CF and Relationships: Top Dos and Don’ts
by Foster W. Cline, MD and Lisa C. Greene
Having a child with CF affects many aspects of family life. There are more chances for conflict. Intense family situations and emotions frequently lead to mistakes. Basic communication skills and ground rules are helpful. Here are a few tips to help you resolve problems and, at the very least, help keep them from getting bigger.
Tool 1: Are We Going to Vent or Problem Solve?
Sometimes a person just wants to let off steam. This is okay every now and then but it could be a sign of anger problems if it happens regularly. Chronic anger can be very destructive to spouses and children. Problem solving can occur when both you and your partner:
• Are not angry
• Are willing to look at the situation in a non-emotional and thoughtful manner
• Know you both have the time to solve the problem
• Can look thoughtfully at each other’s point of view
Tool 2: Don’t Generalize
Generalizing is saying things like: “You always…” or “You never…” This triggers responses such as “I do not always…!” and can cause a bigger fight.
Tool 3: Stick to the Topic
Don't bring up other issues when trying to resolve a conflict. Stick to one issue, resolve it, and then work on the next.
Tool 4: Stop Name Calling
Need we explain further? Name calling is disrespectful and an invitation to fight.
Tool 5: Discussion by Appointment
Timing can be everything! Couples will sometimes try to solve a problem at the wrong time such as when one person is tired, hungry, stressed, or in a hurry. By setting an appointment to discuss an issue, you can avoid times that aren't good and more likely have a productive talk.
Tool 6: Don’t Question Motivation
When your partner does something to upset you, never assume he or she is motivated by the desire to upset you. In our love relationships, we do things that upset another person. However, spouses, unless disturbed, seldom do things to purposely upset the other. Assume your partner wants the best for you.
Tool 7: Use “I Messages”
An "I Message" clarifies our own position. They are statements about where we stand. They are never demands as to how another person ought to think, act, or respond. "I Messages" have three parts:
1. “I feel _______
2. when someone does or says _________
3. because then I feel (become, think, experience) __________.”
Tool 8: Focus on Your Partner’s Actual Words
Don't get caught up in body language, tone of voice, and facial gestures. Although we cannot always control our body language when we are upset, we can be responsible for the words we use. Stay focused on the actual words. And of course, be aware of how your body language, tone of voice and facial gestures may be perceived by your partner.
Tool 9: Turn Accusations and Statements into Questions
Accusations, demands, and statements are more effectively expressed as questions. For example: “Now don’t be late” can be better said: “Do you think I can count on you being on time?”
Tool 10: Your Way Isn’t the Only Way
Many relationships end up on the rocks because the partners don’t understand their differences in handling emotions. Don’t assume your way of handling a problem is the “right” way.
Travis and Suzanne’s baby girl was born with a disease that took her life quickly. Suzanne was very emotional and reached out to others for support. Travis was unemotional and dug into his job. Suzanne began to feel that Travis didn't care about her. Travis felt depressed every time he was around his wife. Their marriage eventually crumbled and they divorced.
What went wrong? Each felt that the way they were handling the situation was the “right way” and did not understand their differences. It might take a counselor to help you work out these issues.
Tool 11: Recognize Your Emotional Temperature
When we start to feel frustrated, our emotional temperature starts to rise. At some point, we can get so "hot" that we lose control and say and do things we'll regret later. When we start to feel angry, STOP. Take a time out and make an appointment to discuss the issue at a later time after you've had a chance to cool down and think about things a bit.
Tool 12: Practice the Art of Apology and Forgiveness
We all blow it at times and say or do the wrong things. Admitting our mistakes and apologizing can go a long ways. Accepting apologies and offering forgiveness is the other half of the equation. Make it a practice to end conflict with apologies, forgiveness, and hugs.
With some awareness of basic communication tools and a willingness to try them out, you'll soon find that your relationships and family life will be calmer and happier. At the end of the day, it's our relationships that really matter. And don't forget, our kids are always watching us and learning by our example.
From the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health Issues" by Foster W. Cline, M.D, child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic, and Lisa C. Greene, mom of two kids with cystic fibrosis and parent educator. Visit www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.