Sex Education: Wanna go there?

Lately, all my ‘magazines for therapists’ that I get, have one thing in common. They are attempting to educate me on how to work with people who have gender identity issues and/or people who have chosen lifestyles other than heterosexual relationships. There is an ever increasing need for therapy for those struggling with sexual addiction as well, including everything from porn addiction to sexual addiction within and outside committed relationships, crossing the lines of gender, age and species. This rampant addiction is ruining marriages and important relationships. An article I read recently was discussing the need for diversity in sex education at the elementary and middle school level so that all children could have an understanding of the issues they may encounter as they discover their personal sexual identity.

I remember when my own children had sex education in our local public school. We had some VERY interesting conversations in our home during that process. To be clear, I am not averse to sex education being offered at school…for goodness sake there are a lot of good reasons that the people spending most days with our kids need to make sure that they know some stuff. But for those of you parenting our impressionable youngsters, you may want to involve yourself in the process no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Just because there is a curriculum being followed does not mean that the person teaching the curriculum doesn’t bring their own perceptions, opinions and let’s face it, baggage, to the table. For example, 1 in every 6 women has been molested or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Depending on how she processed that event, she may be struggling with her own thoughts of how to be sexually healthy. This is only one example of something that could influence how sexuality conversations might be impacted within your child’s school setting. There are many more.

I also remember my own 6th grade sex education class and when I make the comparison to what is culturally acceptable today, it makes me laugh that my parents had to sign a waiver back then. What we learned back in the late 70’s/early 80’s was mostly science…there was not much sexuality being discussed. From a developmental stand point, this was very appropriate as what 6th grader is ready to make a commitment to a life long decision such as sexual preference? What adolescent should be making decisions that could impact them for life? And goodness knows that most 11-12 year olds are not going to enter into relationships that have good boundaries and heart protecting communication applications. To drive home the idea of who is teaching your children may impact their thought process, I had a teacher who literally told my class that oral sex is most effectively used when a woman is pregnant and may not want to have intercourse…huh? I can still see my mom’s face when I relayed that little tidbit. Oh goodness…I am laughing out loud as I write this, remembering that moment with my mom.

Is it possible that sex education in our elementary schools and junior highs should be focused more on personal development? Maybe instead of focusing on the sex act, we should be teaching communication skills, ways to communicate deeper level emotions, expectations in reciprocal relationships…I could go on. Let me spell it out for you. Very few couples come to counseling because they are confused about how to have sex. They are struggling because they have unmet expectations in their relationship, they have destructive ways of communicating, and life has been less than perfect so their relationship is suffering and thus, their intimacy isn’t near what they hoped it would be.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that personal identity choices are best made when we are emotionally healthy, when we execute good boundaries and when we have a firm grasp on our non-negotiables in our relationships. Teach your elementary school and junior high kids about how to respect themselves, how to have healthy relationships evidenced by good communication and respect, and they have a better chance of making sexual choices that are healthy for themselves. If you don’t teach them these things, they run the risk of making sexual choices as a result of low self esteem, need for validation and the mistaken expectation that sexual interactions are always an indication of true love.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

ADHD: Anything other than meds?

I used to be a high school teacher, so I am well aware of what it is like to have kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as students in a class. One of my most memorable parent-teacher conferences was with a student and their father, where the father kept getting up to “roam” as we discussed how to manage his child in class. If dad can’t sit through a 30 minute conference….I wish I had known then, what I know now!

As I work with parents who are navigating online school during this Covid season, many parents are understanding how frustrating it can be for their students who struggle with focus. I can also imagine that there are some teachers out there, who are welcoming this season of parents gathering awareness, of what their child is like in class. Hopefully this post will give both parents and teachers some ideas! ADHD can be very manageable and some of the most talented people overcome the limitations of ADHD, and use the energy of this condition to do AMAZING things! Never use diagnosis as a lifetime limitation. Use it to empower!

For those of you who are wondering if your child has ADHD, here is a good definition for you:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder ( I prefer the word “condition”) that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. People with ADHD may also have trouble focusing their attention on a single task or sitting still for long periods of time. Both adults and children can have ADHD.

It is important to remember that everyone has “wiggles” that need to get out, through exercise and movement. It is not good to diagnose every kid who has some extra energy as ADHD. But if you notice that even with lots of exercise and a good amount of breaks from concentration, you or your child have wandering thoughts, lack of focus, inability to complete regular tasks, poor job performance, and issues with relationships, spurred from an inability to stay attentive in conversation, it might be something you consider. Always seek professional advice before starting a protocol.

Some common medications being used right now for ADHD are Contempla, Mydayis, and Strattera. While the results vary, many people do not like the side effects that can come with taking these drugs: fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, bad mood. People are sometimes forced to choose between the side effect and the original struggle. The good news is that an ADHD diagnosis does not always end in taking medication. Everyone needs to choose what is best for their situation.

If you are feeling like “something has to change” but you are hesitant to go the medication route, maybe try some of these ideas!

Diet:
The first place to start is with diet. Did you know that there are some foods known to trigger ADHD? Foods such as milk, chocolate, soy, wheat, tomatoes, grapes, oranges and corn have been found to cause ADHD reactions in a large number of people. Additionally, foods rich in protein, lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products, can have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. (Protein-rich foods are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other. Good to know if you have a family member struggling!)

A good book to take a look at is The ADHD Diet by Martin Meyer. (Amazon)  It is full of ideas to get your body working on your side!


Can Do Sitting Wedge:
Often times wiggling produces stimulation, resulting in more wiggling. Help yourself or your child sit still with a comfortable wedge that reduces stimuli and allows focus through less movement. These wedges are also good for posture and achy backs so it is a win-win. Click here for this much needed tool. 

Exercise:
Folks with ADHD need breaks from sitting still, more than most. Having a mini trampoline close to a work area is such a great idea for getting some energy out quickly. Those working from home might break for a walk around the block. While a long workout can be helpful as well, short energy burst exercise can help with productivity during a school or work day. Also, if your child has an opportunity to be part of an athletic team, take advantage of that! And don’t take those activities away, as a punishment, or you will only be punishing yourself!

Homeopathic supplement:
I always like to include a homeopathic remedy in my posts! Homeopathic remedies can be purchased at your local health food store or online and are often a good thing to try before you go the prescription drug route:

Hyoscyamos 6c twice daily for a period of months. Evaluate at 6 weeks and discontinue if there are no results. As always, consult your pharmacist for drug interaction with any prescriptions you might be already taking. Unlike prescription drugs, homeopathic supplements do not create artificial stimulus so do not use this for staying awake longer or creating hyper focus, as it won’t work that way.

Limit time on devices:
Oh…this is so hard nowadays! But just because your sweet child finally calms down when they are allowed to veg-out with their phone or the TV, you are setting them up have disrupted sleep (which is bad for ADHD) and restlessness later in the day. The reason is that devices are full of stimuli! And stimuli, for someone with ADHD, causes more stimuli (remember the wedge?)….so calm down another way.

Of course, this is just a snapshot of what can be done for someone with ADHD but it might be just enough to get you on a productive path to emotional health. As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,


Sonia

Rise Above: There will always be a Covid

Rise Above: There will always be a Covid

I remember sitting at my mama’s feet, as she tried to communicate with the customer service rep on the other end of the line. I am sure, me sitting there while she tried to make her point, was super helpful…why do our littles always sit right next to us when we are on the phone? She was being asked to repeat herself, over and over again…no doubt her accent was making it difficult for the person unwilling to just listen for a second. She put down the phone with disgust and told me to get my shoes on. We were going to go in person, “so that they can see that I have money and I am not stupid.” Before she hung up the phone, she asked for the person’s first and last name, a practice I use to this day to advocate for myself. I hope my girls learned lessons sitting next to me when I was on the phone!

Meeting in person did not always work. She also told me the story of when the Friendly Hills Country Club ladies came to “interview” her and they obviously did not see her as an equal. When she shared this story with me, she reflected that being refused was good information…better than being admitted and treated poorly. Even when the club changed some policies, she knew it wasn’t a home for our family.

My mother was anything but stupid. She came to the United States, brought by missionaries Chuck and Mary Olvey,  to attend their alma mater, where she graduated at the top of her class, in her second language. I still have a copy of the speech she gave at Biola’s graduation, typed out…a message to inspire others. In her life, she overcame obstacle after obstacle, with a grace that probably gave the impression that it came easily to her. As her daughter, I had a front row seat to some of the obstacles, and it wasn’t easy; she had a deep rooted faith and she refused to give up. And she refused to be mediocre.

Here is my mamacita getting her citizenship…fun day!
Green Card photo….how brave she was!

When California held a vote to make Spanish an official language, I learned how very wise she was….”If California says they are willing to loose language, a uniter of people, there will always be two or more groups, and the English speakers will always have the advantage.” Soon after, she began volunteering, teaching Hispanic adults to read and speak English. She also decided around this time to turn in her green card for United States citizenship, so she could vote.

In the last few years, I have been told by professors, friends who have differing political viewpoints, and popular culture, that my story and my mother’s story don’t count, in my perception of how to really change the world. That is fine. Maybe our story is just for us and the children I am raising.

My daughter is teaching dance in Waco, Texas, and after having classes via Zoom, for 10 weeks, some of the girls were not feeling ready to perform. She shared with me that she told those girls that there will always be a Covid, or a current event, or a personal struggle, that will impact their lives…but they have a recital to perform and they can choose to give it their best effort or give up. She has no idea that she inspired me that day. Sometimes in life, it just seems easier to give up. There is a temptation to forget how hard we have worked to get where we are, and in those moments, we can be willing to throw it all away.

Friends, is there a situation in your life that is beating you down? Is there a job situation, an illness, a broken relationship???? Are you tempted to give up, retreat, or forget that you have life to be lived? I have never met a person who didn’t have a situation in their life, where others were to blame, or the unfairness of the situation was unbearable. But we all do have the choice to press on. Every hero, every success story, has a moment in the story, where all the odds were against them, and they did. not. give. up.

Have faith. Do not give up. Refuse to be mediocre. Thank you, Mamacita, for the lessons you taught me, when I sat at your feet.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

 

My Offering: Sitting in the Pain

I just got off the phone with my best friend from my childhood. We met in 7th grade when she and her brother accidentally rang my doorbell, when they were going door to door selling magazines for the school fundraiser. She told me later that she was mortified when I answered the door…we were in 7th grade where everything is embarrassing. I honestly thought it was hilarious, and it lead to a joined-at-the-hip friendship that took us through high school and beyond. I can’t tell you how many memories I have of the two of us laughing till we cried. We passed notes, talked on the phone, double dated, played sports, went on family vacations, were in each other’s weddings…we had no idea that life might not always be so carefree. Since then, our lives have not always been intertwined, but we talk and get together whenever we can, because we will always be heart sisters.

This morning I was liking a photo of her handsome son on Instagram. Her son and my girls are the same age. I remember thinking it was so fun that we were pregnant at the same time. He was recently made a deputy and I thought the picture was celebrating that. It wasn’t. It was the picture in the paper, that told how he died in a car accident yesterday. His was a young, beautiful life, cut short and his mama is my dear friend. And even though I am a trained counselor, and have lead grief groups, and taught seminars on grief… I had no words.

Sometimes in life, there are no words for the pain we shoulder. Even as I have been crying for her all day, and reflecting on our earlier conversation, where she shared about the last time she saw her son and the way God allowed some moments to take place in the last week that she will be forever grateful for…I still do not know what to say. I know better than to think there is a sentence or a phrase that will take any of her pain away. She has faith. She is relying on that to get her through this time. I can only offer myself to sit in the pain with her.

Have you ever had someone sit with you in the pain? I can think of several times in my life where my situation in life was inconsolable and there were no words to ease my burden and there were people who sat…sat next to me…no words…just presence. Presence just says, “I Iove you and I wish had a magic wand to wave on your behalf…but since I don’t, I will sit and pray and hold your hand…” I can only hope that is what I offered this morning.

Our world is topsy turvy right now and you might know of people who need some sitting next to. Maybe you need someone to sit in your pain with you. If you have ever shied away from being with another human because you didn’t know what to say, know that words are not always the only way to be there for someone. I am grateful for every person who has silently come alongside me and sometimes it is all I have to offer.

I wish I could wave a magic wand today…for my dear friend and for those who are facing all sorts of crazy in this pandemic. But today, all I can do is say I am sorry and offer my presence.

Love,

Sonia

Mother’s Day: A memorial to my mamacita

The thing in my life that brings me more joy than anything else, is parenting alongside my husband, so I feel like I should love Mother’s Day. But, Mother’s Day is especially hard for people who don’t have a positive relationship with their mom, wish more than anything they could be a mother and aren’t, or have lost their mom and are left to navigate the world without her. I lost my mom when I was way too young. I look back and realize that it was the beginning of a life journey where I began to learn about grief and how to minister to people in a counseling setting. As we begin to celebrate moms this weekend, a practice that is beautiful in so many ways, I pray for those that have a hard time on this day. I miss my mom just a little bit more on Mother’s Day… so today, I am sharing the word’s I spoke at her memorial service so many years ago as a tribute to those who celebrate this day without their mama:

Mamacita…My little mama….

Last week, a friend of my mom’s (no, I won’t tell who…), was at the house when a hospice nurse was there. The nurse asked her relation to my mom. She said, “Salma is my best friend and although I know I am hers, I know there are at least 20 others who feel the same way.” The other day my brother and I were on the couch with mom and I jokingly asked her who her favorite child was. She smiled a little and giggled as she said, “Who’s all here?”. As my mom’s only living daughter, I’d like to think I was her favorite. Of course, she made me FEEL like she loved me best but the truth is, my mom didn’t have to play favorites. My teeny mama had a heart as big as a house with plenty of room for all those she loved. I don’t know how she had the time and energy to maintain all the relationships she had. I can only count it as a gift from God that she how to prioritize her life in a way that she was there for so many of us in this room when we needed her most. I have countless memories of times when my mom held my hand and said just the right thing to encourage me, praise me, confront me or challenge me.

I think she had time for all of us because she made time for all of us. I always thought my mom was a pretty decent housekeeper but she was always trying to be better at it. She was always saying, “I just need to get organized!”. One time she told me, “You know what my problem is? If someone calls or drops by, I’d much rather talk to them than finish what I am doing.” Thank goodness she realized that organized cupboards are great but they don’t make good friends. Still, it was always on her mind. Flying home from my brother John’s wedding in New Jersey, the engine of our plane caught on fire and we had to make an emergency landing in Denver. Thinking of other’s first, she turned to my Dad and said, “If you have to save us, save Sonia first.” Then she turned to me and said, “If I die, don’t let anyone see my messy drawers!”

My mom did always put others first. The event in my life that was most meaningful to me was the birth of my twins. As many of you know, Mike accepted a job in Salt Lake City and began commuting there 4 days a week just 14 days after my c-section delivery. I was overwhelmed by my colicky babies and with the showing of my home to potential buyers. Mom, still weak after beating cancer the first time, would arrive on Sunday night and stay for the four days while Mike was gone. She did this for almost 6 months. She gave up her lecturing, her lunches with friends…almost everything…during this time to make sure that I could recover and mentally prepare for my move. We had sweet times together during that crazy time. We laughed and cried, and talked and talked and talked as we rocked Azile and Emilee. I have often thought that I would not have enjoyed one minute of those months had she not been there with me.

Another gift that my mom gave to me is that she loved the people I loved. She took in every one of my friends as one of her own. Granted, most of my friends were lovely people, but there were a couple who were…well, not as wonderful as others…yet, I could always count on my mom to show the people I brought home, her renowned hospitality.

By giving of herself to others, my mom inadvertently gave me another gift that I have appreciated more than ever in the past week. She gave me the gift of many of you. Because Mom was a Godly woman, because she was a good friend, because she opened her heart and home to others, she created an enormous circle of friends that Dad, Paul, John and I think of as family. No one can ever replace my mom in my life, but she made sure I had at least 20 women, all her best friends, who because of their love for her, will grieve with me and love me through this most difficult time in my life.

Thank you all so much for being here today and for that you meant to my mom.

 

Happy Mother’s Day…because whatever our joy, whatever our pain…we are grateful for the women in our lives who have sacrificed to make our lives richer.

Marriage Seminar #6: Date Night

When I started doing things socially with my husband of 27 years…back in 1990…we were not really dating. We had known each other in high school (yes…you all know…he was my high school boyfriend’s friend…it is a story but not what you think) and we were simply hanging out a lot because we were back in our home town, working, without many people we knew who were our own age. I was teaching at California High School and he was in an entry level sales job…fresh out of college. We had money to spend because we were young and didn’t have a lot of expenses. He liked high school football and I liked having a super cute someone to go with me to those games. It took us at least 2 months to finally admit we were thinking it might be a relationship worth investing more in…

Mike and I were raised a little differently. I was raised in the Christian-live-by-guilt home where we were always having to consider the starving child in Africa or China when we bought something not on sale or didn’t eat our peas. Mike’s family knows how to party. There is always a reason to celebrate. When Mike and I started to actually call our relationship something more than “besties”, my heart was overwhelmed as he treated me to dinners, an evening at the ballet (I had never been!), a concert that was not something he necessarily would choose, and a bunch of other super fun stuff.  He would say, “There is a place I think you would like…”

When dating ends and real life begins, there is often a shift in marriage relationships. That may be why counselors often encourage suffering spousal relationships to re-instigate “the date”. Obviously there are major challenges to this when you have kids or are just super busy trying to build a future or a retirement fund. But bringing back the date has saved many relationships from stagnation or becoming that “we are just roommates” horror!

When couples come to me for marriage counseling and I ask about their dating life, 9 out of 10 times, the role of planning anything social has become the wife’s responsibility. And in most of the relationships I am asked to weigh in on, the wife feels like if she didn’t care about connecting emotionally, no one would care. Did you read in my last blog that emotional connectivity is what leads to physical connectivity????….keep reading.

So hubbies out there! Hear me! This is such an easy fix! If you did it well once, you can do it again!!! Date your wife or lose her forever!

Dating as a married couple can actually be easier if you think about it! You already know that your spouse will say yes! You also know what kind of activities they like to do, what kind of food they enjoy and what their calendar looks like most of the time! If you plan time for just the two of you now, the message is simply, “I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU AND YOU ALONE.”

Here are some guidelines:

Have a date night idea jar: Sit down with your spouse and come up with things you wish you would do together, what restaurants you would like to try, etc. Write them on pieces of paper and fold them up and put them in a jar. Pick one out at the beginning of each month and let the planning begin.

Now that you are married, try taking turns with the planning: We all get busy with life but the job of saving a marriage through time spent together should never fall on just one person. If you are the one planning date night, you also have to get the babysitter. For some reason, a common complaint that I hear is that it takes so much work to get the date organized that it takes the fun out of it. If you alternate the planning, one person gets to just show up!

These times together can be inexpensive or you can choose to splurge: Set a budget for your dating life so that it doesn’t get tossed aside just because the bill for Johnny’s hockey or Brooke’s dance popped up and you can’t justify it. Keep in mind that your kids will be happier in the long run if their parents stay married and they miss an activity as an 8 year old. Also, sometimes saving money one month by just grabbing a coffee or going for a bike ride can put pennies aside for a fancier dinner out or a concert that reminds you of when you met!

Be present emotionally and physically on date night: Remember the effort that you put into date night when you were first going out? You wouldn’t dream of not choosing your outfit carefully or brushing your teeth. You were sure to look your special person in the eyes and talk about more than your crappy day at work. Be a person that is engaging, flirtatious, interesting and a friend who asks good questions. You might be surprised how much fun you have!

My married clients know that I believe that the most important relationship in the home is the one between the two people that are married. There is no other relationship in the home that should compete with it. A family where the parents are working as a team are the happiest families overall…and when there is discord at the top, it is felt by everyone, even the pets…so rekindle that love in one of the easiest fixes out there…date night.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia