Families, Politics and the Holidays

Did you make it through Thanksgiving? How are you feeling about Christmas? It’s fast approaching, and guess what?

Your family is still your family, and your politics are still your politics. 

I recently spoke to the fun folks over at BuzzFeed about how to deal with tough conversations with family over the holiday season.  As always, BuzzFeed’s take on the topic is funny – but also filled with really useful tips. Here’s a favorite:

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As the booze flows, so do the inappropriate and inflammatory comments and questions.  Resist the urge to engage in a drunken argument – nothing good ever comes from it.

Check out the entire article – and all 15 tips – here:

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Families and the Ties That Bind (Hint: None of them are political)

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There is a lot of tension in the country right now.  And we knew it was going to be this way, right? No matter the outcome of the election, there were always going to be many, many millions of folks who’d supported the losing side.  And after a full of year of debate, nastiness and name-calling in the political arena, more rancor post-November 8th was exactly what NONE of us needed.

And now here come the holidays.  A time that’s supposed to be shiny, bright and Pinterest-worthy – but is actually often stressful, disappointing and overwhelming.

I’ve been talking to quite a few folks in the media this week about tips for how to manage holiday gatherings with family members who are on different sides of the political debate.  A few things have come to my mind in these conversations, not the least of which is:

We don’t love our families (and our families don’t love us) because of our political views

The love shared between families is made up of many (in my mind, more interesting) reasons:

  • We share the same history – the history we can remember and the history that happened generations before we arrived
  • We have lots of shared memories – of things good, bad and in between
  • We root for the same football team, laugh at the same dumb movies, like the same weird food, etc
  • We have forgiven each other for mistakes and hurts big and small – and will continue to do so many more times in the years to come
  • We accept each other for what we really are: Not what we post on our Facebook page or send in our holiday cards
  • We sit with each other when we are sick, hold each other’s hands when we grieve and celebrate together when a milestone is reached

Feelings about the election and the coming administration are intense, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.  Shared political beliefs rarely occur in families anyway, and this year is no different.  To expect agreement this holiday season will likely only result in frustration.  Instead try focusing on all the many things we do have in common and love about each other.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

How To Have A Conversation With Your Family That’s Actually Interesting

OK, here’s what conversations often sound like in my house:

“Did you write a check for the mortgage”

“No! I forgot, can you do it!?”

and

“Did you practice piano yet?”

“Kind of.”

and

“Do we really have to go to your cousin’s sister’s daughter’s birthday party this weekend?”

“Yes, because she came to our party last year.”

and my favorite:

“How was your day, honey?”

“Fine.”

None of these “conversations” are particularly interesting or stimulating – and they certainly don’t do anything to help the participants feel closer to each other.  Instead, they simply allow us to continue the business of running our household and nothing else.  We are all guilty of this – surface, business-like conversations with those in our family (whether that family has two members or ten) – instead of meaningful, engaging exchanges.

When we first got to know our partners, we talked for hours about all kinds of interesting things.  I would bet none of our first date conversations included topics like bills, carpools and trash day.  And when our kids are young, they ask about a million questions everyday on all kinds of unique topics.  But, by the time our relationships have seasoned and our kids are into things like friends and electronics, conversation can easily fall to the wayside.

I recently wrote an article over on Produce for Kids about how to jump start dinner conversation.  The article was mostly focused on families with children at home, but I think the ideas can be used in any kind of family.  Check it out:

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Chores, Marriage, and Fairness

I hate doing chores.

So do my husband, kids, and just about everyone else in the world.

The bummer is that they have to be done – and they have to be done most everyday.

So how do marriages and families get chores done, and remain speaking at the same time?

I was recently interviewed for this really cool article about managing the “chore wars” every couple deals with.  I love how the family in the story talks about splitting up their domestic duties.  Check out this little gem of advice:

“Putting forth effort equals results,” Cary Schram, 42, said. “That’s pretty much my motto at work, and that’s what I think about a lot of times at home. You can have a great job. But if you come home and nobody’s happy, then you’re not happy, no matter how much money you make. We want to be happy.”

You have to work hard to be happy at home.  Love it.

Here’s part of my advice:

“Just remember to give yourself and your partner a break because it’s never going to be fifty-fifty,” she said. “Some days, it’s going to ninety-ten. If your expectation is that it’s going to be fifty-fifty, you’ll always be disappointed.”

Check out the entire article here:

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Who Are Your People?

We all want to belong. It’s an innate human desire.  And for most of us it’s a need – something essential to mental health.  And when we don’t feel like we belong – when we aren’t among “Our People” – it can feel pretty crappy.

When we are among Our People, we feel:

  • Like we can be ourselves
  • Understood
  • Relaxed
  • Like we don’t have to explain ourselves very often
  • Accepted
  • Known
  • Appreciated

Who doesn’t want to feel those things?  Luckily Our People can be found in lots of places.  And can include just one or two other people.  Here are some places where I have found My People, now and in the past:

  • Family
  • High school reunions
  • Dance classes
  • Church
  • Psychology organizations
  • On the streets where I live and work

Here are some places I have watched others find Their People:

  • Soccer teams
  • Running clubs
  • Choirs
  • Knitting circles
  • Moms groups
  • Jobs
  • Community service organizations
  • Art clubs
  • Brownie troops
  • School
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Book groups
  • Home Depot

So, who are Your People?  How do you know you’ve found them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Your Neighbors

Brooke Becker: Shutterstock

Brooke Becker: Shutterstock

Comparing ourselves to others may be one of the most detrimental things we can do for our self esteem. When compared to the Facebook posts of our “friends,” our kids are never as well-mannered or athletic, our spouses never as romantic or wealthy, and our jobs never as glamorous or high-powered. Shutting off all our social media outlets might be one strategy for stopping the constant comparison to others. The problem with that is, comparisons are easy to make no matter where we are. So here’s another idea: Have a little self-compassion.

Treat yourself as you would treat a close friend or family member.

For example:

Set realistic expectations for yourself. You would never expect a friend to raise 2 perfect children, work 50 hours a week, maintain a HGTV-worthy home at all times and still fit into her prom dress. So why do you expect that of yourself? Keep your expectations real and do-able in this lifetime.

Accept your idiosyncrasies. We all have them: weird, quirky things that make us who we are. For example, I have a friend who can’t tell a joke to save her life; she always gets the punchline wrong. It’s one of the things I love about her. Embrace the parts of you that make you, you – even if they are, technically, imperfections.

Understand that you will make mistakes. Why are we so much more accepting of other people’s missteps, failures and screw-ups than we are our own? I’m not sure. But I do know that most of us could stand to be as gracious to ourselves as we are to others.

You never know what’s behind the front door.  When all else fails, and you still find yourself comparing your life to the other, fancier people in your life, know this: Everyone has struggles of some kind.  What looks perfect rarely is, and everyone (yes, even the most confident, beautiful and rich among us) have our foibles and weak spots.

Portions of this post originally appeared as part of a series on Personal Development Genesis

How To Talk To Your Spouse About Something Other Than Kids Or Money

KellyandGarienWebDetails_068Marriage is a business.  Included in this business are the:

  • Finance Department (paychecks, bills, etc)
  • Logistics Department (getting people where they need to be, when they need to be there)
  • Human Resources Department (managing relationships inside and outside the “business”)
  • Facilities Management (everything involved with keeping the home working, and the people within it fed)
  • Research and Development Group (planning for the future, rearing children and pets)

I’m sure I’m missing a few key departments, but you get the idea.  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of treating your marriage or partnership as only a business – and not a romantic, intimate relationship.  In fact, keeping a marriage romantic and intimate can feel like taking on another part-time job.  Luckily, it’s a part-time job with lots of rewards.

One of the first and easiest (though not always easy) ways to keep your marriage out of the business-zone is by talking about things that have NOTHING to do with the business of marriage.  That means no talk about:

  • money
  • kids
  • pets
  • in-laws or extended family
  • carpools
  • work

Well, what else is there to talk about, you say?  Luckily there are lots of things.  Probably all the things you USED to talk about before you entered into business marital bliss together.  And believe it or not, those topics still exist.  They might include things like:

  • books
  • politics
  • religion
  • movies
  • sports
  • dreams/fears/hopes

You get the idea.  There’s a whole world of things to talk about.  So next time you’re having a date night or find yourself alone together give some non-business conversation a try!

 

 

 

Inspirational Quotes: Not Cures for Depression

I was recently interviewed for a story over at Psych Central about depression in relationships.  Namely, how to tell if your partner is depressed and what you can do about it.  Check it out here:

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My favorite quote:

Depression is a highly treatable disorder but it can’t be resolved with an inspirational quote or poster

This is one of my biggest pet peeves, and is sadly encouraged by Pinterest, blogs (not this one of course :), and other feel-good publications.  I don’t mean to say feeling good isn’t a good thing, it’s just that poems about gratitude and pictures of kittens don’t do much to treat mental illness.  Sorry.  It’s the truth.

Cute? Yes.  Empirically-validated treatment for depression? No.

Cute? Yes.
Empirically-validated treatment for depression? No.

 

How To Win A Man’s Heart

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I was recently interviewed by the site How To Win A Man’s Heart.  It was a pretty extensive interview, here’s a glimpse:

HTWAMH: A number of our women subscribers find difficulty in attracting the right man especially women in their 40s and above. The common complaint we hear from women is that men in their age group seem to be more interested in younger women and the men that seem to be interested in them aren’t interesting to these women. What advice do you have for women who are frustrated with their dating experience and have become skeptical of finding Mr. Right?

Dr.S: I can understand women becoming frustrated and even angry and sad when it feels like their dating life isn’t what they wish it were – particularly if they feel as if they are competing against younger women for an increasingly smaller pool of interesting and eligible men. What might be important to keep in mind, however, is what older women lack in some areas, they more than make up for in maturity, life experience, professional and personal accomplishment – among many other things. Focusing on all the things you bring to the dating table – and maybe even improve them – can be one strategy for managing the frustrations of not finding Mr. Right.

To read more, check out the entire interview here. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Coping With the Death of a Pet

Pet owners know that losing a dog, cat, parakeet or pig can be devastating.  The process of grieving a pet can be similar to the process one goes through after losing a human friend or companion. There are a few differences, of course, but pet lovers know that the pain is very real.  I was recently interviewed about pet loss and how the reactions of those around us can affect the situation in a really powerful way.

Comforting, supportive and understanding friends can make the process easier to bear.

Dismissive words and lack of compassion from family and friends can quickly turn the grief into anger and hurt.  I spoke to Dogster.com about how to cope with friends who don’t seem to understand grief after the loss of a pet (hint: knowing how to talk to a grieving friend is always tough, no matter what – or who – the grief is about).

Take a look:

Dogster.com  August 2014

Dogster.com August 2014

Want more info on grieving the loss of a pet? Check out this article I wrote over at APA.