Life Can Be Both Hard AND Good!

We were sold a bill of goods when we were kids. Most of us grew up believing that being a child was so hard and that once we became an adult life would become much easier. I think many of us looked at our parents and didn’t see how hard work was, didn’t see how challenging relationships can be, didn’t know how stressful it can be to be an involved parent. As kids we didn’t understand how hard our parents worked to try and deal with all that life threw their way. To us, as children, it seemed pretty easy.

The problem with that is most of us grew up thinking life should be easier as an adult. But alas, life is not at all easy. What makes this all even worse, is many of us then judge ourselves on the fact that our life seems so challenging.

If my life is so hard, then I must be doing something wrong.

Therein lies the rub.

One of the most challenging things for me to remember (and I am still working on it), is that just because we experience the complexities of our adult lives as partners, parents, friends, individuals, employees, etc. doesn’t mean that it is bad.

There’s a great saying, “Happiness is not the absence of problems. It is the ability to deal with those problems.”

We need to try and move away from judging ourselves harshly that we have problems. Of course, we have problems. This life, especially when you are working to make it better, is hard! We’re trying to be better as people, better as partners, better as parents, caring intensely about what we do and who we are. Of course, that is going to be hard! Not to mention work challenges and financial issues, as well. Not to mention the running around we do and the limited time we have to take care of ourselves for whatever comes next.

The fact that we have problems isn’t a sign that something is wrong. The fact that we have problems means we are living this life the best we can.

But are you having any fun?

Do you feel the love of your family and friends?

To help make this transition from thinking “If this life is hard then something is wrong” to “Life can be both hard and still good” we need to make more of (or take better advantage of) the time we have to ourselves.

For instance, do you commute or run errands or take lunch alone? This could be an excellent time to focus on yourself, on the things you want and need, for seeing how you feel and are experiencing the world. Listening to music that makes you feel good. Reading a good book. Drawing or writing about your feelings, giving yourself time to process and express your feelings can do wonders for helping you to realize, yes, this is hard, but there is some good stuff here and I want to enjoy it.

What if we were happy, but didn’t realize it? What if we realized we were both overwhelmed and happy with our lives? I bet you could minimize a little of the sense of being overwhelmed, reduce the judging that life shouldn’t be so hard and increase the awareness of the happiness and love in your life.

It starts with taking a little more time for yourself to connect to the good you already have in your life.

To The Next Dimension – Happy Mother’s Day!

Have you ever felt loved? I mean, truly felt it like a cozy jacket you slip into on a crisp Fall afternoon, surrounding yourself in that feeling as the warmth it provides flows through your whole body? I felt that this morning. It was so palpable, I looked up and thanked God for being able to experience the moment, it was that powerful. I actually put my hands out to my sides awed by how strong my feeling was and thought “This is why we are alive. This is what it is all about.”

Love.

I think most people grew up feeling loved on some level and have no idea what I am talking about, have never really not experienced being loved and thus think the feeling is normal. They are immensely lucky and I hope they know that.

I also think there are people who never felt loved growing up and have no idea there is an entirely other dimension to this life. When you don’t know a feeling exists, it is terribly hard to imagine that feeling is out there. How can you imagine something you have never felt?

I fall into this second category. I grew up never feeling loved and not knowing the difference…until I met Gem, the woman I am lucky to be spending my life with, the woman who has added a new dimension to my life that only gets more profound the longer we are together.

I didn’t know love felt like this. I couldn’t imagine loving a woman like this. I couldn’t imagine loving our children like this. I certainly couldn’t imagine a woman could love me like this. Could not remotely imagine the purity of love our children express to us every day. I never knew this dimension to life existed, like I had been looking at the world in only shades of gray, but Gem bought me a retinal display iPad to view the world.

The world now exists in brilliant hues, colors so bright and beautiful that I wonder how I never saw them before. In college, Gem would exude excitement when she saw the Spring green of the trees come back after a long winter. I could tell it was pretty, but didn’t experience it, didn’t understand.  Now I feel the joy beauty brings me, experiencing the world on that other dimension she has always been a part of.

Stepping into this new dimension of life has clarified what it was I never had growing up.  It is so hard to grow up as a child when you don’t feel loved. It is so hard to build confidence, to believe in yourself, to feel safe, to feel anything good quite frankly, when love is absent.

That is why I have always hated Mother’s Day.

My mother was a pretty terrible mother and Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for me. I used to joke that it was really my National Day of Mourning. On top of all she did/didn’t do when I was a child, my mother doesn’t speak to me anymore, hasn’t for decades, and that still hurts every day; she is alive, having chosen to live her life without me. The way mothers are revered in our society only serves to remind me what I never had, like when you scrape a scab that was just starting to finally heal. I have spent literally a lifetime trying to recover from what my mother did and have often wished Mother’s Day didn’t exist.

But Gem deserves her own day, celebrating how amazing she is as a mother, how she embodies true love, how she helped me to be able to love and feel love, and how we created our wonderful family together. She is, quite ironically, everything good about Moms. She has renewed my faith in the entire concept.

Lucas, Dorit, and I are so lucky to have her in our lives, to be experiencing this other dimension of life. While I grew up in the second category, not knowing love, our children will grow up in the first, where love is embedded into their lives, intertwined into how they experience life, filling their souls that will hopefully last them a lifetime.

As parents, isn’t that the most we could ask for?

Thanks for taking us to the next dimension, Sweetie. Happy Mother’s Day!

MetroFamily Publishes Is Your Child Over-Scheduled?

MetroFamily, an Oklahoma-based parenting magazine, published in their August 2012 issue, Jeremy’s article entitled, Is Your Child Over-Scheduled? This article focuses on the signs to determine if your child is over-scheduled as well as suggestions for what to do if they are.

Signs your child might be over-scheduled:

  1. Sleep Problems
  2. Emotional Outbursts, Frustration, and Anxiety
  3. Declining School performance

Three ways to reverse the pattern:

  1. Prioritize Activities
  2. Discuss Before Joining
  3. Plan Ahead

Remember, having only planned activities and no free time every day is to much for anyone (children and adults!). When our kids start having something scheduled every day (or even most days), it is probably too much.

By teaching our children to manage their own time, we are not only helping them right now, but teaching them a life lesson that will help them in high school, college and beyond.

Parenthood Publishes Jeremy’s Article on Conquering Children’s Fears

Parenthood.com has recently published Jeremy’s article, entitled Help Your Child Conquer Her Fears. The article, as the title suggests, helps parents be there for their children and the fears they experience.

Jeremy includes the five key things to remember when dealing with your children and their fears:

  1. Redirect her attention away from the fear and onto happier thoughts.
  2. Provide unconditional support, no matter how many times your child comes to you with a fear.
  3. Reassure him while you model how he can soothe himself.
  4. Offer a small physical object that makes her feel connected to you or to home.
  5. Never tease a child about her fears.

Check out the article for details on all five key points. Jeremy concluded the article by saying;

Certain fears may seem irrational or even silly when someone is afraid of something that doesn’t frighten you. But for children, this big world is already a little scary and when they have bumped into something that really frightens them, we can help them by being supportive, encouraging and positive so they can learn to think that way on their own.

ParentGuide News Publishes Jeremy’s article for Father’s Day

ParentGuide News published one of Jeremy’s articles for their Father’s Day special. The article, called The Father-Child Connection, focuses on how Dads can connect with their children even if they are working away from home every day.

Jeremy started with noting one of the most informative research studies he has ever read.

What I found most interesting were findings relating to which parent a child chooses to soothe him or her when hurt or awakened in the middle of the night. The study found that even when the mother worked full-time, 80 percent of the time the child would choose the mom to meet a physical or emotional need. But with a stay-at-home-dad, the children in the study were just as likely to go to the mother as they were to the father. This tells me that despite working full-time, mothers are able to develop bonds strong enough to soothe their children when they are upset— even when mom is away during the day. This made me wonder, “How can we working dads develop similar bonds with our kids?”

If Moms can do it, so can Dads.

Jeremy wrote about how he became the Night Watchman for his kids and how that changed his relationship with them tremendously, and his confidence as a father.

He ends the article with 5 tips for bonding with babies as well as other tips for building a strong connection with your children.

Additional Tips to Foster Father-Child Bonds

  • Change into “at-home” clothes after work. This sends a message that you’re in dad mode, not work mode.
  • Take over bath duty. Play with your kids while they’re bathing. Then dry them off and get the kids ready for bed.
  • Handle all diaper changes when you’re home.
  • Feed your children. If they no longer need your help eating, fix their plates, then sit, eat and talk with your kids.
  • Take over “tuck-in time” at bedtime as many nights as you can. Develop special nighttime routines that involve reading, singing or cuddling.
  • Be the one to soothe kids back to sleep when they wake up in the night.

School Family Asks Jeremy for Advice on Cheating Children

SchoolFamily.com has published an article on children who have a good track record in school and good behavior, but then get caught cheating called, When Your Child Cheats, Take A Parental Time Out. In the article, they quote Jeremy extensively about the things a parent needs to consider when their child cheats and what it may mean for them and their family.

“Parents need to take a time out for themselves to view their reaction,” says Jeremy Schneider, a New York-based therapist, blogger, and syndicated columnist who specializes in parenting and relationships. “Otherwise, we go off on [the child] because we’re embarrassed, angry, whatever, and end up adding fuel to a fire that might not be there.”

It is important to understand how your child got to the point where they felt cheating was the best option for them to solve their problem.

“There could be time-management issues that she needs help thinking through. There’s so much pressure [for teens] to succeed at such an early age now, vs. getting the skills they need—mentally and emotionally—to succeed in life.”

Parents may also need to think about any pressure we’ve been adding to our children’s lives.

Another factor is that kids want their parents to be proud of them. “They feel an added pressure to prove us right,” Schneider says. “And when they aren’t able to, they want to save us from that experience [of them not doing well], but sometimes without thinking through the consequences.

“It’s hard to remember how our kids view us,” he adds. “Not as people, but as all-powerful beings. A sense of desperation to avoid [letting parents down] can lead to cheating.”

When good kids cheat, it is more a symptom of a larger problem, than the actual problem itself. By addressing the larger issues, there is a very good chance we can prevent the cheating from ever happening again.

CJAD Radio Montreal

CJAD Radio in Montreal interviews Jeremy Schneider about stress and children

CJAD Radio in Montreal, Canada interviewed Jeremy Schneider on a recent study about stress and children. Kim Fraser asked questions about if parents’ stress can affect children (which it certainly can), if we should share financial stress with our children (teach them about the value of money, without burdening them about monetary stress), and what are the signs a child is over-scheduled (for Jeremy’s full article, check out ParentCentral.ca).

Jeremy talked about how important it is for parents to manage our own stress for two main reasons.

  1. The better parents are able to manage our own stress, the less of an impact it has on our children
  2. The better parents are able to manage our own stress, the more we teach our children about managing theirs and give them the tools to do so.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking on the screenshot below.

Babble.com and ParentCentral Published JGS Tips

Earlier this week Jeremy had an article published on ParentCentral.ca, the parenting website of the Toronto Star, called, 5 Signs Your Child Is Too Busy.

Sure, all of your child’s extra-curricular activities seem important. Who wouldn’t want their kid to know how to swim or play the piano or skate?

But once you’re a few months into the school year, you may start to see signs that your child is too busy. So how do you know if you’ve passed the over-programmed tipping point with your kids? And what can you do about it if you have?

The article goes into 5 signs and some suggestions for what to do if your child is too busy.

Babble.com, one of the bigger parenting sites and recently acquired by Disney, published many of the tips Jeremy suggested in the article on their own website.

As therapist Jeremy Schneider notes in his column for The Star, “Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities,” wrote Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap said in a recent Psychology Today article. “Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive. I know sixth-graders who are already working on their resumes so they’ll have an edge when they apply for college.”

Who knows what next week will bring?

 

The Kids Are Away and Conflicting Emotions Are in Play


My Okapis are away (at their grandparents) and it is time for the parents to play.

If only it were that easy.

For my wife, it is very hard for her to be away from our kids. The same kids she gave birth to at the same time. The same kids she spent all day with for the first 4.5 years of their lives. The same kids she has taken to school (or camp) and picked up almost every single day since. She loves our children with every fiber of her being and the downside is when they are not around she feels an ache of missing them.

For me, the guy that has had to work away from home ever since they were born, it is not as hard. I am used to putting my family in a special place and locking it up so it doesn’t make me as sad when I am not with them. I wouldn’t be able to function if I felt the ache of missing them every day. In fact, I get excited, not that they aren’t around, but that I get to have more time with my wife. She was my first real love and everything good in my life started with her. It is so easy to have our husband and wife roles consumed by father and mother roles and it is nice we can get back to us.

Obviously, I love my Okapis, but I really enjoy the time when they are away (and even feel a little guilt writing that down for people to read). The truth is coming home at night is easier and less stressful (no worries over dinner and showers and getting them to bed on time). Getting ready in the morning is ummm…easier and less stressful. Basically, without our kids life is easier and less stressful.

Last night we went out with a good friend and had dinner and drinks at one (kind of crappy) place and then had more drinks and dessert somewhere else (that was much better). Wonderful conversation, good friends, tasty margaritas (at least at the second place) and delicious desserts (fried Oreos!). Then Gem and I came home and we watched another couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica (we just started it over the weekend and are really getting into it). The whole evening was relaxed and lovely.

Then we went to bed and walked past their empty room and even I felt the ache of missing them. They’ve only been gone less than 36 hours, but I’m a jumble of emotions. A sense of freedom. We can do anything we want without worry. Go out to dinner, have drinks, stay out late, go into New York City. ANYTHING! But they’re doing stuff and experiencing things I don’t know about. I am missing more of their lives and that is sad for me. Are they okay? Are they going to sleep without us? How are they feeling?

My Okapis are gone and conflict is in the house. My wife is torn between her ache and her wanting to enjoy the time with me. I am excited about the time with her, the freedom, but feel a guilt about enjoying time without them, as if parents don’t need their own time. As if, when we pick them up this weekend, I won’t be one of the happiest men alive to see them again.

In the meantime, however, I plan to have a lot of fun with my wife and our friends, coming home whenever we want and making as much noise as we want.

Jealousy at My Children’s Laughter

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

As I was leaving the house this morning, I heard one thing above all else; the sound of my 6.5 year old children’s laughter. And I felt one thing in response.

Jealousy.

Here I was walking out the door to go to work and my wife and children are cuddling and laughing upstairs without me. It left me with a knot in my stomach.

What about me? A little voice in my head wondered. What about me?

The ironic aspect of all of this is that I was drained, utterly and completely wiped out (and probably why that little voice sounded louder than it normally would). I had spent much of my Labor Day weekend taking care of my little boy who was terribly ill with what turned out to be a nasty stomach virus. But first we had a scare that it was appendicitis, him writhing in pain with a fever, doubled over crying his little heart out.

I took him to the emergency room on Sunday and we spent four hours waiting between various tests and x-rays to find out that they just weren’t sure, but suspected it wasn’t appendicitis. As you parents know, the challenge of being in that situation is you want to be connected enough to your emotions to be there for your child, to be what he needs you to be, but you also need to be disconnected enough to not get scared and anxious yourself because he will feel that and feel the same way. It is a difficult balance and one that takes quite a bit out of me. Making sure he understood each test that was going to happen without getting him anxious about it. Making sure he had something to do (or a hand to squeeze) when the pain was bad or when he was scared. Trying to help him learn how hospitals and all of the tests work so the experience – and hospitals in general – wouldn’t be scary. For instance, the one thing he kept telling people about that day was that he got his first x-ray! He was real proud of that.

Keeping the balance in check was difficult because there were times when I just looked at him and felt the tears welling up. I was so proud of how he was handling the doctors and nurses, all of the different tests, everything, that every time I tried to tell him how proud I was I started to tear up and had to try to hold my emotions in check so as not to freak him out. My job was to keep him calm – not to get him agitated and overwhelmed.

And maybe that’s why the sound of their laughter felt more painful than joyful. I had just spent three days taking care of my boy at his worst, screaming in pain, doubled over and upset, frustrated and whiny, but my wife got him at his best, laughing and adorable.

I wanted some of that, too. Hopefully, when I get home I will have that chance.