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Family rituals tie generations together

[MAY 3, 2003]  URBANA -- "A family tradition is the thread that binds one generation to the next," said Cheri Burcham, University of Illinois Extension family-life educator.

Family rituals build commitment and loyalty between family members and contribute to time spent together, appreciation and respect for each other, communication, spiritual and family values, and coping skills. They make family members feel that they belong to each other, she said.

"Traditions aren't usually written down anywhere. Family members just know that certain things are done in certain ways," said Burcham.

She added that such rituals have value for all ages. "Older adults see traditions as rituals to be passed down through the generations. The younger generation uses traditions to learn the importance of history and the relationships within the family. Traditions can also help children to become familiar with family members who live far away or are no longer with them," she said.


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Our daily routines contain rituals or traditions, said Burcham. Examples are saying prayers together, putting notes in lunchboxes, performing particular chores and singing certain songs. Even words or expressions, such as "If it was a snake, it would have bitten you" or "Give me that thingamajig," that your family uses regularly are family traditions.

Burcham said that two currently popular ways of creating family tradition include developing a family website and compiling scrapbooks for family members. Others include recording stories on audio or videotape, making gifts of family treasures along with the stories behind them, and keeping a journal and sharing entries with family members, she said.

For more information on family traditions, contact your local University of Illinois Extension office.

[University of Illinois news release]

Deployed spouses and parents
leave void in families

[APRIL 24, 2003]  URBANA -- "One of the big challenges for reserve families is that they are spread out. They may not be close to a base where they can find comfort from others who are facing similar issues," said Robert Hughes, head of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois.

Before he came to Illinois, Hughes helped the Department of Defense develop Web-based resources to teach people in the armed forces how to balance family and military life when a family member is on active duty. With colleagues at the University of Missouri, he created the Healthy Parenting Tool Kit, found at http://mfrc.calib.com/

Military deployment goes on almost invisibly in peacetime. It's a fact of life that military families learn to live with. Hughes said that almost all of the service branches have some mechanism for encouraging the family members of deployed reservists and keeping them in touch with each other. The website was created partly because the Defense Department knew reservists' families don't have the easy access to information that families on base have.

Also, Hughes said that military families, like other families, worry about a blotch on their record if they seek help with problems they might be having. "It's really critical to be able to get information in people's hands without them having to identify themselves," he said.

The most immediate challenge of a spouse's deployment is that the one left behind becomes totally responsible for all of the ordinary business of handling household chores, including parenting and child-care responsibilities, he said. "And, all the while, you're worried because you know this family member is in a dangerous place," said Hughes.

Hughes says the first advice spouses left at home always hear is to take care of themselves. "But how do you take care of yourself when suddenly you have double the parenting work you used to have?" he said.

"Military families are very self-reliant. They're good at taking care of themselves. They're eager to take care of themselves. For that reason, they can be reluctant to ask for help," he said.

Hughes said it's important for these spouses to realize that it's not a sign of weakness to ask someone to take care of their kids for a while. "We all need help occasionally. No one is going to think there's something wrong with you if you ask for it, and you'll have a chance to help somebody else out at some point," he said.

And it's important for the deployed spouse to know a support system is in place back home "to deal with everything from a broken water pipe to the major sorts of difficulties a family might have," he said.


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"It may seem like an odd thing for the military to pay attention to, but I think most commanders will tell you that it's absolutely critical that their soldiers are not distracted by difficulties at home so they can pay attention to carrying out their mission," he said.

It's easy for spouses at home to be distracted from their "mission" as well. Although modern technology keeps families in touch via e-mail and even videoconferencing, it also brings combat into the home in a way that can be upsetting, especially to small children. "Almost all military families will tell you that they try to control how much TV they're watching. There's so much information, and families will listen anxiously to every morsel of news, wondering, ‘Is this my son or daughter's unit?’" he said.

Oddly enough, the most difficult part of deployment may come after the family is reunited, said Hughes. "Military people who have done this more than once will tell you that it's always harder to come back than it was to leave. Spouses and children will have changed, they've learned new things, someone may have taken over a chore that you always did. It's just this awkward feeling that your place in the family isn't quite there, and it can be a challenge to fit back in," he said.

"And the one who's returning will have changed. When military people have been in very dangerous, stressful environments, it takes time to readjust. Couples have to find a way to reorganize the family and incorporate everybody back into it," he said.

Hughes cautions that military parents who spend a lot of time on deployment may withdraw from being active parents. He worries that they may not use the opportunity to parent when they are around or use the telephone, letters or e-mail to keep in touch and continue to have relationships with their children, he said.

"None of this is easy. It's a long learning process for these families. But a very large percentage of these soldiers are very young men and women, as young as 18 years old. There are lots of things they haven't figured out yet about themselves, and now they've taken on this very complicated, very dangerous job, and they're managing their families all at the same time. You have to be impressed by how well many of them do it and how capably they manage things that would challenge any of us," Hughes said.

[University of Illinois news release]

Parents, leave your bad mood at work

[APRIL 19, 2003]  URBANA -- Parents who bring a bad day at the office home with them should realize it affects their children, said Angela Wiley, an expert in family relations at the University of Illinois. All too often, a bad day at work can turn into a bad evening at home.

Wiley pointed to the work of researcher Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute in New York. Galinsky found that almost half the parents she studied sometimes felt too tired to interact with their children or allowed something that had happened at work to affect the way they behaved with their child.

Children are very sensitive to their parents' moods, and they routinely play detective to figure out what kind of mood their parents are in when families are reunited at the end of the day, Wiley said.

In Galinsky's book "Ask the Children," the author mentioned one child who actually called her parents at work to see what kind of mood they were in so she could decide whether to clean the house before they came home.

UCLA researcher Rena Repetti says that children are quick to understand when their parents are stressed and to adapt to the situation. She found that children tried to be on their best behavior, whined and cried less, and even tried to cheer their mothers up. "But children shouldn't regularly have to tiptoe around a parent's bad humor or feel that they have to make things better for the parent all the time," Wiley said.

Wiley said that parents should be able to show children how to cope with having a bad day. She recommends building a toolbox of strategies to help parents buffer the impact of a bad day at work on themselves and their children.

Many parents use a commute to distance themselves emotionally from work even as they distance themselves physically. Some people find that listening to relaxing music or inspirational tapes on the way home helps, while others find that choosing less traveled, scenic roads helps them to relax.

She also recommends cognitive reframing, trying to find the positive aspects of a situation and focusing on them. Here's an example: "When my boss said those things, it hurt, but I know that she's a fair person and I'll have a chance to improve my performance."

Or, "There are definitely things about my job I don't like, but even the bad points have a flip side. I'm going to concentrate on those now."



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Visualization is another tool that parents can use to leave stress where it belongs. One parent Wiley talked to visualizes hanging a bag of work issues on a tree that she passes on the way home. She picks them up again as she goes to work the next morning.

Wiley likes to visualize constructing a fire wall between the "fires at work" and family time at home. "But there needs to be some degree of permeability in the fire wall," she said.

"It isn't necessary for your kids to see you happy all the time, and it isn't necessarily bad for kids to know you've had a rough day. In some ways, that knowledge protects them because they know what's wrong and they don't automatically assume your mood is their fault," she said.

"If you can go home and say my boss yelled at me and I need to take 15 minutes for myself to unwind, that's positive. If you don't take the time to make the transition, the danger is that your mood will stay with you into the evening and unconsciously influence you to be distant from your family. Then you're not there to listen to them about what's happening in their world," Wiley said.


Parents shouldn't hide all negative emotions, but they should avoid flooding their children with out-of-control emotions. "Our job as parents is not to be infallible but for them to see us constructively dealing with our emotions," she said.

"It's appropriate to be hurt and angry if your boss yelled at you, and it's certainly appropriate to be sad sometimes if there are other stressors in your life. But children need to know that you're handling your emotions, that you're not going to careen out of control. The message should be: Yes, you're sad, but you're going to be okay. You're their stability, and when you lose your equilibrium, it's a scary thing for them."

"It's important that we be able to talk to our spouses, our friends or maybe even a clergyperson about our problems at work. But avoid using your child as a confidante and making her responsible for comforting you," Wiley said.

[University of Illinois news release]

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Animals for Adoption

Animal Control open Saturdays 

[APRIL 18, 2003]  Beginning April 28, Logan County Animal Control is experimenting for 60 days with Saturday hours. The new hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. Only registration, payment of fines and animal pickup can be accomplished on Saturday. Adoptions must take place during the week.

At Logan County Animal Control — 
Big to little, most of these dogs will make wonderful lifelong companions when you take them home and provide solid, steady training, grooming and general care. Get educated about what you choose. If you give them the time and care they need, you will be rewarded with much more than you gave them. They are entertaining, fun, comforting, and will lift you up for days on end.

Be prepared to take the necessary time when you bring home a puppy, kitten, dog, cat or any other pet, and you will be blessed.

[Logan County Animal Control is thankful for pet supplies donated by individuals and Wal-Mart.]  


[Hi!  I'm Mike!  I'm a 2- to 3-year-old male looking for a family.  My favorite activities include watching my breath and licking your face.]

[This is Jeff.  Jeff is a 1- to 2-year-old mixed breed looking for a good home.]

[Just look at those faces!  These 9-week cuties love to roll and tumble and play.
But don't let their small size fool you.  They are boxer-collie mixes, so they'll get quite a bit bigger!]

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Ten reasons to adopt a shelter dog

 1.  I'll bring out your playful side!

 2.  I'll lend an ear to your troubles.

 3.   I'll keep you fit and trim.

 4.   We'll look out for each other.

 5.   We'll sniff out fun together!

 6.   I'll keep you right on schedule.

 7.   I'll love you with all my heart.

 8.   We'll have a tail-waggin' good time!

 9.   We'll snuggle on a quiet evening.

10.   We'll be best friends always.

[Logan County Animal Control is thankful for pet supplies donated by individuals and Wal-Mart.]  


In the cat section there are a number of wonderful cats to choose from
in a variety of colors and sizes.

Farm cats available for free!

[This big boy is Sam.
Sam's a little pushy, so no small kids, please.]

[This fine looking girl is Snake.  She's just a kitten, and she's ready to slither her way into your heart.]

[Snowball and Sunshine, a beautiful girl-boy pair, can't wait to bring joy and warmth into your home.]

These animals and more are available to good homes from the Logan County Animal Control at 1515 N. Kickapoo, phone 735-3232.

Fees for animal adoption: dogs, $60/male, $65/female; cats, $35/male, $44/female. The fees include neutering and spaying.

Logan County Animal Control's hours of operation:

Sunday  –  closed

Monday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Tuesday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wednesday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Thursday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Friday  –  8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Saturday  –  closed

NOTE: Beginning April 28, hours will be 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays
and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.

Vickie Loafman, animal control warden

Maurice Tierney, deputy animal control warden

Tammy Langley, part-time assistant

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