Couples Therapy 101: Staying jolly through the holiday season

Let’s face it-the holidays can be very overwhelming once you become an adult. Gone are the carefree days waiting for Santa the night before Christmas, now you worry about how you are going to pay for all of it. Christmas is now filled with finances, time crunches, crazy holiday shoppers, and for some the worst – the in-laws are coming to stay over! The holidays are filled with extended family and extended family can be a touchy and emotionally charged subject for many couples. Hey, you may LOVE your family to pieces and cannot wait to spend the holiday with them, but your spouse…not so much. You may LOVE your spouse’s family but an extended amount of time with them can drive you to madness. It can be difficult to determine the best way to deal with your frustrations around the relatives and many times those frustrations can be projected onto your spouse. This can put an additional strain on your relationship at a time when stress levels are already high. So, what are the best ways to stay jolly through the holiday visitors and ensure you are able to enjoy your spouse during the season? Try these tips to ease the holiday stress and make sure the memories from this season are the best yet!

  • Give them a break: If your relatives are the ones visiting make sure you are communicating in advance about all the details of the visit. If you have activities you would like to enjoy while your family is in town let your spouse know. Be specific about the activities that are most important for you to enjoy with your spouse and give them a break on some of the ones that are not. If you enjoy shopping with your parents and you know your spouse hates it—give them the day off. Suggest he or she do something they enjoy doing. This will take the pressure off of you to enjoy shopping and your spouse will come back renewed after enjoying a break.
  • Change your expectations: Your partner’s family is likely not going to change. If you’re expecting that one of these years a family much like your own will walk through the door, you are setting unrealistic expectations. Embrace them for who they are and hold on to the fact that they created the person you spend your life with – they have done something right!
  • Set boundaries: Discuss what has been a touchy area in previous visits and find a middle ground. You are a team so you need to present a united front. Respect your partner’s boundaries and understand that this may be a difficult time for them.
  • Remember it’s temporary: This is just a short season and they will be gone before you know it. Soon enough you will be free to enjoy your home and your spouse again. Dwelling on the negative will only make the time go by slower.
  • Have FUN and share it: So you love to play golf and your father-in-law has never tried it. Set up a tee time with him. It’s a lot harder to be unhappy when you are doing something you love. People appreciate it when you take the time to share with them something that you enjoy and even if he is not into it – you’re still on the course! Enjoy! He may just enjoy it too.
  • Fight Fair: So you are trying your best but something a relative did has you all worked up. Remember to communicate this with your spouse without attacking their character or family. Attacking their family can be just as bad as attacking them directly. Voice your opinion about the direct behavior that is bothering you. Behavior can be changed but character is much more difficult and words are not easily taken back. Don’t let this one holiday set you up for a disastrous year!
  • Catch the holiday spirit: Be thankful for family-there are many out there that wish they could have one more holiday with their annoying cousin, hyperactive nephew or weird uncle. Life is short-make memories that will last.

Freedom from Food Fights

It is mid-summer and maybe you are thinking that any nutrition goals you had for yourself or your kids will “just have to wait” until all of the vacations, summer grill-outs, and sleep-overs for the kids are behind you.  Let’s face it: most families admit that summer is a difficult time to change kids’ eating routines and food choices.  In fact, it is very likely that the last time you tried to suggest something green or unpackaged for a snack or meal, your kids threw a fit or rolled their eyes.  So, to avoid the energy drain and drama, you gave in to your kids’ pleas for “another snack”, “more dessert”, or their favorite fast-food drive thru pick-up.

Is there a way of out the family food fights without waiting for the school year to begin?  I believe so.  But don’t take it from me…  Here are a few of the tips that have worked best for the parents of my elementary and teenage clients who PREVIOUSLY claimed they had a picky eater at their table:

  •  There are no “good” or “bad” foods.  Experience tells us that as soon as we hear that a food is “bad for us” we want it and if it’s “good for us” we think it’s tasteless or boring.  Plus, many kids begin to associate their value as being “good” or “bad” with how mom or dad says they’re eating.  Instead, it is more helpful to refer to foods as “smart, in between, or empty” when it comes to nutritional value.
  • Nobody has to eat anything they don’t want.  I know, I know: this sounds crazy and does NOT jive with the “clean your plate” mentality that many of us had growing up.  However, research has shown that it takes  kids up to 10 exposures to a food (i.e., seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, spitting out, etc.) before they’ll eat and swallow the food comfortably.  So, the mere presence of that food on a kids’ plate counts as an exposure. They don’t necessarily need to eat it or try it before getting up from the table.  It may sound crazy, but it works!
  • Role model loving healthy food.  If you want your kids to eat broccoli, eat broccoli… without trying to convince them of how good it tastes or manipulate them into eating it, too.  Your kids are watching you and, eventually, will want to try the foods you are eating to feel grown up.  If you don’t believe me, you should ask the mom who was frustrated that her kids were only eating pop-tarts for breakfast.  They saw her eating a healthier version of eggs benedict with asparagus every morning and BEGGED her for some of their own.

These are just a few of many tips I teach for changing the food environment NOT just modifying the foods we eat.  Until we alter the language and “rules” we use in relation to food, we keep ourselves stuck in the food battles at the dinner table and feel trapped in the fights about food types.  If you are interested in more material like this, join us for our next Feeding the Kids Workshop: Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants. Click here for more details and to register.  There really is freedom  from this age-old battle with food for you and your children!

Life According to the Birkman Method®

“What should I do with my life?” Most of us have asked this question at some point in our journey. If you are a teenager trying to decide which college to attend, a college student aiming to find the best major for your interests, an adult who wants to make a career change or a spouse who wants to improve your relationships… The Birkman Method® Assessment may be a useful tool for you.

So, what exactly is the Birkman Method? * The Birkman Method® consists of a 298-question online personality assessment and a series of related report sets that enhance career counseling and interpersonal conflict resolution, and executive coaching leadership development. The Birkman Method® combines motivational, behavioral and interest evaluation into one single assessment, which provides a multi-dimensional and comprehensive analysis, thus reducing the need for multiple assessments. The questionnaire is delivered on-line and should take about 45 minutes to complete. It has been translated into 11 languages in addition to English.

In brief, The Birkman Method® includes the five following major perspectives:
1. Usual Behavior – an individual’s effective behavioral style of dealing with relationships and tasks.
2. Underlying Needs – an individual’s expectations of how relationships and social situations should be governed in context of the relationship or situation.
3. Stress Behaviors – an individual’s ineffective style of dealing with relationships or tasks; behavior observed when underlying needs are not met.
4. Interests – an individual’s expressed preference for job titles based on the assumption of equal economic rewards.
5. Organizational Focus – the perspective in which an individual views problems and solutions relating to organizational goals.

The Birkman can be used in a wide range of applications because it is a non-clinical instrument for measuring human behavior and occupational strengths. Many have found it helpful for pre-employment, individual development, career guidance, career management, career transition, counseling, martial counseling, coaching, executive coaching, leadership development, team building, team development, conflict management, stress management, culture management, workplace diversity, crisis management, retirement planning, and succession planning.

The Birkman Method Assessment’s insightful reports are designed to be used by Birkman Certified Consultants and those that have received training in The Birkman Method®. If you’re interested in completing the Birkman assessment, please contact us at 713-365-9015 or heritage@heritagebehavioral.com to find out more about cost and availability. After this, I will send you a link to complete since The Birkman Method® is delivered on-line. Then, we’ll meet in person for feedback that will be given using a report-set that best fits your needs.

*Used with permission and adapted from  www.birkman.com. Accessed on April 8, 2013 online at http://www.birkman.com/birkmanMethod/whatIsTheBirkmanMethod.php