Can spirituality promote a healthier physical life for your family? Recent medical studies indicate that spiritual people are less prone to self-destructive behaviors (suicide, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse, for example), and have less stress and a greater total life satisfaction.
Much of the research linking spiritual and physical health has involved elderly patients; however, the data offer a glimpse into a possible tie between a spiritual life and good health for people of all ages.
Although spirituality has been shown to reduce depression, improve blood pressure, and boost the immune system, religious beliefs should not interfere with the medical care kids receive.
So what exactly is spirituality and how can it enhance your family’s health?
Spirituality and Physical Health
Doctors and scientists once avoided the study of spirituality in connection to medicine, but more recent findings have made some take a second look. Studies show that religion and faith can help to promote good health and fight disease by:
offering additional social supports, such as religious outreach groups
improving coping skills through prayer and a philosophy that all things have a purpose
Although research on kids hasn’t been done, many studies focusing on adults point to the positive effects of spirituality on medical outcome:
In a 7-year study of senior citizens, religious involvement was associated with less physical disability and less depression. Death rates were lower than expected before an important religious holiday, which suggested to researchers that faith might have postponed death in these cases.
Elderly people who regularly attended religious services had healthier immune systems than those who didn’t. They were also more likely to have consistently lower blood pressure.
Patients undergoing open-heart surgery who received strength and comfort from their religion were three times more likely to survive than those who had no religious ties.
Spirituality and Mental Health
Religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of how many people deal with life’s joys and hardships. Faith can give people a sense of purpose and guidelines for living.
When families face tough situations, including health problems, their religious beliefs and practices can help them fight feelings of helplessness, restore meaning and order to life situations, and help them regain a sense of control. For some families, spirituality can be a powerful and important source of strength.
Medical studies have confirmed that spirituality can have a profound effect on mental states. In a study of men who were hospitalized, nearly half rated religion as helpful in coping with their illness. A second study showed that the more religious patients were, the more quickly they recovered from some disorders. A third study revealed that high levels of hope and optimism, key factors in fighting depression, were found among those who strictly practiced their religion
Can Spiritual Beliefs Enhance Parenting?
Attending organized religious services may help some families connect with their spiritual values, but it’s not the only way. Less traditional paths also can help kids and parents find spiritual meaning.
To foster spirituality within your own family, you may want to examine your own values. Ask yourself: What is important to me? How well do my daily activities mirror my values? Do I neglect issues that matter to me because I’m busy spending time on things that matter less?
Here are other suggestions to start your family’s spiritual journey:
Explore your roots. In examining your shared past, you and your kids may connect with values of earlier times and places, and gain a sense of your extended family’s history and values.
Examine your involvement in the community. If you’re already involved in a group, maybe you will want to take on a larger role — first for you, then as a role model for your kids. If you haven’t joined a community group, consider investigating those in your area.
Recall the feelings you had at the birth or adoption of your child. Try to get back to that moment in your mind, remembering the hopes and dreams you had. It can be the start of a search for similar or related feelings in your everyday life.
Share some silence with your kids. Take a few minutes for silent meditation alone or together. Think about parenthood, your life as an individual, and your place in the larger scheme of things. Spend time discussing these thoughts with your kids and listen to their ideas on what spirituality means.
Take a nature walk. Nature has long been an inspiration and spiritual guide. A walk will relax you and allow you to contemplate the wonders of the world around you.
Read books that express spiritual ideas with your kids and share your thoughts about what you’re reading.
This search can be conducted on your own or as part of a larger group — a religious community, friends, or your own family. Making a spiritual journey might help you and your family live a healthier life, both emotionally and physically.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014
Kids Health by Nemours http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/spirituality.html
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Talking With Teens
Tips for Better Communication
Parents and teens can bridge the communication gap with a little patience and a healthy measure of
Here are 6 tips for parents and 6 for teenagers.
A parent’s view of speech development: it begins in infancy, blossoms in childhood, and stops dead in its tracks at adolescence.
A teenager’s view of speech development: “My parents don’t understand a word I’m saying.”
You don’t need a degree in communications to know that parents and teenagers seem to spend more time talking at and past one another than to or with one another. Chalk it up to different agendas, the stress of daily life, or familiarity breeding contempt. Whatever the reason, adolescents and their folks are as good at making conversation as the construction crew at the Tower of Babel.
But with a little give and take, a lot of patience, and a healthy measure of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, parents and teens may be able to remove the roadblocks hindering two-way communication.
To help understand talking with teens, WebMD interviewed two experts in adolescent development: Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; and Carol Maxym, PhD, who counsels families in Honolulu and Washington, D.C.
First, says Steinberg, parents need to recognize that “although your child doesn’t have the same level of knowledge, information, wisdom or experience as you do, he or she has essentially the same logical tools and can see through logical fallacies and lapses in what’s sensible.”
In other words, the “do-it-because-I-said-so” approach to talking with teens doesn’t work anymore. “They can’t be bullied around by power-assertive statements by parents that aren’t based on any kind of logical reality,” Steinberg says.
Teenagers have exquisitely sensitive B.S. detectors, agrees Maxym, who counsels families of troubled adolescents in private practice. “Parents need to be emotionally authentic. Don’t try to act as though you are angry when you’re really not. Don’t try to tell your child ‘I’m really hurt when you don’t go to school,’ when what you really are is angry. Kids know their parents really well and pick up on it, and as soon as you as a parent become inauthentic, you’ve lost any chance of real communication,” says Maxym.
Research also shows that “the big barrier is in how parents and teenagers define issues,” If the parent sees a teen’s messy room as a moral issue, and the teen sees it as a matter of choice, they may never reach a mutually satisfactory solution, says Steinberg.
What can you do to communicate better? Our experts offer these tips both parents and teenagers:
Don’t lecture your teen, have a conversation. When parents complain “my teenager doesn’t want to talk to me,” what they’re really complaining about is “my teenager doesn’t want to listen to me.” Conversation involves at least two people, Steinberg emphasizes.
Don’t attack. “The conversation between any two people will break down if one of the two is put on the defensive and made to feel he’s being accused of something,” says Steinberg.
Show respect for your teen’s opinions. Teenagers can be surprisingly easy to talk with if the parents make it clear that they’re listening to the teen’s point of view.
Keep it short and simple. Maxym urges parents to remember what she calls the “50% rule”: “Almost every parent says at least 50% more than he or she should. Shut up. Remember when you were a teen and your parents lectured at you? And you thought, ‘Will you please stop; I already got the point!’ Stop before your teen gets there.”
Be yourself. Don’t try to talk like your kids or their friends. “You’re an adult, so be an adult,” Maxym says.
Seize the moment. A spontaneous conversation in the car or at home late at night — any time when you’re not rushed — can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments, Steinberg says. “I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don’t come up when you expect them to.”
Try to understand the situation from your parents’ point of view. If your goal is to be allowed to stay out later on Saturday night, for example, try to anticipate what they are concerned about, such as your safety and your whereabouts.Address their concerns honestly and directly.
Try saying something like, “If I am allowed to stay out later, I will tell you in advance where I’m going to be so you know how to reach me,” or “I’ll call you to let you know what time I’m going to be home, and that way you won’t have to worry about it.”
Don’t go on the defensive. If you feel deeply about the subject of the conversation — clothes, friends, politics, sex, drugs, whatever — stick to your guns, but listen to what your parents have to say.
Don’t criticize or ridicule their viewpoints. Show them and their opinions the respect you want them to give you.
Make requests. Don’t issue a list of demands.
Make “I” statements. Explain your concerns by saying things such as “I feel you’re not being fair.” Or, “I feel like you’re not listening to my side.” Avoid “you” statements, such as “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
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For My Older Children
SIBLINGS OF AN ADDICT: SEPARATE, SAVE OR STRUGGLE
While many people accept that the whole family is impacted when a young adult struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, most of the resources available are geared towards parents. There is very little discussion about the effect of addiction on siblings, even though they are part of the family system, often know more about the extent of the problem than their parents and often struggle emotionally brothers and sisters of addicts have a range of reactions; three common styles of managing the anxiety associated with this issue are listed below:
Separate: Some siblings withdraw completely when a brother or sister develops a pattern of addictive behaviors for a variety of reasons For example; they may not be able to cope with the turmoil in their sibling’s life or may experience guilt that they don’t have the same genetic predisposition. Siblings may not understand what the addict is facing, or they may want to avoid having to examine their own relationships with substances. This group of siblings avoids talking about the issue, ignores calls or overtures from the addict, and may even remain distant from the whole family system to reduce the chances of being forced to address the topic. One brother described the impact of his sibling’s addiction as having taken all of the “air in the room,” leaving no space for him to talk about his own life challenges. He indicated that this feeling had caused him to avoid any family situations where he suspected the addict would be there and/or the topic of conversation.
Save: Other siblings rush into the problem, convinced they can save their brother or sister from themselves. They try to help the addict with behavior ranging from finding treatment resources to giving the addict money, food, or a place to stay. They often become a support to parents, particularly during a crisis, and may even put themselves in peril by rescuing their sibling unsafe situations. They feel immense sadness and compassion towards their addict sibling, and frequently deny or ignore their sibling’s destructive behaviors (i.e. lying, stealing, manipulation). This group of siblings may temporarily get frustrated with the addict, but their grudges are short-lived, and after a brief period of time, often return to rescuing the addict.
Struggle: The final group includes siblings who struggle with the addict’s behaviors. They express frustration that the addict “can’t get it together” or “just stop using”. They confront their siblings, often using emotional pleas. A common example is “Don’t you see what you are doing to mom?” or “You are destroying our family.” They may not accept that addiction is a disease, but instead view their sibling’s actions as selfish or immoral. At times, they may get angry if someone tries to defend the addict or rescue him or her. Even if a sibling decides to get help, they may even struggle to accept their sibling’s commitment to sobriety.
Siblings can often feel caught in the middle, between the addict and their parents. They play a variety of roles, often vacillating between more than one style listed above. If you are a sibling of an addict, please recognize that this affects you too, and make sure to find your own sources of support. Ala-non, a family program offered across the country (http://al-anon.alateen.org)/ or a professional counselor may help you find some peace during turbulent times.
January 21, 2014 | Arden O’Connor | Arden O’Connor graduated from Harvard College and started a non-profit called Rediscovery Inc., dedicated to serving adolescents transitioning out of the foster care system (www.rediscoveryhouse.org).
Your Father & I are so proud of each one of you.
As I read, about siblings of the addicted. I have come to an understanding, that this has not only, effected our Family. You have had the responsibility of dealing with this issue. And I am sure that, there are still feelings that you have inside.
I know that it was hard.
Having to move away from all of you has made it sad for me and Daddy. We are such a close family. You are missed everyday. When I speak with you, I am also Hugging you.
Our conversations always were about, your Brother. You were all so concerned, extremely worried and struggled with his problem. But all of you handled yourselves with dignity.
For that we are very proud! You are so important in our lives. All of you took part in helping your, Brother. I believe, your conversations on the phone. While he was in Rehab, gave him the authority to fight with all of his being, to win this battle. Your words were imbedded in his mind.
“Go the distance Brother, you can do it!”
He takes such pride in knowing that you are by his side. Your lives have been full of up’s and downs. There were times when you also made mistakes. But we all came together to figure it out.
Each and every one of you have the focus to go after your dreams and fulfill your future. Now your Brother, is right beside you.
Working hard on his future, while thanking,
“The Good Lord for making it all possible.”
As a little boy you taught him so many things. He would look at you. Listen to you and learn. When he fell you picked him up. If he cried you made him feel better. And when he was in trouble he ran to every one of you first. Before coming to Me & Daddy. The Love that all of you have for one and other is so heart warming to me. “As your Mother, I am truly Blessed and so Content, knowing that right now. At this time all of you are focused on the same goal.
“Having a happy productive life.
And Living, Life to the Fullest.”
I am so delighted that all of you found perfect partners. I am a very lucky Mother In-law. They are all family orientated. Each one having a great family, that all believes as we do. Family is everything, it is Home. The love that has been shared with each of them is truly a Blessing. Their compassion and understanding has, shown me that, they are all special people. I am so Proud to call them, “My Children.” They stood by each one of you. Showing me their concern. They were always positive about your Brother. Telling us that he was going to make it. Made us feel the same way.
I remember an occasion, when we came to N.Y. to visit. Your Brother, was with us. He was in Rehab at this time, all of you welcomed him with open arms. I could see in his eyes that he was frightened of how you would all greet him. And then when you all held out your arms and welcomed him with laughter and hugs. It truly made a big difference, in his life. He was home with you again. Feelings that he missed, for such a long time were rekindled. The feeling of acceptance, put him right where he was supposed to be.
With his Brother and Sister’s and their Spouses. Together Again. I know he longed for this reunion.
All of you made it so special for, Your Brother.
He works hard everyday on his Recovery. He is extremely focused and making plans for his future.
All of you have taken part in each others lives. Making a real difference, needing one and other.
Your Father & I are so proud of all of you.
Remember I Love All of You, More Than All The Stars In The
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