Posts Tagged ‘adult children’

Becoming a Caregiver

Monday, August 20th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
My husband has recently been diagnosed with cancer and we are all in shock. What do you suggest to help our family–our adult children, their spouses, the grandchildren, and me–make the most of this difficult time and to help him to feel as positive and upbeat as possible?

First of all, every person facing life-threatening illness does so in his/her own time and way, and every family is different in the way it copes with illness and loss.

When my dear friend Kathleen died recently after a four-year battle with breast cancer, I reflected on how much I often tried to control her illness as well as her thoughts and feelings. I had good intentions but, possibly like you, I felt helpless in the face of her suffering.

Kathleen sometimes had to rebel against my good intentions. Just when I wanted her to talk about logistics, she would start fantasizing about a vacation. At other times, when I tried to cheer lead her, she wanted to share her grief about not seeing her teenaged son graduate from high school and college.

Kathleen’s feelings and needs changed quickly and often, as did mine. I learned that being a caregiver meant taking better care of myself or I became less than helpful. I learned to ask other people for help, not just for her but for my own emotional needs. I learned to honor my irritability, anger, frustration, and moodiness. I learned to respect Kathleen’s unique coping strategies. I learned that I often couldn’t elevate her mood or infuse her with courage; I could only be present and make it safe for her to express exactly what she felt and needed. I tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to let that be enough.

I hope that my lessons with Kathleen are useful for you and your loved ones. I wish you all manner of grace on this journey.

Jane’s Coaching and Training

For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.

To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential and improve their productivity and work relationships. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and often co-facilitates with industry-specific leaders who have chosen to mentor the next generation.

Contact Jane directly at Jane@janestraus.com to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit StopEnduring.com for more information and testimonials.

Jane Straus is also the author of the popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! See her TV interviews, read her articles, and order the book by visiting StopEnduring.com.

When You Don’t Have the Hallmark Card Mother

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I admit it: I’m a people watcher, especially at the card racks before holidays such as Mother’s Day. I have watched people read every card diligently, scrunching their faces or shaking their heads from side to side, only to walk away cardless and, I’m sure, frustrated. Not every mother/adult child relationship can be expressed with flowery poetry or gushing accolades. If this is true for you, how do you handle Mother’s Day?

First, make a deal with yourself not to send false sentiments or you’re likely to build resentment, not ease it. If anything, it may be that Mother’s Day is a time for you to grieve what you never had.

If your mother was not the kind to bake cookies, attend PTA meetings, or tuck you in at night with a kiss on the forehead, that’s a loss of what never was. If your mom was on the Mommy Dearest side of reality—angry, perhaps addicted, or emotionally unavailable—then you have a right to grieve for the nurturing you deserved but didn’t get. The key is to not get locked into feeling guilty for what you can’t feel.

Maybe what you really need is a chance to forgive rather than conjure up gratitude out of thin air. Forgiveness is a gift we owe ourselves. Most of us just hope it will come to us, that we’ll wake up in the morning and there it is—instant, magical relief from resentment. But forgiveness takes conscious effort.

The first step in forgiving your mother or anyone is to acknowledge fully the wrongs that have been done to you. If you don’t make an honest inventory—if you minimize the hurtful behaviors—you are likely to feel stuck in resentment, bitterness, and avoidance.

The second step is to give yourself compassion for the effects these actions and behaviors have had on you. Give yourself what I call in my book, Enough Is Enough!, a pity party. A pity party is where you give people who care about you a chance to let you cry, sulk, pout, or whine for 30 minutes. They are not to judge you or try to fix your relationship with your mother. They are with you just to mirror compassion back to you. If anyone else in the group also needs a pity party about their relationship with their mother, they can take a turn too.

By the time you are done with your pity party, you are likely to feel lighter. That’s the magic of forgiveness work. I see it in my life coaching practice all the time: A client comes in angry or hurt by someone’s actions or words and stuffs it with self-admonitions like, “Oh, I shouldn’t complain. Other people have it a lot worse.” This line of thinking leads to self-abandonment, not self-care, resentment and regret, not forgiveness and compassion. Once someone gives herself permission to express the resentment and underlying hurt, they feel relieved and freer.

So a few days before Mother’s Day, practice true forgiveness. Acknowledge whatever wrongs were done to you by your mom. Don’t make excuses for her. Just feel the sadness for yourself.

Do you need to tell her you forgive her? It depends. If you mother has never admitted to any hurtful behaviors, then she may just get defensive or hurtful. But if your mom has admitted to being less than perfect, then letting her know you care enough to forgive her might be the best Mother’s Day gift you could possibly give her and yourself. Maybe Hallmark has a card that says just that. If not, you can always create one on the computer.

Jane Straus is a personal life coach and the author of the popular and insightful book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. Visit her web site, www.janestraus.com to read excerpts from her book, see clips from her seminars and TV interviews, read her magazine articles and blogs, or to schedule a session with her.

Anger, the Time Machine

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

For those of us who anger quickly, the emotion seems to well up fast and furiously, activated by something just said or done that is hurtful or offensive. However, if we had the ability to play out every scene in slow motion, we might notice something interesting: Just before we feel the anger, we have a thought. That thought sounds something like, “This situation is familiar. I didn’t like it before. I won’t like it now. I’d better protect myself.”

In other words, the present upset is often a trigger of a long-forgotten situation, without our even being aware of it. If we pay more attention to the thought that triggers us, our anger will lose its power to whisk us back to the past so instantaneously.

If we pay attention to our anger instead of shunning it, or shaming ourselves for it, or stuffing it out of fear, we will more easily remember those long-ago events that taught us to protect ourselves with anger. When we remember and offer ourselves compassion for what we felt back then, we no longer need to put on the armor and get out the ammunition now. This is how anger becomes our ally and begins to serve as a healing force.

So, next time you feel that flash of anger, imagine for a moment that, like a time machine, your anger is carrying you swiftly back to your past. Ask yourself what this present trigger reminds you of. Even if the memory is vague, trust it. Then give yourself compassion for whatever hurt or humiliation remains from back then.

The trick is to give yourself compassion before you lose your temper. In fact, make a commitment to yourself that the moment anger arises, you will offer yourself compassion. This way, you don’t need a reason to justify the anger or your compassion. Anger will lose its power as compassion works its magic.

Jane Straus is a life coach, keynote speaker, media guest, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. Visit www.janestraus.com to read her articles, view her TV interviews and seminars, buy the book, or hire her as your personal coach.

Protecting a Child from Family Members

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
My mother and I have not spoken for several years. I have no desire to reestablish a relationship with her, but I recently had a daughter of my own (she’s 3 months old) and I don’t think it’s fair to her to not know one of her grandparents. (She does spend time with my father.) I have legitimate concerns for the well being of my daughter spending time alone with my mom and stepfather, but feel I should give her the opportunity to establish a good relationship with them if it is possible. Should I wait until she’s older? How long is that?

It is time to transition from being your mother’s daughter to being your daughter’s mother. If you choose your mother over your daughter, would you perhaps be reenacting whatever betrayal you suffered? If you have legitimate concerns, why would you consider putting your daughter at risk in exchange for the hope that something won’t happen?

It sounds as though you haven’t really fully acknowledged the severity of whatever occurred that caused you to sever your relationship with your mother. In my experience, children don’t break off a relationship with a parent unless they have strong reason to do so. In Enough Is Enough, I address the importance of acknowledging the wrongs that were done to us so that we don’t re-create the same situation for our children and so that we can forgive at a deeper level.

You say you have no desire to reestablish a relationship with your mother. If that is the case, then let it go for now. Or see if you and your mother can work on your relationship with professional help. But do not use your daughter as a “peace offering.” If you want your daughter to have contact with her grandparents, be there with her. Don’t put a time limit on this arrangement. You are responsible for your daughter’s safety and your loyalty belongs with her, not with your mother.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Healing Your Shame

Friday, December 1st, 2006
 
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Dear Jane,
What is the difference between guilt and shame?

It’s invaluable to discern the difference between guilt and shame so that we can respond appropriately in situations and can ask others to respond to us appropriately and fairly also. It’s also vital that we know whether we are feeling bad because of something we have done or because we have simply gotten into the habit of feeling bad.

Guilt is something our conscience compels us to feel when we have acted in a way that is not in alignment with our own moral compass. If we believe in being honest and we lie, we will feel guilty (even if we justify it as a “white lie” to ourselves or others). If we believe in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others…,” we will feel guilty if we treat someone disrespectfully or unfairly. In guilt, we feel bad about what we have done, not who we are. We are able to distinguish between the goodness of who we fundamentally are and the mistake we have made that requires correction/amends/asking forgiveness.

Shame is a different experience. When we feel shame, it is not for what we have done, not for a particular behavior, but for who we are. When in shame, we want to hide; we feel that we don’t deserve love or respect. Shame is often a pervasive experience that we don’t recognize within ourselves. Shame can feel quite “normal.”

When we feel ashamed, we emit a certain aura/vibe/energy. Others who pick up on this energy may misinterpret it and assume that we have behaved badly, causing them to overreact or for us to believe we deserve excessive punishment. We may not recognize the ways we carry and show our shame and wonder why others are so hard on us. This is how others mirror our beliefs about ourselves and why it’s so important to heal our shame.

Shame can cause us to continue to act in ways that lead us to feeling guilty. So guilt and shame are part of a vicious cycle. How can we heal our shame?

1. The first step in breaking the cycle is learning to discern between guilt and shame. The following are the chief symptoms of shame. If you can identify with even one of these points, you are likely to be living in shame.
• Comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves always falling short
• Embarrassment when we receive compliments
• A general sense of unworthiness
• Distrust that others truly like us or respect us—“waiting for the other shoe to drop” in every relationship
• Accepting excessive blame—more than a situation warrants
• Continually behaving in ways that go against our own standards of behavior
• Feeling bad about certain thoughts, even when we have no intention of acting on these thoughts

2. The second step is to look at your recent “wrongs” objectively. What triggered those behaviors? What did you do about rectifying your actions? Did you over-apologize? Did you allow someone to verbally or physically punish you for your behavior? If you overcompensated in any way, then you are carrying shame, not just guilt, and you are doing yourself harm.

3. The third step is to retrace your path to where the shame started. Often, shame starts in childhood when a trusted adult shames us for something outside of our control: our sexuality, our intelligence, the way we spoke or dressed, a behavior we didn’t know wasn’t okay. Children soak up shame easily.

4. See the past with your adult eyes. Would you want to shame a child for what you feel shameful about? Let the child within you know that it was not his/hers to carry and that you release him/her from the shame now.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Ten Ways to Enjoy Your Holiday Season More

Monday, November 20th, 2006
 
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The holidays can be a mix of renewing connections and being reminded of old wounds. If you are approaching the season with both excitement and dread, keep these pointers in mind. They will help ensure that you leave family gatherings with the kind of memories you want to recall.

*Talk to yourself before a family gathering

Remind yourself that you are inherently worthy of respect and kindness and that you don’t need to prove yourself at this time of year. Promise yourself that if you slip into defending yourself, your mate, your children, your job, or your appearance with those you have a history of trying to prove yourself to, you will stop as soon as you notice you are being goaded. You can even say out loud, “I don’t want to spend my time or energy defending myself or others. Let’s find a way to talk more productively (or kindly).”

*Keep reminders close at hand of how you are valued
During the other 50 weeks a year, you are often appreciated by those in your daily life. If you are celebrating away from home, bring emails, notes, or letters that contain compliments or loving sentiments, pictures of those who are your support system, and a book that lifts you spiritually and helps you stay above the fray.

*Write a new affirmation every day and repeat it constantly
An affirmation is a positive thought you choose to immerse into your consciousness for a desired result. An example might be, “I appreciate and acknowledge my own strengths.” Or a good one might be, “I now give to myself what I think I need from others.” This could include understanding, compassion, respect, or joy.

*Don’t talk behind others’ backs
Gossip feeds upon itself. If you don’t want it done to you, don’t participate in it. This commitment will help you feel self-respect when you look in the mirror.

*Don’t use the holidays as a time to try to heal past hurts

Being around family can trigger old wounds. But too many people, too little time, too much alcohol, and too much pressure are ingredients for disaster, not mending relationships. If you are harboring resentments, talk about them ahead of time or after the holidays are over. Don’t get caught up in the moment and let loose. It will just make next year’s holiday time that much harder.

*Use win/win communications
You don’t have to stoop to anyone else’s level. If someone in your family behaves badly, try not to name call but promise yourself you will stand up for yourself and tell them how you feel about their behavior.

*Set limits about what’s acceptable for yourself in advance
What are some likely uncomfortable or painful scenarios you will be facing? You don’t have to cross your fingers that nothing will happen, especially if fighting or belittling has been one of your family’s holiday traditions. Decide in advance how you will handle these situations and at what point you will respond rather than ignore, take a break rather than endure, or even walk away.

*Take some time for yourself
We all need to regroup and get centered again. Most of us aren’t accustomed to being surrounded by company 24/7 and our spirits need a break. Go for a walk or drive, read a book, take a nap, or do an errand BY YOURSELF. Take in your surroundings in more detail. While you are alone, don’t rehash past conversations. Do an affirmation instead.

*Shop from your heart
Let go of trying to “balance the books,” figuring out what to get others according to criteria such as what they got you last year or how much they spent. Let your heart find the perfect gift that reflects their specialness without putting you into the endurance of deepening debt.

*Be generous with what matters
Offering compliments, listening well, giving of your time, helping with chores—all of your efforts will make you not only a welcome member of your group but will help you to keep your heart open.

No one can guarantee that this holiday will be the best one ever. But you can decide to stop enduring and make this season your lead-in to a new, extraordinary year.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Getting Over Your Anger and Rage

Monday, September 18th, 2006
 
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Dear Jane,
How do I know if my anger is over the top or if it’s justified? Sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode! I know that other people are afraid of me—especially my kids. Sometimes, I’m afraid of myself so I can’t blame them.

First of all, we have probably all experienced rage, whether it’s in the form of being so mad we can’t see straight, having a murderous fantasy, or being afraid we will just “go crazy” if we let out the anger. The distinction between rage-aholism and feeling enraged is not so much the internal experience as the external behaviors. In other words, there is a difference between feeling rage and raging.

Here’s how you can know if your anger is over the top or if it is simply one of the many emotions in your repertoire:

1. Has your anger gotten you in trouble at work, in your close relationships, or with the law?
2. Do you often need to apologize for your out-of-control behaviors in order to get back in the good graces of others?
3. Do you make promises to control your temper and then find yourself unable to keep these promises?
4. Do you feel a momentary rush of power when others are afraid of you?
5. Are you afraid that you’re a ticking time bomb?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may already realize that you have anger issues that need to be dealt with. You are not alone!

The best way to start managing your anger successfully is to stop blaming anyone else for blowing up at them. If you can do this, you are on the road to recovery. As long as you blame, you will feel powerless. And feeling powerless can actually fuel rage. You do have the power to manage your feelings. In fact, you’re the only one who has that power. Don’t abdicate it.

Secondly, anger is a secondary emotion. Underneath anger you will find that you really feel fear, hurt, and/or guilt. So practice checking in with yourself when you’re spitting mad. What were you feeling before you got to that point? It is much easier to handle these feelings than to try to manage your rage once you’ve reached your tipping point.

Thirdly, anger and rage can be coping strategies learned in childhood. If you were humiliated or abused, you may harbor vast amounts of rage. As I write about in Enough Is Enough!, compassion is key. Give yourself plenty of compassion for how you were treated as a child. Don’t minimize the abuse or the effects on your life today. The less denial you hold, the less rage you will also hold. You might consider professional help to release your pent-up feelings safely and supportively. Then recognize that coping strategies may help you survive but they don’t help you thrive. Coping strategies are remnants from when you had no other choices. But they are also immature and therefore not very handy now.

Fourthly, remember that all attempts to thrive require the courage to drop our survival strategies. Even if you don’t yet handle every situation with equanimity, give yourself credit where credit is due. And apologize when you err. We often have to stumble before we become graceful with new behaviors.

Finally, set your sights high. Think of someone whose temperament you admire. Let yourself aspire to be more like them. How do they behave? You will probably notice that they are less defensive and reactive. They may take criticism without acting as though they have any less self-esteem. They may be assertive rather than aggressive. They may have a sense of humor that defuses tension. Whatever it is that you admire about how they handle themselves, practice that behavior. Walk the walk and talk the talk until it becomes more comfortable. Sooner than you might dare imagine, you will identify yourself with this new way of behaving. The goal is to become a person you admire. Or as one bumper sticker says, “Become the person your dog thinks you are.”

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.