Wednesday, February 27, 2013

America's Safe Dating Coach: The SECRET to a great relationship!

America's Safe Dating Coach: The SECRET to a great relationship!: Keeping Love Alive Written by Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC Published by the NJ Daily Record Sunday 2/17/13               Keeping...

The SECRET to a great relationship!

Keeping Love Alive

Written by Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC
Published by the NJ Daily Record Sunday 2/17/13
            Keeping love alive in a relationship is no easy task.  If it were, the current divorce rate would not be about 40%.  What happened to the lifelong commitment of “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part”?

            No matter how good your relationship starts, after the honeymoon is over and you add a career, mortgage, kids, house, pets, sports, extracurricular activities and other daily responsibilities that cause stress you have an instant recipe for divorce.  The good news is that it is preventable.

We are raised to believe that love is a fairy tale.  If this was true, then we would not be ending so many relationships.  We would be living blissfully ever after. In a recent survey conducted by The Knot, it was revealed that the average wedding costs about $27,800.  That is a very risky investment for such a high chance of failure. 

 I don’t know about you, but as much as I love my husband he does not arrive home every day on a white horse with flowers in hand.  If yours does, I would love to hear about it.  The reality is that we are sharing our life with another human being.  Life is hard and stressful.  In order to make it, you need to work together as a team, share the same set of values and have the same life expectations.

The Relationship Research Institute reports that 2/3 of couples see the quality of their relationship drop within 3 years of the birth of a child.  That ‘Bundle of Joy’ you were anxiously anticipating could be contributing to the demise of your relationship, unless handled with tender loving care.  This makes common sense because along with the birth of every child, means you have less time to spend together as a couple and more daily stressors.       

One of the most popular times for divorce is when the last child leaves home and the nest is empty.  Many couples stay together as long as their children are the main focus of the family.  The whirlwind of work, school, sports, homework and extracurricular activities can be all-consuming and act as a buffer for problems in the marital relationship.  If the relationship is not nurtured, then you end up becoming two strangers who have drifted apart while living under the same roof existing together unhappily.

Some people get divorced thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, only to find out that everyone has issues.  If there are patterns in your relationships that keep repeating themselves, then reach out for help so you can fix them.  Until you figure out what you are doing wrong, you are unable to change.  Never give up on love!   

A healthy relationship is an equal partnership based on love and respect.  The division of labor should ideally be 50/50.  The ability to compromise is a must.  Topics that should be discussed and agreed upon before marriage are children, religion, careers, money and basic life and family expectations.  The more you can agree on before the marriage, the better your chance of living together happily ever after.  As a counselor, I can assure you that those problems that exist before the marriage will only get worse after. 

My best kept secrets to keeping love alive are to create a schedule for regular “couple time” on a daily/weekly basis, whether it is watching television after the kids have gone to bed or planning a formal date night.  There is “family time” and then there should be “couple time”.  I recommend going away as a couple a few weekends every year or a full week if possible.  Date night is great, but there is nothing more important than getting away and relighting the spark that brought you together in the first place.  Happy parents are the best gift you can give to your children.  Your family is only as strong as your marital relationship. 

Research at the Medical University of Vienna shows that hugging someone you care about can ease stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even boost memory.  Cuddling and kissing also release stress-easing oxytocin, which can reduce blood pressure and bond you with your partner.  Staying physically, mentally and spiritually connected is a necessary ingredient for a happy and healthy relationship.  Make the time to talk about if both of your needs and wants are being fulfilled and if not, how you can compromise.  It takes concentrated time and effort to keep love alive, but the results are very well worth the effort!

Dari Dyrness-Olsen is a national speaker, author and owner of Express Yourself Today Counseling Center in New Jersey!




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Parents have major role in their child's success!
School is in full swing and it is a very exciting time for children and parents. In the same breath, it can also be an anxiety-ridden and stressful time as well. Many kids today are facing staggering challenges such as learning disabilities- Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, processing and sensory issues; anxiety; depression; divorce; social issues; school phobia and the list gets longer and longer each school year.
The good news for parents is that no matter what issue you are dealing with, there is hope, help and support. Most importantly, parents should be aware and very familiar with the Pygmalion or Rosenthal Effect - the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon a child or adult, the better they perform. No matter what your child is dealing with, if you think they will succeed and take the necessary steps to ensure it, they will. They will only rise to the level that you are expecting them to.
A great example of this is Kyle Maynard, who was born a congenital amputee- his arms ending at his elbows; his legs at his knees. From the beginning, his parents focused on making his life as normal as possible and not treating him any different. His parents insisted that he learn how to take care of himself, just like any other normal child. In public places, they would encourage him to make eye contact with people and let them know he was just a normal kid despite his lack of arms and legs. In school, he wrestled, played football and now at 26 years old is an extremely successful motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur and athlete. His most recent accomplishment was being the 1st man to climb on all fours 19,340 ft high to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.
Your expectation of success as a parent for your child will determine their course in life and so will your actions. There are many common sense tips for parents to follow to ensure their kids? school success, such as a regular bed time, eating a healthy breakfast before school, doing homework as soon as they get home & then rewarding themselves with play time, prioritizing school before sports and other extracurricular activities. However, the most important tip is if you set the bar high, children will make it happen no matter what challenge they face. If you believe in them, they will believe in themselves. If you treat them as disabled, then you are indeed disabling their chance for a successful future.
There is nothing more important than parent involvement in a child?s school experience- checking their homework planner, overseeing projects & papers, helping them study for tests & quizzes and making the experience a positive one. Parenting is a verb, which means you need to be active and involved. If you don?t think education is important then neither will they. I know many adults who wish they took their education more serious and wish they went to college. Once you realize that your money-making potential is seriously limited without a college degree, school becomes a whole lot more important. Not many people like homework or any type of work for that matter, but it is a necessary evil.
By overseeing your child?s school assignments on a daily basis, not only are you showing that you love them and that school is important, you are setting them up for success in life. The habits they develop now will directly translate into their work habits and level of responsibility for future jobs and careers.
Celebrate good grades by having a straight-A or an honor roll party, hand out awards and make it fun. Display their success in a central location where everyone can see, which will be a visual motivator going forward.
As a parent, you have one chance to do your best. You have an 18 year window of opportunity to teach your child good habits until they go to college or move out. After that, you hope and pray you have done a good job. Your involvement and support now can make a huge life changing difference. If your child has an issue, then take action and get help immediately. Don?t stick your head in the sand, give up, or be embarrassed and deny the problem exists. There are so many wonderful cutting-edge counseling treatments and every problem has a solution. If you don?t see significant improvement within the first few months of counseling, then you are in the wrong place. Keep trying until you find a solution that works. Never give up. After all, if Kyle Maynard can climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, then the sky is the limit for your child!
Dari Dyrness-Olsen is a national speaker, author and owner of Express Yourself Today Counseling Center. She is a native of Roxbury.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Parents Have a Big Role in Keeping Kids off Drugs!

7 Secrets for Parents
Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC
Published in the NJ Daily Record on 4/1/12

Parenting is a verb

             Parenting is the toughest and most important job that you will ever have.  Too many parents want to be their kid’s friends instead of the rule maker and rule enforcer.  If your child does not like you during their teen years then you are definitely doing something right.  You are the most powerful role model your child will ever have.  Their brains are not done developing until their early to mid-twenties.  As a result, they do not have the brain capacity to think ahead to the consequences of their actions.  Teens are literally living in the moment and thinking that they are invincible.  Parents need to be the “thinking ahead” part of their brain for them by having rules, establishing boundaries and closely monitoring their activities.

Educate them about drugs
            According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, parents who talk to their kids about drugs are 50% less likely to try them.  When kids know better they do better.  Please don’t be one of those parents who say that it is “just pot”.  Marijuana is twice as strong today as it was 20 years ago and it is addictive.  Many parents mistakenly think that it is okay for their child because they did it when they grew up.  You couldn’t be more wrong.  Today is a whole different world where they have easy access to heroin they can snort, highly addictive prescription drugs, and synthetic marijuana that can be fatal.  Drug use is a slippery slope that starts with marijuana and ends with more lethal drugs, addiction and in many cases death.
Know the 5 W’s
            As a parent, you need to know who your child hangs out with, what they are doing, where they are, when they are coming home and why they are doing what they are doing.  Make sure they have a purpose and are not just walking the streets or hanging out at the mall.  Smart parents periodically check their kid’s text messages, e-mails, and are “friends” with them on Face Book.  If your child has nothing to hide then they should not care. Once your child goes to college, your window of opportunity is closed to make sure that they are on the right road.
Use teachable moments
            In my book TEEN TALK FOR PARENTS, I talk about tragic real life stories where normal kids have died as a result of socially using drugs and alcohol.  To find these teachable moments, just turn on the nightly news or read the newspaper.  Drug abuse does not discriminate.  Your children need to know that drug overdose can happen to anyone at anytime.  It is much more powerful for them to read about it or see it in real life than for you to lecture them. 
Teach them healthy habits
            The way you are living right now is shaping your child’s future.  Kids learn exactly what they live.  Your habits define your success and happiness in life.  Are you teaching your children healthy habits?  Are you or your kids overweight?  Do you exercise?  Are you overworked and overstressed?  Do you have a healthy balance in your life?  One of the most important healthy habits that I recommend to families in counseling is to eat at least one family meal together per day.  This keeps you connected to each other’s lives on a daily basis and builds their self-esteem.
Fill their time with positive activities
     Fill your children’s lives with positive activities, such as chores, part-time jobs, hobbies, sports, clubs, and volunteering.  Encourage them to be active, productive, independent and responsible people.  Self-worth and self-discipline are developed by teaching kids how to work hard to earn what they get.  Parents who overindulge their kids are setting them up to become unmotivated, self-absorbed, and irresponsible young adults.  Limit sedentary activities, such as video games, tv, and computer use.  Communicating through technology instead of face to face has caused an increase in social anxiety amongst younger generations.  As a result, many are relying on drugs & alcohol to help them function comfortably in social settings.
Focus them forward
            Technology allows and encourages kids to get caught up in the social drama that can easily dominate their life.  Prevent this from happening to your child by limiting their cell phone and computer use.  Their time and energy is much better spent focusing on developing themselves.  Focus them forward by getting them excited about their future.  I enjoy helping kids every day to find their purpose and passion in life.  When kids value themselves and their lives, they are high on life instead of drugs and alcohol.  If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol reach out for help today.  Early intervention can save a life!

To get your own copy of TEEN TALK FOR PARENTS click on the link below...
 Dari Dyrness-Olsen is a national speaker, author and owner of Express Yourself Today Counseling Center in Chester, NJ

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love is Blind!
by Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC
Published by the NJ Daily Record on Sunday February 12, 2012

Did you know that the proverbial phrase “Love is blind” was originally coined by Shakespeare and appears in several of his plays?  Modern-day research also supports the age-old theory that Love is Blind in a 2004 study by University College in London.  Researchers found that feelings of love suppressed the activity of the areas in the brain that control critical thought.  This could explain the phenomenon of why intelligent and rational people often lose their common sense when they fall in love.
            People always put their best foot forward when they start out in a dating relationship.  However, things are not always what they seem.  As time passes, their true self eventually comes out.  That is why I often advise people in counseling to take their time when falling in love and don’t rush into a commitment.    
It is common practice when our hearts are involved to rationalize the bad behavior of a partner for the sake of being in love.  Many people think that having someone is better than no one.  If your partner has a problem or an issue, I can almost guarantee that it will probably get worse after marriage and not better.   
I see how blind love can be every day in my career because I specialize in relationship violence as a counselor, author, and national speaker.  I proposed and worked with NJ legislators to pass the NJ Safe Dating Law A2920 in May 2011, which educates all students in public middle and high schools about dating abuse. 
I am writing this article in honor of February being National Teen Dating Abuse Awareness Month and of course to acknowledge Valentine’s Day on February 14th.  I work very closely with the national organization Love is Not Abuse, which reports that 1 in 3 teens will be in an abusive dating relationship during high school.  Sadly, dating abuse has become the social norm for young people because of the culture they are growing up in. 
People wonder why teen dating abuse and bullying is so bad, yet all you have to do to see real life bullying is turn on your television and flip to the latest reality show.  Here you can watch real people putting each other down and thriving on the drama that gets good ratings.  The irony is that there is nothing real about these reality shows.  People are getting paid to cause and be involved in drama.  Where are the values in that? 
Love was definitely blind for reality star, Kim Kardashian, whose recent marriage lasted only 72 days.  I think she was more interested in fulfilling her dream of a 10 million dollar fairy tale wedding, than she was on doing the work necessary to have a successful and happy marriage.  This is a good example that life is not a fairy tale and neither are relationships.  Both take hard work and commitment. 
            Couples ask me all of the time in counseling how to fix their broken relationships.  My best analogy to a healthy and happy relationship is comparing it to a garden.  The first step to gardening is preparing the soil, which is very similar to preparing yourself for a healthy relationship.  You want to make sure that you have a healthy relationship with yourself first before you can have one with anyone else. 
The next step is to plant the seeds.  The seeds for a healthy relationship are asking yourself the questions- Is your relationship an equal partnership?  Can you communicate effectively?  Do you treat each other with respect all of the time?  Do you agree on how to raise children?  Do you agree on finances?  Do you have the same vision for your future?  I guess Kim Kardashian did not ask herself these questions before she rushed to the altar.
If you don’t water a garden, it will dry up and die.  Just like if you don’t nurture your relationship, it will end.  I recommend to couples, especially after they have kids, to make time to spend together as a couple on a weekly basis.  Your family is only as strong as your marriage.  Some day your kids will grow up and leave.
Every garden has weeds, just like every relationship has issues.  If you don’t stay on top of them, they can multiply quickly.  If you don’t deal with the issues as they appear, then they can overwhelm your relationship.  Counseling is a great way to overcome any issues that may pop up.
The more you nurture your relationship, the more you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Great relationships take constant work, but the results are well worth it.  This Valentine’s Day make sure to do something special for the person you love.  Women love romance, flowers, candy, cards, and chocolate.  Love may be blind, but you don’t have to be! 
 3 great books written by Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC:
Safe Dating for College Women ~ 7 Secrets for Dating Safely, Building High Self-Esteem & Developing Healthy Relationships

 Teen Talk for Parents ~ 7 Secrets for Safe, Smart & Successful Teens

7 Secrets for Girls ~ Simple Solutions to Survive Boys & Stay Sane 

For more information about Dari Dyrness-Olsen log onto

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year...New You!

Resolutions prove a chance to start fresh!
By Dari Dyrness-Olsen
Published in the NJ Daily Record Sunday January 1, 2012

Every year welcomes a brand new chance to create the life that you truly want.  The New Year is celebrated around the globe.  It is amazing that even though we may come from different countries, speak different languages and look different, that deep down inside we are all basically the same.
Many countries consider New Year’s Day to be a national holiday.  In Spain, their tradition is to eat 12 grapes at midnight, which ensures twelve happy months ahead.  The Dutch make Christmas tree bonfires on the street and have fireworks.  The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.  In Greece, New Year’s Day is the Festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church.  They bake a special cake and put a gold or silver coin in it.  Whoever finds the coin will have good luck in the upcoming year.
In the United States in 1907, the first New Year’s Ball was dropped in Times Square, New York City at 11:59pm.  The celebratory 1 minute descent is eagerly anticipated all around the world.  The original ball was made of iron and wood.  The current ball is made from Waterford crystal, weighs 11,875 lbs and is 12 feet in diameter.  Over 1 million people go to New York City to watch the ball drop and an estimated 1 billion watch it on television.
In Japan, New Year’s is the most important holiday and is a symbol of renewal.  In December, they have “farewell parties” to bid farewell to problems of the past and prepare for a brand new beginning.  The Japanese believe that New Year’s Day is a day of joy and NO work should be done.  Scotland is the birthplace of “Auld Lang Syne” and is also the home of Hogmanay, the famous all-night New Year’s street festival.  Shortly after midnight, neighbors visit each other and give New Year’s wishes, which is the Scottish tradition called “first-footing”. 
There are many widely observed New Year’s traditions.  The Babylonians were said to be the first to make New Year’s resolutions.  The early Christians believed that the 1st day of the New Year should be spent reflecting on the problems of the past year and resolving to improve them in the new year. 
No matter what country you are in, I believe that New Year’s should be a time to seriously contemplate where you are, where you have been and where you want to go.  For the past 12 years, I have enjoyed helping adults and kids improve their lives, overcome challenges and achieve their goals and dreams.  There is no problem that does not have a solution and I enjoy spending my days finding them.
Many people no longer make New Year’s resolutions.  That makes me sad because every day is a new chance to start over and do better, no matter how bad things may seem.  Each year brings an opportunity to improve on the past one.  To me it is nothing short of exhilarating! 
The reason so many New Year’s resolutions fail is because they don’t have a realistic plan.  As a counselor and personal coach, I have discovered the secrets and strategies to help people change, set goals, and reach them.  The weight doesn’t fall off by itself, your bank account won’t grow without hard work and self-control, and the person of your dreams isn’t going to come knocking on your door.  Problems don’t fix themselves.
Every resolution needs a plan.  In January, the health clubs are packed and by February they are empty.  I chuckle each year as I see my theory proven true.  The secret is to develop healthy habits that you can adopt for the rest of your lifetime.  Diets don’t work.  Just like popping a pill does not solve the root of your problems.  Everything good in life takes hard work, but when hard work becomes a habit, it becomes a normal part of your life. 
Without a plan, you are like a ship without a course going nowhere fast.  As they say, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.  Every great athlete has a great coach behind them to hold them accountable, to motivate them, to push past their limitations and overcome their challenges.  If you haven’t had success yet, then reach out for help today. 
If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to achieve it.  I am constantly trying to improve myself and the clients that I work with.  I don’t see it as a daunting task; I embrace it as a lifelong challenge.  Is it hard?  Yes.  I wouldn’t have it any other way and neither should you.  Best wishes for a happy, healthy & abundant New Year in 2012 and may all of your dreams come true!

All my best,
Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Giving 'Presence' this Holiday Season!

Giving ‘Presence’ this Holiday Season!

            It is hard not to get caught up in the stress of endless holiday to-do lists:  shopping, holiday cards, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, cooking and preparing.  During the hustle and bustle, we often lose sight of the true meaning of the holidays we are celebrating, whether it is Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas. 
            In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means “dedication.” The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. It is celebrated for eight days in honor of the Jewish victory and the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days to rededicate the temple.
Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrated mainly in America during the week between 26th December and 1st January each year.  The holiday was established in 1966 to help African Americans remember and celebrate their heritage. The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili language and means "first fruits". Each day of the seven days is dedicated to one of "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa".
            The Christmas story is the story of the birth of Jesus Christ in the town of Bethlehem, Israel. Jesus "Christ" is known as the founder or central figure of "Christianity." Christmas is a Christian holiday on December 25 that commemorates the birth of Jesus.
            Life is truly a gift, that is why it is called the present.  I believe that the ultimate goal in life is to be ‘present’.  To live in the moment and actually enjoy it, not fretting over the past or worried about the future.  Not getting sucked up in the fast-paced current of life.  Learning how to focus on the here and now.  Our lives pass us by in the blink of an eye.  Days turn into months, which quickly turn into years.  Before you know it, you wake up one day and look yourself in the mirror and ask, “Where has the time gone?”
            My gift to you this holiday season is to encourage you to stop for a few minutes…take a deep breath…and slow down.  Get out a pad of paper and write down your ‘Bucket List’, which is all of the things you want to do before you kick the proverbial bucket.  Now write down on top of a sheet of paper “I Want…” and keep writing until you can’t think of anything else.   What do you want for your life?  Are you living the life you thought you would?  If not, how could you?  What makes you happy?  What makes you unhappy?  What do you need in your life?
Make time to “stop and smell the roses” before they are gone.  Stop trying to produce holidays that you barely remember until you develop your pictures.  Learn how to be present for yourself, first and foremost, and then for those you love and care about.  If you are religious, be present to your higher power, which is the reason you are celebrating the holiday in the first place.
            Somehow we have veered off course and holidays have turned into a frenzy of expensive gift giving, consumerism and commercialism.  The gifts are piled high up in front of the tree, only to be torn open, maybe appreciated, used temporarily, and forgotten about by the time the credit card bill arrives in January. 
            Try as we might, we can’t take our stuff with us when we go.  Many people think the meaning of life is stuff.  They keep acquiring all of these worldly possessions and are still not happy.  Counseling clients say to me all of the time, “I will be happy when I get married, I will be happy when I have a baby, I will be happy when I buy a house.”  But happiness eludes them because they are chasing it.  The secret is to be happy right now and grateful for all of the wonderful things you already have. 
            Soul-filled moments and memories are the meaning of life, not rushing through our lives producing moments that we barely remember because we are so stressed out.  It is easy to wrap up a gift and give it to someone.  However, it is much more memorable and meaningful to slow down and give them the gift of your presence.  Instead of exchanging gifts, go out to lunch, cook them a special meal, make a homemade gift or frame a special picture. 
Instead of stuffing your stockings with gifts, stuff them with little promise notes like:  Play a board game with mom, Read a book with dad, Bake brownies together, collect sea shells at the beach, etc.  Time spent with those you love is priceless and so are the memories.  Give the gift of your ‘Presence’ this holiday season and I promise it will be your best one yet!

All my best,

Dari Dyrness-Olsen, MA, LPC
Owner of Express Yourself Today Counseling Center in New Jersey