselves in the middle).

Destructive conflict also includes fights that aren’t productively resolved, those for which no apologetic, conciliatory or respectful words or behaviors are expressed, those without a genuine agreement to disagree, or a plan to revisit the topic at a later date, or other techniques designed to positively wind down the disagreement.

Constructive conflict, which is great for kids to witness, overhear or just plain sense, include disagreements where parents come to a resolution, in some instances a compromise, but without lingering resentment. Apologies, affection, a respect for differences, an understanding (though not necessarily agreement) of each other…all of these represent conflict at its best.

What to do if the first round was pretty destructive and your kids were home? Here’s one suggestion:

Make an agreement with your spouse to revisit the topic. Further agree that  you’re going to approach it calmly and that if either of you senses tension escalating, you’ll suggest a 5 minute break (or longer, if you’re really riled) to calm down. Keep at it until you find a way to close the conversation positively, which doesn’t mean you’re in agreement, but you feel respectful and, hopefully, possess increased understanding of each other’s perspectives.

You can do the above in front of your kids or behind closed doors. If it’s away from them, a great way to close the loop–i.e., a way to show them that the conflict’s been resolved–is to go and speak to them together.

Acknowledge that the way in which you fought about the subject at first was not helpful, but it’s natural for people to get mad at each other and, even, say hurtful things. If your kids are small (including if they’re infants and won’t understand the specific details you convey), consider acknowledging that your fight might have been scary for them.

Then, let your kids know that you’ve revisited the issue and resolved it, are feeling better about it, or each other, or however you want to phrase it. The less detail the better with small kids; what will have the most impact is the calmer energy between the two of you.

But if you’d like to let older kids in on your conflict resolution strategy for that fight, feel free to do so, as it will give them a specific example of ways to navigate a disagreement.

Another approach is to increase awareness of our conflict styles and try to avoid those that are most destructive. Check out my piece on conflict-styles for more information.

However we “do” conflict with our spouses, as long as we resolve disagreements positively, as long as we productively close the loop on an argument, even one that escalates beyond our own, and our kids’, comfort-zones, we’ll be modeling constructive conflict. Doing so will serve our children throughout their lives, and help our relationship satisfaction with coparents in the process.

Discover how to thrive in your parenting & your relationship!

 

Can We Talk? Ways for Parents to (Re)Connect

Like most parents, I have a long to-do list on which any number of items get pushed from one day to the next and the next and…you get the idea. So instead of berating myself for playing that to-do game with a post for this blog, I thought I’d let you in on some of the to-do items I have been able to check off my list, including: Having a ton of fun being interviewed by SuperMommyNot.com founder, TV reporter Donna Tetreault. Donna, who has two young boys, and I had a great conversation, which was that much more fun because her cameraman was so jazzed by our discussion of parents’ relationships that he kept interjecting his own questions. The result? 4 short segments on Donna’s website, which ran a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed them, or one of these topics is near and dear to your heart and you’d like to take another gander, here are the clips:

“Can We Talk” Part 1: Reconnecting with Spouses
“Can We Talk” Part 2: Conflict & Communication
“Can We Talk” Part 3: Date Night & Other Strategies
“Can We Talk” Part 4: The Challenge of In-Laws