Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

January column in Parent News, Myrtle Beach, SC.


YOU Make The Difference!

Happy New Year!! I hope your holidays were great and you are ready to Jump Start your life anew! There may be no other time in recent history when being connected to family in good ways could be more important. I hate to start the new off talking about sad stuff, but the fact is, folks, there is way too much sad stuff all around us and in our lives. Hoping it will go away will not make it so, nor will we be able to turn everything into sunshine and roses, so we have to be able to accept some inevitable troubles and learn how best to cope and adjust. We adults are obligated to make sure that our children don’t end up being victims of bad times and bad behaviors because of bad times. During this coming year my hope is that when sadness attacks our lives without warning those attacks may in some way bring families closer together. Many families are already feeling the close ties draw even tighter and bind the members into a common caring and mutual desire to let all members know the full measure of their love. Examples are on TV and in our neighborhoods. They count this time as one of reflection and reevaluation arriving at the firm belief that what counts most is family and whatever comes, they will get through it together. That takes courage, strength and knowledge.

Without realizing it, a lot of adults are suffering from the stresses of the unknown. What will happen next? Will more angry and sick people bring death to our country and her people? Will I have a job next month? Will I be able to pay the rent? Will internet hackers become more of a factor to deal with? Will somebody steal my identity? The new car may have to wait, and the college account may have to serve the whole family.

We walk around every day with those and hundreds more thoughts hiding away from our conscious activity, trying to do our routine jobs and pretend that we aren’t worried.
Emotions run the gamut from denying our fears and anxieties to overreacting and supporting violence and judging and criticizing others. Most of us just try to get through each day, and when we are lying in bed at night trying to go to sleep, we are wearily grateful that we have.

Through all of this, stresses are beginning to mount and new emotions begin to present themselves. Tempers run even shorter. Irritability shouts out-of-place words of hurt to those we love the most. Patience is lost and depression sneaks into our senses. We may not want to get up in the morning. We may want to watch TV until the sun rises. We may even begin to behave in ways that say to others in our lives, “I don’t care, I’m too tired, what difference does it make, what’s the use anyway?”

If we let ourselves get to this depth we will be different people. We will be different parents than we were. And, our children will wonder “what the heck in going on here, anyway?” If we allow our “new” self to interact with children and other family members without being aware of the change, some unexpected damage in relationships might occur. We have to be open to the fact that we might indeed be stressed, depressed and different. It is crucial to family health that we adults remain as healthy as possible…recognizing problems, airing concerns, finding solutions and staying in charge.

We can. Here are some ideas as to what it takes.

We have talked many times about how important it is for parents to role model for their children. While it is correct that parents should be real and honest and open with their children, they should also pull every ounce of strength and courage and love and maturity together at times like these. It is vital to the health and continued good growth of the children that we do so. The first key to effective parenting is a healthy self. There was never a better time to show the healthy side of self.

That healthy side is first of all self awareness. Who am I really? Am I pretty effective as an adult, a child, a spouse, a worker, a parent? Am I still holding on to stuff from my childhood, still not loving my siblings like I would like to, or still not being as honest in my relationship with my mother and dad. Still jumping through hoops to please them? Do my own actions help make my life miserable, denying me of the inner strength and courage it takes to get me where I need to be as an individual? Do I respond to others’ ways of being with disability or with ability? Do I overreact, jump to conclusions, seek to blame and find fault to protect myself against my own shortcomings?

What is my attitude about myself, and my relationships with others? Do I think I am better, and if I do, do I throw it in their faces? Do I judge and measure success by what we “have” and not who we “are”? Do I seek to understand others and their ideas, their tastes, their culture, their sense of humor, or do I immediately turn away with obvious disdain?

I need to look in the mirror of self and see just who I am and who I am not and who I want and need to be. I need to eat better, exercise regularly and look at my “to do” list so I can start to reduce my stress level by knowing just what those stresses are. I want to reduce my schedule to a place where I can have “unhurried time” with my spouse, my children, my neighbor, my family.

I want to be the person I want others to be. I won’t expect more from others than I do from myself and I will not express disappointment if they don’t live up. I will be supportive and encouraging for the efforts they make to achieve or to improve their lot or make situations better. I need to forgive myself…take on a more positive attitude about myself and others, cooperate, reduce conflict and truly try to get along.

I want to observe myself in relationships, seeing how I treat others, how I settle conflicts and seeing if am I the one who creates the problems. I want to develop a plan of self renewal and find the person in me that has always been there but got left behind and covered up by years and layers of what and who others thought I should be. I want to finally be my true self and bring that person into this real world where I not only have to take care of myself but several others for whom I have great love. My family.

So, look inside. Then outside. What model are we projecting to the children, to the neighbors, to the workplace, to our family? Each and every family must remain strong and connected internally and with other families. This connection is what builds healthy communities and countries, like ours, so we see just how vital it is to start with the self.

Love of course is at the very root of successful families, but so many people define love in so many ways, and all of them are not good. It takes more than love. It takes the stuff of the healthy individual, awareness, self development, attitude, looking in the mirror, cleaning the closet. It takes a single person to show interest in, care for others, cooperation not conflict, genuine desire for connectedness with family members. And, we can bring all of this into the New Year with a spirit and commitment that will remain throughout the year, throughout the rest of life.

United Families! YOU individual parents are the leaders. YOU make the family work. Make it work even better this year…in love, in courage, in strength, in knowledge and in genuine care, and

Don’t lose heart!

Jim R. Rogers, M.Ed., CFLE
Parenting and Family Life Educator
still learning, inc.

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