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Back to School and the Woes of Pokémon™ Go

cc0 public domain pokemon go cellAs referenced in the Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Needleman entitled “’Pokémon™ Go’ Craze Raises Safety Issues”, the cell phone app game called “Pokémon™ Go” has caused concern on many levels. These concerns are due to the nature of the game, which involves on-foot travel to capture specific characters and collect them to battle others who play the game. According to Needleman’s article, Don Boyes, a geography professor at the University of Toronto maintains the game itself “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong.” This safety concern is because the Pokéstops™ (places where you can collect Pokemon™ characters) are sites where people can get hurt when they are not paying attention, such as construction sites and abandoned properties. Not only is the game posing concerns around physical safety, but the game also may raise concerns for parents who have children going back to school.

In the CNN article entitled “A parents’ guide to Pokémon™ Go”, author Christopher Dawson notes concerns related to how much time children spend looking at the screen and playing.  While he cites the benefits of exercise, he also notes that parents should be aware that children are simultaneously walking and playing the game and not paying attention to their surroundings. As a result, children are prone to injuries such as getting hit by cars, walking on rough terrain and getting robbed by thieves. In addition to physical safety and inattention, many parents, and even I see another concern, and that is the game can be very addictive.  Students, in general, are already addicted to their Smart phones texting, calling and using social media. It is hard not to stay constantly plugged in for most young people.  For teachers, one of their main concerns is keeping students focused in class without the need to compete for their attention. Even though I am not a parent, I too struggle in balancing my time with technology and the expectations of time spent with family.   For example, my family does not care about using phones at the table or while talking to one another. The expectation is to focus our communication on each other.

Here are some tips to consider how you might help raise awareness, guide and manage your kids’ game play.

1)  Set a time limit for young kids. Give your children time limits and restrictions including when they can play their app games. Follow through with consequences including the possibility of uninstalling the app from their phone. On the other hand, reward them with gameplay when they do well in school.

2)  For older students, expose them to the news stories on the dangers and consequences of Pokémon™ Go. Hopefully, they can see how far is too far with this game. Follow up with a simple talk and raise awareness of the dangerous addiction to the game.

3)  If you are a parent or teacher, research the actual game and become familiarized with the various components of the game. Even if you are totally turned off towards the idea of the game, the kids may be more inclined to listen to your guidance if you know simply how fun this can be to them.

Here are two additional strategies for teaching kids safety while playing Pokémon™ Go, as cited by blog article “Ground rules for catching ’em all” by Brittany Morgan.

1)  Teach children to “look up” as Brittany states so that they are aware of their surroundings.

2)  Encourage children to play the game in “teams” so they are not alone while catching their characters. This team concept allows safety in numbers.

With kids returning to school, it is my sincere hope that these tips are helpful to you by raising awareness that your children can have a healthy balance of fun and safety while enjoying the game Pokémon™ Go.

Sincerely,

 

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management Program

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The Battle with the In-Laws: When the Holidays Aren’t So Jolly

 

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The holidays, whether they are birthday celebrations, the 4th of July or religious events, are a tough time for many people in biologically related families, let alone adding in-laws and extended family members into the mix. For most of our holidays, my husband and I spend time with our families separately, and then, my husband comes back home to spend time with myself and my dad and brother. Why? The reason I do not go over to my in-laws’ home is due to ongoing conflicts between myself and his parents.  This dynamic is not ideal. As newlyweds, this is not the way it is supposed to be. My assumption after we got married is my husband, and I would spend time together creating happy memories, enjoying special traditions, and spending time with those we love and who love us. However, my husband is very close to his family and in the past, he has wanted to spend most or all of his holiday time with them. Our time apart caused many issues in our new marriage.  Recently, he has chosen to balance his time during holiday gatherings as he realized that this was hurting our relationship.

Another issue that places a hardship on our situation is the time it takes to travel to the in-laws home and the cost of traveling there. Although I have spent much time there while my husband and I were dating, I feel we have established our home and feel it is unfair to continue to be expected to make all the sacrifices…expenses, travel time, missed time with my family, and to top it off, to experience the stress of the ongoing conflict. It is to the point where I cannot just hold my tongue and pretend this is not a problem in our relationship. I cannot continue to avoid conflict or communicating my needs or how this makes me feel quite sad. When I avoid communicating my concerns and needs, it has only led to poor relationships and misunderstandings.

So, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation especially when you are not off on the right foot with your in-laws after marriage? Do you just suck it up and continue to pretend it doesn’t bother you? NO! For me, this only built anger, resentment, hurt feelings and escalating conflict distancing myself further from my in-laws and damaging my relationship with my husband. In thinking through and weighing various options, you have to be cognizant of everyone’s needs. What are they? Knowing this will greatly assist in how you can negotiate what might work moving forward. For example, I know my in-laws have eight children to consider. They would consider it a burden to leave their home just to visit us when they have other children to consider. My husband’s need is to be with his family and continue to honor the family’s special holiday traditions. And of course, if/when we do decide to have children, we will have much more than just their needs to consider for our situation. But it varies situationally, and so thus, there are many considerations regarding needs and concerns of the entire family.

Once you have identified the major needs of all involved, then consider these additional recommendations to reduce or manage conflict at holiday or special events between your spouse and in-laws.

  • Discuss expectations with your new spouse (before marriage if you can). Holiday family traditions and how to spend time with the two separate families is often a concern for many newlyweds. Will you be okay with how your spouse chooses to spend his/her time? If not, then you need to communicate an honest view of your expectations. 
  • Make a plan with your spouse to have a challenging conversation with the in-laws. You and your spouse need to decide if both of you or your spouse alone will communicate the concerns and your needs for a respectful engagement. This conversation needs to be done well before the holidays or special event.
  • Create a backup plan with clear boundaries. You can do all of the planning ahead of time, but what if this doesn’t work? You can’t change anyone. They very well might continue to criticize, pass judgment, and make hurtful or embarrassing remarks. You have to decide what are the boundaries, and how will you respond when they do. For me, I might say “I can no longer be a part of this conversation.” and then, walk away. Later, convey in a respectful manner that the remarks hurt you. For example, “I had to walk away because I felt hurt and embarrassed.
  • Ask your spouse what role he/she will maintain during conflicts with his/her family towards you. Will they be a mediator, an avoider, a fighter, or a peace-keeper? This role is important to determine as you do not want to pursue an uphill battle alone. You also want to know how you should approach the conflict since this is not your family of origin, and you may be unfamiliar with their communication style.

Try to enjoy the holidays as best as you can while showing your in-laws that both sets of feelings do matter. For tips on how to manage conflict like this without avoiding it all together, listen to the Texas Conflict Coach® ‘s radio program episode Repairing the Damage of Conflict Avoidance with Pattie Porter and Stephen Kotev!

 

Have a Great Day!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

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Wedding Woes: The Results of No Communication With In-Laws

relationship problems no attribution required cc0 public domainI always wanted a perfect wedding. I endured a lot as a young person. My parents’ marriage ended in separation after three years and divorce after only six years. Even though I saw two people who could not get along and stay married, they still cared for one another and even spent time with each other. They never married again for the sake of my brother and myself. This really impacted my life, seeing two people work together despite their inability to completely reconcile the relationship. Therefore, I have always held the idea of marriage with great respect. Coming from a faith-based background, I was also influenced to believe marriage was a sacred and holy commitment. My own wedding occurred a little over a year ago. I really wanted it to be a certain way. However, I can say that while it was quite a beautiful wedding, a splendid ceremony, and always a cherished memory, the day was far from free of discord, dissatisfaction and even from sadness.

Let me first start by saying that I was terrified to get married to my husband. I love him so much, and while he is someone I do want to spend the rest of my life with, I was so afraid the night before that I almost called it off. The fear of failure, of a potential divorce, and of not being able to resolve issues with him almost totally swept me away. The idea of commitment was so scary that I almost backed out of this after nearly three years of being with him.  We also have had our differences for a long time but I decided to take a chance. These fears influenced my behavior during our wedding ceremony. Individuals can see that I was not myself when they look at my facial expressions in the ceremonial pictures. So, my fear was a source of conflict that contributed to my wedding woes.

My second source of conflict came from my parent’s concerns.  My mother was one of the best friends that I ever had. After her death, I missed her being at my wedding. She did not exactly approve of our relationship at the very end of her life. There was this force that was tearing at me internally saying: “Is this the right choice?”, “Are you sure about this guy?”, “Are you making a mistake?” that echoed all throughout my engagement, and again up until the wedding. My dad who is still alive also questioned this relationship. So, the parental influence was a strong source of conflict over this decision and contributed to the wedding woes for me.

In terms of my in-laws, they consist primarily of my husband’s parents and his eight siblings. I have never had a positive relationship with his parents. They and I simply do not see eye to eye. I did not want them to contribute financially to the wedding, as I knew there would be strings attached. Even though they did not contribute to our wedding, they still took advantage of us as they invited many people that I did not even know, and they did so through my husband’s generous nature, as they had him invite all of them for them. Regardless, there were a number of differing expectations each of us had of the other based on family tradition, religious values and lifestyle attitudes. Previous disagreements and values clashes limited my communication with my in-laws and prevented me from expressing my true expectations. This lack of communication only caused more tension, the need to control aspects of the wedding event, and my increasing anger that my needs were not met. The fear of judgment and angst caused me to emotionally and physically distance myself from them during the reception. I spent my energy focused on what they would say or do against our wishes, that the day was filled with stress and sadness instead of the joy you wish for any bride and groom on their special day. Upon reflection, my advice to engaged couples whether in private conversation or during marriage prep is to discuss expectations, and there are many. First, you need to determine your expectations of the groom, bridal party, parents, siblings, in-laws, vendors, etc. and discuss them with your fiancé. While I communicated this with my husband, and while the women, priest, organist, and photographer all assisted me with much love and concern for what I wanted, it still was not REALLY what I wanted. My husband really had NO expectations, meaning that he would be happy regardless. I had many needs, but I held low expectations of this whole situation, actually, due to the way that life has gone. My problem was that I did not exactly communicate what I wanted out of this experience and just expected others to know  what I wanted without me telling them. I would pose the following questions to you in order to illustrate what I learned, and what I believe would be helpful for your situation:

  1. Ask yourself, what do you want to clearly communicate to your in-laws? Clearly communicate what your expectations are to your in-laws as soon as you become engaged. Share with them the type of wedding you desire, limits to how many people can attend the wedding versus the reception , and exactly how you want it to look and feel like.
  • Ask them, what are your expectations about your role during the wedding event? Communicate to your in-laws that this is a very special day for you and your soon-to-be husband. They are welcome to be a part of it. Make sure to discuss what you don’t want to happen. 
  • Ask yourself, what are your boundaries or limitations of unacceptable behaviors from your in-laws, parents or family members? Identify what would really cross the line for you and ensure that you are respectful but firm in your communications. Always show kindness in the midst of anger and discord. 
  • Ask them, what would mutual respect look like at the wedding? For many parents, it is hard for them to let go of their children and therefore a challenge to treat their children as adults. Communicating with your parents or in-laws about what respect looks and sounds like is critical if you don’t want to feel like a child again at your own wedding. They very well might have had different experiences from their own wedding which they might impose upon you.

Here are two additional tips for when things go wrong at the wedding:

  • If mom and dad are rude at the wedding and/or reception, simply pretend like they did not make the remark and walk away until you are able to communicate to them in private. Do not cause a serious scene which only lends to embarrassing yourself, your parents or in-laws and others.
  • If your parents or in-laws invite too many or unknown people to the ceremony and reception, and you are concerned about additional costs or food shortages simply tell the officiant to check in the approved invited guests and politely inform uninvited guests  they are welcomed to stay for the ceremony but unfortunately, will not be able to attend the reception.  This allows those folks to still be a part of the day but preserves time and money at YOUR reception.

All in all, remember not to let the hurtful behaviors and remarks of others determine your mood, reactions and ultimately your happiness for this special day. You will regret it for the rest of your life otherwise. For some tips on managing expectations, listen to last week’s podcast from the Texas Conflict Coach® on avoiding wedding conflict: Common Conflicts and Peace Practices for Engaged or Newlywed Couples  featuring Michelle and Dan Joy!

Have a Great Week,

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore, Negotiation and Conflict Management M.S. Program

 

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