Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finding Peace in an Age of Fear

I don’t know about you but I have been feeling the rampant feardom that has been spreading throughout our country and community. We were in a Double Dip Recession! The world was supposed to come to an end back a few months ago! The stock market is going to plunge again! Have you seen the gas prices! News is no longer interesting – it is no longer news but fear. Just read the newspaper or internet and you will notice an increased use of the words/phrases: breaking news, crisis, recession, calamity, the end times, catastrophe, war, gloom, and fear. Notice what words you don’t seem to hear frequently, words like love, peace, joy, kindness, patience, good deeds, helping, saving, rescue, gift, and laughter. We have been trained, albeit intentionally, by media and culture to look negatively and critically at our world and environment, even ourselves. I would like to suggest to you that to only regard the negative or to be critical is only half of the true picture of any given experience. 

Where is the joy and peace that is a natural part of life? Where are the good times, like people talk about from years gone by? Where is the laughter, the moments of insight, the ah-ha’s, the fun, those amazing experiences? Those moments are happening every day, every hour, right under our noses and we are missing them. We are missing them because we have been conditioned to no longer see them, no longer hear them, no longer participate in those precious moments. Christ teaches us that God’s ways are not man’s ways. There has to be a better way!

There is peace in our age. The doom and gloom is only part of the picture. There is a whole other side of the coin that is joy, peace, and kindness of fellow human-beings. There is love being shared daily in our community and world. Strangers are helping others. People are choosing to act responsibly. Families are enjoying themselves and are growing. Successes are created everyday! Relationships are being healed. Marriages are being renewed. Young people are finding meaning and purpose to their lives. Dreams and visions are occurring daily. Our world is a world of generosity and love. Look at the responses that are made when destruction came upon Japan, Haiti, Louisiana, Alabama… people reaching out to help others in need. Our community and world is not dominated by fear, of hate and killing. What is reported is only a small minute fraction of what occurs every moment of every day. I even think we could easily change the attitudinal experience of fear simply by not watching the daily news on the tv or internet. Yes, we may be "out of touch" on some issues, but just imagine the opportunities that we could be "in touch" within a short period of time. When we are "out of the loop" on the recent Iran crisis, or international problem, we might just be "in the loop" on our child's first steps, or the neighbor's new job, or something great that has happened in your life or community.

Change happens because individuals make personal decisions to do something different. We can exercise our free will to choose to think differently, not disingenuously, but with intention and purpose to love, to forgive, to help heal, to create, to celebrate, to give, to experience, to feel, and most of all to hope.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Empowering Parents Series

Empowering Parents Series

Part I- The Great Competition: Mom and Dad vs The Children!

I cannot tell you how many times I meet with parents who are struggling with the management of their children. Whether young, middle, or teen-aged, it seems as if in today’s family, the child has more authority and power in the daily life of the family than the parents. There are a number of factors which contribute to this phenomenon. One is the ongoing development of technology and communications. Kids are connected in a way their parents were/are not and with connection comes empowerment. Secondly, with both parents working, the kids are given more authority at younger ages to care for themselves. A third and common reason is that parents assume that children have what they need academically, socially, spiritually, and psychologically and thus do not provide adequately for their children’s needs in these areas. A fourth reason is that parents lose scope of their roles as parents and become disengaged to their responsibilities to age 18 and beyond. Additionally, it appears that in the competitive struggle for authority that the children are winning!

In the 21st century it is more difficult to be an engaged, intentional, role defined parent than in just about any other time in history. There are more competitions to children today than in the past. Technology and communications have brought the world to the very fingertips of your children. Cell phones, text-messaging, email, online video gaming, MySpace, Face Book, YouTube, and chatrooms have replaced the CB and Ham radios that once kept us connected just a few short years ago. Communication is more intense, personal, and intimate that it has ever been and at the same time it is also vulgar, rude, shallow, and fantastical – it has lost meaning and purpose in the midst of a society that craves relationship.

As parents, you are well aware that there is no manual or book that spells out in detail the how- to’s of good parenting. The Bible does properly inform us but it, too, is not a step by step manual. Our only models were our parents (if they were good parents) and perhaps those we watched around us in our families. It is difficult to be a really good parent today. You need more support, more encouragement, and more resources in order to fulfill your calling with efficacy, provision, and joy. It is supposed to be fun and it is supposed to be fulfilling and yet many parents just want to either upgrade their children to version 2.0 or quit. Unfortunately, many do just that. Divorces are at an all time high, some due in part because parents let their childrens’ needs overtake the needs of the marital relationship.

Part II - Where Does all the Time Go?

Yeah, where does all the time go when you think about raising your child/ children.  I bet for some of you it seems like it was just yesterday that they were toddlers and now they are teenagers growing up so fast. Where did the time go?

Time is a concept that your children (in their teenage years and beyond) totally perceive differently than you and your spouse. Remember when you could say that bedtime was at 8pm or homework has to be completed before dinner? Those days are long gone. For the teenager, time is on and in THEIR hands or so they perceive. Starting somewhere around age 14 (if not before), your teenager begins this “rite of passage” into independence. You, as the parent, are the perceived enemy/adversary to their freedom and time. As a therapist, I hear it all the time. A common phrase I hear is something like this “But, Dr. Trey, Bobby’s parents don’t make him come in at 8pm. He gets to stay out until 10pm. My parents are so mean and strict!” 

Though your children honestly think they have a grip on the full understanding of time, in reality we know differently - they DO NOT. They only perceive one thing in their world for the most part and that is him/herself. They are the center of their world and most anything that interferes with that is perceived
as an adversary, including the well intentioned parent.

What I am saying is that your responsibility as the parent is to help your children understand the importance of time management and time utilization. School and socializing is their job until age 18 and they must learn to figure out how to use time in the best way possible. So, though you may have pressure on you from hearing about “Bobby’s parents being so lax,” don’t give in. Keep your child structured. Keep the rules in play. Keep the learning active. Stay the course with curfews and time management. Though there are opportunities for flexibility as the positive outcomes of good time management are rewarded, do not abandon your children to their own recognizance.  They simply cannot handle it on their own as well as you think they can.

Empower yourselves and empower your children by keeping quality management rules and structure in place only until your child at age 18 proves him/herself worthy of handling independence.  As your children learn to manage little things, maybe they will be able to handle greater things as they grow!

Part III - Parents who indulge too much

In a recent continuing education offering for us therapists sponsored by Cross Country Education, I opened the pamphlet to read the following words describing the upcoming conference entitled: Overindulged Children and Conduct Disorder Treating overindulgent families.Overindulgence of children has become a serious issue leading children and teens to conduct disorder symptoms. Overindulged children are creating complex community problems, complications for educators and are clogging our legal system. Bright and loving parents, with intense cognitive distortions, confuse love with overindulgence. Their overindulgences stop them from mentoring their children, leading children to develop what Dr, James Fogarty, EdD( a licensed clinical psychologist) has termed the “lord of the flies” syndrome – a life without boundaries, balance, and conscience. The complications of overindulging children include symptoms of conduct disorder, acute self-centeredness, intense detachment leading to anger and resentment fueling misbehavior, excessive dependency, “its-all-about-me” entitlement, manipulation, loss of self-esteem, missing social skills and impulsiveness.”

Our current culture has a problem with parental overindulgence with children. Maybe you as the parent are doing it out of guilt or shame for how you grew up, vowing to provide for how you were not. Perhaps, you work so much and are not as emotionally involved in the lives of your children so you pacify them with anything they want and more. Putting your children at emotional risk with overindulgence creates more problems that they cannot handle. And so as parent, you wrongfully confuse love with giving them whatever they want. That is not love. It is indulgence whereby your child learns patterns they can manipulate. When off to college, these overindulged children struggle to manage a life and lifestyle that doesn’t work like it did back at home.

In this Empowering Parenting Series, my goal is to educate and support parents to find, once again, their role(s) in the ordering of the family until your child reaches 18 and goes off to college. That may mean appearing “mean” or being harshly judged as not being as good as “Billy’s” parents. Build systems in the mentoring of your children whereby they actually earn various levels of increase. When they get out of college they will need to know how to earn a living through hard work.

Be intentional in what you display and teach your children. Let them learn authority, respect, and how to handle money, their car, and even the things they buy with their “own” money. Let them learn that they cannot nor will not have everything that they want. Set limits for them so they can learn to appreciate what they do have.

Part IV - Renew Your Marriage

At the beginning of each new year we make those useless resolutions to change some aspect of ourselves for “the better.” While there is much value in stopping smoking and even great value in losing 20 lbs of that overweight body mass, I would like to suggest something that is even MORE valuable than those - your marriage. A new year is a great time to refocus your energy and attention onto God’s gift to you -your spouse. If you have no idea of where to begin, may I suggest a marriage renewal seminar or communication course networked though your local congregation.

Another great place to start is for both spouses to buy the book “The Five Love Languages” and read the book, take the test, and determine your love language. This could very well help you in renewing your marriage.

If you want to be the most empowered you can be as parents, then strengthen the marriage relationship with your spouse. Only when you are able to express your love, appreciation, respect, and honor to your spouse can your children learn to understand those concepts for their own selves. Where are your children learning about love, boys, girls, respect, listening, and honor?

Should you need any assistance to begin the renewal journey, I would be more than happy to help. Start with reevaluating your communication systems. Once that is assessed, then move into how you are both respecting/valuing the other in the marriage with your time, your money, and the responsibilities of the family. If you need some starting places, feel free to check out my website at for The 8 Secrets to a Healthy Marriage found in the article section of this website.

Part V - Privileged Communication

Renewal of relationships is important because it is a way to value those relationships. Think through those who are your friends. Take a moment to tell them how special they are to you and how you appreciate their part in your life.

Telling those we love how important they are to us is privileged communication. In legal terms, privileged communications are conversations that are protected in trust when one sees a counselor or clergy, in that signed release is required before such information can be made public. The communication is considered privileged or special because the conditions surrounding the conversation, its content, and the manner is which it is shared are private and held in that privacy much like our money is held in a secure bank vault.
I was thinking about this idea of privileged communication. I deal with it every day in my work. But I was thinking about how conversations with our spouses are also special and privileged. Without the sense of security and privacy enabled by the confidences of our spouse, our own sense of vulnerability could be found in jeopardy. What makes talking to a counselor so special? The strong and secure sense of confidence and confidentiality. Secrets can be shared where they wouldn’t be shared otherwise. What is so special about talking to a minister or clergy? There is something powerful to be said about being honest, vulnerable, open, real, and free about our relationship with God and the struggles we encounter in everyday life living by faith.

Our relationships and our marriages are psychological, spiritual, and social opportunities of privileged communications. There is even a bible study group called “Call to Discipleship” where the small groups enter into strict confidentiality with one another so that openness, honesty, and a real sense of vulnerability can be shared with one another. Isn’t this a benefit of our marriage as well?

It is an honor and act of respect to your spouse in marriage when you share with them in confidence. Opening up the secret, vulnerable, and private areas of our heart and mind shows to our spouse that we consider them worthy of privileged communications. This kind of trust builds a marriage and empowers each spouse. It is trust in its most basic form.

May this year be a year of more privileged communications with your spouse as you are empowered and strengthened in your marriage and family to the glory of God.

Part VI – Taking Care of Yourself!

Though I am not a parent, I have tried each month to share some insight, learning, teaching, or idea to help parents address the elements of life in their world with this Empowering Parents series. Whether it is addressing your children, your marriage, communication issues, or just the stressors of life itself, the ongoing needs asked of you as parents is unending. So this month I would like to offer something a little different that may help right your world and equip you to continue to be an effective parent.

We are always on the go and on the do. Life demands that from us. Life demands and we give. We give to our children, our friends, our family, our church, our work. Always going and always doing. And yet, we have to stop at times to rest and to receive, to take in from the Lord in worship and prayer, to still our minds and still our bodies in physical rest. But with the schedules we keep, we don’t have much time for receiving. Receiving takes time and effort and honestly we just are not very good at it. It’s easier to give, it’s more convenient to give.

So I would like to strongly recommend something that you can receive that feels good, is good for you, and, should you give it 30 minutes to 1 hour of your time, gives you immediate feedback towards better health. That is massage therapy. Under the care of a licensed massage therapist, massage is a gift for the self. Regardless of the type of massage you request (deep tissue, Swedish, sports, rehabilitation) or the particular areas that you may focus on (full body, legs, back, neck, etc) getting a massage is a way to experience a type of receiving that few other experiences offer. You lie down on a table and you put your face down in a special holder and you do not talk. You lie there and let someone minister to you, massaging the pains, tensions, and hurts away.

Massage feels good. It improves circulation. It helps to mend the pains and hurts of the areas of our bodies that we strain. Some consider massage therapy a privileged benefit but I would encourage you to look at it differently. What else can someone do to you directly that doesn’t require any work from you to receive? Massage therapy is as necessary as going to the chiropractor for neck/back adjustments, to the family physician for general healthcare, and to a counselor for emotional pressures.

There are many state/national licensed massage therapists in your town. Perhaps you already have a massage therapist that you like.

Take time to take care of yourself. Give yourself and your spouse the gift of massage on a regular basis and see if it doesn’t help make life a little bit easier to maintain.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey Kuhne

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Emotional Survival Guide for Teens: Part I

This post is written for teens. If you are a teen, this is for you. If you know a teenager, pass it along.
In part 1, I will explore the hardest things about being a teen and ways to make it easier on yourself. I will talk about why life is such an emotional challenge at times, and what you can do to make it less stressful.
It is really difficult being a teenager in the year 2012. Your parents didn’t give you the magical Teenager Survival Manual that explains exactly how to go about growing up and becoming an adult. Many teens find moving from child to adult one of the most hardest things to do. Sometimes, it seems as if you are always encountering problems and resistance from parents, friends, relatives, and teachers.
The ideas shared in this two part series are not new and they are not just my ideas. They are common strategies that can be applied in different ways. I share them here as a way to try to help the struggling teenager and help give the parents more information in their support of their children. So, I offer you, the teenager (or parent), the first nine of thirteen strategies that can help you survive your teen years. With the strategies we’ll be talking about, you may even enjoy your teen years.
  1.  Understand what emotional changes to expect. It always helps to know what you’re getting into. When you know what to expect, the changes of adolescence don’t come as such a surprise. It’s like seeing the trailer before you see the movie, or reading the table of contents before you start a book. It gives you a sense of what’s to come, so you feel prepared.
  2.  Get to know yourself better. The teen years can be very confusing. You often may feel like you’re not the same person you were when you got up this morning. How do you keep track of your changing self? One way is to keep a journal, a private notebook where you write about your feelings.
  3.  Look for positive influences. The teen years can be less stressful if you have a role model. This means someone whom you would consider a mentor, a good example, or someone to pattern yourself after. Role models are important because they set an example for you to follow. If you admire someone and model yourself after him or her, it can give you some direction and some goals. Think about the people who are positive influences in your life. They might be family members, teachers, leaders, or famous people you will never meet but whom you admire just the same.
  4.  Practice thinking for yourself. It is a sign of strong self-esteem. It means that you know you matter, and that you value your ability to think. Thinking for yourself means that you ask questions, rather than just accepting what people tell you.
  5.  Learn to be assertive. Assertive behavior is another sign of self-esteem. It usually means that a person values him- or herself. Assertiveness is standing up for yourself and protecting your own interests.
  6.  Learn to present yourself with confidence. Here is one way to develop confidence. First, make a list of at least five things you do well. Then make a list of at least five things you don’t do very well. Choose something to do from the first list every day. This will make you feel good about yourself. Then, when you’re feeling good, do something from the second list. You will see that the way you feel about yourself at the moment can greatly affect how you perform.
  7.  Learn to express your opinions. Here are some tips:
a.         Know what you want to say. Organize your facts and arguments.
b.         Choose the best moment. Having good timing can make a huge difference in the impact your statement    
c.         Look friendly. People will be more receptive to you if you smile.
d.         Develop your listening skills.
e.         Watch your voice. Speak clearly and not too loudly.
f.          Disagree in a pleasant and polite way. Being rude or unfriendly turns people off and lessens your impact.
g.         Know the difference between facts and opinions. Facts will help you win your argument.
h.         Acknowledge the other point of view. People may not agree with you. You have more power when you
              acknowledge that others have a right to a different point of view.
  8.  Find out what you believe in. One of the tasks of adolescence is to find out what you believe in, what you value in life. This process involves questioning the ideas of people around you, especially your parents. It is understandable that you will reject some of the values and beliefs of your parents, but there are constructive ways of disagreeing.
  9.  Learn to disagree productively. There are plenty of nonproductive ways to disagree with parents and other authority figures, such as temper tantrums, violent behavior, rebellious behavior, and disobeying laws. You will have more success if you learn the more productive ways to disagree, such as developing your negotiation skills or by forming or joining an action group.

An Emotional Survival Guide for Teens: Part II

This post is written for teens. If you are a teen, this is for you. If you know a teenager, pass it along.
This month, we will explore the second part of this series of the hardest things about being a teen and ways to make it easier on yourself. We will talk about why life is such an emotional challenge at times, and what you can do to make it less stressful. With the strategies we’ll be talking about, you may even enjoy your teen years.
The remaining four strategies can help you survive your teen years. Here I pick up where I left off last month:
10.  Create your own private place. As you grow older, you have a greater need for a private place that is all your own. You need it as a place to escape to, but also as a place where you can create your own life. At the end of adolescence, you will be an adult, ready to go out into the world. You will need to be ready to stand on your own, as an independent and responsible person. It helps if you have some things you can call your own, such as:

a.         A private space
b.         A place to play music
c.         A place to study and read
d.         A place to write down your thoughts and feelings, such as a private journal
e.         Places to meet friends
f.          Your own money
g.         Your own possessions
11.  Make a few good friends. Making new friends takes some effort. Some people seem to make friends quite easily, while others find it difficult. It’s mostly a matter of learning a few skills. See if you can develop behaviors like these:
a.         Smile; appear friendly.
b.         Say “Hi.”
c.         Ask questions.
d.         Give compliments.
e.         Join groups.
f.          Ask for information. (“Where did you get your jacket?”)
g.         Be interested.
12.  Find someone you can talk to. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, adolescence can be a highly emotional time. You are learning new things every day and you are not always ready to meet the demands of social situations. It’s very important to have someone you can talk to during this time. Different people can help you with different kinds of problems. The important thing is that when you start to feel stressed, it means you probably need to let it out. Look for help from people like these:
a.         Parents
b.         Siblings
c.         Relatives
d.         Minister or rabbi
e.         Doctors
f.          Psychotherapists
g.         Police officers
h.         Teachers
i.          Guidance counselor
j.          Your friends
k.         Friends’ parents
l.          Neighbors
13.  Learn teamwork skills. Being a part of a team is an important skill, and it will become even more important when you are an adult. Teamwork skills include things like these:
a.         Cooperating
b.         Making decisions
c.         Being loyal
d.         Encouraging others
e.         Planning
f.          Problem solving
g.         Supporting
h.         Trusting

Voila!....the secret thirteen ways of surviving your tumultuous teenage years! Really, some of this is good for parents to read to be aware of how to help their children transition through those ego developing years. These are just a sampling of ideas that can be applied. These thirteen ideas are not new and they are not just from me. They are a culmination of ideas and suggestions from the internet, previous clients, and personal experiences of being a teenager myself! They are common ways that can be easily applied to helping your teenager work to find themselves and become authentic in their search for identity.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey

Suggested Reading

Kelly, Kate, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parenting a Teenager. New York: Alpha Books, 1996.
Law, Felicia, and Parker, Josephine, editors. Growing Up: A Young Person’s Guide to Adolescence. Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK: Merlion Publishing, Ltd., 1993.
McCoy, Kathy, and Wibbelsman, Charles, The New Teenage Body Book. New York: Putnam, 1992.

Managing Today’s Step-Family, Part 2

In part 1, I shared some things that may help spouses in a stepfamily relationship. In part 2 of this series, I will discuss ways that spouses and children perceive what is going on in the family. Children have an especially difficult time resolving their grief when their parents are hostile with one another, when one or both of their parents remarry, and if they have trouble accepting their new stepparents.
            The following ideas are not new. But these ideas may help the parents to understand what their children are perceiving as well as good ideas to consider with one another as parents in the “new” family system of the integrated stepfamily.

1.         Watch out for mixed messages. As parents, remember to keep your statements clean, avoiding the temptation to mix compliments and complaints. For example, let’s say that you meet your friend at a cocktail party. You think she looks nice, but her dress seems a little too provocative.  This ideas is for both your children and your spouse.

Straight message: “You look very nice tonight.”

Mixed message: “You look so pretty. I would never have the nerve to wear that.”

2.         Pay attention to your body language. As parents, your words are only part of the message you communicate to your children. If you say “How nice to see you” while frowning, your message becomes unclear. Think about what message you want to convey and be sure that your body is in harmony with it. Watch out for things like these:
•           Rolling your eyes
•           Crossing your legs and arms
•           Tapping your foot
•           Clenching your teeth

3.         Pay attention to your emotions and keep from becoming overwhelmed. If you are calm, you are less likely to say things you’ll later regret, things that could be destructive to your relationships. You will be less likely to become defensive and shut your partner  or children out. Examples of ways to calm yourself and keep from getting carried away with emotion include the following:
•           Pay attention to your physical responses. Is your heart racing? Are you breathing faster? If you are, take a time-out.
•           Leave the room. Go for a drive. Do something relaxing. Listen to music or do relaxation exercises.
•           Make a conscious effort to calm yourself down. Say things to yourself like:

“I’m very upset right now, but it’ll be okay. I still love my stepchild/wife/child.”
“Even though we disagree, we still have a good relationship.”
“We can work this out. We’re partners/ a family.”

4.         Resolve negative feelings. If you have bad feelings about your partner, take steps to resolve them. Don’t let them grow into feelings of contempt. When you engage in behavior (verbal or nonverbal) that conveys a lack of respect, you are placing your relationship in serious danger. This includes obvious abuse, and also insults, making faces, and name-calling. Any relationship that is plagued by abusiveness and negativity will have a very difficult time surviving. Also be aware of how you talk about your children/step-children in public. Be sure to take the effort to honor them and show them the proper respect when in private and in public.

5.         Don’t be defensive. It is understandable to react defensively when you are in a conflict situation, but it can be dangerous to a relationship. Defensiveness tends to escalate the conflict and does nothing to resolve it. Some examples of defensive behavior include:
•           Denying responsibility (I did not!)
•           Making excuses (I couldn’t help it; traffic was awful)
•           Ignoring what your partner says and throwing a complaint back (Yeah, well, what about the mess YOU left yesterday?)
•           Saying Yes, but...
•           Whining
•           Rolling your eyes or making a face

Your children/stepchildren may do this to you as part of their immature behavior but do not do this to them or to your spouse. Be an intentional adult. Be honest, communicative, direct, and mature. Acting like your children just re-enforces their poor behavior.

6.         Don’t shut down. In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How You Can Make Yours Last (see Suggested Reading), author John Gottman describes the dangers of shutting out the other person. He calls this behavior stonewalling and says that it means refusing to communicate, storming out of the room, or any kind of withdrawing. When a person is stonewalling, communication is impossible because he or she is refusing to participate. When it becomes a regular pattern of communication, stonewalling is very damaging to a relationship.

I hope this short series has been helpful for you if you have been struggling in a new step family relationship. If you would like additional help or have someone to discuss these issues and more, Pathways Pastoral Counseling is here to help. Simply call 542-3019 for an appointment. Help is a phone call away!

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey Kuhne

Pathways Pastoral Counseling is a fee-for-service non-profit ministry offering counseling to individuals, couples, and families. Located at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 400 Dupre Dr., Spartanburg, SC 29307. To call for a counseling appointment please call: 864-542-3019.

Suggested Reading

Gottman, John, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How You Can Make Yours Last. New York, NY: Fireside Books, 1994.

McKay, Matthew, Fanning, Patrick, and Paleg, Kim, Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1994.

Managing Today’s Step-Family, Part I

In this two part series, I will be looking at ways that spouses can work towards making a step family work successfully. If you are a member of a stepfamily, or are grandparents to a stepfamily, then you know how difficult it can be to integrate all of the new members and adjust to the new boundaries and rules. God may have provided a spouse and family for you but sometimes being an authority as a step parent can be challenging, as well as a grandparent to a stepchild.
Lifestyles in the 21st century demand a different approach than that of the past. Both adults may be working or engaged in activities that differ from their children and many times the children coming into a new family may find it a challenge to integrate or adopt the new lifestyle, all the while the parents/adults have courted and found deep rooted connections with one another. The parents and children are on two different levels/perspectives as a new family is created.
I would like to suggest some ideas for parents and grandparents to consider ideas as you work through this challenging process together:

1) Have patience. Establishing new families takes time. Just because you love your new partner, it is unrealistic to think that you will automatically love his or her children. It is equally unrealistic to expect that your new partner’s children will instantly love you. It can be difficult to accept that even though you wish to have a relationship with your stepchildren, they may not be ready for a relationship with you.

2) Expect to adjust. With proper help and guidance, children can recover from family disruption. All children experience a difficult adjustment period following a divorce or remarriage. It takes time, patience, and perhaps some professional assistance, but most children are able to regain their emotional bearings. It is critical that the adults manage their own emotional recovery in order to help the children adjust without too much trauma.

3) If you are part of a part-time stepfamily, you may need a longer adjustment period. All relationships take time to grow and develop. When stepchildren see you less often, you have less time to get to know each other. This is why it may take a part-time stepfamily longer to move through the adjustment process.

4) Don’t expect your new family to be like your first family. If you expect that your stepfamily will be just like the family of your first marriage, you are setting yourself up for frustration. Your new family will have its own unique identity and will evolve in its own special way.

5) Expect confusion. Forming a stepfamily is a confusing time for everyone. Think about how confusing it is for a child to become part of two new families. All of the family members—parents and children—must learn to understand the new structure and learn to navigate the boundaries.

6) Allow time for grieving. Stepfamilies begin with an experience of loss, and everyone needs to grieve. The adults’ losses are not the same as those of the children, and both must be respected. Adults tend to grieve the following losses:
•   The loss of a partner
•   The loss of a marriage relationship
•   Lost dreams of the way they thought it would be
•   They must adjust to changes that result from the divorce or death (moving to a new house, starting a new job, adjusting to changes in lifestyle, etc.)

In next month’s article, I will be looking at ways children grieve the family changes and what things can be helpful for them. Children have an especially difficult time resolving their grief when their parents are hostile with one another, when one or both of their parents remarry, and if they have trouble accepting their new stepparents.

Discovering the Higgs boson!

Welcome to the new year 2012! The start of this new year begins with it a great discovery that I have made. If you are a really devoted physics geek or astrophysicist then you will know what I mean when I say that I think I have discovered evidence of the Higgs boson. According to the online site Wikipedia, “The Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive elementary particle that is predicted to exist by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics.” Does that mean anything to you? It should because this is the famed God-particle that is being sought after by the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. Evidence of this particle will lead scientists to uncover the mysteries of the universe, notably of how everything in the universe is created and held together (or something along those lines).

I believe that I have discovered this particular particle or, better yet, energy. Unfortunately, no one is going to recognize my great insight because it has already been discovered long before me. What is it that holds all creation in its order? What is the God-particle that creates, orders, redeems, restores and makes new of the old? Let me explain further.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
When someone we love dies, do we who remain in this life cease from loving that person? Of course not! Love is the bridge between us and that person who has gone to be with the Lord. It remains intact even with great physical or spiritual distance. When we pray to God for help, guidance, or need what is it that connects God and us together in that moment of prayer? Certainly faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, but what is the bridge between us and God for that connection? Most notably, it is God’s love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God’s love; that energy or force that creates, sustains, redeems, restores, recreates, and makes new of the old.

I believe that Love is the famed Higgs boson. Love is not much of a particle but more of a massive energy or force that exists which contains the universe and all life. Unfortunately for me, no one is going to stand up and celebrate that I have named the Higgs boson Love, nor is any scientist going to be satisfied with that answer but I don’t mind. Love is the reason that we are changed into something new from the old. Love is God reconciling man to Himself. Love is the force that transforms us from people that divide to people that forgive, from people that hate to people that seek peace, from self centeredness to transcendent servants seeking new ways to share that Love with others. Love isn’t just a kum ba yah moment but rather a transformative power that works in us changing us from death to life.

Discover this Love in your life. Let God’s love bridge you to Himself and you to others. Let this energy continue to transform you in His new creation.

Grace and Peace in this new year!

Dr. Trey