Category Archives: Self-Development

Quality Time with Your Children: A Foundational Love Language By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

Quality Time is undoubtedly the most important Love Language for children. Even if a child’s primary Love Language is not Quality Time, it is still extremely important, as it makes a child feel special, important and loved.

One form of Quality Time is Quality Activities, which are those during which you give your child undivided attention. Quality Activities might include going to a movie together, reading bedtime stories, playing a ball game, teaching a child to cook or showing a child how to do something. It is not the activities themselves that are important, it is your full attention that communicates love to your children.

Some parents feel very sad that their teenage children no longer want to spend time with them as they used to. Yet, this is a natural part of adolescence. When teenagers engage in other activities away from you, it gives them the opportunity to assert for their independence and to learn more about themselves in order to develop their self-identity.

Although spending time away from you is a natural and healthy part of growing up, it is also important for your children to maintain good connections with you. Make it very pleasant for your children to be around you. When they are with you, they get to receive your undivided attention, do activities that they really enjoy, and hear words of love, praise and encouragement. Soon they would be excited to spend time with you!

Those of you who have more than one child, make sure to spend Quality Time with each child, even if only for a short time. This can be very challenging for many of you, as lack of time is a common struggle for many parents. Yet, the Quality Time you spend with each child starting when they are young may prevent years of heartache to come.

Here are a few tips that may help you:

Let the activity be about the child, and not about the activity itself. It is the togetherness in spirit that is important. Many people nowadays are often busy texting and checking emails or Facebook while they are around their children. One child was deeply disappointed because during her piano recital, her mom stepped out of the room to talk on the phone. This child had practiced her piano piece for weeks before and really wanted her mom to see her performance.

Involve your children in the planning process. If you plan a trip out of town, ask your children, “What do you want to do on the trip?” Or if your son doesn’t want to join you on the trip, ask him “ “What would make the trip interesting to you?”

Take note of your child’s interests and plan activities accordingly. My teenage sister loves food. So every now and then, I take her out to eat so we have a chance to spend lots of Quality Time together. While doing those activities, talk to your child to get to know him. Ask him, “What do you think of…?” “How do you feel about…?”

Here is an example of how my husband learned about Quality Time with his son. This is his story in his own words:

“When my son, Nick, was in grade two, he had a very hard time reading. I read to him at home every night. But when I tried to help teach him to read it was not working out like I hoped. I became very frustrated that Nick could not do it the way I wanted him to. I would read, point and get loud and try to bully him into doing it my way….doing it right! All this did was isolate him and make him feel terrible. He cried, lashed out at me, and I made our “Quality Time” some of the worst times of his childhood.

As with many other kids, our family doctor wanted to put him on Ritalin. But I wanted to be sure. After several weeks of testing, it was determined that he was quite dyslexic and needed special help to read. We were blessed to find a tutor who specialized in Nick’s type of learning disability. Soon, he began to blossom as his confidence grew. Our relationship also improved greatly, as he saw I was on his side now. I was giving him the type of Quality Time he needed and not forcing my way on him. Nick struggled to finish high school. However, he knew that whenever he grew frustrated and sought advice, I would focus first on his needs and well being. We had some tough conversations and a few more tears. But the lessons I learned in grade two paid off in ways that I am still grateful for today.”

Another form of Quality Time is Presence. Those times when you attend your child’s soccer games, recitals, birthday parties, high school graduation ceremony or the like, are all memorable for your children. Many of us are bombarded with professional and personal demands, and it is easy to miss these activities. Yet, not making time for these important moments in your children’s lives can be very disappointing to many of them and affect them years to come. One man sadly recalled, “I didn’t feel loved by my dad because he was always too busy to come to any of my football games.”

The third form of Quality Time is Quality Conversations. These are some ways to help you talk to your children more effectively:

Have a family meal together at least once a week, if not every day, during which TV, phones or laptops are off. All family members are encouraged to share three things that happened to them, and how they felt about those things.

Teach your children about etiquette, such as saying Thank You and Please and treating everyone as you want to be treated. Equally important, model these behaviours, as your children see you every day.

For very young children, be patient in answering their endless “Why” questions. It can be frustrating to be bombarded with these inquiries. Some parents might be tempted to yell at their children, “Stop asking so many questions! Go play and let daddy finish this!”

Rather than asking closed questions like “Do you like your classes this year?”, ask open questions like “How do you like your new classes this year?”. Closed questions do not encourage conversations with children because you can only ask so many of them. Open questions encourages your children, especially teenagers, to think for themselves as adults. It also fosters their intellectual growth and stimulates their brain development.

Listen, listen and listen some more. As adults, we are often quick to give advice, offer solutions and tell kids our perspective on things. However if you listen first, then your children will be receptive to your ideas and perspectives more heartily. Questions that you can ask your children to encourage their problem-solving skills: “What do you want to do about this?” “What will happen if you do that?” “What are some other ways to approach this situation?”

When your adolescents challenge your rules and question your beliefs, you may perceive them as being argumentative and react to their questions defensively. However, view these times as opportunities to teach them about assertiveness. Ask them, “What is your opinion on that?” Children who accept everything their parents say without any questions may later on be easily influenced by peer pressure or by controlling partners/spouses. It is not criticizing, yelling, shaming, arguing, instilling fear, control or aggression that can change people’s behaviours and attitudes permanently. Rather, It is love, compassion, acceptance, appreciation, awareness and gentle guidance that have the capacity to transform people’s attitudes and behaviours in profound and lasting ways.

It is very important for parents to share their opinions with their children and to offer guidance, however, the manner in which you do so can make a huge difference. In sharing your perspective, you could say, “I see why you think that way. However, I believe that…”

Use your non-authoritarian, calm, gentle or positive tone of voice to talk to your children. Doing so can activate the emotional engagement parts in their brains and can make it much easier for them to listen to your words. When you use a harsh tone of voice, cutting remarks or physical force, you inadvertently activate the fight-flight-freeze response in your children’s central nervous system.

Use stories and examples to offer guidance, especially your own stories and struggles. Hearing your stories makes it real for your children and easier for them to relate to you. It also reminds them that you are human too. You don’t have to share details that you are not comfortable with.

Living in the refugee camp during my teenage years, we frequently witnessed many men mistreating women — beating, sexualizing and verbally degrading them. My mom would talk to us about these things, helping us understand that those behaviours were absolutely unacceptable and must not be the norm in our lives. She let us know that we as women deserve respect from everyone, including men, and should never settle for less. Later on in my love life, I’ve learned to expect respectful treatment and accept nothing less from any man, including my husband.

In summary, Quality Time is a foundational Love Language to express love to your children and to fill their emotional love tank. Make time to do meaningful activities with your children, be present during important moments in their lives and engage in open dialogues with them. Your children will definitely feel very special, important and loved.

When your children are young, you have much control over how much time you spend with them. Make the best of those times! When your children grow older, they control how much time they want to spend with you. Make the best of those times too! We get what we give in life. The Quality Time you spend with your children, and the love you communicate that they can feel during those bonding moments can leave an imprint of love in your children’s hearts forever!

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A Dream Wedding: The Power of Visualization and Ho’oponopono by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

It has been one month since our wedding, which was on Valentine’s Day –  2015. I want to share with you the process of how I attracted my dream wedding. Many things turned out to be just as I had visualized, and some totally exceeded my expectations. Although our wedding wasn’t overly luxurious or fancy,  it was the wedding of my dreams because our wedding was filled with so much love, support, joy and authenticity, all of which was very important to me and Hans. It is rather vulnerable for me to share with you my private experience, because I am worried that I might be judged by some people, and that my beliefs might be challenged. However, because the techniques of Visualization and Ho’oponopono have worked for me over and over again in many areas of my life, I really want to spread the word so that these techniques can benefit you too.  Only if you open your heart to let them.

In planning for our wedding, there were many concerns, anxieties, fears and more that came up for us, especially for me. It was a very stressful process. Let me explain to you the background.

First, our wedding was very multicultural. In terms of ethnicity, I am Vietnamese and Hans is German. Our friends who were guests at the wedding were from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Guests who were my family’s friends were mostly traditional Vietnamese. In terms of education, our friends were mostly educated professionals, whereas our Vietnamese guests were typically more “blue collar”. With regard to religion, our guests belonged to different religious affiliations, and some were not affiliated with any religion. Hence in a culturally diverse group such as our wedding, it is not easy to please everyone. Individuals from diverse backgrounds have different expectations and values about weddings. However, we all shared some universal needs, such as the need to feel appreciated, accepted, supported, comfortable and most importantly loved.

Second, Hans and I live in Powell River and our wedding took place in the lower mainland. Planning for a wedding from out of town created a lot of stress. Furthermore, I am blind so planning for the visual aspects of the wedding wasn’t easy for me at all. We had to rely heavily on many people to help us.

Visualization

About three months before our wedding, I sat down and wrote what I wished for on our wedding day. These are the things I wrote:

On our wedding day:

Hans and I feel very supported, accepted and loved by everyone.

Guests feel accepted, included and comfortable. They enjoy the food, they laugh freely, they are non-judgmental, and they have lots of fun.

Our families are very proud of us and of our wedding.

People who help us are very organized, helpful and punctual.

I feel comfortable and beautiful in my wedding dress, my traditional Vietnamese outfit, my makeup and my hairdo.

Our wedding is very meaningful and memorable.

The weather is dry, sunny and mild.

Our speeches are touching and meaningful.

I have a clear, strong voice and my singing comes from my heart and really touches others’ hearts.

Our wedding has a very powerful impact on how people perceive individuals without sight and mixed couples.

The choir sings beautifully.

The decorations are simple yet elegant.

Hans and I feel very connected to each other.

Hans and I learn our vows by heart and I memorize my church reading.

We are free from debt after the wedding.

In stating these intentions, I visualized what it would be like to experience these things. For example, I imagined when people listened to my speech or my singing, they feel very touched. I wanted our wedding to be a heart-felt kind of wedding, one that has a powerful impact on others. In weddings, many people often focus more on the visual or superficial aspects of the wedding rather than the emotional aspects of it. This is especially true in Asian cultures, where dress, food, venues, alcohol, decorations and the like seem to be much more important than the true meaning: love, family and friendships.

While visualizing, I also tapped into my different senses. I imagined hearing people laughing, feeling the sun and mild temperature on my face and my body as I walk in and out of the church, and feeling people hugging me and shaking my hands full of support, fondness and enthusiasm.  I also imagined that when I sing, my lungs will open up and my voice is loud and clear, even on the high notes.

Ho’oponopono

Even though I was able to visualize, I nevertheless still had many fears, worries and stresses, just as many brides-to-be would. I knew that in order for my visualization to come true, I needed to clear away all of the negativity in my mind and in my heart. This is where Ho’oponopono would come in.

Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian technique that helps you clear away your anxieties, worries, fears, stresses, and more. It can help you get rid of negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs that are often in the way of you attracting what you truly want in your life. Basically, think of your life, your mind, your heart and your spirit as if it were the physical space in front of you. When this space is filled with negativity in the form of hurt feelings, dark thoughts, self doubts  or painful memories, you have no room to move forward and grow with positive experiences. Once you clear away all of the negativity within you, many, if not all, things are possible.

These are the steps of Ho’oponopono:

Step 1.   Acknowledge all of your negative feelings, beliefs and thoughts about a particular person or situation. Be honest with yourself and identify even the hidden or most difficult ones. For example, these are some of my negative feelings about our wedding beforehand:

I am afraid people will criticize our wedding – the food, decorations, limited availability of free alcohol, etc.

I feel anxious that things won’t go smoothly, and that people who help us will not be organized.

I am scared to let go of control to rely so much on others’ support.

I am afraid that it will be rainy, cold and even snowy on that day.

I am very concerned about being judged by Vietnamese people.

I am afraid I will forget the words of my reading or Hans and I forget our vows.

I am worried that I will sing terribly, that my voice will crack on high notes.

I am concerned that many guests will feel out of place because of the bicultural nature of our wedding.

I am worried that we will be in a lot of debt after the wedding.

Step 2.   As you say each of these negative statements quietly to yourself, follow each statement with these four mantras:

I love you.

I am Sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

For example, “I am worried that my singing will be terrible on that day. I love you. I am sorry. Please Forgive me. Thank you.” Or, “I am afraid of being judged by others. I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. And you do this for each negative statement.

You can either imagine saying these mantras to your God or a divine figure that you connect with. If you are not associated with any particular divine figure, then you can even say these mantras to yourself. For me, I say these mantras as a form of praying to God.

Some people have asked me, “Why do I have to say sorry or ask for forgiveness for things that are not my fault?” When you say “I am sorry,” imagine that you say “I am sorry that this happens to you,” as a way to comfort and console yourself.

This exercise is not intended to induce guilt or self-blame. Nor is it a logical exercise. However for some mysterious reason, it has worked very well in many aspects in my life, including our purchase of two houses within the last six months, our wedding, our honeymoon trip, financial security, our house renovations, discrimination, counseling clients with very challenging issues, starting a blog, and more. Basically whenever I feel anxious or stressed about something, I would acknowledge whatever it is, and then say these four mantras – I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you. After doing this, things often turn out to be very positive for me, sometimes even beyond my expectations. I have also observed that it has worked for many other people, including my clients. There is something about repeating these mantras that brings about peace within a person and fosters a sense of self-compassion.

The Day of Our Wedding

Almost everything I visualized came true for us. Hans and I felt an overwhelming sense of support and gratitude. So many people were involved in making our wedding beautiful and meaningful. My sister and my brother-in-law coordinated all the decorations and the various aspects of the wedding. My parents helped out with the Vietnamese customs. My nieces and Hans’ nieces participated in the mass as altar servers, reader, flower girl and ring bearer. Many of my family’s friends helped — making bouquets, ordering Vietnamese outfits for Hans and I, playing the piano for my singing, making the centerpieces, decorating the church, designing the booklets for the mass, volunteering to be our MC, and on and on. My maid of honour, Ravinder, and bridesmaid, Linda, were very organized, helpful and supportive. Ravinder made a touching speech about me and Hans. My wonderful friend, Laura, helped me touch up my makeup for the reception in the evening. Hans’ son, Nick, and nephew, Derek, were his bestman and groomsman respectively. And a very good friend of mine, Arthur, got his friends involved, who were a professional photographer and a videographer. The list went on and on. Aside from the hotel staff, we didn’t have to hire any professionals for our wedding, as our friends and families stepped up to make our dream wedding come true. The amazing thing was everyone was organized, helpful and punctual, making the wedding go very smoothly. Everyone did the best to help us, and they helped us with their hearts.

The weather turned out to be very nice. It was dry throughout the day, a day in February — no rain, no snow, even though Thursday and Friday of that week were cold and rainy. The day started out somewhat cloudy. But the sun started to come out as we finished saying our vows, as if to greet the newlywed couple in joy.

I really appreciated all the guests who attended our wedding. Two former professors of mine at Simon Fraser University, Natalee and Patrice, joined us. They both have continued to support me all these years. Margaret, a psychologist, who was my practicum supervisor at Langara College during my counselling training, came with her husband. Jane, who was my very first manager, also came with her husband. She was the first one to hire me a few months after my graduation. She believed in me and my abilities, whereas many other potential employers couldn’t look pass my blindness. Some of my relatives came from Ontario and Quebec. A very good friend of mine, June, also came from Alberta. Hans and I were very grateful to have these people join us in celebrating our wedding.

There were many other surprises on our wedding day. First, typically during a Vietnamese wedding, people attend the reception only. Not many Vietnamese people would attend the ceremony. We thought that the ceremony would be quiet and wouldn’t have many people. However, all of our friends and all of my family’s Vietnamese friends attended our wedding. Because I couldn’t see, it was a mystery to me during the mass who was all there. So when people applauded after we were announced husband and wife, I was so surprised and excited to hear the loud applause.

Five Catholic priests attended our wedding ceremony as well as our wedding reception. It was very unusual and wonderful to have that many priests attend both events. Vietnamese Catholic masses rarely have five priests attend, unless it’s a very special occasion. Hans and I felt very blessed. This was also ironic because I am the least religious person in my family.

When I walked down the aisle with my dad, hearing the choir singing beautifully and knowing that all the people were there for me and Hans, I was deeply moved. I couldn’t see how I looked and only relied on others’ feedback. However I felt confident and beautiful in my wedding dress, my makeup and my hairdo. I was overwhelmed with joy and started to tear up. I didn’t expect it to be a very emotional moment for me. It was very special and memorable! And then I met up with Hans at the altar. My dad said to Hans, “I give my daughter to you. Take good care of her.” It was such a wonderful feeling to be loved and cared for by two most important men in my life — my dad and my husband.

The choir attendance also surprised me. As my sister is in the choir, she estimated about ten people in the choir who would attend. However, there were almost twenty people singing on that day. When I heard how loud they were and how great they sang, I was very excited. I really appreciated that they all made the effort to come sing for us.

As I couldn’t read from a book, I had to memorize my reading. And during my reading, there was a moment when all of a sudden, I forgot the words. I started to panic. I reminded myself to breathe and take my time. And somehow within the next few seconds, the words came back to me.

As it came closer to the time of my singing, I became nervous. My mouth was very dry during the mass. I thought to myself “Oh no! How could I sing today? What did I get myself into?” I whispered to Hans to ask one of my wonderful bridesmaids to get me a bottle of water.

I had never sung in public before. On a few occasions, I sang casually in very small groups, mostly with my family. I always considered myself to have weak voice, and high notes tend to give me lots of difficulty. I often feel very self-conscious about my singing.

However I really wanted to sing on that day. I wanted to sing in English and in Vietnamese. I wanted to express my deepest thoughts and my feelings through my singing to God, to Mother Mary and to my husband, our friends and families. Typically brides don’t sing at their weddings. So it was an unusual request that I made with the priest and the head of the choir. In the months leading up to our wedding, every night I practiced my singing while Hans took Celine, my guide dog, out for long walks.

As my brother-in-law handed me the wireless microphone, my sister, Amy, felt nervous for me. She later said to me, “I started to pray for you.” And then I started to sing. At that moment, nothing else mattered to me. I became very inspired. I felt myself becoming stronger and stronger. I allowed myself to become more and more expressive in my words and in my voice. It was another very special moment for me, standing in the church, singing in front of everyone who cared for me while holding Hans’ hand.

Hans remembers looking at me with awe. He shared with me that he was so touched and so surprised by my singing. Many of my friends later told me they looked at each other and said “Did you know Quyn could sing?” . Later on, some people teasingly said to me that I should change my career from being a counsellor to being a singer. My mom said that although she believed I could sing well, she nevertheless was so surprised at how incredible my voice was on that day.

The piano player said to my family how shocked he was at my singing. Two days prior, we practiced together for the first time. During our half-hour practice, I sang softly and casually just to get the hang of it. He was worried for me then. After the wedding he said “She sang so amazing that my hands were shaking at some point, making it difficult for me to play the piano!”

Many Vietnamese people told us and my family how touched they were by my singing. Some of them even cried. Two priests told us that they cried during the ceremony. All five priests shared with us how moved they were. They explained that they had been to many weddings in their lives and they had never felt so moved or cried before. It is not typical at all for Vietnamese people to openly talk about their feelings and their tears with others.

I am sharing this experience with you not to brag about my singing. To this day, I don’t even know how it happened. I just know that I did a lot of visualization, a lot of praying, and a lot of clearing my negative feelings, thoughts and beliefs about my singing. The experience was a mystery to me and to everyone else.

Typically the groom and the bride don’t make a Thank You Speech during mass, they would make it during the reception. However throughout the mass, I felt very inspired by the support and the love we received that I felt compelled to express our gratitude. First, I knew that some people at the ceremony would not be at the reception later. Second, I wanted the Vietnamese guests to know how much we appreciated their help and how much my family meant to me and to Hans. Hence when we went up to sign our marriage certificate, I whispered to the priest, asking for his permission for me to make a Thank You Speech. As a public speaker and a motivational speaker, I often prepare for my speeches in advance by writing down my thoughts and rehearsing a few times beforehand. On that day, my speeches were all spontaneous and they came from my heart.

Speaking in Vietnamese at the church and then later on in English at the reception, I expressed our deep appreciation for everyone’s support and hard work. Then I shared with the Vietnamese community what each member in my family has meant to me. My dad used to get up early every morning to drive me to school 45-minutes away. When I first lived independently, my dad would come to my apartment every week to do grocery shopping for me or to take out the garbage. My mom overcame many barriers to take my sister and I out of Vietnam, to travel overseas on a boat in order to find a brighter future for us in a different country. She has taught me how to be an empowered woman. My sister, Amy, has always cared for me and supported me all these years. When we were living in the refugee camp, she would iron my clothes, and carry home buckets of water every day for me to have a bath and to wash my clothes by hands. And now for our wedding, she helped in so many ways. She and my brother-in-law stayed up late the night before to finish the decorations. My brother-in-law, Hung, has helped me every time I moved to a new place. He even helped Hans fixing our current house in Powell River. My younger sister, Joanne, and my nieces, all helped out today. As I recalled these memories about each member in my family, I became very emotional and started to tear up. Both of my sisters cried for me out of joy. Many Vietnamese people in the church were also teary. Looking back, that was another very special moment for me. I am so glad I followed my intuition and insisted on making that speech.

Many, many guests genuinely shared with us how much they appreciated and enjoyed our wedding. They showered us with complements and kind words. They enjoyed the food, they laughed, they cried and they danced. When they hugged me, I could feel their deep affection and respect. Our Vietnamese guests have since continued raving about our wedding to other people in the Vietnamese community. One Vietnamese man gave me a very kind compliment: “Thank you for helping us realizes that although you are blind, you can see everything. We feel very humbled by the experience we had with you at your wedding.”

Hans and I felt so supported, accepted and loved by everyone at our wedding. With our savings and with the generous gifts from many of our guests, we were free of debt afterwards – yet another pleasant surprise. Although there were a couple of people making negative comments about us and our wedding and it was upsetting for me to hear, I nevertheless  felt, and still feel, a deep sense of gratitude. So much so that those negative feelings have long since passed. I have asked myself, again and again, why do I deserve so much love and support from so many people — our families, our friends, my family’s Vietnamese friends, and even other people that I didn’t know very well. Most importantly, I feel much loved and very grateful towards God. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, and knock and your door will be opened.” (Mathew 7:7). And that was what I did — I asked for the things that were important to Hans and I and most of those things were fulfilled, many in ways that were beyond our hopes.

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