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When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

Book Review: “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” by Xavier Amador, PhD.  (Vida Press, 2012) For the last 20 or so years, brain research has helped doctors and therapists understand that the serious mental illnesses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are diseases of brain function. During the century before the “Decade of the Brain (the 1990’s)”, these rare and frightening mental diseases were blamed on bad or inadequate mothering (the “schizophrenogenic mother”), thanks to the early theories of…

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Touching Home Base

Touching Home Base

Over ten years ago, during the most difficult part of my career as a parish pastor, I took a quick summer trip back East with my two young children to visit my family. We flew in, and my parents picked us up from the airport. Toward the end of that visit, I coerced my parents into taking the 100 mile trip from their home to the town of my childhood. Though we had talked about it weeks before on the…

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We Can’t Choose our Parents

We Can’t Choose our Parents

It’s true; we can’t choose our parents. Whatever skills or deficits they possess as people: their readiness or disinterest at caring for us, their physical and mental health, and their ability to meet basic needs for food, shelter and safety have an immediate and lasting effect on our own development. The human brain is shaped every day by the way we are cared for by those closest to us, and grows fastest during the first two years of life. If…

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Major Mental Illness (MMI) and the Family

Major Mental Illness (MMI) and the Family

For all the research that has been done in the last twenty years attempting to understand the brain, the organ at the top of our spine retains its essential mystery. We know more now than ever how the brain works, how it has developed over the centuries to do the miraculous things it does, and what is happening to it when it gets injured. Doctors, parents, coaches and professional athletes are more alert to the dangers of brain concussion. Neurologists…

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How to Become a Good Stepparent

How to Become a Good Stepparent

While most of us who marry intend it to be for a lifetime, about half of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. Divorce ends not only a couple relationship based at least initially on attraction, trust and commitment; it marks the end of a dreamed future as a family. Despite the pain that most divorces bring, the desire to be happily married doesn’t seem to end, since most of those who divorce will eventually remarry. Marrying…

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Chronic Illness and the Family

Chronic Illness and the Family

It may be the idealized image of television shows, or perfect, ever-present pictures in advertising in newspapers and magazines, or just the plan hopefulness with which we all start our families. But most of us don’t plan to include chronic, life-long health problems in our family plan. Our bodies are quite amazing creations, able to fight off disease, recover from injury, grow, age and change every day. We aren’t minds that have bodies attached, but we are instead bodies that…

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Personality: Does Birth Order Matter?

Personality: Does Birth Order Matter?

For generations, family members have noted the differences that naturally arise in children raised in the same family. How is it that John, the first born and only boy, seems to have such different personality characteristics than his younger brother, raised in the same house by the same parents just two years apart?  Good question! Theories of personality abound. You may be familiar with some of the more popular models, often used in work or educational settings. The Myers-Briggs Type…

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Family Travels

Family Travels

The weather’s slowly warming across the country, and along with snow melt and longer days comes that familiar family travel time known as Spring Vacation. And though they may not be, as Charles Dickens’s wrote, “the best of times, the worst of times” in your family’s lives, travels together as a group can be some of the happiest as well as most stressful times you have together as a family. Time away from our regular routines is essential for good…

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You Can Go Home Again

You Can Go Home Again

For better or worse, we first learn about making and keeping relationships in our families. During our formative years, our parents establish patterns with us; patterns of connection and separation, of independence and dependence, of give and take, that literally shape our developing brains and how they work for the rest of our lives. The problem, of course, is that this is a very imperfect process. Our parents have inherited their own patterns from their own parents, families and culture…

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