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What Safe People Do

We want to be in healthy relationships that help us be ourselves and grow. Sometimes, while we may want to be in relationships that are respectful, supportive, fair and trustworthy, we do not always know interpersonal characteristics to look for.  Here are a few things that people who are more likely to have healthy relationships or “Safe People” do.

What Safe People Do

Safe people are concerned about “we,” not just “I.”

  • It’s not all about them, what they want, how they want it, and where they want to go in life (or just today). They show genuine concern for others and their relationships.

Safe people have empathy.

  • Empathy is the ability and willingness to imagine, “What is life like for this other person.” Safe people consider others’ perspectives with compassion, even if they don’t agree.

Safe people encourage freedom.

  • They will respect you when you say “no.”
  • They will stay connected and will not try to guilt you when you set a boundary.
  • They support that you have interests, hobbies, family and friends separate from them.  They have their own life, too!
  • Safe people may feel jealous at times, but they are willing to talk about those feelings with respect.

Safe people are a positive influence on you, not a negative one.

  • They encourage you to be more trustworthy, honest, loving, fair, and respectful.

Safe people help you feel more connected than isolated.

  • Safe relationships allow for connection and openness.  You may ask yourself, “Do I feel connected with them or more lonely?  Are they willing to be open and vulnerable with me or are they closed-off?”

Safe people use open communication rather than manipulation, flattery, or gossip to communicate with others.

  • When there is a want, need, or disagreement, safe people address the matter with honesty, respect, and patience.  They are willing to lovingly speak to you and listen when you speak to them.

(Adapted from Safe People, Cloud & Townsend, 1995).


Are you in relationships with safe people?  Are you a safe person yourself?  No one is perfectly “safe” all of the time.  There are some situations that are more difficult to be a “safe person” in than others.  If you are in a relationship that is not as safe as it could be or if you there are some “safe” characteristics that you do not see in yourself, there is hope!  Becoming a more safe person is a skill that the most people can learn!  Counselors at IDEALS can help you develop these skills. We use Relationship Enhancement (RE), a method that has 40 years of research that demonstrate its effectiveness, even when there are serious problems.  Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Alone Together- Competing with the Screen

Let’s face it- iPods, iPads, laptops, tablets, cell phones…kids these days are glued to technological devices. And we adults get pretty glued, too!  The list goes on- endless laughs from YouTube, pictures to scroll through on Facebook, games galore, and music to enjoy.  But where has all this information and fun left us?  In the book Alone Together, author Sherry Turkle discusses many of the effects of technology today.  She says that, in many ways, we are more connected than we have ever been, yet in other ways, we are feeling more and more isolated from each other.  Turkle argues that it is easy to become so immersed in technology that we ignore what we know about life.[1]  We think that one of these things we “know” about life is our need for human relationships.     

We find it interesting how groups of teens and adults will sit together on their phones.  Ever wonder why people sit staring at their screens…together?  To us, this shows that we still understand that nothing can replace human connection.  Technology is wonderful and useful, but many would probably agree that laughing alone, playing games alone, and learning alone is just not as satisfying as also having someone to share it with.  Even the “share” option on social media sites doesn’t quite cut it.  We love our technology, but we know it is not enough.  There is just something about being with others that brings a needed layer of joy into our lives.  The shared human experience seems to fulfill an innate desire, yet we often allow this experience to take a back seat.  So, how do we compete with all the screens? 

This topic becomes particularly fascinating when we turn our attention to the effects technology is having on the relationship between parents and their children.  Mere brief observation allows one to note how, at a very early age, children are being exposed to technological devices.  Gadgets that not long ago were reserved for adults are now commonplace among elementary age children.  Children are being afforded numerous opportunities for learning and play through technology, but we pause to ask several questions. What is being sacrificed in order to accommodate this movement?  With regard to relationship, how can parents compete with the screens in their kids’ lives?  Can parents provide anything more exciting or interesting than what screens can offer? And how often are parents and children “together” in proximity but actually “apart” through divided attentions?  What impact does technological distraction have on parent-child relationships?  What is lost as children are not encouraged to play with others and build relationships with others?  What are children being told if it becomes much easier for them to interact with their parents via text or Skype rather than from playing together in the back yard?  These are big questions, some with tough answers.

At IDEALS for Families and Communities, we offer parent workshops, which teach parents of children ages 3-10 a special way to play with their children that builds connection and teaches skills for life for your kids.  And, get this – the kids truly LOVE IT, so much so that they don’t care about having devices.  Let IDEALS give you some tools to create a time in your week that both you and your kids will look forward to and does not involve devices.  It can take only 30 minutes a week to increase connection within your family. 

The next scheduled workshop is THIS Saturday, Nov. 2nd, a 5-hour workshop where parents come together (without kids) to learn this new way of play, and then the workshop will be followed by three individually scheduled follow-up visits for each family to come with their kids to get extra coaching to develop these skills.

You can register at our workshops page.
-Jon and Sharon Bryant

[1] Sherry Turkle. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 101. 

Keeping Our “Inner Hulk” In Check

With all of the recent super-hero movies, many of us may have identified at one time or another with one of the characters.  Maybe we would love to have the engineering ability of Iron Man, the super-strength of Captain America, or maybe even the ability to throw Thor’s hammer.  However, while we may hope to identify with all of the super-powers, we may most often identify with Bruce Banner, the Hulk.  Bruce Banner is always combating the “stress monster” that comes about when his anger gets the best of him.  He manages to keep it all in check sometimes, but when he loses control, he transforms into the Hulk and can no longer think rationally about his decisions.  Does this sound familiar when stress and anger get the best of you?

While we may not transform into the Hulk, stress can cause mental, emotional, and physical problems when we experience it long term.  So, how can we keep our inner Hulk in check?  Bruce Banner is very aware of his heart rate, breathing patterns, and how his body specifically responds to stress.  All of these things are key to managing our own stress when life throws us curve balls.  Self-awareness or knowing how our bodies individually respond to stress is the key to managing it.  Next, once we recognize these heightened types of mental, emotional, or physical patterns in ourselves… stop… and BREATHE.  Breathe deeply from your belly.  Imagine how a baby breathes when it is sleeping- its belly, not its chest, rises and falls.  Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing can help slow our heart rate and bring our other physiological symptoms back to manageable levels.  Taking time each day to breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes, and it will make a big difference when the stress monster creeps up in the day.

Kristi Dugger

Staff Therapist

Strengthening Stepfamilies

Stepfamilies comprise 50% of families in America today.  While there can be great opportunities for growth, there are different dynamics within stepfamilies that can become stumbling blocks. Less-than-effective communication skills, poor conflict management, unrealistic expectations, and lack of empathy often get in the way of the new family formation being successful.

Many parents are highly concerned about the children who may have already suffered from the divorce and may be having difficulty adjusting to the new dynamics. While there are multiple factors to consider that can help, one of the most helpful gifts you can give to the children is to strengthen the new marriage relationship.  When problems arise, the couple relationship often gets lost in the shuffle.  This can lead to problems including mistrusting one another or looking down on the other for how they handle parenting issues.  This can cause additional strain a family system that may already be difficult to maneuver.

If you are stepparents, what can you do to strengthen your relationship and offer this gift? Set aside time for one another to enjoy each other. Remember and experience the reasons that brought you together in the first place.  This may be as simple as 10 minutes a day talking about each other’s day as well as your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires.  Do something together that you can both look forward to.  Plan even a short date to connect with one another.

Strengthening the parent-child bond is very important (and we know how to help people do that), but both parents in the stepfamily can offer a gift of stability to the children and to one another by strengthening the marital bond.

IDEALS for Families and Communities is offering a Saturday workshop called Successful Stepfamilies.  This workshop will help give couples valuable information and tools to help them be successful.

Register for our upcoming workshop on Saturday, October 5th.

Just Keep Swimming- Developing Your Resiliency Skill

When things in life get tough, what do you do?  Just keep swimming!  Through life’s challenges I often hear the voice of Dory from Disney’s Finding Nemo  singing, “Just keep swimming, swimming…What do we do we swim, swim, swim,…”  Dory is the voice of resiliency in my life!

Resiliency is one’s ability to roll with the punches.  When stress, adversity, or trauma strike, one with resiliency is able to experience anger, grief, and pain, but they are still able to keep functioning both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Resiliency does not mean ignoring your emotions but rather acknowledging them and gaining the ability to control your emotions, not allowing them to control you. The great thing is that even if we find that our ability to bounce back and keep swimming has been lacking in the past, resiliency is a skill that we can practice and strengthen.  So how do you strengthen resiliency?  Our resiliency curriculum, Back on Track*, suggests 6 ways to help you develop your resiliency skill.

·         Get Connected – Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with support and acceptance through the good times and the bad.

·         Make Every Day Meaningful – Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day.  Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.

·         Learn From Experience – Think back on how you’ve coped with hardships in the past.  Consider skills and strategies that helped you through rough times before.

·         Remain Hopeful – You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future.  Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.

·         Take Care of Yourself – Tend to your own needs and feelings, both physically and emotionally.

·         Be Proactive – Don’t ignore your problems or try to wish them away.  Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action.

Practicing resiliency each day can strengthen your ability to keep swimming through life’s small struggles and large stressors.  In challenging times, my inner Dory gets fainter, but I work to strengthen that voice, to strengthen my resiliency.    Through getting connected, making each day meaningful, learning from your experiences, remaining hopeful, taking care of yourself, and being proactive you can keep swimming and moving forward in life.

-Bethany McNeely, staff therapist


*Back on Track, written by Mary Ortwein, Sharon Bryant, and Benita Peoples, is a curriculum developed through our work with people in a wide range of life situations to help them bounce back by being real, relaxed, responsible, and resilient.