Catholic Charities : Diocese of Des Moines
August 3, 2016

By: Harmony Linden, L.I.S.W.

There are so many issues that people disagree on, sometimes it’s harder to find common ground than to find differences.  In families, this can create conflict.  At its most extreme, people can cut off all contact from one another.

Distancing or cutting off is a response to the need for togetherness in a family.  Family members feel pulled to think alike and share common goals.  This can help people feel connected to one another.  When the desire to think alike is very strong and differences are not tolerated, people often respond with an equally strong cut-off. 

When family members cut off contact with one another they are at risk for isolation and feelings of rejection.  Reconnecting with family members after a cut-off is difficult. The emotions of the original argument might return, regardless of how long the cut-off lasted.  Cut-off in family relationships often correlates with depression, anger, and difficulty with friends and other relationships. 

In the book, “Growing Yourself Up,” Jenny Brown says that accepting people with different views and staying connected to them is an attribute of maturity (18).  She later describes a path toward maturity that includes being in contact with our families without distancing, blaming, or rescuing them (60).   

It can be difficult to stay in contact with family members who have very different views.  Emotional maturity grows when a person can hear different ways of thinking and express their own ideas, without trying to change the other person. 

When learning how to do this, a person might observe themselves to see how long they can listen to someone else’s opinions before they start trying to change them.  A person might also see how long they can stay clear about their own thinking when others are trying to convince them to see it differently. 

When trying to tolerate differences becomes too difficult or overwhelming, having a neutral third person can help calm tension. This could be a priest, a therapist, or another person outside of the family.  Practicing the skills of disagreeing without distancing, blaming, or rescuing enhances emotional growth and maturity.

Harmony Linden is a licensed therapist at the Center for Life Counseling at Catholic Charities.  For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our professional therapists, visit CenterForLifeCounseling.org or call 515-237-5045. 




June 27, 2016

Parenting during Summer Break

By: Harmony Linden, L.I.S.W.

Summer break is a time when children have less structure and routine.  This might lead to more defiance or new problems with behavior.  Sometimes parents feel overwhelmed or anxious about their children when they are out of school. 

It’s tempting for parents to set an agenda for our kids or to keep them busy as a way to prevent behavioral problems.  For some, this works well, but when children resist, the whole family can squabble.  If tension is high in your family while the kids are out of school, you may be wondering how to get things back on track. 

In her book, “Extraordinary Relationships”, Dr. Roberta Gilbert says, “Like all relationships, the ideal parent-child relationship is characterized by equality, separateness, and openness” (152).  She explains that of course the relationship is not equal in terms of maturity or ability.  However, it is a relationship in which both the parent and the child show mutual respect. There is room for each to be their own separate person, while also spending time with one another. 

Moving away from an anxious focus on our children’s behavior, and toward a calm interest is a first step in improving relationships.  This shift ultimately helps our children manage their behavior.   When parents can calmly ask questions about kids’ choices, behavior and interests, it opens the door for a conversation about how to do things differently.  Parents might make a comment or a suggestion to a child, such as, “An adult might do it this way.” It is also important for parents to allow children to experiment with their own way of doing things as a way to learn from their mistakes. 

A second step for improving parent-child relationships is to spend more one-on-one time with each child.  It’s important to develop a personal relationship with each of your children, as the relationship will often influence behavior.  For parents, this might mean letting your child choose the activity that you do together.  Parents can use this as a chance to better understand who their child is, separate from the rest of the family.   

A third way to improve children’s behavior is for the parent to set limits for themselves.  Rather than arguing about doing chores, a parent might say, “I’ll drive you to your friend’s house once the chores are done.”  By focusing on what the parent is willing or not willing to do, children have to think more about how their behavior impacts their own goals for themselves. 

Parents can resolve most behavior problems by staying calm, allowing children to learn from their own mistakes, and spending more time with their children.  When kids’ behavior becomes unsafe or when defiance and arguing get so bad that family members are not able to do daily activities of life, the family could benefit from professional family counseling.  Talking to a therapist who specializes in family dynamics is especially important for children and adolescents, as their behavior impacts the entire family. 

Harmony Linden is a licensed therapist at the Center for Life Counseling at Catholic Charities.  For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our professional therapists, visit CenterForLifeCounseling.org or call 515-237-5045. 




March 23, 2016

Prayer Fasting Almsgiving

As we enter Holy Week, hopefully, we are fine tuning our Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving so we will be able to share more fully in the Triduum liturgies. 

Before our prayer, I will start with a quote from Galatians chapter six verse two “Bear one another’s burdens, and so will you fulfill the law of Christ."  We are not talking about bearing our own, self-centered burdens, but like Christ on the cross freely accepting the burdens of others. So as we pray, fast, and give alms, let us visualize a homeless person.  Let us give that person a name and let us think about what that person is like, what he does, what he eats, and where he sleeps this Holy Week.  Let us think of him or her often as we go through this week before the Triduum.

Now our prayer.  Think of your person as you say the prayer.

Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day. 
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations. 
For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime 
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent. 
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in. 
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are. 
For those who are afraid and hopeless. 
For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.
We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.  Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen

As we consider our fasting, we first want to think of our person by name.  For fasting, I suggest one or two days of eating half as much at each meal as you usually would.

As we consider our almsgiving, again think of our person by name. For our almsgiving, let us give what we think would be a reasonable amount it would cost to feed a homeless person for one or two days.




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Dealing with Differences
Parenting during Summer Break
Bearing the Burdens of Those in Need
Welcome the Stranger
How to connect with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

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