Doing Life Together

bullyJerry struggled with not wanting to go to school. His parents noticed how anxious he was and finally learned that a bully was making Jerry’s life miserable.

When Jerry reported this behavior to one of his teachers, the teacher downplayed the bullying and told Jerry to “just deal with it.”

Bullying is a known to negatively impact a child’s mental health. But would you be surprised to learn that bullying has a greater impact on some children than abuse?

What happens to kids who are bullied? It’s a question educators and parents need to know.

A longitudinal study of over 5000 English and American children provides some answers. The study concluded that being bullied by peers puts you at risk for mental health problems as adults. Those problems include depression, anxiety, suicidality or self-harm. The risk was higher for kids bullied, than for children who were maltreated by adults.

Child maltreatment was defined as physical, emotional maltreatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment resulting in potential or actual harm to a child. When you combine the mistreatment of a child by an adult with bullying by a peer, the combination also leads to adult mental health problems.

The American children who were bullied but not abused were five times more likely to suffer anxiety. The English children in that same category suffered more depression and self-harm as adults.

So while we need to keep preventing child abuse, programs to eliminate bullying need to remain front and center on the minds of educators and parents.


men women talkingRobert is at an  office party. He’s been working hard and wants to win over his colleagues and make a good impression. He’s wondering if there is anything he can do right now to win people over. Actually, there is, especially when it comes to his nonverbal behavior.

1) When Robert talks, he should nod his head. Nodding gets people to not only agree with you more, but also judge you as telling the truth. So get that head nodding but also…

2) Make eye contact, but not constant eye contact. Here, too much of a good thing can feel a little creepy. If you never take your eyes off the person when you are talking, they might feel you are being too aggressive. So break away that eye contact now and then. You will come across as more friendly and trustworthy.

3) Open your hand rather than point your finger when you want to direct someone or point to another person. An open hand conveys trust. Pointing is perceived as aggressive.

4) Look at your feet when you are talking to someone. Feet pointed toward the person conveys interest and listening. Feet pointed away is not a good sign. It’s like the person is mentally moving away (their feet have already turned to start walking) and is disinterested in what you are saying.

5) Is anyone making eye contact with you when they laugh? The person who looks at you when a group is laughing is probably feeling the closest to you. Pay attention to this sign as it signals trust and bonding.



argueFive years ago, there was no conflict. Renee and Jerry decided to have children. At the time, both felt it was best for Renee to stay home with the children while Jerry worked outside the home.

Recently, Renee was having a tough day, complaining about the children and feeling left out of adult life. In a moment of anger, Jerry said, “Why are you complaining about your day. You are at home with the kids. How hard can that be?”

Renee couldn’t believe what she heard and was deeply hurt. When Jerry saw Renee’s reaction, he was surprised. What was he missing here? Actually, a lot! Jerry and Renee started to fight.

1) Jerry wasn’t paying attention Renee’s needs and emotions. He didn’t know her inner world and how to respond to it. Just because she agreed to stay home didn’t mean the adjustment was easy.  A deeper issue was at work—the need to be validated for a job that doesn’t have immediate benefits and is often devalued in our culture. Renee had willingly given up a lucrative career because she believed being a full time mom was important. Instead of minimizing her struggles, Jerry needed to listen and validate them. Strategy 1: Stay attuned to your partner’s needs and validate them.

2) A one time agreement may have to be renegotiated as a couple lives out their decisions. Reality often looks different than an idea or plan. Flexibility is needed. Were there ways Renee could reconnect with other professional women upon occasion? Could the couple plan a regular night out to reconnect as husband and wife? Should Jerry and Renee do a regular check to see how this arrangement is going and decide if adjustments were needed? Strategy 2: Remain flexible to change and make adjustments along the way. 

3) Many homemaking tasks are menial and not exciting, but required when two people live together and create a family. The couple could approach some of those menial tasks together; get them done so they can have time to do fun things. When they share responsibilities and mutually support one another, this brings satisfaction. Strategy 3: Balance the workload in order to spend time together strengthening yourself as a couple.

4) Couples need to do “weather” checks. A weather check is asking the other person, on a regular basis, if things are cloudy, getting a little stormy, or maybe sunny. How are we doing today? Okay? Is there anything we need to talk about? Strategy 4: Show concern for each other’s well-being by regularly asking how the person is doing.

Relationships need constant attention and discussion in order to keep conflict at bay. Otherwise, problems build, explosions happen and no one is feeling the love. If you can add these 4 strategies to your relationship, conflict is less likely to happen.

neck painSusan’s leg injury was healed more than two months ago, so why is she still having chronic pain? Her family thinks it is all in her head, but is it? Her doctor can’t find a reason for the pain and questioned her about stress in her life. Susan admitted that she is going through a contentious divorce and work situation. She has little hope for her life to improve in the next year.

Pain is complex. It is both a sensory and an emotional experience, influenced by our thoughts and beliefs, stress and other social factors. Chronic stress and psychological issues can develop and exacerbate pain. If you are dealing with chronic pain, consider the mind-body connection.

1) Distraction. Pain demands attention. But when we focus on the pain, it worsens and amplifies. Distraction can be used to decrease pain intensity.

2) Check your thoughts. How we think about pain influences our experiences with it. If you believe you can mange the pain and cope with it, you will. Confidence improves functioning. If you believe your functioning depends on other people doing things, you will do worse than if you believe you have some control over the pain. And if you dwell on the pain and think catastrophic thoughts like, “I’ll never get better,” your pain will worsen. Your expectations about the pain can worsen or improve your functioning.

3) Fear and avoidance: The more you fear and avoid doing things because of the pain, the more the pain will worsen. Consequently, this reinforces avoidance. Fear can actually be more disabling than the pain itself. The fear of pain can also lead to depression and depression makes pain feel worse.

4) Anger: Anger from chronic pain is often unrecognized. When anger and hostility are present, they can reduce the body’s natural pain killers and increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. Work through that anger and release it to feel better.

5) Being passive: People who are passive in response to pain threats show greater distress and disability than people who attempt to solve problems.

The mind can exercise power over the body when we are dealing with chronic pain. One of the strongest predictors of work outcome for patients with pain is recovery expectations. So check your thoughts, emotions and behavior.

Could you be adding to the pain by not understanding the power of negative thoughts, expecting the worse, organizing your life around the pain due to fear and not addressing your emotions? If so, use this information to make changes in the way you think, behave and deal with your emotions.