getting along with difficult family members

How do deal with difficult family members.

As we sink our toes into the warm sands of summer and listen the sounds of happy kids playing, many of us also listen to the bickering, complaining and passive aggressive positioning of extended family members. If you’ve got family members who drive you crazy and drain your energy, read on for summer survival tips for dealing with those annoying extended relatives.

In many families, there’s at least one family member who you dread being around. Whether it’s their passive aggressive communication style, their judgmental opinions, or their tendency to binge drink and swear at your kids, family gatherings are a challenge for many people. When my clients have a challenging relative, they always want to tell me about all their flaws, but it doesn’t help me to hear it. If you need to get it off your chest, write down everything that bugs you in your journal. Then let’s get to work changing the one person you have control over, YOU.

I know it seems like THEY are the problem but the bigger problem is you don’t like who YOU become when you are with them. Either you bite your tongue and smile when you don’t mean it, or you snap and lose your cool, or you get defensive and mirror their passive aggressive ways. All of it feels uncomfortable so the first step to dealing with relatives who bring out your ugly side, is to realize where your power lies. You get to decide how you want to feel, what you want to think and how you want to behave. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel, while he makes his sexist comments?” “How do I want to feel when he scolds my children inappropriately” You probably don’t want to be happy about this so choose something like “I want to feel proud of how I handled it.” or “I want to feel calm and in control of myself.” When we take responsibility for our own emotions, we keep all our power instead of giving it away to someone who hasn’t earned it. “If they behave, I can be happy” means your happiness is in their hands. Stay connected to you by paying attention to how you feel.

It’s really tempting to think of all the ways they should change their behavior that would make the world a better place. Although you may not like it, the truth is people get to behave however they want. They can be stupid, mean, bellegerent, judgmental, racist, sexist, drunk, controlling, worried, whatever, it’s their decision. Try this, give your relatives PERMISSION to be who they already are. You’ve had some experience in dealing with them, you’ve made suggestions and tried to change them but it hasn’t worked. When I ask my clients “What can you trust about this annoying relative?” They say “I can’t trust him at all!” I offer that they CAN trust this person to be unreliable, to say one thing and do another, to be inconsistent. Instead of trying to change them and arguing that they should be different, recognize what you can already trust about them. The FREEDOM lies in accepting the facts as they already are and recognizing that we can trust ourselves. Some of the a-ha’s my clients have had with their families are:
“I can trust my sister to be dissatisfied.” “I can trust my Mom to make comments about my appearance.” “I can trust my Dad to dismiss my opinion.” “I can trust my uncle to repeat things he heard on FoxNews.” “I can trust my brother to one-up me.”

When sunny optimism and ‘hoping they will change’ doesn’t feel good, focus on who you want to be, and how you can trust them to behave. Giving people permission to be who they are, doesn’t mean you like it or condone it. It means you are choosing to bring more positive energy into the world, instead of letting the negativity bring you down.  Good Luck!

If you want to sign up for a coaching session before your next family reunion, go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me

emotions anger depression joy

The Downside of Optimism

We aren’t meant to feel happy all the time. Some kids are born with a naturally sunny disposition (I always wanted one of those) and some, not so much, but when I talk to clients who want to be happy all the time, it’s a red flag.

Of course we all prefer to be happy, it feels much better than sadness, anger, fear and embarrassment. But we don’t get to only have the good emotions, we are human. If we deny ourselves access to the negative emotions, we actually distance ourselves from all of them. The movie Inside Out did a great job of demonstrating this. (If you haven’t seen it yet, go!) The character was fighting desperately to be happy during a time of turmoil. While trying so hard to be happy, our heroine was losing access to her silly/goofy side, her imagination, her connections with family and friends. It wasn’t until sadness showed up that she could feel better. Sadness made her feel better because it was the truth of her experience. She was sad. When we deny ourselves the truth of what we are feeling, we begin an internal struggle that is EXHAUSTING.

I see this in some of my SuperMom clients, continually running away from their negative emotions makes everything harder. They so badly want to stay positive that they end up in denial. From denial, they stay in jobs and relationships that aren’t healthy for them, make financial mistakes, overlook problems with their kids or their health. Denial does not serve anyone.

When your dog dies, you want to feel sad. When someone betrays you, anger feels appropriate. When you worry about something bad happening, you are going to feel fear and that’s ok.

It’s still important to allow the feeling you feel, even if our thoughts are illogical. Little kids will give you lots of practice in this because so few of their emotional reactions are logical. Next time your child has an illogical, highly emotional response, practice using these three magic words: “You feel __________.”

“I want a cookie!”

“It’s 5 minutes before dinner.”

“I want a cookie NOW!”

“You feel frustrated.”

 

You will be AMAZED at the calming affect these three words can have on your child!

“I don’t have anything to wear!”

“Your closet if full of clothes.”

“Nothing fits me. Nothing looks right. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wear. I don’t even know whose going to be there. Everything sucks.”

“You feel overwhelmed.”

Now practice using them on yourself, “Right now, I feel _________.” We need to validate emotions before we can think logically. Ask yourself, “What am I trying not to feel?” You’ll know you got it right when you feel RELIEF. “I feel angry and that’s ok.” “I’m disappointed.” “I feel embarrassed.” A feeling is always one word so if you get “I feel like I wish my husband would just…..” that is a thought. Look for one word.

If you really want to be an optimist, you must allow yourself to feel the negative feelings when they show up. Then, when you do feel joy, it will feel richer, truer, and you will feel a deep sense of relaxation. Learning how to allow negative feelings, and becoming familiar with your full range of emotions, is a wonderfully empowering feeling. It feels awful when we think “I should be happy” and we don’t.  “I should be over this by now” is just another way of putting ourselves down for having a feeling. When you aren’t afraid of your feelings, you give your children permission to feel theirs as well.  Their happiness depends on their ability to feel the full range of human emotions: shame, disappointment, sadness, anger, excitement, joy, curious, etc.

The truth, even if it’s yucky, will still set you free.

 

Capturing good

Making good times last

So far, my summer has been filled with family outings, camping trips and vacations. Between the packing, unpacking and laundry my favorite moment was taking my kids and their friends to the waterpark. It felt like Waterworld itself was making me happy but I know that is not the case. There is always a thought inside our minds that makes some experiences better than others. Otherwise, every time I went to Waterworld I would be happy and this has not been true for me (I used to be very nervous with kids around water). If the waterpark itself was causing the happiness, then every person everyday would have the same great experience and I know this doesn’t happen. But for some reason, on this day, I was extremely happy as I plopped down onto a lounge chair in front of the wave pool. I wanted to capture this amazing feeling that suddenly came over me so I dug around to find what the awesome thought was that was causing me to be so ridiculously happy. After a minute of poking around my brain I found it, one of my favorite thoughts ever, “There is nothing I have to do right now.”

If you get the opportunity this summer for fun and relaxation, find out what the thoughts are you are thinking because those are going to be really powerful for you.

You might feel amazing while camping with the kids, but it’s because you are thinking some amazing thoughts. “I’m such a good Mom for giving my kids this experience” or “I just love it here”. “It’s so nice for us all to be together.”

Tuning in to your own moments of joy will help you recognize your values, your priorities and what you might be missing in your life. If my life was empty and boring, the thought “There is nothing I have to do right now” would feel horrible. Instead, it’s an indicator that I’d like more moments of idleness.

I was watching some mushy macho guy crying on The Bachelorette (The Bachelor series is CANDY STORE for a Life Coach!) as he told the story of how he nearly lost his life in a car accident and how grateful he was to be sitting by a romantic fireplace with this amazing woman. My ears perked up as I tuned in to what was sure to be an fabulous thought and he said, “Everything in my life, every challenge I’ve been through, has been leading up to this moment, right here with you.” No wonder he was so moved, that is a beautiful perspective we could all have, every day!

Do you think a glass of wine on the patio relaxes you?  Stop and try and catch the thought you are thinking before you even take your first sip….I bet it’s a good one.

If your happiest moments are caused by thoughts of “how beautiful it is here” you might be yearning to notice or create more beauty. If you are most thrilled by the friends, family and togetherness, you might want to bring more connection into your everyday life.

I wish you lots of wonderful and beautiful moments this summer of whatever your heart desires the most. To extend them and make them last, find the thoughts that are creating them and use them even after your vacation is over.
But right now, I’ve got a whole lot of nothing waiting for me on a lounge chair so I’d better go attend to it. Cheers!

funny fears

The funny thing that scares us the most.

I was freaking out. I was about to speak in front of 300 people and I was pacing and sweating in the hotel lobby waiting to go on stage. I had 15 minutes left of this major anxiety and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I have talked in front of countless parents over the years and had never been this nervous before. These were nice, hard-working, devoted SuperMoms waiting for an uplifting keynote address, why in the world was I WAY more nervous than ever before?

I took three deep breaths and realized the thought in my head was, “There are three times as many people here as I’m used to and they are paying me three times as much, I have to be three times as good.” Clearly this thought was not helping me but as I used this 15 minutes to work with my brain, I discovered something FASCINATING. Something that has forever changed the way I deal with my own fears and has been massively helpful for my clients.  The thing we fear most, is our own tongue-lashing. We are afraid of regret, making mistakes, and being embarrassed, because of how we berate ourselves afterwards!!!

Of course I don’t want anyone to think I’m stupid or ugly but when I think about it objectively, it’s never really about what other people think. Realistically, there is probably 5% of every audience that thinks I’m a stupid lame dork. Maybe 10% of folks think I’m brilliantly amazing, and the other 85% probably don’t think much of me at all.  They might say, “that was nice” or “I really liked her talk” and then go back to their lunches and their lives.  What I truly feared the most, is what I would say to myself in the car on the way home.

I used to be REALLY mean to myself, (“You are such an idiot! Why did you say something so stupid? You completely blew it!”) and the worst thing I used to say to myself….”You didn’t say everything perfectly.” Yep, this funny little perfectionistic thought used to send me into a shame spiral from hell. And since it was true almost everyday, I was really good at being mean to myself.

Shame feels really heavy and dark but when we shine a light on it, we realize that thing we fear the most is the negative things we say to OURSELVES.  Isn’t that so funny!? Why not just stop saying mean things to ourselves?

What if, no matter how ugly we looked, stupid or rude we sounded, what if we could have our own back? What if we could treat ourselves like our best friend would?  “You tried your best” “It’s not a big deal” “You’ll get em next time” “Nobody even noticed” “Have a hug and a glass wine and things will be better in the morning.”

That day, seconds before I went on stage, I made myself a promise, that no matter what I said or did, I would have my own back. I would say nice things to myself, about myself, on the drive home. I would allow three things I could improve upon, but everything else would be compliments.  When you commit to having your own back, it takes the fear away. You are FREE to try new things, make mistakes, and do things outside your comfort zone!

Answer this….”What would you attempt if you had no fear?”  What might you try if you promised to compliment yourself for the effort, not the result?  Where do you find yourself being proud or jealous of others?  If you did what they were doing, what would you say to yourself?

Once my clients realize that their greatest fear is their own tongue-lashing, they learn how to be supportive of themselves.  When you can be nice to yourself, you have nothing to fear. Regrets, failure, embarrassment don’t even exist! With this tool in their back pockets, my clients have taken on many scary and amazing things like moving to another country, going for that promotion, leaving a bad relationship, taking a vacation by themselves, asking for a raise, committing to a new relationship, starting a business, exercising for the joy of it, sometimes, even something as scary as slowing down, stop taking care everyone else, and just remembering how to play.

Commit to having your own back, no matter what, and see where it takes you.

 

Making chores fun

Summer is almost here and you are up to your eyeballs with end of the year parties, teacher gifts, field trips and celebrations. You are giving a lot of time and energy to your kids and their activities, let’s reverse that and think about how THEY are going to give back to YOU this summer.

Creating a chore chart that works for you and your kids is easy once you recognize how you get in the way. Check out my last blog to make sure there is no negativity coming from Mom that prevents kids from learning, enjoying, gaining valuable life and leadership skills from doing chores.

Follow these seven steps to delegating effectively and joyfully to your kids.

  1. What’s your WHY? Why do you want to have your kids do chores? To develop life skills? Make less work for you? To contribute to the household? If you sense any negativity, “She should know this by now!” “I’m tired of doing all the work around here!” Hold off and clean up your thinking until you can approach it from a positive place.
  1. What’s THEIR why? Your kids aren’t going to value what you value, so give them a good reason to take this on. Money? Free time? A trip to the water park? Take time to discover your child’s currency. It’s ok to have different rewards for different kids. One might value having a lemonade stand, the other a new toy, another Minecraft. My teenager just negotiated six hours in the house by himself as reward for hard work. Feel free to get creative here, nothing is off limits. Your attention can be earned, too!
  1. Create a Chore Chart. Kids love to clearly see what the expectations are and to track progress to their reward. If you want chores to be a positive thing, creating some sort of a chore chart is a must (there’s a reason every primary classroom is filled with these kinds of things). Go to Pinterest and search “chore chart” to see the wide variety of options, ideas and free downloads. Don’t pick something so cute & elaborate you never get around to it. Start simple and make improvements later.
  1. Start with DAILY chores: You can include ANYTHING on the daily list of to-do’s! From making your bed and brushing teeth, to eating your vegetables, playing outside, and putting on sunscreen. Anything you want to remind and reinforce goes on the daily chart. Have some things that are easy wins, and some that are new habits you want to encourage like “read to your sister” or “drink water” the power you have here is awesome, enjoy it! If you ask for so much your kids attitude turns negative, back off, you want to set this up for success.
  1. Include Extra Chores: What skills would you like them to develop and master? The extra chores are those that will take more time from you in the beginning but less time from you at the end. Cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, doing dishes, laundry, cooking, yard work, these chores will require instruction, supervision, praise and support. Imagine teaching your kids, showing them how to succeed, giving them room to make mistakes, all while maintaining a positive attitude. This is your chance to practice YOUR leadership skills and model for them that learning new things can be fun.
  1. Praise & Consistency! You don’t have to keep this chore chart going all year, or even all month. If your kid’s enthusiasm wanes after 2-3 weeks, just go with it! If you start forgetting, losing interest or feeling negative, end it. This is no place for perfectionism but you do want to be consistent for at least two weeks so everyone feels successful and positive. Praise their efforts and their learning, follow-through with rewards and be proud of them and yourself for the accomplishment.
  1. Don’t miss this important step! So much learning happens in the last step and so many adults skip it. Please take time to sit down with your kids, reflect and evaluate. How did it go? What did you like or not like? Were you surprised by anything? What’s your favorite/least favorite chore and why? You can learn SO MUCH about your child’s essence, who they are meant to be, how they best learn, their future career choice, future major, by asking these really important questions. Be listening for patterns: Do they like working inside or outside? Are they detailed oriented or big picture? Do they like to work by themselves or with others? Do they prefer to jump in and figure things out as they go, or do they prefer lots of instruction and all necessary tools ready before beginning? Do they like to rush through lots of tasks or stick with one and do it to completion?

Ask them what could make it better next time? What would make chores easier or more fun? Start again with a new and improved chore chart and renewed enthusiasm.

Chores can be fun, educational, and inspirational if we allow them to be. Good luck, ENJOY and as it says in my kid’s yearbook, H.A.G.S.