Research Says: Leave the Kids, Take the Trip

Taking a trip without your kids may feel like you’re trying to escape, and that’s okay. Escape. Your relationship thirsts for it.

Thinking of leaving the kids to take a trip with your partner, but anxiety has you second-guessing?
Run over that stop sign in your brain, call the in-laws to babysit, and go.
According to current research conducted by Travelocity, 56 percent of couples claim that travel is vital in keeping that “spark” flickering in their relationship. However, only 31 percent of couples surveyed have been on a couples-only getaway.
Parenting often feels like you’re stuck in the dugout, you and your partner never getting a chance at bat. In this monotonous phase in a relationship, the study reported that couples only spend about six hours a week together marked as “couple time.” This then leads to only seven minutes per day of “romantic time.”
Being teammates in this parenting game is vital, but we often forget to look at each other the way we used to. The sex, if it’s there at all, is often scheduled, rarely spontaneous. Between picking up the kids, homework, meal-prep, and emptying the dishwasher, finding time – real time – with your partner is tough. Taking a trip may feel like you’re trying to escape, and that’s okay.
Escape. Your relationship thirsts for it.
My husband and I found ourselves in a similar rut. It was nothing drastic, but working out and grad studies always took precedence over date nights. We knew our marriage needed a drink of adventure.
So, we packed up our bags, phoned the grandparents, and headed to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan to hike, explore, and eat and drink with the locals. We wanted to hike Hogback Mountain to view the Caribbean-blue waters of Lake Superior.
We ended up getting lost and heading 90 minutes in the wrong direction on the North Country Trail. Mosquitos swarmed us, and there were times when we wanted to quit. But we didn’t. We used the teamwork that we’ve exercised so often in parenthood and challenged one another to make it to the top of that mountain – for our marriage. It was the “spark” that our relationship needed.
Research conducted by the U.S. Travel Association claims that 77 percent of couples who travel together reported having a vibrant sex life. “Couples who take time to vacation alone together at least once each year report happier, healthier relationships overall compared to those who do not travel as couples,” says Pam Loeb, principal of Edge Research. These trips don’t have to include a pricey plane ticket. See what your own state has to offer and explore.
I’m not so sure how comfortable I feel about reporting on sex. (I have three brothers who still think the stork delivered our babies to the doorstep.) But this trip did increase our spontaneity, which, as we know, can help in the bedroom.
One rainy afternoon, we sauntered into a local bar, did shots with the locals, danced on a floor scatterd with peanut shells, and got a ride home with the bartender by 5 p.m. We would never have thought to be so liberated with our kids in tow, or even in our own town. In other words, it wasn’t just a vacation without the kids. It was a vacation for us.
Having the ability to be this free felt like a gift – one I will look forward to when I’ve grown old and have wrinkles all over my body.
We’re more than just our kids. Get out of that dugout and take your partner with you. Traveling will add not only to your sex life, but it will strengthen your teamwork, your bond, and your communication as well. It’ll remind you that life can be lighthearted again if you let it.

If You Do Divorce Right, Your Kids Will Thank You in 30 Years

I knew deep down that my parents really did care for our best interests because of the way they treated each other in front of us.

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. They sat my big brother and me down on the couch and told us together. They told us that they’d always do what was best for us, even if it was hard. I wasn’t completely shocked but, of course, I was sad. Life changed after that, we all moved around to different homes and apartments, and visitation schedules were put in place without our input. I remember feeling fairly calm throughout it all. My ten-year-old self perceived my parents to be in control and organized. I know now that probably wasn’t really the case, but they put their brave faces on and I bought it.

From the very beginning, special days were spent together. My dad would come over to Mom’s house for our birthday dinners. He was always with us on Christmas morning when Mom would make a big brunch and we’d open presents together. We walked out together, one parent on each arm, at halftime in the Homecoming football game when I was a member of the court. Everyone was present and sitting together at my graduations.

This isn’t to say there was never tension, or that everything was perfect. Even so, I knew deep down that my parents really did care for our best interests and were trying hard for us kids. I knew because of the way they treated each other in front of us.

My dad remarried in the spring of my senior year of college. I was married just a few months later. All three of my parents, Mom, Dad, and my new stepmom, were a part of my wedding. We have a family picture with all of us together. The thought of any drama between them never even crossed my mind. I knew they’d be civil to each other.

After my wedding, I was technically a grown woman. At that point, my parents lived in different cities. During the holidays I often wished it were easier to visit everyone at the same time, or wished I could call just one house, instead of two, to check in and chat. It could be hard to schedule get-togethers and divide time equally between everyone. We made it work as best as we all could.

When my husband and I had babies, all three grandparents were there to help. All three are active in my daughters’ lives. I can send a group text to Mom, Dad, and my stepmom of the girls’ first days of school, or of the girls in their Halloween costumes. I can send group emails and not worry about any awkwardness between the recipients. I hadn’t really given much thought to the beautiful divorce my parents continue to have until just a few months ago when my mom’s father died.

There I was, 38 years old, sitting in the church for Grandpa’s funeral. In walked my dad, stepmom, stepbrother, my dad’s mother, and two of dad’s sisters. I was so touched to see them all there, supporting my brother and me, but also showing us that divorce didn’t sever the relationships within our extended families. I listened as my mom told them all to “sit up front with the family.”

My parents have been divorced for almost 30 years and yet they still strive to do their divorce right. I can look back and sincerely thank them for sticking to their word and doing what is best for their kids and now their grandkids. I know it couldn’t have always been easy. I feel so abundantly loved through all that they do to maintain a relationship for our sake. Doing divorce right, working hard to create a beautiful divorce despite the mess and hurt, is something children like me will thank their parents for. Especially in 30 years.

Love Is Sweatpants and Take-Out, Actually

I’ve recently made a commitment to look out for the little things – those things that happen on a daily basis that show me just what love is.

When my husband and I first started dating, I was one of those hopeless romantic types. You know, the kind that grew up watching Disney movies and rom-coms involving Prince Charming, happily ever after, adorable meet-cutes, gigantic, suspenseful, highly emotional grand gestures, perfect lines at the perfect moment, so on and so forth, et cetera.
Ah, that warm fuzzy feeling.
That whole, “oh-my-gosh-that-perfect-guy-is-so-perfect!” paired with a hope that one day, you might have someone bulldoze through crowds of people at a busy international airport to stop you from getting on that plane so that he can perform a heartbreakingly beautiful soliloquy about why you two belong together.
Sigh.
I still watch rom-coms. And dang, I still love ’em.
But, to be honest, my husband and I rarely do big, romantic gestures. We have a mutual agreement about it. Despite that, I used to hold that against him. I used to get all passive-aggressive about it.
For instance, a holiday like Valentine’s Day would come and go, and we wouldn’t do anything because “we” didn’t believe in it. But I’d still feel a little shortchanged. Poor guy. I mean, come on. How’s that for unfair?
The truth is, I used to be all about the grand gestures, the big demonstrations of love, the utterly romantic, perfectly crafted moments that take your breath away.
It’s funny though, because 10 years and two kids later, I’ve come to see love and romance in a whole different light. Flowers and chocolates are all well and good, but I’ve recently made a commitment to look out for the little things – those things that happen on a daily basis that show me just what love is.
They’re everywhere.
Love is in that extra hour of sleep you didn’t even realize he gave you until you woke up feeling just a little bit more human.
Love is in that secret look and the stifled laughter you exchange when your toddler says or does something hilarious and maybe borderline inappropriate.
Love is in the fresh bottle of cold water that magically appears by your bedside lamp every night, because he knows you get thirsty when you get up to nurse the baby every two hours.
Love is in the realization that it’s been an entire week and you haven’t washed a single dish because he has just taken care of it.
Love is in putting away the laundry your partner spent time folding, because folding laundry is no easy feat when you have an assistant who’s under three feet tall and considers “folding” to be synonymous with “throwing.”
Love is in that moment when you’re in separate rooms trying to get the kids to sleep, and you unexpectedly get butterflies in your stomach because you’re excited that you get to hang out with your best friend soon.
Love is in that conversation on the couch in your sweatpants eating Pad Thai out of a box while you exchange stories about things your children did and replay videos of them being adorable even though they’ve only been asleep for five minutes.
Love is in those times you irritate each other and then realize that being annoyed at each other is really no fun and that you miss your buddy, so you suck it up and say you’re sorry.
Love is in the empathy he shows when you both know full well that, in this particular instance, you really are just being hormonal and maybe, possibly, mildly irrational.
Love is in the effect of that text message he sends telling you he’s coming home early.
Love is in the realization that, actually, you’re just as excited as your toddler to see him walk through that door at the end of each day. And not just because it means there are now more adults on duty to tackle the troops, but because your person is here and he makes you happy.
Love is in his acceptance of your obsessive hygiene standards, and when he uses your designated kitchen sponges in line with The System without making a fuss.
Love is in that moment when you’re trying to put your child to sleep, and just can’t anymore, and he comes in and takes over the bouncing, the shushing, the comforting. And you sit on the edge of the bed just watching him love your baby.
Love isn’t always in the big moments. More often than not, it’s in those numerous, seemingly inconsequential, in-between moments that punctuate a day. The moments that are prone to pass you by without you noticing them because you’re too busy waiting for the string instruments to start playing and the fireworks to shoot into the sky.
So take stock. I guarantee you’ll be surprised. You may find that love has become so ingrained in your life together that it infuses your daily actions and decisions – those things you do that are no big deal, but when examined closely, stem from your love for each other.
I’d take that over flowers and chocolates any day.

7 Ways to Resolve Parenting Disagreements With Your Partner

Instead of yelling and screaming, here are a few tips to help resolve issues smoothly the next time you find yourself in the middle of a heated discussion.

Whether it be a simple disagreement about what your child can eat for dinner or a near relationship ending blow-up about how to discipline your kids, conflict is inevitable when it comes to parenting.
There’s so much to discuss, and it’s rare that two people will agree entirely. Instead of yelling and screaming, here are a few tips to help resolve issues smoothly the next time you find yourself in the middle of a heated discussion.

Avoid using broad statements

Never say never. The saying also stands true for arguments. The thing about saying “always” and “never” is that it’s rarely ever true. Using such sweeping, broad language can cause unnecessary drama and ultimately, damage.
Instead, try using sayings like “I’ve noticed that recently you’ve let her stay up later than I’m comfortable with.” Using gentler language can promote a softer reaction and help you reach a peaceful agreement.

Stick to the topic

There’s a tendency to bring up past issues and grievances during an argument that may have nothing to do with the disagreement at hand. Focusing on the issue in question and trying to resolve that alone instead of dredging up the past will make it easier to come to a resolution.

Allow space and time to process

You know that old saying: Never go to bed angry. Forget all about it. Sometimes, sleeping on an issue or choosing to walk away and discuss something at a later time allows you time and space to process your emotions. You could wake up with a new, fresh perspective that makes room for a simple solution.

Use “I” statements

Instead of placing the blame on your partner and leading with statements like, “You never do anything in the kitchen,” or “You’re never home,” try leading with “I really appreciate it when you do the dishes,” or “I love spending time with you.”

Validate emotions

Sometimes, a person simply needs to be heard and validated. Validating emotions and your partner’s point of view can be helpful when resolving disagreements. Try saying “I understand where you’re coming from,” or “I can see how you would feel that way.” Practicing empathy is critical when it comes to conflict resolution.

Pay attention to timing

Timing really is everything, especially when it comes to talking things through. Choose a time to talk about issues when you and your partner both have the time and the energy to work things through. This can often mean tabling a discussion until the kids are asleep and you’re able to focus.

Understand that you both offer value

Each of you has different strengths you bring to the table. Recognize that you both have unique gifts to offer your children and play those up. If one of you has more patience at bedtime, designate that person as the official bedtime parent. If the other loves cooking, take advantage of that passion and allow him or her to spend some time getting creative in the kitchen.

Could Drinking Together be the Secret to a Long-Lastingly Happy Marriage?

A recent study suggests when older couples participate in concordant drinking (drinking together), the negativity within their relationship decreases.

If you and your partner drink casually together, keep going. Your relationship may just withstand the annoyance of your spouse.
A recent study found in The Journals of Gerontology suggests that when older couples participate in concordant drinking (drinking together), the negativity within their relationship decreases. Essentially, partners get on each other’s nerves less. Their outlook toward one another is more positive and drinking together increases their ability to live harmoniously. They even have more in common outside of the home.
On the flip-side, those who participate in discordant drinking (where only one spouse drinks), suffer from an increase of negative feelings within their marriage. Simple offenses, like forgetting to empty the dishwasher, rarely go unnoticed.
Specifically, the study shows that this amicability is significantly greater among wives. The study went on to say, “Further, wives are often referred to as the barometer of the marital relationship and thus may be more affected by discordance or concordance in alcohol use.” If they aren’t in-sync, women tend to sense when things are “off” within the relationship. So, when a woman drinks with her partner, she is more likely to shrug off her partner’s daily blunders.
As we live with our partners over the years, it is no surprise that we start irritating each other. Sometimes it feels as though our best friend has evolved into a roommate – one who leaves the dishes in the sink, forgets to pick-up the milk on the way home, or throws his or her dirty socks on the family room floor instead of in the laundry basket. The study claims that drinking with your spouse can help alleviate all of these small grievances that have the ability to pile up – just like those dishes in the sink.
In result, concordant drinking couples may spend more time together and enjoy more leisure activities together. They take trips together, run races, take on watersports, and enjoy other pursuits that bond people together. Not to say that discordant drinking couples don’t share in these activities – it’s just not as likely.
Furthermore, the study says that “Discordant drinking couples may use more destructive conflict strategies.” They may banter on a more regular basis. So, if one drinks and the other doesn’t, the impact is not the same. This explains my parents, who have an imperfect, yet strong marriage of almost 46 years. My dad is 13 years older than my mom. Oftentimes, she plays the role of nurse and maid more than wife. She does not drink. My dad, on the other hand, drinks leisurely at 82 years old. My mother puts on that black and white referee uniform daily, nagging my dad for his fouls and wanting to eject him out of the house.
According to the study, maybe my mom should start drinking a couple glasses of wine in the evenings. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to blow the whistle at my father as often. And my dad, well, he should continue to drink his small doses of red wine and Scotch because it’s helping him live harmoniously with his wife of almost half a century – giving him the ability to shrug off his wife’s protests.
Neither I nor the study recommends picking up a heavy drinking habit with your partner, but if you enjoy a couple of light-hearted cocktails, don’t stop. It just may continue to toughen your marriage as you journey through the sometimes-murky years together.

I'm Thirty-Five Years Old and Finally Dating

We “hung out,” “hooked up,” and “did things with other couples,” but my husband and I never dated each other. Until now.

I know y’all opened up this post hoping for a juicy tidbit of suburban scandal. Prepare to be disappointed:
Yes, I am dating.
I am dating my husband.
We are 35 years old and we are just now getting the hang of “dating” each other. We have been “together” since we fell madly in love many moons ago, girating on a ratty old couch to J Lo and Ja Rule. I simply could not resist his bleached blonde, Eminem-like, spiky hair once we locked eyes across a smoke-filled frat house living room. From those initial alcohol-induced moments our budding romance moved along at warp speed.
We spent each and every second together, partying, studying, and hanging out with friends. We became friends, lived together, got jobs, moved into apartments, moved into houses, and moved around. We had four kids, saw less and less of each other, resented each other, recommitted ourselves to each other, worked on ourselves, worked on one another, had some more kids, got a dog, fell apart, and rebuilt.
All within the span of about 15 years.
Do you know what we didn’t do during those 15 years?
We never dated.
We “hung out,” “hooked up,” and “did things with other couples,” but we never dated each other. There was no getting dressed up and anxiously waiting to get picked up at the door for an evening out because those younger years were our broke college years. Neither of us minded though – we were having fun and enjoying each other’s company.
We got married straight out of college and our wedding was a bona fide party because that is what happens when you get married in your early 20s. Kids followed shortly after. We went to prenatal appointments, kids’ birthday parties, and school events, but still we didn’t really date.
A few times a year we managed a holiday party or anniversary dinner out, but these unicorn evenings were few and far between. Unfortunately for us – and probably due to the lack of dating practice – these nights usually ended in soaring expectations of wild sex and bellies full of booze and food. Of course fights and hangovers followed and the rare date nights faded out even more with intense work schedules and the addition of twin girls, which rounded out our total number of children to four.
Still we didn’t seem to mind the extinction of together time because we literally had no time to think. We have spent 10 years in “go mode” and I think that perhaps somewhere in the middle of this mode your brain turns certain parts of emotional consciousness off.
Then about six months back we hit a marital wall. I suppose that after so many years of sub-par communication and emotions locked into survival mode it wasn’t exactly a surprise that we found ourselves sitting on the couch having a come-to-Jesus talk about where we were and where we were headed. We needed to air out our years of pent-up grievances and lay out our needs simply, clearly, and concisely. Because we didn’t spend those formative years talking and communicating (Lord knows we spent it doing all sorts of other things), we maybe missed the whole “know what your partner wants” component.
So yes there was hurt, tears, feelings of betrayal and resentment, and all sorts of other things that you never really imagine yourself feeling when you fall in love at the tender age of 19.
But like a couple of middle-aged Phoenixes we seemed to rise from the ashes and rebuilt our marriage.
Along with The McCarthy Marriage 2.0 came dating. We are about six months into dating one another and I have to say a number of positive aspects have come along with this newfound addition to our marriage.
We talk. We go out and have dinner and talk for hours. We don’t always talk about earth-shattering things, but that is okay. Sometimes it is glorious to sit back and realize that for once you have nothing pressing to discuss.
We get the family management done. Date nights are not always filled with lipstick, cologne, and high heels. Sometimes we just need to leave the chaos of our home and get shit done. We have to organize our thoughts, sync our schedules, and figure out how our little jigsaw life is all gonna shake out. It isn’t sexy, but it sure is necessary and really so much easier to do over beers and fries.
We get dressed up … for each other! I won’t lie. It is kind of nice to look at one another and think to one’s self, “My, my we clean up nice don’t we?” How many times does that man come home to find me in baggy sweatpants with stains on my shirt and sporting a frizzy mom bun? Far too many to count. If I am being completely honest, which I am known for, I think there are entire months I don’t even look at my partner. It isn’t because I don’t love him or find him attractive, it’s just that I stop prioritizing the marriage.
Date nights seem to reset this sector of my brain.
Sometimes we go do things and find ourselves (gasp!) having fun. Man, it is far to easy to find yourselves in the trenches of life missing out on the fun. In our case we found ourselves having fun, but only having family fun. Our kids became the center of our universe and the epicenter of our fun. Watching them have fun was automatically our fun. While there is certainly nothing wrong with watching your little ones enjoy life, it feels good to have our own separate, partner fun.
Practice makes perfect. Now that dating is becoming a more regular thing the expectations for the evening are not outrageous. We now know that date night is going to happen more than twice a year and we can relax a bit and simply enjoy our time together without forcing ourselves to go overboard.
I have to say that I am enjoying the dating scene now that I am 35 and I hope that as the years go by we can keep it up. All that time I thought it served zero purpose, but it turns out I was gravely wrong: Dating your partner is important.

Research Shows Body Confidence Could be the Key to a Satisfying Relationship

Regardless of pant size, it’s confidence in her body that predicts a happy relationship.

“New studies” can run twice around the entire internet while the fact checkers are still getting out of bed and suited up. In that established tradition, a new study with an intriguing finding started making the rounds in January of 2017.
It started out with a headline on a Spanish language Argentinian site: “Study Confirms that Chubby Women Make a Man Happier than a Skinny Woman.” The article was then picked up by several English language sites.
Now, to be honest, the study has been rated “unproven” by Snopes. The department of psychology and the two doctors referenced in the article don’t seem to exist.
Still, there could be some truth in the idea expressed in the headline, and I’ll tell you why:
First of all, who has time to be in a chirpy cheerful mood when you’re starving? It just makes sense that women who aren’t hungry are less irritable and therefore better company. (Only half joking when I say that.)
Second, body confidence. Constantly worrying about how you look, if any muffin top is showing, how much weight you’re gaining, how to lose the weight, what’s on the approved list to eat, what’s not – it all adds up to a lot of stress and anxiety. What that study might have measured, and then decided was the result, was women who are comfortable with their curves.
Women who are secure about the way they look are probably a lot less tense, not to mention more interested in sexy time. Nothing kills your libido like the certainty that no one wants to see you with the lights on. That certainty can also kill a relationship. In this case, confidence really could be the key.
Have there been any actual studies done on how body confidence affects a relationship? Yes. “Body Image and Marital Satisfaction,” by Andrea L. Metzler & James K. McNulty, April 2010, is a notable one. Even better, inside the write-up of their findings Metzler & McNulty cite dozens of other studies on the subject.
The clear findings: Women who have a positive body image also have happier partners.
So does this mean only chubby women can make a man happy? No. Does it mean only skinny women are bliss material? Again, nope. Regardless of pant size, it’s confidence in her body that predicts a happy relationship. What the 2017 “study” got wrong was trying to link that happiness to one body type.
The good news to take home is that if you are satisfied with the way you look, everyone wins. Embrace your appearance, because when you do it makes you and your relationship happier. It’s sometimes hard to have that attitude – Lord do I know the struggle. After three pregnancies the confidence does not come easy. It’s worth working on it to be that happy partner, though.
Confidence is sexy. Science says so.

The Challenges of Keeping Your Maiden Name

Deep down I knew that of the three options – my last name, his last name, or ours hyphenated together – the choice was made, eras ago.

In June of 1932, Amelia Earhart sent a polite but resolute letter to the New York Times, asking that they please stop referring to her by the wrong name. As the world’s first female aviator and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart was famous in her own right. Her sensational professional achievements, and the attention that ensued, made her a living legend, yet to her frustration, the press continually referred to her as Mrs. George Putnam, which would have been her married name had she not broken with tradition. In her letter to the Times and in subsequent public comments on the topic, Amelia Earhart said she loved her husband but felt marriage was an equal partnership, and any career merit should be attributed to the one who attained it. The print media acquiesced and mentioned her as Miss Earhart from then on.
While Amelia Earhart certainly wasn’t the first woman to keep her surname upon marriage, she was one of only a handful to do so until the late 70s, when customs – backed by legal, social, and economic factors – began to change.
Before I got married, I never considered taking a man’s name. Growing up in the post-Steinem era of feminist policy, I was grateful to those who fought for my rights and felt it was my duty to repay them by keeping my name intact. Abdicating the part of me that held my family history in favor of someone else’s seemed an unnatural and unnecessary sacrifice. I had just as much invested in my identity as my husband did in his, and no one expected him to change – so why should I? Looking through the thick scrim of idealism that only the young possess, I could not foresee a situation that would erode my conviction, and for the first few years of married life, when it was just my husband and me, this was true.
By 2001, the year I got married, nearly a third of American women kept their maiden names in either a personal or professional capacity, so, unlike Amelia Earhart, whose defection from convention was newsworthy, my decision followed a well-established path and the obstacles I encountered were minor. They were things like, explaining to my dad why I didn’t need a new driver’s license, telling my grandmother that, no, this didn’t mean I planned on getting a divorce, or writing two distinct names on our tax return – inconveniences, really, that reflected generational expectations more than anything else.
When our daughter came along and it was automatically assumed by every institution in existence that she would bear my husband’s name, my notion of curbing inequality with a surname crumbled like a dead leaf. Amid the frenzy of a new baby, I hadn’t the gumption – or the energy – to counteract the patriarchal tradition. In my sheltered naïveté, where identity was limited to the confines of a husband and wife relationship, I hadn’t given serious thought to what we would name our child, beyond selecting a timelessly traditional yet unique prénom, and certainly hadn’t planned preemptively. Perhaps I was in denial, because deep down I knew that of the three options – my last name, his last name, or ours hyphenated together – the choice was made, eras ago. I could have pushed for our daughter to have my last name, but weighing effort against outcome using the metrics of our ancient paradigm, I chose the path of least resistance and let the system win.
If all this sounds melodramatic, my attachment to a name (which, if we’re being factual, belonged to my father, not mother, and is itself a resounding endorsement of male dominance) I concede. I will go further and admit it’s an argument wrought from those with privilege, already: those with money, education, a position in society. But I maintain that the importance of a name cannot be overstated. Names, like words, shape our impression of the world, and names shape the world’s impression of us.
Since 2001, the number of women keeping their maiden names has risen only slightly, and the focus for attaining equality seems to have shifted to more procedural plights, like maternity leave, equal pay, and healthcare. As a political issue, women see greater impact from their efforts elsewhere, and likely recognize the futility of changing our entire system of familial nomenclature. Unfortunately, to keep your name or take your husband’s will always be either an awkward stay or a sticky transition, but, really, it’s what we do after that, that counts.

4 Ways to Keep Bad Dreams From Ruining Your Kid’s Day

There are ways to help kids combat the effects of bad dreams so they don’t ruin their days and even identify what the dreams are about in the first place.

I dreamed that my husband didn’t recognize me. We were the same age we are now and I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and I went in for a kiss and he recoiled, politely and with great care. And then he smiled at me, pried my fingers off his arm, and turned back to whatever faceless person he had been talking to.
It was that smile that did it. It’s the smile he gives people when he wants to get away from them, but can’t, because he’s so nice. He had been nice to me, and when I woke up I resented him for it. How dare he use the fake smile on me? And for the rest of the day I let him know it. I was proper and distant, like a well-behaved roommate or Stepford wife, and by that night we were in a full-fledged fight because of a something that never even happened.
The thing is, I knew it was a dream. It was ridiculous to think that he would do that to me in real life. I’d birthed his three children, so chances are he’d kiss me on the mouth in public. But the feelings wouldn’t go away. They crossed their arms and nodded to themselves like they’d finally shown me the light. I know. I don’t need Freud to explain all the knotted insecurities in that one.
There’s a reason dreams follow us in to our days. According to an article in NY Magazine, “dreams are the number-one way in which we process emotions, particularly emotional tensions that we are experiencing in waking life.”
Maybe it was his longer hours at work. Maybe it was the fact that it was the tail end of summer and I was done with the free-for-all days. Whatever the reason, I was clearly feeling forgotten, even if it wasn’t true. And it makes sense that I would carry it with me into my waking hours. A study in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that, depending on the emotional intensity of the dream, the mood can stay in an altered state the following day or even longer.
I see this in my kids, too. I see them wake from a nightmare about being lost in the grocery store or unable to find us in a crowd and they hug my legs like cling-wrap for the rest of the day. That feeling of aloneness is hard to shake.
But there are ways to help your kids combat the lingering effects of bad dreams so they don’t ruin their days and maybe even identify what the dreams are all about in the first place. Here are a few ways to help bring your kids back to reality:

1 | Re-write the ending

We know dreams aren’t true, but the best way to remind your kids of this is to have them re-write the ending. Let them write down, or tell you, everything they can remember, detail by detail, until they get to the end … and then change it. Help them to fix it and make it as it should be, like righting an overturned table. They’ll tell you how it should have ended, probably with everyone safe and sound and eating ice cream on an island, and be happier for it. That’s how I’d end every one of mine.

2 | Do a little pre-sleep self-care

If psychologist Michale Breus is correct and we tend to “dream about whatever it is that is going on in our lives as we are falling asleep,” then it would make sense to do a little pre-sleep prep. Sit with your kids and meditate. Pray. Deep breathe. Say a few positive aphorisms. Turn on the sound machine and turn down the thermostat. Make a calm environment where they can put their minds at ease before bed.

3 | Talk until there’s nothing left to say

There’s a reason people pay good money to see a psychologist and it’s not just to sit in a quiet room away from kids, although that is an incentive. Hearing yourself voice your fears makes them smaller. This is true for kids too. Talking it out releases the emotion that built up in the night and helps them put it in its proper place. Help them talk to you, your spouse, their sibling, a best friend – anyone they can trust to be a sounding board and then let them sound away.

4 | Identify the real-life trigger

Chances are, the primary emotion in the bad dream is one that has carried over from real life. Like following the strand of lights until you get to the knot, identifying the culprit can be the final undoing that will give them some rest. Help them to make a list of the main stressors in their daily lives and the emotions that go along with them. This is especially important if they’ve been having a recurring nightmare. Somewhere in there is a knot that needs unpicking and you can help them find it.
Bad dreams don’t have to ruin good days. Let them be what they are: the fiction that points to a truth your kids can’t see clearly when they’re awake. Hopefully, once they do see it, they can move on to better things.

How to Approach Your Kid's Teacher When They Feel Disliked

There’s nothing worse than having your kid come home and say, “My teacher hates me,” but going to the parent-teacher conference afterward is a close second.

It’s what you want: positive outcomes through positive reinforcements. You want your child to grow and be nurtured in positive ways by the other adults in her life, but it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. There’s nothing worse than having your child come home and say, “My teacher hates me,” but going to the parent-teacher conference afterward is a close second.

You think, “Why does my daughter feel like this teacher hates her?” It’s hard confronting a well-meaning adult about a situation in which you had no a part. Yet you know it needs to be done, and that’s the key.

1 | Perception

Things are not always what they seem. I approach the topic of my child with her teacher with the preface, “This is my child’s perception of your class, please tell me what’s happening.”

I‘m letting the teacher know that, while my child may not be communicating to me exactly what is going down in her class, this is how she “feels” or “perceives” things to be. Of course, no teacher intends to make a child feel unloved. The child’s perception alone can be a real eye opener. At this remark, many teachers lower their defenses and the path to understanding begins.

2 | Listen

People want to be heard. Be the listening parent who really tries to see the situation for what it is. When Mama Bear instinctively starts to rear up, I take a deep breath and let the teacher clarify all the details, and then I try to respond thoughtfully. I try to come to the table with an open mind. I know that even in my den, my cubs and I have had misunderstandings or miscommunications about homework or activities.

3 | Work a solution together

Teamwork executed in sports, at the office, or at home is effective and beneficial. During our meeting I was open, receptive, and positive. I acknowledged that my little angel isn’t the easiest child at times, even at home. Talk about what works for you and how you achieve cooperation. Say, “So, how can I help?” An offer of support to the teacher can go a long way to defuse the situation.

4 | Give her a break

It’s nice to know someone’s got your back. When my little cherub comes home and gives me an earful about her hateful teacher, I remember how she describes her encounters with me when she’s tired, overreacting, or just not getting her way. Objectivity fails when emotions run high. Been there, done that.

5 | Appreciation

Who doesn’t need to be appreciated? The value of children’s education can be taken for granted, as well as the teacher we have to thank for it. I know that I need to feel appreciated big time, especially when I’ve been stretched to the limit. I have a feeling that this happens pretty often with teachers. A teacher’s dedication needs to be acknowledged and applauded.

Being connected leads to understanding

Getting together with my daughter’s teacher was like getting hit on the head with an apple. Painful, but, like Newton, we both gained a new perspective. It gave us the chance to discuss and better understand the relationship between my daughter and her teacher, as well as the opportunity to work at improving it. It turned out to be one of my better decisions.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t stop, pause, or wait any longer – get it resolved. Maybe it will be a little painful, but the insight will be worth it and, hopefully, a positive outcome will follow!