Author Archive for Kim Cameron-Smith – Page 2

Who Mothers Mommy?

Maternal Kiss (Mary Cassatt)Motherhood is a profound blessing and should be deep source of meaning for women, but a mom also faces sleepless nights, strained schedules, and the competing needs of her kids, her spouse, her extended family, her community, and finally HERSELF! What allows some moms to thrive and to find deep satisfaction in motherhood despite the inevitable challenges while others do not thrive emotionally?

Two researchers at Arizona State University asked this question and in a newly-released study they cite 4 key factors that protect mom’s well-being and sense of satisfaction:

1.  Unconditional Acceptance

Moms who can say, “I feel seen and loved for the person I am at my core” do better in motherhood than moms who feel their value depends on their performance or appearance.  Every mom needs people who will allow them to be honest about their failures, make amends, find new hope and direction, and still be cherished for the unique, unrepeatable persons they are. And this happens to be the model of the love, mercy, and reconciliation that Christ offers us.

2.  Feeling Comforted When Needed

Moms need to be able to say, “When I am deeply distressed, I feel comforted in the way I need it.”  When you are a mom and you feel distressed it is very scary. You have these little people in your care and their very lives depend on you. We all need somebody who will really listen to us and then comfort us in the way WE need when we are struggling so we can get a little perspective on the problem. Sometimes that means somebody will just listen to us without trying to fix the problem — we just need emotional comfort.  At other times we need them to fix it in some way – perhaps through physical relief (a nap, a chance to get out of the house for an hour to clear our head).  Only somebody with some level of empathy will be capable of tuning into a mother’s real need. Without this capacity for attunement, the other person will tend to do what they think we need or what they would want themselves.

3.  Authenticity in Relationships

Feeling like you have to put on a show all the time is really depressing — literally. All mothers will have moments when her ideal for herself as a mom does not match up with what’s on her mind. You love your children but at some point you will probably feel depleted or desperate or even downright irrational. When mothers feel like they have to be perfect around their friends and family, when they can’t be honest with anyone about what they are feeling and thinking, they are at a much higher risk for depression. When you can’t be authentic, you cannot thrive.

Once when my third child was a newborn and my two older kids were still very young, my husband went on an extended work trip. At one point I was talking to him on the phone and I had not slept in two days because my older kids would not go to bed and the baby was still waking every 2 to 3 hours. I felt desperate and helpless! Well, I told him how I was really feeling not what I thought he wanted to hear. I was starting to feel a little kooky and I was not coping well. I was at the if-these-kids-don’t-go-to-sleep-I’m-going-to-smack-them point. When I shared with my husband how I felt, he cut his meeting short, got on an airplane, and came home. He didn’t shame me or say “what the heck is wrong with you?” or pat me on the head with a “you are so strong you can handle anything.”  He came home and I went to bed and then I felt better. I am grateful that I could be honest with him about my REAL feelings even though they fell short of what I hoped for myself as a mom. Because I had that freedom, it allowed him to comfort me in the way I most needed — physical relief (see number 2 above).

4. Friendship Satisfaction

Moms do better emotionally in motherhood when they have a few friends in their lives who can give and receive love.  I think particularly for women, the quality of our friendships has a deep impact on our well-being.

The bottom line: nurturing adult relationships keeps a mom “happy, healthy, and able to give or herself.” And you will notice that all four factors are essential for a child’s flourishing as well!  Children need unconditional acceptance, they need to know they will be comforted when distressed, they need to know they can be authentic in their relationship with their parents, and they need people in their lives who are emotionally free enough to give and receive love. In many ways, we cannot give to our children what we don’t have. So, if our adults relationships are impoverished, we need to find a way to build up the love and support we need in order to love and support our children.

Not the Whole Story . . .

I think this research is very important and reminds us that God created us for community. I would add, though, that clearly we can identity other factors that set satisfied mothers apart from those who suffer.  In particular, many times our perception of ourselves as mothers impacts our ability to experience joy and satisfaction. Our culture doesn’t value mothering in the way it deserves. If we feel we need to live up to the world’s definition of success, we can struggle with our identity and sense of meaning. If we perceive motherhood as a drudgery, a drag, then we will bring that perception with us into the inevitable demands of motherhood. The first factor in the study sort of hints at this – we need unconditional acceptance. But I think we need people in our lives who value us not only as unique, unrepeatable persons, but also as mothers in particular — who recognize the unique gifts that mothers bring to their families that nobody else can give.

Recommended: Feast Day Celebration Book for Gluten-Free Families

I’ve been saying for ages that somebody should write a liturgical feast celebration book with gluten-free recipes.  Well, it turns out somebody did it!

Haley Stewart and her hubby over at Carrots for Michaelmas have written FEAST: Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year. They put together several real food, gluten-free recipes to help you observe:

  • the Christian year,
  • the lives of the saints and martyrs,
  • the global Church,
  • the earth’s bounty, and
  • the goodness of creation.

They avoid white sugar and gluten in their recipes. I appreciate their effort to adapt the ingredients in traditional recipes to what we’ll actually find in our local market. No need to order an obscure spice for $20 off the internet!  When choosing the saints they cover in the book, they tried to think globally, so you will find ideas for honoring many saints rarely covered in saints’ books.

FEAST cover

In addition to food ideas, they offer non-culinary suggestions for observing the liturgical year very simply and realistically no matter how many pitter pattering feet you have in your home.

I would say that if your family can only afford one liturgical feast book and you are not super sensitive to gluten, purchase A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge.  Birge’s book is a treasure of history and the recipes are ones that have been enjoyed by Catholics for centuries in the west.  But when you’re ready for more culinary adventures, the Stewarts’ book would make a great supplement to A Continual Feast.  You can buy Feast here (plus their second book with even more recipes). PDF is $7.99; print version is $21.99.

Considering Halloween

halloween image

This week on CAPC I’ve asked some of our staff writers to contribute their thoughts about Halloween — and by extension All Saints and All Souls Day. Many Catholic parents are torn about Halloween.  Should we participate? Is Halloween intrinsically evil? What’s with the ghosts and witches? Where does all this stuff come from?  All week I’ll be posting CAPC staff’s contributions and responses to these questions.

Personally, I have very mixed feelings about Halloween. I love the harvest atmosphere of many Halloween parties and events, but the whole sub-culture around Halloween seems to become increasingly dark each year.  A few years ago I want into a Halloween costume shop to get my daughter a Dorothy costume and I saw mechanical zombie babies with blood oozing from their eyes. Why? Not funny or interesting; just scary and disturbing.

Kim's dog in her Halloween costume

Kim’s dog in her Halloween costume

But my kids like to play make believe and there is something special about Halloween in my neighborhood. I don’t want my kids to miss out on that. So we trick or treat every year.  We even dress our dog up in a costume and take her trick or treating with us. There is nothing scary or disturbing about a Labradoodle in a bumble bee costume! (At least not to  humans . . . I’m not sure what Labradoodles think of this arrangement.)  This year my sister and her family are coming to stay overnight on Halloween and we’re all going trick-or-treating together. Cousins, candy, cocoa, and a sleepover all in one night!

As a few of our contributors will explain this week, Halloween has Catholic roots and even some of the scary stuff makes sense when you learn the history of the day. Did you know that ghosts first became associated with Halloween in Ireland because they believed that if somebody died one year and you held a grudge against him, then the next year he would appear to you on the night before All Saints: that’s right, All Hallows Eve or Halloween.  Skeletons and skulls give me the creeps and I assumed they were rooted in the occult, but guess what? Many Catholic countries like Mexico use symbols of death like skulls on All Souls Day to remind them of death and those who have died.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t want to think about the inevitability of death. I’m okay with cute pumpkins and bumble bee costumes because they don’t challenge my comfort zone. Perhaps I want to hold on to some illusion that I will always be okay. I don’t want ghosts, witches, or devils decorating my house because I don’t want to invite confusion in my children’s minds about these things, but I am beginning to see that I shouldn’t automatically raise a brow when a Christian lets her child child dress as a ghost or when they put skull candles on their dinner tables.

I’m considering these things and I’m looking forward to reading what our other moms have to say this week.  I think my observation about American culture around Halloween will still hold at the end of the week: why are Americans so obsessed with vampires, zombies, and the undead?  It’s one thing to recognize the inevitability of death on the Day of the Dead and another to idolize demons and evil creatures, to think they are even sexy. That’s just so messed up. I think on some level the young people who are caught up in these things know that there is something more beyond this life, that it is only one short chapter in a journey and a sliver of some greater truth. It’s  unfortunate they are not given the freedom to surrender to the whole truth and promise of salvation and God’s love. Now that’s really scary.

Bully-Proof Your Child: What Every Parent Needs to Know

bullying

Image credit: Stuart Miles (freedigitalphotos.com)

When some of us were growing up, bullying was considered a normal part of childhood; kids were left to sort things out themselves. Now we know that repeated bullying is damaging to a child’s psychological well-being and can have long-term effects on the brain. You probably can’t completely bully-proof your child, but I talked with Greg and Lisa Popcak on their radio program More2Life yesterday about how we can at least make our child a less appealing target for a bully.  In case you missed the show, I offered these tips:

1.  Teach your child an assertive communication style.

Bullies prey on kids who are vulnerable, so ensure your child feels confident in communicating assertively. Children develop a passive communication style when they are afraid of confrontation, have some kind of fear or anxiety about saying what they really want or need, and feel like they need to please everyone.  Teach your child that is okay to be assertive when confronted by a difficult person. This means we say what we need and that we set clear boundaries. “Don’t call me that name. Please use my real name.” “I don’t allow people to touch me.”

There is a difference between being aggressive and being assertive; teach your child the difference.  Aggressive communicators assume their opinion is the only one that matters and they tend to be intimidating.  Being assertive is different: we can be clear and firm without being dominating or loud. Make sure your child knows that it’s okay with you if he sticks up for himself when somebody is being aggressive or nasty toward him.

2.  Avoid harsh discipline approaches.

Many children become passive or submissive in response to overly harsh parenting. It’s a basic survival response. Not only will he not develop assertive communication skills, but when a child hears a lot of criticism at home or is physically punished for making mistakes, he may on some level think he deserves a bully’s poor treatment. The behavior of some parents, in fact, rises to the level of bullying and normalizes maltreatment in the minds of their children.

Choose a discipline approach that protects your connection with your child and encourages respectful communication. Even when he makes a mistake, he will know he is valuable and deserves respect. Then when a bully is violating his space or rights, he will have a deep sense that something is wrong. More empathic discipline approaches also protect your rapport with your child so that he is more likely to ask for your help in dealing with a bully.

3.  Teach your child the art of friendship.

Lonely, isolated kids are favorite victims of bullies. Teach your child from a young age how to be a good friend so that he builds up a circle of good friends. Sharing, listening, giving. These are lessons that can begin at a young age. As she matures, help your child develop perspective taking – how another child feels, or how that child’s experience may differ from your child’s.

These tips are all about teaching your child to invite mutual self-donation into her relationships which is what God wants for her. The ability to both give and receive within friendships is a powerful gift. No bully wants to mess around with that.

More for You

I’ve posted some great links about bullying over on our sister site for you:

  • bullying basics (what counts as bullying anyway?)
  • cyber-bullying (oy, there’s a whole new mean in town)
  • sibling bullying (something none of us wants to think about it, but it happens)

If you’d like to listen to my segment with the Popcak’s here you go. I come in at about 24 minutes. The Popcaks’ insights are always fantastic. In fact, the whole show was great: the topic was assertiveness training. Assertiveness is the healthiest communication style, but the fewest number of people possess it.

What Does It Mean to Be Free and Brave? Reflections on Pope Francis’ Speech Before the US Congress

pope francis before congress

Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress today and amidst his profound and sensitive reflections were these words about the state of the family in the United States:

How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!  Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable: the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse, and despair. Their problems are our problems.

Families are, indeed, being threatened from both within and without. We are aware of the many external threats, including the attempt by legislators and the U.S. Supreme Court to redefine marriage, a cultural disregard for strong, traditional families, and the intrusion of immorality into our homes through a flood of technology. It’s easy to forget the internal threats though — those forces from within that Pope Francis mentions.

Within our own families, seeds of darkness always wait to be fertilized. Selfishness, greed, jealousy, bitterness. The devil adorns these vices in lovely garments, so that we can tell ourselves things like “I don’t put up with any garbage” or “I am very ambitious and hard working” or “I always protect my rights.” Or we prioritize our reputations, bank accounts, and physical appearance over the relationships in our families. It’s so easy to do, so seductive. We protect our homes from the internal threats that Pope Francis mentions through our openness toward one another, our willingness to sacrifice our own desires for the needs of our families — especially the most vulnerable, and by our willingness to move outside ourselves to play, work, and worship with our families. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Building a community of love is simple, but challenging.

Pope Francis opened his speech with these words:  “I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ” I thought about what it means to be free, to be brave.  Real freedom requires the resistance of love.  I think many American are very confused about that; they assume freedom means they get to do whatever they want without limits, without boundaries, without responsibility. But that is not freedom; it is a prison.  The thing that confounds people about many Catholic families is our belief in self-giving love, in our belief that we can never be free until we grow to a place where we can give generously. This is very strange thinking in our culture. Sometimes reality look crazy; sometimes the truth is strange.

The truth about children — how they thrive, what they need to grow up into whole, joyful, contributing members of society — is uncomfortable for many people because it’s inconvenient and challenges them to be free and brave.  Building a community of love requires real freedom and real bravery, but it is how we express the image of God in ourselves. Being a mother has helped me become more free because I’ve come to understand the spiritual significance beneath simple acts of mothering, in particular, the way in which I am caught up in divine love when I stretch my limits out of care for my family. As for bravery, being a mom has helped me become more brave, too. I am more willing now to resist the status quo, to question popular views about children and families. Perhaps most importantly, being a mom has helped me face the truth about myself when I am not free, when I have failed to be brave — when I’m stuck or broken.

The Pope will have plenty more to say about the family during his time with us at the World Meeting of Families, but how wonderful that he expressed his love and concern for American families before Congress, 30% of them Catholic. The Holy Spirit is always working.

Image credit: Kevin Lemarque/Reuters

Tender Tidings FALL 2015: NOW AVAILABLE

FREE PARENTING MAGAZINE for Catholic parents!  Tender Tidings Fall 2015 now available!

In this issue:
*Family-centered fitness: body and soul
*Dr. Greg explains how to answer your kids’ questions about gay “marriage”
*Benedictine wisdom for your family
*healthy, homemade snacks for busy kids

CAPC now on Pinterest. WHEW.

capc header

Now one more way to get the latest on gentle Catholic parenting.

For all you pin-loving mamas out there, CAPC is now on Pinterest.

Dealing with Disobedience

obedience

I’ve posted some great links over on our sister site, Intentional Catholic Parenting, all about handling DISOBEDIENCE!  Check it out!

Helping Your Child Gain Emotional Control

distress

image credit: Stuart Miles courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Every parent at some point grapples with a child who “loses it”:  she uses negative behavior like tantrums, hitting, spitting, etc. in order to deal with her overwhelming feelings of anger or frustration. But every child also has the potential to attain emotional control over time as they mature. How does that happen though? Is there anything we can do to help her along?  Sometimes we can feel helpless and frustrated.

I talked about this recently with Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak on their radio program More2Life.   Here are 3 things to keep in mind as you make this journey toward emotional control with your child:

1.  Have reasonable expectations

Sometimes we expect too much emotional control in children too early (or we expect them to be fully in control all the time without reminders).  Some parents may punish for their child for not “keeping it together”. But emotional control is something that emerges over time; it can’t be ordered into a child.

Remember that babies have zero ability to control their emotions.  It’s normal to feel frustrated or worried when your baby cries or seems angry, but the best thing we can do is support them through their meltdowns.  When parents are responsive and warm toward infants when they are distressed, over time they will gain more emotional control.

Toddlers have big feelings, but immature verbal skills – they just can’t find a way to say what they need to say fast enough, so they become overwhelmed. This results in tantrums, crying, or acting out some way. As preschoolers and young children develop their communication skills, they develop an increased ability to handle their feelings.  When the do have a tantrum, it is rarely due to manipulation:  they are probably in true distress and they need help coming back to emotional peace.

Older children and teenagers still have a hard time controlling their emotions in certain circumstances. When they act out badly, though, it may be the result of manipulation and not cognitive immaturity. On the other hand, I try to remind myself that everyone has bad days and everyone has a decreased ability to cope with stress when they are hungry, tired, or hurt. I know I do!  I don’t excuse the bad behavior, but I try to understand WHY they are doing these things and explain to them how their choices are not effective in dealing with the stress.

I think kids of all ages need tips and strategies for handling their emotions before going into a hot button situation. Rehearse potentially difficult scenarios while your child is calm and happy.

2.  Respect your child’s emotions even if she expresses them inappropriately

Children experience anger, frustration, fear, and irritability just like we do. These feelings are not bad – they are actually gifts given to our children from God to help them discover him, to help them come to equilibrium and peace.  The problem we parents are dealing with is rarely the actual emotion our child is experiencing, but rather her clumsy attempt at expressing or managing the emotion.

Affirm your child’s feelings, but give her tips or direction in how to manage them better. “I can see how angry you are that your brother broke your toy. I feel angry, too, when somebody harms something I care about. However, we must never hit or scratch somebody when we are angry. Instead, use your words.”

Hopefully our older kids and teenagers have benefited from our support and coaching in early childhood.  In my home, if my older kids display inappropriate outbursts, I try to show them that I understand where they’re coming from, but I make it clear in no uncertain terms that hurtful or destructive choices are an unacceptable way to express these feelings.

3.  Model emotional control, but it’s okay to be honest about your feelings

It goes without saying that if we hit or scream when we are experiencing big feelings, our kids will do the same thing. I imagine every parent at some point has blown her stack, and at these times we need to apologize and explain that we didn’t handle our feelings very well.  But, again, this doesn’t mean that our anger, frustration, or hurt feelings are BAD. I think learning how to express to my children how I am honestly feeling without invading their boundaries or going overboard has done two things: 1) God has used these interactions with my kids to help me grow up (the relational skills I have learned as a mother have come in handy in my grown up friendships!) and 2) my children are witnessing an adult feeling upset while remaining in control of her actions. That is a more powerful lesson than any lecture will communicate!

Our purpose is to support and mentor our children when their feelings are overwhelming, so that eventually our compassion becomes part of their natural response to emotional stress.

If you’d like to hear my whole interview with the Popcaks, here you go.  I come in about 20 minutes into the show.  But the whole show was great.  The topic was “You Did WHAT???!  Handling the Crazy Things that Kids Do”.

 

What’s Your Communication Style?

communicationI heard Bill Sandoval on his Catholic radio show last week describe The Five Communication Styles, a concept explored through the work of psychologist Claire Newton.  Recognizing these styles and how we tend to communicate can help us become more effective communicators with our spouse and kids, and help us guide own kids in developing more effective communication skills, especially when dealing with difficult people.

Here are the 5 styles of communication:

1.  Aggressive

The aggressive communicator is demanding, abrasive, intimidating, and explosive. They tend to be very sarcastic or they threaten, blame, and insult the other person. “You are crazy.” “Don’t be stupid.” “You make me sick.” “That’s about enough out of you.” “Stop OR ELSE.” These are things an aggressive communicator might say.

Newton says, “This style is about winning – often at someone else’s expense. An aggressive person behaves as if their needs are the most important, as though they have more rights, and have more to contribute than other people. It is an ineffective communication style as the content of the message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to the way it’s delivered.”

People on the other end tend to become aggressive in return or they avoid any kind of confrontation with the aggressive person out of fear. So clearly this communication style is ineffective, because the other person actually avoids us or they want to attack us back.

Hollywood promotes aggressive communication too much and parents should be aware of it. Pay attention to the discourse in movies and popular television shows: the “hero” often has an aggressive communication style and this is portrayed as cool or admirable in some way. I’ve even seen some children’s cable television programs that portray families communicating with one another sarcastically and rudely, and too often the writers try to make it seem normal or funny.

I think many of us are drawn to empathic, gentle parenting partly because we experienced aggressive communication in our childhood and we know it is scary. Children in the long run absorb our message better if we speak to them respectfully and without threats. Teenagers often rebel against aggressive communicators.

2. Passive Aggressive

I have to say that this communication style scares me the most.  Newton explains: “This is a style in which people appear passive on the surface, but are actually acting out their anger in indirect or behind-the-scenes ways. Prisoners of War often act in passive-aggressive ways in order to deal with an overwhelming lack of power. People who behave in this manner usually feel powerless and resentful, and express their feelings by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments – even if this ends up sabotaging themselves. The expression “Cut off your nose to spite your face” is a perfect description of passive-aggressive behaviour.”

Passive-aggressive types can be very sugary sweet on the surface, even touching the person’s arm to communicate warmth, but they are manipulative, tend to gossip, and are two faced – they are nice to your face but spread rumors behind your back or they sabotage your efforts without you knowing it. (This sounds eerily like some behaviour in my dorm at an all-women’s college!)

I suspect that some children of aggressive parents become passive aggressive as they mature. They have to find some way to protect their sense of dignity, but they are too fearful to confront the parent or speak their mind. But when this coping strategy becomes a habit, the child is harmed even more because it affects their other relationships which could have been a source of healing and love.

3. Submissive

Newton explains: “This style is about pleasing other people and avoiding conflict. A submissive person behaves as if other peoples’ needs are more important, and other people have more rights and more to contribute.”

What Newton is talking about here is different from the self-giving love that we frequently talk about on this blog. As the heads of our domestic church, parents have to consider the vulnerability of family members in determining whose needs are met first. A young baby’s needs are more urgent than a teenager’s, because the teenager has the emotional ability to postpone getting his need met in order to meet a higher good. A baby is not cognitively capable of adjusting their own expectations or conceptualizing when their need might be met, so they become legitimately distressed when they are hungry, tired, or even bored.

Newton is talking about a person who puts the needs of another person before their own out of fear of rejection. They apologize any time they are asking for what they need, they always do what others want to do and act like what they want to do doesn’t matter, they brush off compliments, and avoid conflict at all costs. People on the other end actually end up feeling frustrated and distant from the submissive person. You can’t have true friendship with a submissive communicator.

4. Manipulative

A manipulative communicator tries to control you, but they don’t do it directly. Instead, they say things that leave you feeling guilty or sorry for them. One of my relatives had a mother-in-law who would say things like “Oh, you two go off camping. Don’t worry about me. If I have a stroke I’m sure somebody could find you to let you know . . .” This is a classic manipulative communication style.  Newton explains: “This style is scheming, calculating and shrewd. Manipulative communicators are skilled at influencing or controlling others to their own advantage. Their spoken words hide an underlying message, of which the other person may be totally unaware.” Of course my relative felt badly for her mother-in-law and guilty for wanting to camp with her husband, but if she canceled her trip she would in the end feel resentful toward her mother-in-law.

While toddlers rarely have tantrums that are motivated by manipulation, older children can sometimes develop manipulative tantrums. In fact, if this communication style can become a bad habit for them. They may cry in the middle of a store when asking for a treat because they know you’ll be embarrassed and give in. It’s important to guide older children in expressing their needs and desires honestly, assertively, and respectfully. We should never “give in” to manipulative tantrums.

5. Assertive

The most effective communication style is assertive. Newton says that when we communicate assertively, “[w]e have the confidence to communicate without resorting to games or manipulation. We know our limits and don’t allow ourselves to be pushed beyond them just because someone else wants or needs something from us. Surprisingly, however, assertive is the style most people use least.”

Assertive communicators have a high self-esteem and are capable of perceiving the experiences and feelings of others. They protect their own rights and recognize that they, too, have needs, but they also consider the rights and needs of others. They ask for what they need, but they do it respectfully. For example, they would ask, “Could you please turn down the volume on the television? I am having a hard time studying” rather than screaming and cursing at the t.v. watcher (this is aggressive communication) or accidentally-on-purpose unplugging the t.v. (passive aggressive) or walking around pouting because they can’t study well (manipulative). They just ask for what they need, but they do it with a respectful tone. When you are dealing with an assertive communicator, you feel like you can trust their word and you can offer your own opinion without being attacked.

It’s interesting to note that the attributes of the assertive communicator are shared by folks who possess a secure attachment disposition. Securely-attached children and adults have self-confidence, recognize the needs and experience of others, and expect to be treated with respect. But even our securely-attached children need guidance in communicating assertively. We can give them lots of practice during conflicts with siblings and friends, and by providing a good example ourselves!

Image credit: artur84, freedigitalphotos.net

 

National NFP Awareness Week July 19-25


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is reminding us that this is National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!:

God designed marriage as an “intimate partnership of life and love” (see Gaudium et spes, no. 48). In God’s design, marriage is a unique union of one man with one woman “for the whole of life” (see Canon 1055, The Code of Canon Law). Marriage is oriented to the good of the spouses and to the creation and nurture of new human life (see Gaudium et spes, no. 48). Making decisions therefore, about when and how many children to have in marriage is a sacred responsibility that God has entrusted to husband and wife. This is the foundation of what the Church calls, “Responsible Parenthood”–the call to discern God’s will for your marriage while respecting His design for life and love.

The Catholic Church supports the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because they respect God’s design for married love. In fact, NFP represents the only authentic approach to family planning available to husbands and wives because these methods can be used to both attempt or avoid pregnancy. When learning about NFP, it is important to know that “NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife” (see Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry, 23).

Here are some free resources for you as you prayerfully consider the role of NFP in your marriage.

1. Tender Tidings Summer 2015.

The summer issue of our free parenting magazine has a whole featured section on NFP written mostly by our own Charisse Tierney, who teaches natural family planning for the Couple to Couple League.  Charisse is very realistic, honest, and compassionate about both the blessings and challenges of a natural family planning.

 2. What Is NFP?

An introduction to natural family planning from the USCCB.

3.  Myths of NFP

In this article, the Couple to Couple dispels common myths about NFP.

4.  Dignitas Personae: On Certain Bioethical Questions

Released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this document grapples with a number of bioethical questions raised in response to modern technological advancements in the field of human fertility and infertility. Using the principles of Catholic moral teaching, the document brings clarity and truth to the debates surrounding both procreation and genetic manipulation.

The Care and Keeping of YOU

This summer I’ve made a special effort to keep our family schedule light, because I have learned the hard way that jam-packed days leave my kids grumpy and me drained.  But even with our open calendar, I am finding myself over-doing things: clearing out our homeschool room, repainting the house, hosting play dates, helping a son cope with chronic migraines, and going to Radio Shack with yet another shopping list for robot parts. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but on Friday I noticed that I was much too tired and depleted.

This morning I appreciated this reminder from Tim Muldoon over at Ignatian Spirituality:

[O]ur care for other persons must not neglect the care of that one person whom we will know our entire lives:  ourselves.  For those who practice care for others, it can be easy to neglect the self.  Parenting, I find, can elicit from me patterns of self-giving which are not really sustainable.  Losing sleep, always seeking the good of the other, spending time on what the other needs instead of what I need—all these I tend to write off as so many types of sacrificial love that I can offer up to God.

Does that sound familiar?  We simply cannot survive parenthood without the regular practice of self-care. We really have to look at it as part of a spiritual practice, because without caring for our bodies, minds, and spirits, we will be crippled in doing the work God  has for us do.

The smaller our kids are, the harder it is to practice self-care, but it’s  all the more important.  How we recharge or refuel is a very personal matter. Writer Holly Pierlot takes regular “mother sabbaticals” during which she goes out alone for an afternoon to pray or just think.  This is a great suggestion and parents should not feel guilty about needing time away from their kids to get their brains back in order.  However, many of us lack the luxury to do this regularly or we just don’t want to leave our small babies for extended periods.

Even if we enjoy personal sabbaticals, we need to practice self-care more frequently than a day out can give us.  Muldoon suggests “taking long naps, reading a challenging essay, physical exercise, foreign travel, walks in nature, conversation with friends, a glass of wine on a beautiful lanai, or climbing a mountain.”  What strikes me about Muldoon’s suggestions is that I could do just about all these things with my family around me.  (Except perhaps reading a challenging essay . . . )

Over the weekend, instead of painting baseboard, Philip and I took the kids hiking.  The hike was absolutely beautiful, but also physically challenging.

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I initially viewed this outing as “for my kids,” but I see in retrospect that I was also practicing self-care.  Seeing a new place, experiencing nature’s strange silence, and feeling my muscles working hard to carry me forward renewed my spirit as I prepared for the week. I think I needed a change of scenery – literally.  This week my head is less cob-webbed, praying is easier, and my imagination is percolating.

I’m thinking this afternoon about “mini-sabbaticals.”  Instead of going off for a day alone every two weeks, why not carve out thirty minutes to an hour every day when we can be grown-ups doing grown-up stuff?  This may take the cooperation of our spouse if we have very small children, but it’s worth considering.  When my kids were all little I instituted an afternoon quiet hour during which everyone — babies, toddlers, older kids alike — remained in their beds.  The older kids were required to stay in bed, too, but they could read or play with quiet toys.  I explained that Mommy was having a quiet hour, too, that we all needed to let our minds and bodies rest so we could hear and play better for the rest of the day.  During that time, I think I initially took a nap, but later I just made fresh coffee, prayed, and read in complete quiet.  I think I really did hear and play better after that!

I’m not sure if I need the afternoon quiet hour again, but I’ll make an effort to pay attention to the signals that I need to shift course.  Maybe I can forget the walls that need painting, say “not today” to the new robot shopping list, or look for a new hiking trail.