Emotional Security: Do You Know What YOUR Emotions Are Trying to Tell You?

By: Gregory Popcak


Most Christians have a pretty ambivalent relationship with our emotions.   We just don’t know what to  feel  about our  feelings.   Sometimes, emotions can be the source of a great deal of joy, satisfaction, and well-being.   Other times they can wreck us with anxiety, despair, anger, and angst.  Of course, there are still other times when we get upset with ourselves for being upset, angry at ourselves for being angry, or depressed about how sad we feel.  Emotions are a part of our body, of course, and, as such, the  Theology of the Body  tells us that—just like the rest of our body—emotions are intended by God to work for our good and the good of others.   But what about the times they don’t?  What is the best way to think about our emotions and how can we do a better job managing them?

Emotion:   What is it…Really?

It is surprisingly difficult to get consensus on what an emotion actually is.   Biologists will tell you that  emotions are just neurochemistry.   Psychologists will tell you that  emotions are the results of the thoughts that run through your head.   Anthropologists will say that  emotions are the way individuals know they are connected to some groups and disconnected from others.   All of these theories get at some aspect of emotions and some of these theories describe what emotions do, but none of those descriptions really do anything to tell us what emotions  are.  The new science of  interpersonal neurobiology  (the study of how relationships affect the mind and brain) has proposed an interesting answer to the question, “What is an emotion” that cuts across all the different professional distinctions and gives the average person a simple but useful way of thinking about emotions so that they can get better control of them.

“Interpersonal neurobiology…uses the clinical evidence that supports continuous brain growth as its foundation. This technique examines the opportunity for healing trauma by stimulating the brain with powerful and positive persuasion. Studies have shown that conditions that were once considered to be irreversible may actually be able to be transformed in a healthy way. Because the brain grows continuously throughout our lives, the implications for healing are unending. This technique is being used across a broad sector of the population, including with those who work in the areas of mental health, education, parenting, business, industry, and others.”

Read more here.

So what is an emotion?  Emotions represent shifts in the degree of integration between or within the body, mind, and relationships.  Let me explain.

Warning…Warning…Disturbance on Level Three!

Think of your emotions as the security office in one of those caper movies, you know, like, say,  Oceans 11.  In a sense, your emotions are like that room filled with cameras, indicator lights and buzzers that let you see how well (or not) everything is working—and working together (or not)—from moment to moment.     Only, instead of a bank vault, elevator shaft, and the boss’ office, the security system represented by your emotions is the system that monitors how well your body, mind and relationships are working both on their own and with each other. In other words, they “represent shifts in the degree of integration between or within the body, mind, and relationship. Let me give a few examples…Let’s say you feel “emotionally close” to someone.   What does that mean?    It means their thoughts and feelings are meshing well with your thoughts and feelings.   In other words, you are experiencing a  high degree of integration  between you and the other person and, as a result, you experience emotions that correspond with that integration, like happiness, affection, even love.

On the other hand, if you have a serious disagreement with that other person about something, your thoughts and feelings aren’t meshing well.    As a result of this  lesser degree of  integration between you, you might experience anger that they don’t see things the way you do or you might fear that the relationship is in jeopardy.  In both of the above instances,  your emotions are monitoring the  degree of integration  or disintegration  you are feeling in your relationship with someone from moment to moment.  Let’s take another example. What does it mean to be “emotionally healthy?”  Your degree of emotional health has to do with the  degree of integration you experience between (and within) your body, mind and relationships.  It represents how much your mind consistently desires and motivates you to do things that are good for your body and your relationships.

For instance, if your mind produces strong urges to do things that would endanger your sense of bodily integrity (for example; drink too much or take drugs that impair your functioning or risks that endanger your well-being) you have  poor integration  between your mind and body.   As a result, the “security officer” played by your emotions may send out a warning sign in the form of sadness, desperation, or emptiness.  Similarly, if your mind produces a strong urge to lash out at others, there may be a poor degree of integration between what your mind wants and what your relationships need in order to function well.   As a result, your emotional security officer will send out warning sign in the form of feelings of estrangement, loneliness, or isolation.

As you can see, “emotional health” or “emotional illness” reflects the  degree of integration or disintegration, respectively,  that you are feeling between your mind, body, and relationships, from moment to moment.  The above represent examples of disintegration between your mind, body, and relationships.   But the Emotional Security Office also monitors how each of these systems are working on their own.  For instance, if you are rested, your body, itself, is more likely to feel a greater degree of integration than if you slept poorly.   Your emotions will probably reflect that degree of integration by making you feel content and peaceful.   But if you slept poorly, your emotions reflect that poor degree of bodily integration by making you grumpy and irritable.   In this case your emotions represent the degree of integration you are experiencing  within  your body from moment to moment.  In short, emotions are the vast monitoring network God gave you enabling you to oversee, at a glance, how much unity (integration) and well-being you are encountering between and within your mind, body and relationships from moment to moment.

So What?

Too often, especially when we feel negative emotions,  we think of the feeling as the problem.   “I wish I could just stop feeling so anxious/depressed/overwhelmed.    The feeling isn’t the problem.   The feeling is the warning light telling you to  look  for the problem—i.e., the disintegration that is causing the emotional alarm bells to ring.   Imagine if the Head of Security in our caper movie heard all the lights and buzzers going off that indicated a robbery in progress and instead of dispatching guards to the scene just said, “Ugh!     I’m so sick of listening to all these buzzers and seeing these flashing red lights!     Shut it all down!   I just need a nap!”   Or, alternatively, what if the same Head of Security said, “These lights and buzzers are freaking me out!   Let’s just torch the whole room.   You heard me!   Burn the place down!”

Obviously, those would be foolish choices.   But we try to do the same things with our emotions!   Because we tend to think of our feelings as the problems themselves, we try to ignore them or shut them down with rash decisions intended to make all the buzzing stop.   We often forget to listen to our emotions and, metaphorically speaking, send a guard to check out what’s going on at the vault, or on level four, or to the elevator (our mind, brain, or relationships) so that we can correct the problem.   We forget that the buzzing will stop when the problem is solved.  Just like the warning indicator doesn’t stop buzzing until the problem is resolved, your feelings won’t change until the disintegration they are pointing to is adequately addressed.

Emotions and the Quest for Original Unity

The Theology of the Body tells us that, before the Fall, man, woman, and God existed in a state of  “Original Unity”  (the idea that Adam and Eve felt union within themselves as well as harmony with one another and God).   Presumably this unity didn’t just exist  between  them, but  within  them as well.   After all, you can’t be at peace with others if you are at war with yourself.   Before the Fall, man and woman felt right (i.e., experienced a high degree of integration)  within  themselves, as well as  between  each other and God.  That “Original Unity” is what our emotions are pointing to; what they want us to get back to.    The thief has entered the building, and the alarms will not cease until we have expelled him from the premises (Matt 24:43).  Our emotions remind us of the need to strive for the Original Unity in which we were created to live.   Emotions are not the enemy.   In fact, they can serve us well as long as we don’t try to shut them down by rashly cutting people out of our lives, or by drinking, drugging, indulging our passions, or taking foolish risks in a desperate, reactionary  attempt to plug our ears to the warning bells and blindfold ourselves so we can’t see the flashing red lights.

What Can I DO?

So the next time your emotions get the better of you, don’t beat yourself up for being weak.   Thank God that your emotions are doing exactly what he created them to do.   And instead of asking, “Why do I feel this way?”  Ask, “Where is the most acute imbalance in or between my body, mind or relationships  right now  and what can I do to begin addressing it?”  Correct the disintegration in or between your body, mind, and relationships and your feelings will follow suit.

Having difficulty processing your emotions? Call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the solutions to the issues you’re struggling with.

Catholic Bishops & Corporal Punishment

By: Gregory Popcak


Is it possible to articulate a consistent, coherent Catholic position on the use or corporal punishment?   As a family therapist and Catholic parenting author it’s a question I spend a lot of time prayerfully considering.   Many good parents on both sides of the debate have very strong feelings on the subject and it can be confusing for parents to have to sort out the pros and cons on this issue.    My own thoughts on the subject have been widely circulated. (See an article I wrote on this subject here.)  In light of this, I was honored to  discover that my work on the subject was recently (this past June)  cited in the  South African Bishops’ Conference—Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (SABC-CPLO)  report to South African Parliament on  The Use of Corporal Discipline in the Home.

The report articulates the Catholic position on recent controversial legislation in South Africa protecting the “physical integrity” of children and prohibiting the use of corporal punishment. It  clarifies the difference between the Catholic view of child discipline in contrast with  many of Protestant sects that are protesting  the Children’s’ Amendment Bill.    The SABC-CPLO articulates a position that promotes positive discipline in lieu of corporal punishment.   Specifically, the document is notable for its assertion that,  “There is nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which supports the right of parents to use corporal punishment.”  I applaud the SABC’s efforts to promote the Catholic view of the dignity of the  child and children’s rights to be treated as persons.   As Pope John Paul II wrote in his  Letter to Children,  “children suffer many forms of violence from grown‐ups….How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown‐ups.”


I realize that  spanking is a controversial issue, but the South African Bishop’s document makes for excellent reading for any Catholic parent who has an interest in the corporal punishment debate.  I don’t wish to overstate things. It is true that, at this writing, corporal punishment remains a matter of prudential judgment for Catholics, but as the Church continues to reflect on this issue, she appears to be moving consistently—and internationally—toward opposing it.      For instance, last year, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans was on the receiving end of a great deal of parental anger when he spoke publicly and forcefully against the use of corporal punishment.  At that time, he said,  I do not believe the teachings of the Catholic Church as we interpret them in 2011 condone corporal punishment. It’s hard for me to imagine in any way, shape or form, Jesus using a paddle.”  Read the article here.  

All of this, of course,  is completely consistent with the writings of Catholic educators such as St John Bosco who, all the way back in the mid 1800′s, wrote,  To strike a child in any way…and other similar punishments must be absolutely avoided.”  At any rate, it was an honor to have my work cited by the South African Bishops’ Conference in their efforts to promote the Catholic vision of family life.    I hope you’ll  take some time to reflect on the document and allow it to speak to your heart about your  parenting choices.      If you’d like to  learn more about effective,  Catholic approaches to  child rearing and positive discipline,  check out  Parenting with Grace: A Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.  

Adoption Story

By: Gregory Popcak

adoptive baby


A few years ago, my wife and I discerned that God was calling us to adopt a child. We traveled to China to meet our daughter in the Spring of ’07.  We didn’t know what she looked like.   We didn’t know her name.   In fact, it was a bit of a presumption to think that she would even be a girl.   Although most children adopted out of China are girls, every once in a while, prospective parents are surprised to learn that both God and the People’s Republic of China had a different idea.   And though we knew little about our new child, there are a few things we do know.   Whoever she is, she is the child God has willed for us, she is ours, and she is loved.  After the birth of our second child, my wife began to suffer from a number of health problems that have made it dangerous to add to our family naturally. Despite having always wanted a larger family, when we would pray about another child, we would always hear in our hearts, “Yes, but not yet.”

In previous articles, I have written that when a couple encounters an obstacle to adding another member to the family, they should not treat it as a reason to assume they will never again conceive.   Rather, they should treat it as an obstacle to be surmounted with God’s grace, on the road to discerning the next step in God’s plan for your family.   Health concerns, financial problems, primary or secondary infertility, marital problems, obligations to the children that we already have, and many other factors may necessitate that a couple not conceive another child, even for the rest of their lives.   But often these obstacles simply mean that God wants us to grow in particular ways by responding gracefully, effectively, and totally, to the challenges right in front of us, because by doing so, we will be ready for the new life he may yet have in store for us.

St. Josemaria Escriva once wrote;

“God in His providence, has two ways of blessing marriages: one by  giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them  so much, by not giving them children.   I don’t know which is the better  blessing.   In any event, let one accept his own.   To those couples who don’t have children, I want to tell you to love each other very much, very much.   Human  love within marriage is most pleasing to God.   Love one another with all  your soul, according to the natural law and God’s law.”

I’m not sure I would have understood those words when I was first married
almost 20 years ago, but I think I do now.   And after many years of having lived with both the blessing of having children and the blessing of not being able to have children, God introduced us to a new blessing; that of welcoming a little stranger who needed us almost as much as we needed her.

I would just like to offer this bit of counsel to couples who are struggling either with the question of having another child, or with the question of whether God will give them children at all.   First, know that you are blessed.   God’s blessing does not come from having children or from not having children.   The blessing comes from learning to love God and each other with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.   There is no blessing solely in tallying up a great number of offspring if they do not know in their bones that they are loved, if they are being raised in a home with a mom and dad who do not love each other, and if whatever children you may have are not learning to love and be loved by God with all their being.   Sirach 16:1-3 says, “Desire not a brood of worthless children, nor rejoice in wicked offspring…. One child can be better than a thousand; rather die childless than have godless children.”  Scripture is clear.   There is no holiness or blessing to be found   in mere numbers.   Rather, the blessing is the love that is experienced on the road to becoming perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect whatever our state of life.  Whatever the present state of your discernment regarding children, your call to love is clear.   Go deeper and experience the blessing that comes from loving fully whatever the state of life God has you in.

My second bit of advice is simply an echo of something I’ve writing before here in this magazine.   Don’t ever think you’re done discerning.   Whether problems prevent you from taking advantage of your fertility, or there are problems with your fertility, or your fertility has run its course, if you prayerfully hear that God has a child in mind for you, trust that sense, and at the same time, be open to the many ways God may wish to create your family.   It may be that He wants to resolve whatever stands between you and conceiving a child naturally.   Or it may be that, in his wisdom, he has already given you a child that he has chosen to allow to live at a different address for a time.   Perhaps your little one is next door. Or maybe thousands of miles away.   If your heart ached with   love for a child, seek him.   Find her.     And know that “…the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late (Habakkuk 2:3).”

Is It Okay if We…? Negotiating Sexual Conflict

By: Gregory K. Popcak

   couple in bed

Disagreements about sex are among the most common problems afflicting married couples. Most couples will, at some point in their marriage, find themselves having differences about the frequency of their lovemaking, what positions are acceptable, or what kinds of affection are appropriate. The good news is that Catholics can rely on a few principles that can allow them to have a completely morally respectful yet fully passionate and joyful sexual relationship.

The One Rule

It would be good to begin by clarifying the boundaries that are set by Church teaching and objective moral principles.   The Church is actually very generous about what a couple may do in the bedroom.   In fact, there is really only One Rule about which married couples need to be mindful. Combining the various official Church teachings, the One Rule might be articulated this way: Every act of lovemaking must be respectful of the dignity of the couple, and must express both an intention for greater unity and an openness to life.  To put this concretely, this virtually means that a couple may do whatever they wish as long as  they both feel loved and respected and the marital act ends with the man climaxing inside the woman and in the absence of barrier or hormonal contraceptives (condoms, the pill, etc).   Everything else is left to the couple’s prudential judgment.

So, You Mean, We Can Do Whatever We Want?

Of course, saying that something is left to the “prudential judgment” of the couple is not quite the same thing as saying “anything goes.”     To that end, I would like to propose a few criteria that couples may use to help guide their prudential judgment.

Pleasure Principles: Negotiating Sexual Disputes

Assuming that the One Rule is honored, I would encourage a couple who is struggling with disagreements about their sexual relationship, to resist the temptation to root sexual discussions in their feelings–which may be influenced by many things that have nothing to do either with love or what’s truly in the best interest of each other–and instead consider the following Four Pleasure Principles.

1. There should be continuity between your daily relationship and your sexual relationship.

Too many people think of sex as a pleasurable activity.   But Christians view sex as the way one whole and holy person expresses him or herself fully to another whole and holy person.   The origins of frustrating or unsatisfying sexual relations often have little to do with sex.   If a couple wants to have a more intimate, communicative, joyful, playful, satisfying sexual relationship, they need to begin–not by arguing about sex–but by finding new ways to have a more intimate, communicative, joyful, playful, satisfying marriage.  The sexual relationship is a microcosm of the couple’s entire marriage (a scale model of the real thing).   When one partner wants to introduce something into the sexual relationship that would be objectively moral but the other partner still finds it objectionable on an emotional level, it often means that new idea seems to require more vulnerability, playfulness, or trust than seems to make sense in the current context of the entire marriage.   Couples would do well to address these disagreements, not by arguing directly about the new addition to their sexual repertoire, but–assuming the suggestion does not violate the One Rule–by discussing how they would need to strengthen their day-to-day relationship to make this new addition seem more consistent with the vulnerability, trust, intimacy, partnership, and joy they experience out of the bedroom.

2. While you should never be afraid to explore all the permitted pleasures, you should never be tempted to see each other merely as givers and receivers of pleasure. You must always respect the dignity of each other as persons.

Your spouse is a human being, and although your mate is capable of offering you much comfort and pleasure, your mate is not, nor is he or she ever intended to be, your toy.   Any time you are tempted to think of each other merely as givers or receivers of pleasure you are diminishing your mate’s humanity and the dignity of your marital relationship.   There are two common ways mates treat each other as givers and receivers of pleasure rather than as persons.  The first is when a spouse sees sex as payment for services rendered, for instance, when a husband is a little extra helpful around the house and expects, that night, to be “paid” with sex, pouting   or becoming incensed if this doesn’t happen.   The second is when a spouse tries to pressure his or her mate into some new sexual position or activity, making the entire relationship about that thing, rather than about love.   There are ways to introduce new ideas into the sexual relationship, but emotionally blackmailing one’s spouse is not among those ways.  Your mate is a person who deserves your love and service.   Sex is a celebration of the partnership.   It is neither a right, nor a payment for services rendered.

3. Any sexual positions, items, articles of clothing, manners of speech, or playful actions used to help you achieve the fullness of sexual pleasure should be used in a manner that helps you and your beloved draw closer to each other, not to the thing.   Things should never become the primary point of the sexual relationship. Rather, they should be seen as the means you employ to experience the fullness of each other’s love.

Many couples are suspicious of pleasure, but they shouldn’t be.   There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “God will hold you accountable for all the permitted pleasures you fail to enjoy.”   The Catholic Church has taken this motto to heart.   Catholicism is a very sensual faith, known for it’s smells and bells and celebrations.   As Catholic poet Hillaire Belloc once wrote, “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there is laughter and music and good red wine!”  In that same vein, while respecting the One Rule, Catholic married couples should feel free to celebrate all the permitted pleasures in their sexual relationship.   That said, sex is not about staging an event, it is about celebrating love and honoring your spouse.   While different positions, lingerie, passionate language, etc. can be things a couple uses to draw closer to each other, these things should never be the focus of the sexual relationship.   I often encounter spouses who feel like lovemaking “doesn’t count” unless it includes certain activities, positions, or accoutrements.   This is entirely the wrong view. “Working on your sexual relationship” does not mean staging a more exciting event. It means creating a more passionate, loving, joyful, intimate, communicative marriage in which all the permitted pleasures can be freely enjoyed.

4. While a lover’s comfort zones should not be the final arbiter in sexual disputes, feelings related to comfort zones must be respected.   A lover’s discomfort is reason enough to delay participating in some sensual activity, even if it is not enough to rule out future participation in that activity entirely. The couple should continue to evaluate all permitted pleasures in the light of the relationship and in a spirit of prayer.

This rule has two sides to it.   First, couples should try to not set limits on their  sexual relationship that the Church does not set.   Too often a spouse will object to some suggestion from their mate, not on objective moral principles–which is their right–but based solely on their comfort or preferences, which could actually be an offense against the generosity required by healthy, happy marriages.  That said, a mate’s comfort level should be respected.   Even though an individual spouse’s comfort zone shouldn’t be the final deciding factor of whether the couple ever enjoys certain pleasures together, the couple should take a mate’s discomfort about a sexual suggestion seriously. Assuming that the request is not objectively offensive, the couple should ask,” what are the qualities they need to develop in their marriage that would help them integrate this new suggestion more comfortably?”   For instance, does a new position   require more vulnerability or trust than the couple currently has in each other?   What would they need to do to increase that trust an vulnerability in the marriage overall?   Does the suggestion require the couple to be more playful than they usually are with each other?   What does the couple need to do to increase their experience of joy in the marriage overall?

On the one hand, couples shouldn’t treat an individual spouse’s comfort level as the final say whether a couple can enjoy a particular permitted pleasure.   On the other hand, couples should treat that discomfort as a sign that there is work to be done on the marriage before a particular suggestion made in the bedroom would make sense in the context of the marriage.  The One Rule, combined with these Four Principles, can help couples find objective criteria to assist them in overcoming the obstacles they face while pursuing the joyful and intimate sexual relationship God and his Church desire for them.   Couples who are struggling to apply these principles are encouraged to seek faithful counseling to help them achieve the fullness of their marital intimacy.

For more information on how you and your spouse can come to enjoy all the pleasures God intends for you in your marriage, pick up  Holy Sex!  A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.  

Talking to Your Teens About Abstinence?

By: Gregory Popcak


It’s easy for parents to despair of teaching their kids abstinence.   According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 70% of teens will have had vaginal intercourse by the time they are 19 and the average age of teens’ first sexual encounter is 17.  There is some good news for Christian parents, at least.   According to the same study, among sexually inexperienced teens, the most common reason given for avoiding sexual activity before marriage is that it is “against my religion/morals”   with 42% of females and 35% of males indicating that their faith plays a significant role in their decision to remain virgins.   Of course, that’s not great news for parents of the 58% of religious girls and 65% of religious boys who’s faith does not appear to impact their moral decision making–at least as far as romantic relationships go–but one takes the good news one can get.  This last factoid leads to an interesting question, though.   Namely, what is the difference between those young people-of-faith who’s religion does impact their decision to remain virgins and those who’s faith does not appear to influence their decision to engage in premarital sex? I believe I have uncovered some of those differences in my book, Beyond the Birds and the Bees, in which I take a developmental approach to passing on the Christian vision of love and relationships to children from early childhood to young adulthood.   Let’s review some of the basics.

Abstinence vs. Chastity

In my experience, one of the most important differences between religious kids who do and kids who don’t engage in premarital sex is that kids who remain virgins tend to be raised in households that emphasize chastity over mere abstinence.   What’s the difference?  Abstinence basically says, “I don’t care WHAT you do, just keep your pants on.”   From a public health perspective, abstinence is a good message, but from a perspective Christian formation, it is seriously lacking as a means of forming a healthy moral character.   By focusing so heavily on the negative (“Just, don’t do it”) young people can often suffer in two ways.   First, despite any other positive messages one might hear about sex, it’s hard to believe that sex is good or beautiful when one is being told over and over that it can destroy your world if you have it.   This can lead to a fair number of problems in the bedroom when the young person marries and starts to wonder, “But WHY is it ok now that I said ‘I do.’”  Second, simply telling a young person not to have sex doesn’t help them understand what to do instead to avoid near occasions of sin (those situations where temptation is so present that sin becomes almost unavoidable) or even situations that have unexpectedly gotten out of hand.   Just saying “no” doeesn’t give the young person the skills they need to create a healthy, godly relationship from the ground up.   It just says, “Do what you want, just be aware that beyond this point there be dragons!”

Chastity on the other hand takes a more holistic view of sexuality.   As opposed to abstinence, chastity is a positive virtue that enables us to love the right person, at the right time, and in the right way.  Chastity reminds us that loving someone means “working for their good.”   To be chaste, then, means two things; first, that I have learned how to determine what it means to work toward the best interests (and what it means to work against the best interests) of each particular person and second, that I have the skills necessary to do that. Chastity encourages self-donation (the giving of ourselves in service to others) but it also offers prudent advice on what it means to love someone, and to love them rightly.   As far as chastity is concerned, encouraging self-control is less an attempt to keep a criminal (i.e., our sexuality) in jail until its parole date (i.e., marriage) as it is an attempt to teach an artist (i.e, a person created to love and be loved) how to wield the brush to create something beautiful (marriage) without spilling paint all over the place and making a mess of the canvass.  It is this emphasis on the development of virtue as opposed to the mere control of vice that makes chastity a real motivator.   As one remarkable young man who had decided to remain chaste put it, “I’ve had several chances to sleep with girls and I’ve even been pretty seriously tempted sometimes, but   I could never go through with it because I couldn’t bring myself to use her like that or make her feel used–even if it seemed like she wanted to be used.”

Love vs. Use

The young man’s comment leads to a second important lesson faithful kids need to learn if they are going to remain chaste.   Namely, that the opposite of love is not hate.   It is “use.”   If love means “I’m committed to working for your good as a person”  then the opposite of that would have to be, “I’m committed to using you like a thing to meet my desires.”  It’s important for parents to teach their children this definition of love early on and to point out ways that we are tempted to “thing-ify” the people in our family.   Hitting a brother because you want his toy is turning him in to a thing.   Pressuring someone to do something for you that you are capable of doing for yourself is turning another person into a thing.   Lying to someone or using them to get something you want is turning them into a thing.   In other words, anytime we act in a way that makes someone less of a person we “thingify” them–and that isn’t loving. The reason that it is so important to teach and live out this definition of love in the family is that it forms your children’s heart to know what love really requires.   The child who has been raised in an environment that encourages chastity and real love knows on a gut level that it is never ok to treat someone in any way that makes them less of a person.   Especially with regard to romantic relationships, that child will grow up to be a young adult who knows how to love the right person, in the right way, at the right time.

Marriage With A Special Needs Child

By: PaxCare Staff

mother & special needs child

“We were like a lot of couples.” Carolyn remarked about her marriage to Tom. “It used to be hard to find time for each other what with work and the boys, but when our Jimmy was diagnosed with profound autism, it was like a bomb went off.   Tom just withdrew into work and all my time was taken up taking Jimmy from one doctor to another and trying to keep my other kids’ lives as normal as possible.   All of a sudden, the little bit of time Tom and I had was totally gone.   Between that and how resentful I feel toward him for leaving everything to me, the tension is terrible.   I don’t know where to begin.”  Carolyn and Tom are like a lot of families with children who have special needs. According to some research, the divorce rate for couples with special needs kids hovers around 80%.   More hopefully, however, other studies indicate that 18% of these couples in this situation say their children have brought them closer together.   What’s the difference between the couples who rise to the challenge and those who don’t?   Here are some tips.

You’re in it together

Under any circumstances, a couple needs to be a team, but this is rarely as true as when a couple  is confronted by the challenges that can come with raising a special needs child.   But the challenges can become a blessing if the couple responds to each challenge together.  The research is consistent that the marital problems couples may experience in this situation are not so much caused by the time and effort it takes to attend to the child’s needs, but rather from the tendency for couples to retreat into themselves and stop communicating with one another.  Make time to pray together and communicate about schedules, feelings, and needs.   Be sure to find simple ways to take care of each other.   Little actions like saying, “I love you”, calling from work to check-in, and thoughtful gestures that communicate your appreciation for each other are critical to keep up morale and marital rapport. It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort, just thoughtfulness.   Making a Lovelist, in which you and your mate identify simple ways to attend to each other (see For Better…FOREVER!   A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage for more details) can give you simple ideas for the days you are so busy you can’t even think.

Deal honestly with your frustrations

Sometimes parents struggle because their feelings of intense love for their children become intensely complicated with frustration, exhaustion, irritation, resentment  over the care that is required of them as well as guilt for feeling anything negative about their child, for whom they would happily give their lives even on their worst day.   These negative feelings usually pass soon enough, but couples can help each other manage these emotions by being willing to express them to each other, tolerate them from each other, and nurture each other through those difficult reactions and help each other get back online.   It can be frightening to confess these negative feelings to each other, and it can be tempting to want to shut down your mate when they are expressing their frustrations (even when you feel similarly).   But couples who find the courage to confess, and listen, are the couples who rise to the challenges they are facing because of each other’s support and love.

Take time for each other

Every couple needs time alone, but it is critical for the parents of a special needs child who need  time to process their stress and reconnect. Getting this time can be difficult because finding competent childcare can be a challenge, especially if the child’s disability is serious.   But even when date nights out are impossible, it is essential that a couple at least carve out some time at home where they can be alone to play, pray, talk, and be intimate with each other.   Studies consistently show that people who deal with stress by reaching out, instead of pulling in, can learn to thrive despite–or even because of–their challenging circumstances.   Cling to each other in good times and bad.

Get Assistance and Support

Make a list of the support and resources you feel that you need to help your child achieve his or her  potential and to help your marriage and family function at its absolute best.   Even if you think it is impossible to meet some of these needs, write them down.   Then, don’t be shy about telling everyone you know about these needs–regularly.   As Christians, especially, we are privileged to be part of a community that is obliged to respond to one another in generosity and love.   Don’t feel that you are burdening others with your requests for babysitting, housekeeping help, respite or support.   Renounce the pride that tells you that you shouldn’t trouble other people with your problems or needs.   Give others the gift of allowing them to be a gift to you.

Seek Help Quickly

Finally, when you are travelling down the road of raising a special needs child, you can’t afford a  breakdown.   Seek assistance at the first sign that you are experience a spiritual, emotional, or relational problem that you aren’t sure how to get through on your own.   Most disabilities have national organizations dedicated to researching treatments and supporting families.   Contact them early, and become involved in your local chapter and any support groups, social outlets or advocacy opportunities they offer.   Additionally,   make sure that you are getting regular spiritual direction, and even if your family is doing well, strike up a relationship with a counselor you can trust so that if you need an answer to  a quick parenting question or require a marital adjustment, you don’t have to spend weeks looking for competent help.   Prior planning helps assure that help will be available right when you need it. Call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and let us help you find the solutions to the difficult problems you are facing. Call and get the skills you need to succeed in your marriage and family.

First Year Marriage Survival Guide

By: Dr. Gregory K. Popcak

 newly married couple

You said, “I do.”   Now comes the Happily Ever After part.   Right?  Well, not to rain on the reception or anything, but you and Prince Charming there might want to read this before you ride off into the sunset in your enchanted carriage.     Don’t get upset.   This is not one of those, “You said, ‘I do’ and now you’re doomed”   articles.   I promise.   I am a firm believer that fantastic, yes fantastic, marriages are absolutely within in the grasp of almost every couple.   BUT (and you knew that was coming, right?) there are a few things you might want to start doing to make sure that you not only make it past your first year, but all the way to Happily Ever After.   And for all of you “We’ve been married FOREVER so this doesn’t apply to us” couples, you might want to just check that conspiratorial smile because you might just learn something too.  The truth is, what helps couples survive the first few years of marriage are the same things that help couples survive the next fifty years as well.   The problem is that most couples have to figure out what I’m going to share with you on their own.   Now, you won’t have to.   (You’re welcome.)   Although we can’t cover all the rules for a  Happily Ever After marriage, we can at least hit some of the most important points.   Ready?

1) You MUST Learn to Pray Together.   Now.

First things first.   You are in a Christian marriage.   That’s supposed to be a marriage founded on Christ.   But you can’t have a Christian marriage without couple prayer.   Period.   If you pray on your own, that’s great.   That’s essential for your personal Christian walk.   But if you aren’t praying WITH your partner, then you are not learning God’s plan for your marriage.  It often happens that I talk to a couple who are praying on their own but not together.   The husband will say, “I really believe that God wants THIS for our marriage.”   The wife will then say that when she prays, she feels God wants the opposite for their marriage.   Who’s right?   More often than not, they both are.   See, God’s sneaky.   He wants the couple to talk and pray together, so sometimes, he will give one piece of the picture to the husband and a completely different piece of the picture to the wife.   Then he expects that they will talk and pray together so that he can teach them how to fit the two pieces together to make a completely new picture.   Problems enter when husbands and wives don’t pray together and think that their piece is the whole picture.   It rarely ever is.   The whole point of Christian marriage is having someone who can be a helpmate in sorting our God’s plan for your lives together.   Even if you feel awkward at first, save yourself years of confusion and grief by learning to pray together now so that you can discover early in your relationship how to discern God’s plan for your lives together.

2) Arguing is Normal and Healthy (but how you do it makes all the difference)

Here is a fact that may surprise you.   Thirty years of research by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington has found that happy couples and unhappy couples argue about the same amount. Furthermore, Dr. Gottman discovered, and many other studies have confirmed, that for both happy and unhappy couples, almost 70% of disagreements between husbands and wives never get resolved.  That means that not only do happy and unhappy couples argue the same amount, but also both happy and unhappy couples have about an equal success rate at solving their problems.   So what does separate the two groups?  The bottom line is respect.   Happy couples manage conflict and disagreement better than unhappy couples.   They treat each other with respect even in disagreements.   They work hard to take care of each other even when they are angry at each other.   They tend not to criticize or blame their partner as much when problems come up. And finally, they tend to not pout, stonewall (i.e, shut down and refuse to talk), or behave contemptuously (by tantrumming or by lecturing) as much as their unhappy counterparts when conflicts occur.   In short, having a conflict is natural.   Being unable to resolve many of those conflicts is even natural.   But approaching conflict in a way that makes either of you feel demeaned, ignored, or humiliated is most certainly not natural and is always an early warning sign.   In fact, the presence of the negative traits I described above predict, with 95% accuracy, which couples will be together and which will be divorced within five years.   If you or your partner are engaging in these sorts of behaviors, change now, or get the help you need to make the changes.

3) Establish Rituals to Distinguish You as a Couple.

In the early years of marriage.   Couples tend to take their time together for granted. They just have each other so they tend assume they will always have time for their marriage.   Not so. This is the time to establish those rituals like a scheduled time to discuss your relationship, couple prayer-time, regular meals together, one day a week that will be your “family day” (the day you go out just with each other and later with your kids too),   and regular date times.   You will also need to establish your own traditions around the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.   Don’t wait until your marriage has been squeezed out of the picture by life, kids, work, friends, and extended family. Establish the rituals that protect the integrity of your marriage now when you don’t have as many pressures to attend to.

4) Commit to ongoing Relationship Formation.

In any pursuit you need ongoing training and support to be good at it and stay good at it.   Make a regular commitment to read good, faithful books on marriage and family life, to attend talks and conferences.   Make a Marriage Encounter weekend.   Lead a  Marriage Made for Heaven Marriage enrichment group for your parish or your friends.   Join Teams of Our Lady.   Whatever you do, the point is you can’t have a great, faithful marriage without the ongoing support of other great, faithful couples and resources.   Make that commitment to growth now in the early years and you will watch your relationship become stronger with time.  The challenges that couples face in the early years are the same challenges every couple faces at every stage of the marital life cycle.   As the old saying goes, it is proper planning that prevents poor performance.   Take the time you have now to establish those patterns and habits that will help you create the kind of marriage that make everyone else you know want to learn your secret.

Healing The Broken Covenant: Recovering from Infidelity

By: Gregory Popcak

disputing couple

Infidelity is a fairly common problem.   Various studies show that infidelity affects between 20%-25% of all marriages.   Although presumably less frequent with couples who practice Natural Family Planning, affairs still happen. It can feel like a double failure when one has double burden of putting the pieces back together and the burden of wondering, “Why didn’t what was ‘supposed to happen’ happen for us?”  

What Causes It?

Whether an affair is purely emotional or becomes sexual, it can have a devastating effect on a marriage. Most people think that marital dissatisfaction causes affairs, but not all struggling couples experience infidelity.   Other variables must come into play.   A recent study found that when a spouse is both unhappy in a marriage and exhibits either low self-esteem and/or a tendency to be easily given to feelings of anger and despair, that spouse is at significantly higher risk for having an affair.   Pregnancy also adds to the risk.

Relationship as Self-Medication

The cheating spouse, generally speaking, is someone who is not very good at (a) making needs known in relationship, (b) following-through on advocating for those needs even if they do manage to articulate them, and (c) usually avoids interpersonal conflict.  Such a spouse may say to his or her mate, “I would really like X.”   But if the mate doesn’t immediately jump up and down and say, “Oh, yes!   That sounds like a wonderful idea!” the spouse who made the request will usually give up and assume that the mate doesn’t care to meet his or her needs.  Multiply this interaction by thousands of times over the course of several years, and the spouse who consistently gives up much and too easily begins getting depressed because he or she feels powerless to get any of his or her needs met in the marital relationship.   Over time, the depression and frustration builds and the spouse, who blames his or her mate for being “insensitive” feels almost driven to seek someone else who can make him or her feel better.   The affair, then,   is primarily an attempt to self-medicate for an underlying depression.


When infidelity is discovered, the couple often thinks that simply calling off the extramarital relationship, being generally nicer to each other, and going out on more regular dates will solve all their problems.   But if this is all the couple does to address their issues, the couple runs an extraordinarily high of dooming the marriage either to another affair down the line, or divorce, as the wounded mate’s unresolved and squelched pain festers.  Couples can resolve the problems related to infidelity and go on to have an outstanding relationship.   According to research, upwards of 20% of couples who presently report high levels of marital happiness have at one time in their past weathered infidelity, but it takes real work.   Assuming the extramarital relationship is over, successfully recovering from an affair involves the following steps that usually require the support of a competent therapist to negotiate effectively.

1. Confession

I do, of course, mean the Sacrament of Confession, but I also mean confession to the  wounded spouse. The wounded spouse has a right to all the information about the affair that he or she wishes to have. The wounded spouse should never be put in the position of pulling information out of the cheater. The offending spouse must willingly offer all the details and information the wounded spouse wishes to hear. While forgiveness is absolutely essential to recovery, the wounded spouse cannot forgive what he or she does not know.   Full confession is not only good for the soul, it is essential for reconciliation of the marriage.

2. Rebuilding the Marriage

In this step, the couple must work to create a marriage that is far better than they
have ever experienced before. They will need to spend more time on the marriage than they are used to.   They will need to spend time each evening reviewing what they have done to attend to each other’s spiritual and emotional needs.   They will need to be honest with each other about their needs and learn ways to keep arguments productive.  Returning to the way things were before is not an option because the wounded spouse believed everything was fine then.   If things just go back to the way things were, the wounded spouse will always wonder if what he or she missed the first time is still happening.   In order to overcome the suspicion, the marriage cannot be just like it was.   It must become better than it has ever been.

3. The Offending Spouse Must Address His or Her Personal Problems

This is the hardest step.   The offending spouse, being conflict-avoidant and fearing  vulnerability, just wants to have a superficially happy relationship and leave his or hatred of conflict and difficulties being emotionally vulnerable out of it.   But remember, these are the problems that actually caused the affair in the first place.   If the couple only had marital problems but not these other issues in the offending spouse’s personality, then the couple would simply have worked out their problems directly.   But because the offending spouse didn’t know how to address disappointment and frustrations directly–and still doesn’t–the couple remains at high risk for repeating the cycle in the future, regardless of what the offending spouse might say today.

4. Overcome Irrational Fears, Doubts and Guilt that Remain.

Even after the marriage is better than ever and the offending spouse is more open and  competent at conflict management and vulnerable than ever, lingering doubts may still remain in the wounded spouse and persistent feelings of unworthiness and guilt may afflict the offending spouse.   The couple may need the benefit of cognitive therapy strategies to help them learn how to evaluate and resolve these irrational and undesirable emotional roadblocks to full recovery.

Healing Is Possible

As I mentioned at the outset, making a full recovery from infidelity is certainly possible, but it is never a do-it-yourself project.   Infidelity is marital cancer that requires competent, multi-stage, multi-modal treatment by a marriage-friendly therapist.   Additionally, organizations such as Retrouvaille can offer peer support as an adjunct (though NEVER a replacement) to competent marital counseling.  Regardless of where you turn for help, know that there is healing for your injured heart and troubled marriage.   Faithfully work at the recovery tasks in front of you, and trust that the Lord will guide you to the peace and wholeness that is your right to expect from your marriage.

If your marriage has been wounded by infidelity, don’t wait, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and let us provide the support you need in your struggles. Call us to get the skills you need to succeed in your marriage.

Surviving Perimenopause: A Guide for Couples.

Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D.


older couple on beach

“We’re cracking up.”

“For me,” remarks Eileen, “I get upset when he’s (her husband) upset.   It isn’t as if I’m loving this.   It just adds to the stress of it all if I feel like I’m letting him down.   Plus, I’m frustrated too.   Sometimes I don’t feel like he gets that I miss our sex life too.   I just can’t wait for the whole thing (menopause) to be over with.”

Perimenopause is the time, prior to halting ovulation altogether, that a woman’s cycle can become erratic due to the occurrence of   hormonal imbalances and fluctuations.   In a sense, perimenopause is the flip side of adolescence in that it occasions the ceasing of ovulatory function and it can begin anywhere from a woman’s   mid-30’s into her 50’s.   Because of the erratic cycles and confusing fertility signs that can accompany perimenopause, this can be a particularly challenging time for couples.   The good news is that there are a few things couples can do to make this time much less frustrating and far more loving.

1.   Get Some Training

Fortunately, the Couple to Couple League (CCL) offers a new pre-menopause class that can help couples make sense of the challenging experiences a couple can go through during perimenopause.   Gone are the days when couples might experience months or even years of abstinence during this transitional phase of life.   The art and science of NFP has evolved to the point that the symptoms of perimenopause can be decoded and understood so that couples don’t have to experience the burden of extended abstinence.   For more information, couples should contact the  Couple to Couple League  to learn how they can continue to cultivate the love their marriage deserves even during this difficult time.

2.   Pray Together.

I regularly recommend that couples pray together, but perimenopause is a time when couples can really benefit from an extra infusion of grace.   Coming before the Lord together to express their mutual pain frustration or irritation with their bodies, their sexuality and their relationship can be a powerful exercise in joining together through a challenging time.   When a couple can be honest in front of God and each other about the struggles that each are facing, they often can develop a remarkable degree of empathy and compassion for each other and those are two qualities couples can never have enough of.

3. Be in it Together

Perhaps the biggest challenge–second only to the physiological challenges of perimenopause–is the tendency for couples to turn on each other. The husband can allow his frustration to turn into resentment and anger at his wife.   The wife can allow her frustration (with her body and her sexuality as well as with her husband’s apparent lack of sympathy) to turn into resentment and anger at her husband.  There is a saying among marriage counselors.   “Your partner is not the problem.   The problem is the problem.”     In this case, that means couples must resist the temptation to think of perimenopause as something YOU (spouse) are doing to ME.   Instead couples need to think of perimenopause as a disorder that has symptoms that affect the entire marital body–husband and wife.   The wife may experience one set of symptoms (physical, emotional, relational) and the husband may experience some of the same (emotional/relational) symptoms as his wife plus a few others of his own.   Regardless, they are all symptoms of the same problem that they husband and wife must fight against together.

One important way a husband and wife can be there for each other through this time is by agreeing not to take each other’s feeling personally.   Both husband and wife should feel free to talk about their individual frustration, anger, resentment, or irritation without fear that their spouse will take it personally because there is a mutual understanding that the couple is not frustrated, angry, resentful, or irritated with each other.   Rather, they are frustrated, angry, resentful, or irritated at perimenopause and what it is putting them through. The more couples given into the temptation to make this experience personal, the more painful the experience will be.     But when a husband and wife find that they can confess the feelings they aren’t proud of to each other and get a sympathetic ear instead of condemnation, they can transform a challenging time in their marriage into the fire that refines their love for one another.

4.   Husbands Be There for Your Wives

As much as it is important to be there for each other, the fact is that it is the woman who is dealing with the worst of it.   After all, she is the one experiencing the physical symptoms of perimenopause.   A husband needs to cultivate the mindset that allows him to be a support to his wife who may be experiencing mood swings, sleep problems, and   temperature fluctuations, to name but a few of the most common symptoms.   “What can I do for you, Honey?” Should be asked sincerely and often.   Better yet, make a list of the things you know your wife appreciates and start doing them without her having to ask.   You don’t have to tiptoe around the house like you’re living with a timebomb (she won’t appreciate it) but the more attentive you can be to your wife’s needs, the more she will see you as an ally through this challenging time instead of treating you like an enemy.

5.   Inventory Your Relationship

This is also a great time to take stock of your marriage.   Perimenopause often occurs around the same time that a couple is launching their oldest children.   Couples should take some time for each other.   Make a marriage retreat.   Read good books on marriage improvement together.   Get some counseling–not because there is necessarily a problem, but to prevent problems from emerging and catching you off guard.   By taking time to double-down on your investment in your marriage, you   are sending a powerful message to each other that you are committed to building a marriage, rooted in Christ, sustained by grace, and confirmed though your own hard work that not even the gates of…well, menopause can stand against.

If you and your spouse are struggling with the challenges set forth by perimenopause, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today to get the solutions to the problems you are experiencing. Call us and get the skills you need to succeed!

When Is My Teen Ready to Date?

By: Gregory Popcak


asain couple dating

“Dad, when will I be old enough to date?”

“Not ‘til you’re 40.”

It’s a common enough sit-com exchange, if only it were that easy.   Kids want real answers to their questions about their readiness for dating relationships and parents often feel at a loss for how to guide them.   This is especially true if the parents’ own dating history was unhealthy or  unchaste.  Of course there is a wide variety of opinion among parents about when children can date, or even–for those parents who advocate courtship–whether children should date at all. But regardless of where individual parents’ opinion falls on this topic, there are a few things that parents should keep in mind for evaluating whether you are adequately preparing your young person to have healthy, chaste, adult relationships.

1.   What do they stand for?

In the document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, the Pontifical Council on the Family (the official group within the Church, instituted in the early 80’s, which desires to respond to the expectations of Christians everywhere regarding the family and all issues that pertain to it) reminds parents that sex and relationship education isn’t just about teaching mechanics, it’s primarily about conveying values and character.   Preparing teens for the world of healthy romantic relationships has to begin with helping teens own their own values and beliefs–the building blocks of identity.     Healthy relationships inspire a young person to be stronger in their values and beliefs, while unhealthy relationships cause a young person to feel awkward or ashamed of their values and beliefs.   The more the youth owns his or her values (as opposed to simply parroting what mom and dad say) has the best chance of evaluating what relationships are good for them and which are not.

There are two things that a parent can do to foster this sense in teens.   First, parents need to make sure that the teen is getting individual prayer time as well as participating actively in any family prayer.   It is impossible for a child to learn how to become a godly adult unless he or she is spending time alone with God allowing his or her heart to be instructed by God.   Secondly, it can be useful to help the teen develop his or her own mission statement that enumerates the core virtues and beliefs by which he or she wants to live.   Then, in helping the teen evaluate choices in general and relationship choices in particular, the parent can ask the teen, “How does that possible choice affect your desire to be a (responsible, faithful, loving, generous, etc) person?”   This gives the young person active training on how to use Christian virtue as a tool for discerning appropriate choices.   Research has shown that young people who have a strong personal prayerlife and a strong internalized value system are much more successful at remaining chaste and having healthy adult relationships.   For more tips on developing your teens spiritual life and sense of mission, my book, Parenting with Grace:   A Catholic Parent Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids is a helpful resource.

2.   Can they be friends?

Whether your child is 15 or 50, your teen is not ready to date if he or she does not know how to first be a friend to a member of the opposite sex.   While boys and girls are different, the idea that young men and women are entirely different species (say, Martians and Venusians) whose ability to get along extends only as far as their potential to make each other weak in the knees is simply false.   The more young men and women are given the opportunity to socialize with each other in platonic groups and form healthy friendships with the opposite sex–with the respectful supervision of faithful adults–the more they realize that their differences can be strengths for partnership, not obstacles to understanding.   If your son or daughter doesn’t know how to be a friend to the member of the opposite sex, he or she isn’t ready to date a member of the opposite sex.   Why?   Because dating is not supposed to be a testament to the fact that two people have the hots for each other.   It’s supposed to be a testament to the fact that a young man and woman have achieved a friendship that is truly unique.

3.   Are they well-rounded?

Beginning in late elementary school and certainly by middle school, your children should have identified certain interests and hobbies that give them joy and in which they are happy to invest regular time and energy. In high school, friendships should revolve primarily around those activities and interests as opposed to just hanging out.   Teens who do not have interests and activities to which they are committed are at significantly higher risk for seeking their identity in destructive, sexual relationships.   Teens who have interests and commitments and goals tend to have too much going for them to want to jeopardize it with foolish relationship choices.  Likewise, teens who have strong interests tend to have more experience balancing school, activities, and friendships which enables them to avoid the trap of getting so absorbed in a budding romance that they shut out everything else.   The more compelling a teen’s life is, the less they will be tempted to seek all their excitement in the arms of some crush.

4. Are they connected to you?

Even if you are doing all of the above, your teen will still need some one-on-one guidance.   Despite what they may tell you and what you might think, teens need you just  as much as they did when they were little.   Make sure you make one-on-one time to work, play, and build relationship with your teen.   Adolescents do terribly with serious “let’s talk” time, but questions, concerns, and reflections are more likely to be shared by a reluctant teen when mom and dad are willing to put in the time and do things with their son or daughter.   Your ability to guide your young adult is directly proportionate to the strength of your relationship with your child.   Build the rapport, and your influence will increase.

For more suggestions to help your child–regardless of his or her age–discover the Catholic vision of love, check out my book, Beyond the Birds and the Bees.   The teen years don’t have to cause you to quake if you have the tools to build a solid foundation for your kid’s future relationships.