Welcome to In the Moment Notes

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Anxiety About the Election: 3 Things to Remember After the Votes are Counted

About a week before election day, we were just about to shut off the lights when our teenage son came into our bedroom and declared he couldn’t sleep. Anxiety about the election was getting to him, and he wanted to talk.

“There are gonna be riots no matter who wins,” he said.

I grabbed my glasses and sat up in bed, shaking the sleepy fog from my mind.

As he spoke, I longed for the days when I could walk into his room and vanquish the monsters with a loud roar. This time, he wasn’t scared of a shadow or the knocking of a pipe cooling in the night.

And his fear ran much deeper than mere policy preferences. At its core, he was most concerned that our nation seems to have forgotten the “bonds of affection” that once held us together.

If we’ve lost the ability to reason with each other, he argued, how can we ever move forward?

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Kathleen Notes: In these anxious times, knowing who is really in control is a tremendous comfort.

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How Can I Be Thankful When My World’s a Wreck?

So many of us are struggling to catch our breath from our life circumstances this year.

One friend of mine with three kids lost her husband. Another lost a massive scholarship and college career when his university went under. Another friend lost the business she’d built for years. I personally endured a scathing career loss.

But as we whip mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving—or simply eye the vacant chair at the dinner table—what does it look like to be thankful in a year of loss?

I think of Job, pummeled as all he loved was ripped from him. He “arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20).

I don’t know about you, but all seemed as expected until that last little phrase. Utter grief is human. Worship in utter grief is not.

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Kathleen Notes: What if we embrace our humanity, the humanity of others and our common human bond with Jesus during this difficult time?

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Help For the Emotionally Neglected at Thanksgiving

It’s that time again, the holidays are coming. First comes Thanksgiving so let’s start preparing now.

Since Thanksgiving is generally a family holiday, you may be excited about Thanksgiving or not-so-much. And that is likely determined by the type of family you have.

How do you feel when you get together with your family? Is it enriching and enjoyable? Or is it more draining and challenging? Or is your family experience somewhere in between?

If your family has any kind of abuse, grief, or addiction in it, for example, this family-focused holiday may be extra challenging for you.

There is one very large group of folks who either look forward to Thanksgiving and then find themselves disappointed every year, or have learned to dread it because of its draining, disheartening nature.

This large group of people struggles to identify why Thanksgiving is disappointing each year. And the answer is not anything that happens at Thanksgiving dinner. It is actually because of what does not happen when their family gets together. 

What’s missing is a real, substantial emotional connection.

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Kathleen Notes: If your family doesn`t "speak" emotion...or speak it in a dysfunctional way...this might be you.

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5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Clearly, a few small actions won’t fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t. There’s just enormous power in that!

For nearly every man or woman, the same few small, gender-specific actions not only matter but have a huge impact on a couple’s level of happiness. But these little actions take on even more power when accompanied by those that matter to your spouse individually.

Let’s begin with the few small actions that the surveys indicate matter a lot to almost every man or woman—what we might call the Fantastic Five.

When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.

In other words, you are very likely to make your spouse feel deeply cared for if you make a habit of doing the same five things consistently.

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Kathleen Notes: The "fantastic 5`s" may or may not be you or your spouse, but hey...we`re all looking for insight. If nothing else, they could initiate some conversations...

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The Side of Grief That Nobody Talks About

Grief. No one likes it and no one wants it.

But sadly, it’s a near-universal experience. It’s difficult to get through your life without having to go through some amount of grief.

Much has been written about how grief works, the most well-known being, of course, the writings of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the world-renowned Swiss psychiatrist who identified the 5 Stages of Grief which have comforted and validated legions of people by explaining the seemingly inexplicable feelings and stages that grieving people move through and share.

But right now I want to talk about a different aspect of grief that I see in an extraordinarily large percentage of people who lose someone. It’s not a stage of grief; in fact, it can be so ubiquitous that it’s not something people move through very well even if they are an emotionally healthy person.

It’s guilt.

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Kathleen Notes: Tough stuff....

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10 Ways to Build Gratitude Into Our Children’s Hearts

It’s a scene that we’ve all witnessed and one that’s all too familiar to most moms: a screaming kid having a tantrum in the aisle of some store because he is not getting something that he wants and thinks he deserves. We all feel for the mom because we’ve been there before, and we all whisper a quick prayer of thanks that this time it isn’t our child having the fit.

Many of us, hoping to put a quick end to this embarrassing scene, cave and give our child what he wants, only to have him start the entire process over again in the next aisle. One thing I have learned after raising four children is that giving our children everything they want does not make them more grateful. Instead it makes them more demanding and ungrateful.

I encourage moms to look over the horizon and see the child that they hope to usher into the future and be willing to do the hard work necessary to build that child from the inside out with character.

A compassionate parent—one who is looking out beyond the immediate—knows that gratitude is a life skill that every child needs to learn. An ungrateful person is unpleasant to be around, never satisfied. She lives with an attitude of entitlement and disappointment; she is not a happy camper, in other words, and not likely to succeed in life, love, and work.

Although character building is a 24/7/365 task for us as parents, there are some seasons and events that are custom-made to teach character to our children. This season of Thanksgiving gives us ample opportunities to reinforce the development of gratitude as a vital part of our children’s character.

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Kathleen Notes: You are raising a future adult...what does your child need to learn in childhood to make that happen successfully?

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Lost Child Syndrome

The term dysfunctional family is used to give a name to a family that does not function within normal parameters. There may be alcoholism, drug abuse, neglect, and abuse. These disturbed families harbor children who, because of their debilitated families, are not capable of living the lives they should have.

As a result of the dysfunction in these families, children take one of four different and predictable, limiting roles. These roles include the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. This article will focus on the lost child, what it consists of and, how to heal.

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Kathleen Notes: Lost children are growing up in families right now and are functioning as wounded adults, often raising their own kids...passing on the dysfunction. Awareness is the first step...

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Researchers Reveal Why Posting Pictures of Your Kids Can Be Dangerous

In this modern day and age, social media is a part of our everyday lives. As such, it’s no surprise that happy, proud parents want to share pictures of their children on these platforms. But how safe is this practice?

This trend, known as “sharenting,” is a hotly debated topic by many. Understandably, plenty of parents are concerned about the potential threats their child may face from this oversharing habit. After all, the Internet is a wild place, and anything can happen with the data you upload.

The truth of the matter is that the sharenting trend is potentially damaging and can put children in jeopardy. To keep your children safe, your best bet may be to refrain from the social media bug. Here’s how researchers reveal why posting pictures of your kids can be dangerous.

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Kathleen Notes: This is a super important way to protect our kiddos...

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Isolation and Self-Care
If we want to maintain our sanity right now, with so many of us in lockdown because of the coronavirus and divorced from the ordinary structures of our lives, we must understand what our brains need to function properly. First, we need to stay connected with each other. How? Through our voices and faces. After all, that’s the primary mode of human communication. So if we take advantage of technologies that allow us to experience the presence of others, our anxiety goes down. That’s what all the work on attachment theory tells us. We need to do more than stare passively at the TV without a mutual engagement of familiar voices and faces....

.....As we face our life right now with the coronavirus, we have to understand the wisdom of the liturgy and give our lives the structure our brain craves. At 8:00 in the morning, I’ll start the day with meditation or yoga. And from 9:00 to 9:30, I’m dancing with my kids. And then from 11:00 to 12:00, I’m going to FaceTime with one or two of my friends. I’ll work after that, and then at 4:00 in the afternoon, I’ll start cooking a meal I can leave on a friend’s porch to enjoy with them over video.

Dividing up your day is an important thing to do. When the temporal structure breaks down, we break down. So dividing up time in clear rhythms is what we do to help people with trauma. It’s what kindergarten teachers do, and what we need to do for ourselves when we’re on lockdown or sheltering in place.

At a time like this, it’s important to realize that our conscious brain is a small part of who we are. As psychotherapists, we may talk and explain and have opinions about things—and we should certainly appreciate the marvels of our prefrontal cortex—but knowing why you’re screwed up doesn’t usually solve deep emotional issues: it just gives you options to begin to do something about it.

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Kathleen Notes: A great article by Bessel van der Kolk to help us to better understand the trauma of isolation during the pandemic and what we can do to help ourselves.

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Brutal Honesty Vs. Speaking Your Truth With Compassion

What does it mean when someone describes themselves as “brutally honest?” It’s not as simple as many people think.

The idea of brutal honesty has been placed in a positive light in today’s world. Perhaps because of the word “honesty.” Because honesty is a good thing, right? Of course, it is.

We all agree that it’s important to be honest and truthful. But, in reality, the truth often hurts.

Many times in our lives we are faced with situations in which we need to share a message that may hurt the recipient. And there are many possible ways to manage those situations.

Declaring yourself brutally honest is perhaps the easiest way around the “truth/hurt” quandary. It’s essentially a free pass to say what you think or what you feel in the moment you think it or feel it.

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Kathleen Notes: Scripture encourages us to speak the truth in love...

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10 Date Night In Ideas for When You Can’t Go Out

If any semblance of date night feels like it’s been drop-kicked out the door, you’re in good company. You might be hesitant to send the kids to Grandma’s, and the likelihood of finding a babysitter willing to enter your “germy” home has never been lower.

If you’re going to fight for time alone with your spouse, a little creativity is in order.

And prioritizing time for your marriage is worth fighting for. While increased family time is a good thing, so is increased time as a couple. In fact, for the sake of the health of your marriage, getting “away” just the two of you is equally good.

Whether you have college kids hanging out for a few months or elementary school kids navigating home school routines, there are ways you can escape together. Let them entertain themselves or put on a movie marathon while you get away for a while.

Need some date night in ideas? Consider giving these a try:

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Kathleen Notes: Date night is more important than ever! Take a look and find one or more ideas.

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Protect Your Holidays from Toxic People

Brian’s mom regularly preaches the “gospel of family” above all else, especially when it comes to holidays. Not showing up for Christmas would be seen as a declaration of war.

Brian asked me what he was supposed to do.

I didn’t think “the right thing to do” was that difficult to understand, though it might feel difficult to put into practice.

“Treat your mom as if she was healthy, spiritually speaking,” I said. “If my son called me and said, ‘Dad, I’m sorry, but for the sake of my marriage we can’t spend Christmas with you this year’ it would break my heart. But I hope I’d reply, ‘Son, you’re making the right choice. Your wife comes first.  In fact, I’m proud of you for making what I’m sure is a tough decision. You’re a good husband.’ Any healthy person would tell a husband to back his wife. So treat your mom like she’s healthy, explain what’s going on, and invite her to respond like a healthy person would. If she doesn’t like that, that’s on her, not you.”

Christians need to stop worrying about the unhealthy fallout of unhealthy people who are challenged by healthy decisions. We can’t control (and God doesn’t hold us accountable for) the way someone responds. We control trying to be as loving, true, honest, gentle, and kind as our God calls us to be as we live with healthy, God-ordained priorities.

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Kathleen Notes: I really appreciate the concept of treating the "toxic person" as emotionally healthy and develop the understanding that their response is their job.

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Raising Kids in Outrage Culture

This was prior to the 2016 U.S. election. It was before America chose sides as if the entire country were getting a divorce. (You know, snatching what’s theirs, then shouting at each other in ALL CAPS. With a lot of colorful @#$% thrown in.)

We laugh. But all of us know outrage culture is real. Wikipedia defines “outrage culture” as “a form of public shaming that aims to hold individuals and groups accountable by calling attention to behavior that is perceived to be problematic, usually on social media.”

So what’s the big deal? Outrage culture is becoming just that: culture. A way of responding to one another that cultivates pride in offense, virtue in untethered fury and unmitigated consequence.

What if our anger isn’t bringing about more of what’s right, but more of what’s wrong instead?

Power feels comforting when held by those who share our opinions. Regarding outrage culture, HuffPost warns, “Productive discourse is dying, trampled over by closed minds who value comfortable opinion-holding over uncomfortable soul-searching.”

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Kathleen Notes: Outrage isn`t helping our kids or anyone for that matter. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8

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The Emotional Legacy of Childhood Emotional Neglect: Guilt and Shame

Adults who were emotionally neglected in childhood can be quite perfectionistic and hard on themselves. But for many, it does not stop there.

Why? Because the messages of Childhood Emotional Neglect run deep. They go to the heart of the child and stay there for a lifetime. They not only damage your ability to understand and trust your own feelings, but they also damage your ability to understand and trust yourself.

The messages of CEN are like invisible infusions of guilt and shame that happen every day in the life of the child.

  • The First Guilt/Shame Message of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): No one wants to see your feelings.
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Kathleen Notes: In addition, there is a lot of guilt around having appropriate boundaries and meeting your own needs vs the needs of others.

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3 Tips To Salvage Thanksgiving
If you live in the US, you`re gearing up for Thanksgiving on Thursday. (If it isn`t Thanksgiving where you live, I hope this post will start you thinking about your December holiday.)

Whatever your usual Thanksgiving traditions, this year will almost certainly be different. Maybe you`ll be missing loved ones who are at a distance, or connecting over zoom. Maybe you`ll be grieving. The human family has been slogging through a very tough year, with many hard lessons that most of us wouldn`t have chosen. Maybe even gratitude will feel too far a stretch.

So this year, maybe we need to reconsider how we celebrate Thanksgiving. As the holiday approaches, there are three gifts I hope you`ll give to yourself and your loved ones.

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Kathleen Notes: Flexibility is key during the response to the pandemic...

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Controlling Others is Toxic
Trying to control someone—in marriage, parenting, the church, or government—is evil. The Bible recognizes authority, but it takes a strong stand against control. If someone abuses God-given authority, they become perpetrators of evil....

...When I was a young man, the “shepherding movement” became popular in certain sectors of the church. Out of a good motivation to encourage people to grow in holiness, it became very controlling. People’s finances, marital decisions, even vocational and house-selling decisions were governed by the leadership under the rubric of “accountability.” Virtually all of the leaders eventually repented; in hindsight, they realized they substituted “control” for “persuade” and people were harmed.

We can’t accomplish God’s aims using Satan’s methods.

Jesus didn’t control. He spoke the truth and let people walk away from him or he chose to walk away himself (my book has an appendix with 41 biblical citations demonstrating this). And while the New Testament talks about “demon possession” it never talks about “God possession” in the same terms. Yes, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, but Paul points out that “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). The Spirit moves us, but He doesn’t control us or take over. That’s what demons do.

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Kathleen Notes: An excellent article...

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What did you learn before you were eight?

What did you learn before you were eight? That you`re a capable person, worthy of adoration and an abundant life, lovable exactly as you are, even with all of your messy imperfections, bodily functions, needs, fears and anger?

Or maybe that you somehow aren`t lovable enough to have your needs completely met, that some of your feelings and body parts are shameful, that harsh words or even blows might rain down on you at any time?

I`m hoping the former. But if you`re like most of us, you learned some things before you were eight that no child should carry for the rest of his or her life as motivating beliefs.

Most of us have long since driven those tough early experiences into the dark regions of half-memory, or tried to cover them with bravado, but unfortunately they still have power over us.

The bad news is that whatever we haven`t worked through keeps repeating, giving us a chance to work it out. So if you have some upset from childhood, you can count on reliving it. And it doesn`t just make you miserable. Once you have a child, your unresolved issues become issues for your child. As journalist Lu Hanessian says, "If you don`t unpack your baggage, your child will end up carrying it."

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Kathleen Notes: SO MUCH happens in early childhood for good or for ill. That`s why I focus on childhood, especially in adults.

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You don`t have to be perfect. Let`s build on your strengths!
"By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you`ve achieved - and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses - you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward... - Jack Canfield

What are your biggest strengths as a parent? Don’t worry about humility; just be honest. What would an impartial observer admire if she could watch your best moments with your child or children? Maybe you`re a good listener. Maybe you keep things organized at your house so everything runs smoothly. Maybe you do lose it with your child sometimes, but you always apologize and reconnect. Maybe your child loves your family dance parties and laughs till he drops. Everyone has some things they do really well as a parent. We`re going to build on those strengths.
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Kathleen Notes: As you look to recognize the strengths that your child has, don`t forget to notice your own. No one is motivated by criticism, especially self-criticism.

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Singles: How to Find a Master Level Love

Henry was 98 and his wife Martha was 96 when they shared the same room in a nursing home. They had been married for more than sixty years when Dr. Earl Henslin met them. Dr. Henslin worked the three to eleven o’clock shift. Every night, as the hour hand neared eleven, he got buzzed at the nurses’ station. Earl went into Henry and Martha’s room and helped move Henry over to Martha’s bed. Henry was embarrassed to let the female nurses know what he was doing, so this was he and Earl’s secret (Henry had a similar deal going with a male janitor who moved him back every morning).

Listen to Dr. Henslin tell this beautiful story: “Martha was mostly blind, but when I’d help [Henry] over to her bed, I’d see this wonderful smile come over her face. She could no longer see him, so she was responding to the sound of her husband coming near and crawling into bed beside her. She beamed when she felt his arms enfold her…. I thought that scene was the sweetest, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. After all these years, I still think that.”

Dr. Henslin calls Henry and Martha “part of the blessed few—Master-Level Lovers.”

If you’re single and planning to get married, I’m sure you’re thinking, “This is what I want!”

Who wouldn’t?

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Kathleen Notes: According to this article, only 8 to 15% of couples reach this level. A great article for singles and married couples alike.

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Why It Pays to Be Grumpy and Bad-Tempered

At the centre of it all is the notion our feelings are adaptive: anger, sadness and pessimism aren’t divine cruelty or sheer random bad luck – they evolved to serve useful functions and help us thrive.

Take anger. From Newton’s obsessive grudges to Beethoven’s tantrums – which sometimes came to blows – it seems as though visionary geniuses often come with extremely short tempers. There are plenty of examples to be found in Silicon Valley. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is famed for his angry outbursts and insults (such as “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?”) yet they haven’t stopped him building a $300 billion company.

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Kathleen Notes: All of our emotions are given by God to help inform our logic. They provide essential information about us and our experiences.

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Celebrate Christmas Your Way

In a Hallmark movie, there’s going to be hot chocolate, a small town, and a business-oriented boyfriend from the city who’s going to get dumped for a small-town veterinarian, craftsman, or goat farmer who rescues abandoned dogs in his spare time. You celebrate Christmas by winning a ginger-bread house, Christmas cookie, or snowman building contest and then gasp as they flip a switch and light up a rather pedestrian community Christmas tree.

In real life, you and your spouse may get the most out of celebrating Christmas by doing very different things. I’m a huge fan of Christmas. Celebrating the birth of our Lord is worthy of extended focus, but depending on your “sacred pathway,” you may draw meaning from activities that don’t do much for your spouse. In the next few blogposts, we’re going to go through the sacred pathways (from the book of the same name) to help you make this season even more meaningful. The great news is, knowing each other’s pathways, as well as those of your children, will help make the celebration special for everyone. These aren’t exclusive ideas; you can incorporate many of them in the same house.

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Kathleen Notes: Check this out and see if any resonate with you and/or your spouse. Combine them to make something truly unique!!

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The 5 Special Challenges of Adult Children of Permissive Parents

Permissive parents are difficult to spot. Many appear to be great parents to an observer, and even to the children who are raised by them. Even after those children grow up, it still appears that way.

Why? Because permissive parents are often very loving. They may provide a childhood that seems ideal to their children after they grow up.

Permissive parenting is a type of camouflage. It’s a case of the inadequate parent disguised as adequate; the conflict-avoidant parent disguised as kind.

Not that permissive parents purposely disguise themselves. Quite the opposite. In fact, most permissive parents really love their children and want to do right by them. Yet they inadvertently fail their children in the most important way.

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Kathleen Notes: Permissive parenting is just as damaging as overly rigid and demanding parenting. Both ignore the developmental needs of children as they grow into adults in their own right.

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In The Moment Notes...

Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.

I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
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Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!

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