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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

References

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




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. 

References

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




Cooling Hot Heads

Have you ever been so upset with your partner that you can’t think straight? It is normal to have moments of frustration and anger in relationships. How we manage strong emotions in our relationships is what matters. Being filled with uncontrolled, unmanaged anger during an argument is not constructive for you or your partner and can have long-term damaging effects to the relationship. So, what can you do to cool down and reach a point where you can think more clearly and problem solve with your partner? 

When you or your partner get to a point where you are feeling overwhelmed or “flooded,” it is important to take a break from the situation for at least 20 minutes, about the amount of time that it takes for the parasympathetic anti-stress hormones to put the brakes on runaway emotions (Navarra, 2021). Taking a break can help you to prevent further escalation and possibly saying or doing things that you will regret. Consider creating a signal that you need a break such as a code word. Use this time away from each other to calm yourself and get your mind off the situation by doing something such as: 

  • Focused breathing: Take ten slow, deep breaths, pausing for one or two seconds after inhaling.
  • Positive imagery: Close your eyes and think of a positive, relaxing experience, time or place.
  • Get active: Take a short walk to help you decompress, burn off extra tension and reduce stress or, if it works better for you, try non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises to relax your muscles to feel calmer. 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: slowly tense then relax each muscle group. 
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax” while breathing deeply.

By Naomi Brower, Extension Professor, & Sophia Pettit, Student Intern

Once you are both calm enough to have a conversation, make sure you approach each other to try talking again. At some point, it may also be helpful to talk about what may have triggered such intense emotions (such as past experiences/history). While intense feelings and conflict are uncomfortable, with effort, difficult conversations can also lead to increased closeness. For more information see this article:
The positive side of anger in relationships: A door to increasing intimacy.

References

American Psychological Association. (2011). Strategies for Controlling Your Anger: Keeping Anger in Check. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/strategies-controlling

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434

Navarra, R. (2022). The Dark Side of Anger: What Every Couple Should Know. The Gottman 

Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-dark-side-of-anger-what-every-couple-should-know/Navarra, R. (n.d.). The positive side of anger in relationships: A door to increasing intimacy. Dr. Robert Navarra. https://drrobertnavarra.com/the-positive-side-of-anger-in-relationships-a-door-to-increasing-intimacy/




The Benefits of Adult Friendships

An old poem tells us to, “Make new friends but keep the old, the new are silver the old are gold” (Parry, n.d.).   Researchers are finding that friendships are worth even more than silver or gold, in fact, there are many benefits associated with adult friendships. In a study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers note, “Incorporating social support and connections is critical for overall health and for healthy habits to be sustainable” (Martino, et al, 2017).  These same researchers found evidence that social support (e.g., friendships), help people maintain a variety of health factors such as blood sugar control, heart health, a healthy body mass index, cancer survival improvement, and overall mental health improvement. Another study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that “social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression”(Choi, et al, 2020). The benefits of friendship also increase your sense of belonging and purpose, contribute to improved self-worth and confidence, help you cope with traumatic events in your life, and increase happiness while reducing stress.  

Adults often find it more difficult to develop new friendships or maintain existing friendships. Responsibilities such as work or taking care of a family may take priority. Additionally, friendships change as people change interests or move away. However, you are never too old, and it is never too late to reach out to old friends or make new friends. Friendship takes effort but given the benefits of friendship, the extra work can be worth it.  Following the suggestions below from the Mayo Clinic may help as you seek to nurture new and existing friendships:

1. Be kind. This is the core of successful relationships. You get back what you put in so make certain what you give is positive and kind. Try expressing gratitude for the small things, say “thank you” when you are thankful or appreciative of your friend or something kind they did.

2. Be a good listener. Let your friend know you are interested in their life.  Show interest though eye contact and body language. Try to listen and ask clarifying questions, but don’t seek to respond with advice unless it is asked for directly.

3. Open up.  Sharing about your life can deepen connection and build intimacy with your friend. It shows them that they hold a special place in your life. Try expressing your feelings with “I” statements to be vulnerable and build connection. 

4. Show that you can be trusted. Be dependable, reliable, and responsible. When your friends share confidences with you, keep it confidential. Be sure to follow through on commitments and be on time when you plan get togethers.

5. Make yourself available.  Forging friendships takes time, including time spent together. Try to see new friends regularly and check in with them in-between times. Try texting or calling your friends when you think about them just to talk and be available to them.

References

Choi, K. W., Stein, M. B., Nishimi, K. M., Ge, T., Coleman, J. R. I., Chen, C.-Y., Ratanatharathorn, A., Zheutlin, A. B., Dunn, E. C., Breen, G., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2020). An exposer-wide and mendelian randomization approach to identifying modifiable factors for the 
prevention of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111158

 Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 16, 2022, 
     from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860 

 Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, E. (2015). The connection prescription: Using the power of social interactions and the deep desire for connectedness to empower health and wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(6). https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788

Parry, J. (n.d.). New friends and old friends. Poetry Nook. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/new-friends-and-old-friends 

The power of social connectedness. (2020, August 17). Psychology for all. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from http://www.psychologyforall.org/blog/the-power-of-social-connectedness

By Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professor




How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They often determine trust by giving a little at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it, based on their perception of the person’s behavior. According to “Assessments of Trust in Intimate Relationships and the Self-perception Process,” in The Journal of Social Psychology (reference below), for intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits need to be exhibited. Two of those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship.

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. The article suggests that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with promises, the other person in the relationship can determine if he or she feels there is consistency in the behavior. Feeling as if we know what to expect is one way to build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what he or she says and does, this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is proven, a couple can move toward establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship means you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, including in interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say are part of being truthful. However, there may be times when your partner needs to make a change to plans. Their willingness to communicate about the change is imperative. 

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. 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 whether or not you can trust your partner, explore your past experiences and behaviors that caused you concern, and determine why. Talk with your partner about your concerns. If you do not feel comfortable discussing them, seek out a licensed therapist to help explore your experiences and thoughts. 

Reference

·         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

By: Eva Timothy, Extension assistant professor, Eva.Timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483




Show Gratitude for Your Partner This Season (and Always!)

This month, we celebrate the joy that comes from sharing gratitude. According to research from Harvard Health, gratitude can truly make a person happier. In recent years, psychologists have focused on the benefits that come to individuals when they create a habit of being thankful and showing gratitude. These benefits, however, are not just for the individual. This research shows that couples who show gratitude for their partner, and who express it regularly, feel more positive toward the partner. Research also shows that expressing gratitude releases oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” which builds a greater connection and bond between two people.

Although showing gratitude to your partner has many benefits, it can be difficult to find a way to do it regularly and in a meaningful way. Consider these tips to help you cultivate gratitude in your relationship. 

  1. Share compliments out loud. Have you ever caught yourself thinking something nice about your partner? Instead of keeping the thought to yourself, say it out loud. Tell your partner what you appreciate about what he or she did, right in the moment. 
  2. Pitch in and give your partner a break. It can be easy to forget or not notice how much effort your partner is putting into his or her job or at home. Show your gratitude and appreciation for those contributions by giving your partner a break and helping where you can to lessen the load. 
  3. Involve your children in thanking and letting your partner know of your appreciation. Getting children in on the joy of practicing gratitude can be fun and worthwhile. Help your children recognize how much work your partner puts in by encouraging them to show thanks through notes, words, or chores.
  4. Write a note, text, or letter expressing appreciation and gratitude. Can you remember the last time you wrote a love message to your partner? Go deeper than merely expressing your love; explain the reasons for your love and share the small things that he or she does to make your life better. 
  5. Express gratitude for your partner, especially when he or she isn’t there. It can be easy to get into a routine of complaining about our significant others when they are not present. For example, if your coworkers are talking about what bothers them about their partners or expressing frustration about a home situation, your instinct may be to join in and share your complaints. Next time this happens, turn the complaining session into a gratitude session. Even though your partner may not be present to hear what you appreciate, you will have an increased level of gratitude and may even be able to influence those around you to have an increased level of gratitude for their partners as well. 

No matter how you choose to show gratitude and cultivate a greater sense of appreciation in your relationship, remember that it is a simple way to build and strengthen your bond. In this month of November, when we focus on gratitude and giving thanks, remember that you can strengthen your relationship by sharing your appreciation for your partner, with your partner. For references and citation links, visit https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/faq/index.

By: Tasha Howard, Utah State University Extension assistant professor




10 Things You Should Do Before Saying “I Do”

Being in love is exciting and wonderful, and for some people it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of romance. Many people spend more time planning for a wedding than they spend planning for a marriage. Before deciding to tie the knot, consider these tips to help create a more happily ever after.

  1. Ask: Am I ready? The happiest relationships are built on a foundation of two happy and healthy people who are ready to take on the challenges of a new life together. Those who are ready to be in a long-term relationship have dealt with their own personal challenges and issues and are not looking for someone to make them happy or to “fix” them in some way (or vice versa).
  2. Take time. In order to really get to know someone, it takes talking (mutual self-disclosure) + being together (in a variety of situations) + time (at least 90 days) (Van Epp, 2007) or longer. Because we are usually on our best behavior when we first meet and it takes time for patterns of behavior to emerge, this is a process that can’t be rushed, even if you spend a lot of time together.
  3. Be extra cautious in long-distance relationships. While online dating is a common way to meet people, steer clear of commitment without spending a lot of time in person in many different situations. It is easier to show only our best selves in long-distance relationships.
  4. Play detective. Ask deep and meaningful questions that will help you know if you are compatible with the person you are dating. For example, check out these 10 Questions to Ask Before Saying I Do. To make sure we aren’t biased about how we are viewing the person we are dating, it may also be helpful to think about how others might view him or her, or even ask others about their opinions and listen for warning signs you may have missed.
  5. Start to become part of the family. Much of who we are was learned from growing up in our family, so we can learn a lot about what someone will be like as a partner and parent from observing, asking questions and spending time with their family. If there are concerns about a partner’s family or negative traits that a partner has learned from his or her family, you may want to think twice before getting too serious. While change is possible, it takes time and effort, and it is much easier to change before getting into a serious relationship.
  6. Watch for personality compatibility. While we probably won’t have everything in common with our partner, happy relationships often have many of these traits in common: emotional temperament, sense of humor, intelligence, energy levels, similar recreation interests and how affection is expressed.
  7. Be aware of each other’s values. Some of the biggest arguments in relationships relate to those things we value most because we have strong feelings and opinions about them. Having similarities in how religious/spiritual you are, having common financial views and goals and having similar views about family life are all major factors in lasting relationship satisfaction.
  8. Watch for daily life compatibility. While it may not be romantic, the truth is that most of the time we spend with someone in a long-term relationship will be in the everyday routine of life. Consider such things as: Who will earn and manage the money? How will household responsibilities be divided? How will free time be spent? The answers to these questions can be crucial to the happiness of a relationship.
  9. Learn conflict resolution skills. Because we are all different, conflict is inevitable in even the happiest of relationships. When handled in a positive manner, overcoming conflict can strengthen relationships. Having a conflict plan in place can be helpful. Begin by setting the ground rules, such as choosing when and where to deal with conflict and remembering to practice good listening and communication skills.
  10. Plan now to keep your relationship strong. Just like cars, relationships need regular preventative maintenance in order to run smoothly and prevent problems. Research suggests that relationship education (such as attending a class or reading a relationship book together, etc.) can help relationships stay strong. Consider what you will do as a couple to keep your relationship strong.

For more information and class schedules on relationships, visit HealthyRelationshipsUtah.org.




The Power of Kindness

Mister Rogers had the right idea when he taught his viewers that “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  Kind acts have the potential to directly improve our lives no matter how large or small the act may seem.  Showing kindness is known to help us build social bonds, increase trust and acceptance in our relationships, and increase our overall happiness(1-3).

The really amazing thing about kindness is that the more kindness you give, the more you get in return.  Individuals that put more effort into being kind, on a consistent basis, report much higher levels of happiness in their lives (1,2). And it doesn’t seem to matter who we are kind to.  Most individuals practice being kind to people they live with or know as part of their social circles.  The results are the same, kindness is kindness so practice being kind and feel the happiness flow!  

The personal effect of kindness can be directly increased by the number of kind acts we perform.  Even the simple act of viewing kindness can improve our mood and influence the feelings of those around us.3 Double bonus!  This is especially true when teenagers observe and then try to be more kind.  Young people report a greater desire to be social and increase the amount of people they socialize with when they focus on kindness.  Also, kind individuals tend to be more well-liked, because the habit of being kind boosts the mood and enjoyment of everyone around them(4).

So how can we learn to make kindness a priority in our lives?  It really takes a shift in thinking and a commitment to do more for others than you do for yourself. Hopefully, these suggestions will inspire you to make kindness a priority in your lives and relationships(5).

  • Reflect on kindness.  Think about a time when someone was kind to you, or when you saw someone being kind.  Share this story on social media, or in an email, or just write it down for your own record.
  •  Text two before 10: try texting two people a text of kindness, love, or appreciation before 10am every day for a week.
  • Take an Awe Walk or Drive.  Go somewhere that is vast and beautiful, enjoy the beauty and recognize the value of focusing on something bigger than yourself. 
  • Try Compassion Meditation.  Take time to focus a feeling of love towards your family, friends, and even your enemies.
  •   Intentionally practice kindness.  Decide on a few things you can do today to increase the kindness you give out; it will get easier and more of a habit over time. 
  • Perform Random Acts of Kindness.  Take the time to act when an opportunity presents itself.  Check out this site for some ideas.
  •  Make generous giving an easy choice.  Making generosity a habit makes the action easier and more rewarding as you make connections with those you give to.  
  • Notice kindness.  The more you look for kindness the more likely you will be to notice those that need your kind efforts.  It will be more of a habit if you are actively seeking kindness in others.

References:

  •    Binfet J-T, Whitehead J. The Effect of Engagement in a Kindness Intervention on Adolescents’ Well-Being: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Emot Educ. 2019;11(2):33-49.
  •    Rowland L, Curry OS. A range of kindness activities boost happiness. J Soc Psychol. 2019;159(3):340-343. doi:10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461
  •    Fryburg DA, Ureles SD, Myrick JG, Carpentier FD, Oliver MB. Kindness Media Rapidly Inspires Viewers and Increases Happiness, Calm, Gratitude, and Generosity in a Healthcare Setting. Front Psychol. 2021;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.591942
  •   Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S. Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLOS ONE. 2012;7(12):e51380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051380
  • Three Strategies for Bringing More Kindness into Your Life. Greater Good. Accessed February 23, 2021. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_strategies_for_bringing_more_kindness_into_your_life.

By April Litchford, Extension Assistant Professor




Six Tips to Help Children Cultivate a Close Relationship with Grandparents

A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is mutually beneficial when it comes to the health and well-being of both. Grandparents provide acceptance, patience, love, stability, wisdom, fun and support to their grandchildren. This, in turn, has positive effects on a child’s well-being. A study by Sara Moorman and Jeffrey Stokes, Department of Sociology, Boston College, found that children who grow up with greater emotional closeness to their grandparents are less likely to be depressed as adults. For grandparents, a close relationship with their grandchildren can boost brain function, protect against depression and increase lifespan.

In today’s world where many families do not live in close proximity, it’s important for parents to help cultivate a close relationship between children and grandparents by encouraging frequent contact. Consider these tips.

1. Visit often. Grandparents should be invited to visit their grandchildren’s home often. When grandparents live in a different town or state, planning a trip to visit them can fill a child with anticipation and excitement. Even if the visits are infrequent, they will help your child view the time with their grandparents as special.

2. Use technology. There are many options that can help children and grandparents stay in contact such as Zoom, Facetime, email, texting and social media. Grandparents can record themselves reading a bedtime story for their grandchildren, and grandchildren can send personalized messages and pictures. 

3. Share photos.  Place photos of grandparents in your home and point them out to your children often. You can also create a family photo album for them to look through. If your children are not able to see their grandparents frequently, they can still learn about who they are and feel of their importance in the family.

4. Write letters.  Who doesn’t love to receive a letter in the mail? Encourage communication via mail or email with both grandparents and grandchildren participating. Both will anticipate the regular communication and will be excited to receive responses.

5. Teach skills.  Whether it is fishing or sewing, many grandparents have a hobby or skill they would love to pass on to their grandchildren. Teaching can be done in person or with technology. Provide children with the necessary tools and materials so they can learn from grandparents. 

6. Climb the family tree.  Ask grandparents to share family stories and ancestry. Perhaps they can help your children draw a family tree. Children of most ages enjoy learning about family history, traits they share with ancestors and the things that make them who they are.

More information and research references are available at https://tinyurl.com/h2z7exuw.

By: Christina Pay,Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Christina.pay@usu.edu




Establishing Smooth Transitions after Divorce

Household transitions, when children leave the care and responsibility of one parent to be with the other parent, can be emotional for children and parents alike. Establishing a routine for these transitions is beneficial for residential parents, nonresidential parents and children. Although there is no correct way to handle these transitions, good communication about how it will happen can make it easier for everyone. Consider these tips. 

  • Select a set pickup and return time. Having a set time when children are picked up and returned creates continuity for them. It is important that they know what to expect and when. If something unforeseen happens and a parent cannot make the visit or pickup when planned, they should let the children and other parent know as soon as possible. 
  • Choose a pickup location. It may be beneficial to pick children up at a neutral location. This could be daycare, school, a grandparent’s house or afterschool activities. This will lower the chances that the children will become caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict. It will also help children avoid saying goodbye and leaving one parent to be with the other. 
  • Ease children’s feelings of guilt and stress. Children often feel guilty when they leave a parent. It can be difficult for children to go through repeated separations and reunions. Parents should encourage their children to talk about their feelings. Children need to know from both parents that it is okay to love and see the other parent. It is important that children are not used as spies or messengers between parents.
  • Get to know your children’s friends. Allowing children to invite their friends to their house or to join family activities shows them that their parents are interested and care about who they spend time with.
  • Involve nonresidential parents. Children need regular contact with their nonresidential parent. Both parents should stay actively involved in their child’s life. A positive relationship and regular connection with the nonresidential parent help promote a positive adjustment for the child.
  • Get involved in children’s school activities. Nonresidential parents should make an effort to attend parent-teacher conferences, sporting events and other school activities. This keeps parents involved in their children’s lives and lets them know that both parents want to be there for them.
  • Establish regular household routines. Avoid the “Disneyland parent” syndrome of doing strictly fun activities when the children are visiting. Children need structure and routines. Knowing what to expect when they are at each house will make their transition easier.

By: Shannon Cromwell, Utah State University Extension associate professor, 435-283-3472