Thankful Benefits

Top Two Ways to Cultivate Joy This Season (Even in the Face of Holiday Stress) By Ellie Cobb, Ph.D.

Ellie Ford Cobb‘Tis the season to be joyful! We all know this, as we get told by every store, advertisement, and card. Many of us feel the joy… and many of us don’t feel it. For some, holidays are actually more the season to be stressed, overwhelmed, and irritable than the season to be joyful. I am here to say- that is okay. This time of year is often full of obligations, deadlines, events, travel, expenses, family dynamics. It’s completely understandable that this time of year can bring angst. So let’s start with just acknowledging and accepting those less joyful parts of the holiday season.

Even with accepting the challenges of the season, it’s totally normal to still wish to enjoy more joy. So what should you do if you actually want to cultivate more joy in your holiday season? The optimistic news is that we all have the tools we need to do that. We have the best technology available to us that will allow us to infuse our season with joy. That technology is our own brain and our own heart!

The most direct way to awaken joy within us is with a thankful heart and mind. Science shows us that regularly reflecting on what we are thankful for and appreciating it in the moment actually enhances our joy. Neuroscience research indicates that the pleasure/reward parts of the brain activate when we bring attention to thankfulness in our lives. So one way to cultivate joy this season is simply being mindful of even the smallest things you feel grateful for during the holidays.

Taking this one step further, research supports the notion that shared joy is the most powerful kind of joy. When we share with another what we feel grateful for and what brings thankfulness into our lives it actually enhances our emotions associated with gratitude. Researchers have found that people tend to feel more joyful and satisfied with life in general when they regularly tell loved ones about all the goodness in their lives, about the reasons they are thankful, about any positive events that have happened recently. So if you want to increase your joy, noticing moments of gratitude and then recounting them out loud to another will give you the most effective immediate boost!

Recap of the top two ways to cultivate joy in our lives this season:

1. Fill you heart and mind with thankfulness. Taking a mindful pause to reflect and notice what you are thankful for is the best way to awaken the heart with joy. This simple act turns our brain towards gratitude and opens our hearts to joy.

2. Share your gratitude and happiness. The simple act of sharing out loud your own feelings of gratitude, happiness, excitement, or accomplishment has a multiplying effect on the level of joy you feel. Share your joy to feel more joy!

For more about Ellie, please visit;
Instagram: @groundedandgold
Twitter: @groundedandgold
Facebook: Ellie Cobb, Ph.D. Facebook Page

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Thankful Moments

You Are Where You’re From

Losing your home is like losing yourself. Recovery takes a village.

Even though there’s no place like it, we spend our lives searching for things that look, taste, smell and feel like home. But what really makes people happy when they think of home is not the house — it’s the people they knew, the places they loved and the experiences they had while they were there.

Claiming a spot on the planet is part of a human drive to belong while simultaneously distinguishing ourselves from others. We take pride in our neighborhoods, accents and whether or not we’re inclined to say “soda,” “pop” or something else. According to environmental psychologist Susan Clayton, our homes are part of our identities. In many ways, we are where we come from. If you don’t believe us, try telling a Floridian that all oranges are created equal, or convincing a New Yorker that deep dish pizza counts.

Whether you’re a citizen of the world or you’ve never set foot outside your zip code, you probably have strong feelings about your home that affect the way you think, feel and act — and researchers think they know why. Associations we make with our homes cause us to become more socially and politically involved in our communities. When our homes are threatened, or when war, hardship or just plain bad luck causes us to lose them altogether, our emotional attachments grow even stronger. They say home is where the heart is. But if you’ve lost your home, or if you never had one in the first place, where do you keep your heart?

For many millions of people on the planet, this devastating loss of home has become a wide awake nightmare. 13.5 million Syrian refugees have been driven from the homes they loved and, despite the welcoming arms and generosity of many, they face physical, financial and emotional difficulties when they try to settle into their new lives. This astronomical number of displaced people doesn’t even include local micro diasporas of those who find themselves homeless because of job losses, economic hardships or mental illnesses.

It’s usually trauma that leads to homelessness, and homelessness causes even more devastating trauma. For refugees, being severed from everything they knew and loved about their homeland is often more painful than the post-traumatic effects witnessing the violence of war. Post-migration stressors such as social isolation, discrimination, poverty, the loss of social networks, and living in limbo will take a toll on anyone’s mental health. And those who find themselves homeless for other reasons suffer a little more every day they go without shelter, security and, most importantly, a community. Displacement and homelessness are bigger than all of us — but all of us can help.

Charity Navigator’s list of organizations (with ratings) is a great place to start exploring ways to help Syrian Refugees, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has a list of ways you can start supporting the homeless population in your area. Your efforts might be a drop in the bucket, but many drops can create a flood of generosity that changes the stars for people without roofs over their heads.

We collect a lifetime of memories within the walls of our homes. Big or small, humble or extravagant, they provide us with warmth, safety, security and a place to experience joy, hope and personal growth. With a little bit of effort, we can help give people without houses the Thankful Moments that come with having a place to call home.



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Thankful and Chill

Sometimes you need to get away…without leaving your couch.

Scooch over, couch potato. Your binge-watching little brother needs a spot on the sofa to Netflix, chill and expand his emotional capacity.

Americans have always had tendency to indulge (and over-indulge) in small-screen amusement, so much so that “binge-watch” was Collins English Dictionary’s 2015 word of the year. But that’s not necessarily a signal to power down. We consume a lot of television, but there’s a marked difference in the way we watch. In the new Golden Age of Television, the days of the couch potato are over. People today aren’t passively watching hours of infomercials or reruns of “The Price is Right.” They’re watching expertly written, well acted, beautifully shot works of art flicker across a 40 inch screen — and if great TV makes you feel good, you don’t need to feel bad about it.

The joys of binge-watching can be explained by neuroscience. Emotionally compelling programming suck us in like dog hair up a Dustbuster. We’re hardwired to love stories that feature the triumphs and trials of characters we can relate to. In other words, even if we’ve never picked up a meth-dealing side-hustle, we can empathize with what happens on the small screen.

Scientists have tracked the powerful emotional responses, ranging from distress to compassion, prompted by television. In one study, researchers found that empathy for TV characters correlates with an increase in oxytocin. That’s why watching TV feels so good…and why we like to cuddle while we do it. We become so emotionally invested in the can’t-miss chapters of our fictional friends’ lives that we don’t think twice before pressing “play next episode” every time the credits roll. And that uptick oxytocin corresponds with an increase in generosity. The same study discovered that participants were more likely to donate money to charity after viewing something that stirred feelings of empathy. So while binge-watching TV might not do much for your pallor or proportions, it actually can make you a better person.

Good feels and generosity are best enjoyed with friends. Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin says TV should be a group activity. It’s a great excuse to spend time with loved ones, and if you can find common ground in Kimmy Schmidt, it can help you to relate to people who feel far away.

“Bottom line: if you watch TV mindfully and purposefully, it can be a source of happiness, especially if you use it to connect with other people,” Rubin said.

As we’re munching on popcorn, we’re seeing the world, experiencing human tragedies and triumphs on screens 4-feet long and luminous. We’re Thankful for the TV and movies that provide escape, insight and an excuse to snuggle.

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Thankful Moments

Thankful Moments Found in the Fine Print

Stories Can Transport Us — And Bring Us Closer Together

There’s a small, serene patch of Pasadena, California, called Bungalow Heaven. Flocks of wild parrots squawk and soar over the rooftops of historic arts and crafts homes with meticulously xeriscaped gardens. There’s nary a stoplight or a 7-Eleven in 125 acres. Instead there are roughly half a dozen Little Free Libraries — compact, homemade, one-of-a-kind shrines to the love of reading.

Driven by a desire to foster community, creativity and learning, Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that doles out blueprints and books for tiny little depositories. There are 50,000 of them in all 50 states and more than 70 countries. By the end of the year, the number of libraries will be closer to 100,000.

Pasadena is just one of the many cities that’s sowing seeds of scholarship throughout their neighborhoods. With one of the largest, oldest bookstores in southern California and a library no more than a mile from every resident, Pasadena’s literary devotion is clear. For local city council members and library directors, this is about more than reading books — it’s about forming bonds.

Since 2009 these little literacy monuments have been popping up in gardens all over the country, and they’re offering more than just the opportunity to get swept up in a story. Filled with titles by everyone from Maurice Sendak to Salman Rushdie, Free Little Libraries let anyone take a book and return a book, giving neighbors, friends and strangers the chance to connect on a street corner over their shared fondness for literature. Plus they give everyone a chance to reap the benefits of books, with or without a library card.

The perks of reading range from having a portable way to pass the time on the train to helping you grow into a better person, and a smarter one too. For one, reading fosters empathy. Fiction especially allows readers to occupy the minds of people with different thoughts, feelings and experiences, which gives them a chance to feel the aches and pains that come from walking in another’s shoes. And like most Thankful Moments, the satisfaction you get from getting lost in a story is contagious. Studies show that when parents read to their children, those kids are more likely to become frequent readers themselves. Then when you take this love of learning from the nursery to the neighborhood, you can spread that Thankful Moment throughout the zip code and beyond.

You don’t have to live in Bungalow Heaven to transform your neighborhood into a little slice of Paradise. Find a Little Free Library near you, build one yourself or head to a local bigger free library to find a story you can get lost in. Then keep reading, keep sharing and keep spreading the Thankful Moments.

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Thankful Moments

Thankful for Service

Volunteering: Good for the Body, Good for the Soul

At Project Thankful, we hold the merits of volunteering to be self-evident. Folks in need get the service they require and you get to feel good about yourself for being the one to give it to them. Those warm fuzzy feelings aren’t just warm fuzzies. Sure, volunteering makes you feel better, but also makes you feel better.

As it turns out, volunteering doesn’t just help you feel more connected to the world and the people around you. It does more to stave off feelings of loneliness and depression than almost anything you can get without a prescription. It also reduces stress and keeps your blood pressure down — two things that could actually extend your life. So when you take a few hours out of your week to benefit other people’s lives, you’re actually saving your own.

Studies show that regular volunteer work has four major benefits: better mental, physical and emotional health; lower stress levels; deeper community connections and better individual health management. That means people actually take better care of themselves — eat healthier diets, get health screenings and exercise more — when they’re taking care of others. And, unlike the benefits of, say, carbohydrates in your diet, the benefits of volunteering actually increase as you age and as you spend more time volunteering. Here’s why: younger people tend to volunteer because of guilt, obligation or college applications. Older folks do it because of an altruistic desire to help other people. When it comes to the perks of doing good, doing it with good intentions is the key.

And if your intentions aren’t that good? That’s OK. According to psychologists, “fake it ‘til you make it” is a true principle. If you act like you like volunteering, you’ll build confidence in your capacity for kindness and become a real, bona fide do-gooder with all the trimmings. But if you want to really ignite your altruism — and gain access to all its perks — the best way to do that is to dive head first into a cause close to you and create the kind of Thankful Moments you can get excited about. Start by browsing volunteer opportunities in your area — you can find organizations by zip code on Volunteer Match or Idealist. Look for ways to volunteer online if you’re short on time or you just don’t feel like wearing outside clothes. Thanks to wi-fi and smartphones, being virtuous is easier than ever. Humanity? There’s an app for that.

When we make a habit of helping others, providing them with the emotional, physical or practical support they need, we create a series of Thankful Moments that extend beyond ourselves and the people we serve. Even more than the care that comes from people we know and love, random acts of kindness — genuine acts of generosity and selfless love and concern — can change lives and, as it turns out, even save them.

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How Music Wakes Us Up and Makes Us Better

Seven-year-old Charlotte Neve loved Adele. Like everyone else with a pulse, she and her mother, Leila, couldn’t stop themselves from singing along with the British crooner when her hits came one the radio. But after Charlotte suffered a brain hemorrhage that landed her in the hospital, the singing stopped for a while.

One day while Leila sat by her daughter’s hospital bedside, “Rolling in the Deep” started playing over the speakers. When Leila started singing those familiar bars, Charlotte smiled. The thing is, Charlotte was in a coma at the time. That smile was the first perceptible indication that Charlotte had starting regaining consciousness. Two days later, she was walking and talking.

There are a shocking number of stories about music magically bringing people back from the brink. Everything from “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” to “Living on a Prayer” is allegedly responsible for rousing people from unresponsiveness, and scientists are starting to figure out why.

It’s called Salient Stimulus, and it’s not just a great name for a band. Salient stimuli — melodies, words or other sounds connected to emotional memories — evoke responses from recovering coma patients because they’re meaningful and familiar. Music is especially powerful because of the way brain processes it. While language is managed by the brain’s left hemisphere, music is sorted by the right. Depending on a patient’s injury or brain function, music might penetrate where language can’t cut through.

Researchers are fascinated with the ways music affects the brain and body, and with good reason. There’s a towering mountain of evidence proving that music — listening to it, learning it and performing it — makes you smarter, healthier and happier.

Kids who study music get a jump on developing “neurological distinction,” which can be a huge help as they learn to speak and read. A study out of Northwestern University found that kids who are actively engaged in learning to play instruments improve their neural processing which shows up in better academic performance, higher graduation rates and, presumably, more pleasant sounds coming out of that clarinet.

As good as music is for your brain, it’s even better for your body. For patients about to undergo surgery, listening to music lowers anxiety and cortisol levels more effectively than drugs. Plus there are no known side-effects for listening to your favorite tunes…unless you count the increased risk of gettin’ down.

Finally, and most importantly, music makes us more empathetic. A Portuguese study found that teaching students songs from Cape Verde (a country off the northwest coast of Africa) actually reduced negative racial stereotyping among the children. Simply liking a song by someone who’s different from you makes you more likely to empathize with them. Collaborative music-making takes this idea one step further; learning to play music in a group can make you more sensitive to the needs and emotions of your fellow musicians — so you’re not just a better music stand partner, you’re a better person.

Creating music is a uniquely human ability that actually upgrades our humanity. Each musical Thankful Moment has the potential to wake us up and bring us back to life…literally. So rock on, and be thankful.

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Happy Places
Thankful Moments

Thankful for Happy Places

What “Blue Zones” Tell Us About Finding Your Happy Place

Everyone’s got a Happy Place. For a shocking number of people, that place is Southwest Florida.

Gallup-Healthways released their Community Well-Being rankings for 2016 last week, and the results are provoking serious neighborhood envy. Sure, beach cities tend to beat their landlocked neighbors as vacation destinations, but sun and surf don’t necessarily a content population make. There’s a lot more to well-being than access to endless summers.

Many of the cities that are showing up on the rankings are made up of people who are taking lifestyle cues from Blue Zones.

Blue Zones, uncovered and investigated by National Geographic reporter and New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner, are the five spots on the globe that most of the world’s centenarians call home. We’re not just talking about a few sturdy old folks doing water aerobics at the Y. We’re talking about a vibrant, vigorous senior population that rides bikes, digs fence posts and, in places like Sardinia, Italy, dwarfs the U.S.’s population of 100-year-olds by a factor of 10.  

As far as we know, there’s no Sardinian Fountain of Youth. If there were, it’d be bottled and sold with a label featuring Jennifer Aniston’s ageless face. As Buettner said in his TED Talk, “When it comes to longevity there is no short term fix in a pill….” There’s no one secret to eternal — OK, maybe not eternal…but at least extended — youth. That’s because there are nine secrets.

The Blue Zones Project, based on Buettner’s research, has identified the nine secrets that the world’s Blue Zones — there are five of them — seem to have unlocked organically: move naturally, find your purpose, eat a plant-based diet, don’t overeat, drink (moderate amounts) of wine, find ways to relax, put your family first, join a community and embrace rituals of worship. Some of these secrets aren’t really secret. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet are happiness no-brainers. But some secrets, like finding a tribe or taking up faith-based activities, are far less intuitive.

“Where you live can impact your health and well-being. Innovative leaders are transforming their communities to create improvements in how people socialize, work, eat, play and move,” Michael Acker, general manager of the Blue Zones Project at Healthways, said in the report. “These changes are empowering citizens to make healthier choices, be more productive and have better quality of life. Employers, health systems and community leaders are poised to create positive change by promoting meaningful and measurable actions towards better well-being. And, by doing so, they invest in a brighter future for all.”

So far, 31 communities across America have joined the Blue Zones Project, including America’s number one most content community, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida. Using the nine secrets as a model, the city launched a Blue Zones Project in 2015 and immediately started taking steps to improve the community’s walk and bikeability. They also instituted local farmers markets and walking groups or “Moais” (Japanese for “meeting for a common purpose”). Make your purpose “eat your weight in triple-washed organic kale,” and you can kill a few birds with one stone!

You don’t have to live in a Blue Zone to live like you’re in a Blue Zone. These low-impact life changes could extend your life and expand your well-being. We can’t predict how long we’ll be around, but making healthy choices literally maximizes our Thankful Moments, and longer lives give us more time to pass those moments on to the people we love.

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Thankful Moments

Thankful for Living IRL with #NoFilter

You can unlock happiness with your smartphone…by turning it off.

In the Age of the Smartphone, folks search for happiness in friends and followers — virtual connections via the world wide web that lie beyond their lock screens. But experts say the key to happiness is actually in the off switch.

While constant connectivity makes us feel better informed and more socially secure, it’s actually taking a toll on our well-being. We fret about kids’ screen time, meanwhile we’re spending 10 hours in front of computers, phones, tablets and TVs every single day (probably reading articles about the importance of limiting kids’ screen time). Six out of ten of us drop everything to check out news alerts, more than half of us check our work email at all hours and in all places and almost all of us ignore the people we’re actually talking to when push notifications pop up on our devices. We’re screen junkies, and most of us would quit if we could.

Consider this your intervention. Project Thankful is hereby giving you permission to step away from your devices and enjoy some fresh air.

Research shows that taking a break from technology could be the secret to satisfaction. Kate Unsworth, CEO and founder of Vinaya (previously Kovert Designs), put a bunch of neuroscientists to work gathering data about the way we behave when we’re not staring at a screen. After three tech-free days, researchers discovered that when people put their devices down and come up for air, they notice improvements in their posture, memory and sleep and, get this, they start forming bonds through actual conversations with other people in the same room.

The benefits of a tech detox range from improved emotional well-being to better job performance. Plus you get the added bonus of remembering what the world looks like without an Instagram filter.

Feel Better

Much has been written about the anxiety people feel when they’re too digitally dialed in. Increased feelings of depression and inadequacy correlate directly with the amount of time spent on Facebook. Social media has a way of luring us into the belief that we’re being, well, social, masking those feelings of isolation that creep up even when you’re clicking between half a dozen chat windows. Reaching out on social media is a great way to network, but the best way to connect with people is to actually connect with people.


While you’re scrolling past photos of tropical vacations, Pinterest-perfect birthday parties and #Fitspiration, remember this: your friends’ social media accounts are carefully curated. You’re seeing only what they want you to see — their best angles and their most flattering #OOTDs. Thumbing through that feed is going to have you thinking that everyone’s having fun all the time. But that’s just not what’s happening. Just like you, they’re pulling together a highlight reel to showcase their online brand. If you take a break from social media, you make yourself impervious to FOMO. Know why? Because you’re not missing out. You’re living life, and probably a pretty good one. Nothing to fear about that.

Unplug to Recharge

Slumpy smartphone posture notwithstanding, your body is a fine-tuned contraption that, like any machine, needs fuel to recharge physically and emotionally. Studies show that taking a break — and by that we mean turning your eyes toward something analog and being a person— increases professional performance. Whether you’re taking a 30-second lap around the room or a three week vacation, a break of any kind gives you the energy you need to do better and work faster when you resume your duties.

So maybe there’s no switch you can flip to download instant contentment. But there is button that can get your started, and it’s likely in the palm of your hand. Hold it down for just a few seconds and…slide to power off. Enjoy…

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Amy Krouse Rosenthal via Facebook
Thankful Moments

Thankful for Saints and Poets

What Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Life Teaches Us About Thankful Moments

In Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” Emily Webb returns to Grover’s Corners for one day after her death to realize that every moment of life is a gift.

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” she asks the Stage Manager.

“No,” he says before amending his reply. “Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

This was a favorite passage of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s. Many knew her as a children’s book author. Others became familiar with her via charming NPR interviews or downright delightful YouTube videos featuring things she made (like her own published memoirs or a PBJ sandwich). But probably most people (four and a half million of them) came to know Amy through her heart-shattering and beautiful “Modern Love” column in the New York Times entitled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It’s a poignant, authentic personal essay, an exquisite love letter and a charming dating profile written for a man by a woman more familiar with his charms than anyone else on the planet — his wife.

Amy, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, composed the column during fleeting moments of consciousness while fastened to plastic tubes conveying calories and painkillers. Deadlines are strong motivators, and hers was “pressing.”

I need to say this (and say it right) while I have a) your attention, and b) a pulse.

I have been married to the most extraordinary man for 26 years. I was planning on at least another 26 together.

10 days later, Amy was gone. She was 51.

Even before she was diagnosed with cancer, Amy lamented the limits of mortality.

“Invariably, I will have to move on before I have had enough,” she once wrote. “My first word was ‘more.’ It may very well be my last.”

It’s extraordinarily human, this tendency of Amy’s and all of ours to want more than our share, no matter how much we’re allotted. When something is rare and beautiful and finite, the sudden scarcity of it can be devastating. Nothing exemplifies the heartbreak of impermanence better than the passage of time, and yet those of us who aren’t facing a countdown spend it recklessly, as if we have an endless supply. We don’t.

This resistance to experiencing life while we live it is a common problem — so common that psychologists have given it a name: Destination Addiction, the relentless pursuit of happiness, which, by definition, means you’ll never get it. We spend so much time chasing happiness that we forget to feel it.

There’s a reason we call them “Thankful Moments.” They’re fleeting, ephemeral. And there are only so many of them to be had. Amy understood this, and in an endearing and unpretentious way, she sought to help others understand it, too.

“How many more times, then, do I get to look at a tree?” she asked. “Let’s just say it’s 12,395. Absolutely, that’s a lot, but it’s not infinite, and I’m thinking anything less than infinite is too small a number and not satisfactory. At the very least, I want to look at trees a million more times. Is that too much to ask?”

So look at the trees. As often as you can. Look at the people you love. Those Thankful Moments will never be enough, but put together at the end, they will add up to an extraordinary existence. Realize life while you’re living it and you, Amy and all the other Saints and Poets will have achieved something better than immortality — joy.

Photo Credit: Facebook

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Thankful Moments

The “X-Plan” is more than an escape hatch. It’s a chance to build trust.

If you’ve been holding out on getting your teen a cell phone, the X-Plan might be a reason to cave.

It’s the brainchild of youth minister and blogger Bert Fulks who works with teenagers in addiction recovery — kids who’ve hit rock bottom even before they can buy their own drinks. Most of them fell into their addictions not because they wanted to look cool, not even because of good old-fashioned curiosity, but because they felt like they didn’t have a choice.

Everyone fantasizes about being the kid (or having the kid) who’s brave enough to stand up in a smoky room, declare “this is wrong” and lead the other teens with tons integrity in an age-appropriate activity somewhere outside of the den of iniquity. But that’s a tall order in the age of online bullying. It’s a lot to ask a teenager to call out the cool kids for doing something uncool. It’s a lot more to ask her to stick around after she’s done so.

That’s the genius of the X-Plan. It offers kids a quiet way out — no attention drawn, no questions asked.

Fulks’s strategy goes like this: If one of his kids starts to feel uneasy while they’re out with friends, all they have to do is text “X” to anyone in the family to activate the plan. Whoever receives the text responds with a simple phone call:

“Something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”

And that’s it.

The teen gets a simple, subtle way out of a sticky situation, taking the fear of bullying off the table. And the parents get to sleep a little easier knowing that while they can’t control their adolescent’s every move, they can at least make it easier for her to make the smart choice — the choice to remove herself from situations when they get dark or dangerous.

Child and Family Therapist Clair Mellenthin, Director of Child and Family Services at Wasatch Family Therapy, loves that the X-Plan gives kids room to make mistakes while allowing them a safe way out of potentially risky, or dangerous, circumstances.

“It really helps kids and parents create a safety plan with each other,” Mellenthin said. “And it also gives them permission to trust each other.”

A safety plan like the X-Plan is something Mellenthin says should be a part of every parent/teen relationship. No parent wants their kid to do bonehead things, but bonehead things are what kids do. It’s in their job description. Families need to plan ahead for when their choices lead to circumstances that are uncomfortable, or worse. The secret to making the X-Plan work is laying a foundation for a secure parent-child attachment. If moms and dads can take disappointments in stride and make children feel loved and supported even when they make mistakes, the lines of communications stay free and clear.

Mellenthin’s only complaint against the X-Plan is with the “no questions asked” stipulation. Parameters like “no questions asked,” even if they’re meant to make kids feel safer, can end up stifling communication and stunting relationships. To keep their kids safe, parents need to be able to understand what went wrong in the plan, and kids need to feel comfortable telling them.

“It really is about the quality of the attachment of the relationship and that needs to be worked on right from the beginning,” Mellenthin said. “If you have a healthy, secure relationship with your kid, they’re going to call you.”

No matter where they’re calling from, you’ll be thankful when they do.

HT Bert Fulks

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