Category: Couples and Families

Dealing With Mother Guilt

mother-guiltGuilt.  It seems to follow every mother from the moment her child is born.  It’s as if having a child means changing your middle name to “Guilt.”  It’s hard to shake and if you’re not careful it can lurk around and follow your every decision.  “Did they get enough fruits and veggies today?” “Maybe they had trouble sleeping because I didn’t let them have enough outside play time.”  “Should I work or stay home – either way I’ll feel guilty.”  “I could really use some time to myself, but I feel guilty spending the money and taking time away from being with my child.”  “Am I making the right decision about what school they should go to?”  “I need to check these emails, but that means not spending time with her.” “Am I really present enough?”  Any of these resonate with you?
Societal expectations for women largely contribute to the almost universal feeling of mother guilt.  It’s as though somewhere along the way we were presented with a mental image of the ideal mother, but somehow we’re never quite able to measure up to her.  While a little guilt can be good (because it shows that we love and care and want to grow and be good in our role), too much can weigh us down.  At some point, we have to come to the realization that we’re not perfect.  Cut ourselves a little slack and take comfort in the fact that we’re doing the best we can.  Hard as it is we have to stop comparing ourselves to other mothers (real and fictional) because the reality is we don’t fully understand their circumstances and it’s just not fair to do it to ourselves.
Often times the underlying fear is that some decision we make will have critical lasting impact on our child.  Sometimes it feels as though there’s one “right” choice and if we choose the wrong one our child will forever be negatively affected by it and will never be as well adjusted.  We have to give ourselves a break!  Try to remember a happy mother makes a better mother.  So releasing some of that guilt and pressure will not only benefit you – it will benefit your kids!  Develop a mantra if you need to such as, “I love my kids. I’m doing all that I can.”  When the guilt starts to set in remind yourself of that.  At the end of the day give yourself credit for working hard to provide a safe and loving home for your child.  And then remind yourself that sometimes that’s good enough!
Photo Credit:

Tips for Improving Your Sex Life

Feeling like your sex life needs a little pick-me-up?  You’re not alone.  Intimate relationships take work.  Sometimes day to day challenges get in the way of maintaining a healthy sex life.  Busy schedules, stress from work, exhaustion from dealing with the kids…just a few of the many road blocks on the way to the bedroom.  Here are a few tips to help heat things up again:
Communicate –   For many, feeling close begins long before a touch.  There needs to be communication between partners.  Make conversation a priority.  Schedule date nights, turn off the tv, shut down the laptop – talk.  Talking about a variety of subjects can help you to reconnect.  And don’t forget to talk about the sex.  Be open and honest about what you like or don’t like and what you fantasize about.
– Try New Things –  If you feel like your sex life is in a rut because it’s “the same old thing” every time then it may be time to try new things!  Explore one another and find new erogenous zones.  Try new positions.  Remember, it’s important to be honest with your partner about what you would and would not be open to.
– Synchronize – Synchronizing orgasms can intensify the experience for both partners.  If it usually takes one person longer than the other you may want to work on arousal beforehand so the timing can be right.  Also, communicating to your partner that you are about to climax may give them the opportunity to time it with yours.
– Get Healthy – Being physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy can help improve your sex life.  Also, if there are physical problems hindering your intimacy, pain during intercourse for example, consult with a physician.
-Be Spontaneous…or Not – Most people like to picture sex as a burst of passionate spontaneity.  Sometimes it is.  Try to be open to those little opportunities throughout the day to be spontaneous.  But, if days turn into weeks and nothing has happened – consider scheduling sex.  While it may not sound as exciting, it may be just what you need to get things moving.
Any tips you’d like to add?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Photo Credit:

Three Tips for Managing a Blended Family

couple-and-familyDuring any new marriage there’s an adjustment period.  When there are kids involved, making it a blended family, there will definitely be a period of adjustment – for everyone.  As family members begin to learn more about each other and their new roles there will inevitably be some challenges.  Here are a few tips to help manage the transition.
1.  Be Patient – Remind yourself this will take time.  Chances are the kids will not fall in love with their new stepparent or step-siblings overnight.  The same goes for parents.  It may take some time to fall wholeheartedly in love with your new step-children, particularly if they are having a difficult time with the transition and are acting out.  It’s ok to take some time.  Trying to force a relationship too fast won’t help anything.  Try to allow a little space while still being available to them when ready.  Remind yourself that blending a family is a big transition and each individual family member may be working on their own time frame.
2.  Make Time for Each Other – As a newly married couple with children it may be difficult to find the time to connect with each other one-on-one.  Make dates a priority.  Investing time in your marriage can strengthen your foundation and help you both to lean on each other during what may be a difficult transition.  It’s smart for you not just as a couple, but as new co-parents.  Spending the time to connect with each other can help provide the support you need to remain strong and be consistent with the kids.
3.  Set Family Boundaries and Expectations – Take the time to lay some ground-rules with the family early on and involve the kids in the process.  Let them know there is an expectation of respect for every family member.  (This also goes for members not present – don’t speak negatively about the child’s “real” parent in front of them).  It’s also important to note that in the beginning it’s best for the biological parent to be the disciplinarian, not the stepparent.  Stepparents need time to build relationships with stepchildren before they can easily step into the role of disciplining.
Take a deep breath.  Building a family is a marathon, not a sprint.  Work hard to develop a home environment that will foster organic growth in the individual relationships.

Photo Credit:

Surviving the Empty Nest Syndrome

The day has finally come when your child has moved out of the house.  There were probably points along the way when you never thought you’d make it here.  But you have.  Whether off to college, starting a family of their own, enlisting for service, or just ready to explore the world and all it has to offer – your child has now spread his wings and taken flight.  Walking through the house you are suddenly aware how quiet it is.  Perhaps a little too quiet. If you are experiencing feelings of depression, rejection, worry and anxiety for your children, and a loss of purpose you, like many, may be experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome.
When a child leaves home for the first time it can often be a difficult time of transition for the parents.  This may be particularly true for full-time parents, those whose identity was based around being a parent,  individuals who find change to be stressful or are already undergoing other significant changes (retirement, menopause, etc.)  Parents who worked outside the home may begin questioning whether they invested enough time in their children.  Try to remember these feelings are normal and this is a time of transition.  You may be faced with trying to reconnect with your spouse since raising children is no longer your primary focus.  Additionally, you will have to establish a new kind of relationship with the child.  Communication may primarily take place electronically now which is a big shift from daily face to face interaction.  Perhaps you  also have an abundance of free time that you don’t know how to occupy.
The good news is this time of transition (and the feelings that go with it) doesn’t have to last forever.  There are a number of things you can do to help.  Find a hobby or an interest you enjoy that will occupy your time and help you to feel good about yourself.  Consider volunteering in your community.  Also, take advantage of the newly acquired time to reconnect with your partner.  Spontaneity may have been difficult with children in the house, so take the opportunity to go on dates or focus on intimacy.  If your relationship was strained before the kids left, use the time you now have to work on the relationship.  And of course, maintaining communication with your child (in whatever form circumstances will allow) can help reduce the Empty Nest feelings. If you feel you are stuck in this stage be sure to reach out to family and friends for support.
It’s also important to note that not all parents will go through this stage.  Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself in a happy place after your children leave the house.  Take pride in the job you’ve done raising your child and live confidently knowing you help gave them the wings to fly!

Photo Credit:

The Single Parent Life

The-Single-Parent-LifeBeing a single parent can be challenging, but it can also be  rewarding.  Whether you chose to have a child as a single adult or found yourself in the situation following a series of unexpected events you should know that you’re not alone (though it may feel that way at times).  Support groups are available to meet with others in similar situations.  They can be a helpful source for friendship and advice.  Also, family members and friends can be extremely helpful when raising a child by yourself.  Having a strong support system around you will benefit both you and your child(ren).  If others you trust are offering to help out, let them.  Trying to juggle everything by yourself can be taxing and accepting a helping hand may provide just the relief you need.  Additionally, it can be an opportunity to provide your child with a healthy role model from the opposite sex.
If you find yourself bogged down with the emotional and financial stress of being a single parent try to take some time out and reflect on a few positives in your situation.  Make time for yourself, perhaps after the kids are in bed, and do something just for you (like reading a book or chatting on the phone with an old friend).  Chances are you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to handle the day to day challenges that come your way.

Photo Credit:

5 Ways to Cope With a Loved One's Mental Illness

Discovering that a loved one is struggling with a mental illness can be very difficult to cope with.  Most families aren’t prepared for it.  At times it can be very physically and emotionally challenging.  Below are a few tips to help with coping.
1.  Educate Yourself –  Researching your loved one’s mental illness will help you to gain a better understanding of what he or she is experiencing.  That may allow you to offer better support to the loved one.  It can also help break down misconceptions like the idea that the loved one should be able to “just snap out of it.”
2.  Recognize Your Feelings – Many family members feel guilt or shame when they discover their loved one is dealing with mental illness.  While these feelings are common and should be recognized as such, it’s important for family members to know they didn’t cause the mental illness and they can’t cure it.
3.  Find Support -Many families who have a loved one with a mental illness share common experiences despite the specific diagnosis.  Attending a support group can help normalize some of the feelings and experiences as well as provide additional strategies to manage the loved one’s mental illness.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult for families to reach out for the support they need because of the stigma that can be attached to mental illness.  Don’t let that stop you.  Seek support from family, friends, religious leaders, support groups, and mental health professionals whenever necessary.
4.  Take Care of Yourself -You’ve probably heard it said that you can’t take care of others without first taking care of yourself.  There’s some truth in that.  If you’re physically and emotionally exhausted it makes it much harder to provide the support your loved one needs.  Make it a priority to take some time to yourself to recharge.
5. Get Involved – Talk with members of your loved one’s treatment team.  Give them another perspective than the one they receive from your loved one.  Ask the treatment team how you can be most helpful and what expectations you should have for your loved one.  You can also get involved by emailing local politicians and working towards improving the overall mental health system.

Photo Credit:

Coping With Infertility

Coping-With-InfertilityInfertility, as defined by a couple who is unable to become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex, affects 10-15% of couples in the United States.  This may be due to a problem in one or both partners.  The emotional and physical stress of a couple experiencing infertility can lead to anxiety, depression, and significant marital problems.
One of the reasons infertility is so difficult to cope with is the fact that no one knows how long it will last or what the eventual outcome will be.  It’s important to help manage the emotional stress by talking with others.  Instead of repressing feelings of anger, guilt, or fear, try reaching out to those around you.  The support of partners, family, and friends can be very beneficial during what can be a grueling process.  Support groups and professional counseling are also available.  In fact, according to “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which uses methods that include relaxation training and stress management, has been associated with higher pregnancy rates” during treatment.  Because no one can guarantee what the outcome will be it’s important to discuss all options with your partner.  Consider what alternative methods you’re comfortable with and at what point you’ll begin exploring them.  Treatment can be emotionally and financially challenging and many feel that setting limits beforehand is helpful.

Life In A Military Family

Life-In-A-Military-FamilyBeing a member of a military family comes with a unique sense of honor and pride.  Unfortunately, it also comes with a great deal of stress.  There are a number of reasons it can be a challenging, but two in particular often weigh heavy on the hearts of military families.
1.  Deployment – Fear of deployment may be a constant for some military members, their spouses, and children.  Not knowing when, if, or for how long can be stressful.  Though you may have signed up for this by joining the military or marrying a member of the military the reality of it may be harder than you imagined.  Once deployment orders have been given couples may experience tension in the relationship due to anxiety about what’s to come.  Children may begin acting out for the same reason.  Once the family member is deployed spouses may have difficulty adjusting to new duties around the home and may feel overwhelmed by handling the homefront alone.  Many find it helpful to include the deployed spouse in parenting decision making whenever possible.  The separation can also make it difficult to maintain a level of intimacy both partners desire.  Additionally, families may experience financial strains during deployment.  This may come in part as a result of having to work out new child care arrangements.  Spouses and children alike may fear heavily for the safety of their loved one.  Limiting exposure to constant news sources may be helpful.  Unfortunately, the challenges may not end with the deployment. The returning soldier may have difficulty adjusting to the changes that have taken place in the family while gone.  It may take some time getting used to the new independence his or her spouse has acquired while they were gone.  Of course if the soldier returns wounded, physically or emotionally, it may also be a challenging time of transition.
2.  Frequently Relocating – This can also place tremendous stress on military families.  Spouses and children may feel their lives are constantly being interrupted.  Having to change jobs, neighborhoods, and schools means having to make new friends.  This can be tough for everyone involved.  Also, because the military issues the orders it may feel like a loss of control of your own life.  It’s important for family members to discuss their feelings with one another which can ultimately help make the transition smoother.
The good news is there are a number of great resources available to help military families handle the unique stress they experience.  Support groups are available online and throughout communities all over the country.  Also, many find it helpful to quickly connect with other military families in their neighborhood, schools, and churches as soon as they move so that they have people around them who understand their experiences.  If a support system of family and friends is not enough, professional help is always available.

Infidelity: Signs, Causes, and Coping

Infidelity.  The word alone can strike fear into the heart of any person in a committed relationship.  The very thought of your partner being intimately involved with another individual can send shock-waves.  The reality is even more devastating.  It undermines the foundation of the relationship, but that doesn’t mean it has to end it.
There are signs to look for that can help identify problems in the marriage before resulting in infidelity.  The key is to address them directly in order to save your relationship.  If your partner says things like, “I’m not happy”, “This isn’t working” or “I wish things were like they used to be” he or she may be crying out for help.  It’s important to acknowledge that cry and seek professional assistance.  An objective, nonjudgmental third party can help guide things down a path of recovery.  Sneaking around, a history of cheating, and sudden unexplained interest in personal appearance may also be red flags.  Again, it’s important to address these signs head-on.
Maybe your situation has already moved beyond warning signs and the infidelity became a reality.  You may be wondering why your partner cheated or how to move on from here.  The reasons can be as varied as the individuals involved, but there is some evidence to suggest men typically cheat for sexual reasons while women cheat for emotional reasons.  With that said – the opposite can also be true (men cheat for emotional reasons and women for sexual).  However, knowing the reason probably won’t provide much comfort.  If both parties are committed to saving the relationship it can become stronger than before.  It may take a lot of time, space, and professional help to repair the trust that was broken, but take hope in knowing that it can be done.

Blended Families: Joys and Challenges

Blended Family
Blending a family through marriage can be exciting.  More family members can mean a larger support system for everyone.  Stepparents have a unique opportunity to become an important role model in the life of a child and stepsiblings of all ages can create lifelong bonds.  Merging families may open the door for new cultural and religious experiences that can add depth to the life of a child.
Unfortunately, blending a family can also prove to be very challenging.  Bringing together two separate groups of individuals will inevitably require some adjusting.  Know that the transition period may be handled differently for each family member.  For example, younger children are often more accepting and adjust quicker than adolescents.   Children of all ages may struggle with new rules, roles, and siblings and may feel like they are a threat to “the way things used to be.”  They may also resist a stepparent because they feel the need to remain loyal to their parent.  Remember that children need to feel loved, accepted, and important.  Children in blended families need to feel they are heard especially during the transition.  Work towards maintaining a dialogue about the joys and challenges within the family while everyone continues to adjust.

hope & restorationWhen the dark clouds of life roll in and settle over you, it’s important to have someone who can help you tap into your inner strength so that you can survive the storm.  At The Empowerment Group, that’s exactly what we do. We welcome you to explore the possibilities that are available to you. Restore a sense of balance and direction to your life. Whether through therapy, through Family Mediation, or through relationship counseling, we can help you find a path toward resolution and relief. Empowering your life! The Empowerment Group wants to help you bring balance, peace and happiness to your life even when the storms roll in and you feel all hope is gone. We can help:
  • Mediation
  • Therapy
  • Relationships
  • Pre-Marital Counseling



Subscribe for
Empowerment Tips!