Archive for the ‘family time’ Category

A House Divided

September 24, 2010

Yes, my dear friends, it is that time of year! Welcome, welcome, welcome super fans, tailgating, and thousands of my closest friends cheering on our favorite football team! During this time of year, an Alabamian must make an extremely tough decision that could affect family relationships. Are you an Auburn or Alabama fan? Do you cheer Roll Tide or War Eagle?

It all started in 1893 at Lakeview Park in Birmingham, Alabama. This first game was won by Auburn 32-22. The crowd was estimated at around 2,000. Today thousands upon thousands of Alabamians gather to support their favorite team. As I walked around Auburn’s campus this past Saturday, I couldn’t help but smile. There were families everywhere eating their favorite foods, throwing the football, children with precious game day clothes on, and laughter/cheering coming from every corner of campus. Families combined were cheering for multiple teams and enjoying the competitive spirit of the day. One of the sweetest and most precious aspects of life is to watch a family come together and experience a bond with one another.

The National Extension Relationship and Marriage Educational Network, NERMEN, lists seven key patterns of thinking and behaviors associated with healthy, stable couple relationships and marriage. These have become known as the NERMEN Core Components of a Healthy Relationship and Marriage. Share and Connect are two of these concepts. Share is defined as developing and maintaining friendship and sense of “we”; spending meaningful time together. One example of this is to find and cultivate common interests and activities.  Tailgating (no matter what campus you are on) with friends and family is a great way to do this. Connect is defined as engaging in social support, community ties, and sources of meaning. Spending time with your community while being with your family is a great way to connect to others and find this social support. This is an event that can engage all family members no matter age.

Who would have thought?  Cheering on your team AND working to maintain a healthy family relationship!  Now, that is a WIN!

So, during this football season remember…It doesn’t matter which football team you support, it just matters how you support your family connectedness. Even if your car holds “A House Divided” tag, I challenge you to put your “football competitiveness” aside and enjoy any and all games with your family and friends.

Rachel Dawkins

Absence Makes the Heart Grow…

March 24, 2010

     I know what you’re thinking…the end of that phrase is FONDER!  Well, in my case, I’d like to say that “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Families”. 🙂  My husband, recently sent to the middle east for work, wrote home just two weeks after leaving to randomly tell me in an email “When I get home, I’d like us to start trying to start a family.”  Which brought me to the thought – what is it about being thousands of miles away that suddenly made him want to start a family?   Now, as men sometimes do, he said this very casually and nonchalant as if it’s like planting spring flowers or something.  To me, my heart started racing, my mind raced even faster, and after this flood of thoughts – I was elated!  But, there’s a reason that the thought of trying to have a child with my husband was calming at the same time.  Since we were married in 2006, we have taken the time to talk about many topics in a marriage, such as parenting, finances, religion, household roles, parents-in-law, etc.  We’ve done, what they call in the military, “war-gaming” the idea of having a child.  It means to think about something from every possible angle.  While I don’t advocate that there is ever a perfect time for children, talking about it ahead of time could eliminate surprises before you’re standing there with an infant and a “poopy diaper” wondering who’s going to change it.  

     There are many sources out there that list topics to discuss before having a baby, but I’ve compiled what I think are the most important below….so that, if one day you and your partner decide its time to have a child – you too can approach that adventure with elation, not anxiety! 🙂

1. Religion and spirituality – what roles will this play in your marriage and your parenting?

2. Parenting roles – who will take on what responsibilities in the household and with the child once the little one arrives?

3. Marriage adjustments – how will your marriage change as you now have to split your attention and affection with an additional family member?

4.  Support network – who will you rely on for emergencies when caring for the child?

5.  Number and frequency – how many children do you want and how far apart will they be?

6.  Finances – are you financially stable enough to be able to take on the expenses of a new child?  What budget changes need to be made if not?

7. Parenting styles – what do each of you believe about how a child should be raised.  Who’s the disciplinarian, one or both?

8.  Other options – what is your plan if you are unable to conceive – adoption, medical options, etc.

For more topics to discuss and further information on the ones listed above…please visit:

Charlsey Mahle


Auburn University

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing!

December 16, 2009

Look familiar?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of your family’s dispute – trying desperately to calm the storm on both sides of an argument?  Whether your answer is yes or no, you can take comfort in the fact that people across all generations, classes and races have some type of recurring conflict in their family; and they often flare up – especially during the holidays.  Failed relationships, troubled family members, death, tough financial times and a myriad of other issues all add to a family’s stress level and inability to maintain healthy relationships.  Unfortunately this leads to arguments, disagreements and sometimes not communicating at all.  When these types of things happen in my family, I’m often tempted to try to solve the issue or run to comfort people on one or both sides of the issue.  What I didn’t know for a long time is that this isn’t the best solution!  Instead of always trying to solve the issue for the dueling pair – I should step back and let them work it out.  By stepping into the argument, I have triangulated myself into the problem.  And, instead of forcing those two to come to an agreement or an agreement to disagree, I have enabled them to let me work it out – never forcing them to develop the skill of arguing effectively.  The Healthy Marriage Handbook offers several tips that are essential  for arguing effectively with spouses – but if you think about it these tips really apply to any relationship argument – especially your family.  Here are a few that I think are important:

1) Describe your feelings using “I” instead of starting with “you….”.

2)  Focus on the specific and current behavior , and don’t label the person in a bad way.

3)  Use kind words and a kind tone of voice.

4)  Don’t keep things inside until you feel filled up and then dump everything out at once.

5)  Don’t fight dirty, i.e. physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive.

6) Don’t give the silent treatment.

7) Chill out!  If your “stress response” has kicked in, it’s only going to get worse.  Take a break, disengage, and re-visit the issue when you can think clearly and act reasonably.

Perhaps next time instead of trying to solve the problem, I can teach the arguers (after the argument) how to argue more effectively and keep the health of the relationship in mind.

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing to all!!

Charlsey Mahle

GRA, Auburn University

“Is It Really THAT Serious???”

October 20, 2009

I just started graduate school (if 2 months classifies as “just”) and I’m thrilled. I find myself surrounded by intelligent people but when I sit back and look around (like I often do), I get worried. Some of my peers are so stressed out just watching them gets my heart thumping. Then I ask myself, “is it just me or are things just not that serious???”

Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of things seriously. For examples: my next meal, my future, and my shoes. However, I don’t take some things like school so seriously that when it comes time to worry about life’s necessities, I have no energy left. Listen, I understand that graduate school is really important and can be  REALLY stressful and I know the immense pleasure doing well at work can give a person. Call me crazy but I think having great relationships (family, friends, and “more than friends” included) and being healthy are things that could trump those any day of the week.

I’m not crazy. Research has shown that increased and sustained levels of stress can deteriorate your health (I don’t know about you but I want to live for a while… like to see my grandchildren). People who experience more stress or anxiety tend to be more susceptible to infections and may have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. For us normies, this means stressing out or getting worked up over too many things could have us getting sick more often and spending more time/money on hospitals and pharmacies. It’s a recession people. This also means that fussing could help our heart go kaput. I’m exaggerating… but I wouldn’t risk it.

Now to the main event: relationships. What does stressing out about school and work have to do with the people at home? Research has been very intuitive about this. I mean, think about it — if you are feeling stressed, overworked, or stretched to your limit, what kind of energy would you be giving off to others? Our poor loved ones get us at the end of our busy days and have to hear us snipe about this and that. What about those days when you displace your emotions? Meaning, you’re angry about all the work your boss gave you to do, then you come home and yell at your partner/children/mom for nothing at all! All this can not be helping your relationships. In fact, you are probably pushing the ones you care about away!

Now, I wouldn’t say all this without giving you a way to get some stress relief. Here are a couple of links to a great site run by my alma mater, UT Austin (Hook ‘Em!):

The first has great tips on stress management and more resources on this topic. This site is a little specific to the Austin area, so find resources near you! The second allows you to listen to audio relaxation tracks. This way you can relax anywhere then give off positive energy to your oh-so-important relationships!

So, the take-home message: the next time you find your shoulders by your ears and your heart racing or you feel panicky and weighed-down by school or work ask yourself: “is it really that serious???” Chances are it’s not serious enough to risk your health or having healthy relationships.

Christiana Datubo-Brown, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Parent Involvement Matters

September 16, 2009

As an intern therapist, I experienced the neatest thing with several of my consumers after this Labor Day weekend. Many came so excited to talk about the outings they did with either their moms, dads, grandparents, or siblings. It seemed that there was a similar theme for all of them: getting to spend quality time and have fun with family. While these outings were not financially burdensome –  for example some of the outings included going to the park, going to the river, going to a football game, etc. – these children were so happy about the fun times they had with the family member(s). This got me to thinking about how much parental or family involvement means to children, and also about the little things parents can do to be involved in their children’s lives.

Related to this thought, basic research suggests that there may also be a link between couple relationship quality/interactions and parental involvement. Specifically, marital/couple conflict has been linked to several negative parenting behaviors, such as harsh discipline, lack of parental involvement, and parent-child conflict. On the other hand, positive marital/couple relationships can spillover and positively affect the quality, behaviors, and involvement of the parent-child relationship. Therefore, educational efforts to strengthen the couple relationship may positively affect parenting behaviors and involvement and in turn, can promote child well-being.

Alexa Calligas

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

A Family That Rides Together

September 16, 2009

I’m sure most of you have heard the following statement “A family that prays together, stays together.”  Well, my family has a different take on this. We like to say, “A family that rides together stays together.” Yes, I understand this statement does not rhyme, but that’s just the way we roll.

There are always ways to bring a family closer. One way is to have something in common and/or something that all individuals can take part in and get excited about. Our excitement began when my brother joined the Auburn Flyers Collegiate Cycling team. We (as a family) attended all the cycling races, including taking a family vacation to Kansas for the National Collegiate race. After experiencing such a major event together, my parents and I started thinking about the prospect of getting our own bikes.

I purchased my first road bike with the help of my parents. Soon after, both of my parents purchased their own road bike. This is when the bonding first started. My dad became my “coach” for future bike races. We spent the weekends together riding and training. This was the first time that my dad and I had anything in common. When I started racing with my brother, the entire family would spend the whole weekend at our races. And every spring when the Tour De France comes on, we all gather around the TV to see how Lance Armstrong is doing.

For any relationship to thrive and develop, there are several core components. The National Extension Relationship and Marriage Educational Network, NERMEN, lists seven key patterns of thinking and behaviors associated with healthy, stable couple relationships and marriage. These have become known as the NERMEN Core Components of a Healthy Relationship and Marriage. Care for Self is one of these concepts. It focuses on maintaining physical, psychological, and sexual health and wellness as an individual. Exercise is such an important element in our daily lives. It affects all aspects of our lives in a positive way. Also, as I have shown, it can bring family togetherness.

My family is known as the cycling family. We are always wearing our Auburn jerseys and riding proudly side by side. Even my 54-year-old mother puts on her spandex and jumps on her bike for 50-mile rides. It is something that our entire family can do together and enjoy together. We are healthy, happy, and closer than ever.

What have you done with your family lately? Have you made an effort to spend time together?

Rachel Dawkins, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiativve


December 24, 2008


For the second year in my life, I am sharing a combined Christmas with my biological family and my stepfamily. My father and my stepmother are both widowed, both have five children (four of whom, on either side, are married), and a growing brood of grandchildren. All told, there are 37 of us celebrating the holidays together, which theoretically is a recipe for headaches, chaos, divisive differences, and hard feelings. I am happy to say, however, that so far things have been relatively harmonious (with a family this size, chaos was inescapable, but otherwise we’re happy). Like many of you, I have also had miserable holidays that I’d just as soon forget. The difference, I think, comes from five virtues that, if applied, can make this time of year a delight instead of a chore.

  1. Acceptance– Peace at home requires genuinely welcoming all family members (and guests), regardless of political, theological, or lifestyle differences. In fact, if you can take it one step further and find a way to respect others’ choices and see the value in them, so much the better. I have a cousin who broke off from our family’s shared religion. He married someone of a different faith, and experience with others in similar situations led him to expect his family to ostracize them. To the contrary, his parents and siblings have been certain to make him, his wife, and his beliefs welcome in their home, and they’ve not had to compromise their beliefs in doing so. What could have been a divisive factor has instead turned into a real-life application of love and acceptance that has brought the family even closer together.
  2. Charity– The holidays, for many, are a time of great joy. For others, they are a time of despair. Taking time to connect with those who are lonely or otherwise suffering (even and especially within your own family) spreads holiday cheer not just to them, but to you as well.
  3. Pull Your Weight– Help with the decorations. Offer to do the dishes after a family meal or take out the trash. If something is needed at the store, offer to be the one who braves the winter cold to get it. Helpfulness not only lightens the overall stress at home, it also increases feelings of warm regard. Best of all, a helpful attitude is often contagious!
  4. Embrace the traditions– Even the things that made you roll your eyes when you were younger can become cherished parts of your holidays, if not for the events themselves, then for the sense of unity they can provide. Short on traditions? It’s never too late to start new ones. Go see the lights. Watch a holiday movie. Exchange gifts, Secret Santa style. Read the classic holiday stories. Make gingerbread houses. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Be flexible– Some traditions, however, are outgrown or replaced with new ones. Let it happen. Happy families successfully balance stability with change. This applies to factors other than traditions, as well. Perhaps your family has picked up new members through marriage or adoption, or lost some through divorce or death. You may have stepsiblings or stepparents who bring with them their own ways of doing things. That’s just fine. You may have to adapt; just keep in mind that families come in many types and forms. Perhaps some family members can’t make it back this year. Roll with the punches, and make the best out of your situation. Being able to “go with the flow” could spare you unnecessary hard feelings.

From all of us at ACHMI, Happy Holidays!

Jonathan Decker, Master’s student, Marriage and Family Therapy

From Bah Humbug to Happy Holidays

December 4, 2008

Most of my friends would not describe me as the person who eagerly awaits the holiday season. On the contrary, they know that in the past, I have really dreaded the holidays due to the many transitions that my family has endured over the past several years. My family, like so many others, has experienced multiple divorces, deaths, and other family transitions that dull the cheerful glow of the holiday season. I know I am not the only one who has wished to sleep through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then, when we wake up, it’s January.

However, we all know this is not possible.

Thanksgiving this past week was the official kick off of the holiday season. Much to my surprise, I found myself looking forward to Thanksgiving and seeing my family. Now that Thanksgiving has passed and time is on the super speedway towards Christmas, I have found that I am anticipating this holiday as well. Inquiring minds may want to know what has accounted for this change in perspective regarding my “bah humbug” attitude towards Christmas.

I used to spend my time mourning over times passed and wishing for things to go back to how they used to be. I can imagine that there are millions of people who are currently struggling with this same problem. However, I recently realized that I will never be satisfied if I continue to long for times that have passed because it is simply not possible to go back and relive the “good ole days.” I have learned to appreciate the people who are in my life who really love me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved and appreciated them but I have developed a new sense of gratefulness for my family in realizing that I must appreciate them now.

Therefore, I encourage you to be appreciative of the family that you have right now instead of focusing on the one that once was. We only get one family, so let’s enjoy them (with all of their craziness and flaws) to the fullest. Happy Holidays!

Ashley Anders, M.S., Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Real Housewives of Auburn

December 4, 2008

One of my guilty pleasures this television season is Real Housewives of Atlanta. Each Tuesday evening, we get a glimpse of the “fabulous” lives of five women who consider themselves to be among Atlanta’s wealthiest socialites. There’s Kim, who purchased a Cadillac Escalade, in cash. DeShawn hired a full-time staff of 6, including a nanny, governess, estate manager, and personal chef, to handle various duties around her home. Sheree threw herself an over-the-top 40th birthday bash, replete with a $1,200 cake in the shape of her favorite Louis Vuitton purse. Lisa took pride in selling multi-million dollar homes to athletes, music producers, and other wealthy people. And there was NeNe, who spared no expense in ensuring that she would be the hottest person at whatever social event she attended. While I can name many of the extravagant things they did, I can’t say that I ever saw them do a lot with their children. I never saw them picking their children up from school. I never saw them at a school play or taking their child to dance classes. I never saw these ladies tuck their kids in at night or cheer for them on the sidelines. Have we become a society that is so entrenched in wearing the latest fashions, buying the biggest bling, or driving the hottest cars that our children fall by the wayside and become merely another notch on our accomplishment belt?

But while that was taking place on Bravo, a much better reality show was playing out in front of my very eyes every Wednesday and Thursday night…the Real Housewives of Auburn. I saw women dressed in sweats and scrubs bring their daughters to soccer practice and games each week. I saw women drive back and forth between soccer practice with their 10 year old and swim lessons for their 15 year old. We rooted for each other’s child whenever they scored a goal, blocked a goal, or just got an opportunity to kick the ball. We shared stories about how long the girls had been involved in extra-curricular activities, how we handled grades, differences in siblings, and the importance of being involved in our children’s lives. While it’s apparent that we weren’t rolling in the dough like the Atlanta housewives, we did have one thing in common—we were all committed to ensuring that our children had as many opportunities as we could give them to maximize their potential. Decades of research has linked parental involvement with higher grades and test scores, fewer instances of violent behavior, decreased use of drugs and alcohol, and increased motivation and self-esteem. As a single mom, it is not always easy to balance work and family. I have seen many a day when my daughter asked me to attend an event and despite how tired I was, or how many other things were going on, I made sure that if it wasn’t absolutely essential for me to be elsewhere, I was there to support my daughter. I have attended plays, soccer games, classroom presentations, and concerts. I have shown up at every parent-teacher conference, I have volunteered to read to my daughter’s class, and I even manned a booth at the annual Spring Fling, all to ensure that I am an active participant in my child’s life. For me and the other 7 women who gathered each Wednesday and Thursday night, the focus is on our children, not us.

So perhaps throwing extravagant social events or being able to keep up with the Jones’ is someone else’s reality, but it isn’t mine.

Eugenia Parrett, M.S.

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Finding balance: Tip the Scales in Your Favor

October 30, 2008

As a new graduate student, I find that although I still have the same 24 hours in each day I’ve always had, time seems to run out much faster than it ever did before. By the time I meet the basic daily requirements of class, studying, writing papers, and work, it seems like the day is over. Things like relaxation time, hobbies, relationships, even eating and sleeping (ok, sometimes showering) tend to fall to the bottom of the to-do list.

While we all live very different lives and our daily routines might look nothing alike, the universal search for balance unites us all. From the college student to the stay-at-home mom, we have to prioritize and sacrifice in order to meet all the demands on our time. We live in a fast-paced society that can easily trap us into neglecting our emotional, spiritual, intellectual, or other needs that can too easily fall through the cracks. Perhaps we are even deceived into thinking such needs are unimportant; we might feel guilty for wanting to devote our time to those things when we could be working more hours, studying more hours, keeping the house clean, balancing the checkbook, etc. However, a life in balance gives a peace of mind that allows us to achieve authentic happiness.

When there is an imbalance in the body, illness and disease occurs. Likewise, a lack of balance in our lives can be like a cancer that erodes our happiness and quality of life. This can often manifest itself in our families and relationships, because when we neglect ourselves we are doing our loved ones a disservice. We are unable to give them the best of ourselves. There are a few easy concepts we can use to start achieving a more balanced life, today.

First, learn when to say no. There will always be an endless supply of demands on your time, and many of them good and worthy causes. However, the point of finding balance is to give all the areas of your life the attention they need, and that means not being able to accept every request you may receive. Second, allow yourself to ask for help and rely on your network of support when needed.Third, cut out or limit things that are taking up your time but not significantly contributing to your needs or allowing you to more efficiently complete tasks. Do you really need to spend a full hour on facebook/ myspace/ your sister’s blog? Fourth, start small. Setting aside small chunks of time is better than no time at all for something that’s important to you. When beginning a task, be mindful and stay in the present, giving it your all rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by other tasks. It might seem like watching t.v. and writing a paper at the same time is a good way to mix business and pleasure, but you likely aren’t devoting enough attention to either activity to be worth the time you’re putting into it. The same goes for relationships– when you’re spending time with your significant other, remember to make it quality time and specifically focus on giving them your full attention whenever possible. Everyone wants to feel important to their loved ones.

Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Let us remember as we are constantly moving through life to strive to find harmony and balance in ourselves and in turn, discover we are able to devote our best selves to our significant others, families, and friends for healthier, more satisfying relationships.

Kristy Malone, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative