Recent Blog Entries!
I'm always writing something.....here's a few of the thoughts I'd like to share with you.
Teen Brains -What a Ride!
October 17, 2011
Your 17 year old son was arrested for doing 137 mph on a two lane “deserted” road that he thought was safe; or, your 15 year old daughter freaks out because she may be pregnant; Or your neighbor says he called the cops after “one hell of a party” erupted last weekend in your once private home and castle with in-ground pool. You thought your kids could be left alone while you take an “adult only” weekend by the sea. But those lovely memories are quickly being dashed to pieces when you find out that 70 drunken kids invaded your personal space and were diving off the roof into the pool below. Your response is Shock! Overwhelm and Anger! How could your kid who usually seems so responsible do such stupid stuff? You set out the house rules; and issued threats of dire consequences if those rules are broken. What went wrong? Most likely, you just haven’t fully appreciated the amazing adaptability of a teenage brain and how it works.
Brains in process: Although children’s brains reach 90% of their size by age 6, brains undergo a massive re organization between the ages of 12 and 25. By age 13-15 teenage brains are running 100X faster than the brain of a young child, and capable of greater memory and decision making processes, complex thinking skills. The brain of a 20 year old work just as fast as an adult brain does, because the neurological networks have become thicker and more developed. But what parents need to keep in mind is that, no matter how smart your kid is or how responsible she seems at home, she is still coping with a brain that is a work in progress. This is why teens can be so darned inconsistent, full of energy one day and exhausted the next, semi nocturnal, sleeping until noon, moody, impulsive, brilliant, sweet and ready to take greater risks that any adults who value sanity. Scientists have called this “neurological gawkiness,” which is pretty similar to the physical awkwardness of young teens getting used to their fast growing bodies. In this case, they are trying out their rapidly accelerating brains.
Risk taking: increases greatly from ages 15-25, (greatest years of risk being 14-17) which is why so many teenagers have horrible auto accidents, or begin using drugs, drinking and smoking in these early years. Unfortunately many of these early thrills can turn into adult habits that are often regrettable. When the teenage brain encounters thrill or pleasure, it unloads a whopping does of Dopamine, (the feel good neurotransmitter) and since teens are naturally stimulated by excitement and novelty, they respond best to rewards. What parents need to realize is that the teenage brain values PAYOFF much more than PUNISHMENT. They will take greater risk, because it will get them what they desire….which is a thrill, the buzz…or increased social status. Most parents hope and pray that their kids don’t do something so risky that it will permanently injure or cut short their budding futures.
Peer influence: In Washington State there is a newer law that does not allow a beginning driver to have any other peers in the car for the first 6 months they have a license. The reasons for this are many-fold but one is becausewhen the teen brain picks up social cues it produces more oxytocin, (a hormone) in social situations, and as a result they will take twice as many risks with peers watching than they would if they were alone. Conversely, adolescents can perceive social rejection as a literal threat to their existence which may explain why your 16 year old daughter had a huge melt down after not being invited to a popular girls party. If she is acting as if her life depended on it, it is probably how she feels; and she will attempt to do ANYTHING to be accepted as one of the ‘cool kids’. Remember, teens take more risks NOT because they don’t understand the dangers or consequences, but because they weigh risk vs. reward differently than adults. In this case being socially cool and accepted is more than enough motivation to push the boundaries.
What to do? Studies have shown that when parents engage and guide their teens with a light but steady hand, and stay connected while allowing independence, their kids generally do much better in life. Teenage brains love learning new things; and although they often prefer to learn things from their peers, they also desire to be guided by their parents, when THEY are in the mood! A wise parent learns to spot those moments open to parental wisdom, and uses them with finesse. Parental talking points come off best, not in the form of a heavy handed lecture, but as a person who remembers how he or she made sense of the adult world as they first encountered it. Although teens DO need to understand and value their parent’s perspective; they are simultaneously trying to make sense of the world they are beginning to encounter which is different than the world parents were launched in 25 years ago.
Your teen needs a parental ally who is gentle, but firm and points a guiding hand forward in life, while understanding that the teenage brain just isn’t able to handle the social influences and temptation of having a house with a pool all to themselves, or the fastest car on the block. Wise parents will quickly learn to say; “Honey we DO trust you most of the time ….but we aren’t going to burden you by leaving the best party house in town untended, (this will your insurance agent sigh with relief!) Yes, you STILL have a curfew so you get enough rest and I’m sorry but….no one in this family is getting a BMW M-3 for a long, long time!”
Play and Laughter Heal Relationships!
October 4 , 2011
Have you ever noticed the effect of laughter in our lives? The baby playing peekaboo soon learns to giggle and suddenly everyone around him laughs out loud. The 5 year old whose Father playfully chases her through the house while playing ‘monster” shrieks with laughter for the joy of pretending to be scared. As humans grow from cute grade-schoolers to snarly teenagers on their path to adulthood, play is one of the things that can create and reinforce the bonds of our relationships, our creativity to adapt to new situations and facilitate emotional and spiritual growth. Play allows us to discover different parts of ourselves that are normally hidden and helps us gain confidence in our risk taking. It is so essential that some human development specialists have claimed that without play, humans and many animals would perish. I would say the same thing about a marriage partnership, play is essential to our wellbeing and laughter can actually heal many of our relational stresses.
I recently met the authors of a new book on this subject while signing books at a National AAMFT Conference. Consequently I’ve been enjoying reading “We’re No Fun Anymore, Helping Couples Cultivate Joyful Marriages Through the Power of Play,” by Robert Schwartz and Elaine Braff, which has some interesting things to say about the power of play in relationships.
For instance, in grammar school, studies have indicated that children may often laugh up to 400 times a day! But when they become teenagers who hear the adults around them suggesting they grow up , the new message given is that work has become the highest value, rather than play. How many times do kids here adults saying…” O grow up.. or “That behavior is SO childish.” And somewhere along the line the drive to play takes a dive, and laughter diminishes to the point that by adulthood we average about 15 laughs a day. It may be normative, but it strikes me as something sad and not all that healthy.
Laughter can increases our sense of well- being, and overall health. Our mirror neurons affect each greatly so that when my partner laughs or cracks a joke, it prompts my body to secret oxytocin (which is the same chemical released when making love) which in turn boosts my immune system, decreases my stress levels, and promotes the longevity not only of my marriage, but of my life.
So laugh a bit more, tease in good taste and if you need a jump start, watch this 12 second video guaranteed to make you smile. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwI7gXp30lY
The power of Vulnerability
Feb 16, 2011
Everyone wants to be connected in some way, but many times we don't know how to get there. The typical answer is 'discover intimacy'..but we may not know what that is.
One thing we do know, is that Shame unravels our connections with others, because we believe we are not good enough to be loved by someone else. On the other hand, those who are deeply loved, tend to be people who believe they are worthy of love and connection.
Underneath all of this is one very powerful word: Vulnerability. Those who understand how to use it, believe that what makes you vulnerable, also makes you beautiful to others. We are drawn closer to people's vulnerabilities than their strengths. Being vulnerable also means that you give up the impossible task of pretending to have it all together, and are ready to really be seen by others, and begin to believe that you too, are worthy of being deeply loved.
Often, when I am working with couples I have asked them to watch this twenty minute video.....so we can discuss what they got out of this talk... Check it out, and let me know your thoughts!
Spirituality in the Family
June 2, 2010
Today we have been married for 37 years! My wife and I tease each other that we've had 35 good years… because two were pretty awful when we were not able to get in synch! At this point, the negative perspective represents only 3% of our lives so far. Not a bad average when you look at the bigger picture; and hopefully by the time leave this world those will only be a blip on the screen as we review the movies of our lives. To take a proper picture of our lives together, necessitates using a wide angle lens that will include a minimum of 4 dogs, 3 kids and 96 years of parenting! We’ve also had over 240 years of being nurtured by our own parents, some of whom are still with us and others who have left us with more questions than answers. Then there is how we learn to make sense of our various careers and shared life experiences. If spirituality is first and foremost a term of connection, how can all of these connections not promote spiritual growth as we continue to make meaning out of the individual and intersected places in our lives? And don’t you wonder where God sits in the midst of it all?
To begin this day, I poured coffee into a special mug given to me by our youngest daughter who is about to get married, pulled a tee shirt over my head from the “Lonestar Rod and Kustom Roundup,” bought while visiting our son in Austin, Tx, wrapped myself in a West Seattle Sweatshirt, given our softball coach daughter, and topped off the ensemble with a ball cap from Lake Roosevelt where our whole family used to share stories around a campfire. After hooking Max to a leash (the youngest family member) and sliding my wedding ring on my left hand , I couldn’t help but notice how many symbols of our shared lives I encountered before I headed out for a morning walk; each one carrying not only a memory, but a reminder of a special type of spirituality that is only discovered as we learn how to nurture and be nurtured by each other.
May 12, 2010
April 27, 2010
For some just plain ol fun.....see this VERY creative Video! Shows you how creative you can be when you are on the fun path of life again!
April 26, 2010
I can still picture from long ago, one of our kids, sitting next to the big drawings on the wall near the staircase, crayon in hand, adamantly saying it wasn’t her fault…and squirting huge crocodile tears that were meant to convince us that someone else had done the misdeed! We, of course, didn’t buy it, and made sure the message “all lies will be found out” got through. What seemed like a big deal a couple of decades ago, cracks me up today.
Ah....Remember the First?
April 8, 2010
Gay Spirituality Video
March 29, 2010
In celebration of the one year anniversary of my book being published (Coming Out, Coming Home, Making Room for Gay Spirituality) my son made this vidieo that expalins what this book 'is all about and why I had to write it! It's about connecting the dots between our innate sexuality and spirituality..check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UhUhUz-EiM (click this link....)
Marriage/Partnerships are People Growing Machines!
MARCH 28, 2010
But what most people fail to realize is that marriage/ partnership is not about finding a place of safety or that special someone who can finally makes us happy. Marriage does not lead to divorce; the real culprit is the refusal of one or both parties to grow through the process. Personal contentment, spiritual/emotional grounding and joy are not the kind of gifts we can give each other. Finding ways to live in a positive state of mind only comes from choices made deep inside our self. We can choose to see the glass half full vs. half empty; Choose to do things that please us vs. instead of placing ourselves in bad situations; Choose to speak our minds in the presence of our loved ones vs building up quiet resentments. This is why David Schnarch, a nationally prominent marital therapist often says “Marriage is a people growing machine.” It may well produce the biggest changes in a person’s life.
Change? Yes we MUST!
March 27, 2010 No one actually wants change. Not really. If given the choice of changing or continuing the status quo (as long as it’s working for us,) none of us would CHOOSE change. Change requires new paradigms in perspective, new attitudes, shifts in behavior and constant adaptation. Good grief! It’s just too much work, right? Or is it?
Last week, I was in Washington D.C. attending an AAMFT leadership summit, where among other things, we visited the offices of our senators and representatives urging them to amend bills that would directly benefit Marriage and Family Therapists and their clients. In doing so we met with sharp young assistants who bring relevant issues to their bosses attention. What appeared to be quite intimidating on the surface was actually kind of fun. Guess what? Those offices are staffed with real people, who really do want to do their best jobs to serve fellow Americans. It gave me new appreciation for our system where the common person still has access to those who wield power. We presented our case, knowing that if enough people take the time to inform their elected officials things DO change.
While we were in the Capitol Building, we also visited the US Senate, just in time to see John McCain going on record to say that he and his state of Arizona were opposed to the cost of health care reform. He only had one real problem….no one was listening! Apparently the real action was in the House of Representatives, where everyone else was preparing to vote on healthcare reform. On Sunday night we watched the live vote on TV about five miles from the political action, feeling rather amazed that we were in DC when this milestone event took place. The rest is of course is history….and health care reform was voted to become a new law of the land.
Now, I know that there are many different ideas about this historical vote; but I am really not very interested in particulars today. I want to look at the bigger picture…because things have NEEDED to change. It is appalling to realize that 32 million Americans have lacked proper medical coverage; and most likely all of us have heard stories or known people who were bankrupted after running out of insurance coverage following a long term illness. Things needed to change; but many of those with good coverage have not wanted to rock the boat fearing they might lose the good benefits of privilege.
Apparently enough people said “we really need help”…because the wheels of change have began to turn. This isn't something new. It is the same process that occurred when women were given the right to vote. A similar path was experienced when legislation mandated changes in civil rights for Americans of all races and creeds. Of course there was griping, and complaining, but when the dust settled, people began to do things that influenced others hwo pushed the wheels of power in a new direction. Major events like civil rights, marriage rights, human rights, rights to vote, and now the right to have adequate health care, have all had some form of unpopular legislation that lead the way for change that would allow more people equal protection under the law.
And of course, there will be hundreds of different reactions… pro and con…and in reality many of them will last for years. It's good to remember that conflict produces change; And unless new voices insist on being heard, change will never come. Human beings tend not to choose change for change’s sake; So now we begin another process of adapting and refining the laws to reflect the changes that are needed….It will be hard work, but let’s face it, we usually need to be prodded to act on behalf of the common good....Which way shall we go? What shall we stand for? Is it worth the cost? When in doubt, perhaps we should ask a different question.......WWAD? (What would Abe Do?)
June 3, 2010
For you God/Dog lovers out there... here's a chance to spend two minutes similing and loving some of the "people" who nurture your soul; a little sappy but cute...