Tim Chapman, Msc.D., CAADAC
“America’s parenting Coach”
Matthew is a 15-year old boy who’s looking forward to the holidays. He enjoys the
togetherness that takes place in his home during this wonderful season.

Holidays around Matthew’s house are a joy throughout the season. That’s because
he lives in an emotionally healthy family. Emotional healthiness requires ongoing
commitment and communication from one another.

Phyllis and David York, the CO-founders of “Tough Love” parent support groups believe
that “the essence of family is cooperation not togetherness.” When it comes to raising
teenagers there is much truth to this statement.

Matthew’s parents struggle with him from time to time (struggle is the nature of
adolescence). During these times, cooperation does become more important than
togetherness. Matthew’s parents facilitate cooperation throughout the year, which is what
allows his family to experience true togetherness during the holiday season.

Dysfunctional families tend to be emotionally distant or too busy to communicate with
each other throughout the year. Then suddenly the holiday season arrives, and these
same families think they can just pop a turkey in the oven and strike up an intimate
conversation with each other. Wrong!

Reaching intimacy and vulnerability is a process. Becoming intimate and vulnerable
with each other will create togetherness, however each family members’ emotional needs
should be considered at all times, not just around the holidays.

I’ve listed 7 emotional needs that if met throughout the year, equal happiness and
togetherness during the holiday season.

In an emotionally healthy family;

1. Each child is acknowledged as a worthy contributor to the family – Parents validate
this child’s opinions and ideas. They don’t necessarily have to agree with them, just
acknowledge them.

2. Each child feels part of the family unit by spending time with their parents – Many
times teens are resistant to spending time with their parents. Although they need this
time, they tend to resist it. In such as case, it’s helpful to allow the teenager to choose
or create an activity for family time once or twice a month.

3. Each child understands the rules and expectations of the family – If rules are not a
problem, great! If rules or expectations become a problem, parents need to develop
written rules or contracts for their children.

4. Each child feels safe at home and free from verbal or physical abuseVerbal abuse
can be as damaging as physical abuse. If any type of abuse takes place in your
family, seek professional help immediately.

5. Each child practices negotiating and problem solving skills – This is important for
children in order to develop “boundaries” which keep them emotionally safe. If
parents lack this skill, their children will too.

6. Each child is allowed to express his/her feelings without judgment – Parents must
listen to their child’s feelings then reflect the feeling they thought they heard.
Example: Matthew arrives home and announces: “My girlfriend isn’t speaking to me.”
His parent’s should response with “you sound hurt Matthew?” If they’re wrong and
Mathew’s not hurt, he will likely tell them. If their interpretation is correct, it will
validate his feelings and create a stronger bond. A dysfunctional parent would give
advice in this situation rather than acknowledge the child’s feelings.

7. Each child is able to spend time alone – It’s important that we take time to meditate,
pray and talk to ourselves. The ability to be alone enhances a child’s self-esteem.

Matthew’s family has mastered these techniques by practicing and enforcing them
throughout the year. This way, during the holiday season, they don’t have to wonder
what it’s like to live in a happy family.

For information on dealing with teen behavior contact Tim at Chapman House Toll Free
at 1-800-451-1947 or log onto www.teensavers.com.  If you believe your child may be using drugs or may be an addict, then contact us at www.myteensavers.com

A Christmas tree inside a home.

Image via Wikipedia