FAITH5; Sharing Lows; Melheim

FAITH5 for Absent Parents


What if you frequently have to go out of town on business? What if you are sitting on a military base half a world away? What if you are sitting in a jail or prison cell? All the more reason to connect with your kids! Your kids need you now more than ever in order to feel loved, secure and safe.

Just because you're gone doesn't mean you have to be absent.

Do everything in your power to check in regularly with your kids, ask about their highs and lows, share your own concerns, pray for them, ask for their prayers, and offer your blessing. Don’t let physical distance create emotional distance. Leverage the technology available to Skype or FaceTime or phone them. So much of communication happens without words. The smile, the eyes, the face muscles, the visual clues say more than mere words ever could. 

Let your loved ones know that even though you are away, you care too much about them to let a single day go by without building a memory they will treasure and take with them the rest of their lives. They will remember that their daddy or mommy always had time for them. You can’t buy that kind of message for a child. It will mean more to him or her than you will ever know.

Two Rules and Three Tools for Nightly Home Huddles (Photographs and Emotographs)


Two Rules
We only had two rules for sharing highs and lows when our children were young. First, no interruptions. When someone was sharing, no one else was allowed to speak, except to ask clarifying questions. Second, no judgment. The first time you judge your children’s highs or lows may be the last time they risk being honest with you about what is really going on in their lives.

Three Tools
With the hindsight of a nostalgic empty-nester and the insight of a lot more reading in neurology since my children were babies, I now know of three tools I wish I had used in the Melheim home while they were young. These are:

1. A timer: Brevity is the way to go for highs and lows, so set a time limit for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for Step 3: Talk.

2. Journaling: Writing before speaking is brilliant neurology. It connects thought to muscles, motions to emotions, and eyes to fingers. It begins the process of moving a person’s short-term memory from scratch pad (hippocampus) to hard drive (neo cortex). Writing connects the brain to the body to the environment, thus engaging the whole mind. It wires and fires and connects the new to what you already knew, setting the pieces in place for insight, problem-solving and innovation. If you want to grow reflective children into wise and thankful adults, start journaling.

3. Photographs and “emotographs”: As long as you are journaling words, why not consider adding a journal of images? Take at least one photo every day and add it to the mix.

Mental and emotional snapshots recorded in the form of simple sentences about your highs, lows and prayers serve as great mementos. Add a photo each day along with your writing and your journal will become the kind of scrapbook I call an emotograph—a rich, simple, memory- jogging tool that ensures that the day and its lessons will never be forgotten.

The 20-percent Marriage Insurance Policy

59 Seconds.jpg

Sharing highs and lows isn’t healthy just for kids—journaling highs and lows followed by sharing thoughts out loud is also great for marriages. According to Richard Wiseman in 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, “Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost their chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such ‘expressive writing’ results in partners using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.”

Setting aside 5 to 15 minutes each night for these communication practices might not merely hold a family together; it might also teach children—and adults—how to hold a marriage together.

Neurologically, less is more

Words Can.jpg

According to brain and spirituality researchers Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain, the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content. Beyond that, nothing is going to register. As Newberg and Waldman write:

"If you talk for several minutes, the other person’s brain will only recall a fraction of what you’ve said, and it might not be the part you want to convey. The solution? Brevity followed by intense listening to make sure the other person has grasped the key points of what you said. If they have, great! You can say another sentence. If not, why move on? If the other person hasn’t understood you, what good will it do?"

Here’s the other good news if you have a child or teen (or spouse) who doesn't talk much: The person who shares highs and lows in a couple sentences in 10 to 20 seconds may not only be more efficient in communicating - but they may be significantly more effective in getting messages across! Any one-way communication beyond a half-minute increases the likelihood that the message a person is trying to get across will not be registered and remembered by anyone.

You can keep pouring water in a full glass all you want, but it’s only going to hold so much. Everything else will just be a waste of water. Likewise, after 10 seconds, you can keep talking all you want, but if there is no give and take—no true conversation—everything else is just a waste of time, energy and breath.

Don't worry if highs and lows are done in a couple sentences or syllables. Worry if they aren't done at all.

Differences Between Boys and Girls When Sharing Highs and Lows

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According to Dr. Louann Brizendine in The Female Brain, little girls are born with 11 percent more brain tissue that is dedicated to speaking and listening than little boys. Little boys are born with two and a half times more brain tissue dedicated to sex drive, plus larger areas of the brain are connected to action and aggression. That’s one more reason for a pillow fight before you try to talk! If you don’t turn part of your learning process into action up front, your boys will turn it into aggression later on. Take your pick.

The Bad News
According to Dr. Brizendine, the average female speaks approximately 20,000 words each day. In a 16-hour waking day, that equals about 10 minutes per hour. The average male speaks about three and a half minutes per hour, or just 7,000 words in a day. This news is neither good nor bad; it’s just the way it is. Expect your son to share—just don’t expect him to share as much.

Most nights in the Melheim home, Kathryn Elizabeth would share her highs and lows for 5-10  minutes once we got her started. Joseph Martin would generally “get it over with” in three seconds using three or four syllables: “school sucks” and “almost Friday.” According to the Woman’s Passion website most girls actually enjoy talking more than most boys. It’s a matter of chemistry.  The simple speech act causes emission of hormones in a woman’s brain, giving her the same sensations which a drug addict feels after he receives a long-awaited dose.

The female brain flushes pleasure drugs into the system during a good conversation. Not so with the male brain. Too much talking—if forced—has just the opposite effect on the male brain. Rather than producing pleasure hormones, forcing a lot of talk out of a boy who isn’t in the mood actually produces stress hormones.

Differences between male and female brains are already formed in a mother’s womb, when testosterone kicks in and begins affecting formation of the developing male brain. As a result of this influence, zones controlling speech, emotions and memory in a man’s brain decrease. Thus, boys, and later men, speak less than women and often try to hide their emotions because they are not as in touch with them, and have a harder time trying to verbalize what they do not understand.

They don't want to look or sound stupid. Who does?

Tomorrow - the Good News when it comes to Highs and Lows for Belles and Beaus, and a look at the book "The Male Brain" by Dr. Brizendine.

Building an Empathetic Brain


Training Your Brain

To Be Healthy

Like muscles, whatever areas of the brain you exercise will grow both in strength and capacity over time. As your children practice sharing feelings out loud and learn to listen to the feelings of those around them, they literally grow more brain tissue in the areas that process sympathy, empathy, compassion and deep care. Sharing a low literally rewires your child’s brain.

“It’s not just repeated physical actions that can rewire our brains,” writes Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. “Purely mental activity can also alter our neural circuitry, sometimes in far-reaching ways.”  

Carr also notes:  "The mind can essentially train itself to be healthy. It can train itself to be sick. The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. . . . Although the use of any kind of tool can influence our thoughts and perspectives—the plow changed the outlook of the farmer, the microscope opened new worlds of mental exploration for the scientist—it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think." 

Sharing lows is an intellectual technology you have at your disposal. Use it nightly and you enlarge the capacity for empathy in your child’s brain. You will also turn your home into the kind of grace place that teaches, models and lives healing love every night.

So, Highs AND Lows tonight?

Blisters and Slivers



Have you ever tried to love someone who wouldn’t let you into his or her pain? Chances are you found it to be a frustrating experience. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to love others in the ways they need to be loved if they can’t be honest enough to tell you where and why it hurts.

Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they don’t trust themselves. Maybe they know the source of their pain and won’t say. Maybe they’ve been burned before by naming the problem and are afraid you will judge them. You won’t love them. You will leave. Or maybe they don’t even know the source of the problem themselves. Either way, a relationship gets stuck in cold, empty silence when slivers remain embedded and problems go unnamed.

Do you know someone who seems to be “fine” on the surface but often explodes? They can be going along at a steady emotional pace for a long while, and then suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, bang! They lose it. That’s the sign of someone with a deeply embedded sliver; someone who never learned how to dig it out.

Some pain is like a blister—leave it alone and it will eventually dry up and fade away. But most pain is like a sliver. It hurts to dig a sliver out, but if you don’t get it, then it’s going to get you. If you don’t get out the sliver—the whole sliver—then it will eventually infect you and affect everyone who loves you. If you are so unaware that you don’t even know there is a sliver, then it’s even worse. You may live life shaming, naming and blaming everyone else for your own problems, and you’ll probably live most of that life alone.

 Mr. Magoo’s Christmas


I'm all alone

in the world

Back in the days when all my family owned was a black and-white television, I remember watching Mr. Magoo play Ebenezer Scrooge in a cartoon version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dickens described Scrooge as being “lonely as an oyster.” In one memorable scene, old Scrooge flew back to his childhood with the Ghost of Christmas Past. They peered into a one-room school where Ebenezer was surprised to spot himself sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap, singing. I’ll never forget the scene or the song:


A hand for each hand was planned for the world.
Why don’t my fingers reach?

Millions of grains of sand in the world.
Why such a lonely beach?

Where is a voice to answer mine back?
Where are two shoes that click to my clack?
I’m . . . all alone . . . in the world.

That was 50 years ago, and I still remember the tune. I also remember thinking, “No wonder he was such a Scrooge! He grew up feeling all alone in the world!”

Share both highs AND lows with those you love tonight.

Every one needs someone to listen.