Archive for July 13th, 2011
“Some day, my Prince will come” goes the song. But what if he came – and went — and took half of everything with him? That’s the dilemma of the woman on her own again. And once bitten, twice shy, she may not want to rush into a new marriage.
Most women can expect to spend at least a third of their adult lives on their own. That means they had better get savvy about saving and budgeting, and do it quick.
Saving sounds simple. Spend less than you make, then put the rest away in smart investments. But like the standard advice about dieting (eat less and exercise more), simple advice is deceptively hard to follow. The first step to saving is budgeting.
To diet, before you can cut back, you have to know what you eat. And to begin budgeting, first you must analyze where your money goes. Use Quicken or another financial management computer program if you like, or make the calculations by hand.
To do your own calculations, make columns on paper and list at the top of each column the budget categories that apply to you. Your budget categories might include:
To this list add budget categories that are uniquely yours.
Then go through your checkbook for the past year and list each check in its proper column. Add each column, and you will have a summary of your spending by category for the past year.
If you have kept your credit card bills, put each credit card charge into a category, instead of lumping your entire payments under “credit card payments.” Although this may, at first glance, seem like a demanding task, you will be surprised to find that most of your charges fall into just a few major categories, such as dining out, clothing, and so on, and so the monthly bill can be categorized easily.
Decide where to cut back and which categories you expect will increase. Divide the revised amounts by twelve to arrive at your preliminary monthly budget.
Adjust and readjust the figures until your monthly budget equals your monthly income. This may take some doing, but persevere. Be sure you allocate as much as possible to the category “savings and investments.”
If your income doesn’t cover your expenses, a budget will force you to make some hard choices. When you make a budget, you will have to decide what is most important to you and what you can live without. A budget won’t give you more money each month, but sticking to it will leave you with more at the end of the month.
Each month, tally your checkbook and credit card expenses for each category, just as you did here for the year. Then prepare a four-column worksheet that lists your budget categories in the first column, your budgeted expenses in the second column, and your actual expenses in the third column. In the fourth column compute whether you exceeded your budget or came in under, with an explanation.
If you consistently exceed your budget, you must adjust your spending habits or find a way to increase your income so you can accommodate your extra spending.
If full-blown budgeting sounds like too much trouble, you may want to use a shortcut method to control your expenses. Because some expenses, such as your mortgage payment, your car payment, most utilities, and even most groceries, are beyond your control, the shortcut method doesn’t focus on them.
Budget only a few categories – the ones you can control – and analyze your spending each month for those categories only. Though this method is simpler, be sure you periodically review all your monthly expenditures to ensure that your total spending doesn’t exceed your income.
You’ll find more ways to boost your income and cut expenses in my book The Way to Save, available at your bookstore or through www.Amazon.com.
Should parents lose custody of super obese kids? By LINDSEY TANNER AP Medical Writer The Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids’ weight? A provocative commentary in one of the nation’s most distinguished medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.
It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.
Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston, said the point isn’t to blame parents, but rather to act in children’s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can’t provide.
State intervention “ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting,” said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
“Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child,” Murtagh said.
But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying — things a parent can’t control, he said.
“If you’re going to change a child’s weight, you’re going to have to change all of them,” Caplan said.
Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said. But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, Ludwig said.
Do you encounter resistance in your family? Do you ever feel like you are single-handedly keeping your house from falling into chaos?
As a mother of 3, ages 5 and under, I often feel like I’m alone in the battle to keep order in our house. Requests for dishes to be put in the dishwasher, toys to be returned to toy bins and teeth to be brushed are often met with sullen attitudes, tears and refusals. At times, I feel that my only options are timeouts and withholding privileges, but I don’t like the resulting atmosphere of combat. My dream is to have a cooperative group effort, where we each contribute to the best of our ability.
I’ve learned to look at myself when our balance shifts from cooperation to conflict. I’ve usually gotten into “get things done” and “clean things up” mode, which means I’m asking only for change (for the kids to do something other than playing or what they want). It doesn’t work. Validation and active listening, on the other hand, are strategies to counter resistance, help our children collaborate with us and increase our understanding of our kids’ point-of-view. Once I slow down and shift out of my “get things done” approach, I realize that I need to appreciate everyone’s perspective, in order to have help around the house.
Validation strategies are core to many parenting techniques for good reason:
- Validation balances change.
- It increases communication and understanding
- It teaches our children to understand themselves.
- Validation and active listening decrease intense emotions, help us identify the right problems to solve, and propose strategies that fit our children’s ability level and personality.
What is Validation?
Validation is communicating to another person that their emotions, thoughts, or feelings are meaningful, understandable, and authentic. The essence of validation is to communicate to our children that their responses make sense and are understandable within their current life context, stage of development and situation. It is understandable to not want to pick up toys when you are 3 years old and engrossed in dressing dolls or building a tower.
Validating our children does not mean that we agree with them or believe their behavior was OK. It does communicate that we understand.
Look for specific validation strategies in my April 4, 2010 post.
Linehan M. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.
By CHRISTY MATTA, MA
In a recent post I mentioned the mental and physical benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice. But if you don’t have experience with meditation or mindfulness, incorporating a practice into your daily life can seem daunting.
In his book, Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn makes recommendations on how to get started on establishing a mindfulness practice in your life.
- Start with your breathing. Do an experiment for a few minutes on paying attention to your breathing. Watch your mind. Does it wander away and come back over the course of those few minutes? Set aside 5-10 minutes a day to pay attention to your breathing. You can do this sitting or lying down or in any comfortable position.
- Practice every day. You can continue to focus on your breathing or read books or listen to CD’s on the topic to get ideas for your mindfulness practice. I will include a few resources at the bottom of this post.
- Bring awareness to routine activities, such as waking up, shopping, washing dishes or answering email. Pick one routine a week and try to be fully engaged in it when you do it every time.
- Bring your awareness to your body. You can bring your attention to your body through yoga exercises or through a body scan, in which you slowly scan your attention through all the regions of your body, noticing any tensions, pain or other sensations.
- Now that you’ve started a practice, make a decision about when, where and how long you want to practice on a regular basis. Consider taking courses, reading or watching video’s about mindfulness to increase your knowledge and help you find ways to incorporate it into your life in a way that is helpful to you.
Mindfulness practice can have both mental and physical health benefits. Like many healthy habits, getting started can be the hardest part.
Full Catastrohpe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Is Your Pet The Emotional “Third” in Your Relationship? / By SUZANNE PHILLIPS, PSY.D., ABPP / PSYCH CENTRAL
Katie and Rob, a couple in a second marriage for both, never planned to have a pet. They cautiously agreed to take Penny, a little terrier, when a relative became sick. Of course, they fell in love with her. When I asked them how Penny had impacted their relationship, their answer surprised me.
“Penny is our peacemaker. Before Penny we would stonewall each other and not speak for days after an argument. It is funny what happens now – after an argument one of us will start talking about Penny to the other to break the ice. We never planned it – we just do it and it works.
The concept of the “Third” comes from relational psychology, specifically the work of psychologist, Lewis Aron who drew upon Jessica Benjamin’s work and applied the concept to couples. Aron offered the conceptualization of the see-saw. He considered that often two partners are stuck at opposite ends, moving up and down in terms of their own perspective, needs or opinions, but actually going nowhere and locked into a pattern that can’t bring them together.
In terms of couple’s therapy, Aron identified the therapist as the “third” to open the space. A closer look at partners and their pets invites us to consider that in an unexpected and uncanny way – pets also serve in that role.
Whether a couple has one or many pets, these furry friends often in a subtle way unlock negative patterns of relating between partners. As in the case of Penny, the peacemaker, they become a third point of reference and as such invite mutual focus, prompt feelings and illuminate behavior that expands relational and emotional space.
Is Your Pet The Emotional “Third” in Your Relationship?
Consider if you can relate to or add to the following glimpses of pets and partners:
Bridging the Gap
Moving to a new city for David to take a new position that involved travel was not a first choice for Mary. It was difficult enough for her to find a new job much less a connection. Clearly after a month the decision was not sitting well between them.
Enter Wilbur, a tiny black French bull dog with big potential to fill the gap. Not only did Mary feel comforted by her little companion when David was away; but both David and Mary were delighted to find neighbors who were initially polite become enthusiastically welcoming once Wilbur arrived and the three were out walking. Wilbur had bridged a tense transition and opened up the neighborhood!
Moving into the Moment
Given the pace and demands of this culture, it is no surprise that people end their days out of breath and literally out of patience. The problem as reported by so many couples is that the person who many find the easiest to ignore, vent to or dismiss- the person who is just supposed to understand that the train was late, the deal didn’t go through, or the kids were wild – is the partner. Unfortunately this expectation usually adds tension to existing pressures.
Enter Tiger, the cat dragging a roll of toilet paper across the living room or Callie, the clever Jack Russell unzipping the tennis bag just dropped on the floor to get to the balls and there is a moment of mutual laughter, a push out of life’s race into a place of shared delight. A big thing? NO An important moment to grab? YES
Almost every partner with a pet reports that pets make them laugh. Sharing a pet moment that invites mutual laughter with your partner is invaluable. It is different than replacing attention to the partner with delighted attention to the pet. When the pet invites shared enjoyment or a partner makes a point of sharing something funny about the pet to the other – a tense or tired mood can shift – space for the “WE” opens.
Different Needs vs. Mutual Love
Partners report that sometimes the need of the pet out trumps the need of both and results in a valuable third choice. Casey reported that the typical evening battle was Mark waiting to have dinner and her wanting to get in a run before dinner. Both felt guilty about their own demands. Neither was too willing to concede.
Enter Brooklyn and Arizona, two rescue shelties with the need to walk. Soon, Casey and Mark were solving the situation in an unexpected way with some mutual walking for all and some extra time for dinner to simmer. It’s funny but true that when pets are mutually loved their needs open doors.
Enhancing the Perspective
One of the problems with partners is that they really think they really know each other- an assumption that often precludes the possibility of knowing more.
One way that pets serve as the third is expanding the way that partners see each other. The view from across the yard of partner with pet is often a view from an unexpected vantage point that enhances love and connection.
“When I saw the way that man loved his dog – I knew I could marry him.”
“I’ll never forget how she nursed my cat back to health – the one that she wasn’t exactly in love with when we met!
“How can you not love a guy who sits on the recliner to watch the ball game with a tiny kitten sleeping on his chest?”
“What other woman would insist that I pull to the side of the road to rescue a puppy or remove an entire drain grate to save a panicked frog unwillingly attached?”
As the emotional “Third,” pets open the hearts and the emotional possibilities of partners.
Want to learn more about how pets can help improve your relationship? I will be speaking about pets and partners with Kelley Connors on her online radio show on Wednesday, July 6th at 12:30PM ET. Listen In and join in, Suzanne
Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodge ball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.
Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?
By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.
2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.
While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.
Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.
Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.
3. Do what you love.
It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.
4. Manage your time well.
One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. Their to-do list expands, while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.
Here are Vanderkam’s seven steps to help you check off your to-do list and find time for the things you truly enjoy.
5. Create a toolbox of techniques.
One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
Here’s a list of additional techniques to help you build your toolbox.
6. Pick off the negotiables from your plate.
Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities, or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes, and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”
Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.
7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?
Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, ““Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”
So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.
8. Preserve good boundaries.
If you’re a people-pleaser like me, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.
One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn. Here are some tips to help. And if you tend toward people-pleasing, these tips can help, too.
9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.
Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushrooms into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.
Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D, talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & CommitmentTherapy. “Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it,” whereas caring is taking action. “When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.”
LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”
Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.
Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, LeJeune includes an activity where readers list responses for each one. For example:
Worrying about your health involves…
Caring about your health involves…
Worrying about your career involves…
Caring about your career involves…
10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.
Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.
As researcher Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth” and it’s not self-improvement.
Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”
How do you handle stress?
What are some of your
Parental child abduction is a federal crime. It is also a tragedy that jeopardizes children and has substantial long-term consequences for the “left-behind” parent, the child, the family, and society. Children who are abducted by their parents are often suddenly isolated from their extended families, friends, and classmates. They are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. Similarly, left-behind parents experience a wide range of emotions including betrayal, loss, anger, and depression. In international cases, they often face unfamiliar legal, cultural, and linguistic barriers that compound these emotions.
In this section of our Web site, learn about the measures you can take to prevent your child from being wrongfully taken to or wrongfully kept in another country. In addition to the materials below, also see these important links:
- Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
- Passport Requirements for Minors
- Additional Prevention Tools
- For Attorneys & Judges
International Parental Child Abduction Is Illegal
Under the laws of the United States and many foreign countries, international parental child abduction is crime. Removing a child from the United States against another parent’s wishes can be considered a crime in every U.S. state. In some cases an abducting parent may be charged with a Federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA). This can be the case even when neither parent holds a custody decree prior to the abduction. Nevertheless, a custody decree can be helpful to prevent an international parental child abduction, or to recover your child if he/she is abducted.
The Importance of a Custody Decree
A well-written custody decree is an important line of defense against international parental child abduction. In your custody decree, it may be advisable to include a statement that prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court. Ask your attorney if you should obtain a decree of sole custody or a decree that prohibits the travel of your child without your permission or that of the court. If you have or would prefer to have a joint custody decree, you may want to make certain that it prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court.
If your child is at risk of being taken to a country that partners with the United States under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction(Hague Abduction Convention), your custody decree should include the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention that apply if there is an abduction or wrongful retention (see country list).
The American Bar Association also suggests requesting the court, if the other parent is not a U.S. citizen or has significant ties to a foreign country, to require that parent to post a bond. This may be useful both as a deterrent to abduction and, if forfeited because of an abduction, as a source of revenue for you in your efforts to locate and recover your child.
REMINDER: Obtain several certified copies of your custody decree from the court that issued it. Give a copy to your child’s school and advise school personnel to whom your child may be released.
Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport
The United States does not have exit controls on its borders for holders of a valid passport. This makes preventing a passport from being issued to your child without your consent very important. Generally, if your child has a passport, it can be difficult to prevent the other parent from removing the child to another country without your permission.
U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians. If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).
EXCEPTIONS: The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement: (1) for exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of he child, or (2) when the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.
Read more: Passport Requirements for Minors
Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
You may also ask that your child’s name be entered into the State Department’sChildren’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). Entering your child into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program will enable the Department to notify you or your attorney if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received anywhere in the United States or at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you have a court order that either grants you sole custody, joint legal custody, or prohibits your child from traveling without your permission or the permission of the court, the Department may refuse to issue a new or renewal U.S. passport for your child. The Department may not, however, revoke a passport that has already been issued to the child. There is also no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued, since there are no exit controls for people leaving the U.S. If your child already has a passport, you should take steps to ensure that it is kept from a potential abductor by asking the court or attorneys to hold it.
IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND:
- The United States does not have exit controls.
- The Department of State may not revoke a passport that has been issued to a child, but you can ask a court to hold onto it.
- There is no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued.
- Your child might also be a citizen of another country (dual nationality). Even if he/she does not have a U.S. passport, your child may be able to travel on the other country’s passport. .
The Privacy Act and Passports
Passport information is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (PL 93-579) passed by Congress in 1974. Information regarding a minor’s passport is available to either parent. Information regarding adults may be available to law enforcement officials or pursuant to a court order issued by the court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with (22 CFR 51.27). For further information regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, please contact Passport Services.