Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity

child-centered parentingWhat is child-centered parenting?

Child-centered parenting occurs when the majority of activities within the house revolve around the children. It is a common phenomenon with marital consequences. Instead of children being welcome members to the family, they are the center of the family. Those beautiful children with dimples and cute smiles come between the two most important members of the family unit, the husband and wife. A solid husband and wife relationship creates security in the hearts of the children. The opposite is also true, fighting and friction between parents creates insecurity and fear of divorce in children.

Where does child-centered parenting come from?

Well-meaning parents swallow the cultural lie that children need to be “well-rounded”. To achieve the goal of “well-roundedness” parents sign their children up for every available activity: T-ball, dance, little league, swimming lessons, karate, writing lessons, riding lessons, taekwondo, music lessons, soccer, golf, etc.

It exhausts parents physically and financially. The possible children’s events today are endless (until you run out of money). So the big question—are activities BAD? Absolutely not. It is good for children to learn to swim, swing a bat, play an instrument and play cooperatively with others. So what is the problem then?

The Major Problems

Child-centered parenting breaks down the family unit. The parents become nothing more than taxis running their children from event to event often splitting up to attend separate events. Two more problems flow from this:

The Loss of the Marriage Relationship

Experts tell us that “empty-nest” is the time of the highest divorce rate in America. Why? I believe one cause is child-centered parenting. Parents become enamored with their children’s success in a variety of arenas and take little to no time for themselves or each other. Finding themselves alone after the last child has gone to college; spouses don’t even know what to say to each other. When the nights stretch endlessly without a child’s game to attend or a play to applaud, husbands and wives watch TV during dinner and wonder who it is they are sitting in the room with.

If you are married and reading this article, when is the last time you took your spouse on a planned date? If it’s more than two weeks ago, you might be curious about why. As a marriage therapist, I often hear a variety of reasons for spouses not dating such as lack of money, time, and similar interests? Just wondering if those reasons stopped you BEFORE marriage? Ouch!

The Loss of Family Identity

What is family identity? It is the proud feeling that “we” are a unit. We love and support one another. We have fun together. We play games. We work hard. We as parents train and pass on our values to our children. It is during all of these “we” times that family identity is built. A wise person once said, “Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.” Family identity is essential to protecting your children from the pressure to be involved in activities outside of your family’s value system.

Family identity cannot be built without TIME. School-age children are away from their home 40+ hours per week. During this time, another person(s) is placing their values in your children. Then if you add 2 – 3 nights of sports, music or dance, one might wonder where you will find the time to train your children in your values or honestly just have fun with them. Home school parents are NOT exempt just because having your kids are in your home all day makes it even easier to be child-centered and not prioritize your spouse or marriage! (Just ask me, I lived it!)

Signs of child-centered parenting:
  • Infrequent or no dating by parents
  • Exhausted parents and anxious children
  • Little conversation about anything except the children’s events
  • Parents’ conversations are often and usually interrupted by children
  • Husband or wife would rather spend time with the children than their spouse
  • Needs of spouse are less important than the needs of the child
  • One or both spouses receive their emotional support from the kids instead of the spouse
  • Difficulty getting normal chores finished around the house

IF CHILD-CENTERED PARENTING sounds AWFUL–What is the answer?

The answer is SIMPLE but NOT easy.  Adjust your beliefs; adjust your actions.

Adjust your beliefs:

Although the marriage relationship is more work, your relationship with your spouse is more rewarding than your relationship with your children. OK…I can hear some of you laughing out loud right now and saying, “You certainly don’t know my spouse!”

Well…if it is not more rewarding right now maybe it is because your spouse is last on your list. [PAUSE AND BE CURIOUS] Could it be that there is never money left after the children’s events for dates, special gifts, cards, and other items that show that you care? Or you are just too exhausted at the end of the kid’s events for a great sexual encounter?

Adjust your actions:

  • Call your spouse right now and ask them out on a date. [PAUSE] Seriously, do NOT read any further before making that call.
  • Spend the first 15 minutes after work with your spouse asking about their day. Train the children not to interrupt. Find special activities for the children during this important time.
  • Scale the children’s activities back for the next season to one extra-curricular activity per child.
  • Tell your children that your spouse is more important than them because you are planning to be married WAY after the children have moved out!
  • At all times, honor your spouse in speech and action but especially IN FRONT of your children.

My desire is that your family love and honor one another. If you have any trouble adjusting your beliefs or actions, come for a season of family or marriage counseling. I would be honored to help your family have amazing relationships!

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage

Sexual BarriersWhat does a couple do when the bedroom has lost its sizzle? They do what some of you reading this article just did…GOOGLE… “Why isn’t my sex life working?” or some similar topic. I imagine you are reading this article because you or your partner is disappointed about the sexual aspect of your marriage.

Sex is not turning out like your friends, TV, the movies, or even a previous relationship predicted.

What now?

There are three categories of sexual problems: physical, relational, and a combination of the two.

Examples of physical issues:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Sexual Pain
  • Loss of desire

Examples of relational issues:

  • One partner having/had an affair and the other cannot think about resuming sexually
  • Sexual aversion due to an abusive situation either currently or from the past
  • Relationship conflict that damages safety and respect

Combination issues (more likely):

  • A young couple cannot have intercourse on their wedding night because of a small vaginal opening resulting in sex being linked with pain. Sexual aversion then develops for one or both partners because the pain during sex is not pleasant.
  • Low desire may be triggered at any stage of marital life for a variety of reasons. However, if the lines of communication are not open about sex, the higher desire spouse feels rejected leading to demand for more sex or withdrawal from the relationship—either approach leading to less intimacy.

Sexuality is one of the most openly discussed topics on TV and the news and yet I find that most couples cannot even say the words penis, vagina, and orgasm as it relates to their personal sex life without it becoming a threatening, scary conversation. A sexual conversation needs to be held fully clothed when you are ready to try it!

Treatment for overcoming sexual barriers in marriage depends on the length of time the problem has existed and the severity of the after-effects on the relationship. Treatment differs between the 70 year-old loving couple who wants to resume sexual intercourse after the narrowing of the vaginal walls and the couple who blames each other for sexual issues and threatens divorce if their partner doesn’t get it together sexually.

Normally a couple struggling with sexual intimacy must put the issue “on hold” for a season, quit blaming each other, learn to communicate, care for their own heart effectively, and eventually learn to love their spouse again.

Often instead of learning to love, spouses try two less effective ways of change:

  1. They try to change their spouse. This is not effective for obvious reasons. No one likes the feeling of being judged or controlled and no one can actually change another human being except him or herself.
  2. They try to serve their spouse more. “If I were just more loving, he/she would change.” On the surface, it appears a better option. However, when the loving actions are not reciprocated, it often leads to bitterness and resentment—neither of which provide a great foundation for awesome sexuality. There are more effective ways to increase sexual intimacy.

INCREASE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Instead of the above options, couples need to commit to working on the problem together as a team. Effective teamwork starts with clear communication. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson is a great book for learning how to have difficult conversations effectively. Another option might be The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley which contains an effective communication tool called Heart Talk.

However, just reading books will not change anything; you must take the concepts and practice them. This is where a good marriage therapist and a group of trusted friends would be a great asset.

INDIVIDUAL SEXUALITY HEALED

Once the relationship is stable and there are no threats of divorce, affairs, and when the name calling stops, the relationship will truly be a safe place.  After gaining relational stability, then it is time to look at each person’s individual sexual history. Perhaps there are beliefs or events from your personal past keeping you stuck in an ongoing cycle of hurts and disappointment in the bedroom.

A great resource for exploring beliefs around sexuality is The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Malz. If there is sexual abuse in your background (which is defined as any time someone made you feel uncomfortable in an unwanted sexual manner) you made need to get some professional help to heal.

COUPLES SEXUAL HEALING

Lastly, it is time to look at the couples’ sexual relationship. Making time for sexual conversation and activity is critical. The number one reason women do not have intercourse more often is because of fatigue. You cannot heal a broken sexual relationship without time (or any relationship issues for that matter!)

Many factors lead to married people feeling like roommates instead of passionate lovers. Among the ones, I hear the most are busyness, child-centered parenting, negative beliefs about sex, past abuse, and TV/electronics in the bedroom. Honestly, I think a ban on all cell phone, tablet and TV use after 9 PM would lead to an increase in sexual frequency. (OK, I will get off my soapbox now!)


As a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and sex therapy, my goal is to help couples connect in a deep, satisfying way both relationally and sexually. I wish you the best in your efforts to reconnect! Email me and let me know how you are doing – I care! rachelle.colegrove@getrelationshiphelp.com

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife!

As a pastor’s wife (and now missionary) for heart care for a pastor's wife25+ years, I am finally learning the keys to maintaining my emotional health. Yes, you heard me right . . . myself.  I have tried to keep the pastor (my husband), his kids, the deacons, their kids, and pretty much
everyone else in the church happy at times. If you are already a pro at taking care of your own heart, pass this article on to another friend, but if not, maybe something in here will help you.

As a counselor, I have found an excellent process that leads to emotional wellness when I am triggered and I give it to EVERY client because no one “makes it through childhood unscathed.”  While not all your craziness can be blamed on your mom (I already told my kids I would pay for their therapy!), at some point everyone has been wounded by another human being. It is inevitable. These wounds create buttons that get bumped into by those around us. I hear women say, “Well, if my husband would just _____ . . . then I would be OK.” I am proposing that you can be OK whether or not your husband does _____.

Your heart—Your responsibility. This article contains five steps for caring for your heart. An excellent team of therapists at The National Institute of Marriage developed these steps. Let’s get started!

You have dinner almost on the table and your husband calls to say he will not be home again because of an “emergency” with a church member. As you feel the steam rising from your ears – stop. Take space and work through the following steps in a quiet place with your journal. I have clients take a picture of the steps and keep it on their phone for use at all times (in traffic, in Wal-Mart, with children).

1. Become Aware of My Feelings (not usually too hard!)

  • What is going on physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally?
  • Identify my feelings. Be curious rather than judging them. A judged heart will immediately shut down whereas curious attitude promotes openness.
  • “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

2. Accept My Own Feelings

“My husband makes me so angry!” Really?
You just gave him power over your emotional wellness – You can choose to be angry or not.
 
  • Own your thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs, through personal responsibility:
    • I am responsible for my own Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • I am not responsible for another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • In relationships, I recognize I contribute a positive or negative influence, but I cannot control or determine another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
  • Accept the job to exercise personal care.
  • “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23

3. Allow God to Enter

  • Pray.
  • What does God say to me about His comfort, His truth, His conviction, my value and my worth?
  • What is the TRUTH?
  • “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

4. Attend to My Thoughts

  • Are there negative messages/beliefs I might be feeling from my past?
  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feelings?
  • Could I possibly have misunderstood? Am I mind reading?
  • “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4:1
  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

5. Act in Integrity

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?
  • Maintain and respond with integrity.
  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

If you need help learning to care for your heart and respond in integrity instead of reacting, please give me a call.

For a printer friendly PDF version of this article, please click here: How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Creating a Marital Timeout

Holes in the wall, screeching tires, clenched fists, and hateful words are just some of the indicators that a relationship has gone awry. Angry words and actions affect lives forever. How can you stop these reactions early before they are out of control?

Marital Time OutOften, the beginning of healing in a relationship comes by calling a “cease fire”. While calling this “time out” will not  bring healing by itself to your relationship, it will help to avoid further damage. I often use the “marital timeout” with couples who are new to therapy and cannot even have a conversation without it escalating out of control.

So how does the timeout work?

Unlike a timeout for a child, adults put themselves in timeout. As emotions start to rise, one spouse might say to the other, “I can tell I am getting angry and need a timeout. Let’s resume this conversation in 20 minutes or in the morning.”  Then, because the timeout has been discussed previously when both parties were calm, each spouse proceeds to a place to think about the situation.

During this time apart, I suggest each spouse go through The Care Cycle from the National Institute of Marriage outlined below.

Disagreements happen because one or both persons are having their “buttons” pushed. I suggest that couples print off The Care Cycle, move to a quiet place to process, and then come back to share what each has learned about themselves.

Here are a few things to consider when taking a marital timeout:

  1. It is not effective when used for the purpose of withdrawal (avoiding your spouse, alienating yourself without resolution, sulking, or using the silent treatment).
  2. It must always contain a specific time frame by when the situation will be discussed and resolved.

If couples cannot resolve situations within a week or two by themselves, I encourage them to see a counselor for help. Your relationship is too important to let it sustain prolonged damage.

The Care Cycle

Aware: Create Space

  • Physically remove self from situation
  • Internally give self permission to slow down
  • Take several minutes in this safe place. Physiologically, you may need 20+ minutes

Goal: Seek a quiet space for comfort, clarity, and objectivity.

Accept: Identify my own feelings

  • What are my emotions, buttons, and fears in this moment?
  • View my feelings as information
  • Adopt a curious rather than judgmental stance about my feelings

Goal: Validate and accept emotions, buttons, and fears.

Attend: What are my thoughts?

  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feeling?
  • Did I play back an old message?
  • Do I have memories of broken places?
  • Do I have negative beliefs about myself?
  • Am I dwelling on negative past experiences?
  • Is this feeling deeply familiar? When have I felt it before?
  • Am I judging or condemning myself?
  • Am I mind reading rather than checking it out?
  • Could I have possibly misunderstood?
  • Did I get myself all worked up?
  • Am I aware of any temptation to soothe/medicate my hurt? (with food, substances, shopping)

Goal: Discover the role you play in the emotional intensity of the situation.

Allow: Allow God to Enter

  • Ask yourself: What will bring life to this situation? What is the TRUTH?
  • What does God say to me (comfort, truth, conviction, value and worth)?
  • Allow Him to remind me I am the caretaker of the body/mind He has given me.

Goal: Between you and God, allow your wants to be met.

Act: Choose to respond instead of react

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?

Goal: Behave with honor and integrity.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Overcoming Depression in Marriage: It’s a Team Approach

married couple

“Just choose to be happy,” intoned a well-meaning pastor.  Even as I type that phrase, it arouses anger.  Although I wanted to “choose” to be happy, I just couldn’t do it—no matter how much I felt guilty or quoted Bible verses. My body and emotions would not respond to “choosing” to be happy so in addition to being depressed (which I didn’t know at the time) I also felt like a failure as a Christian because I could not “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:13).

It appears that more people struggle with depression than ever before or maybe just more people are willing to talk openly about it. Depression not only impacts the individual, it usually deeply affects their marriage.

In my counseling experience, I have seen depression take its toll on not only the depressed person but also their spouse. At first the “non-depressed” spouse tries to pick up the slack by helping more with the housework, doing homework with the kids and making up for lost finances by working extra hours. Often the non-depressed spouse cannot understand the depth of discouragement, fatigue, and mental exhaustion their spouse is suffering from.  As a pastor’s wife and therapist who has struggled with bouts of depression, I have often felt misunderstood by my spouse and friends.  Maybe you are there, too, or you are just reading this article hoping for some practical tips on overcoming depression.

First of all, for those of you who are depressed or have a friend who is struggling with depression, there is hope.

Here are some tips for dealing with depression:

  • Admit there is a problem
    • Because I was a Christian and a pastor’s wife overly concerned with “image management”, it took months for me to admit I needed help. I was struggling on a daily basis with getting out of bed and the normal tasks of life such as child rearing, going to work and making meals before I finally went to see a counselor.
    • When simple tasks send you into a hysterical crying fit or confine you to bed, it is a signal to get help.
  • Take a Team Approach
    • Doctor:  Discuss your feelings of depression with your family doctor. They may recommend an anti-depressant. For many people consistently taking an anti-depressant will lift the dark cloud so therapy can be more successful.  Be sure to ask questions about the medication, including the sexual side effects.
    • Counselor/Therapist:  For many people, depression is not completely genetic or biological. It has root causes in previous or present life circumstances.  In my case, my mother died and within weeks we assumed a new pastorate in a different state where I had no support system. Research has shown that the best treatment for depression includes a combination of medication and counseling.
    • Spouse: Definitely include your spouse in these conversations. They are being affected by your depression and possibly have valuable insight into the situation to share with your doctor and therapist.
  • Exercise
    • For many people consistent exercise reduces feelings of depression especially if it is outdoors. Research has shown even three times per week for 30 minutes each day has a positive impact on reducing depression.  Even better would be to find an outdoor activity that you and your spouse enjoy and start today. Just a few ideas: riding bikes, walking, jogging, golf, skiing, cliff diving, mountain climbing and having sex (maybe not outdoors, though)!
  • Self-Care
    • Self-care often includes exercise, but it can include so much more. Every human being is created with the need for rest and fun. Because of hectic schedules, we often do not take the needed time to recharge and enjoy life. Schedule a walk with a friend, a drive to the lake, or a few minutes at lunch to sit outside and absorb the rays, the happy chemicals in your brain will increase and your body (and maybe even your spouse) will thank you.
  • Practice “Grace-filled” self-talk
    • Be curious about how you speak to yourself. Record your self-talk for a week. Are you kind? Would you speak to a friend like you speak to yourself? Do you have grace for everyone else but you? Process this exercise with a friend or counselor.
    • Allow yourself to be imperfect.

If you find yourself or a friend struggling in the area of depression and/or marriage, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I have been there, and I care.

Rachelle Colegrove is a counselor at The Relationship Center in Springfield, MO. In addition to being a full-time therapist, she is also a licensed minister. Her passion is to help people become authentic in their relationships and reach their full potential.  Having come from a ministry background, she understands the pressure ministry adds to marriage and family life.  She enjoys life with her minister husband and two grown sons in Nixa, MO.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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