Transmitting The Faith To Our School-Age Children

Teaching our kids how to pray and helping them develop a relationship with God can feel difficult, especially when we have children of different ages. However, helping our children develop in their faith doesn’t have to be a complicated task. 

Knowing how to foster your school-age child’s faith begins with realizing that kids need different spiritual food at different times.

Faith evolves in different stages through early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, and throughout adulthood.  School-age kids occupy what’s called the “Mythic-Literal” stage of faith, but we like to call it the “Stories and Rituals Stage”

Throughout middle-childhood, kids’ brains are focused on making sense of the world, figuring out what things mean, and how things work. Rituals and stories are the most important tools kids at this stage use to do that work.

Family rituals, (like regularly recurring times to pray, work, talk, and play together) and parish rituals, (like weekly mass, regular confession, and family involvement in parish activities) are critical for giving your kids a faith-based sense of structure, order, and belonging.  Rituals help kids experience the faith in their bones. Their muscle memory records the activities that create a lifelong sense of belonging to God and his Church.  

In addition to being ritual-hungry, school age kids turn to stories to make sense of the world. Instead of just letting them pick-up passive lessons from the stories they see on tv, movies and social media, make sure you spend time every day actively reading and discussing bible stories, stories of the lives of the saints and others stories that help kids encounter examples of the way our faith can help us make a real, positive difference in the relationships we have with our family, friends, and the world.

School age kids rely on rituals and meaningful stories to help them know who they are, where they come from, and what they are called to be. To feed your school-age kids’ souls, make sure you provide a steady diet of both.

To explore more ways to help your kids fall in love with the faith, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.

The Symposium on Catholic Family Life and Spirituality

The Symposium on Catholic Family Life and Spirituality which concluded this past Sunday at Notre Dame was really a tremendous experience. I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to those of you who were praying for the effort. As we have received many inquiries about the event, I thought I would share a few themes that emerged from the various presentations.

Research has shown that parents have much more influence over their children’s future faith than commonly thought, but this influence is more directly related to the quality of relationships in the home than it is to the education or religious practices a family engages in (Bengtson, Bartkus).

The experience of parental warmth–especially paternal warmth–in a religious household is the strongest predictor of parent’s ability to help children own their faith and values into adulthood (Bengtson, Bartkus, Narvaez).

“Articulacy” (i.e., the parent’s ability to present a coherent, personal story of why faith matters to his or her children) is a significant factor in familial faith transmission. This narrative doesn’t need to be theologically sophisticated, but it needs to be personal and meaningful (Bartkus).

Additionally, grandparents are a much more influential force in familial faith transmission than commonly thought (Bengtson, Narvaez). Generational influences of warmth and relationship is a strong indicator for the transmission of faith to younger generations. 

Finally, Christian Family life functions as a liturgy that is (arguably) composed of three “rites” that facilitate development in the priestly, prophetic, and royal missions of baptism (the Rite of Attachment, The Rite of Rituals of Connection, The Rite of Reaching Out, respectively).The degree to which these “rites” are present represents the degree to which a family can effectively function as a “spiritual womb” and “school of love and virtue.”

The entire Symposium was a truly anointed experience. We’ll be posting the videos of all the presentations to the symposium website (CFLSymposium.org) as soon as they are edited, and OSV will be publishing a book/discussion guide for those who are interested in continuing the conversation.

We were pleased to announce the partnership between the Pastoral Solutions Institute and Holy Cross Family Ministries to form the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life. The new institute will conduct original research on family spirituality, organize professional trainings and family retreats, and produce initiatives/resources intended to promote the renewal of domestic church life. We are already exploring a major event for family ministers in 2020 to (tentatively) be held at the Peyton Museum of Family Prayer in North Easton, MA.

Thank you for your continued prayers for this effort and stay tuned for more awesome insights from this historic event!

Teaching Kids How To Talk To God

We all want to teach our children to develop their own faith identity and relationship with God, but how do we do it?

For kids to own their faith, the most important thing is to help them experience Jesus Christ in a meaningful, personal way.

The best way to do that is to teach them to talk to God just as they would talk to the person who knows them best and loves them most—because he does. While FORMAL prayer helps give kids a sense of belonging to God’s family, the Church, CONVERSATIONAL prayer helps kids realize that God is interested in having a more personal relationship with them as well.

The best way to encourage your kids to experience God this way is to model conversational prayer for them.  Let them hear you thanking God for little blessings throughout the day, asking for his help, praying—out loud—about your big and small decisions, and inviting him to be a part of your everyday life.

Of course it’s important to teach them how to do the same thing. When they tell you about something good that happens in their day, tell them how proud or happy you are first, but then say, “Let’s thank Jesus for that together.”  Then help them find the words to thank God, out loud, for that blessing.

If your kids are struggling or hurting—physically or emotionally—by all means attend to their boo-boo’s, or encourage them with whatever support you can give first, but then say, “Let’s ask God for his help with this.”  Then help them talk to God about their struggles the exact same way they would talk to anyone else they needed help from.

Show them how to relate to God as if he was right there next to you, listening, just waiting to be invited to be part of the conversation and to help in any way he can–because of course, he is!

To explore more ways to help your kids fall in love with God and their faith, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.

How To Pray Together as A Family

When you’re praying as a family, is it better to use the formal prayers of the church–like the rosary, traditional Grace-at-Meals, or a chaplet—or more conversational prayer?

We say, “Why not both?”  It isn’t that one type of prayer is better than another type.  It’s that they serve different purposes in our spiritual lives.

In our family, we like to think of formal prayers as the, “family prayers of the Church.”  They connect us with the saints and angels and all the other members of our Church past and present! Praying the rosary with our kids, or the divine mercy chaplet, or an Our Father, or even traditional “grace-at-meals,” is like going to visit God alongside all our spiritual aunts and uncles and cousins. It’s like inviting the whole church to pray with us, so we’re never really alone.

But sometimes–just like it’s good to get more personal time with the people you love–it’s good to talk to God using words that are uniquely our own.  Conversational prayer allows us to talk to God about our day, to thank him for specific blessings, ask him for special help, and discern his unique and unrepeatable plan for your life.  

Helping our kids become fluent in both conversational and formal prayer allows them to experience their faith as something that is both personal TO them and bigger THAN them. 

To help your kids have a more meaningful experience with all the different kinds of prayer the church has to offer, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids

Does Our Parenting Style Influence Our Child’s Empathy?

Parenting styles can come in many different shapes and sizes, but does how much warmth we show towards our children influence their ability to develop empathy and a positive moral compass?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry evaluated the small differences in parenting practices among 227 identical twins. The researchers for this and subsequent studies included questions such as “I often lose my temper with my child” and “My child knows I love him/her” to determine the amount of harshness or warmth the parent directed towards the child. 

It is often argued that genes are the main determinate of such personality traits in children, however the results of this study showed that parents who demonstrated more warmth towards their child instill traits such as empathy and a moral compass, whereas children who experience harsher parenting are more likely to develop what is called “callous-unemotional” traits which include a lack of empathy, lack of guilt, a shallow affect, and antisocial behaviors. 

So how do we express this type of warmth to our child in order to develop these positive emotional traits?

Warmth can be expressed in both big and small ways such as giving your child a hug when you greet them or say goodbye, especially when you say good morning or goodnight. Setting aside time at the end of each day to reconnect and catch up from the day, sharing the positives and the negatives of every day—showing interest in every aspect of your child’s life, without nagging them or getting into an argument. Think about the times that you feel closest to your child, whether that is baking, taking a walk, reading, or watching your favorite show together, then implement these activities into your daily or weekly schedule.

Not only does sharing this warmth with our child develop positive emotional traits in them, they actually make us as parents feel better and more connected to our child as well!

If you have difficult parenting questions, call in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130—or schedule an appointment with our tele-counseling services by visiting us online at CatholicCounselors.com

Our Kids Might Know More Than We Think They Do

As parents, we often want to protect our children from negative encounters or situations that we experience in our adult lives. But is this the best approach? New research reveals that kids may know more about how we feel than we might think. 

A study conducted at Washington State University Vancouver evaluated mother’s and father’s interactions with their children after experiencing an anxiety inducing event (such as public speaking with negative feedback from the audience). The participants were separated into two groups, one group was told to suppress their emotions in front of their child while the second group was instructed to act naturally. 

After the negative event, the parent’s were given a task to complete with his or her child that required the parent and child to work together as a team. 

The researchers found that the parents who suppressed their emotions had less positive and less efficient encounters with their child than those who acted normally and shared their negative feelings with the child. 

One researcher stated, ““The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the…task. They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.”

Moreover, this study showed that when parents suppress emotions the children became more sensitive to the parents, particularly to their mothers. 

Researcher, Dr. Sara Waters, continued by saying, “Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions. If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.”

The results of this study show that it is more beneficial for parents to share their experiences with their children. Allowing children to see the full trajectory—from beginning to resolution—of a conflict teaches children how to regulate their own emotions and learn that problems can get resolved. Waters says, “It’s best to let the kids know you feel angry, and tell them what you’re going to do about it to make the situation better.”

This statement by Dr. Waters demonstrates the parenting technique of Modeling that we discuss in our book Parenting with Grace—The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids! 

For more parenting tips and information, check out Parenting with Grace and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130!

The Spirit of Giving…Can Make Me Happy Too?

The Christmas Season is over, but that doesn’t mean our spirit of giving should be. 

New research conducted at Northwestern University reveals that giving to others provides us with an ongoing source of happiness—no matter how frequently we do it. 

In these studies, individuals were given a small monetary allowance each day for about a week. One group of individuals was instructed to keep the daily allowance for themselves, while another group donated the money each day to a charity or cause of their choice. Each group kept a log of their overall happiness at the end of every day. 

Upon completing the experiment, the participants who gave to others reported greater overall happiness each day, while those who kept the money showed a decline in happiness each day over the course of the week. 

So what does this mean for us in our every day lives?

While the currently popular topic of self-care is very important, the results of these and similar research studies show that it would be beneficial to our overall happiness to add giving to others to our regular schedule. 

Giving can come in many forms, from donating to a charity on a regular basis, volunteering at or donating to a food bank, giving money, water, food, etc. to homeless individuals we see, or giving clothes, socks, or other necessities to homeless shelters. While these are just a few examples, these are all great ways of giving to others within the immediate or greater community. 

However, we can also bring this spirit of giving to those within our family. In addition to our regular family life, one way of increasing our practice of giving within our family is to choose at least one family member each day and ask ourselves, “What is one thing I can do today to give to my [spouse, son, daughter, etc.] and show him/her that I love them and care about their happiness?” This can be done through getting/making your spouse’s favorite meal for dinner, giving your chid his/her favorite snack when you pick them up from school or extra-curricular activities, letting that family member choose what game you play as a family, or letting them pick which show you watch together. Writing a small note of love and appreciation for that family member and placing it in their packed lunch or somewhere else for them to find during the day is another great practice.

Whatever it may be, these small acts of kindness can have a big impact on another person by showing them you care. Moreover, practicing giving in these and other ways will actually increase our personal happiness as well! 

For more resources on increasing your happiness, check out The Life God Wants You to Have and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130. 

Stay-At-Home Moms and Depression: 4 Things You Need To Know

Being a stay-at-home parent is hard, but does it cause depression? A recent discussion at Peanut Butter and Grace raised this important issue. It turns out that there is more to this question than meets the eye.

Survey Says…

A 2012 Gallup poll found that 28% of stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) had been diagnosed with depression compared to 17% of employed moms (defined as mothers who have both a full or part time job and children under 18).

Of course, this alone doesn’t necessarily mean SAHMs are more depressed than employed moms.  For instance, it could be that working moms are just as depressed as SAHMs; but, between work and household responsibilities, they just don’t have time to seek professional help.  In fact, a 2015 Pew Research poll found that the majority of working moms continue to be frustrated by the uneven division of labor at home.   As sociologist, Arlie Hochschild observed, working moms often feel that, at the end of the work day, they have to go home to work their “second shift” as a homemaker.   Many working moms are not only depressed, they also don’t have time to do anything about it.

Bridging the Gap:
The Ideal vs. Reality

Regardless, few people would argue that being a SAHM is easy.  And it’s clear that some SAHMs are happier in their role than others.  Similarly, because research shows that kids do better overall when raised by a contented and attentive SAHM than kids raised by either working moms or unhappy SAHM’s, there are certain women would feel they should be home with their kids, but who genuinely struggle to make it work for them.

Is it possible to know which moms will be more likely to find real joy in being an SAHM?  Or, for that matter, if a mom has chosen to stay home, but is struggling with it, are there things she can do to feel better about her choice besides going back to work outside the home?

Here are a few things research can teach us about the circumstances that allow certain women to enjoy being a SAHM, along with some suggestions for those who value the role of being a SAHM but currently find little joy in it. (*See note below)

1. They Are Securely Attached

Research consistently shows that SAHM’s who were raised in affectionate, affirming homes that were stable, emotionally supportive, and employed consistent, gentle discipline are much more likely to enjoy being SAHM’s than less securely-attached women.  The term “attachment” refers to the degree a child has a gut-level sense that she can count on her parents to provide the temporal and emotional support and guidance she needs to thrive.

By contrast, women raised in less emotionally-affirming families-of-origin tend to exhibit either anxious or avoidant attachment.

Anxiously-attached women tend to be extremely scrupulous about their parenting, constantly worrying that every little misstep will ruin their children.  Their constant fear of failure and hypersensitivity to perceived (or actual) criticism makes it hard to truly enjoy anything about being home with their kids.  These SAHMs tend to experience both an extremely high commitment to being a SAHM with very low satisfaction in their role.  Depression can be a symptom of laboring under the constant weight of feeling that they are always wrong, always, failing, and never good-enough no matter how hard they try.

Likewise, avoidantly-attached women raised in unaffectionate, unemotionally supportive families-of-origin tend to struggle to enjoy relationships in general.  Things like giving affection and being nurturing tends not to come naturally to them—and may even grate on them.  They tend to focus on the tasks of motherhood rather than cultivating rewarding relationships with their children. Although every mom gets tired of cleaning a room just to have to clean it again, avoidantly attached moms tend to primarily and almost solely view motherhood as a never-ending mountain of tasks that can never be completed. They may experience depression as a result of never being able to feel that they have accomplished anything.

WHAT TO DO: If you struggle in this area, the good news is that there is such a thing as “earned secure” attachment.  Anxiously attached women can learn to stop beating up on themselves, and avoidantly attached women can learn to enjoy being human beings rather than human doings. Books like Dr. Tim Clinton’s Attachments: Why You Love Feel and Act the Way You Do or Dr. Amir Levine’s Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment are good places to start seeking healing. Professional counseling can also offer tremendous assistance in healing attachment wounds.

2. They Chose It

It is difficult to feel good about something that was forced on you.  Research shows that mothers who feel obliged to be SAHM’s primarily because of social pressure, or poor alternative child-care options, or other reasons, are more resentful of their role and more inclined to depression as a result.

 By contrast, mothers who choose to be SAHM’s primarily because they see, not just intellectual or practical value in the role, but also emotional value in nurturing a deep relational connection with their children, creating meaningful family experiences, and maintaining a cozy home are much more likely to experience real joy in their role.

WHAT TO DO:  In psychology, an external control fallacy is the mistaken belief that I am a helpless victim of my circumstances.  This unhealthy thinking pattern makes us passive-aggressively push back against our “fate,” causing us to “phone in” our effort which, in turn, leads to a sense that nothing matters, nothing is enjoyable, and I can do nothing to make my life more meaningful.  Anyone can fall into this trap, but avoidantly-attached moms are particular prone to this tendency.

There may well be compelling, practical reasons for being home with your children, but don’t ever let that stop you from bringing your creativity, your intelligence, and your whole self to the roles you choose to play—whatever they are!  Happy moms don’t always love every part of parenting, but they make sure to put their own stamp on what they do and the way they do it.  Even when they are struggling to find the energy to do it, they treat homemaking and child-rearing as worthwhile professions that they are committed to being accomplished at and taking joy in.    Research on burnout shows that when we feel uninspired by our work and roles, one key to recovery is making ourselves learn new ways to do what we feel are the “same old things.”  Each morning, ask yourself, “How will I create meaning, joy, and connection today?” Make these goals your priority, and resist the urge to simply coast through the day doing as little as possible, and doing it the same old way you always do. Books like Overcoming Passive-Aggression by Dr. Tim Murphy and The Corporal Works of Mommy (and Daddy Too!) by Lisa and Greg Popcak can be a huge help in these areas.  Counseling can also be a great help for reclaiming your sense of competence and creativity.

3.  They have supportive, involved husbands 

(and other supportive relationships).

A recent Today survey found that 46% of moms find their relationship with their husband more stressful than their relationship with their children.  These moms complained of critical, unhelpful, husbands who were poor helpmates around the house, disengaged fathers, and demanding spouses.

Happy SAHMs have husbands who are vocal about their support and praise for the work their SAHM wives do, are active helpers around the house, effective disciplinarians with the children, and engaged dads. Research by the Gottman Relationship Institute also shows that husbands of happy SAHM’s exhibit strong emotional intelligence; that is, they demonstrate both the ability to genuinely value and appreciate her perspective (even when they don’t agree) and an openness to respecting and learning from her expertise (as opposed to just going along to get along).

Happy SAHMs also do what they can to cultivate other supportive friendships, but it is important to note that having supportive friendships does not tend to make up for having an unsupportive spouse in terms of the risk of depression for SAHMs.

WHAT TO DO:  Know that you have a right to the support you need from your husband to be a great mom. If your husband is a greater source of stress than your kids, seek marriage help today.  Go to Retrouvaille.  Seek professional, marriage-friendly counseling.  If you were sick, you wouldn’t ask permission to go to the doctor.  Your husband doesn’t have to agree that you need counseling (in fact, he won’t if the current arrangement is “working” for him).  Talk to him about it, but whether he wants to or not, make the appointment.  Let him know you’re going with him or without him and you’d prefer he be part of the changes that are coming.  Get the help you need to have the husband you deserve and give your kids the father they need.

4. They Can Meet Their Needs.

Happy SAHMs  feel confident in their ability to meet their personal, financial and other needs—both on their own and with the support of the people in their life.  They are confident in their right to say to their husband, “Honey, I need your help with X.” whether that involves getting a shower in the morning, getting help with a discipline issue, getting assistance with household chores, or any other temporal, financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual need they have—and they are confident that such help will be forthcoming.

If their needs are not being met, they see it as a problem that must be solved, not as a trial that must be endured.  Silently.  With much sighing and hand-wringing because they dare to even have needs much less hope that one day they might be met. Depression can result from the accumulation of unmet needs and the hopelessness of ever being seen as anything but a vending machine.  Anyone can fall prey to this habit, but anxiously-attached moms are particularly prone to this tendency.

It is admittedly difficult to find the healthy balance that allows you to attend your children’s needs, your spouse’s needs and your own needs, but happy SAHMs see this as a challenge, not as an impossible dream.  They use their creativity, assertiveness, and intelligence to find ways to achieve balance, gather new tools, and get the support they need to get their needs met.  They work hard to avoid polarized thinking; acting like they have to constantly choose between meeting their needs or anyone else’s.  They recognize the challenges involved in maintaining good self-care, but see it as a task the requires ongoing collaboration and communication with their husband and children.

WHAT TO DO:  Stop assuming that you are supposed to be a super-hero who is not allowed to have or express your needs much less expect that they should be met.  On the days you spontaneously feel even slightly more connected to your “best self” write down the things that happened that made this possible.  Did you get more rest?  Exercise? Time to pray?  Did you do something enjoyable? Pace yourself differently?  Prioritize your relationships over certain tasks?  These are needs.  Prioritize them.  Talk with your husband and (to the degree that it is appropriate) your children, about how you can all work together to make these things happen on a regular basis.  If your spouse or family are either not receptive or hostile to this idea, seek professional help immediately.  This is an unhealthy dynamic that will undermine your mental health and the stability of your marriage and family if it is allowed to continue.

One book that can help you do a better job of identifying your needs and finding the balance that allows you to be a healthy, fulfilled SAHM is Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak.  And, as above, counseling can be a great help to developing these skills.

Bringing it Home

No doubt you can think of many other challenges that make the life of the SAHM a challenge, but chances are, most of these other things fit into one of the above categories.

The more you have the skills and resources associated with the above four categories, the more likely you will naturally be able to find real joy and meaning in your role as a SAHM.  By contrast, the more you oppressed (or depressed) you feel by your role as an SAHM, the more likely it is that you are missing some or all of the above.

No one can force you to be a SAHM.  If you genuinely don’t want to do it, you are certainly free to do something else.  There are many paths. But if there is any part of you that values the idea of being an SAHM, regardless of your personality or circumstances, you can find greater fulfillment if you commit to getting the resources you need to find meaning and joy in your role.  It might take time, and it might take a little more effort than you thought it might, but your happiness and wellbeing–and the happiness and wellbeing of your family—is absolutely worth it.

To discover more resources to help you be a happy, healthy, fulfilled mom, including professional, Catholic tele-counseling services, visit me at CatholicCounselors.com

*NOTE:  Presumably, all of the above information applies to stay-at-home-dads as well. My experience in counseling SAHDs over the years certainly suggests this to be the case. Unfortunately, there is currently not enough research on SAHD’s to be able to draw definitive conclusions.

New Study Finds Pervasive Criticism Leads to Depression and Discontinuation for Co-sleeping Moms.

 

Image: Shutterstock

A new study in the journal Infant and Child Development found that co-sleeping moms experienced at least 16% more criticism than other moms.  Additionally, moms who were persistently criticized for co-sleeping were 76% more depressed and anxious about both their parenting and their baby’s wellbeing than other parents.

According lead researcher, Douglas Teti of Penn State University, “We definitely saw that the persistent co-sleepers—the moms that were still co-sleeping after six months—were the ones who seemed to get the most criticism,” Teti says. “Additionally, they also reported greater levels of worry about their baby’s sleep, which makes sense when you’re getting criticized about something that people are saying you shouldn’t be doing, that raises self-doubt. That’s not good for anyone.”

Although a majority of parents (73%) practice co-sleeping in the first month of baby’s life, criticism by friends and family often results in a precipitous drop in co-sleeping by the baby’s 6th month.

“We found that about 73 percent of families co-slept at the one-month point. That dropped to about 50 percent by three months, and by six months, it was down to about 25 percent,” Teti says. “Most babies that were in co-sleeping arrangements in the beginning were moved out into solitary sleep by six months.”

The study found that it was not co-sleeping that was responsible for mother’s depression, but the increased level of criticism they received from family and friends that made them doubt their own observations about the quality of their baby’s sleep, and their own parenting skills.  According to Teti, “In other parts of the world, co-sleeping is considered normal, while here in the US, it tends to be frowned upon”  

C0-Sleeping Moms Sleep More

Although some critics suggest that it is co-sleeping, itself, that causes parents, and mothers in particular, to sleep less (and therefore, be more depressed/anxious), previous research has found that mothers who exclusively breastfeed and co-sleep actually sleep significantly more than mothers who bottle feed, sleep separately from their babies, or some combination of these two latter conditions.  This most recent study lends support to the idea that for many parents,  perceived problems with co-sleeping may be due less to disruptions in the mother’s and baby’s actual sleep patterns than to fears–brought on by the lack of support and/or persistent criticism–that there could potentially be problems with co-sleeping.

As Teti explained. “Co-sleeping, as long as it’s done safely, is fine as long as both parents are on board with it.”

The fact is, research consistently shows that, assuming proper support and the adoption of safe co-sleeping practices,  there are numerous physiological, relational, and emotional benefits to both mother and baby.  No parent who wishes to practice co-sleeping should ever be made to feel that they are doing something wrong.  If you are co-sleeping, or would like to, here are some things to keep in mind.

Spousal Support

Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page regarding co-sleeping.  Discuss concerns openly and respectfully.  Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood offers many suggestions for how to successfully balance mom care, baby care, and marriage care.  You don’t have to choose between being attentive co-sleeping parents and having a great marriage.  Get the support you need to learn how to achieve a healthy balance that lets you celebrate the best of both worlds.

Trust Your Baby

Listen to your baby. You are the expert, not your friends and family.  Is your baby happy?  Is he or she growing?   Then everything is fine.  Most babies do not sleep for long stretches.  In fact, there is strong evidence that suggests that monophasic sleep (one 8-10 hour period of sleep) is less healthy and natural for humans than biphasic or polyphasic (2 or more shorter sleep periods) sleep patterns.  We can learn to sleep monophasically, and most people eventually  learn to, but it isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally, and depending on multiple factors that are unique to each child, some babies come into it later than others.  If your baby seems happy and healthy, it really doesn’t matter what your mother in law or your moms’ group thinks.  Trust your baby and sleep when they do.

Circle the Wagons

Your decisions regarding nighttime parenting are personal and private.  How you and your baby sleep is no one else’s business but your own.  Because, as this study demonstrates, there is strong social pressure against co-sleeping in the West, resist the temptation to openly discuss co-sleeping with people who you aren’t sure will be supportive. Other parents are welcome to do things differently.  Don’t argue with them.  Just smile, nod, and change the subject.  As long as your baby is healthy and happy, you’re doing fine. If you do have concerns, by all means seek help from professionals who are both supportive of your choices and open to working with you to finding the best arrangement for you and your baby.

Check Your Scruples

Every new parent struggles with a little nervousness and self-doubt, but some parents are particularly prone to self-criticism, anxiety, and scruples (the crushing sense that there is exactly one, right, way to do everything—and you can never get it right).  The more anxious you are, the more difficult co-sleeping will be for you–partly because you will be too busy looking for problems to enjoy it, and partly because babies are barometers, they absorb and reflect their parents’ emotions. If you still want to attempt it, make sure that your spouse is your co-sleeping champion, and  carefully follow the above advice about trusting your baby and circling your wagons. Most importantly, if you feel that your anxiety is robbing you of your ability to feel confident as a mom or enjoy your baby, seek professional help to learn how to cope more effectively with the stress of being a new parent.

To learn more about how you can find the balance that helps you celebrate your role as a mom, check out Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood or visit CatholicCounselors.com to learn more about the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic tele-counseling services.  With the right information and good support, you can make sure that you, your baby, and your marriage are getting everything they need to thrive.

 

 

 

Teen Suicide: Parents CAN Make a Difference.

Image: Shutterstock

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There is nothing more painful than losing a child to suicide, and many parents feel powerless to do anything to prevent it except hope that it doesn’t happen.  A new study by the University of Cincinnati reveals that parents can play a tremendous role in helping their teens avoid self-harm.

“Parents ask us all the time, ‘What can we do?'” said King, who coordinates UC’s health promotion and education doctoral program and serves as Director of the Center for Prevention Science. “You can tell them you’re proud of them, that they did a good job, get involved with them, and help them with their homework.”

“A key is to ensure that children feel positively connected to their parents and family,” added Vidourek, who serves as Co-Director of the Center for Prevention Science.

The results of the study were startling.  In particular, 12 and 13yo children whose parents rarely or never said, “I’m proud of you” were nearly five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, nearly seven times more likely to formulate a suicide plan and about seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Similarly, 12- and 13 year olds with parents who rarely or never told them they did a good job or helped them with their homework were at excessively high risk for suicide.

Likewise,  16- and 17-year-olds whose parents rarely or never told the children they are proud of them are about three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and almost four times more likely to make a suicide plan and attempt suicide than peers whose parents sometimes or often did.

The key, as with many problems associated with kids and teens, is attachment, attachment, attachment.  The stronger the emotional bond you have with your children–and more specifically, the stronger the emotional bond your kids feel like they have with you–the more likely it is that your children will choose healthy options for dealing with their problems and avoid more dangerous, and deadly, choices.

For more information on how you can strengthen your emotional bond with your children whether they are toddlers or teens, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids. Or, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about how our Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you transform your marriage, family, and personal life.