Meditation can be such a challenge for those of us who have been sexually abused.  Closing our eyes does not feel safe, in fact it often raises anxiety which seems like the opposite of what we are hoping to achieve through meditation.  Sitting still can also feel dangerous.  It can feel like we are just sitting waiting for something bad to happen and we are powerless to do anything about it.  So, combine sitting still with your eyes closed, and you have the ingredients for a panic attack!

            If you want to reap the benefits of meditation but struggle with some of the things mentioned above, then walking meditation might be a good solution for you.  Walking meditation is just like it sounds – rather than sitting to meditate, you walk slowly, deliberately and mindfully.  Pick a place where you feel safe to pay attention to yourself rather than things going on around you. Public places can be difficult to do walking meditation because you can easily get distracted by sounds and people around you.  It is hard to relax and be mindful of yourself if you feel like you need to be on alert for danger. If you have a hallway at home or an area in your yard where you feel safe, that would be perfect.  Pick an area where you can walk in one direction for several steps, and then turn around and go back the other way.

            While you are walking, pick one area of your body to pay attention to. You could pay attention to your breath as is common in sitting meditation, but there are also many other choices.  You could pay attention to how it feels as your foot touches the ground with each step.  You could pay attention to what your arms do as you walk.  If it’s not too triggering to pay attention to your hips, you could focus on how it feels in your hip area as you lift your leg to take a step.  There really is no right area to focus on – pick whatever feels comfortable to you.  The idea is to keep bringing your focus back to whatever you have picked for your anchor.  Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just bring it back when you realize you have lost focus. 

            That’s it!  Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and practice walking meditation for a few days and see how you feel.  Remember that it takes time to build the muscle of focus and attention, so be patient.  It might feel challenging at first but stick with it and hopefully it will get easier.  If you pick one area of your body to focus on and it makes you feel uneasy, try focusing on another area of your body.  The idea is to make it work for you and not to follow rigid rules that create stress in your body and mind.  This is your practice, and you know what feels right to you better than anyone else!

Here is a resource with more ideas:

MINDFULNESS SKILLS FOR TRAUMA AND PTSD: Mindfulness Practices Adapted to Fit the Needs of Survivors: Kay, Jeni: 9798856277752: Amazon.com: Books


There is a wide range of experiences for people who struggle with dissociation.  Some people have episodes where they “space out” or have a floaty feeling for a period of time, and then it passes.  They may or may not have much memory of the time when they were checked out.  On the other end of the spectrum are people who experience dissociative identity disorder and have several different parts or personalities living within one body.  Where you lie on the spectrum will determine the tools that will work best for you.

            If you are someone who experiences dissociation as a “zoned out” type of feeling, the first thing you want to do is to determine under what circumstances the dissociation happens or gets worse.  Start journaling about what you were doing, where you were, what was going on around you and how you were feeling when you had the dissociative episode.  There can be a lot of information in understanding when it happens.  When you gather that information, then you can decide what tools to use.  If it happens in situations where it is loud and chaotic, you might try some noise canceling headphones.  Try staying on the outskirts of crowds when possible, so you don’t feel like the noise and chaos is coming at you from every direction.  It can also be helpful to remind yourself that you are safe, and even though it might be an uncomfortable situation, it’s not dangerous.

            Grounding techniques like muscle tensing and relaxing can help you come back from a “floaty” place.  Tighten your jaw and relax it, bring your shoulders up as high as you can and then relax them, push your feet into the ground and then relax.  When you can bring your attention to your body it can help bring your mind back. 

            Playing around with your breath can also help bring your mind back to the present.  Try holding your breath for 5 seconds and then let out a deep exhale.  Try breathing faster than you normally would, and then gradually slow your breath down.  Try inhaling to a count of 6, and then exhaling to a count of 6.  Experiment with different techniques and see what works for you.

            If you experience dissociative identity disorder, then your tools will be different than those described above.  Having lots of different voices all living together in one body can be overwhelming, confusing, and unsettling.  Depending on the level of communication and cooperation between parts, it can also be a logistical nightmare at times.   

            System communication can help with day-to-day life.  Find a way that parts can communicate with each other – often a journal can help with that.  Have a place where everyone can write their thoughts and feelings, and anything they need to communicate with the rest of the system. It can also be helpful to write things down to share with your therapist.

            Another way to make day-to-day life a little easier is to make agreements between parts.  For example, if you have some young parts who show up at inopportune times, make an agreement with them that if they will let you handle the adult things you need to do, then you will take them to get ice cream, or something like that.  Let them know you won’t forget about them, and you will give them time, but they also need to let you have some time to do the things you need to do.

No matter where you fall on the dissociation spectrum, professional help can be an important part of your healing toolbox.  You are unique, and your healing journey will be unique.  The ideas above have helped many of my clients over the years, but they are only suggestions.  Take the suggestions and mold them into a custom strategy that works for you.

After years of working with people dealing with dissociation, I created a journal to help with communication and cooperation among parts.  If that is something that might be helpful for you, here is the link: 

all parts are welcome: A guided journal for people with dissociative disorders to encourage communication and creativity: Bartran, Gwen: Amazon.com: Books


            There are certain dates – anniversaries, holidays, etc., that almost always bring painful feelings and memories.  They are reminders of horrible things that happened, or of tragic loss, or of perceived failures.  Often these dates and the surrounding weeks interfere with my normal functioning.  I am less resilient to normal ups and downs.  I have less energy and an increase in migraines and other physical symptoms.  I sleep less and have more nightmares when I do sleep.  There is an increase in flashbacks of prior trauma.  Needless to say, I dread these times.

            Recently, however, there has been a shift in my awareness.  Normally, during the anniversary times I am reminded of all the painful things I experienced.  To a certain extent, I relive parts of these experiences, flashbacks that are reminders of my wounding.  I have seen this remembering as evidence that I am broken beyond repair, and less valuable than other people around me. 

            But my perception is changing.  What if these anniversaries are a reminder that I won?  What if they are a time to reflect that I am actually not broken, but that I am healing?  Yes, awful things happened previously on these dates, I am not minimizing that in the least.  Actually, I have seen the struggle around these times as a way to honor those parts of me that endured the pain.  I thought that anything less than what I go through around anniversaries would be dishonoring and discounting of what I have been through. But what if the reminders that come up can be reminders of what happened, but not in a defeating kind of way.  I survived!  The bad guys didn’t win!  I didn’t take my life; I didn’t end up giving up and losing myself to addiction or anorexia or living out the rest of my days in an institution.  This is not judgment for those who struggle with those things – I have certainly spent my share of time in dark places.  But I emerged on the other side – I have a family, I have a job, I have people who care about me, I am not lost to the darkness. 

            This is not to say that life is great all the time, or that I don’t hate that those memories still linger inside of me.  I know there will be more flashbacks, more migraines, more sleepless nights.  But that’s ok.  I can handle that. I have handled worse.  I am not broken beyond repair.  I was broken, and I am healing.  They tried, but they couldn’t break me beyond my capacity to heal. 

            So today, rather than hiding from another holiday that holds memories of abuse, I am spending some time in quiet reflection that this day is a reminder that the darkness didn’t win.  The shadows tried to consume me in the past, but today is a reminder that I am not a hostage to the shadows anymore.  I got out.  Today I am quietly celebrating that I won.  I am not without scars, but I won.  Today, I am grateful for anniversaries to remind me that I went through some hard shit, and I came out victorious. 


            Something I find myself telling clients who need a confidence booster is “you can do hard things.”  I began offering this to clients after I realized it was something I needed to hear frequently myself.  I often find myself, as well as others saying that we can’t do something because it’s hard, or we don’t even want to try something because it’s hard.  What I don’t often hear, is “it’s hard, but I can do hard things.” 

            Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t recall hearing the message that I could do hard things when I was growing up.  Usually someone tried to help me make things easier, or help me find a way around doing the hard thing, or maybe they even shared in the frustration with me, but I don’t remember anyone every saying “yes it’s hard, and you can do hard things.”  I then realized that was a great message to be giving my kids, rather than trying to help them find an easier way.  And of course, I realized many of my clients needed to hear the same affirmation.

            It can be really hard to do trauma work, to face our demons and work through difficult experiences from the past that still have a hold on us.  The emotions can be incredibly intense, so much so that it can feel like they will consume us, and we can’t see to the other side.  Trauma work usually involves facing shame that we hold onto which is beyond uncomfortable to share with someone. It can be brutal doing this work, but to be free of the hold trauma can have on us we need to be brave and work through it.  It’s hard, but you can do hard things.

            It can feel horribly difficult and uncomfortable to sit through anxiety and try to understand it rather than fight it or drown it with alcohol or drugs.  A panic attack often feels like the walls are closing in and there is no more air, which is terrifying.  Medication helps sometimes, but often the only thing to do is to sit through it knowing it will end just like it has many times in the past.  Sometimes the best way to reduce anxiety is to let it be there, acknowledge it, and continue moving through the thing that is causing the anxiety.  This is so hard!  But you can do hard things.

            I look at how many times one of my kids have said that their homework or their class is really hard.  I would try to help them so that it would be easier.  I helped look up science fair project ideas, I helped find information for history papers, I encouraged them by telling them they only had a few more weeks and then the class would be done.  If they had a particularly tough teacher, I might agree with them that it really sucks to have a teacher they didn’t get along with or share a similar experience from when I was in school.  What I didn’t tell them, was “wow you’re right, this is hard.  Good thing you can do hard things!” 

            It seems like such an obvious statement maybe, but for me it was profound.  Things were really hard after my divorce and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to make a living and provide for 5 kids.  Day after day I was faced with so many challenges, and I kept telling my friends how hard it was.  Every time I told myself how hard it was, I would sink deeper and deeper into despair.  Bills were piling up, I had no good job prospects, kids were struggling, I was depressed, it was a miserable time.  I think if I had told myself “yes, this is hard, but I can do hard things” rather than just “this is hard”, it might have helped me be a little less depressed and overwhelmed.  Something about adding on those few extra words feels like I have a little more power, that it’s a little less hopeless. 

            It seems like there is often the belief that because something is hard, that means it’s impossible.  It’s like “hard” and “no way can’t do it” are the same thing.  There’s that voice that says, “this is hard, so I might as well give up now because it’s going to be miserable and way too tough for me to do.”  But when we tack on those extra words, it changes everything.  We bring power to the situation; the situation doesn’t have power over us anymore.  It shifts our perspective from being one of defeated, to one of facing a challenge that we are capable of handling. 

            How about adding in some power posing when you say the words “I can do hard things.”  Now there’s a great combination!  If you are unfamiliar with power posing, or the Wonder Woman pose, check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.  Affirming to yourself that you can do hard things while striking a Wonder Woman pose could give you the confidence that you can tackle anything life throws at you! 

            Or how about standing on top of a chair while you tell yourself that you can do hard things.  Sometimes a new perspective can do wonders for our confidence and self-esteem.  Maybe it’s just because I’m vertically challenged but getting a view from a taller perspective gives me the extra boost of confidence I need sometimes.  It’s like it wakes up my brain because the view from up there is so unfamiliar that it jolts me out of my slump. 

            Try an experiment.  Say to yourself “this is so hard.”  Don’t add anything on, just leave it there.  Notice what happens to your mood, to your body, to your posture.  Then, say to yourself “this is hard, and I can do hard things.”  Again, notice what happens to your mood, to your body.  Is there any change?  For me, when I just leave it at “this is hard”, I find my eyes looking down toward the ground, my shoulders slump down a little, and I all of a sudden feel super tired.  When I add on “I can do hard things”, it’s almost as if I get a little jolt of energy, or I have the feeling of surprise. My eyes and chin move up a bit, and I have a little surge of confidence and optimism.  I also get a little feisty feeling.  Like, “bring it on, cuz I got this!”

            You might realize that staying stuck in the “hard” place is a habit.  You might need a reminder of some kind to add on the second part.  I have thought about getting a tattoo to remind me, but I haven’t gone quite that far yet.  Just like any habit, it will take some time to break.  No worries.  Just notice that the habit is there and make the intention to create a new one.  Maybe a sticky note on your mirror, or notecards placed in strategic places, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you during the day.  In my personal experience as well as from what I’ve seen with clients, it’s well worth the effort to create this new message for yourself.

            Just try it for a few days.  Whenever you find yourself feeling like something is hard, remind yourself – “oh wait!  I forgot; I can do hard things!” 

Breaking Old Patterns in Parenting

I knew I wanted to be a parent from the time I was very young. I dreamed of having a big family and being a full-time mom. I didn’t really have aspirations to be a perfect wife or a perfect mom, I just knew that I wanted to make sure my kids knew that they were the most important thing in my life and that they were my priority. And then I had my first child. I remember the first night we were home; I was up in the middle of the night feeding him, and I thought “What was I thinking? I can’t do this!” I had never experienced a love as intense before as I did when I was sitting up in the middle of the night feeding that perfect little baby. I was terrified. My heart literally hurt because it was so full and the feelings were so intense. All of the injuries from my childhood hit me hard, and I felt like I didn’t even come remotely close to having the tools I needed to be a good parent to this child. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I felt so inadequate that for a few minutes I thought that it would have been better for my baby if I had given him up for adoption.

The good news is that we can come from pretty messed up childhoods and still turn out to be pretty darn good parents. According to Daniel Siegel, M.D., it’s more about how we make sense of our childhood that impacts our parenting than the things that actually happened to us. Let’s face it, few people come from an ideal childhood. Many adults grew up with very little adult interaction because both parents were forced to work to make ends meet. Parents just weren’t able to be home when their kids get home from school with a plate of cookies and lots of time to talk about their day. Many adults had childhoods disrupted by divorce, and either ended up with an absent parent, or they were shared between both parents, shuttled back and forth between 2 houses. There are people who grew up in foster care, people who were sexually abused, and people who were yelled and called stupid their whole lives. These stories could belong to any one of us who become parents. These kinds of stories and histories can make us feel inadequate and unprepared to be parents. They can make us feel like even if we do our best, we will still end up falling short and make the same mistakes that our parents did with us.

The trick is not in having the perfect role models or the ideal childhood, nor is it in working through every single one of our issues in therapy before we can become parents. The most important thing is understanding and finding a way to make sense of our childhood. Therapy can be very helpful in this process, so can a wise friend, a religious leader or perhaps a meditation teacher. By reflecting on and bringing light to our histories, we can understand them in a new way, and hopefully stop the cycle of blindly repeating past mistakes. By understanding our own emotional experiences, we are better able to understand our children’s emotional experiences, and in turn create a healthy attachment with them.

Making sense of our experiences involves reflecting on our past with kindness and understanding. It involves identifying emotions that we had, and how those emotions show up in the present. When we examine our own stories, we find ways that we are triggered, and ways that we respond out of habit. Seeing these things clearly allows us to identify where we might still be stuck in these old patterns without even realizing it. It allows us more choice in how we respond to our children rather than reacting out of conditioned patterns. So having a less than ideal childhood does not mean you will automatically become a terrible parent. Take some time, work with someone, and reflect on your own story. Then you can begin writing the rest of your story with more freedom, more choice, and more awareness. The story of you as a parent, does not have to be a repeat of you as a child, not unless you want it to be.


            I recently came across the idea that power posing could have a positive impact on people suffering from eating disorders, and anorexia in particular.  This comes from research done by Gervais and Smith which was published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly.  They did some experiments that involved having women sit with either restricted posture or expansive posture, and then measured food intake.  They looked at gender issues and body image as well as other factors.  I was mostly interested in the idea that adopting a power pose could have an impact on anorexic behavior.

            If you have not heard Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk on power posing, it is worth listening to.  She made popular the “Wonder Woman Pose” as well as other postures that have an impact on how we feel and behave.  In general, the research seems to show that when we sit or stand in a way that is constrictive, such as wrapping our arms around ourselves, hunching over or crossing our legs tightly, that we feel and behave as if we are less capable and less powerful.  On the other hand, when we have a posture that is more expansive such as standing up straight with our hands on our hips, or our arms outstretched overhead, or stretching out in our seat with our feet on our desk, we feel and behave as if we have more power and confidence.

            This all makes sense to me, so I’m curious about the relationship with anorexia.  In my personal and professional experience, one of the common experiences of those with anorexia is that we want to take up less space, to feel and appear smaller.  It might be because we don’t want to be seen, or we think we feel less vulnerable when we are less visible, or we might feel like we don’t deserve to take up space.  To accomplish taking up less space, we eat less.  That’s where the study mentioned above comes in.  The researchers found that women with eating disorders ate more when they adopted a more expansive body posture.  Of course, I am simplifying the study, but that’s the short story of what they found.  So, could this be a new tool in combatting anorexia?

            I wish the answer was simple, but it’s not.  I don’t think that power posing every day will cure anorexia – but that’s not really what the researchers are saying anyway.  I do think it could be a powerful tool that could help facilitate healing though.  Power posing is not going to change the underlying things that caused the eating disorder, but it could help jump start the process of healing.  If standing like Wonder Woman can cause beneficial chemical changes in our brains, then that could lead to the next step of eating just a little more, which could lead to the next step of having the energy and ability to do some emotional work, which could lead to the next step of not needing to take up less space, and so on and so on. 

            Anorexia is such a vicious cycle it can be difficult to know where to jump in to start the healing process.  No one caught in the eating disorder web wants to just start gaining weight on blind faith that it will make things better.  But what if we could create the chemical change in the brain to make us feel better without having to gain the weight first?  What if we could adopt a power pose which would make us feel a little stronger, which would in turn make us want to feel even stronger?  My thought is that using power poses we could start a domino effect that might jump start healing in a less threating way.  It’s not a magic pill or anything close to that.  But what’s the harm in giving it a shot?  It doesn’t carry as much perceived risk as eating more or purging less.  It’s quick, easy, and has no harmful side effects. 

            I have been trying out the Wonder Woman pose for the last few months since I heard about it, and I must admit I like the way I feel when I do it.  I have even convinced my kids to do it occasionally when they have a test or a job interview.  They of course laugh at me, but because I am Wonder Woman, I don’t really care!


As my children and I begin the process of decorating for the holidays, writing Christmas lists, and making plans for the Christmas break, I have been reflecting on ways to make this time of year fun rather than stressful. One of the first things that comes to mind is expectations. What are my expectations? Do I expect to find the perfect gift for everyone (on sale of course)? Do I expect to make lots of plates of perfectly homecooked holiday treats to hand out to everyone I know? Do I expect to decorate the house and keep it clean at the same time? Do I expect that my kids will magically become less interested in presents this year and more interested in the true meaning of the holiday? The list can go on and on and be customized for each family, but the bottom line is that when I have expectations that things will go and look a certain way, then I am bound to be disappointed, upset and stressed out. As with so many other things in life, if I can enjoy the process rather than the result, then I am much more likely to keep a sense of humor and enjoy the holidays. I am quite sure that no one is going to snub me at the next school function if they don’t get a plate of goodies from our family. Truth be told they will probably be grateful because they don’t like the same holiday treats that my family likes anyway! So let the kids help bake and decorate the cookies, make a mess, turn up the music and dance a lot, laugh, and let go of how they turn out. Is it really that important that my Christmas tree cookies actually look like Christmas trees? What’s the fun in that?

The other big expectation I have to keep a handle on is that my kids will somehow not be interested in who gets the biggest and the best presents this year. I am not saying that my kids are greedy or extremely materialist, but they are human and they have been brought up in American society. They get excited at the prospect of presents, and they hope to get certain things. When I ask them about favorite presents in years past though, usually they can’t even remember. They do tend to remember the presents that involved doing things with family and friends however. One year my son got a lot of machines – cotton candy maker, popcorn maker, those kinds of things. He remembers those because he remembers making treats for everyone and how much fun that was. So I have encourage family member who need gift ideas to give gift cards that involve activities together, like an afternoon of ice skating, or a day at the lake fishing and canoeing, or going to a hockey game together. The time that we spend together can create lasting memories, and it can give kids a sense of connection that is so vital to mental health.

When I start making lists of things I need to do, I let myself put down every little thing I can think of, and then I start crossing off the things that really are not all that important. I could make myself crazy running errands and doing tasks that really don’t need to be done. The only thing they accomplish is giving me a sense of participating in the craziness of the season, which at some level seems important. When people list off the craziness that they are involved in and I really don’t relate, there is certainly a sense within myself that I don’t fit in or that I must be doing something wrong. I don’t get to bond over the complaining about how chaotic life is right now. I can live with that. Hopefully more of us can bond over the laughter and the beauty of being together rather than complaining about the busyness and chaos. That is my holiday wish.


woman sipping colorful smoothieHave you ever watched your kid have a meltdown at exactly the wrong time in exactly the wrong place? Of course you have! If you have not, then you probably are not a parent. I don’t care if you are the best parent on the planet, your child will behave badly at some point in time, at many points in time.
I would like to offer you one piece to the puzzle of kids’ behavior. Kids tend to be very sensitive to rises and drops in blood sugar. I say this not from a medical perspective, I say this from the mother of 5 prospective and a counselor of children perspective. So please do not take what I say as medical advice, and always check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns or before making any major changes in your child’s diet.
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get back to kids and blood sugar levels. You have probably seen this in your own home – you give your kids a soda or a high sugar snack and they get really energized, and then they get cranky and want more. They have had a spike in blood sugar, which gives them a bunch of energy, but then instead of returning to normal they often crash lower than normal, making them cranky.
The other thing that I often see is kids getting too hungry and parents miss that cue, so kids get grumpy, defiant, sluggish and whiney and the parents think it is just bad behavior. One of the first things I always ask my kids when they start to show signs of crankiness, is “when is the last time you ate and what did you eat” (this is of course if I don’t know the answer). More often than not, the kids have not eaten for a couple of hours, or the last thing they had was mostly carbohydrate with little or no protein.
As parents, and maybe even as a society in general, we vastly underestimate the importance of regular snacks and the quality of those snacks and how they impact behavior. I see so many people get stuck on the idea of 3 meals/day with no snack in between. Our bodies typically don’t function best that way, especially kids’ bodies. Dips and spikes in blood sugar equal dips and spikes in behavior. I know that I am absolutely that way. I have often told people “don’t talk to me until I get something to eat”, because I get terribly cranky when my blood sugar drops. In fact, my body is similar to many kids in that I don’t usually feel the pangs of hunger, I feel grumpy and moody which means I need to eat. Kids don’t often recognize hunger, but as parents we recognize the grumpy and moody in our kids!
Over the years, I have found it to be immensely helpful to really pay attention to my kids’ food, and in turn I see a dramatic improvement in their behavior. Don’t watch the clock and tell them they can’t possibly be hungry because they just ate. That is the silliest thing I have ever heard. We are hungry when we are hungry. Sometimes our metabolism is faster and sometimes slower depending on other factors that are going on. So, when you see your child’s behavior deteriorating, before punishing them think about if low blood sugar might be the culprit.
Make sure to combine protein with carbs to balance out the spikes and drops in blood sugar. Carbs are the easy part – fruit, crackers, chips, the kinds of things we often use for snacks. Of course, some of these are healthier than others, but I am a realist! Do the best you can to keep snacks as healthy as you can, but as soon as you say “we will never eat this”, or “we will only eat these foods”, you are setting yourself up for trouble. Protein can require a little more thoughtfulness. I like to have several choices on hand when possible – things like string cheese, yogurt, almonds, pumpkin seeds, jerky, or some type of protein drink. Only keep things in the house that you are ok with your kids eating, that way there is not a power struggle over keeping kids away from foods you don’t want them to eat. I keep things like seeds, nuts and fruit within easy reach on the countertop, and let the kids graze on them as much as they would like. I also have a bag or two of chips in the pantry, and let the kids know that they are welcome to those snacks as well, but when they are gone there won’t be any more until next week when I get to the market again. Funny, they seem to be choosing the less healthy things less and less the more they get used to having healthy things in their bodies.
Just try it out – try making sure your kids eat every 2-3 hours. Make sure they get a good dose of healthy protein in the morning before they head out for school. If they start getting cranky, try a little snack first before punishment (even if you think they can’t possibly be hungry). Try it out for yourself as well and see if your moods are more stable. It is amazing how our moods and behavior can be improved by improving our diets!
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              I see many parents and their children in my practice.  They come to therapy for a variety of different reasons, but a common theme I see is the need for a sense of humor when it comes to parenting.  Don’t get me wrong, I know what a serious responsibility it is to raise a kid, I have 5 of my own.  There is so much pressure to have kids that are well behaved, smart, polite, athletic, artistic, spiritual, creative, etc.  And when we don’t have the perfect child, we know as parents that it is somehow our fault no matter what anyone says.  Or maybe I am the only one who feels the pressure?

              Something that has helped me immensely is to lighten up and have a sense of humor, both with myself and with my kids.  Over and over I will have a kid in my office who does something that the parent finds annoying, and I can smile or even laugh.  It’s easy for me right, they are not my kid!  That’s the point.  We need to step back sometimes and not take everything so personally and seriously.  For example, next time your kids has a perfectly illogical reason for why he/she just couldn’t get their room cleaned, sit back and admire their creativity rather than instantly getting angry.  Smile, laugh even!  Come on, you know it’s funny!  They are not going to turn out to be a criminal because you found humor in some of their crazy excuses for not getting things done or why something happened.  They still need to get their room cleaned, obviously, but compliment them on their entertaining creativity and thank them for making you smile.

              When one of my kids was young, he used to tell me he couldn’t eat broccoli because it “skinnied his chin”.  I could not get any further explanation as to what he meant or where he got that idea, so I just went with it.  I told him that of course he shouldn’t eat broccoli then because that could be a problem if his chin kept getting skinnier.  No fight, no trying to convince him otherwise, and no tears.  Any time I served broccoli I just didn’t give him any, and the family all knew that for whatever reason it was a problem for him, and we just let it be ok.  It kind of became a family joke which he took part in and we all could see the humor while still respecting that this was important to him.

              Several years later when I made broccoli he decided to try some totally on his own.  He ate some, and decided it was not so bad – not great like chocolate, but not bad.  We finally realized that when I put lemon juice on the broccoli, he was trying to explain that it STUNG his chin he just didn’t have the right word!  That is one of our great family jokes and one of his favorite stories that we love to remember and laugh about now! 

              My point is, some things just aren’t worth the fight, and can bring some humor into your lives.  I could have chosen to believe that he was being rigid and defiant and insisted he eat the broccoli because I am the mom and I said so, which would have made all of us miserable.  I knew that something real was happening for him even if I didn’t understand it, and I just let it be ok. 

              Take a step back; relax.  You are not going to fail your child if you loosen up a little bit and laugh at some of the craziness that goes on in your house.  Save the fight for another day; for something worth fighting over.  For today, see if you can choose laughter.


Pregnancy is a big deal!  I remember being so worried with my first pregnancy – was I eating the right things, was I getting enough exercise, should I be playing classical music next to my ever-growing belly?  I quit drinking any caffeine, which I have to say was not pleasant!  I tried to eat vegetables – and if you knew me you would know what a challenge that was!  I was afraid to swear anymore in case my baby could hear me and one of his first words would not be mommy, but something with 4 letters!  Let’s face it, we get a little crazy when we realize we are starting at ground zero growing a human being inside of us!

There is a lot of advice for your physical health during pregnancy, but not so much for your emotional health and that of your baby.  Here are a few suggestions for you to maintain or regain a sense of emotional well-being during your pregnancy.

o   Pick several times during the day to do some mindful breathing.  Take 4 deep breaths, counting to 4 each time you breathe in and count to 4 each time you exhale.  Do this when things are going well, which will make it easier to do when things are challenging.  Science shows that this kind of breathing has numerous benefits, one of which is helping us come back to our center.

o   When you begin to feel stressed, take a few seconds and remind yourself that you are safe, that you have shelter from the weather, that you have access to food and water, and that you are not under physical threat.  When you do this, it helps calm the part of your brain that goes into fight or flight mode, and then you have access to the calmer, more thoughtful, more compassionate part of your brain.  This way you are not as likely to get caught in panic, and you can think things through easier.

o   When you get stressed, depressed, anxious, angry, etc., start giving names to your feelings.  Just by naming what you are feeling you are helping yourself to calm.  Do not attach any judgment to the feelings, just recognize them by naming them, and perhaps whisper a soft “ok”.  You will be amazed how helpful it is to recognize and not reject what you are feeling.  Then your feelings don’t have to keep getting bigger in order to get noticed.

These may not seem like big, earth shattering ideas, and might even seem deceptively simple.  Don’t let that fool you.  These strategies are based on volumes of scientific research.  Sometimes the seemingly simple things are the most effective.  Try them, I would love to hear about your experience.