Posts tagged ‘couples’

January 29, 2014

The War on Poverty

Contributed by Alicia E. La Hoz, Psy.D.

IStock_HispanicFamily22When I grow up, I will meet a girl I want, get married and have three children.”  Our four-year old child has a clear picture of what marriage is and already envisions that he too will be married.  Unfortunately this is not the case for many other Hispanic children born today. According to Child Trends, among women under 30, 53% of births occur outside of marriage, of which 65% are born to Hispanic mothers.  Thus, many of the children born today will not have a schema or internal framework of what marriage is. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, much attention has been drawn to marriage as one of the social indicators that holds promise for addressing poverty. Social science studies have clearly demonstrated that two-parent family homes lead to more economic stability and mobility while single parent family homes are more at risk for poverty.

Since the 1970s, the Hispanic community has grown 300%, now comprising 21% of the U.S. population under the age of 25. The impact of this expansion is reflected in the marketplace as Hispanics controlled $978 billion in spending power during 2009[1] and are expected to account for 74 percent of the increase in the nation’s labor force from 2010 to 2020.[2]   Nevertheless, this exponential growth is not without challenges to the family, education, poverty, mental health and immigration. For example, of the 6.1 million U.S. children living in poverty in 2010, 37.3 percent were Hispanic, as compared to 30.5 percent  white, and 26.6 black. [3] While the percentage of births outside of marriage increased for all ethnic groups, there is variability by race and ethnicity. Latinos and Whites account for the highest proportion of births outside of marriage, 65% Latinos and 61% Whites in comparison to 30% Blacks. In 1990, according to Child Trends, 37% of births to Latino women were non-marital in comparison to 53% in 2009.[4] Thus, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among Hispanics remains among the highest of all population groups.

 The trend is troubling since Hispanics have historically held a positive outlook on marriage and family life, emphasizing values within the traditional family. Economic strains, social isolation, immigration stress, barriers to marriage, and shifts to cultural norms have challenged the traditional family structure held closely by Hispanics. Hispanics have overcome the challenges faced through a strong work ethic, dependence on faith, and reliance on strong family values. The strong family values leading to the formation and sustenance of intact families that would otherwise protect children and their families from the ills of poverty are eroding.

 It is essential for the economic wellbeing of the country that anti-poverty policies be promoted not only by government-led initiatives but they encompass a community based approach that leverages the private sector, collaborates with the faith-based leaders, and is embraced by the community.  The problem is multi-faceted and the answers also need to be comprehensive in nature.  Promoting healthy marriage and fatherhood education programs, along with other social service programs such as job readiness and asset development, holds some promise as an effective intervention in reversing the current trends.  The Supporting Healthy Marriage Program Evaluation study of the Healthy Marriage Programs criticized by opponents of marriage and fatherhood programs had stronger effects for Hispanic and for more distressed couples.  These findings align with the local outcome studies of comprehensive programs implemented across the nation.  For example, Family Bridges, one of the largest federally-sponsored programs in the Midwest serving approximately 10,000 low-income (<100% of the federal poverty level) individuals, couples and families annually, of which 68% are Hispanics, has found in follow-up studies of low-income couples who engaged in the marriage education workshops large gains in parenting skills and a dramatic reduction in stress. In addition, follow-up outcomes conducted of those participants indicated that one-third of those relying on public aid when they took the workshops no longer needed that help two years after they completed the program.

Why have these programs worked for the Hispanic participants served by Family Bridges? Qualitative studies of interviews conducted with graduates of healthy marriage programs suggest at least three dynamics that influence change: (1) self-awareness brought about in the context of a trusting relationship; (2) a decision to change; (3) available resources that provide the needed guidance for the change process to occur. Participants served by Family Bridges either are dealing with generational or situational poverty. Generational poverty defined as having been in poverty for two generations or more is perpetuated by a cycle of hopelessness due to educational, parental and spiritual poverty. Without the hope and belief that life can be better, the motivation and energy to break the cycle is very low.  Couples and participants attending our programs gain a sense of hope as they witness others in similar distressful circumstances pull out and move forward. A renewed sense of hope, coupled with social and community supports and the needed resources, propels couples and individuals towards entering the change process.

Unless the marriage trend changes, our four-year-old will most likely enter into the school system with other Hispanic children who will not be raised with the benefits of a two-parent household. Other Hispanic children he befriends will most likely be at risk to be high school dropouts, to be teen parents, or to enter the juvenile system. These are the trajectories leading to poverty. Indeed, the marriage agenda is one of many interventions that, when implemented within a comprehensive community model, provides needed wrap-around and supportive services such as job skill development and is a promising practice for minorities as it draws on inherent cultural values that are appreciated and endorsed by many Hispanics.

[1] Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, July 2009.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[3] Pew Hispanic Center, Childhood Poverty Among Hispanics Sets Record, September 2011.

[4] CDC/National Center for Health Statistics.
December 30, 2013

Change Your Old Script for a New One

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz

scrabbleListen carefully to yourself and you will recognize a familiar script that seems to automatically roll off your tongue. Your spouse and children easily recognize this script. Instead of mobilizing them toward action, your words seem to touch off a trigger point, causing them to roll their eyes or to aggressively assert their point of view. You find yourself repeating yourself over and over again because people haven’t done what you have asked them to do.

Working with families and couples, I have heard variations of the same script; “I have to watch out for myself because no one else will”; “You are selfish”; “You don’t listen so I . . . “; “I have to do everything myself”.

We seem to carry these phrases around and launch them to our spouses or family members during stressful conversations, during moments of exhaustion or when things are not working out. Tension acts like a magnet during these situations, drawing out phrases that would be better left unsaid. These words keep the argument fresh in the mind of all parties involved, creating a toxic environment charged by negative emotions.

This phrases, or scripts, hide some of our most basic needs; the need to be loved, valued, recognized and respected. Instead of meeting these needs, however, they can keep you and your spouse stuck in a cycle of perpetual conflict.

You may keep falling back to this script because you are frustrated from not being listened to and at things not changing.  The reality is that each time you fall back on the same script, the opportunity to initiate change in behavior dissipates. As shown from past experience, your trusty script doesn’t inspire or motivate anyone to change.

I challenge you during 2014 to take on a new script. Get rid of the old script that you have nurtured over the years. You can do so by replacing your script with one of forgiveness and grace. Start with, “I am sorry”; “I am thankful for who you are in my life and all you do for us”, “let’s try to work things out”, “How can I support you in all of this?” It is time to recognize that the old script only leads down the trail of bitterness and resentment and has no resolution in sight. Choose to adopt a script that empowers, engages, and forgives. As you recognize and validate others, your ability to listen and connect with others will improve. You will model an attitude that shakes away the bitterness and embraces love and grace.

This New Year, start with a clean slate and become a source of inspiration and motivation to those you love. Become a cheerleader and champion for the dreams of your friends and family and nurture their gifts along the way. As you focus on raising others up, you will transform your home into a place of cultivation rather than destruction, of renewal rather than exhaustion.

November 18, 2013

Why You Should Not Teach Your Kids to Be Thankful

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, PsyD  

530_X_DSC04772_thankfulCriticism, being judgmental and fault finding are all too often what prevails in the snippets of communication that occurs in many homes. Parents are often preoccupied with what should happen, what should have been said or on how much better things could have been done. This type of every day nagging tends to be awfully sour and demanding. It is human nature, after all, to find the speck in another’s eye, than to see what is on our own eye. We are consumed by the never ending demands of life, the ever-growing to-do-lists, the unfulfilled obligations waiting our attention – that there seems to be no room for being grateful for the responsibilities that are being fulfilled, for relationships that are thriving and for things that are generally going well. In a home, where parents are too busy with self-righteousness and where conversations have a critical and nagging tone, is it any wonder that children also assume an attitude of ingratitude? Could it be that children adopt an attitude that merely mirrors what they see day in and day out? If 365 days a year, parents are critical towards one another, forgetting to be thankful for even the small graces, should it really be surprising that our children often come across as entitled, that their words are often sprinkled with an air of self-righteousness?

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday which makes all of us to stop in our consumerism-driven journey to evaluate what we do have and simply express our gratitude. Part of the tradition is for us to pass on the holiday-inspired gratefulness to our children. How do we teach our children to be thankful, to count all of their blessings and to trade in the otherwise attitude of entitlement or self-righteousness tends to hover over them? Of course, we can list several ideas to teach children gratitude. For example, we can encourage them to name one thing they are thankful a day from now till thanksgiving before they go to bed. That simple gesture would certainly help in steering them away from self to helping them focus on others and how richly blessed they are.

Instead of teaching your kids to be thankful this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge. The gratitude challenge is more than a one-time action, but an attitude shift. Show grace to your spouse and to your child. Be less critical and judgmental of them and of others. Be less demanding and more accepting of them. Verbally recognize the little things they do for you. Praise and appreciate who they are and what they mean to you. By adopting an attitude of grace and thanksgiving in your own life, you will be modeling what thanksgiving really means. And in so doing, you can transform your life and that of your children so that you can have a lifestyle of thanksgiving that is beyond the one-day holiday.

July 31, 2013

Deal With It: Money

Contributed by Eva Fleming


Can you remember the moment when you realized that you and your spouse had different financial spending habits? My husband and I were cruising along in financial bliss for five years until we bought our home. This is when I discovered that our differences were going to tear us emotionally apart. He was all about long-term goals and I did better with short-term ones. Our mismatched goals made me feel trapped and dissatisfied. Normally the female in a relationship is less risk seeking than her male partner, but in our case my husband was the ultra-cautious one and it drove me crazy! I should tell you that after 22 years of marriage we have learned to merge our strategies and compromise on our goals, but the first few years of adjustment were very painful.

Have you heard people say: “He who marries for love without money has good nights and sorry days?” Well, those people were right. Those early days were sorry days until I learned to give up 95% of my rights.  It was this uncompromising devotion that created an atmosphere of togetherness that eventually took care of all my wants and needs. Over time, I noticed that my husband was also giving up more and more of his rights; yes, dare I say, even 95% of them!  The ways you spend your money reflects what you value the most. When your partner starts noticing they are number one on your list, above things, vacations, and expensive houses, your marriage strengthens and the ground where it stands begins to solidify. No more sinkholes.

I also learned that even though money doesn’t buy happiness, following a set of values when making financial decisions does. Your marriage is your most valued relationship and it should keep you honest, disciplined and gentle. Money plays an enormous role in marriage, so you have to learn to manage your desires to be able to correctly manage your marriage. Your marriage is more precious than all the gold in the world. Letting money take the place of the love and respect a couple should have for each other is a trap that like many, I almost fell into. That love and respect must be guarded above all things and that requires a big dose of self-denial. If you want to learn more about how my husband and I learned to deal with it, download the mobile gloo app here and check out Deal with It-Money  (use invitation code 742c).

March 9, 2010

The silent treatment

Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, Family Bridges’ Program Director

You are upset and bothered. You decide that it’s better to simply ignore your partner and hope he/she gets the point. The silence game is your last resort because you are officially over it and you figure this is the best way to get back at them.

There is no limit to the amount of time that this silent treatment can last – it can be for a day, two days, a week, a month. There are no rules except to ignore the person. That is why it’s so tempting to rely on the silent treatment. And it’s effective…in all the wrong ways. The silent treatment will effectively:

  • succeed to create unbearable tension in the home  - so much that everyone can feel it;
  • help you continue to imagine all the possible ways you were right and they were wrong – creating quite a defense case;
  • create more and more distance between you and your partner/or those who you are giving the treatment to; and
  • help keep your anger alive.

 We resort to giving the silent treatment out of pure frustration. While it seems to provide a way out from what seems like and unsolvable problem – it tends to only leave a bitter aftertaste for everyone. Sure it works to keep anger alive and to break down relationships…but, if you are at all interested in actually restoring your relationship, then resorting to a healthier option is a better answer. And yes, a healthier option does exist, it’s called communication. Working on active communication skills help clear frustration and anger and will in turn lead to problem solving. It’s also quite the opposite of giving someone the silent treatment and therefore much more effective.

Because we tend not to listen, because we weren’t all born with the innate ability to communicate clearly and effectively – conflict is bound to occur in relationships. Most of us have to learn and/or need coaching on how to communicate so we don’t resort to known and tried silent treatments or other negative types of communication when we feel frustrated.  This is why we really like what the Family Bridges program is about. Helping people break the silence.


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