Tuesday, January 21, 2014

That Rebound Effect

On breaking up with a partner, there is a tendency to throw oneself into frantic social activity to stave off depression or to simply get back in the romantic game.  While this is generally harmless, a note of precaution should be sounded just the same.  The first new relationship, especially if it is very soon after the break-up, may be simply a rebound situation where one is desperate to be with someone and cannot really evaluate the new person for who he or she really is.

What to do?  Three things.  First it is necessary to evaluate what attracted you to your original partner in the first place and why that original relationship failed.  This should be done prior to jumping into any future relationship.  Second and third, a skeptical attempt to evaluate the new partner objectively and a delay in rushing things even though you feel head-over-heels in love are good starters.  The main advice is to go slowly!  That rebound guy or girl might just end up being the perfect fit, but you won't know it for some time.  Going too fast can result in misunderstandings and hurt feelings for both parties if they ultimately find out that they are incompatible.  So go slow and get to know the new person without rushing things.  Commitment, if it is right, will blossom and mature on its own time schedule. Think positively and enjoy the new partner on his or her own merits.  Aunt Josie is not saying that a rebound guy or girl will never work out.  After all, Aunt Josie's own wonderful significant other of over 40 years was a rebound. Just understand the rebound dynamics involved and get to know the new person without urgency at a leisurely pace and have fun.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

That Trashy Look

A young woman friend of Aunt Josie's approached her with a repeating complaint.  She wondered why she could not attract and/or find any high-quality men.  Acknowledging that she received plenty of attention from members of the male sex, she despaired about finding someone with whom she could form a meaningful relationship.  Without pulling any punches, Aunt Josie told her that she should re-examine how she dresses, her make-up and how she presents herself to the world at large.

Aunt Josie is no prude and has no problem with young and not-so-young women dressing suggestively if that is the image they want others to have of them.  However, dressing in a highly suggestive manner will not bring high quality men who wish to settle into their orbit.  It will garner much attention, but no real takers.  Suggestive dress and make-up also distracts men from exploring beyond the way a woman looks into her personality and internal make-up.  The man is too busy thinking about the sexual possibilities to contemplate the person beyond the externals.

Another interesting problem posed by suggestive dress is animosity from other women.  A recent article in the Science section of the New York Times set out the cattiness manifested by ostensible friends and acquaintances of a woman who was dressed suggestively.  Since friends are very helpful in introducing single women to high-quality male friends and acquaintances, this type of animosity can prove a real barrier to meeting potential mates through female friends.

So, Aunt Josie's "unadorned" advice is to drop the vamp look and dress more conservatively.  You need not sacrifice beauty, simply dress and apply make-up to achieve a more refined image.  When meeting someone worth investing in, you will not need to worry about whether they are just interested in you sexually because you will have presented a much fuller image of the genuine you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Real Gifts over the Holidays

Aunt Josie is not really addressing an inquiry but more or less making a suggestion as the rush of the holidays overtakes us.  Many of us spend entirely too much time trying to find the "right" material present for the ones we love when a genuine gift is right before our eyes.  We can give the gift of our time.  This is especially true for gifts to children who probably don't need another toy or gizmo to add to the pile in their bedroom.  Taking them to the zoo, to the children's museum, to a park, or to any child-centered activity, and being really attentive during the experience, helps to build a lasting relationship with the child.  If a material gift is absolutely necessary, a gift which invites participation with you, the giver, whether it be a craft activity or a game, beats any present where the child is engaged in a solitary pursuit.

A great aunt, uncle, grandparent, or any family member can write each grandchild (great niece or nephew) or any child recipient a hand-written letter (perhaps not to be opened until later in the child's life) each year simply providing information about the extended family, the love that is felt for the child, and observations about the child's current status and development.  These letters can show a level of care far greater than the time expended to write them.

The same logic applies to the elderly, many of whom are trying to escape from clutter and material "things".  Almost all of them, however, would appreciate a visit and/or tangible offers to complete tasks that are difficult for them to perform themselves or an offer to accompany them on trip outside of their home. They might like an excursion, such as walking or sitting in the outdoors in a park, or stopping at a coffee shop, book store, or any other place that they would like to visit, but where going solo is difficult.

Gifts of service, such as childcare, senior care, the performance of home repair or maintenance tasks, and gifts of remembrance such as scrapbooks, photos, or handwritten letters are also usually appreciated by loved ones of any age. The key to these types of promises to perform tasks, is, however, follow through.  It goes without saying that it is meaningless to make "promise" gifts if one never gets around to fulfilling the promise.

So before you purchase that holiday sweater, perfume, tie, etc., think what you can really give to that special someone.  You won't regret it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Making Concessions and Maintaining the Family

A young mother of two posed the following problem for Aunt Josie and her friends to consider: 

Her mother, a widow of approximately five years, had been a very involved grandmother to the young mother's two children.  The young mother's sister, who was also expecting, anticipated that this would be the case with her children.

Then Grandmother met a man and became romantically involved.   She gave this new relationship top priority and advised both daughters that the new relationship came first.  Neither daughter likes Grandmother's new guy.  Grandmother has ceased lavishing attention on any grandchildren and is wrapped up in the new romance.  In the young mother's view, Grandmother has opted out of grand-parenting. She does not visit often.  When the young mother attempted to visit Grandmother, the significant other was there at all times and very little attention was paid ( in the young mother's opinion) to the grandchildren.  The young mother and her sister are despondent about the state of things and request advice.

Aunt Josie can see both sides of this situation.  She believes that Grandmother is entitled to a separate, and yes, exciting romantic relationship that will in fact have implications as to the amount of time devoted to the grandchildren.  The best strategy for young mother and her sister is to realize that the new guy is important to their mother, accept him, and integrate him into their family as best they can.  If they love and care about their mother, they will accept her partner notwithstanding qualms or reservations about him, unless they are well-founded with some factual basis behind them. 

Once this has been accomplished, young mother and her sister, should meet with their mother either by themselves or with the assistance of a therapist to have a frank discussion about their disappointment with the quantity and quality of time that she is spending with the grandchildren.  They should point out how much they love her and thank her for what she has already contributed in the care and raising of young mother's children.  However, the primary thrust of this conversation should be the fact that children are only young for a very short time and missed opportunities in bonding with them and establishing a relationship cannot easily be recovered at a later date.  They can ask Grandmother to set aside some special time with each grandchild, or set of grandchildren, and explain how important this is to them and their children.

Having said all of this, Aunt Josie also advises the young mother who requested the advice to remember two other important emotional dictums.  First, you cannot compel someone to love your children, but you can continue to set the stage for inclusion and involvement by your mother, if you can deal with and contain your disappointment when it does not proceed as you hope it will.  Second, if you genuinely make attempts to include Grandmother's guy and continue to offer opportunities for inter-action with your children, at some point, Grandmother just might "get it!"

I throw this problem open to comment from the other members of Aunt Josie's virtual coffee klatsch.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Aim High

Speaking with a recent college graduate, Aunt Josie asked what her future career plans were.  The young college grad shrugged and indicated that she really did not know how to go about looking for a meaningful career in the area for which she had received a degree.  Aunt Josie then asked her to identify her fantasy career five or six years into the future.  This, the grad could imagine readily.  Aunt Josie then asked whether the young woman could think of any intermediate steps toward achieving her career goals.  With some prodding, at least two preliminary measures were identified.  After the two preliminary measures were identified, other supplemental activities easily arose in the mind of the young graduate.

After a serious discussion on the practicalities of arranging to take the necessary steps, where there was once an attitude of resigned impotence, there was now an attitude of hopeful anticipation.

What can be learned from this.  Aunt Josie believes that all young people should shoot high when it comes to career goals.  They should all have a  five-year plan or path laid out as to how to accomplish a portion of their future goal.  Any grandiose goal can be broken into much smaller parts or facets that are more easily accomplished.  Furthermore, the mere act of attempting to accomplish a portion of one's goal will lead a person into a different place from which an entirely novel or different goal or perspective may emerge.

The master plan, itself, is not half as important as as merely escaping the paralysis negative thinking which accompany inaction.  Plans can change, but without a plan it is difficult to motivate oneself to accomplish any important career-related task.  If a young person continues to free-float aimlessly, the chances of waking up and working towards something tangible become less and less.  So, think big, start small, but start!  You won't regret it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Teen Impatience

Young adults often believe that their parents (and most other adults) are stupid and boring.  Probably since the beginning of the stage of life known as adolescence, this has been a common sentiment of the young.  It may also very well be true in many instances as older adults can often be dumb and/or boring.  It is perfectly okay for a teenager to feel this way.

What is not okay, however, is for the young to voice this opinion to their elders, to address them sarcastically, and to treat their elders with contempt.  Good manners, consideration for others, and just plain self-interest dictate that the young person keep his/her opinion to himself/herself.  No adult likes to be challenged in this regard by a "young smartypants."  Showing contempt for another does not win one accolades from that person or other adults observing the inter-action.  Furthermore it is just mean behavior on the part of the young person.

So, the savvy teen feels what they feel, but keeps it to his or herself.  He/she is regarded as thoughtful, nice,  polite and compassionate.  That is a far better reputation to have than one as a surly, know-it all, kid.  Enough said.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Family Narrative

Aunt Josie was struck by the recent studies showing that children who understand that they are part of a larger whole in terms of family do better academically.  The March 17 Sunday Style section of the New York Times article "The Stories that Bind Us" contains some very provocative information about resilience in children who know about their family history in terms of warding off stress.  Children who could answer such questions as "Do you know where your grandparents grew up?" "Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?" "Where they met?"  "Do you know about an illness or something terrible that happened to your family?" "Do you know the story of your birth?" scored higher in having a sense of control over their own lives.  They also scored significantly higher in self-esteem. Scoring high on this scale turned out to be the single best predictor of children's emotional health and happiness.

Family histories were classified into three groups: ascendent, descendant and oscillating.  The ascendant narrative is the "your grandparents had nothing, I'm doing better and you will do much better" type of family story.    Descendant is "We used to have it all, but we have been losing everything lately."  Oscillating is "As a family, we have had our ups and downs, but no matter what has happened, we have stuck together as a group".  The article suggests that the oscillating family narrative is the best and most healthful for children.

So what can we take from this.  First, multigenerational families matter.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all contribute to building a sense of family.  Second, children need to hear both the positives and the negatives of the family's experience.  They need to know that they are part of something larger than themselves which will survive.  Finally, anything that creates unity and strong family bonds will help your child in grounding him with respect to his place in the world.  A family theme song, family holiday traditions, kind family jokes, and family reunions now turn out to be important assets helping children decrease stress and survive in an increasingly complex world.  So, promote the family story, it helps children grow.