Welcome to In the Moment Notes

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The Valentine’s Day Gift that Keeps on Giving

Love speaks of sacrifice, commitment, service, selflessness—all essential elements if a marriage is going to go the distance. But cherish speaks of delight and adoration. I don’t want my wife to think we live in the same house because the Bible says I can’t leave her; I want my wife to be cherished, to know she is “my dove, my perfect one, the only one” and that I would never want to be with anyone else.

Men want this too.

A pastor of a very large church asked seven men, all leaders, “How many of your wives love you?”

Every hand went up.

He then asked, “How many of your wives like you?”

Every hand went down.

Each one of these men felt loved; none felt cherished. That reality changes the tenor of a relationship; in a world where men are often ignored, taken for granted and rarely even acknowledged, much less thanked, many wives have no clue just what a man will do for a woman that he knows truly cherishes him.

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Kathleen Notes: How to do this? "Just as 1 Corinthians 13 celebrates love, so the Song of Songs celebrates cherish".

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What Research Says About Couples Who Pray Together

Most of us are familiar with the little adage that “couples who pray together stay together.” Few of us doubt this is true. But most of us don’t realize how a great deal of impressive academic research proves its truth time and again and has done so for more than a decade.

An article published by the Institute for Family Studies gives a brief overview of some of this research. It explains that a couple’s regular devotion to and shared intimacy with the Creator of the universe can absolutely transform a marriage. Clinical research demonstrates that couples experience a great number of marital benefits when they regularly pray together. It increases forgivingness, emotional and sexual fidelity, relational happiness, trust and unity. It even improves conflict resolution, helping the couple realize that as they have individually been unconditionally forgiven by God, so they’re to forgive others.

Why is a couple’s prayer life such an important aspect of marital happiness? Scholars explain that it likely has to do with Christian couples experiencing what they call a “gravitational pull” toward each other when they commune and communicate with God “as a personified being possessing specific qualities and interests toward their marriage — a marriage advocate.” Through the invitation of prayer, God becomes an intimate daily partner in their relationship. Thus God is the “transcendent gravitational presence and pull [that] can be felt daily in their relationship.” How can that not be effectual on a stronger, happier, more enduring marriage?

The research points to three different situations in which couples pray together. They each happen in different instances and have unique marital enhancing effects.

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Kathleen Notes: I think that praying together is a form of intimacy and brings the "3 strands" together. "Though one may be overpowered,two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4 vs 12

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Raised To Have No Emotional Needs

How do you raise a child to have no emotional needs? Turns out, it’s remarkably, shockingly easy. It’s so easy that many parents do it by accident, despite wanting everything good for their child, and despite trying to do everything right as a parent.

In fact, raising a child to have no emotional needs is so easy that it’s scary....

....Might you think this sounds like a desirable outcome, or a sign of strength, to have no emotional needs? If so, you are joined by lots of other people who think that adults should be “strong,” meaning need little from other people, especially not emotionally.

Yet we humans are emotional beings. Our emotions are built into the deepest parts of our central nervous system. They are the deepest, most biological expression of our past and present experiences, wants, responses, reactions, and needs. Our emotions are the expression of our deepest selves.

What connects two people together in a love relationship? Emotions. What has motivated some of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time? Emotions. What enables every single human being to make decisions that are authentic to themselves? Emotions.

What makes life mean something? Yes, you are right. It’s emotions.

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Kathleen Notes: We like to think that we`re logical beings and while we certainly appreciate and need logic, we inform our logic with emotion. Your emotions are actually a gift of God.

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Unintentional Harm: The Most Common Type of Emotionally Neglectful Parents

The key to the most common type of emotionally neglectful parent, the Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves or WMBNT parent, is summed up by their title. These parents want to do right by their children, but they can’t. It’s because they grew up emotionally neglected themselves. WMBNT parents cannot give their children what they do not have. Unfortunately, it is that simple.

Because Childhood Emotional Neglect is so very common, so are emotionally neglectful parents. And since emotionally neglectful parents are so common, so are emotionally neglected children. It’s because these children grow up to be parents. The cycle continues, and on and on it goes, passing down through generations until someone finally sees what’s happening and calls a halt to its insidious process.

The WMBNT Cycle

  1. A child is raised by parents who are blind to emotions.
  2. That child grows up with his or her emotions ignored and under-validated.
  3. The child is not able to learn that his emotions are real or have value. The child is not able to learn how to identify, name, express, tolerate or use his feelings.
  4. Emotionally “blind,” the child grows into adulthood without adequate connection to her emotions. She is lacking the emotion skills she needs to thrive and is blind to feelings in general.
  5. Once she becomes a parent, the emotionally neglected adult is blind to the emotions of her own children, and she cannot teach her children the emotion skills she doesn’t have herself.
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Kathleen Notes: For this reason I often combined CEN treatment with parent coaching even if the person is not a parent themselves. CEN recovery involves learning to re-parent yourself and skills are needed to do that effectively.

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Call for `summer of play` to help English pupils recover from Covid-19 stress

Experts in child development are calling on the government to support a “summer of play” to help pupils in England recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.

Instead of extra lessons, catch-up summer schools and longer school days, they said children should be encouraged to spend the coming months outdoors, being physically active and having fun with their friends.

Psychologists have reported behavioural changes in some children following the first lockdown last year. After months of isolation from friends, some struggled to share and play together, teachers reported more fights and fallings-out, and Ofsted observed a worrying drop in physical fitness.

As the government draws up its latest education catch-up plans, to be unveiled in the coming weeks, a group of academics calling themselves PlayFirstUK have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, appealing for a new emphasis on play, mental health and wellbeing as children emerge from lockdown.

“This spring and summer should not be filled with extra lessons,” the letter says. “Children, teachers and parents need time and space to recover from the stress that the past year has placed on them.

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Kathleen Notes: This is such a welcome idea! We need to put the mental and developmental health of children first as we help them to heal from all they have been through in the past year. Children are NOT resilient in the face of trauma, they are at their most vulnerable. They just don`t get a voice in what happens to them.

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‘What is Lent?’ Lent for Kids, Made Easy

I know Lent is almost here when fast-food signs start advertising fish sandwiches. But maybe it isn’t something your family traditionally practices. When the kids start asking, “What is Lent?”—you might be scrambling for answers that don’t include “Filet-O-Fish.”

So allow me a brief rundown of lent for kids, in language they (and we) can understand—and some tips to help it sink in. Then, grab FamilyLife’s Lent paper chain, “Countdown to the Cross,” with easy-does-it activities to help you count down to Easter together.

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Kathleen Notes: Some good ideas to pick through. Find those that would add a good learning experience and perhaps even a new family tradition.

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15 Fun Valentines Day Family Traditions
Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, because it celebrates the purpose of life.

No, not chocolate, LOVE!

Parents often ask me how they can find time to deepen their connection with their children, given how busy they are. Because Valentines Day is all about love, it gives you the perfect opportunity to create more love in your family, not only between parent and child, but between siblings.

We all need to be cherished. But despite our good intentions, too often we forget to tell the people we love just how precious they are to us. Valentines Day reminds us to tell all of our loved ones (not only our sweethearts) how glad we are that they`re in our lives.

Want some simple ideas to celebrate Valentines Day, when you’re too busy, too broke, and maybe even too harried to remember that you really adore these people you live with?

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Kathleen Notes: Some really fun and meaningful ideas. Take a look...

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3 Surprising Reasons People Feel Lonely on Valentine’s Day

Surprisingly, however, this image of loneliness is often highly inaccurate. A 2010 study by John Cacioppo published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that feelings of loneliness were unrelated to marital status or the number of relatives and friends nearby.

It’s not only possible but common, to feel lonely when you’re not alone. And to be alone, but to not feel lonely. It’s because loneliness is not a state, it’s a state of mind. Loneliness is not a situation, it’s a feeling.

Yes, indeed, scores of people feel lonely on Valentine’s Day, and many are in relationships or surrounded by people. Many have no idea why they feel alone.

Whether you are actually alone this holiday or not, it is possible for you to change how you feel this Valentine’s Day. Start by understanding where your alone feelings originate.

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Kathleen Notes: I realize that Valentine`s Day is behind us, but feelings of loneliness are with us all year, especially for people with CEN.

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Romancing Your Spouse While Blending a Family
Romance is the topic of the month but perhaps not if you’re trudging through stepfamily struggles. I get that. Romance easily gets pushed out when we’re juggling the overwhelming emotions and hard-to-navigate circumstances in a blended family....

....We easily enjoy the beauty of a sunrise bursting over a snow-covered mountain or peeking above the waves at the beach. But we can also bask in the beauty of a colored sky through our window, giving fresh energy to the day as we prepare breakfast for our blended family or drive to work on a Monday morning.

Romance during a harried or overwhelmed season can have the same effects. We may be more likely to create a romantic evening when we celebrate important days or vacation with our spouse, but we can learn to capture the benefits of romance during the mundane of life.

God must consider it important to marriage, since He dedicated an entire book of scripture to romance in Solomon’s Song of Songs. Romantic moments can bring sparks to a dull day, but as we jaunt through stepfamily days, it’s not always easy to create those sparks.

Here are a few thoughts on how to romance your spouse while blending a family.

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Kathleen Notes: Taking the time to date and focus on your relationship is foundational to your marriage and family.

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Empathy: Foundation of Emotional Health
I see parents and children make breakthroughs every day. And guess what makes the most difference? Empathy. If we can actually see things from our child`s perspective, everything changes.

Empathy doesn`t mean agreeing with our children, or letting them do whatever they wants just because we understand why they want to. But it does mean that while our child doesn`t get everything she wants, she gets something better: Someone who understands and accepts her, no matter what.

It also means that once we understand our child`s perspective, we can intervene to help them meet the needs that they were trying to meet all along, from feeling connected to feeling valued. And when we meet kids` needs, they behave better.

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Kathleen Notes: Empathy is a double edged sword but more of a blessing than anything. Empathy can and (I think) should be taught.

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The Amazing Power of Thanking God for What He Hasn’t Done

Such suspicion may be wise on earth but applied to heaven it’s monstrous. One of the most worshipful things we can do is to praise God for blessings He has promised that we have not yet received. This has been such an encouraging spiritual practice for me that I’m eager to share it with you.

We can thank God for heaven even before we get there; we have Jesus’ word that He is preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3). Thanking God for heaven now floods our souls with joy that we don’t have to be afraid of death, and it reminds us that we don’t have to mistreat ourselves (like some medieval monks and nuns did) or work ourselves to exhaustion (as legalists do) to earn it. All of us will be amazed by our eternal comfort, but why not squeeze a little anticipatory joy out of that comfort just when we need it most—today?

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Kathleen Notes: God`s promises are sure and when we pay attention to them it supplies a vital ingredient in personal resilience: hope.

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Reaching “Unreachable” Teens & Tweens

And there’s the rub: building a relationship with a heavily armored, developmentally regressed, profoundly sad young adolescent is no small feat. They don’t exactly let you in the front door. They can’t. They’ve been too hurt, neglected, or abused by important adults who were supposed to care and keep them safe. Any desire they may have to connect with someone is equally matched by a profound instinct to fiercely protect that desire.

This is where many talented therapists get stuck. Knowing the importance of the relationship is one thing; knowing how to build that relationship with someone who wants nothing to do with you is another—and it’s where the art of the work comes in.

Connecting with these adolescents asks us to stop banging on the locked front door and instead find another way—a side door, a window, a chimney—to make some kind of connection. What follows is a short compilation of “side door” principles and approaches I’ve used as guideposts for connecting with a client like this.

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Kathleen Notes: While this article is meant for counselors, the insight is for everyone. It always comes down to attunement and relationship.

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How Old Feelings From Your Childhood Could Be Controlling You Now

Travis, Lynn, and Ivan are no different from the rest of us. We all live our lives under the influence of silent currents that ripple through our lives, coming upon us unexpectedly and yanking us this way or that way. They can leave us wondering, confused, or even sometimes baffled, about why we feel what we feel or do what we do.

These currents are the real reason for Travis’s anger, Lynn’s fear, and Ivan’s urges to flee. They are old feelings. Feelings from growing up that they never faced or dealt with and of which they are unaware. All three of these people are being influenced by unresolved emotions from their childhoods.

3 Principles of How Childhood Feelings Work

  1. Squelched, walled-off, or pushed away feelings do not go away. They simply go underground and pool there, waiting to be touched off.
  2. Old feelings can be easily touched off by any current situation in your life that simulates the original cause of the feeling. This can be completely unrelated to the original cause and they may attach themselves to an event, experience, or person in your current life who does not deserve them.
  3. These old feelings can be just as powerful, or even more so, as fresh ones. They may appear to come out of nowhere. They may even make you wonder what is wrong with you.
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Kathleen Notes: What happens ( or doesn`t happen) in childhood does not stay there...

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25 Valentine’s Day Ideas for Couples

Like last week, when you wrestled your rambunctious, happy child to bed and then set out your work clothes for tomorrow’s business meeting. Somehow, only a few hours later, out of nowhere, your child cried for you from a puddle of midnight vomit. While you sat in the dark pressing tired lips against a hot forehead, jamming the thermometer under her armpit, your husband quietly changed the soiled sheets. He brought several tattered beach towels to sop up the floor. He set two cups of water beside you, one for the patient, one for the caregiver.

What a romantic! You gave a quiet nod and tired smile to thank him.

Or what about when your husband recently worked a grueling overnight shift, arriving home way past schedule around lunchtime. You didn’t mutter a word about his long hours as he greeted you in the kitchen. But instead of only making one turkey sandwich, you pulled out two more slices of wheat bread. You spread mustard and mayonnaise together on his because you know that’s how he likes it. And you carried an extra paper plate of lunch with you to offer him at the table. How romantic!

Sometimes those intentional acts, those times when you just look for ways to help each other and bless each other, are far more romantic and sexy than you realize.

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Kathleen Notes: Romance is great for Valentine`s Day but it`s everyday romance that keeps the spark alive.

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Raised By Struggling Parents: The Invisible Child

Many are raised by parents who may be well-meaning and caring, but who are so busy fighting their own fight that they have little emotional energy left over for their child.

Types of Struggling Parents

  • Working multiple jobs or long hours trying to make ends meet financially
  • Depressed
  • Grieving
  • Adjusting to a divorce
  • Coping with (or stuck in) volatile or conflictual marriage
  • Caring for a disabled child, parent, or family member
  • Physically ill
  • Mentally ill
  • Addicted

These are some common examples, but there are many other kinds of well-meaning parents who are simply not able to provide their children with the emotional validation and responsiveness that their child, like all children, naturally and biologically, needs.

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Kathleen Notes: Most parents try very hard to meet their child`s needs but life can really get in the way.

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Two Ways to Grow in Trust

Trusting God does not guarantee the absence of trials or difficult times, especially in marriage (John 16:33), but it does mean that in the midst of those hard times, or moments where you don’t feel like you can trust your spouse, we can lean into and trust Jesus. Being reminded by his words in the bible, that God is big enough and Sovereign to use hard circumstances for our good (Romans 8:28). It means we can abide in him (John 15) through prayer and time spent simply being with him.

Trusting God means we are free to die to ourselves (Colossians 3:3) by laying our fears and insecurities at the foot of the cross, and trusting that we are loved, valued, forgiven, redeemed, sanctified, and secure in Him. It’s in light of what Jesus achieved on the cross for us that we can now live and learn to trust God, and in turn, our spouse.

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Kathleen Notes: Human beings will fail us (read: your spouse) but Jesus never does.

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Eyes on Jesus

I have found that when something happens, I have two choices. I can make it about myself or I can make it about Jesus.

What I mean by that, is I can narrow my view and filter everything through my feelings and circumstance or I can filter it through God’s word and what I know about Jesus.

In short, we can either make it about us or we can make it about Jesus.

When we make it about us, we quickly fall into our feelings. Our feelings can stir us up and cause us to think or act irrationally. Our feelings can overwhelm us and cause us to feel defeated.

When we make it about us, we leave ourselves exposed. We become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. Self-preservation, self-defense, and self-importance are fertile ground for the lies of the enemy to run amuck.

But when we make it about Jesus, we put self on the shelf. We pursue the bigger picture.
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Kathleen Notes: Feelings are very important but they also lie to us all of the time. Jesus doesn`t ever lie to us and has promised to use all things for our good!

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12 Keys To Healthy Partnership Conflict Resolution When you Live With Kids
Yes, Yes, and Yes! The nature of human relationships is that we will sometimes disagree. It`s wonderful for children to see their parents model how to work out disagreements. It`s important for them to know that we don`t always agree, but we always love each other. Kids need to see us ask for what we need without attacking the other person. And it`s critical for them to see us make up, with affection and forgiveness.

But that doesn`t mean that it`s okay to yell at each other in front of our kids. The research shows that when parents disagree respectfully and then work things through to a solution and affectionately make up, kids learn valuable lessons about working through conflicts constructively. But the research also shows that yelling always affects kids badly. Yelling is not constructive conflict resolution. It`s a tantrum.

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Kathleen Notes: I always appreciate an article that benefits both couples and children. This is one.

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How Empowering Girls to Confront Conflict and Buck Perfection Helps Their Well-Being
Girls and boys have always grown up with cultural and societal stereotypes swirling around them. Despite the unparalleled access to opportunities that young women have today compared with the past, many are still absorbing strong messages about how they should look, act and be. For girls, many of the most powerful influences come from the media, but young girls could find relief among the real people in their lives. Social media has changed the game, requiring educators and parents to also change strategies to help girls navigate complicated waters.

“There`s nothing I talk about practicing with girls that doesn’t also apply to boys,” said Simone Marean, CEO of Girls Leadership, a nonprofit working to help girls find and raise their voices. Marean spoke at the Innovative Learning Conference hosted at The Nueva School in Hillsborough, California.

Marean is raising two sons, so she knows many of the skills her organization teaches are important for all humans, but she also recognizes girls and boys are still socialized differently. “There are reasons why the expectations of girls make it particularly important that we practice this with girls,” she said.

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Kathleen Notes: Brene Brown discusses how and why males and females experience shame. For girls and women it comes down to feeling like they need to do "all things well." Often this translates into harmful people pleasing.

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Why Being Outdoors in Winter is So Very Good for Kids

By design, winter is a time of rest for the natural world. Plants and animals in all different climates slow down in winter and benefit from the chance to restore. Even most cacti won’t set flowers if they do not get their winter break.

Winter also offers unique sensory experiences that, when you slow down to take them in, are inspiring and enriching for all ages. Even through a quick stretch to delight in nature when it’s terribly cold out, we grow more resilient when we learn to manage challenging conditions—something we’re finding kids struggle with more and more.

Increasingly, misconceptions have rebranded winter as the season to stay indoors. On the surface it makes sense—animals hibernate, so humans follow suit and stick inside the house. But, no matter how animals rest in winter, they are never disconnected from nature—they simply shift their approach. Nature remains where they belong, and it’s where we belong too.

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Kathleen Notes: Especially now, being outdoors increases physical, mental and emotional health, not to mention an increase in immune system strength. Our kids have suffered during the pandemic, please get them outside as often as weather permits!

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Countering the Culture of Entitlement

It would have been easier for me to talk about budget-line items and why the sandwiches-only restriction was a more prudent choice. Instead, we discussed gratitude. We talked about how good we have it, and we named what we had to be thankful for. God provides for our family, we’re healthy and we even get treats like a drive-thru meal on the way to the beach. 

Left to their own devices, children can easily develop attitudes of entitlement that stem from living in a land of plenty. Our job as parents is to focus on instilling within our kids the pursuit of better things. This includes character traits that strengthen them to resist the constant pull and desire for more.

Pursuing better things allows children to feel content with their lives. And character traits help them understand the Gospel — how it relates to them and how they can faithfully live it out both now and as they grow older. This means we equip them with tools for making wise choices and habits.

To start, I let my kids know that it isn’t wrong to have nice things. God blesses His children with nice things all the time. But we must be careful that we don’t make accumulating and achieving material wealth our idols. Also, we need to take good care of the things God has entrusted to us, whether we’ve been given much or little.

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Kathleen Notes: Often parents need to address their own character in order to model the behaviors we`d like to see in our kiddos. The good news is that Grace covers us, too.

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5 Date Ideas for Married Couples

Though it may seem a bit counterintuitive, going on dates can be an excellent strategy to maintain a healthy marriage. Any marriage comes with challenges, and my own husband and I have not always had the best relationship. Our first seven years of marriage were spent not knowing Jesus and we lived for each of our own lives instead of investing in our marriage.

In fact, we had both decided that divorce was in our near future. Neither of us cared about the other`s needs and we honestly were tired of dealing with all the emotional baggage.

Thankfully God came along about our 7th year and we learned about His love, grace and mercy. We went through a few months of marriage counseling after we both got saved because we realized that once we gave our lives to Christ, we did love each other and wanted to try and make things work.

Our counselor gave us some good ideas for connecting. One of the pieces of marriage advice we were given and still practice to this day (16 years later) is dating each other. Below you will find five of my absolute favorite date night ideas for married couples.

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Kathleen Notes: Some of these might take a bit of creativity during C19, but date nights are so worth it! Check these out...

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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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