Topic: RELATIONSHIPS

Hurricane Ida Assistance

We continue to closely monitor the weather events in your area due to Hurricane Ida. FEMA Emergency Assistance is now available. Affected individuals residing in the designated red counties (see map) in need of additional support may qualify for an emergency grant from the PAF. To inquire, please reach out with the following information:

To: paf@nflpa.com
Subject line: HURRICANE IDA ASSISTANCE

  • Photos of damage to home or vehicle
  • FEMA application confirmation
  • Proof of residency (lease/mortgage statement)
  • Picture of photo ID


Once received, you will be contacted by a PAF team member with next steps. As always, we encourage you to follow your state and local safety warnings and suggestions in their entirety. As conditions progress, we will provide additional information as it becomes available. 

How to Be There For a Partner With Anxiety

Relationships thrive on concessions and acclimation. On the one hand, you’re human — stubborn and proud, enjoying things a certain way. On the other, you’re human —  forgetful and malleable, able to navigate new roads and think they were always the fastest route. To balance these two things is important for any relationship — and absolutely crucial if one partner suffers from anxiety. 

There are countless examples of what partners of people with anxiety experience. Maybe you drive hundreds of miles to visit family because you know your partner won’t step foot on an airplane. Or maybe you’ve accepted that food shopping is your job because they get overwhelmed in grocery stores. Maybe when that nice dude you chat with at the playground invites you and your partner to a meet-up with other local parents, you start running through the bank of unused excuses in your head, because you know your better half would never go for it. At first glance, these concessions can seem arduous and frustrating. Research suggests that when one partner has anxiety, it can cause a significant strain on relationships. But experts say that if couples learn to navigate anxiety in a healthy, collaborative way, it can make the relationship stronger.

Anxiety disorders are common, affecting 19 percent, or 40 million adults in the US, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There are many different types: Anxiety is an umbrella term for different anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), says New York City clinical psychologist Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, an advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. 

Anxiety itself is not necessarily a disorder — it’s a normalemotion everyone experiences on some level, Lira de la Rosa says. We study for a test to quell nerves telling us we won’t do well, for example. Anxiety becomes a diagnosable disorder when it’s persistent and begins to interfere with someone’s social, emotional, and psychological functioning.

That interference can have a significant effect on partners, both as individuals and on their relationship as a couple. Some studies suggest that anxiety tends to rub off on partners: When wives suffered anxiety, husbands reported feeling distress as well, the authors of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The anxious women in the study rated the quality of their relationships lower, and their husbands did, too.  

In a review of the literature published in 2017, the authors noted that the impact of anxiety disorders on marital and partner life isn’t well understood. They also wrote that the link between anxiety disorders and family relationships can go both ways: Psychological problems adversely affect the relationships of people with anxiety, and the attitudes of the partner towards the person with anxiety can sometimes exacerbate the anxiety. 

“Anxiety can be contagious. We may feel like we’re taking on other people’s anxiety,” Lira de la Rosa says. “Partners may begin to worry they’re going to make their significant other’s anxiety worse if they let them know that they’re feeling anxious as well. They may hide their stress and other worries out of fear they’ll exacerbate their partner’s anxiety.”

Depending on its severity, anxiety might also affect the way the partners live their lives, such as by avoiding certain situations or social gatherings, says Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., a relationship researcher and marriage and family therapist in New York City. The partner with anxiety may pull back at times as they try to navigate their feelings and emotional experience, she says. In a long-term relationship, there can be pressure on the partner who doesn’t have anxiety to know exactly how to handle the anxiety situation or support their partner without being told. This, per Cohen, can feed the vicious cycle.

When your partner has anxiety, neither ignoring it, getting angry about it, nor making constant concessions to help them avoid anything that makes their anxiety worse will help. What will: understanding their specific anxiety, communicating about it in the right way, supporting them properly, and drawing healthy boundaries. One finding of the 2010 study mentioned above is that good communication and support between couples dealing with one partner’s anxiety may be protective for them. Meaning? Anxiety was less likely to have a negative impact on relationship quality day to day among couples who communicate effectively. So, if your partner has anxiety, here is some expert advice to keep in mind.

1. Study Up

How your partner experiences anxiety is individual. But it can help you to empathize if you educate yourself about the type of anxiety they have.  

“It’s important that when your partner tells you they suffer from anxiety, you don’t diminish it or exaggerate it,” says Brooke Bralove, a licensed clinical social worker in Bethesda, Maryland. “Learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments. The more basic knowledge you have, the better.”

Also important, however, is not to weaponize what you learn when talking to your partner about their anxiety. You’re looking for understanding that can help you be compassionate, not to become an expert about how your partner feels and what they need to do to “fix” their anxiety.

2. Talk Through Anxiety-Related Issues Together

When your partner has anxiety, it helps to acknowledge their feelings and make a game plan that might include compromises. Cohen says to encourage them to talk about their anxiety, such as potential triggers (if any), symptoms they experience, and ways in which they typically prefer to work through it.

It’s possible that someone with anxiety might not know what they need at the moment even if you were to ask them. You can also try asking if they need you to just listen or if there’s anything you can take off their plate to help them feel less anxious, Lira de la Rosa says. 

“Or perhaps they need you to just be present while they’re doing something that causes them to feel anxious,” he adds. 

3. Learn How to Be the Right Kind of Helpful 

It’s important to not offer solutions unless explicitly asked by the person experiencing anxiety, says Cohen. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Once you’ve talked with your partner about their triggers and what tends to be most helpful to quell their anxiety, however, then you can ask what would most help them at that moment.

“Offer specific suggestions for things they could do to ease their symptoms. You could recommend a five-minute meditation, box breathing, a brisk walk, or listening to their favorite song,” suggests Bralove. “Distraction and physical movement can be lifesavers when someone feels overwhelmed with anxiety. When in doubt, tell them to breathe, breathe, breathe.”

Many people with anxiety don’t find reassurance, such as saying, “It’ll all be OK, don’t worry,” very helpful. It can make them feel like you don’t understand them or you’re sick of hearing about their issues with anxiety. 

“If reassurance worked, no one would have anxiety,” says Bralove. “Acknowledge that you don’t fully understand their anxiety, but that you believe them and feel empathy toward them.”

4. Set Boundaries

While it’s important to be patient and compassionate with your partner if they suffer from anxiety, you also need to set boundaries for the sake of your mental health. 

Say your parents want to come visit for a week, but your partner insists she can only handle two days of them being around, Bralove says. You can say something like, “I know you get anxious when my mom visits, but we also know it’s good for our children to have a relationship with grandma. Let’s put our heads together to figure out how this can go smoothly,” she suggests. 

How (And Why) to Stop Keeping Score In Your Marriage

In this particular session they were arguing about an issue that’s quite common in my office: Who does more for our family?

The day before our session, one of their children had gotten sick at school. The school called Darron who didn’t pick up his phone and then Eunice who did —someone needed to pick up their kid. Eunice left work and grabbed their 4-year-old daughter and brought her home. When she entered the house, she was seething with anger.

“You’re literally home right now and you didn’t even answer your phone,” she said to Darron. “I am so sick of this! Why do I do everything for our family?”

Darron, waking up from a much-needed nap after a 12-hour shift, looked at her surprised and confused. Then, he got defensive.

As the couple recounted this argument to me, they each accused the other of doing too little while admiring themselves for doing a lot. The litany sounded like this:

“I make the most money.”

“I do all of the housework.”

“I am the only one who cleans the house!”

“I keep us on schedule every day!”

“I am the only one who cares about our family social calendar!”

“Well, I am the only person who saves money!”

“So, we are arguing about who does more for the family,” I said. “You’re keeping tally?” 

They both looked at me.

The Trouble With Scorekeeping

No one wants to keep score in their relationships. Yet, many of us do.

In relationships, we unconsciously give and take. When I clean the dishes I am giving you the opportunity to pick up a clean bowl from the cabinet when you are hungry. When you pick up the kids from school, I get to take advantage of some free time to take a rest and watch my favorite show. Give and take is actually one of the main advantages of having a partnership.

Within this system, however, we tend to create “entitlements.” We start to believe we are owed something because of what we’ve given — “I cleaned the dishes, so you owe it to me to vacuum the living room”; “I get the kids from school, so you owe it to me to take over at dinner time.” And so it goes.

Again, this is natural. It’s human to negotiate how we can make the activities in our home life feel fairer. When the giving and taking in the relationship is fair, there aren’t major complaints. No one comes into my office to talk about how fair things feel.

However, when things feel unfair and out of alignment, people start to keep score just like Darron and Eunice. And line items are used as ammunition in marital spats.

How to Stop Keeping Score

So how do we stop creating ledgers and create partnerships instead?

1. Make sure your partner feels seen in their efforts

Whether it’s the mental load or the financial burden, when labor is perceived as unappreciated and unfair, people will tally everything they do. To combat this, make a conscious effort to be clear with your partner that you see all of their efforts and that you appreciate them. You might think you already do this, but research shows otherwise — people tend to underestimate the importance of receiving gratitude and appreciation, and overestimate that the person will judge them for doing it too often.

2. Make your efforts obvious

This might feel like bragging. You don’t need to be theatrical about it but you do need to make sure your partner knows how much you do. It doesn’t help the relationship to be a quiet martyr. Make your work visible, especially if you’re feeling burdened by it.

3. Create better boundaries with each other — and yourself

If you’re arguing about who does more in the family, there’s likely an issue with boundaries. You’ll need to work on self boundaries — that is, having limits that you don’t cross. For example, if you feel resentful every time you pick up after your partner, stop picking up after them. Or if you quietly cancel your Friday afternoon art class because your partner sprung something on you at the last minute, don’t cancel. That’s a self boundary.

It’s also crucial to have boundaries with your partner. In practice, this means letting them know you have a stance. For example, it’s saying, “Hey I can’t be the only one picking the kids up. We need to come up with a new solution”.

25 Pieces of Marriage Advice From Couples Who’ve Been Together 25+ Years

So, what is some honest, real advice from couples who’ve been through the long haul? We recently asked 25 people who have been married for 25 plus years about what makes their relationship work. Cliches didn’t enter the equation. Instead, their answers reflected a simple truth: long-term relationships are both easy and hard, but made better by honesty, fun, and a shared sense of unity. They urged communication and clarity. They underscored the importance of shared meals and spicing things up with dirty jokes. They emphasized appreciation and attention to detail. Here’s what they said, and why it’s helped them stay together for the long run.

1. Accept and allow

“This is a mantra I picked up early on in our marriage, and it’s one my husband and I have come to live by. I forget where I heard it, but it’s basically a nice way of saying, ‘You knew who your partner was when you got married, and you can’t change them.’ There were many things I wished I could change about my husband after we’d been married for a little while. But I realized I loved him, and it was a waste of time to dwell on them. I needed to accept him for who he was, and allow him to be himself. That doesn’t mean we can’t get upset, or voice concerns. It just means that we’re committed unconditionally to the person we married, even when they drive us crazy.” – Lynne, 62, Florida (married 31 years)

2. Imagine life without your partner

“My wife and I talk about this all the time. We imagine what our toughest days would be like without each other. Truthfully, we always agree that we’d make it through. Realistically, we’re each independent and strong enough that we’d be fine. But, it would be terrible. That’s the takeaway: life would be possible without each other, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, special, or full of great moments. It’s not uncommon for us to ask each other, ‘Can you imagine if I wasn’t here?’ The answer is usually some variation of, ‘Yeah. It would suck. I’m glad you are.’” – Jerry, 56, Maryland (married 30 years)

3. Crack jokes

“We got married when we were both almost 40, and our sense of humor has gotten more juvenile every year. Maybe it’s just us, but I don’t think so. We laugh at rude noises. We roll our eyes at each other’s terrible jokes. We love raunchy movies. It’s just that primitive, human sense of humor we both have. So many couples seem to lose that the longer they stay married. There’s this weird pressure to become more civilized or dignified as you get older. We never got that memo, it seems. And when it’s just the two of us, we’re usually cracking up. We’ve stayed in love so long because we’re too busy laughing to be fighting.” – David, 68, Michigan (married 30 years)

4. Choose your own adventure

My marriage has never been easy but it’s always been an adventure. Best advice I can give – getting married is like going to a theme park. Know who you are and what ride you want to go on. If you want to go on the carousel (stability and serenity) marry that. If you want to go on the roller coaster (risk and adventure) don’t marry someone who’s afraid of speed and heights. The key is to know yourself and what you want before you pledge yourself to a partnership. Then, once you’ve found your match, run your marriage like a good company. Identify each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and delegate those responsibilities accordingly..” – Kathleen, 57, Nebraska (married 31 years)

5. Don’t be so damn stubborn

“Don’t insist on always having the last word. It’s never not worth it. What you think is a fundamental, bedrock principle might actually be just a personal preference not worth having a spat or holding a grudge about. Be open to that possibility. Even if you get your way, it will take a toll. And if you agree to something, abide by the mutual decision. The loss of trust is also not worth getting your way. We’ve learned to be responsible for and take ownership of our decisions and actions, and we always try to avoid criticizing or guilting. It never helps. Instead, we try to have constructive conversations about specific behaviors that might be troubling, and we’re each willing to listen to each other’s concerns – even if they seem trivial.” – Claude, 68 (married 33 years)

6. Do the work

“Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘opposites attract’, but you don’t really hear the phrase, ‘opposites keep people together.’ They can, though, if you learn how to navigate them. Opposites can create a great deal of conflict over time if you don’t learn how to accept them. It can be a difficult process, but it’s necessary to stay happily married long term. Good marriages don’t just happen. They require a great deal of work and intention. The English language has one word for love. I love my wife and I love spicy food. There is no comparison. Since the term ‘I love you’ is so confusing and vague it makes sense to define what that means to both of you, even if you’re total opposites.” – Monte, 64, Florida (married 40 years)

7. Bite your tongue

“My rule is: bite your tongue for at least 24-48 hours after before speaking when tensions are high. If you are overly emotional and/or upset about something, doing so gives you time to cool off and then reflect on the situation with greater space, perspective, calmness, and clarity. If you still want to talk about it, schedule a mutually agreed upon time to do so. Say something like, ‘I am upset about what you just said/did, but I want to think about it before we talk.’ Mentally, you’ll be in a much better place.” – Romy, 52, California (married 26 years) 

8. You won’t always be on the same page

“And that’s okay. Patience and communication are key to any successful relationship, but especially a long-term one. It’s important to remember that you’re not always going to agree about everything. There will be times when you need to listen more than you talk, and times when you need to communicate openly and honestly. You can do this by making time for each other, even when life gets busy. Whether it’s taking a walk after dinner or spending a weekend away together, do everything you can to keep the bond strong.” – Steve, 49, Arizona (married 26 years) 

9. Keep each other guessing 

“My husband is a quiet man. Me? Not so much. I was surprised when he told me how much he loves the fact that he never knows what I’m going to do from one minute to the next. And I appreciate his willingness to try different things. As our unofficial ‘social secretary,’ I’ve planned trips where he hasn’t really known where we’re going until we get on the plane. Our secret really is just keeping our life interesting. Otherwise, life becomes stale and boring. Do something unexpected from time to time and you’ll learn how much you cherish each other’s company.” – Carol, 72, Georgia (married 49 years)

Make Summer Happen Early

The problem with spring is that it isn’t summer. We’re not knocking the season — full of hope and birds and flowers and the like. But it also has its downsides. In mountainous regions, this means mud. If you’re lakeside, it usually means cold snaps and rain. Hell, much of the country is still experiencing temperatures in the 30s and 40s. There’s an easy solution: go south, find an island, or just get out and find somewhere where it’s blissfully hot. Because, let’s be honest, that’s actually what you want right now. Whether you’re craving an adventurous family getaway at a far-off locale or some rest and relaxation stateside, here are six spring break 2022 trips to consider.

1. The Florida Keys

Prefer not to pull out your passport? Play it safe and beeline it to the southernmost stretch of the continental United States. In Key West — along with any of the other Florida Keys you pass through on your way to the end of the chain — an early spring day is normally in the mid-70s.

Land at the international airport in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or even West Palm Beach and rent a car to break further south still for the 125-mile-long chain of islands linked by 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway.

Key West has all the family vacation activities you could want — from trolley rides and a treasure museum and aquarium to sunset catamaran cruises and calm beaches with shallow waters. But you might find some of the other Keys in the chain even more mellow and fun.

The ocean and bayfront campsites at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key make for a perfect basecamp if you’re looking for a rustic and affordable stay (there are cabins for rent here, too). Or you can splurge at a spot like Isla Bella Beach Resort on Marathon (pictured), with several oceanfront pools and a private beach set on over a mile of waterfront as well as an onsite marina from which you can head out on snorkeling and fishing excursions. And while famous parks like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park steal the spotlight, there are all kinds of other tucked-away nature spots to stop at as you road trip through the Keys, including the National Key Deer  Refuge and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center on Tavernier.

2. Tahiti

Hear us out on why you should try here over Hawaii for your next big family vacation.

For roughly two hours longer in the air from Los Angeles than it takes to get to Honolulu, you can find yourself landing in Papeete in the Islands of Tahiti. That’s right, board an overnight flight from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui and about eight hours later (and hopefully a full night’s sleep for the gang) you’ll land in French Polynesia.

And if you’re wondering if the storied destination lives up to the hype, we can confirm the 118 islands and atolls here are well and truly among the most very beautiful and welcoming tropical isles on Earth (the kids might also love that these are the islands that inspired Disney’s Moana)

Leave the honeymoon crowd to pricey Bora Bora and base in Tahiti (the main island) or Moorea, right next door and just a 30-minute ferry ride away. Lodging options run the range from affordable family-run pensions to full-on hotel chain resorts with swim-up bars and kids clubs. Introduce the kids to French fare (the islands belong to France, after all, so the influence is everywhere) like a goat cheese salad or moules frites. Be sure to try the ubiquitous French Polynesian take on ceviche called poisson cru.

If you’re feeling intrepid and want to see more of the islands, hop an Air Tahiti flight for an hour to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago, where you can head out on excursions to snorkel with baby lemon sharks and reef sharks in sheltered lagoons in Rangiroa where they’re born, learn about black pearl farming or go scuba diving at some of the most incredible atoll passages on Earth in Fakarava. Among the family-friendly, waterfront places to stay in the atolls are Havaiki Lodge, Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts, and Hotel Maitai Rangiroa.

3. Puerto Rico

Closer to home, time spent thawing out under the Caribbean sun in Puerto Rico is a great place to shake off any lingering winter chill. Do the kids like to surf? Or maybe that’s your thing, and you want to entice them with some skimboarding or boogie boarding in the shore break. Either way, surf towns like Rincón,Aguadilla, and Playa Jobos on the island’s northwest corner have a chill vibe and plenty of vacation rentals and inexpensive hotels to make your home base. Rincon Beach Resort and Villa Montaña Beach Resort are both popular with families who come for sun and surf.

How to Successfully Shift From “Work Mode” to “Family Mode”

The added flexibility of the work-from-home movement is revolutionary for many reasons, including how it enables more working parents to be with their families. But experts agree that there are many times that it doesn’t feel great. “We’ve all had the experience where we’re not fully present as a father because we’re thinking about work and vice versa,” says executive coach Ian Sanders, author of 365 Ways To Have a Good Day. “There are no magic wands for putting boundaries around family life and work life,” says Sanders. It just takes effort and focus. Here’s how to flip the work and home switch.

1. Build Transitions into Your Day

In three different conversations with three different work-life balance experts, I heard one piece of advice three times. To prevent the whiplash that occurs when you step between work and home modes, you need to build in a transition — something that replaces the mental decompression granted by a commute. “Bookend your day with two 15-minute walks around your block, or read a chapter of a book — anything that helps you be present and get focused on what’s next, whether it’s work or home life,” says Kaylee Hackney, an employee well-being expert and Assistant Professor at the Baylor University. Whatever it is, stick to it to ensure you have some routine that lets you know that “Okay, I’m not at the office anymore.”

2. Get a Room

Some unsurprising news: Both your work and home lives will be better served if you have a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a full-on home office or even a glorified closet. And the benefits aren’t all about eliminating distractions. “When your kids see you in your workspace, they have a better sense that you’re in work mode,” says Hackney. “You’re sending a signal to your brain by being there, too, and at the end of the day, you can shut the door and not have to be reminded of work every time you walk by it.”

3. Manage Your Notifications

We’re in an alert boom. There’s that text thread where the neighbors are talking about what went down on Friday night. There’s another where your buddies send the strangest memes. Not to mention, there are the non-urgent messages from your school’s PTA, your kid’s aftercare program, and their sports team, sent on apps like Konstella, GroupMe, and more. Consider silencing many of these alerts during your work hours to maintain your focus, and consider replying to texts at just a few distinct times during a day. Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders does: “I have a strategy where I go through all the text messages from the prior day once in the morning, and if I haven’t responded yet I do. And then I don’t really answer personal texts until after work,” she says. The reverse goes for work communications, she says: “You don’t want to be giving your kid a bath while your smartwatch buzzes about some report, taking you out of the moment.”

4. Close Out Your Workday with Rituals 

Instead of simply wandering away from your screen when the workday is done, go through a checklist. Write down what you didn’t get done today and what will carry over to tomorrow. Scan your email or your Slack and quickly respond to the messages that truly need it. By tying up loose ends and doing some basic planning for the morning, you’re doing two things: giving yourself some ease of mind when heading into family time, and ensuring that you’ll hit the ground running in the morning. “It makes being present with your family a lot easier,” says Sanders, who adds one element: “The Germans have this expression called the ‘Feierabend,’ where you crack open a beer at the end of the workday. It’s a signal. If that’s not your thing, find a ritual that resonates with you.”

5. If You Have to Work at Night, Establish Guardrails

Many of us have added “night shifts” in the last few years, necessitated by daytime hours spent on parenting tasks. At night, you might steal away to the office (or couch) to do the deep work you missed during the day. Chances are, this occasionally has to happen. But experts warn to not make it a routine. “You want to set limits. One or two nights a week, maybe two hours, not messing around,” says Saunders. “Otherwise it’s a recipe for burnout.”

6. Be Realistic

If you have work to do on the weekend but don’t want to take time away from your family, you might mentally underestimate it. You’ll just find some quiet time on the fly, right? Wrong. As the weekend unfolds, time evaporates. You have other tasks to do. And once you do jump into your work, you realize that what you wanted to get done might take you six or seven hours instead. Saunders refers to this as magical thinking. “It’s common. But reality always wins.” If you don’t want to spend time away from your family working on the weekend, then you might need to start being brutally honest about your schedule and your workload, reprioritizing and weeding out tasks. “It’s doable,” says Saunders. “It just takes a lot of intention on the part of a parent.”

6 THINGS YOU COULD DO TODAY TO START BEING A BETTER DAD

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as fail-proof parenting. We all experience our share of failures. It’s inevitable. We’ll unleash overflowing frustration on our kids after a long day at work, we’ll forget to embrace the moment because our adult brain is fixated on what’s coming next. We’ll never be perfect, but we can be better. Even with our failures, we can be great.

What makes a great dad? 

We all strive to be great dads. Dads whose children trust and rely on them, building a bond that lasts well past childhood. But how do we get there? Every single day we’re faced with choices, ones that dictate how our children see and interact with us. In order to make those choices, first and foremost, we have to show up. We have to show up consistently, actively, and without judgment. From there, becoming a great dad is a process, one that lasts a lifetime. Your only competition is yourself. Your only goal today is to be a better dad than you were yesterday. How, you ask?

Well…

[1] JUST BE A FAN. JUST BE A FAN.

Kids receive constant feedback from the world around them. Teachers evaluate their ability to learn, peers evaluate their ability to socialize. Kids are told what’s normal and what’s abnormal, they’re compared to set expectations and held to set standards. At home though, in the one space where kids can be fully and unabashedly themselves, kids don’t need those limitations. They don’t need to be told that their dreams are unrealistic, they don’t need to hear that their favorite TV show sucks. What they need is a fan.

A fan is always there, cheering loudly during the best times and the worst. Kids don’t need you to fight their fights for them, or to tell them what they’re doing wrong. They need someone who’s willing to say “yes, you can” even when they don’t fully believe it themselves. Someone who roots for them no matter what, because nobody else in the world will. Someone who loves them fully and unconditionally, who’s willing to step back and let them make mistakes for the sake of growth and self-discovery. And when they fall, they can feel safe in the confidence that their biggest fan is waiting to help them back up. 

[2] YOUR JOB IS TO BOTHER

As long as doors have existed, teenagers have been slamming them. Kids want independence. They want you to stay out of their business, to stop telling them that you love them in front of their friends. If kids had it their way, parenting wouldn’t be such an all-encompassing task. But our job as parents is to push through those barriers, to let them know we’re there even when they don’t necessarily want us there. 

It’s not a coincidence that father rhymes with bother. That’s our job. To be up in their business.

Being up in their business isn’t the same as being overbearing, and it certainly isn’t permission to stifle their independence. Bothering simply means being involved, showing interest, and reminding them that we care about them unconditionally. Sure, they’ll resist at times. They’ll roll their eyes. They’ll groan. But they will never, no matter how hard life gets, worry that nobody cares. Be a bother to them. Be a father to them.

[3] START THE CONVERSATION

Nearly every coming-of-age TV show references “The Talk,” an idea that bleeds, for better or worse, into real life. The idea of “the talk” is shrouded in mystery and discomfort, hinged on the idea that it’s a parent’s responsibility to tell their children everything there is to know about life’s most difficult topics in a single agonizing chat. 

It’s taken us our entire lives up to this point to learn about drugs. To learn about sex. To learn about loss. And yet, we’re expected to impart all of our worldly knowledge in a movie-worthy montage filled with awkward muttering and not-so-subtle glances at the clock? At best, it’s deeply inadequate.

Parenting is an ongoing process, it’s a job that never ends. These talks, like many aspects of parenting, should evolve as our kids grow. They should become deeper and more involved as our kids become more deeply involved in the world around them. It may be uncomfortable at first, partly because it means our kids are no longer seeing the world with wide-eyed innocence. 

But these talks are essential. They mark the beginning of conversations that will last a lifetime, conversations that our children will one day have with their own kids. Start the conversation now, start it right, and make sure to keep it going. 

What Is The Ideal Age Gap For A Happy Marriage?

A young, attractive spouse won’t make you happy in the long run, according to a new study. Researchers found that the thrill of a wide age gap tends to wear off within a decade, leaving mismatched couples unprepared for marital bliss. The perfect fling might be half your age — but the perfect life partner probably is not.

“Marital satisfaction declines more rapidly over time for both men and women who have large age gaps with their spouses, compared to those with small age gaps,” says study co-author Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “This decline in satisfaction erases those initial higher levels of satisfaction at the beginning of marriage for men and women with younger spouses.”

Easy come, easy go. Besides, prior studies suggest that desire for a much younger partner is largely a guy thing. In 2001, for instance, Dutch social scientists asked men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s what they considered the ideal age for a long-term partner, and a casual fling. Both women and men preferred age-appropriate spouses, but men alone opted for significantly younger suitors when it came to brief affairs.

For this new study, McKinnish and colleagues analyzed 13 years of data from 8,682 households in Australia. They found that men and women with younger partners were the most satisfied with their marriages initially, and both men and women with older spouses were least satisfied. Unfortunately, these satisfied men and women with younger spouses have nowhere to go but down. After their marriages reached the six-to-10-year mark, larger age gaps saw a much sharper decline in satisfaction — especially when there was money trouble.

“It is likely that such couples with age gaps are more vulnerable to economic shocks, as they have relatively lower household income compared to similarly-aged couples, and are also more likely to be single income households,” co-author on the study Wang Sheng Lee of Deakin University in Australia told Fatherly.

As for the precise age gap for marital bliss, Lee and McKinnish are unsure. A previous study indicates that the sweet spot may be around one year. Couples one year apart had a 3% chance of splitting, researchers found, compared to 18% for couples five years apart, 39% for 10, and 95% for 20.

Still, these numbers represent averages and trends, not predictors of marital success. “If one is conservative and believes in statistics on averages as a guide, then having a smaller age gap makes it more likely one will not experience drops in marital satisfaction,” Lee says. But “there will always be exceptions to the norm.”

3 Simple Rules To Raise Kind Kids

But raising kids who are kind takes more than scolding them when they’re mean. Kind kids must be attuned to the emotions of others and have a genuine concern for their wellbeing. Where niceness meets empathy, kindness is a seriously challenging lesson for parents to pass on to their kids.

Luckily, it is possible to train kindness into kids. For a recent study, researchers from the Center for BrainHealth had 38 mothers lead their kids aged 3 to 5 through the online kindness training program “Kind Minds with Moozie.” The kids completed five short modules, in which a digital cow named Moozie described creative exercises that parents can do with their kids to teach kindness, such as playing a game of charades where family members take turns pretending to engage in different acts of kindness. The researchers found that the preschoolers were both more kind and empathetic after the kindness training.

“Kindness is sometimes taken for granted,” says Stephanie Barca, J.D., a social service therapist and board member of the anti-bullying nonprofit Children’s Kindness Network. “But it really is a skill that can allow any kid to make a huge contribution to those around them. That, in turn, helps them feel so good and so proud of themselves.”

Here are three things parents who raise kind kids make a habit of doing.

1. Building Emotional Intelligence

Although people tend to think about kindness as a specific character trait, it’s grounded in the multifaceted concept of emotional intelligence — a set of skills that allow people to monitor their own and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to use emotions to guide one’s own thoughts and actions. An emotionally intelligent person can accurately perceive and evaluate what others are feeling and appropriately control their own emotions as a situation dictates.

Helping kids develop an emotional vocabulary that allows them to identify feelings and emotions is foundational to helping them become kind people. And if the rise of emojis has taught us nothing else, it’s that even very young children easily understand visual representations of emotions.

It’s a strategy the Moozie curriculum utilizes to great success when teaching kids how to perceive what others are feeling. Kids are presented with situations and then asked to identify the characters’ feelings. But you don’t need Moozie to do this. When watching a children’s show with your kid, you can pause at any point to ask what a character is feeling.

“It’s a nice way to introduce these concepts because the expressions are simple and straightforward,” Barca says. “In the real world, those signs may not be as strong for someone who has difficulties interpreting those social cues.” Visual representations like emojis and fictional characters are tools for learning emotions that are easy for kids to grasp, especially when they’re bright and easy to interpret.

Cell phones conveniently provide parents with everything they need for a quick game of name-that-emoji when looking to kill a few minutes. The Feelings Book by Todd Parr and its corresponding flashcard set are more tangible tools that provide a vibrant and screen-free take on the emoji idea.

2. Celebrating Kindness As It Happens

Parents aren’t starting from scratch when teaching kids how to be kind. Anyone who has had a preschooler give them a dandelion or received a dozen slobbery kisses from a toddler is well aware that kind intentions start early, even if the execution is lacking.

Taking time to notice and affirm such moments of kindness highlights for kids the capacity they already have while creating a positive feedback loop that encourages kindness moving forward. A kid shows kindness, an adult notices this and compliments them, and then the praise triggers a positive neural response that encourages the child to repeat acts of kindness.

“Learning to get along and contribute to the greater good is crucial to a functioning society, and those are things that any child can do. Noticing and celebrating those moments allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment, which is huge in helping them make kindness a habit,” Barca says.

Obviously, parents need to discourage their kids from being unkind by imposing negative consequences when kids say hurtful things. But finding opportunities to give rewards when they build up a run of kind words or actions can be a powerful tool for positively reinforcing kind words and actions. Using reward charts provides a visual reminder to kids and gives them an easy way to track their progress as they work to make kindness habitual.

3. Practicing Kindness Together

Barca makes learning and reinforcing kindness interactive with her kids by using a puppet to roleplay how to be kind in various situations. Instead of simply giving kids examples of how to be kind, they can participate in the creative process at their own speed. “For younger kids, the puppets are really good at role-playing positive social interactions with an engaging character,” she says. “And it sets up situations where kids can receive affirmation for the times they give good suggestions about how [the puppet] can respond to others with kindness.”

Another option for practicing kindness is to have kids brainstorm kind alternatives when they see fictional characters speak unkindly to others in books, television shows, or movies. Putting the focus on a third party in a low-stress situation can be more engaging than having kids do a real-life “do-over” after they’ve been unkind to someone and emotions are still high. Taking in an entire scenario from a third-person perspective can help remove some of the pull to justify retaliatory hurtfulness amid conflict.

For older kids, service and volunteering can be pathways to reinforcing kindness. “Even small gestures of kindness can make a big difference,” Barca says — a good reminder during these times when kindness feels like a fleeting art. Doing the next right thing — or in this case, the next kind thing — is an attainable goal that can have powerful effects.

34 Small, Nice Things To Do After A Big Fight

So, you had a big fight with your spouse. Maybe it was a three-hour screaming match. Maybe it was a 20-minute argument. Maybe it was one of those off-and-on fights that can last an entire weekend. Whatever the case, things were said. Anger erupted. Feelings were hurt. It happens. What’s most important after a big fight now are the steps you take to reconnect.

Arguments happen. Big ones. Little ones. It’s completely normal and healthy. Agreeing on everything isn’t possible. And a marriage without arguments — big or small — is a marriage without productivity. Arguing shows that there’s stuff to do in a relationship and that both partners are, in their way, working toward a larger goal, like attempting to understand each other and how to do better. No, it’s not ideal for arguments to spiral, and we must all learn ways to fight better and keep things from getting heated.

That said, what you do after a big fight is as important as what you do — and don’t do — during a fight. It’s easy to float around in the aftermath of an argument and just wait for things to become normal again. Understanding when someone needs time or space is essential. But acting like nothing happened is the wrong approach. It’s important to take action so that you both can, eventually, get things back to normal. 

So, what can be done? Here, in no particular order, are 33 small, nice things to do after a fight.

33 Things To Do After A Big Fight

  1. Jot down something about how you feel. Anything. Put it in writing. The act of writing is meditative and helps you understand your thoughts better. If it’s something you want to share with your partner, do so because that’s something they can hold onto (and re-read). Even if it’s not, writing down everything helps you better sort through it. 
  2. Resolve It Quickly (If You Can) “Explain why you were/are angry, and talk about what you feel is needed to go forward with the issue and/or prevent further fights about it,” says Laura MacLeod, a licensed social worker “Do this early. If you wake up and still feel so mad you don’t want to talk, say that. Acknowledge it and figure out when you can resolve it. Don’t let it fester.” But…
  3. If they need space, give it to them. Everyone processes things differently. 
  4. Let them break the ice. Let them control the tone. If they don’t want to laugh about it, take their lead.
  5. Clean your house. Top to f*cking bottom. Don’t ask for credit. Don’t point out how spic and span the toilet is. Just do it to busy yourself productively. 
  6. Play with the kids. Turn all your attention to them. This should help you cool off (if you need it) and helps make you emotionally useful while you two are shoring things up.
  7. Exercise, clean up, and take care of yourself. You two need to repair a rift. This starts with a bit of self-care for both of you.
  8. Makeup in front of the kids. Children learn by watching adults. When parents make up with each other after a fight, they should do so in front of their children to help them understand that even though people might fight and argue, it does not mean those relationships are irreparable.
  9. Do something to make them laugh. Shared laughter is incredibly powerful because of the neuropeptides that are released when we smile and guffaw. When partners share laughter, it can ease tension and break down walls, making it easier for a couple to find their center.
  10. Give them the dumbest card possible. There’s nothing more diffusing of any remaining tension than the cheesiest apology card on the greeting card rack. The sappier it is, the better.
  11. Write a sincere love note. Tell them that even after an argument, you are still their partner and that you will never stop loving them. They need to hear it, and you need to be reminded that’s the case. It will help.
  12. Tell them that they were heard. Say those words. “I heard you.” They are uncommon and they are powerful. And mean them when you say them. Follow them up with a clear explanation of what you heard them say — even if they didn’t exactly express it in the clearest way. 
  13. If you’ve been putting off doing something boring/annoying because you don’t feel like it, now is the time to do it. Buckle down and install that damn smoke detector or fix the broken lock. It’s a small gesture that will be noticed.

The Most Important Skill Couples Need To Master, According To Dr. John Gottman

What’s the one skill that will benefit couples the most right now? That is, what’s most important to helping you and your partner feel happier, more resilient, less resentful, and better able to endure the many stresses of marriage and raising kids? The answer, according to Dr. John Gottman, is simple: listening. That is, you must know how to listen to your partner with empathy, interest, and, importantly, without offering solutions. Whether your relationship is strong or struggling, he says mastering this communication skill is critical to success.

“Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Gottman. “One of the most powerful things you can do is be a great listener and just be there without trying to be helpful.”

Dr. Gottman is in many ways the father of modern marriage research. For more than 40 years, he and his wife, psychologist Dr. Julie Gottman, have studied thousands of relationships (heterosexual and same-sex) to understand what makes a marriage stable, what behaviors are predictive of divorce, and what couples can do to ensure their partnership is kind, happy, and fulfilling. Through the Gottman Institute and their breakthrough research at the “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, they’ve shaped much of modern marriage therapy, and are responsible for such findings as the magic formula for a happy marriage and “bids for connection,” among many other insights. Because of them, countless couples understand themselves and their relationships better.

The Drs. Gottman are also authors or co-authors of more than 40 books about relationships, one of the more recent of which is Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. In it, they offer eight topics — from money and adventure to spirituality and sex — and outline a variety of fun, interesting questions for couples to ask about each on a date. The conversations are not about confrontation, but rather curious exploration to help couples of all ages and stages learn more about one another.

Fatherly spoke to Dr. John Gottman about the pandemic’s impact on modern marriages, the conversations couples should be having, and how to truly listen to and validate your partner’s feelings.

COVID and the changes it brought were tough on a lot of marriages. Couples were forced to really rethink and retool their relationships. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on what relationships had to endure during that time?

Well, it seems like couples have gone in two different directions. Those who were distressed before the pandemic hit have gotten a lot worse. The relationships have included a lot more dysfunctional conflict, and we’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence.

And then other couples whose marriages were stronger before the pandemic have gotten stronger through it. They’ve had more time with each other. They’ve had more of a chance to get closer and really rethink their values as a couple and as individuals. And so, we’ve seen this split between relationships that were strong initially and relationships that were challenged initially.

The average has stayed the same really because there’s been this big diversification of these two pathways. It’s been a time of great change. It’s almost like when an earthquake hits, there’s a fault underneath for some people and this really causes a lot of damage. On the other hand, sometimes crisis is opportunity. And for some people it’s really been an opportunity to rethink who they are and who they want to be as a couple. And it’s been very productive for those relationships.

Given what couples are facing, what do you think is the most important skill they need to develop? Is there something that has stuck out to you?

Well, consistent with this finding that there are these two different pathways, the ones that have had the most trouble really need to have a way of dealing with conflict and disagreement and managing their own irritability and stress. For them, our tool, which is called the stress-reducing conversation, is critical.

Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, so they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing — they really feel that their partner is their ally in going through the stresses and the changes that are happening.

It’s important that people stay away from problem-solving and just listen and ask questions — ask open-ended questions — of their partner and listen empathetically, and use touch and affection as a way of staying close. That’s probably the most important skill for those couples on that trajectory with a relationship that is very stressed.

10 Ways To Deepen Your Bond As A Couple

And if you want to deepen your relationship and strengthen your already-strong bond, well, you have to, well, try to deepen your relationship. It’s the trying — the focusing on the little things, the willingness to be vulnerable and offer more of yourself in exchange of more from them — that make it possible.

So what helps deepen a connection? Below, according to a variety of relationship therapists, are ten suggestions. You might notice a common thread woven throughout all of these suggestions – communication (surprise, surprise). Here’s what to remember.

1. Actively Show Appreciation.

Whether it’s a note in your partner’s lunch, or a random text to say thanks for being such a kid’s bedtime savior last night, what you might think of as a fleeting gesture can build genuine closeness. The key with appreciation is to be specific in what you mention. “It can really be as simple as telling your partner how much you appreciate something they did for you, or something more complex like expressing gratitude for their support and presence in your life,” explains Dr. Callisto Adams. “Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help build positive emotions and foster a sense of connection. It can also help to improve communication and understanding, and can make your partner feel valued and appreciated.”

2. Lean Ito Conflict

Obviously, you don’t want to go around picking fights. But in all relationships, good or bad, conflict is inevitable. So, roll with it. “Many couples are terrified of conflict and see it as a sign of poor relationship health,” says couples therapist Sandra Harewood. “But healthy conflict can be a force for good, deepening the bond between a couple as it is a sign of growth, change, and transformation.” Conflict can present couples with the opportunity to explore communication and deepen trust which, according to Harewood, allows both partners to develop confidence in themselves and the relationship as a whole. “Accommodate your feelings and experiences by learning to argue well, and you’ll be less likely to be knocked off balance when things go wrong,” she says.

3. Increase Your “Bids For Connection”

‘Bids for connection,’ which are based on the research of Dr. John Gottman, refer to reaches for acknowledgement, reassurance, or validation within a relationship. And couples who “turn towards” a bid more often than not are happier and closer for it. “A bid could be a touch of the shoulder while passing in the hallway or a comment like, ‘Wow, look at that goat!’ while driving by a farm,” says therapist Erin Dierickx. “The more often they are offered and received, the more trust, satisfaction, and connection you will experience in your relationship.”

4. Have Check-Ins

More than just a passing “How was your day?” tossed off from the other room, a true check-in with your partner involves distraction-free conversation with the intent to listen. Sit down and have a five-minute check-in each night. Talk about your day, and highlight anything you’d like to talk more about when you have more time. Once a month, Wolfe also suggests a deeper check-in over dinner or coffee. “Try to have this check-in at the same time each month to establish a routine, and plan to discuss how each of you feels about how things are going in the relationship,” says Trisha Wolfe, LPCC. “Is there tension? Are you making progress toward shared goals? What can be improved on for next month?” The goal with check-ins — brief or length — is to stay on top of your relationship so issues don’t fester for weeks, months, or even years.

5. Stay Curious

Not in the sense of snooping around your partner’s unlocked phone or bathroom drawer, but through constant self-reminders that you definitely don’t know everything about them and want to learn more. “Curiosity is the secret sauce in a relationship,” says Harewood. “I’ve seen many couples get caught in the trap of thinking they know all they need to know about their partner, or that they’ve heard it all before. But, things are always changing, both for the individual and the relationship.” Staying curious and asking questions will prop the door for intimacy wide open.

Happy Holidays from the PAF

We hope you are able to celebrate with family and loved ones this year! From all of us at the PAF, we are sending our warmest wishes to you and your families this holiday season.

We wish you the best over the next few weeks, especially good health and happiness.

We are committed to continue to find and provide you the information you need to navigate your post-football life in the most successful way possible.

Happy Holidays and may you have a safe and healthy New Year.

-Your family at the Professional Athletes Foundation.

How To Be A Man According To 15 Dads

This kind of exploration leads to healthier men who can better work their way through defeat, sadness, and the defied expectations we all experience in life. So how does this translate to parenting? What lessons do today’s fathers hope to teach their boys about “being a man” today?

That’s what we asked more than a dozen fathers spread out across the country. They all weighed in on the lessons they’re trying to teach their sons about manhood. From embracing equality, to the value of hard work, these men covered a vibrant spectrum of issues that their children will likely have to face as they grow older. They’re raising the next generation of men, and these are the most important lessons they hope to impart.

Men Go To The Doctor

“My dad passed away from lung cancer. But, also from stubbornness. For years and years and years, he refused to go to the doctor out of pride. And there’s a good chance that, had he kept up with his health instead of trying to tough everything out, he might still be here. I tell my son that it’s okay to admit when you’re weak, or hurt, because you can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re not in the best possible shape. Going to the doctor is such an easy, simple thing that a lot of guys just don’t do. And it can really end up hurting the people that love them. That’s not something a man would willingly do, in my opinion.” – Nick, 46, California

Strive To Be Good People

“For me, being a man is second in importance to being a good person. There are so many easy definitions of masculinity. Everything from not crying or showing emotion to looking a certain way can preoccupy and distract from what it means to be a good person. And that transcends being a man. If you’re a good person — kind, responsible, and accepting — then you’re a good man. I want my kids to realize that. Not just my son, but my daughter too. When she eventually grows up and meets the man she’s going to love, I want her to know what’s important to look for.” – James, 43, Ohio

Face And Embrace Your Feelings

“Men can cry. Men can blush. Men can be embarrassed or ashamed. A real man is one who is so strong — so brave and fearless — that he’s not afraid to show his true emotions, no matter what they may be. I think society conflates strength with pride quite frequently, especially when it comes to men and their emotions. Just because a man is too proud or stubborn to cry doesn’t mean he’s strong. It means he’s being untrue, to himself and the people that care about him. I think a real man knows that there are times and places when it’s okay to be vulnerable, and doesn’t hesitate to embrace them. That’s why I never tell my son to stop crying. Instead, I tell him that his sadness is valid, and that I’ll be there to talk about it when he’s ready.” – Al, 40, Montana

Fight For Equality

“I didn’t actually grasp this lesson until a few years ago, when the whole #MeToo thing was blowing up. I had some really productive conversations with friends and coworkers that made me realize how equality benefits everyone. A level playing field is the healthiest, most prolific environment for success, because it really emphasizes skill, talent, and intelligence over privilege. I want my son to have enough confidence to avoid letting any insecurity make him feel threatened. A man thrives on equality, because he knows that real progress – whether its personal, professional, educational, or whatever – can only happen if no one gets a head start.” – Patrick, 35, California

Recognize Love

“This world is full of hate. A real man can recognize and cherish love, no matter where it comes from. My father always had a hard time saying, ‘I love you’ while I was growing up. And I get it, that’s just how he was raised. And I think he’s a real man, for sure. But, I also recognize that he isn’t perfect, and that I want my sons to say, ‘I love you’ whenever they genuinely have a chance to do so. I say it to them all the time now, and they’re at that age where it’s a little embarrassing in front of their friends. But, they’ll grow out of that age. I hope they won’t ever grow out of the capacity to show love.” – Josh, 37, Michigan

Stand Up For Others

“Not long ago, my son —he’s in ninth grade — got suspended from school for fighting. He told me what happened, and it turned out he was defending a fellow student who was getting picked on by bullies. I told him he did the right thing. My wife disagreed, and eventually we landed somewhere commending him for standing up for someone, but challenging whether or not the physicality was really necessary. Bullies are everywhere. There’s a good chance he’ll end up working with — or working for — bullies once he’s grown up. And as he grows into a man, I think it’s important he knows not to be pushed around. In those cases it’s probably best not to throw down and fight, but it’s also important to stand up for the right things.” – Andrew, 43, New Hampshire

23 Tips: Happier, Healthier, And More Fit

1. Walk in the woods.

One study shows that a 20-minute stroll through your local park can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase the feeling of happiness. Scientists have found that natural environments activate our parasympathetic nervous system (feelings of relaxation) while suppressing the sympathetic system (fight-or-flight feelings). If the park is too far, consider filling your favorite reading nook with more plants.

2. Commit to 27 minutes of daily mindfulness.

That’s the amount researchers found resulted in measurable changes in the gray matter of people’s brains, increasing density in areas responsible for feelings of compassion and decreasing it in areas related to stress and anxiety. You don’t have to practice mindfulness for 30 minutes straight — sit quietly and contemplate your breathing for 10 minutes in the morning and a few more at night.

3. Add turmeric to your cooking.

You might know it as the spice that turns curry dishes yellow, but turmeric also helps with life’s ills. To wit: Studies have found it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory (good for sore muscles), antioxidant (can help you feel and look younger), and a protector against heart disease. Whew.

4. Sprinkle lavender essential oil on your pillow. 

Just a drop or two can help induce a sense of calm.

5. Set up a relaxation zone in your home.

It’s important to have a stress-free space in your life, so make sure there’s a comfortable, distraction-free space in your home where you can exercise, nap, and relax.

6. Limit blue light before bed.

If you’re checking texts and email right up until lights out, you’re setting yourself up for a lousy night of sleep — and not necessarily because you’re stressing about work. The blue light emitted by your tech devices sends signals to your brain that inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical that makes you feel drowsy. Put away your phone and laptop an hour before bed to help your night be a restful one.

7. Carve out your own space.

Contrary to what early 21st-century architects thought, it turns out that open seating plans can inhibit productivity. Workers in open offices spend an undue amount of time making phone calls from stairwells and empty conference rooms instead of sitting at their desks, research shows. Find yourself a little piece of personal space at work or home where you can take a minute for yourself to just breathe.

8. Build the perfect breakfast bowl.

Oats + walnuts + berries + cinnamon + milk = Awesome way to start your day

9. Do planks.

Planks are an essential, effective workouts move, if you do them right: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.

10. Exercise for 51 minutes … a week. 

For as little as seven minutes of sweat a day, you can reduce your risk of dying by 33 percent, according to research. Walk, jog, ride a bike, or jump rope. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts. If that’s not motivation enough, scientists found that people who exercised for 10 minutes a day were, yes, happier than those who did not. So, you know, get after it!

11. Eat earlier.

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, consider pushing up the hour for your evening meal: People who ate dinner earlier in the afternoon felt less hungry while raising their body’s fat-burning potential, according to a new study.

give yourself the gift of a vacation away from family

When I was 12 or 13, a friend’s mother invited me to join their family for a Thanksgiving road trip. After I persuaded my parents to let me go, we piled into the family minivan and hit the road. We stayed at a Howard Johnson, shelled pecans and ate all the traditional holiday foods my family never had.

It was the kind of holiday I had always wanted, and one I could never have had at home. It was the first time I skipped a holiday at home, but it wasn’t the last. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For years, Christmas was a forbidden word around our house. As a Hindu, my father didn’t think we should have a tree or acknowledge the holiday. I learned the truth about Santa Claus when we picked up a Christmas tree on sale at Woolworths around closing time on Christmas Eve, decorating into the wee hours of Christmas morning, when Santa was supposed to be making his rounds.

Similarly, Thanksgiving was an American holiday, one my father didn’t believe we as Indian Americans should celebrate. As a kid making cornucopias and construction-paper turkeys at school, however, all I wanted was turkey, pecan pie and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The closest I ever got to the kind of holiday meals other kids talked about was at a family friend’s house. It was usually a crowd of lawyers, former Texas prosecutors and the occasional medical examiner, a mix that made for interesting conversation. There was turkey for everyone else, and vegetarian lasagna for us.

During college, I regularly skipped holidays at home, opting to spend time with friends and their families instead. Not going home meant I could remove myself from the drama that met me whenever I walked through the front door.

In college, it was my weight that was an issue. Going home would mean hearing about how I was so fat that I was unlovable and destined to spend life alone. Down the line, skipping the holidays meant I wouldn’t have to hear about how I was quickly approaching my expiration date of 40 — a time beyond which I would have no value to the world. This conversation began when I was 21.

Not going home for the holidays meant I didn’t have to hear about how I was wasting my life or about the awful traditional men my dad was trying to meet online on my behalf. One of those men told me in our families’ native tongue that he wanted a wife to go to his village in India and care for his aging parents while he stayed in the United States. Nope.

Over the years, I skipped trips home to collect holiday pay at work and scheduled vacations over them to make the most of my limited paid time off. Two weeks doesn’t go very far when you’re an avid traveler with a penchant for far-flung destinations or an Indian American who has to travel at least 24 hours each way to visit relatives in India.

A couple of times, I opted to watch the Macy’s parade in person in New York. A cousin and I feasted on Indian food in Brooklyn after the parade one Thanksgiving.

I spent another Thanksgiving in Porto, Portugal, with a new friend made a few days earlier in Lisbon. We spent the day sampling Port wine and wandering charming European streets. We shared a delicious multicourse meal with wine, champagne and Port for less than $100.

It was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed that year, and a gift I’m grateful to have given myself.

Your Values Can Be Compromised When You’re Under Stress

In times of high pressure, aspirational core values can seem entirely impractical. Who has time for being “bold,” “innovative” or “connected” when they’re slammed by a barrage of emails and threatened by volatility or disruption?

In these situations, values are relegated to vinyl stickers on an office wall or words tucked away on the About Us page of a website. How many people can recall their company’s values, never mind using them as a blueprint for decision-making and the basis for team alignment and trust?

How workplace values emerge

Values are what is important. Whether you can articulate them clearly or not, you have values. Your company has values and they are set by the executive — not the marketing — team.

Leadership values shape employee behavior. If leaders value financial performance over all else, employee well-being, environmental impact or social connectivity may be neglected. Values contagion is a real phenomenon, and no training initiative will shift your culture if leadership values are misaligned or inconsistent. Employees roll their eyes at what they perceive as phony company values when leaders don’t walk the talk.

Values in distress

Distress arises when there is a misalignment of values. For example, imagine that you’re working late nights and sacrificing family time. If a core value is family, you’ll start feeling resentful toward work. Or perhaps you’re spending too much time caring for your family when a core value is productivity. You might then resent your family. There is no right or wrong; your values profile is entirely unique.

In life’s journey, purpose is your North Star and values are the flame lighting your way. The terrain may be challenging, but knowing what is important and acting in alignment reduces ambiguity and increases fulfillment. You’ll have a reason “why” and a torch to guide your “how.” If the flame of your values burns low, you — and your team — may feel lost. In an environment of uncertainty, we activate ancient survival mechanisms, including our negativity bias, to secure our safety.

Are values purely cognitive?

The missing link in values alignment is our physiological state. When distressed, under threat or unwell, our values shift from aspirational and collaborative to primal and protective.

There’s an ancient part of the brain called the amygdala. It scans input arriving via our senses and triggers strong emotions to help protect us from perceived threats. This can save our life if a lion wanders into the office. It saved the lives of our ancestors who navigated challenging environments where direct threats to survival were the norm. Fast forward to modern life, where inboxes overflow, amplified by pressure to perform and conflicting demands. We are our worst enemies because to manage complexity, we need to be calm, present and energized — yet we’re sleeping less and worrying more than ever.

9 Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Kids

It’s a crucial point to keep in mind. Pretty much everything about watching parents separate is confusing and difficult, but Malinski, who offers a course on how to tell your children you are separating or divorcing, says the two biggest stressors around divorce and kids are typically loss (or fear of loss) of their relationship with both parents, and being surrounded by conflict. Transitions — a new house, new school, and new caregivers — cause kids a lot of stress, too. 

As a parent navigating these tough aspects yourself, it can be hard to focus on your kids’ needs. But it’s important to do your best to minimize your kids’ stress as much as you can. Here, per Malinski, are nine important rules to keep in mind.

1. Think about how you’ll tell them.

There are a lot of tough parts about divorce, but telling your kids that it’s happening feels especially heart-wrenching. How you choose to tell them can make a big impact on their experience. Malinski suggests writing out what you’ll say beforehand, keeping it very short, and reading it aloud several times in private where no one can hear you. “That way, you can be more emotionally present for your child’s emotions during the conversation, without being overtaken by your own,” she says.

2. Keep conflict low.

Divorce brings a wide range of emotions. While it’s normal to feel anger or resentment toward an ex, parents must be careful of how they voice them. No, this doesn’t mean putting feelings aside. It means compartmentalizing them. Share them with your therapist or vent to a trusted friend. But by all means, avoid allowing your strong emotions to stir conflict that could come up in front of your kids. “If parents can work through their emotions and create healthy boundaries with their ex and their kids,” Malinski notes, “they are more likely to be cooperative and peaceful around or about the kids.”

3. When the kids are around, avoid emotional topics.

You know your personal hot-button issues, the topics that, if they surface in conversation, almost always result in raised voices or tension. Do your best to avoid these topics in front of your kids. For example, if money is a sensitive subject, or your ex has a new romantic interest, Malinski suggests saving these topics for private, adult discussions. Don’t bring these things up––or anything that was a source of conflict in your marriage––when your kids are around, or you’ll simply cause unnecessary stress for them.

4. Try to find common ground.

You might feel like you have nothing in common with your ex, which can lead to tension. During interactions, Malinski suggests taking a deep breath, noticing any physical tension you’re harboring about the situation, and checking in on your thoughts. If any negative messages are running through your mind, do your best to reframe them to home in on the one thing you have in common: You share a child, and you both want what’s best for them. You may not like your ex, but if you work on changing the narration in your head, you can devote energy to making good decisions about your kid.

5. Show your kids you’re still there for them.

Separating from your partner is probably one of the worst experiences of your life––and at the same time, your kids need you to be present more than ever. Do as good a job you can to find ways to relieve your own stress so you can emotionally engage with your child. Check in on a regular basis about how your child is doing, and if they’re struggling, always take time to listen and comfort them. “Kids need to feel like their parents are still clocked in,” Malinski says. “That means the parent needs to pay attention to their emotional state.”

6. Care for your child together when possible.

You might not be living together, but there will probably be times when you’ll have to cross paths with your ex. Do your best –– in a peaceful and relaxed way –– to show your child that your conflict won’t get in the way of your first priority: to care for them. For example, maybe you both show up at the preschool recital or birthday party, even if it’s awkward. Or maybe you make an effort to talk about the kids’ nap schedule and new favorite snack during “shift change. “Kids need to see both their parents in the same space pretty regularly between ages 0 and 5, which includes seeing their parents talk to each other about them in friendly, casual ways,” Malinski says.

7. Let kids have their feelings — and be respectful of how your child wants to be supported.

Many times, because parents have such strong emotions about the divorce themselves, tolerating a child’s anger or sadness can feel overwhelming and parents, mistakenly or not, invalidate those emotions. A crucial part of ensuring your child feels seen and loved through a confusing process, notes Malinski, is making space for their emotions –– even if they inconvenience you. Let them feel the full spectrum of feelings, expect those feelings to shift from day to day, and do your best to show up in the way they need, whether that’s a hug, a conversation, or special time alone with you.

12 Thoughtful Texts To Send A Stressed-Out Partner

All good ideas. Another obvious but worthwhile one to add to your quiver: A simple text message. While the idea of firing off a text may seem lazy, a well-crafted message of love, support, and appreciation can do quite a bit of good in the moment — and cut through a lot of noise that occurs when your partner is stressed.

“The best advice I give to a partner trying to help is not to take anything personally,” says Dr. Michael Tobin, a clinical psychologist with nearly 50 years of experience in marriage and family therapy. “This is why texting works well to offer help. If you say something in person, your partner might be defensive because he or she is so on edge. A loving text message, showing patience, creativity, or common sense, can help keep a relationship pointing toward true north.”

Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with overwhelmed moms, agrees — and emphasizes that in times of stress the supportive partner must remember to be kind to themselves as well. 

“It can be incredibly distressing to watch your partner go through a challenging period of their life,” Trueblood says. “The balance between self-care and supporting your spouse is delicate and highly dependent on how much emotional energy you have to give at the time.” 

Finding support strategies that work for your partner, while protecting your own mental and emotional health, she says, is an important key to a healthy relationship during difficult times.

Supportive texts can be a smart part of that strategy. So what should you text a stressed out partner? Here are a dozen texts to send your wife or husband when they’re dealing with a lot of pressure.

1. “You are killing it in the most important ways.”

Your partner’s stress may come from misconceptions about their importance and the stuff they may be nervous about may overshadow their actual accomplishments. “When we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed in one area of our life, it’s easy to overlook or discount all the other areas where we’re thriving,” notes Trueblood “Send your partner a simple message of verbal encouragement and acknowledgment to remind them how well they’re doing in other — perhaps more important — areas of their life.” Ignore the losses in favor of the wins, no matter how big or small.

2. “I appreciate you and all that you do.”

It’s always important to express appreciation for your partner and all that they do. When they’re stressed? It’s all the more so. “When feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s often because we feel unacknowledged or unappreciated,” says Trueblood. “Sending a text message with specific and genuine words of appreciation to your partner can help remind them that the most important person in their life values and acknowledges all of their hard work.” The key is to be specific, letting your partner know how much you appreciate the spontaneous dishwasher emptying, the trash being taken out, or any other chore that keeps your household thriving.

3. “How does take-out and a movie sound tonight?”

Whatever your partner’s pleasure, a simple gesture combining a relaxing activity and a good meal can remind them they’re worth it. “When your partner is stressed, don’t ask questions that need more than a two-word answer or questions that require a decision,” advises Trueblood. Decision fatigue, she notes, is a real thing and most people become mentally drained making choices all day. Instead, make the choices for them and suggest something specific that requires only a simple response like ‘sounds great’ or ‘I’m too tired.’ “This text message works particularly well if you have a partner who appreciates acts of service and support,” says Trueblood. So send the text and cross your fingers your partner says “Panda Express and Predator.”

4. “This weekend, let’s…”

Having something to look forward to can often be energizing and empowering. So, think about something that refuels your partner and makes them excited. The anticipation, per Trueblood, can help them destress. “Many people truly appreciate having something to look forward to, especially when feeling overwhelmed and stressed,” she says. “Suggesting a specific experience or activity that you already know your partner enjoys is a fabulous way to both give them something to look forward to and show them you care about their mental health.” Do your best to plan and arrange the experience so they can just sit back, relax, and enjoy.

5. “I’m sorry you’re under so much pressure right now.”

Whether it’s work, parenting, family troubles, or some other source of stress you don’t even understand, a tiny text of empathy can go a long way. “Genuine and compassionate words of support can be powerfully supportive,” adds Trueblood. “When you have a stressed partner who’s verbally-oriented, they will truly appreciate reading your words of compassion, appreciation and understanding.” It’ll be right there in black and white for them to read and reread when they feel alone under pressure.

Holiday Credit Card Debt

The holiday season is a common time for people to rack up credit card debt for a couple different reasons. One is we simply spend more during the holidays. Two, we usually don’t adequately prepare our budgets for the expense. 

An ICSC 2021 survey found that last year consumers spent on average just over $1,000 during the holiday period, up from an average of $795 in 2020. It was a record-breaking year, and the main reason was pent-up demand from the COVID pandemic. 

With higher prices due to inflation, this season may be more costly for many families. While some people might receive extra cash in the form of a holiday bonus around this time, many don’t have enough money set aside for these extra expenses. That means many people will end up financing holiday spending on a credit card with the idea that they’ll repay the debt sometime in the new year. 

If you know your credit cards are going to take a hit, here are some strategies for how to pay down the debt.

Tips for Paying off Holiday Debt

Figure out what you owe

You can’t make a plan until you know what you’ve spent. It can be painful to see the total, but it’s important to take stock of all your statements and tally up the new debt. Pay attention to the total amount of debt, interest rates, payment due dates, and whether any accounts are past due. That helps you prioritize which cards to tackle first. 

Create a plan to pay it off 

Paying the minimum on your cards isn’t going to get the debt paid off. It’ll take some temporary reprioritizing so you can direct extra money at your credit card bills. Determine how much can you pay each month and commit to setting aside a specific amount to make payments above the minimum. 

Ideally, you should create a detailed budget so you can see where your money is going. But if that’s not how you work, look for those discretionary expenses you can cut for a few weeks. It might mean eating in, cutting out shopping, or postponing some planned spending. Remember that the cutbacks are temporary. 

Stick to the plan! 

Be tough about being consistent and disciplined. The sooner you pay down your holiday debt, the sooner you can get back to focusing on other financial goals—and going out to eat again. 

How to Avoid Holiday Debt Completely

Of course, you might be asking yourself how you can avoid the holiday boom-and-bust cycle altogether. How can you tackle your shopping so January bills aren’t so painful? The holidays come every year, after all. 

Plan your budget

The key to a budget is to start early. Some people save throughout the entire year for holiday expenses. Even if you can’t create an annual budget, aim for plotting out the last three months of the year. 

As you begin spending for the holidays, dial down other expenses. Making sacrifices now can be a little more palatable if you’re mentally connecting those cuts directly to the things you’re buying instead. 

Prioritize your spending 

Figure out what matters most and tailor your spending to those values. Do you want to put kids’ gifts first and reduce costs for gifts to adult family members? Host a meal for your extended family? Cut back on spending for coworkers? This way, you make sure that you satisfy your top priorities even if you’re keeping a tight budget.

Don’t compare yourself to others or past holidays. This year is this year. Try not to feel holiday guilt. That can lead to spending money you don’t have out of a sense of obligation or social pressure. 

Earn extra seasonal cash

Another way to reduce debt is to bring in more money for holiday spending. You still have time to beef up your bank account this fall. Your workplace might have extra projects or overtime shifts available, particularly if coworkers are taking vacation time. 

Take a seasonal job if your schedule allows, such as weekend retail shifts at Target or Marshalls. You could also find a side hustle like childcare with Sittercity, dog-walking through Rover or Wag, or, if it’s available in your city, helping people through TaskRabbit. 

An easy way to make extra money is to sell things you’re not using anymore. If you have good quality items, now is a great time to post them on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Those sales can add up. 

Be creative about gifting

It’s often those last-minute splurges that blow the budget. Holiday shopping works best if you create a plan, shop intentionally, and stay on track. Also, try focusing on quality, not quantity. Get creative about making gifts if you like to bake, sew, or take photos. Give the gift of time or an experience, or regift a quality gift you received. Thoughtful regifting is perfectly acceptable. 

We do understand that even with the best-laid plans, holiday spending can spiral out of control. If you need help repaying holiday debt, we can help. Begin your free, confidential online debt analysis and we’ll match you with the fastest, most cost-effective way to repay debt.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the a day to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you.  As a former player, your family and community have likely been a part of your journey.  Let them know how grateful you are to have them in you life.

We wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving and want to thank each and every one of you for coming to yourPAF.com and making it a premiere online destination for former players..

Beware of store credit cards this holiday

Store credit cards can be used only at that store or retail chain and are usually offered at the register as you’re checking out. The cashier will usually tell you if you get a store credit card, you can get a discount on your entire purchase, earn rewards and possibly, get a “special financing” deal.

Sounds great, until you consider the interest rate you’ll be charged and how it will be charged if you don’t pay off the balance before the low interest or interest-free period ends.

It’s what industry experts call the “deferred interest” that can sink you. Fail to pay off your debt before the expiration and not only the sky-high interest rate but also the way it is retroactively applied has the potential to make holiday purchases up to 27.5 times more expensive than expected, according to WalletHub senior researcher Alina Comoreanu.

How does deferred interest work?

At the end of the promotional period, an extremely high interest rate usually kicks in. The average retail credit card annual percentage rate hit a record high of 26.72%, from 24.35% last year, according to an annual CreditCards.com study. By comparison, the average general-purpose credit card charged 22.66%.

But here’s the real danger: the rate will apply retroactively to your entire original purchase amount as if the low introductory rate never existed.

For example, you charge $2,000 and plan to pay it off before your promotion ends. Things come up, and you have a balance of $100 instead. The new rate will be charged on the full $2,000.

Are all retail credit cards bad?

No, but consumers should be careful and know what they’re getting into, said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

5 Simple Ways To Connect With Your Kids

Do you ever feel like you and your kids aren’t on the same page? Welcome to the club. It’s likely your kids feel it too, even if they aren’t able to express it with their words. And beyond the unsettled sense that lingers when kids feel disconnected from their parents, a lack of connection can make kids feel alone, unheard, and less confident.

Without the ability to process and communicate all of those feelings, kids tend to convey a lack of connection with you by becoming increasingly disengaged or by making bids for connection that manifest as behavior problems, such as temper tantrums that stop the moment you leave the room, exaggerated rudeness, and persistent interrupting.

In most cases, all it takes to straighten out these issues and build connection with kids is a few simple steps. Although they require a little time and plenty of intentionality, you don’t need to invest in a week-long retreat to set things straight.

Psychologist and parent Chad Brandt, Ph.D., has five suggestions for parents who want to strengthen their connection with their kids that will keep children from feeling like their parents just don’t get them.

Encourage Child-Directed Play

One of the most effective ways for parents to connect with their kids is through child-directed play. It’s not a huge commitment as child-directed play works best in 10- to 15-minute increments. The challenge is finding time windows — ideally a few each week — that allow for completely undivided attention.

“Child-directed play is highly beneficial for connection, shame reduction, and confidence building,” Brandt says. “Just ask your kid what they want to do, and then follow them around and enjoy it. With young kids, you’ll want to parrot back to them what they’re doing, making sure to stick to commenting instead of questioning.”

Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends the following practical tips for parents looking to incorporate child-directed play:

  • Describe your child’s play with the same inflection you’d use when reading a book to them, but don’t get caught up in granular detail.
  • Imitate your child’s play activities. For example, if your child starts drawing a ship, you might say, “That looks cool. I’ll draw a ship too!”
  • Repeat, with more detail, what your child says without turning it into a question. So if your child says, “There’s the tree,” you could say, “Yes, there is a tall tree with green leaves.”
  • Encourage specific behaviors by praising your child, remarking both on what they do as well as how they do it. “You’re working really hard to color in the lines” or “You’re being so kind to your doll “are both preferable to more general praise like “Good job.”
  • Allow your child to play with toys in any way that is not harmful.

Simplicity is key here. The child’s activity of choice shouldn’t include screens or competition, but it can be anything that isn’t dangerous. “Just follow them around and enjoy whatever it is they are interested in,” says Brandt.

Ask Less Questions

Asking questions is a crucial active listening skill. And it’s natural for parents to ask kids follow-up questions out of genuine interest and in a benign effort to keep conversations going. However, kids don’t always interpret questions the way parents intend.

“Questions can absolutely make kids feel like we don’t trust them or we’re not hearing them,” says Brandt. Instead, he suggests pulling a page from child-directed play by making a conscious effort to reflect every now and again instead of asking a question.

“If your child tells you they had a good day, respond with, ‘I’m really happy to hear that. It sounds like you played with Jimmy on the playground, and that was fun.’ Period. That way, you acknowledge that you’ve heard them, and there’s this implicit ‘tell me more’ that leaves the door open for them to continue sharing,” Brandt says.

Make Room For Silliness

Some kids are so silly so often that parents can get into the habit of automatically shutting them down the moment things start to get squirrely. Between the energy that builds when the silly cycle begins along with the speed and frequency with which kids blow through the line of what’s appropriate, keeping silliness tamped down before it gets out of hand is an understandable reaction.

But encouraging silliness when it starts to manifest while at the same time building in boundaries on the front end can help kids feel seen. Doing so defuses some of the attention-seeking nature of over-the-top silliness and replaces a struggle over control with an opportunity to connect.

“My oldest is in first grade now, and there are times when he wants to do silly stuff like run around and smack his bum. It’s really, really hard for me not to lecture him about the inappropriateness of that, and sometimes I will. But sometimes it helps to say, ‘Hey, it seems like you’re trying to be silly right now. So I’ll set a five-minute timer, and let’s see who can be the silliest.’ When we do that, we are telling our kids that we see them, and we want them to be themselves,” Brandt says.

How to Make Relationship Happiness Last

You’ve likely heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life” or “Happy spouse, happy house.” But are these popular sayings actually supported by research? 

The short answer is likely, yes. Several studies link the quality of a couple’s marriage to each partner’s individual happiness. In fact, psychologist Eli Finkel shared survey findings that show 57 percent of people who say they are “very happy” in their marriage also say they are very happy with their life overall. Whereas only 10 percent of people who say they are just “pretty happy” in their marriage say they are very happy with their life overall. 

Studies also suggest being happily married may be good for your health. Researchers Kathleen King and Harry Reis followed the recovery of patients who had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft. They found that patients who were married, rather than single, were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive 15 years after their surgery. And patients who said they were happily married were 3.2 times more likely to be alive 15 years after surgery. 

The quality of one’s marriage is related to being happy and healthy. However, the bad news is marriage quality tends to decline over time. 

It is possible that some couples might stay as happy as they were on their wedding day or even become happier over time. But on average, marital quality tends to decrease throughout one’s marriage. Many large-scale and longitudinal studies, which follow married couples for years, show a clear and consistent downward trend in marital quality over time.

But before you swear off marriage, or give the most depressing wedding speech of all time, a research study by Eli Finkel, Erica Slotter, Laura Luchies, Gregory Walton, and James Gross has revealed one way to preserve relationship quality. When couples argue or experience conflict, as they inevitably will, they can stop downward spirals by thinking about the conflict from a third-party perspective.

How to Think Differently About Conflict

One reason why relationship quality dips over time is negative-affect reciprocity, when one partner is upset or in a bad mood, their partner tends to respond in an equally bad, or even worse, mood that escalates the conflict. Responding to a partner’s accusation with criticism or contempt, for instance, triggers a downward spiral of negativity that can be difficult for couples to break.

One tip to stop the slide of declining relationship quality is for couples to use emotional reappraisal, or reinterpret the conflict in a way that makes them feel less angry and distressed. Instead of thinking of the conflict from a first-person perspective, emotional reappraisal requires couples to look at conflict from a third-party perspective, as an outsider would. How was I wronged by my partner?

To determine whether emotional reappraisal can preserve relationship quality over time, researchers Eli Finkel and colleagues followed 120 heterosexual married couples for two years. Every four months, the researchers measured a couple’s relationship quality by asking about their relationship satisfaction and feelings of love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commitment. 

After a year, married couples on average experienced a robust decrease in relationship quality. Thus, replicating previous research that showed decreases in married couples’ satisfaction over time. 

Then, the researchers implemented an emotional reappraisal intervention. For the next year, half of the couples were asked to write about any conflict they experience in their marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Specifically, they wrote how this person might think about the disagreement and how he or she could find any good that could come from it. Participants in this condition were also asked to try their best over the next year to always take this third-party perspective, especially when they experience conflict with their partner.

The other half of the participants were in the control condition. They received regular check-ins from the researchers but were not asked to think any differently about the conflict they experienced in their marriage.

8 Things Happy Couples Do For One Another Without Being Asked

Indeed, partners in healthy relationships and marriages make a habit of doing things that, quite simply, they think will please the other person.

“Happily married couples think of ways to make the other person happy without being asked,” says Raffi Bilek, a marriage counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “If one of them is out and about and sees a bake sale, he goes over and checks if they have any chocolate éclairs, because he knows his partner loves chocolate éclairs. If she hears about a woodworking show in town, she takes a picture of the flyer so she can tell him about later because he totally into woodworking.”

While pastries and palm sander demonstrations might not be your bag, the truth remains: “Both partners have each other’s needs and interests top of mind, and they keep them there — without being asked.”

Terry Klee, a leading scholar of contemporary couples counseling in New York and Connecticut, agrees. She notes that it’s important to keep this awareness even when your spouse isn’t around. 

“One of the key traits in close to 80 percent of men and women was how often they are carrying their partner around in their mind. How much real estate they give to them,” she says. “You never want to be in that 20 percent. I always found that to be a very interesting statistic. You ask people, ‘How often do you think of Susan?’ or ‘How often do you think of Joe?’ and, if they say ‘Not much,’ track that friend’s marriage, because it’s probably not going to last.”

With this in mind, what can couples do to make sure their partners know their significant other is thinking of them? Here, per relationship experts, are eight simple gestures all strong couples make.

1. They Pay Compliments

A simple, “You look nice today” or “Dinner was delicious” can make a huge difference in a marriage. “We all want and need [compliments] from those who we love most,” says Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. “We want to know we are still liked, loved, and thought of.”

2. They Express Thanks

When your partner does something for you, say thank you. It sounds simple but, per Klee, this behavior goes away because partners tend to take the other person for granted. (“Well, of course he took out the trash, that’s what he’s supposed to do.”) Neglecting basic manners, however, can catch up to couples if they’re not careful. “Saying ‘thank you’ costs nothing,” says Klee. “Not saying ‘thank you’ can cost everything. Because it kind of accumulates, that feeling of not being appreciated.”

3. They Take on a Chore for the Other

After a long day of work and parenting, coming home to a full sink of dirty, caked-on dishes can be enough to defeat even the most stalwart mom or dad. The experts suggest taking it off your partner’s shoulders and giving him or her a break for the night. Even better, don’t tell them you did it and let them come home to a wonderful surprise. “Taking something off each other’s plate shows that you appreciate your partner’s hard work and want to help them and allow them time to unwind after a hard day,” says Vikki Ziegler, a renowned relationship expert, divorce attorney, author of The Pre-Marital Planner.

4. They Apologize When They Screw Up

When you’re wrong, don’t think twice about admitting it. “This isn’t true all the time,” says Backe, “but a happily married couple is one which — in my estimation — has been through a lot, has fought enough times, and now already knows enough to apologize to each other.”

5. They Do Something That De-Stresses the Other

A simple, out of the blue gesture shows that you recognize how hard they work and that they need to do something to unwind. More than that, it lets them know that you see all that they contribute to the marriage, and that can work wonders for you both. “Set up a bubble bath, light some candles, and really show that their happiness and self-care is a priority to you,” says Ziegler.

Lessons on Leadership and Community from 25 Leaders of Color

Everyone has their own sense of what makes a great leader, informed largely by what they’ve already seen or experienced. However, this “I know it when I see it” approach, known as familiarity bias, can have narrowing effects, especially when it comes to recognizing the specific attributes that leaders of color bring.

Now consider that those attributes can be the key to unlocking great leadership — for everyone.

“If I have to leave out the part of myself that is positively identified with being Black, then no matter how good I am, I am not the best I can be,” says David Thomas, the president of Morehouse College and the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. “When I walk into a room, being Black is one of the tools I can pull out, and oftentimes it can be the most powerful one.”

To better understand the relationship between leadership and identity, we talked to 25 leaders of color across the social sector, including both nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, and drew on our client work. Our research identified several noteworthy assets — “powerful tools,” as Thomas put it — that leaders of color bring to their organizations.

To be sure, we’re not suggesting that people of color inherently lead differently by virtue of being born a certain race or ethnicity. Rather, the ways people of color move through and experience the world can affect how they lead. This goes beyond experiences of historic marginalization to include the connection, meaning, and joy that these leaders can draw on from their cultures and communities. As a result, we find that there are assets and skills that many leaders of color develop and excel at because of the experiences and perspectives their identity brings.

Importantly, because these attributes are developed, anyone can adopt them through intentional learning and engagement. Likewise, organizations can encourage that development by examining how they assess leadership competency in hiring and talent development. “Too many organizations fail when it comes to recognizing and unleashing the diverse slices of genius in their organizations,” says Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School. “Most of their performance management and reward systems are designed to select individuals more suited for the present than the future.”

When studying the motivations, relationships, and skillsets of leaders of color, we found that in some cases, strengths common among good leaders of all identities — including strong communication skills, confidence, and having vision — might manifest differently in leaders of color due to differences in culture and experiences. Take innovation, for example. One leader we spoke to who works in philanthropy and is a member of the Navajo tribe makes the case that the very survival of Indigenous language, culture, and identity in the face of a history of discriminatory U.S. government policy requires innovation, and his leadership style exhibits those lessons and examples. In other instances, strengths are uniquely based in identity and therefore more common in the leadership approaches of people of color. Here’s what our research found those strengths look like in practice.

Motivation

Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson holds up the value of proximity — having leaders who come from the communities experiencing a particular issue — as a path to better solutions in the social sector. But proximity can also powerfully strengthen motivation by creating the elusive personal tie to an organization’s purpose that can make a leader highly valuable.

Indeed, one of the most common things we heard from leaders of color was that they felt “called” to their work. Some spoke about being driven by a desire to address challenges that they themselves or their community experienced. Others talked about the desire to create new definitions of what good can look like for future generations. The motivation of collective success and the accountability it brings are strengths that these leaders can bring to any work they do.

Relationships

Given the demographics and power structures of the U.S., people of color often learn throughout their lives how to authentically navigate and build connections across lines of differences, including both with white allies and other communities of color. As a result, their networks are typically more heterogeneous, which can be a powerful asset to draw on to learn, grow, access opportunities, and navigate challenges.

More important than simply having diverse networks is the ability to then recognize, value, and tap into what each person brings to the table. This can mean that leaders of color are good at drawing lessons from nontraditional places that can open up transformative thinking. For instance, after she heard from clients (fellow mothers) that making nutritious family dinners was a struggle, the Black CEO of a food bank in Seattle innovatively overhauled its operations by banning food donations to avoid the glut of canned foods and random offerings slim on protein and fresh produce, and the food bank now fundraises to buy all food.

Skillsets: Leading Self

The qualities of good leaders show up in several dimensions within themselves, with others, and with their visions.

Self-awareness

The starting point for developing into a great leader that experts like Bill George and Tasha Eurich often point to is a strong sense of self-awareness. Such awareness can be cultivated through self-discovery and deep reflection. That kind of journey is familiar to many leaders of color, as it can be part of a lifetime of learning to navigate racialized experiences.

W.E.B. DuBois famously wrote about the concept of “double consciousness,” or the idea that Black people have the ability to see themselves as they are and also see themselves how white people see them. To various degrees, all people of color can possess versions of double or even triple consciousness that come with intersectional identities. The benefit of self-awareness is that leaders who better understand themselves will have a clearer sense of what they want to accomplish and what talents they bring to get there, as well as what talents they’ll need other people to bring.

Comfortable with discomfort

An advantage of not being “pale, male, and stale” is the expectation of discomfort that being different might bring. This can lead to a heightened ability to adapt to new experiences, overcome obstacles (including the resilience and tenacity that comes with that), and see alternative possibilities. It is said that innovation requires a certain ease with discomfort. “The power of being an outsider is you are constantly building your own alternative,” said Urvashi Vaid, an Indian American LGBTQ rights activist and social movement strategist who co-founded the Donors of Color Network. (She passed away this spring shortly after our interview.)

Skillsets: Leading Others

At the heart of being a good leader is how you manage people. Whether leading a team or an entire organization, the goal is to both inspire others and empower them to succeed

Empathy

Based on our observations and our client work, the leaders of color we studied demonstrated a high degree of empathy, often seeking to better understand and advocate for others. Experiences of marginalization and being part of a community that has experienced injustice can create a greater recognition of the humanity of others. While this can provide obvious benefits to how these leaders approach their work, empathetic management of your staff allows individuals and the organization to better thrive. These leaders stood out for creating a sense of belonging and centering the well-being of their teams. They also incorporated practices such as four-day workweeks, office-wide mandatory time off periods, flexibility, pay equity, and creating culturally sensitive workplaces in their organizations, while often honoring families and family time.

Observation and active listening

We found that leaders of color often embrace observation and listening in their work styles, creating a more holistic understanding of situations. The ability to recognize what is not said is also a valuable skillset that offers a leader insight. We found many successful leaders of color across various identities can develop this skill by navigating a lifetime of both cultural norms within their communities as well as complex interpersonal relations and interactions that can be layered with implicit bias and power dynamics. An Asian American philanthropy executive, for example, credited her skills of being able to interpret a diversity of cultural body language across the Asian diaspora with helping to develop her listen-first, respectful leadership style that employees say feel more inclusive.

Collaborative leadership

Collaboration is widely seen as a trait common among effective leaders and organizations. The relationships and networks of leaders of color often give rise to updated models of leadership that embrace more collaboration. That might look like co-leadership. For example, the nonprofit Rooted in Vibrant Communities radically reinvented organizational leadership by naming four co-executive directors.

It might also look like distributive power structures in networks and coalitions — think the Movement for Black Lives. Or it could mean a CEO who leads more collaboratively, encouraging authentic thought partnership and inclusive decision making from across the staff. Linda Hill calls this “leading from behind” and argues that leaders who employ this style can harness people’s “collective genius” to build innovative communities with breakthrough ideas.

Skillsets: Leading with Vision

The best kinds of leaders have strong vision. Different vantage points can yield purposeful and expansive views.

Asset-based lens

Recognizing the strengths of every individual, including those you’re seeking to serve or support, can come more naturally to leaders of color because of lived experience that might include episodes where racism or bias caused their strengths — either their own or their communities’ — to be underestimated or overlooked. An asset-based lens recognizes the gifts and skills that all people and communities bring and surfaces root causes of issues. For example, feedback is a gift that can lead to service innovation, rather than a nuisance managed by a call center. Likewise, inequitable social outcomes aren’t a function of individual behaviors that need fixing but rather of persistent systemic headwinds. Focusing on root causes can lead to more effective organizations and greater impact.

Radical imagination

The “outsider” experience that comes with being a person of color can provide valuable perspective. As a result, successful leaders of color can call on a deep understanding of how to navigate existing systems while also imagining something completely different.

This can be seen in how A. Sparks leads the Masto Foundation, founded by her grandparents who were among the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans sent to internment camps by the American government during World War II. Under her leadership, instead of starting with the way grantmaking has traditionally been done, the foundation built anew. Honoring the Japanese American tradition of “gifting,” the foundation sees its own giving as an “expression of gratitude, respect, and a desire to contribute.” This means the funder is constantly trying to limit the amount of time and stress that process might cause grantees. Conversations replace formal grant applications, due diligence is focused on listening, and funding goes out the door within a month of grant determinations.

What Needs to Be Done Differently

In Bridgespan’s previous research with Echoing Green, we have seen the racial disparities of philanthropic funding up close, finding the revenues of Black-led organizations 24% smaller than their white-led counterparts and the unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations 76% smaller. Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous leaders experience similar funding gaps to varying degrees when compared to their white counterparts. Similar disparity trends exist in the private sector. Too often, those gaps exist because the assets of leaders of color are overlooked.

What is there to gain by better recognizing the assets of leaders of color? The Building Movement Project’s 2019 Race to Lead research offers a glimpse. According to the survey, people of color and their white counterparts fare better under leaders of color. The survey revealed that staff overall are more satisfied, more likely to want to work for their organization over the long haul, feel like they have a voice in their organizations, and assess that their organizations offer “fair and equitable opportunities for advancement and promotion.”

How to Talk to Your Partner About An Expensive Purchase

“The reality is it’s rare in our lives that we only have one goal,” says Paul Edelman, financial coach and owner of Edelman & Associates.

You could have just gone and bought the thing, except you know that making a unilateral decision on something expensive is not how it works in a relationship. If you did, then you’d never be able to fully enjoy it.

You must talk about the potential big purchase with your partner. You know that. You just might not want to because the purchase feels completely selfish, or because you’d have to admit to something that you’d like to have and that comes with a risk of rejection. These feelings cause you to think less clearly and when you do bring it up, make you more likely to choose one of three incorrect paths:

  1. Don’t say anything, guaranteeing you’ll get nothing.
  2. You do say something, but it’s in the form of, “Gotta clean out the garage to make some space. Just giving you a heads up.”
  3. You present it like a discussion, asking for your partner’s feedback but with no intention of taking it, which makes things even worse.

By doing any of these three things, “you’ve made a charade of it,” says Marilyn Wechter, a St. Louis psychotherapist and financial therapist.

So what’s the better approach? Advocate less and look to build consensus. It means saying what you want but also remaining flexible to a solution that you may have never imagined. It also requires some preparation.

What to Consider Before Having the Conversation

Usually when we really want to buy something, we tend to hyper-focus. Edelman says to think of a stage. Right now, the “boat” is the only thing on it, but you need to fill the space with the other priorities in your life and the stuff that might not make the purchase doable.

Start by thinking about why you want the thing you want. It could be because you believe you deserve it, that you’ve always wanted one, or that your partner just got something. It helps to know if anxiety, fear, or jealousy is driving the decision, which could help explain why you hesitate to bring it up.

Then after figuring out your goal, think about the other goals in play. Those include what your partner might want, the plans you share, like saving for college; and maintaining the health of your relationship, because this isn’t like buying a car where you can go all-out with a salesperson who you’ll never see again. This is your partner, and, whatever you do has to be thought out and planned together.

You’re not winging it,” Edelman says.

It’s also not a mind-reading exercise. If you’re not sure what your partner wants, ask. By taking into account everything in play, the stage fills up, and you can work on how to possibly integrate all the pieces.

How to Talk About Making An Expensive Purchase

Teeing up this conversation doesn’t have to be anything more than, “I have something to talk about. I’d like to buy X… How can we make this work?”

You want to share why it matters. That could be as basic as the purchase would make you happy, because your partner doesn’t magically know. But be careful about how much you talk. It’s easy to start advocating, Edelman says; persuasion turns into pressure, and, as Wechter adds, “if I impose something on you, all you can do is be reactive.”

The ultimate thing to remember is that you want the discussion to be a discussion, and, in any discussion, people mostly just want to be heard. When they do, no one feels the need to dig in. You both talk and then the brainstorming comes, Wechter says. 

Maybe you say, “I get this now. You get the next splurge.” Maybe your partner suggests that you rent over buying for this year or take a weekend instead of a week vacation. None of it might look like what you envisioned, but because you came about it together, it’s a plan that works within the restrictions of your life, and, with that, you no longer feel any urgency or frustration.

The conversation can also take the edge off of the feeling that wanting something that isn’t about the kids or your future is selfish. That worry makes you act impulsively, or makes you end up keeping everything to yourself. Your thoughts and anger build and they become “the myth you tell yourself,” Wechter says. When you get the words out, they lose their power and you learn that what you want may not be so impossible, because now it’s a shared burden rather than a solo act.

As for the object of your affection being completely self-indulgent? Maybe it is, but you’ve come to an agreement with your partner about it, and if they’re good with it, stop wasting time and energy wrestling with a term.

As Wechter says, “Selfish is okay as long as it’s not being destructive.”

Happy Labor Day

Let’s take a quick moment to wish all of our fellow former players a happy Labor Day, and hopefully a long-weekend spent with your family and friends.  Your past experiences as part of the NFLPA created a bond with labor unions across the country, and even the world.  We thank you and all of the hard working men and women in America for your dedication, day-in and day-out.

From all of us at the Professional Athletes Foundation, we wish you and your family the best heading into the fall!

Should you buy a house or rent?

In just six months, Sam Brinton, a real estate agent in Salt Lake City, has witnessed a complete reversal in buyer sentiment.

“It’s a night and day difference,” he says.

Last year, even as the pandemic housing market pushed home prices ever higher and bidding wars were an expected part of the homebuying process, buyers were motivated enough to stay in the game. 

The last few months have been the opposite.

“They are confused and hesitant now. Many buyers are sitting on the sidelines because the market has cooled down so much,” says Brinton.

The cooling housing market has further fueled the demand for rental units, driving rental prices even higher.

Why are people thinking about renting?

It’s been a nerve-wracking time for homebuyers grappling with still-soaring prices for existing homes despite rising inventory, falling home sales and volatile interest rates.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate went from 3.22% on Jan. 6 to 5.55% on Aug. 25, according to Freddie Mac.

Existing home sales fell for the sixth consecutive month with sales down 6% from June and 20% from one year ago.

The wait-and-watch approach by buyers is prompting a high share of home sellers to drop their asking price. More than 15% of home sellers dropped their asking price in the 97 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a report from Redfin.

In pandemic boomtowns, it was much more drastic.

In Salt Lake City, for instance, 56% of homes for sale had a price drop in July. Nearly 70% of homes for sale in Boise, Idaho, had a price drop in July, the highest share of the 97 metros.

“Last year, the market forces pushed you into a home and pushed you into doing it sooner than you wanted . It was like ‘now, now, now high, high, high.,” says Brinton. “Whereas now the market forces are pulling you away. Even someone who’s ready to go is kind of dragging their feet.”

he median existing home sales price climbed 11% from one year ago to $403,800 in July, marking 125 consecutive months of year-over-year increases. However, it was down by $10,000 from June’s record high of $413, 800, according to National Association of Realtors data.

Should you buy or rent a home?

The median monthly asking rent in the U.S. surpassed $2,000 for the first time in May, rising 15% year-over-year to a record high of $2,002.

Asking rents were up over 30% in Cincinnati, Seattle, and Nashville, Tennessee, and nearly 50% in Austin, Texas.

In July, the national median asking rent was up 14% year-over-year to $2,032.

“Rent prices have gone up in the last 18 months, much faster than any other time in recent history,” says housing analyst Logan Mohtashami. “So the question is, ‘Can you tolerate the rent increases on a yearly basis?‘”

With a home purchase, even at a higher interest rate, a buyer is opting for a fixed payment plan, says Mohtashami. And if mortgage rates go down next year, homebuyers have the option to refinance.

Want to Fight Less? Stop Policing Your Partner’s Feelings.

As a therapist, I often see couples descend into arguments because they struggle to accept and attune to their partner’s emotions. One of the biggest triggers for these arguments is when they put words into each other’s mouths, telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel.

Here’s an example: A client of mine, we’ll call her Mindy, recently shared a story. She arrived home from work one day and told her partner that she feels so frustrated by her commute that she’s thinking of quitting. Her partner responded, “I don’t understand why you’re so frustrated. It’s just a part of life. I always just put on a good podcast.” This aggravated her. “You know what? Screw you,” she said. “I’m just going to just stop sharing things with you now.”

John, another client, discussed sharing how angry he was with the cancer doctors treating his mother. His partner responded by saying “I don’t think that’s how you really feel. I think you’re actually sad but you just never know how to do that. You’re just always so angry.” John, frustrated, responded with, “I can be angry if I want to be angry. This is my mother we’re talking about!”

As these two examples illustrate, sometimes, telling someone how they should feel causes a more activated argument. Sometimes, it can cause the quiet kind of argument we have in our own heads — like when another client, Ari, was sharing with their spouse how upset they were with some employees. “Well, do you really have a reason to feel upset with them?” their partner said. Ari responded with “Maybe not” out loud, but silently thought: that’s the last time I try to process what’s happening for me with you.

We know that showing understanding, curiosity, and sensitivity towards others’ emotions tends to create the most bonding and lead to fewer arguments. However, people don’t often follow through on these things. Instead, it’s incredibly common to dismiss, question, judge, or tell the other person how they should feel. It’s a recipe for disconnection and frustration. 

Why These Fights Happen

If responding this way to emotions leads to disconnection then why do we do it?

Simply put, we humans tend to forget that other people are different from us. You can see this evidenced in how often people respond to others’ choices by saying something like, “I would have never done that” or to their feelings by saying “Well, that’s not how I would feel about that.” One of the biggest blocks to resolving conflict that I see in the couples therapy office is people refusing to open up to the idea that there can be more than one way of feeling, thinking, and experiencing the same event.

There’s also the idea of complex stories. Each of us has a complex story written around our emotional world. It’s colored by our biology, personality, culture, history and even how we are physically feeling in the moment. When you put more than one person together, it becomes doubly complex.

Finally, there’s the fact that emotions are inherently vulnerable. Our emotions are encoded into us as a way to help us navigate the world safely. We show them to others in order to get our needs met. For example, if I am crying, my tears are a symbol that I am in distress. If I am laughing, my giggles are a sign I want to play. If I cry and you don’t respond to my distress, I feel as if my signaling isn’t working. This is scary for human beings because we’re pack animals, and feel threatened if we believe members of our group aren’t properly responding to or reading the signals.

So What Can We Do?

When it comes to emotional connection, people tend to respond to each other in one of three interactional patterns:

  • Cutting Off: This might look like dismissing or seeming aloof to the emotions of others.
  • Enmeshment: This looks like trying to be an authority on, and being too involved in, the emotional world of others.
  • Differentiation: This looks like being present with the emotions of another person without trying to control them through cutting off or enmeshment.

In order to respond well to loved ones, we have to learn how to differentiate. Differentiation means being able to remain connected to yourself while being connected to another person. It requires us to identify our own feelings and beliefs and recognize that we cannot control other people’s feelings and beliefs.

Here’s a relevant example. When Hector and Ebony had their first child, Ebony felt a lot of anxiety. She would often express to Hector that she was too afraid to sleep at night in case she missed the baby crying out for her. Hector didn’t feel as anxious as Ebony. He felt confident that the baby was okay and that he was able to sleep at night.

However, because Hector was well differentiated — meaning he knew his perceptions and feelings could be different than his wife’s — he was able to be there for Ebony. Of course, he wished she wasn’t so anxious. But instead of merely saying “You have nothing to be anxious about,” he attuned to her and could say, “It makes sense you’re anxious. Tell me more about what’s been worrying you the most at night.”

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, Ebony’s difference in experience would feel threatening to him. This is because poorly differentiated people aren’t confident that they can hold onto their own beliefs in the face of someone else’s. Instead of risking the discomfort of allowing the difference to exist, poorly differentiated people tend to authoritatively claim that their way is the only way. They tend to tell others how to behave more often and put pressure on people to conform to their way of being.

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, he might say something to Ebony like, “I would never allow my emotions to overtake me like this. You just need to do what I do and lay down at the end of the night and go to sleep. The baby is fine.”

6 Ways to Improve Your Differentiation

When couples can improve differentiation, they’re able to navigate each other’s emotional worlds better, avoid arguments, and improve connection. Here are a few tips that can help. 

1. Understand your narrative

As I mentioned earlier, we all have a complex story around our emotional world. Take time to understand your own story. What was it like for you growing up when it came to emotions? Did people tend to try to control other people’s feelings? Or were people open and responsive to them? What do you believe about emotions? Are they mostly helpful or mostly unhelpful? How does it feel in your own body when you’re having emotions? And how does it feel in your body when other people are having emotions? Beginning to understand yourself will strengthen your ability to stay connected to yourself in the face of difficult emotions.

2. Speak for yourself

Learn to speak for yourself during emotion-based conversations rather than getting silent or putting words into the other person’s mouth. Do your best to police yourself when you do either of these things and then move towards identifying what’s going on for you.

For example, let’s say you tend to cut off. You catch yourself falling into this habit. Great. But instead of simply falling silent, share, “I feel overwhelmed right now and part of me just wants to be quiet.”

If you tend to get enmeshed, instead of telling someone what they should feel, talk about how you feel. Tell your partner “I feel so anxious when I hear about your workday,” instead of “you really shouldn’t be feeling so anxious about your work.”

3. Validate

It’s crucial that you learn to do this for both yourself and the other person. For example, if your partner is angry about something that doesn’t make you angry, you can say to yourself: I am struggling to fully understand why they are so angry. I don’t feel angry about this at all and that is okay, while also being able to say, It’s okay for them to feel angry even if I don’t.

7 Ways to Snap Out of ‘Parenting Fog’

There are those mornings when you can’t think straight, when packing your kids’ lunches redlines your brain’s tachometer, and it’s hard to imagine how you’ll complete all the steps it takes to get them out the door for school. And sometimes those mornings turn into days, days full of instances where you can’t recall that detail from that work project, and jumping from one task to another goes as well as a failed obstacle run on “American Ninja Warrior,” and when ‘what was I doing again?’ becomes your constant internal refrain.

It can feel, at times, like your brain is stuck in a fog. These days, unfortunately, there is the possibility you suffer from actual ‘brain fog,’ a quasi-clinical term for various slow-processing symptoms tied to serious conditions, not the least of which is long COVID. But, just as likely, what you’re experiencing is the physical and emotional fatigue that often comes with parenting.

Call it ‘parenting fog,’ or by its more widely used name — burnout. And you probably know it by its signs: forgetfulness, trouble focusing, listlessness, irritability. It’s important to note here that these can once again be symptoms of, or precursors to, something more severe: clinical depression. But if what you’re experiencing is more of a mental rut, there are some physical, psychological, and social tweaks you can make to your routine to help get your head out of the fog and get yourself back up to speed. Here are a few to remember. 

1. Identify Your Stressors

What are the things that stress you out about your day-to-day process? Identify them. Write them down. Then choose between finding ways to improve those situations, or letting go of trying so hard to make them perfect. Either way, hone in on them and decide how to approach them in a healthier way. “Because trying to tackle everything at once is even more overwhelming and it really would be to your detriment to try to figure out and solve all those things,” says Naiylah Warren, a therapist for the mental health app Real. This approach is specifically helpful, Warren says, if your fatigue is combined with irritability or a short temper.

2. Ask For Help

It’s important to identify your support system, says Warren. Ask your spouse for their input, or ask them to swap certain duties with you for a day or two to mix things up and break up the routine. If you have family or willing friends or neighbors near you, tap them in to help out periodically.

3. Stop Pursuing Perfection

“Parent burnout is very real and every parent has been there,” says Jen McConaghie, a mom of four and the founder of the parenting guide “This Time of Mine.” For parents feeling both overwhelmed and disconnected, she says it’s important to remember that parenting feels hard because it is, in fact, hard, not because you’re doing something wrong. It’s important for parents to let go of preconceived notions of perfection, both for their children’s behavior and their own. “Move away from guilt and make intentional choices you can control,” she says. “For example, ‘I should stop yelling’ can become ‘I could keep yelling, or I could practice a new coping strategy.’”

4. Force Yourself to Get More Sleep

It’s easy to say you’re going to get more sleep at night, but to actually do so you just have to make small changes to your evening routine that actually get you to bed earlier — without your phone in hand. Warren says that, as much as possible, even experienced parents should try to follow the old adage for new parents: sleep when your kid is sleeping.

5. Exercise

Mental exhaustion and so-called brain fog have physical symptoms, including inflammation that slows down neural pathways in the brain. “Exercise has been shown to have atrophic effect[s] on the brain and improve both brain circulation and regeneration of neurons,” says Dr. Maura Boldrini, director of the Quantitative Brain Biology Institute at Columbia University. Exercise has been proven to boost endorphins, too, and when those endorphins and neurons are flowing, your brain works faster and your mood gets better. It’s science.

Happy Fourth of July!

This weekend we hope you have the opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends and take some time for yourself.

Taking care of yourself is key to staying healthy both physically and mentally, and with a long weekend for many of us, now is a great time to slow down and do a few things that bring a smile to your face.

Whether it’s a long weekend, a week long summer vacation, or just a few quiet hours to yourself, make sure you are treating yourself with some mindfulness, self-care and self-love.

This summer is a great time to double down and stamp your own personal Passport to Wellness!

From your family at the PAF, Happy 4th of July.

The 5 Basic Skills for Handling Relationship Problems

You’re not rattled so quickly, can mentally turn crises into problems, and develop a solid core of competence that increases your self-esteem and helps you feel confident.

Relationships are no different. Yes, there’s plenty of information out there, and if you get into the weeds, you’ll probably find about 300 things to worry about and have to do right. But you don’t need to worry about those 300. Here’s a shorter list: Five core skills that, like handling the house, car, and kids, can make your life a bit easier:

1. Control Your Anger

If you have that 0-to-60 temper, blow up at the drop of a hat, or even do that slow burn/fed-up, periodic but damaging explosion every once in a while, you need at some point to learn to rein it in. This isn’t about just relationships but running your life. If you can’t, not only will you hurt your relationships and, with that, your life, but you can easily develop a me-against-the-world stance where the only problem is other people who make you angry rather than you—a lonely and anxious life.

If this is a struggle for you, tackle it—with therapy, medication, meditation, something.

2. See Control as Anxiety

Yes, some folks are controlling to be controlling. For them, it’s about power and manipulation and using others as objects to get what they want, but for most, control is tied to anxiety. You constantly feel micromanaged by your boss, but likely she’s a worrier who is always looking ahead at possible worst-case scenarios. The control can feel more suffocating when you are living with someone, or even worse if this has been going on for years. 

Control as anxiety means that the other person gets anxious, and their automatic response is to get you to do what they want you to do. If they can, and you do, they are less anxious. To help you feel less like the ten-year-old under the thumb of an obsessive parent, substitute the control you feel for their problem with anxiety.

Next, instead of snapping and saying, “Get off my back!” say, “Tell me what you’re worried about.” That’s the driver; that’s what puts the problem back in their court. But you need to practice saying this calmly: Think less about you feeling like a victim and more about the other struggling.

3. Look for the Problem Under the Problem

You feel your partner drinks too much or is too rigid or lazy, driving you crazy. At this point, the problem is yours, not theirs. For them, what you consider a problem is for them likely a solution to another underlying problem: that drinking helps them deal with stress, that rigid is about structure that reduces anxiety—or that lazy is in the eye of the beholder and is about different priorities or view of how to live your life.

Rather than complaining or trying to micromanage all the time, stop and ask about the problem under the problem: I’m feeling upset about _______; how do you think about it differently; help me understand better why you do what you. By doing this, you change the conversation, avoid slipping into a power struggle, and have an opportunity to find better ways of either seeing the issue differently or together solving the problem in a better way.

22 Family Adventures For The Bold

Sometimes you just want to go to the beach. Swim, lounge, nap, enjoy a cocktail at 4:59 p.m. It’s a relaxing vacation but, let’s be honest, not very memorable. It’s not the kind of time you’ll look back on later in life and say, that trip sure was something, wasn’t it? “Bucket list,” “epic,” “once in a lifetime” — these are the descriptors for a different type of vacation. One that requires planning and prep. One that requires patience and some fortitude. An experience that becomes core to the family lore — bringing everyone together with repeated retellings, long after we’ve settled back into our routines at home.

This list is your launching pad: 22 family-friendly adventures for the bold. The trips all have been experienced by the editors and adventurous friends of the editors of Fatherly, who can vouch that they’re the kind of adventure you’ll talk about for years to come. These are all suggested with a big caveat: Don’t jump into anything that isn’t labeled “Easy” if you’re new to the activity. Families with young children (under 6) should probably stick to Easy or Moderate. And don’t plan a trip based solely on the write-ups below. Planning is part of the fun. Get inspired, do some research, and then call a park ranger (you will find no more helpful person to give a kind but firm real talk). The world awaits.

Boating

Motor to a private island, paddle down the Mississippi, rip through serious whitewater, and packraft through a mountain pass.

Reserve Your Own Island In The Adirondacks

Level: Easy

Location: Upstate New York

At roughly 6 million acres, Adirondack Park could encircle the Everglades, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon and still have tons of room to spare. Designated as a conservation area in 1892, the Adirondacks are a unique mix of private and public land, half of which is constitutionally protected as “forever wild.” For a gentle introduction to the rugged splendor of this region, you can’t beat island camping on the Saranac Chain of Lakes, which offer the feel of a wilderness escape that’s also just a short paddle and drive from the historic village of Saranac Lake.

There are 87 campsites scattered across the islands and shoreline of Lower and Middle Saranac Lakes — and all of them are reachable only by boat. Most campsites have a rustic outhouse and a stone fire pit, and that’s it. Because the camps are set far apart from one another — and because there’s a prevailing culture of responsible, respectful use — you won’t see other tents or necessarily even hear other campers. By day, paddle to one of the micro islands for a picnic lunch in the shade and swim off the great granite boulder piles. By night, cook over an open fire and listen to the loons.

Paddle Through Canyonlands National Park On The Green River

Level: Moderate

Location: Utah

Before they converge to form Utah’s wildest whitewater, the Green and Colorado Rivers meander gently toward one another for some 100 miles, through vast desert and high-walled canyons. Stillwater Canyon (on the Green River) begins roughly at the boundary of the Canyonlands National Park, and continues for 52 miles through some of its remotest stretches, with otherworldly excursions to rock formations like the Doll House and the Maze, and opportunities to view petroglyphs and sacred sites of the Ancestral Puebloan people. 

Because it’s a tough, steep drive down to the launch point at Mineral Bottom, Stillwater Canyon tends to be quieter and less crowded than the Colorado — and as its name suggests, you can expect four to six days of mellow flatwater paddling. Canoes must take out at Spanish Bottom, at the top of Cataract Canyon, where the Class II-V rapids begin.

With no designated campsites, you’ll have to scout them out — in high water in early summer, they may be fewer and farther between. In low water in September and October, sandbars expand camping options, but paddlers may encounter short rocky stretches and minor rapids.

Tackle The Whitewater In The Nation’s Newest National Park

Level: Hard

Location: West Virginia

New River Gorge was the hidden secret of whitewater enthusiasts, Appalachian adventurers, and birders for decades. No longer. In 2020, New River Gorge National Park told a nation what a sizable group of outdoors enthusiasts already knew — one of the most pristine, rocking places in America, full of roaring rivers, mountain biking, hiking, pristine woods, and some gnarly BASE jumping off the world’s longest single-span bridge was everyone’s for the taking.

You have all sorts of Whitewater here and can choose by experience and how adrenal you want your trip to be — whether the more mild upper New River (Class I-III) or the bumpier, heart-pumping lower New River (Class II-IV). If you’re experienced and ready for one of the best runs of whitewater anywhere, the upper Gauley River is for you. Just make sure you’re in shape and ready for one wild ride.

Hike Up, Float Down The Delaware River

Level: All In!

Location: Delaware

Hike in, camp, float out. There’s no more romantic way to adventure — and when you pick a gentle river like the Delaware and a hilly but entirely surmountable (and vista-full) hike like the Delaware Water Gap via Appalachian Trail, you can bring the kids along. The best part: It’s a boating adventure that doesn’t need someone to pick you up. You just float back to where you began.

The Hike

Start here: Kittatinny Point. Take the Appalachian Trail for 4.8 miles north. Go to: Sunfish Pond to the Worthington State Forest Campground on the Delaware River along the Garvey Spring Trail (1 mile). Float: Along the Delaware River back to Kittatinny Point.

Camp Under The Stars In The Florida Keys

Level: All In! 

Location: Florida 

Between the Everglades National Park and the curved arm of the Florida Keys are thousands of islands — many of which are privately owned, and many of which fall within the boundaries of state and national parks. From remote micro-keys to the popular spoil islands of the Intercoastal Waterway, there are both reservable campsites (with some amenities) and rugged backcountry sites that take skill and determination to reach. 

The water trails winding through this scattered archipelago — including the Ten Thousand Island Wilderness Refuge and the mangrove forests of Everglades National Park — offer abundant opportunities to see marine wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, and sharks. But permits, careful planning, and prior experience are required. 

More accessible are the Spoil Islands of Indian Lagoon (reachable only by boat, but no reservations necessary). And for families looking for a remote camping adventure without all the paddling, book the ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, 60 miles off the coast: Snorkel crystal-clear waters by day and sleep under the clear glow of the Milky Way at night.

Click Read More for adventures all across the country.

5 Powerful Types Of Trust Every Relationship Needs If You Want It To Last

A happy marriage rests on unquestioned trust.

If you want a fulfilling marriage, you must know how to create this kind of trust.

Most couples think of trust exclusively in terms of being sexually faithful, which is essential, but there’s more to the definition of trust than just cheating.

Strong healthy marriages reveal five specific kinds of trust husbands and wives give one another. So, we suggest you go over the following list and check which kinds of trust you bring (or do not bring) into your marriage. Ask your spouse to do the same and share your results. This is an excellent way to clarify where your trust is solid and where it needs work.

1. Trust that you will both be sexually faithful.

Without sexual fidelity marriage becomes unworkable. Partners can recover from cheating or an affair but need professional help to do it. Keep your commitment to remain sexually faithful. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, get counseling and not a part-time lover.

2. Trust that you will not harm, reject or control one another.

rust thrives in an atmosphere of safety and security. Hurting one another, either physically or verbally, and then rejecting one another, creates fear which undermines trust. With control comes mistrust so make sure your love is not filled with a lot of possessive clinging which pushes your partner away.

3. Trust that you love one another, without ulterior motives.

You and your spouse need to feel sure you’re loved for yourself and not for some ulterior motive. That includes your looks, your money, your family, and your partner needs someone to feel superior to or be a buffer against being alone and lonely.

The Secret to Being More Charming (Without Being Obnoxious)

While captivating to watch, the display can induce jealously because it can seem like it’s an innate talent that a person either has or doesn’t possess.

But that’s not the case. Anyone can learn how to be charming. And when wielded well, charm is not the bastion of other people and the goal is not something other-worldly. In fact, the end result is actually pretty basic and applies to every relationship: to make someone feel good.

“You make the other person feel understood, valued, and loved,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness. “It feels very obvious but it’s a very powerful idea.”

While charm is certainly a skill and might come easier to some — i.e. the extroverted — it doesn’t require being well-read or witty. True charm is about being present and interested in what another person has to say. Does it require effort? Like anything with a payoff, it does. But the good news is that there’s nothing definite that has to be done, although the following tips can help.

Take Your Listening Up a Few Notches 

Listening is about giving someone focus, but it has to be more than smiling and nodding your head. Silence can come off as a lack of interest or even create discomfort. What you want to do is respond to what’s being said and do it quickly. Research has shown that people feel more connected when that happens. Lyubomirsky adds that you can even overlap your words with the other person. Rather than being rude, it’s a kind of trading-off and friendly banter.

At the most basic level, you want to show genuine curiosity and that comes from asking them things. First, you get facts, but then you go into the more detailed stuff, like “What got you into baking?” or “What does it feel like to bulldoze a house?” The underlying message  is, “Please tell me more.”

“We’re swayed by someone paying attention,” says Zoe Chance, assistant professor of marketing at Yale School of Management and author of Influence is Your Superpower. “We like people who ask questions and we really like people who ask follow-up questions.”

Use the Person’s Name

It sounds too simple, right? But our brains get activated by it and it’s a very charming move. It’s the reason why hearing it can wake us up or how we can detect it during a loud party, Chance says. Importantly, it also shows that you’re paying attention.

Give Compliments

And all they have to be is small. Compliments convey belonging and respect. “They say, ‘I see you, and I like something about you.’ Feeling accepted like that is really important to people’s sense of self,” says Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, author of You Have More Influence Than You Think, and researcher on the topic. 

But people don’t usually give them, which is why it’s all the more charming that you do. People underestimate their impact and there’s the awkwardness or perceived awkwardness. We think the other person will focus on our phrasing or what we decided to compliment, and of course, we don’t want to be offensive or make anyone feel objectified, but for the most part, it’s not a worry.

“They just hear something nice about themselves and that feels really good,” she says.

But Be Ready to Adjust

Being charming requires effort but you also need to know when it’s time to quit. Not all gym days are 10s. The same goes for conversations. You might have finally gotten someone to talk by asking about their favorite vacation spot, but you still find the person boring. It’s all right to politely remove yourself, but the thing about charm is while the interaction may have done little for you, the other person walks away feeling, “Cool guy.” There’s little downside to putting in a couple of minutes, of that, because you end up bolstering relationships and becoming well-regarded, even popular. “Charming people benefit,” Lyubomirsky says.

How to Overcome Feelings of Shame about Personal Debt

They may feel like they’ve failed themselves or their families. They may avoid honest conversations with loved ones for fear of revealing just how bad their financial situation is. They may feel utterly hopeless because they can’t see a way to get out of debt.

Shame can prevent people from seeking help. They may worry about how others will think of them if they reveal how much they owe or how much they’re struggling to pay their bills. That worry creates inaction, which allows a bad situation to get worse. The fear and shame get bigger and bigger.

How do you break that cycle? By recognizing that debt can happen to anyone. It’s not a sign of failure or evidence of any weakness. 

Fortunately, expert financial guidance from someone who can also lend an empathetic ear is the best way to overcome the financial and emotional challenges of burdensome debt —and start a plan to become debt-free.

WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO STRUGGLE WITH DEBT?

Many Americans simply can’t pay what they owe. Debt doesn’t discriminate, but the challenges consumers face often change depending on demographics. For example, while people with high incomes tend to carry greater amounts of total debt, people with lower incomes hold a greater proportion of debt compared to their income. This proportionally higher debt-to-income ratio makes it all the more difficult to manage unexpected debts. 

Student loan debt also burdens some groups disproportionately—with minority groups and women bearing more impact. In addition to carrying a larger proportion of student loan debt, women tend to earn less than men (84 cents for every dollar earned by a man), once again making debt that much harder to shake. 

According to a 2018 study by Capital Group, women are also less likely to want to discuss their personal financial situation than men are. So not only do particular populations face more difficulties in paying down their debt and saving for retirement, but they also feel less comfortable discussing their finances and seeking help. This combination can cause a vicious cycle that feels inescapable.

WHY MIGHT SOMEONE HAVE FALLEN INTO DEBT?

Debt is rarely a choice. Most debt is a result of events and circumstances that are difficult – if not outright impossible – to control. Even debt that stems from poor budgeting or overspending is usually tied in some way to psychological needs or behaviors that you may not be able to control.

Some of the top triggers that push people into debt include:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Job loss
  • Medical emergency
  • Major home repairs after a natural disaster
  • Supporting another family member

For example, Debbie was retired when Hurricane Sandy severely damaged her Florida home. She lived frugally, but quickly fell into financial difficulty due to extensive repairs on her house and physical illness from invasive mold. She couldn’t cover the repairs without assistance. After some online research, Debbie found Money Management International’s (MMI) Project Porchlight. She received expert guidance from an MMI counselor who also connected her with other helpful resources to put her on the path to recovery. 

A lack of understanding of the American financial system can also be a debt trigger. Diana, a Colombian immigrant, found herself trapped paying high fees to a credit repair company while sending money home to her mother and maintaining an expensive lifestyle. Her situation caused her deep financial stress—but the thought of reducing the monthly payment she sent to her mother created a deep sense of guilt. With the help and understanding of the Hispanic Center for Financial Excellence (HCFE), a program of MMI, she was able to get back onto solid financial footing. 

Whether the debt is outside of your control or not, your feelings can be complex and difficult to navigate. Bottom line: debt is stressful, and for many, it’s embarrassing. You may feel anxious, depressed, fearful, overwhelmed, and even physically ill. When a problem seems insurmountable, people can feel demoralized. But there is hope. 

HOW TO OVERCOME DEBT SHAME AND STIGMA AND SEEK HELP

The first step in dealing with personal debt is beginning to talk about it. Getting started can be the hardest part of the process, but once you do, you’ll find it gets easier. You’ll also find that breaking down the taboo of talking about money and debt can lighten the weight of these negative emotions. MMI clients report feeling significantly less anxious after completing their first counseling session. 

Simply having a plan and being able to make progress on that plan can make a huge difference in your outlook. When working with an MMI counselor, we help you focus on small, achievable steps, building momentum as your debt starts to disappear. 

Contact MMI for a private and confidential counseling session and we’ll talk you through all your options. You don’t have to navigate this experience alone. You can complete most of your counseling online and counselors are available by phone, chat, and email.

How to Make Better Joint Decisions With Your Partner

Joint decisions are part and parcel of parenting. Hell, the journey often kicks off with the joint decision to start a family. From there, couples face a steady march of choices What should we name our baby? Should we move closer to family? Do we have another child? What color do we paint the nursery? What show do we watch in the one hour of silence we have before we both conk out? 

But making decisions together as parents can be difficult. The sheer number of choices that need to be made and the stakes involved in each can overwhelm. The turbulence of the last few years hasn’t made it any easier — doctors are sounding the horn about “decision fatigue”, where near-constant risk assessment affects people’s ability to make choices.

“Difficult decisions already put people in a vulnerable place, and they’re more difficult to make during times of stress,” says Silva Depanian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified anger management counselor in the Los Angeles area. “When we’re generally stressed, we’re in survival mode, so we’re more defensive and panicky.”

In survival mode, a person’s approach to problems can become more individualized, she adds.  They think, How will I survive?rather than operating as a unit and prioritizing what’s best for the relationship.

However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in relationship dynamics and gender role expectations made decision-making for couples increasingly complex, concluded the authors of a European study published in 2018. As the roles of caregiver and wage earner in partnerships blur and blend, roles might be renegotiated daily, they wrote. A 2020 study noted that couples tended to revert to more traditional notions of gender expectations —which can affect perceptions of whose opinions hold more weight in decision-making — due to pandemic-related effects in the labor market.

Still, research shows that couples tend to become more traditional in their attitudes toward gender roles after becoming parents, says Nikki Lively, LCSW, certified emotionally focused therapist and clinical director of the Transitions to Parenthood program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Lively noted that, in particular, gender roles involving power and influence can often become issues for parents.  “Sometimes women don’t have as much power outside the home so in the home, they want to feel heard. Or sometimes men don’t recognize how they use their power at home,” she says.

So, this is all to say that making decisions as a couple is hard. A harmonious and equitable approach to joint decision-making takes skill – but it can be learned, our experts say. Here’s how couples can make the process as smooth as possible.

1. Consider the source

Decisions tend to be based on the ideas and values people are exposed to growing up. Many people never challenge these because our brains naturally look for evidence that we’re right, not evidence that disproves our version of reality, Depanian says.

Each partner, therefore, enters a relationship with a different ability to share power and compromise.

“Those raised in homes with permissive parents are used to doing as they please, and they bring that strong will into their marriage,” says Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist and relationship coach in Boulder, Colorado. “If you were raised as an only child, you don’t have much experience having to share or compromise. [And] if you were raised with an authoritarian parent where you had no voice, you may give in too easily as an adult.”

People might feel strongly about certain aspects of parenting that relate to things they experienced (good or bad) when they were children.

“In those moments related to parenting, people can get defensive and critical because the stakes feel so high,” says Lively. “Everyone wants to be a good parent and wants what’s best for their child.”

Cultivating an awareness of how you and your partner approach joint decisions can help you make changes to unhelpful patterns.

2. Learn to listen better

When parents don’t see eye to eye on an issue, it helps to slow down, be curious, and ask questions. But poor listening skills can derail that agenda.

People typically think they’re listening to another person when what they’re really doing is hearing their partner’s words while thinking about all the reasons their own view is the correct one, as well as when it will be their turn to say so.

“People get defensive when they feel unheard,” Depanian says. “And they typically feel unheard when their emotions are brushed aside.”

A lot of people don’t understand that listening means hearing the other person out and trying to understand their perspective, says Jenny Yip, Psy.D., board-certified clinical psychologist, adjunct clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine, and executive director of the Little Thinkers Center in Los Angeles.

When you’re talking about a big decision, try to slow down and pause after your partner has finished speaking. This allows both of you an opportunity to reflect on what was said, and for your partner to elaborate if they want to.

3. Start with a spitball session

If you have the time, simply sit down and talk about your feelings without feeling pressured to make a decision quickly. There’s therapeutic value in taking time to get to know where each person is coming from before you get down to brass tacks.

“Not that the things we say aren’t meaningful, but sometimes the first five things we say aren’t really what we mean,” says Lively. The therapist tactic of responding, “Tell me more,” can be helpful for laypeople, too.

“I try to get people to see it’s never a dead-end if you safely stay with an idea or feeling for long enough,” she says. “But people usually won’t do that if they feel criticized. Feeling safe and invited to open up, on the other hand, fosters growth.”

4. Put it in writing

Even though it might sound like homework, Lively says it can be enormously helpful to write the decision you’re facing at the top of a piece of paper.  Identifying the problem is an important first step that can be less obvious than couples might think. Many couples Lively sees in therapy are surprised to discover that initially, they weren’t even in agreement about what the problem was.

“Stressed people might see their partners as the problem, but the problem is the problem,” she says. “It’s important to clearly identify the end goal you’re both trying to work toward.”

Another tactic recommended by Yip: Writing out why decisions might be valuable and meaningful to you. This can also help pinpoint the issues at hand. Each partner should write a list of pros and cons about how to target the problem, she says, and then compare their lists.

How to Regain Trust

Though most of us strive to be honest, we sometimes fall short of that goal. We find ourselves lying or otherwise behaving deceptively. It turns out that in a given week, over 90 percent of people report telling at least one lie. When lies are discovered, they can damage or destroy people’s trust in each other. Regaining that trust is a challenging process. 

What Is Trust?

Trust is our intention to make ourselves vulnerable based upon the belief that others will treat us well. It is a confidence that others will foster positive outcomes for us. When we trust people, we rely on them in important matters. We share our deepest secrets with them. We make ourselves materially vulnerable with them. We place our fates in their hands. Trust is the glue that binds people together. For us to maintain cooperative relationships with each other, we must be able to count on one another. 

We trust people when we sense that they are competent, benevolent, and honest. A competent person has the ability to produce good outcomes for us. A benevolent person intends to make good things happen for us. An honest person has the integrity to let us know how they are going to treat us. Having trust in others makes dealing with them more predictable. It lets us know that they will be there for us, and it allows us to efficiently work with them in collaborative ways. 

Most people are somewhat trusting by default. When a stranger speaks to us, we typically assume that they are speaking truthfully. However, if a stranger on the street asks for $1000 and promises to return it tomorrow, your trust may rightly be lower. In high-stakes situations, we only trust people if they have proven that they are trustworthy.

People prove that they are trustworthy through their actions. They show us evidence of their honesty and dependability. People incrementally gain our trust by repeatedly demonstrating their honesty and dependability over time. 

Breaking Trust

Trust is particularly fragile. It is a precious commodity that can take years to cultivate but can be squandered in an instant. When someone violates our trust, usually through dishonesty, neglect, or disloyalty, we usually feel upset, hurt, angry, sad, and foolish. We come to distrust that person because they violated our faith and confidence in them.

Oftentimes, when people violate our trust, we withdraw from them if we can. We don’t risk placing ourselves in a vulnerable position with them again. We also become vigilant, looking for any evidence that they might undermine us or let us down again. 

Rebuilding Trust

If we violate someone’s trust and we want to try to rebuild that relationship, recovering the lost trust can take considerable time and effort. If the violation of trust is severe enough, restoring trust may be impossible. Rebuilding trust comes down to three processes: admission, atonement, and restoration. We must own up to our failings.

Not only do we need to admit where we think we have fallen short, but we also must also understand and accept where the other person believes we have failed them. Apologies, remorse, and contrition are necessities when rebuilding trust, but they may not be enough. We may also need to accept punishments and penance for our failings.

When people feel wronged by trust violations, they may feel that some proportional form of retributive justice is needed to rebalance the relationship. Trust can also be helped by putting in place rules that constrain future trust violations. Perhaps changes can be made that remove the temptations or secrecy that led to the original trust violation.

Finally, actively signaling and promoting a culture and intention toward integrity, trust, and transparency can strengthen trust. Regularly discussing trust, honesty, and integrity with the aggrieved person can reassure them that being a trustworthy person is your central goal. If we do violate someone’s trust, it is often a long journey back to a trusting bond, but the destination is worth it.

3 Reasons You Should Argue With Your Partner

A new study by Hinnekens et al (2022) looked at couples’ ability to mindread each other during conflict. They found that partners are only moderately successful at mindreading.

Another study by Simpson et al. (2021) showed that highly avoidant individuals were less empathically accurate with their partners. Clearly, mindreading and avoidance are not effective tools to deal with marital issues and problems.

When it comes to mind reading and conflict avoidance, nobody does it better than people who were raised in emotionally neglectful families. Having missed the opportunity to observe emotionally healthy arguing between their parents or to participate in resolving family issues in a direct and emotionally aware way, these individuals typically rely on the primary skill available to them: avoid conflict altogether.

Avoidance may seem fairly effective for a while. That is, until the suppressed feelings of frustration, annoyance, anger, or hurt build up enough to cause a major eruption or lie under the surface for decades, driving a couple farther and farther apart.

As a couples therapist who specializes in childhood emotional neglect, I often observe the great lengths that couples will go to avoid fighting. But the truth is, just like lightning crystallizes the electric charge and clears it from the air during a storm, fights can calm relationships by crystallizing and clearing the negative emotion between the partners.

There is a three-part cycle that characterizes all healthy, lasting relationships: Harmony/Rupture/Repair. It’s a common pattern that is both the way healthy couples naturally function and part of what enriches and sustains a relationship.

Harmony

Harmony is the phase most relationships experience episodically when there is no particular conflict dividing them. When you are in harmony, you go about your daily life acting and feeling like a team. You can do your own thing all day and look forward to seeing each other at night. There might be some times of irritation or mild friction, but overall, you feel generally good together.

But this phase cannot last forever. Something almost always gets in the way. Life throws a wrench into the works. It may be an issue about parenting, finances, sex, or anything large or small, but something intervenes to throw off the harmony. Someone is hurt, angry, or upset. This starts phase two.

Rupture

The rupture is the difficult and challenging part. It’s the phase that many couples, especially the ones who experienced childhood emotional neglect, try their best to avoid. But it’s a requirement for having a happy marriage. You absolutely must be able to allow yourselves to rupture. Then, you begin the repair process, which is the path that gets you back to harmony.

Repair

During the repair process, no matter how strong your feelings or how painful the interaction, you must both be committed to sticking together through it, as long as there is no abuse or harmful behavior going on.

During a rupture, if it’s a large one, you may feel extreme anger, even rage. You may feel hurt, judged, hopeless, helpless, or even hateful. All of these feelings are okay, have value, and matter. And what you do with your feelings before and during rupture matters very, very much.

The Goal of Repair: A Meeting of the Minds

If you can use and express your feelings in a healthy way and talk through a problem, you do not need to come to a clear answer or solution in order to come out the other side intact and in harmony. You only need to get the problem clarified and your feelings aired. This is the “meeting of the minds.”

The meeting of the minds happens when you understand your partner’s feelings and why they have them. You don’t have to agree that they’re right; you only need to see your partner’s perspective and also let your partner know that you see. You also need to receive the same understanding in return.

Sometimes it takes many ruptures, over time, to resolve a problem. In the meantime, a meeting of the minds allows you to remain a team and continue to grow and evolve together.

American Parents Are Ridiculously Stressed Out, Survey Shows

The organization’s annual “Stress in America” poll, released Thursday, found that the pandemic and record-high inflation already stressed Americans, and when the Ukraine invasion began, our collective stress levels spiked. The original survey of 3,012 adult Americans was conducted in February and found that 87% of respondents were troubled by the continually rising costs of necessities like food and gas, the highest “proportion of adults seen across all stressors asked about in the history of the Stress in America™ survey.” A similarly high percentage said they felt their mental health was negatively impacted by a “constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years.”

While it seems all Americans are heavily stressed, parents are having a hell of a hard time. Over 70% of parents said they feared the pandemic had negatively affected their children’s social development, academic development, and emotional health or development. Sixty-eight percent said they were concerned about their children’s cognitive and physical development after two years of Covid protocols. Parents, compared to non-parents, were more likely to name money (80% vs. 58%), the economy (77% vs. 59%), and housing costs (72% vs. 39%) as “significant sources of stress.”

Researchers were shocked to find so many Americans stressed over the same things. “We don’t usually see 80 percent of people telling us that a particular stressor is stressful for that many individuals,” clinical psychologist Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate chief for practice transformation, told CBS News.’

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, researchers completed a second poll with questions related to Russia and Ukraine. Eighty percent of the over 2,000 respondents said they were concerned that Russia would retaliate with nuclear threats or cyber-attacks and that the invasion has been “terrifying to watch.” Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they felt the invasion could mark the start of World War III and lead to nuclear war.

“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

What I Wish I Knew About Friendships When I Was Younger, According to 12 Men

You call each other’s bullshit. Often, friendships are taken for granted. They’re easy to make when we’re younger. Then, as we age and are yoked with the responsibilities of work and family, friendships fade away and new ones become difficult to find and even more difficult to maintain. Friendships can be complicated. Some end because they need to. Others because life got in the way. Even so, the relationships are a crucial part of life. 

Men in particular have a hard time with friendships. It’s common for men to lose contact with once-cherished friends and to not seek out new ones as they grow older. But it’s also common to learn from their mistakes. To that end, we spoke to a dozen men who all reminisced about their experiences with friends. They did so in search of lessons they wished they’d learned sooner, so that maintaining, valuing, and even sometimes ending their friendships would make a little more sense. From the silly to the sincere, here’s what they had to say regarding what they wish they knew about friendships. 

1. They Should Feel like a Team Sport

When my friends are successful and accomplish something really incredible, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great too. A victory for one is a victory for all. Great teams don’t try to outdo each other in competition. Instead, they compliment each other while encouraging each other to be great at the same time. For the good of the team. Showing up to celebrate those wins and encouraging your friends is a way to strengthen and maintain those friendships. Friends like that consistently show up and contribute to your growth as an individual, which makes them ideal teammates. Over time the players may change, but the sentiment should still remain the same.” – Cedric, 40, Philadelphia

2. Friendships Come and Go, And That’s Okay

“Your friends also update and change based on the season you’re in. Friendships are formative in our younger years, especially from high school to college. However, as we step on to adulthood and focus on our own lives and careers, most friendships take a back seat. Many would feel sad about it and find that they are no longer close to the friends they used to be close to. However, the reality is that your friends also change depending on where you are in your life. Once you become a dad, you will have a greater affinity with those who are in the same season as you. Nothing is wrong with that.” – Ian, 38, California 

3. It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

“I come from a generation of men whose closest approximation to friendship was whoever you didn’t mind sitting in silence next to in a bar every week. It’s something that I’ve noticed has changed dramatically in recent times. My son was talking about the kinds of things that he and his friends talk about and how they support each other, and I actually got a little jealous when I realized that I don’t even think I’ve had a conversation with my best friend in years that wasn’t about sports or our wives. 

I wish that I knew it was allowed and acceptable to actually share your feelings with your friends and seek support from them. That your friends shouldn’t just be people you can tolerate, but people that you genuinely enjoy spending time with. In the weeks following that conversation with my son, I have made much more of an effort to meet my best friend in situations that aren’t centered around drinking. It still feels strange to discuss things openly and honestly but I’m very much looking forward to this next form of communication, and I only wish that my eyes had been opened to it earlier.” – Jonathan, 52, Georgia

4. Sometimes, They Have to End

“I had a friend who cheated on his wife. The keyword there is ‘had’. He brought it up as if he was bragging about it, and it just felt wrong and icky. It was like he was still in college, talking about all the girls he hooked up with that weekend. As he was telling me, I realized that I was disgusted and disappointed in someone who I had considered a close friend. That broke my heart. I didn’t say anything but have gradually cut off contact with him to the point that we haven’t spoken in a few years. That moment was definitely a ‘nexus event’ for me. I realized my priorities were that of a husband, father, and good person. I’m not a frat guy anymore, and I don’t want to be around anyone who still thinks they are.” – Ted, 43, Iowa 

5. You Can Pick Things Up Again With Close Friends

“You won’t always be able to spend as much time with your friends as you might want to, because life throws more and more curveballs as you get older. Especially when you least expect it. But with some friends, it won’t matter. However much time passes without you being able to hang out doesn’t affect true friendships. As soon as you do get the chance to get together, you’ll pick up almost exactly where you left off and it’ll be like no time has passed at all. Not all of your friends will end up becoming your best friends, and some of them will disappear without a reason and you’ll never see them again. But the good ones will be there time and time again, despite all of the things that are out of your control.” – Jimmy, 37, UK

6. It’s Difficult to Make New Ones as an Adult

“As an adult, I’ve made exactly one ‘new’ friend in the past five or six years. I’m talking about an actual confidant who I’ve grown to genuinely love. It made me realize that making friends in my youth was so easy, probably because my standards for friendship were different. Adult friendships are likely between co-workers, or people we simply run into on a regular basis at the gym, or out to eat, or whatever. And those people are great. But, they leave. I’ve had work ‘friends’ get new jobs and I never heard from them again. In adulthood, it’s so difficult to maintain a lasting friendship that’s actually based on being friends, rather than convenience. But I guess that makes the one true friend I’ve made most recently pretty special.” – Aaron, 42, Indiana 

20 Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Women of All Ages

Instead, you may want to get her something a little more personal—something she’ll love and appreciate, but might also be useful in her day-to-day routine.

Maybe she’s looking for a new winter coat to brave the frigid temperatures on her way to work, or perhaps she’s in need of a new wine chiller to keep her favorite whites and rosés cold. Whatever her interests may be, we have you covered. We’ve compiled 20 great Valentine’s day gifts for women that your BFF, girlfriend, spouse, or even your mom or sister would love to receive this V-Day!

Click Read More for Direct Links to Plenty of Gift Ideas.

The Challenge and Importance of Consistent Parenting

It’s the middle of February, which, if you’re like most people, is right about the time those New Year’s resolutions taper off, and we tell ourselves something along the lines of “I’ll get back to it later.” Whether that was a healthier eating routine, exercise, reading, or waking earlier to start the day, what you’re experiencing is one of the great challenges of mankind—consistency.

As humans, we have a hard time sticking to something long-term. The reason? It’s hard to delay gratification when something else can grab our attention or be easier for us right now.

We can’t argue with the logic that consistency, in some things, is the best path, though. If we consistently eat better, we’ll consistently feel better. If we consistently improve our communication with a loved one, our relationships get better. If we consistently avoid drinking, our health gets better.

Consistency in Parenting

In no sphere of life is the power of consistency more valuable than in parenting. Parents have the particularly sticky job of raising little humans—little humans who have never experienced the world before. Every single day is a lesson in “how to be a person.” Along the way, they make many mistakes and push many boundaries—that is, after all, how we learn.

But to parents, those pushing boundaries and making mistakes is a call to action. Parents, the good ones, know that they can’t allow their children to go without redirection when they stray off course.

It would be easy if all it took was a parent applying a rule one time, and the child understood it immediately, obeyed immediately, questioned nothing, and internalized that desire for obedience. But who are we kidding?

What is more likely to happen is that the child will listen… a little… then get bored, or think that the parents forgot and go right back to pushing and testing the limits. They’re trying to learn, yes—but how do you help kids learn effectively without pulling your hair out?

Where It Goes Wrong

The instinct in these rebellious moments is to argue, lose your temper, and go to an all-out war with your child. Alternatively, if your child is the one who chooses war, sometimes it’s easier to just give in. You decide to skip the war altogether and just say, “Fine, do what you want,” and you figure it’s better to lose the battle than fight the war.

Enter delayed gratification. You know in your heart that you need to be consistent with what you said, but you really want to avoid this meltdown in the grocery store, so you’re just going to give her the candy bar. Or you know that he hasn’t gotten home by curfew the past three nights, but taking away his car like you threatened would really make it difficult for him to bring his brother to soccer practice, so maybe you’ll just let it go this time. Etc. Etc.

But we have to be aware of what we are communicating in these moments of inconsistent parenting.

In effect, we’re saying: “Hey kid, while you’re learning to test limits and trying to figure things out, I see that you’re outright pushing the boundaries, and I know you know that what you’re doing is against the rules—but I’m not going to punish you every time, so good luck knowing which parent you’re going to get, and good luck knowing which rule really matters. It’s up to you to read my mind to get what you want and for us to avoid fighting.”

Spelled out like this—we can see the error of our ways. Spelled out like this, we see that this is not the message we want to send. So what do we do?

Get On the Same Page

One of the first things I stress to the parents I work with is that you must agree on how and when you discipline. Your child doesn’t have the capacity and shouldn’t be responsible for switching between parenting modes that the two of you dance around.

Second, get on the same page with your kid. Have a sit-down with them to explain the rules clearly and concisely, as well as the consequences for when the rules are violated. Make this developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Depending on your child’s age and temperament, I recommend regular family check-ins where you discuss what went well and what was hard each week and a refresher on what is expected.

Third, stick to what you say. Even if you have to delay punishment for a few hours to get your head straight, simply let your child know that you’ll have a discussion later about what the consequence will be for their actions so that you can stick to your consistent plan.

38 Small, Nice Ways to Help Your Partner Feel Desired

But there’s a sentiment that sex therapists often stress: Foreplay begins days before you have sex. In other words, while keeping things fresh in the bedroom is worthwhile and a part of a healthy relationship, it’s the listening, the laughing, the cuddling, the confiding, the complimenting, the connecting that precede sex that lay the groundwork.

“I call it ‘anticipatory eroticism.’ It’s made of time, attention, affection, and then sex” says Dr. Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., director of the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute and author of several books on sexuality and relationships, including When You’re the One Who Cheats and the recent Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement. “Those are the four things you put into the build-up towards connecting to your partner that are going to make the difference to how you’re actually going to end up in bed together.”

Dr. Nelson points out that there’s an important distinction to be made about arousal versus desire. Arousal is something that happens in your body, while desire is something that happens in your head. “I think that’s a misunderstanding about how attraction works and how desire works and that many times arousal can come before desire,” she says. “And if you want to have sex with someone on Saturday, I always joke that you probably have to start on Wednesday.” 

While we all tend to differ in terms of our need for sex, research confirms that an important factor for both men and women is the desire to, well, feel desired. A 2019 study published in the journal Sex and Marital Therapy, for instance, surveyed 662 straight women to determine what makes them feel sexual desire. The researchers landed on a trio of traits: intimacy (moments of closeness and affection), celebrated otherness (being seen — and celebrated for — being different from their partner), and object-of-desire affirmation (simply enough, wanting to be wanted). While research has been slow to look into men’s need for desire, a smaller 2021 survey published in the same journal reported that 95 percent of men said feeling desired was an important part of sex, with 88 percent noting that their partners could do more to help them feel this way.  

It’s always important to show affection toward and spend time with your partner. But Dr. Nelson stresses that couples can also set aside designated times to really prioritize those elements, which can make up for stretches when you’ve been unable to connect.  “Like if you said, ‘On Wednesday night, we’re going to have a date where we’re going to spend some time paying attention, being affectionate’ — those can often make up the difference,” she says.

So, study up on your foreplay techniques. Get excited about trying new toys and positions. That’s all well and good. But remember to also prioritize the little things that foster eroticism, emotional intimacy, confidence, and closeness. They’re the connective tissue of every relationship, and especially vital when you’re a parent and it can be difficult to find the time to feel sexy. Having a partner who helps remind you that you are is crucial. 

To that end, here, in no particular order, are 37 small, nice things you can do to help create some closeness and intimacy. Will all of these work for you? Nah. But they’re good to remember and go a long way in building desire. 

  1.  Make out. Like you did when you were first dating, and the anticipation could make you burst. Reminding yourselves of who you were then and how much you looked forward to putting your mouth on their mouth is a magic kind of time travel. Plus, the experience triggers the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which make you feel more connected and attracted to your partner.
  2. Say “Thank you.” And be specific. As in, “Thanks for so calmly helping the kids get their jackets on this morning. I was about to lose it.” True appreciation is saying “I noticed this, and I don’t want to keep it to myself.” And genuine showings of it help foster feelings of emotional closeness.
  3. React to their little victories. Did they make some great art with the kids? Have a small breakthrough at work? Stay calm at the playground when dealing with another parent? No, you don’t have to overdo it. But be excited for them. 
  4. Prioritize eye contact. It’s been proven to foster intimacy and trust among couples.
  5. Listen as your partner talks about something they’re super passionate about. Even better, encourage them to talk about their passions. Knowing your partner wants to be a part of what you love is incredibly validating, and validation is an enormous part of building emotional safety and intimacy.
  6. Give them a hug. For at least 10 seconds, which is the ideal length of time to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin, according to research from Goldsmiths University in London. 
  7. Cook together. Play good music. Have a glass of wine. Feed one another bites if that’s your thing. Get into a rhythm. Goof around. Studies show that the sensory experience of cooking fosters teamwork and can eliminate stress, so long as you work as a team and don’t get all territorial. 
  8. Flirt. Find ways to touch them softly when they’re speaking. Raise your eyebrows when you see them. Make lingering eye contact. Say, “Going my way?” when you pull into the driveway and see them. Whatever it is that makes them know that they still got it and you still want it.
  9. Give them a massage. And make it a sex-free one. You don’t have to go all-in on lotions and supplies. Just rub their neck while you’re watching TV or their back while you’re cuddling. It’s stress-relieving and sensual. 
  10. Make them laugh. Tell them a joke. Or a funny story. Say, “I can’t wait to tell you what happened to Dave…” Knowing someone’s sense of humor and making a point to appeal to it says a lot.  
  11. Tell them what they do that you think is sexy.Maybe it’s the way they wrinkle their nose when they laugh. Maybe it’s the confident way they handle their work calls. Don’t beat around the bush. Tell them. And tell them often. Say, “It’s so sexy when…”
  12. Make plans. For date night. For dinner. For a long weekend six months down the road. Anticipation and variety are key components of a healthy relationship.    
  13. Ask them about their dreams for the future. Talk about ways to make it happen. It’s encouraging, and therapists often stress the importance of bringing up a positive future. 
  14.  Sext. Have some fun with it. Send more than just a string of eggplant emojis. They’re exciting to send and receive, and a great break from the string of normal “Can you grab more diapers on your way home?” conversations. Plus, it gives you space to feel like a sexual being. 
  15. Do the activity your partner loves but you don’t care for. Watch that show or do the yoga without grumbling. Spend time together doing their thing. Find time for yours, too. 
  16. Listen to them vent about whatever is bothering them. Set aside 15 minutes a day for them to unleash, or whatever kind of agreement works for you. Don’t offer solutions. Just listen and validate. Besides the fact that it’s nearly impossible to feel sexy when you’re stressed, being able to vent without worry helps develop emotional safety.
  17. Keep them motivated. However and whenever you can, be their biggest supporter. In fact, studies have shown that encouragement from a partner makes achieving a goal more likely. Besides, who doesn’t want to be rooted for?  
  18.  Give one another space. Carve it out. Put it on the schedule. Do a you-have-the-kids-for-an-hour now, I-have-the-kids-for-an-hour here tradeoff or whatever system works for you. Time alone to feel like yourself is vital to feeling sexy.
  19. Plan a fancy date night. Pull out all the stops. Dress up. Wear something you know they love. (Yup, even that shirt.) Have cocktails. Order the dessert in advance. Can’t go to a restaurant? Dress up in your house. Just do your best to make them feel worthy of special treatment.
  20. Was someone checking them out at the store?Tell them. It’s nice to know that you’re turning heads.
  21. Remind them of past wild times. “Remember when we did it in the back of that bar?” Walking someone down erotic memory lane (at the right time) helps us reacquaint with our wilder sides and makes it clear to your partner that you still find them sexy.
  22. Compliment them. About their intellect. About their sense of humor. About their patience. About how dewy their skin looks. Make it specific and organic. And not just about their body. It’s about making it known that you see and appreciate all side of them.
  23. Don’t care about who’s watching. That is, embrace your version of PDA. Put an arm around them. Passionately kiss them. Do so with no care about who is around you. 
  24. Gush about them around their — and your — friends and family. Say something specific and sweet about how thoughtful they are or what a good parent they are.
  25. Take their side. Not all the time, but when it’s necessary. Issues with the in-laws? Argument with another parent on the playground? Have their back. To know that you are a united front is simply a wonderful feeling. 
  26. Touch them. In a nonsexual way. A hand on the lower back. A hug from behind. A squeeze of the knee in the car. 

What I Would Tell My Younger Self About Being a Dad

One of the unspoken qualifications of fatherhood goes something like this: Must be able to question everything you do, every decision you make, and every choice related to your child’s upbringing on a daily basis. But, instead of a “no experience required” caveat at the end of the job description, it reads: “experience will be your only real teacher.” 

Unfortunately, we don’t have the tech to travel back in time and whisper wisdom to our younger, less confident, selves about being a parent. But, as we grow as men and fathers, we learn that shaping our own personal philosophies about parenting (and life, in general) is a process through which we can learn from others’ mistakes and triumphs. And it’s important to share that been-there-learned-that wisdom with others

To that end, we asked 13 dads of all ages and from across the world What would you tell your younger self about being a dad? Some shared regrets, others shared joys and realizations they could only understand in hindsight. All of their words contain potent truths for parents of all ages. 

1. Make the effort

“When my son was younger, I would spend a lot of time outside the house with my friends to destress from work. My wife would always tell me to spend my time the same way I spend my money — carefully and mindfully. But, I dismissed her. When my son grew older, I noticed that he was hesitant to tell me personal details about his life, while he wouldn’t hesitate to share them with my wife. That was completely my fault. I realized that my son didn’t feel as safe with me because I didn’t make the time and effort to form a strong bond with him when he was younger. It’s been one of the greatest regrets of my life.” – Matt, 32, Australia 

2. Get Into Shape

“Staying fit and in shape is a lot easier than starting from scratch. I would tell my younger self not to wait to try and get back into shape. It may seem like kids don’t move around much at first. But once they start moving, they never stop. You don’t want to be the dad that can’t keep up with them at the park or miss out because you’re tired.” — Scott, 36, Washington  

3. It only gets better

“When you’re young you think about partying and late nights. They’re the most important things in life until you become a father. I wasn’t ready for my prior life to end until I held my baby on the first day, and it only got better. There’s a place for having fun while you’re young, but don’t think that’s meant to be it. Life really starts to get good when you feel your children enjoying your presence and loving every minute they spend with you. Whether your jokes are good or not, you always have a fan and it’s precious.” – Robert, 39, Vancouve

4. Allow your kids to make mistakes.

“I would tell myself that being impulsive and emotional doesn’t work out when nurturing a child. A child does so many things that will irritate you, but you need to look at the situation from a child’s perspective. Sometimes you need to bend down to their irrational demands or nod your head to their illogical questions. A rational adult is a byproduct of the mistakes made in their childhood, so allowing your child to make mistakes is one of the responsibilities of a good father.” – Isaac, 35, Indiana

5. Apologize when you screw up.

“My dad never apologized to anyone. So that’s how I was raised — thinking he was always right, even if I knew he wasn’t. When I became a father, that was all I knew how to do. I never wanted to admit mistakes. Not to my wife, not to my kids, and not to myself. As my kids got older, the tension grew and I realized that I was wrong for having that mindset. The first time I apologized to my daughter — like a genuine apology, for making an incorrect assumption when she was a teenager — it was revelatory. That vulnerability started building trust, and improved my relationship with my whole family. I wish I would’ve done it a lot sooner.” – John, 55, South Carolina

6. Remember that your children are different from each other

“For parents who have more than one kid, there’s this subconscious expectation that they can’t be that different since they came from the same parents. Wrong. They can and will be very different even if they’re both girls or boys. Don’t compare one to another, especially if you happen to prefer the one child’s character or attitude. Not only will you subconsciously build in them the need to compete, but you’ll also cause one to be ashamed of something that they shouldn’t be ashamed of.” – Ian, 38, California

7. Stop comparing yourself

“I’m a father of five, and one thing I would tell my younger self is not to worry about what everyone else is doing. Don’t compare yourself to other dads out there. Instead, ask yourself: Are you having a better day today than you were yesterday? If the answer is ‘no’, then you need to figure out why, and work on it. If the answer is ‘yes’, that’s reason to celebrate while still knowing you can always improve. Never compete with your parenting. Just work on being a better you every chance you get.” – Greg, 45, Kentucky 

8. The most important thing your children need is wisdom.

“I always thought I would be fine if I committed to bringing in the money, and supporting my family that way. It was only after my divorce that I realized what a huge mistake that was. As a single parent, I started sharing with them stories of my experiences and lessons I learned the hard way. These were lessons about responsibility, about life getting tough, and about teaching myself to see challenges as opportunities. Those talks brought us closer, and my kids began telling me about the significant events in their lives while asking for advice. None of that would have happened if the only thing they had gotten from me was money.”  – Elliott, 56, Toronto

Honoring MLK Jr. With Service

Dr. King was the central voice for the movement in the quest for equality.  Today, we continue to strive for equality, looking to community leaders to lend their voices, time and action to help those who struggle with adversity, poverty, oppression and unfair treatment.

With so many great former NFL players doing charitable work in their communities, we encourage all former players to meet up with their local NFLPA Chapters, get involved with or start an effort in their community, and to let us know so we can continue to champion your great work in 2022 and beyond.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

What You’re Getting Wrong in Relationships

What if everything you think you know about relationships is wrong? 

Ok, maybe not everything, but relationships are complicated and your training is limited. Just think, how did you learn about relationships? Perhaps you picked up some tips from your parents, watching TV, chatting with friends, or good old-fashioned trial and error. Unfortunately, these sources can’t guarantee true expertise about having a healthy relationship. The result? It’s impossible to know if you’re relying on well-established fact, or well-intentioned fiction. 

To set the record straight, I reached out to an all-star group of top relationship experts to get their insights. Specifically, I asked them what couples most commonly get wrong. In other words, the myths, mistakes, and blind spots that unknowingly undermine relationships. Plus, they gave some tips for how to get it right. 

The Experts

Dr. Helen Fisher: Biological Anthropologist, Senior Research Fellow The Kinsey Institute, and Chief Science Advisor to Match.com; Author of Anatomy of Love.

Men are Misunderstood—The pandemic produced an historic change in courtship—toward post-traumatic growth. Prior to Covid, 58 perent of singles wanted to settle down; today 76 percent want a committed relationship. And, men are leading the way. People misunderstand men. In my Match.com studies on over 55,000 single Americans (not Match members), men fall in love faster and more often; they want to move in together faster, and they are more likely to believe that a ‘hook up’ can lead to love. Today, men are far more likely to want a committed relationship within the next year. Commitment is the new sexy. 

Dr. Gary Lewandowski: Author of Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them

What is Love?—It’s easy to fall in love because of intense physical attraction and passion. But, making that deep passion the foundation of your relationship can be problematic because it quickly fades. For a stronger relationship, focus more on companionate love, or the ways in which your partner is your best friend, such as shared interests, the time you enjoy spending together, and mutual respect. Those are the true key to lasting love.

Damona Hoffman: Certified Dating Coach and Host of The Dates & Mates Podcast

The Soulmate Myth—Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe in soulmates: the idea that there is one single person who is your perfect match. While it’s a charming idea for a rom-com or fairytale, in practice it leads people who are single to be constantly on the quest for perfection among those they date in search of this magical soulmate feeling that is ultimately unattainable. In relationships, the belief in soulmates keeps us from being willing to accept our partner’s flaws and see them as imperfect humans who are learning and growing alongside us. The reality is that there are many possible matches out there for you and it’s really about finding someone who aligns with your values and goals for the future to partner with for this wild ride we call life. 

Jaime Bronstein, LCSW: Licensed Relationship Therapist and host of “Love Talk Live” on LA Talk Radio.

Always Happy?—It’s easy to think that you have to be happy in your relationship all the time, but the truth is, we are all human, and no one is happy all the time. If there is a blip in the relationship, so long as both people are willing to work through it, things can get better, and you can restore your level of happiness. Relationships ebb and flow and are forever changing, so it’s essential to be flexible and roll with the changes. As long as you grow together and do not grow apart, your relationship is in great shape! 

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Host of the Dr. Wendy Walsh Show on iHeart Radio and the podcast, Mating Matters.

Different Ways to Love—People think that all humans feel the same when they are in love. That misconception prompts a bunch of “shoulds,” as in, “If they really loved me then they should…” But, the truth is that there are probably as many versions of love as there are people. You’ve got people with a secure attachment style where love may feel pleasurable, peaceful, and safe. Or, you’ve got people with an insecure attachment style, where the excitement of love may combine with feelings of fear and anxiety. And these people may be in a relationship together! Knowing and having compassion for each other’s attachment styles is the key to love. There’s more than one right way to be human, and there are many ways to feel love. 

Susan Winter: Bestselling Author of Breakup Triage and Allowing Magnificence.

Love Equals Intuition—“If my partner loves me, they should know what’s wrong.” Not so. Love doesn’t grant our partner telepathy. Clearly communicating our feelings is what aids our mate in understanding how to support us and our emotional needs.

8 Big Signs Your Marriage Isn’t in Trouble

You know what you and your partner need to work on (because you talk about it, right?) but it’s easy to get so bogged down in the whole being-better-than-yesterday thing that you lose sight of — or don’t take the time to appreciate — the areas where you succeed. It’s a natural impulse (we humans are, after all, wired to focus more on the negative) but one to actively fight. Because in focusing on what works — whether that’s discussing each other’s points of view openly, making time for fun in your relationship, or being able to enjoy a quiet silence together — we’re able to live in the moment and enjoy the small victories. That’s a big win. So, in the effort of helping you focus on just that, here are some eight signs your relationship is doing alright. 

1. You Know You’re a Work in Progress (And You’re Willing to Do the Work) 

It’s easy to look at other couples and think Why aren’t we more like them? or to list out all the ways your relationship could be better. While comparison is the thief of joy, it’s good to have goals and keep in mind some points of improvement so forward progress can be made. Healthy couples understand that they haven’t reached perfection, and that they probably never will. They do, however, have a vision of where they want their relationship to go and are committed to doing what it takes to get there. “They understand the power of yet,” says Kathryn Ford, MD, a practicing psychotherapist and couples therapist. “As in, ‘We’re not good at offering positive comments — yet!’ The most important attribute of a good relationship is the ability to learn.” 

2. You Take Risks (And You Encourage Your Spouse to As Well) 

Trying new things, and supporting your partner when they are inspired to, say, take a new class, learn a new skill, or embark on a unique adventure, helps keep the marriage fresh. Importantly, it also provides opportunities for you to learn and grow, both independently and together. Healthy couples know to prioritize risk and to stretch beyond their comfort zone. “This means that you will fumble and make mistakes,” Ford says. “In a good relationship, you encourage each other to do this – rewarding the effort even when the results aren’t yet what you hope for.” 

3. You Have Different Points of View (And You’re Open to Them) 

Healthy couples own and explore each other’s respective points of view. When you want different things, you don’t spend the discussion trying to get your way or digging in your heels on the opposite side just to spite your partner. Instead, you hear what they have to say, take it into consideration, and vice versa. Then, you compromise or relent based on whatever factors are involved. Will it be easy? No. But it’s a balance. “Treat all ideas offered as valuable,” says Ford, “and then both of you play with all points of view instead of owning one and getting into a tug of war about who’s right.”

4. You Don’t Always Talk When You’re Alone (And That’s Okay) 

Comfortable silences speak volumes. Healthy couples understand that not every moment alone together requires that the two of you have some deep and meaningful discussion. Sometimes just being together is enough. “No, you aren’t required by some command of the universe to get absolutely everything off of your chest the moment you feel it,” says Lee Wilson, a relationship coach with 20 years of experience. “That doesn’t mean that you keep everything bottled up or that you don’t have disagreements. It means that sometimes it’s a great thing after a busy day to be able to say nothing while simply resting with the one you love.”

5. You Don’t Tell Your Spouse Everything (Because It’s Unnecessary) 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be honest with your spouse. You very much should. What healthy couples understand is that they don’t need to do is voice every concern, every flaw, and every negative trait that you see in your partner. “Your job as a spouse is not to make your spouse a better person. Your job is to love your spouse,” says Wilson. “People often become better versions of themselves when they feel loved and feeling that their spouse is overly critical often has the exact opposite impact.”

What Every Parent Needs To Know About Kids And Suicidal Thoughts

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement this week to warn of “soaring rates of mental health challenges” among children, teens and their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening a crisis that had already existed.

“Rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide rose steadily between 2010 and 2020 and by 2018 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24,” the groups said. “The pandemic has intensified this crisis: Across the country we have witnessed dramatic increases in Emergency Department visits for all mental health emergencies including suspected suicide attempts.”

Of course, no parent wants to contemplate the possibility that their child is actively thinking of harming themselves or having more passive suicidal ideation. But as the recent crisis declaration lays bare, many children are. And prior research suggests that roughly half of parents whose children consider suicide have no idea.

With that in mind, here are some basics every parent needs to know. 

Suicidal ideation occurs on a spectrum

“Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts about committing suicide. It varies along a continuum,” Steven Meyers, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Illinois, told HuffPost. “Passive ideation is when someone thinks that others would be better if they weren’t alive. Active ideation means that the person is developing a plan to harm themselves.”

Meyers noted that brief moments of suicidal ideation are “fairly common among children and teenagers” as well as adults, and most won’t self-harm. But it can be difficult to determine how dire a person’s thoughts are.

That’s just one reason why it is so challenging for mental health professionals to get an accurate sense of how many children grapple with suicidal ideation — compounded by the fact that many children don’t open up about their feelings, and when they do, they’re sometimes brushed off. 

Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that suicidal ideation is on the rise. And while not all children who have suicidal thoughts go on to harm themselves, suicide remains a leading cause of death among children age 10 and up in this country, and suicide attempts among adolescents have increased significantly during the pandemic.

This information is difficult to hear. But it’s not meant to unnecessarily frighten parents. Rather, it simply helps illustrate how widespread this issue is. As Clark Flatt, president of the Jason Foundation ― a nonprofit that he and his family began after his younger son, Jason, died by suicide ― previously told HuffPost, this is something every parent should be aware of. “I see it all the time — parents will read about suicide or hear about a study like this and say, ‘Gee, that’s a terrible thing. How sad for those families.’ But they have what I call not-my-kid syndrome.”

Even very young kids can have suicidal thoughts

Youth suicide, as an issue, is often associated with adolescents and teenagers, but recent studies suggest that anywhere between 2 and 10% of children as young as 9 and 10 have thought about suicide. Research has also shown that children as young as 5 may be at risk of suicide.

That’s why parents need to take it seriously if a young child talks about suicide ― or perhaps even writes or draws about it ― and need to know what signs to look for, including (but not limited to) problems eating and sleeping, becoming withdrawn or isolated, and talking about feeling hopeless.

Don’t wait for these conversations to feel easy

“The majority of parents will find these conversations really hard, and it is painful to think that your own child could be feeling this level of desperation,” Meyers said. Still, it’s important for parents to talk to children about their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. If you lay that groundwork early, you’re better able to spot more serious problems as they arise.

It’s important to tailor conversations to a child’s age, Meyers said, and to ease into such talks. Mental health professionals use a “tiered approach,” he explained.

“It begins with a less threatening talk about negative feelings, frustrations, and mood. When there are problems that are evident, the wording becomes more specific, but does not necessarily feature the term ‘killing yourself,’” he said. “Most therapists will focus on passive suicidal ideation by asking questions like, ‘Have you ever felt like just giving up?’”

Happy New Year

From all of us here at the Professional Athletes Foundation, we hope you are optimistic about the coming year. There is plenty to be concerned about; however, the PAF is here for you and your loved ones with resources and events to help you realize happy and healthy lives. Whether you need small advice or meaningful programs, our entire team will continue to work hard to support your needs with physical health and mental wellness, financial stability, professional growth and connection with your former player community.

To health, to happiness and to our fraternity of former players!

Happy Holidays from the PAF

No matter what you celebrate, this time of year is the perfect time to put your family first, solidifying the relationships that matter most, and begin to prioritize for the new year.

Here at the PAF, we wish you the best over the next few weeks, including love and happiness.

We are committed to continue to find and provide you the information you need to navigate your post-football life in the most successful way possible.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza…Happy Holidays and may you have a memorable New Year.

-Your family at the Professional Athletes Foundation.

4 Keys to Making a Relationship Work

John and Julie Gottman have studied, with unusual rigor and for 40-plus years now, what makes relationships work. Their findings are summarized in the book Eight Dates.

“Eight dates” refers to regularly scheduled meetings in which the couple talks respectfully about big issues: trust, conflict, sex, money, family, adventure, spirituality, and dreams. A few of my clients, as well as my wife and I, have done some variant of the eight dates, and we all feel it’s been worthwhile.

More Gottman Nuggets

Here’s other core advice from the Gottmans, plus my yes-ands and yes-buts.

1. Never stop being curious about your partner. That may seem pie-in-the-sky but it can be realistic. The Gottmans urge us to ask our partner open-ended questions. The following are those I’ve recommended to clients and that my wife and I have discussed to advantage:

  • Tell me a story about you, now or in your past.
  • Do you have any dreams, not necessarily when sleeping but about your future?
  • Do you ever wonder if that’s all there is, I mean career-wise, relationship-wise, otherwise?
  • Your parents don’t display much emotion, and you’re kind of that way. Has that served you well?
  • You want to have kids more than I do. What, deep down, do you think is the main driver of that?
  • I know you’re a Democrat, but why are you a Democrat?
  • You believe in God. In the face of evidence to the contrary, what makes you have faith in God?
  • How are you feeling about your substance use?

Or you could ask something quite general, for example,

  • How are you feeling?

2. Conflict is inevitable. Key is accepting the immutable and attempting to resolve the others in a statesman-like way.

The Gottmans’ research found that 69% of conflicts never get resolved and the key is how to deal with the 31%. Of course, that begs the question of how to figure out whether a conflict is likely to be resolved. Well, here’s an example of how you might constructively have such a discussion:

You: We argue a lot about your spending, my rushing in sex, and my being less enthusiastic than you are about spending time with your parents. Do you think those issues are in the 69% of the 31%?

Your partner: Maybe it’s easiest if we start with the issue of visiting my parents.

You: I think we can agree that your parents think I’m a know-it-all and I think they’re, well, lackluster. Without a personality transplant, do you think either is likely to change?

Your partner: No. So, it sounds like you’re making me mainly go see them by myself.

You: If I had my druthers, yes. But might the statesman-like thing to do be for me to join you when it’s particularly important to you and/or them and, other times, you do go without me? And of course, you can supplement the visits with phone and FaceTime calls. Does that seem reasonable?

Your partner: It depends on how often you think it’s important for you to go. I’m afraid you’ll want to go just once or twice a year. I like visiting them every two weeks.

You: What if we, as an initial benchmark, aim for my going half the time, say once a month. Can you live with that?

Your partner: Well, we can try it. But, in a month, let’s agree to revisit the plan.

You: Fair enough. (If it feels right, give your partner a hug.)

Study links sleep breathing disorders to severe COVID-19 outcomes

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and the disease remains highly variable from patient to patient, it is critical to improve our ability to predict who will have more severe illness so that we can appropriately allocate resources,” says Dr. Reena Mehra. 

Dr. Mehra is the senior investigator of the new Cleveland Clinic study, which has identified certain sleep disorders as factors that may result in more severe COVID-19 outcomes.

The study finds that people with COVID-19 who experience sleep disordered breathing have a 31% higher likelihood of hospitalization and death.

The study authors write, “Chronic exposure to sleep-related hypoxia may serve as a priming mechanism to the untoward consequences of COVID-19 illness.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Cinthya Peña Orbea, explained to Medical News Today:

“It is possible that increased hypoxia caused by disordered breathing during sleep leads to increased inflammation in different organs in our body, including the brain, lungs, and heart, resulting in more severe COVID-19.”

The research found no evidence that any of the breathing disorders makes a person more likely to acquire SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sleep medicine specialist Dr. Atul Malhotra, who was not involved in the study, told MNT that there is likely a much simpler reason that many people contract the infection:

“I think the risk of who gets [the infection] is probably related to wearing a mask and getting vaccinated and also social distancing, those kinds of things.”

The Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center in Cleveland, OH. The new study has been published in JAMA Network Open.

What is sleep disordered breathing?

Sleep disordered breathing is a common syndrome, characterized by an abnormal respiratory pattern during sleep. It includes snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea. Recent data suggests that it affects 1 billion people globally.

The syndrome is known to cause hypoxia, an insufficient supply of oxygen. “Hypoxia” is also used as shorthand for “hypoxemia,” which refers to an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood.

Snoring

“Between a third and half of people snore,” said Dr. Malhotra. “Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.”

“So,” he continued, “when we worry about snoring is if it’s habitual, like they snore all night every night, or if it’s very loud, where the spouse is in a different room. The other time you worry about it is if somebody has daytime sleepiness. Then we take it more seriously.”

“But what I usually say is just, ‘If you’re concerned about it, talk to your doctor.’ There are different questionnaires that have been validated, but basically, the history and physical exam can be quite helpful.”

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the perfect day to let your family and friends know how important they are to you.  As a former player, your closest friends and your family have likely been a part of your journey on the field and transitioning to life after football.  Make sure they know how thankful you are to have them in your corner.

We wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving and want to thank each and every one of you for coming to yourPAF.com and being a part of our family.

Why Chemistry Is Mistaken for Compatibility

My tenth-grade chemistry teacher warned, be careful with these substances because some don’t mix well together. 

Since then, I have learned the same is true about relationships. Just because there is an initial explosive reaction, it doesn’t mean a Fourth of July parade will follow. We mistakenly convince ourselves if the fireworks are present, it is validation that a compatible match is knocking on our door. If the rockets of euphoria do not launch, we tell ourselves to close that door.

A former client who described himself as a confirmed, unhappy bachelor sat across from me, calmly describing a recent second date he had, “We laughed and talked about our crazy interest in quirky books and off-peak travel. She is different from what I am used to. I was so relaxed.”

Before he could finish his next thought, I said, “It sounds like some great chemistry is brewing.”

He laughed and commented, ” I was just going to say, it’s a shame I didn’t feel any chemistry with her.”

I encouraged him to give it at least five dates since he enjoyed her company. They were married 18 months later. He shared that their second child was on the way during the last update I received, and he was living in bliss.

As a mental health educator focused on helping people navigate the nuances of relationships, one of the classic mistakes I have seen over the years is individuals tricking themselves into falling for a partner based on a fleeting chemical reaction.

A woman told me,

Sheila when I met him, there was so much heat between us. We rarely went out. We just wanted to be alone together all the time- we could not keep our hands off each other. Today we are struggling and have nothing in common. I hang on because we once really had something.

Herein lies the moment of self-deception.

Did she really have something? A more appropriate statement would have been that we once had something based on a fleeting physical attraction.

The infamous Mount Fuji Volcano last erupted in 1707 – no doubt, a remarkable sight. Can you imagine standing at the base of this volcano for 400 years, waiting for the next combustible reaction? Of course not. Those cataclysmic burst are not built to last- it’s a mistake to insist that they do. 

Chemistry can signal the mix is compatible, yet compatibility goes the distance in relationships. Compatibility allows couples to enjoy the warmth of a consistently cozy- sometimes roaring fire- without falling into chilly relationship states, desperate for a bit of heat.

Three key questions to ask yourself on the quest to secure a suitable mate are:

  1. Based on who I am, what main characteristics do I require from a mate to enjoy a harmonious relationship?
  2. Beyond a physical attraction, what am I seeing and experiencing with this person that leads me to believe we are compatible?
  3. Do this person’s core values, standards, and communication style mirror my own?

The time to gain clarity around compatibility factors is when you’re on the shore enjoying the sun and sand, not in the middle of the ocean sailing.

The primary reasons relationships fail are cheating and high conflict. These issues are far less likely to rear their ugly heads in compatible pairings.

This Was My Proudest Moment As a Dad (So Far)

The little victories here, the little mess-ups there can make it feel as though you’re barely scraping by. But then one day your child does something that takes you by surprise. No, not making an epic fart noise or nailing a great top-rope move onto you from the arm of the couch (but those are still awesome). We’re talking about moments of kindness, empathy, fearlessness, or creativity that stop you in your tracks, fill you with pride, and make you think “Huh, I guess we’re doing alright.” It’s essential to think back on these moments and give yourself permission to feel good about them. That’s coal for the engine. To that end, we asked 14 dads to think on and share their proudest moment. Here’s what they said.

1. When My Toddler “Opened Her Own Business”

“One of the proudest moments I’ve ever had was when my daughter was four. I’ve been a business owner for years now, and I burst with pride when she told me she wanted to open her own business. She wanted to open her own organic fruit flavored bubbles business because, ‘There are no bubbles you can eat that taste good.’ It was adorable and I had to laugh at her delegation skills, because she was the ‘idea person’ and I was ‘the worker’ to make all the bubbles she needed to create. As silly as it was, I was proud of her for her entrepreneurial spirit.” – Glen, 32, Texas

2. When My Son Earned His Black Belt

My proudest moment was when my son earned his black belt in tae kwon do. My wife was also going for her black belt at the same time, so there was a little friendly competition between them. The week following the test, we waited for the phone call from their instructor and, when it finally came, we learned that my son had passed but my wife hadn’t. She was disappointed, but so proud of our son. She passed after two more attempts, which proved how difficult the test actually was, and reminded us both how proud we were of our son and our family.” – Chris, 46, England

3. When My Son Donated His Savings.

“I’m a parent of two boys — six and two — so I’ve experienced tons of moments where I’ve felt proud of them. But the proudest moment in my life, as a father, was when my six year old learned about Hurricane Ida. After hearing about its impact, he asked to donate the money he had saved for a trip to Disneyland. I took him to the American Red Cross the next day, and he brought his piggy bank.” – Bill, 41, Wyoming 

4. When My Son Stopped a Friend from Getting Bullied.

“Spoiler alert: my son got beat up. But I was told he did it because he stood up to a kid who was bullying another kid. He doesn’t even know the kid that well – the one being bullied – which I think is what made me so proud. Like he was just doing the right thing. He saw someone being picked on, and he got involved. That shows courage and selflessness in a way I’m not sure I had when I was his age. Like I said, he took a beating. But he wasn’t even upset. He almost didn’t get that what he did was the ‘right thing’. It was more like, ‘Someone was being bullied. What else was I supposed to do? Just let it happen?’ As a dad, that’s a huge reason to be proud.” – Michael, 40, Texas

5. When My Daughter Went Zip-lining.

“Growing up, I didn’t have a very close relationship with my father. Now that I have kids of my own, I have put in a tremendous amount of time since they were born to ensure that I am there when they need me. One of the proudest moments I had with my daughter was when we visited Guatemala. We had planned to go zip-lining but, since she’s so scared of heights, I wasn’t sure if she would. She made us so proud when she didn’t show any hesitation the moment they harnessed her up. And, even better, she didn’t have any regrets after, and overcame her fear of heights.” – Alex, California 

6. When My Son Assisted an Elderly Woman

“I’m the father of two toddlers, and we do our best to raise them as good, respectful boys. One time, while we were with them in preschool, an older woman who was there for her grandchild, was sitting in the waiting area. Once it was time to fetch the kid, she stood up, ready to get him as he came out. My son was also running towards me, but then when he saw the old lady, she began walking slowly, took her hand and said ‘Are you okay? Be careful!’ The woman appreciated the gesture, and allowed him to walk her to the door. I was so proud to see my son growing into such a kind-hearted, responsible person.” – Ian, 38, California

7. When My Son Helped Me Shovel the Driveway

“He’s 7, and one winter day we got completely snowed in. I was out working for about an hour when I turned around and saw my son standing there with his little toy shovel ready to help. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that he didn’t want me to have to do it all by myself. I was actually close to being finished by the time he came out, but he was able to scrape up some of the little patches at the end of the driveway. The snow stayed for a while, but the gesture melted my heart as a very proud father.” — Robert, 42, Maryland 

8. When My Daughter Comforted a Girl at the Dentist

“My daughter is pretty brave when it comes to just about everything. So, in this situation, it wasn’t her bravery I was super proud of, it was her compassion. We were walking out of her dentist appointment, at which she’d had her first cavity taken care of. There was another girl in the waiting room with her mother, obviously very scared. My daughter walked over to her and asked if she was afraid and, when she said she was, my daughter told her the dentist was really nice, and she didn’t need to be scared. The girl smiled, which hit me in the feels, and my daughter said the whole thing with a numb mouth and extra drool, which made it super cute.” – Darrell, 37, Ohio 

How Self-Determination Theory Can Help Parents Raise Independent Kids

After all, control in the form of harsh discipline, ultimatums, yelling or coercion often feels like the best way to protect children and teach them to be good people. But a child who is forced to behave isn’t an independent and self-determined child. So how do you raise a kid who will be autonomous and make life easier by reducing caregiving burdens? That’s a puzzle that might best be solved by self-determination theory.

What is Self-Determination Theory

Introduced to psychology in the 1980s by Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan, self-determination theory (or SDT) suggests that people perform best when three fundamental needs are satisfied: They feel a sense of autonomy, experience mastery and competence and feel a genuine connection to others. And research seems to suggest that’s as true for adults as it is for kids.

“SDT proposes that when children understand why something is important they feel autonomous,” explains Dr. Genevieve Mageau, a researcher and psychology professor at University of Montreal. “They can act in a structured environment and feel completely autonomous if they agree with the rules and the structure.”

Importantly, SDT says parents are being counterproductive when they attempt to force a child into understanding through controlling methods like punishment, awards, yelling or coercion. “The controlling behaviors simply do not work for the internalization of values,” Mageau says. “When they feel controlled, children either resist or submit themselves. But they don’t necessarily take the time to reflect about whether what they’re doing is important.”

The Science of Parenting with Autonomy Support

There is research to show that when parents take the time to support their child’s autonomy, those children perform better. In 2007, for instance, a collaborative study between researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Illinois looked at psychological and academic outcomes in relation to autonomy supporting parenting. Researchers followed 806 Chinese and American seventh graders for 6 months, measuring self-reported levels of autonomy support or control from parents, along with the children’s own sense of emotional health and academic achievement. Grades were also measured.

Researchers found that reports of less control and more support of autonomy from parents were highly correlated with better academic achievement. But not only that, those children experienced increased levels of emotional and mental well being.

A more recent meta-analysis published in 2015 by researchers from the University of Texas Austin looked at 36 studies related to children and self-determination theory. The researchers wrote that they did, in fact, find a correlation between autonomy support and positive outcomes in academic achievement. But they also noted positive outcomes were seen in related areas including “autonomous motivation, psychological health, perceived competence, perceived control, engagement and effort, attitudes toward school, self-regulation, and executive functioning.”

Mageau notes that while these studies show the promise of SDT, there is also plenty of research that shows typical methods of parental discipline and behavior modification are counter productive. “Threatening children, punishment, guilt inducement. All those behaviors have been related to negative outcomes, repeatedly,” she explains. “What SDT does is show that any human being that feels controlled will not result in positive outcomes compared to when we support their autonomy.”

How to Raise Autonomous Kids via Self-Determination Theory

The main lesson that SDT offers parents is to give up a bit of control. But that doesn’t mean complete, hands-off, free-range parenting. Relinquishing control is more about finding new strategies that help a child understand why it’s important to act in a way parents want them to act.

2021 Holiday Gift Guide

What should you get for all the beloved but quirky, picky, fancy, practical or eccentric people in your life? Let our experts help. We’ve curated the best gifts to help you check everyone off your list. 

A note: Given supply chain issues this year, it’s especially important to check availability and delivery times.

(Click Read More for the full list of Guides)

A Step-by-Step Thanksgiving Checklist

But here’s the thing: Thanksgiving can be a real pain. Whether you’re keeping it simple or bringing in allthe out of state relatives, there’s plenty to do and the work starts days ahead of the actual event. 

To help keep you on track and reduce your headache (note we didn’t say “prevent” – we’re not that powerful), use this Thanksgiving checklist. It’ll help you plan and execute a Thanksgiving Day feast that is sure to impress your guests.

ONE WEEK BEFORE

You’ve got plenty of time…but not that much time. The week before is all about making sure everyone is on the same page, and that your house is in good working order.

  • Clean out your refrigerator to make room for the meal and leftovers 
  • Tidy up the house 
  • Confirm the number of guests who will be attending the dinner 
  • Determine if you have enough serving platters and place settings 
  • Borrow needed supplies or shop the thrift stores 

MONDAY

It’s too early to worry about most of the food items, but if you’re going the traditional route, you may need to start considering your turkey.

  • Defrost the turkey, allowing one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey 
  • Iron table linens

TUESDAY

Two days out from the big day, and it’s all about making sure you’ve got all the right ingredients and supplies in the house. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to run any errands past Tuesday.

  • Do your final shopping 
  • Write out a cooking schedule and timetable 
  • Clear out the coat closet for guests’ coats 
  • Clean the guest bathroom 
  • Clean entertainment areas including the living room and kitchen 
  • Plan time for any religious services or volunteer events before the dinner 

WEDNESDAY

The day before Thanksgiving is for every last thing that can be done ahead of time, clearing the way for a Thanksgiving day that’s 100% focused on those core food items. For maximum Turkey Day ease, you can even roast the turkey on Wednesday and re-warm ahead of your big gathering.

  • Set the table 
  • Set out Thanksgiving decorations 
  • Decide on a table centerpiece 
  • Prepare and refrigerate appropriate side dishes and desserts 
  • Prepare and refrigerate moist ingredients for the stuffing 
  • Decide what to wear and mentally take yourself through Thanksgiving Day 

THURSDAY

It’s the big day! If all goes well and you’ve followed your checklist, today should be pretty straightforward (and fun, don’t forget that part).

  • Eat breakfast 
  • Make the stuffing in the morning and stuff the turkey right before it’s ready to go in the oven 
  • Roast the turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh of the turkey indicates the internal temperature is 180°F and a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 165°-170°F
  • With the turkey resting, make the gravy
  • Within two hours after roasting, remove stuffing from turkey and carve meat off bones 
  • Enlist helpers to prepare the house for guests’ arrival 
  • Remove prepared side dishes from the refrigerator and bake 
  • Before guests arrive, delegate assignments to each family member 
  • Have a great Thanksgiving! 
  • Once guests leave, freeze or refrigerate any leftovers 

FRIDAY

If you’re off work on the day after Thanksgiving, now’s a great time to relax, clean, and reset your home and your head for the next holiday on the docket.

  • Remove any decorations 
  • Enlist family members to help re-tidy house 
  • Send thank you cards to people who helped with dinner 
  • Check out great Black Friday deals and specials 
  • Rest!

The Next Generation of You: Will Blackmon

by Jim Gehman

“Well, I went from a guy who enjoyed wine to a guy who wanted to learn and study more about wine, to become a guy who eventually wanted to start his own wine label,” said Blackmon, who started the business in the fall of 2019. “And so me doing my homework and research to start my own wine label, I learned a bunch of hurdles, and I was like, ‘You know what? I could be the middleman for people. I have such an extensive network of athletes and people in the wine industry, why don’t I just be the person who connects the dots?’”

Included in Wine Enthusiasts Top 40 Under 40 in 2020, Blackmon, a certified sommelier and dot connector, has been featured in several other wine publications.

The Wine MVP [www.thewinemvp.com] offers a subscription service.

“I partnered with a fine wine retailer, the Wine Exchange (in Santa Ana, CA), and basically, we pick two bottles that we think would fit in the subscription box, that has a cool story, and share it with our consumers,” Blackmon said. “The biggest thing is, I emphasize wine education versus actual lifestyle. Which is what inspired me.

“I want to be able to kind of take away the pretentious of wine and really teach it. Especially to a younger demographic like millennials. They’re getting more and more disconnected in the wine world because they associate it with rich and stuffy. And that is the case in some areas, but it doesn’t have to be like that. That’s kind of where I come in.”

The Wine MVP also offers a concierge service.

“Outside of providing wine education, I also want to be able to provide and curate experiences for people,” Blackmon said. “So those who want to travel to different wineries, I can help set that up. Or for people who want to have events or who want me to host tastings for them.”

What does Blackmon, who makes his home with his family in Southern California, enjoy most about what he’s doing?

“I just like having fun and making people happy. That’s the biggest thing. I’m in this industry with zero ego. I just like helping people,” Blackmon said. “Obviously we’re still dealing with COVID, but Napa Valley dealt with tons of fires, and I was more than happy to help out any way I could.

“So the fact that I’m selling someone else’s wine, I’m helping them. The fact that I’m getting people to come to their region, I’m helping that region. That’s my whole motive.

“And then also, too, those who want to learn about wine, but they’re intimidated or they’re afraid, they don’t know where to start, when they see someone like me talking about it and sharing it, it makes it more approachable. That’s my whole thing. It’s never about me. I’m just trying to be helpful.”

Families Are Reuniting for Their First Post-Vax Thanksgiving.

Tensions over the 2016 presidential election led some families to shorten Thanksgiving dinner that year to avoid conflict; others cut ties altogether with relatives whose politics differed. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll from 2016 found that one-third of respondents said they had gotten into a “heated” argument with family or friends in the wake of the presidential election.

The pandemic has created only more divides. Now that most American adults have been vaccinated against Covid, many families are having their first winter holiday gatherings in two years. It should be a joyous occasion. But some people are not inviting unvaccinated family members to Thanksgiving; others are scoffing at relatives who insist on masks.

“Now it’s no longer whether you just disagree about the long-term effects of climate change,” said Jill Suitor, a sociologist at Purdue University, where she leads a project investigating family conflict in 550 multigenerational families, “but whether you believe that having certain family members present poses a serious danger to other family members.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans believe the country has become more polarized since the pandemic — which is saying something, given that before the pandemic, 40 percent of people on both sides of the political aisle considered the other side “downright evil.”

The good news is that it’s possible to navigate this year’s unique holiday conflicts gracefully. Doing so requires understanding what’s really driving family tension this year, both political and personal. In many cases, according to psychologists, those classic fights about politics or where to spend Christmas are really about something much deeper, especially in 2021: a yearning for love, connection and, above all, belonging.

Psychologists have been studying belonging for decades. In a seminal paper published in 1995, the social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary argued that human beings have a powerful need to belong that largely stems from our evolutionary origins.

People feel a sense of belonging, according to Dr. Baumeister and Dr. Leary, when they have frequent positive interactions with others that are based on mutual care. With true belonging, you are valued for who you are intrinsically, and you value the other person in turn.

During the holidays, the yearning for belonging is supercharged. Jeanne Safer, a psychoanalyst in New York who specializes in family conflict, told me that many of her patients romanticize the holidays. They have a fantasy about what family life should be at this time of year — loving, happy, accepting and warm. When loved ones gather, they desperately want the fantasy to play out, hoping that old childhood wounds and unresolved issues will be healed. “Maybe this time, my parents will understand me. Maybe this time, my in-laws will accept me.” That fantasy is especially potent this year after so much time apart.

But such high hopes and expectations are usually dashed. There are so many opportunities to feel rejected during the holidays — and every encounter can become a referendum on how loved you are (or aren’t).

The Next Generation of You: Jake Ballard

by Jim Gehman

“I never took a redshirt year in college, but it’s almost is like what that was,” Ballard said. “I got used to the speed of the game and the offense and everybody in the organization. And once I was there, it helped me. I just kept building a bond every day and knew I could play with those guys. I just needed the right opportunity.”

That opportunity came the following season when Ballard became a starter and caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns. He helped the Giants go from making it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team to Super Bowl XLVI Champions.

Unfortunately, after catching two passes for 10 yards on Super Sunday, Ballard tore the ACL in his left knee in the second half of the game.

Spending the 2012 season on New England’s Injured Reserve, and playing in just eight games the following year for Arizona, Ballard realized that his injury was too much and he announced his retirement.

“It was definitely short and sweet, but I think I’m most proud that I actually started for a full year for the Giants,” Ballard said. “The year we won the Super Bowl, I was the third leading receiver on the team. And if I didn’t get hurt, I’m pretty sure I could have had a pretty long, successful, career.

“It’s hard to argue against it, but I’m proud I got the opportunity. I kind of ran with it and made it my own and helped a great team with great coaches and great players.”

Unlike his first career on the gridiron, Ballard’s second career in real estate is going as planned and as well as he would have hoped.

“I worked construction jobs in college in the summer, and always had an interest in that,” Ballard said. “And so once I got done with football, I thought I’d give the house thing a try and got my license so I could sell my flips. Then I decided I’d help people buy and sell, and dabble in flips and land development. I think it just started from having an interest in it early on.

“I wanted to play ball for 10-plus years like everyone else. I never thought I’d actually get into doing the flips, and a lot of the work, or being a real estate agent. It just kind of all panned out the way it did.”

Certified since 2014, Ballard is with the Howard Hanna Group in Columbus, Ohio.

“No house or no person’s the same and that keeps it interesting. I really enjoy just working with people. I’m not in the office, I’m out and about. And I can kind of control my destiny with it,” Ballard said.

“Playing football here and having a successful Ohio State career, I definitely made a name for myself. It doesn’t always get me deals, but a lot of times it does help me get my foot in the door and at least have meetings. I try to win them over from there.”

What advice would Ballard offer others, whether they’re still playing or have recently left the game?

“I would definitely encourage guys who are still playing to be actively thinking about what they’re going to do if football’s taken away from them tomorrow. It’s a violent game and you can’t control all the aspects. I think if guys thought more about that now, they’d be more prepared,” he said.

“You’re always going to have that kind of downtime after you’re done playing where you’re trying to find yourself and find what you want to do. But as long as you have an idea or a base to make that transition easier, because the whole world’s different once you’re done playing football, you have to hit the workforce like you’re an everyday Joe.”    

The Next Generation of You: Wendell Davis

by Jim Gehman

And later, after coaching wide receivers for the San Francisco 49ers and at Columbia University in New York City, Chicago became home again.

“I fell in love with Chicago during my playing days, playing in Soldier Field, and really enjoying the fans here, how much of a sports town Chicago is,” Davis said. “On top of that, you have the inspiring architecture that’s here, the great food, and all the great events that go on in Chicago. And then after saying all of that, I met the love of my life, my wife, Trish, in the Chicago area. That’s kept me here.”

In 2017, being an active member of the Chicago Chapter of the NFLPA Former Players, led Davis to a non-football related career with National Material, a steel processing company.

“I was brought in by Jim Osborne, who played with the Bears for 13 years. I met him through the PA years ago and he became a mentor of mine,” Davis said. “He had been with National Material for over 20 years and was getting ready to retire. They asked him to find a replacement, and he reached out to me. The next thing you know, I was hired.

“We are one of the oldest minority-owned steel companies in North America. We used to be in the steel manufacturing business, but now we buy steel from steel manufacturers and we add value to it for our customers.

“(The pandemic affected the business) momentarily, but the ownership prepared well for it. We were able to not totally bounce back yet, but hit the ground running.”

Davis is National Material’s Manager of Minority Development.

“I wear a couple of hats,” Davis said. “One of my hats is, I am charged with increasing higher diversity within our supply chain. So I basically help develop minority-owned companies to come in and compete for business with our suppliers. And then the other hat that I wear is, I go out and do business development. I help our sales team.

“(I enjoy) making a difference, having an impact. Especially in minority communities. It’s just not something that you’re doing to help minorities spin, but it’s making that spin count in the community, have an impact, and creating jobs.”

Davis, who is President of Chicago’s NFLPA Former Players Chapter, is also trying to create jobs for perspective pro football players as the wide receivers coach for HUB Football, which provides a link between players and teams.

“I just got involved with that this year. There’s a professional combine that’s put on in San Diego that I’ve been a part of,” Davis said. “It’s for kids that have just come out of college, kids that don’t get invited to the (NFL) combine (in Indianapolis). This came up especially during COVID. When the (NFL) combine was cancelled, this kind of took the place of it. We try to get guys a little recognition, give them an opportunity. (Showcase them for) not just the NFL, but the CFL and the Arena Leagues.”

The One Skill All Modern Couples Need to Master

What’s the one skill that will benefit couples the most right now? That is, what’s most important to helping you and your partner feel happier, more resilient, less resentful, and better able to endure the many stresses of marriage and raising kids? The answer, according to Dr. John Gottman, is simple: listening. That is, you must know how to listen to your partner with empathy, interest, and, importantly, without offering solutions. Whether your relationship is strong or struggling, he says mastering this communication skill is critical to success.

“Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Gottman. “One of the most powerful things you can do is be a great listener and just be there without trying to be helpful.”

Dr. Gottman is in many ways the father of modern marriage research. For more than 40 years, he and his wife, psychologist Dr. Julie Gottman, have studied thousands of relationships (heterosexual and same-sex) to understand what makes a marriage stable, what behaviors are predictive of divorce, and what couples can do to ensure their partnership is kind, happy, and fulfilling. Through the Gottman Institute and their breakthrough research at the “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, they’ve shaped much of modern marriage therapy, and are responsible for such findings as the magic formula for a happy marriage and “bids for connection,” among many other insights. Because of them, countless couples understand themselves and their relationships better.

The Drs. Gottman are also authors or co-authors of more than 40 books about relationships, the latest of which is Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. In it, they offer eight topics — from money and adventure to spirituality and sex — and outline a variety of fun, interesting questions for couples to ask about each on a date. The conversations are not about confrontation, but rather curious exploration to help couples of all ages and stages learn more about one another.

Fatherly spoke to Dr. John Gottman about the pandemic’s impact on modern marriages, the conversations couples should be having, and how to truly listen to and validate your partner’s feelings.

COVID and the changes it brought were tough on a lot of marriages. Couples were forced to really rethink and retool their relationships. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on what relationships have had to endure over this past year and a half?

Well, it seems like couples have gone in two different directions. Those who were distressed before the pandemic hit have gotten a lot worse. The relationships have included a lot more dysfunctional conflict, and we’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence.

And then other couples whose marriages were stronger before the pandemic have gotten stronger through it. They’ve had more time with each other. They’ve had more of a chance to get closer and really rethink their values as a couple and as individuals. And so, we’ve seen this split between relationships that were strong initially and relationships that were challenged initially.

How To Get Kids To Tell You About Their Day

He’ll spend hours talking to me about Pokemon or strange animal facts, but when it comes to opening up about his days, he typically maxes out at “good,” “fine,” or some version thereof. He seems pretty happy and well-settled, so I’m not especially worried about whether he’s actually struggling. Still, I’d like to know what happens in his life for seven hours a day.

So HuffPost Parents pulled together some strategies to help kids open up about their day, especially if they’re as quiet as my son.

Feed them first

It’s important for parents to recognize that it really does take more energy and effort for children to think back on their day and put that experience into words, according to Rebecca Jackson, vice president of programs and outcomes and a cognitive specialist at Brain Balance Achievement Center. The kids aren’t necessarily being obstinate or cagey on purpose. They might just be genuinely fried.

“Make sure they’ve had a snack with protein 20 to 30 minutes before you try and get them communicate so they have the fuel to do what maybe doesn’t come as naturally to them,” Jackson said.

Yes, sometimes it really is that simple.

Experiment with timing

Asking kids how they’re doing — and getting an actual, robust answer — often comes down to timing, Jackson said. When you pick them up, you’re probably really eager to hear all about their day because you missed them, but they might want nothing more than to just decompress. Is your child more likely to open up at bedtime? Is it better to save updates for the weekend?

Many parents find that it helps to use time in the car, whether that’s en route to school or to various activities, or when you’re out running errands together to catch up. It has a clear beginning and end — plus, kids don’t have to make direct eye contact with you when they’re opening up, which can be helpful.

Pair your questions with an activity

“When I want my son to open up, we go play catch,” Jackson said. “Then I can ask him questions and he’ll be super chatty.” Her daughter, on the other hand, is more inclined to talk about her day if they head to Starbucks or take a walk together.

Some evidence shows that changing up where you are and what you’re doing can have an impact on communication. Research suggests that having meetings while walking can be useful for adults because they make people feel more creative and can reduce mental fatigue. It’s not unreasonable to assume the same might be true of parents and children walking and talking together. 

Use information you already have about their classroom, teacher, etc.

Like kids, parents also need to do their homework, former teacher Christopher Persley wrote in a 2017 article for Lifehacker about getting kids to open up. That means learning as much as you can about your child’s teacher, their classmates, and their day-to-day schedule — and then using that information to help get conversations going.

“Take detailed notes at curriculum evenings and at parent-teacher conferences. I’ll even check out the school menu to see what the kids are having for lunch each day,” Persley said. “Having this information at your disposal makes it easier to formulate questions for your child.”

The curriculum night trick has been a lifesaver in my own home, and I’ve been using bits of information his teacher shared about the daily schedule and classroom structure to get my son to open up. (Bonus: He’s continually dazzled by my seemingly magical ability to know about things like circle time and the classroom helper.)

7 Rules All Divorced Dads Need to Follow

With 36% of all marriages ending in with that outcome, the United States has the third-highest divorce rate in the world. Perhaps a more heart-breaking statistic is that 50% of all American children will witness the end of their parents’ marriage. The impact can be life-changing. 

As a father, the way you manage the process of divorce, to get the best from a bad situation while ensuring your actions have little if any harmful impact upon your children, is vital. But what should you keep in mind? To offer some advice and hard-fought wisdom on the subject, we spoke to a variety of fathers-who’ve-been-there as well as divorce experts. Here is the divorce advice for men all dads should keep in mind. 

1. Don’t Go It Alone

“Do not attempt to manage a divorce without professional legal help,” insists Roy Smith, not his real name, a divorced father of two from Pennsylvania. “Although you might be tempted to ‘work things out’ you can soon find that co-parenting issues emerge, or something else like money gets in the way. It is best to consult with professionals and to use a mediator if possible.” 

Even if the initial separation runs relatively smoothly, be prepared for complications further down the line. “People tend to come to us when things have gone wrong – and our data shows that’s around three years after separation,” explains Adam Colthorpe, Chair of Trustees for Dadsunlimited.org, a UK-based advice and support service for parents, grandparents, and guardians. 

What tends to happen, per Colthorpe, is this: Things go fine for a while. But sooner or later one of the parents gets a new partner, or something else emerges that renews conflict. “These can be geographic changes – one parent moving home – or the children progressing from one age group to another, or a health issue occurring in a child,’ he says. 

2. Avoid Dishing Dirt

It’s crucial for both parties to either not discuss their ex or only mention them to the kids in a positive light, suggests Mediator Dori sSwirtz of DivorceHarmony. “It can only hurt the children if you speak negatively to them about their other parent,” she says. “ It’s best for Dads to focus on their own relationship with the kids and really tune in to their wants and needs.” 

In Shwirtz’s experience many dads actually grow closer to their kids with divorce. “Since they may have limited time together, they use that time to connect and appreciate their special relationship.” 

Roy Smith concurs. He advises dads to keep a level head and remember that your children need both parents. It’s important, he adds,  to not disparage the other parent in front of the children and not be passive-aggressive either — your kids can pick up on it. 

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about children is that on some level they understand that they are a split of their parents and when you disparage one, you are disparaging your child,” says Smith. 

3. Consider Mediation

“Mediation is a crucial piece of the puzzle for the majority of divorcing couples,” insists Shwirtz. Mediation empowers both parties to make the decisions for themselves. “When it comes to their mutual priority — the children — nobody knows what to do better than the parents.”

In most cases, Shwirtz adds, it’s in the best interest of the children if mom and dad are making the decisions via mediation and not a judge who knows nothing about them. “They are also more likely to carry out their agreement since it was made by them,” she says. 

Addressing and agreeing on issues via mediation at the earliest stage is vital, according to Roy Smith, who insists that it’s important to  avoid seeing divorce as a ‘closure’. 

“Certainly, there was a part of me that believed once we were divorced that parenting would be easier but this is not usually the case,” he says,  “I found that whatever issues are causing you to get divorced in the first place will most likely be present during the remainder of your co-parenting.”

4. Please Don’t Use Your Kids As Pawns

Children can easily become weapons in a battle between parents, witnessing raw emotions, and often being manipulated by one or both parents if things turn toxic. 

“I always tell both parties you can only control your own behavior when it comes to interactions with your children,” warns Shwirtz. “It can be frustrating sometimes if you don’t like what your ex is doing with the kids but as long as they’re not putting them in danger, you really don’t have a say anymore.”

Abide by any agreements, disentangle your children from arguments where possible, and don’t attempt to distort the reality of what they’re witnessing. 

“I was the victim of that in my situation,” explains Jonathan, not his real name, a separated father of two from New Jersey. “My ex would say things about me to our children whenever they were staying with her during our separation. Just lies in order to make me sound like it was all my fault. I tried to just stay the course, to make everything as stable as I could for them. I’d say things like ‘Mom’s just saying stuff because she’s not dealing with this very well. But inside I was angry and upset.”

What Kids Heading Back-to-School Need

School districts and parents across the country are focused on keeping children safe as they head back to school. These conversations are essential as we do everything to protect our kids’ health and learning through the pandemic. While evident and politically divisive measures like masks or distancing dominate the headlines, there are additional essential protections that kids need as we embark on another uncertain school year. 

Whether they have a mask in their backpack or not, every child brings harder-to-see strengths and vulnerabilities that will shape their learning and well-being. Let’s name and prioritize the protective measures that can buffer kids from the worst impacts of toxic stress and prepare them to navigate the challenges ahead. Perhaps most importantly, let’s create and sustain systems that don’t leave these protections up to chance.

The Power of Relationships

We only studied what was faulty in kids’ lives who were known to experience adversity for a long time. Over the recent decades, we’ve started asking what goes right in the lives of those same kids. A clear factor emerged when we looked for the positive childhood experiences that protect kids from poor outcomes: connectedness. According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, the single most common factor for developing resilience is at least one warm and committed relationship with an adult. 

Strong relationships alone will not solve all problems, nor are they substitutes for building equitable systems that support kids and families. But relationships are the active ingredient that potential solutions can’t do without.

What does that mean for us this fall? This might ensure that students are treated with unconditional positive regard at school and that their strengths and capacities are the anchors of connection. 

At home, this means staying connected with our kids through stressful times. Let’s be clear that connection with our kids doesn’t mean Instagram-ready perfection or forced positivity. Fun and happiness are parts of connection but aren’t the sum of it. Instead, a connection is communicating that we are on the same team in the face of a challenge. It’s avoiding power struggles and battles when we are setting boundaries. It’s communicating to kids that our relationships can handle their big feelings, even when messy and overwhelming.

A Need to Belong

We’ve spent nearly eighteen months figuring out creative ways to be physically distanced yet socially connected. But our social needs are not met by just being in proximity to others, and our fundamental need is to belong.

A sense of belonging in our schools, families, communities, and groups has been linked to better stress management, stronger relationships, higher levels of motivation and achievement, and greater feelings of happiness and optimism. The opposite feeling of not belonging puts people at higher risk of mental illness, poor physical health, and hopelessness.

The challenge is that belonging isn’t measured by simply participating in activities like eating dinner together as a family, showing up to school, or signing up for a group. Belonging is measured by how we feel about ourselves and others once we get there. 

While many often think about belonging in early adolescence, even very young children start to ask questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit?” Just take it from Mister Rogers, who knew how important it was for children to know that “I like you just the way you are.” 

We don’t do kids any favors by ignoring what makes them who they are. Kids deserve to feel included and valued because of, not despite, their identities, histories, and experiences. From early childhood through adolescence, kids need us to consistently communicate through policy and practice (“Your whole self is welcome here”).

Coping With Uncertainty

There are plenty of feelings and worries–large and small–that present themselves for kids, parents, and educators alike that can obstruct the ability to connect and problem-solve together. 

It can be tempting to respond to kids’ concerns with either heavy reassurance or by taking over completely. Psychotherapist and anxiety expert Lynne Lyons argues that when it comes to worrying, we would be much better off helping our kids “roll around with the uncertainty and go with the mights and maybes” than trying to persuade kids that everything will always be great and one hundred percent predictable. For example, distinguishing between things that are good to know, like basic routines, teacher assignments, or safety measures, and things that we can’t know or need to learn about as we go.

Acknowledging uncertainty doesn’t mean promoting chaos or ignoring sources of toxic stress, far from it. It is about acknowledging and naming emotions, breaking big and overwhelming tasks into more manageable parts, and learning and practicing skills to move through them. As Lyons reminds us, “The opposite of anxiety isn’t a certainty [it] is tolerating uncertainty.” Learning to tolerate (appropriate levels of) uncertainty involves everything from externalizing worry to practicing stress recovery skills to participating in collective solutions to our concerns.

How to Keep Nurturing Connection

If these past 18 months have forced us to evaluate anything, it’s the importance of connection. Be it through new technologies, outdoor activities, or the little pods we’ve packed into to stay safe, we’ve all had to find creative ways to make connection work in a world of social distancing. Nurturing our relationships is one of the most fulfilling pursuits in life. Here’s why it’s so important, and here are some suggestions for how to do it.

Research has linked people with strong social relationships to many aspects of health, from stronger immune responses to a cold to longevity itself. “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression… higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them,” according to a summation by Stanford Medicine. “Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

There is no magic number when it comes to connection. We don’t need to have a million friends or be an extrovert. Rather, it’s the closeness of the connections we have and our ways of maintaining those connections that make such a difference to the quality of our lives. To foster more enriching and enlivening relationships, we also have to get to know the barriers within ourselves that limit us or keep us from getting too close to others. Here are some things we can work on to help build and maintain stronger connections.

1. Consider Your Attachment Patterns

Attachment theory shows how, from a very young age, having a secure attachment is like having a safe platform from which we can venture out and explore the world. A secure attachment teaches us that we can trust and depend on others, while feeling secure within ourselves. It also creates a model of how we expect others to behave throughout our lives.

Human beings have a natural yearning to connect. We are born seeking what Dr. Daniel Siegel has called the four S’s of attachment: to feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. Yet, in childhood when we were first developing our patterns of attachment, hurtful events in which we didn’t experience one or more of these four elements may have led to insecure attachment patterns. In turn, we likely developed adaptations and defenses within us that left us more guarded when it comes to getting close to someone else. In order to remain in a vulnerable and open state, we have to stay alert to when these defenses are operating and actively work to stay connected. Understanding our early attachment patterns and adaptations can have a huge impact on how we feel and behave in our relationships.

2. Notice an Inner Critic Luring You to Be Alone

Think about all the times we isolate ourselves. Sometimes, it’s because we need rest, respite, or time to reflect. Other times, a more destructive force is at play. Most of us have a “critical inner voice” that coaches us and lures us into self-limiting behavior. This “voice” is often its loudest when we’re alone, so that’s where it likes us to be.

It can sound like a sadistic bully, chiming in with thoughts like, “Just keep to yourself. That person doesn’t really want to see you.” Other times, it may even sound soothing, feeding us thoughts like, “Why don’t you just be alone? You can have a drink and relax. You don’t need anyone anyway.” The problem is, once our inner critic has us alone, it can once again, become cruel, putting us down and keeping us from our feeling connected to others.

3. Be Generous With Yourself

To counter the directives of our inner critic, we can try to take actions that are in our best interest. This includes stepping outside ourselves and being generous with our time. Reaching out to friends, especially during this difficult period in all of our lives, asking questions, and showing an active interest in what someone’s going through are not just offerings to the other person but to ourselves. This helps us create deeper, more trusting bonds as well as to step outside ourselves and gain perspective on things going on in our own lives.

4. Give Connections the Time and Attention They Need

It’s easy to get lost in everything from our jobs and immediate responsibilities to our devices and endless streams of online entertainment. These things can certainly take up part of our days, but it’s important to carve out actual space for the people who matter to us. Any effort we make to be fully present for any amount of time is rich with rewards, whether it’s with our partner, our child, an old friend, or a new one. Being present brings out parts of us from which we can easily disconnect, or even feel as if we’ve lost, if they aren’t ignited by spending time with specific people. We should make the act of connecting a priority rather than regarding it as unimportant or a chore.

5. Repair Ruptures

Things inevitably happen in every relationship that cause ruptures. Miscommunications with our partner, arguments with our kids, times we “lose it” with a friend, all of these things will ultimately occur, because we are human. We come to any relationship armed with a tough inner critic and a complex attachment history, so there are bound to be ways we act in moments that we regret. The best thing we can do in these cases is to repair. This means owning our behavior, being open and direct, acknowledging what happened, and validating the other person’s experience (not necessarily by agreeing with everything they say, but by regarding their feelings and hearing them out with empathy). The reverse is true as well; when we have felt hurt by someone we are connected to, we can also attempt repair by reaching out, acknowledging our hurt, and trying to reach a shared understanding of what occurred between us.

The Minor Change That Made My Marriage So Much Better

While, yes, sometimes we must cinch up our khakis and really address major problems, it’s often the smaller changes — like scheduling time together, or learning one another’s love languages — that pay the most dividends. To that end, we spoke to eleven dads about the minor change they made that improved the level of communication and understanding as well as the overall quality of their marriages. Here’s what they did to nudge things in the right direction. 

1. I Began Scheduling Time with My Wife

“Not necessarily spending time together, but being aware of her day as well as my own. If she has a doctor’s appointment or is going to lunch with friends, I include a note in my schedule to take time to call and see how the visit went. I even set aside some time to remind myself to text her, just to see how she is doing. My wife has gone through some issues and I work in a very hectic workplace, but when I set aside time for her, my staff respects the fact that those times are for my wife and our marriage. Those little blocks of time haven’t just helped our marriage -— they’ve also helped ground me during times of stress.” – Brian, 51, Delaware.

2. We Started Saying “I Love You” Before Hanging Up

“My wife and I went through a rough period about a year ago where our conversations were very short and terse. It was like we were business associates, going over plans and responsibilities for the day, instead of enjoying talking to each other. It was awkward at first, but I started making sure I ended every phone conversation with ‘I love you.’ It took my wife by surprise, I think, but she would reflexively respond, ‘I love you, too.’ And that was sort of like our entry point into making our conversations less formal, and more personal. Now, we don’t hang up the phone or leave the house without saying it. Even if it’s quick, it’s a habit we can’t break, and it’s helped us start to reconnect little-by-little.” – Michael, 41, Ireland  

3. We pray together.

“When we put God at the center of our marriage, our marriage took off like never before.

I have heard it described like a triangle, with God at the top, the husband at the bottom right, and the wife at the bottom left. As both spouses move toward God together, they also grow closer to each other. Life is going to throw things your way that are going to cause you guys to drift apart, and without something to focus on together, it will be easy to drift away from each other. By praying together we became deliberate in our relationship to each other, keeping God at the center and both working together to grow closer.” – Harland, 60, Pennsylvania

4. I Started Tidying Up More Often

“During the initial lockdown of 2020, my marriage was put under severe strain. My wife and I both work online full-time, which was an economic blessing, but a marital curse. Without our nanny to help look after our 18 month old son, our lives dived into a messy chaos, with me being the sloth, and my wife operating as the borderline OCD clean freak. The trouble started off with a few expected martial tiffs, but after several months, it escalated toward animosity. 

Eventually, it became fundamentally obvious that I needed to drastically up my cleanliness as a man, father and husband. My days of throwing clothes on the floor and leaving the kitchen in a foul state came to an abrupt end. In essence, I experienced the marriage saving magic of tidying up. In addition to keeping my wife happy, it has also had a surprisingly powerful benefit on my mental health.” – Richard, 34, Connecticut   

5. I Began Waking Up Earlier Than My Wife

“My wife is a stay-at-home mom. She left her thriving career once she got pregnant and decided to focus on our children. After our second child was born, she had postpartum depression. I felt as though she was slipping away from me, so I decided to wake up earlier than she did to help her. I cooked breakfast for everyone, made coffee, and watered the plants. At first, she insisted that it was her responsibility, but I was hard-headed and just continued with it. After a few weeks, I saw that she seemed happier, calmer, and slowly recovered. She had more time for herself, and I realized that my responsibility wasn’t just to provide for my family — it was to prioritize her as well.”Scott, 41, California 

6. I Started Daily Journaling

“Last year in the middle of the pandemic, my wife and I were going through the challenges that everyone was facing: anxiety, isolation, and being around each other all the time. Basically, we were getting on each other’s nerves. In early May 2020, I began daily journaling of all the reasons that I loved her. Each day I was inspired to write something new. They were simple things, like going for a walk, or noticing the way her hair rested on her face. Whatever it was, I wrote it down and kept the list in my phone. This was challenging as we went through the ups and downs that all relationships go through, but I made sure never to miss a day. I journaled for an entire year, then took all the statements and added them to a custom book I made called 365 Ways I Love You. I included pictures we had taken throughout the year to correspond with many of the statements. She was extremely touched and, since then, we have been closer than ever.” – Rick, 50, Texas

7. I Started Doodling.

“I’m a very high-stress guy. It’s just who I am. I was formally diagnosed with anxiety about six years ago, and I’ve been through all kinds of therapy, tried medication, and done everything I can to try and manage it in a healthier way. My anxiety can be a huge strain on my family —  especially my wife, and I hated that. One day at work, I found myself doodling during a meeting. It probably wasn’t the best for my job performance, but something about it really chilled me out. So I decided to get a cheap sketchbook and a black marker to keep with me during the day. When I feel anxious, I doodle. Sometimes it’s at work. Sometimes it’s at home. Sometimes it’s for a few minutes. Sometimes it’s for an hour. It’s very therapeutic, and it helps me unravel what’s in my brain and make sense of it. That technique has been incredibly helpful for my marriage, not just because it helps relax me, but my wife really enjoys when I share my art with her.” – Jordan, 41, New York 

The Delta Variant: Everything Parents Need to Know About the COVID Mutation

Add this to the fact that kids under 12 are still unable to get the COVID vaccine and, yes, you have our attention.

But is it time to panic? In a word, no. While it is more transmissible, vaccines protect against the variant, and it does not seem to have changed the way COVID impacts children — which is to say, usually mildly. That’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get into it. Here’s everything parents need to know about the Delta variant. 

What is the Delta variant?

Delta is the coronavirus variant that was first identified in India, where it wreaked havoc before spreading to the UK and the rest of the world. It’s contributing to rising COVID rates in the U.S., where it’s now the cause of the vast majority of new cases.

Delta is driving an exponential increase in cases in the U.S., particularly in undervaccinated areas. In Florida in late July, more people were hospitalized with COVID than they were at at any other point in the pandemic, according to the COVID Data Dispatch. In late July, hospitalizations in Texas were up 300 percent compared to late June. But the impact of Delta is much less severe in well-vaccinated areas.

Does the Delta variant spread faster or differently?

The Delta variant is highly contagious. Some experts think that it’s twice as transmissible as the coronavirus that started the pandemic and 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. It’s likely the most transmissible variant yet. When indoors and without a mask, it only takes a second for one person to infect another with Delta, experts say. Note that being outdoors is much safer, though it’s unclear at this point how much when it comes to this variant. Leaked CDC documents recently revealed that Delta is as contagious as the chickenpox, although outside experts have been skeptical about this comparison.

What does this mean in real-world terms? Here’s one (terrifying) example: A CCTV camera in Australia documented two people passing each other briefly in a mall. One of the people infected the other despite only sharing airspace for a few seconds, genetic analysis confirmed. This situation is probably unusual, but it highlights just how transmissible Delta can be.

Is the Delta variant deadlier?

There’s not enough evidence yet to know whether the Delta variant kills more people. However, a large study in Scotland found that Delta leads to hospitalization at twice the rate of the Alpha variant. This suggests that it may cause more severe disease, but researchers can’t be certain yet.

However, some experts are ready to make the call. “The evidence seems to be tipping that [Delta’s] certainly causing more severe illness in children, due to the numbers of kids being hospitalized, more so than we’d ever seen previously during the pandemic,” Stanley Spinner, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care, told Fatherly.

But even if Delta turns out not to be more deadly, it can still cause issues because it will get more people sick, possibly leading to overcrowded hospitals, which can lead to more deaths.

Do the COVID vaccines stop Delta?

Vaccinated adults are becoming more and more concerned about breakthrough infections as the Delta variant spreads. But the available evidence supports that the vaccines are effective at stopping infection and severe disease from Delta, but not as effective as they were at protecting against other coronavirus variants. 

Listening to Understand Instead of Respond

As a couples therapist, a problem I see with every client is communication. More specifically, listening skills. Often, we may hear our partner’s words but not really know what it is they are saying or mean. Being a good listener means listening to understand instead of listening to respond. If we aren’t really listening then most of our communication is generally one-sided and we end up each having our own conversations. This often creates a lot of conflict in relationships.

How do I know I need to improve my listening? If you find that you often interrupt your partner or get impatient when they are speaking “too long,” you could benefit from being a better listener. Things you may hear your partner say are “You don’t get it,” “You aren’t listening,” “That’s not what I said, I feel unimportant.” This can indicate a problem with deeper understanding, especially during conflict.

When we are interested and having a positive interaction, it can be easy to listen. When there has been conflict or the subject is boring, this is usually when our listening skills start to deteriorate.

How to Be a Better Listener

Here are some tips that may help:

  • Suspend our own agenda. You can’t really listen when you are focused on what you want to say.
  • Be interested. Take a genuine interest in how your partner is feeling in the situation, if what they are saying doesn’t make sense, tune in more.
  • Be a reporter. Focus enough that you would be able to write an article about it. Sometimes taking notes can help you focus.
  • Ask questions. This is part of being interested as well, when someone asks questions for understanding, you can tell they are invested in understanding.
  • Make eye contact. Don’t look at your phone, look away, or roll your eyes. Eye contact is a great way to physically show you are listening.
  • Use minimal encouragers. Instead of staying silent, add in some acknowledgment like “mmhmm, yes, ok, that makes sense” and head nodding.
  • Avoid judgment. Focus more on understanding their perspective, find out why it is they feel the way they do.
  • Avoid advice-giving. Your partner doesn’t necessarily need your help to figure it out. If they ask for advice, that is the best time to give it.
  • Avoid defensiveness. Focus on their perspective for the time being.
  • Breathe and self-soothe if you get overwhelmed or flooded. It’s ok to ask for a break if you need one.
  • Provide a summary before you respond and give them a chance to correct or add anything.
  • Find something to validate about your partner’s feelings.
  • Ask your partner if they feel understood. If not, ask what you are missing, and if so, now it is finally your turn to respond.

15 At-Home Date Night Ideas For Busy Parents

But carving out time for fun and connection in your marriage — time that allows you remember who you are as partners and people and not just as parents — is incredibly important to happiness. That’s why we’d urge you to keep that date night on your calendar, but simply schedule some at-home date night ideas. Yeah, yeah, we’ve all been spending a lot of time indoors. But there are still plenty of ways to connect and enjoy one another’s company and make it feel special. In terms of what makes a great date night, well, it’s all about the energy you bring and what feels right to you. Like what you ask? Well, below is a variety of simple at-home date night ideas. Hopefully one will provide some inspiration. 

At-Home Date Night Ideas

  1. Ask Some Questions
    If your spouse had $5,000 right now to spend on one thing what would they blow it on? If they could talk to their teenage self what would they tell them? If they could shrink any animal down to house-cat-size and keep it as a pet, what would they choose? A night of getting to know one another by asking probing questions is genuinely fun (so long as you pepper in some fun ones). Why? The more you open up, the deeper a bond you’ll create. Sit on the couch with a glass of wine and fire a few off.  
  2. Have a Phone-Free Dinner
    That is, power your device down and just focus on one another for the entire meal. Maybe you tend to look at your phone too often; maybe you don’t. But this is an excellent exercise for carving out real time together. The simple act of proposing this makes the intention clear: “I want to focus on you and only you for the evening.” Ain’t that sweet? 
  3. Enjoy a No-Power Evening.
    Okay, don’t, like, switch off all the breakers and reset the clocks. But turn off the lights in the room where you’ll be. Light candles. Power down all your devices. Resolve to not watch TV. Play cards or board games. If you want to cosplay like it’s the Middle Ages to add to the vibe, hey that’s up to you. 
  4. Plan a DIY Spa Night
    Relaxation, anyone? Surprise your partner with a calming night in — or agree on a night of mutual relaxation. Buy a few fat bath bombs, face masks, and scrubs. Draw a bath. Light candles. Play some chill music. Whatever works for you. The key is to sink into the moment together and be down to enjoy a face mask. (Pro tip: Heat up towels and robes you use in the drier so they’re warm when you use them) 
  5. Bake a Big-Ass Cake Together
    Baking together is a great way to remember how well you operate. Find a recipe that seems way too advanced. Buy the ingredients. Listen to music. Get too much flour everywhere. 
  6. Have a Pizza Night
    Sure, you can order pizza. But what we’re talking about is making it from scratch: prep the dough, make a good sauce, plan out your toppings. It’s a fun way to connect and feed yourselves. Toss that dough in the air. Fire it in a hot oven. Get messy. Get creative. We have some great pizza-making advice from modern dough-maestro Ken Forkish. And if you want to take it outside, here’s a great recipe for grilled pizza. 
  7. Plan a Vacation
    Planning sounds like work, and it is. But it’s the fun type of shared work that enables you to talk about the places you want to see and stay in, the activities you want to do, the general vibe you want to experience. What’s more, giving yourselves a point on the horizon to look forward to has a ripple effect that does wonders for your happiness. 
  8. Listen to Music Together
    When was the last time you sat down with your spouse and listened to music that didn’t feature, say, a pint-sized shark or ice-wielding princess? We’re guessing it’s been a while. In any case, sitting together and listening to an album in its entirety is a great way to relax and focus on a piece of work, track-by-track, the way it was intended. Try it. Decide on an album. Listen. Talk about it afterwards. Chances are, there’ll be a lot to say. 
  9. Take an Exercise Class
    There’s a vast amount of virtual classes available online, which makes it easy to schedule one together. Ease of setup aside, exercise is an excellent way to bond ( stress relief, those sweet endorphins) and, if you’re both into working out, it gives you a chance to try a class your partner loves and vice versa. 
  10. Order a Big Fancy Desert
    When was the last time you shared a fancy dessert together? And no, we’re not talking about going to town on a shared gallon of Turkey Hill while watching Netflix. We mean finding something to share and savor and look forward to on a random Thursday because why the hell not? The best part about this is the anticipation, so talk about what kind of desert you want beforehand. Maybe Tiramisu from that little Italian place you used to go to that had the great corner booth? See, you’re getting into the moment already. 
  11. Have a DIY Drinks and Art Night
    Who says crafts are only for the kids? Grab a bottle or two of wine and some cheap canvases. Set up some paints. Give yourselves a theme and a time limit (at least an hour), and enjoy the creative exercise. Quietly working side by side is a great way to relax and focus on a shared activity that’s not on a screen. 

5 Toxic Behaviors Parents Engage In

There isn’t a clear-cut definition of what it means to engage in “toxic” behaviors — or to be a “toxic” parent — because it’s not a clinical term. When the behaviors or relationship are really toxic, though, it’s usually pretty easy to tell, like when parents are totally unsupportive, or when they manipulate their kids. In those cases, parents can inflict significant emotional and developmental damage, and may ultimately end up estranged from their adult children, a situation that is on the rise and more common than once thought.

Other times, however, they have habits or patterns of behavior that are less obviously toxic but still have the potential to do real harm. With that in mind, here are five relatively common toxic habits parents often have, without even realizing it.

1. Yelling 

Of course every parent yells sometimes (particularly during challenging times like navigating COVID-19), but when parents fall into the pattern of doing it too often, it can take a huge toll on their relationship with their children.

“It’s important for parents to recognize the difference between a misstep and behavior that does damage. In the best of all worlds, none of us would ever yell at a kid, but there isn’t anyone who hasn’t lost it now and again,” said Peg Streep, author of “Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life.”

“But there’s a huge difference between a one-off moment (hopefully followed by some repair such as ‘I am sorry I yelled. Let’s talk about it.’) and sustained bombardment, which the parent falsely frames as ‘discipline,’” she added.

Yelling does work in certain situations, like when your child is doing something really dangerous or harmful and you need to get their attention fast. But beyond that, research shows it’s not an effective form of getting kids to change their behavior. Plus, research shows it can lower kids’ self-esteem and ultimately lead them to develop more aggressive behaviors themselves.

It’s hard to know how much yelling is too much, but if you find yourself justifying or rationalizing your behavior fairly often (thinking things like, “Well, she’ll never listen to me if I don’t yell”) that could be a red flag, Streep said.

And when you feel the urge to yell, do literally anything else — even cluck like a chicken, Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids,” previously told HuffPost.

“Do whatever it takes to calm down and get the tension out of your body so you can refocus and reengage with your kids. It might take a few minutes, but that’s OK,” she said.

2. Comparing siblings

When you have multiple kiddos at home, it’s easy to spend time pondering how different or alike they are, even from the earliest age. (I personally remember being pregnant with my second and spending a lot of time thinking about his kicks and movements stacked up next to his brother’s.)

But comparing children even in small, seemingly insignificant ways can take a toll.

“If you have more than one child, please make an effort not to compare them out loud, either to motivate or to discipline; this is such common behavior — the fancy name is parental differential treatment — that it even has an acronym (PDT) that’s used in research articles,” Streep said.

One study looking at the academic success of first- and second-born kids in the U.S. analyzed children’s report cards and interviewed their parents to get their sense of how capable the kids were on their own and relative to each other. “Researchers found that the teenagers’ future report card grades were influenced by their parents’ beliefs as to which child was smarter, even though these parental beliefs weren’t based on past grades,” explained Today’s Parent.

3. Labeling

In the same way that comparing children can be a really toxic behavior, labeling kids as anything — good or bad — is potentially harmful as well. Labels can become self-fulfilling and can be really hard to shake. And even seemingly positive labels can be problematic to the point of being toxic, experts warn.

8 Communication Exercises That All Couples Should Do on a Regular Basis

It’s not just about hearing their words, but understanding the meaning and intention behind them. Those who understand this and who regularly work to improve their style are all the better for it. Less confusion and more clarity make for a much happier marriage. And that’s why it’s smart to have some communication exercises for couples in your back pocket.

But what communication exercises are worthwhile, specifically for busy parents who have to get a lot across to one another? We spoke to a variety of therapists and asked them for the recommendations. The exercises they explored with us are relatively simple and don’t involve too much time. But while they’re short on commitment, their big on payout as they help you focus on such important skills as active listening, conflict resolution, and expressing gratitude. Vow to practice these exercises a bit more — or really just keep their principles in mind — and, chances are, you’ll have less missed connections and more.

8 Great Communication Exercises for Couples

  1. Listening Without Interruption
    It’s a common sight: One partner talks, the other person simply waits for their turn to speak or fully buts in. Pretty much everyone is guilty of interrupting; but we all need to be better as it takes empathy out of the conversation and communication into a game of one-upmanship.
    This simple exercise seeks to root out that bad habit. And yeah, it might seem obvious, but going into a discussion with this framework in mind helps set the tone. It works like this: One partner speaks for five-to-seven minutes and the other partner just, well, listens. When the first person is finished, the other then asks questions to help them understand what they just heard (Think: “How did you feel when you told me that?” “How can I help to make it better next time?” and “What makes it so important to you?”) Once those questions have been answered and addressed, it’s the other partner’s turn to speak.
    “The purpose of this exercise is not so that one of the partners justifies why they did something or how they did it, but to help understand each other,” says Valentina Dragomir, Psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus. “Defensiveness, judgement, criticism are discouraged during the exercise, and instead listening and asking questions with empathy is encouraged.”
  2. Expressing Gratitude
    Two words, two syllables. “Thank” and “you.” But it’s surprising how often these words are left out of conversations between couples, and how many things are taken for granted or deemed not important enough to warrant appreciation. Often, it’s the everyday little things that couples do for each other often get overlooked. Simply think about appreciation and taking the time to say. “Thanks for making me coffee,” or “I appreciate your filling up my car with gas yesterday.”
    “This prompts us to pay attention to how and when our partner is already showing up for us, and to verbally express appreciation,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the owner and founder of Take Root Therapy. “For those who respond well to words of affirmation, this exercise can also help meet that need. This exercise can also lead to a positive snowball for the relationship: the more we express gratitude for one another and feel appreciated, the more we may feel driven to show each other care.”
  3. Mirroring
    In many discussions, one person speaks, the other listens at first and then slowly tunes them out, responding ultimately with neutral phrases like, “I understand,” or just simply, “Uh-huh.” It happens. And it inevitably leads to a not-so-fun argument. Mirroring, a classic communication technique, helps prevent that.
    When mirroring with your partner, listen to his or her thoughts and feelings and then repeat back what was said, following it up with, “Did I get that right?” Your partner can then confirm or deny whether or not you had it correct and continue the conversation until they feel they’ve been sufficiently heard. At that point, the listener can validate their partner’s feelings by saying, “That makes sense,” or “I’m glad you explained that to me.” Even if you don’t fully agree with everything that was said, at least now you have heard your partner and can approach the conflict from a place of better understanding.
    “This exercise gives couples the opportunity to practice expressing their feelings and perspective, to practice active listening, for partners to have the experience of feeling truly heard, and to give and receive empathy and validation,” says Dr. Tari Mack, a speaker, author, coach, and clinical psychologist. “These are skills that couples need to master in order to grow and sustain healthy relationships.”
  4. The Weekly (or Daily) Check-In
    Life is busy and full of constant distractions. Sometimes, the best we can do as a couple is a quick, “How was your day?” as you’re both passing through the same room on your way to somewhere else. This might work for a little while, but ultimately, if you don’t schedule time to check in with each other on a meaningful level, you start to be ships in the night.
    Avoiding that is a simple communication exercise of setting up formal check-ins. You can schedule these check-ins, or make it part of your regular routine (such as taking a walk together every night and checking in then), and they don’t have to be long. Just take as much time as you both need to catch each other up on what’s really been going on in your respective lives.
    “In this space, they might engage in the listener/speaker exercise, share what’s going well with them and in the relationship, and finally express gratitude for whatever it is that they are grateful for,” says Molly Mahoney, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the owner of True Therapy. “This method fosters greater connection and communication, even with a hectic life where time to talk is often overlooked.”
  5. The 40-20-40 Process
    This is a specific communications exercise designed for compassionate listening and constructive conflict resolution. The name comes from the division of attention in the conversation (40 percent to each party in the conversation’s feelings, and then 20 percent left in the middle to discuss the relationship).  Each person takes their allotted time to speak about their own feelings, with the goal being for each person to listen with the intent to understand and not defend themselves. To that end, accusatory statements are to be avoided, and the focus is solely on how each person is feeling.
    “The shared goal is to practice hospitality with one another,” says Grant Brenner, psychiatrist and co-author of the upcoming book, Making Your “Crazy” Work for You, “developing over time a secure base of constructive conversations in which conflict is seen not only as survivable, but also an important and valued–if not always comfortable–part of growing together as individuals and as part of a couple.”
  6. The Stress Reducing Conversation
    It’s an easy trap to fall into: Your partner talks about their stress and you immediately start thinking of solutions to their problems.

12 Tips For Succeeding as a Stepdad

Around four million men in the United States are living in relationships where the children aren’t their biological offspring, according to the last Men’s Fertility report. Of those the majority — 59.9 percent — are identified as a stepdad to one or more children in the household. The blended family is growing dynamic and one that presents its own set of challenges and rewards. 

“While conventional families resemble a cake with its orderly layers and icing on top, a step-family is often more like an Eton Mess cake,” insists stepdad Neil Reilly. “It’s often all over the place and you never get the same one twice.” 

Step parenting is tricky territory to navigate. Simply knowing that you’re going into a very different family set-up, with a whole new set of existing rules (or possibly no rules at all) and traditions means it pays to tread carefully. 

“I married into a family of two, and then had another two children. And then divorced and then remarried, with a family of two children,” explains Dirk Flower, psychologist, teacher, adolescent therapist, and family mediator. “I’ve become a step-father twice with very different experiences both times. Obviously, each family is unique, but in my experience there are common themes that occur in blended families that it helps to be prepared for.” 

Stepping up to become a stepfather can also be a life-defining experience as you grow and nurture your blended family, build new relationships, and master new parenting skills. But what advice is important to keep in mind? This advice from parenting experts and stepfathers who’ve been there is worth keeping top of mind. 

Don’t: Rush In

“Common errors new stepfathers make include rushing into issues like a bull in a China shop, or else avoiding issues completely for fear of being too imposing,” says David Spellman, systemic and family psychotherapist. It’s a tough balance to strike. A solution, according to Flower, is to bide one’s time. “Allow the original parent to be the parent,” he says. “Until you’ve established a really good relationship with the children — and your new partner — stay out of the parenting world. See your role initially as being supportive of the mother and to provide extra resources as and when required.” 

Do: See Yourself as a Step-Dad

“Visualize how you would want to relate to your stepchildren, and how you see yourself forming a new blended family,” suggests Rachel Andrew, family mediator, and psychologist. “Too often step-parents are so wrapped up in the new relationship with their partner that it’s only later — as they can come to feel like they’re thrust into a situation with that involves children — that they realize they haven’t talked about how they’re going to come together as a family and how the role of step-dad will work.”

Do: Expect Fireworks

By the nature of separation and divorce you may find yourself going into a relationship with a new family still hurting from what’s gone on before, explains Andrew. “The children in that family may still be coming to terms with their parents’ separation and trying to make sense of what’s going on,” she notes. “Often the new step parent will bear the brunt of their anger, confusion, and feelings of fear and worry.”

Don’t: Talk Bad About Their Dad

It’s crucial, per Spellman, to avoid disrespecting the biological  father when you’re around the children. “No matter what your personal view of the children’s biological father is,” he says, “discuss that away from the children.” If you feel the need to vent — and you likely will — use your own support networks to talk about the frustrations you may have with his behavior towards you, your new partner, or the children.

Do: Trust the Process

“If you become aware of issues regarding the biological father’s parenting — if he was neglectful or abusive in some way — you may have to trust that the children will come to a point where they will see all of that,” says Andrew. They will get it and see him for what he is. You don’t need to be the person to point it out. “But,” he adds, “you do need to be there in the background still giving support, and giving them what they need.”

Do: Expect Fireworks

By the nature of separation and divorce you may find yourself going into a relationship with a new family still hurting from what’s gone on before, explains Andrew. “The children in that family may still be coming to terms with their parents’ separation and trying to make sense of what’s going on,” she notes. “Often the new step parent will bear the brunt of their anger, confusion, and feelings of fear and worry.”

Don’t: Talk Bad About Their Dad

It’s crucial, per Spellman, to avoid disrespecting the biological  father when you’re around the children. “No matter what your personal view of the children’s biological father is,” he says, “discuss that away from the children.” If you feel the need to vent — and you likely will — use your own support networks to talk about the frustrations you may have with his behavior towards you, your new partner, or the children.

Do: Trust the Process

“If you become aware of issues regarding the biological father’s parenting — if he was neglectful or abusive in some way — you may have to trust that the children will come to a point where they will see all of that,” says Andrew. They will get it and see him for what he is. You don’t need to be the person to point it out. “But,” he adds, “you do need to be there in the background still giving support, and giving them what they need.”

15 Family-Favorite Summer Traditions to Start This Season

Maybe it’s an activity passed down from generation to generation. Maybe it’s a random trip you took once that ended up being so fun that it’s now a summer staple. We spoke to 15 dads about their favorite summer family tradition. Some spoke of neighborhood get-togethers and backyard olympics, others of cherished getaways and fireworks-buying trips. All of them make clear one truth: Summer is a hell of a time. 

1. Going to the County Fair

“Our county fair happens in the summer, and it’s one of our favorite things to do as a family. Ever since the kids were little, they’ve loved going to see the animals, ride the rides, and eat junk food. It’s actually gotten a lot nicer in recent years, too. They’ve started bringing in bands and musicians. They’ve added a bunch of tents and local vendors, and brand new rides. There’s a pie-eating contest, and a petting zoo. Face painting. The works. County fairs really have something for everyone.” – Kurt, 37, Michigan

2. Seeing Movies at the Drive-In

“I’m not sure how many drive-in movie theaters still exist in America, but we have one of them, and it’s one of our favorite places to go in the summer. We borrow my dad’s big conversion van, load up with snacks, blankets, and lawn chairs. Then we back in facing the screen, prop the doors open, and enjoy the show. My wife and I sit outside, and the kids use the van as their own personal clubhouse. The movies are always shown as double features, too, so we’re all up way past bedtime. We probably go at least two or three times from when the theater opens in the summer to when it closes in the fall. Definitely a favorite family tradition.” – Jon, 40, Ohio

3. Throwing a Tie-Dye Party

“As soon as the kids get out of school, we have their friends over and tie-dye their ‘summer shirts’. These are the shirts they’ll wear all season, when we go to the pool, or hiking, or on other family trips. It’s always a big tie-dye party on our deck, and the kids have gotten super into it over the years. They look up new techniques on YouTube, try to find different color dyes, and usually end up doing more than one shirt. Or a shirt and shorts. Or socks. Socks have actually become pretty popular the past few years. It’s a messy tradition, that’s for sure, but we love it.” – Ed, 36, Indiana 

4. Going on a Fireworks Run

“We used to buy fireworks where we live, but they’re really just glorified sparklers. Our neighbor tipped us off about going to Pennsylvania, because you can buy way, way more stuff there. We’ve never looked back. It’s our tradition every Fourth of July. We always buy more than we need, and my wife groans when we come back with a trunk full of them. But then we always have a great time on the Fourth, and have plenty to last us for a while after. She’s the only one who doesn’t look forward to it. Maybe the neighbors” – Jeremy, 47, New York

5. Hosting a Big Garage Sale

“Every spring, we do a massive spring cleaning and purge whatever we can from inside the house. We box it all up, and store it in the garage until summer, when we have a massive, annual garage sale. We usually coordinate it with the neighbors, too, so it’s this big event on our street. It’s never made us rich, but it’s definitely a nice way to earn a little spending cash we can use for other summer fun. And it’s a good motivator when spring cleaning rolls around. We have teenagers, so it’s always like, ‘Do you really want to keep that? Or would you rather have ten bucks in the summer?’ We weren’t able to do it last year because of COVID, so we’re really excited for this year. The giant summer garage sale will return to all of its glory.” – Tom, 39, New Jersey

6. Watching Fireworks Displays

“My sister’s birthday is on July 4th. Our city always has a great fireworks show at the town park, so all of us – aunts, uncles, cousins – go there to celebrate. It’s always a madhouse, but one of my cousins works at the city pool, which is right inside the park. So he unlocks the pavilion for us, and we get to sit on the big patio, chilled out in lawn chairs, and watch the show. The kids think it’s so cool, like they’re VIPs. My sister is in her 30s now, but I think as long as we can all walk – we usually have to park far away and then walk to the pool because of the crowd – we’ll be observing this tradition for a long time.” – David, 37, Pennsylvania   

15 Family-Favorite Summer Traditions to Start This Season

“I have a 13-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son,” Anderson says. “The tax credit payments are coming just in time for my husband and I to start making payments on our daughter’s new braces.”

Braces aren’t Anderson’s only financial worry. Like many American parents, she’s fighting a financial war on multiple fronts. “Our health insurance has gotten more expensive over the years and this will help us offset those costs,” she says. “Not to mention everything else that is going up in price. From the cost of gas to grocery expenses, it’s getting more and more difficult to get ahead these days.”

But the braces set Anderson apart from other parents Fatherly spoke with for this story. Offsetting the cost of straightening out a set of teeth was a far more detailed plan than most families had for the money. No one we spoke with was upset about getting monthly payments from the federal government. But few had a concrete plan for exactly how they would spend the funds. 

Other parents approached for comment in this story say they haven’t earmarked the monthly credit payments for anything specific. While they’re happy for the tax credit advances, they planned to spend the same amount of money they would otherwise, but perhaps with more confidence that they wouldn’t incur overdraft fees. 

Connecticut father of one Rob says knowing the credit payment was coming soon influenced his decision to sign his daughter up for an additional week of summer camp. “I probably would have signed her up anyway,” he says. “But a week of camp was a little over $300. The credit takes some of the sting away from writing the check.”

The Child and Dependent Care Credit has been on the books since the late ‘90s, when it was introduced as a $500-per-child nonrefundable credit in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. It has grown several times since. This year, in response to pandemic-induced economic woes, the federal government supersized the credit. In March, the American Rescue Plan increased the Child Care Credit from $2,000 to $3,600 per child for children under six and $3000 for children ages six to 16 while vastly increasing the number of American families who qualify for the credit.

Between 36 and 39 million American families qualify for the credit. And they won’t have to wait until tax season to get it. Parents can claim half the credit when they file their 2021 taxes; the IRS is paying the half the credit in advance through six monthly payments beginning in July.  Married couples with incomes of $150,000 or less, unmarried couples with incomes of $112,00 or less, and single parents making $75,000 or less will receive $300 per month for each child five or younger and $250 per month for every child between 6 and 17. 

“They’re paying it upfront, which is really new and different,” says Jackson Hewitt Chief Tax Information Officer Mark Steber. “We haven’t seen that related to a program of this size and scale in a long, long time. It’s a totally new way to get people their money.” 

Ohio mother of one Corritta Lewis says she’s grateful for the credit but doubts it will have a substantial impact on her budget. 

When To Stop Parenting And Just Be A Parent

A huge irony indeed because to practice in most any profession where one provides services to the public, most states require a license or certification that can only be obtained by completing an appropriate amount of schooling and passing a competency test. Even marriage requires a license (unfortunately, however, a competency test is not a prerequisite!). Yet bringing another human being into the world requires nothing more than a pair of functional reproductive systems—no schooling, training, competency or license required! Obviously, legislating and regulating who and under what circumstances one can procreate is grotesquely fascistic and an abhorrent infringement of human rights. Nevertheless, I noted the above irony to merely underscore the fact that the most awesome responsibility a person can ever have is one very few people in our modern world are innately equipped to manage.

Learning the crucial skills of parenting enables parents to be truly effective, increasing the chances that their children will be able to navigate the labyrinth of life successfully. One of the most valuable gifts you can give your children is a working compass (skills and facts) that can help them succeed in school and work, play and fun, love and intimacy.

Unfortunately, most schools do not include specific courses on how to acquire social skills, how to think rationally, how to control unwanted emotions, and how to be a truly effective parent. People must learn on their own how to teach their children to resolve conflict, be assertive, manage stress and regulate their moods. And often, they need to discard the poor parenting techniques they may have learned from their own parents.

Of course, all children are unique individuals and possess their own temperament, needs and personalities, and there is no absolutely correct way to parent. What’s more, experts disagree on just what constitutes good parenting styles. There is some consensus, however, about what the essential ingredients of basic parenting are such as providing children with a sense of safety, protection, love, support, encouragement, kindness and consistency—but also limits, boundaries and appropriate consequences.

Parenting adult children, though, involves it’s own set of challenges. Because being a parent is a lifelong commitment that does not stop simply because a child is of full legal age, or even an independent adult with children of their own. But while being a parent is a lifetime commitment, actively parenting one’s adult children is usually unhelpful. This is because “parent“ is both a noun and a verb. To be a parent, at base, means to give unconditional love and emotional support to one’s child or children; that is being a “mom” or a “dad.” To parent, however, means to actively instruct, direct and control a child because people are not born with a complete repertoire of social and self-care skills and need to be taught how to successfully function in the world.

Hence, as mentioned above, it is vital for parents to provide their children with as much helpful information and useful life skills as possible, as well as set beneficial limits and boundaries and impose appropriate consequences on their behavior. Thereby, as they grow and develop into adulthood, they will be better adjusted and more able to make their way in the world as independent and self reliant individuals. But to actively parent one’s adultchildren is usually unproductive and often fosters anger and resentment. This is because most adults don’t like being told what to do and what not to do. So offering unsolicited advice, giving specific directions, making strong recommendations and offering even constructively intended criticism will often backfire when foisted on one’s adult children.

Therefore, unless one’s adult child is about to make a stupendously poor, potentially reckless or criminal, decision it is better to simply validate them without interjecting any strong opinions to the contrary. So if one’s adult child is making a decision that one does not approve of, rather than raising objections it is better to simply say something like, “I hope that works out for you.“ And if an adult child complains of specific hassles, stress or hardship, instead of immediately offering advice it is usually best to simply say something like, “That sounds tough. Is there anything I can do to help?“ Again, this is because unsolicited advice usually lands on people – especially one’s adult children – unpleasantly. Consider that as a clinical psychologist people seek me out for my advice, pay me for my advice, and still often don’t follow it.

The upshot is simple. Unless one has a child or children with specific needs, disabilities, or other developmental challenges, as soon as one’s children are fully fledged adults, it is time to transition from active parenting to simply being a loving and supportive parent. And for most people full adulthood usually occurs in their mid-20s when the brain has undergone it’s final maturational process called pre-frontal myelination. This is when the brain’s frontal lobes, the seat of so-called executive functioning, become insulated with tissues that enhance neurotransmission. When this happens, peoples’ impulse control, social judgment, and deep emotional capacities like empathy come online.

Happy Fourth of July!

It has been a long 18-months, spent social distancing and staying safe. With that said, we hope you find yourself safely celebrating with those that matter most to you this holiday weekend.

We appreciate your continued support here at the PAF, and hope that all former players and their loved ones have a joyous Independence Day.

This Simple Thought Experiment Will Reshape How You See Your Marriage

Take a moment to sit with this idea. Take a moment to let it in. Consider the idea that, somehow, you are committed to getting all of the problems and challenges you experience in marriage throughout the day. That’s right, you are committed to, say, a partner’s control issues, sarcastic comments, or lack of affection.

Of course, there are limits to this thought experiment. It works with minor irritations and conflicts and is certainly not a guiding principle when confronted with major traumas or abusive situations.)

Most of us recoil at the very thought of this idea. We feel deep resistance to it. Our minds flood with defensive thoughts: “How can that be?” “Why would I be committed to all this struggle?” or “I’m not the problem here.”

But if you can let these initial waves of resistance move through, if you can open to a radical sense of curiosity, then this simple thought experiment can change your marriage and your life.

Why? It flips our ordinary way of viewing marriage on its head. We’re wired to think that most of our problems originate from outside ourselves. This wiring sounds like, “If only my partner were more loving or more engaged,” or “If only my extended family wasn’t so crazy” or “If only the world weren’t so out of control.” If only these things changed, we think, then I could finally be happy.

The thought experiment posed by the Hendricks’, however, challenges you to set these thoughts aside, if only for a moment, and to instead wonder how you might be creating these problems for yourself. At first, this idea might sound totally depressing. But, in the end, it’s actually radically empowering. Because if you played a role in creating these problems, then you must also have the power to change them.

So how can you make the most of this shift in perspective to what the Hendricks call 100% responsibility? Take these steps.

1. Identify Your Unconscious Commitments.

The first step is to see these commitments more clearly. To do that, it can be helpful to ask yourself, “What are the problematic results I’m getting in marriage?” “Where am I stuck?”

Then, write down your answers.

For example, many people tell me that they feel upset at their partner for not caring enough, doing enough, or loving them enough. If that’s the problematic result you’re getting in marriage, write down, “My partner isn’t caring, engaged, or loving enough.”

2. Ask Yourself, “How Am I Committed to This?”

Now for the mind-blowing question: “How am I committed to getting this result?”

This isn’t one of those questions that you ask, think about for 15 seconds, and then leave behind. No, this is a question on which to meditate. It’s a question to plant in your mind and then sit with for a while.

Once you have reflected on it, write down the one to three ways you are holding this pattern in place.

For example, if your partner doesn’t show you enough love and affection, your question becomes, “How am I committed to having an unaffectionate partner?”

Once you look closely at this question, you might notice that you have a part to play in this dynamic. For instance, it might be that you’re expecting affection but also not giving your partner enough of it. Or it might be that you’re not following through on key projects, chores, or tasks around the house. Or maybe there is fear holding this dynamic in place: your fear of being vulnerable, showing your true emotions, and asking for what you really want.

3. Build One Commitment-breaking Habit

Do you really want to change this commitment?

It’s a question worth asking because most of the time we actually benefit in some way from these dysfunctional commitments. We get to feel in control. We get to be right. Or we get the badge of honor that comes with being a modern day super dad.

But assuming your answer is “yes,” that you want to change this commitment, the final step is to create a new commitment-breaking habit. It’s something you can do every day to interrupt the momentum of the commitment you have identified.

If you’re committed to having an unaffectionate partner, for example, your new habit might be revealing your inner experience to your partner (and — for bonus points — doing it from a place of kindness).

These Are the 8 Types of Friends You Need in Your Life


Tom Rath and the Gallup organization discovered something interesting: the vast majority of the time, no one pal offers you everything you need from your relationships.

Some of your friends are great listeners… but they’re not always there when you need them. Others are intensely loyal… but just not that great at helping you out of a jam. And so on.

We get different things from different friends. And sometimes even with a sizable group you’re still not getting all the things you want in order to feel truly supported in life. Kinda like how to be healthy you need the four different food groups — you can’t just eat cookies for every meal.

“Friendship” is a pretty vague word. You generally don’t even know everything you want from your relationships to feel whole — you just know something’s missing. There’s a gap.

So Rath and Gallup got to work. They surveyed over a thousand people to find out what the types of “vital friends” were — someone who if they vanished, your life satisfaction would noticeably decrease.

What did these types of friends offer? How do they round out your life? What are those things we all want from a group of friends to feel truly fulfilled?

Rath breaks down the results of their research in Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.

It turns out there are 8 types of “vital friends.” Many of us don’t have all of them in our squad, and that’s why we often feel disappointed or like we’re not getting everything we need. (You have to collect all the different Pokemon to win at the game called life.)

So let’s break down the 8 and get the basics on what they are, learn where you might meet the ones that are missing, and find out how to strengthen your relationships with the ones you already have. We’ll also look at what you should do to be better at the role which you play in the lives of others.

1) The Builder

Just because you’re not in Little League anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need a coach. Someone who motivates you and encourages you to take it to the next level. That supportive friend who believes in your potential and won’t let you rest on your laurels.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you. Builders are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a Builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are the friends who lead you to achieve more each day.

Lacking a Builder in your life? We all need that person who nudges you to be all that you can be. Start asking more people for advice, then vet based on who gives solid answers and supports you. Who checks in with you a week later to see how things are progressing? That’s your new Builder.

Want to make the Builder you have better? Tell them your goals and what you’re struggling with. Tell them you appreciate their support… and give them permission to nag you if you slack.

What if you’re a Builder? How can you be more helpful to your friends? Pay attention to what they’re up to and offer help. Check in with them if goals they said were important do a vanishing act. Some people need a supportive voice in order to follow through.

My friend Jodie is a Builder par excellence. I tend to only do things that interest or excite me. So my life can get a little unbalanced. (That is a tsunami-sized understatement, by the way.) When I neglect things that, oh, “keep me breathing” or “make life worth living,” Jodie offers reminders, support… and then nags me relentlessly. So I always do what she says…

Eventually.

Builders motivate you and keep you going. Who sings your praises to others?

2) The Champion

We all need a friend who isn’t afraid to break out the pom-poms and play cheerleader. Somebody who roots for you and describes you to others in a way that makes you blush.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also “has your back” — and will stand up for you when you’re not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. Champions are loyal friends with whom you can share things in confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others do not. Champions are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. Champions thrive on your accomplishments and happiness.

Need a Champion in your life? Look for the people who are always praising others. They’re usually very humble and kind. So say hi.

Want to help your Champion help you? Regularly keep them abreast of what you’ve been doing and what your goals are. And don’t forget to thank them when their help pays off. Champions live for that.

If you’re a Champion, how can you improve? Ask your friends what they’ve been up to and how you can help. Think about different ways you can promote them. Maybe you’ve spread the word about their great work at the office — but have you ever complimented them in front of their spouse?

Luckily, I have Andy. Andy says things about me to other people that would make me want to meet me if I didn’t already know myself. And he does this for all his friends. I can tell you that they are all very lucky people. But Andy would just tell you how awesome they are.

So maybe you have someone swinging pom-poms for you. But do you have that person to conspire with on that passion project?

What Parents Should Know About Traveling With Unvaccinated Kids

As of now, there are no COVID-19 vaccines approved for children under 12, which means families are left wondering if it’s safe to travel with their little ones and how to do so while minimizing risk.

“The answer to these questions ultimately comes down to parents’ overall risk tolerance and level of comfort; however, there are factors that should be considered when making a decision to take a trip with your children if they are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Vivek Cherian, an internal medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System.

So what exactly should parents know about traveling with their unvaccinated kids? Below, Cherian and other experts share their advice.

Assess Underlying Health Risks

“I think every family will have to weigh the risks and the benefits of traveling with their unvaccinated children,” said Dr. Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “A family that has a child with underlying health conditions may not feel as comfortable traveling as compared to a family who has children that do not currently have medical conditions.”

While the risk of developing serious illness and complications from COVID-19 is generally lower in children than in adults, it’s still a major concern for those with underlying health conditions.

“Early evidence suggests children with diabetes, obesity, lung diseases or who are immunosuppressed may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” said Dr. Diane Kantaros, an internist and chief quality officer at Nuvance Health. “We are also still learning if there are any potential long-term complications from having COVID-19, regardless of severity of illness.”

If your child has an underlying health condition, you may consider taking a more cautious approach to travel for now. Their risk level can affect the type of trip you plan, accommodations, timing and other variables.

“Read the updated CDC guidelines, and talk with your child’s pediatrician to discuss any concerns,” recommended Cheryl Nelson, a travel preparedness expert and founder of Prepare with Cher. “The pediatrician can address any underlying health conditions that your child may have and the risks associated with traveling with certain conditions.”

Research Your Destination’s COVID-19 Situation

“I would ask what exactly is going on with the virus at your destination,” Cherian advised. “You can view various locations on the CDC’s website to get an idea of the risk assessment level for COVID-19 at your destination. This is also an important step to learn any specific requirements or local regulations at your destination regarding quarantine or testing.”

You’ll want to avoid vacation spots with notably high COVID-19 case numbers and variant rates. This is especially true for places with limited health care infrastructure, which may become easily overwhelmed amid big outbreaks. Look with a critical eye.

“The case rates may look like they are declining, but that is because when you take the number of cases and divide by the population (vaccinated and unvaccinated), the numbers look good,” said Robin L. Dillon-Merrill, a professor of information management specializing in decision and risk analysis at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “However, if you take the number of cases and divide by only the unvaccinated population, the rates are as bad as ever. I would advise that the first thing you consider is how much virus is circulating in the community of the travel destination, and if it is still high, don’t travel there.”

Looking at the vaccination rates in your potential destinations can also be a helpful way to compare vacation spots.

“The more people who are vaccinated, the lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Nelson noted.

Fewer Ultimatums, More Boundaries

“Give ‘em some tough love.” It’s an often-repeated saying in relationships, both with kids and adults. Let’s say your kid is acting out. It’s common, as a parent, to use a bit of tough love to teach your child a lesson — for example, warning them that you’ll take away that night’s screen time if they continue throwing peas at the dinner table. But similar strategies of course shouldn’t be used when dealing with other adults — including your spouse. 

This sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand why this doesn’t work in a marriage. For one thing, you’re not in charge of your spouse. (“Unlike with parenthood where there’s a hierarchy, marriage is a meeting of equals,” says marriage coach and relationship expert Lesli Doares.) For another, while the occasional ultimatum might motivate your child to stop an annoying or inappropriate behavior, it’s just not possible to force someone to do something. 

So what happens when shit hits the fan and you need your partner to change for the well-being of your marriage? Skylar Ibarra, a therapist with Lenarra Therapy in California, says “tough love” in a relationship comes down to setting clear and confident boundaries, not ultimatums. While the latter focus on getting someone else to change, the enforcement of healthy boundaries places the power squarely within. With a boundary, you’re essentially communicating how you feel about a behavior, why it won’t work for you, and then describing the natural consequence that will occur if the behavior continues. 

“The point is not to control your spouse, it is to control yourself and make better choices for yourself,” notes Kimberly Perlin, a psychotherapist in Towson, MD. “In changing your behavior you are inviting your partner to choose differently than the same old particular pattern.” 

For example, an ultimatum might sound like, “If you don’t start spending every weekend at home, I’m leaving you.” A boundary-setting statement would be closer to, “When you’re not at home, I feel unloved and uncared for. I need to feel loved and cared for in a relationship. If this is something you feel you can’t do or don’t want to work on, I’m going to prioritize my own needs, which will likely mean leaving.” 

“Instead of an argument, it’s a statement of fact,” says Ibarra. 

For many reasons, such points are difficult to make. But in case you need them, here are some therapist-backed tips for using tough love in a relationship, no ultimatums required. 

1. Set boundaries early on

Ultimatums, per Ibarra, tend to feel increasingly necessary the longer a person goes without setting boundaries. For example, if you notice your spouse drinking too much but don’t say anything, you’ll internalize frustration and blow up later on when it really matters –– like when it starts to affect their health or behavior in more negative ways. At that point, when the stakes are higher, ultimatum will feel like the only option.

To avoid the need to threaten or control your partner later on, be intentional about enforcing healthy boundaries now. Part of doing that is recognizing your own responsibility to self-advocate. 

“Once we understand our own responsibility to express our needs and to give fair feedback, we can also start holding ourselves to a better standard of behaviors we will accept from others,” Ibarra says.

2. Be clear and honest

The first step to boundary setting is describing your experience of your spouse’s behavior –– what you don’t like and how it’s affecting you. It may be tempting to water down your message to avoid hurting your partner, but Seattle-based psychologist Carly Claney, owner of Relational Psych, says it’s important not to adjust your message to be more digestible. Instead, express your needs and expectations clearly and honestly –– doing so will increase the likelihood your spouse will understand and take steps to change.

3. Be respectful

When your spouse is behaving in a disrespectful or hurtful way, it’s totally normal to be upset. But keep in mind starting an argument won’t help either of you. According to psychologist Mark Sharp, owner of Aiki Relationship Institute in Illinois, it’s important to communicate your needs respectfully. Raising your voice, calling names, or belittling your partner will just create more negativity and escalate your partner emotionally, which makes it more difficult for them to take in and process your message.

4. Use “I feel” statements

Happy Memorial Day from the PAF

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our veterans and remember those who have fallen in action.  Our community of NFL players, old and young, are proud to play a game that is watched all over the world by our veterans and servicemen and women.  Ultimately your service allows us to continue to play the game we all love, and we cannot thank you enough.

Happy Memorial Day!

How Parents Should Prepare for Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Currently the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 12 and up is likely to be authorized for kids age 12 and up by mid-May with possible approval for children 2 to 11-years-old by September. But children are in a unique position when it comes to the COVID vaccine. For instance, kids will lean on parents to communicate the reasons for the vaccine in ways that are clear, age-appropriate, and concise. But even more than that, parents are responsible for logistics like scheduling and transportation to vaccination locations. And make no mistakes, those logistics require some forethought. 

Why You Should Make a Children’s Vaccination Plan Now

Unlike adults, children require special consideration when getting vaccines, explains Dr. Kenneth Alexander, chief of infectious diseases at Nemours Children’s Hospital. “The thing that parents have to keep in mind is that the FDA is asking that COVID vaccines be given two weeks before any vaccine and two weeks after,” he says. 

Those guidelines present a potential for serious disruptions in a child’s standard vaccine schedule. So if your child has vaccines coming up in the fall, as required for school for instance,  Dr. Alexander has one piece of advice: “Go while the going is good.”

Where Will Children Get the Vaccination

Most children receive vaccines from their pediatrician. But logistics will likely require kids to be vaccinated outside of doctors offices. 

“The FDA asks that we observe people for 15 minutes after you get vaccinated,” Dr. Alexander says. “If you’re a pediatrician trying to run people through a family office, it’s going to gum up the works. I expect most vaccines for young people will be mass vaccination scenarios.” 

Importantly, the United States has no centralized medical authority to standardize vaccine administration across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can offer guidance regarding the administration of the COVID vaccine and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates vaccine safety, but distribution is solely up to state health departments. That means distribution of a vaccine to children will look different from state to state.

That said, Dr. Alexander assumes the most likely scenario is that many children will receive their vaccine in school — following the examples of the polio vaccine in the 1940s and the measles vaccine in the 1960s. But some states may administer vaccinations at already working sites. Pharmacies, for instance, may vaccinate children as young as four, but it won’t look unlike what parents are used to in the doctor’s office. 

Helping Your Child Understand the Vaccination

Children can be hesitant to get a vaccine in the best of times. But a children’s COVID vaccine is one shot that can help them feel like they’ve made a difference. It just requires some civic pride. 

“It’s the perfect time to have that dialogue with your kids,” says Dr. Alexander. “Their motives are no different from ours. First thing is that you want to protect yourself. You want to be healthy. Then you want to protect the people that make up your world.”

Because while it’s true that most kids don’t get particularly ill from Covid-19, they are capable of transmitting the virus to others. So getting the shot is not only helping themselves get back to normal, it’s protecting their community. 

“This is a way of talking to kids about thinking outside of themselves,” explains Dr. Alexander. “If I got COVID and I gave it to you and you gave it to your mother or grandmother, I’m affecting someone I’ve never met.”

Managing Parental Anxiety About Children’s COVID Vaccinations

Even parents who believe in the efficacy and importance of childhood vaccinations might balk at the prospect of giving their child a vaccine approved for emergency use. But Dr. Alexander assures parents that by the time the vaccines are ready for children’s arms, there have been tens of thousands who have already tested the vaccine for safety. 

9 Early Warning Signs of Potential Emotional Abuse

The risk of falling into an abusive relationship has increased now that so many relationships are initiated online. It’s always been difficult to discern in dating which habits and attitudes will emerge when living together; developing feelings for someone online, before ever meeting them in person, makes it much harder.

In the early stages of dating, abusers are able to mask the obvious red flags of angry, controlling, possessive, jealous, or violent behavior. Here are some very early warning signs of potential abuse that are harder to hide.

1. A Blamer

Avoid anyone who blames negative feelings and bad luck on someone else. For example, if your potential partner says something like, “You’re so smart, sensitive, and together, you won’t believe the trouble that self-centered, greedy, person I used to date caused me,” you can bet that sooner or later blame will fall on you. Blamers forego the natural motivation of negative emotions to improve. Instead, they opt for temporary feelings of moral superiority to those they blame.

2. Resentment

Resentful people are so locked into their own perspectives that they become insensitive to the rights and perspectives of the people closest to them.

3. Entitlement

After the glow of infatuation wears off, people who believe they deserve special treatment and special consideration will regard their feelings and desires as more important than yours. If you acquiesce, you may get depressed. If you disagree, you may get abused.

4. Superiority

Once they get close, people who act superior to others begin to put down their partners to feel a little better about themselves.

5. Pettiness

A potential partner who makes a big deal out of nothing probably means that in a close relationship you will be criticized for the smallest of things, real or imagined.

6. Sarcasm

Sarcastic people try to sound smart or witty with at least a subtle put-down in their voice. They tend to be oblivious to the effects of their behavior on others or dismissive of the hurt feelings of others as a function of their “poor sense of humor” or “over-sensitivity.” In dating, the sarcasm may be directed at others; in a relationship, it may center on you.

Isolated Too Long?

Dating in the era of multimedia technology is a challenge in and of itself. But navigating the limitations that the pandemic has forced upon relationship-seekers has not been easy.

Now, with the tentative re-emergence of venturing out there again, it is even more complicated. Many people have not only become rusty at those skills but have lost touch with how others have been affected, and how those differences can successfully mesh. 

Many of my patients have told me how nervous they are about moving out into the dating world again. Virtual reality, no matter how accurate it is in representing the real world, cannot fully prepare people for what they will experience. 

In addition, going too long without connection creates deprivation, which can lead to unsafe risk-taking. Where the availability of multiple possibilities helps accurate discernment, the lack of those opportunities can lead to more dangerous choices.

When people spend too much time isolated from reality, their conversations have mostly been with themselves. That can lead to making assumptions that are not checked and conclusions based on suppositions and/or fantasies. Transitioning from self-to-self to self-in-the-presence-of-others is both a challenging and anxiety-producing process.

All people learn how to successfully adapt from consistent feedback in real-time. Even though dating on a regular basis may not always yield successful results, it does provide the opportunity to rethink and reset. The limitations of the pandemic and the fears of becoming infected have limited the exchanging of views that have always helped people understand whether there is possible compatibility.

As a result of this unnatural situation, this re-entry dating anxiety is totally understandable and shared by many others. Without the continuity they have depended upon, they must now start over without knowing what new skills they will need.

Navigating successful re-entry into the dating pool

There are five steps to this process:

  • Honestly and non-judgmentally assess who you used to be before you were cut off from the natural exploration of relationships.
  • Fully understand how you feel about who you’ve become during your dating isolation.
  • Thoroughly re-educate yourself as to how the dating world has actually changed while you’ve been absent.
  • Prepare to re-emerge as your best self.
  • Re-enter with a cautious spirit of adventure and the courage to be a novice again

9 Couples Therapy Exercises That Should Be In Every Couple’s Repertoire

But just like individual therapy, that hour spent with a trained professional is only half the battle. A lot of the growth happens at home, in the trenches of everyday life, which is why therapists send clients home with a slate of couples therapy exercises. The exercises are tailored specifically to help couples work through conflict and build communication, trust, and intimacy in a relationship. 

Regardless of whether you’re active in therapy or not, the right couples therapy exercises can help reframe arguments, create more emotional intimacy, or simply appreciate one another more. That’s we asked a variety of couples therapists for a few  go-to exercises that everyone can try. They offered those that are easy-to-accomplish and, over time, very effective. Try a few and chances are you’ll learn something new about your partner — and grow your relationship in the process. Here are nine couples therapy exercises they suggested.

Couples Therapy Exercise 1: Write a letter

Markesha Miller, a South Carolina-based psychologist, says she frequently suggests this exercise to couples in conflict. Here’s how it works: Write (not type!) a love letter to your partner, focused on positive, early aspects of your relationship –– what attracted you, your favorite memories, and so on. Then, transition the letter to potential growth areas. Silently read the letter your partner wrote you (and vice versa) before convening to talk about what you wrote and why.

Why it’s helpful: A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right? That’s the premise here. When you express positivity toward your partner, emphasizing what works in the relationship, they’ll probably be more receptive to the stuff that’s harder to hear –– largely, because they know your intentions are good. Plus, you’ll both realize when things went off track so you can course correct.

Couples Therapy Exercise 2: Hold “state of the union” meetings

State of your relationship meetings are weekly (or daily!) check-ins to see how you’re both feeling in the relationship, says San Diego-based marriage and family therapist Dana McNeil. Think of these brief meet-ups as opportunities to share things you haven’t discussed, issues that need some clarification, or conflicts that need to be resolved. Ideally, each person should have time to share how they’re feeling, uninterrupted.

Why it’s helpful: According to McNeil, it’s common for couples to have missed bids for connection during the week. Big conversations don’t always feel possible in busy schedules, so it’s important to regularly –– and intentionally –– take stock of how you’re feeling so tension doesn’t grow. “Both partners are CEOs in a relationship, and both have needs and expectations that require space to be talked about in an open and positive environment,” McNeil says.

Couples Therapy Exercise 3: Do daily emotion check-ins

Marriage and family therapist Emily Stone, owner and senior clinician at Unstuck Group in Austin, suggests using a feelings wheel as an opportunity to connect. Each partner should choose and share three emotions they experienced in a given day. After, the other partner should reflect back: “It sounds like you were bored, frustrated, and excited today. I would love to hear the story of these emotions.” Remember: The goal is to share and reflect, not correct or defend. 

Why it works: Emotional validation is an important part of making a partner feel heard, loved, and supported. Practicing active listening and mirroring back the other person’s emotions can help build communication skills and intimacy as a couple. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of how to support your partner when you’re in the “know” about what they experience on a daily basis.

Couples Therapy Exercise 4: Perform daily appreciations 

If emotion check-ins feel a bit too vulnerable, Stone suggests building trust and intimacy first through affirming one another’s positive contributions to the relationships. Take time at the end of each day to share three things you appreciated about your partner, even if it’s small –– and do your best to give specific examples. For example, instead of “I appreciate how kind you are,” you could say “I appreciated how you stopped to give me a hug during a busy day.”

Why it works: Providing specific examples about behaviors you like is like positive reinforcement. Affirming your partner also builds respect in a relationship, making it easier to open up and grow together. 

Couples Therapy Exercise 5: Use “The story I’m telling myself is…” in conflict

When you’re in the midst of conflict, it’s easy to project your feelings onto your partner –– but that doesn’t help anyone. Instead of pointing fingers, demonstrate to your partner you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt by using “ my story” statements. For example, instead of “You don’t want to spend time with me,” you could say “My story right now is that you don’t want to be with me because I’m too much.”

Why it works: According to Stone, framing your feelings this way takes ownership of your experience and perception of the scenario without throwing blame at your partner, which ultimately gives them the opportunity to share their side so you can work it out together.

Happy New Year, 2021!

As 2020 winds down, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support and dedication over the past year. While this hasn’t been the easiest year for many, we are grateful for the community we have of former players. We are dedicated to continue the support that has come to define us for the past three decades and are determined to continue to evolve our offerings and service in the year, years and decades to come.

We wish you a happy, safe and healthy 2021. See you back here in the New Year.

-Your PAF Family

The Next Generation of You: Ovie Mughelli

by Jim Gehman

 “My parents were Nigerian immigrants, and when they came to this country, they had to, like most immigrants, go bust their ass to get things done. They came here with next to nothing and both have double-digit number of siblings and had to send money back. So, they had a crazy work ethic and a certain level of accountability that was through the roof. They instilled that into all their children,” Mughelli said.

“They were big on goals. So, when it came to football, I just was so detail-orientated on what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and how I was going to get there. Not just being big, fast, and strong, but having that mental game and having that understanding of how to be successful and focus on details is what set me apart from other fullbacks.”

In 2008, Mughelli’s second year with the Falcons, he started the Ovie Mughelli Foundation.

“I always wanted to give back. I was raised that way,” Mughelli said. “We always, through our church ministry, donated our time, our treasures, to help those less advantaged. I wanted to do more with my foundation than just ‘shop with a jock’ or have a bike drive, which are both very important. I don’t to minimize those, but I wanted to find something where I can really make a difference. And things kind of just came together.”

The foundation’s focal point is based on Mughelli’s role as an environmental advocate. Its goal is to educate and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders.

“My first two kids were born premature,” said Mughelli, a husband and father of three. “And just the fact that I almost brought my kids out into a world that could have killed them because of the air pollution in Atlanta at the time, made me want to do what I could to make sure that the planet that I’m leaving to my kids is one that I could be proud of, and one that’s safe. Not many NFL players are really pushing sustainability or environment justice or talking about anything green. No one, actually. So, I’m the first NFL player to have a fully environmental foundation.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Mughelli would often speak around the country before large conferences of business and community leaders. He opened many eyes with his speeches.

“It’s fun because we really focus on people of color, children of color, because the environmental movement is a very, very white movement. All the conferences I go to, I say, ‘Look around. Does this room look like America, or even the world?’ It’s always no. It’s always 95 percent or even 98 percent people of non-color. And I’m like, ‘We can’t be successful in this movement if we don’t get everyone involved,’” Mughelli said.

“It’s going to take some uncomfortable conversations and breaking down some walls of unconscious racism. And some conscious as well, where even though with the green jobs coming around, there’s a lot of options for green jobs that are not being made available or pushed in communities of color the same way that they are being pushed in other communities. 

“That’s where I feel like I have a real strong opportunity to do something great because I use sports to promote sustainability. Because if an athlete who needs clean air and clean water to play his sport is not pushing for environmental equity or not for pushing to make sure our planet is safe to play sports, then who will? So, I use my platform to join with other people, other organizations, and even now, other athletes. I was calling myself an eco-athlete in 2008, and now there are several eco-athletes in baseball and soccer and tennis, Olympic sports. It’s really fun and I’m excited about where this is going to go.”

Happy Holidays from the PAF!

While you may not be able to celebrate with family and loved ones this year, we are sending our warmest wishes to you and your families this holiday season.

Here at the PAF, we wish you the best over the next few weeks, especially good health and happiness.

We are committed to continue to find and provide you the information you need to navigate your post-football life in the most successful way possible.

Happy Holidays and may you have a safe and healthy New Year.

-Your family at the Professional Athletes Foundation.

The Next Generation of You: Dwight Hollier

by Jim Gehman

“One of the things that drove me as a player, as a young person, is idea that I may not be good enough, I’ve got to work my tail off,” Hollier said. “So, I was always pushing myself. And at some point, about my fourth or fifth year in the league, guys in the locker room started calling me the old dude, and I was 27, 28. I was like, if they’re calling me the old dude now, I should probably start preparing for whatever is going to be next for me.”

After eight seasons with the Dolphins and one with Indianapolis, Hollier left the game following the 2000 season armed with a master’s degree in counseling he had earned earlier that year from Nova Southeastern University. He felt prepared for the transition. However…

“Two months after officially filing for severance, I was employed as a mental health counselor at a big health care agency in Charlotte, North Carolina,” Hollier said. “I put all these pieces in place. I was a poster child for doing things the right way, I think. And yet, still, I struggled. And I struggled for maybe a few reasons. One, the game was done with me, but I wasn’t done with the game. As least mentally.

“I’d gotten hurt my last year and played injured, and that put me into a real depression, and I had difficulty coming out of that. I was doing counseling with young people and helping them work through issues. And yet hadn’t worked through my own.

“Often times, people would ask me if I played football and I’d get frustrated with the question because I wished I was still playing. And they would say to me, ‘You played a long time in the NFL.’ And I’d say, ‘I only played nine years.’ When I say it out loud now, I sound foolish. But I was so caught up in being mad and frustrated that I didn’t play 10. I struggled with that for long time after finishing playing.”

Having gone through those experiences himself, Hollier is in a position to advise other former players who are going through or may soon go through the same things.

“There are some wonderful resources that are provided through the NFL, through the NFL Players Association, that I think guys should take advantage of. One thing I would absolutely recommend is to have a mentor, someone that has maybe been where you are planning to go,” Hollier said. “When I left football, I felt like I was in a bad wasteland of nothing. No contact. Nothing. And I think the NFL Players Association does a much better job now of connecting with guys, particularly as they’re transitioning.

“Often times for guys in transition, it’s the disconnect. Sometimes we disconnect for a lot of different reasons, including sadness that we have about not playing the game. Or the thought in our minds that we’re somehow disappointing someone because we didn’t make the team.

“And then make sure that you are addressing mental health through counseling, through networks, connecting with mental health professionals. That’s also part of finding a mentor and staying connected because that person can help keep you grounded and may see things in you that you don’t recognize yourself.”

Nearly two years ago, Hollier took a step back in his history and returned to the University of North Carolina, where he’s a senior associate athletic director.

“I work with the aspect of wellness for our student-athletes, connecting and communicating with our sports medicine, our strength-conditioning, nutrition, sports psychology areas,” Hollier said. “Just assuring that we have the right resources in place to help support the student-athlete’s health and well-being.”

And is the job even more special because it’s at his alma mater?

“Absolutely! When I got the job, I was telling people it’s like hitting the lottery for the fourth time,” Hollier said. “I hit the lottery when I got an opportunity to play football at the University of North Carolina. And I hit the lottery when I got drafted by the Dolphins and got the chance to speak with (their legendary coach) Don Shula. And I hit the lottery again when I got hired by the NFL in 2013 to then be the director of transition and clinical services.

“And then to be able to come back to a place that I’ve loved since I was 18 and be able to serve in the capacity where I’m assisting young people with finding fulfillment through athletics and academics, it’s just really special. I feel very blessed to be afforded those opportunities. I’m grateful that I get to get dressed up in my in my Carolina blue gear and my bowtie and drive onto that beautiful campus in Chapel Hill.”

The Next Generation of You: John Wade

by Jim Gehman

“Every kid that plays football thinks that, but in reality, I didn’t believe it until I made the team after my rookie training camp,” Wade said. “I wasn’t a highly-recruited or top-tier prospect in the high school realm or even the college realm. I was on good teams at Marshall, and having Randy Moss on the team also helps you probably get more looks than you would of.”

Sharing the offensive huddle with a future Hall of Fame wide receiver helped Wade get noticed, but after that, he was on his own. And he made more than the best of it by generating a 12-year playing career with the Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the then-Oakland Raiders.

“I didn’t expect to make it one year, much less get credit for 12,” Wade said with a laugh. “Just the fact that I was able to not only make the team, but start for a number of years, it was more than I anticipated.

“And I was around a few guys early in my career that played 10,12 years and never made the playoffs. So, I was fortunate to make the playoffs a couple times in Jacksonville and a couple times in Tampa. I never made it to a Super Bowl, but not everybody does.”

Retiring from the league in 2010, Wade returned to his hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia, to work for his family’s business – Bob Wade Autoworld.

“My dad started the dealership in 1980, so I’d been around it before I left for college,” Wade said. “He was going to retire, but unfortunately, he passed away in the fall of ’11. So, I became the full-on owner at that point.”  

Successfully operating the business for nine years, Wade uses some of the leadership qualities he picked up from his former coaches, Tom Coughlin and Jon Gruden, to oversee the dealership’s staff of 50 employees.

“Playing team sports, you have to deal with different personalities, people from different backgrounds. So, you have to learn to adapt and adjust from a personality standpoint to come to a common goal to succeed,” Wade said.

“I think football and both of those coaches, a little bit different in style but still very regimented on keeping things task-oriented and driving towards a goal, that’s what retail sales is also. We have a team and a goal every month. Sometimes outside things, whether it be customers, family, could intervene, but you have to figure out how to pull it all together and month to month, make it work.”

What does Wade enjoy most about his work?

“Just interacting with people. I don’t mind talking to people, whether it be good or bad. Hopefully more good than bad,” Wade said. “So, it’s just interaction with people, whether it be employees or customers. Every day’s a new adventure, if you will. Besides the normal paperwork stuff.

“I look at it as when I left the NFL, that was it. That was the end of that chapter. Some customers will come in and we’ll have conversations about it, and I don’t mind talking about it, but it’s not at the forefront for me to be like, ‘Hey, I used to play.’ If the customer or an employee wants to talk about it, then I’m all in. But like I said, it’s not my go-to thing.”

Happy Labor Day

We’d like to take a moment to wish all of our fellow former players a happy Labor Day, and hopefully a long-weekend spent with your family and friends.  

Your past experiences as part of the NFLPA have created a bond with labor unions across the country, and even the world.  We thank you and all of the hard working men and women in America for your dedication, day-in and day-out.

From all of us at the Professional Athletes Foundation, we wish you and your family, good health, much happiness and all the best heading into the fall!

How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

After several weeks, you might find that all that extra togetherness is overwhelming. How do you maintain harmony and not drive each other crazy? 

Chris Kraft, Ph.D., a psychologist and expert in relationships and sexuality, shares some tips and encouragement for couples waiting out the pandemic together.

Couples and Cabin Fever

Spending day after day in the same place can make even devoted couples a little stir-crazy. 

Kraft says, “Even committed couples can start to become lethargic and lose sense of time, asking themselves, What day is it? A sense of monotony can cause a numbness to feelings, which is part of coping with so much uncertainty in the world right now.” 

Though relationships can offer solace, it’s important for each person to take responsibility for individual health and well-being.

Maintain self-care and a routine

“Self-care is essential. With everyone’s schedule changed, it’s important to establish and maintain some kind of a routine,” Kraft says. He recommends sticking to regular sleep hours, waking up on time, making the bed and getting dressed each day. Eating nutritious foods is important, too.

Scheduling breaks, such as a midday yoga video or mediation session, can break up the day and help partners stay grounded.

Keep the workday limited

“For couples who are working at home, it helps to set boundaries between work hours and time spent together,” Kraft says. “The anxiety caused by the pandemic may tempt some people to lose themselves in work, particularly people who invest a lot of their personal identity in their professions. They might miss the routine, the meetings, the structure that go with that.”

Beware substance use and abuse

Increased stress can aggravate habits such as smoking or substance abuse, including drinking more alcohol. “Keep an eye on the cocktails,” he advises. “Too much alcohol can set the stage for unhealthy interactions.” 

He adds that people in recovery from substance use disorders may need to be especially vigilant, because being stuck at home without in-person support meetings can raise the risk of relapse.

Go outside together

Exercising outdoors together can be a powerful way to reduce stress and strengthen positive connections, Kraft says. 

“For couples that are used to spending time in the gym, it might require some changes to keep up with fitness and exercise when you can’t work out on machines or take live classes.” He recommends partners go for a run or a bike ride, dig in the garden, or even just take a walk together. 

“Couples who are more sedentary can start a healthy habit, such as a regular walks outdoors together during this time,” Kraft says.

Work together to keep kids occupied

Kids sequestered at home during the pandemic create another whole dimension of family togetherness, along with overwhelming stress, especially when one or both parents are trying to work from home. It can be all but impossible to do work, attend video meetings, help kids with home school lessons, and deal lovingly with their emotions and behaviors. 

Couples should plan kids’ days in advance when possible, and ensure that each partner is taking an equitable amount of time to keep children occupied and content.

Don’t count on amazing sex

Staying at home to help contain a dangerous, viral pandemic is not exactly a romantic vacation. Kraft says couples should modify their expectations around sexual intimacy. “People are distracted, and there’s a blur between work and home life,” he says.

“The stress is very real, particularly if one or both people are dealing with children at home, financial concerns, job loss, or illness affecting a friend or family member. These concerns, along with a generalized uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, can interfere with sexual desire.”

Broaden your support system

Your partner is just one person, no matter how amazing, and Kraft advises against leaning on any single individual for all your emotional needs just because you’re under the same roof. 

“It’s important for both people in the relationship to stay connected with family and friends who can be available for them, especially as time wears on with continuing physical distancing measures. 

“Talk with other people on the phone and use technology to keep your support network intact,” he says.

Plan something fun

Though couples’ pre-pandemic plans may be cancelled or postponed right now, Kraft suggests making new, different ones. “You can take a drive together, plan a special meal, or, if you have the resources, even make a small purchase that you can both enjoy. 

“Apps can help couples virtually get together with friends for dinners, game nights or movies. The important thing is to create things to look forward to, even if they’re small.”

The Next Generation of You: Gary Hogeboom

by Jim Gehman

Partnering with his daughter, Kasi, and son, Jake, another daughter, Jami, handles P.R. and marketing, the Hogeboom’s own and operate Boomers Bootcamp. A fitness facility, it has locations in Fenton and Traverse City, Michigan.

“We’ve been going now for three years,” Hogeboom said. “We run 30-minute bootcamp classes with high intensity training. It’s for busy people that have kids and jobs and don’t have a whole lot of time to work out. And it’s a phenomenal workout.

“We’re really enjoying it. I love watching people make good choices about their bodies, get healthy and finding out that they have more energy and feel better about themselves. They work harder.”

Boomers Bootcamp’s programs are led by certified trainers and are done in group settings. They feel that makes it more enjoyable and more affordable than private one-on-one sessions.

“People want to be there, and so the atmosphere is phenomenal,” Hogeboom said. “We have anywhere between 20 and 50 people per class. The first class starts at 5 a.m., and then we go in 45-minute intervals until 10 a.m. And then our trainers are coaching and we go until 7:00 that night. That’s Monday through Friday. Saturdays, we just have three morning classes.”

Hogeboom, who played from 1980-90 for the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, then-Phoenix Cardinals and Washington Redskins, has been a volunteer football and girl’s basketball coach at Grand Haven High School, as well as residential real estate salesman. And now, besides the Bootcamp, he’s also involved with real estate development.

“I develop properties, put in roads, and then sell lots to builders,” Hogeboom said. “And I like to do rehabs on houses. Just stuff on the side to keep me busy.”

Something else that kept Hogeboom busy since his playing days occurred in 2005 when he became the first former NFL player to be a contestant on the CBS reality television series, Survivor. Lasting 30 days in Guatemala before be voted out by his tribe, Hogeboom made history on the show by being the first one to find and use a hidden immunity idol.

What’s something he’ll never forget about the Survivor experience?

“How you feel when you’re starving and have limited water. I would say that would be the biggest thing,” Hogeboom said. “You can’t train for starvation. I lost 30 pounds in 30 days. Every time you stand up, you’re dizzy. We didn’t have a lot of food. We were in Guatemala and we couldn’t kill animals because we were on national property. So, I ate acorns every day.

“I had a great experience. It’s amazing how close you get to people when you’re in a jungle after just four or five days. It’s a unique experience that you could never put yourself through. That’s why it was so neat.”

The Next Generation of You: Dale Hellestrae

by Jim Gehman

“Just about everybody had a radio show when we were good,” Hellestrae said. “I did a show with another offensive lineman, Mark Tuinei, called The Snapper and Pineapple Show. Me being a long snapper and Mark being from Hawaii. Just had a blast doing it. It was a good time to be a Dallas Cowboy. We both had fun with it and didn’t take it too seriously.”

One other benefit that came from “when we were good,” was that the television network’s A-Team became regulars because Cowboys games that were being shown to most of the country.

“Pat Summerall and John Madden were doing 10, 11, 12 games a year, and you get to develop a relationship with them,” Hellestrae said. “Usually the announcer maybe said the holder and the kicker, but Summerall started saying my name for just snapping. So rather than having a bad snap and being mentioned, it was just for actually what you did pretty well.”

Hellestrae was able to use that relationship with Summerall to get advice from the legendary play-by-play announcer. And after retiring in 2002 after 17 seasons with Buffalo, Dallas, the then-Los Angeles Raiders and Baltimore, he worked as an NFL Europe game analyst for Fox. He also began doing radio and television work in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.  

And 18 years later, he’s still in the business. Last September, Hellestrae became the morning drive co-host on Phoenix’s KQFN 1580 The Fanatic’s show – Bruce Jacobs and Helly.

“In Phoenix back in 2000, 2001, sports talk was not real big out here. But I got my foot in the door and it was just something that kind of took off from there,” Hellestrae said. “My favorite sport growing up was basketball. I imagined myself getting a chance to play in the NBA.

“I made an all-state team and we played in this national tournament against teams like the L.A. Watts Magicians and New York Riverside Church, and I realized I was I was pretty good for Phoenix. Which meant I was below average.

“And so, I enjoy football, basketball and baseball. I enjoy all the sports. I have some opinions. I can be lighthearted and have fun. It’s just an avenue to express all that.”

Does Hellestrae find it more special to express all that in his hometown?

“I don’t know if it’s more special. The Phoenix Suns were the only team in town for a lot of years and I became a big fan of theirs,” he said. “And you probably get more emotional about it because the Suns have sucked for the last 10 years.

“When you become a fan of somebody, it just doesn’t make it nearly as fun when they continuously lose. But now we’re a major sports town, we’ve got four major league sports. It’s always fun to talk about, which makes the job a little bit easier.”

Also a radio game analyst for the Compass Media Network, Hellestrae calls SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 college football games across the country.

Paying it forward, much like how he sought advice from Summerall, what would Hellestrae recommend to other players who may want to follow in his footsteps and get into broadcasting?

“While you’re playing, make friends with the press. Make sure that you develop some relationships with the media,” he said. “You can see it from your position, and then hopefully when you get into the media, you can see it from the other side. So much of it’s about contacts. It’s one of those things to where you need one guy to like you, one program director to like you, to get a job. And so, I would just say continue to build on your contact list.”

5 Renovations That Don’t Increase Your Resale Value

The first major home renovation my husband and I ever undertook was insulating the walls of a 1921 Craftsman bungalow we shared in Columbus, Ohio. This project made the house a great deal more comfortable in the winter and the summer, since the existing insulation was the least expensive option available in the 1920s — making it completely inadequate for maintaining heat in the winter or coolness in the summer.

Unfortunately, despite the undeniable improvement to our comfort, we found that our new insulation did nothing for our resale value. Even though we had put nearly $5,000 worth of work and materials into this renovation, we didn’t see that money and effort reflected in our sale price when we had to move several years later.

Not all renovations are going to increase your resale value. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should forgo working on your home if you won’t see the value when it’s time to sell. For instance, I would definitely insulate that house again, even knowing that the money is only going to improve my comfort. 

But there are some home renovation projects that you just can’t expect to recoup your investment on. Knowing that, you should consider how long you intend to live in your house and whether you’re renovating just to increase your home’s value before jumping into any of these home improvement projects.

1. Invisible improvements

Insulating our bungalow was the kind of invisible improvement that had to be done, but didn’t appear to change the house. Unlike “sexier” improvements like updating a kitchen or bath, or even putting on a new roof, invisible improvements don’t change the look of the house. These are things like re-grading the yard to keep water from getting into the basement, updating the HVAC system, tuck-pointing bricks and chimneys, and replacing gutters.

While these improvements often have to be done to protect your house, the downside is that you may not recoup the cost of these improvements when it comes time to sell. It can be helpful to think of these renovation expenses as a way of protecting your home’s current value, rather than as a way to increase your future resale value.

2. Swimming pool

While homeowners in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Southern California may find that having a swimming pool is a big selling point for their homes, this isn’t going to be the case nationwide. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a pool is over $27,000. That doesn’t include the annual maintenance costs, ranging between $500 and $4,000. It’s these maintenance costs, plus the work that homeowners will have to either do themselves or contract out in order to keep their pool sparkling clean that will turn off many potential buyers. Add in the additional insurance requirements that homeowners with pools will need to purchase, and it should be clear why many prospective buyers would rather not invest in a home that comes with a pool.

This is why you should only commit to the cost of installing a pool if you truly want to use it yourself and expect to stay in your home for at least five years. Otherwise, it might make more sense to invest in a membership to your local pool. 

3. Bathroom and kitchen upgrades

Remodeling your bathroom and/or kitchen is an excellent way to increase your home’s value, right? Yes and no. While replacing dingy tiling and updating old appliances will definitely help your home shine for potential buyers, there’s such a thing as going overboard with your bathroom or kitchen upgrades.

Specifically, if you add granite countertops, custom-made cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and ceramic tiles to your kitchen and bathroom, but the rest of the home is still an ordinary suburban home, potential buyers will see the house as a work-in-progress, rather than a home that feels move-in ready. Over-improving the bath and kitchen could make buyers think that it’s not worth the effort to try to get the rest of the house to match.

4. Built-in high-end electronics

We may all dream of living in a George Jetson house — where every possible electronic need you have is already built in — but committing to this kind of renovation may hurt your resale value. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, while your personal movie theater (with remote-controlled state-of-the-art projector) may be exactly what you want from your home, a potential buyer may just see a room that will need to be torn out and remodeled as soon as they move in. Plus, technology advances at a breakneck speed, so your cutting-edge electronics will soon look as dated as shag carpeting and harvest gold refrigerators.

If you need or want built-in high-end electronics in your home, make sure you’re installing them for your own pleasure and comfort, because it’s unlikely a buyer will appreciate them too.

How To Ask What Kids Are Feeling During Stressful Times

No school. No playdates. No camps. No pool outings. The world as kids know it has been thoroughly upended and they are justifiably anxious, whether they show it or not. It’s up to the adults in the room to get them to open up about those feelings so that they can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity, and a very light touch. 

“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. 

Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.

“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.

Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:

  • What did you learn about today? 
  • What is something interesting or funny you heard about today? 
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn’t like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better?
  • I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it? 

As with most things in life, timing is everything.

“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.

He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.

“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”

Happy Father’s Day Weekend

Because you are a special dad, the Professional Athletes Foundation wishes you the best on a Father’s Day hopefully filled with all the things that give you joy.

Here is to the little things that make fatherhood special. And a reminder to all, that fatherhood and relationships with our children are built moment by moment. Cherish the big as well as the small.

Happy Father’s Day from the PAF!

The Best Virtual Summer Camps For 2020

While much of the country is reopening, coronavirus has put summer at a standstill. Vacations are canceled. Plans are sidelined. The majority of sleep-away camps are either closed or severely restricted; other camps are operating in a socially distanced capacity. Even if there is opportunity to send their kids to summer camp, many parents aren’t comfortable with doing so in the midst of Covid-19. There’s no way around it: This is tough for many families, especially for those with full-time working parents. But there are ways for kids to stay engaged, busy, and socially distanced this summer: virtual summer camps.

This summer, many traditional camps (and other kid-focused organizations) are moving online, bringing children together via video chat to connect with one another, learn new things, and get some of that playtime they’re missing. Virtual camps give kids a chance to talk to new and old friends, learn from experienced educators, and engage in new, structured activities, whether it’s a dance class, an interactive storytime, or a game of imagination. Some even recreate the “bunk” life that defines so many sleep away experiences. No, virtual camps can’t replace time spent outdoors or the good clean fun that comes from spending hours with friends in person. But, when thoughtfully chosen, the right virtual camp can add structure to those long summer days and provide kids with some much-needed socialization,

What to Look For in a Virtual Summer Camp

As they’re a substitute, the best virtual summer camps should provide, as much as possible, the comradery, connection, and socialization that traditional summer camps foster. Parents should opt for virtual camps that feature live, personal instruction, rather than one-way pre-recorded sessions (which have their place as classes, not camps).

“It is a chance for kids to make that social and emotional connection with one another during the time when they may not be able to engage in a playdate,” says Tony Deis, founder of Trackers Earth, a day camp based in Portland, Oregon which is offering a series of virtual camps this summer.

As such, parents should make sure that kids will be placed in a group with other campers that they can get to know over the duration of the session.  Small group sessions and low camper-to-counselor ratios are key to creating opportunities for kids to really interact with each other. Think a little smaller than the size of an elementary school class, around 20 or fewer kids.

Virtual camps are available for pretty much all ages, interests, and attention-levels. Sessions range from half-hour to full-day, so parents should obviously consider their child’s interests and how long they can stay focused, says Elisa Pupko, founder and CEO of Treasure Trunk Theater in Brooklyn. It’s also important to ask about general housekeeping items such as the platform on which the camp is hosted, what supplies are needed, and what level of paternal involvement is expected.

One thing that will likely concern a number of parents is the amount of screen time on which virtual summer camps rely. Deis urges parents to prioritize camps with activities that involve outdoor time, movement, or hands-on activities. At Trackers Earth, for instance, that might look like cooking or learning how to tie different knots. “The screen is where they share this, but they do the skill in the real world,” Deis says.

“Not all screen time is created equally,” adds Jesse Engle, director of Camp Good Work House, a virtual camp that focuses on storytelling and being a force for good.“Scrolling on Instagram often times leaves kids feeling worse than when they went into it, especially if they’re already feeling lonely or isolated. Through Zoom, you’re connecting live.”

Finally, when selecting a virtual summer camp, safety is crucial. Parents should take the same steps they’d take when choosing a physical camp. This means making sure that the teachers are background checked and trained directly by the organization.

10 Great Virtual Summer Camps For Kids

With many organizations shifting the way they do business in the midst of coronavirus, there’s no shortage of virtual summer camp programs to choose from. It’s important to research the best programs out there for you and your child’s needs. There are happy mediums. In any case, here are 10 virtual summer camps for kids that reflect the core values of traditional summer camp, have low counselor-to-kid ratios, have flexible schedules, and feature a wide variety of activities and classes to keep campers engaged and active all summer long.

Click Read More for a list of camps.

The 6 Cardinal Rules of Internet Safety All Parents Should Follow

One example: Resisting the siren call of your kid’s Halloween stash after you lecture them about the perils of sugar before bed. Another, more important one: Living with strong, clearly-defined internet safety habits.

Internet safety starts at home with parents not just because you’re leading by example, but because you are the gatekeeper of all your kid’s most sensitive information — from Social Security numbers to that treasure trove of family images. Improving your internet safety is essential for theirs, and your kids should know it. Walk them through how internet safety works. Turn your safety into a lesson and make it fun. How? Start diving deeper into these topics with Google’s Be Internet Awesome program by playing Interland together, then follow these rules. 

1. Strengthen and Manage Your Passwords

More than half the population uses the same password across multiple sites, an understandable shortcut to make life easier when the average person has 120 different online accounts. But while it might make life slightly easier, it’s just not worth the risk. This is why a password manager like the one built into your Google Account is a must. It can help securely sync passwords across devices so they’re there if (when) you forget them.

The Fun Lesson: What’s a password? Something that only you and people you trust know. That’s why it’s always good for kids and parents to have a password that they can give to anyone picking them up. They must learn that a password is something you don’t give to anyone else, something you change often, and a secret code that no one can guess. For example, when someone picks up your child, your child needs to ask, “What’s my favorite color?” The answer? “722.” Now there’s a solid security question.

2. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Lots of software updates are for cool new features or a redesigned user experience, but while they’re not quite as exciting, updates that contain security fixes are even more important. Make sure you are checking for updates regularly to all of your software because even the latest version of Candy Crush might fix a security hole or two. You should also enable automatic updating for software that has it, including Chrome, iOS, and Android.

The Fun Lesson: Put your kid in charge of software updates. It’s one of those menial tasks you will likely forget, but they will be more than happy to do daily.

3. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a powerful tool against internet bad guys. When a website requires two forms of proof that you’re the account owner, it significantly decreases the chance that someone will get unauthorized access. You should make sure it’s set up on all of your accounts that offer it.

The Fun Lesson: Seeing two-factor authentication in practice is probably a bit befuddling to kids (Why is your phone buzzing, dad?). Instead, show them how to shore up a “candy jar.” To do so, buy two lockable storage cabinets that fit one inside the other (childproof pill cases works nicely) and fill the inside box with candy. Parents get the code to the inside, but kids get to the code to the outside. Want candy? That’s going to require two-factor authentication, kiddo.

4. Set Up a Recovery Phone Number

If your account does end up compromised in the future, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you set this up. When something looks fishy, your recovery phone number is a way websites can get in touch with you. And if you do end up locked out, it’s sort of like an emergency entrance, a way to regain access more quickly.

10 (Healthier) Steps to Talk About Race and Racism

More than ever, people on both sides seem to use epithets like “brainwashed” and “anti-American” to mark those whose beliefs oppose their own. In addition, it can feel particularly dumbfounding to discover that someone in our families or friend group is a “them”—whatever characteristics we ascribe to “them”-ness.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” For our loved ones who may be a “them,” how do we have these difficult conversations with light and love? As a member of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community, I started this journey of equity work more than a decade ago, and I still often struggle with the intensity and discomfort of race-based conversations with people, even loved ones, who share different identities or political views. Distilled from years of difficult conversations, below are a few of the guidelines I had found to be most helpful in navigating the journey.

1. Be prepared to experience strong thoughts and emotions. One of my best friends, John, went to a liberal arts college, volunteers at homeless shelters, and regularly listens to NPR. John confided in me one day that he was “tired of feeling guilty for being a White man.” Some immediate unhelpful thoughts that crossed my mind were, “How privileged it must be to not have to deal with race!” and “The daily suffering of minorities is more important than the inconvenience of your guilt!” My immediate thoughts were stemming from the visceral reactions of interpreting his statements as dismissive to the challenges of BIPOCs or invalidating to our lived experiences.   

2. Acknowledge that the other side is probably having strong thoughts and emotions, too. Throughout my clinical and academic work, I have heard numerous instances of people feeling enraged and even fearful to be perceived as “racist.” I could imagine that John may regularly hear that “White people destroyed this… White people ruined that.” As a member of that race, he may want to separate himself as someone who did not own slaves or commit any atrocities—one of the good guys. 

3. Recognize that those immediate visceral thoughts might not be helpful. When we are offended or hurt, it is very easy to leap to an equally hurtful conclusion, such as, “If you cared about me, you wouldn’t say or think that.” To further clarify, my immediate thoughts were unhelpful because they wouldn’t necessarily progress our conversations on race. It’s less about being right vs. wrong, and more about whether our approaches are constructive vs. destructive.  

4. Get curious about the other side’s perspective. In high emotional contexts, it is tempting for us to listen to respond rather than to listen to hear. In John’s case, it took a long time for me to hear that John was genuinely afraid that if he speaks up, he would be perceived as racist, which is a characteristic antithetical to how he views himself.

5. Encourage the other person to express their curiosity, too. As John became more comfortable to talk about race, he asked me one day why the discourse of equity still centers around race. “Doesn’t [being colorblind] mean that we’re treating people exactly the same? Isn’t that a good thing?” he asked. I have occasionally heard this same question posed in a potentially unhelpful way: “I thought you people wanted to be treated the same as everyone else.”

Personal Boundaries: Privacy and Personal Space in Pandemic

As a lengthy, unpredictable and uncontrollable stressor, the pandemic steals our feelings of personal control where it hurts—our jobs, relationships, finances, education, health, recreation and travel. And that’s not the only theft of our personal control that makes things feel out of control. The pandemic also steals three of the most basic forms of personal boundary control: 

  • Control over the space around our body (personal space) ·      
  • Control over who we have contact with and when (privacy) 
  • Control over the physical spaces that serve a central function in our daily lives (territoriality). 

To feel in control of our lives, we need to control these basic boundaries. 

Personal space is the invisible boundary we claim around our bodies. We space ourselves from others so that we feel safe from physical threat and to reduce sensory overload (the closer people are, the more sensory input they provide). Even in “normal” times, personal space invasions are uncomfortable. Depending on the person and the situation, they can be downright anxiety-provoking and stressful. But these are abnormal times. Controlling how close someone comes is key to increasing our feelings of control over an unpredictable virus. It’s no wonder we’re more likely to experience anger and anxiety in response to invasions and to respond verbally, or that many of us are staying in as much as possible. Meanwhile, the pandemic increases the number of perceived personal space invasions because the stakes are higher, and distances that were previously comfortable are now experienced as invasions. 

Personal space distancing is also about relationships. Generally, we maintain smaller distances (under four feet, close enough to touch) between ourselves and the people we care about. But we have also lost control over this aspect of our personal space. We have to interact with close friends and family we don’t live with at distances normally reserved for strangers. It’s an upsetting loss of control for sure.

Privacy is another basic aspect of feeling like we have control over our lives. It’s also about controlling the boundaries between ourselves and others. Reflecting on the nature of privacy, psychologist Irwin Altman said that our desire to be alone and to be with others is dialectical. That is, the forces to be with others and away from others are both present with each stronger at different times. We need to be together when we want to be for love, laughter, friendship, support, and recreation. We need to be able to be alone when we want to be so that we can contemplate, process, and plan, manage our bodies, share intimate moments and information with trusted others, get a break from social contact, work and create, and consume embarrassing or forbidden foods, substances, or media. 

 I think you’ll agree that the pandemic has challenged our normal ways of maintaining a desired balance between being alone and being together. Solitude may be more difficult to achieve and loneliness harder to alleviate. We can’t easily spend time alone with friends or lovers (intimacy privacy) or be alone among the masses (anonymity privacy) by going to a gym or shopping. *

Is the Division of Labor Fair in Your Marriage? Here’s How to Figure It Out

One area that’s especially important to look at is household labor. An unfair division of labor needs to be kept in check.

Figuring out who does what is a challenge, especially in dual-income households, and particularly during quarantine. But it’s crucial to understand. While men in heterosexual relationships tend to do more household work than previous generations, women still shoulder an unequal burden. And, if trends continue, it will take quite a long time for couples to reach any semblance of parity. 

The imbalance of shared housework is a common source of contention in marriage, and it often boils down to couples not setting expectations about it. Whether they realize it or not, men and women bring with them preconceived notions about how a household should function, ideas that have been formed from what they witnessed in their own homes growing up. The idea of emotional labor — more properly called the  mental load — otherwise known as the invisible work that needs to be done to keep a household in order, is also at play.

Experts agree — and studies prove — that having conversations about how, exactly, you plan on splitting work and child care early and often is crucial for achieving happiness. This doesn’t mean that every couple needs to have a true 50-50 split (this is, frankly, impossible to achieve). It does mean, however, that couples need to come to an agreement about what will work for them and have a regular dialogue to keep that agreement in check. If you don’t have these conversations, resentment and frustration is often the reward. 

So what do these conversations about splitting household and child care work look like? Here are the steps couples need to take.

1. Figure Out What You Already Do

When we aren’t conscious of who’s doing what, we can overestimate our contribution to domestic order. Studies show that men in heterosexual relationships are guilty of this. Regardless, San Francisco-based therapist says Andrea Dindinger couples need to start the household labor dialogue by tabulating who’s performing what tasks. “Make a list of what they feel they do to contribute to the family,” she says. “For example, one parent may book summer camps, plan birthday parties and family vacations, take and pick-up the kids from school, while the other person may do the dishes, laundry, walk the dog, and earn 75 percent of the family’s income.” It may not be an easy assignment, but doing this will lay it all out on the table and show where any discrepancies lie.

2. Begin the Conversation 

Problems arise when couples don’t talk about housework but still have expectations about how the house should work. Leaving those assumptions unsaid leads to problems. Houston psychotherapist Nicholas Hardy says couples should aim to start talking before problems occur. “This conversation is best had when it occurs proactively instead of reactively,” Hardy says. “Addressing household chores on the front end, allows couples to have healthy dialogue on likes/dislikes, without feeling attacked or feeling as though they have to defend themselves.”

Sarah Rattray, couples psychologist, and founder of the Couples Communication Institute  say spouses should ease into negotiations. “Start the conversation by gently requesting a conversation about domestic tasks,” Rattray says. “Let your partner know you want to find a good time to talk when you can give the conversation your full attention.”

3. Lay Out Expectations

Toronto family mediator and owner of Aligned Choices Mediation Richard Brydson says couples should start by listening and working to understand how each person sees the current household tasks situation and how they want it to change. “Discuss not only what needs to be done in the house, but also each person’s values and beliefs about the tasks and the division of tasks.” 

Brydson recommends that each spouse make two lists before they talk. “On one side of the dividing line they list the tasks they find easy and want to contribute to freely,” he says. “On the other side they list the tasks that they find themselves being forgetful about.”

30 Small, Nice Ways to Stay Connected to Your Partner

It means that you’re comfortable with one another; that you understand one another; that you know you’re for each other. Couples who feel connected are happier and more satisfied in general. They’re less stressed. They’re kinder.

But connection needs maintenance. It requires effort and shouldn’t be taken for granted. And maintaining that connection with your spouse isn’t all that difficult. It means asking questions, listening, paying attention to the small things, and generally taking an active role in being present. To that end, here are 30 small ways to connect.

Kiss hello and goodbye. Yes, even when you’re both working from home and goodbye is when you head into your home office. Try to make goodbye or hello last for at least 30 seconds, which what some say is the ideal amount of time for the greatest affect.

Be Open. Chances are high that your partner is asking you things because they genuinely want to know. Responding to a “how was your day?” or “how was the store?” or “how was your run?” with more than a shrug and a fine, how was yours? is important. Share your excitement and worries, your wins and losses, what made you laugh, what pissed you off, and everything in between.

And Be Interested. Because showing an interest in your partner — what battles they won and lost at work or with the kids, why they like the podcast they’re listening to, who they bumped into when they took the dog for a walk — lets them know that you want to know about their life, both internal and external.

Don’t forget their responses. Work hard to remember. Remembering is everything.

Just be curious. Always wanting to know more about your partner’s past, their present, their future desires is a huge part of building emotional capital and connection.

Be honest about your emotions. When you’re truthful about how you’re feeling and why, will your partner better understand you and what you need — and help you understand what energy you’re bringing home to them.

Take joint work breaks. If you can. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. Check in. Not working together? Give them a call. Say hi. Why? Just because.

Express appreciation. Yes, this means saying ‘thank you.’ But it’s more than that. True appreciation is specific and lets the recipient know that you noticed something they said or did. Say,“Thanks for handling the kids so well tonight during bedtime” or “Man, you handled that tantrum like a pro. Thank you,” means more. It means you noticed.

Look them in the eye. There’s a reason eye contact feels so intimate: it is. Looking your partner in the eye is an easy way of forming a deep emotional connection and getting a nice jolt of feel-good oxytocin in the process. Do it when you’re listening to them. And speaking of which…

Listen. Really listen to them. That is, put your phone down. Don’t interrupt. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Don’t try to fix stuff. Just listen to them. You’ll learn a lot.

Tell Them They’re Heard. You might be sensing a pattern here. Explicitly telling your partner that you’ve heard them can make a difference. You might still be trying to understand their perspective — you may even disagree — but knowing they have been heard, regardless, is powerful.

Be receptive of feedback. Without getting defensive or cranky or defusing it with humor. This is hard, we know. But listening to and understanding someone’s criticisms is how we grow. And growing together equals greater connection.

Try new things. In bed. In the kitchen. At a restaurant. Adventurousness builds connection.

Hug. Yup, just do it. For at least ten seconds, which has proven to be the ideal amount of time to get a nice rush of stress-reducing, connection-enhancing hormones.

What Am I Doing to My Kid When I Yell?

The messiness and monotony of parenting require extreme patience, and yelling at kids is far easier and more instinctive than pausing to react calmly. Yelling at your kids might feel like a release, or serve as a form of discipline. It can seem like yelling and screaming is the only way to get a kid’s attention. But it’s important to understand the psychological effects of yelling at a child, and why experts render it a less-than-optimal strategy.

As provocative as some behaviors may seem, little kids simply don’t have the emotional sophistication to fully understand adult frustration. Yelling at them won’t suddenly trigger their understanding, but it might in fact have some adverse psychological effect. Some, long-term, with the potential to change the way their brains develop and process information. As hard as it can be to resist the temptation to scream, ultimately, yelling at kids is deeply unhelpful.

According to Dr. Laura Markham, founder of Aha! Parenting and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, yelling is a parenting “technique” we can do without. Thankfully, she has some anti-yelling rules to remember, and some tips for helping us learn how to stop yelling at our kids, no matter how frustrated we may feel in the moment.

Yelling at Kids Is Never Communicating

Nobody (except for a small percentage of sadists) enjoys being yelled at. So why would kids? “When parents start yelling at kids, they acquiesce on the outside, but the child isn’t more open to your influence, they’re less so,” says Dr. Markham. Younger kids and toddlers may bawl; older kids will get a glazed-over look — but both are shutting down instead of listening. That’s not communication. Yelling at kids might get them to stop what they’re doing, but you’re not likely to get through to them when your voice is raised. In short, yelling at kids doesn’t work.

The Psychological Effects of Yelling at Kids: Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response

The psychological effects of yelling at children, especially younger ones, are real. Dr. Markham says that while parents who yell at their kids aren’t ruining their kids’ brains, per se, they are changing them. “Let’s say during a soothing experience [the brain’s] neurotransmitters respond by sending out soothing biochemicals that we’re safe. That’s when a child is building neural pathways to calm down.” When parents yell at their toddler, who has an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex and little executive function, the opposite happens. Their body interprets their resulting fear as danger and reacts as such. “The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation,” she says. If that action happens repeatedly, the behavior becomes ingrained and informs how they treat others. If you’re yelling at your toddler every day, you’re not exactly priming them for healthy communication skills.

Grown-Ups Are Scary When They Yell at Kids

The power dynamic between kids and parents means that extra care has to go into how you communicate with your child when communicating. Because the the power parents hold over young kids is absolute, it’s important to avoid turning your anger into full-on despotic control. To kids, parents are humans twice their size who provide everything they need to live: food, shelter, love, Paw Patrol. When the person they trust most frightens them, it rocks their sense of security. “They’ve done studies where people were filmed yelling. When it was played back to the subjects, they couldn’t believe how twisted their faces got,” says Dr. Markham. Being screamed at by their parents can be seriously stressful for kids. A 3-year-old may appear to push buttons and give off an attitude like an adult, but they still don’t have the emotional maturity to be treated like one.

Replace Yelling and Screaming with Humor

Ironically, humor can be a much more effective and not as hardline alternative to yelling. “If the parent responds with a sense of humor, you still maintain your authority and keep them connected to you,” says Dr. Markham. Laughter seems like a more welcomed outcome than cowering.

Not Yelling at Kids Isn’t About “Letting Them Off Easy”

Parents may feel like they’re putting their foot down and delivering adequate discipline when they yell at their kids. What they’re really doing is exacerbating the problem. When parents yell at toddlers they create fear, which prevents kids from learning from the situation or recognizing that their parents are trying to protect them. Scaring a kid at the moment may get them to knock off what they’re doing, but it’s also eroding trust in the relationship.  Learning how to slow your reaction and stop yelling at your kids isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

How to Not Let Anger Get the Best of You

Anger is no wallflower. When it’s in the room, it can overshadow everything else, which has led to theories trying to explain its influence. One of them is the Anger Iceberg, and it looks like it sounds. The emotion is the on tip above the water, covering up and maybe pushing aside a slew of harder-to-show feelings like fear, resentment, and sadness, which rumble around beneath the surface. Anger, it illustrates, is only part of the story.  

The Anger Iceberg is a plausible diagram, because anger is big, loud, and easy to call dominating. But, as Mitch Abrams, a clinical psychologist and author of Anger Management in Sport, says “it oversimplifies a complex emotion.”

In a way, the iceberg makes anger its own category, when, as Abrams points out, it’s neither good or bad. Anger is an emotion like all the others. Yes, anger can be aggressive and scary and some people get uncomfortable dealing with it. But the same can be said of facing someone who is sad or depressed. 

But anger also comes with an overlooked upside. It gets you to act, and can make you more focused, stronger, and faster, and, as the Inverted-U Theory suggests, the right amount can improve your performance, notes Jesse Cougle, associate professor of psychology at Florida State University. 

Too much anger, however, can hinder what you’re trying to do. It comes down to tempering, not eliminating, it and not feeling bad that you got angry in the first place.

“No one gets in trouble for getting angry,” Abrams says. The trouble, he notes, is in your reaction. Anger can take the lead. You could punch the guy, but you could also use a calm, strong voice and end up being seen as a calm, strong guy. While it might not feel like you’re in control, anger is a decision, and understanding what it’s doing can help rein it in and allow those other thoughts and feelings to enter the picture. 

How Anger Gets It Start

People get angry for all sorts of reasons. But underlying it is a threat, compounded by daily things like hunger and fatigue. But it’s also learned and socialized from childhood, so for some it’s the “safer” response, under the belief, Abrams says, that it’s better to be bad than to look stupid.

Whether there’s a model or not, anger often sets off as part of the fight-or-flight response. A threat is in place, and it’s usually around injustice or unfairness, says Jeffrey Nevid, professor of psychology at St. John’s University and practicing psychologist in New York City. 

That sense could be for a group of people being mistreated or just about you. Either way, someone’s getting screwed and you are not going to take it. That empowerment feels good, but the trick is turning the reaction of, “I’ll show you,” to an intent of, “Here’s how I’m going to show you.” 

This takes thought, which requires … wait for it … some kind of pause, which in turn allows you to get out of the sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic, Abrams says. It means assessing yourself and the situation, because it’s easy to take every slight personally, when you may not, in fact, be getting screwed. 

Or you might be, but it still might not be personal, or it could be. Anger bumps up against an inconvenient truth: Life isn’t fair. 

“People have a hard time with bad things happening,” Cougle says. But steaming and getting white hot doesn’t make anything necessarily better. What’s needed is some regulation. 

How to Cool Down

So, you’re angry. First you validate, because, “Getting angry is as normal as getting happy,” Abrams says. Giving yourself that go-ahead eliminates the belief and undue stress that you should be reacting in a different way. After that, check in with the actual situation. Danger might feel real, but Abrams likens it to seeing a shark and asking yourself, Am I on the boat or in the water?Both might be scary, but only one is the true threat.  

Jeremy Frank, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recommends asking: What are you thinking? What are you feeling emotionally? And what are you feeling physically? Follow that with deep breathing for 10-30 or however long you need, and re-ask the questions. Chances are your awareness has expanded and empathy can creep in, allowing you to say, “Someone was having a bad day,” or it might be nothing more than, “Guy’s a jerk but he’s probably that way all the time.”

If you’re visual, imagining a stop sign can help slow you down, Nevid says, but with the ability to consider how you’re actually feeling, you can consider a different action. As Frank says, rather than yell or give the finger, it could be to wave or shrug and possibly end up making a connection, if only for a second. 

How Happy Marriages Stay Happy

In an interview years ago, Jane Pauley asked family and relationship researcher John DeFrain, Ph.D., what he thought was the major cause of divorce in America. “Marriage” was his response. He wasn’t trying to be flippant (well, maybe a little), but rather, he was acknowledging the many obstacles to happy, long-term unions.

Marriage is “putting two people together under the same roof and dumping all the problems of the world on top of their heads,” says DeFrain, professor emeritus of family studies at the University of Nebraska and the author of more than 20 books, including a study of strength and resilience of more than 30 families around the world that he co-authored with Sylvia Asay, Ph.D. 

“Society is set up to satisfy business interests, not family interests,” DeFrain, now in his 70s, continues. “There are all these forces against couples and families and they don’t have any organization to protect them. They don’t have allies like a union or party; they have to figure it all out themselves.”

So how do happy marriages stay happy? What qualities help a marriage endure? Researchers like DeFrain have spent decades publishing studies dissecting marriages to figure out what works to keep couples happy for the long haul. Here’s what DeFrain and couples therapists say is truly essential for happy, long-term marriages.

1. They are friends — and have friends

Marriage researcher John Gottman developed an infographic of a “sound relationship house” containing the elements of successful relationships, says certified Gottman therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist Dana McNeil. Three things on the lower level — caring, fondness and admiration — are essential for building the friendship important for the house’s foundation, McNeil says.

“Like a real house, if something is going on with the slab or in the crawl space and you try to put the enormous weight of a house on it, you’re asking too much of the foundation and will have problems,” McNeil says. “Those three things go into the basis of friendship, which gives us the foundation to build upon.”

The increased life satisfaction researchers have associated with married people was twice as great when participants felt their spouses were their best friends, according to a study published in 2014. DeFrain has made similar observations in his work.

“Having studied great marriages for eight years, it boils down to simply that best friends don’t do bad things to each other.,” he says. “They wouldn’t think of it.”

It’s important to remember, however, that best friend shouldn’t mean only friend. Couples need to have space from each other, DeFrain says, and notes, “Oak trees won’t grow in each other’s shadow.” 

In addition to alone time, having reliable friends and family help buffer people through storms, adds Justin Lavner, Ph.D., family researcher and associate professor at the University of Georgia.

2. They think like a team

Teamwork really does make the marital dream work. People in successful relationships feel supported and assured that their partner will always be on their side, McNeil says. In a true partnership, you hurt when your partner hurts, and a problem for one of you is a problem for both of you. 

“It’s not codependent but interdependent,” she says. “It’s thinking, ‘My life wouldn’t be the same without you’ and ‘I know what to expect with you even though the entire world is chaotic right now.’”

Consistency and empathy are essential in true partnerships, McNeil says. If your partner asks for a hug after a rough day and half the time you’re happy to do it but sometimes you snap at her that you’re busy, for example, she’ll learn she can’t count on you 100 percent of the time. Attachment injuries, she notes, occur in children when caregivers are inconsistent or sporadic.

“‘Partnership’ is a great word for what two people of any gender would want to have,” says Pellham, New York, social worker and therapist Richard Heller. “Resilience in relationships to a large extent are based on agreement, understanding your network of support, and a basic sense of well-being.”

Couples who don’t feel quite there in their own relationships can learn to model healthy partnerships, Heller says. But what can stand in the way is an antiquated idea that the husband is “the boss” in the relationship, DeFrain says. The boss-employee relationship has little in common with the kind of partnership necessary for happy marriages.

 “You don’t communicate positively with your boss, and you’re not really committed to your boss,” he says. “You just do what you have to do to make them happy.”

3. They accentuate the positive

Natural optimism is an extremely valuable asset in marriages. Married optimists engaged in more positive problem-solving strategies when there was conflict and showed less decline in marital well-being one year into the marriage, the authors of a 2013 study found. Another study concluded that reacting positively to positive news their partners shared was more predictive of relationship satisfaction than men’s responses to bad news, according to research published in 2006. 

If you’re not a born optimist, some research suggests you might grow a little sunnier later in life: In a study of long-term marriages, researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that positive emotions increase and negative emotions decrease with age.  

Practicing gratitude is a good way to learn the ways of the optimist. Gratitude appears to function as a “booster shot” for romantic relationships, according to a study published in Personal Relationships in 2010. When partners felt more gratitude toward their partners, they felt better about their relationships and more connected to their partners, not only on that day but the following day as well, the authors noted. 

Another simple way to think about it is to practice what many people are taught in grade school: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, McNeil says. 

Part of having a positive perspective, per McNeil, is asking, ‘Do I give you the benefit of doubt? Can I be ‘curious instead of furious’ when conflicts arise?’

10 Reasons Why Men and Women Avoid Emotional Intimacy

Later in hindsight, it was reflected that the spouse seemed to have avoided deep emotional intimacy in the marriage or relationship.   

In this article, we will explore a few of the observed reasons why men and women prefer avoiding emotional intimacy in marriage.

1. Dysfunctional family

Let’s face it, and we are a product of our environment. If you come from an unloving home, there are some psychological blocks to intimacy.

Men and women both can be victims of dysfunctional families.  They never saw models of healthy expressions of love.  Therefore, they may possess a fear of emotional intimacy, and in turn, avoid emotional closeness on levels they are not comfortable with. 

But, avoiding intimacy is not the solution to this problem. Also, you must not try to do it alone. 

If there are years of abuse to uncover, don’t be afraid of seeking professional help.

2. Fugitive

Believe it, or not many people were found to be married when a policeman showed up on the door, looking for the missing spouses of twenty years.  

These fugitive men or women do not want to get close to anyone because they never know when they will have to catch the next flight out of town! 

They could also be bigamists – married to more than one person at the same time.

3. Low-down

These types of men and women perhaps have done something that their guilty conscience does not allow them to relate well to others emotionally. They avoid emotional intimacy because they fear trusting people and spurt out the hidden secrets.

The apprehension of divulging the hidden secrets makes these people keep a certain amount of distance with their spouses. Such a husband or wife avoids emotional intimacy because their current spouse may be their next victim or meal ticket.  

Sometimes, women or men who avoid intimacy might not be even criminals but could be only keeping a low-down because they feel that their past could hurt their spouse.

These people do not hide anything intentionally but fear that they might lose their partner if they get to know about their dark past.

4. Mental problems

Certain mental health issues are leading to a wife or husband, avoiding intimacy with their spouse.

There are certain developmental issues that can begin in childhood and continue right until adulthood. Such problems can arise because of some developmental flaws or even traumatic experiences, such as a car accident. 

So, if you observe any abnormal fear of intimacy in men or women, seek professional help immediately.

5. Inadequate social skills

At times you see men who avoid women or even the women who atypically avoid men. They tend to behave awkwardly, which is different from the normal.

These men and women are just not good at expressing themselves. They are the typical introverts who prefer to stay in their shell and avoid socializing with people.

Some people belonging to this kind might even feel that since they came from a particular social class, they did not learn the skills needed to relate well with others. To hide these inadequacies, they avoid deep emotional intimacies.

1 in 4 Americans have no retirement savings

“Those that are [saving], on average, what they have saved will afford them like $1,000 a month of actual cash while they’re in retirement,” Geis said.

The report found that the median retirement account balance for 55-to-64-year-olds is $120,000. When divided over 15 years, that would generate a modest distribution of less than $1,000 per month and even less for those who outlive their life expectancies.

The lack of retirement preparedness is leading to a path of a looming “crisis,” Geis said, as Social Security is projected to be depleted by 2034 and “there’s a huge demographic that aren’t likely to meet their savings goal.”

Among those 60 years old or older, 13% have no retirement savings. That number increases to 17% among 45 to 59-year-olds, 26% among 30 to 44-year-olds, and 42% for those between the ages of 18 to 29.

There are not cost-efficient and affordable plans available’

There are several factors that have contributed to this bleak outlook awaiting for many Americans. 

According to PwC research, a major one are the expenses for employer-sponsored retirement plans provided by small business owners. 

“There are not cost-efficient and affordable plans available for small businesses, which is still a very large segment of the U.S. economy,” Geis said.

The proposed solution? Geis suggested having more available multi-employer defined contribution plans in the marketplace for employees of several small businesses to be able to pool their resources similar to the plans available to employees of medium and large-sized corporations. 

“If there was greater adoption of these multi-employer plans and greater participation, you’d get the saving rate up just by that alone,” she said.

Emotional Contagion Could Explain Why You “Catch” Your Spouse’s Mood

Your wife’s facing a deadline for a major work project. She’s worried and the whole house is on edge, even though it shouldn’t be, logically. First, she’s killing it with the project and she’s fretting over nothing. Secondly, the stress should stop with her. You’re not on deadline. Neither are your kids. Nonetheless, the tension permeates the entire family. Why? Credit a little phenomenon known as emotional contagion.

Under the theory of emotional contagion, moods and emotions spread from person to person in the same manner as germs. Expressions of happiness, anger, sadness and other emotional states trigger an automatic mechanism in our brains, causing us to feel the expressed emotion. While degrees of emotional contagion vary from person to person, social science data shows that the effect strengthens over time.

So, “Happy spouse, happy house” isn’t just a trite piece of marital advice. It can also be a literal truth, with emotional contagion growing into emotional convergence. 

“We only found it to be a good thing, predicting a stronger bond and longer-lasting relationship,” Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Cameron Anderson says. “Being on the ‘same page’ means feeling validated, affirmed, acting more in concert with each other, and understanding each other better.”

Pioneering social psychologist Elaine Hatfield proposed that moods are transmitted virally in her 1993 book Emotional Contagion. Noting how people unconsciously mimic their conversation partners’ vocal patterns and body language, Hatfield theorized a three-step of emotional contagion: mimicry, feedback, and synchronized emotions. 

You know how baby’s smile when you smile at them? That response doesn’t disappear as we age. Smiles and frowns make our cheek muscles twitch. That’s why someone yawns in a crowded room, it’s like a domino toppling over a succession of exhausted faces. 

This initial mimicry stage occurs instantly and precisely, with the person infected by the mood responding in real time to small changes in expression, like blushing or increased rate of blinking. 

The next stage is feedback, where the brain responds to the involuntary muscle movement by firing off a corresponding emotional sensation. In other words, if you start smiling, your brain revs up production of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Once you’re feeling what the other person is feeling, the table’s set for the third and final stage of shared experiences and synchronized emotions.

Just as how some people seem to catch colds all the time while others easily fend off the sniffles, vulnerability to infection from emotions vary from person to person. In a brain scan study, people with higher rates of empathy displayed neural activity distinct from less empathic ones. The results indicate that empathy is an ability that allows people to easily read and mimic other’s mental state. 

 

In relationships, one person may have more susceptibility to catching emotions than the other. 

“Relationships often have an asymmetry in power, in that one partner has more influence than the other,” Anderson says. “It is the more powerful partner that drives the emotional convergence process — meaning they change less over time in their emotional responses.”

In relationships with this empathy power dynamic, the less powerful partner winds up doing more of what Anderson calls ‘emotional work’ for convergence to occur. “They change their own emotions to match the more powerful partner’s emotions over time,” he says.

 Since Hatfield introduced the concept in the ‘90s, psychological, neurological and other fields of research have supported her theory and explored its implications. It seems that emotional contagion doesn’t happen the same way with every person or every emotion. Anger, for example, can make us initially angry but ultimately afraid. While studies as far back as the 1970s show that depressive moods can spread in as quickly as 20 minutes via phone calls, a controversial 2014 Facebook study where researchers flooded social media users’ news feed with upsetting content indicated that moods can be caught via social media as well. 

Big-Time College Athletes Don’t Get Paid

In 2018, they took in an estimated $14 billion. That amount has been steadily growing, driven primarily by TV revenue. Yet, unlike professional athletes, college players aren’t the beneficiaries of this windfall.

In professional sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA, about 50 percent of revenue goes to players. For college sports, however, players’ compensation is limited to covering the cost of attending the school and a modest living stipend.

So where does the majority of college-sports revenue go?

That’s the question Craig Garthwaite, a Kellogg School professor of strategy, tackled along with Nicole Ozminkowski, a graduate student in economics at Northwestern University, Matthew Notowidigdo, previously at Kellogg and now at the University of Chicago, and Jordan Keener at the University of Michigan.

They were intrigued by a combination of factors: the steep rise in revenue for college sports, the low percentage of revenue used to compensate players—only 7 percent, by their estimation—and the prevailing argument by universities that it isn’t feasible to pay players.

“They say compensation for players would destroy the nature of amateur athletics because people want to believe players are just like other students,” says Garthwaite, who calls himself a “pretty big college football fan.” He points out that no one makes the same argument for coaches, who are paid massive amounts by the highest-profile programs, even when their teams struggle. He cites the example of the 10-year, $75 million contract for Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher, one of the largest in history.

But still, even generous coaching salaries can’t account for all that revenue. So, if it’s not going to the players, where is it going?

The researchers studied the flow of money from the high-revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball to answer that question. They found a large amount of the revenue generated by these sports was used to fund investments in other sports at the same schools. Importantly, there are stark differences between the players generating this money and those who are the beneficiaries of it.

“We find that the prevailing model rests on taking the money generated by athletes who are more likely to be Black and come from low-income neighborhoods and transferring it to sports played by athletes who are more likely to be white and from higher-income neighborhoods,” the researchers write in a recent Brookings Institution article.

This dynamic raises questions of equity.

“We’ve got kids who are playing sports that are known as more dangerous in general and still playing in the time of COVID—when we don’t know how the disease is going to progress—and they can only be compensated for the cost of attendance,” Garthwaite says. “But the money made from their sports goes to support other, non-revenue sports typically played by kids from wealthier backgrounds.”

A Tale of Two Clusters

Because they wanted to examine high-revenue-generating teams, the study initially focused on schools in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The FBS comprises multiple conferences, including the “Power 5 conferences” such as the Big 10, SEC, and Pac-12, which house the best-known, highest-performing college football and basketball teams: University of Michigan, University of Alabama, University of Oregon, and others featured regularly on network and cable TV and other media.

They studied athletic-department finances based on data from two main sources: Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, to which schools must report sports-specific data in order to receive government funding, and the Knight Commission, an independent group that maintains a database of more granular university athletic-department revenue and costs.

They examined the data carefully to understand how money flowed within and between sports. Early analysis revealed two very different clusters of schools.

“Schools in the Power 5 conferences clearly operate under a different economic model than the rest of the schools in Division I sports,” Garthwaite says.

Schools outside of those conferences tend to have relatively low sports revenues, and much of the support for athletics comes from the university itself. Power 5 schools, on the other hand, have much higher athletics revenues and minimal institutional support.

Moreover, the study showed that while the average Power 5 school features about 20 different men’s and women’s sports, 58 percent of total athletic-department revenue comes from just two of them: men’s football and basketball. So the researchers focused the next part of their analysis on Power 5 schools. Their goal was to understand how the large amount of revenue from their football and men’s basketball programs was ultimately distributed.

They secured comprehensive revenue and expenses data from 2006 to 2019 for all 65 schools in the Power 5, then measured how money generated by the football and men’s basketball programs flowed to other men’s sports and women’s sports. To understand how athletes’ race and socioeconomic backgrounds figured into the picture, they traced all athletes from 2018 back to their high schools. They then collected data on those high schools to see if they tended to have, for example, a large number of Black or low-income students.

Where Does the Money Go?

Some of the money made by football and men’s basketball, the researchers found, is reinvested back into those programs, mostly to pay coaches’ sky-high salaries, but also via spending on facilities.

“People argue that spending on facilities is a way to recruit players, as a sort of fringe benefit,” Garthwaite says. “But we can question whether that’s the most efficient way of rewarding kids for the sacrifice they make for their sport.”

Other sizable portions of the revenue go to supporting less-lucrative college sports, such as soccer, golf, and baseball, in the form of scholarships, coaches’ salaries, and improvements to those sports’ facilities. Indeed, while football and men’s basketball brought in six times the revenue of all the other sports combined, on average, they represented only 1.3 times the spending of those other sports.

This is where it’s important to look at the economic dynamics through the lenses of race and class, the researchers say.

Click Read More for the rest of the article.

How Spending Time Alone Helped Me Overcome My Loneliness

I have spent most of my life surrounded by people, which is probably why I never realized I was lonely. For the majority of my adult life, the only quiet times I had to myself were the very start and very end of the day. Otherwise, my mind was inundated with chatter, notifications, and distractions.

This constant noise let me mask the depths of my loneliness. I was bombarded with texts and distractions at all times, but I lacked deeper connections. As the years passed and I grew busier and busier, I found that I actually took steps to reduce my alone time. I’d watch TV until I fell asleep; I’d check my work emails first thing in the morning.

Looking back, the situation was obvious—I was terrified of being alone with my own thoughts—but at the time, I just thought I was being productive, or simply didn’t like being bored.

I didn’t realize my problem until my laptop suddenly broke. One chilly afternoon, when I was curled up on the sofa, ready for some New Girl, it unexpectedly powered off, and I was faced with my own reflection in the black screen. My phone was out of charge.

Without distractions, work, or social media filling up my mind, I came to the abrupt realization that, despite all my activities and invites, I was deeply lonely. And that was making me profoundly miserable without even realizing it.

That afternoon, I found out I was terrified of being alone. I looked at my relationship with myself and found it lacking.

The prospect of being stuck in my own company was so scary to me that it jarred me into action. I’d gotten so good at filling my mind with chatter, I didn’t know who I was when I was alone. I was definitely one of the many Americans who spend more than five hours a day on their phones, according to a 2017 State of Mobile report—never really alone, after all. But I didn’t know how to start being less lonely.

I didn’t want to only rely on others, so I made a plan to build my relationship with myself.

I decided then to be mindful about my intentional alone time. First, I figured out when I had space to be with myself. Then, I identified the times I found it hardest to be alone. Finally, I picked out the obstacles.

That left me with a solid three-point strategy: I had roughly three chunks of time during the day when I could have mindful alone time. My mornings and evenings were roughest for me. And my phone was the primary driver in stopping me from my goals.

My plan was to have three sections of alone time: active alone time, time meditating, and time doing something that didn’t involve a screen. But before I did any of that, I had to remove the biggest obstacle: my phone.

Even though it kept me connected to the world, it was holding me back from developing a deeper relationship with myself. I spotted that I used it most in the morning and the evening, so I invested in an old-fashioned alarm clock and decided on a strict no-screens-after-9:00pm rule.

Normally, my morning started with me staring at my phone’s notifications. Instead, I got up and went for a fifteen-minute walk in my neighborhood. At first, it was boring—I was desperate for distraction. But the more I did it, the more I found myself capable of noticing birdsong, thinking about my plans for the day, unraveling the tangled feelings of the day prior, and looking forward to my first cup of coffee.

I also worked in a five-minute meditation. At the time, meditation was new for me, so I figured that five minutes would be short enough for me to start getting into the habit. I quickly realized I needed to invest in an app to do guided meditation, which really helped me stay consistent and get actual benefits from it.

Finally, I filled my evenings with reading and painting. Both of these activities are manual, which meant that I couldn’t check my phone while I was doing them. I was able to rediscover my love of books, and while I’m not very good at painting, the process of producing tangible art helped patch the gap in the evenings when I normally would reach for my phone.

Research proves that loneliness is harmful for your physical and emotional well-being, but you don’t necessarily have to look outside yourself to cure your loneliness.

All my habit changes pointed to one final conclusion: You can’t depend on others to feel better about yourself. Learning to be okay with being alone was crucial to my journey with myself. You can’t begin to work on real relationships with others until you have a solid relationship with yourself.

For me, it took one crucial moment to bring home the reality of the situation. From there, I needed to actively carve out alone time—not just time without other people physically present, but time without distractions, notifications, phone calls, or emails.

Time that belonged just to me.

Finally, it did take tweaking. I tried to do it with my phone, but realized it was impossible, so I removed it. I originally tried to do a half-hour walk, but the time away from any devices stressed me out. When I began meditation, I thought I could do it without an app, but found I spiraled into negative thought patterns or fell asleep.

My point is…

3 simple steps to jump-start your heart health this year

In the United States last year, at least twice as many people died from cardiovascular causes as those who died from complications from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus.

While the challenges from the virus are new, experts have been studying heart disease for decades — and everyone can benefit from that knowledge. “The lifestyle habits that keep your heart healthy may also leave you less vulnerable to serious complications from infections such as COVID-19 and influenza,” says cardiologist Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.

So what exactly are those heart-healthy habits? The American Heart Association refers to them as “Life’s Simple 7.” Put simply, they are:

1) Stop smoking

2) Eat better

3) Be active

4) Lose weight

5) Manage your blood pressure

6) Control your cholesterol

7) Reduce your blood sugar

Choosing three steps to jump-start heart health this year

But seven steps may seem like too much to manage, or may even seem overwhelming. So, let’s make it even simpler by focusing on just a few. Of course, not everyone needs to lose weight or lower their blood sugar. And in reality, most Americans don’t smoke, so step one doesn’t apply to very many people.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for steps two and three. Most people don’t eat enough plant-based foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit. And few Americans get the recommended amounts of exercise. That’s at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) each week, plus muscle-strengthening activity (like lifting weights) at least two days each week.

Of course, improving both your diet and your exercise game will help you lose weight (step four). But did you know that eating better and moving more can also help with steps five, six, and seven?

Start with one small change, then add on

In 2021, do your heart a favor by doing these three things.

Make one small change to your diet. Some suggestions: Swap meat with beans in one of your favorite dinner recipes. Eat a slice of whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Try a vegetable you’ve never had before.

Do a heart rate-elevating exercise for 10 minutes. Some suggestions: Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Hop on a treadmill or other exercise machine. No machines handy? Do some simple calisthenics, like a combination of jumping jacks, squats, leg raises, and arm circles.

Know your numbers. It’s easy to track these four key values. Step on a scale, then use your weight and height to calculate your body mass index. Measure your blood pressure (many pharmacies have machines). Check your medical records for your latest blood test results, which should include cholesterol and fasting blood sugar values.

Here are the standard targets:

  • body mass index between 18.5 and 25
  • blood pressure below 120/80 mm/Hg
  • total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL
  • fasting blood sugar (glucose) below 100 mg/dL.

It’s important to note that your individual targets may differ, depending on your age and medical and family history. Talk with your doctor about this, then work together to achieve or maintain these four values in the optimal range for you. This might include taking medications. And in the meantime, start making small tweaks to your diet and exercise routine. Gradually adding more healthful foods and spending more time exercising can really make a difference to your heart and overall health.

Remembering MLK Jr.

Dr. King was the voice of a movement at a time when equality for all was not yet a reality.  Today, we continue to strive for equality, looking to community leaders to lend their voices, time and action to help those who struggle with adversity, poverty, oppression and any type of unfair treatment.

With so many great former NFL players doing charitable work in their communities, we encourage all former players to meet up with their local NFLPA Chapters, get involved with or start an effort in their community, and to let us know so we can continue to champion your great work in our “Paying it Forward” series in 2018.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Next Generation of You: Jay Riemersma

by Jim Gehman

“I can remember sitting around the dining room table just kind of listening to my folks talk about the issues of the day,” Riemersma said. “First and foremost, we’re a very Christian family, and so we believe that it’s our duty as Christians to be involved in the political process. So, after I retired from the NFL, my mom had actually worked at Family Research Council and the president of the organization had kind of followed the tail end of my career and said, ‘What is Jay going to do when he’s done?’

“Of course, everybody thinks they’re going to play forever. And then when I ended up tearing my Achilles (in 2004), it just seemed natural for me to go into something that was a passion of ours growing up.”

Founded in 1983, FRC is a nonprofit research and educational organization. Its mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview.

“I manage the sales team,” Riemersma said. “Anytime you’re working for a nonprofit, you have a group of individuals that are out in the field, in different parts of the country, raising money on behalf of the organization. And because of that, I’m traveling quite a bit doing a lot of that stuff myself.

“I love the work that we do. I love the fact that it’s a Christian organization that’s trying to advance a Christian worldview in the public policy arena. It’s been quite a bit different with the pandemic that we’ve been going through, but typically I’m in a week and out a week.”

A tight end chosen by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Michigan, Riemersma, “unknown, untested, and unproven,” beat the odds and spent nine seasons in the league with the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.

He had the opportunity to play for two Hall of Fame coaches, Marv Levy and Bill Cowher, and is using experiences he had with them to help now in his role as a manager.

“Playing for Marv and Coach Cowher, the leadership traits and characteristics and certainly the way they were able to push the right buttons for each individual player,” Riemersma says, “it’s completely different depending on who you’re trying to motivate.

“The great thing about sports, and football especially, you’re taking a group of men from all different backgrounds, with all different life experiences, and you’re trying to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that ultimately give you the best chance to win in a short window on a Sunday afternoon.

“So, those principles of leadership and character and integrity are things that I’ve taken into my career trying to lead people. The basics, the fundamentals, in leadership qualities that you learn from those guys translates in anything you do.”    

Living in his hometown with his wife, Cara, and their children: Sophie, Trip, and Nick; what’s the best thing about being Jay Riemersma today?

“What I most enjoy is being Dad,” Riemersma said. “And I think I’m most proud of the fact that people in and around west Michigan that kind of know me, and in the cities that I played, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, those folks and fans, they know me as just Jay. He’s not Jay with an ego. I’m just a dad and a husband that’s trying to go and impact the world for Christ.”

7 Ways to Thank People in Your Network

And getting from an intellectual agreement about the merits of gratitude to daily practice is no easy feat.

Andy Mills, former chairman on Thomson Financial, and a mentor of mine, keeps a “gift notebook” in which he writes down little observations or things he hears from the people closest to him. When his wife’s birthday or son’s graduation is coming up and he needs a gift, he turns to the book. When you make keen observations, note them somewhere.

When first meeting someone, a common conversational entree is to ask about their background. “I’m so thankful that Joanne introduced us — but I don’t actually know how you two know each other,” I said to a potential business partner. “Oh we go way back,” he said. “As freshman we were in an improvisation group together.” Done. As a thank you, I did a little research on improv. Are there theaters where he lives? Could I send him tickets to a show? What about a book or an article? I find a book called Improv, the bible of improv it turns out, used in tech companies as mandatory reading for how to relate to other people. So my thank you is a hand written note paper-clipped to the cover of the small paperback edition of the book. Total cost is about $25 with shipping.

Once you pickup on something that person cares about, showing gratitude can be pretty easy — and fun.

Consider these seven practices:

Send a specific thank-you note. An old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note on nice paper still goes a long way.  Be specific, say why you are thanking them, and show them how your conversation made an impact on you.

Too often we fire off notes like this:

Dear Sandra: Thank you for taking time to meet with Jason and me about our company.  You are an amazing investor and we really hope we might work together.  Is there anything else you need?  Sincerely, Evan

This note is nonspecific and uses over-the-top adjectives that aren’t credible. It feels cold and generic.

With a little observation, you could instead write this:

Dear Sandra: Thank you for your time and advice about our paper company. Jason and I spoke for hours about how we might diversify our products, increase prices, and improve design — thank you for those excellent suggestions. We are eager to look up Johnson’s Paper — we appreciate that referral. Thank you for sharing your stories and counsel with us.  

Sincerely, Evan

PS: I also so appreciated the story about your first company — I can’t believe you sold mangos from a bicycle! 

This note provides sincere appreciation for something specific. It shows that we remembered their advice, and paid attention.

Send something fun. Busy people get a lot of inbound communication; if you want to stand out, make your communication stand out. People get fewer handwritten notes than emails, so notes always win.  But people get even fewer FedEx packages. So consider a package — or at least something beyond a note. I had some of my favorite quotations printed on nice card stock that I occasionally include in my thank you notes. On future visits to their offices, I’ve seen a few of these quote cards taped to monitors.

My coauthor of Get Backed, Evan Loomis, wanted to send someone who had helped with our book a nice thank-you gift.  Bottle of whiskey? Fancy pen? No, thanks. He listened and learned that this person had a 9-year-old son with whom he got into Nerf gun fights. What did we send? The fanciest Nerf gun we could find with a note about never losing another Nerf war. We hope that will be a gift never forgotten.

Make an introduction. Bringing two people together can be a serendipitous and generous act — that can spawn companies, friendships, and even marriages. One friend recently sat down with an adviser who shared that her son had been diagnosed with a rare medical condition. My friend did some research and followed up with this:

Thanks for sharing a bit about your son.  I reached out to my friend whose son has the same condition; she did an extensive search and ended up with Dr. Jacobs in midtown – you can reach him here: 555-555-5555  

Offer to help — and deliver. At the end of a meeting, my business cofounder Will Davis will often ask: “So – -you have helped me so much here. Is there anything I could possibly help you with?” Following his example, I have received quite a few answers that I could easily help with. For example, one investment firm was looking for a new analyst. I was able to find the job post, circulate it to my networks, and pass along a few interested candidates.

Circle back at a later date. Most people walk out of a meeting and do nothing. More organized people send an email. And the even more organized a hand-written note. But for nearly everyone, meetings are forgotten within a few weeks. Consider staying engaged by setting yourself a reminder to do something at a later date. I met a fascinating founder who was impressively committed to reading a book a week. His habits did challenge me — and I wanted to reconnect around that idea.

Dear Jason: Can you believe it was six months ago we met? I still remember your audacious goal of reading a book a week. I couldn’t keep up – but managed to finish a book a month. By far my favorite was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. How did you do? 

Send a video note. This is possibly the most outrageous of these suggestions—and certainly one that might cause Emily Post to roll over in her grave. Eric Koester, COO of Main Street Genome, records a video message on his iPhone and then sends it by SMS as a form of a thank you, follow up, or even an introduction. Sending a video – or even an audio note – lets you convey emotion, enthusiasm, and context in a quick note. At my company Able, my cofounder and I sent a thank you video to our customers — whom we literally have to thank for our jobs and a chance to build a company.

Three Kinds of Holiday Financing You Should Avoid

No matter how well intentioned we are and no matter how much we may plan for it, holiday expenses have a way of getting out of hand.

Taking on debt for Christmas shopping is nothing new, and if you’re properly prepared and have a plan to repay that debt, it’s not inherently bad (though it’s better to avoid it). That said, because holiday spending is emotionally charged, it’s easy to get pulled into financial offers that seem helpful, but end up hurting you in the end. 

If you’re stretching yourself financially this season, keep an eye out for these three particularly worrisome financing options.

CHRISTMAS LOANS

A Christmas loan (or holiday loan, or vacation loan, etc.) is really just a regular old unsecured personal loan with a festive bow on top. Because there’s no collateral in an unsecured loan, they’re riskier than a secured loan (like a mortgage) and will usually have a substantially higher interest rate. And because it’s a loan, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a variety of fees to pay.

Even more concerning are no/bad credit loans, which are essentially payday loans. They usually feature small windows for repayment and extremely unfavorable interest rates.

While it’s completely understandable that the pressures of the season may drive you to spend beyond your means, it’s just not a good idea to take out a loan to handle non-essential seasonal expenses.

SKIP-A-PAYMENT

Some lenders are happy to offer you the opportunity to occasionally skip an upcoming loan payment (usually for car loans or mortgages). You may even see this offer advertised during the holiday season as a way to find the cash needed for all those extra seasonal expenses.

The problem is that skipping a loan payment is a bit more costly than it seems. There’s usually an application or processing fee, which can range from $20-$35. That may seem reasonable if you’re subtracting it out of the balance of the payment you didn’t make, but it’s not the only cost. 

When you skip a payment, the length of your loan is extended by one month. Meanwhile, interest continues to accrue, even during the “skipped” month. For lenders, it’s a pretty good deal – at no cost to them, they add the application fee plus an extra month’s worth of interest charges. For borrowers, though, it’s not a very good at all. And if you’re skipping a loan payment to buy presents it’s a really bad deal.

POINT OF SALE FINANCING

Store credit is nothing new, but it’s only become more prevalent as online retailers have made point of sale financing even more central to the buying experience. That point of sale offer may come in the form of a special credit card (if you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, you’ve almost certainly seen this in action) or a payment plan.

Store credit cards don’t usually have the best possible terms, but most importantly they only really serve to drive you back to that one particular store over and over again. Payment plans, on the other hand, increase the overall cost of the purchase by adding fees and other charges. 

There will be times when you’ll need to purchase something that you simply can’t afford to pay up front, and that’s okay. But the added costs associated with financing Christmas presents and holiday supplies is almost always a bad investment.

12 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Attending In-Person Thanksgiving

If you’re still not sold on staying home this Thanksgiving, consider the facts of your situation and the world around you. Here are 12 questions to ask yourself before attending an in-person Thanksgiving gathering.

Are you at high risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19?

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from the coronavirus include older adults and those with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, chronic kidney disease and more.

Are any other attendees at high risk of severe illness?

“Prior to visiting loved ones, it’s a good idea to have everyone check with a
physician on their risk status for severe disease if they contract COVID-19,” Dr. Linda Anegawa, a physician with virtual health platform PlushCare, told HuffPost. “Individuals who are high risk for complications are safest avoiding family gatherings altogether.”

Will you have to travel to attend the celebration?

Public health experts advise against unnecessary travel during the pandemic — particularly now, as case counts continue to skyrocket.

“Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC website notes. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

What means of transit will you use?

If you have to travel for Thanksgiving, are you going by plane, train or bus, all of which make social distancing nearly impossible?

“Traveling by car is probably safer than an airplane, given the exposure to far fewer people,” said Anegawa. “When traveling by car, be sure to have hand sanitizer, paper towels, and sanitizing wipes available (in case you need to make any bathroom pit stops along the way). Supplying your own snacks and drinks can also help to minimize stops in unfamiliar locations.”

If you travel by plane, try to go at off-peak times and days, practice social distancing at the airport and when boarding, wipe down your seat area and always wear your mask. Anegawa suggested a face shield in addition to a mask for extra protection as well. 

How many COVID-19 cases are there in your current location?

Consider the coronavirus situation in your community. Are cases high or increasing? You can look up the specifics at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which includes a U.S. map tracking COVID-19 cases by county. The CDC also has a COVID-19 data tracker. 

What’s the case rate at your destination?

Do the same research for the location of your Thanksgiving destination to see how many cases have been reported and if that number is rising. If cases are high or increasing, that’s all the more reason to avoid going there.

Look up the hospital situation in your current location and potential Thanksgiving destination as well. Many communities are nearing full hospital bed capacity. Consult local public health websites for more information. 

Are there restrictions for travelers at your destination?

Most places have implemented restrictions and requirements for incoming travelers amid the pandemic. The CDC’s travel planner tool has information about state and local regulations about quarantines, test requirements and other restrictions. You can also go to the state or county’s public health website and check local news sources.

Travel restrictions also generally apply upon your return from out of state, so it’s best to look up the rules in your own community, as well.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer.

Everyone Can Make Thanksgiving Safer

Wear a mask

  • Wear a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

  • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu.
  • Keeping 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Wash your hands

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Attending a Gathering

Make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps while attending a Thanksgiving gathering.

  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.

Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering

If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. Other steps you can take include:

  • Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
  • Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
  • Have guests bring their own food and drink.
  • If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.

Thanksgiving Travel

Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.

If you do travel

  • Check travel restrictions before you go.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

Consider Other Thanksgiving Activities

Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you

  • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.

Watch television and play games with people in your household

  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
  • Find a fun game to play.

Shopping

  • Shop online sales the day after Thanksgiving and days leading up to the winter holidays.
  • Use contactless services for purchased items, like curbside pick-up.
  • Shop in open air markets staying 6 feet away from others.

Sleep apnea and autoimmune diseases: How are they connected?

It is impossible to overstate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep can lower the risk of weight gain, reduce inflammation, improve productivity, and much more.

Many people struggle to get enough rest each night. For some, this is due to sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. 

OSA was the focus of a new study, which appears in the journal Clinical Immunology. Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens looked at the connection between untreated OSA and autoimmune diseases. 

Sleep apnea

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep apnea occurs “when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.” 

A person with sleep apnea may momentarily stop breathing multiple times per hour while sleeping. 

Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include: 

  • snoring
  • daytime sleepiness
  • gasping for breath while asleep
  • sexual dysfunction

Various factors can contribute to a person developing OSA. These include obesity, enlarged tonsils, and heart or kidney failure.

Doctors often treat sleep apnea with airway therapy, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines keep the upper airway from becoming blocked during sleep. Some people with OSA use mouthguards to help keep their airways open. 

OSA can increase the risk of serious medical problems. The American Sleep Apnea Association believe that at least 38,000 people die each year from heart issues associated with sleep apnea.

We’re Grateful for You!

Also, Thanksgiving is the a day to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you.  As a former player, your family and community have likely been a part of your journey.  Let them know how grateful you are to have them in you life.

We wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving and want to thank each and every one of you for coming to yourPAF.com and making it a premiere online destination for former players..

Friends Are More Important Than We Realized

In the Atlantic, Rhaina Cohen asked a question that I hope will become prophetic: “What if friendship, not marriage, was at the center of life?”

The friends Cohen described in her story included those who “live in houses they purchased together, raise each other’s children, use joint credit cards, and hold medical and legal powers of attorney for each other. These friendships have many of the trappings of romantic relationships, minus the sex.” She argued that “these friendships can be models for how we as a society might expand our conceptions of intimacy and care.”

Evidence for the significance of the friends in our lives has been growing – and those friends do not need to be as enmeshed as the ones Cohen profiled. In fact, because of our changing demographics and our evolving needs, friends almost have to play a more important role in our lives than they have before.

The good news is that friends are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve – in our cultural conversations, in popular culture, and in scholarly writings.

Our Changing Demographics

In the U.S. and around the world, fewer people are marrying, and more are staying single. The rise in cohabitation does not explain away that trend. Even people who do eventually marry are taking longer to do so, resulting in longer stretches of their adult life without a spouse at the center of it.

In an even more striking finding, a survey conducted just before the pandemic showed that half of all solo single people in the U.S. were not interested in a romantic relationship or even a date.

Children are not as central to our lives as they once were, either. In the U.S., the birth rate has been declining for decades. The people who do have kids are having fewer of them. Families are getting smaller.

A spouse or a grown child can’t be at the center of your life when you don’t have either. But we can all value our friends if we want to, regardless of our marital, relationship, or parental status.

Our Changing Needs

Crisis in availability of caregivers

As Ai-jen Poo pointed out in The Age of Dignity, the number of older people who need sustained help with the tasks of everyday life is growing rapidly, but the availability of people who can care for them is lagging far behind. Traditionally, family members have been expected to step up and provide that care (and people who are single do so disproportionately). Now, however, in part because of the changing demographics, many older people have no living spouse, no grown children, and no other relatives. Those who do have such people in their lives sometimes find that they are unable or unwilling to help. But they may have friends. Any friends willing to step in should be accorded all the special benefits, protections and accommodations typically accorded to a spouse.

Pandemic

Many people, particularly some of the single people who are living alone, have missed seeing their friends during the pandemic. Policymakers who designed new rules to control the spread of the virus did not always acknowledge that until challenged to do better. For example, when Australia was under quarantine in April, people who wanted to see their friends were told that it wasn’t a good idea and given a list of apps instead.  Asked about romantic partners, though, the Chief Health Officer offered this response: “We have no desire to penalise individuals who are staying with or meeting their partners if they don’t usually reside together. We’ll be making an exemption.” The good news is that single people lobbied for changes and succeeded. They forced an acknowledgment of the significance of friends.

Our Changing Values

The relationship hierarchy, the relationship escalator, and amatonormativity

It is not just their declining numbers that are knocking spouses and romantic partners off their pedestals. Values are changing, too. The relationship hierarchy that put those partners ahead of everyone else is getting challenged. More people are asking why a romantic partner or even a spouse should automatically come first. And more people who do get involved in romantic relationships are resisting the expectation that they should ride the relationship escalator up and up to increasingly higher levels of commitment and exclusivity.

In a rare breakthrough of scholarly jargon into public awareness and even acclaim, “amatonormativity” is having its day. As described by the philosopher Elizabeth Brake in her book, Minimizing Marriage, amatonormativity is

“the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in the sense that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types.”

Professor Brake did not define amatonormativity to praise it, but to challenge it. Valuing friendship is a big part of that challenge.

Some suggestive evidence for the growing valuing of friendship around the world

In a study of the rise of individualism in 78 nations over the course of a half-century, Henri Santos and his colleagues measured individualistic values, including the valuing of friends more than the valuing of family. The researchers combined that measure with two others (valuing political self-expression and teaching kids to be independent), so the results cannot provide definitive evidence for the growing tendency to value friends relatively more than family. The findings are just suggestive, but what they suggest is that for 74 percent of the nations with relevant data, people are valuing friends more and more over time, relative to how much they value family.

Yeah, Toxic Positivity Is Very Real. Here’s How to Recognize It.

Just be grateful it isn’t worse. Look on the bright side. Everything happens for a reason. When you’re brave enough to share your struggles with friends, or family, these well-meaning, trite proverbs can feel more like jabs. And your frustration is totally valid: If you’re regularly spoon fed a forced silver lining perspective — a behavior known as “toxic positivity” — you’ll likely experience strain on both your mental health and your relationships.

Life isn’t exactly easy for anyone at the moment but being a parent during a pandemic comes with unique struggles. Maybe you’re doing your best to balance your remote work with your kids’ remote learning, or you’re feeling the strain of managing your own mental health while navigating your kids’ behavioral issues. Maybe you’re rightfully discouraged by the current state of the world.

Either way, empathy from other people isn’t always a given. In a culture that glorifies hard work and the appearance of “having it all together,” it can be easy for people to divert to toxic positivity.

“The basic notion is that you can somehow avoid your current distress by adding perspective,” says Kansas-based therapist James Cochran. “The list of combinations is long, but in all cases, someone is responding to your very real and very present pain with an insistence that you remain positive.”

It may seem obvious to you that validation is more comforting than a cliché that belongs on a decorative wood sign found in a Target, but for some people, airing struggle is a sign of weakness. Oregon-based marriage and family therapist Jason Wilkinson says people often default to a “just be grateful” attitude because it’s awkward to acknowledge another person’s pain or stress. There’s no script for acknowledging someone’s struggle, and it’s easier to try to eliminate the pain altogether with well-meaning but trite comments.

So, chances are, your overly optimistic loved ones have good intentions. But that doesn’t make their refusal to recognize your experience any less damaging. When you’re going through a tough time, toxic positivity is a lot like gas lighting — Wilkinson says it can cause you to question your emotional experience, which only triggers more stress. For example, if your parents respond to your frustrations about distance learning with a trite “This too shall pass,” you might end up feeling like you’re too critical or negative.

Over time, another person’s toxic positivity can take a toll on your mental health by causing you to avoid your own feelings.

“Judging yourself for feeling overwhelmed by parenting leads to what are referred to as secondary emotions such as shame that are much more intense and maladaptive,” says  therapist Carolyn Karroll, who practices in Maryland. “They distract us from the problem at hand and in the case of toxic positivity don’t give space for self-compassion, which is so vital to our mental health.”

Naturally, toxic positivity can also be damaging to relationships, and not just because it’s annoying — a refusal to validate your experience is also a refusal to truly connect. Cochran says when someone refuses to acknowledge another person’s difficulty, they’re also refusing to understand and support them — two things that are essential for healthy relationships.

Toxic positivity can also be a sign of, well, toxic people who just don’t want to deal with anything negative, including your difficult experiences.

“If you’re venting to a friend that caring for three kids under five is really taking it out of you, and they tell you to look for things to be grateful for, they’ve escaped responsibility for sitting with you in the midst of your pain,” Cochran says.

If you’re regularly on the receiving end of positive platitudes that diminish your experience, it might be time for a tough conversation about your needs. This part won’t be easy because the other person may clap back by making you feel negative. Stick with it, though: The benefits of feeling heard far outweigh the awkwardness of addressing the toxic elephant in the room.

As a general practice — especially when you don’t have supportive people around you — Karroll recommends validating your own experience. Remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling, your experience is part of the human experience, especially during a time of broader uncertainty and disconnection. She typically encourages her patients to practice gratitude while also acknowledging very present difficulties, losses, or grief.

And if you find yourself feeling awkward when someone else shares their emotions with you, practice simply listening instead of glossing over the problem. It’ll not only help the other person feel understood but also strengthen your relationship.

“Authentic presence is often the greatest gift a person can give,” Wilkinson says. “So do the hard work of expanding your capacity to sit with pain and discomfort.”

Experts Predict What This ‘Lost Year’ Will Really Do To Our Kids

Because I am the type of person and, particularly, the type of parent with a tendency to fret, I often fixate on a string of related thoughts as I watch my elder kiddo struggle through his remote learning classes.

What is this going to do to him? What impact will this bizarre academic year have on my child? And what about his classmates, or the millions of children around the country starting their school years behind computers and tablets — or who aren’t logged on at all?

Of course, no one really knows, because this academic year is truly unprecedented. Yet education and mental health experts are beginning to reckon with the long-term fallout of this school year that wasn’t. HuffPost Parents spoke to several who offered some predictions about what this “lost year” could portend for America’s children.

There will be significant learning loss. 

Experts agree that most kids will have fallen behind where they otherwise would have been, had schools not abruptly shuttered in March. The question now is: by how much?

One recent estimate suggests that children who are learning remotely and who receive pretty typical instruction will lose up to four months of learning by the time they resume in-person classes in January 2021 — if that, in fact, happens. And children who are getting lower-quality remote instruction could lose up to 11 months of learning. Children who aren’t engaged in remote education at all could lose up to 14 months of learning. 

“In many cases, children will be more than a year behind,” warned Brian Perkins, an associate professor of practice in education leadership and director of the Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Others will be a few months. But I think we will see, universally, loss.”

He stressed that this is not a criticism of children, parents or teachers who are doing their best to work through an impossible situation. “It’s more of a ‘let’s face the reality,’” Perkins said. 

Inequality will be a bigger problem than ever before. 

Experts who work in health and education tend to believe that most of the equity problems facing children, families and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic have always been there. Now, they are magnified. 

“The gaps that have always existed are just going to be wider,” said Nermeen Dashoush, an early childhood education professor at Boston University and chief curriculum officer at MarcoPolo Learning.

Students in the highest-poverty districts in the country are much more likely to have begun this academic year remotely, but children in lower-income households are much more likely to lack the tools they need, like reliable high-speed internet. Experts are predicting a surge in high school dropouts. 

Meanwhile, children whose parents can afford it may have opted to send them to private schools, to create learning pods or to supplement whatever school their children are getting with tutors and extracurriculars. 

“We are going to see a wider gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’” Perkins said. 

We’ll have an urgent need to figure out where exactly kids are.

All of the experts who spoke to HuffPost Parents for this story emphasized how critical it will be to have ways of assessing how much individual children have been affected by the pandemic in order to even think about getting them the help and support they need.

9 Things Happy Couples Never, Ever Say to Each Other

There’s a difference between putting your foot in your mouth and pulling the pin on a hand grenade that can completely blow up your relationship. This is an important distinction to understand: Happy couples fight because of course they do. But they learn what they shouldn’t say in the heat of the moment. Out of respect, they understand what lines shouldn’t be crossed. 

“Over time, partners learn about what to say that is acceptable and unacceptable, as well as where the line exists between the two,” says Andrew Aaron, LICSW, a marriage counselor, sex therapist and relationship therapist. He says that successful couples draw a strong line that they refuse to cross regarding respect, and that they will not act or talk disrespectfully to each other. “But for couples who have not been able to maintain their happiness, perhaps because mutual hurtfulness has eroded their goodwill or sufficient resentment has accumulated, they act from their pain with an intent to hurt the other.” 

In any relationship, there are lines drawn that should not be crossed. Those in committed, happy relationships understand this. But, as a refresher course is always helpful, we consulted with a variety of relationship experts to get a sense of the phrases that couples in happy relationships should never pull out in a marriage. 

“Grow up!”

This is a belittling phrase, but it also operates on the assumption that you are in the right and your partner is wrong, adding an element of invalidation as well. In short, assumes that however they are feeling is childish or wrong. A big mistake. “This will weaken your partners’ self-esteem,” says Shar Fuller, Relationship Expert & Co-Founder of the matchmaking service Mai Tai, “and if your ratio of positive and kind behaviors to negative interactions is out of kilter —five-to-one balance is what you’re aiming for — you won’t have a positive balance on your emotional bank account.” 

“This is your fault.”

Whenever something goes wrong, there’s a natural instinct to try and figure out what happened and why. This tends to lead to the assignation of blame, and most people’s first instinct is not to point the finger at themselves. However, if you start laying it all at your partner’s feet, then all you are doing is fostering resentment and anger. “Accusatory language makes us emotive and the logical explanation that you’re seeking will not suffice,” says Fuller. “Avoid shifting blame or making conclusions based on your limited experience to prevent a buildup of resentment.” 

“You’re pathetic.”

Phrases like this tend to come out of a buildup of pain and bitterness that has accumulated over time. If you do not address the root of these emotions, they will come out in these contemptuous attacks. “Unresolved, pain will run the relationship and these phrases are simply symptoms of internalized pain and anger,” says Aaron. “For some partners of troubled relationships, what they say may be a carry-over from the culture of their family of origin or injuries caused in prior relationships. The internalized pain of partners has not always been accumulated from within the present relationship.”

The Next Generation of You: Jay Riemersma

“I can remember sitting around the dining room table just kind of listening to my folks talk about the issues of the day,” Riemersma said. “First and foremost, we’re a very Christian family, and so we believe that it’s our duty as Christians to be involved in the political process. So, after I retired from the NFL, my mom had actually worked at Family Research Council and the president of the organization had kind of followed the tail end of my career and said, ‘What is Jay going to do when he’s done?’

“Of course, everybody thinks they’re going to play forever. And then when I ended up tearing my Achilles (in 2004), it just seemed natural for me to go into something that was a passion of ours growing up.”

Founded in 1983, FRC is a nonprofit research and educational organization. Its mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview.

“I manage the sales team,” Riemersma said. “Anytime you’re working for a nonprofit, you have a group of individuals that are out in the field, in different parts of the country, raising money on behalf of the organization. And because of that, I’m traveling quite a bit doing a lot of that stuff myself.

“I love the work that we do. I love the fact that it’s a Christian organization that’s trying to advance a Christian worldview in the public policy arena. It’s been quite a bit different with the pandemic that we’ve been going through, but typically I’m in a week and out a week.”

A tight end chosen by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Michigan, Riemersma, “unknown, untested, and unproven,” beat the odds and spent nine seasons in the league with the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.

He had the opportunity to play for two Hall of Fame coaches, Marv Levy and Bill Cowher, and is using experiences he had with them to help now in his role as a manager.

“Playing for Marv and Coach Cowher, the leadership traits and characteristics and certainly the way they were able to push the right buttons for each individual player,” Riemersma says, “it’s completely different depending on who you’re trying to motivate.

“The great thing about sports, and football especially, you’re taking a group of men from all different backgrounds, with all different life experiences, and you’re trying to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that ultimately give you the best chance to win in a short window on a Sunday afternoon.

“So, those principles of leadership and character and integrity are things that I’ve taken into my career trying to lead people. The basics, the fundamentals, in leadership qualities that you learn from those guys translates in anything you do.”    

Living in his hometown with his wife, Cara, and their children: Sophie, Trip, and Nick; what’s the best thing about being Jay Riemersma today?

“What I most enjoy is being Dad,” Riemersma said. “And I think I’m most proud of the fact that people in and around west Michigan that kind of know me, and in the cities that I played, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, those folks and fans, they know me as just Jay. He’s not Jay with an ego. I’m just a dad and a husband that’s trying to go and impact the world for Christ.”

Alone Time Is the Key to Staying Married. Find It.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just stretched us thin; it’s made us damn near translucent. The majority of parents are balancing a bigger burden than they ever have before. Scheduling. Schooling. Social distancing. Masking up. Working from Home. All with little or extremely reduced access to childcare or the older family members who once pitched in. Gone, too, are ways to find alone time. We are all cooped up, unable to do the activities that once brought us balance. Time apart is crucial to a marriage. Absence does, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. But how can partners ask for alone time without it ending in resentment or anger? 

If you went to a couples’ therapist today and told them, “I need some time to myself,” chances are, they would agree. “Some couples thrive on being together all the time, but most are struggling at least a little right now,” says Carol Bruess, PhD, professor emeritus of family studies at the University of St. Thomas and author of What Happy Couples Do. “We don’t have models for [living like] this. We are not taught how to do it.”

More importantly, time apart from our partners is essential for our health — and the health of our relationships. So, if you feel even the slightest hint of guilt about your itch for a few hours of fishing on the lake in solitude — don’t. You may even find that by bringing up the topic, your spouse is equally eager for time alone after all these months at home.

Healthy relationships are healthiest when there’s constant push and pull between autonomy and connection, Bruess explains. “Living in the same space with someone 24/7 tends to send this dynamic into a place of significant disequilibrium. It’s out of whack,” she says. “You have too much togetherness without enough autonomy.” 

Right now, too much togetherness is the norm. And it’s not just the fact that the bathroom is your only place to get away. We’ve also lost our rituals and routines and had to establish a whole new set of “rules” about who works where, who’s quiet when, who’s cooking breakfast, and who’s teaching the kids what. Add the stress of worrying about loved ones’ health, possibly losing a job, and everything else and it only exacerbates the tension.

“We bring those [outside] stressors into our relationship, and it disintegrates our ability to be our best self in the relationship,” Bruess says. With all of these challenges, no wonder you may sense an overall increase in conflict, irritation, or anxiety between you and your partner and find yourself arguing over minuscule things like how to load the dishwasher. 

True time apart could help rebalance your autonomy-connection dynamic and benefit both your relationship and the two of you as individuals. The answer is simple: It gives you a chance to “recharge,” says psychotherapist Joseph Zagame, LCSW-R, founder and director of myTherapyNYC. When you come back together, you’ll have more to offer emotionally, mentally, and physically. Additionally, that space can make our partners more attracted to us. “When you have some level of distance and come back together, you see each other in a new way and may even desire each other more,” Zagame says.

Goals for Life Alumni in the League

Rashaad was a first round draft pick. Hear in the brothers’ own words how they were impacted by our award-winning program. First Rashaad speaks about Reggie and Goals for Life, then his brother Elijhaa.

The Penny brothers illustrate the breadth and flexibility of the Goals for Life curriculum. Rashaad and Elijhaa are disciplined, hard-working, and kind; they come from a great family. Both brothers attribute GFL and having an NFL mentor as being an integral part of their success. We also work with students with incarcerated parents, youth who have experienced abuse, kids in foster care, and students experiencing extreme poverty or homelessness. Sadly, multiple GFL students have experienced the murder of a parent. Our mentors were there to help these students move on in a positive direction.

All of us could use a hand up or a pat on the back at some point in our lives. Please donate to share our good fortune with youth who can benefit from our program.

How Growing Food Can Change Your Life

Doing so comes with real benefits, like stress relief, exercise and risk reductions for many diseases as a result of eating more vegetables. In a recent episode of TIME for Health Talks, Ron Finley, a Los Angeles–based urban gardener known as the “Gangsta Gardener,” and Questlove, a musician and food entrepreneur, talked about how gardening and the healthy foods it yields can also build community.

A decade ago, Finley transformed the unused city-owned strip of land in front of his South Central, Los Angeles house into an edible garden for his community. Now, it’s such a popular spot that people swing by to help him plant, and others eat his juicy figs right from the tree. The point is to bring people together and give everyone access to fresh, organic food. “If you grow together, you grow together,” he says. “That’s what communities do.”

Too many neighborhoods in the U.S. don’t have grocery stores or restaurants—let alone community gardens—that offer fresh, healthy and affordable food. “Where I grew up, there was no type of health options whatsoever,” says Questlove, who is from West Philadelphia. “I see this as a state of emergency. I almost feel like it’s invisible warfare on a community that doesn’t even know.”

Finley now teaches people all around the world—Questlove is among his pupils—to garden through his popular MasterClass and through the Ron Finley Project. “Soil is my protest to all of these injustices that we’re dealing with, have been dealing with since the inception of this country,” Finley says.

Here’s what Finley wants you to know if you’re new to gardening:

Fear not.

Newbies are not alone. “There are people…that have never touched soil in their life because it hasn’t been in their proximity,” Finley says. If kids can do it in kindergarten classrooms, so can you. “It’s soil, it’s water and it’s a seed and some air,” Finley says. “How difficult could it possibly be?”

You don’t need acres of land to start.

Lettuce, leafy greens and collard greens are all easy to grow without a lot of space, Finley says. You don’t even need a plot. “If it can hold some soil—if it’s a wooden crate, if it’s a shoebox—put some soil in it, put a seed in it, and start your garden.”

It matters. 

“Knowing how to grow food is a life skill,” Finley says. “It’s in our DNA and we should nurture that DNA. That’s something that nobody ever can take from you.” Far from a frivolous hobby, growing your own food can change your life—and the lives of those around you. “What I’m finding out now is it’s bringing back the humanity in people.”

Will There Be a Second Stimulus Check?

Talk of a second round of stimulus checks began even before the IRS started delivering the first round of payments back in April. From the get-go, many lawmakers assumed that $1,200 (or more) per eligible American wasn’t enough to provide a long-term boost to the U.S. economy. President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other key players have said they support a second round of stimulus checks. Plus, both the HEROES Act (passed by the Democrat-controlled House in May) and the HEALS Act (introduced by Senate Republicans in July) included new stimulus check proposals.

So, with all this support, why hasn’t a second round of stimulus checks been authorized? It’s because Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the overall cost of the next economic stimulus bill. Democrats say they won’t support any legislation that provides less than $2 trillion in spending. However, the White House is only willing to spend up to $1.5 trillion. And McConnell’s “skinny” bill, which failed to pass in the Senate and didn’t even include a stimulus check provision, only offered $650 billion in spending – $350 of which was previously appropriated money. (The HEALS Act called for $1.1 trillion in spending.) If lawmakers can’t agree on the total amount of a new stimulus bill, then nothing will get done – which means you won’t get a second stimulus check.

Chances of a Second Round of Stimulus Checks are Fading

There’s still a chance that Congress and the White House will come together and enact another recovery bill that includes a second round of stimulus checks…but the odds of that happening are fading fast. Both Democrats and Republicans are digging in their heels regarding their spending positions, and the two sides don’t even appear to be talking to each other at the moment. No new negotiations are schedule for the future, either.

Time is running out, too. Lawmakers will be leaving Washington, D.C., and returning home in early October. They won’t be back in session until after the November elections. That means there’s only a few more weeks to work on an agreement. Democrats and Republicans haven’t been able to negotiate a new deal over the past four or five months, so it’s easy to assume they won’t be able to put their differences aside now.

It also doesn’t appear as if a second round of stimulus checks will be slipped into a government funding bill. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must act by September 30 to fund the federal government beyond that date. At one point, it looked like some economic stimulus measures could be added to any funding bills. However, it now appears as if there’s an agreement to pass a “clean” continuing resolution, without any added provisions, to fund the government at current levels until sometime after the election.

Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life

In my research and coaching work over the past two decades, I have met many people who feel unfulfilled, overwhelmed, or stagnant because they are forsaking performance in one or more aspects of their lives. They aren’t bringing their leadership abilities to bear in all of life’s domains—work, home, community, and self (mind, body, and spirit). Of course, there will always be some tension among the different roles we play. But, contrary to the common wisdom, there’s no reason to assume that it’s a zero-sum game. It makes more sense to pursue excellent performance as a leader in all four domains—achieving what I call “four-way wins”—not trading off one for another but finding mutual value among them.

This is the main idea in a program called Total Leadership that I teach at the Wharton School and at companies and workshops around the world. “Total” because it’s about the whole person and “Leadership” because it’s about creating sustainable change to benefit not just you but the most important people around you.

Scoring four-way wins starts by taking a clear view of what you want from and can contribute to each domain of your life, now and in the future, with thoughtful consideration of the people who matter most to you and the expectations you have for one another. This is followed by systematically designing and implementing carefully crafted experiments—doing something new for a short period to see how it affects all four domains. If an experiment doesn’t work out, you stop or adjust, and little is lost. If it does work out, it’s a small win; over time these add up so that your overall efforts are focused increasingly on what and who matter most. Either way, you learn more about how to lead in all parts of your life.

This process doesn’t require inordinate risk. On the contrary, it works because it entails realistic expectations, short-term changes that are in your control, and the explicit support of those around you. Take, for instance, Kenneth Chen, a manager I met at a workshop in 2005. (All names in this article are pseudonyms.) His professional goal was to become CEO, but he had other goals as well, which on the face of it might have appeared conflicting. He had recently moved to Philadelphia and wanted to get more involved with his community. He also wished to strengthen bonds with his family. To further all of these goals, he decided to join a city-based community board, which would not only allow him to hone his leadership skills (in support of his professional goal) but also have benefits in the family domain. It would give him more in common with his sister, a teacher who gave back to the community every day, and he hoped his fiancée would participate as well, enabling them to do something together for the greater good. He would feel more spiritually alive and this, in turn, would increase his self-confidence at work.

Now, about three years later, he reports that he is not only on a community board with his fiancée but also on the formal succession track for CEO. He’s a better leader in all aspects of his life because he is acting in ways that are more consistent with his values. He is creatively enhancing his performance in all domains of his life and leading others to improve their performance by encouraging them to better integrate the different parts of their lives, too.

Kenneth is not alone. Workshop participants assess themselves at the beginning and the end of the program, and they consistently report improvements in their effectiveness, as well as a greater sense of harmony among the once-competing domains of their lives. In a study over a four-month period of more than 300 business professionals (whose average age was about 35), their satisfaction increased by an average of 20% in their work lives, 28% in their home lives, and 31% in their community lives. Perhaps most significant, their satisfaction in the domain of the self—their physical and emotional health and their intellectual and spiritual growth—increased by 39%. But they also reported that their performance improved: at work (by 9%), at home (15%), in the community (12%), and personally (25%). Paradoxically, these gains were made even as participants spent less time on work and more on other aspects of their lives. They’re working smarter—and they’re more focused, passionate, and committed to what they’re doing.

While hundreds of leaders at all levels go through this program every year, you don’t need a workshop to identify worthwhile experiments. The process is pretty straightforward, though not simple. In the sections that follow, I will give you an overview of the process and take you through the basics of designing and implementing experiments to produce four-way wins.

The Total Leadership Process

The Total Leadership concept rests on three principles: 

  • Be real: Act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important.
  • Be whole: Act with integrity by respecting the whole person.
  • Be innovative: Act with creativity by experimenting with how things get done.

You begin the process by thinking, writing, and talking with peer coaches to identify your core values, your leadership vision, and the current alignment of your actions and values—clarifying what’s important. Peer coaching is enormously valuable, at this stage and throughout, because an outside perspective provides a sounding board for your ideas, challenges you, gives you a fresh way to see the possibilities for innovation, and helps hold you accountable to your commitments.

You then identify the most important people—“key stakeholders”—in all domains and the performance expectations you have of one another. Then you talk with them: If you’re like most participants, you’ll be surprised to find that what, and how much, your key stakeholders actually need from you is different from, and less than, what you thought beforehand.

These insights create opportunities for you to focus your attention more intelligently, spurring innovative action. Now, with a firmer grounding in what’s most important, and a more complete picture of your inner circle, you begin to see new ways of making life better, not just for you but for the people around you.

The next step is to design experiments and then try them out during a controlled period of time. The best experiments are changes that your stakeholders wish for as much as, if not more than, you do.

Designing Experiments

To pursue a four-way win means to produce a change intended to fulfill multiple goals that benefit each and every domain of your life. In the domain of work, typical goals for an experiment can be captured under these broad headings: taking advantage of new opportunities for increasing productivity, reducing hidden costs, and improving the work environment. Goals for home and community tend to revolve around improving relationships and contributing more to society. For the self, it’s usually about improving health and finding greater meaning in life. 

As you think through the goals for your experiment, keep in mind the interests and opinions of your key stakeholders and anyone else who might be affected by the changes you are envisioning. In exploring the idea of joining a community board, for instance, Kenneth Chen sought advice from his boss, who had served on many boards, and also from the company’s charitable director and the vice president of talent. In this way, he got their support. His employers could see how his participation on a board would benefit the company by developing Kenneth’s leadership skills and his social network.

Some experiments benefit only a single domain directly while having indirect benefits in the others. For example, setting aside three mornings a week to exercise improves your health directly but may indirectly give you more energy for your work and raise your self-esteem, which in turn might make you a better father and friend. Other activities—such as running a half-marathon with your kids to raise funds for a charity sponsored by your company—occur in, and directly benefit, all four domains simultaneously. Whether the benefits are direct or indirect, achieving a four-way win is the goal. That’s what makes the changes sustainable: Everyone benefits. The expected gains need not accrue until sometime in the future, so keep in mind that some benefits may not be obvious—far-off career advancements, for instance, or a contact who might ultimately offer valuable connections.

Identify possibilities.

Open your mind to what’s possible and try to think of as many potential experiments as you can, describing in a sentence or two what you would do in each. This is a time to let your imagination run free. Don’t worry about all the potential obstacles at this point.

The Pandemic Changes Your Brain Even if You Don’t Have It

A 2020 report in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, suggests that whether you have contracted COVID-19 or not, the pandemic has likely changed your brain. The Coronavirus can cause several significant neurological disorders, but aside from that, pandemic isolation and worry can alter brain chemistry and cause mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Physiological Changes

Researchers studying the impact of the Coronavirus report that damage goes beyond respiratory problems, causing serious neurological problems. The virus can gain access to the brain via the forebrain’s olfactory bulb which shows up as a loss of smell in some patients with COVID-19. The scientists contend that other brain changes, such as delirium, fatigue, headache, memory loss, inattention, brain damage, and even stroke are caused by inflammation and disruption of blood and oxygen supply to the brain. The authors of the report speculate that the virus alters dopamine and serotonin levels in the olfactory bulb—the chemicals responsible for pleasure, motivation, and action. According to lead author Deniz Vatansever, these changes are probably responsible for mood, fatigue, and cognitive changes reported by patients. And these symptoms underlie the presence of stress, anxiety, and depression that many experience.

Psychological Changes

Aside from the physiological symptoms, another layer of increased anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation has emerged. Grief (and in some cases postponed grief) for the loss of loved ones, helplessness, and excessive worry over contracting or spreading the virus to other family members or colleagues are all stressors that may collectively contribute to an imminent rise in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Social distancing measures for combating the viral outbreak also may have unintended consequences, such as social isolation, loneliness, abrupt changes to daily habits, and unemployment or financial insecurity, which have all been characterized as risk factors for major depressive and post-traumatic stress disorders with potentially long-lasting effects on brain physiology and function. Neuroimaging techniques show that chronic worries and fears diminish prefrontal cortex activity and damage neurons, shrink areas of the brain, and impair thinking. In addition, neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis and neurocognitive dementia-like symptoms, have been observed in some COVID-19 patients

How to Buffer Pandemic Brain Changes

The good news is that neuroscientists have shown through fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) the human brain is plastic. And each of us has the agency to override our brain’s hard-wired, automatic fear reactions. An innate ability called neuroplasticity allows you to use your “thinking mind” to rewire the structure and functioning of your brain. Neuroplasticity guarantees that the architecture of your mind is never set in stone. You don’t have to stay trapped by the pandemic storms of your body such as frustration, anxiety, and worry. It’s possible for you to re-engineer your brain and self-calm the knee-jerk worries and fears because your brain has the ability to change its own structure.

Here are a few tips to bring your mind into the present moment, instead of worrying about “what if’s,” and improve your brain health.

1. Do Something Different. Take a different action in response to circumstances in the heat of the moment. For example, if I consistently calm myself when I’m listening to horrific pandemic news reports (when I might ordinarily freak out), this calming practice can rewire my neural pathways, widen my resilient zone, and eventually I’ll be able to listen without automatically freaking out. Better yet, it’s important to limit how often we listen to constant negative news but to listen only enough so we get the facts. Or if a loved one catches the virus, focus on what you can control and fix it, no matter how insignificant, instead of ruminating about something you can’t control—the pandemic itself.

2. Stay in the Present Moment. Introduce new calming practices that help you to stay in the present moment. Practices such as mindful meditation, yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, and massage activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest response) which offsets your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) with the potential to reshape nerve cells and change the way your brain works. Brain scans from Harvard and UCLA show that regular practice of mindfulness meditation minimizes brain shrinkage and cognitive decline and builds thicker neural tissue in the prefrontal cortex. Once beefed up, your gray matter sharpens attention, amps up your immune system, neutralizes the pandemic hotheaded reaction, and heightens compassion, automatically shifting you into calm, clarity, and centeredness. The more mindfully you can stay in the present moment, the more automatic balance you bring between your sympathetic nervous and parasympathetic nervous systems. 

3. Call Upon Your “Thinking Brain.” In addition to mindful relaxing techniques, when you’re frazzled and start to sizzle, it’s possible to develop the habit of calling on the executive function of your prefrontal cortex to cool down hotheaded pandemic fears and make better decisions. The prefrontal cortex helps you realize that things are usually not as bad as your survival brain registers them to be, so you can take a breath, step back from the worry, and calm down. You don’t have to look through rose-colored glasses, but by intentionally bringing your prefrontal cortex back online when hijacked by Coronavirus worry and fear, you have the capacity to take an impartial, bird’s-eye perspective on the threatening situation.

4. Talk to Your Worry. Worry and fear are nature’s protectors, but they overestimate threats and underestimate our ability to handle them—all in an effort to keep us out of harm’s way. The pattern gets grooved into the brain. But as you start to notice the worry, take a few deep breaths and even talk to it with something like, “Okay, worry, I see you’re here trying to protect me. Thank you, but I’m okay right now,” the worry will usually calm down. With these relaxing practices, you introduce a new neural pathway and can change the whole pattern of anxious pandemic thinking to one in which you have a larger perspective and much more stillness, calm, and positivity.

Your Money Can’t Silence Me

he city of Milwaukee wanted to give me $400,000 to be quiet after cops kneeled on my neck, stood on my ankle, and tased me in a parking lot. 

But here’s the thing: I can’t be quiet.

I rejected the offer because I have a responsibility to be a voice and help change the narrative for my people. In order to do so I have to tell my story, so dialogue and conversations about police brutality can help influence and change a corrupt system. It goes deeper than me just illegally parking. 

A lot deeper.

So here’s my story. 

On January 26, 2018, I was on my way home from a friend’s place when I ran into Walgreens for three minutes. When I did, I parked across two handicapped spots. I could have parked in one spot but it was late at night and the parking lot was empty. I figured, I’m just running inside. What’s the worst that could happen?

When I came out and headed back to my car, a police officer was approaching at the same time and I didn’t see him at first. He asked me if I had a driver’s license. 

As I tried to open the door he shoved me back and I moved his hand off me. At that point I knew things might escalate and it wouldn’t just be a simple ticket.

After the initial standoff, the officer said, “I own this.” He must’ve thought that was gonna intimidate me. I said, “You don’t own me.” Then after a few words back and forth he called for backup and six more squad cars pulled up.

While he was calling them, I was standing there thinking, What are we doing? Give me a ticket so I can be on my way. 

Then all of these officers arrive. Some of them surrounded me and a few of the others started looking inside of my car. After 20 minutes of standing outside in the rain and cold, one of them told me to take my hands out of my pocket after having them in there for 20 minutes. Somehow the officers must have felt “threatened” because next thing I knew they started punching, kneeing, and trying to get me to the ground.

That was when my whole mindset changed. I knew I had a choice: Get free or give in.

One of the officers had a knee on my neck. Another stood on my ankle. The cop who tased me had initially pulled his gun. 

The whole time I was on the ground, I was just wondering how we had gotten to that point. All I was focused on was getting back to my family and my job. I thought about fighting back, but it was just an unnecessary attempt for them to show power. I could have gotten them off of me, but it was six guns to none. I had no protection and they had the protection of the badge.

I could hear a few of the officers making jokes about the Bucks. In the body cam videos that were later released, one officer jokes about how it will blow up in the media because I’m an NBA player and how they’ll be accused of being racist. 

Eventually they put me in the back of the cop car and took me to the police station, where I was thrown in a cell for a few hours. For what? Because I was a Black man with a nice car in the hood. But while I was in there I had time to think and reflect. I had time to turn my anger into fuel.The whole time I was on the ground, I was just wondering how we had gotten to that point. 

This happens every single day to Black people all across America. Even in the short time while I was in custody, another Black man came in, his eye bleeding, telling everyone he was in there for a traffic stop. 

When I was finally released the next morning, I went right to shootaround. We had a game that night, and I decided that the best thing I could do was to win.

Some of you may already be familiar with my story. It happened 2½ years ago, but it wasn’t until the body cam footage came out that people started to believe me. Aside from a few people who were on the fence, most people assumed I was just another Black man who got aggressive with the police. 

But once the video came out, people started to speak up in support of me. With the video it was impossible to deny that the police were in the wrong.

But how many times does something like this happen when there isn’t a camera recording? How many times does it happen to someone who isn’t an NBA player and who doesn’t have the platform I have to make people stop and listen? 

Without the video of George Floyd, I guarantee the majority of the world would not have noticed or cared. They would have said, “Oh, it’s just another Black man in the neighborhood who made a fraudulent transaction who resisted arrest so he got what he deserved.” But when you see the video, when you see the lack of sympathy from the officer leaning on George Floyd’s neck as he begs for his mother and for air, then you can’t deny who is wrong. 

Without the video no one would have believed me. Without the video of George Floyd, only the ones who have to deal with the possibility of being stopped and harassed daily would be demanding justice in the streets.

But now we have to take advantage of the momentum and demand respect!

The Next Generation of You: Marty Carter

by Jim Gehman

Marty Carter wasn’t an average player.

“I think a lot of it was conditioning, keeping the body year-round in shape,” Carter said. “And a lot of it was good fortune and the luck of the draw with the injury bug. I never had a major knee issue or a shoulder issue, just bumps and bruises for the most part. 

“And intellect. Some guys like to do other things and play football. I was just more of a football spirited guy. I was football first.”

Drafted by Tampa Bay in 1991, Carter spent four seasons with the Buccaneers. That was followed by four seasons with the Chicago Bears, three with the Atlanta Falcons, and one with the Detroit Lions. Eleven seasons – 161 games – 151 starts.

What makes Carter most proud of his career?

“I was drafted into Tampa, perennial losers, and once I got to Chicago, they were perennial losers prior to the Super Bowl (XX) win,” Carter said. “And it didn’t matter to me because I thought I could make them better. If I’ve got to start from the bottom and work my way up, I was willing to do that as far as the winning.

“Just doing something that a lot of people told me that I couldn’t do. I wasn’t world class speed by no stretch it imagination, but as far as detailed in my job and being where I was supposed to be, I took a lot of pride in that.”  

He wasn’t the only one. Carter’s mom, Ellen Dunlap, was just as proud of each of his 1,003 career tackles and 13 interceptions. 

“Whatever team I was on, she was the number one fan. I mean, she still talks about the teams I played on. And she knows football. It’s like. ‘Why did he lose containment?’” Carter laughed. “Probably my biggest fan, just to make her have a son that did what is so hard to do and that’s to make it on an NFL team and sustain legitimacy. My mom being happy. I wouldn’t say was more happy than me, but just for the opportunity.” 

Retired, Carter makes his home in his native Georgia, where he gets to enjoy spending time with his grandchildren.

“I’ve got four grandbabies, and I’m just trying to be in their lives as much as I can. One, I can’t even catch. Three years old. You’d be better off tying a rope around her leg and around your leg because you ain’t going to catch her,” Carter said with a laugh.

Unfortunately, he has struggles with his health.

“I have problems with my memory and depression,” Carter said. “Some of the same issues that other guys that I talked to have faced as far as the memory and everything. And the depression. I had my share of concussions, as well.

“I stay at home a lot. Don’t do well around a crowd, I don’t know why. I get real bad anxiety, but I’m still here. I don’t want it sound like I’m complaining. That’s just being honest with how my everyday life is now. I don’t want to portray a pity story. It’s just who I am as far as that.”

Carter is also a Hall of Famer. In 2018, Middle Tennessee State University enshrined him into its Hall of Fame. A three-year starter, following his senior season, Carter was named Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-OVC.

“It felt really good (to be honored) because of how I played the game as far as college and the pros. It felt good that they recognized it and even thought of putting me in their Hall of Fame,” Carter said.

And what advice would he offer to others who aspire to follow in his footsteps and make the leap from playing at a small school to playing in the NFL?

“First of all, keep God first,” Carter said. “And be a doer. In life, you’ve got to outwork the next person. I don’t care what you’re doing. If you’re going to go out there and try to do what I did, there aren’t many people that can say that they got to that level. So, stay humble and just do the right thing when it comes to your profession. Just be a good person and don’t be a follower, be a leader.”

Thoughtful Quotes About Parenthood From Kobe

Kobe Bryant rose to fame as a basketball star, but his dedication to family may be his most powerful legacy. 

Famously a proud “girl dad,” Bryant had four daughters ― Natalia, Gianna aka Gigi, Bianka and Capri ― with his wife, Vanessa. Before he and Gigi died in a helicopter crash in January, the NBA legend opened up about his experience as a father in many interviews and public appearances.

In honor of his birthday, we’ve rounded up 12 quotes about parenthood from Bryant. 

On Setting An Example

“You can’t talk your children into working hard. That’s the one thing that drives me crazy ― parents come up to me on the street or when I’m at the sports academy and say, ‘OK, how can I get my kid to work hard? What do I need to tell them? Can you talk to my kid?’ I say, listen, it’s not something that you can talk through. It’s a behavioral thing. You have to get up every day and do the work. Consistently do the work.”

On Having Four Daughters

“Be thankful that you’ve been given that gift because girls are amazing. I would have five more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.”

On Work-Life Balance

“I want to make sure the days that I’m away from them are days that I absolutely have to be. I’d rather be with them than doing anything else.”

On Gigi’s Basketball Skills

“She’s a monster. She’s a beast. She’s better than I was at her age. She’s got it.”

On Holiday Traditions

“Every year, we go and watch ‘The Nutcracker.’ … We also watch ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Charlie Brown,’ all the Christmas classics. We try to make a gingerbread house, but my wife and the kids do a much, much better job than I do! I’ll put it that way.”

On Gigi’s Approach To Basketball

“What I love about Gigi is her curiosity about the game. She’s very curious. Even in a heated situation in a game where it’s going back and forth, she can detach herself and come to me and ask a very specific question, which is not common.”

On The Bittersweet Side Of Parenting

“When Bianka was born and Capri was born, it was an odd mix of pure happiness and fulfillment but at the same time a little sadness, because I knew that my two older girls were going to age. Of course, you know they’re going to age, but when Bianka and Coco are 6 and 4, Natalia is going to be 20, Gianna is going to be 17, and I’m like, ahh. It just puts things in perspective. Time has no mercy. I wish I had a TiVo button, just pause it for a second.”

Why Parents Need Time To Play During COVID-19

Parents need to play too! 

This occurred to me as I observed my son multi-tasking even more than he normally does. 

Since the pandemic, he and his sister have worked tirelessly to keep their afterschool sports business afloat by setting up virtual classes and filling out applications for government funding. But he also needs to keep his daughter occupied who, at five years old, is missing her friends and caregivers at the daycare she’d been going to since infancy. So while running his business, he also has set up a regular schedule for his daughter at home, to compensate for the life she’d previously known that has now been completely disrupted. 

He makes sure that her days are filled with a balance of play, rest, and online school. He helps her with homework, which he has dubbed “home play,” and makes sure she gets outside to ride her bike, play soccer, and look for insects, and then home again so she can FaceTime with her friends. And, he never misses their nightly father-daughter talk time before bed.

Then, as if that weren’t enough on his plate, I have been staying with him in between my travels visiting friends. This time, I’ve stayed much longer than either of us anticipated. My presence there has not been a big help to him, because I am a third-stage cancer patient as well as a multiple trauma survivor with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), who’s currently living with daily triggered vivid memories of past abuse brought on by the COVID-19 quarantine. The side effects from the chemo pills I take twice daily also leave me exhausted, light-headed, and with a lack of focus. 

So, the bulk of the housework falls on my son, who also shops for the entire family including his sister, whose impaired hip prevents her from carrying heavy packages. And, he has been so careful in not doing anything or going anywhere that would expose me to COVID-19, since I am 77 years old and at high health risk.

In my own fog, I hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t been able to do many of the things that he loves doing.

Why Is It Important for Parents to Play?

Parents, coupled or single, can hardly take time for themselves when everything is normal. So how can they do so during a crisis? 

Make no mistake: The pandemic is a global crisis, one of massive proportions, the likes of which we have not experienced in our lifetime. While we expect stress in our lives, we’ve also learned to cope with it in our fast-paced society. Yet, a crisis is a totally different animal. If we don’t take steps to lessen the impact, it has all the characteristics of trauma, defined as “an overwhelmingly negative event that causes a lasting impact on the victim’s mental and emotional stability.” 

Parents need to think about what will happen to their families if they get sick, can’t work, or worse, die. All of this can weigh heavily on someone. To stay sane — even though there aren’t enough hours in the day as a parent — you need to:

  • Formally schedule time for yourself, with your partner and individually. Make sure you follow it!
  • Continue with the things that bring you joy and pleasure. 
  • Take time to do something you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t, i.e., draw, read, garden, etc.

This is crucial for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Research claims that stress suppresses the immune system, and while this isn’t a problem in the short term, it could leave the body vulnerable to illness in the long-term.

Furthermore, internalizing trauma could lead to anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. You could unconsciously pass the trauma down intergenerationally to your children.

To avoid this, keep these tips in mind:  

  • Do not deny that you are in a crisis. The sooner you accept that you are in a crisis, the quicker you can make decisions to find a “new normal.”
  • In any crisis, remember: Whatever you do during normal times, will not work!
  • While quarantined, do not further isolate yourself. Cell phones, social media, and Zoom are lifelines. Use them.
  • If you don’t have one already, start an exercise regimen. If you do, then continue. There are videos galore that offering free lessons on yoga, t’ai chi, aerobics, weightlifting, etc. Keep your body moving. It will thank you.
  • Eat healthy. Stay off sugar and carbs. You’ll feel much better.
  • Get enough sleep, i.e., 7-8 hours each night. Dreaming is important for releasing pent-up emotions that you don’t deal with during waking hours.
  • Last, but not least, do not wait until you’re burned out to seek counseling.

13 Damn Good Pieces of Relationship Advice for Stressed Out Parents

Stress eats into relationships. It puts us all on edge, leading to less understanding and more arguments. Flare ups are bound to happen. While inoculations aren’t available, there is some relationships advice that can help people cope. Like giving one another the benefit of the doubt more often. Or being specific about the language you use when having an argument. Or making sure to vocally appreciate a partner half more often. Here’s some relationship advice all stressed out parents should keep in mind.

1. Set Boundaries

We’re all more or less jammed into the same space right now. This is unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean we have to be on top of each other all the time. Sit down and discuss lines of demarcation. Designate a work space for one another. Give yourselves the spaces you need to be productive and active without crowding them. If this means sitting in the car to make calls, so be it. We’re all making due.

Importantly, however, these boundaries must also apply to when you’re giving your attention to your work and when it’s time for family. Let your spouse know that he or she is still a priority by putting the phone down and closing the laptop when work is through.

“When you work from home, it’s easy to answer emails first thing in the morning and late into the evening,” says therapist Eliza Kingsford.  “For some, this is fine as it creates flexibility throughout the day at other times. But be aware that it doesn’t start to consume your days.” Frustrations will certainly occur. Take note and make changes as necessary.

2. Get Intentional

According to Dr. Susan Mecca, author of The Gift of Crisis, one of the most important steps we can all take during any crisis is to stop and say to yourself: Who do I want to be during this and how do I want to act? Creating this intention, she says, helps keep yourself in check. Are there going to be times when blow up when you want to be calm and measured? Absolutely. We’re all human. But if we make this intention and share it with a spouse or someone else it can be help you get back on track. “Planes don’t fly in a straight line. They’re always changing course,” says Dr. Mecca. “So as a parent you’re always going to be readjusting. But if you don’t know your course, you don’t know what you’re readjusting to.”

3. Schedule Alone Time

We all need time to ourselves to destress or just zone out for 20 minutes. The need is even more so now. This means we must all schedule time to go outside, be alone for a minute, or do whatever is needed to mentally recalibrate. Without doing this, we’re much more likely to snap at our partners or put more emotional stress on them.

In busy households, this need can only be made clear through proper communication. Couples need to sit down and discuss this. What time do you need? When can we set that time in the schedule? It’s also important to be understanding of your partner’s need for the same. Therapist Ben Hoogland, MS, LFT says it’s crucial for couples to not be passive or resentful towards someone asking for alone time. So schedule that alone time. And if your partner is being reluctant, offer to take the kids or set up something for them that forces them to take some moments alone. Everyone needs it.

4. And Schedule Time as a Couple

Right now, it’s can be easy to feel like roommates or co-workers instead of romantic partners. Couples must be sure to take measures to recognize this side. Order in from that place you like. Take a long walk together while the kid is asleep in the stroller. Watch an old movie you both love. Schedule a Zoom class together.

5. Give One Another the Benefit of the Doubt

When stress is high, it’s very easy to misinterpret someone else’s completely normal actions. A good rule of thumb: When you’re communicating with your partner, give them the benefit of the doubt. “You’re both dealing with increased stress and unpredictability, so it’s likely that your partner isn’t actually trying to annoy you or act selfishly — they’re probably genuinely overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as usual,” says Jessie Bohnenkamp, a licensed professional counselor in Virginia. “If you need to bring up an issue, focus on the specific behavior that’s bothering you rather than criticizing your partner’s character or personality.”

6. Set Aside Time to Vent

In stressful times, it’s easy to forget to touch base with one another. Not a good look. So be mindful and set aside a specific time at the end of every day to talk about what’s happening. Bohnenkamp says that during this scheduled time each partner gets ten or 15 minutes to talk about whatever’s on their mind — work stress, worry about their parents’ health, money concerns, whatever. The other person simply listens, validates, and supports (“No problem solving unless specifically asked for!,” reminds Bohnenkamp.) Then, it’s the other person’s turn and roles are reversed. “This time to come together and support each other is a wonderful way to stay on the same page, reduce each other’s stress, and stay connected and strong during this stressful time,” she says.

How To Tell If Your Kid Is Actually Getting Anything Out Of Remote School

Millions of parents around the country are months deep into remote or hybrid school as the coronavirus pandemic slogs on.

For some families, it’s abundantly clear that online learning just isn’t working, either because their kids can’t even access the classes they need or because they have kids so ill-suited to sitting in front of a screen all day long that remote learning feels like a bad joke. And yes, there are also some children who are obviously excelling online.

But for so many parents and caregivers, it is unclear how well remote learning is working for their kids. Some days, kids seem to love it. Other days, they’re mired in Zoom gloom. Even though in some ways parents have greater access to their kiddos’ schools and teachers than ever before, it’s not always clear how much information they’re actually retaining and whether any of them are having any fun.

So HuffPost Parents spoke with several educators to get some guidance for parents who want to know whether remote learning is really working for their kids.

First, consider social-emotional learning andacademics. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made very clear just how much school provides for kids and families. It’s not just academics — it’s meals, mental health support and child care. School is where children go to connect with their peers and have fun.

“I think that it’s important to measure [success] in a few ways, and one is social-emotional. Is a kid liking going to school? How do they feel? Are they happy to start? How are they at the end of the day?” Francie Alexander, chief research officer at the publishing company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told HuffPost. “The social-emotional piece is such an important part of growing up and going to school.”

Then, of course, the other major area that parents want to consider is academic progress and what their kids are actually learning when they log on every day. 

“Obviously, kids are there to learn. You want to know: Are they getting the math they need? Are they getting the science they need? Are they getting the language arts they need?” Alexander said.

Spend some time with their learning platforms.

“One of the benefits of remote learning is that every program has some mechanism for measuring how are kids doing,” Alexander said.

One of the bright spots of this unusual academic year is that parents and teachers have an unprecedented amount of data available to them about how many minutes kids are spending every day doing academic work and how well they’re doing it, Alexander said. That information is available in real time for both parents and educators, as well as the students themselves. 

So spend some time really getting to know the various learning platforms your child is using and going through their assignments. It might feel like micromanaging, but experts say it’s really not — even if they’re in middle school or above.

“You’re going to want to be on that school dashboard. Know who their teachers are for each class. You can be specific, like: ‘How did that social studies activity go for you on Thursday?’” said Lisa Collum, owner of Top Score Writing and Coastal Middle and High School and a mom of four who is overseeing lots of online learning this fall.

Know the standards. But also know that everything is different this year.

One of the more helpful things parents can do right now, Collum said, is spend a few minutes getting to know the goals or standards for whatever grade their children are in, whether it’s looking up national or statewide standards (all available online), checking in with their teacher, or both. The big caveat, of course, is that everything is different because of COVID-19 and many of the usual standards have probably shifted.

“Remember: Kids may fall a bit behind where they’re ‘supposed’ to be, and that’s OK.”

Kids definitely learn at their own pace, but having a sense of the bigger picture can at least give parents some benchmarks, Collum said. In her experience, parents often have higher expectations, and checking in with the standards can help set their minds at ease, particularly if it seems like remote learning is a bit of a disaster. 

And again, remember: Kids may fall a bit behind where they’re “supposed” to be, and that’s OK.

Learn to Solicit Feedback … from Your Kids

How can we measure how we’re doing as parents? What work tools might we adapt to use at home? Following the best practices you’d use in the workplace to solicit upward feedback from your children can help you identify areas to improve as well as positive behaviors to continue.

I decided to experiment with this approach by checking in with my daughters. Both conversations were relatively short, between 5 and 10 minutes. My kids were very direct, and most of the feedback they gave me concerned everyday interactions rather than really big issues.

While being a good parent is something I regularly think and talk about with my family, this approach focused the conversation using a process I’ve worked through with thousands of leaders in my role as a consultant and I found that many of the same best practices apply.

Here are four steps to conduct meaningful conversations with your kids.

1. Prepare

To make this a positive experience, give your child context and a sense of safety.

State your intention and give them the questions. Explain that you’re looking to improve as a parent and you want their feedback. You may be aware of a specific behavior or pattern of engagement with your child that you want to work on (such as being on your smartphone less or listening before responding with your opinions).

Consider asking the following three questions:

  1. What do I do that you like or that you’d like to see more of?
  2. What do I do that you don’t like or has a negative impact on you?
  3. What would make me a better parent?

Give your kids time to think about their answers by sharing the questions in advance.

Set the stage for openness and honesty. Even if you have an open relationship, your kids might be concerned about how you’ll receive their feedback. Emphasize that it’s okay to share anything — positive or negative. Say something like, “I want to hear your honest opinions. Especially if there’s something I do that you don’t like, because I really want to understand how my behavior impacts you.” Convey that you’re strong enough to hear bad news, and that you plan to use their feedback to make important changes in your behavior.

Pick a time and place. Set the stage by picking a time and place that will make your kids feel comfortable; consider asking them to decide where and when you’ll talk.

2. Conduct the conversation

Begin the conversation by again assuring your child that you’ll listen with openness and believe what they say. Acknowledge that their feelings and perspective are valid, and prepare to follow through on the safety you’ve created.

Remind them of your goal and the rules. I told my daughters that I intended to act on what they shared with me, and we could brainstorm ways to implement the changes they were asking for. I asked them to try to be as specific as they could about my behavior.

Ask the three questions. Per her request, my 9-year-old and I sat at our dining room table to talk. She shared this feedback: “Stop correcting me when I’m doing something, and let me figure it out, and only help me if I ask for help.” My 16-year-old and I drove to get take-out dinner, and we had our conversation while waiting in the car for our food. She said that she appreciated how I listen to her and give her room to talk in our conversations. But she also shared that sometimes she just doesn’t feel like talking.

Listen. Try to listen without judgment to your child’s answers. Ask for examples (e.g., “Can you tell me about a time when I did that or made you feel that way?”). If something is difficult to hear, acknowledge that by saying, “I didn’t realize how difficult that’s been for you. It’s hard for me to hear.” One example my younger daughter shared was a recent bike ride when I had repeatedly told her to stop at a stop sign, increasing my volume to get her attention. It would have been very easy for me to justify myself — that I only correct or help when she needs it, or that I saved her life on that ride. Instead I reflected on her big-picture message — that she hoped to be respected and trusted.

Clarify. Encourage the conversation to go deeper by asking follow-up questions. Your goal is to get a clear and complete understanding of your child’s experience. After my older daughter said she doesn’t always feel like talking, I asked, “Can you tell me a little more about that?” She replied, “Not all of our conversations need to be deep, and if something is bothering me, I don’t always want to talk about it.” I learned that when she deflects my attempts to have a deeper conversation, I shouldn’t get upset with her. Apparently, when we’ve had these interactions in the past, I’ve seemed disappointed, which made her feel bad.

Manage your emotions. This entire process will backfire if you don’t respond with grace and appreciation. If you don’t like the feedback you receive, remind yourself that your goal is to understand your child’s perspective. If you get angry or upset, you can seriously harm the relationship you’re trying to improve. So take a breath, and try to maintain your curiosity.

3. Respond 

When it’s your turn to talk, be calm and open, always mindful that they’re taking a risk in sharing information that may upset you. Avoid asking questions in a way that feels like an interrogation. Softness in language and facial expressions matter when you say things like, “Can you help me understand how I did that?” When my teen said she appreciated that I always allowed her to share her point of view, I acknowledged that I’ve always felt it was important for her to have a strong voice and assured her that I would continue to do this.

Thank them. No matter how you feel about their feedback, remember that your child took the time to do you what you asked, so acknowledge their cooperation and say thank you.

Summarize what you heard. Review and acknowledge the primary messages you’ve received. For my 9-year-old, I said that I heard that she wanted me to let her figure things out for herself. For my teenager, I said that I heard her say that while she appreciated my willingness to listen to her point of view, not every conversation had to be deep and meaningful.

What I Learned About My Kids During Lockdown, According to 17 Dads

Coronavirus lockdown changed a lot — especially a parent’s relationship with their kids. The situation brought families together, asking them to be nimble in how they reacted to the new normal and how they relate to one another. This closeness allowed parents and children to get very cozy, and view one another from new vantage points. We all learned something new about one another. 

So, what did parents learn about their kids during lockdown? That’s what we wanted to know. The 17 men who responded to our request spoke of both positives (they discovered hidden passions and quiet strengths) and negatives (a child’s penchant for the dramatics; signs of bullying). All of these realizations led the men to take a harder look at what they need to do to encourage the positive and offer better examples to deter the negative. All lessons contain power. Here’s what they learned.

I Learned to Play 

“I started playing Fortnite during quarantine. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, because we have two boys and it’s around all the time. So, I just gave it a whirl. I mean, I was a pretty big gamer growing up. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was my jam. I even won a tournament in college. So, I asked if I could try it out, and my kids were equally excited and embarrassed, I think. But, I picked it up pretty quickly, and I think that surprised them. It was actually really nice to learn they thought I was pretty good at it, not to brag, because as silly as it is, I get that it’s an important part of their lives.” – John, 38, Maryland

I Realized That My Kids Are TattleTales

“I didn’t realize my kids were such tattletales. They’re twins, both fourth graders going into fifth. A boy and a girl. And I’ve learned about each and every single marginally bad thing each of them has done for four months…from the other one. It’s annoying. It’s obnoxious. And, really, it’s upsetting. They play this weird power game as siblings where they try to bury each other in trouble to make themselves look good. So, my brain will fast forward 20 years and think, ‘Are they going to be like this when they have jobs? Are they going to be the scheming, backstabbing people I work with and loathe?’ Maybe I’m overreacting and it’s a normal kid thing. But it’s been a really negative eye-opener so far.” – Marty, 36, North Carolina  

My Kids Are Risk Takers

“I think my kids and I have done more hiking and exploring in the past few months than we have in our entire lives. It’s been really, really great. We weren’t an inactive family, but we all could stand to get some exercise. And there are plenty of beautiful parks and preserves right near us that I’m ashamed to say we’ve never even been to. I’ve learned a lot about my kids through our adventures. They’re risk-takers, and animal lovers, and really respectful of nature. That was all a big part of my childhood, and I’ve definitely lost sight of how much fun it can be. I’m glad we’re able to do this together.” – Kirk, 36, Ohio

My Kids Have Lost Faith in My Parenting

“My kids are having a hard time believing that it’s unsafe to go outside. Of course they do, right? Two teenage girls who think they’re being ruled by the Iron Curtain. I try to explain to them that this is a serious situation, and that people are dying. But it’s really in one ear, and out the other. They see people on Facebook out and about, at the beach, at restaurants, and they whine and whine and whine about how we’re being unfair. They point to the loosened restrictions all over the country and say we’re just being mean. It’s the same conversation every day, and it’s exhausting.” – J.D., 42, New Jersey

I Learned My Son’s Passion — And Learned With Him

“I know they teach coding in school now, but I never really understood what that meant. So, as my son was finishing up his school year, I took an interest in helping him with that subject. I’m not traditionally a very left-brained person, which it seems like you have to be to understand coding, so learning it at a 5th grade level actually helped. I’m not ready to build my own website yet, but the best part has been watching him teach me. Because he’s really into it. And I can see the passion and excitement when he’s like, ‘No, Dad, this is how you do it.’” – Thomas, 43, California

I Realized My Daughter Is a Master Manipulator

“My daughter is 14. I try to be aware of her social life, if not exactly active in it. Seeing how she interacts with some of her friends – especially some of the boys in her class – is kind of appalling. She plays them against each other. She talks about them behind their backs, and then lies to their faces. It’s really unsettling. I’ll admit, I’m not at my ‘Best Dad’ level right now, and I’m really struggling with how to proceed. Part of me thinks this is kind of normal, she’s a teenager, drama, and so on. But, I don’t want her to grow up thinking what she’s doing is a desired skill.” – Craig, 42, Connecticut

The best place for children during the pandemic?

As parents nationwide puzzle out a summer break upended by the pandemic and local school districts roll out their plans for the fall, many are now faced with tough choices. In just two examples, the Nashville, Tennessee public school system recently offered parents a choice between sending their children back to school full time or keeping them at home for online classes, while Fairfax County, Virginia public schools are making families choose between fully online schooling or a “hybrid” that combines in-person and remote instruction.

While weighing the needs of educating their children versus possibly exposing their family to COVID-19, how should parents consider these options?

As experts in the fields of education and pediatric health — and parents ourselves — we echo the American Academy of Pediatrics in saying that “the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” We are not saying that all students — particularly those with underlying medical conditions — should rush back into schools as normal. But, based on the best available evidence, here is what we know so far. 

Kids are unlikely to be virus hosts 

At a time when so much about the virus remains unknown, it is encouraging — and frankly, a relief — that early research shows kids are far less likely to be virus hosts, spreaders or victims. Since March, mounting evidence has shown that children, especially young children, are much less likely to spread the virus than adults. Furthermore, studies from the U.S., Israel, and the Netherlands have shown that children are about half as likely to become infected as adults.

Children are also less likely to be hospitalized or to succumb to the virus. As of June 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 28 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 have died from COVID-19 or about 0.03% of all American deaths from COVID-19. In contrast, the same data showed that pneumonia and the seasonal flu killed 3-6 times as many children in the U.S. this year. And while parents may be worried their children will bring the virus home from school, studies are finding that it is adults who are more likely to transfer the virus, including from parents to their children. 

We don’t mean to minimize these tragedies, but the choice to stay home carries other risks to children, including neglect, abuse, or food insecurity. In fact, by attempting to protect our children from all health risks, we may be exposing them to other risks by interrupting their education.

Educational disruptions can have lasting emotional and academic consequences, especially for younger students. In Maryland, researchers looked at the effects on children for time off from school for “snow days” and found significant learning losses, especially among younger students. In Argentina, a wave of teacher strikes in the early 1980s caused primary school students to miss an average of 88 days of learning.Researchers found these students were less likely to complete high school or college, completed fewer years of education overall, and had lower employment rates and earnings. The negative effects were long-term but also intergenerational: Compared to their peers, the children of the strike-affected students were more likely to be held back in school.

There are, in fact, successful examples of schools remaining open even as the virus spreads across a community. In the U.S., YMCAs and the New York City’s Department of Education have been operating daycare centers for tens of thousands of young children since March, with no sign of outbreaks among students or staff. Preliminary data as of earlier this week on COVID-19 spread at childcare centers showed a student infection rate of 0.16% and a staff infection rate of 1.09%, both of which are much lower than the overall population.

At least get the younger kids back to school

If older students are more able to handle a remote learning environment and more likely to catch the virus, we should focus on getting our youngest and most disadvantaged children back to full-time school first. France, for example, is reopening its elementary and middle schools but not its high schools.

Not all of these decisions should rest on individual school districts, either. There needs to be broader discussion right now among policymakers about how we balance the need to educate children while supporting working families during the pandemic.   

The Next Generation of You: George Nock

“I guess it had probably been eating away at me since I was a kid,” said Nock, who played for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins from 1969-72. “I dreamt about it, but other people dreamt about it, too. And then you wonder how you’re going to make a living because nobody had a formula for you to do so. You had to go it on your own and try to figure out how to make this work.

“The approach is individual because no one can tell you what you want out of it. But as you make your mind up and what you want to become, you have to do all the things that help you aspire to be that. Sometimes the biggest challenge is you.

“Once you make up your mind, you’ve got to go for the gusto and do it just like you worked at sports. Because if you want to be the best, you’ve got to get in there and practice, make sure you’re overcoming all the things that come up against you and make it work.” 

Nock has dedicated his life ‘s work to creating realistic figures in bronze.

“I was able to sculpt right off the bat and make it look like I wanted it to look like,” Nock said. “If I was able to do those things at seven years old, that sort of set the die as to what you can accomplish. If you can make it look like it’s supposed to look, you’re well on your way.

“Getting into the intricacies of bronze sculpture, I had to go to a foundry and be basically a walk-on for them to show me how to do it. Those are the little things that keep you on your toes. You’ve got to do it. As you go from one thing to the next, you grow. As you let your mind expand and say, ‘Can I do that? Why not? Other people have done it.’ I figured that if anybody can do it, I surely can do it.”

Nock, whose work can be seen on his website – www.georgenock.com – enjoys the challenge, the quest, and the procedure to produce unique pieces of art.

“Those are the things that make it most interesting,” Nock said. “And being that I never had any formal schooling in it, I’m learning through my own volition. How to do it this way and how to do it a better way.”

The end of the game, if you will, is when a project he has developed from an idea is appreciated and purchased.  

“It’s the ultimate that at least that which I’ve done, it was not in vain. You’ve gotten it to the point where others would want to have that as something as, I guess, an award to them because when you purchase art, it’s forever. The appreciation value is never going to go away,” Nock said.

“If the daily feeling you get from a piece of work that’s in your house, and you’ll go by that piece every day and some days you’ll appreciate it more than others, that’s what it’s about. If I have a piece that people can feel that way about, I’ve gotten to the point where that’s what I’ve accomplished.”

Happy 4th of July!

To our entire former player community and your families: Happy Fourth of July.  

We hope you take this opportunity to appreciate those you love, the friends who add joy to your lives, and the entire community of former players.

We hope you take a moment to thank your families and support networks, eat some good (and healthy) food and enjoy a beautiful summer weekend.

Happy Fourth of July!

The Next Generation of You: Charles McRae

by Jim Gehman

Nevertheless…

“We were getting better over time and it really felt like we had a good group of people on the team,” said the offensive tackle. “It was a great group to play with, and the team was fairly good to us, as well. It was an enjoyable place to play and live and be a member of the community.”

Following five seasons with the Buccaneers and one with the Oakland Raiders, McRae joined the cyberspace community.  

“I got into doing website design and networking. I’ve always been a bit of a geek. I was doing some of the networking and helping the people in the front office of the Buccaneers. If they had computer problems, they’d come find me,” McRae said with a laugh. “I had my own company and then joined a dot-com (company) out of New England. It was great, a lot of fun, and I was in meetings with majors in the outdoor trade and doing deals. And I’d never had a business class, ever. 

“But I had serious disagreements with how we were running the business. I knew from an institutional standpoint that what we were doing wasn’t going to be successful. And that I did not know how to a.) communicate that, and b.) how to fix it. It’s no good for somebody just to say, ‘Hey, this is wrong. It doesn’t work.’ You need to have solutions and answers and I didn’t have those.”

McRae then decided to part ways and pursue an MBA from the University of Tennessee School of Business. Which led to a third career – healthcare.

“I had a couple friends that were radiologists and they were having challenges with their business operation. They’d come to me with their questions and I’d give them answers,” McRae said. “About the time I was getting out of the MBA program, they decided they needed to hire a business leader to run the organization. So, I jumped into that, and that’s when the education really began. They had no idea the challenges they actually really had.

“And remember, I’ve got no healthcare experience. Just a freshly minted MBA, and I get tossed into the middle of a firestorm. But after we get things turned around, we ended up over doubling the size of the practice over the next six years.” 

McRae then joined Columbus Radiology in 2011, which joined Radiology Partners, the largest physician-led and physician-owned radiology practice in the country, five years later. He is now their Senior Vice President of Operations.

“At the time, that made Radiology Partners about 320 physicians. We’re at about 1,500 physicians today,” said McRae, who makes his home in Knoxville, Tenn., with his wife, Lori, and has seven children. “I’ve got a great job. We really have a mission to improve healthcare. And radiology touches virtually every person in the country at some point in their life.

“We are able to do so much more. We have fantastic technology. We’ve got a great culture and a commitment to transforming how radiology’s performed. It really is exciting to get up and go to work with an organization that has a mission that matters.”  

6 Questions To Ask Your Family And Friends While Social Distancing

Most of us are using Zoom, Houseparty or Facetime to stay connected with friends and family while social distancing. A lot of the time, we default to small talk or party games, which is understandable ― we all need a little distraction right now!

But in going that route, we sometimes dance around asking the big questions: How are you doing ― like, really doing? What are you worried about right now? Your job security? Your parents or grandparents getting coronavirus? Are you concerned about what life will look like after social distancing restrictions are lifted?

Of course, some methods of broaching weightier subjects are better than others. (A generic “how are you”? is easy enough to sidestep: “I’m fine, how are you?”) We asked therapists to share six questions to ask if you want to see how your loved ones are really doing as they adjust to our new (hopefully as-temporary-as-possible!) normal.

There’s one caveat: The person on the other end of the call may not want to go as deep as you do ― and that’s totally fine.

“You have to notice and respect the person’s current disposition or mood,” said Symonne Kennedy, LMSW, a psychotherapist at The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York City. “If they’re not willing or wanting to talk in that moment, conveying that you recognize this and that it’s OK can go a long way for any future conversations.”

If they are willing, though, these conversations starters can be helpful.

“I’ve been struggling with this. Have you?”

“Encouraging family and friends to open up can be as simple as opening up yourself! Instead of focusing on your personal highlight reel, think of the personal struggles you’re facing and share with others. When you open yourself up and allow yourself to be seen, you create a safe container for others to share their own vulnerabilities.

When asking questions, try relaying a personal struggle to segue into the question. For example, you might say something like, ‘I have been having a really tough time sticking to a schedule during quarantine. Have you been experiencing this too, or do you have any tips?’ Or you could try saying, ‘I’m going through waves of emotion through this experience. How have you been feeling?’” ― Danielle Massi, a marriage and family therapist in Philadelphia.

“How are you coping with your fears of catching the virus?”

“Facetime with friends and close families give you a chance to open up about concerns you may have compartmentalized during the day. Be aware of your feelings, especially your fears. Share the sensible steps you’re taking to protect yourself and others in the prescribed ways, like physical distancing, wearing a mask in public and often washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap

“Follow up with questions about how your friend or family member is coping: You might ask, ’Are you noticing yourself acting differently in daily life, like doing more emotional eating, drinking, or arguing with your partner?′ In these stressful times, some people may be doing more binge drinking, emotional eating or taking out their frustrations about being sheltered in place by picking fights with their spouse or whoever they live with.” ― Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and the author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.

“How are you really doing?”

“My suggestion is to lay the cards on the table and just dive in. ‘How are you really? I want to know how this has been for you.’ Let your loved one know that you are interested in their actual experience and not just the pleasantries of the typical, ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m good’ exchange we’ve grown accustomed to can go a long way.” ― Kennedy

How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event

We love that so many people are finding Zoom to be an easy way to stay connected in this time of social distancing, school closures, and work-from-home routines. All these virtual happy hours, coffee breaks, afternoon hangs, dance practices, yoga sessions, and so many other events over Zoom — your creativity and resilience in these tough times are inspiring!

What’s more impressive is that many of us are learning to host these events on the fly! As more people use our platform and host their virtual events using Zoom, we wanted to offer up tips to ensure everyone joining an event does so with good intentions. Like most other public forums, it’s possible to have a person (who may or may not be invited) disrupt an event that’s meant to bring people together.

So, a couple of reminders on using Zoom to host public events:

  • When you share your meeting link on social media or other public forums, that makes your event … extremely public. ANYONE with the link can join your meeting.
  • Avoid using your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) to host public events. Your PMI is basically one continuous meeting and you don’t want randos crashing your personal virtual space after the party’s over. Learn about meeting IDs and how to generate a random meeting ID (at the 0:27 mark) in this video tutorial.
  • Familiarize yourself with Zoom’s settings and features so you understand how to protect your virtual space when you need to. For example, the Waiting Room is an unbelievably helpful feature for hosts to control who comes and goes. (More on that below.)

Read on for a list of Zoom features that can help you safely share your Zoom virtual cocktail hour or dance break without unwanted interruptions. Ok, Zoomer? Let’s do it!

Manage screen sharing

The first rule of Zoom Club: Don’t give up control of your screen. 

You do not want random people in your public event taking control of the screen and sharing unwanted content with the group. You can restrict this — before the meeting and during the meeting in the host control bar — so that you’re the only one who can screen-share.

To prevent participants from screen sharing during a call, using the host controls at the bottom, click the arrow next to Share Screen and then Advanced Sharing Options.

Manage your participants

Some of the other great features to help secure your Zoom event and host with confidence:


Don’t forget to check out our 30 Days of Purpose and Productivity throughout April and our “Using Social Distancing to Grow” Bingo Card to track your progress.

People with large social networks are more civil online

Anyone spending time on a social media platform is likely to discover how quickly a conversation can turn hostile. Now, a study using computer-assisted content analysis has identified social network size as a key factor in the civility of discourse.

The work considers online incivility during the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has seen increased social media use and heightened discussion of hot-button issues, raised by the response to the disease.

As the study’s author observes, “COVID-19 is not just a health-related issue, it also generates numerous political conflicts.”

“In a time of isolation and collective trauma, social media allows for an immediate sharing of intense emotions. Prosocial behavior and positive affect may help to promote societal resilience,” explains Brenda K. Wiederhold, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the journal in which the findings are published.

The study was the work of Bumsoo Kim, Ph.D., of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel

Incivility and social grooming

“Incivility,” as defined in the research, refers to the use of language that employs “hostile, hateful, aggressive, and aspersive terms.” Specifically, the author cites name-calling, swear words, and pejorative speech.

“Social grooming” describes the presence of supportive behavior among members of one’s social network. Kim likens it to the behavior seen among apes: “Apes groom one another by picking up bugs from each other’s fur, which is time-consuming because each ape can pick bugs from only one other ape at a time.”

Humans, the author proposes, demonstrate this by providing each other with “strong social ties through informational exchange and emotional support.”

In online posts, this takes the form of positive language, which plays a “lubricating role” in social grooming. It encourages a recipient to increase the size of their social network, actively post content, and seek approval from the network.

The study hypothesizes that the size of one’s social network is negatively associated with incivility. In other words, the larger a person’s network is, the more likely they are to communicate online in a polite, respectful way.

The study’s methodology

The researcher used web-crawling software to collect 30,168 South Korean Twitter posts, Twitter being the country’s most popular social platform.
The tweets were collected between February 10 and 14, 2020, a period during which emotions ran high as the nation’s government was repatriating citizens from Wuhan, China, the original epicenter of the pandemic.

The researcher separated individuals’ tweets from those posted by news organizations, government institutions, and politicians, then excluded any redundant tweets and repeated posts, or retweets. The analysis was performed on a final data set of 27,849 tweets.

Included in this set was information about users, including their number of followers and how often their tweets were “favorited” and retweeted.

Each tweet was transformed into a numeric variable, according to the presence of a “bag of words” that indicated hostility.

5 Fun Games You Can Play On Zoom

1. Name in the Bag/Guess Who?

You know that popular Christmas Day game where you put the celeb names on post-it notes and stick it on someone’s head?

Then your loved one has to guess who it is?

Well, Name in the Bag is not just for Christmas!

Don’t let the player see who they are until they’ve guessed correctly or run out of guesses!

There is the popular app version called Heads Up which you can download on Android and on Apple but it might be a little fast-paced for video call software.

2. Houseparty 

Free, fun and fast to set up, Houseparty is a game available on IOS, Android, Chrome and Mac.

Coined ‘Facetime plus games’, the software is a video call software and quizmaster rolled into one. 

Play Heads Up (like Celeb in the Bag), Pictionary and Quick Draw. 

I’ve found the Android app works better than the IOS on my Macbook. 

Sometimes my friend couldn’t start a game but I could. 

Be patient and you’ll get there! 

I never hook up free apps to other apps like Facebook etc. Don’t want to share content between apps. 

3. Jackbox

Once everyone has exhausted HouseParty they move on to Jackbox!

Jackbox Games has a variety of individual games and games packages for sale.

Packages include bluffing games, drawing games, fill in the blank, sound effects and trivia. 

Jackbox can be played over every device going from laptops to game consoles, phones to desktops. 


Don’t forget to check out our 30 Days of Purpose and Productivity throughout April and our “Using Social Distancing to Grow” Bingo Card to track your progress.

7 Ways To Reconnect With A Friend You Lost Touch With

Here is an excerpt from Bustle to help you get started today.

Keep It Simple

The goal is to make your old friend feel comfortable, and a big part of this will involve trying not to exaggerate what happened between the two of you. “Be simple, especially if you’re strapped for time and haven’t spoken in a while,” Jenn DeWall, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. “Text or email a simple ‘hi’ or ‘thinking of you note.’ Remember it doesn’t have to be long and detailed, people are just happy you have reached out!” Once the simple act of reaching out is done, you can get the ball rolling on making plans or doing a sentimental gesture. 

Be Direct

Most importantly, you have to be up-front. If it’s been a while, there’s going to be some awkwardness, but your friend deserves your openness and honesty. “If you and your friend had a strong relationship, then be direct,” health and wellness coach Caleb Backe tells Bustle. “Don’t be afraid to cut the crap and address the situation for exactly what it is. Try to communicate that you were thinking about them and want to see how they’re holding up. This can convey true care and let them know that you want to reconnect as friends and not start fresh as strangers.” In most cases, losing touch was a two-way street. Yes, you might not have heard from them in a while, but you didn’t reach out to them either.

“Own it,” Wiercyski says. “Acknowledge that you haven’t connected in a while and simply ask if they’re interested in getting together … Then, when you get together, if it’s a bit awkward, ask them open ended questions. It’ll keep the pressure off of you and make them feel good because they get to talk about themselves and the awesome stuff they’ve been doing.” No one needs to be blamed for losing touch, but you shouldn’t avoid the situation either. Honor the fact that life got ahead of you, and it will be easier to move on together. 

Actually Set Plans

No one likes to hear the words “let’s grab coffee!” when they know it means, “let’s not talk again for a year!” While it seems like the polite thing to say, it can be hurtful. But what do you do if you actually mean it?

“A genuine ‘let’s grab coffee!’ is immediately followed up by arranging the date, time and place,” DeWall says. “If you’re not setting a date you’re not likely getting coffee together.” These plans are the foundation for the next step of your friendship.

Once the plans are in place, make sure you’re keeping your friend comfortable as well. “Keep it casual,” Wiercyski says. “This may mean simply grabbing coffee or going to happy hour. And definitely try to keep it at a 1:1 level. It’s so easy for someone to feel intimated if you haven’t connected for a while then you invite them to hang out with all your new friends … If you’re reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in years, then it may be best to invite them to a defined activity (i.e. the painting classes that are popular, bowling, or even a sporting event) because if things are a bit awkward, there’s something else to focus on and possibly create a new bond over.” And if you both have a good time hanging out again, make plans for your next hangout, too. Making brunch reservations a few weeks in advance is necessary these days, anyways.

Click here to Read More


Don’t forget to check out our 30 Days of Purpose and Productivity throughout April and our “Using Social Distancing to Grow” Bingo Card to track your progress.

The Life-Changing Habit of Journaling (What Fueled Einstein & da Vinci)

Here is an excerpt from Medium to help you get started today.

Ever wondered why history’s great minds including Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw and Maya Angelou would spend so much of their precious time writing things that will never be seen by another soul?

Jim Rohn says, “If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.”

Many famous creatives, writers, innovators and original thinkers of our generation keep journals— for many, it is a creative necessity, for others, a place for exploration, and for some an art form in and of itself.

But you don’t have to be creative, scientist or an innovator for this practice to be worthwhile.

Journaling helps you prioritize, clarify thinking, and accomplish your most important tasks, over urgent busy work.

Thinking in writing has this magical quality of clarifying your thoughts.

Tim Ferriss calls journaling the deloading phase in life. He explains, “I use it as a tool to clarify my thinking and goals, much as Kevin Kelly (one of my favorite humans) does. The paper is like a photography darkroom for my mind.”

Get used to the pen again!

Reflective writing has also been shown to improve decision-making and critical thinking in a number of medical professions.

Michael Hyatt says “What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it. Journaling helps sort this out.”

Journals give you a record of the progress you’ve made toward your goals to keep you motivated in the long slog of actually reaching them.

“As part of your morning creative burst, use your journal to review and hone your daily to-do list. Review and hone your life vision and big picture goals” says Benjamin Hardy.

Numerous studies (of the scientifically rigorous variety) have shown that personal writing can help people better cope with stressful events, relieve anxiety, boost immune cell activity

Judy Willis MD, a neurologist, and former classroom teacher explains, “The practice of writing can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information… it promotes the brain’s attentive focus … boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.”

What you write, you control. You don’t have to spend your whole morning writing, but the only rule is to write continuously. Be consistent to make the most of it.

Click here to Read More


Don’t forget to check out our 30 Days of Purpose and Productivity throughout April and our “Using Social Distancing to Grow” Bingo Card to track your progress.

Define Your Core Values

Day 9: Explore Core Values

Here is an excerpt from Inc. to help you get started today.

Personal Core Values Exercise:

Grab a notebook. It’s time to do some writing. Give yourself quiet space, no distractions, and at least an hour to reflect on each section.

Step 1–Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest accomplishments?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of efficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?

Step 2–Think through and describe the following in detail:

  1. What have been your three greatest failures?
  2. What have been your three greatest moments of inefficiency?
  3. What are any common rules or themes that you can identify?

Step 3–Identify three or four brief sentences of advice you would give to yourself based upon these commonalities.

Step 4–Next try and reduce them to a few words. For example: If your advice is: “Don’t overindulge in food and booze at parties and get in trouble,” reduce that down to Keep Control Through Moderation, or even Moderation.

Step 5–Now comes the fun. You need to test the value. Think of a situation where following your core value hurts you rather than helps you. For example you might think Innovation sounds good until you realize that your life thrives on stability rather than constant change. You have to think it through carefully. If you can’t identify a legitimate case where the value steers you wrong, you probably have a good core value.


Don’t forget to check out our 30 Days of Purpose and Productivity throughout April and our “Using Social Distancing to Grow” Bingo Card to track your progress.

When Coronavirus Hits Home: How to Quarantine the Sick

Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.

In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.

This Is the Time for a Mask

While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Leave Them Alone

Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.

If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.

Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.

Clean the House Like You Mean It

If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.

Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.

J.C. Tretter Elected As President of NFL Players Association

“It’s an honor to be in this position to lead our player membership,” said Tretter, a seven-year NFL veteran. “This is what I’m passionate about, and I’m excited to fight to protect and advance the rights of all players, past, present and future.”

Tretter replaces Eric Winston, who served three consecutive terms before cycling off the NFLPA’s leadership because he was not on an NFL roster this past season. Tretter played at Cornell before being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2013. He signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2017 and has served as one of the team’s alternate player reps for the past two years.

Additionally, four new players were voted by the board to serve two-year terms on the Executive Committee: Alex Mack (treasurer), Calais Campbell, Malcolm Jenkins and Wesley Woodyard.

They will join returning Executive Committee members Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander, Thomas Morstead, Richard Sherman, Michael Thomas and Benjamin Watson, who were all re-elected on Tuesday for two-year terms.

NFLPA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
JC Tretter, President
Alex Mack, Treasurer
Sam Acho, Vice President
Lorenzo Alexander, Vice President
Calais Campbell, Vice President
Malcolm Jenkins, Vice President
Thomas Morstead, Vice President
Richard Sherman, Vice President
Michael Thomas, Vice President
Benjamin Watson, Vice President
Wesley Woodyard, Vice President
 

8 Tips To Make Weeknight Family Dinners Easier

For many parents, weeknight family dinners can be hard to swing. Between kids’ commitments and parents’ work schedules, getting dinner on the table so you can all eat together is often a challenge.

There are, of course, innumerable tips for busy families to enjoy a meal during the workweek, as well as pointers on how to make the most of your dinnertime conversation with your child. But we also wanted to hear from the HuffPost Parents Facebook community for their tried and true advice for getting dinner on the table as a family as often as possible.

Not surprisingly, many readers avow the importance of meal prep, and there are some other gems here, too. Read on for more.

“Simple. We meal-prep. We decide our meals a week in advance. We take that extra time we would be wasting deciding dinner, and use it to converse and sit down. We eat together five to six nights a week. Sit down, at a table, no cellphones. In our house it’s an exciting thing to eat in the living room because it’s never done. So we make fun nights out of it.” ― Kryssy Elyse

“I have a 10-week menu rotation. On the weekend I pull out all the recipes for that week, see what ingredients we already have on hand, and throw the rest on the Walmart pickup app. I drive to get what I need for the whole week. I find that I’m much more likely to cook homemade food when I know what to make, have all the ingredients, and don’t have to make the dreaded stop to the grocery store. Plus, as the week goes on, you start to get hungry for what’s coming up.” ― Karen Miller

“I meal-plan for the week. I do one big grocery haul on Friday (grocery store and Costco) and then stop into the store again on Tuesday if we need a top-up of fresh stuff. I usually do one or two crockpot meals for the busier nights, and the rest of the week is cooked as I planned. My kids like to get involved, which I hope will develop into a love of cooking as they get older. And we sit at the table, no electronics, but we do have jazz on every night. We feel it helps with calming down and enjoying the meal together.” ― Adriana Leigh

“We meal-plan and shop over the weekend. Whoever is home and least busy around 5 takes ownership of dinner. If a kid has an activity the rest of us still sit and eat together. The Wi-Fi is off between 6 and 7 p.m. When I was in college and a working single mom, we rarely had dinners at home together. But I got up early and made a full breakfast and that was our daily meal together. :)” ― LaTisha Osborne Spice

“We plan ahead, as most are saying. Get what you can done early in the day … table set, salad made, recipe prep done and refrigerated.” ― Kathy Stamey

How to Build a Great Relationship with a Mentor

And mentors benefit, too. After all, “to teach is to learn twice.” Despite all these benefits, and even though 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is important to growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship.

The problem is often that people don’t know how to find a mentor or establish a relationship. The following eight steps can help.

1. Define your goals and specific needs.
Get out a pen and paper, and write out your career goals. Make sure they are SMART. Then, list out some of the biggest obstacles to achieving them. This specificity will help you decide what type of mentor you should be looking for. Maybe you need to develop new skills, expand your network in a specific sector, or build confidence to have some tough conversations. By first understanding where you want to be, as well as the biggest opportunities and gaps to getting there, you’ll identify how a mentor can truly be helpful to you.

2. Write the “job description” of your ideal mentor.
Equipped with your goals and what you need to help achieve them, think through how a mentor can help. Write out the type of mentor that can help you seize your biggest opportunities and/or navigate your challenges. Be specific here. Perhaps you need someone that can help you accomplish a project, make introductions to people at a certain level within a specific industry, or coach you through a tough negotiation. In your job description, make sure to also include the “why” – just like companies want potential hires to understand the bigger purpose of their firm, explain why mentoring you will tap into something bigger. Make sure you include this job description when you reach out to potential mentors, so they know why you’re asking for a mentor and are more willing to help (covered in the 4th and 5th steps).

3. Search for mentors through your second-degree network.
Mentors can be from anywhere. They can be from your LinkedIn network, professional connections, or people you’ve met at conferences. It’s important to remember that while people are certainly busy, being asked to be a mentor is a massive compliment. People might say no, but it will be a positive exchange and you shouldn’t be shy about thinking big and making the asks, even if you think there is no way the person can find time for you. Let them be the judge of that.

4. Make the ask (and keep it simple).
Asking someone to be your mentor the first time, second time, and even third time is a little awkward. It’s likely you’ve never been asked to mentor someone else, nor taught how to make the ask for yourself. Embrace the uncomfortable feeling and be vulnerable. There is no harm that can come from asking, but take it slow. Ask someone for a first conversation to learn more about their work and interests. Once you learn more about each other, if there is an alignment, then make the bigger ask for mentorship. Asking someone cold to be a mentor with a long email is too much to take in.

5. Have a first meeting.
You have two goals for your first conversation with your potential mentor. First, you need to determine if this person is really the right mentor for you. Then, find out whether they are open to the idea of mentoring you. How you approach the conversation will depend on you, but in general, you’ll want to do these few things:

  • Make it easy for the person. Go to a location convenient for them, have a coffee (or tea) waiting, come prepared, and make the meeting no-pressure and comfortable.
  • Spend time getting to know the person. You probably want to talk less than 30% of the time.
  • It’s okay to ask for