Category Archives: Family

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety at Christmas

With COVID cases rising yet again, families are again needing to evaluate whether to spend the holidays with family. Even if plans are set, there may be tension in the air as news, politics, and opinions also rise with the rate of infection. This means that children listening in may experience more anxiety in the coming days. Here’s an Op Ed piece I contributed for the American Bible Society and published in the Christian Post: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety During the Holidays.

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Filed under Family, Uncategorized

Mistakes we make when responding to minor false accusations

Picture this. You are a manager. One of your subordinates, John, accuses you of playing favorites–giving more opportunities for development and promotion to one person and intentionally ignoring the one making the accusation. You absolutely believe the accusation is baseless due to a misunderstanding of workflow and skill sets.

What would be your usual response? Explain? Pull the, “I’m the authority here, I do what I think is right” card? Silence and an eye roll? I imagine most of us choose the explain option. If feels right that we should clarify the misunderstanding.

Why is explaining wrong?

Let me clarify. Explaining isn’t necessarily a sin (though it could be). Surprisingly it rarely helps the situation when offered first. Why is this?

  1. Pointing out the facts as you see them almost always sounds like a defense
  2. Defenses (AKA explanations) rarely address the root concern of the other leaving them feeling unheard

A better way

Contrary to our natural tendency to defend against an attack, the best strategy is to validate the concerns of the other. If the employee is concerned they are getting passed over (and you can imagine they have been feeling this for a long while when they finally speak it to you), your explanation of the facts does NOTHING to address their concerns. A loving, Spirit-empowered response will take to heart their fears. “John, I bet you’ve been feeling this for some time. It is important to me that I hear and understand what you are feeling. I do not want you having the impression that you are not valued. I would be happy to explain why Lisa got the new position and how I see your future here. Can we set a time to talk about this tomorrow?”

One of the reasons we don’t validate others first is that we fear our own view of the facts will be swallowed up in the opinions of others. In addition we fear that validation will be heard as agreement. Be wary of these feelings. In fact, when you give the accuser the chance to state their concerns/case first (and do so in a way that they feel heard), your own views are much more likely to be heard.

Now, if only I could employ this technique with better success (on my part) with my teenaged boys! If you don’t know already, such a simple technique of validation requires a massive dose of humility and self-sacrificial love. You cannot do this in your own strength!


Filed under christian counseling, conflicts, Family, Relationships, Uncategorized

Still Face Experiment: Nonverbal communication and its absence?

I’m attending a trauma education seminar today where Dr. Sandra Bloom is teaching. Dr. Bloom has developed the Sanctuary Model of trauma recovery and care. There have been a number of very helpful ideas discussed and I hope to get them out to you in due course. However, I want to share with you all this interesting and short YouTube video (link here:

Watch it and let me know your reaction to the still face experiment. What do you notice the baby trying to do?


Filed under counseling science, Family, parenting

If Sixth Graders Ruled the World…

…the world would be run by girls.

Such was the observation of my wife after attending our son’s graduation from elementary school and the 6th grade. I concur. 80% of the awards and recognition for leadership went to girls. Actually, to about 30% of the girls. Mind you, I am not the least bothered by this. It was great to see these young women so active in the life of their school and community.

However, I do have a question: Will their leadership last?

There seems to be a pattern of girls falling back from their high performance in athletics and academia (my general impression and surely not always accurate). Why would there be such a change? Social pressure to focus on looks and boys? Boys catching up development-wise and creating more competition? Or, are we seeing a change in culture that will continue? I’m hoping for this last question to be true. When my wife was in school, there were few opportunities for girls to excel in sports. That has changed. A goodly number of the girls mentioned aspirations of being a professional athlete. When my mother was in school, I doubt many of her classmates aspired to be doctors and lawyers. These days, girls recognize that most professions are wide open to them. So, I hope we are seeing a continued culture change. I’m all for girls wanting to be married and to become mothers (all in DUE time) but I am also worried about how much pressure we place on them regarding looks and body image.

Can you and I do anything about the world of sixth grade girls? Well, let us all endeavor to encourage young women to focus on their intellectual pursuits and god-given callings. And let us cease giving support to those cultural entities (ads, TV, movies, print media, etc.) encouraging young women to equate value with looks.

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Filed under Cultural Anthropology, cultural apologetics, education, Family, parenting, Uncategorized

Learning to get good grades or just learning? Or both?

I’m a professor and I know it is all about learning. Who cares about the grades? Right? What matters is whether or not students comprehend the material and can use it in real life. In my world, I want counseling students to understand the nature of trauma, how to recognize it and respond well to it when evident in their clients. I don’t care if they get an A or a C as long as they are competent. And, I know that some students test poorly and yet are exceptional counselors.

Yeah right, grades DO matter

But ask students and parents of school-age children, and guess what–grades do matter. Good grades get better scholarships; get parents off your back. Good grades get better internships. Good grades make teachers think you are smarter. Good grades help you feel better about yourself. Wait…those last two…are they true? Yes, even if it shouldn’t be that way and probably worth another post at some other time.

Is there a relationship between good grades and learning?

But how close are getting good grades and learning? Can you get good grades and not really learn? How many readers aced a history or statistics test years ago but now couldn’t tell you the first thing about the subject? You can memorize, recite, and forget…and get good grades. So, we know that you can teach and study to the test (notice I didn’t say learn) without learning.

And yet, let me suggest one positive relationship between getting good grades and learning. The student who learns to get good grades (but hopefully isn’t obsessed or controlled by them) has learned to

  • Decipher what the teacher is looking for and to complete assignments as required
    • Learning: decoding, organization, self-assessment, predicting time/effort needed to complete tasks
  • Get the information needed to complete an assignment
    • Learning: speed reading, efficient categorization of material
  • Deliver the information needed in an appropriate format
    • Learning: concise communication, learning to differentiate between essential and non-essential material

The real reason I’m writing this post

Okay, the real reason I am writing this post is that I just helped my teenage son take a difficult, on-line quiz that covered an inordinate amount of material. He was allowed to complete the quiz while having the material still open. However, the amount of material he had to read and understand comprised overwhelmed his ability to remember what he learned and where he learned it. So, I taught him how to read the quiz question and then go back to the multiple e-documents and use the “find” button on his web browser to find the pertinent information he needed to answer the question.

Did I help my son learn or just to get a better grade on his assignment? If he chooses to not read the material in the future but just use the search functions, is that a failure to learn well or did he learn to become efficient in work?


Filed under education, Family, parenting

An Ode to a Grandfather

I’ve written a post for my seminary’s faculty blog that can be found here. It is about a man who functioned as a grandfather to me during my most formative years. Mr. Ballard died recently and so I wrote a few reflections.

If you go and read the post, you’ll get to see a picture of me during my last hunting trip with Mr. Ballard (and my father on the right). It was during Thanksgiving in either 1990 or 1991. You gotta love the mismatched clothes: a ski jacket, hunter red pants and flame orange to boot. The photo was taken on Terrible Mountain, just off Rte 100 near Okemo Mountain. This area had all that I love in New England woods: old logging trails, half-hidden stone walls from generations ago when the area was used for farming, and a burbling trout stream. Add to it the chance to have a fire to toast a sandwich and you have all you need for a peaceful day.

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Filed under Family, Random musings, Uncategorized

Things you like to do on vacation?

Drift Boat Fly Fishing on the Androscoggin Riv...

Image via Wikipedia

What do you do on vacation that really feels like it is what vacation is all about? Notice I’m not asking you about your fantasy but about what things you do as tradition on vacation that signal to you that you are not just doing life as usual?

For me, it includes several things…most of which are in Maine

1. A walk in the woods in Maine

2. A walk in the woods where I find some edible berries to pick

3. Doing something on water (ocean or lake or river)

This week we did all of the above. Walked and found berries (blueberries, raspberries). Canoed for 10 miles on the Androscoggin River without seeing another soul. And today we rode the Bailey Island cruise from Portland to Bailey Island.

A good vacation. Too bad my city kids don’t love it as much as I do. They worried that whales might tip the boat, that bears or moose might attack, that rapids might overturn us (nothing that would even rise to a class 1 rapid). Maybe it didn’t help when I said there were man-eating fish in the river.


Filed under Family, Uncategorized

Txts enhance a relationship?

Those who are close to me know that I don’t text. I don’t like to text. I’d rather talk to someone. But, having gotten my 13 year old his first cell phone so that we can find him…I’ve entered the world of texting.

I can see the many ways texting has hurt relationships. Imagine receiving a text that you are breaking up with a significant other. Or having a fight with texts. But I can now begin to see how texting makes connections where none would be. I’m in another state as I write this and have had several fun texts with my son back home. Things we would not have done, could not have done a few months ago.

I know I have to take the bad with the good with this form of technology. But, I’m enjoying the good right now.


Filed under Family