Articles & Tips

Coping with Extended Family During the Holidays

Are you dreading your next extended-family gathering? Was the last one a traumatic event with bickering, tension, sniping, drama, discomfort, disappointment, maybe even tears of frustration? If this sounds like your family gatherings, then it’s time to implement an Extended Family Makeover.

Extended Families Face Extra Challenges

All families struggle from time to time, but extended families face some extra challenges.
Coping with Extended Family During the Holidays

  1. The family tree gets convoluted when people divorce and remarry.
  2. It’s hard to be polite when you’re angry due to previous experiences
  3. Fireworks can erupt when different traditions collide.
  4. Generations have different ideas of appropriate child supervision.
  5. Unmet expectations create disappointment.

The deck may be stacked against you, but some simple communication techniques and self care tools will enable you to, maybe not makeover the family, but at least transform your reactions to them. Which after all is the only thing you can control, right?

Prevent Holiday Family Disputes & Problems From Arising

Problems often arise when there’s been a change that people don’t know how to deal with. But honestly, what is life but change? Marriage, divorce, major illness, death, loss of a home…none are easy, but this is your family, so it’s worth it. At least try to find ways to get along because if it gets too awful, people will stop coming.

  • Wouldn’t it be better to find a different way?
  • To make it simpler and more pleasant?
  • To create a gathering where everyone feels heard, respected, valued and appreciated?

The key to avoiding Family Holiday Problems is to remain fluid and flexible.

Are you still mad about something in the past?

  • Do some internal work before you go so you can drop the baggage at the door.
  • Walk a mile in their shoes
  • Figure out what part is yours
  • Forgive and forget

You know the drill. If you really just can’t be civil, make your excuses and stay away.

Respect Family Traditions

Understand that each family has its own traditions. If theirs don’t make sense to you, ask them to tell how the traditions got started and what they represent. Giving each person a chance to tell a favorite story will help everyone feel heard and respected
When you’re in someone else’s home, respect and accommodate as best you can. Say you’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years and the host’s tradition is a juicy standing rib roast. Don’t go on about why you won’t eat it. No one cares. Either quietly eat something else or bring something to share. “Would anyone like some of this salmon I brought?” And don’t hold yourself aloof; look around and pitch in; ask what you can do to help.
Since the host gets to call the shots, taking turns hosting can help ease tensions, plus it creates on and off years for the host’s burdens. Excited children usually create chaos but the good thing is they provide lots of distraction. While you watch the kids open presents it’s easy be friendly or at least polite.
Be aware that one wedding ceremony does not a united family make. Each nuclear subgroup of in-laws will retain a primary loyalty to its own members so be respectful and polite, no matter what is said. Above all, avoid drawing lines in the sand, which is a great way to start a family feud. “Hmmm, let’s talk more about it,” can be a great response to defuse a potential conflict.

Plan for Holiday Happiness

Prepare for your time together by creating a plan before you go in and you’ll have a saner and more comfortable time. Even if you’ve had a bitter divorce, try to calmly communicate ahead of time with your ex about your expectations for the event. Divorce confuses everyone and people don’t know what to do. Everyone will be watching out of the corners of their eyes to see how you handle it, so set boundaries around things you know will trigger a reaction.
If part of the family just can’t get along, set a time schedule for comings and goings. Think about challenges of the past and do some problem solving. Do the brothers always start fighting just before dessert? Could you serve dessert right away before anyone leaves the table? Or give each brother a pre-dessert task to distract them? You’re adults so you can create some ground rules. No guns and knives, please, and minimize alcohol.
While you’re mapping out Plan A, also develop Plan B. You may not need it but having it will help you feel calm and in control. Remember, you can always leave a place that makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to explain or even necessarily say goodbye. If you have reason to think you’ll feel threatened, keep your car keys in your pocket as a reminder you can leave any time.
Listen to your instincts. If you think it’s going to be a problem it probably will be. If you feel like you’ll be able to cope and handle it, you probably will.
If you can’t communicate expectations, or be civil, or remain calm, please, don’t go. Seriously, if you know there will be huge conflict or upheaval, draw on your native smarts and reasoning ability to keep you from stepping into a snake pit where you know you’re going to get bit. Don’t be a victim or a martyr. Don’t pour salt in your wounds and expect anyone to admire your ability to tolerate pain. If just thinking about going ties your stomach in knots, what if you say, “I love you and wish you happy holidays and I’m going to do something else this year.”
I encourage you to create your own holiday, one that makes you feel good. It’s what you want and deserve. For example, if the potluck has become an ordeal and the host feels burdened by others who won’t help clean up, why not rent a space this year, have the food and cleanup catered, and split the costs. Or if you’re hungry for more family involvement, talk openly about how everyone will participate.

Your Big Holiday Reward

Still dreading it? Give the tips in this article a try and you’ll be amazed. Friendly communication will take you far. Your family may not be perfect, but it’s what you’ve got to work with.
So picture this: an extended family gathering where everyone feels welcome and relaxed, where the atmosphere remains calm and friendly, and everyone goes home willing to come back again. You can have it. You deserve it. Happy holidays!
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist, researcher, and founder of the online resource, named one of the 100 Best Empowerment Blogs for Women. She has devoted her career to educating, motivating and empowering women. Dr. O’Reilly has a large extended family that has experienced the usual mix of life’s changes. 

Body Image Influences Self-Esteem

Radiant Health

Many women tell me they grew up with messages that greatly affected their self-images. These messages continue to influence how they see their reflections in the mirror today, and it often does not match up with the way they think it should look.

They think they are too fat, too short, too tall, not pretty, or not like other women. We think this way because the images we see on the newsstand or at the grocery checkout counter offer a distorted view of reality. The covers either feature young girls smiling because they are young and beautiful or hideously unflattering pictures of stars hiding from the camera because they look fat and ugly. There are never any pictures of ordinary human females women who look like us and feel fine.

Self-esteem is how a person feels about the inside and the outside. Women who have poor self-esteem have heard messages while growing up that said, “You do not measure up to all the other pretty, thin, smart girls.” These messages can have lifelong consequences. Women in our focus groups told us they heard many of these messages and also felt their mothers had a hard time with age and really worried about losing their looks.

How to Avoid Answering a Rude Question

Although coping with society’s external views of older women can be annoying, women have devised a number of coping strategies. Susan tells her age proudly, knowing that she looks healthy and strong. Marla shrugs it off, ignores it, then vents by laughing and complaining with her friends. Kathy refuses to tell anyone her age because she refuses to be categorized that way. Carol answers questions about her age by replying, “That is only relevant if we’re talking about age discrimination.” How old are you? If it bothers you to be asked, go ahead and devise a cute remark to deflect what is, after all, a rude question: “Old enough to know better; Young enough to want more; Oh, I’m about your age; What’s it to you? Why do you ask?”

That way you can leave your age to the imagination of the perceiver.

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, author of “Timeless Women Speak, Feeling Youthful at Any Age.”

Should Women Learn To Handle Guns?

I met Kathy Johnson when I enrolled in a two-day Tactical Handgun course at the APT firearms academy she and her husband operate here in the Ozarks. In addition to being a co-owner, Kathy is a personal safety specialist who is proficient in gun-fighting and an instructor in women’s safety.The course was worthwhile but exhausting for me because I felt very tense with the responsibility of having and using a gun. I feel strongly the importance of personal safety but it was hard to handle the noise of weapons training. I felt a very positive connection with Kathy, who also offers classes for women in concealed weapons and handling guns.
I will go back, and next time I will take a course just for women. I expect I will find it less intimidating than being around bunch of macho guys! I asked Kathy to write something for WomenSpeak about personal safety for women. Here is her article.

Personal Protection for Women Helps Them Stay Safe

As women we constantly hear how we can empower ourselves, we are smart and capable of doing anything we set our minds to but when it comes to the subject of protecting oneself with a firearm most women tend to shy away from it. Because of fear or lack of knowledge or believing the media’s propaganda that guns are bad, it is easier to think it best to avoid or even outlaw such “evil devices.” Therefore, less effective ways are chosen for self protection. Yes, martial arts training, pepper spray and tasers help, but in the land of self defense the pistol is king. A woman well trained in awareness and a handgun is a formidable creature.
The key to security is awareness first. Controlling one’s environment to the best extent is next, including tactics such as: where and how you park your car, choosing your seating in a restaurant and mental preparation for an assault. To be truly empowered a woman must be able to live her life without fear of physical attack. Although security can never be guaranteed, training in personal security and firearms can really enhance her ability to survive an encounter.
Since children, we have been taught that if you are on fire you must stop, drop and roll. If a building is on fire you must exit the building and we know to wear seat belts while riding in a car and a helmet when riding a bike. But if we find ourselves being assaulted, we are taught to call 911 or kick the attacker in the crotch, which rarely works. My husband, a S.W.A.T. Commander for a Sheriff’s Department, always says, “The police are only minutes away when seconds count.”
In closing, knowledge is power. The knowledge and training in the safe and effective use of a firearm has saved countless lives. We need to get away from the mentality that guns are bad and viewing someone who is security conscious as paranoid. Learning more about firearms for protection and getting the proper training is a very good option.
Remember, the right to keep and bear arms is our second amendment but our first freedom. That is something we must embrace.

by Kathy Johnson, Personal Safety Specialist


Don't Meet Just To Meet

Don’t Meet Just To MeetCoach Paula Shumaker O’Donnell featured Dr. Nancy’s tips on keeping meetings purposeful and effective (printable PDF)  in the Monday Motivation newsletter she distributed today February 13. Paula began writing this weekly dose of inspiration 20 years ago. Employers and individuals subscribe for the wisdom and encouragement that Paula provides. Many employers provide it to all their employees because in addition to its feel-good nature, it helps them work more productively.
Paula has subscribers in all 50 states and more than 90 percent of them renew each year, which says a lot! Individuals or businesses with fewer than 10 employees pay $9 per month. Larger businesses pay an annual fee based on the number of employees (up to $34 per month). She has a separate pricing schedule for businesses that send it out to their clients.
More Information On Monday Motivation

Is Someone Gaslighting You?

Is Someone Gaslighting You?Have you ever come away from a personal encounter feeling, “What just happened? Am I so out of touch? Maybe I AM losing it!”

If someone is trying to get you to doubt the validity of your own experience — the information you receive from your own senses — then chances are you’re being gaslighted. A recent blog post notes the term describes a kind of emotional manipulation showcase in a 1944 movie. In “Gaslight” Charles Boyer caused Ingrid Bergman to doubt her sanity by adjusting the gaslights  so they flickered. When she would comment on the flickering, he would deny seeing it and instead express concern for her mental health.

Poor Ingrid! It’s actually a favorite way in which men make women crazy. No matter what you say or do, he dismisses who you are and what you say in favor of his own ideas, needs and control. He’ll say, “You know you’re wrong. You’re unhappy and not thinking straight. I know what’s best for you, it’s …A, ….B, …..C.”

No matter what you say or do, he acts like you’re crazy. The subtle or not-so-subtle message ends up being, “Keep your mouth shut. Don’t be seen. Don’t be heard.”

Symptoms of Being Gaslighted:

  • Distrusting their gut instincts
  • Ignoring their feelings
  • Doubting their view of the world
  • Asking, “What’s wrong with me?”
  • Doubting their intelligence
  • Dismissing their value as human beings
  • Afraid to think for themselves
  • Feeling like emotional wrecks
  • Questioning their judgment

From the beginning of time women have been told to be quiet. When they dare speak up, they’re told they’re wrong and crazy. If someone makes you feel you can’t solve your own problems, that you’re not capable of being on your own, and that you instead need continual feedback and direction from HIM, you’re being gaslighted.

How Do You Stop Gaslighting?

 Don’t put up with it! Women need to empower themselves to be seen, to be heard.Push back, don’t accept this manipulation. Instead, spend time with people who see you as creative, resourceful and whole. THAT’s the kind of people and behaviors you want to associate with

I have a good conversation coming up with Lois Phillips, who has written the book, Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers.

Read the entire blog post to see how pervasive this behavior is in our culture to learn why it’s often unintentional. You will recognize yourself and your friends in the examples!

 ~ Dr. Nancy

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How Can You Tell If You Need a Vacation?

  • When was the last time you took a good vacation?
  • What’s the longest you have allowed yourself to let down and stay off duty?

Women face so many conflicting demands today

…they often end up feeling exhausted, cranky, and discouraged. Burnout rears its ugly head and you find you just don’t care about much of anything any more.

  • Things you used to enjoy leave you cold.
  • Nothing amuses you anymore, as a matter of fact most of the time you feel grumpy and out of sorts.
  • Downright pissed-off, if the truth be known.
How do you know when you need a vacation?

I’m not sleeping well and have lost interest

If you’re not sleeping well and have no interest in going out or making plans with friends, there’s a good chance you’ve become depressed as well. Don’t settle for this. You deserve to enjoy your life, to feel joy and pursue your daily activities with zest. When you wake in the morning, you deserve to feel interested and excited about the day’s tasks and engaged in building on the relationships you encounter.


Are You Seen, Heard and Valued at Work?

The Value of Women’s Work

The Value of Women at WorkWomen often complain about feeling invisible, ignored and dismissed in their workplaces. A wonderful new article posted by Charmaine McClarie on W2Wlink describes four common traps and how to avoid falling into them.

1. Blindly oblivious at work. This person has no idea what it takes to get ahead in their workplace. To avoid this, notice at least two people who get seen and heard and two more who labor without recognition. Analyze what they are doing. Now ask yourself, which category do I belong in? What behaviors will bring you more credit and advancement?

2. Tooting who’s horn? Women are often criticized if they try to take credit for their good performance, which causes many to sit quietly and wait to be noticed. Instead, find a way to praise your team or organization, pointing out the solutions and value you contributed.

3. Busy bee. Too much focus on your many tasks can obscure your true value to the organization. Read six questions you should ask yourself to clarify your important contributions to the company’s bottom line.

4. Be prepared to take credit. Too many women deflect praise when it is offered.When you work hard to get noticed, make sure you accept credit when it is offered. Be prepared to build on it, too, by bridging to the next challenge you’d like to tackle. Say thanks you, summarize the great thing you accomplished, and point out the related project you’d like to take on.

Charmaine McClarie, head of McClarie Group, leads executive development programs that build competitive advantage for organizations, who is often quoted in publications including the New York Times, Harvard Management Update, the London Financial Times, Forbes, and People magazine. is a terrific source of helpful information for working women.

Self Promotion Can Backfire in the Workplace

Self Promotion Backfires

To get a raise you need to self-promote, but self-promoting women may experience backlash in the workplace.

What can I do to keep my self-promotion from backfiring?

How to Avoid Self Promotion BacklashThe website has some answers.

“The characteristics we associate with success, including confidence and competitiveness, are seen as stereotypically masculine. Characteristics that are seen as stereotypically feminine, like communality and selflessness, not only don’t overlap with the characteristics we associate with success — in many cases, they’re actually mutually exclusive. A woman who trumpets her own achievements is violating the expectation that she is community-oriented rather than focused on individual reward, which can lead to bias and discrimination.”

  1. Highlight your team
  2. Have others praise you
  3. Use “stealth” to promote accomplishment
  4. Package your success as help for others

Self Promotion Without Backlash

Read the full article. Register for free to gain access to articles.


Top 7 Tips – Career Success for Women

How can you mentor other women to help them succeed?

Women in an officeWhat have been your keys to success? If you’re not already on Linked In and using social media, get with it! Now!  LinkedIn provides some terrific groups like Women 2.0. Check out this recent post by Dawn Goldberg, CPA, in response to a question in Women 2.0 about best tips to help young women succeed.
Dawn has been a CPA for over 20 year, meeting the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated profession. She put together a 10-question survey for women in finance, asking them about the challenges, successes and advice for their profession. One of the questions in the survey was “What one piece of advice would you give to female students in college majoring in finance?”

Top Tips for Success

  1. Get the best grades possible in order to work for the highest level firm they could get into
  2. Network, network, network
  3. Expose yourself to as many choices as possible in order to make an informed career choice when necessary
  4. Take advantage of training programs offered by the company you work for
  5. Speak to as many people as possible about the “culture” of a company to make sure it’s a good fit for you
  6. Look for companies that care about people
  7. Make sure your career choice is your dream, not another’s dream.

~By Dawn Goldberg, CPA, President at Coaching For Women In Accounting, Greater New York City Area

Financing Your Home In Today’s Economy

Front door of homeHave you tried to get a mortgage loan lately? Recent rule changes established for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two very large government-sponsored enterprises, have tightened lending requirements. Here are some of the changes that may affect you, courtesy of

Appraisals are costlier, and the results less favorable.

Many would-be home buyers are receiving lower-than-anticipated appraisals on desired properties. Appraisers will count only comparative property sales during the last three months, and because home sales have slowed, appropriate comps may be few and far between.Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are requiring appraisers to complete additional research and reporting, and many appraisers are charging more for this extra work.

Loans take longer to process.  

Staffing cuts at banks and mortgage lenders, combined with record-low interest rates, means that loans are taking twice as long – or longer – to get through processing and on to closing. So submit all paperwork to your broker, lender or bank as early in the process as possible.

Lower credit scores mean higher interest rates.

New risk-based pricing models charge additional fees to borrowers with lower credit scores, so if your credit score is lower than 740, expect to pay more. Before going to a mortgage lender, do your best to improve your credit score by paying bills on time and keeping your debt levels low.

Fees are higher.

With more complex underwriting standards come higher fees to process your mortgage, including underwriting, loan processing, appraisals, and sometimes even costs to lock in an interest rate. Today, mortgage loans are closely scrutinized, and borrowers are paying for that scrutiny. The smaller the loan, the more likely it is that the percentage you pay in fees will be higher, as much as 3 percent of the loan amount.

Condos face tighter restrictions.  

Condominium buyers are bearing the brunt of these changes—processing fees are higher, and mortgages may be rejected if too many condo owners in the complex are delinquent on their association fees. For new buildings, the agencies will not back mortgages unless 70 percent of units have been sold. Buyers face higher loan fees if they do not put down at least 25 percent of the purchase price, and some would-be condo buyers report not being able to attain financing at all.

by Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP

At Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE) we welcome your comments. Please feel free to contact us.

Reprinted with permission.

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