“Hidden Gems” Out and About Family Adventure Guides Launched

Looking for ideas to play together as a family this summer? Use our FREE Hidden Gem adventure guides! (New guides available now!) Download a guide, connect and play together using the guide, then give us feedback at the link provided on the guide by July 31, and be entered to win fabulous prizes!

Click here to download the guide!

May Gardening Checklist

April showers bring May flowers – as well as a multitude of gardening tasks. The Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac provides a checklist for each month as well as links for tips and further information. The May checklist follows. 

* Plant warm-season vegetables and annual flowers once the threat of the last frost has passed. Click here for a listing of the average last and first frost dates.

* By planting tomatoes deeper, they are able to form more roots along the stem, creating  a more vigorous plant.

              * Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.

              * Consider the various types of fertilizers. Click here for information on traditional fertilizer options. Click here for information on organic fertilizers.

              * Thin overcrowded seedlings using a pair of scissors, and try not to disturb the young roots.

              * Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for information on critical temperatures for fruit.

              * Plant summer-blooming bulbs including gladiola, begonia, dahlia and canna.

              * Divide warm-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.

              * It’s already time to take notice of weeds. Click here for information. 

              * Allow the foliage of spring blooming bulbs (tulips, daffodils and crocus) to die down before cutting the leaves off.

              * Click here for information on planting a lawn.

              * In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing (April – June).

              * Control broadleaf weeds in the lawn when temperatures are between 60 and 80 F. Follow the label and stop the use of broadleaf herbicides once the temperature is above 85 F.

              * Apply a slow-release lawn fertilizer to provide a long-lasting effect throughout the summer months.

Pests and Problems:

              * Monitor newly planted vegetables for cutworm and flea beetle damage.

              * Monitor for cankerworm damage on scrub oak and Box Elder trees along the foothills.

              * Monitor for aphids on new spring growth on a variety of plants. Treat for aphids by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or using an insecticidal soap.

              * Monitor for slugs and snails. These pests thrive in moist, cool areas of the garden and landscape, feeding on a variety of plant hosts.

              * Protect ash trees from the lilac-ash borer around the first of May.

              * Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see the Utah Pests Advisories.

              * Treat for powdery mildew on apples when leaves are emerging (at ½-inch green) until June.

              * Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May through early June.

              * Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.

            * Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.

            * Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. 

            * Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website. For drought information and tips, click here.

How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Couples can create trust through sharing varied experiences. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They determine trust by giving a little of it at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it based on their perception of the person’s behavior. For intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits should be exhibited. Those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship (Zak et al., 1998).  

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. Zak et al. (1998) suggest that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with what they said they would do, the other member of the relationship can begin to determine whether or not there is consistency in their behavior. This idea, the feeling as if we know what to expect, is one way in which couples can build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what they say and do, then this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is established, Zak et al. (1998), propose that a couple can move towards establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship connotes surety that you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, even in your interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is part of being truthful. However, there may be times in which your partner needs to make changes to plans. Their willingness to communicate with you about the change is what makes the difference. 

It is important to note that our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Therefore, open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

  •     Does my partner keep promises?
  •     Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?
  •     More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?
  •     Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?
  •     Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain as to whether or not you can trust your partner, I would encourage you to explore your past experiences, behaviors that cause you concern, and why they are of concern. Talk with your partner about your concerns, and if you do not feel comfortable discussing these things with him, then seek out a licensed therapist to help you explore your experiences and thoughts. 

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor


  • Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224549809600373

Move More in May: Five Reasons to Increase Physical Activity

In many parts of the country, the month of May is when the weather warms after a cold winter. That means it’s time to get up and move more! Whether it’s more walks outside, push-ups during commercials on TV, more stairs in your house, or getting up and walking regularly at work, the benefits of physical movement are endless. And while we all know we should exercise more because it’s good for us, sometimes we need a boost and a goal to help us get going. This doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym or buy fancy workout clothes, you just need to move your body more – and if you haven’t started already, May is the perfect time!

Here are five reasons to increase physical activity and move more in May.

  1. Moving your body improves mental health. Studies continue to show that when our bodies feel good, our brains feel better. The results of 40 clinical trials involving nearly 3,000 patients with a variety of medical conditions showed that those who exercised regularly reported a 20% reduction in anxiety compared to those who didn’t exercise. Others found that even small doses of physical activity, such as brisk walking, may substantially lower the risk for depression. Studies show the greatest benefits are realized when going from no activity to at least some activity, but the truth is, every little bit helps.
  1. Exercise is awesome for your physical health. It should come as no surprise that more and more doctors prescribe exercise to help patients improve their physical health. Exercise strengthens your heart and improves circulation. The increase in blood flow raises oxygen levels, which lowers your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and lowers blood sugar levels. Of course, it also helps you control your weight, strengthens bones and muscles, reduces risk of falls for older adults, and even reduces your risk of some cancers, including colon, breast, uterine, and lung cancer. It’s time to move!
  1. Exercise curbs your craving for junk food. Research suggests physical activity can help promote a better diet. As little as 20 minutes of brisk walking has been shown to help control high-calorie junk food and soda cravings and even motivate the selection of healthier foods. Exercise can actually increase prefrontal brain functioning, which improves our ability to resist the temptation of sugary or salty, ultra-processed foods.
  1. Move more, sleep better. Have trouble falling or staying asleep? Try moving more! While researchers may not completely understand how physical activity improves sleep, decades of studies show that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, which is when the brain and body rejuvenate. And the best part? It doesn’t take months or years to see the benefit – exercise today and sleep better tonight. Scientists suggest watching what time you exercise since aerobic exercise raises the core body temperature and releases endorphins, which might make it difficult to wind down if you exercise in the evening.
  1. Exercise your way to better relationships. Physical activity causes a release in endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that block out pain. As a result, people feel happier after exercising, even after a single 20-minute walk. It can also decrease stress and worry, which can reduce the odds of negative interactions and lead to boosts in empathy, positivity, and compassion. Exercise also helps remove toxins in our bodies, which affect how we feel, and how we feel impacts our relationships. Plus, studies suggest that exercise increases testosterone, and women who are physically active have greater sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. In sum, exercise can increase our emotional connection with others.

So, it’s time to commit to move more in the month of May. Start by setting a specific, realistic goal. Write it down, commit, share it, and celebrate your small wins. You may even reach out and get moving more with a partner or friend, and you will both reap the benefits!

Five Tips for Talking with Your Children about War and Conflict

When war and conflict make the headlines and children see disturbing images on television or the internet, it can create feelings of fear, stress, sadness, anxiety, and even anger. They may also hear things from friends, teachers, and other children and adults about what is happening in the world, including frightening possibilities about what could happen.

One of the most important roles a parent plays in their child’s life is to keep them safe and secure, especially in times of turmoil. Here are five tips for talking with children about war and conflict and how to provide support to ease their fears.

1.  Find out what their concerns are, what they have heard from others, and how it makes them feel. Find a comfortable time, such as during a family meal, when you can ask them what they know and how they are feeling. Try to avoid a discussion right before bedtime, as it can create more worry and make sleeping difficult.

Be open to how much or how little children want to share, and pay close attention to their emotions. Some children may know little about what is happening and won’t be interested in talking about it. Others may worry in silence, while others may open up and share details. It’s important not to minimize or dismiss their concerns or be too quick to correct them. Let them share freely and then clarify where needed.

Younger children are often unable to distinguish between images on screens and their own personal reality and may believe they are in immediate danger, even if the conflict is happening far away. Older children might have seen troubling things on social media and be worried about how conflicts might escalate. The key is to hold up a figurative emotional mirror, reflect what you see, and offer compassion as you reassure them of their safety. As you show you are interested by listening with your full attention, they will be more likely to open up to you and other trusted adults now and in the future.

2.  Keep it calm and age-appropriate.  Children grow and develop differently, including in their emotional and mental abilities to process images and information. While children have a right to know what’s going on in the world, adults should use wisdom in how much detail to share. Use age-appropriate words, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their worries. You know your child best. The key is to calm fears and reassure children of their safety.

It is normal for parents to spend time watching the news and feeling emotions of worry, sadness, and anger in times of war and conflict. But remember that children take their emotional cues from adults, so use your time wisely and be cautious in oversharing your emotions with them.

Remind them that many people are working hard around the world to stop the conflict and find peaceful resolutions. It’s okay not to have the answers to every question your child has. You can say that you need to look it up or use it as an opportunity with older children to find the answers together. Use websites of reputable news organizations or international organizations like UNICEF and the UN. Explain that some information online isn’t accurate, and stress the importance of finding reliable sources.

3. Spread compassion, not stigma.  News stories and images from war and conflict can stir up strong feelings, which can create prejudice and discrimination against a people or a country. When speaking with or around children, avoid labels and name calling, such as “bad people” or “evil” and instead use it as an opportunity to encourage compassion, such as for the families forced to flee their homes.

4. Focus on those who are doing good.  It’s important for children to know about the good that people are doing for those who suffer from war and conflict. Find and share stories of helpers and heroes who serve and sacrifice for the benefit of those who are affected by war. Talk with children about ways they can help. The sense of doing something, no matter how small, can often bring great comfort.

5.  Continue to check in.  As conflicts arise and news stories gain attention, be sure to check in regularly to see how children feel about war and conflict. Do they have more questions? Are they interested in getting your perspective? Do they want to clarify something they heard or saw?

If your child seems worried or anxious about what’s happening, be especially aware of any changes in how they behave or feel, such as stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, or difficulty sleeping. Children have different reactions to stressful events and some signs of distress might not be so obvious. Younger children may become clingier than usual, while teens might show intense grief or anger. Many of these reactions only last for a short time and are normal reactions to stressful events. If these reactions last for a prolonged period of time, your child may need to see a counselor or specialist.

*This resource was developed based on tips from the following article: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/how-talk-your-children-about-conflict-and-war

By: Dave Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, David.Schramm@usu.edu

The Balancing Act of Work and Family

What does riding a bike, using a wheelbarrow, arranging flowers, and placing furniture in a room have in common? All of these tasks require balance. It is hard to explain what balance is in each circumstance, but it sure is easy to tell when it’s missing! The term work-family balance refers to the proportion of time and focus spent on work and on family. Research shows that family conflict increases when work and family time are out of balance (Chang et al., 2017). When work and family time are out of balance, both suffer.

Too often we think of balance as equal portions, but when achieving balance in life we have to focus on appropriate proportions. There is no one size fits all when it comes to balancing work time and family time. Re-evaluation from time to time is essential as the correct proportions change over time.

Here are a few tips to help evaluate and improve work-family balance:

  1. Take the time needed to evaluate and think about work-family balancing. This sounds simple, but often when under stress it is easy to feel there isn’t time for this. Uninterrupted and unhurried time will allow for good thought processing, which can improve relationships and productivity at home and in the work place.
  2. Gather feedback from family members and sincerely listen to what they share. Recognize what makes them feel second to work and listen for ideas for improvement. Make a plan together and evaluate it over time.
  3. Explore what can be changed. A drastic employment change could be the key, but often there are many smaller changes that can be made with schedules, locations, setting boundaries, and using time more efficiently both at home and at work.
  4. Technology makes it easy to stay connected to work around the clock and around the world. Remember to be at work at work and be at home when at home, in your thoughts and in your actions. Time fully away from work is important to work-family balance.

Remember that work-family balance is a process, not a one-time achievement (Lupu & Ruiz-Castro, 2021). Consistent small steps of improvement ensure that changes can be maintained long-term and improve family relationships.


Chang, X., Zhou, Y., Wang, C., & de Pablos Heredero, C. (2017). How do work-family balance practices affect work-family conflict? The differential roles of work stress. Frontier of Business Research in China, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11782-017-0008-4

Lupu, I., & Ruiz-Castro, M. (2021, January 29). Work-life balance is a cycle, not an achievement. Harvard Business Reviewhttps://hbr.org/2021/01/work-life-balance-is-a-cycle-not-an-achievement

Tips for Being a Savvy Supermarket Shopper

As the rising cost of living is cutting into our budgets, it’s important to be savvy in our grocery shopping. Consider these tips.

  • Check your home food inventory before going to the grocery store, including your pantry and food storage. What do you have on hand that should be used before it expires? What food storage items need to be rotated while still within peak quality? 
  • Take inventory of your freezer and refrigerator. There may be fresh foods that need to be eaten soon or items you forgot about in the freezer.
  • Look over grocery store ads to see what is on sale, and plan your meals accordingly.
  • Make a menu before shopping, and remember to include a plan for leftovers. This can be as simple as brown-bagging leftovers instead of eating out for lunch, or turning leftovers into another meal.
  • Make your grocery list and do your best to stick to it. Or even better – use the grocery pick up or delivery option. This can help eliminate items you can do without, but are easy to succumb to when walking through the store.
  • Use cash at the grocery store. This will help you be strategic and stick to your list and budget.
  • Eat food before it spoils. The USDA estimates that the average American household of four wastes about $1,500 worth of food per year. That’s a lot of money that could be put toward something enjoyable and useful for your household.
  • Think outside the recipe. Though we have learned to adapt to supply chain shortages, remember that when an item on your list isn’t available, you can look for other options. In meals such as soups, salads, and casseroles, grains can usually be swapped, based on what you have on hand, i.e., rice for barley, potatoes for noodles, etc. To get ideas, do an internet search for recipe substitutions.
  • Don’t neglect vegetables and fruits. If prices are high on fresh produce, check for other options. Frozen vegetables are often reasonably priced and are usually cheaper per pound than fresh. They can be steamed, boiled, roasted, or added to soups, stir fry recipes, casseroles, and pastas. Shop for in-season produce for better prices. Canned vegetables and fruits are also a great option.
  • Select family favorite meals that are less expensive and put them into your meal rotation regularly. Whole-grain, hearty pancakes are a fun, easy, and inexpensive meal to pair with eggs and fruit for a well-rounded dinner.
  • Add budget-stretching foods to your menus. Brown or white rice can add bulk in soups or chili. Homemade whole grain rolls, breadsticks, or quick breads are inexpensive to make and can help stretch a meal.
  • When eating out, share a meal or eat out for dessert only. Or try setting a goal to reduce the number of times you dine out in a given amount of time.
  • Take advantage of free school meals provided as a pandemic resource for your school-aged children. If you and your family qualify, take advantage of WIC or SNAP to stretch your food dollars even further.

It can be discouraging to see food costs rising, but remember – you have control over your spending. With discipline and effort, you can still be a savvy shopper.

By: Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Melanie.Jewkes@usu.edu

10 Tips to Overcoming Loneliness

Humans need social connections to survive and thrive. One report found that one-third of adults age 45 and older feel lonely and nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Studies have shown that loneliness (distressing feelings of being alone or separated) and social isolation (lack of social contacts or interaction regularly) are associated with increased risk for health problems such as depression, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the former US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, declared that loneliness is an epidemic, with the equivalent reduction in lifespan to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Although loneliness is a challenge for many, there is much we can do to overcome loneliness. Consider the following tips to combat loneliness:

  1. Join a class or club. Whether it’s an exercise class or book club, joining an existing group can help you find others who share your interests.  
  2. Volunteer. Volunteering for a cause you believe in can help you feel a deeper sense of gratitude for what you do have. It can also help you find more meaning in your life and connect you with other volunteers that have similar altruistic goals as you. 
  3. Adopt a pet. Pets offer companionship, unconditional love, and can potentially provide ways to connect with others (i.e. while walking your dog). 
  4. Strengthen existing relationships. Make an effort to talk with family and friends about what is occurring in their lives.  
  5. Talk to strangers. Even small interactions with strangers, such as a cashier at a store, can help you feel socially connected.  
  6. Find support online. Connect with others who have similar interests in Meetup or Facebook groups. Many apps, like workout or fitness apps, also have a social element or discussion board. 
  7. Practice self-care. When you are feeling lonely, be sure to take care of yourself. Eating nutritious foods, exercising, spending time in the sunshine, and getting enough sleep can boost your mood. 
  8. Stay busy. Keep yourself distracted from negative feelings by doing a hobby or home improvement project that you’ve been meaning to do. Take time to invest in yourself and your interests while also keeping your mind occupied in the process. 
  9. Plan ahead. Make plans ahead of time for extra support from family or friends on holidays, anniversaries, or other times that may be particularly challenging. 
  10. Seek help. Sometimes getting out to meet people isn’t enough. Seeking the help of a professional can give you the tools needed to combat the challenges you are facing. 

While it can be tempting to just retreat into a corner and hide when feeling lonely, doing just one of these small tips can improve your mood.  

Additional Resources:

Additional tips to overcoming loneliness: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201902/feeling-lonely-discover-18-ways-overcome-loneliness

Tips to support others who are lonely: https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/7-ways-to-cheer-up-that-lonely-someone.aspx


Murthy, V. (2017). Work and the loneliness epidemic. Harvard Business Reviewhttps://hbr.org/cover-story/2017/09/work-and-the-loneliness-epidemic

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2020). Social isolation and loneliness in older adults: Opportunities for the health care system. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25663

National Institute on Aging. (n.d.) Loneliness and social isolation—Tips for staying connected. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/loneliness-and-social-isolation-tips-staying-connected

Scott, E. (2021). 9 ways to cope with loneliness. Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-with-loneliness-3144939

By Naomi Brower, Extension Professor

Spring Pruning Pointers

Temperatures are warming, and it is time to get out in the yard again. One of the first orders of business is pruning shrubs, roses, fruit trees, and raspberries.

Many gardeners are intimidated by pruning because they don’t know exactly what to do, so they attempt to do something they hope will look good. This often includes giving plants and shrubs a buzz cut, which is not recommended. Over time, this removes too much of the shrub’s leaf-producing wood, which impacts plant health and makes it look thin.

A technique called “renewal pruning” can keep a shrub’s size down and help maintain its health. It involves focusing on older branches and removing 20 – 25% of the branches from the base of the shrub. This will reduce the shrub’s size by 30 – 50% and still leave enough branches to grow leaves and keep the bush’s energy levels high. Shrubs that bloom in the spring such as lilac, forsythia, and snowball bush should be pruned as soon as they are done blooming.

Prune all other shrubs in late March to early April. Consider these pruning tips, and be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves to safeguard your skin.

* There are many rose varieties, and they often require slightly different pruning techniques. Prune bush/shrub roses using renewal pruning. For hybrid tea and grandiflora roses, prune them down to between knee and waist high, depending on their age and vigor. Remove all but three or four of the healthiest canes, and prune them near the base of the rose. Hybrid tea and grandiflora roses bloom repeatedly throughout the growing season. Pruning them back keeps their size under control, increases the number of flowers, and can aid in controlling certain pests and diseases.

* When pruning fruit trees, start by pruning out dead and diseased wood, then remove crossing branches that grow up through the main canopy, and those growing downward. With the exception of peaches and nectarines, only remove 20 – 25% of the total canopy. This percentage does not include the dead or diseased wood that needs to be removed. Peaches and nectarines can have up to 40% of their wood removed since fruit is only produced on one-year old wood. Click here to see a link on pruning peach trees. Click here to see a link for pruning apples.

* When pruning raspberries, first determine if you have the summer-bearing or ever-bearing variety. Ever-bearing types produce from summer into fall, while summer types provide a heavy crop in the summer only. One way to prune ever-bearing plants is to cut all canes a few inches above the ground. This allows for a large fall crop but no summer crop. Otherwise, the correct method for both types is to remove all dead canes from the patch at ground level. They are usually darker colored and have bark that is starting to sluff or peel. Of the remaining living canes, thin them so they are spaced 6 inches apart, leaving the thicker canes. After doing this, cut the canes at chest height. Click here to see a video on pruning raspberries.

For further yard and garden tips, visit garden.usu.edu.

Answer by: Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, taun.beddes@usu.edu

How Can I Express My Feelings in a More Gentle (less blaming) Way?

We cannot expect our loved ones to guess what is going on inside our minds. This makes expressing our own feelings in a non-judgmental or blaming way critical to healthy relationships. Blame can be a quick route to arguments and resentment. Here are five tips for how to start expressing yourself with loved ones without blame:

1. Understand your emotions – before discussing our feelings with someone else, we must first understand them. Put a name to the emotions that you’re feeling. If you find that your main feelings are “mad” or “angry,” give yourself time to calm down before you attempt to have a discussion so that you can talk openly without anger with your loved one (Heitler, 2013). Further, think about what changes could improve the situation, from your point of view so that you have a good understanding of what you feel as well as how to start to mend any issues (Vilhauer, 2016).

2. Pick the right time – make sure that you both have time to talk, schedule time if you need to, but make sure that you don’t wait too long. We want to talk about things to resolve them, instead of bottling-up our feelings.  Addressing problems as they arise, rather than letting them become too big to discuss in one sitting helps us stay focused on one issue at a time, and have open conversations with loved ones (Lisitsa, 2013).  

3. State your feelings and solutions – emotions are not right or wrong but coping with them is exclusively the responsibility of the person feeling the emotion (Heitler, 2013; Payne, 2017). This means that nobody else can control how we feel individually, so when one person feels blamed by another, it can lead to conflict. To avoid blame, use “I feel…” statements (e.g., “I feel sad” or “I feel lonely”) to own your feelings. Stating our emotions directly in this way, without justification about why we feel that way, can make us feel vulnerable. However, it leaves the door open for loved ones to engage with us and enter into a conversation where both people are active participants. Avoid “You make me feel…” statements which can sound like accusations and lead to defensiveness (Vilhauer, 2016).

4. Avoid accusations and opinions – be careful to express what you’re really feeling and don’t confuse those feelings with your thoughts or opinions. It can often be hard to tell them apart. If you find yourself saying, “I feel that” or “I feel like” what you’re about to say is probably an opinion or thought masquerading as an emotion. When we present our opinions as emotions, agreement between people with differing opinions becomes harder to reach and opportunities to have open conversations with loved ones are minimized (Vilhaurer, 2016; Bernstein, 2018).

5. Bring Solutions and Listen – present your ideas for how to improve the situation. Focusing on solutions and validating both parties’ feelings can help people feel less defensive (Vilhauer, 2016). Some solutions will be best created together with open communication. Tell your loved one what you need, give them an opportunity to express their needs, validate each other’s feelings, and work on solutions to meet those needs together. Approach the conversation with the goal of making sure what you are feeling is clearly expressed, and you will be able to talk more openly with your loved one, without blame (Payne, 2017). “Problem-solving together makes negative feelings lift” (Heitler, 2013). 

Rather than being afraid of expressing our feelings with loved ones, we can choose to look at these moments as opportunities to increase connection. Starting with gentle and non-blaming strategies, like the ones above, can help us do just that. 


Bernstein, M. (2018). “I feel that…,” “I feel like”: Problems big and small. ETC: A Review of General Semantics. 75(3/4), 463-465.

Heitler, S. (2013, May 23). How to express feelings…and how not to. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201305/how-express-feelings-and-how-not

Lisitsa, E. (2013, March 15). How to fight smarter: Soften your start-up. The Gottman Institute. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/softening-startup/

Payne, M. (2017). How to communicate anger without blaming. MarciPayne.com. Retrieved from https://marcipayne.com/communicate-anger-without-blaming/

Vilhauer, J. (2016, September 17). 3 ways to speak up without starting a fight. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forward/201609/3-ways-speak-without-starting-fight

By Chapel Taylor-Olsen and Ashley Yaugher, PhD