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Strengthening the Family. Communication & Mentoring. Kim J. Sumerix, MA, LLMSW Child & Youth Services Coordinator Family & Children Services of Midland. Objectives for the day. We will Learn about effective communication skills

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strengthening the family

Strengthening the Family




Kim J. Sumerix, MA, LLMSW

Child & Youth Services Coordinator

Family & Children Services of Midland

objectives for the day
Objectives for the day
  • We will
    • Learn about effective communication skills
    • Explore effective mentoring skills for our family as well as neighbors and friends
    • Share a few good stories
    • Laugh a lot
a father s story
A Father’s Story
  • I met with a couple who presented the following facts at our initial session as messages from the wife to the husband:
    • We have a problem
    • I have known for almost 3 months
    • Our 17 year old daughter is pregnant
    • You need to be prepared, she is going to tell you tonight, I wasn’t supposed to tell the secret
    • The babies father is of a different race
so what is the problem
So what is the problem?
  • Begin with a problem
  • Trust issues
  • The real dilemma
  • What you must now do
  • More shock
what was the outcome
What was the outcome?
  • The young couple finds a strong faith based support network
  • Daughter marries and has 2 more children with the babies father
  • They really struggle with low paying jobs
  • They are still married 8 years later, but the parents are divorced
what are the lessons learned
What are the lessons learned?
  • There are basic elements in a relationship that need to be cultivated in order to strengthen our families

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Kim J. Sumerix, MA, LLMSW

family travel guide
Family Travel guide
  • Planning for a great trip/family vacation
  • Avoiding tourist traps/problems
  • What destination would you like to go to? A place that you have never been before.
  • Where do you seek guidance from?
our family trip advisor
Our Family Trip Advisor
  • We value the experience of those who have been there before, walked in similar shoes, they have wisdom and understanding
basic communication skills
Basic Communication Skills
  • Oral – the words, tone, emphasis with emotional underpinnings
  • Written – clear, to the point, edited
  • Non-verbal – the hidden message, congruency, connection to the words
why do we communicate
Why do we communicate?
  • Control
  • Motivation
  • Emotional Expression
  • Information
two basic human needs
Two Basic Human Needs
  • 1. A sense of control in one’s life: the less control one has, the more likely they are to go out of control to try and regain control. The less power one feels they have, the more likely they are to lose it with others. Uprisings are from not having enough “say so” over one’s existence.
two basic human needs1
Two Basic Human Needs
  • 2. To be understood on our own terms; everyone wants and needs to be heard. If you give them understanding, they will tell you what hurts, what they need and often be able to see a solution to the issue.
  • Listen first, then seek to understand.
why we need to listen
Why we need to listen
  • Discern what the speaker needs/wants
  • Encourage communication
  • Understand, clarify
  • Gain new information, knowledge
  • Understand feelings as well as content
  • Gain trust, credibility
  • Show empathy
  • Develop rapport

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Kim J. Sumerix, MA, LLMSW


“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill


Watch for body language and facial expressions that indicate good engagement or that perhaps it is time to move on with the topic.

be present
Be present
  • “Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, to one’s own thoughts, feelings and judgments . . It is the practice of being fully present in our attention to where we are, what we are doing, and what is happening at the moment.”
  • (Epstein, 2001)
invite the fight
Invite the Fight
  • We have ways to invite doors to be closed…
    • “YOU” statements create a sense of defensiveness and begin to build walls between people
    • Questions are a form of interrogation most often used by lawyers and police, how does that work in a family?
    • Commands emphasize control and can create a subversive approach to problem solving
i statements
“I” statements
  • I cannot argue with what my partner thinks, feels, wants, or perceives as long as they say it with an “I” statement.
    • I want…….
    • I need………
    • I feel………
    • I wish………..
    • I believe………..
where is our focus
Where is our Focus?

Problem oriented

Solution oriented

  • Looking back
  • Old wounds from the past
  • Whine & complain
  • Negative
  • Sit & wait approach
  • Looking forward
  • Searching for answers
  • Brainstorming
  • Positive
  • Action approach

Frontal LobesExecutive FunctionsVoluntary Movement


Emotional regulation

Problem solving





Limbic System“Emotional Center of the Brain”

We know we are here when someone throws a fit, yells, cries or show aggressive body language

brain stem survival examples reflexes vital signs
Brain Stem“Survival” (examples: reflexes, vital signs)

No thought takes place here and we are right next to the RAGE part of the brain, just barely above COMA

teach during the calm
Teach during the calm!
  • Only when someone is thinking can real learning take place, brainstorming can happen and solutions can be found.
the family is a system
The family is a system
  • The family is more than the collection of each of the individuals within it
  • The family has an identity of it’s own, beyond the scope of each personal member
  • The family members operate differently within the family than they do when they are on their own (at school, work or play)
keeping the lid on
Keeping the lid on?
  • Families with long-lasting, poor communication become like a ‘pressure cooker’ that will eventually blow!
marriage helpers
Marriage Helpers
  • Mentors
    • Vitamins for marriage
  • Counselors
    • Penicillin/medicine for marriage
  • Attorneys
    • Surgery/amputation for marriage
    • To be avoided wherever possible
my role model
My Role Model
  • Think of a couple in your life who has been a good role model of a healthy, happy marriage.
  • List key words to describe this couple.
stressors for the family
Stressors for the family
  • Engaged & decision to marry
  • Newlywed
  • The birth of a child
  • Children entering school
  • Preteens becoming teenagers
  • Launching adult children from the nest
  • Couples entering midlife and retirement
  • Remarriage
a team approach
A Team Approach
  • How do we measure success?
    • Create a family atmosphere
    • Expectations are clear
    • Emotions are honest
    • Let others do their work
    • We have influence –not control
what is mentoring
What is mentoring?
  • The mentoring relationship is “one of the most complex and developmentally important” in a persons life.
  • The mentor will . . . “assist and facilitate the realization of the dream.”





Role Model

concepts of mentoring
Concepts of mentoring
  • Proactive - start marriage encouragement, support, & conversations before there are major problems
  • Simple - for the average healthy couple in the community to do with minimal training necessary
  • Fun - eating and sharing stories with an encouraging purpose - Engaging men. . . “Guy-Friendly Marriage Activity”
  • Practical - support for couples as they face new stages & adjustments in marriage - especially at new stages & transition points
  • Respectful - of cultures - less focus on just “middle class” marriage.
mentors are
Mentors are:
  • Companions on the journey
  • Good listeners
  • Fully present
  • Peer supporters
  • Referral sources
  • Providers of coping strategies
  • Promoters of staff/parent partnerships
  • Role models
mentoring skills
Mentoring skills
  • Active listening
  • Shared personal stories
  • Open ended questions
  • Suggestions from other’s life stories
  • Congruency of words and actions
  • Honest feedback, even if you do not agree
  • Validation of parents as positive people
mentoring is not
Mentoring is not…
  • Counseling or teaching a marriage course.
  • Taking sides or fixing couples.
  • Parenting couples.
  • “Telling all” or relating discouraging stories from marriage.
  • Telling jokes about a spouse or making comments at his or her expense.
  • A chauffeur, babysitter, messenger, caregiver.
we are
We are…….
  • NOT a perfect person.
  • NOT in a perfect marriage.
  • NOT trained to be counselors.
  • NOT to take responsibility for solving the mentored couple’s problems.
  • NOT to have “THE” answers.


keep it simple
Keep it Simple!
  • Sharing our happiness
  • Sharing our commitment
  • Giving to others - a form of sacrifice
  • Connecting with community. . .
responsible mentors
Responsible Mentors…
  • Investment - time, energy and attention to this relationship.
  • Service - personal sharing by mentors is done in the service of the mentored couple’s growth, adjustment, and welfare.
  • Safety/Security - provide an atmosphere that reduces anxiety and promotes the freedom of the mentees to share their stories.
potential family issues
Potential family issues
  • Personal issues
  • Mental health
  • Workplace challenges
  • Coping and acceptance
  • Marriage and financial challenges
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Nutrition and dietary challenges
  • Practical every day issues
mentors can nurture by
Mentors can nurture by:
  • Sending notes of encouragement or calling.
  • Keeping in touch by telephone or e-mail.
family tips
Family tips
  • Create a family calendar, who is where, when and what is going on.
  • Plan for family meals – be together without distractions, make it positive, communicate.
  • Family meetings to discuss issues, plans and checkup on how the family is doing (1-10).
discussion ideas for families
Discussion ideas for families
  • Thankfulness
  • Healthy Marriage Habits: Showing Our Love for Each Other
  • In-law Relationships: Making Our Life Together
  • Recreation & Playfulness
  • Money in Marriage
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Balancing Acts: Marriage, Family, Community, and Work
  • Children
  • Friendship, Closeness, and Intimacy
  • Planning for Our Future
  • Celebrating the Holidays
games of the year
Games of the Year
  • "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato, Greek philosopher

crisis work
Crisis work
  • Listen effectively. Give your full attention. Make sure you understand what is being communicated. Provide a supportive presence.
  • Be nonjudgmental. People in trouble need an ally, not an evaluation.

Clarify the essential dilemma. Identify the problem, the meaning the person is making of the problem, and what is needed to resolve the problem.

  • Set specific goals. Agree on who will take what action toward achieving them.
  • Determine available resources and how to mobilize them. Refer your couple to a professional if needed.

Determine your availability and assistance. Share what you can do for your family.

  • Provide nurturing, support, and TLC. People need comfort during difficult times.
  • Offer hope, encouragement, and praise. Expect a successful outcome.
where are you now
Where are you now?
  • It is my sincere hope that there is at least one thing that might be useful in your personal life, that will allow you to become a better mentor for those around you.
    • What did you like about our topic today?
    • What point do you find most interesting or useful today?