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Valentine's Day Special: Staying Connected
Kurtz Cockley is a homeschooling father of two wonderful kids, and a marriage and family counselor at the Alpha Center in Landisburg PA. Some longtime readers may remember our special issue of our print newsletter honoring the dad's important role in homeschooling-- Kurtz's wife Pamela wrote a wonderful piece about what a sport her husband was to take part enthusiastically in their special homeschooling projects (including being willing to dress up in a toga, if required, for a simulated Roman feast!)
It’s getting close to Valentine’s Day. Time to think about relationship, togetherness, love… all of that warm fuzzy stuff. The problem is that a lot of folks, after spending more than six months together, just don’t feel very warm and fuzzy any more. Most humans are just pretty difficult to deal with. Being one (a human, that is), I can attest to some of this difficulty, and my wife and children could give you the details. Since I am also a marriage-and-family therapist, however, I also spend time thinking about and working on and finding remedies and prescriptions for dealing with our innately cantankerous selves. Here are some basic nuts and bolts that can really be transformational if you take the time to practice, practice, practice.
The first foundational piece is this: It is not good for man to be alone. (Check out Genesis on this). Second, it is a fallen world and pretty much everything conspires to once again put man in this “alone” place. Enter the family. You say, “I’m surrounded by people 24/7; I wish I could find some “alone” time. Alone would be heavenly.” Actually, you (suffering home-school parent) are craving space and time rather than truly being alone. “Alone” in the sense that I am using it means disconnected, isolated, not understood, not cared about or cared for, abandoned, rejected, unimportant. Just remember this: ALONE IS NOT GOOD. Alone happens quickly and easily when we get impatient with each other, lose a bit of temper, use a tad of sarcasm, have wrong priorities, or simply forget. We lose each other quickly; connection is broken as quickly as unplugging the toaster and, yes, then nothing warms up.
Stay plugged in. The most powerful way to do this is to practice being mindful first of all of the connection and the need to protect it at all costs. Second is to begin to listen to how we speak to each other. My wife and I have to work on this continually. Communicate to your spouse and to your children this message: “I am on your side”. It is powerful. Send this message with your tone, with your volume, with your eyes, with your touch, with your smile. If you sense tension over an issue, come right out and say it. Look your spouse in the eye, use a loving tone, and simply reinforce the connection between you. The walls will melt before your eyes. This is crucial in home-school families since there is such an abundance of time spent together. The “how” of your communication will absolutely determine the atmosphere of your home and home-schooling days.
On a moment -by -moment basis we are sending messages with our nonverbals about the nature of our connection. I call it “the pallet that we paint with”… our nonverbal and verbal patterns and habits that color our relationships. Commit yourselves to making a lovely picture everyday, and Valentine’s Day will be a bright splash of color on the master- piece and not a blot of color on an otherwise blank canvas.
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