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Dr. Rob Lees, R. Psych.. Evidence that Parental Relationship quality affects Children’s Adjustment. NOT blaming parents for adjustment issues Story.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr. Rob Lees, R. Psych.. Evidence that Parental Relationship quality affects Children’s Adjustment. NOT blaming parents for adjustment issues Story."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr. Rob Lees, R. Psych.


3 Evidence that Parental Relationship quality affects Children’s Adjustment. NOT blaming parents for adjustment issues Story of Father Calvo, a Spanish Priest and the Founder of Marriage Encounter who worked with troubled youth. Difficult to improve family without improving the parental dyad.

4 Socio-emotional and mental health challenges Greater stress Poorer parental relationship quality More stress for the children Poorer functioning for the young people

5 Two resources based on scientific evidence with easy to read books that explain their work. The Relationship House model from Dr. John Gottman of Seattle The Hold Me Tight model from Dr. Susan Johnson from Ottawa

6 Close observation of couples Eg. Video taped conversations about an area of conflict Biological indicators monitored: heart rate, galvanic skin response, and a sensor on the chair to capture “wiggles”. Dr. Gottman claims His team can predict with 95% assurance which couples will divorce.

7 Here are a few of the key do’s and don’ts:

8 Start conversations, especially those where you want change or know you have conflict, “softly.” How conversations start often predict how they will end.

9 Well, here’s what they don’t look like Why can’t I ever get any help around here? Compare that with this soft start up I’m feeling frustrated and need to talk about some things, would now be ok?

10 Gottman describes 4 communication patterns that announce the coming of the end

11 Defensiveness Criticism Stonewalling Contempt

12 Men Get angry and unpleasant effects last longer than in women Avoid being upset Obviously TOO sensitive!!! Women Get angry and the anger dissipates. Better in conflict Often better in any verbal sparring or communication

13 Clear signs of relationship distress But, all is not lost!

14 In any intimate relationship we make “bids” to be noticed Can be very tentative because we fear rejection Can be masked, too subtle, clumsy or made as demands Bids are always saying: “Will you notice me?” “Do I matter?”

15 Think about how you attempt to get your needs met by your partner… Men often use sex as a bid for attention. Being physical for them is a powerful way to feel connected and valued as they often feel second to their more verbally connected spouses.

16 Began her doctoral research 25 years ago at the UBC Department of Counseling Psychology Spent 25 yrs collecting evidence for her Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy Authored self-help book: “Hold Me Tight: Conversations for Connection” Success rate for Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy = 85% of distressed couples can become non-distressed when treated

17 A blend of three well known theories Gestalt therapy with its emphasis on immediate experience Family Systems theory with its emphasis on patterns and reciprocal causation Attachment theory

18 According to Johnson, every relationship is like a dance It has different music, but the same pattern; different content, but the same roles Some common names for a couple’s dance: Protest Polka The Freeze and Flee Minuet Find the Bad Guy Salsa

19 Couples can learn that their desire to meet their needs is swept up in a pattern that takes both of them captive They can then learn to: Outsmart the dance Change their roles Be more aware of the needs they are trying to meet

20 Johnson might ask a couple to complete the following: The more I ________, the more you _________, the more you ________, the more I __________

21 The more I distance, the more you attack, the more I distance It doesn’t matter “where it started or who started it”, both parties behavior fuels the dance and the pattern continues.

22 Johnson assists couples in finding the “soft,” vulnerable emotions that lay below the surface A loud and demanding spouse may really be frightened that they are unlovable and will be abandoned if they don’t demand to be noticed. The rejection sensitive spouse may pull away out of fear that if they ask for what the need they will be told they’re unworthy.

23 Understanding “softer” feelings brings people together Hard or angry surface feelings drive us apart.

24 What we know about attachment in children applies in intimate adult love relationships Our partner is our safe harbor and secure base This makes it especially alarming when we feel criticized or under attack.

25 Intimate relationships are meant to be safe places to go when we are emotionally hurt When they aren’t safe, we need to seek other ports in the storm This need is deeply woven into our biology – for example, when you were small you had to cry to ensure the attention of your caregivers without which you would die Tom Hanks in Castaway

26 A – are you there for me? R – are you responsive to me? E – will you engage with me?

27 At a biological level we all need to be noticed - if we aren’t noticed as infants we will not survive These needs have a powerful “life or death” feel to them We can do crazy things in the name of love! Women often sacrifice themselves Men too often use aggression

28 Piglet: “Pooh?” Pooh: “Yes, Piglet?” Piglet: “Nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you.”

29 When our needs our not met we might: Protest Withdraw Cling Similar to attachment styles of children

30 Protests Often come out as complaints, demands or negativity Partner is saying: “I want to matter to you and don’t feel I do” Withdrawal Behavior of those who don’t believe their needs will be met Results in a quieter relationship, but not necessarily healthier Clingy Needs predictability and assurance

31 Discussed 2 scientific works focused on improving adult relationships Improving parental relationships will likely benefit all those who are in their “downline”

32 Focus on the concepts of Beginning conversations with Soft Start Ups Avoiding the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse Being aware of “Bids”

33 Focus on Understanding and taming negative relationship patterns Paying attention to needs for connection

34 Michelle Weiner Davis’ “Divorce Busting” David Snarch’s “Passionate Marriage Harville Hendrix’s “Getting the Love you Want”

35 BHR Chilliwack’s work with more than 500 couples we’ve learned Prioritizing their relationship leads to couples feeling more empowered and able to respond to demands of parenting Children need to know the center of their universe is stable, grounded, competent and nurturing Two parents who are connected help provide this

36 What about lone parent households? Or “married singles” - roommates, not soul mates? How can your core attachment needs be met? If it isn’t a spouse, let it be a friend or relative

37 Start with admiration and fondness Increase the ratio of positive to negative interactions Ask yourself what’s good about your spouse? What attracted you to them? Think of them in a kindly light… Eg. Stubborn or tenacious and determined?

38 Masters of marriage, in contrast to the “disasters,” know a lot about each other Favorite colours, shows, memories…etc. Do you really know your partner for who they are now? All these small things add up to a “love map” Helps you show that you really want to “know” your partner

39 “I” statements are self responsible “You” statements can come across as blaming “I” statements are to couple communication…...what “deep breathing” is to mental health AND...what “sneezing into your sleeve” and “washing your hands” is to public health

40 SituationYou MessageI Message Wife rejected a sexual advance “What’s the matter with you?” “I feel hurt and confused.” Husband forgot to call“You’re so irresponsible”“I’m really frustrated, I thought we had a plan.”

41 Attention means making time Money and child care can be stumbling blocks Mind set is critical: reach the point where you can say your own relationship is the key relationship in the family

42 Why focus on sex? It’s a barometer of closeness and distance It is often more important to men; men have more difficulty connecting Men see sex as a way to seek validation, to feel that they matter and are valued



45 Solace sex When people get so far apart they find comfort in each other then return to their remote positions Sealed off sex Without emotional connection for the release of sexual tension Synchronous sex Erotic, playful, and emotionally connected sex

46 For many, affection is the prelude to sex Women often want affection but they may not want sex Dilemma: reject the affection or feel pressured into sex when they may not want to Sometimes leads to a decrease in affection Possible solution: a contract when you know you have time for each other and can have sex


48 Goal of webinar = having partners with kids with mental health challenges ensure they take time to consider ways to improve their adult attachment relationships. Provided some information from the work of Dr. Gottman and Johnson, along with our insights from the Building Healthy Relationships couple courses in Chilliwack. Content is not meant to be couple counselling or take the place of a consultation with a trained marriage therapist. If you are aware that your relationship is in distress, consider the services of a qualified marriage therapist as an investment in yourself and your family.

49 With thanks to: Tina Lee - Mental Health Worker, Richmond, BC Esther Groenhof - Mental Health Clinician, Chilliwack, BC Jay Timms - Mental Health Clinician, Surrey, BC Bob Youssef - Counsellor, Abbotsford, BC Technical Assistance: Lisa Baker – Mental Health Clinician, Chilliwack, BC

50 John Gottman, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love you Want Susan Johnson, Hold Me Tight: Conversations for Connection David Snarch, The Passionate Marriage Michelle Weiner-Davis, Divorce Busting

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