Trying to Have A Stress Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Trying to Have A Stress Free Thanksgiving Dinner

The Holiday Season is coming up fast. Stores are already putting up holiday decorations and people are discussing holiday plans. The first family holiday is Thanksgiving so I will address some ways to get through the day without it being extremely stressful. For many people this is a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one.

Thanksgiving is coming up first so let’s deal with that day. Thanksgiving with family can mean an increase in chaos and stress. Having a Thanksgiving plan can reduce anxiety, decrease the likelihood of arguments and increase the likelihood that everyone has a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving that they were expecting.

Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Thanksgiving stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Thanksgiving Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of Thanksgiving. Ask them what they would like to bring to the table. Let them bring it.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Cook with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

There is another acronym is recommend and that is H-A-L-T.

If you do need to discuss something and it’s seems the tension may be high using these steps:

Hunger – If someone is hungry get them something to eat before you talk.

Anger – If the person appears angry, take a time out and decide on a different time to talk. If they are already angry you may exacerbate the situation by trying to talk.

Lonely – Notice a person’s mode. Often if they are feeling lonely talking can increase the tension.

Tired – Trying to talk to some one when they are tired can often lead to an argument. Let the person rest before you discuss the situation.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general. Also this acronym may be helpful in your daily life.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for many people. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

Therefore, in order to avoid this possibility trying use the words GRATEFUL and HALT and following these guidelines for the day can help reduce tension and make it a nice day for everyone. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.rcs-ca.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Ways to Make A Divorce Easier on the Family

Ways to Make A Divorce Easier on the Family

MAKING DECISIONS DURING A DIVORCE

BY DR. MICHAEL RUBINO

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have worked on many high conflict divorces. I have been the therapist for the children, an Expert Witness regarding custody, worked as part of the mediation team and served as a 730 Court Appointed Expert regarding custody and visitation. In the various roles I have had in high conflict divorce cases and also the average divorce cases, there is a common issue I have encountered. The issue I have encounter is making decisions. Many times I have seen divorce cases become vicious because one parent is reluctant about making a decision. They feel they have made too many concessions already or they feel they will look weak. So in other words the decision now becomes a matter of pride and not what is in everyone’s best interest.

Divorces are very emotional and hurtful experiences for both partners. They are also very hurtful and emotional experiences for the children. The children feel like they are in the middle of a civil war and that they need to pick a side. This is usually an impossible task for a child. They have to decide who the love more, mom or dad, how does a child make this choice? Parents often get so caught up in the fight that they do not see what they are doing to their children. I have had children tell me they wish this whole divorce stuff would go away because they cannot stand it. They cannot choose between their mother or father. They are also afraid of what will happen if they make a choice or if they do not make a choice. They feel they are in a no win situation.

I usually meet with the parents to tell them how their child is handling the divorce. Very often the first half an hour to 45 minutes I hear from the parent how unfair this whole divorce has been and how much it has cost them and they are running out of money. Mothers have their reasons about how unfair Courts and attorneys are to mothers and fathers also complain that the Court and attorneys are unfair to fathers. They also talk about a particular decision that is being made at that point. Such as what school the children will go to or how holidays will be divided.

Typically at this point both parents feel they have had to give in a lot and they are not going to give in anymore. All this attitude does is create more attorney bills and put the children under a great deal of stress. By this point in the divorce process many children are having difficulties with their school work, their parents and teenagers often have started to use alcohol or pot for a temporary escape from the stress. Younger children usually start reporting stomach aches and headaches and often have started to wet their beds at night again. These are all common reactions for younger children under stress.

When I do meet with the parents, I encourage them to take a step back and look at the entire situation. What is the divorce costing them financially, emotionally? Also what is the divorce costing their children emotionally in the short term and long term? I ask them is the price worth the fight? They are possibly doing damage to their relationship with their children and they are effecting how their children will view and think about relationships. Also they are damaging their relationship with the other parent. After the divorce is finalized, the other parent is not going to disappear. They have children together. Therefore, they are going to need to co-parent together. With all the bad blood being created, it may make it very difficult to co-parent together so the arguing and attorney bills will continue. However, the most important point is the children will still be caught in the middle. This will create emotional damage for the children. They can understand the arguing during the divorce, but not after. At that point, the children expect their parents to act like adults.

Trying to help the children, I encourage the parents to put their egos away and what ever one is telling them that they deserve. I encourage the parents to use their emotions and imagine how their children are feeling and how their children will feel the longer that the fighting continues. I recommend to parents that they need to put their children first and make the decision that is best for their children not their ego. They may win this battle, but is it worth losing the war. They lose the war by the emotional turmoil they are creating for their children. We also know from research studies that putting children under this type of stress can have long lasting effects.

Therefore, I point out it is more important to do what is best for the children. It might be hard right now, but in the long run their children will be happier and so will they. Therefore, my recommendation when making decisions regarding child support, visitation or anything to do with the children is to put pride to the side and do what is in your children’s best interest. It is your responsibility as a parent. Also remember you are ending your marriage, but you still need to co-parent with the person you are divorcing. Again as a responsible parent, you need to make the decision that will allow you to co-parent.

One issue that I have not explicitly stated. The approach I am discussing are for divorces where a spouse had an affair or is tired of being married etc. I am not discussing a marriage where there was domestic violence, child abuse physically or emotionally or severe substance abuse by one parent. If any of these issues exist then it is a different matter and requires a different approach.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has worked with children, teenagers and divorce cases for over 20 years. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit one of his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

IEP Categories Parents May not know

IEP Categories Parents May not know

Many parents are mislead and believe their child must be 2 grade levels behind before they qualify for an IEP. Here are the 14 ways a child qualifies for an IEP. The 2 grade level behind is not the only way., Therefore watch this video and learn about all 14 categories. This will help you when the school tries to not provide an IEP or remove one because your child is not 2 grade levels below in a subject. You will know all the categories that apply to your child and entitles your child to an IEP. Special Education Categories https://youtu.be/cFtg2xub10E via @YouTube

Your Divorce Is Not Part of Your Teen’s Graduation

Your Divorce Is Not Part of Your Teen’s Graduation

Since Spring Break is over and everyone is returning to school, this means the Junior and Senior Balls are around the corner and so is High School Graduation. In a family where there has been a divorce this can complicate graduation. This article address the issues associated with divorce and High School Graduation.

Divorce brings a lot of new situations in to a people’s lives especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation. Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.

This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays too. Parents argue about pick up times and drop off times, how long they have the children for holidays and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.

The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress the children are dealing with after a divorce.

The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments about she is not my child’s mother or he is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life start. Also a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.

In short in a high conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused. This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children and I cannot cover all the issues in this blog. I would need a book to cover all the issues. Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.

Graduation is one of those issues. Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now your father wants to come.” Or “if your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.” What is a teenager to do?

They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about who can attend graduation and how graduation day will go because of the divorce.

Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents and adults. This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else, at some point during High School. Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice. Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teenager’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse need to sit down together or email each other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold for one day so your teenager can have what they deserve, a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents too and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil to each other. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. If you can allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight there will be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.

The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teenager celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember the divorce ended your marriage not your relationship together as parents. Do not allow your divorce to deprive you from enjoying your child’s High School graduation day with them. They only graduate from high school once.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teenagers and families coping with divorce. He is an expert in providing psychotherapy treatment for children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

The school year is coming to a close soon. Therefore, students with IEPs or 504 plans must have their yearly review deciding if a child still qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or a 504 plan. Also for parents who requested their child be evaluated for an IEP, they will soon be having their initial IEP meeting to determine if the child qualifies for an IEP. I have posted this article before, but it appears I need to post it again. Once again, I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing from their child’s school. Many of these parents are panicked and overwhelmed. They know their child needs help at school, but they do not want to ruin their child’s future. Additionally, many parents do not know what their child is legally entitled to and the school districts take advantage of this fact.

The issue that parents are feeling confused about is should their child have an IEP or a 504 plan. An IEP is for children who are having difficulty learning subjects in the classroom. They do not have an IEP because they are not intelligent. They have an IEP because they have a different learning style. I have seen numerous parents and received numerous emails from parents stating their child’s school has told them an IEP would mark their child for life as unintelligent and possibly bankrupt the school district. None of these remarks are true.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting into a college or getting a job as an adult either. Not having a decent education can stop your child from getting into college or getting a job. Therefore, if your child needs an IEP and not a 504 Plan in order to benefit from their education, not having an IEP could stop your child from getting into college or a job because they failed to receive a proper education.

Also think about when you applied for college or a job, did they ever ask for your middle school or elementary school records? The answer is no. Therefore, there is no way for a college or job to know if your child ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college or a job. Once again, colleges and jobs never ask an applicant if they ever had an IEP. Actually, an IEP can help students receive additional time taking the SAT and ACT and assist them in college if they need it. So actually, it can help a child applying to college.

As for the idea that an IEP will bankrupt the school district, this is absurd. The school districts have plenty of money to provide children who need an IEP with an IEP. A 504 plan costs the district nothing and if the district fails to comply with the 504 plan, you really have no legal recourse. However, an IEP is a legal agreement and the laws governing IEPs are the same in every state in the United States. Also if a school doesn’t comply with an IEP, you have a number of options including legal options.

Also parents please do not pay to have your child psychologically tested or undergo any educational testing by a private mental health clinician. Legally, the school district does not have to accept these tests results. The school has the right to do all testing first. If you disagree with the school’s tests results, you can contest the results and request that your child be re-evaluated by an independent clinician. If you request an independent evaluation, you can select who does the testing and the school district must pay for the independent evaluation not you.

The only testing schools currently are not doing are assessments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Too many children were being diagnosed with ADHD and now these assessments need to be done by a mental health clinician in private practice. These evaluations you do have to pay for.

Another issue I am receiving a large number of emails about is that the school is not doing anything. Parents are saying they are hearing from the school that their child is distracted in the classroom and not doing well on tests or homework. However, the school is not doing anything. If you feel your child needs to be assessed, you need to submit a written letter requesting the evaluations to the principal. Requesting it verbally does nothing. Legally you must submit a written letter to the school principal in order to start the IEP process.

Another suggestion, parents before you panic or feel guilty about not signing that you agree with the assessments by the school because the school is pressuring you to accept their recommendations, stop and think. Look at the proposed plan and decide do you think this is really what your child needs or is the school bullying you into signing their proposed plan. If you have doubts, don’t sign the agreement and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge not the school. The school district cannot do anything until you sign the agreement. I have seen many parents made to feel guilty if they do not sign the school’s plan. You are not a bad parent if you do not sign right away, you are a cautious parent. If you do not agree with the proposed IEP plan, you can sign that you disagree and do not accept the proposed plan. There is a space on the form for you to do so. If you reject the plan, you will not ruin your child’s education. If you reject the plan, it simply means the school district needs to do more work to develop an acceptable plan. However, I have seen many school districts doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child and making parents feel guilty. There is no need to feel guilty if you do not accept, the first option presented. Think about it when you are selling or buying a house, you do not automatically accept the first offer and you do not feel guilty.

If parents are divorced, you face some additional challenges especially if you are having difficulties co-parenting with your ex-spouse. Some districts have called the parent who is more willing to sign and gets them to agree to sign and close out the IEP. I have also heard stories where the district encourages the arguing between the parents to get the parents to drop the process or for one to become so angry the parent signs the IEP to irritate the other parents. Yes it sounds unbelievable, but I have seen it happen many times.

I encourage any parent dealing with the IEP process or a 504 plan to take things slow. Ask all the questions you need and seek a second opinion if you feel you need one. You do not have to sign any documentation right away. Remember, you can sign that you do not agree and need more time. School districts are going to push you to sign right away, but legally you have every right to take some time and consider their proposal. Please do not be afraid to assert your rights. You are doing what best for your child’s education and future by taking time to review everything.

For more information about IEPs and 504 plans visit the website http://www.lucascenter.org.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist and has worked with children and families for over 20 years. He also worked as an Intern at AB3632 for 2 years. AB3632 is a California program that provides counseling services for children in Special Education. They also participate in IEPs on a regular basis. Dr. Rubino has been an IEP Advocate for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.Lucascenter.org.

How to Have A Safe Super Bowel Party

How to Have A Safe Super Bowel Party

This weekend people will be watching the playoffs to see who will plain in the Super Bowl. As I stated in my previous article for many it is a day to party and have fun, but it is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs. This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

First, remember that it is just a day and just a football game. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treat domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Healthy Communication Patterns for Family

Healthy Communication Patterns for Family

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I often hear from parents how they feel they are always arguing with their teenagers. We must remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough therefore they are more likely to argue. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement with another person.

Another common issue regarding communication is fighting or disagreements. Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.