Thursday, April 19, 2007

7 strategies to protect your Kids from Media Anxiety

Identifying and disarming childhood fears after a major disaster

 by: Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

In the midst of a national crisis like the Virginia Tech shooting, many parents are wondering what can be done to protect their kids from the additional stress and anxiety that can come from repeated exposure to the extremely disturbing media footage of the school shooting, dying students and SWAT teams swarming over the campus in Blacksburg, VA. 

Children and adults can be psychologically affected from repetitive over-exposure to the harsh media footage of the shooter and his violent and hate filled video taped messages to the world. Here are some helpful steps to make sure that your son or daughter is protected from the harmful media images that might create long term anxiety.

Watch for the warning signs of media overexposure that can create anxiety

Here are some of the symptoms and behaviors that may indicate your child has been overexposed to the traumatic emotions that follow a crisis situation.  Remember that your main goal is to protect your child and not minimize or deny their emotional symptoms.  The more symptoms present, the greater the need for the child to receive additional support and care from family, clergy, teachers or a counseling or medical professional.

- Major changes in energy level, especially lethargy or helplessness
Heightened fear and worry about guns, violence or being hurt by bullies
- Changes in sleep patterns, especially nightmares or night terrors
- Regressive behavior, (e.g. "baby talk", clingy to parents or bedwetting)
Preoccupation with loss of parents or being stranded without parents
- Major swings in school performance, from aggression, withdrawal or apathy
- Angry explosions or depressive moodiness stuffed inside in silence
- Withdrawal from normal activities at home, church or school
- Avoidance of friends, family or pets by going into an emotional "cocoon"

Any of the above symptoms can be normal reactions to a crisis event and may not indicate a need for professional counseling, however it is important to watch for major changes in your child's attitude, personality or behavior to know how to help them cope.  Here are some action steps that you can begin to use to reduce pressure on your children and keep them emotionally and physically safe after a major critical incident.

What can parents do to lessen the harmful impact of anxiety from media?

Here are some positive action steps that you can take to help your child avoid the negative impacts of being overloaded from harmful media anxiety. 

1) Take care of yourself
children draw much of their security from their parents, it is important to keep yourself well grounded and supported.  Spend more time with healthy family, friends or church members during this time to make sure that you aren't overly anxious and subtly passing that anxiety along to your children.  Just like the instructions that flight attendants give if oxygen masks drop from the ceiling of the plane, that parents are to put their masks on first, you have to stay as balanced as possible to effectively care for your child during this stressful time.

2) Be aware and be available
This is a time for extra precautions, but not extra fear.  It’s always wise to teach our kids to be aware of their surroundings, and if the child is old enough, you can talk about the importance of keeping their environment safe by locking doors, or paying more attention to daily safety issues, like looking up to notice if any cars in parking lots may be backing out, (as opposed to running through parking lots like children have a tendency to do). During this time pay more attention to being available for your child, to talk, pray or play.  As you heighten your level of involvement and support, your child will be less likely to feel afraid because they will draw strength from the stability you provide in the home. 

3) Watch your talk
It is recommended that you never discuss your greatest fears with your children, but rather use discernment in discussing your opinions about the shooting on the telephone or with your friends or coworkers if your child could possibly overhear the conversation.  Wisdom requires you to guard your tongue around children during this difficult time to protect them from being overly worried or afraid.  It is okay to discuss the facts of the shooting in age-appropriate ways with older children, but then move into a discussion of how we should pray for the families of the victims affected. This will create compassion and keep the focus on healing after the crisis, instead of focusing only on the evil of this horrible massacre. Talk is one of the best ways to help a child feel secure, so ask questions and then just listen to allow your child a chance to release their fears in a safe way.

4) Monitor media usage and guard Internet images
and Internet images are extremely powerful and vivid in a child's mind. That’s why you should take great care to avoid having the television on 24/7, but rather limit your exposure to media images, and the amount of time that children might be directly or indirectly exposed to hours of harmful media.  If you feel like you must have the television set on for long periods of time, (which is not recommended), then turn the sound off.  Talk about the positives of your family being together, or answered prayers, instead of focusing on the negative elements of a terrible tragedy in other part of the country.  Guide your children into stabilizing and feeling safe through the daily routines of what is happening in their world, as opposed to events happening on a college campus in another part of the world.  Protecting your child from harsh media images now will protect them from having to struggle to get those harmful images out of their head in the future.

5) Routine, schedule and rules

Children draw tremendous security from having a predictable schedule.  Build a regular set of morning and evening rituals, like getting ready for school or bedtime stories or prayer time; also pay attention to include meal time and personal hygiene rituals that are age appropriate for your child.  Even little guys and gals can help to take their plate from the table to the kitchen counter, or take more ownership of their daily rituals.  This actually takes stress off of Mom and Dad as the child grows in independence through the years, but it is even more helpful for the child to feel the sense of empowerment from knowing what do to as they begin and end their day.  House rules are always the same rules, which creates stability from predictability. No matter what is happening when there is a crisis in another part of the country, be consistent with your family boundaries to help everyone feel more secure by not allowing chaos to erupt from neglecting the regular established rules for household behavior.

6) Reconnect to family, friends and faith
Crisis events are an excellent time to reach out to spend more time with friends or family members.  If you don't have family nearby, reach out to connect with a local church that has activities designed for you and your child.  The additional socialization will help to build a sense of security from having other healthy people to draw support from as we all go through this experience, as well as allow every member of your family to be more aware of God's love and protection.  As a suggestion, read Bible verses on finding comfort during difficult times, like this one in Psalm 91: 9-10: "If you make the most High your dwelling-even the Lord, who is my refuge-then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  The Bible has hundreds of reassuring promises of peace and comfort during fearful times.  Now is a perfect time to search out those verses and discuss the importance of a personal faith with your children so that they come to understand how the power of personal belief can give us all of us the courage to face the challenges of life. 

7) Focus on hope, instead of helplessness
Remember that we will make it through this difficult time. Keep focused on practical ways to keep your child tuned into their world and the things that are normal to their daily life, instead of overexposure to media images from other parts of the world. As you build these coping skills and life management principles into your home, your children will actually be stronger and less afraid of circumstances because they will be more aware of how to face their anxiety with the assurance of God's protection and peace.  Know that you are not alone through this time so reach out to other healthy people and keep reading and developing practical insights to help you and your children cope during the healing days ahead. 

Take courage from these words from President George Bush's address at the special convocation service held at Virginia Tech on the day after the shootings. In his message the President quoted Romans 12:21:

"These sources of strength are also in the faith that sustains so many of us. Across the town of Blacksburg and in towns all across America, houses of worship from every faith have opened their doors and have lifted you up in prayer. People who have never met you are praying for you; they're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.'"

For helpful resources to save time by solving other parenting challenges visit:  

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.


About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture for Jesus Christ. Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at 


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

5 Things you must do to protect your kids from school violence by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

School should be a safe place of learning from teachers instead of a scary place where shootings and violence bring emergency workers and grief counselors. The recent number of horrifying acts of violence in schools has everyone concerned, from the President to local school and law enforcement officials. However, the best group to take positive action to protect kids at school is always their parents. Here are five key things you can do to take positive action to help protect your son or daughter from violent situations that could occur at school.

1) Listen to your child’s fears and frustrations

Every school has a bully, that’s not a new problem. However these days there are dangerous gangs and violent individuals in or around just about every school environment. Sometimes the violent person comes from the outside, but it’s more likely that threats, harassment, bullying, fights and acts of violence will come from someone on the inside of your child’s school. Students who use weapons against other students, like the Virginia Tech or Columbine shooters for example, often make threats long before acting on them. Become more involved in talking about the safety of your child, instead of just talking about academics or daily activities. Ask your kids direct questions and then really listen to their fears and frustrations about what’s happening around them at school. Keep the conversation age appropriate and allow your child to do most of the talking as you hear about their experiences with bullies or other situations that might have made them feel uncomfortable or afraid while at school, (Remember to change the conversation slightly depending on the ages of your kids and the pressures they may be facing at school, since it’s important to talk about safety to kids of all ages so they know what to do to stay safe while at school or away from their parents).

2) Get involved at their school & ask direct questions about safety

The greater the level of parental involvement the greater the chance that your child’s school will be a much safer place. When kids are involved in healthy after-school activities like sports, music, drama or scouting they are less likely to be in a dangerous situation, because everyone is engaged and involved, instead of bored and detached. Parents can spot and then quietly solve a lot of problems that may be in the ‘shadows’ by getting more involved in the lives of their children and encouraging greater involvement in healthy activities. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid becoming a victim of crime is to be involved in activities with others instead of feeling insecure and isolated when threatening people or situations come along. Kids need their parents to be involved in their lives at all ages, as classroom volunteers or to help with after school sports or extra-curricular activities. The extra support for your child builds a greater sense of connection and self worth, but it also provides another set of ‘eyes and ears’ on the school campus to notice what pressures your child, or their peers are facing. (If you aren’t sure how to spot the warning signs of gangs, weapons, substance abuse or when a fight is going to erupt, there are a number of web links at the end of this article to help you gain greater insight of what warning signs to look for, and more importantly, what to do to keep your child safe). If you see anything that makes you feel uncomfortable don’t be afraid to bring it up to your child’s teacher, school administrators or school safety officers. Also, if you are unsure about the safety plan at your child’s school to deal with crisis events like school violence, then ask to see a copy of their critical incident preparation training guide, or school safety plan so you can review it with your son or daughter and then pass it along to help other parents as well.

3) Use national media events as springboards into serious discussions

Much of the televised news reports about school violence are shocking to say the least, however, you can use stories from the newspaper, television or an Internet news source to bring the facts of a national story out in the open to then ‘springboard’ into a more personal discussion with your son or daughter about how to deal with issues they might one day face on the local level. This can especially be important with teens who believe they are invincible to the harsh realities of violent and aggressive people who direct their rage toward innocent people in public places, especially schools. Something about seeing a group of crying teens gathered around a makeshift memorial to honor their fellow classmate makes it more real… because it shows regular kids, just like them, who were forced to take action to deal with a dangerous situation at or around school. Asking, “what would you do if you saw a weapon pulled out in a classroom?”, or “does anyone at your school make threats to hurt you, your teachers or other classmates?” are all ways to get directly involved in protecting your child, as well as preventing the next breaking news story about school tragedy from happening on their school campus.

4) Have a home crisis plan & review it monthly

If your child’s school were on ‘lockdown’ would you know what to do, and more importantly, would your son or daughter know how to respond? Every school should have a formal plan on how they would respond to man made disasters, like shootings or bomb threats, as well as natural disasters like hurricanes or dangerous storms. Emergency officials encourage parents to have a similar plan for their personal family. If the electricity was knocked out preventing cell phones or the Internet from working to communicate with each other, would your family know where to meet together in spite of the crisis? Knowing what to do and then reviewing that plan monthly will remove a significant amount of panic because planning removes panic. If your son or daughter received a threatening note or heard about an act of violence, do they know who to call to protect themselves and their school? If not there are some web links at the end of this article to help guide you in the process.

5) Pray

We can prepare our kids to know how to respond to acts of violence at their schools, but ultimately we can’t protect our kids from everything. If someone wanted to deliberately hurt someone at school, they likely could try it in just about any school setting. However, we know that God is bigger than any bully and that He is always a safe place to turn throughout the hours of the day when we can’t be there to guard our kids. Many parents have the habit of praying for the safety and strength of their kids throughout day when they are apart. Why not give it a try so you can move from feeling scared about what you can’t do, to feeling secure in knowing that God always hears your prayers. Moving away from panic through prayer is a powerful way to get through any crisis and it’s a great practice to model for your kids. When they learn to pray as the first step in dealing with pressure situations, they will have a remarkable power and peace in dealing with any situation, at school, work or in personal relationships as an adult.

Prayer is a life skill that makes any situation easier to deal with, because you don’t have to carry your problems alone.

For information on school violence to review in preparing to talk to your kids visit:

US Department of Education

Center for the Prevention of School Violence

National Crime Prevention Council

For helpful resources to save time by solving other parenting challenges visit:

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a positive difference in our culture for Jesus Christ. Access more counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dangers of Media “Riptides” By Dwight Bain, founder of the LifeWorks Group

Positive steps to protect kids from negative media exposure

If you live near an ocean, you know about riptides, which are highly dangerous currents that can rip your legs out from under you and sweep you out into the ocean depths in a matter of seconds. If you try to fight the current, you will drown as dozens of people in Florida do every year. These silent and powerful ocean currents can overpower even the strongest of swimmers because the size and force of the waves become completely overwhelming. There is only one way to escape and save your life so listen carefully; “Don’t try to fight the riptide, just flow with it as you swim parallel to the shoreline. In a few dozen feet you will be out of the strong current and can safely swim back to the shore.”

So, if you have to deal with a dangerous ocean riptide, you have three choices… First- stay out of the water (and don’t let anyone you love go near it either). Second, pretend that riptides don’t exist and try to stay in the shallow water with hopes you never get swept away to drown in the depths. Third, learn how to swim safely out of the dangerous current and teach the people you love how to do the same. That way the ocean isn’t a scary place that could snatch you or a family member away in a blink of an eye- rather it becomes a serene place to sit and relax, or a place to make memories with your family or friends. When you and your kids learn how to use this life-saving advice you can spend your time at the beach having fun, instead of living in fear of the ocean.

Media riptides are even more dangerous
Media can be very similar to the description of riptides above because it can silently and rapidly become a powerful force that sweeps away unsuspecting kids or adults with even more dangerous consequences. Mass-media is like an ocean because there are so many new technologies that reach into every corner of our daily lives.

To show you how big this media ‘ocean’ really is, consider the many ways we are exposed to hearing, seeing or experiencing some form of multi-media from this partial list below.

Television, radio, CD’s, DVD’s, VHS videos, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, billboards, handbills, signs, movies, MP3 music players or other portable downloadable media players, hundreds of channels of cablevision programming for television, iPod’s and high resolution cell-phones, accessing the Internet via the world-wide web on home computers with dial-up, broadband or wireless Internet service, the new technology of high-definition (HD) television, HD radio, and the ability to play any one of thousands of realistic video games on a laptop, home computer, video game system, cell phone or even through the pull down DVD players mounted in the roof of many new cars!

Media is flooding into our lives from every direction because this ocean of technology and communications is growing larger by the nanosecond.

20% of households in the US have at least one big screen TV
Video game sales are now a $10 billion per year industry
33% of homes with Internet access in US also have high-speed access
Teenagers time in front of a computer has doubled over the last six years
Kids now spend up to 35 hours per week in front of electronic screens in addition to any academic studies and that number is rising every year!

As more and more media flows into every aspect of our daily lives, it creates two distinctively different groups- watchers & doers. One group is actively connected to media, so they spend more time watching life, while the other group is growing more disconnected from media so they have the time to be more actively involved in doing life.

Kids, teens, adults and even senior adults can become overwhelmed by the flood of media images that can sweep even the strongest person into missing out on good things in life because of wasted time watching life instead of living it. Others do more than waste time- they get washed away from their basic values because of continual exposure to unmentionable web images that drown their conscious minds into the depths of darkness and depravity

“The Internet is a dangerous, dangerous thing
and parents have to know what’s going on.” ~ Dr. Phil McGraw

Here’s a common example to show how seemingly harmless media can steal away happiness at home. Media experts believe that some guys park in front of the tube on a Friday night and then proceed to watch as much as 30 hours of televised sports and cable news over the rest of the weekend while totally ignoring their family. Are they ‘super fan’s’ or just distant dads? Even though they might say they’re just really serious about the sport, in reality I believe that guys who spend that much time in front of the TV are doing the same thing as anybody else who is just wasting time by watching endless hours of sitcoms, soaps, movies, news, surfing the web or playing hour after hour of video games.

They are spending huge blocks of time in entertainment to try and escape something in their daily life because that is always the motivation behind habitual or compulsive behavior. You may have to dig to find it, but there is always some area of dysfunctional process going on when there is some form of addictive behavior present. Media can become an addiction for wounded or worried people no matter how much they try and deny that media really isn’t a problem for them because they could ‘turn it off anytime they wanted.’ The Nile is a river in Egypt that flows north, Denial is a part of escapism that flows away from the reality of something fearful inside the person who doesn’t want to deal with that part of life. Ignoring problems don’t make them go away- it simply makes them bigger, so any area of media usage that seems terribly out of balance for you, your kids or someone in your family should be brought up and discussed; instead of ignored as they silently are swept away by a flood of negative media exposure.

Benefits of Entertainment
Entertainment is beneficial when you need to take a break and turn your mind off to rest for a while. God designed our bodies to need rest 1/3 of every day and even more if you recall the example given in the book of Genesis where God rested on the seventh day to model healthy behavior for mankind to practice each week as well. Just like high-performance machines need some down-time for maintenance and repair, we know our bodies function best when there is regular time for rest and recharging. Media tends to steal this essential quiet time with distractions, interruptions and time wasters that prevent complete rest and recharge because there is always something on TV, radio or the Internet that has nothing to do with adding value to our health, life or relationships, yet can still pull our focus away from the importance of achieving a more complete rest.

Now, contrast the differences between Entertainment where you might just watch a sport with the actual Experience of playing a sport, involving increased activity or sweat. One group are pushing themselves to a new level of exertion or competition; while the other group quietly is watching a satellite or video taped episode of someone else on the field playing their hearts out. Here are some of the startling differences between the two primary methods of interacting with the growing flood of media choices.
Entertainment Experience Passively watching Actively doing Leisure, (no sweating) Energetic, (sweating likely) No discipline required Discipline required No health benefit Some health benefit Isolation, (mostly alone) Social connection with others No teamwork required Teamwork may be required Tendency to self-focus Tendency to focus on others (“I want to watch this”) (“Let’s vote on what to do”) Connect to media images Connect to real people Empty feeling afterwards Energized feeling afterwards
There is another major difference between how these two groups tackle life and that is about what you wear on the outside. Think about if for a second. You can join in just about any form of entertainment by wearing ugly or baggy clothes, perhaps even your pajamas! However, if you are headed out to connect with other people through some type of shared experience there is an obvious tendency to focus attention given on some type of acceptable dress code or uniform. For instance, most golf courses require a very specific dress code to play, as do many tennis courts. Scuba divers need a certain type of equipment, as do bowlers and mountain bikers, and of course everyone knows that all basketball players wear their favorite brand of shoes!

Playing a game of catch in the front yard is a much better connection point than watching a child play a video game of catch in the family room. Moving away from passive to active approaches in dealing with media is essential if you want to reclaim your home from being a waste land of disconnected people who are growing even more distant because of media’s continual waves of distractions.

Media thieves come out late at night
Entertainment that steals time from other priorities is always a mistake, no matter how innocent it may seem at the time. Let me share a personal example of this process in my own struggles to maintain balance in media habits. Television news at bedtime- I’ve lost sleep time from trying to stay up and watch the news and then had times that I lost even more because of disturbing images that I saw on the news… far better to pray this prayer I learned in childhood, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I, (or someone in my family or community), should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” That prayer may seem a bit drastic or odd for a child to learn- but it came out of the reality that God is the only one who could control the big stuff, which means that I don’t have to worry about world events and can just focus on closing my eyes and resting instead of sitting up to stress over breaking news stories on CNN’s and fueling my own feelings of increased anxiety.

Re-creating positive energy
Real life experience is so much better than even the most engaging and realistic entertainment because if involves the basic foundation of “re-creating” positive energy. When you are having an ‘over-the-top’ experience, you are laying the foundation for a process that re-creates something powerful in yourself and in others. This deep spiritual and emotional dynamic is from the reality of living through an experience which generates a great deal of ongoing value in the present, while bringing back long term benefits for many years to come through positive memories that really can last a lifetime.

These type of experiences can be deeply emotional, relational or spiritual and are real and tangible and always bring positive power. Compare that with the reflection that entertainment creates about a real-life experience, but it’s only a temporary image from a brief encounter or exposure to some form of media. It’s not really bad- it’s just not real, which flows out of the major differences between a surface level image and a soul level sense of identity. Sort of like a popular media advertisement many years ago that asked, “is it real- or is it Memorex?”®

Self-Improve or Self-Destruct?
Positive life experiences create a tremendous deal of power through the re-creation process, which can keep you young at heart and because it often involves real activity, is usually good for your heart as well. Entertainment tends to shut off your brain and body since it’s more about watching others connect, (or pretend to connect) with something in life, then it is about finding and reaching out to generate a real connection with others who want to grow stronger or self improve in some way. (However, with the incredible popularity of on-line video gaming you can actually reach out to hundreds of people somewhere in the world 24/7 who will temporarily connect as you play the game together. I suspect that this might create some degree of improvement to your hand-eye coordination, but it’s not a real improvement to your head through equipping of new skills; or a real improvement to your heart through encouraging words or lasting relationships ).

You may point out that self-improvement isn’t a driving force behind many popular forms of media because many television shows are written and designed as a ‘mindless’ or silly distraction to avoid the stress of the day, and I would agree to a point. What concerns me isn’t the abundance of silly shows that make us giggle, (I like those too), rather it’s the apparent lack of structured shows that make us grow.

I believe that life is continually changing which forces you to either take positive action to self-improve or you end up self-destructing by default. If you choose to believe that your exposure to media is only a neutral issue that doesn’t have much of an impact on you or your kids, then you are in the highest risk category to be swept away by the tsunami sized waves of new media that are already building up speed and size as they zoom toward us in the weeks and months ahead.

Massive Waves of Change:
If you don’t believe that media is zooming forward with massive new technologies, then consider the rapid changes in our culture since 1985, when VHS home video cameras were just becoming popular and nobody you knew even had a fax machine. Media has flooded our lives over the last twenty years in such a way that personal cell phones have gone from being a rare luxury for executives to a common part of life for teenagers… or even more telling, think of how many outdated cell-phones, cassette tape recorders, old computer monitors, worn out inkjet printers or non-cable ready television sets are sitting right now somewhere in a dusty corner of your garage or utility room. Media has changed so much of how we live that many young children don’t really know what a typewriter is or how to quickly use a rotary dial telephone or change channels on a television set that doesn’t have a remote control. Buckle up- bigger changes are coming!

Not paying attention to media images in your home for adults and kids or not openly setting boundaries on what is or isn’t safe in your family’s use of the Internet or cable television is like allowing kids who don’t know how to swim to play around in the shallow part of strong currents. To not know how to swim and then be let loose with a remote control and a few hundred channels or a few hundred thousand websites and a wireless mouse is like pushing a kid out into the deep end with no life jacket. It’s like inviting terrorists to hang out in your home or baby-sit your kids while telling yourself that they really aren’t that bad and probably won’t bring disaster and destruction to the people who mean the most to you. Wake up! Media can be dangerous, and is most dangerous to the ones who ignore the warning signs where riptides have swept others away.

To avoid taking bold action with media exposure is irresponsible because it sets kids up to fail from being mentally swept away from their protective core values which keep us focused and on track toward the things that matter most, instead of carelessly getting caught up in a current of wasted hours and careless mistakes. Core values can protect us from the dangers in the very dark side of media, because they serve to light out path and guide our steps. One other significant challenge that can flood into our lives, but is often forgotten is how entertainment can suck up so much time, energy and money, leading to the potential health problems that are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. You’ve probably already heard about the dangers of

The remote control can be used for parents to reclaim controlDoes this mean that you should never watch a game on TV or movies with your kids? Of course not! Media should add value to your life, not steal it. It means you have to get honest with the real reasons behind the viewing habits in your home. Understand what motivates you or the kids to do things, especially any activity that might stand in the way of a more balanced and healthy life. Talk about it, deal with problems or out of balance areas at once. Even seemingly innocent things, like watching old reruns of “Leave it to Beaver” or trying to sell stuff on E-Bay, could become a roadblock to experiencing real life if you let it get out of balance with other, more important priorities in life. Leonardo da Vinci was likely thinking through the same issue when he said,

“Just as iron rusts from disuse, so does inaction spoil the intellect.”

So how can you swim in the waves of media washing up and not get swept away? Start by asking yourself some hard but important questions, because it’s the only way to protect you, or the kids you love from being harmed by media.

“Does this activity help me or my family to have a deeper level of spiritual or relational connection together?”

“Will this media bring peaceful contentment to our home-life?”

“Would I let someone with the kind of language or lifestyle as reflected in this film actually hang out with my kids on a daily basis?

WWJW… What would Jesus watch?

Would you be embarrassed to be seen on a new reality TV show viewing whatever it is that steals your time and energy at home?

Are you ready to get real and reclaim the time-energy or money that has been wasted in media so you can gain a clear direction to a better future of connecting as a family- instead of feeling lost and lonely with the people you live around who may already be drowning in media addictions?

Here’s the basic formula that even a small child can understand, so work it into your regular schedule and common discussions about how your family can play in the shallow end of media, while not being swept away in the depths of despair. Here’s the balancing formula to protect the process of recreating energy from positive experiences, while still enjoying some of the breaks that come from the benefits of entertainment. Regularly compare the differences of:

Entertainment, (watching life) with
Life Experiences, (living life)
Finally, learn to be gut level honest about the real motivations and reasons behind why you do things you do as an adult before trying to convince a child or teenager that it’s okay for you to watch it, but not them. If you act or sound like a hypocrite, they will eat you alive as they point out your inconsistencies! Better is to be honest about the real reasons. If you want to relax by watching a sailing regatta; good, enjoy it! Make some popcorn. Light an aromatherapy candle. Stretch out on the couch. Take a mental break. All of these things help you because they can soothe your soul. That process is important and necessary for kids or adults to know how to do in maintaining a healthy balance, both now and for the rest of their lives.

However, if you end up agitated that your crew didn’t win, or just spend three hours surfing through channels looking for something else to watch to escape the pressures you don’t want to deal with in your life; then you missed the benefit and value those three hours could have given you. You would have been better off to have taken a nap, or taken the dog for a long walk, or called a friend just to chat and catch up about their life. Any thing would have been better than wasting hours being swept away in the current of mindless media. If you do that, you are wasting your time. And when you waste time, you’re wasting your life.

Choose wisely to avoid the fear of the waves
You do get to choose how to deal with this growing ocean of media choices. Take positive action and choose wisely in preparing to swim away from the dangerous riptides in media and you will never have to live in fear of drowning in negative media again. You will be able to move from fear of media flooding into your home, to enjoying the benefits that this mighty ocean of options brings to you and your family. Education, spiritual growth, creative hobbies, connection with friends and family in any part of the world, personal development, fun games, laughter, building empathy or compassion by experiencing what life would be like in someone else’s situation, and the list of benefits goes on and on since there are tremendously positive things that this new ocean can bring to your doorsteps. However, if you choose poorly and watch someone you love be caught up in the currents that sweep away values you will be filled with regret and grief over how much you wish you would have taken positive action before it was too late.

Let me challenge you to do everything possible to take action to protect yourself and those you care about by getting involved, becoming educated, talking, listening, asking questions and setting boundaries right now before it’s too late! Take every step you can to prevent these powerful media messages from stealing your time, family traditions or faith and values. I believe the best way to do this is to make real memories as often as possible in front of your own camera by taking snapshots of your family, laughing, playing and enjoying the power of positive experiences together. This way you aren’t watching some other family in a situation comedy on television trying to figure out their life at home; you will be living out what it means to be a family as you find greater fulfillment in living out reality in your own home than anything the entertainment world could ever imagine possible.

Need help with media ‘swimming lessons’?

I believe that God designed your home to be a place of peace and safety that gets better over time because you all are growing in love and connection to the people you care about in your family. However, if your home has been a chaotic place of disconnected arguments or power struggles about media choices, here are some websites to help you take bold action to educate yourself about the pressure points that may be facing your family with movies, music, television, websites, and countless other forms of media that can harm you or someone you love.

Study this information now as it applies to you and your own family situation so you can develop strategies to tackle the hidden currents and silent media messages that may have been stealing from your family for years. The good news is that you can make positive choices in your home and when you do, it will bring a positive difference to your family as everyone learns to swim away from the dangers of media riptides, while enjoying the beneficial things that entertainment can bring us and never worrying again about how to get safely back to the shore.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association who partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a difference in our culture with the positive message of Jesus Christ.Access more counseling and coaching resources by calling his office in Orlando at 407.647.7005 or by visiting his counseling blog at

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What are some emerging trends you see in dealing with Difficult Relationships?

No question about it, you will be forced to deal with more Difficult Relationships, both at work and home in the weeks and months ahead. This trend will impact all of us in one way or another, so here's what to look for in understanding how to successfully manage relationship pressure in your personal and professional life.

Professionally- Unreasonable and highly difficult bosses, (like the one in the Dilbert comic strip), will go away as courts, corporations and especially customers won't tolerate bullies in business. Customer service will be essential for business profitability, and companies that don't practice this basic element of human respect will struggle, fail or be bought by competitors just to save the brand.

Personally- the biggest relationship trend will be massive numbers of Baby-Boomer parents who will grow tired of funding their "Late Bloomer" 20 & 30 year olds sons who never seem to grow up and join the adult world of paying their own way. The sons live off their parents income and act like they are retired, which might mean that mom and dad never get to retire so one of their boys can become a master at video games and live in the back bedroom forever.

I believe that we are going to see many of these "Late Bloomer's" put out on the curb to pay their own way; or a huge spike in divorces in near retirement age couples as some parents finally give up on trying to help their adult son's grow up.

Dwight Bain Bio:
Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Corporate clients include:
Toyota, State Farm, DuPont, Bank of America & Disney. Organizational clients include the US Army, Florida Hospital & the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Quoted in: Investors Business Daily, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution & Orlando Sentinel. www

What do you think about couples who choose to be childless?

Couples who mutually decide to not have children are often motivated out of protecting pleasure or preventing pain. Understanding the motivation behind their decision will help you to know how to connect in respectful ways, instead of coming across in a harsh or judgmental way.

Protecting Pleasure- they may be having such a blast together connecting in romantic and intimate ways that the daily responsibility of parenting kids looks like a roadblock to the fun they are having in their relationship. That fear, along with the vastly different priorities of budgets and schedules that couples with children experience causes some couples to choose to delay or postpone having children that they believe would steal the intensity of being totally focused on pleasing each other.

Learn to view this type of couple as individuals who really want to have a fun and fulfilling marriage, instead of treating them as self-absorbed child haters, since you don't know the whole story of their journey, which may include overcoming cancer, infertility or an irreversible vasectomy from an earlier marriage.

Preventing Pain- This type of couple enjoy their marriage, but choose to remain childless because one or both of the partners came from a severely dysfunctional family and experienced severe trauma or abuse in their childhood. They make the decision to avoid having children because they are either uncomfortable with the role of being a healthy parent or are afraid of bringing a child into a stable marriage for fear of history repeating itself in some way or another and they just want to play it safe to not hurt one more child.

Both extremes are about control and both are subject to being misunderstood or attacked by friends, family or even people of faith who don't understand the motivation behind their decision. I suggest that couples agree on an 'elevator speech' (about ten seconds long), that appropriately states the facts about their decision and then to change or move on to another subject than their reproduction habits. Once others see that a childless couple are comfortable with their decision and can voice it with confidence, the critics thin out, and the manipulators will be more obvious to spot with their hidden agendas out in the open to be confronted directly.

Understanding the motivation will help improve the relationship because childless couples can then move beyond feeling harassed to finding peace in their decision to have a really great marriage, or to avoid passing on dysfunction to another generation. Both of which can be wise and appropriate decisions.

Dwight Bain Bio:
Author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Corporate clients include:
Toyota, State Farm, DuPont, Bank of America & Disney. Organizational clients include the US Army, Florida Hospital & the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Quoted in: Investors Business Daily, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution & Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, December 02, 2005

7 Strategies to Survive the Holidays

Have you ever wondered why traditional holidays are so stressful? Instead of being called the most wonderful time of the year,it seems that we should rename it to be more accurately called the most difficult time of the year’. I believe you can break the pattern of stressful holidays by realistically changing your perspective to directly deal with predictable daily pressures and then by using strategic coping skills to steer around or even better steer away from the bigger problems that tend to ‘pop up’ this time of year.

Face it. There are as many factors to cause our stress levels to build to an explosive level as there are people on the planet. Everyone has complexities and challenges different from others, yet there are some universal pressures everyone has to address no matter their age, gender or marital status. Stress tends to go up as we age because there are more factors to consider, more people to deal with and more responsibilities. The older you get, the more you are forced to change and deal with issues directly, or get stuck in the habit of repeating the same problems over and over again until you die. Yuck!

Is this bad news for everyone? No, because I believe that God designed you to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and that He will always provide you a way to move past daily pressures to live out your real purpose. You control the choices needed to change and improve your life more than you realize. Understanding the pressures, (counseling insight), and then using a strategic approach to achieve greater results, (coaching application), will position you to break out of the unhealthy patterns of the past to have a balanced and better future.

Here are the four most common factors that steal joy away from the holidays followed by seven strategic ways to finish the year healthy and strong. Use these insights to move from barely surviving the holidays to really thriving in the New Year as you enjoy the blessings of living out a lifestyle of lasting success.

#1- Loneliness-

Holidays are designed as a time to be with friends and family making positive memories. Not so for the person who wounded by dysfunctional relationships or dealing with rejection from divorce while trying to rebuild their life alone. The continual holiday music, movies and television specials aren’t comforting to people feeling detached, rather they are hurtful because they serve as continual reminders of what’s missing in their life. (Keep in mind that writers and artists tend to create entertainment material that reflects the world as they would like to see it and not as it really is to maintain some level of perspective about the many people who struggle with loneliness during the holidays).

#2- Unfulfilled-

The end of the year is a relief for some and a time of reflection for others. Wisdom says to evaluate your progress this year in light of your overall mission, purpose and core values to see if you are on track for a lifetime. Worldly culture pushes people toward being too busy so that they virtually ignore all of that journaling to live for the moment hoping that everything will just mysteriously work out “happily ever after” like the ending of a Children's story book. Many people get caught up in the busy events of the holidays to avoid having to look at the real issues in their life. Remember, the more you ignore the important and fulfilling things in your life, the more you will try to fill the emptiness with meaningless activities and materialistic stuff. Stuff can never fill the 'black hole' of being unfulfilled without purpose, but the clutter does allow people to have a logical excuse to avoid actually dealing with being responsible to spend your life doing what you were born to do.

#3- Stressed-

Everyone has stress to deal with from the cradle to the grave, its part of life. Learn to view each activity or action as either causing stress, or relieving it for you and the people around you. Now, think about many of the activities and actions that fill up our Franklin Planners from November to January. Things like, waiting in line to buy a gift, then waiting in another line to have that gift wrapped; or sending out hundreds of cards to people at the last minute, who may not even have time to open it and see who it’s from during the midst of their own holiday stress; or sampling a little bit of every type of food at holiday parties and still expecting to not gain weight; or spending an extra thirty hours putting up decorations and still getting enough sleep. Stress is emotional pressure from things feeling out of control, and it’s easy to get out of balance when so many things are being thrown at you this time of the year.

#4- Tired-

If you aren’t already exhausted from trying to squeeze more and more seasonal events and decorations into less and less available time, just wait five minutes and you will be. Everyone has a certain amount of these very limited resources to manage…energy, money and time. While the amounts of each may vary during different stages of life, it’s usually just from a trade of one for another. (Example- If you work more hours, you make more money, but give up more energy to get it. If you are carefree and have all the time in the world, you probably had to give up financial stability to get it. Kids are allowed to sleep late, but they don’t have to make the mortgage payment at the end of the month). Fatigue isn’t limited only to a loss of physical energy it can overlap into emotional burnout or spiritual emptiness, which then negatively affects our personal and professional relationships as well. The more tired we are, the more we tend to have a negative outlook, experience low morale, feel moody and un-motivated to change.

Okay, now that you have seen some of the most common reasons we end up feeling so much stress, let’s move forward to understand and apply a new approach to achieve a greater result in your personal and professional life. Here are seven strategic and proactive steps you can take to move from feeling holiday stress to experiencing a memorable experience of holiday success for you and those you care about this holiday season.

7 Strategies to Change from Holiday Survival to Holiday Success-

  1. Celebrate- laugh, rejoice, giggle, gather, sing and count every blessing as you enjoy all the good things in your life instead of just focusing on the pressures and problems. Then join in with others who are so busy celebrating the wonders of life that they don’t have time to stop and criticize the weaknesses and flaws. Like the old saying my mother used to tell me, ‘two men looked through prison bars- one saw the mud and the other saw the stars.’
  2. Connect- with people instead of being alone. There are more community activities this time of year than you could ever imagine. Visit special programs through churches, or by asking friends and family what they are doing, or where they are going and see if there is an extra seat on the bus going there. We were designed for relationship instead of isolation, so if you aren’t plugged into a healthy environment of positive people, use this time of year to ‘shop’ all the options available to see where you best fit and then plug in to connect with others who are likeminded to enjoy a stronger connection all year long.
  3. Care- about people instead of caring about material things. One of the most memorable things you can do is to come alongside to add value to others in need during the holiday season. You might help a needy family, or ask groups like Hospice, or the Salvation Army, or a woman’s shelter about a person or family that you might be able to help with special gifts of food, encouragement or time. The memories you make will be greater than any gift-card you have ever received.
  4. Choose- to be healthy with your intake of food, sugar, caffeine and alcoholic beverages which are more common during the festivities of the holiday season. You can solve a lot of the ‘let down’ feelings that are common this time of year by maintaining your regular schedule and daily routines. Especially make the positive choice to get enough sleep and protect your body from wearing out from exhaustion, or getting weaker from sleep deprivation, which makes you more prone to catching the cold or flu this time of year.
  5. Cash- instead of credit is a better way to solve a lot of the after holiday stress of opening up statements full of debts staring you in the face. The impulsive purchases you make in December may take years to pay off, so solve this stressor by sitting down to list our your expectations of the holidays and then factor in how much this is going to cost in real dollars. Working from a planned budget will protect you from the huge temptation to buy more things than you intended from stores overflowing with commercial appeals of great deals. If you can’t afford it, it’s not a gift rather it’s just one more impulsive debt to repay.
  6. Contact- Use the holidays as a time to reconnect with the people that you may have lost touch with through the year. Use festive postcards, greeting cards, or our family's favorite, a photo greeting card to see a recent picture of how big the kids have grown! Some people take time to write out detailed letters of what happened during their year, which are great to read. (Remember that the letter should be written as to share blessings and praises to bring hope, not full of prideful bragging to somehow using Christmas as a platform to show how much better your kids are than their peers.) The Internet makes it easier than ever to stay connected with others through emails and e-greetings. Use these tools as a strategic way to stay connected in building a stronger relationship and you may develop a deeper friendship that opens the door to enjoying a new friendship long after this years holiday season is repacked back into storage boxes for next year.
  7. Creator- The holiday season is rooted in rich spiritual traditions. The best strategy to overcome holiday stress is to replace it with the deepest level of meaning that a person can experience in their heart and soul and spirit. I challenge you to allow the holidays to draw you to God in a new way so you might experience what choirs of angels sang over a stable thousands of years ago, "peace on earth and good will to men." Developing a personal relationship with the Christ of Christmas will move you from feeling alone in the world, to being part of something bigger than yourself, and something that will live on forever. When you sense God's presence, you can feel His peace and power every day.

Look at it this way, experiencing God's presence will be like opening a present every day from someone who loved you so much that He would rather die than live without you. This is the real reason hundreds of millions of people on this planet will stop everything to bow their heads and quietly pray on Christmas Eve. If you already know the true meaning of Christmas, enjoy the season with your family and friends. If you aren't sure what this all means, I challenge you to let God's love come into your life today so that you never have to feel alone again.

Balancing these strategies will speed you on your journey from stress to lasting success which is the best gift you could ever receive because it lasts forever! Once you have mastered these key areas, make sure that you tell others so they can enjoy a better quality of life with you as well.

Author Bio:

Dwight Bain is an author, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is founder of the LifeWorks Group of professional therapists in Orlando; A Critical Incident Stress Management expert with Orange County Sheriffs Office; Founder of and Trainer for over 1,000 groups on making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. Corporate clients include: Toyota, State Farm, DuPont, Bank of America & Disney. Organizational clients include the US Army, Florida Hospital & the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Quoted in: Investors Business Daily, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution & Orlando Sentinel.

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Location: Winter Park, Florida, United States

Dwight is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Life Coach specializing in life transitions to guide you from stress to success. Dwight is having an impact nationally on individuals, families and business groups. His purpose is to come alongside and help you achieve maximum results in your personal and professional life.