Wellness Challenge Part 2: 15 Healthy Coping Skills to try this Year

15 Healthy Coping Skills

So who is ready for part 2 of the Wellness Challenge! This week I wanted to focus on mental health and take it a step further into mental wellness. As a trained marriage and family counselor, this is my area of expertise, helping people learn how to cope with their circumstances in ways which will help them overcome and grow rather than avoid or be manipulated by their circumstances. While mental illness is definitely a big deal (it is a subject for another time because it is so important it deserves its own space), we don’t want to just avoid mental illness, we also want to thrive, and that is mental wellness. This is a preventative measure against developing mental illness.

For those struggling with anxiety and depression, many of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may look familiar to you, but it is definitely possible to incorporate the healthy coping mechanisms I listed below as well!  So that is why my week two goal is to continue to incorporate these Healthy coping strategies into my everyday life. And you should too, because mental wellness is affected and effects every part of your life. As we saw last week, it affects your relationships, especially your marriage; it affects work, parenting, it even affects your physical health.

I recently read a blog post, 15 Unhealthy Coping Skills,  written by Jackie over at Laughter & Loving Life. And it got me thinking there are so many unhealthy coping skills that we all engage in on a daily basis. I have seen so many unhealthy coping skills in my experience as a family counselor, used by both children and adults. But what I have noticed is that no matter what strategy they used, the point to these unhealthy coping skills was to avoid the problem and having to deal with it. Here are the 15 unhealthy coping skills Jackie came up with:

Unhealthy Coping Skills

  1. Leave without warning
  2. Fighting & negative comebacks
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Flight-mentally
  5. Sleeping away the problem
  6. Passive-aggressive behavior (ultimatums)
  7. Negative body language: crossed arms, rolled eyes, crossed and closed off legs and arms
  8. Not listening but jumping in waiting to talk
  9. Avoiding eye contact
  10. Over-eating
  11. Under-eating
  12. Lack of sleep
  13. Letting go of reality
  14. Lack of proper hygiene
  15. Lack of communication

If we always use unhealthy coping mechanisms, we will never feel as though we have overcome the situation that is causing the stress in the first place. In fact, it will probably cause more issues and we will continue the cycle of unhealthy coping by avoiding those extra issues by using the same unhealthy patterns. It may temporarily make us feel better, but in the long run we have solved nothing, but avoiding a problem. And until the problem is solved, we will continue to be plagued by the circumstances we are actively avoiding. That is not a way to live well; which is something we should all be striving for!

So from a family counselor here are 15 Healthy counter coping strategies to try out instead of the ones above. I have compiled this list from talking to clients about what works for them in difficult situations and other suggestions that other counselors often give their own clients, as well as things that have worked for me in the past.

Healthy Coping Skills

  1. Stay present in the moment, take in as much information as you an – it might help later
  2. Maintain a positive attitude – being negative has never solved anyone’s problems; positivity breed creativity for ways out of the issue
  3. At least try to identify the role you play in the situation – and share it if you can
  4. Maintain healthy sleep hygiene – only stay in bed to sleep, make your bedroom a safe haven
  5. Be confrontational (this is not a negative) if necessary, this simply means pointing out discrepant facts
  6. Be an active listener – engage in the Speaker-Listening technique 
  7. Eat Healthy – fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy carbs, avoid sugars and alcohol
  8. Exercise – even if it’s just a little bit, every small amount helps
  9. Talk to somebody, but don’t just bash the stressor (especially if it’s a person), but talk about your feelings about the situation
  10. Shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put some clothes on (other than yoga pants)
  11. Make a pro-con list, weigh the options of the whatever decisions might need to be made – don’t avoid them
  12. Take some time for self-care – pamper yourself a bit, go get a mani/pedi or do one yourself or whatever makes you feel good
  13. Check out for a bit, but don’t let it be for too long – checking out can be helpful in extreme stress situations, but maintaining that position is just avoidant
  14.  Seek support, don’t isolate yourself
  15. Relax, take a deep breath, practice any sort of relaxation technique that works for you: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.

So there you have it, 15 healthy coping mechanisms that I would recommend to any of my clients. Not all coping skills will work for everyone in all situations, but I am sure there is at least one or two that can be used in any situation by any person. With the New Year just starting, here is my challenge to you, try to replace one of your unhealthy coping skills with one of the healthy choices from the 2nd list. Try it out and see if it helps!

Let me know if it does or doesn’t and why it did or didn’t work for you! But it is my suspicion that while it may be more uncomfortable in the moment, it will help you solve the issue more quickly which will remove an even bigger discomfort! So choose emotional health this New Year! And don’t just settle for the absense of mental illness or lessened severity of mental illness, strive for mental health and above that mental wellness, and just maybe you’ll find yourself growing in the year 20171

So your challenge this week: pick 2 to 3 unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with 1 or 2 Healthy Coping Mechanisms. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you! For more detailed tips see my Guest Post for the Military Wife & Mom on how Military Spouses can Reduce Anxiety in Times of High Stress
​What are your go to coping mechanisms?

Stress can be hard to deal with, but with these 15 Healthy Coping skills you can grow from your challenges!

Check out Week 1 and Week 3 here!

Wellness Challenge Part 1: Do you have goals for you marriage? Well you should!

Do you have goals for your marriage this year? Here are some reasons why you should!

So who is ready for the first part of the wellness challenge! I thought the first place to start was with one of our most important relationships (after our relationship with God), our marriage! The health of our marriages is extremely important! People in healthy marriages live longer (250% longer for married men and 50% longer for married women), promotes mental wellness and protects against mental illness (are less anxious and depressed), it lowers your chance of being a victim of violence both for men and women, there are financial benefits as earning potential increases for maried couples, and a better sex life (which can boost immunity, reduce stress, ease tension and headaces and all sorts of other physical benefits, as well as increasing intimacy with our spouse), leading to great self-esteem, self-worth, and feeling desired and wanted.

When our marriages are happy and healthy, we are more happy and healthy individuals and when we are more happy and healthy individuals we have happy and healthy marriages (we don’t really know what comes first, its like the chicken and the egg – but regardless they occur together). Marital health and satisfaction is directly related to our overall wellbeing, which in turn will make our marriages better! But, a good marriage doesn’t come without work. We need to put effort into our marriage, pray with and for our spouse, listen to them, talk to them, respect them, and cherish them. Sometimes we let our marriage fall to the way side because we become so comfortable with our partner that we stop striving to make our marriages better, but this is just harming your wellness and your spouses!

So now we know why it is important to our overall wellness to have a happy marriage, here comes the challenge!

Do you have goals for your marriage for 2017? I recently got a new planner and I am so excited! One of my favorite things about a new year is getting a new planer, looking at all the vast possibilities. This year my planner has an area exclusively dedicated to goals. What your goals for the year in several different categories: financial, personal, social, and business. It then breaks it down quarterly so you can break down your overall goals into manageable chunks. And as I was preparing my planner for the year I started to think about what I want my goals for 2017 to be! I want to grow my blog, develop professionally, learn how to save some money, and nurture my relationships. Those would be my big overall goals, and then break them down into manageable chunks.

New Year Resolutions v. Goals
Now I know everyone makes a New Year’s Resolution, but those are often broken before mid-January. Goals are more impactful, and longer lasting than a New Year’s Resolution, especially if you put it in writing. As we enter January and prepare ourselves for the coming year focusing on wellness and how we are going to live well this year remember all facets of life are important.

As you can see in the categories above my planner didn’t have a space for any marital, or relational goals. I know that not everyone purchasing the planner would be married or in a relationship, but I think this area of our lives often gets overlooked when we make goals, especially if things are already going well. We don’t really try to improve unless the relationship is on the brink of dissolution. Goals often focus on health, financial success, work, or academics. But those of us who are married or in committed relationships need to make goals concerning where we want our relationship to end up. That is why I am making goals for my marriage this year! As I am just entering my second year of marriage I want it to be even better than the first. And after all, I ask my clients to make goals for their relationship all the time in counseling so we know what we are working towards. Why would I recommend to my clients to make goals concerning their relationship if I do not do so in my relationship. I ask them to make goals because it is an effective method of charting where you want to end up and the progress you are making to get there. In counseling this is particularly effective because there is someone to hold you accountable to working towards your goal. So here are my marriage goals for 2017:

  • Attend church at least twice a month, if not more;
  • Have at least one real date night a month, you know more than take out and Netflix;
  •  Pray together as a couple;
  • And finally, try something new once a month, go somewhere new, on a new adventure, get creative!


A Challenge to All
I encourage each of you to make goals for your marriage this year, write them down, and post them somewhere in your house where they can be seen on a regular basis. When making your own goals, keep it to three to minimum and five at a maximum. A manageable number will ensure that you will not get overwhelmed and forgo your goals. Make them measurable. For example, one of my goals was “to attend church at least twice a month, if not more” not just “attend church more.” This is specific and measureable. I will know if I have achieved this. Make sure your partner is on board, this helps if you sit down together to make the goals. This could be a fun date idea for ya’ll to start off the New Year. If they are joint goals they will be much easier to accomplish, you can hold each other accountable to achieve your goals. If you need further help staying accountable maybe you can partner up with another couple that you trust, share your goals with another couple and ask them to help you stay accountable, check in regularly; and you can do the same for them.

What are some of your goals for your marriage this year? Let me know in the comments!

It is so important to have goals for your marriage! Marriages can be a great source of comfort or a great source of stress. So we need to be ready. By having goals in your marriage can help you map where you are going!

Check out Week 2 and Week 3 here!

Welcome to the Wellness Challenge: Taking Control of the New Year

Welcome to the Wellness Chalenge

We have made it to 2017! It is going to be a great year! And to help it start off on the right foot (because we all know that when we have a good morning, our day is better off), each week the during month of January I am going to flesh out the biggest, most common new year’s resolutions: better marriage, mental wellness, friendships, healthy living, and more organized life and living space! Every year we pick one resolution: exercise every day, eat healthy, be a better, wife, mother and friend, be more organized, and get rid of our junk – living more simply. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that often even before Jan 15th we have left them behind! Why? Well A) because change is hard! And B) because we don’t always understand the holistic benefits to our wellness. While they are all great resolutions and all good things for us, really they are all just sub-components of living a lifestyle of wellness! They all work together to create a whole happy, and healthy person! Dieting is great, but are you doing it to lose a few pounds or to be a healthy person? And answering that question is why I am doing this wellness challenge.

Rather than having the best job, marriage, or body our New Year’s Resolution to be a happy person, a whole person! And all of those things listed above are great! But the ultimate goal is to be a happy and whole person! So that I what I want to help all of us accomplish this New Year, in a way that might last past Jan. 15th (even if in part it’s just because the Series goes through the end of January!) We can all do this, if we just keep that goal in mind, we don’t need to reinvent ourselves, we are already lovely and wonderful people! That is the mindset we need to maintain. So often our New Year’s Resolutions fail because we are trying to be something other than ourselves, and we are not made to do that; but we are made to be wonderful versions of ourselves, happy people!

So Week one we will look at our marriages and how they influence our overall wellbeing! Week 2, our mental wellness and how coping in healthy ways can help us grow and be bigger and better than our circumstances. Week 3, friendships and how we cannot live in isolation and our community is important. Week 4, living organized life, by taking control of our surroundings and our calendar we can prioritize our life, simplicity is all we need. And finally Week 5, healthy eating and exercise, saved this one for last because food is my kryptonite and I hate exercising!
So let’s do this together and hold each other accountable. Each week I want everyone to answer the call, and I will do the same!

How to Embrace Conflict in your Relationship and Come out Stronger

How to embrace conflict in your relationship and come out stronger

A week or so ago I wrote a post about why we need to stop husband bashing as a way of maintaining fondness and admiration for them. The is one of Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. When counseling couples, this is one of the main books and works that I draw on because his advice is well backed by science and research, and it works. I thought I would draw out one of his other principles for a successful marriage today: Solving solvable problems.

Many of the problems we face in our relationship are things we simply cannot change. We cannot change our personalities, they are pretty well set. Nor can we change extraneous circumstances, they are outside our control. We can’t change our extended family; we are pretty much just stuck with them. However, we can change how we relate to one another, and that can make all the difference when you and your spouse are trying to solve a problem. Remember, in a marriage you are a team, and you either win together or lose together; if one person ever walks away feeling like they lost, then both people lost. So practicing (and I choose this word specifically) practical conflict resolution skills can help you and your partner solve the solvable problems and overcome the non-solvable problems.

While Gottman’s unique approach to marriage counseling doesn’t focus solely on communication skills as more traditional models might. Rather he uses softening startups, making and receiving repair attempts, soothing yourself and your spouse, compromise, and tolerating each other’s faults. Now I am sure you are familiar with the last two or three components, but, the first two I think are the most important, so that is where I am going to focus.

Softening Startups

I am going to be the first to admit that I am not great at this; I tend to get very defensive, very quickly. However, I notice a radical difference in my husband’s response to me when I am soft and when I am defensive. Nothing can be resolved when one or both partners are in a defensive mode, this very quickly leads to arguments. We can’t avoid difficult conversations for fear of creating conflict either. Avoiding conflict will not bring us closer to our spouses, rather it will drive a wedge in between us making us feel ever more distant.

That is why we need to use soft startups when we know we are broaching a difficult subjects. Softening means no accusations. “Why didn’t you do…”; “How come you can never do….” Instead say, “I would really appreciate if you could help me do…”, “I really could use an extra set of hands on this project.” Often we feel underappreciated or a lack of help from our spouses simply because we haven’t asked for their help. They can’t read our minds, it is not a sign of disrespect, more of ignorance. When we use I-statements and avoid blaming our spouses we are more likely to get the response we desire, they come and help us. Be polite, this is important, as we are more likely to oblige someone who is polite, rather than demanding.

Making repair attempts

Gottman has said it is not the number of fights a couple has that impacts relationship satisfaction, rather it is how well a couple can reconnect after the argument. This is the idea behind making and receiving repair attempts. Couples have to practice both, it is not enough for one person to continually make repair attempts if the other partner makes not effort to receive and accept them.

A repair attempt can take many forms, but it is a way of turning toward your spouse (one of Gottman’s 7 Principles) after an argument. Repair attempts can be humorous jokes to break the tension after a fight, an apology, validating your partner’s emotions, and showing empathy. These can be done in the moment, during an argument. However, we are stubborn creatures, or at least I am! And often, we do not make repair attempts at the time because we feel justified in our position.

Repair attempts can also be made later: apologize, tell your spouse you love him, and make sincere efforts to let them know you are sorry. And well we’ve all heard that making up is the best part of fighting… if you know what I mean!
Not only do you need to make repair attempts, but you also need to be able to accept them when your spouse makes them! This requires being mature, and to stop dwelling on the argument and accept their apology. Give up your stubbornness, as hard as I know it is, believe me! If you want to know how well you are making and receiving repair attempts in your relationship, go to The Gottman Institute Blog and use the questionnaire and see how you rate.

How We Can Grow Closer

These tools can help make conflict within the marriage (which is inevitable, I don’t care how much you love each other, at some point there will be conflict). Remember, don’t avoid conflict in attempt to keep peace. It will only drive a wedge in between you and your spouse. If you soften your approach to complaints, it will lessen your partner’s defensiveness. Then you will be more likely to be able to solve your problems.

Remember, not all conflicts can be solved. There will always be gender differences, personality clashes, family members we don’t get along with. So try to come to compromises with those issues. Solve the ones you can so your relationship is not plagued with insolvable and solvable problems! I highly recommend reading Gottman’s Book. It is full of questionnaires and assessments that can be used to monitor how you are behaving in your relationship.

What are some of your conflict resolution strategies??

Conflict is a natural part of relationships! But it doesn't have break them! Here are some ways to embrace conflict in your relationship and come out stronger on the other side.

*This post contains affiliate links

5 Ways to Keep the Interest Alive In a Long Distance Relationship

Are you in a long distance relationship or spend a lot of time apart? Here is how you can keep the romantic spark alive even when you spend a lot of time apart!

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times with the same person”

Such a beautiful and wonderful quote; and something I think we all start out striving for. But lets me honest, it is a lot easier to fall in love with a person who is present, one that is there when you wake up and fall asleep, home for dinner, who is there to help put the kids to bed and someone who can help around the house. A partner because that is what a marriage is, a partnership. But enter military life, and suddenly that does not always happen. There are lots of separations in military life: i.e. deployments, trainings, TDYs, field time; and they are never there in the mornings because of PT. And suddenly, because of that we become incredible self-sufficient, which don’t get me wrong is not a bad thing. But when we become so self-sufficient, it can begin to interfere with the romance. Sure everyone thinks having a military relationship is so romantic with the grand homecomings after long absences. But what you don’t realize until you live it, is that it is never as romantic as it seems. It can be hard to keep the romance alive after that first initial homecoming.

So how do you keep the romance alive in your military (or long distance) marriage

1. Communicate Whenever You Can, However You Can

 Sometimes all we have are letters, sometimes we can Facetime, Skype, text, call each other. Regardless of what methods are available to you, utilize them. Don’t just send letters or emails, include pictures of you and what you are doing. This goes both ways. By sharing pictures, you can continue to feel connected to each other and what each other are doing. Whether you think it’s exciting or not, they will feel grateful that you thought of them and want to share what you are doing with them

2. Make Your Time Together Intentional

When you are together, make sure you are intentionally seeking to spend time with your spouse, don’t just spend your time haphazardly. Intentionally seeking your spouse means making a specific effort to work on your relationship at a certain time. All interactions should be intentional, but they rarely are, when time is limited this is even more crucial to keeping the relationship healthy and stoking the fires. When my husband was doing a lot of field training he was gone most days of the week for several months, and only home on weekends. I was intentional of not making plans with friends to be away while he was home. We spent that time together as a couple. Being intentional with the time we had together allowed us to keep romance alive during those months.

3. Be Creative Expressing Intimacy to your Spouse

When you are together all the time, there are easy, common ways to express intimacy towards your spouse. But keeping it alive is a bit more difficult. Now I am not suggesting you send racy photos to your spouse (especially if they are deployed as you never know who is monitoring packages or internet lines). If you want to send them that’s your choice, just be careful! However, there are other ways to creatively share. Tell your spouse what specifically you miss about him/her. “When I see you I want to ____.” This will help you feel connected to each other even if it’s just via letters. Send cards, not just letters. The sky is really the limit in how you are creative with each other.

4. Always Be Willing to Learn

Being apart means that there are going to be things ya’ll don’t know about each other. Even if you talk every day, the chances that you share everything, every day, are so slim. You are both going to have experiences the other won’t and it will change and affect you both differently. So when you are back together, be willing to continue learning about each other. As you learn more about each other, it will continue to build intimacy in your relationship.

​5. Surprise Each Other

Now, I know physically surprising each other in person is not always possible; especially if they are separated from you for military reasons. But send them something, maybe he really loves video games and a new one came out, beat him to the punch and send it to him. You are going to miss your anniversary together, send her flowers. It doesn’t have to be anything large or extravagant. Small surprises like a box of his favorite Christmas cookies if he is going to be deployed during the holidays, say a lot.
So whether you see each other once a week or are separated for months at a time you can use these 5 ideas to help you maintain the romantic spark in your relationship.
What are your creative ways to stay connected to your spouse across the distance?
 As Military Couples we find outselves separated a lot.  Here are my top 5 ways to keep the interest alive in a long distance relatioship

A Super fan’s Review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

A Super fan's review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Who loves Gilmore Girls as much as me?  I am not sure if there are too many (FAIR WARNING, SPOILERS BELOW).  In college my roommates and I would dream about a Gilmore Girls reunion, a season 8 or a movie. Anything to get some closure. Netflix was going to do a mini-series continuation. We were finally going to get our closure! . As soon as I finished watching them, just as quickly as I possibly could, I picked up my phone to text everyone I know who’s a fan. I saw varied reactions on Facebook, mostly of disappointment. Now Stars Hallow and its residents will always hold a special place in my heart, but here is my critique! We all know that Logan is supposed to be Rory’s Christopher; and Jess is supposed to be Rory’s Luke, and I want to pretend that’s how it ends up, as long as Jess and Rory figure it out faster than Luke and Lorelai.

  1. It was weird that they showed Mr. Kim

    After all this time that is not how I imagined Mr. Kim to be. He was too goofy to match such a serious woman like Mrs. Kim. I liked my imagination better.

  2. Sookie should have had more of a presence

    Sookie is one of my favorite characters and I love her quirkiness. But I wish she had more of a role in the Netflix reprisal. However, the Sookie that appeared was not the same Sookie I remembered. As much as I wish Sookie was included more, I am glad that if it wasn’t going to be the same Sookie, she didn’t have as much as a role. She was too much Melissa McCarthy’s more recent roles. Also her story of why she was missing was weird, and kept changing. They should have had a better story, something that was more cohesive.

  3. I love how they handled the death of Edward Herman

    Richard was so much of a presence in the original series, and I think they did him proud in the reprise. Richard was a beloved character and he was going to be sorely missed in the revival. He was the mainstay of the Gilmore family. He was able to bridge the feud between Emily and Lorelai, even in their worst of times. By including the funeral and the death of Richard Gilmore in the series, the Gilmore family was able to pay their respects to the wonderful character he was and the terrific actor who portrayed him.

  4. Emily finally found her kayak

    In the wake of Richard’s passing Emily was struggling as I could only imagine anyone would after losing her husband of 50 years. But I am glad that the writer, Amy Sherman Palladino, didn’t just leave her there. She put her in her very own kayak. The kayak reference is from season 6 (I am Kayak Hear me Roar) where Emily laments the fact that she is in a metaphorical canoe and feels like she is paddling in circles after Richard’s second heart attack; leaving her to manage everything on her own. Lorelai is a kayak, she doesn’t need a man she can get where she wants all on her own. Finally putting that history degree to work as a historian tour guide in Nantucket.

  5. Luke and Lorelai finally got married

    I mean this was what I always wanted to know. After all their relationship is one of the most famous “will they, won’t they,” “on again, off again,” relationships. In the very last episode of the original series, Luke and Lorelai kiss in one of the final scenes, but we never got to see where they actually ended up. I am glad to know that their relationship lived up to imagination!

  6. Paul? Wait who was Paul?

    Now I did not mind Rory having a new character for a boyfriend. After all it has been 10 years, surely she has met other people since then; but I did not like the way that Rory was treating him. It was very uncharacteristically Rory. She is on top of everything, she never would have let that happen. I mean she was able to take a failing DAR event in season 5 from needing to be cancelled to turning people away, making it the must attend event of the year for their community. She really should have just dumped Paul in the “Winter” episode rather than constantly stringing him along, even if it was because she kept forgetting that he existed.

  7. Lorelai’s adventure to do the WILD hike was very un-Lorelai.

    While she is eccentric and believes in serendipity, hiking and nature are somethings that are very un-Lorelai. After all she was the one who brought the fish she caught home and put it in her bath tub on her first fishing trip, because she couldn’t bear the thought of actually killing her fish. Although it was great to see her co-star from Parenthood and current boyfriend as the Park Ranger in the “Fall” episode. I am just glad she didn’t use this trip to run away from Luke for good, that would have broken my heart!

  8. Logan trying to make Rory his mistress, I am not too fond of that.

    I am all for being Team Logan, I tend to be Team Logan, when I am not too busy being Team Jess. But if she and Logan are going to be together, just let them be together, not make her his mistress. She is too good for that and he is clearly too much in love with her for that.

  9. And finally, those last 4 words…

    We have all been waiting to hear those last four words, 10 years now. Did they live up to the expectation? Most were disappointed, probably because it felt out of place. Most of those that are critical of those last four words think that maybe the writer had been holding onto what would have been a great ending to the original series and transposed it here; which makes those people feel almost let down by the ending they had waited ten years for.  It was a complete surprise, never saw it coming. I, for one, just hope it’s not the Wookie’s baby! And if it is Logan’s, I hope she gives him a chance. I mean it didn’t quite fit, and it is not how I wanted the series to end; mainly because it felt as if the last episode rushed to pack in everything. If it had ended just with Luke and Lorelai’s wedding I would have been completely happy!

How about you? What did you think of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? Your favorite part, least favorite part?

I am obsessed with Gilmore Girls! Here is my reviw of the revival Netflix brought to us last year!

Co-Parenting: Its not just for Divorced Families

Co-Parenting is important for all families whether divorced or together

When we talk about co-parenting its often thought of as two divorced or separated parents working together to parent their children. You hear it in the courtroom when the judge rules on child custody matters; you hear it in the counseling room, at the children’s school during parent teacher conferences. BUT, what if we expanded that. All too often parents that live in the home together aren’t even on the same page with parenting issues. Or what about parents that are married but one parent travels for work and is rarely home. These couples need to learn the art of co-parenting also, yet no one will ever even mention the idea to them because they aren’t divorced.

Applying the concept of co-parenting teams to married couples is helpful, especial in the military communities when one parent is in and out of the house. So often the spouse on the home-front feels the brunt of parenting responsibility and the service member feels guilty for their lack of presence in their children’s lives whether because of deployment, TDY, field time, whatever. The home front parent feels like the disciplinarian, fun sucker etc. And the more absent parent spoils the children with gifts, rarely punishes, and is the more lax parent (of course this is not always the case, but the general pattern). This creates two different set of operations for the children to follow, and creates chaos in the house as the children try to figure out which set of rules they need to operate under at any given minute.
Parents should be a co-parenting team, discussing how they plan to raise their children, and the expectations they have for one another as a parenting team and for their children before having a family. Having these types of discussions early and often can eliminate stress and anger down the road. So what does it mean to be a co-parenting team? Here are some basic guidelines on what it means to be a co-parenting team, regardless of whether or not you are still married.

How to Co-Parent Effectively:

Consistency is King!

Regardless of anything else consistency will win out; the moment you give in, you have taught your children that if they whine and complain hard enough, you will give them what they want. If you say “no” and your spouse says “yes”, they will play ya’ll against each other. Stay consistent personally and as a team. You and your spouse are a team you can’t be in charge of the kids if you are squabbling amongst yourselves.

Don’t let one Parent always be the Disciplinarian.

Don’t let one parent always be the disciplinarian. I know this isn’t always possible when one parent is gone a lot, but when they are present make sure the workload is fully shared, this means disciplining as well. The kids will see a united front if the responsibility is split. This also applies to showing affection towards your children, both parents should be responsible for showing physical, verbal, and emotional affection towards their children. You’d hate to be labeled as the cold one while your children constantly turn to your spouse for affection.

Don’t tolerate it when your Children Play you Against Each Other

Do not EVER tolerate it when your children play you against one another. I remember I did that once as a child, and let me tell you once was enough! They made it clear that they would not tolerate me playing them against each other. It does not matter what discipline plan you and your partner choose, along as it is agreed upon.

 Conclusion:

These three points are broad, but purposefully so. No family has the same experiences and circumstances. Because it is a broad overview it can be applied to any two parent family in any circumstance. Remember, no matter what you and your spouse are a team. Teams work better when they work together (I know that sounds cliché but, it’s entirely too true). Having a strong co-parenting team  tension and stress within your marital relationship will be reduced. Making your marriage even stronger!

Military parents, I know how hard co-parenting can be when one parent is home only a small percentage of the time. Service members are out of the home so much for trainings, deployments, field time, or maybe you opted to be a part while a child finishes school. This can be hard, and even confusing for some children when one parent is still an authority, but not home the majority of the time. If this is something you struggle with in your home hop over to my Military Parenting Page and check out my program coming soon: Parenting Coaching Designed specifically for Military Parents to address the unique concerns that we face with our children. Take a moment and sign up for updates and receive a FREE GIFT: Behavior Chart & an Easy How to Guide for Promoting Positive Behavior in our children.



Co-Parenting: It is not just for divorced families

Welcome to Army Life: Learning a Whole New Lingo

Welcome Army Life: Learning a Whole New Language

A friend, and fellow MilSpouse said it best, “Alpha, Foxtrot, What?!?!” I could not agree more. From military time, to the phonetic alphabet, to all their damn acronyms the military culture is certainly unique. And unless you are entrenched in it before you get married; extremely confusing ad overwhelming. Now having only been married to the military for a year, I am not going to pretend to be an expert. I am still sitting over here wishing that google translator had a military option! But I have picked up a few things over the last couple months of living on Fort Benning that have been extremely helpful.

When I first got here the only person I knew was my husband, and as he was in training he spent most of his days (and nights) sleeping out under the stars in the field. So he was not a lot of help in making the transition. Thankfully he has passed that phase for now and is home most of the time. But while he was gone I had to do some improvising. So what to do when you are overwhelmed by the military life culture. Well first I Google. “oh are you going to the FRG?” Ummm hold on let me consult my personal assistant, a.k.a. Hi google, “what is FRG?” Google: FRG stands for Family Readiness Group, the place for spouses to gather that is based on your spouses’ Unit. It is typically headed by the Commander’s wife. If your spouse is deployed this is where you would get information regarding your husband movements. They host coffee groups which are social gatherings. Google can be a serious life saver; any acronym someone throws at you, just O.K. Google! And, depending on your internet connection, you can have it within seconds.

Ask For Help

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know something you are not going to learn by nodding your head, and pretending you understand without piping up and saying so. The one thing I have learned so far is that most people in the military world pay little attention to how new you are to post (in case you didn’t know, that is what Army people call a base or fort), and will proceed with acronyms galore in their conversations. Asking for help is absolutely ok, nobody is going to judge you for it, I promise. It will probably make the person you are asking feel good that they are able to help you out. So ask, it’s the only way to learn, other than google!

Find Good Resources

Also, a couple of really well known Military Spouse Bloggers, J.D. Collins from Semi-Delicate Balance, Jo, My Gosh, and Lauren Tamm from The Military Wife & Mom, wrote an e-book called the “Modern Military Spouse”. It has everything you would ever want to know about Military life and culture. It even has a handy Acronym Dictionary in the back! (This post is not in any way endorsed by them, I am simply passing along information about a tool that I found invaluable in starting my journey as a military spouse.) You can find it here: ​http://jomygosh.com/the-modern-military-spouse/

Where Anxiety Comes from & Why it Won’t go Away

Where does Anxiety Come from & How we can make it go awat

We always think, once that test I over, once my husband gets home from deployment, TDY, the field; my kid grows out of this phase then I won’t be anxious any more. As soon as that event ends and we think we can relax. We just find something else to be anxious about. Why can’t we just relax? Well I will tell you.

The reason we have so much anxiety in our lives is because the society we live in perpetuates it. Just watch any TV commercial it will tell you all about the products you are missing out on and that you just have to have, and you will see that it is breeding grounds for feeling like we are missing out. We are constantly comparing our lives to everyone around us, who we assume always has everything perfectly together. And we suddenly feel very inadequate. Sure, come January first and we are making our new year’s resolution we will vow not to compare ourselves to other, but January 2nd rolls around and we go to a friend’s house and their house is already un-decorated, put away and cleaned. And we go home to our house filled with boxes of unfinished, unorganized Christmas decorations and we fall back into the trap.

So what can we do about this vicious cycle? Because we are imperfect people, we will never rid our lives of anxiety fully, but if we recognize the cycle and can identify it in our own lives then we can get one step closer to living peacefully alongside our anxiety. Wait what did you just say you might ask? Living peacefully alongside anxiety? That sounds like an oxymoron. In some ways maybe. There is always going to be a new product out. Our friends will always be doing something different from us. We are always going to have that anxiety in our lives; and that’s ok. It is how we respond to our anxiety that determines whether or not we live peacefully.

Often we think we are in the wrong for feeling anxious, because everyone hides their anxiety from everyone else; trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. By acknowledging it we gain power of it, we are no longer acting out of anxious reactivity we can choose how we respond to the anxiety. Reactivity to anxiety is what keeps us in the falsehood of as soon as the circumstances change our anxiety will lift; keeps us constantly purchasing the next “it” item of clothing, make-up, toy for our child; it’s what keeps us constantly looking for something else to satisfy our void. Reactivity will never make our anxiety go away it will just shift the focus of our anxiety. Recognizing our anxiety, operating knowing that we have control over it means freedom.

We own our anxiety by recognizing that its present and choosing to act despite it. It is the push to try something new, dare to be different, and own and accept your life for what it is and what God has given to you. Way easier said than done I agree; however, with prayer, patience, and knowing we aren’t always going to get it right we can live peacefully alongside our anxiety instead of imprisoned by its constraints.

Here are some more handy coping skills when you’re struggling with anxiety!

We all face some anxiety, some of us more than others. But despite our levels of anxiety if we don;t know how to address it we can never learn how to live with our anxiety.

Husband Bashing

In order to keep our marriages healthy we need to grow in fondness, meaning we need to stop husband bashing!

Husband bashing: just google it. You will find tons of articles listing why you should not do it; funny jokes; and to beware of husband bashers. Yet, it is so easy to do. He makes us mad, forgets the one thing at the store we needed most, whatever. And we turn to our sisters, friends, or worse the internet. We are all guilty of this. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we do not feel any better for it. All we have done is tick off our husbands and turn our biggest supporters against him. So what can we do instead the next he forgets to pick up milk on his way home?

Well according to one of the most respected researchers in marital and relational therapy, Dr. John Gottman, suggests that one of the seven principles for making marriage work is to nurture fondness and admiration for each other. But how can we do that when we are constantly bashing our husbands for all their short comings? We can’t; we can’t both admire them and bash them at the same time. Every time we bash them publicly or even internally, we forfeit the opportunity to admire their positive qualities, what drew us to our spouses in the first place.

As humans we are naturally drawn to more immediately recognize negative situations, characteristics, events, individuals, and actions. This means we are more apt to notice our spouses’ short comings rather than their achievements and successes. As a result, we husband bash to vent our frustrations. Learning to train our minds to focus on the good, positive moments takes time and dedication. And slowly we won’t gravitate towards nitpicking the negatives. Allowing us to turn towards our spouse and remember to stay fond of each other, have happy memories together in the present, not just the past. When we are fond of our husbands and admire them for all their strengths, we won’t continue to bash our husbands. If we continue to husband bash, it becomes breeding ground for contempt in our relationship. Contempt is one of the number one enemies of a healthy, successful relationships. Fostering fondness is an antidote to the growing contempt, remembering why we love our spouse keeps the focus positives in our relationship.

​ We do this by consistently telling our spouses why we appreciate them, identifying positive qualities they admire about their partner and reminiscing about the past; what brought you together, what was the first thing that attracted you to your spouse, and shared memories of good times together. This will buffer the stresses that you encounter in your relationship by altering your view of your partner as fundamentally positive as opposed to negative. It will not eliminate any stresses in your relationship, but it will help you navigate the stresses you encounter together. So remember, next time he forgets to do wash the dishes, don’t bash your husband tell them what you appreciate them instead. Maybe he didn’t do the dishes because he was busy playing with the kids; you never know. The fonder of your husband you are, the happier your relationship will be.