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Helpful Hints from The Harbor – All About “LOVE” Month

February is all about LOVE, so we met with some of our counselors to discuss healthy communication in relationships, how to handle teenage heartbreak, and to hear some date night tips for parents.

Waynette Smith and Family Center intern, Amber, have some great advice when it comes to healthy communication:

  • Healthy relationships in parenting start with communication. It is important to make time once or twice a week to communicate and make sure you are on the same page with parenting and managing your home. This way, you agree with how you are going to talk with your kids so that you can be most effective in parenting. This might look like sitting down after church together or sending a text message ahead of time of things you need to discuss.
  • Compromise in disagreements by each presenting your own personal point of view to find a middle ground. You can always agree to disagree but start with using “I” statements instead of “You” statements to prevent blaming. Keep a calm tone, be honest, don’t name-call the other person, and pay attention to non-verbals.
  • For parents with seriously ill children, make sure to keep a calendar around the house and consider color-coding it by family member so everyone knows expectations of what must be accomplished. Communicate about upcoming appointments, financial medical obligations you have for the month and talk openly about your child’s diagnosis to prevent their discomfort or guilt.

Counselor Sara Harbison took on the tough topic of teenage heartbreak. This might be a heartbreak from a relationship with a significant other or even a friendship. Here is what she had to say about heartbreak:

  • Heartbreak is a form of grief, so counselors can assist in developing healthy coping skills for reducing anxiety, depression and other symptoms common during heartbreak.
  • Writing out your thoughts and feelings can be very therapeutic. Basic self-care practices such as making sure you’re eating, taking care of your hygiene, drinking water and being kind to your mind and body are also important. Healthy distractions include: talking to friends, walking outside, listening to music, and just generally being around others.
  • During loss, it’s easy to lose sight of what brings you joy apart from the other person. Some days might be harder than others to find joy, but it’s okay to take it day by day and seek to find things you love and enjoy. During harder times, like a breakup, keeping a “joy” jar or journal to write down a small victory you had, something nice someone told you or something that made you smile can be a great visual reminder of the light during the dark.
  • It is so important for siblings of children with serious illnesses to remember that it’s okay to also go through really hard things. Loss, relationship strain, etc., are difficult experiences and your individual struggle with these things matters. Take time to prioritize your own mental health by reaching out to friends, family, counselors and mentors in times that are hard. Know that it’s okay to take care of yourself as well as being there for your sibling with a serious illness.

Counselor Jenny Tudisco has insight on how to make date night a priority, especially with a seriously ill child. Daylight savings starts in March, so that gives more light in your day to plan fun things with your spouse!

  • Parents should get away for date night as often as works for them – once a week is appropriate for some couples, while once a month is more realistic for others.
  • Having a child with a serious illness requires a significant amount of time, so sometimes you have to get creative to make your relationship a priority. Find a family member or friend that is willing to get trained on your child’s specific needs, so they can offer assistance as a sitter when you and your spouse need time alone. There are also some respite care services that provide child care, along with local resources and churches.
  • You don’t need to leave the house or pay for a babysitter, just pick a good movie and grab your favorite snacks to spend some time alone together. Your go-to board game might also provide an outlet for a fun date night. In addition, making a romantic dinner at home is a great idea. This might include adding candles, using your best dishware, playing music or adding anything that makes dinner at home more special.
  • Date nights are healthy for marriage because they keep your relationship a priority through staying connected!

Please contact cristal.cummings@childrensal.org about the counseling services for families of seriously ill children offered at The Harbor Family Center. We are here to serve you!