Healthy Family Advice

Can't We All Just Get Along?

The last few articles have been on the subject of mental health and the breakup of the family unit. As the family situation changes, so do the matters of family concern. Of course, how you deal with these changes affect the future mental health of your children, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. As mentioned in a previous article, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” My advice is this, self-care is a key element to a happy, healthy family, but be careful, don't over do it.

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healthy relationships how to get along self care  quote


If you’ve come off a long-term, unhealthy relationship, chances are you’ve been neglecting self-care. Self-care is key to your happiness. Newly separated or divorced individuals might choose to jump out into the dating scene. At first, it's exciting and new. If you've been in a bad situation, going out on dates and having fun can feel like self-care, but you need to be careful that all that good time fun having doesn’t lead to an even more unhealthy rebound relationship. Just like our children, we need to make healthy choices.

Practice being alone. I can’t emphasize this enough. Spend time alone. As much time as it takes for you to get over the pain. And as much time as you need to grow as a person. Learn from your mistakes and take care of yourself.  As I age, I see intelligent women jumping into relationships. Perhaps, they’ve been a stay-at-home mom. Maybe they’ve never held a full-time job. Some never had the chance to go to college. They’ve never managed their own finances. Often, they feel like they just can’t handle the responsibilities of taking care of themselves and their children. So, they go out on a man hunt. The goal is to find a better man than the last one. Some are looking for a man to meet their financial expectations, others are looking for companionship, and some are looking for a father figure for their children. Whatever the reason, they jump into a relationship too soon. Been there done that. 


Healthy Family


I got married while still in college. It was okay. Just okay. I wanted to be happy, but we were young and a lot was missing in the relationship. At that point in my life, the idea of a wedding was more important than the idea of a marriage. We were friends and companions struggling to find common ground, but something was always missing. Both of us had placed our focus on gaining knowledge and prepping for a career and little attention was given to intimacy. As starving college students, there was no money for fun things and then we jumped into buying a house, and then another house, and then it all just got way too overwhelming. There was simply no fun to be had.

Eventually, we talked to friends, family, and clergy. We attended counseling. It all pointed to the same thing, we just didn’t have the same goals or the same outlook on life. We ended the relationship in an amicable fashion. And that’s when my real troubles started. I briefly dated, but playing the field has never been my thing. Dating in your late 20’s is an experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Ugh. It’s a brave new world. With my thirtieth birthday looming over my head, I really wanted to settle down and start a family before it was too late. I had some great men to choose from, two were truly amazing with interesting careers. One was neither amazing, nor did he have a great career. He was lucky to hold down a job. But he had what I wanted. A little girl. My family doctor and the counselor both advised against any serious relationship or even dating after the first year of a breakup, but my biological clock was ticking. Tick tock. Having been told I likely could never have children, I jumped at the chance. 

However, that wasn’t the only thing. He was fun. Oh so fun! He loved to dance, hike, bike, play sports, cook, and clean. One day, he called me one of the “cools.” I had been feeling lost. I was never cool. I wanted to do all those things I felt I’d missed out on in high school and college. Except I didn’t. I was still that goody two shoes inside. His risky lifestyle stressed me out. We fought. Among other things, he drank. He was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. It was like a dark movie from one of those cable tv channels for women. That was my first rebound.

After that, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pick myself up again. I had a lot of counseling. I saw a psychiatrist. I took various medications. Was I suicidal? Not really, but it seemed like life had gotten the best of me. I felt like a failure in every way imaginable. No kids, no career to speak of, and no real chance to recover from all the despair because, in my head, I was old. Oh, so old. I turned to online dating. It was uplifting to have so many men interested in dating me. It was also terrifying. That was the start of rebound number two. Not only did I not wait a year to date, in only a few short months I had moved in with a man and was pregnant. At the time, it seemed like he had everything I wanted. A good job, two kids, pets, a nice home. He was a widower and that (like the alcoholism before him) fulfilled my need for codependency. I had something to do, people to take care of, and dreams to fulfill. Except, we were less compatible than the previous rebound relationship. Shortly after my son was born, I became pregnant again.

Things weren’t ideal, but I always questioned myself. Why not? Maybe I was the problem. I should’ve been content. I was determined to make it work. I mean, after all, he wasn’t abusing me. He yelled a lot. It triggered old feelings from the previous relationship. I cried a lot. It made him mad. I cried more. It was an endless cycle. We barely knew each other. We met online. We were both lonely. As it came to be that he was my only friend for many years, we were really never friends. We both tried. The harder I tried, the more difficult it got. And now, there were kids involved. I didn’t want to break up the family unit. I didn’t want my kids to come from a broken home. Ugh, the damage I did to all of us by trying to stick this one out. We were the absolute opposite of compatible. I will spare you the gory details.

I had so many health issues. I spent months in bed, with nothing more to do than reflect on my past. I knew it had to end. But I was scared. Could I do it alone? Was I strong enough? I started stepping up my game, working harder from home, seeing various specialists and improving my health, and building credit. Once I knew what had to be done, I still wasn’t ready to do it. Things finally worked out in a way that made ending the relationship the most logical decision. It was difficult, but I didn’t need to seek counseling. I threw myself into my work, my writing, and the remodeling of my new house.

After years of thinking about it, deep down, I knew if I were ever to have another relationship again, I’d have to be strong. I’d have to take care of myself first, I’d need a break. I wrote down the pros and cons of dating. Months passed. I thought about what I wanted. What I needed, who I wanted and why. I realized I didn’t need a man to be happy. But I wanted that companionship that had eluded me for most of my life.


Why it's okay to Need a Man


It was always the same set of traits that had always led me to the same conclusion. But, I didn’t want to make the wrong choice with the right choice. So, naively, I  attempted to play the field again, but I didn’t date. I just talked. I talked to several old friends and acquaintances. This time no online dating, no strangers. I weaned them all out. I settled on one for an attempt at dating. We talked for weeks before meeting in person. I knew him from high school. He seemed to fit the criteria. But low and behold, it was a mistake. A big mistake, but one I wanted to cling to because I was sad and lonely. I had basically given up. I was about to turn fifty. There was no more time for mistakes. If I thought dating in my late twenties was hard - whoa. In your fifties, it’s a whole new frontier. Casual dating wasn’t an option for me. 

I took a few weeks to get myself together. I pulled out my list again, and this time, I realized what I always needed had always been there. Sometimes, you just need a friend.


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Emotional Issues from Childhood Follow You To Adulthood

Are Your Personal Intimacy Issues Affecting the Family Unit?

Is your relationship in trouble? Straying from our regular blog topics, we’ve been writing a series on mental health. Turns out something that sounds like a very adult subject matter, has a wider effect on our personal lives. Personal intimacy issues. Say what? 

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Emotional Issues from Child Follow You To Adulthood


Generally, when we think of personal intimacy issues we think about sex. However, personal intimacy can also mean emotional intimacy. Many people struggle with emotional intimacy and over time, this alone can break a relationship. You don’t have to be sexually active to struggle with emotional intimacy issues. In fact, emotional intimacy issues can contribute to sexual intimacy. 

Depending on your family situation, you could be setting your kids up for emotional disaster. How do you raise healthy, emotionally intelligent children? Obviously, if we had all the answers, everyone on Earth would be emotionally stable, but life happens, right? 

Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, and a variety of other common mental health issues can lead to a lifetime of difficulties in interpersonal relationships. If you can’t get along with family members, you’re likely not going to get along with peers or co-workers and your intimate relationships are going to suffer.

If you notice a family member struggling with interpersonal relationships, what can you do? The first step is to identify the problem. What is causing the mental health issue? It could be a chemical imbalance, childhood trauma, abuse, or even neglect.

If your children suffer, the next step is to get help. Whether you seek out a therapist in your community or find help online, getting an outside perspective is key to improving your situation. If the family dynamic is suffering due to personal intimacy issues between the parents, there are many resources online that can help. 

However, I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to get both partners on the same page. Sometimes, one partner would rather throw in the towel than ask for help from an outside source. I’ve been told that if you need an outsider to help, it’s far too late. Other people may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk about their personal intimacy issues. For more information on common intimacy issues visit this link:  https://www.regain.us/advice/intimacy/common-intimacy-issues-and-how-to-deal-with-them/

When parents aren’t emotionally or physically connected, the children often face emotional issues as well, and can suffer from neglect. Parents can get so wrapped up in their personal problems, that they neglect their children without even realizing it. The key to a happy, healthy family is to keep all of the cogs working cohesively. Immediately after the breakup of our family, as they watched me fall apart, my children seemed surprisingly well adjusted. 

However, whether they knew it or not, they were holding it together, trying to be strong for mom. As time passed and I grew stronger and more sure about my own choices, my children began to show the after effects of the reality of a broken family. They withdrew, became emotional, and even aggressive at times. It seemed their entire personalities had changed in a few short weeks. 

Not only were we dealing with the break of our family unit, but the raging hormones of the wonderful land of teendom had conveniently coincided with it.  While there’s no good time for a breakup, note to self, the early teenage years have got to be worse. If I had to go back in time and do it all over again, I would do it sooner. My relationship with their father wasn’t good for any of us. Our personalities were not compatible and no amount of trying or counseling were going to improve it.

I struggled with perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, admitting the relationship wasn’t meant to be was extremely difficult for me. It took my children growing up and becoming reasonable, rational human beings who could recognize that the situation was impossible to repair, to give me the kick in the butt that I needed to move forward with my life. Unfortunately, all of this took a toll on their emotional well-being. 

If you’re facing a difficult situation in your relationship, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek out help. Don’t wait until the issues are out of control and beyond repair. Though humans are resilient, many mental health issues can get worse over time. Be sure you’re doing everything you can to satisfy the needs of your children and protect not only their physical, but also their emotional well- being.

 

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How to Get your Kids Excited About Nature at a Young Age

How do you Get Kids to Enjoy Nature?


There’s no refuting that encouraging our kids to get out in nature and engage in outdoor play will result in your family reaping a myriad of benefits, spanning from improved physical and emotional health to providing your children with a ton of fun opportunities for both learning and family bonding. But we also know how difficult it can be to get your kids genuinely excited about outdoor time in this age of screens, screens, and more screens. So, how can you get kids to enjoy nature? Here are a few quick tips!


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How do you Get Kids to Enjoy Nature?


NATURE APPRECIATION TIPS


1. Plan regular outings

Hands down, the best way to get your kids excited about being out in nature is to make sure that you take regular family trips to beautiful places. Make full use of your local hiking trails on weekends, and set some time aside every week to go on a nice, long (and maybe even educational) bushwalk! If you’ve got younger kids with you, be sure to come equipped with a sturdy Joolz stroller, or another kind of stroller that you’re certain can handle off-road terrain if you plan to stray from the beaten path. 

2. Watch nature documentaries

It’s safe to say that young children have very few opportunities to engage with the wonders of the wider world, especially if your family has no upcoming travel plans. But you don’t need to go to Africa to see the lions of the Serengeti or to the Arctic Circle to see polar bears! If you have an allocated family movie night, be sure to flick on some David Attenborough and other nature documentaries every now and then to keep your kids in absolute awe of the natural world. Not only this, but documentaries can also be a great tool when it comes to teaching your kids about the effects of climate change and the importance of decreasing your household’s carbon footprint. Putting these complex issues into real-world contexts can really help your kids develop and maintain healthy living habits.



how to get kids outside in nature


3. Grow your own garden

Speaking of healthy living habits, did you know that even the pickiest kids are more likely to eat veggies that they’ve grown themselves? And that not only is gardening a natural stress reliever, but it’s also been proven to boost our immune systems and strengthen our fine motor skills? Both suburban and city-dwelling families alike, are jumping on the gardening bandwagon and using any free outdoor space to cultivate their own little veggie patches. And you don’t need to go all-out here to reap the benefits either! Even families living in apartment buildings can utilise balcony space to nurture their own herbs and potted produce like tomato plants. If you’re uncertain of where to start, here are five low-maintenance plants that will be sure to get your kids excited about flexing their green thumbs for years to come.

4. Play some outdoor games

Some of our strongest memories from childhood are made during outdoor play, whether we’re bouncing on a trampoline in the backyard or swinging from the monkey bars of our nearest playground. For this reason alone, it’s highly recommended that you take any and all opportunities to play some outdoor games with your kids and to encourage your kids to play sports and other outdoor activities with their peers. Even younger kids can join in on the fun with some inclusive activities like a sandcastle-building competition, and older kids will have a whale of a time with age-old classics like ‘Tag’ and ‘Capture the Flag.’


Finally, it’s a good rule of thumb to always have a small debrief with your little ones after any outdoor activity, just so you can gauge what interests them and what you can do to nurture those interests. If you listen well, you’ll be sure to have some very avid little hikers, bikers, and gardeners on your hands who will only find more ways to keep themselves learning and developing new skills as they grow up!



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5 Extracurricular Activities for a Holistic Education

5 Extracurricular Activities to Give Your Child a Holistic Education


Kids can only learn so much from traditional education, which is why it is vital that they also get involved in a host of extracurricular activities. These recreational pastimes for children aid their development and help them discover their passions. Extra curricular activities also can help kids to make friends and find positive role models. You want your child to become a well-rounded adult with much to contribute to society. You can help give kids a kickstart by sparking a passion for any one or more of these extracurricular activities that help give your child a holistic education.


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5 Extracurricular Activities to Give Your Child a Holistic Education



1) Music


Studying music has shown to improve test scores and help students do better in school. Music also can provide kids with a new way to express themselves. Additionally, the study of music helps kids to concentrate and can give them a sense of accomplishment as they learn to achieve their goals.


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There are many different instruments with which kids can start. One popular option is the drums. If you think this might be a good fit for your child, then you can learn more here.


 

2) Sports


Sports are an excellent outlet for getting exercise and building teamwork skills. Many kids even find themselves meeting some of their best friends through sports.

 

With so many different sports to choose from, your child will find something that works for them. If your kid has a hard time staying active, then participating in sports may provide the perfect fun way to get regular physical activity.



3) Art


Art is a fantastic way for children to express themselves and let their creative sides run wild. Many kids get a great sense of accomplishment when they create a beautiful piece of art.

 

There are many ways to get your child involved with art. While you can have your child take lessons, you could also involve them in crafts at home. The process of making things is essential to childhood development, no matter how you go about it.



4) Drama


Participating in performing arts can help kids to boost confidence. Drama also increases empathy because it requires your child to walk around in someone else’s shoes. Learning to play a character can help kids to see things from a different perspective and be more understanding.


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Drama can help kids build trust and learn to rely on each other. When they are on stage, they need to trust that their scene partner will always have their back if they forget a line or something goes wrong. Even if your child never becomes a star, the performing arts can significantly change their life.



5) Writing


Writing is a pastime that has many professional advantages. One of the most sought-after skills in the professional world is strong writing. Starting young can help your child to succeed in their career.


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Writing can help children to process their thoughts and express themselves. It also may assist kids in their overall communication skills. Encourage your child to write short stories, poems, or to keep a journal.



The Bottom Line


Childhood is the perfect time for people to explore a plethora of different activities to find the things that they enjoy. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some ideas about what your children might like to do in their free time. It's great to open their minds to all sorts of possibilities. Something may spark a career choice.


However, it is essential not to force your child to do anything that does not interest them. While encouragement is helpful, pressure can be counterproductive and may cause resentment. You need to strike a careful balance. Remember that your kids are just kids, and they may not become the next Olympic athlete or musical prodigy, and that is okay, just let them enjoy their extra curricular activities. 



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4 Suggestions for Smooth Living with Blended Families

Advice for Blending Families

Blending two families together as one can prove to be challenging, especially when different personalities and needs come into play. With children entering the equation on both sides and different parenting styles suddenly merging, it's important to make sure everyone's feelings, needs and wants are taken into consideration before moving in together. 


Read about one of our contributor’s experiences with Blending Families.


Preparing to live together as a family means discussing finances, making sure everyone has their own space, and/or preparing children for the big change in one way or another. Here are some suggestions for making the transition of becoming a blended family as smooth as possible.


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Advice for Blending Families


1. Hash Out Child-Rearing Approaches

Different attitudes on child rearing can make or break a home. Not everyone has the same parenting style. While some parents are considered "pushovers," allowing their children to get and do whatever they want (with no ability to say "no,") other parents are a bit more disciplined. When two people with different child-rearing approaches come together as one blended family, it can be difficult when an incident occurs with their children.

To keep everyone on the same page, it's important to discuss child-rearing techniques and approaches before you move in together. Indeed, it makes for a much more peaceful home. Remember, children need consistency, so try to address this important issue as soon as possible. You don’t want to have to learn your new partner's child rearing stance the hard way. 


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2. Ensure Everyone Has Their Own Space

Blending d├ęcor is one of the many challenges facing soon-to-be blended families, but it's completely doable. If it's within your budget, consider letting each child have their own room, which can go a long way in helping smooth out living situations and making sure everyone gets along with each other. It can also help to let your children decorate their own space and put their own stamp on it. This can help them feel a sense of belonging. 

When it comes to designing and outfitting a child's bedroom, consider any number of bedroom sets that show off your children's style and personality. Whether you decide to shop online or head to one of their stores, you'll be able to find all that you need to truly make your new house feel like home for everyone. Be sure to include the child in the process. It’s a fun family experience and can help a new parent bond with their step children.


3. Discuss Your Finances

Before you become a blended family, discuss how you'll manage your finances. Will you keep separate bank accounts and split the bills down the middle? Or, will you have a joint bank account to which you'll each contribute? Think about how you'll handle spending, especially if one partner makes more than the other. It’s always a good idea to keep some finances separate, particularly if you both have full-time careers and are used to spending your money your way. It’s always good to create a joint account for mutual household expenses.

Will one partner need to consult the other before making a large purchase? If so, what amount constitutes a large purchase? Will you have to discuss purchases when it comes to your children or will you have the freedom to decide how you spend your money on them? To avoid arguments in the future, these are some things you should think about before you blend your families together. 


4. Prepare Your Children for the Move

If you want things to go smoothly once the big day arrives, making sure your children are prepared for the move is essential. Let them know ahead of time when and what will happen, so they'll be better equipped to handle the changes ahead. Sit down with your children and discuss the move so they can express their feelings about it.

While you're not exactly asking their permission, it's important to let them know that their feelings and concerns are valid and that you'll help them sort through them if they feel overwhelmed or anxious about their new living situation. Talk about the new routine and let them know you won't love them any less with new children coming into the picture. Be sure to remind them they'll still have a space to call their own- and make sure they do, even if it is a little nook in your dining room!


You might also want to prepare your pets for a life change.


Preparing to Blend Families

Blending families is rarely easy, if ever, but taking the above steps into consideration can help make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved. It also helps keep the peace and ensure everyone is on the same page so that you can work together to create a smooth living situation for the entire family.



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