Digesting Life...

Africa … two days before…

I am leaving for Africa on May 11, returning to the US on June 1, back in the office on June 5.

I plan on providing a play by play report of my experiences while working with the African people. I chose to start this blog two days before leaving because today is the day that I have to swallow the first malaria pill. I chose to take the pills instead of taking a shot – not because of a shot fear – but my thinking is that I can stop the pills if the side effects surface. So you must understand that swallowing that pill about a half minute ago was really a big deal to me because of the horror stories I have heard about what I might experience. Exposing my own concerns (fears) is going to help me take the next pill tomorrow. So I’m praying that I do not have those vivid dreams, nausea, hallucinations, and whatever else might occur and I am certain that the many people I have asked to pray for me were well informed that they should pray for the pill taking part of my journey. Thank you to Chris who carefully advised me to take the dose with food – today oatmeal, tomorrow I’ll try the banana.

Today will be a working day for me as I see clients and put my office in order before taking off. I am not completely convinced that I am leaving yet – that will kick in when I pack – which I am reserving for tomorrow. I have made the arrangements for the care of Bob my dog who is enjoying family life with Elias and Jenn. I am realizing that having an animal in my daily life provides another dimension to my existence. Not having him around these last two days I find myself looking for him and “hearing” the click of his paws on the floor (no it isn’t the malaria meds acting up). I still have to engage someone to water my plants - a little late - so they survive three weeks. Already this journey is teaching me how blessed I am. This will definitely stretch me more than ever – for that I thank you God.

Surviving vs. Thriving

What kind of post-separation experience do want for your child? Your child will survive if they must be engaged with your emotional needs. This means they figure out that adopting your attitude about their other parent gives them more attention and seems to please you. It actually produces calm - a pseudo peace.

For your child to thrive you will be required to separate the relational hurt you experienced from the new parenting relationship that has been created. The result is that your child never assumes responsibility to make it better for you and can freely travel between households knowing that they can continue to love both parents. When your child thrives it will also cause you to thrive.

Give it some thought.

Parenting Adults

I have come to believe that being a parent of adult children can often be most challenging. It is not easy to hear a negative point of view from a loved one that is directed at you. When I encounter complaints about my behavior, I take myself through a process of questions which lead me to a conclusion that helps me discern whether or not I need to change something about me.

First, I consider my motive, (did I intend to provoke?); second, I consider the truth (are they saying something I know to be true about me?); and third, I consider if the other person has a pattern of making decisions based on emotions. If my answer to questions one and two are in the negative and the answer to question three is positive, then voila, I am not a contributor to my adult child’s feelings and I can proceed without feeling shame, guilt, or whatever negative emotions that are possible.

A common downfall while parenting adult children is to automatically participate in dysfunction. Give yourself permission to take the time to think first and you may find you have more time to enjoy your life.

Grand-Parenting...

Being a grandparent is one of the most difficult tasks to master, mostly because it can be frustrating when your children are not raising their children the way you believe they should. And therein lies the problem. Sound parenting can be implemented by grandparents as well. When your children were young, you could not make everything right for them. So, you can stop trying to make things right for your grandchildren as you know they should be and step back to allow your adult child and their spouse learn their own lessons. These children are their responsibility (thank God you have not been asked to raise another family). I suspect when you start to interfere and give unsolicited advice, your time with your grandchildren could diminish. Only offer words when asked to and be reasonably available. Instead of having a broken heart by what you see, focus on making yourself an interesting grandparent. You might even find (or start) a group of grandparents focused on sharing grand-parenting experiences.

Most important, pray for all of the changes that we know have created unique dangers to the world as we know it.

What Children Really Want

Working with children, tweens, and teens as they experience a spectrum of negative feelings about their non-custodial parent confirms my conclusions that when a divorce/separation is inevitable, the parents should be directed to receive parenting therapy/coaching, together, before the dysfunctional alignment ensues.

In high conflict situations, children have to survive. Survival often translates to supporting an angry custodial parent at the risk of the relationship with the other parent. Translations that take place in this manner leave a child focused on never forgiving the other parent for what they have experienced, both in reality and vicariously, through one or both parents.

Too many children have shared that if their parents could stop arguing then their lives would be less stressful. We continue to identify the children as needing the counseling when it would be more productive for the fractured family to be so ordered to participate. Treating the system with the goal of moving them to a parenting position that is at least tolerant of each parent is a more viable goal.

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