Tag Archives: daughter

Fathers and Daughters

July 22, 2013 by

Men hold incredible power over the future their daughters will experience. Sometimes, I have to wonder how many fathers realize that. And how many grieve for realizing it too late?

I’m not just talking about financial security or educational opportunities. The way a father treats his daughter molds her as a person, and especially how she sees herself as a woman. It’s a unique relationship, unlike that between mothers and sons, dads and sons, and mothers and daughters. How fathers choose to manage their relationships with their daughters has a lifelong impact that can be devastating if it doesn’t go well.

“A little girl first learns how to relate to men though her father,” says Pegg Siemek-Asche, statewide administrator for behavioral health at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. “If that goes badly, it sets a stage for difficulty as the young woman ages.” If a father never pays attention to his daughter, never spends time being playful, or never expresses his approval of her—her looks, her actions, her behavior—it can create a vacuum of positive self-esteem that the young woman will eventually seek to fill in other ways, most likely negative ones.

Through their actions (or inactions), a father teaches his daughter how she should expect to be treated by men, both good and bad. Young women blessed with warm, loving, and encouraging relationships with their fathers will seek the same in their partners.

Conversely, those who do not have that kind of support will struggle and likely seek to find that approval in unhealthy ways. Young women who report negative relationships with their father say they often have trouble dating, flirting, or even forming true romantic relationships. They simply never learned how. It’s not unusual for these girls to become promiscuous in their frustrating search for masculine approval.

This explains why so many smart women end up in unhealthy and even abusive relationships. It’s what they are used to and comfortable with. They instinctively choose partners who treat them as their father did—and believe they deserve no better. So what, specifically, can a father do to help his daughter towards a healthy adulthood?

“Girls need to hear they are attractive, capable, and smart—from their father,” says Siemek-Asche. “Girls are hyper-sensitive about their appearance and abilities, and they want Dad’s approval.” One misplaced or misspoken comment about her weight or looks can be heartbreaking, and a thoughtful dad will realize he should tread carefully. This sets the stage for positive self-image that will benefit her for a lifetime.

One-on-one time is very important. “You are teaching her how others, especially men, should talk with her, how she should expect to be treated,” says Siemek-Asche. This starts young but becomes even more important as she approaches pre-teen and teen years. Around age 10, especially, girls are incredibly vulnerable and insecure. “That’s when you start seeing a lot of the ‘mean girl syndrome,’ as girls start taking their insecurities out on each other. Dad can really make a difference by being supportive and engaged with his daughter.”

And finally, the relationship between mom and daughter can become very strained during the early and mid-teens, as the young woman seeks her own path away from her mother. It can be hard for both of them, but the father can be a tremendous help in creating a bridge between the two as they get through those trying years. Even if the parents are no longer together, it remains important for the father to treat his daughter’s mother with integrity and respect. Little girls pick up messages from that relationship as well.

And perhaps the most important message of all for dads? Be there for your daughter. Make the effort to be present at every age. She’ll notice. And finally, your daughter will never be too old for a hug and to hear that you love her. Tell her.

Family Success Story: The Zettermans

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jenny Zetterman hopes that, one day, other families will look at her family and think, “You know what? Nothing should keep us from adopting a special needs child.” Because that’s exactly what Jenny and her husband, Andrew, thought when the opportunity found them.

The Zettermans, who recently moved out to Elkhorn (where their girls will attend Spring Ridge Elementary), adopted their youngest, Annalyse, when she was just 5 weeks old. She had been diagnosed with spina bifada and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain) and was determined paralyzed from the waist down.

Jenny and Annalyse

Jenny and Annalyse

“I was able to go before the rest of the family and stay in the NICU with her for four days while the nurses and doctors gave me information on spina bifada,” Jenny says. “This was extremely helpful because we knew very little about spina bifada. We had two days between finding out about her and flying to go be with her, so we didn’t have time to research while packing and preparing for a baby.”

Life for the Zettermans before Annalyse was fairly typical, although they had adopted once before with daughter McKenna, 8. Nevertheless, Jenny reflects back on that time, referring to it as “the easy years” of parenting. “All three girls were pretty independent…They hadn’t hit pre-teen years, so they still thought their parents were the best people in the world.”

Of course, McKenna, Kaedyn, 7, and Brea, 5, were thrilled to be adding a little sister to their family. “They had a few questions about her diagnosis, but overall, they were just excited to meet her,” Jenny says. “They had to wait about a week after I met her to join me so they wouldn’t miss too much school. I’m sure that wait was very hard for them.” Fortunately, Jenny used the iPhone “Facetime” capability to call home and let her girls see the new baby from the NICU.

Andrew with Brea and Kaedyn.

Andrew with Brea and Kaedyn

According to Jenny, the family dynamic hasn’t changed much since they adopted Annalyse. The only difference? The older sisters love helping out with their little sister and teaching her new things. “Annalyse is just another member of the family…We have a lot more doctor’s appointments and live life around a baby’s schedule again, but that’s about it. I think you just adjust to whatever you have to adjust to.”

Jenny and Andrew’s 13-year marriage has also kept the family solid. “We have a strong commitment to our marriage. I believe our kids can see that and take comfort in it.”

Looking back on the adoption process, Jenny shakes her head. “We went into it knowing that we could be adopting a child with a special need,” she explains. “One thing we did say was that we would consider many different types of needs, but not one that required a wheelchair [because] our house wouldn’t allow for this type of need, and we had just moved in. It seems so silly to us now that we ever uttered those words—‘just not a wheelchair.’”

McKenna

McKenna

Jenny believes too many people, including parents, get too caught up on inconveniences in their own lives that they forget to think about what other people are dealing with or will have to deal with in their lives. “I am so thankful that we ended up letting go of our reservations,” she adds. “We all are capable of so much more than we think we are.”

As for Annalyse, Jenny stresses that she’s a fantastic child. “She’s not blessed to have us; we’re blessed beyond measure to have her in our family. She’s not our ‘special needs daughter;’ she’s just, plain and simple, our daughter.”

Fashion: Into the Woods

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Megan Hunt, 26, shows off her youthful, free-spirited, summer style with outfits from her local retail
business, Hello Holiday, on an outing to Fontenelle Forest with her daughter, Alice, 3.

Body Image

Q: My teenage daughter is trying to diet because all of her friends are on diets. I’m worried she’s developing an unhealthy attitude about her body, as well as food, and I don’t want her to starve herself. How can I discuss my worry with her and get her to think more positively about her body?

A: Your relationship with your daughter will affect your approach. When you have a good opportunity, try mentioning to your daughter that you’ve noticed several of her friends are dieting. Ask her what she thinks or how she feels about it and give her time to answer. If she mentions feeling bad about her body, try asking how long she’s been feeling that way or if she can tell you about when it started. Pay attention, be interested in her responses, and stay neutral. If your daughter feels like you’re judging her or her friends, her defensiveness could lead to an argument, or she’ll simply be done talking.

Depending on the situation, some of the following ideas may be applicable:

  • If your family meals or eating habits really could use a makeover, approach it as an entire family without singling out your daughter.
  • Work on body image together with your daughter, keeping each other accountable regarding negative body image statements.
  • Write a note for your daughter sharing what you’re feeling. Be positive in the words you choose and let her read it on her own time.
  • Affirm your daughter’s strengths and her beauty. Be specific so she knows you’re sincere.
  • Avoid putting value on food. It isn’t good or bad; it’s just food. And she’s not good or bad based on what she eats.
  • Finally, what is YOUR attitude toward food and your body? Don’t underestimate the influence you have on your daughter. Think about how your answers to the following questions affect your daughter’s self-image, as well as your own:
  • Do you think and speak positively about your body?
  • Are you critical of other women’s appearance or of what/how much they eat?
  • When you receive a compliment regarding something appearance-related, do you disagree, and then start pointing out other things you don’t like about yourself?
  • Do you make negative comments about a body feature you share with your daughter? You may realize that this is a great time to work on your self-image as well.

Deb Fuller is a mental health therapist with Real Life Counseling in Omaha.

Feeling Young on the Run

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tori Young, 40, was on the drill team in high school. She never considered herself an athlete, and she spent most of her time eating whatever she wanted. But, as it always does, metabolism caught up with her. “I heard from my friends that things get more challenging when you hit 40,” she says. “They weren’t kidding!”

Although she doesn’t feel older, Young realized her body required more attention than it did back in her carefree high school days. She tried lots of things to get back on track—Jazzercise, tracking meals on the MyFitnessPal app, Kosama, running on the treadmill, P90X, yoga, dancing videos, Kettlebell workouts—but she always found it hard to stick to those programs.

She admits most of the problem was her hectic lifestyle. “I started each week with the best intentions…but like everyone, when we’re busy and on-the-go, it’s easy to make poor choices.”

As a technical recruiting lead with Client Resources, Inc., she’s constantly running around town and treating candidates and consultants to lunch, which makes eating well difficult. And then, of course, she didn’t want to cut into her family time with husband Chad, a teacher and football coach at Millard West High School, and their four kids—Elli, 12, Beau, 9, Leah, 6, and Reid, 2. “Having four kids is absolutely crazy, but it keeps us on our toes,” she adds.20130420_bs_8210 Medium Copy

But an opportunity appeared a few years ago when Young’s oldest daughter, Elli, told her about a school program for third through fifth graders called Girls on the Run. “It’s so cool,” Young says. “It’s all about girl power, being a good friend, and being encouraging and supportive of others while training to run a 5K.” She adds that the girls often included their moms in this program.

Elli, who was in third grade then, didn’t want to do it. “She said, ‘That would be like having gym class even more often!’” Young laughs, explaining that it was probably for the best anyway because she was pregnant with her youngest son, Reid, at the time and wouldn’t have been able to run.

“We did feel like we missed out though, so we signed up the next year. I printed off a Couch to 5K training program online and was able to get to the point where I could run four miles without stopping.”

During Elli’s fourth grade year, they both ran the program’s 5K. “I had to walk twice during that run since it was mapped out on their grade school playground, and it was 30-some laps around the blacktop, down a hill, around the playground equipment, and back up the hill,” Young says. “The hills kicked my butt!”

Although Young stopped running regularly after that 5K, she ran again with Elli in the fifth graders’ 5K. Later, they signed up for a Siena-Francis benefit run. “It was nice to do something that we could do together that was good for us but also benefited [Siena-Francis House],” says Elli, who’s now in middle school.

“I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.” – Tori Young

Since then, Young and Elli have been participating in all the runs they can. They even participated in Papillion’s Half Marathon events this May; Young ran the 10K while Elli ran the 5K. Both agree that they really want to run The Color Run and Color Me Rad 5Ks, which they look forward to trying in the future.

Young finds running with her daughter to be an inspiring way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I love when we practice and go to Zorinsky [Lake] together…We set some goals, like being able to run farther, and it’s fun to meet one and then set the next one.”

But it’s not just all about the run; it’s also about the time she gets to spend with Elli that keeps her going. “With four kids, I wish I could give them each more one-on-one time, so I really love just talking with her [during our runs].”

“We get to have an uninterrupted conversation and talk about my school, her work, our friends, and random stories,” Elli adds. “We also talk about our goals for the future, like other runs we’d like to do [and] ways to eat healthier.”

“I dislike the body issues that come for most females,” Young says. “I know I have to be aware of how I talk about my own body and my feelings about how I look. We’ve had conversations about not focusing on how many pounds we weigh and comparing that to others, but instead on how we’re treating our bodies and what we’re putting in them.”20130420_bs_8226 Medium Copy

Seeing Elli improve makes Young think they’re headed in the right direction, too. “She was born with a cyst in her lung, which resulted in a 12-day stay in the NICU and a surgery for her right after birth…they removed the top lobe of her right lung. Her scars are faint, her lung regenerated, and the only real lasting effect is some asthma.” Young adds that Elli has gone from feeling like she “can’t do it” and using asthma as an out to pushing herself harder.

Young believes it’s important for parents and their kids to be physically active together. “It’s so easy to get caught up in television…We have so many devices that capture our attention, and it’s hard to break away from e-mail, Facebook, and Instagram…Making time to be physically active together provides the opportunity for quality time and setting goals that we can work toward together.”

Because Young and Elli have been running so much in the last few years, it’s really started to rub off on the other family members. “My husband has been running more lately, and even recently admitted that he pushed himself faster on the treadmill than [me] because he didn’t like the thought of me outrunning him!”

Most importantly, Young feels healthy and happy right now. All she cares about is feeling good about herself, being a positive body image role model for her daughters, and having the energy to keep up with her job and her kids.

Karen Sokolof Javitch

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The image of Karen Sokolof Javitch singing and camping it up on YouTube in the music video of her song, “I’m Not Obama’s Babe” doesn’t square with the unassuming, quietly engaging, makeup-less woman who buys flavored water at her favorite coffee shop. Not surprising, since there are many facets to the Omaha native: singer, songwriter, author, playwright, radio host, advocate, teacher, wife, mother, daughter, philanthropist.

Music is actually Karen’s second act. After earning a degree at the University of Texas, she began as a teacher of visually impaired children, a career inspired by her late mother, Ruth Sokolof. “My mother taught blind children for years. Everyone loved her. Film Streams Theater is named after her.”

It wasn’t until Karen’s own three children were in school that her life headed in a different direction. “It was around 1993. I was talking to a friend of mine, Jim Conant, and he said he had just written the book for a musical, but he hadn’t written any of the songs. And I said to him, ‘Um, can I try this?’”

Karen proved to be a natural at writing both the words and the lyrics to 13 songs for the production entitled Love! At The Café! The show ran for about seven weeks at a small venue in Benson. “It was like a faucet turned on in my brain. The lyrics came first, and then I could hear the music in my head to go with them.”

Karen next collaborated with her good friend, local actress and author Elaine Jabenis, to write more shows, including the tribute Princess Diana, The Musical. Another key player in Karen’s success, Chuck Penington of Manheim Steamroller, orchestrates her music. Whether a song is catchy, rhythmic, and Broadway-like, or a touching ballad, Karen’s melodies stay with the listener.

“It was like a faucet turned on in my brain. The lyrics came first, and then I could hear the music in my head to go with them.”

Where did her talent come from? “My father, Phil, was a song-and-dance man before he became a successful businessman. He tried his luck in Chicago when he was 17. He finally realized he couldn’t be the next Frank Sinatra.”

Phil Sokolof would later use some of his fortune from his drywall company to wage a one-man crusade against cholesterol—a decades-long fight that resulted in nutrition information on food packaging.

Karen has written hundreds of songs, penned four musicals, and released 13 CDs, singing on many of them. While she should be swimming in royalties, the Westside High graduate has instead followed her parents’ legacy of giving back to their community.

“All proceeds from my music go to charities, mostly in Nebraska,” says Karen.

Does she make any money at all?

“Well, let’s just say my goal is to break even,” she says with a smile.

Over the past 20 years, Karen has raised over $300,000 in service to others. One project in particular remains dear to her heart. The “Nebraska Celebrities Sing for Sight” CD, for which she wrote most of the music and lyrics and featuring 20 celebrities from the area (including a terrific country vocal from former U.S. Senator Ben Nelson), raised money for visually impaired children. The man who couldn’t compete with Frank Sinatra also sings a track.

“Dad was alive when I started to do my music. He was very proud.”

Karen’s CDs can be found at the Nebraska Furniture Mart or online at CD Baby. Her radio show, “It’s the Beat!” with Jody Vinci, airs Saturdays at noon on KOIL 1290.