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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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?

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).

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.

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!

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

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 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.

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 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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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. *

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.

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.

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?’

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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!

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.

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.”

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.”

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 small favors out of the gate. In fact, it might even help you build the relationship.
  • Make a clear ask: “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Would it be okay if I followed up with you again in one month after I make some progress towards my goals?”
  • Say thank you, and then follow-up again over email to say thank you again.

EarQ and the NFL Players Association’s PAF Team up Before Sunday’s Big Game

EarQ and the NFL Players Association’s Professional Athletes Foundation joined together at Smocks and Jocks, a charitable art auction that benefits the livelihood of former professional football players.

EarQ, the preferred hearing care provider for the NFL Players Association’s PAF, participates in this exclusive event each year. Smocks and Jocks features artwork of current and former professional football players and proceeds go to the Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust, an organization that helps former plays in need of financial assistance or those who wish to continue their education.

The well-being of former professional football players is something that EarQ and the NFLPA have been focused on for nearly a decade. Through their efforts, the partnership aims to find hearing healthcare solutions and drive a nationwide hearing loss awareness movement for former players and their fans.

EarQ and the NFL Players Association are also sponsors of the HearStrong Foundation, a non-profit organization that shares the stories of remarkable people with hearing loss and recognizes them as Champions. While in Miami, EarQ and Andre Collins, Executive Director of the Professional Athletes Foundation, teamed up with HearStrong to honor Colby Ferris, a student athlete whose positive attitude and desire to help others with hearing loss earned him the title of HearStrong Champion.

“I’ve had hearing aids for so long and I never felt different from other people” says Colby. “Maybe that will help others find confidence within themselves.”

Recognizing people like Colby and attending advocacy-focused events like Smocks and Jocks are just one of the ways EarQ and the NFL Players Association are raising awareness for hearing health in former professional football players and their fans across the nation.

To learn more about EarQ and its partnership with the NFLPA’s PAF, please call (866) 432-7500.

What makes a healthy relationship?

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody.”

So writes Neil Gaiman in the ninth volume of the comic book series The Sandman, “The Kindly Ones.”

Indeed, there is no single tried and true recipe for love and successful relationships that anyone can teach us. Different approaches work for different partnerships, and there is no point in trying to come up with strict guidelines for love.

Nevertheless, the reasons why relationship quality can deteriorate over time — or why relationships fail altogether — tend to be consistent.

Many researchers have studied what makes people leave a relationship, and what motivates them to stay together.

In this feature, we give you our top research-backed tips on what to look out for in building a meaningful, healthy, happy relationship.

1. Start your relationship with purpose

First of all, research suggests that there may be some truth to the phrase “start as you mean to go on” when it comes to relationships.

Recent studies suggest that, in many cases, people who are dating end up “falling” into a committed relationship out of a sense of inertia, and couples may end up living together even when they are unsure if they belong together.

“[M]any, if not most, couples slide from noncohabitation to cohabitation before fully realizing what is happening; it is often a nondeliberative and incremental process,” report researchers from the University of Denver in Colorado.

For instance, someone may end up deciding to move in, and, maybe, eventually, marry their partner simply because they have already spent a significant amount of time together and established a bond.

This can happen — argue dating and relationships researchers Samantha Joel, Ph.D., and Prof. Paul Eastwick — even when one or both partners are convinced, at the start of their relationship, that they are not necessarily well suited to each other.

Medical News Today spoke to Alex Psaila, clinical supervisor at Relate North and South West Sussex, a United Kingdom-based registered charity that provide relationship support and mediation. We asked him about early “red flags” that people may want to remember when starting a new relationship.

Blind love, he told us, can prevent individuals from acknowledging possible issues and personality clashes. It can also make them think that — no matter how bothersome some of their new partner’s behaviors might be — these will likely change with time. Not so, said Psaila:

“Does anyone go into a relationship with the idea that this relationship is flawed? If we are aware of something [being not quite right], we might tell ourselves that ‘we’ll fix it’ […] For the most part ‘being in love’ is like Cupid — blind — and we gloss over potential difficulties, wanting to believe it will go away and love will conquer all.

Joel and Prof. Eastwick argue that if people took more time to do some — potentially difficult — soul searching before committing to a relationship, they might be able to avoid entering a situation that will prove unsatisfactory for both partners in the long run.

We should, that is, start new relationships with a sense of purpose, really thinking about what we want and need, and if the person we are dating is truly likely to align with those wants and needs — and we with theirs.

“People may be able to boost their own relational, health, and well-being trajectories by more selectively choosing and investing in new relationships that are right for them and rejecting those that are not right for them,” write Joel and Prof. Eastwick.

2. Communicate to solve conflict

As with anything, open communication is necessary when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

And in a long-term relationship, calm, open, and constructive communication is essential when it comes to solving conflict since no interpersonal bond ever comes truly free from conflict.

“Stress can arise in relationships when partners experience conflicting goals, motives and preferences,” write Profs Nickola Overall and James McNulty in a recent study about communication during conflict.

The possible reasons for conflict in a romantic relationship can vary widely, and Profs Overall and McNulty cite unmet expectations, financial difficulties, the distribution of responsibilities, parenting styles, and jealousy, among others.

“Unresolved conflicts and the stress associated with conflict put even the most satisfying relationship at risk. Moreover, managing and resolving conflict is difficult, and can itself be a significant source of stress,” they note.

So what is the best way to communicate when it comes to solving conflicts in an intimate relationship? 

According to the researchers, it depends. However, burying one’s feelings and misgivings, and brushing disagreements quickly under the carpet is unlikely to help, they say.

Profs Overall and McNulty suggest that it is crucial for couples first to evaluate the context in which the conflict has arisen in order to decide how best to address it.

When a serious issue is at stake, the researchers explain, it is important for both partners to express their opposing views and negotiate the direction of change.

However, if the couple is having disagreements about minor issues, or issues outside their control, it may be more helpful for them to acknowledge the problem but express mutual validation, affection, and forgiveness.

Psaila expressed a similar perspective to MNT. People who maintain healthy, happy relationships, he says, “say sorry and make reparation [when they acknowledge that they have done something hurtful].”

However, Psaila adds, they “do not hang on to secretive, hidden shame,” following a discordant situation.

“They learn from mistakes and know that awareness of their vulnerability is a strength. They can and will seek help and advice from trusted relatives, friends, mentors (even [trained] counselors).

– Alex Psaila

Psaila also notes that people who want their relationship to thrive also show openness to receiving support from a professional therapist, not just when things go wrong, but to make sure they stay the course.

3. Make time for couple activities

Life can sometimes get in the way of our spending time with the people we love, even when we share a living space. The demands of work, for instance, can leave us little time — and sometimes little energy — to do something enjoyable with our partners.

5 Easy Ways To Be A More Mindful Parent

Mindfulness has been a buzzy wellness concept for years now, with evidence touting its potential impact on reducing stress and improving focus.

Then there’s mindful parenting, which is kind of its own beast. By being present with your kids, the thinking goes, and slowing things down for just a bit, parents and kids are able to connect in more meaningful ways — and maybe eliminate stress for everyone.

“I think it’s really just a dedication to parenting with intention,” Kristen Race, a child psychologist and author of “Mindful Parenting,” told HuffPost. “Given our busy, hectic lives — and how incredibly busy our kids’ lives are — it’s easy to feel like you’re on a treadmill.

“We’re missing out on all of these meaningful moments with our kids,” Race added, “because we’re literally just trying to survive.”

Wondering how to make mindfulness a bigger part of your everyday? Here are five super simple ways to get started:

1. Make the most of morning drop-offs.

Any parent knows that mornings are straight-up chaos from the moment your feet hit the floor. Lunches need to be made, teeth brushed, butts wiped, clothes put on, emails answered. Alas, mindfulness won’t make that all go away. But it can alleviate the stress, even for just a minute or two.

Race recommends this simple exercise for your walk or drive to school, especially for younger kids: For one full minute, simply be quiet together and hear all of the sounds you hear. After, share what you noticed. This works even if your commute doesn’t take place in idyllic surroundings, and even if the sounds you hear are honks and sirens. “You could ask, ‘What is the farthest sound you can hear? What’s close by?’” Race said. “We don’t pay attention to that stuff.”

Another option: Ask your child to point out something (or things) they’ve never noticed before. The goal is to bring you both into the present moment together. Plus, it piques their curiosity, so by the time they charge into the classroom, they’re primed and ready to learn.

2. Practice three-breath hugs.

In this simple, lovely exercise popularized by Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, parents and kids come together, give each other a big ol’ hug, and breathe in and out together for three deep, coordinated breaths.

Though you can certainly do it at any time, Race said it can be particularly effective when your little one is having a meltdown, because it helps both of you get through a tough moment. Together.

“When we do this it calms our nervous system and it teaches our kids that we can use our breath to respond to difficult situations,” she said. “It teaches children how to calm themselves down, but it also teaches you how to calm yourself down.”

3. Put. Your. Phone. Down. 

Yes, we’ve all heard this advice so often it’s like white noise. But you simply cannot be a mindful parent if you’re glued to your device all the time. You mustset some boundaries.

In her own life, Race likes to stay off her devices from the moment her kids wake up until they’re dropped off at school — and then again for a full hour around dinner time. (Her kids are teenagers, so she asks the same of them, and noted that sometimes it can be a real struggle.)

“I ask people, ‘Can you start with 30 minutes?’” Race said. “We’re not talking about abandoning technology by any means. It’s just about being more intentional.”

4. List your three good things.

At the end of every day, maybe when your family is together at the dinner table or you’re helping your kids get ready for bed, try taking turns naming three good experiences from your day.

They don’t have to be big. The dog wagging its tail when it saw you. A moment in the sun. A quick, silly exchange with a friend at school. In fact, the smaller and simpler, the better in some ways.

When you make it a habit, you “start to become much more aware of positive experiences as they occur,” Race explained. “We’re kind of priming the brain to notice these good experiences.”

5. Remember: PBR.

No, not the beer or the Professional Bull Riders organization. PBR is Race’s go-to acronym for parents trying to stay calm and grounded in the face of a tantrum or other unpleasantness from their kids. The “P” stands for “pause,” the “B” stands for “breathe,” and the “R” stands for “respond with intention.”

“It forces you to take one or two deep breaths, because when you’re stressed you only breathe in the top quarter of your lungs,” Race said. “And then you chose a response that can lead to the most positive outcome.”

Note: Responding with intention does not mean you’re simply letting your kid off the hook if they’re behaving inappropriately. Your response still might be authoritative. It might be stern. But the goal is that it will be thoughtful, rather than totally rash.

“You’re creating that little bit of space,” Race said.

The Next Generation of You: Saul Patu

by Jim Gehman

“I had gotten a call from the Arena League. I didn’t know much about the league; I just knew that I wanted to continue to play and that I had a family to support,” Patu said. “So, I had heard about John Elway having a team and I was intrigued about the opportunity. I was thinking it’s a different time than the NFL season and maybe I can try it out and see how it goes and hopefully be prepared for a fall camp for the NFL.”

Patu joined the expansion Colorado Crush in 2003, a franchise co-owned by Elway, the late Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Stan Kroenke, who now owns the Los Angeles Rams. While he was technically playing the same game, realistically, it was different.

“I think one of the biggest things was just not knowing, not having any experience with the rules,” Patu said. “The anxiety around the unknown, like how different is it from 11-man football and the outdoor game. And having to re-learn the offensive side of the ball. Because when I came in you had to play both ways. 

“After that first year, I had so much fun, I could just play there, and I’ll be fine. I entertained going up to Canada (to play in the CFL) and kind of working my way back to the NFL that way. But I was married with three kids at the time, so it’s not easy to just pick up and roll out like that.”  

So, instead of moving north of the border, Patu and his wife, Alana, chose to make their family’s home in Denver. They also chose to make a difference in their adopted community and found the Patu Foundation.

“I always had a desire to give back and I did that my whole life. My parents were big community servants and that’s kind of who I am,” Patu said. “My thoughts coming out of college were if I had the opportunity to have more resources, it’s going to give me the opportunity to just help more people. And so, when that didn’t happen after the Draft, I really thought long and hard, ‘Man, do I need to have a ton of money to do some of the things that I want to do?’ And what I learned was that I didn’t.

“And so my wife and I decided to start a foundation, a non-profit, to leverage the resources that came with my position and my connections with other professional athletes in the city, and be able to bring much needed resources into high-need communities.”         

Dissolving the Foundation in order to spend more time with his kids as they grew older didn’t mean that Patu would stop giving back, he just found a different way to do so.

“A lot of my work right now is focused on a program I started called Academic Sports Institute up in Seattle at my alma mater, Rainier Beach High School. It’s a program to help at-risk student-athletes earn scholarships to college,” Patu said.    

“I had all my kids in the program. My daughter, Saniah, ended up getting a scholarship to St. Martin’s and then transferred to Valdosta State for basketball. My oldest son, Orin, accepted a scholarship to Cal-Berkley, and is an outside linebacker there. Our other son, Ari, is a (high school) junior, and currently holds multiple (scholarship) offers. And we have an eighth-grader, Kayo.”

Patu, the defensive line coach at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, also has another project called Mission 10/20. It trains youth football coaches not only the X’s and O’s, but how schedule a practice, how to a game plan, about youth engagement, and how to engage parents.

MLK Remembered

Dr. King lent his voice to a movement at a time when equality for all was simply a dream.  Decades later, we continue to strive for total equality and look 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.

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

How to Set Good Habits and Actually Keep Them This Year

At least that’s what Dr. BJ Fogg, a social science research associate at Stanford and author found in his own work studying how people can create real, sustainable, and healthy, and good habits, and shed bad habits in the past.

When Dr. Fogg received his doctorate in experimental psychology, he was largely focused on how people can use tech to better their lives. But at some point he felt he had contributed all he could to tech and that human behavior — good, bad, healthy, or unhealthy — would be his next mountain to tackle. During his research, he came across a surprising discovery: the smallest, tiniest habits are the ones that can radically change a person’s life. It was only when people set extremely lofty goals — like running a marathon at the end of the year or completely changing how they parent their children— that they failed and dug themselves deeper into a de-motivation hole that made it even harder to enact positive changes in their own lives. 

So, to help Dr. Fogg started a program called Tiny Habits and has coached some 60,000 people through changing their habits through smart, small change. His new book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything distills his finding and methodology into genuinely useful guide for those who want to change. 

Fatherly spoke to Dr. Fogg about how to really, actually set a new habit that will stick beyond the fading resolve of the New Year’s Resolution — as well as the most common habits he sees parents wanting — and needing — to change.

So what does it take to really hone a new habit?

There are three components that comprise every behavior: motivation, ability, and prompt. When those things come together, something amazing happens, and if you’re missing one, it doesn’t. And it’s really that simple. 

With that model, then, at least the graphical version in the book with the curved lines, you can see there’s a relationship between motivation and ability. So if something is really hard to do, you have to have high motivation for it to happen, and when motivation drops, you won’t. On the flip side, if it’s really easy to do, your motivation will be low. That intrigued me. I looked at the drawing of my own model and realized that means that if I want to create a new habit and I make it really, really simple, then my swings in motivation won’t derail [my habit formation.]

Okay.

I started doing it in my own life. I decided I’d floss one tooth, not all my teeth. I said I’d pour a glass of water, not drink a glass of water. By going radically tiny, it was like, great. I can be busy or stressed out or not wanting to do it very much and I can still floss one tooth. I can still pour one glass of water. I can still do two push ups. 

So just say I want to read more books in 2020. What do I do?

Take whatever habit you want and make it radically tiny. Scale it back: set the intention to read a paragraph, not a chapter. If it’s not flossing all my teeth, it’s one tooth. It’s not pay all my bills, it’s get my bills out and put them on the table. And so, in tiny habits, you just scale it back to make it so easy. So then it’s not at all a willpower or motivation issue. 

Then you ask, what’s going to remind me to do this? What routine do you already do that you can anchor the new habit to? For reading, it can come after I sit down on the bus. That’s when I open my book and read a paragraph. Neither one of those things is about motivation.

And then the feeling of success. It’s really those three things together — the anchor; making the behavior tiny; and the celebration. All of those are hacks, unconventionally. When I figured out over time was that if you bring those three hacks together, you can create habits really fast. It just feels different than if you have the right pieces put together.

Is the idea that by telling myself I’m just going to read one paragraph, or floss one tooth, that it will be really easy for me to go above and beyond that set goal?

It can go either way. You can do more if you want. Extra-credit would be flossing all my teeth. But, even years later, you don’t raise the bar on yourself. The habit is still just one tooth. I actually floss all my teeth twice a day. I used to not floss, I’d go to the dentist, I’d get chewed out. But even now, if I’m in a massive hurry, I will still grab the floss, floss one tooth and say, “Yeah. I got it done.” And run out to the car.

So what you don’t do is continue to raise the bar, like, “I did two push ups. Now I have to do 5.” You can do more, but it’s not a requirement. The habit is always tiny. You keep it at a level where you can always succeed. And when you do more, and you will do more, naturally, you think of that as extra credit. You’re the kind of person who goes above and beyond. That has really good effects on you. 

And then if you don’t, you did what you said you were going to do.

Really. Let me build on that. When you say, “Man, I did what I said I was going to do and I overachieved,” then you start seeing yourself as the person who does what they said they were going to do. That ripples out to other aspects of your life. There’s an identity shift that happens from succeeding on tiny things and that identity shift has a massive impact. 

So what do you think about the word ‘goals’? I haven’t heard you say it yet in this interview. Like, “My goal is to be neater.”

Goal setting scares people and it makes them feel unsuccessful. So instead of using the word ‘goal’, I talk about aspirations and outcomes. 

The word goal, I think, is tainted, but you could have people set a goal without using that word. Sitting down with your spouse and agreeing on an outcome that you want is essentially setting a goal. But it’s not bringing it all the baggage that people have around it. 

I’m a bigger fan of just aspirations: “I want to eat better.” What are the behaviors I can do that will help me eat better? So it’s not really a specific goal — it’s just a general dream, wish, or hope, and then you come up with behaviors like, I’ll pack a lunch every day. I’ll eat blueberries for breakfast. 

So, getting clear on what you want is really important. But I don’t think that you have to call it a goal, or fall into the trap of setting this really high goal for yourself and then failing. That’s what I want people to avoid.

You have done a lot of work, including long-term workshops, with people who would love to commit to new habits and potentially change their lives. What are a few things that you commonly see parents dealing with, that they want to change?

I assumed it was all going to be about weight loss, but what did emerge for parents is that the number one concern in one of the studies was about financial security. In another one, parents responded “I want to prepare my child for the real world.” 

I don’t even know how we came up with that phrase! but we tested it against other things like, “I want to reduce stress,” or “advance my career.” For parents, that aspiration of preparing their kid for the real world — that was number one.

Were there other things that concerned parents? 

Tidiness around the home is a big issue. There are these tiny habits for tininess they can do, like, after I start the coffee maker I will put away one thing in the kitchen. Just one thing. And if you want to do more, great. But you don’t have to. And guess what? Often, they do more. 

There are habits around putting away technology and really engaging with your child. So, after I arrive home from work, I will charge my phone out of sight in the mud room or the entryway and I’ll leave it there. So, you just leave it and don’t charge it.

There are also mantras. “After my child frustrates me, I will say to myself, ‘My son is doing the best he can. Nobody tries to screw up.’” So just the internal mantra, to have some empathy. There’s a host of those. In the appendix of tiny habits, I pulled together, with input from some experts, some tiny habits for dads who work from home. 

New Year’s resolutions, for couples

Heading into the new year, I find myself working with so many couples that are burned out, fed up, and feeling that their relationship isn’t as good as it could be. They don’t like their partners as much as they used to, they’ve lost the thread of the relationship with so much else going on, and some wonder if they should still even be together. No wonder the current movie “Marriage Story,” about a couple embarking upon divorce, has struck such a cultural nerve. 

In his book and TED talk, “The Element,” Sir Ken Robinson explores when people feel most themselves and most inspired to achieve at their highest levels. He draws on stories from a wide range of people, from former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney to Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” and many others who figured out how to get in their “element” — the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. 

Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in our element and those that stifle that possibility. While Robinson is talking about personal and professional success, there’s something to be said for getting into your “relationship element.” 

I’ve been thinking and, talking to some of my colleagues about, good relationship resolutions for the new year to get you to your relationship element.

Have sex once a week

There’s no right number for how often couples should have sex, but I always encourage them to aim for once a week. Studies have shown that couples who maintain their sexual connection once a week are more satisfied overall in their relationships than couples who do not. 

Sex produces a positive “after-glow” that lasts for up to two days, which is linked with relationship quality over the long term. 

Make time for each other

It’s easy to have a good time at the beginning of a relationship, when things are new and exciting.

“When we get comfortable in our relationships and all of life’s stresses come in to play, that tends to fade,” said sex therapist Rachel Needle. “Continuing to play around with and have fun with your partner will keep you happier and more satisfied.” 

Needle also recommended doing meaningful things together, like volunteering. “Spending time giving back can create a deeper connection and can strengthen your bond with your partner,” she explained. 

Be present

“Many of my couples talk about their relationship a lot to the point that they forget to be in it,” said sex therapist Sara Nasserzadeh. “Put your intention and efforts where it matters most so you’re doing preventive work on the ‘cracks’ rather than waiting for them to become ‘canyons’ and then seek help.

“That work can include paying closer attention to your partner’s nonverbal cues and subtle shifts in their emotional state, said sex therapist Emily Jamea.

“Notice what the shifts in your own body and emotional state tell you about what is happening around you. This will enhance the relationship bond and cultivate a deeper level of empathy resulting in a deeper connection to yourself, your partner, and the world around you.” 

Practice presence with compassion

“Be mindful and stay present when engaging your partner, or when they are trying to engage you on anything — from coordinating schedules, to finances, to kids, to needs, to desires,” said Yvonne K. Fulbright, a sexologist. 

That means stepping away from your computer, putting down your phone, and becoming totally present in the moment. “Consider where your partner is coming from in how information is being communicated, versus simply jumping to how you’re being impacted by your partner’s style of engagement,” Fulbright said. “

How can you alleviate your partner’s concerns or distress, or simply acknowledge the situation and emotions in a way that fosters connection, compassion and support?” she added. 

Argue respectfully

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, try to approach conflicts from a place of curiosity rather than judging and blaming. “Making the choice to redirect stress into friendly curiosity” — instead of black and white thinking and judging — “is the quickest way to improve communication during conflict,” explained sex therapist Heidi Crockett.

Sex therapist Barbara Gold agreed. “If you and your partner treat each other with respect, you will solidify the basis for a constructive and collaborative relationship comprised of two people who have care and regard, not only for each other, but for each other’s boundaries, as well,” she said. When you do argue, take steps to repair those arguments, advised sex therapist Deborah Fox.

“Begin with an apology for what you contributed to the argument, even if you think you’re only responsible for 2% of what happened,” she said. “Repairing is also preventive because healing the rupture goes a long way in creating a feeling of safety and security with each other, resulting in fewer sparks to ignite.”

Envision the future

A couples vision board of images, pictures and affirmations of your dreams and all of the things that make you and your partner happy can be a fun way to ring in the new year together. 

“A couples’ vision board is meant to empower you personally and as a couple,” said sex therapist Marissa Nelson. “And create dialogue about the things that truly matter to you both, and the things you would like to work on and achieve together. 

Go into the basement

Think of a relationship like a house. The main floor is where the action is: It’s where we eat, sleep, cook clean, argue, have sex, don’t have sex and generally deal with all the problems that life throws at us.

The main floor of life is often busy, practical, incessant, repetitive and crowded with others. We spend a lot of time up on the main floor of life. But we also have a basement, which is our emotional underground (both our own and the one we’ve built with our partner).

Residing in the basement are the vulnerabilities, traumas, primary emotions and painful memories that we want to submerge and not think about. Compared to the main floor, the basement is dark and quiet and a lot may have gotten put down there over the years. 

Up on the main floor, we may engage the defensive emotions of anger, frustration, anxiety, jealousy and resentment when arguing with a partner. But down below, in the basement, we may feel hurt, alone, shameful, neglected and unloved. 

Learning to communicate from the basement, from a place of primary emotion and vulnerability rather than defensiveness and escalation, is at the heart of a healthy relationship. And of course, do you best to …

Put your relationship first

“There are many ways that couples can put their relationship first” said sex and relationship therapist Joanne Bagshaw. “For instance, demonstrating equity between partners when managing finances, completing household tasks and initiating sex, and using humor to resolve conflicts and maintain connection,” she said.

“These types of relationship-maintenance strategies promote a relationship-first framework,” Bagshaw explained. “Asking yourself, ‘Is this good for my relationship?’ when making decisions or resolving conflicts, is a practical way to start a resolution of putting your relationship first in the new year.”

Happy Holidays!

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.

The 7 Most Common Issues Families Have Around The Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… if you get along with your extended family.

The reality for most, though? There’s a lot of room for conflict during the hectic holiday months: Stress levels reach a fever pitch. Long-simmering familial issues can rise to the surface. And there’s always that one relative who thinks it’s appropriate to ask intrusive questions about your personal life over Christmas dinner.

We’re here to help. Below, family therapists share the most common issues relatives face during the holidays and how to deal with each. (Having a tall glass of spiked eggnog in your hand might help, too.)

Issue No. 1: Relatives who rehash old arguments or bring up past mistakes.

Let bygones be bygones should be your motto this time of year. Unfortunately, there’s something about families coming together around the holidays that seems to make people eager to bring up old hurts, arguments and mistakes, said Anna Poss, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois.

Oftentimes, the issues sting: “Mom told me so much about her childhood when she was in hospice care,” an uncle might say. “It’s a shame that more of you weren’t there for her during those last few days.” 

The solution: Acknowledge the old hurt in a neutral way― “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “it is unfortunate” for instance ― but then Poss recommends redirecting the conversation.

“Simply bring up a less stressful, more recent topic,” she explained. “If they continue to try to hijack the conversation into negative waters, you can say calmly and directly that you are not interested in that conversation and would rather discuss something else.”

Issue No. 2: Disagreements over how the kids in the family should behave or be disciplined.

Your parenting and discipline style may vary greatly from your relatives’ style and expectations. “How can you let your son talk so disrespectfully to you,” your great aunt might say when your kid speaks his mind in a way you find fine. “You’re his mother!” 

The solution: Your parenting style is, of course, no one else’s business. But there’s often generational divides on how kids should behave. If the comments irk you, gracefully remove yourself from the situation, or suggest to your relative that the two of you simply have different disciplinary styles, said Fran Walfish, a family and psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”

If you’re the great aunt in this situation, “remind yourself that it’s not yourresponsibility to correct the kids in the way they speak to their mother, it’s hers,” Walfish said.

Issue No. 3: Relatives who put pressures on others about the future.

Family members, especially older ones, usually have hopes for the next steps you take. It’s understandable ― they’re invested in your life! Oftentimes, these hopes get brought up at holiday gatherings, which isn’t an ideal setting for these loaded, sensitive conversations: “Still single? Do you think you’ll ever get married?” they might say. Or “You’ve been together a few years now, when are you going to have a baby?” Maybe it’s a comment about work: “Are you still at that same job? Have you thought about looking elsewhere?”

While usually well-meaning, the questions come off as intrusive ― and holiday gatherings are neither the time or place for these kinds of conversations, said Mahlet Endale, a licensed psychologist based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Plus, it’s hard to know the backstory, especially if you’re not in regular contact with your relatives: What if the person you’re asking is in a toxic relationship or just got dumped? What if they had a miscarriage recently? What if they want to move on from their job and become a lawyer, but can’t seem to pass the LSAT? 

The solution: If you’re the inquiring mind in this situation, ask your relative if they’re interested in talking about the subject, Endale said. If they say yes, pull them aside (no one else need to hear this) and ask questions to understand where they stand on the topic. Then ― and only then ― you can ask for permission to share your thoughts.

“Be aware that someone may say no to any of these questions,” she said. “If that’s the case, invite a conversation to understand why it’s a no and be ready to back off if they’re not ready to discuss this. The more respect you show for what the person needs, the more you show yourself to be a thoughtful and caring.”

If you’re the one being interrogated or receiving unsolicited advice, try to pivot the conversation: Make a joke, or tell your relative you’d rather talk about this later, Endale said. Or you can very clearly state you don’t want to talk about it.

“In most healthy family dynamics, one of these will work in redirecting uncomfortable topics,” she said. “If you know there is a topic you’ve repeatedly been pressured about and you know that it will continue at the holidays despite your request for it to stop, it’s OK for you to think about limiting your family time.”

Issue No. 4: Conflict over whose family you’ll visit in a new relationship

Even couples at the height of the honeymoon phase fall prey to arguments about where they’ll spend the holidays. (This is especially if there’s a big geographic distance between the families.)

It’s a complicated issue that can feel like a game of tug of war, Endale said. On the one hand, the pressure can come from the in-laws. But it also might be an internal conflict between the couple: After years of tradition, it can be hard to spend that first holiday away from your family.

The solution: Set clear manageable expectations early in your relationship about what’s important to you when it comes to all the holidays.

“Sit down with your significant other and have a conversation about what holidays mean to both sides of the family and to each of you,” Endale said. “What family rituals and traditions do you want to see in your partnership? How much travel is realistic in terms of time and finances?”

Once you’ve hashed that out, use the responses to outline a realistic game plan for how you’ll spend the next few holiday seasons.

Click Read More for three more common issues.

This Year’s Best Christmas Present Is an Empty Box to Destroy Screen Time Addiction

In 1994, Swedish firm HUI Research predicted that mobile phones would be the årets julklapp, the most popular Christmas gift of the year that “represents the time we’re living in” and “has received new interest this year.” Other auspicious winners include cap (2003), poker kit (2005), and everyone’s favorite, pre-packed bag of groceries (2011).

Joining this long, weird lineage is this year’s årets julklappen låda. That means “a box,” for those of you who didn’t do a semester studying Svenska in Göteberg. More specifically, this year’s winner is a box for your phone. No, not a case, but a box that makes it impossible to use your smartphone.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this selection was the manifestation of a particularly quirky Scandanavian sense of humor. On the contrary, it reflects a serious concern shared by people around the world.

“Swedes are reflecting more and more on the use of their phones, and are now increasingly trying to adjust their behavior accordingly. Already today, for example, there are apps to control screen time. The ‘phone box’ is a tool for the times of the day where you want to put away your phone to read a book, sleep or spend time with family instead,” said HUI Research CEO Jonas Arnberg.

Now let’s state the obvious: any box big enough to hold a phone is a phone box. There’s no reason your average Swede couldn’t use, say, a box that previously held a certain red, aquatic-themed candy or even a blue bag from an assemble it yourself furniture retailer to limit the skärmtid (screentime) of themselves and/or their kids.

Still, if you were a well-meaning Swede who wanted to invest in a dedicated box to store your phone during screen-free time, you’d have a ton of different options. A cursory search for “phone box” turns up a cell phone jail, a fake book-slash-Faraday cage, and even a sanitizing box. All are more expensive than any other box (or drawer or cabinet or other room or self-control) the recipient might already possess, but it’s the thought that counts, after all.

The mobile phone box is a worthy successor to the recycled garment, last year’s årets julklapp, chosen out of a concern for the coming climate cataclysm.

Were recycled clothes actually the most popular gift in the country? Almost certainly not. Did their selection reflect a deep level of anxiety about climate change the same way this year’s pick does about screen time? Definitely!

So once you’ve had a chuckle at the idea of a loved one unwrapping a box to find an empty box designed to cut them off from social media for a while, consider doing as the Swdes do: go for a walk and leave your phone behind.

For Men, Dealing With Grief Is Lonely and Isolating. This Needs to Change

While wrestling with the Christmas lights under his tree recently, a wave of sadness washed over Neil Turner. He couldn’t help but think of his daughter Colby, who died in 2010 at just two years old from a rare genetic disorder.

“Suddenly, the thought of another Christmas without her swept in and replaced my frustration with tears,” says Turner, an engineer in Oklahoma and father of two. “Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and think about her. But if I focus on just the loss and the heartache, suicidal thoughts come quickly.”

Grief isn’t linear. It can hit by surprise. It is ongoing and it evolves, says Turner. It is a complicated emotion for many people, and it can be particularly complex for fathers. Even today, dads might feel pressured to “be strong” for others and put their own feelings aside after a loss, which can have damaging psychological consequences. And although the expectations regarding so-called “masculine” behavior are evolving for the better, many men still feel isolated in their grief and less comfortable opening up about it. 

“There is a deeply ingrained social conditioning that will take some work to undo and reverse,” says David Klow, a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Chicago area and author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist. “A number of men are working to define new models of masculinity, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Men are generally less willing to talk about their grief, more reticent to express emotion, and less likely to seek support, says Jan Everhart Newman, JD, Ph.D., a psychologist in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

“Sadly, this pattern can be reinforced when boys and men seek comfort after a loss around more vulnerable emotions such as sadness and are rebuffed and given messages like ‘Don’t cry’ or ‘Stay strong,’” Newman says. “Often, my male clients will report that another family member is more outwardly expressive of intense emotions and that they felt that they couldn’t put any more stress on that person [by expressing their own grief].”

Why Grief Can Be So Isolating For Men

Grief from a male perspective has received little research interest, but some of the articles that have been written suggest that men’s grief is often diminished or even dismissed. The authors of a recent study of combat veterans noted that grief is a “long-overlooked toll of war.” In her study of fathers and pregnancy loss, published in 2004, author Bernadette Susan McCreight wrote, “…the loss can be devastating for fathers yet, very often, the world that surrounds them tends to discount their loss, and emotional support and cultural rituals that are normally available to other bereaved individuals are often absent for this group of men.”

Newman agrees. At the funeral of a Special Forces veteran recently, she saw a heartbreaking example of how people don’t seem to know how to respond to men’s grief.  The man was buried with full military honors, which can be a long affair. Kids clustered in a group poking one another and laughing, Newman says, while adults stood around together, somber and chatting. Then she saw the adult son, who was on his knees at the coffin sobbing entirely alone.

“The only person who came to comfort him was his young son,” Newman says. “There is something about grief that can be frightening and is difficult for others to accept.”

Human beings will do anything to avoid discomfort. As it makes them think of their own mortality and lack of control, death is at the top of the list of things that make people uncomfortable, she says. Additionally, traditional gendered expectations might influence how couples deal with grief. Klow says he has counseled women who say they want their male partners to be more in touch with their feelings but don’t actually like seeing them cry or express emotions.

Some men might feel isolated in their grief not because they don’t know how to feel emotions but because they don’t feel it’s okay to express them.

A web content strategist in the UK, Kevin lost his father last year, shortly before he and his partner found out they were having a baby. He now lives in his father’s house with his family and thinks of his dad often, such as when he’s dancing around the kitchen to The Beatles to entertain his son and get him to stop crying. Kevin says he often apologizes for talking about his father even though his partner says she doesn’t mind. 

Happy Thanksgiving Former Players and Family!

Thanksgiving is the perfect day to let your loved ones 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.

And take our advice above. Call an old friend, and send a little gratitude.

How to Set Appropriate Boundaries For a Teenager

Teenagers have an instinct to push boundaries parents have set for them. It’s enough to make parents wonder if they should even bother. But boundaries remain important for teens trying to figure out their own limits. Of course, all of this means that conflict is almost unavoidable — parents want kids to follow the rules and listen to them, and teens remain annoyed they don’t have more independence. So what is a parent to do?

“You want to be mindful with what is important to your family,” says Lisa Howe, a family therapist and parenting coach based in San Diego, California. “Some families may have a rule, for example, that they don’t use phones at the dinner table. Some families may not care. But the rules are specific to your family,” she says. In other words, good boundaries are rooted in the values that are important to the family.  

How to Set Appropriate Boundaries With Your Teenager

  • Set rules that are actually important to your family. If screen time is a problem, make rules about screen time. If your teen can self-regulate, there’s no need to battle over it.
  • The most important boundaries should be around health and safety. Don’t be restrictive or authoritarian. Be reasonable.
  • Don’t take a teenager pushing boundaries personally. That’s what they are hard wired to do.
  • Choose your battles. Not every single thing should be a fight. If your kid wears a dirty t-shirt, let them.
  • Give kids chances to make right by rules they continue to break and let them explain their thinking before meting out discipline. 
  • Don’t be afraid to get your kid a therapist if you suspect they may be struggling with more serious issues than regular teenager-dom.

Howe stresses that the rules shouldn’t be arbitrary. When it comes to boundaries and rules in the family, health and safety of children should always be the number one focus. Having a rule about not wearing a dirty t-shirt with a hole in it, for instance, is not really related to health or safety. But one soda a week is a rule that might correspond to a health-conscious family’s values.

“Especially as kids get older, and they’re really testing limits, and wanting to have increased independence, parents can feel like it’s an affront. Parents tend to dig in their heels,” says Howe. But she notes they should pick their battles carefully. Not everything needs to be a fight or a conversation. “We don’t have to attend every argument or power struggle we’re invited to.” 

They should also give kids the benefit of the doubt. There is trust to be cultivated in conflict around boundaries. If a teenager has a curfew that they continue to miss, for instance, parents need to give their kids a chance to explain why they were late before they move right into a punishment.

“Maybe their friend had been drinking and so they didn’t want to get a ride home with them and then before they knew it, it was late because they had to walk home,” Howe offers. “It’s not always going to be a fantastic, reasonable excuse. But discipline really needs to guide and to teach.” 

The teaching comes in asking the teenager what they should do different the next time and offer suggestions. Empathy is important. But so is explaining why the rules are there in the first place. In the case of some curfews, the repercussions could be legal. 

If a teenager still can’t get it together after repeated conversations and solutions, mom and dad can lay down the law. The important thing to remember is that when teenagers repeatedly break the rules, it’s because they’re really trying to figure out what they can get away with. Parents need to stand firm but do so compassionately.  

12 Big Signs of Happy, Healthy Relationships

It sounds obvious, but it’s true: in order to have a healthy, satisfying relationship husbands and wives have to actively work to keep it happy: interrogating their communication methods, making sure to treat one and other with respect, making sure you both have the ability to grow independently. So, what are some signs of couples who are doing it right? Here are some ways to know what you’re doing well — and what you might need to focus on a bit more.

They Treat One Another With Respect, Not Contempt

Every couple fights. And everyone says things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. But, when there’s legitimate bile behind the berating, it’s a problem. “Contempt is a genuine devaluing and disrespect for the other person,” Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, a marriage counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, told us. “Respect is essential in a marriage, and it can still exist even in the face of disagreement or anger. But, when you see your spouse as someone unworthy of your respect, your marriage is likely to go downhill from there.”

In a relationship, mutual respect looks like speaking to one another in a respectful and considerate fashion, keeping your partner in mind when you’re making decisions, and responding to your partners needs and wants,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and founder and owner of Take Root Therapy in Los Angeles. “That doesn’t mean necessarily sacrificing yourself in order to make or keep your partner happy, but it means communicating with love, even when it’s difficult.”

They Tell One Another The Truth (Most of the Time)

No, you don’t have to tell your partner everything everything. But truthfulness appears to be a major factor in keeping couples happy in the long term. In his interviews with older people for the Legacy Project at Cornell, Dr. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., sociologist at Cornell University and the author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice From the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, says that couples cited honesty and open communication as the two most important elements of a successful, lasting relationship. When asked what they regretted most, the number one answer was that they weren’t able to be fully honest with their partners. Being honest has its rewards.

They Don’t Ignore One Another

Marriage is built on a foundation of good communication. But when one partner regularly gets distracted or acts like they have better things to do while their partner is speaking, contempt can easily flourish. Phubbing, the act of mindlessly scrolling through one’s phone while someone else is speaking, is a common pain point. Will you tune out the occasional conversation? Sure, you’re only human. But marriage is a game of odds. And couples who often listen to one another no matter how small or large the discussion are on surer footing.

They Control Their Body Language

Body language speaks volumes in any relationship. Listening to [your spouse] or speaking your mind with crossed arms might send the message you are hiding something or that you have your guard up,” says Sullivan. “This can make your partner feel like you aren’t connecting,” Maria Sullivan, a relationship expert and vice president of dating.com explained to us. Couples who are mindful of how they’re body language affects those around them, have better conversations, and a healthier marriage.

They Avoid Complacency

The roommate phase is a real phenomenon. If you find yourself falling into familiar patterns, it can breed boredom and disinterest, which can lead to other, more toxic, behaviors working their way into the marriage. “If your partner isn’t receptive to trying something different, like a class or exploring a new location, this can discourage partners from experiencing the joys that married life has to offer,” Robinson says. Complacency quickly leads to contempt. Couples who try new things and actively work to bring new things into a marriage are often happier for it.

They Let Their Partner Grow Separately

It’s crucial to grow together. But it’s also important for partners to let one another grow on their own. Being needy and clingy all the time can be a drain on your partner’s emotions and ultimately lead to them giving you attention out of obligation as opposed to desire. Eventually they will start to look at your relationship as a job, one that they might be looking to quit.

“Letting your partner grow separately from you is an important factor is personal fulfillment,” Sullivan told us. “Remember, you are two individuals who are in love, not a packaged couple.”

They Go to Counseling When Issues Arise

Marriage counseling is a good thing. It allows you to speak about issues with a knowledgeable third party who can help you gain perspective. “Whatever the problem is, if you have been unable to solve it on your own, a professional couple’s counselor can help enormously,” Bilek says. “The act of simply going to counseling is an expression of your commitment to each other.”

They Compliment More Than They Criticize

Criticisms are necessary in any relationship. That’s how partners evolve and understand issues. But criticism alone cannot sustain a partnership. “If you are criticizing each other more than you’re complimenting each other, you’re headed for trouble,” Bilek says. “In fact, research shows that you need five positive statements to counteract every negative one in order to keep a relationship on good terms.”

Click Read More for other signs.

Be the Change You Wish to See

Sometimes our best effort to motivate others results in resistance to change and misdirected resentment. Leaders are well aware of this phenomenon and often anticipate it. Leadership roles can be exhausting.

One of the most important elements of effective leadership is the ability to demonstrate what you are trying to grow within others. Most of us respond best to those who lead by example and who guide from beside us rather than in front.

How to Inspire Others to Rise to Their Potential:

Perhaps you have noticed that your team is lagging. Maybe they are less productive than they used to be or seem to have lost their passion for a particular project.

Explore the reasons for the decline. Are they experiencing signs of burnout or fatigue? Are they developing morale issues? Invite your team to explore these feelings with you individually or brainstorm as a larger group so that everyone is part of finding a good solution.

Foster an environment of openness by being open and forthright.

Develop a healthy communication structure by providing honest feedback and recognition of skills. Be a leader who encourages growth through vulnerability. Show your own vulnerability and express a few of your own challenges; show them how it’s done. Literally.

How to Encourage Self Care?

Sometimes in leadership positions it can feel dangerous to encourage too much self-care. Perhaps too much self-care will lead to self-indulgence. That may then morph into wasted time, mental health days and a decline in productivity.

Ironically, the more a leader encourages a team to tend to self-care, the more innovative they are apt to become in their ideas and commitment to the work. When people feel cared for, they are more apt to stick around. If someone feels as if their supervisor values them, and not just the work they can produce, it elicits a reciprocation of value. encourage

The best teams are comprised of people who honor their own needs, the mission of the company and the relationships with their co-workers.

It can mean the difference between a job and a career. Insist that people value their own time and don’t take on more than what they can manage. Make sure people are using vacation days instead of skipping them because of big projects at work.

Advocate for your team’s benefits related to self-care.

Notice when a team member seems stretched too thin and work together to ameliorate that stress. Encourage a mental health day when it is needed. These investments in people will pay dividends in the long run.

At the same time, demonstrate your own dedication to self-care. 

Talk to your team about coping strategies and discuss the varying ways people reduce stress. Make these types of conversations part of a routine dialogue in the company to ensure that it is a priority. And be sure to prioritize your own wellness, too, again leading by example.

Find Out What Their Passions Are?

As you work with your team on motivation and growth, learn what they are passionate about; can these passions and interests become part of a workplace initiative?

Often harnessing these strengths and gifts into an area of leadership for individual team members can boost morale and investment. If a team member is passionate about animal welfare, brainstorm ways they can bring that energy and passion to the workplace.

People feel invested where their values are engaged. Is there a fundraiser for this cause that your team member would like to raise money for? Be creative in the ways your company can participate in your workers’ interests. A focus on humanity and kindness is an important part of a company philosophy.

Taking an interest in your team members’ passions can help facilitate connection within the team and boost morale. Better morale results in decreased recidivism.

Keep It In Check

Ultimately, you are not and cannot be responsible for the success and motivation of others. If you find that your team continues to struggle with these issues, keep your own perspective on the big picture.

Learning where your responsibilities end and others’ personal accountability begins is just as important as all of these other efforts to guide.

You cannot drag others into progress.

There may also be personal details of their lives that could be contributing to their challenges behind the scenes. As a leader, your role is support, advocacy and leading by example.

The magic wands will have to be distributed by human resources upon delivery. If you find yourself taking on too much ownership of other’s satisfaction and motivation, ask yourself:

What can I reasonably expect of myself as a leader?

Am I taking my work responsibilities too personally?

How can I take care of myself and balance my work and personal life?

The role of a leader demands a difficult balance between meeting company expectation and managing the human side of the equation.

It is important to reassess your values in light of this delicate balance to help clarify where your best-self shines through.

Your most important mission is staying true to your own internal compass, since that is what you end up living with in the long run.

Leaders need that inner guide to ensure that they don’t become burned-out or move beyond what feels instinctively “right” or good. It can be easy to get swept up in a focus on the “bottom line,” and while company sustainability is important, humanity is more important.

Leading others toward their greatest potential and encouraging work-life balance may end up being the best part of your job. Be sure to tend to your own needs however, and lead by example.

13 Topics Children Wish Their Fathers Brought Up

Parents tell their children a lot. But we all have things left unsaid. Answers we don’t want to reveal, topics we don’t know how to approach. Fathers and children often feel these voids. While sons and daughters should be able to tell their parents everything, fathers, for reasons of fear, doubt, awkwardness, or simply lack of awareness, don’t broach certain subjects. It happens. But things left unsaid can create voids later in life. To that extent, we surveyed a number of adults who told us the conversations they wished they had with their adult fathers. Some admitted that they believe those conversations will come in due time. When you read the topics of these phantom dialogues, you might be surprised. You might also feel comforted, because we’re guessing you can relate to the reasons and feelings behind them. And, maybe, you’ll feel just inspired enough to open your mouth and ask Dad to chat. Here’s what sons and daughters wished their dad talked to them about.

His Political Affiliations

“My father and I are complete political opposites. You can infer what you want, but it’s basically a case of super liberal (me) versus super conservative (him). We’ve definitely had conversations about politics before, but they were more shouting matches and less actual discussions. I figure that, if I’m ever going to empathize with another person’s viewpoint – considering it’s so far removed from my own — it’s going to be my father. Right? But, it’s just one of those things that, sadly, isn’t worth the trouble. We’re never going to understand each other.” – Anne, 33, California

Our Divorces

“He divorced my mother. I divorced my wife. He and my mother are still on speaking terms. My wife and I really aren’t. My parents got divorced when my sister and I were teenagers. My ex and I don’t have any kids. While my divorce was happening, he talked me through it. But, it was more of a ‘Buck up, son. You’ll be okay.’ Which, don’t get me wrong, I definitely needed. But, considering he’d been in my place before, I wish I’d been more aggressive about asking questions. Even though it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, I feel like it was a learning experience I missed out on.” – Jim, 35, West Virginia

His Money

“My dad is pretty wealthy. He’s so humble, though, it’s almost like he’s secretive about it. He doesn’t like to discuss money with anyone. Not even my mother. And, that’s caused a lot of conflict between them. He always just says, ‘We don’t have to worry about money.’ But, I feel like we deserve to know exactly what that means. If only from a strategic standpoint, I want to learn what investments my dad made to take such good care of his money. But, every time we bring it up, it causes anxiety and disagreements.” – Michael, 36, Texas

His Childhood

“My childhood was great. It was wonderful. But I know his wasn’t. Or, rather, I guess I assume it wasn’t. Because he doesn’t talk about it with my sisters and I. My grandparents – his parents – are very traditional, and my dad isn’t. So, I imagine there was a lot of tough love and intolerance in their house. I’d want to know how he dealt with it, and became who he is. Even though he’s pretty progressive, it’s just not something he likes to talk about. Which, I understand. But I’d love to know more about how became the man he is, despite those circumstances.” – Erin, 32, Ohio

His Health

“My dad has been a smoker for most of his life. Miraculously, he hasn’t dealt with any major health issues. But, he’s starting to. And he gets incredibly defensive and stubborn whenever we bring it up, or suggest him getting something checked out. I want to know why he won’t acknowledge the fact that my siblings and I are so worried about him. We just want him to be safe, and comfortable, and part of our lives. We’ve had plenty of conversations about it, but I’d like to have one where he actually listens instead of tuning us out and walking away. It’s really upsetting.” – Anne, 35, Maryland

My Job

“My father passed away recently, before I got my most recent job. I started at the company he worked at for more than 30 years. Almost in the same department, too. There was an event I worked on recently, and I would’ve loved to have picked his brain about what went right and what went wrong, and just shared in the experience. That job was his life for so long, and it was a big point of pride for him. I like to think he’d be proud of my progress there, too, knowing that there was a second generation working at the place he loved.” – Jared, 45, New York

His “Secret Recipe”

“This might be dumb, but I’m being serious when I say the conversation I’d have with my dad would be about his secret recipe for chili. It’s his Holy Grail. It’s all in his head — he says it’s not written down anywhere. And it’s delicious. Part of the reason is just because it’s so good and I don’t want to have to wait for him to make it. But another part of the reason is because I don’t want there to come a day when he’s willing to spill it, but can’t remember it. I think that would break my heart.” – Aaron, 36, Illinois

His Depression

“I have depression, too. And we’ve never talked about it. Not once. We’re even on some of the same antidepressants. My dad is old school, so talking about his feelings isn’t his favorite thing. I’m actually amazed — and grateful — that he’s been to therapy as much as he has. But, for me, I know that talking, especially to people who care about me, has gotten me through a lot of tough times and, more importantly, helped me learn new ways to deal with my illness. It really does help. I’d want that for him, especially when I see him struggle. Which is a lot.” – Matt, 37, Ohio 

Losing His Dad. 

“My dad is in pretty good health so, barring anything catastrophic, he’s going to be around for a while. His father passed away about six years ago, and he took it really, really hard. I’d like to talk to him about that. They were very close, just like he and I are. So I know, when that day comes, I’m going to experience a lot of the same emotions he went through. I’d want his advice. I’d want to know how he dealt with it. What got him through. What he remembered. But I don’t want to make him sad by bringing it up. And I don’t want to bum myself out, either. Maybe one day it’ll just happen organically.” – Jeffrey, 37, Arizona

My Mom’s Affair

“My parents split up because my mother had an affair with a coworker. I, personally, haven’t forgiven her for what it did to our family. But, somehow, my father has. They’re not in contact or anything, but he’s genuinely at peace with it. I feel like the contrast in how we’ve dealt with it is why I’d want to have a conversation. How was he able to forgive something like that? With such grace? I feel like he’s hiding some secret to enlightenment I need to learn, but am too afraid to ask.” – Meghan, 36, New Jersey

What Made Him Proud of Me

“I don’t think I could ask my dad this without feeling like I was fishing for a compliment, but I’d like to know what I’ve done in my life — or, haven’t done, I guess — that’s made him the most proud of me. He tells me he’s proud of me all the time, for my career, my kids, my marriage. But I’d want to know if there’s a single thing he’s most proud of. I’m not really sure why, to be honest. Maybe so I could keep doing it? Or protect it? It’s just something I’d really like to know.” – Adam, 34, California

His Regrets

“I always call bullshit when people say they have no regrets. I don’t believe it. I’m a bit more lighthearted, and have a good sense of humor when it comes to the subject, but I know it can be very emotional for a lot of people. My dad had to sacrifice a lot when I was born. And I don’t think he regrets any of it in the grand scheme. But, there have to be little things here and there that he missed out on. Maybe he does regret having kids – I know he had to sell his Harley, haha. It’s a risk I’d be willing to take to find out the answer.” – William, 36, Georgia

The Meaning Behind His Tattoo

“My dad was in the Navy, and he has this tattoo on his arm that he got somewhere in Asia when he was deployed. I don’t think anyone knows what it means. My mom might, but she swears she doesn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s on the inside of his left arm, and it looks like a symbol made out of twisted vines or ropes or something. All he says is that it had to do with his time in the military, and that it’s not a fond memory. I’m sure he’ll tell us one day. I’ve been wondering since I was a kid.” – Collin, 31, Tennessee

This One Phrase Helps Turn A Fight Into A Problem To Solve

After 10 years of marriage, Ashley Innes is no stranger to heated, circular arguments with her spouse. Oftentimes, these fights are centered on work-life balance since both she and her husband have demanding, high-stress jobs.

“The last time we argued, it was about career decisions and how they affect us and our kids ― how much time we spend together as a family and who’s responsible for certain tasks around the house,” said Innes, a writer and HIV advocate who lives in Dallas. “At some point, it was getting intense. We were falling into the trap of blaming each other.”

But then, Innes pulled out a secret argument-ending phrase that she now uses often.

“I told my husband, ‘Hey, remember we’re on the same team,’” she said. “Saying that just instantly takes you out of the argument and reminds you that this person is not the enemy. Then you can start focusing on listening, compromising and reaching solutions as opposed to just continuing to go back and forth, fighting.”

Innes is onto something. Marriage therapists say invoking those two words ― “same team” ― in some way or another just may be the quickest path to deescalating an argument.

Used judiciously (you don’t want to be “same teaming” every few hours, lest it lose its potency), the phrase can turn a fight into a problem to solve. In those moments when you’re at each other’s throats, it’s a gentle reminder that ultimately, marriage is a team sport, and going for the jugular is the quickest way to lose.

“Saying ‘same team’ is saying even if I don’t want this situation or disagreement, I still want us and this relationship,” said Marie Land, a psychologist in Washington, D.C. “That itself can allow defenses to come down and real problem-solving to begin.”

Physically, pressing pause on an argument for even 10 or 15 seconds will slow your heart rate and help you calm down, Land said.

Even better, the conversational trick becomes more effective over time. If you’ve found a shout of “same team!” to be grounding or calming in the past, hearing it again reminds you that there’s precedent for compromise and understanding.

The technique works because it acknowledges something important about emotionally loaded conversations, said Jennifer Chappell Marsh, a marriage and family therapist in San Diego. When we argue, the conversation operates on two different levels: the subject of discussion (the what) and the process of discussion (the how).

“More often than not, simple discussions turn into arguments because of howthey are being communicated,” she said.

When you set up the conversation as you vs. me, the “how” is flawed from the start. You might win the argument or strong-arm your spouse into agreeing with you, but you’ve lost sight of the real goal: facing your true opponent ― the unwieldy issue you’re arguing about ― together and conquering it as a team.

“Calling out a pre-agreed-on phrase like ‘same team’ acknowledges emotions have taken over and interrupts the negative cycle of wanting to win,” Chappell Marsh said.

It’s such a simple solution, it makes you wonder: Why are we so fixated on winning an argument anyway? Why is it so hard to see that you’re on the same team from the get-go?

“I think it’s because sometimes the immediate individual needs to be heard, acknowledged and valued win out over the partnership,” Chappell Marsh said. “On a primal level, if you’re winning an argument, you are likely being heard and validated. That feels secure.”

On the other hand, losing an argument to a partner can stir up feelings of fear, failure and disappointment. You feel insecure and threatened, which triggers a fight-or-flight response. To avoid those emotions and that predicament, you put up a fight so you can be the victor.

“That’s why people end up behaving in ways that are aggressive, not team-oriented,” Chappell Marsh said.

Admittedly, that instinct can make the “same team” concept difficult to swallow at first. Trey Morgan, a Texas-based marriage coach who has been married to his wife Lea for 31 years, swears by the “same team” trick now, but early on, he struggled with it.

“When we had an argument, we both wanted to be right, and honestly, we wanted the other to be wrong,” he said. “It took several years before it hit us that we were on the same team. We finally realized we either win together or lose together because that’s what being on the same team means.”

Once “same team” became a fixture in his marriage, Morgan said things improved dramatically.

“It’s amazingly calming and effective once you get in that mindset,” he said.

As for what direction to take the conversation after invoking “same team,” try to follow up with questions aimed at understanding your partner’s point of view, said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California.

“Ask curious questions like, ‘What’s most important to you here?’ ‘What’s
upsetting you?’ ‘What is it that you want me to understand?’” she said. “Do that rather than stating and restating your position.”

And once you’ve adopted a one-team mentality, try to work it into your everyday interactions with your partner.

“It’s good to keep in mind that when one person wins and one person loses, both of you lose,” Reilly said. “Even if things end up going your preferred way, a solution that feels respectful and inclusive will give you a better relationship in the long run.”

25 Expert-Approved Anger Management Tools to Use When You’re Pissed Off

Anger is a natural, primitive emotion, one that serves a number of distinct purposes, from helping us set boundaries when we need space to pumping us full of additional adrenaline when we encounter an altercation. In other words, it’s extremely useful. It’s also extremely not, as it can crop up in the wrong situations and lashing out is an easy way to isolate yourself from family and friends. When trying to manager anger, the purpose is not to never ignore the emotion, but to understand what anger management tools can help you control it. What anger management tools are the most useful? That’s what we asked a variety of therapists, all of whom offered tricks to help recognize, understand, and extinguish the emotion so that it doesn’t shoot off like a solar flare and singe those around you who don’t deserve it. Here, then, are 25 anger management tools to use when you’re feeling pissed off.

Count Backwards From 10

“A quick way to calm down is to practice mindful breathing while counting backward from ten. When we’re angry, we get hijacked by our fight or flight response in our amygdala, which turns off the problem-solving parts of our brains. Focusing on our breath helps calm the amygdala while counting helps activate the frontal lobe of the brain, which helps us with problem-solving.” — Elizabeth Eiten, LMSW, CCTP, psychotherapist

Write Your Thoughts Down

“If you can, write it down. If you’re angry with someone or something and they’re not there, go and start writing. Writing down our feelings and thoughts can not only dissipate the anger but it can also provide us insight into why we even got angry.” — Dr. Rudi Rahbar, Psy.D

Yell In Your Car

“If you have time or space, you can yell in your car or shake your arms or even run in place. If you are in the situation, you can walk or shift positions or create a large exhale to discharge energy.” — Nicole Siegfried, Ph.D, CEDS

Distract Yourself

“Sometimes, we lean in too much to unhelpful emotions that are sustaining our emotions. Whether we want to admit it or not, we sometimes get caught up in the fantasy of these emotions and will feed into the anger. We might replay it over and over again in our minds or seek validation from friends, loved ones or coworkers to ‘prove’ that our emotions are justified. But if we take time away from the emotion of anger for even a few minutes and ‘productively distract’ ourselves by focusing on other things, we could actually see a shift in our emotions for the better.” — Annie M. Varvaryan, Psy. D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist 

Preemptively Focus On You

“One of the best approaches for calming down when you’re feeling anxious is to increase your overall level of self-care during the daytime hours. Working out, seeing a therapist regularly, and having a strong support system can all help take you from a level 10 to a level 6. 

The stronger your ability to care for yourself the calmer you will be in the evening. Additionally, evening self-care routines like drinking green decaf tea, taking a warm bath, yoga, or reading a book before bed can help you wind down.” — Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S

Take Responsibility For Your Own Feelings

“Change the conversation you are having with yourself. Negative self-talk is not helpful. Take personal responsibility for your feelings rather than blaming others, and challenge your automatic thinking. Also, practice thinking like an optimist.  Always view the glass as half-full. And adjust your expectations. Do you expect too much of others? Do you expect too much of yourself? This only fuels anger.”  — Cathryn Leff, LMFT, CCTP, PhD Candidate

Put Your Anger in Context

“Learn how to scale your own anger. The better you get at using your own ability to register your anger, the better you will get at calming down. First try to figure out what happens when you get angry. What do you do? What do you feel — hot, cold, head throbbing, etc? Then ask yourself how angry you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. If it’s a 9 out of 10, then ask yourself what you can do to move to an 8 or 7 out of 10. Bonus points for asking a partner for accountability to help you do this in the heat of the moment.” — Carla Buck, MA, LMHCA

March In Place

“Anger is a natural emotion and it’s often a mask for fear. To calm down, visualize yourself in a safe calm space or march in place. You can even go for a walk. Marching and walking can open your brain which typically closes down when you are angry.” — Brittany A Johnson, LMHC

Click Read More for additional tips.

The Next Generation of You: Ivory Sully

Heeding the famous phrase, the young man headed west.

And…

“I have not left,” Sully said. “When I came out here, I packed two suitcases and I told my mom, ‘Mom, I love you, but I don’t plan on coming back. I plan on making this team.’”

Sully was determined, but it wouldn’t be easy. A running back in college, he began training camp with the Rams playing at the same position. That lasted one day.

“My road was a long road. On the second day of training camp, Ray Malavasi, who was our (head) coach, called me into his office. I thought I was going to get cut before the first week, for crying out loud,” Sully laughed. “But he told me, ‘We’re going to move you to defensive back. We think that you’ve got a lot of speed and we want to see if you could learn how to play that.’

“So, what I ended up doing was going back to my room. I cried my eyes out and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. Screw it, let’s just go get this thing done.’ One thing I could do, I could fight and I could make things happen. And I could run. So, I made it stick and I made it happen. Thank God I had great guys on the team to help me learn how to backpedal.”

Sully beat the odds, made the team, and helped the Rams make it to Super Bowl XIV. He would spend nine seasons in the NFL with Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Detroit.

“I’m most happy about the fact that teams found value in me,” Sully said. “I was proud of the fact that I did my job well to the point where people noticed me. And I was proficient at my job. You sit back and you think about this stuff and it’s like, ‘I really played nine years? That’s crazy. That’s wild.’ So, it’s very satisfying.”

Following football, Sully, who makes his home in Anaheim, CA, with his wife, Sylvia, and is the father of four: Jacob, Amber, Megan and Jasmine, and grandfather of two; worked in the clothing business. He’s now an independent contractor and owns a company called Ivory Sully & Associates.

“I work with an assessment tool [PDP Works Global] called ProScan. This tool is so remarkable. It’s been around for 40 years and it’s been used over six million times to create this algorithm that is 97 percent accurate in identifying your personal, individual, unique strengths,” Sully said.

“I really have a nose to help people, I want to serve. Doing this right now is giving me joy. I’m putting food on the table for my family. And based on that algorithm and the assessment tool that I’m working with, with high schools, colleges, medical companies, everything that you could imagine, it’s just been so fulfilling in helping people discover who they really are.

“I’m hopeful to work with some NFL guys. It’s just so helpful for guys that are coming out of the league and to actually know what they do well. What are they strongest at? The answering of those questions is essential to first of all, your self-awareness. You basically feel good about yourself because you know who you are.”

Please, Help Us Communicate: Tips To Use During Conflict

Did you know that your relationship is probably healthier and closer if you engage in some conflict? This is because being conflict avoidant 1 and trying to sidestep or bury your feelings when you don’t agree with your partner creates distance and a sense of hopelessness. We need to create a climate of openness and vulnerability so we can establish the intimacy and trust that allows us to stay with something until both partners feel understood. Then you have a chance of jointly addressing the problem in a way that can create the emotional safety that we crave. Then, when you can rely on each other to create a climate of generosity of spirit, it becomes safe and productive to disagree.

Having some tools and resources for handling your own and your partner’s distress during conflict is a relationship game changer. Fights often have a theme and rhythm with their own reoccurring ebb and flow, but with the right tools you can have interactions that extend empathetic understanding whether you land in a place of agreement or not.

So here are some ways you and your partner can handle yourselves during conflictual times. This is not therapy, but using these tools can contribute to an outcome that fosters closeness rather than distance.

Self-regulation is the ability to manage stress and anxiety without relying on someone else or on your own destructive, toxic behavior to feel better. Self-regulation, or self-soothing, as it is often called, gets a lot of “press” because it promotes rugged individualism and independence. Originally promoted within the addiction field when it was seen that simply changing the patient didn’t lead to lasting change, it was understood that others would resist or sabotage change in the identified patient by acting in ways that had the addict return to the destructive behavior. These “others” were labeled codependent or enablers. So a lot of emphasis was put on each person learning to manage their own distress so as not to “pull” the other into a dance of familiar patterns or maladaptive behaviors simply to make themselves feel better.

However, current research on trauma and addiction is finding that, actually, it is trying to cope with stress/trauma as an individual in isolation without a support system that is mainly at the root of addiction and PTSD, so we now see there are limits to the benefits of self soothing.

Sell-regulation is a valuable skill because being ever-reliant on others to make us feel better is exhausting as well as futile. But the thing is, we are creatures of co-regulation, defined most broadly as a “continuous unfolding of individual action that is susceptible to being continuously modified by the continuously changing actions of the partner.”

This means that we are affected by and tend to tune into the emotional state and signals of the one we are interacting with; affecting each other is a natural part of being in relationship.

For instance, in those times when you get home from work agitated and your partner calmly sits and listens to your concerns it helps you to express what is troubling you and possibly even removes some of the emotional turmoil you are feeling. Contrast this to a partner who is only half present as they sit with you, is dismissive, or themselves get agitated and you find you are now reacting to their emotional state more than your own.

So, the first tip is to stay aware that your partner is going to be affected by your state—what you say and do and how you look at them. Stay on the calm side while your partner is expressing criticism, complaint, or disappointment. This will ultimately help you get through the conflict more harmoniously. This is different than numbing out or distracting yourself so you don’t get triggered; it is more like giving your partner respect and an opportunity to share with you what is happening in their world. And remember: No matter how different or irrational some one else’s opinion seems, it makes perfect sense in their world, so be curious and find out what it is.

How can you do that? Here are some ways.

The first tool is reflective listening. Although this can initially be awkward, with practice it is a comforting and bonding way to interact. Simply, you reflect back to your partner, every few sentences, what you have understood them to say.

For instance, “So, what I am hearing is when I come to bed an hour or so after you, you feel rejected and lonely? Is that right? OK, tell me more.”

What you are not doing is getting defensive: “Well, you know I had to finish cleaning the kitchen.” Nor are you analyzing them: “So it seems like when you are in bed by yourself you wonder why you ever got married if you were only going to spend so much time alone.”

Get it? You are listening to your partner so you can gain a better understanding of their inner world and concerns—so you can see how they make sense. You may not agree with them (often you won’t) but healthy partners are capable of hearing each other’s experience without thinking their own perspective is being invalidated. It actually enriches our world and capacity for compassion to be able to hear and even attempt to understand each other’s experience. So try reflective listening next time you are on the verge of conflict. In fact, mentioning to your partner that you’d like to try this, getting agreement beforehand, and practicing with the little stuff will really help out.

The second tool involves the way you breathe. We have a large nerve in our bodies called the Vagus nerve: the so called wandering nerve. “Essentially, it is part of a circuit that links the neck, heart, lungs, and the abdomen to the brain.”When it is strong, it helps us be more resilient to stress. And there is a simple exercise to make it stronger: Simply breathe out for a slightly longer length of time than you breathe in. So, for example, if you breathe in to the count of 6 you would exhale to the count of 9 or 10. Doing this as a daily practice for 5 or more minutes a day, and using it when you are agitated, is a good way to both calm yourself down and strengthen this nerve so it is more resilient.

The third tool is a really a simple postural change that can help you with anger. At the first sign that you are feeling agitated and starting to get angry, sit with the palms of your hands facing upward, such as resting on your knees. The sooner you do this — before you are actually launched into the feelings of anger — the easier it will be to make the decision to do it. Often, once we are launched into anger we are so invested in being right that letting go is near impossible. Just remember: You have a choice. You can be right and in opposition to your partner or you can relax, drop your position for the moment, and be connected to your partner so you can create at least a chance of resolving the conflict and having a win/win.

KOBE BRYANT: HOW TO BE STRATEGIC & OBSESSIVE TO FIND YOUR PURPOSE

On this episode of On Purpose, Jay sat down with Kobe Bryant. Kobe is a five-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Oscar winner. Kobe created Granity Studios: where his new role consist of being a producer, storyteller and writer. 

 Here’s a snippet of the brilliance you’ll witness … Kobe:  “Now it’s different because it’s not about the awards, you just wind up trying to create something that’s going to inspire someone, that hopefully through that inspiration they can inspire someone else. What I’ve come to learn as my career went on, that’s more significant than any championship.” 

Back to School in the Era of Mass Shootings

Understanding the Facts

While school shootings are quite rare, feelings of anxiety are legitimate. In 2019, there have been 22 school shootings in which someone was hurt or killed.

Since gun violence is a crucial and often divisive topic in the United States, these shootings are widely publicized and their horrifying details are difficult to avoid. As the country finds a way to heal with the tragic loss, shootings are discussed on 24-hour news stations, in newspapers and on social media and online websites, often with around-the-clock coverage lasting days.

It can be overwhelming for parents to have one’s mind and newsfeed flooded with such thoughts and images. Constantly seeing these stories and ensuing discussions in the news and social media can trick your brain into thinking that there is a higher probability of this happening at your child’s school.

Therefore, when feeling anxious, it is important to put the situation into perspective and to reinforce to yourself that though the risk is always present, the odds of this happening at your community’s school remain extremely low. But how to do this? Easier said than done.

Controlling your Anxiety and Limiting Exposure

As a parent, the emotions you exhibit can influence your child’s feelings. If you express anxiety about your child going to school, either intentionally or unconsciously, you can potentially pass that anxiety on to your child. This may leave your child feeling unsafe. It is preferable to take note of how you are feeling and find ways to cope with anxiety on your own.

Now that your child is back in school, making time for yourself with activities you enjoy can help clear your mind and help you think straight. Though it is important to remain informed about these events, it may be helpful to refrain from reading about them. Scanning headlines but not getting into all the horrific details can help alleviate unnecessary distress and reduce anxiety.  

As some news platforms provide a personalized stream based on your past internet searches, your own anxiety can precipitate a constant, self-reinforced stream of violent news stories. Your strong, anxious feelings could be better used in political or community engagements rather than passing them on in an unmetabolized and overwhelming fashion to your child.

Continue Open Dialogue

It is important to continue having open dialogue with your child, even about topics that feel uncomfortable or generate anxiety. This connection with your child may help to incorporate a belief of safety and power when discussing these unbearable topics.article continues after advertisement

Children often have a greater understanding of the situation than parents may think, given their exposure to social media, television, and peers. It helps when children know their parents are also aware of what is happening and are available to help process the painful feelings these events create.

Many schools are practicing safety drills and active shooter drills to help children, parents and staff feel safer and better prepared for these tragic but rare events. Take some time before school starts to talk to your child about how you can both feel safe while they are attending school while remembering to listen to their concerns and uncertainty as well.

Ways to Control Your Anxiety

  • Take a Time Out. When people are getting anxious, they often think about either past or future events. Letting your mind wander in either direction will only worsen your anxiety. Bring your thoughts back to the present and try to focus on how you are feeling in that moment.
  • Try Deep Breathing. Deep breathing can help focus your mind back to the present. Start by taking in a deep breath and fully exhaling. Focus your thoughts onto your breath. Feel your chest expand with each inhale and feel it lower with each exhale.
  • Challenge Your Thoughts. In some cases, anxiety is caused by real events. However, in many cases, these thoughts and feelings are irrational and cause you unnecessary distress. Take a second to think about what is upsetting you. Is this something likely to happen or unlikely? If unlikely, try to change the thought and focus on the most reasonable outcome. Sometimes, writing down your thoughts can make it easier to visualize and think them through.
  • Practice Coping Skills. Everyone has different ways to deal with anxiety. For some, it can be working out, yoga, listening to music, painting or writing. Find something you enjoy and when you notice you are feeling more anxious, go to this activity to help focus your mind on another task.
  • Take Care of Yourself. As a parent, you often put your own needs behind the rest of your family. Remembering to take care of yourself by trying to get enough sleep, eating healthy, limiting caffeine, and making time for exercise can help keep your stress under control. As they say on the plane, put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others with theirs.

If you feel unable to cope with intense thoughts and emotions on your own or notice changes in your behavior such as sleep, overwhelming worry, or changes in your daily routine it may be helpful to see a mental health professional who can help you understand these feelings and handle them in a healthy way.

Happy Labor Day Weekend

We wanted to start this weekend by wishing all of our former players a happy Labor Day, and hopefully you get some quality time to spend with your family and friends.  Your past experiences as part of the NFLPA have created a bond with labor unions across this great nation.  

Thank you to 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!

It isn’t an act.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have an unusual relationship with the media. They make headlines. They make the front page. But they don’t make compromises. Parenting is at the core of their family brand, but the public has never seen pictures of their two daughters thanks to the successful initiative the couple launched to stop tabloids from running unauthorized paparazzi pics of celebrity offspring. Bell and Shepard — who tend to get name-checked in that order — may be, in short, the closest thing the Hollywood of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin has produced to genuine parenting role models. For Shepard, who was raised by a single working mom in Michigan and has spoken publicly about being molested at age seven, this feels far from inevitable. He wanted to be a great dad. He went into the experience open to change, but he knew there weren’t any guarantees.

Still, it worked out.”My full-time job before kids was worrying about what Dax needed and wanted,” the actor and podcast says. “Spoiler alert: That used to make me unhappy.” At 44-years-old, he’s happy and busy. What else is there? “I like myself a million times more,” he adds.

Raising Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 4, may have changed Shepard in profound ways, but that doesn’t mean his story, which has become his family’s story, is over. There have been several happy endings, which seems right given that he’s married to Anna from Frozen, but there are more to find. And Shepard’s approach to finding them is incredibly straightforward. He is take-no-prisoners, spew-no-bullshit, authentic. Fatherly spoke to Shepard about how worked his way to such a good place.

You have two daughters. How has being a dad changed you, in a broad sense?

There’s something about making someone else your priority that results in a good deal of self-esteem — or shame, conversely, if you’re screwing the pooch on it. I feel like I’m a great dad and that gives me an incredible amount of self-esteem. 

There’s so much talk these days about raising strong, capable, independent girls. How do you do it? 

Telling your kid that they’re the best and that they’re capable of anything doesn’t instill confidence. It’s just talk. You give them the opportunities to demonstrate their ability, the opportunity to prove to themselves they’re great. My oldest rides a dirt bike. She falls down and gets back up. I create scenarios where she can acquire that confidence.

For both of them, I’m trying to constantly to nudge them in a direction where they can feel lost for five minutes and find their way back. If we go for a walk, I let them walk way ahead. If they go to set with me, they need to find the way back to the trailer. I let them be unsupervised. Be on your own. That builds a sense of competency. If you’re doing everything for your kid, they haven’t done shit. So why should they think that they are the greatest?

Who’s the tougher parent in your house? 

I’m the disciplinarian, unfortunately. Which makes sense in general. Boundaries come easier to me than they do to Kristen. I had a fucked-up childhood. No one is going to make me part of a game plan I don’t want to be a part of. 

Many parents have a problem with following through on threats. And that makes them meaningless and counterproductive. What’s your approach?

My wife has that issue. I don’t want to interrupt her parenting in front of the kids or let them think we’re not on the same side. On the side, though, I will recommend that you’re setting consequences that are way too ambitious. I try to make it something immediate. You’re not going to take away TV for five days. Saying that you will has no impact. I always have a ball in the chamber.

I never thought of that. Small punishments!

Make the consequences smaller and more immediate. For me, it’s like, you only have three miserable days ahead of you. Whatever you’re trying to correct, they’ll keep pushing and eventually they will surrender. You want to have this mini war or a gnarly three days? That’s where Kristen and I differ. I don’t mind if they’re mad at me. I know they’ll feel differently in three hours. It does impact Kristen more. That’s the best part of her. She is endlessly nurturing and endlessly available. 

You’ve been so open about your sobriety. Have you talked about that with the kids?

I love to talk to them about sobriety. It came up naturally. I go to meetings every Tuesday night. Am I going to pretend that I’m going somewhere else? I don’t understand being afraid of topics with your kids. Explaining to them the components of addiction — I’m excited to tell them. I’m proud as hell that I’ve stayed sober for 14 years. They’re likely to deal with it. Odds-wise, one of them will have a problem with it. They will have an example of someone who overcame it. I don’t think it’s a shameful thing. 

A shrink told me that you need to deal with tough topics directly with kids, instead of sugarcoating them.

Exactly. We talked about death to our oldest daughter. We told her we would all die at some time. We were so tempted to tell her we’d meet in heaven but we didn’t. She started bawling. And then 90 seconds later, she ran outside and started playing. They’re fine. I can’t understand protecting your kids from reality. 

What was the impetus for your hello bello baby line? I know there are other celebrities with products in the space, but yours are… affordable. And really good. 

I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder, a class warfare chip from growing up modestly. I was raised by a single mom. Three kids. Working full time. And then we had an unlimited budget when we had our babies. My wife was so meticulous about what we put on our kids. I thought it was unfair that my friends in Michigan didn’t have that option. I call it a product line that has mom standards and dad prices. 

The Relief, Sadness, and Shock of Filing For Divorce

All divorces have to start somewhere. And not just in terms of that first painful discussion, last straw argument, or moment when you and your spouse pass the point of no return. In most cases – almost 70 percent, to be exact — women take the first legal step in filing for divorce. So whether a husband knows it’s coming, or is about to be blindsided, chances are he’ll be left catching up in terms of emotionally processing such a monumental, life change. The moment the paperwork starts and the process becomes official, a lot of feelings hit. 

So what does filing for divorce actually feel like? As these 12 ex-husbands and fathers explain, the feelings can shoot the emotional gamut, and bring everything from unimaginable pain to life-altering relief. One thing’s for certain: the process  comes with a lot of emotions. 

I Had A Lot of Regrets

“The divorce papers may as well have been a white surrender flag. That’s what it felt like. My ex-wife and I did everything we could to try and keep things together. But, we just ended up driving ourselves further apart. I guess my regret came from feeling like we – or I – had given up. Like maybe there was just one more thing I could’ve done to save us. Some ‘magic’ thing I missed. And filing for divorce was just a reminder that everything we tried just wasn’t good enough. We had to give up.” – Ken, 42, Oregon

I Was Relieved

“It was a long time coming. So, when I actually filed the papers, it was a big breath of relief. Even though there was more – much more – paperwork and legal stuff ahead, that first step was huge. I think she felt that way, too. It was just this weight of bad, unfortunate decisions that was lifted and put into the past, and would let us move forward as better people, and better parents. That was a huge part of us getting divorced – being able to function better for our kids. It’s been a little while since my divorce, but I’ll never forget that feeling.” – Andy, 37, Illinois

I Felt So Guilty

“My wife divorced me because I had an affair, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that I felt incredibly guilty once it all came out in black and white. The situation was complicated. There were a lot of emotions involved. Somehow, seeing your entire marriage broken down into pages and pages of legal paperwork just wipes all of those emotions away. And, for me, what filled that emptiness was guilt and shame. I wasn’t the only one who made mistakes. But, during that stage of our divorce it felt like I was.” – Gary, 36, California

I Was Shocked

“I was in shock from the second my ex-wife said she wanted a divorce. Honestly, I don’t even remember filling out most of the paperwork through the whole thing. Except the checks. I had no idea she was as unhappy as she was. We had what seemed like a great life, with wonderful children and loads of other blessings. The rug was completely pulled out from under me. The kids, too. Not one of us had any idea it was coming. It was a lot of sad, awkward conversations with them about why mommy wanted to leave, and I remember just feeling shocked the whole time words were coming out of my mouth.” – Mike, 40, Ohio

I Felt Stupid

“I actually had to Google ‘How To File A Divorce’. I had no idea. I really didn’t. And I didn’t know any lawyers, or anyone I was close with who had actually been divorced. For the most part, my ex-wife and I were on the same page about splitting up. Our kids were suffering because of our marital problems. But I’ve never felt stupider than when I cold-called a lawyer and was like, ‘Uh, Hi. I’d like to file for a divorce…?’ You don’t learn how to do that in school. Even if you know people who are divorced, you never get to see the inner workings of what it feels like. And it felt really embarrassing.” – Doug, 38, California

I Felt Angry. Very Angry

“My ex-wife filed our paperwork. She was the one who wanted the divorce. When I got to see everything, I was blown away by all the reasons she listed for wanting to dissolve our marriage. She wrote down that I was neglectful, hurtful, unreasonable…just all these ridiculous claims that I’m guessing her lawyer told her to say. None of it was true. And I remember sitting there, reading it all, thinking about our kids and what a great father I thought I was, and just seething with anger. It felt like someone starting a rumor about me back in high school. I just couldn’t believe it.” – Christopher, 39, Maryland

I Was Proud

“I gave my ex way too many chances, for way too many reasons. Everyone I knew pushed me toward divorce, and they were absolutely right. So, when I actually filed the first bits of paperwork, it was like taking charge of a situation I’d let get way out of hand. It was a pat on my own back that I really needed, after the borderline abusive relationship I’d been in. It was me standing up for myself, which wasn’t something I was used to doing. To be honest, I think my divorce helped shaped the confidence I have today. If you knew me before, you’d know how grateful I am for that.” – Jimmy, 38, Virginia 

I Felt a lot of Different Emotions. 

“Throughout the whole divorce, I was constantly up one minute, and down the next. First, I’d think it was the right thing to do. Then my mind would flip-flop and I’d start thinking about all the things I’d miss. The bigger things were obvious — the house, the relationship with my kids, and stuff like that. But there was also a lot of weird, little stuff, like playing fantasy football with her uncle and cousin, that I realized I’d never be able to do that again. At least not without it being super awkward. The start of a divorce is this weird ‘whole marriage flashing before your eyes’ kind of thing. And it definitely gave me a chance to reflect on the gravity of my situation.” – Drew, 41, Pennsylvania 

I Felt Very Conflicted

“A lot of people will congratulate you on surviving a divorce. On one hand, you’re like, ‘Yeah. Thanks. I’m glad it’s over.’ On the other hand, it feels really icky to be congratulated about something so terrible. I’d tell people we filed the paperwork, and they’d give me an ‘atta boy’, or whatever. It didn’t feel right, at all. I’ve always thought it was weird how hunters congratulate each other for killing something, and it kinda felt like that. A lot of these people were at our wedding, and now they’re congratulating me on helping kill our marriage? It was a weird, unsettling feeling, that’s for sure.” – Anthony, 34, Tennessee 

I Was Heartbroken

“I loved my ex-wife very much. She fell out of love with me, and that was just a completely devastating ordeal. The start of the paperwork was just brutal. It was just a cold reminder of what happened and, more importantly, what was about to happen. I didn’t want to finish it. I kept putting it off, probably just out of hope. I dragged it out as long as I could. Not out of spite, but because I was genuinely hoping for a miracle. Divorces are a special kind of trauma, and mine was no different.” – Josh, 35, Washington, D.C. 

I Was Bitter

“When we got married, my ex-wife didn’t have much. It was my house, my car, and most of my money. Financially, it definitely wasn’t an equal partnership. I started to get really hostile toward the end, but there was nothing I could do. I just had to bend over and take it. The only thing that calmed me down was knowing that our kids would benefit from the arrangement. Maybe not benefit, but at least be taken care of financially. I didn’t think of it that way when I read her list of conditions, though. I just saw pure red.” – Gabriel, 43, Ohio  

Why You Shouldn’t Love Your Kids More Than Your Partner

Parents’ love for their children can make them do peculiar things. Like staying up until 1 a.m. gluing glitter on a second-grade class project. Or driving 40 miles to deliver a single soccer cleat. Or, perhaps, bribing their teenagers’ way into a fancy college. But one of the weirdest things parents do is love their children more than their partners.

Before you call child services, let me be clear: Of course you have to love your kids. Of course you have to put their needs first. But doing so is also a no-brainer. Children, with their urgent and often tricky-to-ascertain needs, easily attract devotion. Spouses don’t need to be fed and dressed or have their tears dried and are nowhere near as cute. Loving your kids is like going to school–you don’t really have a choice. Loving your spouse is like going to college–it’s up to you to show up and participate.

So why do the harder work for the less adorable, more capable being in your life?

One reason, actually, is for the kids. Research strongly suggests that children whose parents love each other are much happier and more secure than those raised in a loveless environment. They have a model of not just what a relationship looks like but also of how people should treat each other.

Diary studies, in which parents log their day’s activities each evening, have shown that mishandled tensions between a couple tend to spill over into parents’ interactions with their kids, especially for fathers. Children whose parents are often hostile to each other blame themselves for the fighting and do worse at school, other research has found. In fact, a 2014 survey of 40,000 U.K. households revealed that adolescents were happiest overall when their mothers were happy with their relationships with their male partners. And this is for parents who stay together; the outcomes for kids of divorce–even in the days of conscious uncoupling–are, generally, darker. One of the best things you can do for your kids is love the heck out of your spouse.

If we ever knew this, we have forgotten. When Pew Research asked young people in 2010 whether kids or a good marriage was more important for a happy life, kids won by a margin three times as big as when researchers asked the previous generation in 1997. But betting all your joy on offspring is a treacherously short-term strategy. Cuddly toddlers turn into teenagers, who greet any public display of warmth with revulsion, suspicion or sullenness. Then they leave. Grown children do not want to be the object of all your affection or the main repository for all your dreams, just as you never really wanted to hear their full toddler recaps of PAW Patrol. If you’ve done your job as parents, one day your home is mostly going to hold you, your partner and devices for sending your kids messages that they then ignore.

Parents can get so invested in the enterprise of child rearing, especially in these anxious helicoptery times, that it moves from a task they’re undertaking as a team to the sole point of the team’s existence. Some therapists say this is what’s behind the doubling of the divorce rate among folks over 50 and tripling among those over 65 in the past 25 years: it’s an empty-nest split.

Gerontologist Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, who interviewed 700 couples for his 2015 book 30 Lessons for Loving, says one of his biggest discoveries was how dangerous “the middle-aged blur” of kids and activities and work was to people’s relationships. “It was amazing how few of them could remember a time they had spent alone with their partner–it was what they’d given up,” he told me. “Over and over again people come back to consciousness at 50 or 55 and can’t go to a restaurant and have a conversation.”

The only way to prevent this sad metamorphosis is to remember that the kids are not the reason you got together; they’re a very absorbing project you have undertaken with each other, like a three-dimensional, moving jigsaw puzzle that talks back and leaves its underwear in the bathroom. You don’t want to focus on it so much that you can no longer figure out each other.

Codependency Can Kill a Marriage.

The notion of having a better half is as problematic as it is widespread. Having a romantic partner who’s responsible for the other to reach their full potential implies that individuals can’t effectively achieve without a warm body sleeping next to them. This definition of the better half is a recipe for codependency — where one partner is self-sacrificial for, and defined by, their relationship. Instead, social scientists push couples to aim for mutual interdependence, meaning no one is beholden to the other for their goals, but both do help the other achieve them. It’s a rather dizzying definition and one reason experts have come up with a neat and tidy term for it: The Michelangelo phenomenon. This is the effect in relationships where partners do not create greatness out of nothing, but “sculpt” what’s already there. And that’s how a partner can bring out the best in you — no sacrifice necessary.  

“Michelangelo created sculptures from stone but felt that it was important not to impose his perspective on the stone,” Marisa Cohen, a psychology professor and relationship coach, tells Fatherly. “To tie this to relationships, your partner shouldn’t define you, but allow you to reveal yourself. While working together in an interdependent manner, one partner is allowing the other to become their ideal self and supporting them along the way.” 

The Michelangelo effect stems from the theory of interdependence in psychology, which states that all relationships are a mutual exchange and costs and benefits. The best relationships are associated with greater gains and the worst relationships with substantial losses, according to the theory, and both spouses make sacrifices for the other that are comparable. In doing this, they partnered people give themselves somewhat of an edge over single individuals. Research shows that people who report higher levels of relationship satisfaction are more likely to meet the goals they set, and other studies indicate that having a conscientious spouse predicts career success. 

While interdependence sounds a lot like codependency on the surface, the two have essential differences. Interdependent relationships enable individual growth through balance whereas codependent ones hinder it with a lack thereof. For instance, if someone wants to start a business and they’re in a codependent marriage, they’ll likely be too exhausted by the demands of their spouse and stress in their relationship to even entertain that idea, let alone execute it. But in a healthy, interdependent relationship a person would have the support of a sacrificing spouse to help achieve this goal, and that would be reciprocated to help them reach their own potential. Interdependence is basically how psychologists talk about being a good teammate — those whose team scores the most are also good at making assists. 

The difference between the codependency and interdependency comes down to relationship satisfaction, relationship affirmation, and secure attachment, Weltfreid says. If couples are generally happy within their relationships and not terrified of the other one leaving, or not putting one foot out the door themselves, interdependence becomes increasingly more likely. Security in relationships takes time to build, which suggests that the Michelangelo phenomenon may be more powerful in long-term relationships. Still, since the effect driven by variables that fluctuate such as relationship satisfaction and partner affirmation, it takes work to maintain over time. So it’s not as simple as having a good spouse make someone better. They have to reciprocate in order for Michelangelo to show up. 

“In healthy interdependent relationships, both partners are able to maintain their autonomy while also depending on one another for care, support, and nurturance of their aspirations,” Weltfreid says. ”The Michelangelo phenomenon occurs partners influence one another in the direction of their ideal selves.”

On-Again, Off-Again Relationships: Why Do They Happen?

Romantic break-ups are typically replete with grief, misery, and self-negativity (Boelen & Reijntjes, 2009). Yet for some couples, breaking-up is part of their relational pattern. They get together, time passes, things aren’t working, they break-up…and then they try again. Maybe it’ll be different this time—and maybe it is!—but it’s often not. On-again, off-again, on-again, off-again. Relationships with a history of breaking-up and getting back together are what relationship scientists call cyclical relationships.

On-Off, On-Off, and Repeat

Cyclical relationships are fairly frequent. Recent data obtained in a survey of 279 same-sex and 266 different-sex couples suggests that about one-third of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual relationships have at some point broken-up and renewed their relationship (Monk, Ogolsky, & Oswald, 2018).

It’s puzzling. Why do people repeatedly return to the same relationship when it doesn’t seem to be working? Is it something magnetic about the relationship? Is it something about certain people? Or is it something altogether different, like structural forces that might encourage people to be together and prevent them from easily leaving?

What’s the Pull?

A growing body of research has tried to figure out why people renew their relationships after breaking up. Here’s what we know:

  • It’s not because of their relationship quality. Relationships with a break-up history are not of higher quality than non-cyclical relationships (Dailey & Powell, 2017). It’s a logical hypothesis: maybe the love, emotional connection, and general satisfaction experienced in some relationships compel people to keep going back to them. This doesn’t seem to be the case; in fact, consistent evidence shows that relationships with a cycling history are of lower quality than non-cyclical relationships (Dailey & Powell, 2017).
  • Lingering feelings re-start relationships. Even if the intimacy, passion, and love while dating isn’t as strong as non-cyclical relationships (Dailey & Powell, 2017), what happens when a couple breaks up could be the reason they stay together. After a break-up, feelings of love, nostalgia, and concern for a former partner can continue. For some people, these lingering feelings are enough to try and renew the relationship (Dailey, Jin, Pfiester, & Beck, 2011)
  • Cyclical relationships aren’t more fulfilling. People aren’t in cyclical relationships because they fulfill more psychological and relational needs than relationships with no cycling history (Dailey & Powell, 2017). Quite the contrary: The evidence suggests that cyclical relationships are less effective at meeting people’s intimacy, emotional, sexual, and companionship needs, compared to relationships with no break-up history.
  • Attachment anxiety is not a risk factor. A study of approximately 200 people in relationships (half of whom were in cyclical relationships) showed no evidence that people were more or less likely to be in an on-again/off-again relationship as a function of their attachment style (Dailey et al., 2019). More tests of these hypotheses are needed, but this initial finding suggests there are features other than attachment style that explain involvement in cyclical relationships.
  • Loneliness is a motivator. Leaving a relationship often means entering a phase with less ready companionship. For some people, the desire not to be alone is motivation to return to a former partner (Dailey et al., 2011).
  • How people view sex could be part of the story. Some evidence suggests that people in cyclical relationships place a higher value on the passion and the sexual component of their relationship than people in non-cyclical relationships (Dailey & Powell, 2017). Evaluations of passion and how well a relationship meets physical needs also appear to be stronger predictors of relationship satisfaction for people in cyclical versus non-cyclical relationships (Dailey & Powell, 2017). The odd thing? These findings were observed even as cyclical relationships tend to be worse at fulfilling sexual and physical needs than non-cyclical relationships.
  • Believing in “soul mates” isn’t a factor. Some people approach relationships as a search for “the one” (i.e., they hold destiny beliefs) while others believe that relationships develop with work (i.e., growth beliefs). Contrary to expectations, a recent study showed no difference in destiny or growth beliefs between people involved in cyclical versus relationships with no break-up history (Dailey et al., 2019). In other words, how you think about love—as fate or as work—doesn’t appear to predict involvement in a cyclical relationship.

In sum, as much as we know about the quality differences between on-again/off-again relationships and relationships with no break-up history, we still know very little about the reasons people are involved in cyclical relationships. The reasons do not seem to rest on individual differences in relationship expectations, given no observed differences in attachment orientations and destiny and growth beliefs (Dailey et al., 2019), but it could be worth focusing on what happens after a break-up. If lingering feelings and need for companionship are reported reasons for why people renew, maybe some people experience break-ups differently than others. Could individual differences in managing rejection or navigating loneliness help explain on-again/off-again relationships? Could it be better or easier for some people to stay in not-so-great relationships than have to be alone, even for a little while?

Also of interest, and requiring empirical attention, is the broader context of on-again/off-again relationships versus those that break up and end for good (and those that have no history of a break-up). Could friends, family, or simply proximity forces (e.g., maybe you see each other regularly at work; you live in the same neighborhood) keep some couples renewing, while others have an easier time saying goodbye?

The Summer Bucket List

Ah, summer. The season of ice cream and bike rides and, ah s***, how long until school starts back up? The truth is, summer can feel a bit stressful. It’s the season of fun, after all. And that reputation comes with a certain list of demands. Days on the calendar need to be filled with exciting activities for kids that make the beautiful weather worthwhile. But, the one truth about summer is it’s often over before you know it. And — because what are parents if not memory makers for their kids? — it’s important to enjoy the time before things get really hectic again. To spend a lot of time outside. To eat good food. To teach the kids how to catch a Frisbee, skip a stone, or spend a lazy afternoon in the sun (it is an art, after all). To help you out, here’s a list of simple activities no summer is complete without. We hope it inspires you to have a family summer you won’t forget.

  1. Go for a drive to nowhere for no reason on a backroad with the windows wide open.
  2. Grow something you can eat.
  3. Read a series of books together.
  4. Go to a fair or festival. Eat something fried on a stick.
  5. Set up summer camp in your backyard. Come up with a list of activities and competitions, from sports to arts and crafts, and have the entire family take part. Finish the night by sleeping out in the yard.
  6. Take the kids to a movie in an air-conditioned theater on a hot day.
  7. Play a song too loud at a stoplight while singing along too loud with the windows wide open. (Realistic Dad Says: Be prepared for the kids to yell at you to switch to Imagine Dragons. Counteroffer silence.)
  8. Make a summer ice cream checklist. Try to check off all the options before summer’s over.
  9. Set up a bunch of sprinklers and slip ‘n slides in your yard. Run through them. Repeat. (Realistic Dad Says: You’re okay with having a mud pit for a yard, right?)
  10. Eat a watermelon. Have a seed-spitting competition. (Realistic Dad Says: Just understand that every watermelon your kids will ever eat from here on out will end up with seeds in an eye.)
  11. Find a creek. Walk through it.
  12. Eat potato salad at a picnic table.
  13. Go to a field on a clear night and stare at the stars. Point out some constellations. Mistake a plane’s lights for Mars.
  14. Drink Kool-Aid. Show off your sweet Kool-Aid mustache.
  15. Have a biggest-splash competition at the pool. Perform your craziest cannonball or jack knife.
  16. Tye-dye some old t-shirts. (Realistic Dad Says: Introduce them to the Grateful Dead while doing it, why don’t you? … Dick’s Pick No. 32 is a solid late Dead show from your, not Grandpa’s, era.)
  17. Spend an entire day at the museum. Many even have free family days during the season.
  18. Make a big batch of popcorn and binge watch something as a family. Maybe Harry Potter. Maybe Star Wars. Whatever it is, dress up for it. Get everyone psyched. (Realistic Dad Says: You’ll probably regret this one.)
  19. Create an ice cream sundae bar. Get all the fixings. Let the kids go wild creating their sugary monstrosities.
  20. Spend all day smoking a pork shoulder or brisket while playing in the backyard. (Realistic Dad Says: You’re going to have to take a sick day for this one to do it while the kids are at camp. Worth it.)
  21. Sit in front of a fire. Sing songs. Tell ghost stories. Make s’mores.
  22. Set up a screen and host a backyard movie night.
  23. Plan a family bike ride.
  24. Make homemade popsicles in paper cups.
  25. Play a big game of hide and seek or capture the flag in the early evening.
  26. Open a map. Find some place an hour away you’ve never been. Go there. (Realistic Dad Says: Download the area for offline use on Google Maps, just in case.)
  27. Have a water gun battle.
  28. Help your kids start a lemonade stand. Name the business. Make signs. Charm customers. Teach them how to handle money. Pick a charity and donate the proceeds to it.
  29. Go to a baseball game. Majors or minors. Eat hot dogs in the stand. Do the wave. Keep score the old-fashioned way.
  30. Plan a long family hike. Pack snacks. Write down the names of all the animals you see.

Click Read More for 33 other bucket list items.

HOW TO CREATE HEALTHIER HABITS (Focus on Self Control)

In this episode of On Purpose, I sat down with Dr. Oz to discuss how to automate your life and create an environment that feeds what you’re good at and protects you from what you’re not good at. If you struggle with self-control, Dr. Oz shares practical tips you can apply to improve your relationship with food long term. We also dove into relationships and how important it is to love someone for who they already are instead of who you want them to be. This is a great episode with so many practical tips to help you achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Forgiving Brings Freedom

It does not mean she is getting away with something and it does not mean you can’t deal with the thing you have forgiven her for. It does not mean what she did is okay, nor does it mean you are no longer hurt by her actions. It doesn’t you’re a doormat and it certainly doesn’t mean you get a pass on the next thing you do wrong.

One dictionary I looked at said forgiving means to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake”. The Greek word we translate as forgive is aphiemi and it means “to leave or let go”. We separate ourselves from the wrong, choosing to move on.

When we choose to not forgive, we are putting our feelings ahead of God’s Word and the good of our marriage. We hurt our wife, but we also hurt ourselves. If it goes on we can become bitter and selfish, and we will convince ourselves those things are our wife’s fault when in fact they are the natural consequences of not forgiving. And yes, we should forgive even the most radical betrayal. Forgiving is about trusting that God is right; it has nothing to do with sin committed against us or the attitude of the person who did it.

Happy Fourth of July!

We would like to take this opportunity to wish our entire former player community and their families a happy Fourth of July.   We hope you take this opportunity to appreciate the hard work you and your entire brotherhood of players, old and young, have put into making it to the NFL.  That hard work and dedication has made football the biggest attraction in America, and woven the game into the fabric of this great nation.

Finally, take a moment to thank your families and support networks, eat some good (and healthy) food and enjoy a beautiful summer day (and hopefully long weekend).

Happy Fourth of July!

The Daily Routine That Helps Fight Burnout and Be a Better Parent

Ruggero Loda has two kids — one nine and one four and a half. He lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and is a full-time blogger for a running website. Exercise is a very important part of his life. Before his kids woke up for the day. But a few years ago, he started going on late night runs, alone, for an hour at a time to fight stress and find his center. Now, he can’t stop. Here, he talks about this habit and how good it feels to cap off an otherwise productive day with an hour-long run. 

Before recently, a couple of years ago, really, I used to exercise first thing in the morning. I would wake up, have breakfast, have a run, or take the kids to school and  go to the gym. But then, my little one started sleeping on a regular schedule, and I realized I could run at night. Now, we eat around 6:30, give the kids baths and prepare for the next morning and finish that around 7:30 to 8. From 8 to 8:30 we wind everyone down and read them stories. By 8:30, the goal is that everyone is laying down and either asleep or about to be asleep. 

It started pretty simply. A couple of years ago, I started to unwind from the day by going for a walk with our dog. After dinner and after the kids were in bed, I’d take the dog out and do a nice walk. Amsterdam is an absolutely beautiful city. I’m still amazed at how beautiful it is. The walks were first just 10 or 15 minutes long and slowly became hour-long walks. At that point I thought, why don’t I run? I thought I could cover more distance if I ran. The walk was relaxing, as well, but there’s something different about running.

There’s something a friend of mine used to tell me years and years ago before I started running. He said, when you start to run, you’re uncomfortable, and your thoughts are working against you. But then, you push through it, and when you do that, you can detach your mind from the body. I know it sounds very silly, but I do believe, at a certain point, probably because of the cadence of your steps, you stop focusing on what your body does, and instead, you just start thinking ‘my body is going.’ I don’t know, to be honest, if that’s the runner’s high. I think it’s really personal. You know, it’s difficult to say, “At 7:55 yesterday I had a runner’s high.” It’s just this sense of peace. When I run outside, I usually prefer not to have any music. It really allows me to be on my own with my thoughts. 

I try to run 4 times a week. Usually, one run is during the weekend during the day, depending on when I have time. The other three nights are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But, even though I run a lot, and even though my life, and my job, revolves around running, I’m not competitive. I don’t do races. I just put my targeted run for an hour. That can be fast, slow, walking for 10 minutes and running for 20 and walking for 10. To me, it really depends, but it just needs to be enjoyable. I don’t kill myself. Running an hour means anything from doing 10 to 12 kilometers, but sometimes I’ll just take it much, much slower.

I’ve started to love the night runs because it’s a time that I would be awake, anyway. So if I ran in the morning, I needed to cut away from my sleep. Really, night time is time that I would just waste anyway. I have a feeling that if I wasn’t out and about, running or walking, I’d just be on the computer on Netflix or YouTube, not doing much anything productive.

I love spending time with my children. Now that they’re growing up, I really miss the baby days. But, I do need time to myself.  It’s a feel-good situation overall. I finish my duties for the day, everyone survived, everyone is fed, showered, and resting. And I can just dedicate this hour to myself and have a nice run. And then I feel really good after, and I’m exhausted. I come home, have a nice shower, and I’m ready for bed and fully energized.

How to Apologize: 8 Tips to Keep in Mind

Despite the unrealistic expectations that many of us have for ourselves (and others), virtually all of us make mistakes—sometimes even big ones—with some frequency. In fact, if you are living a bold, creative life in which you are engaging with the world in a way that makes the most of your experiences, it’s hard to imagine how you could get away without making a blunder every once in a while. Mistakes don’t have to define you.

What’s key is handling your mistakes the right way.

When your mistakes affect others, it’s not enough just to accept that mistakes happen and move along. A good apology can go a long way toward not only reversing some of the damage that has been done, but also preventing further deterioration of a relationship. And although most of us have been taught to apologize from our earliest days, many of us lose sight of the point of an effective apology. Here are some key components to keep in mind.

1. Be clear about what you are apologizing for. If you know that your partner is mad at you, but you’re not sure why, you may be tempted to create a blanket apology just to try to move forward (“You’re obviously mad about something; I’m sorry for whatever I did”). This misses the chance to convey your understanding of what you did and how you hurt them—which misses the whole point of the apology. Similarly, “I’m sorry you’re upset” or “I’m sorry if you took it wrong” are not true apologies for your own behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place, but if a true apology for your specific actions is what’s called for, they are not an adequate substitute.

2. Don’t add conditions where conditions don’t belong. With apologies that are coming on the heels of a contentious situation, there is often the urge to protect yourself by limiting your apology within specific parameters or putting conditions on it. You may also be tempted to only give a piecemeal apology, and then see if the other person apologizes next. Be careful of this, and mindful of the risk of adding so many conditions to your apology that it ceases to mean anything anymore. “I’m sorry I said X, but if you hadn’t done Y, then I would have never been so upset” may be true, but it is also prone to escalating the conflict and making it sound like you’re not very sorry at all.

3. Your apology should stand on its own: Don’t apologize as a means to get what you want. An apology can be a useful tool—for connection, for repairing a relationship, and for understanding yourself and others better. It should not, however, be used as a tool to get something that you jeopardized by behaving badly. Apologizes that have this “Let me get it over with” flavor ring hollow and risk doing more harm than good. When you prepare to apologize, ask yourself: Is this apology something I feel is useful in its own right? Or am I viewing it as a means to an end to get what I want? Of course, you may very much hope for some positive effects of the apology. But those should come naturally, not be part of a quid pro quo of your having said sorry. 

4. Know the difference between explaining and justifying. Explaining why you did something can sometimes help the other person understand what happened, but there’s a fine line between that and making excuses for your behavior. “I’m sorry I said that; I was angry, and I didn’t handle it well. I let my emotions get the best of me, and that is why I lashed out” is an infinitely more helpful opening to a true, vulnerable conversation than “I’m sorry I said that. You make me so mad sometimes that I just can’t help myself.”

5. Express remorse with empathy. An apology is about more than words—it is also about body language, tone of voice, etc.—yes, I am assuming that you are apologizing by the spoken word, not by text or email. A lot of times, the words may be there, but the empathy and remorse are not. Like an 8-year-old screaming “SOR-ry!” as she storms away on the playground, or a politician offering a canned, superficial press release about mistakes having been made, it becomes clear that there is no true remorse. If you don’t feel actual remorse within an apology, ask yourself why you’re doing it—and whether it’s just a charade that you are apologizing at all.

6. Have a plan for it to not happen again. I have worked with many people whose relationships are caught in a cycle of: hurt each other, apologize, hurt each other, apologize. Rinse and repeat. This is one of the main reasons even a “good” apology can fall on deaf ears. Words don’t mean nearly as much if the actions don’t follow. As the saying goes, “The best apology is changed behavior.” Even better, explain in your apology what you are going to do to try not to make the same mistake anew, to further give the other person some confidence that they won’t have to endure it all over again.

7. Be open to repairing and making further amends. Sometimes, words—even good ones—don’t feel quite sufficient to complete the process of repairing a relationship to the extent that it can begin to move forward. Maybe there is a corrective action you need to make—perhaps involving additional people—or logistical or even financial tolls that need to be paid. Don’t assume that saying sorry is enough when what your friend really could use is further help to mitigate the damage of a situation you had a hand in.

8. Listen. Ultimately, an apology shouldn’t just be about you. It should be about the feelings of the person you are apologizing to. After all, the fact that you are choosing to apologize makes it clear that you feel that you have wronged someone, at least on some level, so their feeling about it is just as important as yours. Don’t get so caught up in your own words that you forget to listen to theirs.

Stop “People Pleasing” to Build Better Relationships

The funny thing about people pleasers is that they fall into a couple of different categories: the “reluctant pleaser” and the “relentless pleaser.” First, there are the type of people pleasers whose willingness to help others and to do the favors that are asked of them results in the pleaser being taken advantage of by the people they want to please. Friends may seek them out when they need help with errands or projects that they either cannot do on their own or would prefer to have someone else do. These people pleasers are driven by a type of altruism and an honest desire to be of service to others.

With the second type of people pleasers, however, their motive is more self-directed. This type of pleaser can be grating to others in their persistent desire to “help out” even when their help is not needed. They do what they can to assist others as a way to earn validation and shore up shaky self-esteem. This person is seeking approval through being super solicitous of others. They want to be liked by others and may not realize that the very behaviors they are exhibiting are the type that can turn off others and make the pleaser less likable.

If you think you’re too much of a people pleaser, or if you’ve been accused of being a people pleaser by others, you might benefit from figuring out your own motivation for doing what others ask of you, even if it’s beyond what they might do for you. Are you trying to ingratiate yourself with others or do you just want to be of service? Those are two very different motivating factors that spring from very different dynamics.

The “Reluctant Pleaser”

People lean on you—even if you’d rather they not.

If you feel you’re always being expected to “be there” for others and people seem to be taking advantage of your kindness, the most important word in your vocabulary needs to become, “No.” While it’s nice to be of service, no one should feel that they are at the “beck and call” of others when they need someone to do them a favor.

Remind yourself that healthy relationships involve mutuality—if you’re always the one who “goes along to get along,” but never gets to make decisions in a relationship, that’s a one-sided relationship. Moreover, once a relationship’s pattern has been etched into place, it can be difficult to revise it down the road. If you feel you’re getting the short end of the relationship, speak up for yourself. Be ready to share a few examples of the times when you feel you’ve been shortchanged. Also, be ready to offer ideas of how you’d like things to be going forward. Don’t complain if you can’t suggest a solution to the problem.

Recognize that your time is every bit as valuable as another’s and be as considerate to yourself and your own commitments as you are to those of others. Take stock of how you spend your time. If you see that you are not getting the things you need accomplished or it feels like you are always putting your preferences second, due to pleasing others, create clear boundaries for yourself and honor them.

Prioritize your time and make sure that you take care of your own needs before meeting the needs of others. If you don’t keep your own well of well-being filled, you’ll have nothing to offer to others.

If you’re trying to please others to gain their approval, tell yourself that the only person whose approval really matters is your own. Jumping through hoops to win the friendship of someone doesn’t result in a healthy relationship. We may be grateful if someone does us a favor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to like that person as a friend. We also may not even particularly respect that person, either.

Friendships are built on mutual “give and take” experiences over time. If you’re the one who’s always giving, but never receiving, it may be time to “re-balance the relationship.”

The “Relentless Pleaser”

You long to be helpful—even if people would rather you didn’t.

Are you the type of person who feels like you “need to be needed” to feel good about yourself? Being needed and mattering are both essential to emotional well-being, but if you don’t feel good about yourself unless you are sacrificing for others, you may want to check to be sure you aren’t being over-solicitous to others.

Wanting to be helpful is different from desperately wanting to be needed. If you feel that the people you are longing to please are not reciprocating the warmth you feel for them, ask yourself if these are the type of people with whom you want to be in a relationship.

The easiest people to like are those who make us feel easy around them. When someone is constantly asking us if we need assistance or asking how they can help us, many of us tend to feel a little overwhelmed and uncomfortable. If people are consistently rejecting your offers of assistance, then recognize that you may be trying too hard. Step back and focus more on being appreciated for who you are, not just what you do.

Not everyone that you want to please is necessarily going to want to be pleased by you—it’s just a fact that not everyone we want to like us is always going to like us. Don’t squander energy or emotional capital in relationships that are not worth the effort.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you are being asked to give in a relationship. The most satisfying and long-lasting relationships are those in which mutuality, respect, caring for, and caring about another are present.

7 Summer Dangers Every Dad Needs to Know

Summer means freedom for children. But with the long days, road trips and time spent playing outside of direct adult supervision, summertime can also be a dangerous time for children. In fact, pretty much all the leading causes of death for children, including car accidents and drowning, are connected to summer activities. Does that mean parents should forgo their summer road trips and beach days? No. It is, however, a good idea to be aware of the risks and manage them to the best of your ability.

With that in mind, what follows are all the ways summer could kill children, presented from most to least likely based on available data from health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.

Drowning

The leading cause of accidental death for children between the ages 1 and 4-years-old is unintentional drowning. Of the 1,200 unintentional injury deaths for this age group in 2017, nearly half were due to drowning.

Having young children around water is a risk all year round. After all, kids can drown in a toilet or bathtub as easily as they can drown in a lake, ocean or swimming pool. But summer often means kids are more likely to come in contact with water.

Parents need to make sure that young kids are supervised around water and have appropriate floatation and safety devices. Swimming pools should be situated behind secure fencing. Even children around kiddy pools need to parents attention.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

The leading cause of death accidental death for children aged 5 to 15-years-old is motor vehicle accidents. Most of these deaths occurred when a child was an occupant of a vehicle not properly secured when it crashed. According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, 35 percent of children who died in crashes were not properly buckled up.

Because summer is often the time of year for road trips, it’s important that parents make sure their car seats are properly installed and secured before hitting the highway for summer adventure. Importantly, new guidelines suggest kids should stay in rear-facing seats as long as possible.

Bicycle Accidents

As the weather warms, kids with a sense of adventure often want to get out on their bikes and get a taste of sweet freedom. But it’s crucial that kids know the rules of the road and are wearing the proper safety equipment. Every year some 100 children die in bicycle-related accidents. Another 24,000 are hospitalized.

Hot Car Deaths

As the weather warms across the country in the summer, so too does the danger of a child dying in a hot car. A full 52 children died after being left in hot vehicles in 2018. Tired parents may forget a child is in the car or may miscalculate the relative risk of leaving a kid in the car on a hot day. Luckily, car manufacturers have started installing alarms and reminders in family vehicles so children aren’t left in hot cars. There are even aftermarket devices that can be installed to alert parents they may be leaving a child in an unsafe hot car. For those traveling with babies in the summer, hot car alarms may be a worthwhile purchase.

Animal Encounters

American deaths due to animal encounters have been consistent for decades. But interestingly, the animals most people consider dangerous are not the ones we should worry about. Over 50 percent of the 1,600 deaths that occurred between 2008 and 2015 were related to non-venomous animals. Most deadly animal encounters were with livestock and insects rather than wild animals. But the most deadly animal for children remained dogs.

Parents should make sure kids allergic to insects have easy access to unexpired EpiPens and know how to use them. And as kids spend more time in parks and playgrounds, parents should also make sure a child knows never to approach a strange dog.

Bad Food at Barbecues

Summer and cooking out pretty much go hand in hand. But it’s easy to undercook meats over a grill. And it’s even easier to absent-mindedly leave out a creamy salad. Both of those situations create an excellent opportunity for children to be exposed to salmonella.

Each year salmonella sickens 1.2 million people in the United States and kills 450, usually due to dehydration through diarrhea. So It’s important to make sure foods at the backyard party are cooked through, particularly poultry, and for creamy foods to stay thoroughly chilled.

Fireworks

Fireworks. They’re fun and patriotic — until they’re not. Of the eight fireworks-related deaths in the United Staes in 2017, one included a 4-year-old girl who was impaled by shrapnel when her father lit a metal tube full of sparklers. The store-bought fireworks parents can pick up around July 4 may seem innocuous, but they can still kill if used improperly.

THIS 3 STEP EQUATION WILL SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS

In this new age of self-care, we so often claim anything that we do when we are stressed as self-care. But are we truly giving ourselves the self-care we need? Or are we just being self-indulgent? In this week’s episode, I break down the difference between self-care and self-indulgence and share a 3 part equation that will help you solve all of your problems.

The Cliff Notes:

  • Problems make us stronger.
  • There’s a fine line between self-care and self-indulgence
  • We have to create an equation that doesn’t keep repeating itself
  • #1 – Problems
  • #2 – Time
  • You can’t change the amount of time you have in a day – but we can change what we do with our time
  • #3 – Knowledge
  • All of our problems always appear unsolvable at first
  • Problems are all based on perspective
  • Avoiding growth fosters anxiety
  • Always use your time to focus on growing knowledge
  • 3 Ways to acquire knowledge: reflecting, learning, experimenting
  • How can I add purpose and passion to what I’m doing today?
  • Millionaires don’t watch TV
  • 6 Steps to applying this principle
  • #1 – Ask, is this a real problem?
  • #2 – Accept it’s a problem
  • #3 – Attain knowledge
  • #4 – Attention split
  • #5 – Action into small steps
  • #6 – Amend

“We can either be consumed by time and avoid our problems or use time to deal with our problems.” – Jay Shetty

7 COUPLES ACTIVITIES PROVEN TO BRING YOU CLOSER

To foster a deeper connection in your relationship. To rebuild spark and excitement in your relationship. Most of us think doing date nights at restaurants or going to the movies is enough to keep a relationship exciting but a lot of the times it’s not. I break down 7 couples activities that are inexpensive and accessible to everyone that are scientifically proven to bring you closer to your partner. Me and my wife do all of these and I can’t wait for you all to try some of these too.

“It’s better to have a real picture together than a fake picture on your own.” – Jay Shetty(

The Cliff Notes:

1 – Listen to music together!
2 – Experiment together
3 – Do something scary together…
4 – Serving together
5 – Traveling together
6 – Work out together
7 – Talk about what you want your relationship to be

How to Mindfully Meditate in Marriage?

Being mindful is all about being present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This is why meditation is such a great avenue to explore mindfulness. It allows you and your spouse to go somewhere quiet, relax, and truly focus. 

Cultivating mindfulness in your marriage is like taking a marriage course – it teaches you how to communicate, listen without judgment, and pay more attention to your partner. By practicing being mindful as a couple, you will also deepen your bond. Here are 6 tips for mindfully meditating with your spouse and how it will benefit your relationship.

1. Set the Proper Time Aside

Meditation works best when you have an appropriate amount of time to devote to it. This way you’re not thinking about heading off to work, making dinner, or letting other distractions get in the way of your mindful meditation. 

The amount of time you will need will depend largely on you. Perhaps you are following an audio recording that requires you to have a specific length of time following along. The choice is ultimately yours. 

You can spend as much or as little time as you like meditating but try and aim for at least 10 minutes of meditation daily. Find a time that works well for both you and your spouse and commit to spending time together every day practicing mindful meditation.

2. Go Somewhere Quiet

Practicing mindful meditation is about making observations with judgment, so it’s important to limit your sensory information to only the basics. 

To get the most out of your meditation session, choose a quiet place to sit and relax. Turn off your television, smartphone, music, or anything else that will distract you from meditating.

3. Timetables and Marriage Courses

In order to truly bond over mindful meditation with your spouse, you’ll need to do it together. This means finding an appropriate time that works for both of you. This may mean waking up a little earlier to meditate before work or setting time aside at night to spend time together.

Marriage courses are all about learning how to communicate, problem-solve, and share your lives as a couple. Therefore, many couples find it helpful to do mindful meditation after getting home from therapy or taking an online marriage course because it gives them a few moments to process what they’ve learned before speaking about it. 

4. Sit Comfortably

Don’t feel like you must hold an uncomfortable position in order to ‘challenge yourself’. 

Most couples spend an average of 10 to 30 minutes meditating together, so it’s important to sit comfortably and find a position that helps you relax. 

Sitting cross-legged on the floor or upright in a snuggly chair are both great options. Just make sure you’re not so comfortable that you start to doze off!

5. Close Your Eyes and Focus on Breathing

Start your meditation by closing your eyes and listening to your breathing. Focus on your lungs, the air you’re taking in, and your rhythm. After a few minutes of focusing on your breath, your inhaling and exhaling should have slowed down considerably. This means you are starting to find your inner calm. It tells your brain that you’re ready to relax and focus.

6. Open Your Eyes and Take It All In

Maintain eye contact with your spouse when you open your eyes. This has been shown to heighten your sense of intimacy, vulnerability, and self-awareness with your partner. 

Being mindful is all about learning to address certain feelings you’re having and learning to let them go. So if you find it uncomfortable to hold eye-contact, acknowledge the feeling and let it pass. This is part of the learning process.

Mindful meditation will help you train your brain to detach from certain judgments and to stop judging things reactively. No more over-thinking! Instead, you are acknowledging your feelings, processing them, and letting them go.

Benefits of Mindful Meditation

When it comes to mindful meditation, practice makes perfect. Spend time regularly with your spouse practicing meditation and retraining your brains. If you do, you will soon experience these benefits:

Reduces Stress

There is no doubt that stress is the culprit of many unhappy relationships. Stress from work or other circumstances is often taken out on our spouses. This can send relationship satisfaction plummeting and can even negatively affect our libidos. Thankfully, mindful meditation can reduce the stress we feel.

A study about anxiety revealed that those who practiced mindful meditation for eight-weeks showed a reduction in anxiety and an increase in positive self-statements.

Clearer Mind

Humans have a tendency to be incredibly reactive. This can lead to saying things to a loving spouse that we would never dream of saying if we had given ourselves the opportunity to think about our reaction.

Practicing mindful meditation can help us to be less judgemental and more communicative of our partner. Not only does this improve communication levels in our marriage, but it also makes us much easier to talk to.

Healthy Sense of Self

We feel more accomplished when we have goals in mind. It’s why planners and daybooks have become so popular again. It’s a personal checklist for our day, qualities we want to cultivate, habits we want to break – all for our betterment!

When we mindfully meditate, we get a clearer grasp on our reactions and thought-process. Doing this positive form of self-discovery can help boost our sense of self.

Don’t let judgments ruin your chance at a happily ever after. Meditate with your spouse, learn mindfulness, and put the lessons learned from your marriage course to work. Doing so can help you have a happier marriage, deepen communication, reduce stress, and make you a more pleasant person to interact with.

What Am I Doing to My Kid When I Yell?

Yelling at kids feels like an inevitability as a parent. Yelling seems like the perfect tool for getting a preoccupied kid’s attention, or punishing them for doing wrong, or simply expressing feelings of anger. But all of the shouting, screaming, or yelling at kids is deeply unhelpful to parenting. Because getting loud is not communication. It is, however, damaging to a sense of trust and stability and can lead to a particularly frought parenting future.

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 is clearly a parenting “technique” we can do without. But she’s also a realist. You get three hours of sleep a night, you’re going to lose it. The good news is that for those who sporadically yell, the psychological and emotional damage to a kid is minimal (assuming it’s not true verbal abuse). The bad news is those who are doing it constantly are setting up more shouting matches in the late-elementary school and teenage years. Here’s what’s actually happening when parents raise their voice.ADVERTISEMENT

Yelling Makes Kids Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Dr. Markham says that while parents who shout 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 a toddler with underdeveloped prefrontal cortex and not much in the way of the executive function gets screamed at, the opposite happens. “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.

Yelling at Kids is Never Communicating

Nobody (except for a small percentage of sadists) enjoys being yelled at. So, why would kids? “When parents yell, kids acquiesce on the outside, but the child isn’t more open to your influence, they’re less,” says Dr. Markham. Younger kids may bawl; older kids will get a glazed-over look — but both are shutting down instead of listening. That’s not communication.

Grown-Ups Are Scary

The power parents hold over young kids is absolute. To them, their folks are humans twice their size who provide things they need to live: Food, shelter, love — Nick Jr. When that person they trust implicitly frightens them, it rocks their sense of security. And yes, it’s truly frightening for a child. “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. 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.

Parents Who Yell Train Kids Who Tell

“Normalize” is a word that gets thrown about a lot these days in politics, but it’s also applicable to a child’s environment. Parents who constantly yell in the house make that behavior normal for a kid, and they’ll adapt to it. Dr. Markham notes that if a child doesn’t bat an eye when they’re being scolded, there’s too much scolding going on. Instead, parents need to first and foremost be models of self-regulation. In essence, to really get a kid to behave, grown-ups have to first.

It’s Not About “Letting Them Off, Easy”

A parent may feel like they’re putting their foot down and establishing some discipline when they yell. What they’re really doing is exacerbating the problem. 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.

There is an alternative method that’s more effective and not as hardline: humor. “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.

When It’s Ok To Yell

While the majority of the time yelling isn’t prescriptive, “there are times it’s great to raise your voice,” says Dr. Markham. “When you have kids hitting each other, like siblings, or there’s real danger.“ These are instances when shocking them works, but she points out that once you get a kid’s attention, modulate your voice. Basically, yell to warn, but speak to explain.

Nobody is going to stifle themselves around their kids all the time, and nor should that. That’s not what it’s like to be a person. But if yelling is your default, it’s time to understand that it’s a harmful long-term parenting strategy.

Is It Time to Stop Avoiding and Time to Talk?

Many people avoid difficult conversations with loved ones. Admittedly, it’s sometimes a good idea to just let things go. Some conflicts are trivial and relationships require compromise and tolerance. However, if there’s an “issue” coming between you and your partner despite your attempts to let it go, and the relationship is worth preserving, it’s probably worth confronting. The trick is to use constructive confrontation skills so that facing your conflict deepens, enriches, and saves your relationship rather than making things worse. Here are my suggestions for enhancing your constructive confrontation skills.

1. Be thoughtful rather than impulsive; plan ahead. Effective confrontations don’t involve uncensored expressions of thoughts and feelings. In fact, as psychologist Harriet Lerner (1989) once said, planning and tact are what make truth-telling, and truth-hearing, possible in difficult situations and about the toughest subjects. I recommend writing down and rehearsing your words and tone of voice. Also, think about the best time and place. Sometimes it’s best to set up a time with the other person and it’s always best to wait until you can talk about the issue without aggression and reactivity.

2. Start by affirming the importance of the relationship, then define the conflict in a small and specific way and present it as a mutual problem to be solved. Don’t drag out everything that has ever bothered you about the person or the relationship. That’s called “kitchen sinking” (as in everything but the kitchen sink) and it overwhelms the person and causes defensiveness.

3. Think about your contribution to the conflict and take your share of responsibility for it. If you cop to your share of the problem, the other person is more likely to reciprocate by taking theirs (I swear, it’s almost magical!). For hints, think about your behavior from their point of view, and at the very least take responsibility if you didn’t let them know something was an issue for you, or if you tried to communicate your concern passively, or passive-aggressively.

4. Minimize the likelihood of defensiveness. Frame the problem in terms of issues and actions, not faulty personality traits. Think about what kind of person they like to see themselves as and make sure that you don’t attack it. Avoid shaming and blaming them even if you think they deserve it (it will make them defensive and prevent constructive dialogue). Use “I” statements rather than blaming “you” statements. “I” statements begin with “I am/I feel/I hear/I think” and so on (Satir, et al., 1991).

5. Look for integrative solutions. The point is not to get your way but to find solutions that satisfy the interests of both people (win-win solutions!). Explain what you want and why but ask the other person what things look like from their perspective and what they want and why.  The goal is mutual empathyand coming up with solutions that satisfy the major concerns of both of you. Often we focus too much on our positions and not enough on why we hold these positions. Once we identify the “whys” we can often generate more creative solutions.

If you’re unsure what these things look like in practice, I’ll illustrate with the experience of a woman that read my blog “The Trouble With Houseguests.” She reached out asking how to confront her daughter who was a terrible houseguest that left her feeling angry and exhausted. Imagine if she said this:

“I need to talk to you about your visit. You barely lifted a finger to help and by the time you left, I was exhausted. It reminded me of when you were a teenager and treated me like a maid. The next time you come I expect you to pitch in or I’d rather you stay elsewhere.” 

In contrast, imagine the reaction she’d get with this constructive approach to confrontation: 

“You know I love you and I always will. Our relationship is so important to me and that’s why I feel the need to talk to you. I know I was grumpy when you visited and I haven’t called in a while. I feel I owe you an explanation and an opportunity to work things out together, so here it is. 

I loved seeing you and the kids but I’m getting older. The workload was too much and it meant I didn’t get to spend as much quality time with you all as I wanted and I was exhausted by the time you left. I know you needed a vacation and TLC and as your mom, I wanted to give it to you so I didn’t say anything. But then I felt hurt and resentful that you left it all to me and your Dad. I know that’s not fair. I’m hoping we can come up with a plan to share the cooking, laundry, and dishes next time so that you stay with us you can still get a break, and I can enjoy your visit and the family gatherings. What do you think?  What can we do differently next time?”  

Confronting relationship issues is scary and carries the risk of a fight. But avoiding issues can take a toll on our relationships and lead to reduced relationship satisfaction and estrangement. If you can’t let it go, and it’s harming your important relationship, you stand to gain more than you stand to lose with a constructive confrontation.

7 Things You Need to “Spring Clean,” Besides Your Home

Spring cleaning is about more than Marie Kondo-ing our closets, or scrubbing our houses top to bottom. It’s also about removing chaos and excess from our lives.

That may include any bad habits that have built up during winter – whether not getting enough sleep, skipping the gym, or losing track of our diet. It’s more than just getting more sleep and eating healthy, too. It’s really about being emotionally healthy as well, and that’s a little more complicated.

Here’s some steps from experts on how to spring clean our life — and be a new you for summer.

1. Your relationships 

We have a tendency to go into hibernation mode in the winter when it comes to our relationships. It’s dark, it’s cold, and we just don’t have the energy to really pick ourselves up from those relationships that drain us. 

“Now’s the time to invest the necessary effort into cleaning out those relationships that just aren’t doing it for you. That means re-evaluating any toxic relationships in your life and figuring out how to prioritize time for those you care about,” says Adina Mahalli (MSW), a certified mental health expert and family care professional with Maple Holistics.

2. Your expectations for the year

It’s been a while since you made those New Year’s Resolutions. Take a time out to re-evaluate how they’re going and what areas you still need to improve in order to reach your goals. 

“Progress is only progress when you’re able to keep track of it and keep moving. Maybe those goals need a little more attention or some tweaks,” says Mahalli. Take the time to figure out how you’re going to feel the most fulfilled by the end of the year.

3. Your nesting habit

Now that the weather is clearing up a little and the days are longer, take the time to get outside more!

“Whether that’s taking your exercise outside, or just walking instead of driving, make a conscious effort to physically come out of those winter hibernation months and embrace the changes in nature,” says Mahalli.

4. Your social media and emails

“Take the time to go through your social media or emails and unsubscribe from anything that’s no longer serving you,” says Mahalli. 

You know those emails that you immediately delete or just allow to clutter up your inbox? Or those accounts on social media that you just scroll right past? Get rid of them.

5. Your self-confidence

It’s so easy for us to look outside ourselves for things to be grateful for.  

“Every day, upon waking and before sleeping, write 3 things they acknowledge themselves for, no matter how big or small (some days washing the dishes may be a huge win and it gets to be acknowledged). It’s just as important to honor what you are as it is to be thankful for what you have. Eventually, this practice trains your brain to more easily call to mind your strengths,” says life coach Magalie René. In this way, your confidence and self-love get stronger and become second nature.

6. Your environment

Let your environment be a reflection of the you you’re becoming or trying to be. “Set an intention for exactly how you want to feel in your spaces (sexy, adventurous, peaceful).  Take inventory of anything that doesn’t fit the bill and slowly begin to assimilate them out of your home, car, office,” says Magalie René.

The Next Generation of You: Fred Marion

That paid off during the 1985 season when he collected a career-high seven interceptions for a league-leading 189 return yards, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl. That season, he also helped New England fight its way to the AFC Championship title and Super Bowl XX.

“After we lost to Cleveland (in the fifth game of the year to start 2-3), our season where we had so much promise, was about to go haywire,” Marion said. “We all had a big meltdown in the locker room afterwards and we just knew we were better than that.

“From that point, we put together nine wins and ended up making the Wild Card. We made a good run and ended up winning all three of our playoff games and got into the Super Bowl against the (Chicago) Bears.”

Originally chosen in the fifth round of the 1982 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami, Marion would play for 10 seasons with New England, 1982-91. What makes him most proud of his career?

“Just my longevity and some of the things that I’ve accomplished – being on the 35th All-Century team and the 50th Anniversary team for the Patriots,” Marion said. “Just to be thought of in that way for all the people that played there. You leave it on the field and let the fans and the media judge what type of player you were.”

Marion has demonstrated the same work ethic in his post-playing careers. First in the food business and now in automobile sales.

“I had two Damon’s restaurant franchises for 21 years,” Marion said. “After that, a good friend of mine, (auto dealership owner) David Maus, asked me what was I going to do. I said, ‘Well, I’ve been working pretty much right out of college for the Patriots and for the last 21 years I’ve been my own boss. I really don’t know.’

“He said, ‘Fred, I think you’d be great (in auto sales).’ One thing led to another and I worked my way up from sales, to assistant manager, to sales manager and then the general sales manager of a Toyota store, which I managed and operated for eight years.

“I got recruited by the Jenkins Automotive Group (in 2015) to be a partner in the store I’m in right now (Thornton Road Hyundai in the Atlanta suburb of Lithia Springs). We bought the store and became partners with Mr. Don Jenkins in 2016.”

Marion sees similarities between his first job as a free safety with the Patriots with 29 career interceptions, and now as the owner of an auto dealership with over 75 employees.    

“There’s still that team, the managers and everybody work together to reach goals. It’s no different from a football team. Everybody needs to put in to make the puzzle complete. Without that piece, it affects the whole,” Marion said. “I see these guys, how they set their goals and how we work each and every day to accomplish our goals. That’s the exciting and the challenging part of it, that it’s still competitive.

“I battled and fought 10 years out there on the gridiron and I thank God that I’m still in my right mind. My body feels good, my health is good. I’ve been blessed. When I look back, I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”

How I Say Good-Bye to My Kids

Nearly every day, often when I kiss my kids good-bye as they head off to school, I remind them to do four things:

“Be good. Learn lots. Have fun. Do your best.”

These four requests embody the vast majority of the goals I hope my kids can internalize during their formative years. But what do they mean? Or, more specifically, what do I want my kids to understand they mean?

Be good.

Yes, this is partly a reminder to follow the rules and adhere to the guidance of teachers and others who might be responsible for their safety and well-being. But it’s not just that. “Be good” also means to “be a force for good.” That is, improve the environment you’re in. Do well by and for others. Be a friend. Help those in need. Be good, as in both the noun and the adjective.

Learn lots.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that a lot of our problems can be solved by knowing more. Education is fundamental to improving our capacity to be (and do) good, for ourselves and for others. Knowledge gives us the raw materials we need to make the world a better place, improve our lot in life, and to find new sources of fulfillment. To that end, they should always be seeking to learn, no matter what environment they’re in. When in school, learning is paramount. When they’re not in school, it’s still important. And every situation is an opportunity to learn something new.

Have fun.

They’re kids. And life is short. We adults can easily become way too focused on goals and outcomes and achievement. Kids, especially, should enjoy what they do…at least some of it. One of my fears for my kids, and kids in general, is that adults’ expectations of them turn enjoyment of an activity into stress over performing well. Learning is hampered by test anxiety. Athletic performance is undermined by stress over the outcomes (i.e., “choking”). While a lot of important activities can’t be totally fun and games, having fun should be a big part of every kid’s day.

Do your best.

I hope my kids know I’ll be proud of them as long as they’ve put their heart fully into whatever it is they’re doing, regardless of the outcome. Giving things that matter their best, most sincere efforts is my expectation for them. Trying hard and failing can be even more valuable than succeeding while coasting along. But instilling in them this expectation — that they should invest effort and focus into the things they do — is the goal of this last missive.

Are these the only directives that a parent could use? Not by a long shot. There are many other good choices as well. But I’ll be satisfied if these four in particular sink into my kids’ heads more thoroughly than normal

My kids know these words by heart. Sometimes, I suspect, they roll their eyes now when I say them. But I’m OK with that because I’m sure they’ll always remember them. And if it sinks in even a little to help guide their thoughts, choices, and behavior when I’m not around, then I’ll consider that a parenting success.

And, when I say these things, to let them know that these instructions come from the very best of my intentions, I finish with

“I love you.”

Because that’s the most important thing of all.

The Next Generation of You: John Offerdahl

by Jim Gehman

The linebacker showed those qualities and more in the 1986 Senior Bowl.

“I was a last-second call-in and got coached by (then-Denver Broncos’) Dan Reeves and was the Outstanding Defensive Player of the game because I stopped (Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner) Bo Jackson all over the field.  That moment gave me the belief and the faith that I could play with the best of the players,” Offerdahl said.

“All the preparation in college with great coaches and then the opportunity to play with the elite collegiate football players where I had the opportunity to stand out because I had the blessing of just a miraculous day at the right time.”

Offerdahl’s stellar performance at Western Michigan where he played every defensive snap of every game for four years, and became the MAC Conference all-time leader in tackles as a junior, left him well-prepared for the NFL. He was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 1986 Draft.

Named as a starter and a captain even before his first game in the league, Offerdahl was named as the NFL Rookie of the Year and earned his first of five consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

In 1989, his fourth season with Miami, Offerdahl was reminded that the NFL is a business and was a holdout for the entire training camp and first six games of the regular season. 

“I had come into the league with a three-year contract and an option. But back then, there was no free agency. So, if your contract ended, they would have the ability to serve you the option,” Offerdahl said. “I was the 28th highest-paid player on our team. There were linebackers that were making more money that never played a down the year before. I knew that (owner) Joe Robbie and the Dolphin organization needed to pony up after my three-year contract was up. And they didn’t. I prepared myself at that moment to never play football again.”

In case that became a reality, Offerdahl and his wife, Lynn, wanted to be ready for what came next, and founded Offerdahl’s Bagel Gourmet. “My wife and I knew we had to get a career going because football was not inevitably my long-term career,” he said. “So, we took a hairbrained idea, put a business plan together, launched it, and we hit the nail on the head. We got so lucky because bagels, breakfast, coffee, sandwiches, it was an unmet demand in the marketplace. 

“And when we opened with the football marketing awareness that I got, how can you beat being called the ‘Bagelmeister’ on NFL Monday Night Football. You can’t buy that kind of marketing.” 

After selling Bagel Gourmet in 1995, Offerdahl and his wife returned to the food business five years later when they founded Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill Restaurant. 

“I wanted to get back into it, but this time I wanted to mature and be the grill guy, not the bagel boy,” said the grill guy formerly known as the bagel boy. “It’s an unbelievable business. Why do I love it? Because it reminds me of the football gameday. You make fumbles, you recover them. Ultimately, you want your fans to leave with an experience that makes them feel great.”

Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill Restaurant recently opened its seventh South Florida location at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Away from the grill, Offerdahl, who played eight seasons with the Dolphins, 1986-93, heads the Hand-Off Foundation. A public charity, its mission is feeding the needs of those in crisis. 

“Since I’m in the food business it makes sense to feed people, but we feed them more than just physical food,” Offerdahl said. “That’s the public umbrella. And under that we have two subsidiaries. One is a fundraising food, wine and music festival called the Gridiron Grill-Off. We’re in our 10th year and we had about 20,000 people last year.

“We gave $50,000 through scholarships to Broward College, and the purpose of that is to support our second subsidiary, a program called Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing.”

It provides supportive housing for vulnerable families seeking relationship restoration, self-sufficiency and homeownership victory!  

“I absolutely love what I do and that keeps me going,” Offerdahl said. “I really love feeding people. Not just physical food, but being with them. If they’re a fan from a customer standpoint or a tenant in my Home Team Advantage Restorative Housing, I just really enjoy being part of improving and giving an opportunity to people.”

Keeping Debts Secret From Your Wife Is Often Worse Than Cheating

Maybe it’s a credit card , a secret bank account, or a delinquent student loan debt. Whatever it is, it’s been kept secret from a husband or wife because they don’t need to know about it. It’s not discussed but it’s not that important. It isn’t like it’s an affair. There’s no harm in keeping it secret. 

But there is a great deal of harm that can come to a marriage when accounts, debts, and purchases are kept hidden. And, as it turns out, this financial infidelity is more common that one might think. A recent creditcard.com survey, for example, found that 29 million Americans — one out of every five people living with a spouse or partner — are keeping a bank or credit card account secret. The same survey also found that 20 percent of consumers felt that financial infidelity is worse than having an affair.

Considering how sacred texts from the Ten Commandments to Beyonce’s Lemonade warn against adultery, it may seem counterintuitive to think that financial dalliances could be worse than physical ones. But, San Francisco Bay-area wealth advisor Brent Thomas says, whether it’s in a bedroom or on a balance ledger, a betrayal is a betrayal.

“Breaking trust in a relationship is damaging any way you do it,” Thomas said. “So whether your spouse catches you lying, your spouse catches you cheating, or your spouse catches you doing something with the finances that are inappropriate.”

Physical affairs are atom bombs. They decimate years of trust built up in a relationship. Partners have invested so much time, energy, and emotion into establishing a healthy marriage. Once the lies are revealed, a spouse suddenly transforms into an untrustworthy stranger. The other person feels alone and unsure of who they can rely on. 

“It forces you to ask ‘How well do you really know your partner?’ ‘How much is my partner withholding?’ ‘How much is your partner going to continue withholding?,” said Aaron Anderson, owner and counselor at the Marriage and Family Clinic in Colorado. “It just creates insecurity. It creates questions about the future.”

Financial infidelity brings the same emotional toll as standard infidelity while also exposing the wronged spouse to another form of agony: they might also be broke and saddled with debts for the rest of their lives. Their life and lifestyle was nothing more than an illusion. 

As Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together noted, financial infidelity hurts on both emotional and practical levels.

“The betrayal and broken trust are very similar,” Tessina said. “It’s a slow process for the couple to recreate trust and honesty. In the case of financial infidelity, if it’s bad, the couple may have a lot of rebuilding to do, getting themselves out of the debt created.”

Modern life has made financial infidelity more of a concern than before. As couples are marrying later in life and it’s likely that both spouses work, people often come into marriage with a defined sense of financial independence, disclosing finances can feel uncomfortable, even intrusive. Instead of having a shared pool of money, many couples have separate accounts, split housing costs, and take individual responsibility for utilities and other expenses. In addition, technology makes it nearly effortless to keep shameful debts or secret spends secret. 

“In the past, when somebody got a credit card, there was almost always mail coming to the house,” said Thomas. “The statement would show up every month and if you’re taking the mail, you’d notice a statement for a credit card you don’t recognize. But in this day and age, a lot of those things are done electronically. And if you’re not checking their email, then how are you going to know that there’s a new credit card statement?”

Some financial infidelities, of course, are obvious. There’s, say, the sudden and unexpected appearance of a pile of Amazon packages on your doorstep or a new sports car in the driveway. But there are much subtler red flags to look out for, per Tessina, including a partner’s newfound obsessive behavior, changes in temperament, refusal to talk, and sudden interest in secrecy. 

As devastating as adultery can be, it’s at least a concept that couples intuitively understand. That’s not true of financial infidelity. For this reason, financial matters need to be communicated about early and often in a relationship. Because, as Anderson observed, most people don’t discuss financial infidelity until there’s a problem.

“Nobody sits down and defines these boundaries,” Anderson said. “And until one of the boundaries have been crossed and a lot of times the partner doesn’t even know they’re crossing that boundary.” 

How to Confront Your In-Laws (Without Pissing Off Your Spouse)

It’s the nature of the dynamic: When a marriage first starts out, you were eager to please your in-laws and probably neglected to set firm boundaries. Chances are, you pushed issues to the back burner because you wanted to please your spouse. It happens. Now, saddled with kids and busy schedules, the relationship with your mother and father-in-law can become, shall we say, more stressful and problems can arise.

In order to keep in-law issues from overtaking your marriage, it’s important to learn assertiveness and establish boundaries. “Once you learn these skills, you can start noticing if — and when — your in-laws cross your boundaries,” says Monica White, a licensed mental health counselor. “Noticing the pattern is the first step. Figuring out what works for you is the second step.”

Now, it’s easy to worry about boundary establishment for fear of appearing cold-hearted or “mean” to your in-laws. However, White says that doesn’t have to be the case. “It’s important to know that you can be a nice person with a kind heart, and say no,” she says. “In fact, becoming aware of your boundaries and being assertive actually lets you stand up for yourself and your family too. Assertive means you are clear about what works for you. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

So, how does this play out in practical situations, like those visits when grandma and papa show up unexpectedly and stay too long, accidentally spoil your kids with unnecessary gifts, or ignore your rules because “they did it differently”? We ran some stressful in-law  scenarios past White and she provided us with a game plan for dealing with them in the correct way. Take a deep breath and read on.

The Situation: Your In-Laws Drop By Unannounced and Stay For Hours

The Solution: Your home is the ultimate safe space, the place where you go to destress and reclaim your balance. So when in in-laws burst into your sanctum sanctorum, it can be disruptive enough, but when they won’t leave it can be worse. The key is to form a unified front with your partner and decide on an in-law time that is acceptable for you both. “If you can be assertive ahead of time, you’ll prevent arguments during stressful situations,” says White. “It’s not too much to expect that your house be a neutral space to rest, recharge, and relax.”

The Situation: Your In-Laws Ignore Your Parenting Rules Because They “Did it Differently”

The Solution: This is another situation where it’s important to lay out the rules up front. If you’re assertive and firm about your position regarding how your kids are to be disciplined out of the gate, then it becomes harder for the in-laws to question them.

“Communicating assertively helps ‘train’ others to respect your emotional and intellectual boundaries,” says White. “If you are consistent with your boundaries, eventually family members will start to understand that in order to have a relationship with you and your children, that they will have to start meeting you in the middle.”

The Situation: Your In-Laws Are Always Spoiling Your Kids

The Solution:  This is a trickier situation. Communication is still key, but the approach should be a gentler one, as your spouse’s parents are most likely coming from a good place. Explain to them that their overindulgence, while well-intentioned, can sometimes come across as undermining. You could also offer a suggestion that, instead of buying big gifts, shower them with smaller, less expensive presents. However, White says, there is something to be said for being grateful that your in-laws want to show your kids some love. “Take advantage of the time you in-laws are spending with your kids, to focus on yourself,” she suggests. “Engage in self-care, connect with positive social supports, take time to exercise, and do nice things for yourself.”

The Situation: Your In-Laws Try to Buy Your Kid’s Affection

The Solution:  This is the dark side of grandparents who shower their grandkids with gifts and is a good opportunity for your kids, if they’re old enough, to advocate for themselves. Talking to your kids openly about the importance of speaking up when they feel they’re grandparents are crossing the line materialistically can help strengthen your relationship. It can also teach them valuable life skills.

If they’re not, it’s a matter of sitting your in-laws down calmly and asking why they feel like they need to show their love with gifts. Something telling will come out of the conversation — maybe they feel like you don’t give them enough time with their grandchildren, or they feel like they don’t know how to connect — and work with them to find a solution.

The Next Generation of You: Brad Daluiso

by Jim Gehman

“I didn’t grow up playing football. I didn’t kick a football until my third year of college,” Daluiso said. “And so I was definitely a late starter. And then once I was in the NFL, I was kind of learning on the fly.”

Even Rand McNally would have had a difficult time mapping Daluiso’s travels at the onset of his gridiron career.

“I signed as an undrafted free agent (out of UCLA) with the Green Bay Packers in 1991 and was there for all of training camp,” Daluiso said. “And then I got traded to the Atlanta Falcons for the first regular-season game of the ’91 season. I got cut after the second week, but picked up by the Buffalo Bills. I kicked off for the Bills for the last 14 regular-season games, the playoffs and in the Super Bowl (XXVI).

“I left in the offseason and signed with the Dallas Cowboys under Plan B free agency. I got cut (at the end of training camp) and picked up by the Denver Broncos. I played for Denver for the ’92 season, but I got cut (in the following year’s training camp) and picked up by the New York Giants. I played all of ’93 through 2000 with the Giants (including playing in Super Bowl XXXV).

“I’m proud of the fact that I was able to navigate and pretty much learn under fire, which is not really easy to do. That led to a nice long career. I’m a believer in the fact that kickers nowadays, if you play long enough, you’re going to have some sort of an event that is not going go your way. I’m proud that I escaped without some sort of a football career catastrophe.”

Following his disaster-free 10-year career, Daluiso went from field goals to finance, and is a Morgan Stanley Senior V.P., Private Wealth Advisor and Corporate Retirement Director, based in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla, California. 

Partnered with Darren Pfefferman for the past 17 years, Daluiso focuses on providing services to a group of clients that include business owners, athletes and entertainers. He is also primarily responsible for new client acquisitions.

Daluiso feels that his football history has been beneficial in his second career.

“I think there are a couple things – work ethic and being very routine-oriented – that’s kind of the definition of me and it’s certainly carried over from my football career to my business career,” Daluiso said. “So, yes, as far as the things that I took from the field to the office, I think that football helped. I don’t think it wins business, but I think the football story can certainly be a tie-breaker.

“But all things being equal, you have to provide great service to your clients. That should be assumed and we do that. There are other people in our industry that do that as well, and I’d like to think that my first career is a nice conversation starter.”

The Next Generation of You: Fred Hill

by Jim Gehman

“I was just thrilled to get drafted,” says Hill, a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in the 1965 NFL Draft. “Back then you had the two leagues competing, but the American League was … Do you remember when they had the United States Football League? Would you want to play for the United States Football League or the NFL? You want to play for the NFL. And so, I didn’t even talk to (Raiders general manager and head coach) Al Davis.”

The tight end chose the Eagles over the Raiders – as well as baseball’s Boston Red Sox – but he had a setback before stepping foot on Philadelphia’s Franklin Field.

“In the College All-Star Game (against the defending NFL Champion Cleveland Browns), it was pouring down rain at (Chicago’s) Soldier Field, and Roger Staubach threw me one over my head,” Hill says. “I reached as high as I could reach and Jim Houston, their outside linebacker, was running full speed and caught me right in the ribs. I broke my ribs and missed almost my whole rookie year.

“And then the next year I started (eight games) at wide receiver, but I was the backup tight end to Pete Retzlaff. It was really hard on me in practice because I had to run with both groups. But Pete, he ran the best patterns of anybody I’ve ever seen. He taught me so much. He had unbelievable moves. I learned a lot from him.”

Starting eight games at tight end in 1968, Hill posted career highs with 30 receptions for 370 yards and three touchdowns.

“The next year I was the starting tight end and in the last preseason game, I ripped up my knee and I came home and that’s when I found out my daughter had leukemia. That was kind of the end of my football (career),” says Hill, who played through the 1971 season.

“The fans were great. The people there were so nice to us. Especially when Kim was really sick. All of our neighbors supported us so much. Here, I had this sick 3-year-old that wasn’t supposed to make it beyond five to six weeks. She made it then, but with three and a half years of chemotherapy.

“We kind of got sidetracked the last few years I played because Kim got chemo every single day. Spinal taps and bone marrow tests and chemotherapy and radiation for three and a half years. You were more worried about your daughter than playing football.”

Hill retired in 1972 and got in touch with then-Eagles owner Leonard Tose later that year about backing a fundraiser – a fashion show.

“Fran begged me to go talk to Leonard Tose,” Hill says, “and to our surprise, the entire team and Leonard showed up. And he said, ‘Next year, Fred, I want you to make 10 times this amount.’ We made $10,000 for the Leukemia Society of America and we took it to them and then we said, ‘You know what? We’d rather have the money stay right here in Philly.’ And so, the next year we did a big fashion show at the stadium and we passed the hat and raised over $100,000.”

Following that, they met with Kim’s doctor at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Dr. Lawrence Namain, and asked how the money should be spent.

“We wanted the people of Philadelphia, if they were going to donate something; we wanted to be able to touch what they bought,” Hill says. “Because when we went to check where our $10,000 went from our first fundraiser, we couldn’t really identify where the money went. So, we were thinking whatever the hospital needs, they could say I helped pay for this.”

They were directed to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who had a terrific suggestion.

“She said we needed a house close by where the parents could stay,” Hill says. “All the families that we’d see every day, some of them came from long distances and slept in their cars. We thought that was a great idea.”

Involved since the first fashion show, then-Eagles general manager Jim Murray had a great idea of his own. Familiar with Don Tuckerman, who worked for an advertising agency that handled the McDonald’s account, he called and asked what their next promotion was. It turned out to be a campaign to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – the Shamrock Shake.

Murray asked if McDonald’s would be willing to donate 25 cents of each Shamrock Shake to help pay for the house. Tuckerman put him in contact with the company’s regional manager, Ed Rensi, who asked, “What if we give you all the money? Can we call it the Ronald McDonald House?”

The answer was clearly yes, and the first Ronald McDonald House opened on Spruce Street in Philadelphia on October 14, 1974. Today, there are more than 365 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.

Kim Hill passed away on March 5, 2011. She was 44. Her parents continue to be involved with the Ronald McDonald House as ambassadors and travel to different cities for grand openings and anniversaries.

This week they’ll return to Philadelphia, where on Sunday, Fred Hill will be on the field as the Honorary Alumni Captain presented by Santander when the Eagles host the Houston Texans. It’s the second year in a row he has reunited with his former team. He visited with the Eagles last season when they stayed on the West Coast between games in Seattle and Los Angeles, where they played the Rams and Hill makes his home.

“They called and said, ‘Fred, we like to do community involvement. We have 14 rookies and we’d like to bring them to the Orange County Ronald McDonald House.’ So, they brought all 14 of them to the house. And then they asked me to come to practice. So, I went to practice and I got to meet Zach Ertz because he has my number, 86,” Hill says. “It was a great week.”

The Next Generation of You: Alan Faneca

A six-time All-Pro and selected to play in nine Pro Bowls, in 2019, Faneca was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth consecutive year.

“What makes me most proud (of my career) is the way I did it, the way I approached it. The way I went about my business of being a professional,” said Faneca, a member of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XL Championship team. “To be there for four years now, just to be in the conversation is amazing enough when you talk about the guys that came before you.”

Soon after retiring in 2011, Faneca went to work on his body. To enhance his health, he decided that he’d be better off by not tipping the scales at 315 anymore.

“I drastically cut what I ate, about 1,800-2,000 calories a day,” Faneca said. “And I did about an hour of hard cardio six days a week. I didn’t want to do it slowly. I did it right away, so it was just like training for another season for me.             I lost 100 (pounds) at first, and after a while I put a few back on. Right now I’m close to 230, so I’m about 75, 85 pounds less than what I played at.

“I feel great. The day I lost 30 pounds, I was playing with my daughter on the floor and when I got up, I didn’t make the old man groan and grunt, pushing to get up off the floor. I just stood up and I realized it. I was like, ‘Man, that’s something good right there.’”

What’s his advice to other former players who want to lose weight and realize “something good” themselves?

“You’ve just got to stick to it,” Faneca said. “I tell a lot of people that I feel like I cheated because I did it right after I was done playing. I was able to find that mindset and just put my head down and do it. So, I tell guys to try and find that mindset that we used when we were playing. Just approach it that way and be diligent.

“How many people quit a diet before they need to buy new clothes? Twenty pounds and you need new shirts. Stuff like that. So many people quit before they get to that point in all aspects of life I feel.”

The bio on Faneca’s Twitter account doesn’t boast of his gridiron accomplishments or the dedication he demonstrated to lose weight. No, it reads – I have epilepsy, but it does not define me, it is only a small part of who I am.

How has he used his platform to discuss epilepsy, a central nervous system (neurological) disorder, with others who may have it?

“I try to talk about it and engage especially young people. It’s hard enough to be a teenager or younger today, much less be dealing with something you’re ashamed of or feel you should be ashamed of, when you shouldn’t,” Faneca said.

“I just talk with them or share stories about funny things that happened to me. I walked to school in my pajamas one time. Stuff like that. It brings it down a little bit for them. And I try to let them know that they’re not in it alone. It’s not who you are, it’s just a part of you.”

Now making his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his wife, Julie, and their children: Anabelle, 13; Burton, 7; and Penelope, 4; what’s the best thing about being Alan Faneca today?

“Just the ability to enjoy my family and be able to do it in a way that I’m able to,” he said. “I was very fortunate to do a job that was a game, and it set me up in a place where I can enjoy life and enjoy my family.”

Is Getting Kids to Eat Good Food Even Possible?

Getting kids to eat? Hard, but possible. Getting kids to eat good food? Well, that’s the dream. On this week’s episode of The Fatherly Podcast, host Joshua David Stein, a veteran food writer himself, talks to two of the world’s most famous chefs about how they feed their families. Jamie Oliver, best known as the Naked Chef, gets into the weeds (and grains) on how to make simple meals. He’s got a process (and a new book), a growing brood, a new book, and plenty of very, very frank advice. The guy isn’t Gordon Ramsay, but he’s also not self-censoring.

As for Daniel Bould, legendary restauranteur and all-around nice dude, he’s got some culinary tricks up his immaculate white sleeves. He talks about welcoming his kids into the kitchen and feeding them their ludicrously sophisticated favorite meals. His big thing, don’t assume that kids aren’t going to like stuff just because it isn’t typical kids food. You never know.

What’s the big takeaway here? Feeding kids is perhaps the most concrete job parents’ have and likely the most important. Still, it’s hard. So you better go in with a strategy.

Listen to the Podcast.

6 Tips to Avoid Valentine’s Day Traps

Valentine’s Day is fraught with landmines and expectations, often unrealized. Whether you’re in or out of a relationship, the grass isn’t always greener. Below are often-occurring situations, and six tips to having a great holiday.

  • You’re alone. I can recall Valentine’s Days I wished I were in love with someone who loved me. Worse were Valentine’s Days when I missed an ex or spent time thinking about someone who wasn’t in love with me. Looking back, what was sad was that I made myself unhappy and ruined one, if not more, days thinking “if only.”
  • You’re in a new relationship.Another Valentine’s trap happens when you’re newly in love. It may be the first Valentine’s Day of your relationship, and you wonder whether your partner will surprise you with something special. Will he or she ignore the day or hopefully say the unmentionable, four-letter L-word?You’re stressed about whether your card should be funny or mushy. Fear of humiliation and abandonment restrain you from being vulnerable. You don’t want your feelings rejected or to scare off your partner. Guys, you could be afraid of hurting your girl’s feelings by not doing or saying enough. Or you could be afraid to do or say too much, which might be misinterpreted as a commitment for which you’re unprepared.
  • You’re in a fight.One of the worst feelings on Valentine’s Day is to be fighting with your partner. Any other day wouldn’t be as painful. On Valentine’s Day, though, your worst fears and disappointments about your partner and the relationship are highlighted. In addition to being hurt or angry about the argument, you compare how you feel to how you imagine the day should be and how you want to feel.You don’t have to be fighting to be on eggshells all day and disappointed because your partner is an addict, ignoring you, or is looking for a fight to avoid admitting he didn’t plan anything or doesn’t want to go out. You can easily spend the entire day looking and waiting for cues, wondering whether you will spend the evening together. It’s hard to generate loving feelings seeing your wife neglecting the children or drunk all day.
  • You’re in a dull or dead relationship.Many couples in long relationships have lost the spark of love. Valentine’s Day may be a cruel reminder or an opportunity to rekindle it. When romance fades, it can be replaced with love based on deep caring and shared life experience. You might decide not to do anything special. Yet you can still acknowledge your love for each other – even if it’s not romantic love, it’s deep and abiding.Some relationships have died. Intimacy’s gone, but the couple can’t let go, whether due to age, children, health, or finances. Usually, despite those reasons, there’s a deep attachment. Often one person imagines he or she is staying for the other and is in denial of his or her own attachment needs and fears about leaving.
  • You’re in a loving relationship.You’re among the fortunate few if you’re in a long, loving relationship. Valentine’s Day may still present problems, especially for husbands who don’t want to disappoint their wives. You can get caught in the dilemma of not being able to decide whether to surprise your wife or ask her what she’d like. It’s okay to ask. Some people would rather know, but beware of a common trap: When your significant other replies, “it doesn’t really matter, I’m just happy with all you do. Don’t get me anything.” In this case, you should get him or her something special. Failure to act can be dangerous.Wives, too, can get caught up in waiting and wondering, and not wanting to upset plans their husbands may have made.

Six Tips

  1. Stay in the present reality. Take the label off, and just enjoy the day. Don’t look up an ex or waste time fantasizing about someone with whom you’re not involved. Don’t think about your relationship’s future or troubles or replay past disappointing holidays.
  2. Take responsibility for your feelings. If you’re experiencing painful emotions, honor them – for a half-hour. Then plan a great day. Remember it takes two to have an argument. Take responsibility for your contribution and your feelings. Own them, apologize if necessary, and make a fresh start with your partner. You’re the one who suffers if you don’t. Waiting for an apology feeds your resentment.
  3. Let go of expectations. They plant the seeds of disappointment and resentment. Instead, be open to what your partner and the universe have in store for you.
  4. Focus on giving love. Remember the love you feel is the love you give. Even if you’re in a relationship, write yourself a love letter about your wonderful traits and acts of courage. Tell yourself you love you. Read it aloud in the mirror. This may sound foolish, but it works and boosts your self-esteem! You can also focus on the positive traits of your partner. Imagine opening your heart and sending him or her love. If that’s difficult, recall a time when you shared love, and then bring that memory fully into the present.
  5. Be creative. It shows an investment of time, love, and thought when you create something special. You can create a treasure hunt for your partner to find a gift or card. Instead of roses, sprinkle the bed with flower petals. Give a sensuous candlelit foot rub, massage, or body wash. Write your favorite, shared memories with colored pens. Make a collage of your dream home, family, or past or future adventures together designed with leaves, dried flowers, photographs, or magazine clippings.
  6. Whatever you do, be real. Authenticity is romantic. Your true feelings are apparent anyway, and hiding them creates more problems. That doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts, but in a dicey situation, choose words that are true for you.

A Year-Long Valentine: Love, Forgiveness, and Gratitude

Expectations can run high on Valentine’s Day. While many wish for hearts and flowers, whether one is in a relationship or single, February 14 can be stressful. By thinking in terms of give and take to balance expectations — in all relationships — a sense of calm is within reach. Here are some thoughts for a year-round Valentine. According to VanderDrift and Agnew, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

“Individuals balance tasks necessary to fulfill personal goals and to maintain their interpersonal relationships.” 

However, to do so might require a change in thinking.

Love and Forgiveness

In our heart of hearts we all know what we should be doing to bring harmony into our own life and the lives of those around us.  Ancient philosophers have long told us:

  • Speak kindly to everyone you meet. We all carry a heavy burden.
  • Wish blessings to others, even those who hurt you.
  • Be forgiving of everyone who has ever hurt you, and most especially forgive yourself instead of saying “Why didn’t I?”
  • Express your love to those whom you really love, instead of saying, “They know I love them”
  • Form the words, ” I love you.”
  • Remind yourself often throughout the day that those you love are a gift and you have no idea just how long they will be yours to cherish.
  • Let go of anger. 
  • Be kind. As Massachusetts poet, philosopher, and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson has said: “You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.” 

For people looking for love, each year as Valentine’s Day approaches I think of the words of Leo Buscaglia, author of Love, who said that if we are waiting for the one and only, “I guarantee you’ll wait forever! There is no right person. You become the right person!”

In the hustle and bustle of our overly committed lives, do we ever remember to take time to listen for love instead of waiting for the “one and only” love ?

8 Ways to Approach Valentine’s Day

Sometimes we need to clear our heads and hearts so that we can hear love. Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, begin clearing the path for love. Here are ways to approach Valentine’s Day. 

  • Let go of worn-out friendships and relationships.
  • Break old patterns that really hinder your happiness.
  • Take a chance on an out-of-character relationship.
  • Be more forgiving of others without losing your sense of self or your values.
  • Laugh at yourself and be accepting of yourself.
  • Forgive your past love mistakes.
  • Move forward with a renewed sense of self and spirit.
  • Express gratitude to those around you.
    • “I am grateful for the days you lift my spirits when I’m sad.”
    • “I thank you for calling me when you are traveling.”
    • “I love when you send me an unexpected xoxo text.”
    • “I appreciate that you listen to me when I speak.”

Adapt an Attitude of Gratitude:

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at University of California at Davis, reminds us often in his writings, as in interviews with him:

“Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed.” Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, he pointed out, “if you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident.”

Dr. Emmons added: “Attitude change often follows behavior change. By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel the gratitude that we live.”

Love Thought:

If you have been hurt by love, be grateful for the experience and take a chance on embracing its mystery once again. Express love and gratitude on Valentine’s Day to family, friends, co-workers, children and to those who are lonely and need a smile from your heart. Smile at strangers who look sad. Just smiling alone makes us feel happier. The Duchene Smile. Then remind yourself that sharing joy, love, and understanding should be year ’round goals.

What Keeping Secrets Does to Your Marriage

In fact, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people keep 13 of them on average. The most common secrets are sexual in nature, researchers found: either having to do with behavior or having romantic thoughts about someone outside of the confines of your primary relationship. But all secrets, big and small, have a profound effect on you and your marriage — whether you notice it or not.

Secrets in relationships common. But a body of research suggests they can negatively affect mental and even physical health. Secrets become a problem because people’s minds tend to often wander to the secrets they’re keeping, which can lead to a reduced sense of well-being, concluded Columbia Business School professor Michael Slepian, Ph.D., lead author of the above-mentioned study.

Slepian’s study is just the most recent looking at the effects of secrets. A 2012 paper suggests that keeping secrets from a partner makes him or her less trustful of the secret-keeper, which creates a cycle that ultimately damages the relationship, wrote lead author Ahmet Uysal, Ph.D., a professor at Middle East Technical University. In a study Uysal published the previous year, he wrote that concealing negative personal information lowered subjects’ tolerance of pain.

Belgian researchers found that “important, unhappy” secrets had negative effects on health and tended to cause more shame and guilt than revealing them did. A study out of the University of Santa Barbara suggests that unloading secrets seems to help people to stop stewing about the secret and increases the self-esteem of the revealer – but only when they got a positive response from the person who heard it.

Scientists, it’s pretty obvious, are fascinated by secrets. It would be a mistake, however, to oversimplify the research findings and assume secrets always cause harm and revealing them always makes things better.

“It’s difficult to generalize about the body of research that secrets are bad for you,” says Dr. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., sociologist at Cornell University and the author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage. “Many of the studies were small in scale and involved artificial situations, and I’m not sure how well those translate into actual human behavior and well-being.”

Take the study concluding that revealing secrets made people feel better as long as they weren’t judged harshly for what they told. It’s just as likely that the study revealed subjects’ gravitation toward people who would tell them what they wanted to hear as it reflected a cathartic effect from revealing a secret to just anyone.

If you’re cheating on your wife, for example, it might be helpful to vocalize it, but you’re probably going to choose a person to tell who will align with you, not the friend across the country who goes to church every Sunday and has had one sexual partner his entire life, says Dr. Christine Hyde, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker and certified sex therapist.

There’s enough evidence to conclude, however, that, for a significant number of people, secrets can cause stress and anxiety and affect the health of relationships.

“At the most basic level, we’re about survival, and by connecting with people on a primal level, we improve our chances of survival,” says clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. John Paul Garrison, PsyD. “When we keep secrets or are being deceptive because we think we’ll be rejected by people, it increases the body’s insulin and cortisol, can create heart palpitations and affect the brain.”

The Next Generation of You: Scott Gragg

After retiring as a player in 2006, Gragg, a mathematics major at the University of Montana, earned his masters degree from George Fox University. He and his family then moved to his hometown of Silverton, Oregon, where he taught math at his high school alma mater and was the head football coach.

Gragg later decided to trade trigonometry for touchdowns, and went to his second alma mater, Montana, where he became the football team’s compliance liaison. He’d eventually become the offensive line coach and then the co-offensive coordinator before becoming the assistant head coach.

“After I finished coaching at the University of Montana, I was a principal in Fort Benton, Montana, which is a tiny school in the middle of the state,” Gragg said. “And in an interest of getting back to family and friends, I applied for an opening at McNary High School (in Keizer, Oregon, which is an hour’s drive south of Portland) as their instructional coach with the thoughts of hopefully being able to move towards administration.”

He got the job and joined the staff at McNary H.S. in 2016.

“Basically (an instructional coach is) a teacher on special assignment,” Gragg explained. “Typically, you work with first- and second-year teachers primarily in a mentorship role, but then you also work within departments. For me, because I’m mathematically-minded, I leaned towards working with our geometry department in increasing academic student success, giving teachers more tools in their tool bag as instructional strategies to help them.

“I was hired as an instructional coach in August and in the middle of October; I was put in a position as an interim assistant principal in charge of discipline and behavior. And then at the end of that year, I applied for the assistant principal and athletic director positions. So, I was hired as an instructional coach and quickly became an athletic director.”

At first glance, it may be difficult to see how Gragg’s experiences in the NFL would help prepare him for his current positions. But he says it did.

“I’ve always enjoyed communication and leadership and I get to be able to do both of those in roles as an athletic director and assistant principal,” Gragg said. “Every experience from playing 11 years to teaching for four and then coaching collegiately for five, all built on where I’m at today dealing with kids in all kinds of different situations.

“What we experience in the NFL in overcoming adversity and the daily challenges and grind certainly help me be a better athletic director. I had the privilege of playing for and working with a lot of great coaches: Dan Reeves, Herm Edwards, Steve Mariucci. Mariucci, one of his foundational core values was communication and the ability to communicate well both on the field and off the field. If there’s a core value that I’ve adopted from my experiences in the NFL, that would be it, the importance of communication and what that looks like in different contexts.”

Gragg and his wife, Toni, are living 18 miles from where they grew up and went to high school together. They have a daughter, Anna, and a son, Brian.

“I have so many blessings it’s hard to establish the best. I have a daughter that’s a junior at Liberty University and tried out for the Olympic team last year for volleyball. I have a son that just graduated from high school. I’ve been married for 23 years, going on 24,” Gragg said.

“I had a great career in the NFL that helped me establish relationships. And I’m in a great job working with a great team in a great community. I consider it a privilege to be Scott Gragg right now. It’s pretty awesome.”

Six Attitudes Parents Should Instill in Their Young Athletes

When most people in the sports world think of sport psychology, they think of mental training, that is, helping athletes prepare mentally to perform their best when it matters most. Mental muscles that help athletes strengthen include motivation, confidence, intensity, and focus. And mental tools I help athletes to put in their mental toolboxes include self-talk, routines, and imagery. This mental training is certainly important for athletes on the day of a competition. And it is certainly a key part of my work with athletes with the emphasis on ensuring that their minds are as prepared as their bodies to perform their best.

At the same time, an often-neglected area of sport psychology begins well before athletes’ arrival at competitive venue. I’m talking about the attitudes that they hold about themselves, competition, and results. Attitudes are so important to sports success because they are the filters that guide what athletes think, the emotions they feel, how they respond to their sport, and, ultimately, how they perform on game day.

The problem is that attitudes can be healthy and helpful or unhealthy and interfering to athletes’ aspirations and efforts. The primary reason parentssend their young athletes to me is because their attitudes toward competing are acting as anchors that weigh them down rather than wings that lift them up. The focus of much of this work involves helping athletes develop attitudes that propel them forward to performing their best.

Having the “right” attitude or a “positive” attitude has become almost cliché in their sports culture. The real question is what specific attitudes must athletes have to perform their best and accomplish their competitive goals. This post will share with you six attitude “forks in the road” that can either set athletes up for inspiring success or disheartening failure.

Life or Death

Let me share a metaphor that, though a bit politically sensitive, is nonetheless very descriptive of this distinction between life or death. Imagine that, just before your young athletes enter a competition, a man with a gun approaches them and says, “If you don’t win, I’m going to here after and I’m going to shoot you dead.” What kind of emotions do you think your athletes will experience? Terror! And how will they likely perform? Well, like they were scared to death, that is, poorly. Now, of course there will be no one at the end of a competition who will shoot them physically dead. I’m talking about a different kind of death, namely, a sort of psychological and emotional death that includes athletes’ self-identities (who they see themselves as), self-esteem (whether they feel valued), and goals, hopes, and dreams (all they aspire to be). With a life-or-death attitude, every time athletes enter a competition, they are putting their psychic lives on the line. In this situation, there is someone at the end who they think will shoot their “soul” dead. Who might that person be? Sadly, it is often their parents, though it can also be coaches or, just as painfully, the athletes themselves.

You want your athletes to see sports as about life, not death, in which their sport is inspiring, exciting, fulfilling, joyful, and fun. These feelings are fuel for their passion for their sport (while fear, frustration, anger, sadness, and despair drain their fuel tank). You also want your children’s sports to be an important part of their lives, but not life itself. With this “life” attitude, when your kids experience success, they will feel the energizing power of their efforts. And when they fail (which they will inevitably will; that’s just a part of sports and life), they will feel disappointment, but they will survive. No matter what happens, they will know that they will be okay. If athletes can accept this “life” attitude deep down, they will be free to perform with confidence, commitment, and courage rather than with worry, doubt, anxiety.

Challenge or Threat

I have found that a simple distinction appears to lie at the heart of whether athletes are able to rise to the occasion and perform their best when it really counts or crumble under the weight of expectations and tough conditions on the day of a competition: Do they view the competition as a threat or a challenge.

What happens when athletes approach a competition as a threat. Physiologically, their muscles tighten up, they breathing gets shallow, their balance goes back, and their center of gravity rises. Psychologically, their motivation is to flee from the threat. Their confidence plummets. Emotionally, they feel fear, helplessness, and despair. In sum, everything both physically and mentally goes against athletes, making it virtually impossible for them to overcome the threat and find success in their sport. Where does threat come from? Most powerfully, from a fear of failure (more on that shortly).

A challenge reaction produces an entirely different set of responses. Physiologically, they are fired up, but also relaxed, with just the right amount of adrenaline to make them feel strong, quick, and fast. Muscles are loose, breathing is steady, and balance is centered. Psychologically, athletes’ singular motivation is to overcome the challenge. They are confident that they can surmount the challenges of the competition. Their focus is like a laser beam on the challenge before them. As for emotions, they feel excitement, inspiration, pride, and courage. In sum, their entire physical and psychological being is directed toward triumphing over the challenge and their chances of finding success are high. The important thing for athletes to understand is that threat vs. challenge is all in their minds, about how they perceive it.

Success or Failure

Fear of failure is epidemic among young people in our achievement-obsessed culture. Interestingly though, athletes aren’t afraid of failure so much as the consequences they attach to failure, most often, that their parents won’t love them, their friends won’t like them, it will have been a waste of time and money, it will mean an end to their sports dreams. Fear of failure preoccupies their minds so much that they actually don’t focus on success, and what it takes to achieve it, at all. Their singular goal is to avoid failure (read my four-part series for more on fear of failure). The irony is that fear of failure causes athletes to experience the very thing that is most scary for them, namely, failure.

In contrast, athletes without a fear of failure are solely driven to perform their best to pursue the successful achievement of their goals. To experience success, these athletes are focused on:

  • Improving.
  • Giving their best effort.
  • Going all out.
  • Having fun.
  • Making progress toward their goals.

Not surprisingly, when athletes focus on pursuing success rather than avoiding failure, they are more likely to perform well and get the results they want.

Click read more for other important attitudes.

30 Characteristics of Happy Couples

When my husband Charlie and I were interviewing the happiest couples we could find, we could clearly see that they were among the group that was keeping passionate romance alive over many decades. These were some of the themes that ran through their stories. Please consider this list and add some components of your own.

  • Vision: Hold a grand vision of what your partnership can be and roll up your sleeves to get to work to manifest that vision.
  • Define Romance: People have different ideas about romance. Be sure to have conversations defining what romance means to you so you can manifest what you are longing for.
  • Commitment: Commit each day and demonstrate that commitment.
  • Interests: Have an interesting career, hobbies, and areas of interest to keep each individual lively.
  • Adventure: Keep your sense of adventure alive, try new things and take risks.
  • Listening: Listen deeply.
  • Curiosity: Be curious with the wonder of a child.
  • Questions: Ask questions that show your sincere interest.
  • Healing: Heal all past wounds.
  • Learning: Keep learning and growing. When you remain interesting your partner will be interested in you. Having an interesting career, hobbies, and other reads of interest keep each individual lively. And therefore, they bring their happy interesting self to their partner.
  • Privacy: Honor their privacy by spending time apart.
  • Staying Power: Don’t quit during the hard segments of the partnership.
  • Honesty: Be honest and trustworthy.
  • Agreements: Keep agreements, big ones like fidelity, and even the small ones count.
  • Tolerance: Be tolerant and accepting of your partner’s shortcomings.
  • Good news: Focus on your partner’s assets and strengths.
  • Respect.
  • Conflict Management: Arguments can be enlivening and exciting. Those who are conflict-avoidant can repress emotions with a result of flattening the relationship. Disappointments, frustrations, hurts, and grievances need to be brought forward. Only then can the couple negotiate to have their needs met.. Respectful airing of differences breathes passion into the partnership, keeping the romantic quotient high.
  • No threats or ultimatums.
  • Forgiveness: Be willing to forgive past transgressions.
  • Myths: Examine your beliefs to find if there are limiting ones that may be detracting from having an excellent partnership.
  • Self-revelation: Reveal rather than conceal; express rather than repress.
  • Secrets: No secrets or lies.
  • Needs: Tell your partner what you need.
  • Attractiveness: Stay attractive.
  • Humor: Humor is associated with novelty and the unexpected and will bring lightness and fun.
  • Stretch: Stretch into your partner’s world if you possibly can.
  • Sex: Refine your sexual relationship for maximum pleasure. Making love in a place in the house other than your regular bed adds sparkle.
  • Intimacy: Non-sexual intimacy is a deep knowing of each other, the innermost parts of each other.
  • Gratitude: Express gratitude for the way your partner enriches your life.

5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent This Year

Many people don’t make New Years Resolutions, because they find themselves making the same resolutions every year. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re headed in the right direction, and you aren’t perfect yet. (Shocking, I know!)

The bad news is, you won’t be perfect this year either. The good news is, you don’t have to be! Kids don’t need perfection from parents. What they need is a parent who accepts them with all their imperfections, models compassion and respect, and apologizes and reconnects when things go wrong — as they inevitably do.

This is tough work, because it’s about regulating our own emotions. That’s why resolving to be more patient rarely works. By the time we’re gritting our teeth to stay “patient” we’re already sliding into the stress response of fight, flight or freeze.

But if you want to become a more patient parent – and a happier person – it’s completely possible. Here are 5 simple resolutions to support you in creating a home with less drama and more love. Practicing these is the work of a lifetime, so you still won’t be perfect in a year — in fact, you might make these same resolutions next year! But I guarantee you’ll be a more peaceful parent, with a happier, more cooperative child.

1. Resolve to work on regulating your own emotions, so you can be the emotionally generous parent you want to be. Start by integrating daily sustainable self-nurturing into your life: Go to bed earlier so you’re better rested, eat healthfully to maintain your energy, transform those inner negative comments into encouraging ones, and slow down your pace so you’re not so stressed.

Most important of all, commit to managing your reactions. When you’re in fight or flight, your child looks like the enemy and you can’t teach well. Just say No to taking any action while you’re angry.

Does this sound hard? It is. Maybe the hardest thing we ever do. But that urgency to act is a signal that you’re in “fight or flight.” Calm your upset before you engage with your child.

Every time you restrain your own “tantrum” you’re rewiring your brain. Each time you choose love, it makes the next choice easier. There’s no time like the present to begin. And you’ll be astonished at how your child changes, as you get better at self-regulating.

2. Resolve to love the one you’re with. The one thing we know for certain about child development is that kids who feel loved and cherished thrive. That doesn’t mean kids who ARE loved – plenty of kids whose parents love them don’t thrive. The kids who thrive are the ones who FEEL loved and cherished for exactly who they are.

Every child is unique, so it takes a different approach for each child to feel seen and valued. The hard work for us as parents is accepting who our child is, challenges and all – and cherishing him for being that person, even while guiding his behavior. The secret? See it from his perspective, empathize with him, and celebrate every step in the right direction. Maybe most important? Enjoy your child!

3. Resolve to stay connected. Kids only cooperate and “follow” our leadership when they feel connected. But separation happens, so we have to repeatedly reconnect.

Remember that quality time is about connection, not teaching, so it’s mostly unstructured. Hug your child first thing every morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited later in the day, spend fifteen minutes solely focused on your child. (What do you do in that 15 minutes? Listen, commiserate, hug, roughhouse, laugh, play, empathize, listen some more. Not enough time? What could be more important?)

Stop working and turn off your phone and computer before dinner so you can focus on your family. Eat dinner together without screens and do a lot of listening. Have a chat and a warm snuggle at bedtime every night with each child.

4. Resolve to role model respect. Want to raise kids who are considerate and respectful, right through the teen years? Take a deep breath, and speak to them respectfully. After all, kids learn from what we model. If we can’t manage our own emotions, we can’t expect our kids to learn to manage theirs. Not always easy when you’re angry, so remember your mantras:

  • “It’s not an emergency.”
  • “I’m the role model.”
  • “He’s acting like a child because he IS a child.”
  • “Don’t take it personally.”
  • “This too shall pass!”

5. Resolve to address the needs and feelings driving your child’s behavior. The most important time to stay connected with your child is when she’s acting out. All “misbehavior” is a red flag that your child needs your help to handle big emotions or fill unmet needs. Once you address the feelings or needs, the behavior changes. If you can lead by loving example, redirect preemptively rather than punish (“You can throw the ball outside”), and set limits empathically (“I see how mad and sad you are. No hitting; hitting hurts. Let’s use your words to tell your sister how you feel. I’ll help…”) you’ll raise self-disciplined kids who WANT to follow your guidance.

Sure, your child will make mistakes, and so will you. There are no perfect parents, no perfect children, and no perfect families. But there are families who live in the embrace of great love, where everyone thrives. The only way to create that kind of family is to make daily choices that take you in that direction. It’s not magic, just the hard work of constant course correction to get back on track when life inevitably throws you off.

So don’t worry if you’re making the same resolutions every year. That just means you’re keeping yourself on track by choosing, over and over, to take positive steps in the right direction. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a whole new landscape. Parenting, after all, is a journey — not a destination. For today, just choose less drama and more love. You’ll be amazed at how far that takes you.

And if keeping these resolutions sounds like too big a lift, that just means you need more support. This is some of the hardest work anyone ever does, and we all need help from time to time.

The Next Generation of You: Rashied Davis

By Jim Gehman

Rashied Davis and his wife, Dianna, began to pay back to the Chicago community while he was still playing wide receiver for the Bears. “I felt like I have a responsibility to myself and to society to give back all the wisdom and the blessings that I’ve gotten in my life to people who are less fortunate,” Davis said.

In 2010, they founded Saturday Place, an academic enrichment program for 3rd and 4th grade Chicago public school students who are performing at least one year below grade level and live in under-resourced communities. Every Saturday during the school year, students receive tutoring and participate in activities that provide support in reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.

“It was a new idea, a new concept at the time,” Davis said. “Because we were going to be providing a free service, the principals were onboard. I’m not quite sure what the parents’ ideas were or feelings were about it at first. They just felt like well, if someone’s going to give my kid extra help, we’ll get them there.

“One principal in particular, Barton Dassinger, (César Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy Center) is one of the big reasons that Saturday Place is still going and even got going as well as it did. Because he was all in for helping his children and he’s been amazing ever since.”

Each Saturday, 45 students from César Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy Center and Burroughs Elementary School are bussed to the University of Illinois at Chicago, which provides classrooms.

“When we started Saturday Place, I was a new dad and didn’t know anything about what schooling and all that stuff was going to be like,” Davis said. “And now that I have my own son and daughter, Eli and Alanna, I realize how important and how expensive it is to get your kids extra help when they need it. Whether it be a tutor or a learning center or whatever it is, it’s expensive.”

The expense that it takes to operate Saturday Place is why Davis is appreciative of the financial assistance received from PAF and others.

“All the support we get means everything. Without it, we couldn’t do what we do,” Davis said. “We couldn’t perform. We couldn’t afford our program. I don’t get paid. None of the board members get paid. We only pay our teachers and our program director as well as our executive director.

“We’re a small organization, a 501 (c)(3), and we work our tails off to try and do as much as we can with what we’re given. So, any support that we get from anybody is well appreciated and it’s put to great use. We don’t waste a dime.”

And the feeling Davis has when he witnesses the students succeed…

“It’s amazing. I feel blessed to have been able to think of an idea and then follow it through with a concept that works, that helps children less fortunate than my own, less fortunate than many others, whose parents can’t afford the extra help they need. It feels good to see them go on to have great academic success in school.”

Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!

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.

The Negotiation: Finding the Middle Ground in Holiday Traditions

Traditions are the house that holiday cheer built. Dressing the Christmas tree. Spinning the dreidel. Preparing the pumpkin pie. Exchanging gifts. The holidays are all about celebrating our traditions — and each other. But, as new parents and newlyweds are quick to find, a family’s holiday traditions are often hard earned. This is especially true when parents come from backgrounds where the holidays mean very different things. One person’s Hanukkah is another’s Kwanzaa.

It can all get little messy, this melding of traditions for a couple. Karlyn, a supervising producer here at Fatherly, is currently navigating her family’s first Christmas together. Their first Hanukkah too. Karlyn comes from a secular Jewish background, and her husband Dave a secular Christian one. Their ten-month-old daughter will soon experience her first holiday season. But what traditions will she inherit?

“I grew up not really religious but very tied to the Jewish culture,” Karlyn says. “There’s a lot of things that keep you tied to the culture that aren’t necessarily religious, so that’s what we grew up with.” The couple plans to go to Dave’s parents to celebrate Christmas. Before that, they plan to take a small vacation, just the three of them. What, exactly, will this all look like? That is still a bit unclear — they only know they want it to be a loving, family affair. This is an excellent first step for any couple. But when it comes down the specific logistics, the negotiation needs to evolve. Here are some pointers on how to productively take two very different pasts and build a shared holiday experience everyone can feel good about.

State Your Position

If you feel strongly about one of your holiday traditions, arguing about them can go a lot smoother by simply using the pronoun, “I.” Instead of projecting blame or anger on someone else, it’s important to simply state your position from your point of view. People tend to tune out when they’re just blamed. When a tradition is really that important to you, it needs to be said — and you need to say it.

Keep an Open Mind

If you’re overly objectionable, you may regret it. Take this as an opportunity to learn about your partner’s (or their parents’) traditions. Be open-minded. Be more inclusive, and try to listen to your partner — and your kid. After all, they may have a preference. Holidays, especially in interfaith families, can be a time of exploration and experimentation. Make it so.

Decide What Matters to You

It’s always important to ask: Is it really worth it? Perhaps you have fond memories of dressing your tree with your father, and you want the same experience for your son. If that’s important to you, it’s worth fighting for. But if there are smaller traditions you’d like to have but just aren’t worth the argument, it might be time to reconsider making a row. If dressing the tree can be lost — at least this year, you’ll get ‘em next year—then maybe it’s better to let it go.

Use a Joke or Two

When things get heated during the holidays, it’s easy to dig into serious territory. Don’t. The holidays are full of cheer and weird traditions. So use jokes when you’re arguing. Poke fun at your partner’s oddest tradition they hold on to, but do it gently and lovingly. Just because it’s a serious argument over traditions in families doesn’t mean it has to be serious.

Work Towards a Solution

Instead of digging your heels in, be solutions-oriented. If you’re disagreeing about who will go to who’s house, be sure not to raise your voice and come out of the argument with an actual plan of action. Maybe you spend Friday at your mother’s and Saturday at hers. The idea here is to find middle ground. You’re a team, after all.

Resolve Big Disagreements Quickly

If things really fall apart — if an argument over the holidays goes south — don’t let it lie. Once you’ve had the chance to cool off, explain why you were upset, why a certain tradition is important to you, and work to move forward. If you let it fester, it won’t help either of you.

32 Small Traditions to Start With Your Family

These shared rituals can happen during the holidays or every day and offer something to not only look forward to now but also look back on later. In a chaotic and confusing world, sometimes, a little consistency can be exactly what we all need. Here, then, are 32 small traditions to consider starting with your family.

Tell A Story Every Night

Storytelling — the act of piecing together characters and plot and settings from thin air — is a skill that is woefully underemphasized. Put it back in the curriculum after the lights go out. Before sleep sets in, weave a narrative that has vivid details, plots, and morals — or settle on one that wanders aimlessly and falls into absurdity. The point is to make it up, take the narrative where your imagination leads, and enjoy the places it takes you.

Have a Winter Novel

Every winter, hunker down and bust out a family favorite chapter book — The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, orCharlie and the Chocolate Factory are all solid options. After all, when the light wains and the cold days set in, there’s nothing better than a warm book.

Give Your Kids Duct Tape On Their 13th Birthday

Duct tape is very useful stuff. By the time your kid is on their own, they should know this.

Celebrate Santa Coming to Town

“We don’t pay much attention to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — until the very end, when Santa comes to town. We turn up the volume and the whole family will whoop and yell to celebrate Santa’s arrival, yelling “Santa!” Then we put on the first Christmas movie of the season — Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version), which starts with the parade and Santa coming to town.” –Christine Hnath

Give Your Kids Spare Change

You know those machines with the bouncy ball? The weird horse outside the supermarket? The Salvation army bucket? Let your kid in on the action. Always carry spare change and don’t hesitate to hand it over. You’ll get a smile out of it — and it won’t cost you more than 50 cents.

Visit a Christmas Tree

A giant sequoia in Kings Canyon National Park was dubbed the Nation’s Christmas Tree by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926. If you’re in the Sierras, drive up to the park, get hot cocoa from the visitors center, trudge around in the snow for an hour, and then go home. If you aren’t a mountain dweller, choose the most majestic wild pine on public lands near your home and do the same. Tell your kids the story of Coolidge’s sequoia. They won’t know that the tree before them is any less larger than life.

Leave A Birthday Voicemail

There are birthday gifts, cards, and then there’s the birthday voicemail. Because it’s recorded, it can be louder, goofier, and more joyous than a real-time phone conversation.

Santa Inspection

“Before coming downstairs Christmas morning, all us kids had to line up on the stairs. Dad told us we had to wait while he went downstairs to check to ‘make sure that Santa came last night’.  He would disappear downstairs for a while then would return telling us that indeed Santa had come, and that we could proceed downstairs to claim our toys. Now that I’m a Dad, and I do the same thing, I know that he was just buying some time to start the coffee machine and get the beer bottles cleaned up for the pictures.” –Alex Ridings

Play Touch Football on Thanksgiving

The game is played around the country for a reason. A massive meal is coming, so get outside and play.

Have Dinner, Give Thanks

Having dinner as a family provides structure and a sense of community. Giving thanks expands on that idea of community and builds empathy. Given all this, why do we combine these two things only on holidays? Have dinner together every day, and give thanks before digging in.

Throw A Never-Ending Game of Wiffle Ball

“I have been playing what is ostensibly the same game of wiffle ball against my father and my childhood neighbor since 1995. We try to play at least a few innings every year. We all have bad shoulders.” –Andrew Burmon

Plan a Ditch Day

Every holiday and day off of school is planned, to a fault. Make room for your kids by setting aside a day where you take them out of school for the fun and bonding.

Make a Takeout Night a Thing

Takeout night should be something everyone looks forward to. Rotate who picks the restaurant, set the table in a certain  special way, and make an event out of it. Oh, and to make it properly special, make sure you only get takeout once a month. It’ll save you money too.

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