talking to your kids about sex

cute little girls running on beach

When I was a kid, I asked my dad to teach me how to swim. He said no because he didn’t do it correctly himself. He didn’t want screw up and teach me the wrong way to swim. I eventually taught myself. To this day, I am uncomfortable in deep water because I’m not a strong swimmer and I do not trust myself not to drown.

I totally understand where my dad was coming from. I am very comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with my clients. Yet, talking to MY KIDS about sexuality (and doing it well) TERRIFIES me. I didn’t do it all right myself, and it’s such a big deal. I get it.

I see all the hurtful, painful possibilities of distorted intimacy and sexuality regularly, and I want to protect my kids from that. It makes this task feel bigger and more complicated than is helpful. That’s where my anxiety comes in, the fear of MESSING UP something so important. If you are anything like me, I urge you not to let the fear of messing it up keep you from saying anything. We CAN do hard things. We are in this together, friends. There is grace in this. Believe me, we need a healthy measure of grace when it comes to sexuality because I’m not sure any of us on this green earth have figured it all out yet.

A few things to remember: This is hard, but you can do it. You MUST do it. They will learn about sex somewhere; let their first messages be true (and from you!) so they have a better filter for all the distorted messages they’ll get later. Keep it simple at first. Think about the big picture and what you want for your kids as they grow up. Then, be intentional about giving them the best possible foundation for those dreams you have for them. Utilize teachable moments, and keep it an open dialogue. The sex talk should not be a “one and done” kind of thing. It should be an ongoing conversation. Positive messages are more powerful than fear-based ones.

Here are some benchmarks to help you (and me). I gathered the following information from a book called, “How and When to Tell your Kids about Sex” by Stan and Brenna Jones. I put it into an outline to make it easy for you and I’ve added some of my own insight, as well.

My Big Picture:

For our kids to become healthy adults who can have deep and meaningful relationships, where they both respect themselves and others. To enjoy having emotionally, spiritually, and sexually intimate marriages. To know and feel that sex is good and for them to enjoy.

Infancy through Kindergarten (0-5ish years):

  • Teaching the goodness of our sexuality.
    • Our kids are sexual beings. Use correct names for body parts, normalizing erections (It feels good, God made men that way), noticing differences in male and female parts, God made all our parts and they are good.
      • Ladies especially, be mindful of the way you talk about and interact with your own body. Your parts were made by God and they are good, friend. A little girl I babysat helped me remember this important truth. She pointed out that my boobs were very big. I agreed and (unfortunately) told her that I didn’t like them for that very reason. She didn’t miss a beat, “Why?” she said, “That’s how God made you.” Mic drop, you guys. I got schooled by a 5 year old.
    • Sexual curiosity.
      • Curiosity is normal. It’s ok to look at and touch their own body parts (in private) and to ask questions. Explain things truthfully, but basically/broadly. Kids are usually not looking for in-depth explanations at this age.
      • Remember:
        • God’s gift is good.
        • God’s gift is private.
        • Curiosity is good.
        • Set clear boundaries and expectations. You could say something like, “But even though it’s a fine thing to be curious, I don’t want you to show your penis (or vagina, privates) to other kids. And I don’t want you to ask to see theirs. If you keep those parts of you private and special, it will help you to always feel that God made you in an especially wonderful way.” (p.83, 84)
        • Know that self-stimulation and touching is unlikely to become a problem if you do not overreact. Remind your kid’s about privacy if they are doing it around others. (p.85-87).
      • Abuse prevention (p.94-97).
        • 3 important Rules:
  1.  Your body is private. “No one has the right to look or touch your privates unless it’s mommy or daddy when we bathe you, or the doctor (and mommy or daddy are there).”
  2. Do not keep secrets. “If anyone ever asks you to keep a secret from us and says that we will be mad at you if you tell, please know that is a lie. We will never be mad at you for telling, we will be so proud of you for doing the right thing in telling us.”
  3. Trust your feelings. “Your body belongs to you. We will trust you, and we want you to trust your own feelings if you feel confused or uncomfortable about the way someone looks at or touches you.”
  • Skills:
    • Recognize danger. Teach them to pay attention to their feelings and if something feels uncomfortable or confusing, to tell you.
    • Be assertive.
      • “No” means “no”, “stop” means “stop”. During tickling and play, these words are to be respected immediately.
      • Do not make your kids hug or kiss anyone, including you. Asking for a hug or kiss is ok, but they are allowed to refuse.
      • Teach your kids to expect that their wishes regarding touch will be respected immediately by you, and should be respected by everyone. This will help them identify more easily when something “doesn’t feel right” and to be more aware of the problem when someone doesn’t do this. This will also aid them in understanding reciprocity and their right to refuse, as they get older.
  • Supportive Environment
    • Stand behind your children (if they don’t want to hug, etc)
    • Reinforce the three critical rules (your body is private, we don’t keep secrets, pay attention to your feelings)
    • Be aware of your child’s world (have a sense of the kids and parents and caregivers in their lives. Pay attention, and do not ignore any feelings you have, either)

Next steps: Sit down with your spouse and talk about the big picture you both have for your kids. Then, review this together and discuss it. Begin telling your kids these things in every day moments (during bath time, when they ask a question, dinner time, before going to the park or visiting family, etc).

My next post will be on the big messages we give our pre-puberty (6-11ish) age kids, then puberty age (12-18ish) kids. After that, I’ll post about what to do and how to respond if abuse is revealed. If you can’t wait, check out the book, “How and When to Tell you Kids about Sex”. It’s not a perfect book, but it has a lot of good and helpful information.

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bad habits

It’s far too easy for me to fall back into bad habits. I can excuse them as being busy or tired, or stressed…but the truth is something a little closer to laziness and an unwillingness to make my health a priority consistently. I am well aware I need to reduce my sugar intake and keep on exercising regularly. I’m sure many of you can relate to this battle, right?

But what about our relational bad habits? Unfortunately, I think most folks are TOTALLY UNAWARE of these in the first place. It’s time we took it back to the basics regarding a few things, my friends. Full disclosure: I have no place to judge: the relational skills I’m about to share are ones that I learned as AN ADULT. Like, mid-twenties, adult, y’all. I did not learn these basic relational skills (for the most part) until then. It’s a crying shame, really. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you never learned, or maybe you’ve just gotten relationally lazy and fallen into bad habits. Either way, let’s do this! Your people need you to.

Lesson #1: Expressing your feelings with actions.

It is not enough to feel something (aka: gratitude or love); you must express it with your words and actions so the other person feels it, too.

Gratitude:

For Thanksgiving, Andy Stanley preached about gratitude and posited a simple truth: it is not enough to feel gratitude, you have to express it. He goes on to say that failing to express gratitude in a meaningful way (a heartfelt card or phone call) creates a divide in the relationship. He said that there is then something missing, something incomplete. It creates a relational divide and often feels like rejection.

Who do you owe a debt of gratitude to?

Have you expressed your gratitude in a meaningful way?

Love:

Do your people feel loved by you?

It is not enough to say it. Love is a feeling and an action. How do you show love to your people in a way that makes them feel loved? It is possible to KNOW someone loves you and not FEEL loved. This also creates a divide, a disconnect in the relationship. Intimacy suffers.

Lesson #2: Conversation.

If someone asks you a question, answer it and then ASK THEM A QUESTION. It is amazing how many people do not do this. It is awkward and exhausting, people. If nobody wants to talk to you, this may be why. Ask questions! (Listen; sometimes I’m awkward too. It can’t be helped. Especially if I’m caught off guard, like running into someone in the store). But if you’re over at someone’s house, at dinner, or having coffee: have your conversation hat on. Pay attention. Ask questions.

If possible, let the questions be thoughtful. Follow up on what you spoke about the last time you talked. Check in. Show that you listen, are interested,  and that you care. It is amazing how much you can make someone feel cared for by asking a simple follow up question. Also, please do yourself and your people a favor and check out this life-changing blog post for more ideas about question asking!

Best wishes to you as you cultivate good relational habits, my friends.

 

needs based parenting

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I was the best parent before I had kids. I just knew that I was going to do things differently. I was pretty prideful about it, let’s be real. It would not be my kids watching a video on a phone in the restaurant. It wouldn’t be my kids having a tantrum in public. My kids would eat all their vegetables and be polite, contributing members of the family and society as whole.

I’m still holding onto hope that these things will happen for us.

All that to say, it feels a little ridiculous that I would write a blog about parenting. I mean, what do I know? I’ve spent the last 4 years figuring it out as I go. Reading books, articles, and even a class or two: I desperately want to be the best parent possible and I keep falling short. The problem is that reality is a heck of a lot different than theory. Reality is chaotic, loud, and messy. Reality is really, really hard.

Reality is a 1.5 year old whom considers the day wasted if he hasn’t climbed, tackled, and eaten everything in sight. A rambunctious, ridiculously adorable, needing-a-scenery-change- every-20-minutes, thinks-the-word-“no”-is-hilarious, very heavy, very particular, toddler.

Reality is a 4 year old with sensory processing problems. A sweet, handsome, affectionate, picky, particular child who gets really overwhelmed, really easily and can’t communicate why. It sucks not being understood, and then not having the words to communicate what’s going on inside you. So he has a tantrum, he cries, yells, spits, or hits to get our attention. So we know he needs something from us. The problem is that I’m angry. I’m confused. I don’t understand, because it doesn’t make sense. It hit me recently that I’m feeling the exact same way he’s feeling: angry, confused, overwhelmed.

Logic doesn’t always have a place when it comes to emotions, right? We need emotion to understand emotion. The emotion I’m going back to is love. How do I communicate love to my child through this tantrum?

I took a class recently and learned about relational needs (From the Center for Relational Care- check them out!). The simple principles are life changing. It has transformed my counseling practice, transformed my parenting, and is transforming my marriage.

In the class, I suddenly realized that I’d been using fear (threats, anger), or manipulation to get my kids to behave. That I’d sometimes withdrawn my love and attention when my child rejected me, or embarrassed me, or disobeyed me. That I was (unconsciously) wanting my kids to meet my needs. My need to be loved, accepted, and respected. All important needs. However, my kids were given to me so I could meet their needs, and not the other way around. If they meet some of my needs (and they do!) that is a blessing and a gift and should never be an expectation.

One of my bigger take aways from the class was learning about the 10 relational needs. I made something for you to keep; it’s a gift that I really hope you’ll use. It’s here: 10 Relational Needs. Study them. Place them somewhere where you’ll see them often. When your child (or husband, or client, or family member, or self) is doing something you don’t understand or you don’t know how to respond, ask yourself this question:

“What is he/she needing right now?”

Here are a few examples:

Comfort? Say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting right now” and ask if he would like a hug.

Appreciation? “I noticed that you just helped your brother. Great job!”

Acceptance? “There isn’t anything you can do that will make me love you less.”

Approval? “I’m so glad you’re my son.”

Respect? “I will give you some privacy.”

Security? “I will be here when you’re ready to talk.”

Encouragement? “I believe in you; don’t give up!”

Attention? Get down on their level, enter their worlds.

Support? “I see that you are struggling. I’m here to help, if you’d like.”

Affection? “I love you to the moon and back!”

If you are unsure of the need, default to comfort.

I’ve been doing this more and more for my sons. Particularly with my 4 year old, I’m trying to meet the need first, and discipline (when necessary) after he calms down. Only emotion can understand emotion.

Guess what? It’s working!

Asking if he’d like a hug in the middle of a tantrum has helped him calm down much faster. Telling him that I will always love him, even when he says he doesn’t want me, or pushes me away has made him feel safer and more secure. Pointing out the good, encouraging him to keep trying, letting him speak for himself, etc. is shaping my son’s character and heart.

While threats can often get your kids to obey, what will they do when the threat is removed? Will they make the right choices when you’re gone? My hope is that by meeting my kid’s needs first; I can better influence their hearts. Will I take away privileges? Oh yes, without a doubt I want them to understand that our choices have consequences. Do I want my kids to obey and respect authority? Lord, yes. Will my kids continue to test me and disobey? I believe they will. I’ll continue to try my best to be consistent with boundaries, rules, and expectations. I just want all of those things to be soaked in unconditional love.

Heart transformation can only occur within the context of a healthy, secure, and loving relationship. Love first. Your teaching with have more of an impact if you do.

I’m still learning all this, but I’m getting closer every day.

sex talk, part 3

Disclaimer: Y’all. I need you to know that talking about something as sacred and complicated as sex is not something I take lightly. I know I’m writing in a very conversational style, but I don’t want anyone to be confused about my understanding of the enormity of this task and my complete inadequacy in addressing it fully. I listen to stories and it has been so difficult to lump you all into one “category” where I know full well you do not fit perfectly, or some of you at all. I don’t want you to think I don’t see you. Perhaps you are the higher desire partner, or you are facing something in your marriage or life that is so heartbreaking and BIG that sex is not even on the radar. I see you, friend. I’m not trying to leave you out. I hope you’ll understand I’m doing the best I can with this tiny platform I’ve been given.

Find your number:

How much sex should you be aiming for? What’s normal? And the answer is….(drumroll please) that’s up to you and your husband. I advise that you sit down with your husband and ask him what he would like in terms of frequency. Share what you would like. If his number (or your number) is completely unrealistic, come up with a compromise. 1-2 times a week is very reasonable, BUT there are some couples that find they need more, AND some who are ok with less. You could say something like, “Let’s really make sure we are having sex AT LEAST once a week right now.” If you have more sometimes, AWESOME! If you cannot do your “at least number”, acknowledge it! Don’t let it fester and be the elephant that makes you both start assuming stuff or avoiding stuff. Say, “hey, I know it’s been ___days since we’ve had sex. I am going to do z, y, or z about that.” Seriously doesn’t matter NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT what other people are doing as long as you two are satisfied and are understanding where the other is coming from.

Create space for your number:

So, whatever your number—control whatever is within your power to control to make your “AT LEAST number” a PRIORITY (see my last post for help with that). No excuses. In between those times, make sure sex isn’t your only intimate time with your husband. And if you cannot, or are unable to have sex, you can still act like lovers.

Be lovers in and out of the bedroom:

Practice being lovers with your clothes on and off. Kiss, touch, cuddle, wink, flirt, send sexy texts. Even if you feel totally lame, my guess is your husband would appreciate the effort!

Listen, I’m not asking you to be someone you aren’t, but I am asking you to imagine how you’d behave if you knew that you wouldn’t be embarrassed, ashamed, insecure or afraid of rejection. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Strengthen your largest sexual organ:

Your largest sexual organ is your brain. Most ladies, particularly after years of marriage and kids experience “normal” female desire. Normal female desire is receptive, or “sex neutral.” This doesn’t mean women don’t enjoy sex! This means that outside circumstances can shift the gear into sex-positive or sex- negative with relative ease. My previous post mentioned lots of things husbands (and you) can do to shift into sex-positive gear. On the other hand, the “turn off” list are all the things that shift us into sex-negative gear and that list gets longer as we get older and after having kids.

Let me try to explain what “sex neutral” means: it means that we usually don’t walk around thinking about sex. Unlike men, we aren’t visual, so seeing a naked man isn’t going to make us aroused. One of our biggest problems can be when we think back to how we felt in the beginning, or we look at his desire and think, “oh no, something’s wrong with me!” or “I have no sex drive anymore!” We have to understand that there isn’t anything wrong with us. Not only do our bodies not respond as quickly or intensely as they have in the past (thanks aging!), but we also have more outside pressures making us too tired to even want to get undressed, much less knock our husband’s socks off with our sexual prowess.

However, it DOES mean now we have to work harder to get in the mood. 

Here are a few things to try:

  1. Notice his butt, his lips, his hands…whatever floats your boat. TRAIN yourself to pay more attention to him, to be more aware of him. Look at the color of his eyes, notice his eyelashes. Notice if he looks tired. Think, “wow, he’s working hard too”.
  2. Remind yourself of why you married him, why you love him, what he does for you and the family.
  3. Think back to the best sex you ever had with HIM. Think about the feelings, what he was doing, what you were doing…allow yourself to be turned on.
  4. Watch him with your kids. Just watch. Allow that to make you want him.
  5. As you shower that day, think about him. Think about being with him later. Shave your legs, apply lotion, his or your favorite perfume. Put on your good undies, the ones without holes. Think about how happy you’ll make that man you married, the father of your kids, when you surprise him with…you.

I’m not saying this will work every time, but it’ll increase the odds. It’s brain training. And you’ll probably forget after a while. Life will get in the way again. So, write it in your calendar. Set reminders on your phone to “think sex!”  You can do it! I’m betting on you.

sex talk, part 2

Ladies, here are some of my practical solutions. I think you are going to hate them, because do you really have time for more things?!?! I hope you’ll try some of it anyhow. I know it’s not easy, but we can do hard things!

1. Time to have sex: Ask yourself, when is the ideal time for your mind and body to be open to sex? Ladies, when you are dog tired, your body will not respond the way you want it to. Sex can become uncomfortable or even hurt in this state. Or it can feel like you are being used, or like a very unpleasant chore. I don’t recommend pushing through these things and having sex like this (unless you are trying to conceive, in which case you may have less choices about timing–do the best you can with what you have, friends). So, make sure you have made space in your life during the times you are more rested.

2. Well rested, relaxed: Not getting enough sleep? When possible make appropriate changes to get to bed earlier, take turns with your husband on night or morning duty, get out of the house with friends or alone. Skip the 2nd or 3rd glass of wine. It’ll just make your sleep less restorative and your mornings harder. Ask for help from your parents, friends, neighbors. Give your kids to someone trustworthy for the day or evening. It takes a village, folks.

 3. Feeling appreciated, valued, loved: You could try something a little like this (whisper this seductively so he knows you’re being silly, even though YOU  TOTALLY AREN’T JOKING AT ALL): “Baby, you know what really turns me on? Clean dishes. Oh yeeeeeaah. Or dinner made, kids bathed. A note or text during the day. A ‘thank you’ or a ‘what would I do without you?’ A, ‘isn’t mommy so beautiful?’ to the kids. I especially get aroused when you offer to do something I normally do, or when you put me first. Or when you genuinely want to know how I am, or remember about that meeting or the doctor appointment I was nervous about and ask me about it. When you listen to my feelings. mmmm…yes.”

4. Connected to husband: But for real though, what makes women want to have sex is emotional connection. We have to teach our husbands how to connect with us, and how to love us so we feel loved. We are simply more complicated. And he feels loved when you have sex with him…so this is a win/win for everyone. Husbands love for you to say EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT/NEED. They can’t always read between the lines and he sure can’t read your mind. Be specific, be honest, be real, and be vulnerable with him. Also, check out this blog if you need help explaining to him what a day is like with the kids or ideas regarding talking about your day. Being known is what intimacy is all about.

5. Feeling sexy or attractive: For me, the goal was all about getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight and all my old clothing. Once I got within a few pounds of that goal I realized that there was no way some my old stuff would fit even if I lost all the weight. My body was just different (this was especially true after my 2nd). I decided I needed a different attitude and some new clothing (and some alterations) and not a different body. Also, check out this and this for help with your perspective. It is vital for the health of your marriage that you find a way to accept yourself EXACTLY the way you are. It’s great to want to be healthy, exercise, and eat well…but love yourself WHILE you do those things. Don’t wait to be kind to yourself until x, y, or z thing happens. Feeling awful about myself just made me feel depressed and made it even harder to get motivated.

6. Sleeping kids: When this is happening make sure you and your husband are in the same vicinity the number of times you decide is your normal. More on frequency in the next post.

7. Clean house: a clean house totally turns me on. But, I am learning to live with the mess. I just try to see it all as our abundance and feel gratitude instead of anxiety. It’s a journey, friends. But if you wait for a clean house and a checked off to-do list you will NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN. And that’s no good. We have to learn to focus and say to ourselves, “this man right here. He is the most important thing to-do right now.” Besides you can get back to your list when you’re done. A good friend, life coach, or counselor can help you prioritize, let go of what you need to let go of, and learn how to manage your anxiety or racing thoughts if it feels too big to tackle on your own.

*PSA: It is impossible to write a comprehensive blog about sex. It’s too complicated and big. I would love to have written so much more, but the kids only nap for so long. If you need more ideas, check out “A Celebration of Sex” or “When Two Become One.” Please let me know if you’ve found a book that was really helpful to you. I need more sex books!

**PSA #2: If you try these things and find yourself thinking: “NONE OF THAT HELPED, thanks for nothing Lauren!” You could be struggling with negative feelings toward your husband, resentment, post partum depression, depression, anxiety, pain due to changes in your body from birth, difficulty figuring out how to be a mom and a wife and acknowledge your body as more than a vessel for babies to grow and feed and use and empty until you have nothing left, nothing at all for anybody else, especially not the jerk who did this to you. Kidding. But seriously though, email me and I will help you or find someone who can help you. Your family needs you to be healthy and whole and to know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, please know that, no matter what your road(ahem…sex)block is, there are answers, there is help, and you aren’t alone.

sex talk, part 1

A few weeks ago, I was called by a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group to come and speak at one of their meetings about intimacy and sex next month. I was excited about this call because MOPS are MY PEOPLE. And helping busy mothers reconnect with both their own bodies and husbands is one of my passions. I am genuinely looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge, but I’m finding it difficult to narrow down WHAT to share and where in the heck to start.

After all, could the subject of sex be any more complicated? NOPE, no. No it could not. And so…I’m just going to start AT THE BEGINNING: finding the time, space, and energy to actually have sex in the first place. So, I’m making the huge stretch in imagining that I am a MOP (totally am) and thinking of my friend and client MOPS, I started with a list because lists are awesome.

Here’s what I came up with so far.

Turn OFFs:

  1. Exhaustion/no energy
  2. Busy schedule, lack of time alone with hubs
  3. Feeling unattractive, not sexy, not liking body
  4. Disconnected from body, sense of self outside of “mommy”
  5. Not feeling emotionally connected to husband
  6. Negative feelings toward husband
  7. Messy house/overwhelming to-do list
  8. Haven’t shaved or showered

Next, we need a pro-sex list. I’m all about balance and fixing the fixable/practical stuff first.

Turn ONs:

  1. Time to have sex
  2. Well rested, relaxed
  3. Feeling appreciated, valued, loved
  4. Connected to husband
  5. Feeling sexy or attractive
  6. Sleeping kids
  7. Clean house
  8. Showered and shaved

Ok, we have our lists. There are practical solutions for many of the items. And clearly, some are a little more complicated. I’m going to address practical solutions, the complicated stuff, and frequency in my next 2 sex talk posts! Stay tuned and I’d love your feedback on your solutions, lessons learned, or challenges!

Save your Relationships: Ask the Right Questions

Not only did this post perfectly put into words a day at home with the kids, but she also so eloquently gives concrete ways to connect better with your spouse/friend/kids, etc. SO GOOD. You must check out http://www.momastery.com, but first…read this!

Save your Relationships: Ask the Right Questions.

the secret to giving gifts to women, part II

As stated in the title, this isn’t my first post trying to help a fella out. To summarize my last post : “Women want to feel special, loved, and appreciated. If you put thought and effort into a gift, you are communicating that she is worth your time and effort. And that’s all we really want.”

To add to my last post, I’d like to talk directly to the men who have women with kids in their lives.

Here are some ideas:

Note: For all of the following ideas: you book the babysitter. Don’t give your woman a gift that requires work on her end. Besides, she’ll just end up not using the gift certificate for a long time since she’ll feel guilty leaving you with the kids, spending money on a sitter, or a million other excuses not to do something for herself.

1. Surprise her with a night out. This night out can be with you or with her best girlfriends.
2. Surprise her with a weekend away.
3. Surprise her with a full weekend day and night sans kids at home. Or a cabin. Or hotel. She chooses the way you spend the day.
4. Buy tickets to a concert, show, or event you know she’ll like. There are so many fun things to do in Atlanta: cirque, the fox, fall festivals, concerts…Surprise her.
5. Give her a gift certificate for a massage, facial, pedicure or money…but schedule a time with the sitter for her to use it and/or invite a girlfriend. For example: “Sally will be here in 1 hour. Get dressed and have fun. Here’s some money.”
6. Listen, and give her something she’s mentioned. Leave cards, notes, small gifts in unexpected places.
7. Make a video or book in which you, the kids, you, and others if you like, saying what they love and appreciate about her.

Ladies, men want to feel loved and appreciated, too! They are just usually easier to please!

Everyone, this is important. Being a mom or dad can be an often thankless job. The details of all you do and worry about are usually unseen. Do not let being a wife or husband be a thankless job as well. Don’t get into the rut of expecting your spouse to do all he or she does and forget how hard it can be.
“Honey, thank you for working so hard every day to provide for our family. Thanks for giving baths, making our kids laugh, and helping so much at home. I couldn’t do what I do if not for you!”
“Thanks for making sure the kids have clothes, food, childcare, doctor’s appointments…thanks for reading the books about discipline, sex, etc. You take amazing care of our kids, they are so blessed to have a mom who works so hard to make sure they are healthy.”

You get the idea…pay attention! and say or do something to show your gratitude and love!

Happy Gifting!
-Lauren

peace

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I’ve recently been turned on to a new blog called, “Hands Free Mama.”  The creator, Rachel realized it was time to go “hands free” because her addiction to her phone/email/to-do lists/overcommitted life was robbing her of experiencing life.

She describes her mission better than I can: “I’m going Hands Free. I want to make memories, not to-do-lists. I want to feel the squeeze of my daughter’s arms, not the pressure of over-commitment. I want to get lost in conversation with my spouse, not consumed by a sea of unimportant emails. I want to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by extracurricular commitments that steal my joy. I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude, not the intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages. I am letting go of distraction, disconnection, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters. I’m going Hands Free. And if this sounds like a life you want to start living, come along. A Hands Free revolution starts here! I hope you will join me!”

Sounds good to me! I’ve had similar worries and thoughts, so I gladly signed up to receive an email when she posts something new. Usually her posts are tearjerkers, but always an important reminder to focus on what really matters. And so… in honor of the Christmas season, I charge you, dear reader, to let of go your phone, step away from your computers and make memories. I know you can’t walk away completely, but I hope you’ll at least set up a “no technology time/zone.” Let’s learn to embrace imperfection, enjoy our friends and family, and allow ourselves the time to enjoy a good book or conversation. To really watch our children, to enter their worlds, to see life the way they do…taking joy in the little things, in moments. To listen, laugh, and play knowing that this is time we will never get back. Let’s not waste it anymore. Start today.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and lovely Christmas season,

Lauren

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Knowledge is power. I was pleasantly surprised to see a very well written article entitled, “Protect Your Child from a Predator” in my November 2012 issue of Parent’s Magazine. I appreciate the renewed efforts to educate people about the prevalence of child sexual abuse even though it’s been sparked by the tragedy at Penn State. But that’s how we make meaning out of tragedy, isn’t it? By helping prevent the same horror from happening to others, we can create something good out of something really awful.

Here are some highlights from the article that I think every parent, person who wants to be a parent, and anyone else who thinks kids deserve to live a childhood free from those who would steal their innocence should know:

–       1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 (the National Sexual Violence Resource Center).

–       90% of offenders are relatives of the victim, or acquaintances such as neighbors, family friends, teachers, and coaches. These folks appear to the outside world to be warm and caring, loving and respectful.

Why most prevention strategies we’ve heard aren’t helpful:

–       Expecting kids to sort out negative touch and positive touch can be a tall order, especially because it doesn’t always start out feeling “yucky.” Also, some sexual abuse doesn’t begin with touch, but rather exposure to pornography or the offender’s body.

–       Saying things like, “you should scream” or “you should run” puts the burden on the child and sends the unintended message to a child who has already been abused that the child was responsible for the abuse by not protecting him/herself.

Instead, do this:

–       Read the entire article.  Please.  It gives an age-by-age guide of how to prevent abuse, as well as clues on knowing who’s in your child’s life, recognizing red flags, and how to talk about abuse. It also lists resources about where to turn for help.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, I urge you to deal with it if you haven’t already. Your story needs to be told in a safe environment. Let me know if you’d like help finding that safe environment. Blessings to you on your journey.