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Technology & Love: How do they relate?

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Heartshaped cableTechnology offers us the opportunity for more — more interaction, more resources, more to do — and it does so incredibly quickly. Yet love and intimate relationships thrive on a different kind of pace: Intimate relationships need a focus on us instead of on the outside world. Love and intimacy require acceptance, gratitude and embracing what is, rather than the continued comparison to what else is out there. Love and intimate relationships require a slower speed — more time, patience, being there for each other — that builds trust over time.

 

Here is a breakdown of some of the major differences between technology and love:

 

Technology:

 

All about me

 

More

 

Better

 

Faster

Love:

 

All about WE

 

Less (less distraction, less choice)

 

Acceptance/gratitude/embracing what is

 

Requires time to grow and time to maintain

 

So how do we discern when, where, and how to make use of technology’s offerings?  And when, where, and how do we return to something we once knew?

At our next Circle of Knowledge event, Dating Mating & Marrying in the Age of Social Media, Dr. Alexandra Solomon will address these questions and more. The event, held at no cost at Microsoft’s downtown Chicago headquarters, will focus on how the digital age impacts our relationships — for better and for worse.

Find more event details below, and visit our website for more information.

4 Ways to Manage Anxiety in Children

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Teenager with DepressionAnxiety in children, teens and young adults is a big issue—so big that The Family Institute’s next Circle of Knowledge event focuses on the topic. At this event, Dr. Danielle Black, Director of the Institute’s child and adolescent services, will help parents differentiate between normal worry for our children, teenagers and young adults as they face the pressures of school, sports and socializing, and more severe anxiety symptoms that may be signs of a larger issue. She will also explore how anxiety can be turned into a positive thing that can help your kids become successful.

See below for more information on this event, as well as 4 ways you can help your children manage their anxiety.


 

Be mindful of avoidance.

The most common response to anxiety is some form of avoidance, aimed at either getting relief from anxiety or keeping oneself from experience elevated levels of anxiety in the first place. For example, a child with a dog phobia may panic and run anytime that he sees a dog, rendering him unable to enjoy going to the park or playing at certain friends’ houses.

This avoidance response can leave parents, caretakers and educators feeling confused and stressed, as children refuse to engage in formerly enjoyable activities, from soccer practice to school to birthday parties (depending on the source of their particular form of anxiety).

 

Be mindful of control.

Another common manifestation of anxiety is to exert control over anxiety-inducing situations. For example, a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may demand that everyone in the home wash their hands excessively, or that they complete the morning routine in a rigid, prescribed fashion. This behavior is aimed at reducing anxiety by increasing the child’s sense of control and making the environment more predictable, but it can cause significant interpersonal stress for children and their families.

 

Offer support, but don’t reinforce or accommodate.

It can be easy for parents, caretakers or educators to accommodate children’s anxiety. Accommodation refers to any change in routine or environment that is made with the specific intention of reducing or avoiding a child’s anxious behaviors. For example, a parent may call the school to say that a child is ill, when in fact the child is anxious about a school presentation and refusing to leave the house. Or a teacher may answer the same “what if…” question repeatedly, despite knowing that the answer is already been provided. These are usually well-intentioned efforts to reduce a child’s anxiety in the short-term. However, accommodation of anxious behaviors reinforces anxiety over time because it signals that the perceived threat is legitimate (i.e., serious enough to warrant a response from the adult) and that the child is not expected to tolerate feelings of anxiety.

 

Empower yourself.

Because some level of anxiety is a totally normal part of the human experience, most children to display anxious behaviors from time to time. Parents, educators and caretakers should consider looking to professional help when anxiety begins interfering with a child’s day to day functioning, by affecting their schoolwork, friendships, and/or their willingness to try new things.

 

The Family Institute’s Child and Adolescent services offers support and effective treatment for anxiety in kids and teens. Visit our website to learn more.

To learn more about Straight A’s & Stressed, our next Circle of Knowledge Event that focuses on children and anxiety, visit our website and see below more information.

 

Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety

Presented by Danielle Black, PhD

Friday, April 10, 2015
10:30 a.m. registration, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. presentation & lunch
Exmoor Country Club, 700 Vine Avenue, Highland Park

$25 per person, space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 3, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email cok@family-institute.org

Tips for Gaining Mastery of Your Anxiety

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panic attack word cloudAll human being experience at least some anxiety. Although impossible to eliminate, cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety (CBT) offers principles for helping to master excessive anxiety. The following tips can also help you handle anxious feelings.

 

Mind over mood.

Excessive anxiety is almost always associated with negative thoughts, beliefs or images. When we are anxious (or sad or angry), we view the world “through dark-colored glasses,” creating negative thoughts that maintain and/or heighten anxiety. To better cope, identify your scary thoughts, and then look for evidence (hard facts) to counter and negate those thoughts. Identify an alternative, more balanced way of thinking about the issue.

Face your fear.

Avoidance often brings some immediate relief but does nothing to reduce anxiety and may contribute to maintaining it in the long run. Replace avoidant patterns of behavior with gradual increasing exposure to the triggers of one’s anxiety. For example, if one is fearful of public speaking, practice in front of a small group and build up to a medium-sized group and then a large group of people, until the anxiety subsides.

Accept your anxiety.

Many struggle to fight or escape when they start to experience excessive anxiety. This fear creates a vicious cycle: we get anxious about something in the environment (work, school, a relationship, etc.) and then get anxious about our initial anxiety response. They harder we fight, the more power we give it. Work on accepting your anxiety rather than fighting it.

 

This article comes from an issue of Institute News Online, the families tri-annual newsletter. It was written by Rick Zinbarg, PhD, the Institute’s Patricia M. Nielsen Research Chair and Director of The Family Institute’s Anxiety and Panic Laboratory. To learn more about Dr. Zinbarg or our anxiety services, visit our website.

Our upcoming Circle of Knowledge event, Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety also deals with issues of how to manage anxious feelings. See below for the event details and visit our website for more information.

Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety

Friday, April 10, 2015
10:30 a.m. registration, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. presentation & lunch
Exmoor Country Club, 700 Vine Avenue, Highland Park

$25 per person, space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 3, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email cok@family-institute.org

Anxiety & Kids: Too much, too little, or just enough?

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Daughter Clinging To Working Mother's LegAnxiety in children, teens and young adults is a big issue—so big that The Family Institute’s next Circle of Knowledge event focuses on the topic. At this event, Dr. Danielle Black, Director of the Institute’s child and adolescent services, will help parents differentiate between normal worry for our children, teenagers and young adults as they face the pressures of school, sports and socializing, and more severe anxiety symptoms that may be signs of a larger issue. She will also explore how anxiety can be turned into a positive thing that can help your kids become successful.

See below for more information on this event, as well as tips on how parents can begin to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety.

 


 

We generally view anxiety as a bad thing, particularly when our children experience it—no one wants to think of their kids suffering or experiencing discomfort.

However, a little bit of anxiety can be helpful for both adults and children. It can be functional in that it can motivate us and help us achieve our goals.

But when anxiety becomes too extreme, starts to interfere with daily life and gets in the way of a child doing what he or she needs to do to achieve those goals, then the anxiety is unhelpful.

Here are a few ways to differentiate between healthy versus unhealthy anxiety in kids:

  • Your child expresses feeling anxious about a test he/she has in the morning as he/she starts to hit the books: This type of anxiety can be helpful in that it can help motivate your child to study.
  • Your child refuses to go to school on the day he/she has a difficult test or exam: This anxiety is unhealthy, as it’s preventing your child from following through on a task he/she needs to complete to excel.

 

  • Your child is anxious and a little scared about his/her first day of kindergarten and acts behaves sheepishly when you drop him/her off: This anxiety is healthy. Your child is facing a major change and separation from his/her parent, which can feel stressful. Both children and adults often have difficulty facing the unknown.
  • Your child cries a lot his/her first few weeks of kindergarten and/or is disruptive in class: This might be a sign of unhealthy anxiety. While the transition to kindergarten is a stressful one that may make a child feel anxious, being unable to adapt could be a sign of a larger issue.

 

 

  • Your child lists his concerns, anxieties and fears about going away to college and starts to problem-solve how he/she might cope with them: It’s healthy to talk through healthy anxieties about a transition as large as this one. In this case, your child’s anxiety will motivate him/her to develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Your child becomes preoccupied with “what if” scenarios that might occur when he/she moves away to college: This level of anxiety may be unhealthy. If your child is preoccupied with the “what if” question—a natural question during a time of transition—it might be getting in the way of the goals he/she has for the transition.

When a child’s anxiety gets in the way of the things he/she needs to do—things like learning, growing or transitioning— or prevents your child, teen or young adult from achieving goals, it could be a sign of a larger problem. Consider the help of a trained professional when anxiety begins interfering with a child’s day to day functioning, by affecting their schoolwork, friendships, and/or their willingness to try new things.


 

The Family Institute’s Child and Adolescent services offers support and effective treatment for anxiety in kids and teens. Visit our website to learn more.

To learn more about Straight A’s & Stressed, our next Circle of Knowledge Event that focuses on children and anxiety, visit our website and see below more information.

 

Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety

Presented by Danielle Black, PhD

Friday, April 10, 2015
10:30 a.m. registration, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. presentation & lunch
Exmoor Country Club, 700 Vine Avenue, Highland Park

$25 per person, space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 3, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email cok@family-institute.org

 

How Does Mid-Life Offer A One-of-a-Kind Opportunity for Women?

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In some ways, it’s an enviable problem to have — the kids are off in their own lives and you have both the time and energy to be asking the question “What’s next?”

Whether a woman has stayed in the paid workforce throughout the child-raising years, or stayed at home and devoted the bulk of her energies to family and household, there is a noticeable space that shows up once the children are even semi-launched. For the first time in decades, many women get to consider how they want to re-prioritize their lives. Yet obstacles, both internal and external, can get in the way of this potentially exciting project.

At our next Circle of Knowledge event on Thursday, March 12th in LaGrange, IL, Dr. Cheryl Rampage will explore how to address both kinds of obstacles, to maximize satisfaction in this chapter of life.

Watch Dr. Rampage discuss these issues and what she’ll address at this event below, as well as more event specifics.

 

The Pleasures and Challenges of Retooling at Midlife

Presented by Dr. Cheryl Rampage

Thursday, March 12, 2015
11:30 p.m. registration, 12:00 p.m. presentation & lunch
Edgewood Valley Country Club, 7500 Willow Springs Road, La Grange

$45 per person; space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: March 5, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email cok@family-institute.org.

Ask A TFI Couples Expert: Money & Marriage with Anthony Chambers, PhD, ABPP

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As we gear up for our Thursday Circle of Knowledge Event, Gay & Married: Welcome to the Family, we’re thinking about the issues that couples face before they actually tie the knot.

Today’s tips come from expert TFI staff clinician Anthony Chambers, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Chambers is director of the Couples Therapy at the Institute, and has completed training and is an approved provider in two of the most comprehensive and well respected divorce-prevention/marriage enhancing programs in the world: PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) and PREPARE/ENRICH.

Today, Dr. Chambers provides insights on one of the most common issues couples face (and how to talk about it before getting married): money.

 

Money presents risks for couples, but also opportunities to co-create a shared vision.

I think it is critical for couples to discuss their finances before they get married. Money is the number one reason why couples get divorced. I am always amazed by how little communication couples have about money prior to getting married, and then once they have to make a major purchase like a house or a car they are then surprised by their partner’s credit score.

Discussing money is especially important because if you set up your finances correctly from the beginning, then a lot of arguments and problems can be avoided. Moreover, although money is a huge risk factor for divorce, it is equally true that money can be a huge protective factor when set up correctly. The transition to marriage is about moving from “I” to “we”, and money may be the single greatest manifestation of “we-ness”. One conceptualization of intimacy is that it is the couple’s ability to co-create a shared vision. In this capitalistic society, there is no vision that doesn’t involve money (i.e., buying a house, a car, saving for kids’ college, retirement, etc.).

That’s not to say that the conversation is always easy. The reason it is so hard for couples to discuss money is because money represents trust, power, control, vulnerability, and fairness. Thus, to the extent that a couple struggles with any of those issues in their relationship, it makes talking about money all the more difficult.

 

Keep it together.

The most common misstep I find couples make regarding money is the separation of money.

Marriage is about moving from independence to interdependence, which basically means whatever you do impacts me and whatever I do impacts you and there is no way to get around that. Couples will frequently try to maintain their independence and avoid financial arguments by trying to separate their finances. However, in a marriage there is not true separation. It is an illusion. Marriage is a group sport and just like any team, if a teammate has a bad night it impacts the other players. Thus, it becomes important to embrace the team concept in order to have success. If a person does not trust their partner with money, then that is probably a sign that they should be in couple therapy to work out the trust issues, because it will not get resolved by simply trying to separate their finances.

 

Make your finances marriage-friendly.

  1. First, couples need to think about money as “our money”. That is, there is one lump sum of money that has to take care of their needs and the needs of their kid(s), if they have any. It doesn’t matter who makes more or who makes less because it is about making sure everyone’s needs are met. Second, there needs to be “transparency”. That is, both members of the couple need to know how much money there is and where it is being invested. Some of the worst cases of infidelity I’ve ever treated were financial, not sexual. Secrets and money is never a good idea!
  1. I recommend couples use technology to help actualize the guideline of transparency. Websites like www.mint.com are great ways to track your finances. Towards that end, I recommend that couples track their finances at least once a week to make sure they are on budget.
  1. Paychecks should be automatically deposited into a joint account. It is OK to have individual accounts, but I recommend that couples have their paychecks automatically deposited into a joint bank account and transferred to the individual account in order to promote transparency. Couples should prioritize their budget by making sure that their collective needs are met (i.e., bills, savings, groceries, etc). Then, if there is money left over, the couples who choose to have individual accounts can transfer some money to their respective individual accounts. Keep in mind that those individual accounts should be checking accounts with low balances as they are for monthly discretionary spending in order to help manage the fact that some couples have different spending priorities. The individual accounts are NOT safety accounts to stash money away “just in case”. Setting up your joint account is a nice way for couples to feel like an “us” and can be something nice to help couples “feel” the transition to marriage, especially if they were cohabitating before marriage.
  1. If a member of the couple wants to help out a family member, make sure that the needs of their new nuclear family is taken care of first before helping out friends and extended family.
  1. Check your credit score before getting married. If one or both members of the couple have a low credit score, that is OK because at least you know the number and you can work together to increase the score(s). Moreover, knowing the credit score is important for delineating the shared vision, because a low credit score may mean delaying certain aspects of that vision, such as purchasing a home.

 

Dr. Chambers’ passion, clinical, teaching, and scholarly interests all focus on strengthening the relationships of couples from all walks of life. He is the Director of the Couples Therapy Program, the Director of the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Couple and Family Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), and a Staff Licensed Clinical Psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychology, and a member of the Teaching Faculty in the MFT Graduate Program at Northwestern University. Dr. Chambers is also one of only 117 Psychologists nationwide Board Certified in treating couples (ABPP-CFP).

To read Dr. Chambers’ full bio, or to make an appointment, visit our website.

 

The Family Institute offers affordable family, couples and individual counseling at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Lagrange Park and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.

Gay & Married: Welcome to the Family

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TFI_EQIL

As we celebrate Pride Month at the Institute, and the newly official Illinois legislation allowing same sex couples to marry, we are also gearing up for our Circle of Knowledge event taking place this Thursday, June 5th, at the Center on Halsted.

 

With increasing numbers of same-sex couples becoming legally married, questions arise: Are those couples better off once they’ve tied the knot? Will legal marriage somehow destroy the freedom and flexibility of creating relationships without the imposition of mainstream norms and expectations within the constraints of “traditional” monogamy? Will these marriages offer the protective health benefits — psychological and physiological — that research has long associated with heterosexual marriage? And what about the extended families of LGBT couples? Will they embrace their same-sex family members’ relationships sooner rather than later under this new law?

To address these types of questions, The Family Institute at Northwestern University, a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening and healing families from all walks of life, has partnered with Equality Illinois to present the Circle of Knowledge talk, Gay & Married: Welcome to the family. This event, hosted on June 5th at the Center on Halsted in Chicago, IL at 6:30 p.m., will feature a panel of four Family Institute expert clinicians discussing the questions, challenges and opportunities that follow in the wake of this momentous cultural shift.

“I want people who come to the program to gain a much better sense of the challenges that married gay people are now facing,” says Aaron Cooper, PhD, staff clinician at The Family Institute and event panelist. “And I want our participants to come away with a much better understanding of some approaches to handling those challenges.”

In addition to Dr. Cooper, the event will feature Family Institute staff clinicians Cheryl Rampage, PhD, Shayna Goldstein, LMFT, MSMFT, and Steve Du Bois, PhD, Morgan Postdoctoral Clinical Research Fellow. The event will feature cocktails and hors d’oeurvres, followed by the panel presentation.

The event will be held at the Center on Halsted, located at 3656 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL. Tickets cost $50 each and can be purchased on The Family Institute’s websiteor by calling 312-609-5300 ext. 480. Attendees should register in advance, as space at the event is limited.

To register for this event, visit our registration page.

To learn more about our Circle of Knowledge Event Series, visit our events page.

 

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