Q: This past year has been one I'd rather put behind me and forget, although I can't. And 2019 may be filled with uncertainty for me in a variety of areas. Do you have any suggestions for coping with all this?
Jim: You're not alone. Many people are stuck in the past. Others spend their energy looking only toward the future, which is uncertain for all of us. But very few seem able to embrace the present.
Best-selling author and psychologist Dr. John Townsend says the past, present and future all have their benefits. Staying in touch with our past is important because of the lessons we learn there and the memories we cherish. Setting our minds toward the future is wise because we have to be intentional if we hope to create a good one. But if we don't live out our present in a healthy way, we'll struggle. We'll either get stuck in the past and suffer from regret and guilt, or we'll cripple our future with fear and anxiety.
That's why it's important to be mindful of today, because you can have control over how you approach the present.
Dr. Townsend offers this suggestion: Several times a day, pull away from the usual routine of life and give some thought to three things: (1) how much you care about the good people in your life; (2) how you're feeling inside at that moment, whether positive or negative; and (3) what activities in your life are really important to you. Use those insights to get a handle on how you can make the most of where you're at right now and where you might be able to make some improvements.
Taking this approach each day can help you gain some stability and be better equipped for whatever does come in the months and years ahead.
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Q: How can I help my son and daughter resist peer pressure? They often go along with whatever their friends do, even if it involves poor choices.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Lots of children and teens are driven by pressure to be noticed or to feel normal around others. This desire to fit in is a powerful motivator and can lead to kids making harmful or dangerous decisions. Here are six ideas for helping kids develop resistance to peer pressure:
1. Offer genuine affirmation. Help your son discover his true strengths. Encourage him when he fails and cheer him on when he bounces back.
2. Listen closely. Your daughter may say, "I need a smartphone," but she might really mean "I just want to feel normal and to belong."
3. Empathize and teach them how to cope. Many teens make peer-pressured decisions to (for example) smoke, vape or use marijuana because 1) they are stressed, and 2) they want to be accepted. Help your child learn that everyone has insecurities and wants acceptance from others. Teach healthy ways to deal with stress.
4. Make time for relationship and conversation. Parents might assume that if kids aren't talking or they prefer to be with friends, they don't want their parents in their life anymore. Research shows that's not true.
5. Help them pursue growth, not good feelings. Over the years I've told clients if they want to feel good, they should see a massage therapist. If they want to grow, they'll have to make choices that may not be comfortable. This applies to grown-ups as well as kids.
6. Teach them to apply positive peer pressure. Help them take notice of those who need kindness, love and affirmation. Show them how to build others up by encouraging them. Kids can become highly motivated to do this when they realize they can have an influence on others.