Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honeymoon Expectations

The best part of planning a wedding is planning the honeymoon. Wedding planning is stressful; some couples fantasize of dropping vendors, family and friends and eloping to a honeymoon suite miles away from home. This is why I love the discussions I have with engaged couples during my honeymoon 101 class sessions.

What Makes A Great Honeymoon Experience?

As a couple, you need to discuss what you expect from your honeymoon as far as your relationship is concerned. If you already have concerns about your partner’s red flag issues, a honeymoon will not solve your problem. You need to tackle those issues preferably through premarital counseling before the wedding. The key is having realistic expectations and not expecting your spouse to transform during your honeymoon.

What Does Premarital Counseling Have To Do With Honeymoon Expectations?

Most couples would do not place premarital counseling and honeymoon sex in the same sentence. Yet in reality, couples that attend a marriage preparation class are more likely to enjoy their honeymoon and their first year of marriage. A study listed in the September 2006 Journal of Family Psychology, shows couples that attend premarital education classes increase in their first year marital satisfaction and lower their divorce chances by 31%! Premarital counseling enables you to discuss realistic marriage expectations including honeymoon sex.

What’s The Big Deal About Honeymoon Sex Expectations?

The truth of the matter is first time you have sex after your wedding, will be your first time as a married couple. You want it to be a pleasant and special experience. Some couples have sex on the wedding night while others wait for the honeymoon due to exhaustion. You need to communicate with each other – you will recall your first married sex experience for the rest of your life. Make it special by outlining your dreams and expectations. Do you prefer sight-seeing excursions, lounging by the pool/beach or spending time in your suite making love?

What About Wedding Drama And Other Issues?

One of my favorite websites on this issue is The First Dance - they have incredible information on dealing with wedding stress and I actually offer their class to engaged couples here in South Florida. Chances are something didn’t quite go as planned during the wedding – it happened to me. You need to make a conscious choice not to rehash it to your spouse. Don’t let your family, friends or wedding vendors ruin your long awaited honeymoon. You can handle whatever went wrong when you get back. Spend your honeymoon focused on your spouse and your new life together – you will have weeks and months to talk about wedding drama. Choose to enjoy your honeymoon and write a short journal your expectations for your first year of marriage. Written dreams materialize faster than fantasized thoughts.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Juggling Marriage, Career & Toddlers

I am so thrilled to be done with graduate school! The one person I owe the greatest debt of gratitude is my husband. He has supported me every inch of the way including juggling our schedules to make sure our toddler son was taken care of. As most parents will share, daycare costs are astronomical - my husband and I opted to shuttle our son between us and for that I am eternally grateful. I had a healthy dose of being a stay at home mom in the daytime with grad school at night. When my mental health/marriage & family therapy internship came about- we had to reconfigure schedules again. We probably have a good definition of flexibility in roles and life transitions :)

I went back to graduate school when our son was 2.5 months old because I had to - long story. Since I am a die hard believer in nursing, that presented some issues for my poor hubby including panic when the baby finished all his bottled milk :) He became an expert diaper changer, his way of playing with the baby was rougher than I - yet our son loved it! The greatest lesson I learned was that, I was not an expert in caring for my son and therefore my husband needed to find his own way without my constant criticism. We are different and our son thrived because of that difference. He is a healthy, extremely verbal, active and funny 2.8 year old boy. He started 2 days of preschool 3 weeks ago right in the middle of my final class projects and loved it! My story is not unique by any means, there are other women who can share about supportive husbands who helped them achieve their dream. I'm just glad to be able to write about it and give my hubby public props.

Were there times of tension and conflict over all my roles as a wife, mother, grad student, mental health intern? Yes! We had verbal disagreements, ignored taps on the shoulder in the middle of the night, silent treatment mostly from me and then we figured we'd better smarten up. By the second year of grad school in 2007 - I began wondering how other young couples were coping with juggling marriage, careers and babies. This is the reason why my website http://www.earlyfamilyyears.org/ was born. I was determined to help young couples make it during their early years of marriage when life goes insane with shifting roles. I talked to stable married friends and older couples who had faced similar circumstances and also searched the web and a couple of good books. The main advice was having an attitude of "stick-to-itiveness".

Our story is not unique, lots of couples deal with worse trying times. There's no perfect way to deal with juggling marriage, careers, babies and life changes - keeping your communication line open and choosing to stay together through thick and thin works. The secret seems to lie in having a die-hard committment to stick together and make it together. My point today was to give my husband public props for being the coolest level headed, secure hubby ever!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obama's Speech on Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all those dads taking good care of their families! I just read a text of Barack Obama's father's day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago and loved it. I'm glad he was bold enough to hit the nail on the head during a presidential season when he should be 'watching his words'. Common sense and not political correctness, tells us that present/involved dads play a great role in shaping a child's life. Its amazing to see our son respond to my husband's voice. He knows there's a dad in the house who loves him and won't let him get away with acting a fool. I feel incredibly blessed to be watching the boy he is becoming as a result of a loving, playful, firm, present dad. Obama is right - dads are key to breaking the cycle of poverty, broken families and demanding the best from their children.

My husband, my big brother Joe and my uncles are all great dads who shaped my view of men and taught me there are some good responsible men in the world. So kudo's to great dads out there taking care of business! My father decided not to be a part of our family and we grew up with my single mom in Nairobi. My greatest blessings included my uncles who stepped in as male authority figures and models. Their involvement in our lives exemplified the family ties often present in African families. They were heavily involved during my wedding negotiations with my husband's family. In Kamba tradition (my tribe, my hubby's is Luo) there are several negotiation meetings to determine if the man deserves to marry their girl/daughter. My uncles definitely put my husband through the wringer, he thought long and hard about the promises he made to them that he would take care of me. I'll write about that in the near future. Back to great dad's .....

The National Fatherhood Initiative has some great resources on for men committed to being present dads. The Father's Forum online is another great site I came across with good tips for first time fathers written by men. I learned early that my husband was more likely to listen to advice that was 'guyspeak'. The African American Healthy Marriage Initiative has some great information on building strong marriages & families in the black community. Another great resource is the Christian parenting website of Focus on the Family. In conclusion, be a present and involved dad - your kids will thank you for the rest of their lives. As Obama said "I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls," Sasha and Malia are two blessed little girls to have a dad committed to being there for them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Moment of Truth Show Affects Family Dynamics

I stumbled on "The Moment of Truth" show on Fox TV back in April before I received a call in May from one of their casting directors in South Florida. Back to the show ... morbid curiosity took over as I watched contestants compete to tell the "truth" for the grand price of $500,000 based on previous polygraphed questions. If their response elicited "That answer is FALSE" - they lost all the money won. The contestants seem to be regular folks, single, married, working class, stay at home moms (SAHM) and upstanding citizens. The juiciest bits come from married contestants who answer to intimate details of their lives. I wondered why they are willing to destroy their families on national TV.

The call from the South Florida casting director was a surprise to me. They googled my marriage preparation classes site and contacted me about announcing their casting in Miami. They were looking for young engaged or married couples to go on the show. The director was polite and I of course said I'd review their emailed information. As I watched episodes afterwards, I could not in good conscience recommend the show to my couples. Telling the "Truth" has a limit - even for Christians. The medical motto "Do No Harm" applies to the mental health field and my legal and ethics class drummed it into our heads. The show relies on "Truth" for ratings based on how much pain the contestant drags their loved ones through sordid disclosures. Contestants admit affairs, job violations (EMT falsified reports), lying to the government, arson, robbery, perversion, and revelations of resentment to unsuspecting family members. Recommending the show to young couples would do more harm than build their young relationships.

Classic advice given to folks admitting a sexual affair is to tell the truth to the wronged spouse without expounding on the details on frequency, locations, positions etc. The wronged spouse might demand details but it does not benefit either of you - it prolongs the pain and gives them a vivid image to associate with your betrayal. Michele Weiner-Davis has some incredible articles on her website on divorce busting concerning infidelity.

Spilling the beans on national TV does not make you a hero. If anything, I think "Moment of Truth" justifies its existence by making contestants seem slimy for hurting their loved ones on TV. By the time they win $100,000, the body language of the spouse or significant other often indicates rejection and shock. Some marriages end, relationships break up and contestants risk losing their jobs based on their disclosures. The show makes for good TV and bad family dynamics.

Building a healthy relationship requires honesty and truth layered in loads of love. The world does not need to know sordid details of your personal life - if anything people respect you less. Lesson here: if you are a young engaged or married couple, think carefully before jumping into the reality show biz for a bit of money to start your family. The experience might leave you with nothing including your loved one who you wanted to build a future with. If you have sordid details to disclose chose carefully who to share them with. Remember that details are best when brief and edited, timing is essential and your motivation should be to build the relationship and not just purge your sin or guilt.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Maintaining Strong Marriages In A Different Culture

Transitioning to living in a new culture is often difficult enough for anyone. However, for married couples it doubles the stress of acculturation due to shifting roles. My friends and I have been discussing how to keep our marriages strong while living in a different culture. Displaced African had an excellent point about collectivist cultures where marriage means being married to the family as well not just the individual spouse.

I learned marriage was a communal affair when observing my extended family at home. In the Kamba tradition (Kenya) the girl 'lost' her bed in her parents home and was no longer expected to spend the night if she had a fight with her husband. I remember family members encouraging fighting spouses to work it out and everyone got involved in keeping the marriage strong. Sadly, that communal support is hard to find living here in the US or other developed nations that are moving away from traditional marriages. As a married woman and a marriage therapist in training - I've learned a few things.

Research shows that couples who stick it out when they feel unhappy in their marriage will often change their tune within 5 years. I know this goes against radical feminist ideas on 'individual rights to happiness'. The right to happiness is highly overrated when it trumps the long-term health of your children and the family unit. I know it sounds dark agish but hear me out. I'm an educated woman, but my education and life experience have taught me that love relationships are all about compromise and as the Bible puts it "putting others welfare above our own". Marriage is NOT a 50/50 affair, its switches to 90/10, 30/70 depending on the situation. One spouse gets sick, the other has to do double duty, one gets laid of, the other has to work harder etc.

It's difficult to make it in America on one income. One struggle my friends and I identified is the dual-earner role that most couples assume due to college bills, childcare and healthcare costs etc. Some husbands do not realize they are no longer in their home countries where nannies were easily affordable. Husbands need to realize the wife is just as tired when she gets home from work and offer to help bathe the kids, prepare dinner, do the dishes, pack lunches etc. If you want to score in the bedroom - it begins in the kitchen. Wives will not be sexually inclined when they are thoroughly exhausted and feel the husband does not acknowlege their efforts at home. A recent study showed men who performed housework often had more sex - there's one for ya! Happy wives make happy homes!

The wife also needs to realize the additional pressure her husband is experiencing. Chances are his qualifications and education back at home are not being recognized as a new immigrant here. Providing financially is a man's badge honor, help him by not nagging him over working several jobs in the meantime. Male egos are really fragile - surprise, surprise! That macho African man (any man) is putty when you question his ability to provide for the family and insinuate he is not man enough. Be tenderhearted and encouraging and do not try to usurp him or compare him to other more established men. In Biblical homes men are the head of the home. Hold on - remember wives are the neck - and we know the head goes where the neck turns!

Find legal ways to provide an additional income and you'll be surprised at the information available from your local chamber of commerce and local non-profit family agencies. A good source of direction is your local library, a United Way website and churches among others. In the meantime, remember to keep your marriage strong, don't give up because of transitioning stress - it will make you stronger as a family. Call your parents and family back home and ask for emotional and prayer support. We might not live in community here as we did at home but we have the internet, the phone, church and often great neighbours. There's help, don't let your marriage tank.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Noggin: Little Bear Show - "Panties" Comment

I sometimes let my preschooler son watch the channel "Noggin" while I do my class work or counseling prep. Before we start the "TV, no TV argument" hear me out! Most parents of preschoolers will tell you its godsend and educational! Not to mention the incredible "Little Bill" cartoon show from Bill Cosby - my son adores it. I'd cut his hair the other day - and he totally resembled Little Bill!

Today's story though is about another good show "Little Bear". It's about the adventures of a little bear cub and his friends. My son watches it every couple of days. The other evening my husband was watching the show with him and can you believe it - the little bears were teasing a little girl that they could "see her panties" WHAT??!! My husband is the most easy going guy but he was mad! I didn't understand why the director believed it was okay to leave that content in the show. So I wrote the show online to protest.

I'm not usually up in arms but off late, I've been bitten by some parental bug. I'm waiting for the Noggin guys to respond. I was polite - I just stated I was disappointed with the "Panties" episode. If they are teaching kids about bullying or teasing, they can use other statements. I'm antsy about introducing "panty" conversations to preschoolers. I however, do believe we should tell our kids about appropriate touch and why no one is allowed to touch their genitals. The show however was not about that - it was about teasing/bullying which is good - I just disagreed with the "panties" conversation. I'm beginning to sound more conservative each day - blame it on the parental bug! At least we are trying to screen shows.

For folks arguing "no TV" good for you, really. I'm know your argument is strong and backed by research, I have reviewed most of it. For some of us, some shows and DVDs (Veggie Tales, Hermie & Friends etc) are a great break. Noggin, as I said is an incredible channel that shows awesome educational kids shows - so I will continue to keep an eye on what my son watches - and applaud or complain as necessary.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Expelled - The Movie on Intelligent Design

My husband is a music and youth minister. This past Sunday our youth group went to see the movie "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed". We were really concerned the kids would get bored because of the documentary style but they enjoyed it! The premise of the movie is about the struggle between evolution theorists and the intelligent design movement.

"Expelled" is an incredible movie - I highly recommend it to anyone who values critical thinking and especially high school kids and college freshmen. Education is supposed to foster diversity of thought - it is mind boggling that scientists who talk about intelligent design are ostracized by the academic community and their fellow scientists. What happened to encouraging liberal critical thought? Where's ACLU on giving this scientists their rights to talk about intelligent design without being fired? Universities featured in the movie either fired or silenced the activities of their professors who questioned evolution or talked about intelligent design. The end of the movie is the most incredible part - it ties the whole evolution theory to worldviews such as naturalism and nihilism, the push for euthanasia and other cultures of death. The danger with evolutionary thought and the death culture, is that life is meaningless unless you are a perfect human specimen. It brings up the issue of 'Eugenics' which drives me nuts because it was invented to get rid of "lower" races and undesirables - the disabled, maimed, in today's world folks in a coma, unwanted unborn babies, senior citizens whose "quality of life" is lower etc. I've got a problem with that. I don't mind my son learning about the evolution theory, I want him to learn other theories and possibilities concerning the origin of life. I personally believe in intelligent design and the creation story - surprise, surprise!

I grew up in Africa and got offended at the implication that I descended from a monkey in biology classes. Granted, Kenya is a treasure mine for anthropologists and archeologists given all the fossils found in various locations and gorges. I wasn't even a Christian but I knew something was wrong with the monkey idea. In high school, we were taught both the evolution THEORY and creation stories including traditional tribal explanations for the beginning of man. We had a well rounded education system that allowed our minds to wander and explore various origin possibilities. That is what I find so infuriating about the education agenda in public high schools here. The movie EXPELLED, said it all - NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED. Here's where my confusion comes from - I thought being a scholar and a post-modern thinker means you consider others views not just your own. Most public campuses allow all sorts thought processes and 'liberalism' - as long as you don't mention "Intelligent Design". How restricting is that? I attended a research based university in Texas and my professors were die hard evolutionists. It drove me insane that they were so dogmatic without considering other possibilities.

The atheist professors interviewed in "Expelled" could not state how life began, one had the audacity to say "life began on the back of crystals" - WHAT? The other one who wrote a book on the 'God Delusion' could NOT say he was 100% certain about the lack of intelligent design! Allow kids and adults to think for themselves don't stifle ideas and diversity of thought. Go out and see "Expelled", Ben Stein did an incredible job interviewing scientists and visiting locations around the world. IT TAKES MORE FAITH TO BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION THAN SEEING A PATTERN OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN IN THE UNIVERSE.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Breakthrough In Kenya

Our friends James & Chao work with families in Kenya providing marriage education, counseling and family services. They send this encouraging email today Monday March 3, 2008 and I had to share it with everyone.


For about two months now, you have stood with us in prayer and especially for our nation Kenya. Many of you have cried with us as we have watched our nation go up in flames. You have wondered with us about the fate of our nation and specifically, our personal safety. Some of you opened your homes for us, should there be need. We cannot begin to tell you how much we thank the Lord for you. For the nights we would go to bed with our passports and some extra cash tucked under our pillows. The many times we would wake up in the middle of the night wondering … The days we would leave the house and less than an hour later we would be right back because we were asked to stay in our homes – those are the times when the only voice we had was to ask God to remind someone to pray for us. The Lord answered our prayers, because time and time again, His peace would return and our weariness would be gone.
From the bottom of our hearts, we say THANK YOU!

This last Thursday, under the leadership of Kofi Annan (former United Nations General Secretary), our president and the opposition leader together addressed our nation. Many of us were glued onto the television, as we waited to hear from the two leaders who have pretty much held the country ransom since December 29th last year. Tears flowed freely as we heard the opposition leader addressing the president as, “your Excellency the president”, for the FIRST time since the disputed election results on December 29th, 2007. We watched as different parts of our nation broke out into shouts of joy, jubilation and relief. People took to the streets, this time instead of machetes and fire bombs; they held twigs and waved their hands and clothes as they ran.

Today, Sunday, at our church, we had several members return to church after being absent for the two months. Most of them are of a different tribe from the majority church members. One of them, a key opposition politician and one who appeared on TV several times threatening the government with mass actions, come back and we all shook hands and hugged freely. This weekend, for the first time in two months, the highways are jammed with vehicles as people travel freely from one province to another. While we normally would be upset that there is traffic, this time we are asking, “bring it on Lord”!We thank you for your prayers. We thank the Lord for hearing and answering according to our requests.

The task ahead is greater. That is why we ask you to stay on your knees and continue praying for us, and for our nation Kenya. The political agreement is in paper, the test comes when we begin to implement the coalition arrangement. If you have kept up with the news about many African countries, we are terrible at following through with the agreements we make. A key example is Sudan. But we ask the Lord to have mercy on us and actually allow us to be an example to the rest of Africa. Lord, hear us!

With the political agreement, our work with the internally displaced Kenyans becomes easier – psychologically, and challenging physically. As a church, we have moved to the phase of helping the displaced resettle. Many of you have given toward this and the work continues and actually picks up beginning next week. The challenge we have had is that many of the displaced, especially from the majority tribe, did not have a place to settle back to. We are buying iron-sheets (for semi-permanent homes), paying to transport the displaced to the different destinations, and in some cases, give two-months rent for those who will not build but rent. We have also been buying school uniform, school bags, school books, and other stationery, to help the children go back to school. With the political agreement, the work to relocate them and get them back to “normalcy” becomes a priority.

We ask you to also continue to pray for the healing of the people of Kenya. The wounds we inflicted on each other are deep and we certainly know that the Lord is able to heal – we are also aware that in many occasions, we also leave the healing to time. The people of Kenya should have the opportunity to grieve and as long as we are headed for the right direction, we ask for GRACE to bear one with another. Many marriages have been wounded and many completely broken. Since we work with marriages, we see homes that have been broken, children being split from one parent because it is “safe” if the parents live separately. Continue praying for the children whose parents have not been found. The Kenya Red Cross has done a commendable job of helping unite families that were separated as they ran to separate directions when violence erupted.

Pray for us as we brace very high prices for basic needs. Your average Kenyan cannot afford to eat meat, even once a week. We are actually getting used to greens and more greens and when we have the opportunity to eat meat, we bless the Lord! Gas prices have gone up and some pack their vehicles at their driveways and take public transport.

We bless the Lord and we look to Him as we seek for His mercy during these times. May the Lord and His purposes REIGN in and with the people of Kenya.

In Him who has kept us,
James & Chao Wanje

To Donate towards their work with families in Kenya, please write to:

James & Chao Wanje #2790657
Campus Crusade for Christ International
PO Box 628222
Orlando, FL 32862-9841

Friday, February 8, 2008

Are Kenyan Pastors Silent?

Where are the Kenyan Christian Leaders & Pastors?

I searched the web looking for links on statements from Kenyan pastors and Christian leaders and could find little to none. I’m I imagining it, or do powerful Kenyan Pastors seem silent on the violence? I visited http://www.kenyagospel.com/ looking for posts by pastors and found nothing. It is the ordinary Kenyan Christians and gospel singers reaching out to the community. Where are Kenyan pastors and ministry leaders?

I could be overreacting – in which case I’ll be glad to be proven wrong. I hope the silence means they are too busy helping Kenyans cope that they don’t have the time to put out statements. I pray they are actively engaged in counseling victims, pointing people towards resources (see my previous blog on “Coping with the emotional stress of election riots"), providing spiritual counsel and also taking care of their own families. I acknowledge it’s easy for me to write this being so far from home. I just want to point folks towards helpful information on the ground including spiritual comfort but can’t find any information.

My greatest concern is whether Christian leaders are taking on tribal sides at the expense of peace and healing. God demands that we are Christians first before anything else – any other title in our lives – wives, husbands, mothers, single adults, workers or leaders. Our highest loyalty belongs to God who commands us to love our fellow brothers – luo, kikuyu, kalenjin, kamba, luhya, kisii, taita, turkana etc without regard!!! The standard is still set high for Kenyan pastors and Ministry leaders – they cannot be a part of the problem through being silent or inflammatory comments.

So I along with other Kenyans need the pastors who have enjoyed the prestige of serving the body of Christ to take a godly stand, speak against the devil's plans for Kenya and mobilize their members to help at the camps!

Do I come across frustrated? It’s because I am – I love how we Kenyans have had fervor for God and serving others all these years. The world is looking – not to see outside Christian organizations take the lead but to see the KENYAN CHURCH stand up and do something! I am aware the leaders are targets because of their tribal affiliations but God’s word requires us to be bold and strong in Him – not cowering in fear. Please speak up Pastors – put out statements on what your organization, church and ministry is doing to help fellow Kenyans. Point wananchi towards any resources your church or ministry is providing. God has put you in church leadership for such a time as this!!!

Please feel free to agree or disagree with any of my posts - lets dialogue about the solution. Post a comment below!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stress of Violence in Kenya

Coping with the Emotional Stress of Election Riots in Kenya

First things first, here are some helpful links:

1. The Kenya Red Cross – Donate Online

2. Mama Mikes – Donate food and essential vouchers to displaced Kenyans

3. Sambazanow – Donate cell phone airtime

4. Save Kenya Now – List of urgently needed items and how to donate

5. Standard Newspaper – Latest information from Kenyan newspaper

6. Ushahidi – Documented incidents and how to help

7. Rape Crisis Centers – Help stop additional violence against Kenyan women and girls
http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=76068 www.urgentactionfund.org/new_site/assets/files/grantmaking%20forms/Urgent%20Call.pdf

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Psalm 34:18

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (NIV).

We are all deeply saddened and shocked at the violence that has claimed over 800 lives since the Kenyan elections on December 27th last year. What most people are not acknowledging is the emotional toll of the riots and violence.

Children who know about the violence

1. Limit their exposure to television news and gory details of what is happening. Depending on age, younger children who are under 7 years might believe the events are currently occurring when allowed to watch TV rebroadcasts.
2. Reassure them that you will do your best to protect them. Children need a protective barrier around them during a crisis to lessen their stress and trauma.
3. Your children might start being overly clingy and begging you not to leave them at home. Do not punish them for expressing fear or neediness; reassure them when you leave for work, you will come back in the evening.
4. Children over 7 years have some understanding of the protests and are frightened of becoming victims – reassure them that you will protect them as best as you can.
5. They will likely exhibit sleeping problems, increased wandering at night and probably experience nightmares depending on exposure to violence.
6. Keep their play, bedtime and feeding routines constant – it will create a sense of security and help them transition easier.
7. If your day center, nursery school or regular school has opened, let your child attend after you gauge the safety.
8. Do not be lax in your discipline – let your children know you still expect them to behave and do the right thing. You are in charge, they don’t have to be the adult.
9. Let them know you love them and understand how they are feeling but maintain a firm parental role. Hug them as much as possible – a loving touch heals.

Children experiencing direct violence

These children have suffered violence and have witnessed their loved ones being beaten, murdered, or their homes burned.

1. If you can get through on the phone lines, call the Kenya Red Cross or a local church or other worship facility offering professional or lay trained counselors.
2. Get the children to a safe house and away from the violence. If you are a grandfather or relative of a child who has witnessed the violence, you should be the first one to volunteer a safe place for them.
3. If the children are missing a guardian due to the violence or have been abandoned, please point them towards the nearest police station or notify the local broadcast stations to announce where a safe house is located.
4. Do not abandon the children, try to locate the nearest camp offering food and shelter – Kenya Red Cross can help.
5. Open the local phone directory and call some orphanages in the city centers and non-governmental organizations willing to help.
6. Take the children to a medical centre if they are physically wounded then take them to a local safe place.
7. If the hospitals are overwhelmed, please be willing to wait or consider going to the local clinic or dispensary.
8. The children will not talk about what they saw at first, they are probably in shock – give them a chance to process, they’ll let you know when they are ready to talk.
9. The immediate needs will be food, shelter, medicine and clothes – then psychological help.

Taking Care of Yourself

1. If you feel a need to cry, please cry and do not try to justify your reason. We are wired to express a variety of emotions through our tears and yes, men do cry. Give yourself the permission to let your grief, anger, disappointment and exhaustion out.
2. You might feel an obsessive need to keep talking about the events, that’s normal as well. Talking about it wears down its power over you.
3. Limit the amount of time you spend watching, listening or reading news. Give yourself a break to focus on your family and immediate surrounding. Your mind and heart need a break from the constant barrage of negative news.
4. Your sleeping habits might be interrupted and you might lose interest in being intimate with your spouse. This is expected as your body responds to the stress in your mind and emotions. Just as with the children, keep your bedtime routine if possible. Establish a boundary where you create a peaceful haven, pray, play praise music, sit quietly, or read an uplifting book.
5. Your appetite might lessen or increase as your body kicks into the flight or fight mode. You will notice an increased desire to eat carbohydrates, our bodies’ preferred source of energy. Regulate yourself to make sure you are nourished well without overeating. Hunger will make your emotions more exaggerated and overeating will add a myriad of other feelings.
6. You might notice an increased suspicion towards your neighbors or friends from other tribes. This is the saddest development from the riots. Acknowledge your feelings and consciously make a choice to act in a loving manner towards them. In a time of heated emotions, your heart will need a nudge through programming your mind to behave courteously. Do not throw away friendships and lifetime relationships.
7. If you are in an intertribal marriage like myself, acknowledge the comfort or discomfort arising from your fresh awareness. If possible acknowledge it to your spouse and remind yourself why you love them and chose them to be your life mate. If the emotions are too raw for you at the moment, there’s no need to rush the healing. Take your time and remember your spouse is part of your inner circle not outside it – heal together.
8. Pray – Whether you are religious or not, acknowledging God’s ability to heal will give you a semblance of peace.
9. It is perfectly normal to be angry with God and to want to blame Him for the trouble. Express that to Him and get it out of your system, He is big enough to handle it.
10. There are numerous churches and pastors available to help. Whichever religion you practice, reach out and talk to a trusted spiritual leader. We are body, soul and spirit – keep yourself physically safe, emotionally stable and spiritually connected to cope with the stress.
11. Realize that you might begin experiencing depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder months after January, 2008. It is not a sign of weakness to admit feeling depressed. It is not a sin and does not mean you are ‘crazy’ or losing your mind. Depression has many sources, some are emotional, spiritual, biological (diet) and others are due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
12. Christians should seek help for depression. Apostle Paul experienced it after being shipwrecked and most of us consider him a pioneer in Christianity. Seeking help will prevent your situation from lapsing into a worse disorder.
13. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will need professional counseling – open the phone book and call local counseling centers when offices open up. Realize that part of the treatment might include prescribed medication. Just as our bodies get sick and need medical help, our minds get sick through chemical imbalances and need medicine to restore serotonin levels. Some depression can alleviate through competent counseling, change of diet, prayer and a good support group. Get help.
14. Serve others – concentrating on others will help you cope with your own stress.
a. Offer to go to the store and buy milk and bread for your neighbor,
b. Cook a meal and offer the children who might be lost and wandering through your neighborhood.
c. Visit single parents and elders who might be alone and overwhelmed.
d. Buy and donate phone card minutes to friends or families in need.
e. Offer your cell phone to a stranger who frantically needs to call his family.
Service will bless you more than those receiving it. It will increase your feel good hormones and help restore your hope in tomorrow.
15. Keep your hope and faith alive – this too shall pass. It is a season and a phase in time, it will not last forever.


1. If there are counselors in Nairobi who are either professional, lay trained, church trained or have a heart to help the wounded, please call organizations, churches and relief agencies that need counselors or volunteers.
2. Please be aware most people will be expressing a need for more practical help than psychological help. They might ask you to help with food, medicine, shelter or clothes.
3. Inform yourself of the closest organizations providing emergency supplies. If no one has reached your town yet, get on your cell phone and make some noise for the sake of the people.
4. Call organizations directly – call the Nation or the Standard paper and ask for media help.
5. Take care of yourself as you counsel and help others. Recognize your own signs of exhaustion and avoid becoming a victim. Consult with other counselors and care providers.

About the Author

I am a born-again Christian woman who believes God will restore our broken places and heal our beautiful country Kenya. Secondly I am married to an amazing jazz guitarist & worship pastor and a mother to the funniest 2-year-old boy. I am in my final semester of a Masters program in counseling psychology (mental health and marriage/family therapy). I am a certified premarital/marriage education provider and a Church counselor. I have a passionate love for God and helping people find healing in all areas of life. Last and not least, I am a proud Kenyan still thanking God for my heritage despite the sad turn of events. I believe all things are possible with God and Kenya’s greatest days lay ahead – Amen.

© 2008 Julia N. Sanna

If you quote any part of this article, please give due credit to the author, Julia Sanna. For more information email jnguli@hotmail.com and visit http://www.earlyfamilyyears.org/.