Ever wonder what goes on in the United Nations? Check out this video to find out how Dr. Tim fights for family at the UN!
No, this is not an article about your favorite band, One Direction. Sorry to disappoint. 🙂 But keep reading, and you’ll see why the title is quite appropriate.
Who Do You Know?
How much do you know about your parents? Your grandparents? I know you probably grew up with them. But that doesn’t mean that you know the intimate details about their lives . . . especially before they were parents.
I have found that even in my closest relationships, you can learn a great deal about a person from asking them the right questions. It is so easy to take those we care about for granted. To assume we know everything there is to know about them. This has certainly been the case with me. I live about 2 ½ hours from my parents, but I visit them fairly often. Recently, I have tried to ask them more questions about their lives, their feelings, their stories, and so forth. Then I just listen. And then ask follow-up questions. Wow!
My father’s health has been slowly deteriorating for several years. Things are not looking promising. So I’ve decided to sit down and interview him in order to glean as much wisdom and as many experiences as I can. I hope this can be part of our legacy as a family. My children, my wife, my siblings, and beyond will benefit greatly from these stories. But don’t just take my word for it.
Connecting Generations Through Story
Family stories, such as those passed from previous generations, act like a chain that link together family members throughout time. It gives children a sense of who they are and how to approach life. Generational stories also have several other tremendous benefits.
When 2 psychologists from Emory University worked with children before and after the 9/11 terror attacks, they found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”
The researchers concluded: “The more children knew about their families’ histories, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher self-esteem, and the more successfully they believe their families functioned.”
But we can’t just pass on the greatest hits of our ancestors; they need to be real individuals with real challenges. The bitter with the sweet. For example, “We’ve had ups and downs in our family, and here is how we overcame our trials.”
Not only do inter-generational stories help in the long-term, but they also have more immediate benefits as well!
A study from Oxford University showed that teenagers whose grandparents were actively involved in their lives were happier. They had fewer emotional and behavior problems and got along with their peers better. “Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren buffer the effects of adverse life events,” the researchers said.
Another study from the U.S. showed that grandparents have a positive influence on their grandchildren that is distinct from parent-child relationships. When grandparents stayed connected and involved with their grandkids, the children in both single parent and two-parent families “were kinder to others outside their immediate family and friends — and, in some cases, smarter.”
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
Great Granddaddy Knew
One of the primary reasons that generational stories are so impactful is that they tell about love and sacrifice. Indeed, leaving a lot of wealth to posterity may be desirable for some, but leaving a legacy of love will go much, much further. I share a portion of the lyrics from a song written by one of my best friends (who’s also an old bandmate):
Some people leave lots of money
For their children when they go
But no, not my grandfather
All we got from him was love.
Late a couple nights ago, my youngest on his tippy toes,
overheard his daddy cryin’.
I was sayin’ something to the Lord
Like “I wish I could give him more”
when my baby intervened.
He said: Daddy why are you crying?
All that I’ve ever wanted was to be loved by you.
Cause that’s what your daddy gave you
And that’s what his daddy gave him
Great granddaddy knew, that you would love me too.
Great granddaddy knew.
So What Are You Waiting For?
When and how can parents and grandparents share these stories with their children? If you aren’t currently holding annual family reunions, take the bull by the horns and get on it. It only takes one person to start a fire.
Set aside time to do interviews with family members! One author gives the following recommendations:
Well-crafted, open-ended questions can yield fruitful results when you interview family for purposes of family history. Take time to tailor the questions to the person you are interviewing.
When you are ready to conduct an interview, have the questions in front of you to make sure you are getting the information you desire. Conversations about family can go many directions. When possible, record the interview on audio or video.
The article goes on to list 150 possible questions you could ask! I highly recommend you use this reference as a guide.
Don’t wait until they’re sick or gone. You never know what the future holds. Start today with a few drips, and then over time, it can become a flood of family stories for you and your posterity.
Dr. Tim shares a little bit about his experiences defending the family at the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women.
We’ve all had those friends who are stuck in miserable marriages. Maybe we’re even stuck in one ourselves! But are we really stuck? Except for cases of tremendous trauma (such as abuse, infidelity, and neglect), the way out is not as hard as it may seem. We actually get to decide how happy we want our marriages to be.
Don’t believe me? Well, read on!
We Decide if We Give our Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt
In happier marriages, couples seem to have a positive filter that influences the way they respond to each other – even during times where offense, frustration, disappointment, or anger would be natural responses. Dr. John Gottman refers to this as positive sentiment override.
In other words, so much positivity builds up in the marriage that it’s easier to overlook little frustrations. The overall positive balance counteracts the negative. Or, as a wise friend said, when we don’t know one’s motives, we default to an assumption of goodwill (see this previous article for more additional information).
Happiness Tip #1 – Remember, giving the benefit of the doubt is our choice. Though this may be difficult at times, as we consistently make this choice, we choose a happier marriage!
We Decide if We will Forgive our Spouse
You’ve probably heard this quote from 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope: “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
While this principle is true in so many aspects of life, constant and complete forgiveness is a critical component for anyone choosing to create a happy marriage.
Too often, the inability to forgive slowly destroys relationships that could otherwise be happy. Because we all marry imperfect people and we all continue to make mistakes, forgiveness is necessary for every marriage!
Happiness Tip #2 – Forgiveness, while not always easy, is always a choice. If we really want an amazing marriage, holding onto grudges can’t be part of our relationship. Remember, to choose to forgive really is divine!
We Decide If We Will Be Resilient or if We Will Give Up Easily
Have you ever experienced disappointments in your marriage? Have you dealt with unexpected financial or health challenges? Are you facing difficulties in your marriage right now?
You probably answered “yes” to at least one of these questions.
While we each face different struggles, research suggests that it’s not necessarily the stressor itself (unemployment, illness, etc.) but rather how we respond that has the largest influence on our marital satisfaction.
For instance, research shows how some couples coping with a husband’s cancer still improved their marital happiness, even during such a hard time. Other research demonstrates how some couples were able to maintain their marital satisfaction even through the heart-wrenching trial of the death of their child.
Why were some couples in these studies able to thrive in spite of their difficult challenges while other couples struggled? The answer, at least in part, is resilience.
Happiness Tip #3 – We choose how we will respond to adverse situations (including tough times during marriage); in other words, we can choose resilience! Remember, strong marriages are formed, in part, by their ability to weather the storms of life. Trials and challenges will come to every marriage. But, how we respond to the “bad weather” will greatly influence our ability to achieve marital bliss.
By applying these three tips, you can choose to be happily married. So give the benefit of the doubt, forgive, and don’t give up. Choose happiness today!
Is sugar hurting your marriage? It was trying to harm mine!
Do you have a sweet-tooth? Do your breakfast cereals come in two varieties (pre-sweetened and “post-sweetened”)? Can you sometimes relate a bit too easily to the “Buddy the Elf diet”?
I had such a sweet-tooth as a child that I would sometimes sneak into the kitchen, open the fridge and drink the Hershey’s syrup from the container. Though that particular practice ended during adolescence, I continued to find many other exciting ways to get my “sugar fix.”
And, because I was able to largely avoid putting on unwanted pounds (mostly because of my exercising), I didn’t realize how much I was harming myself — and even my family.
More about that in a moment.
Did you know?
As recently as a few years ago I mistakenly thought the two largest risks associated with sugar consumption were cavities and hyper children. However, with help from medical professionals and some of my own subsequent research, I am beginning to understand how uninformed I was regarding my “sugar addiction”. Consider the following statistics:
- In the US, we now consume 3 times the amount of sugar than we did just 50 years ago.
- While estimates vary, this equates to 65 – 150 pounds of sugar consumption per individual each year.
- Sugar consumption contributes to diabetes (1 million Americans as of 2012) and pre-diabetes (86 million Americans as of 2012).
While the list goes on, let me quickly share my unexpected pre-diabetes diagnosis from 2013 and how my wife and I have actually benefited from this “bad news.”
**Note** – In addition to the term pre-diabetes, my condition was also referred to as hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.
My unexpected journey
I have spent much of my life exhausted! Many of you can probably. Let me give you a brief sampling:
- I fell asleep while on a date with my wife. We had just started dating at the time and we were playing board games with other couples. Before long, I had fallen asleep. Classy, right?! I am lucky that this sweet girl still agreed to marry me.
- Years ago, when we were newlyweds, a neighborhood couple invited us to watch a movie at their place. I was asked to go to Blockbuster (do you remember those movie rental stores?) and pick out a movie. I returned to their place, popped in the movie and promptly fell asleep during the opening credits.
- A few years later I thought I would be a good brother-in-law and took my wife’s younger brother to a movie. Our bonding hit a snag when I fell asleep in the theater and again slept through the whole movie.
I could go on, but you get the point. During those years I was earning my Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees. Likewise, we were raising five young and energetic children. I attributed my constant fatigue to simply having a busy life!
In addition to my constant sleepiness, I had other health concerns. For instance, I was increasingly becoming light headed, I began experiencing positional vertigo whenever I would bend down, and I even began to frequently use a portion of my lunch hour to take naps in my car – simply to have enough energy to make it through the day. Finally, even though I was an avid distance runner, I consistently had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides.
In October of 2013 I was tested and subsequently received my diagnosis of prediabetes. I was also told that the fatigue, light-headedness, high blood pressure, etc. were likely all symptoms of my condition.
I left the doctor’s office fairly devastated as I quickly realized that many things would need to change! For someone who had previously quipped that my two favorite hobbies were eating and running, this was going to be quite a change indeed (at least for one of my favorite hobbies).
My initial pity-party quickly gave way to immense gratitude. Just days after greatly reducing sugars from my diet (i.e. rarely eating desserts, eliminating sugary drinks, etc.), reducing simple carbohydrates, and increasing the amount of vegetables I ate, I began to feel better than I had felt since childhood.
My vertigo immediately disappeared and I no longer needed to take “emergency naps” to make it through the work day. What’s more, my blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides have all improved.
In fact, I began to feel so much better that I no longer viewed my dietary changes as a sacrifice. This had turned into an incredible blessing!
And, while my wife and I have always had a good marriage, my improved health also began blessing our marriage in a variety of ways! I am now less fatigued when I return home from work. We are able to spend more time together in the evening. I have more energy to give to my wife (as well as my children) throughout each week. And this improved health also increases the likelihood of me being a part of their lives for decades to come.
How does this apply to you?
Clearly your genes are different than mine. You may never be afflicted with pre-diabetes or diabetes. However, in my research, I have noticed that some researchers and medical professionals are now referring to sugar as a toxin – and one that we consume in dangerous quantities. Yikes!
So, while I am no doctor (well no medical doctor anyway), I wonder if your health, and even your marriage, may also benefit from reducing your sugar intake. I’m guessing that it would!
If your life would benefit from improved health or increased energy, I invite you to join me in a quest during 2016 to reduce sugar intake. What do you have to lose?