by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 29, 2021 healthy relationships, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Nothing can fill a parent with trepidation quite like watching their teenager enter the world of dating.
While you may feel some “mama bear” instincts to shut it down, your teen needs you to be there for them. And they’re probably craving to know (without telling you): what does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Instill these five teachable habits to help your teen build healthy relationships.
Relationships rest on emotions, words, and actions. Teach your teen that emotions can’t be controlled, but words and actions can – and they form the basis of a communication.
Actions communicate broad messages like “I want to be here” or “I like you”. But words are the real powerhouse of healthy communication.
Especially when swept away in the beginning, your teen may feel like they can read their partner’s mind. But at some point, this illusion will end. Hurt feelings often result.
Save your teen trouble by teaching them to air out issues before they happen. Remind them to speak gently when opening a conversation. It helps all parties feel like they can say what’s really on their mind.
If your teen and their girlfriend/boyfriend know where they stand on relationship status, sex, and expectations, to name some heavy-hitters, they can navigate from a thoughtful place.
Clear boundaries set a relationship free. They remove the guesswork. Teach your teen the nuts and bolts of boundary setting in a relationship.
Your sounding board can help them get in touch with their inner voice. Inquire in a helpful way. “Do you want him to text you that much?” “Do you feel ready to take your relationship with her to that level of commitment?” Encourage them to answer from their gut instinct.
Then let them know they can request a boundary directly, i.e. “I only want text a few times a day”. Make it clear that if the person involved with doesn’t respect that boundary, it’s a red flag.
Help your teen understand what constitutes physical and emotional safety in a relationship. Encourage them to take time away from the partner to reflect on how things are going. Remind them that any relationship worth keeping will be there when they return.
Highlight the difference between safe and unsafe. Safe should feel comfortable, open, trusting, unpressured, and generally easy. Unsafe situations will evoke feelings of pressure, hiding, secrets, shame, and general ickiness.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Your teen may feel nervous about getting to know somebody they like. It can be scary to put yourself out there! Give them foundational talk skills to help get over that knot in the throat.
A powerful but underrated conversation skill is asking open-ended questions. Coach your teen to say “How do you feel about your biology class?” instead of “Do you like biology?” Questions like this can really get the conversation flowing. Your teen’s crush will feel their care and interest, and your teen will feel empowered to listen and share.
Enjoy the Fun
Provide gentle but realistic perspective for teenage relationships. The person they date in middle school and high school, in all likelihood, will not be who they marry. It might not even last a few weeks or months. And that’s okay.
Emphasize that relationships are about learning at this point – and fun! If they’re not having fun, encourage your teen to set a boundary to change or end the relationship. Support their discovery of what’s fun or not fun for them.
These building blocks will help them down the road. In the meantime, they’re building happy memories and growth-oriented relationships that uplift them in an often tumultuous season of life.
For more relationship support for you and your teen, consult the following resources:Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 14, 2021 child counseling, child therapy, family counseling, family counseling during corona virus, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Whether you’re a parent or caregiver, weathering the pandemic with children has probably felt like a pressure cooker at times. Boredom, turmoil, and anxiety arise when faced with remote school days or filling long afternoons sans extracurriculars.
Kids look to the adults in their lives to help them cope with this complex, global situation. How can we make strong mental health choices to protect them?
Start By Helping Yourself
It’s difficult to support others when you feel unsupported. Take some moments at the beginning of each day to center yourself. You could wake up a little early to do a 20-minute yoga class. Perhaps digest the headlines over a quiet cup of coffee. Even stopping to breathe deeply for one minute can make a difference.
Now that you are calm, transmit that to your children. Start with basic facts about COVID-19. Dispel any scary rumors that may be circulating. Especially be aware of internet and TV messages. Assure them that, although we do need to take it seriously, adults are working to keep everyone as safe as possible.
When your child has a question about the coronavirus or lockdown life, take the time to listen. Give them space to air out their concerns. It may help to provide multiple modes of expression, like drawing, playing, and talking.
Measures of Control
We all like to feel some control of our lives, however small. The same goes for young people. Fortunately, the safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 translate into simple activities. Guide kids to wash their hands, wear a mask in public, and stay at least 6 feet away from anyone outside their pod.
Lighten the mood when you can. Hand-washing can be made into a fun game with songs. Mask crafts add color and art to something obligatory.
Social distancing may especially distress kids who miss their friends. Take some extra time to emphasize why it’s important to keep distance. Explain that the infection spreads when people are in close contact with each other. Assure them that it’s temporary, and they will see their friends again. Meanwhile, engage in remote or outdoor socializing when possible.
Middle schoolers and high schoolers may benefit from graphics that demonstrate how “flattening the curve” works. This helps them understand the bigger picture and empower them to be part of the solution.
Come Up With Fun Distractions
On the bright side of lockdown, we have so many opportunities to spend quality time with our kids. When we’re safe at home, there’s no need to ruminate on pandemic worries. Have a family meeting where everyone lists a hobby or interest they want to grow during quarantine: puzzles, art, reading, writing, music, gymnastics, bird-watching… Maybe you all make a pact to work on doing the splits by the end of quarantine. Maybe you remodel a room and turn it into an art studio or sublime reading nook.
Most of us have some kind of dream home project that’s been sitting on the shelf. Time to get into it! The antidote to worry is action.
We Can Pull Through This
If the stress of the pandemic seems to be wearing on you and your children, make the wise choice: seek counseling. Zoom makes family therapy readily available, and it’s just as effective.
It’s true that we’re all in this together – if your family feels overwhelmed, you don’t have to tough it out alone.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 3, 2021 healthy relationships, marriage, marriage counseling, marriage counseling near me, marriage counseling pittsburgh, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford, meaning of rituals0 comments
Creating a love that lasts takes time and commitment. One of the keys to this kind of love is intentionality. Intentionality is acting in a deliberate manner that shows your partner that you love them. It might look like cooking a nice meal for your partner, or getting them a special coffee, or maybe another gift like flowers. Being intentional is a necessity to maintain romance and foster a fun and exciting atmosphere in your relationship! As a couple it is important to foster a sense of intentionally, not just toward your partner, but toward your relationship as a whole. Taking time to create Rituals of Connection is one of the best ways to intentionally foster love and intimacy. Rituals of Connection are specific times of interaction, both informal and formal, that help couples come together and build intimacy. Building rituals of connection is a way to deepen your connection and create shared meaning in your relationship.
Rituals of connection can be simple and informal, like sharing meals together, the way you leave for work, coming home from work, working out together, and even rituals before bed. They can also be more formal and scheduled, such as planned relationship check-in’s, weekly dates, scheduling times for intimacy and romance, and routine times to release stress. Rituals of Connection also include how you as a couple celebrate achievements, anniversaries, and even hosting friends in your home.
Why is it important?
Rituals of connection create a sense of healthy anticipation and expectation for emotional intimacy. They provide ways for you as a couple to connect emotionally in a manner that is personally meaningful. You might be thinking that having this type of structure in your relationship would kill spontaneity, but it actually does the opposite! Planned out Rituals of Connection build intimacy and a sense of oneness in the relationship, and this actually increases that likelihood that you will go off the cuff and do something spontaneous. Having a planned ritual is not a structure that holds you back. It is a strong foundation that empowers your relationship to explore the world around you and grow as a couple.
The Top 5 Rituals of Connection to Create in Your Relationship
- The Daily Stress-Reducing Conversation – a Stress Reducing Conversation is a great ritual of connection to introduce into your day to day routine. A stress reducing conversation is a conversation where you simply take some time to listen to each other. It is a conversation where you simply take turns listening to each other about things that are stressing you out that don’t have to do with your relationship. This is a great time to decompress and reduce stress from work or hectic to-do lists. It is a time to listen to your partner without trying to problem solve, or correct, but just to hear them out, and understand the stressors that they are experiencing in life.
- The Weekly “State of the Union” conversation – The weekly State of the Union conversation is a weekly conversation in which you and your partner review your week in terms of your relationship. It is a time to talk about the things that went right in your relationship that week, to show appreciation for each other, to process or discuss any problems or difficulties that may have occurred, and finally to ask each other, “What can I do next week to make you feel loved?” The State of the Union conversation is a great way to stay up to date on your own relationship, set goals, and ensure that you are on the same page with your partner.
- The Weekly Date – Don’t underestimate the importance of having a weekly date! It doesn’t always have to be fancy or extravagant even having a coffee date, or maybe simply going on a walk is a great way to build your relationship. Having a weekly date is a great way to maintain a sense of adventure and fun in your relationship. Often times it can be overwhelming to plan a date, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just do something! The weekly date ensures time to build emotional intimacy and check in with each other.
- Daily Cuddle Time – Couples need to be physically connected as well. Taking time each day to cuddle, hug, hold hands and kiss is a great way to connect and let your partner know you love them. Whether it is while reading, watching a movie, sharing a glass of wine or a cup of tea, being physically close to your partner builds connection and shows affection.
- Rituals about Sex – For many people talking about sex is uncomfortable, but discussing sexual needs and desires is a key component in creating a more satisfying sex life and expressing your love and connection to your partner. In love that lasts, sex is built on a foundation of friendship. Having conversations about how you would like to initiate sex and love making is crucial! Another crucial aspect of this ritual of connection is to discover a way to say “no” to sex, that works for you as a couple. It is important to be able to communicate needs to each other without ending emotional connection.
Discovering how to integrate these essential Rituals of Connection into your relationship strengthens and illuminates that bond that you share with your partner. These five rituals of connection are just a few of the many ways that you can work to establish a strong lasting relationship with your partner. Take some time this week to talk to your partner to see how you can integrate a few of them into your weekly routine!
Doherty, W. J. (1997). The intentional family: How to build family ties in our modern world. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2018). The seven principles for making marriage work. London: Cassell Illustrated.