Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blending Families

This past Wednesday, Brother and Sister Williams talked to us about their experience in blending families and it caused me to reflect on my own family and on families in general. First off, as I have mentioned before, my family came together in an unconventional way, primarily through adoption - but it technically started out as a blended family. Just for a little refresher, I will explain the initial formation of my family. My parents both got pregnant in college by different people. When I was about two and my mom's daughter (not biologically) had been born, my parents (that I have now) were married. I lived with my biological mom, her husband and her mother. My biological mother struggled with an alcohol and heroin addiction throughout my entire life, and she died from an overdose when I was almost four. My biological grandma wanted to adopt me, but when my dad and his wife (my mom) found out what was going on, they fought for custody of me. It was a pretty messy situation, but it resulted in court ordered monthly supervised visitations and bi-weekly telephone calls with my biological grandmother until I was 18 and my mom and dad were awarded full custody and my mom adopted me. My dad adopted Katarina (my mom's daughter). I know its hard to follow, but that is how our family started (or at least how I came to be in it). I don't really remember how it all worked when it first happened, but I know that as my sister and I got older, sometimes things got tricky. Basically, I was a brat when I was a kid and I remember telling my mom that she loved Katarina more because she was her biological daughter. I also remember my sister saying similar things to my dad. We overcame all of these things and at this point in my life, I know that my mom loves me just as much as she does my sister, especially since she chose me. I also know that they did the best they could, and better than most. Putting two families together is no easy task and I think, if it is done properly, it can even make the family stronger because it is different and has had to overcome more than a traditional family.

Parenting (Not to be Confused With "Peerenting")

If I have learned one thing about parenting in this class, it would be that parenting is a tricky thing. It is so tricky because it is such a serious thing! The way an individual was parented not only has tremendous impact on the individual, but on other people that person comes in contact with. For example, if someone was parented in a really strict home, that individual is likely to be bossy and could even alienate themselves from others or hurt other people's feelings more frequently. Parenting is also difficult because each child is different. When I was growing up I didn't really appreciate this - I would just get upset that my sister and I had done the same thing, yet our punishments were completely different.  In preparation for class we watched several videos demonstrating ineffective and effective parenting styles (particularly in regard to parenting teenagers). The main thing I took away from the videos and class discussion is that both communication and love needs to be high. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but I think it goes deeper than what one might initially infer. Teens are going through all kinds of crazy changes, all to prepare them for adulthood. As we as parents recognize the developmental changes going on in the brains of teens, we can better understand and empathize with them. For example, most teenagers go through a period of egocentrism in which they think everyone around them perceives things how they perceive them (like everyone noticing their acne because its the first thing they notice about themselves). As we take things like this into consideration and make sure to validate and consider our teens feelings and reasoning, we will be able to be more effective parents. It is also extremely important to set realistic and loving rules and boundaries. Teenagers will never admit this and may not realize it themselves, but they want and need these rules. In short, being a parent honestly scares me, but I know that if I keep these things in mind, rely on the Lord and my future spouse and do my very best, everything will turn out ok!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


This year was the very first year that I haven't spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and while I had fun staying at school with some friends, it was hard not to be home with my family. Thanksgiving isn't one of my favorite holidays, I often feel like it is just an excuse for people to be glutinous and overeat. However, I realized this year that Thanksgiving (or any day for that matter) is what you make it. And, being away from my family and reflecting on things I am thankful for really made me realize how grateful I am for my family. Yes, we are slightly disfunctional and there hardly goes a day where there isn't some type of conflict, but we love each other and I honestly can't image my life without them. Because there is so much adoption in my family, I think I am extra grateful for my family - each and every member. I am so grateful that my mom opened up her heart and home to me when I was little and needed someone to love me and take care of me. I am so grateful my parents chose to do foster care and adopt my four younger siblings. I am also grateful for the foster care experience because it exposed me to such special children and made me a better person. I am grateful for each and everyone of my siblings - they all teach me so much through their examples and their loving spirits. Most of all, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father. Grateful for His love and guidance that has been abundant in my life and in my family. I know that each member of my family was meant to be together for eternity and Heavenly Father helped us to all find each other. Even though we have a our fare share of problems and difficulties in our family, I am able to have such a positive outlook because I know that we are so blessed - and I am so grateful for that knowledge. I love my Father in Heaven and my family more than anything else!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Genius of God's Government - The Council

On Wednesday in class we discussed the structure of the council method (as used in our church) and the way this can be used in the family. Most families have had to meet together to either discuss schedules or to make big decisions together, I know my family has. There are several important things things that can be taken from the council method and be applied to family councils. First, I think it is important to have family council on a regular basis, preferably every week. Not only does this create stability, but I think it would help provide an atmosphere of open communication in the home. Second, I think husband and wife should meet together as the head of the household and as a solid unit before meeting with the family as a whole, so they are both on the same page and able to discuss private matters together first. Third, it is important to counsel within the council. There is a dramatic difference between a discussion in which everyone is heard and a meeting in which facts are simply presented or tasks delegated. Fourth, I love that all the council meetings in the church begin and end with a prayer. While this is a common occurrence in all of the meetings within the church, I think it is especially important when conducting family council. Not only does prayer invite the spirit, but it signifies to me that you are dedicating this time to work on making your family more united and closer to the Lord. Prayer is a simple act, yet it has profound consequences.

Even though I don't have a family of my own yet, family council is something I now plan on implementing when I do have a family. There are so many benefits to taking just an hour or two out of the week to counsel within your family council, why not do it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Family Crises (Don't Panic)!

What is a crisis? defines "crisis" as: a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life. This definition is directed toward individual crises, but can definitely be expanded to explain family crises by changing "a person's life" to "in a family." Chances are, all of us have experienced some type of crisis in our families. For class, we had to make a list of 10 crises that our family had experienced or that we had observed in a family we were close to. This was a more difficult task than I had initially anticipated, not because my family is perfect by any means, but because a majority of the trials we have faced (or are currently facing) don't necessarily feel like crises. Similarly, a majority of the things that have created "dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval" in our family, have not necessarily been negative upheaval. For example, when we started doing foster care about 7 years ago, our family of four underwent many changes (some very emotional) in order to accommodate for the new changes occurring in our family structure. Also, there have been situations that could technically be viewed as crises, but the outcome was good and even though it was difficult to get through, we did it and our family turned out much better because of it. One example that triggered the decision to do foster care, is that my mom experienced several miscarriages and infertility after my sister, Katarina was born. This was a hard time for my parents, but they overcame the situation and can't image our lives any different. 

These examples lead me to one of the most important things about family crises - its all about how you view them and how they are handled. Many families undergo illness, death, job/income loss etc. and while all crises are difficult, they can all be blessings. I know, this sounds weird, but in all honesty, crises are really just trials and trials are essential for us to grow and develop as disciples of Christ and to become better people. We also learn (in 1 Corinthians 10:13) that God will not give us more than we can handle and he will always provide a way for us to overcome the things we are facing in life. I can honestly say that I am truly grateful for the trials my family has faced because they have brought us closer together as a family, closer to the Lord and more prepared for things that lie ahead in our paths. 

Teaching Children About Physical Intimacy

Teaching children about physical intimacy can not only be a touchy subject, but also a controversial one - what with debate over sex education in schools and the things they are exposed to in the media. The one thing about this topic that I know for a certainty however, is that children notice physical differences between boys and girls and they become curious about how babies are born and where they come from. First off, however, it is important to note that all children are at different intellectual, emotional and maturity stages in their lives and so "the talk" needs to be tailored to each individual child. It is also essential that open and honest communication is formed between parents and children at a very early age. Growing up, my parents (especially my mom) were very open about sex and intimacy and I always knew that if I had a question about anything, I could ask and she would tell me the truth. While we did have a fairly open channel, I often felt slightly uncomfortable asking, but I think that the fact I asked at all showed both my trust in her and her openness in helping me. When children and parents talk openly and honestly not only about the biological side of things, but also personal beliefs about when physical intimacy is appropriate, children are more likely to have accurate understandings of things and less likely to experiment. 

In class, Brother Williams asked us to quickly outline what we would want our children to know about their bodies, sexual intimacy, urges etc. at specific times in their lives. Initially, I thought, "oh, this is easy!" However, once I started really thinking about it, I realized how tricky this whole topic really is! The jist of what I wrote down is that I want my children to know scientific terms for their body parts and to have appropriate (based on age) understanding of the reproductive and sexual intercourse process. When we shared what we wanted to teach our kids with the people sitting next to us, Ashley brought up that the church has put out a handbook to address this very issue. The handbook breaks things up by age and is really a very valuable resource. I urge anyone who is struggling with teaching their children about physical intimacy to check this out - whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or not. A Parent's Guide -

Transitioning to Marriage

The shift from dating/engagement to being married is not easy. I think one of the biggest issues with marriage now is that people focus more on the wedding ceremony and the receptions than they do on the actual marriage. In the LDS faith, we believe that marriage, when it takes place in the temple, is eternal. This means that it is essential that couples learn to not only live together but also to grow together. In class I kept thinking about how a majority of LDS people (especially at BYU-Idaho), rush into marriage because they want to get started on eternity, and they feel a pressure to get married quickly. However, marriage is hard. I haven't been married yet myself, but I have a lot of married friends and I've watched my parents in their marriage. When you get married, you are literally joining two lives into one. This is a beautiful thing and in my opinion, an essential part to life. But, it should in no means be taken lightly. Marriage is an eternal commitment to your spouse and also to Heavenly Father. When two people get married, even if they have dated a long time, they can never fully know the other person, making it difficult when the couple is married because they have to adjust to living with that person - full time. In all honesty - getting married scares me, but because I know it is important and essential to my eternal progression, I read some talks about marriage. I've concluded that the only and most important thing I can do is to rely on the Lord and to trust in him.