As we move through the holiday season, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about the value of making memories. With this in mind, our team wanted to share some fond family dinnertime memories.

Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: Most of my childhood memories focus around dinnertimes – maybe because I have always loved food – maybe because it was my big chance to talk and to be heard – or maybe it was the most likely time of day when my whole family would be together. The big memories I have are not from elaborate feasts or epic culinary adventures, but of simple dinners at the kitchen “bar” before my parents went out on a date. We would always get breakfast for dinner on these occasions and my Dad truly makes THE BEST pancakes! We would all sit side-by-side on our stools at the “bar” while my parents cooked and finished putting on ties and jewelry. I don’t remember the babysitter, or the activities of the evening – no one took pictures or brought home any souvenirs – the memory is from the glow of being in the same room together and KING syrup (you should try it!).

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:

Growing up, we lived about an 8-hour drive from both sides of our extended family. Since we weren’t always able to be with our relatives for the holidays we have often shared those events with friends and neighbors. Sometimes, your family is the one you make! Over the past decade our Christmas Eve tradition of homemade ravioli has evolved from a small dinner for four to a four-course meal for twenty-five. Ravioli Dinner is my favorite holiday! The most important part of the whole night is making sure that everyone can fit at one big table because that’s the fun of it; everyone being together! The night is full of delicious food, wonderful people, and a lot of loud laughter.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Growing up in a family run business gave me the opportunity to be a part of a blended family that exposed me to a wide range of cultures and experiences. As a child, I remember learning about the Feast of the Seven Fishes through the delicious Italian Christmas Eve dinners at Miss Carol’s house. The night was filled with joy, laughter, and love. I cherished this yearly tradition for our families to join together to celebrate and spread holiday cheer!


 

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, how can you make meals simple? How can you make the small times together into the biggest memories? Keep that in mind and feel free to share any special family dinner traditions you might have with our Facebook Group HERE.

That concludes our Annual November Dinner Challenge! Stay tuned for next year!

Be Wise!

 

It is the third week in our “Come to the Table” dinner challenge – and it is a “gimme” – because it is also Thanksgiving week! If you want to see what we’ve been up to this month, join our Facebook group here.

We have been talking about EATING and PLAYING, and this week our focus is on TALKING.  Families often have a tough time talking together, and it is no secret that dinner is a perfect time for families to connect.

So how about using this Thanksgiving dinner as a chance to have a great conversation together!

What are some things that your family members are thankful for? What are your family members’ hopes for the future? What is something that they want to set as an intention for themselves in 2019? If they could only eat one type of pie for the rest of their lives, which one would they pick? I would pick banana cream pie, personally.

To help get the ball rolling, and to keep the mood from turning to politics and religion (two of the top topics to argue about), we’ve shared a great printable of conversation starters for the dinner table. Print it and put it on the fridge to use both on Turkey Day, and throughout the year!

To you and yours, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Be Wise. 

 

Have you been participating in our “Come to the Table” dinner challenge? If you haven’t, and you want to, join our Facebook group HERE

I’ll be available to answer questions this week in the group and to share some insights on the challenge around getting all of your family folks around the table together to eat! It isn’t easy, but it IS simple. 

Simply look at your schedule, pop a frozen pizza in the oven and stare into each other’s eyes lovingly!

HAHA!

Ok, maybe not. But meals together, in fact, everything together should have an element of fun. So let’s figure out a way to make your meal together this week a fun experience for everyone!

Last week, we said “EAT”. This week, we say, “PLAY”. In fact, we might rename our challenge – EAT, PLAY, TALK! What do you think? Your parents may have told you never to play with your food – and we’re not talking about recreating a scene from Animal House! We’re talking about incorporating some simple games into the meal time experience – here are a few ideas (and special thanks to our friends at Harvard University for the suggestions) –

Roses & Thorns (all ages) 
Ask your kids to tell you about the rose (the best or most special part of their day), and the thorn (the most difficult part of their day). This helps avoid the “good” response to the question of “How was your day”.

Alphabet Game (ages 3-8) 
As a group, choose a category, such as animals, countries, singers, or “people our family knows.” One family member starts the game by naming a person/thing from that category that starts with the letter “A.” Then the next person names a person/thing that starts with the letter “B,” the next person finds something for the letter “C,” and so on.

List Game (ages 3-8) 
Think of 4 things that “belong” to something. For example, a banana, a pair of shoes, a Harry Potter book, and a jacket. Then have your family guess what these things belong to (answer: things in the back seat of my car). With little kids, you can just ask them outright for a list of things in a category (example: name three things you might find in the refrigerator).

Would You Rather (all ages)
Take turns asking “Would you rather….?” questions. You can either purchase a book of these questions, or make them up as a family. These are great ways to get to know how folks in your family think! And it can also be a pretty fun to see how people try to get out of either!

A few ideas to start: 

  • Would you rather be invisible or able to fly?
  • Would you rather sweat melted cheese or always smell like a skunk?
  • Would you rather be able to swim like a dolphin or run as fast as a cheetah?

Create a Story (all ages) 
One person starts a story with one sentence. They can use a traditional story format (“Once upon a time, there was a huge bear…”) or something completely original (“A woman carrying a large cake was walking down the street…”). Go around the table, and have each person add a sentence to the story.

Where in the World? (all ages) 
Imagine everyone at the table has the gift of teleportation, but it only lasts for 24 hours. Where in the world would you go? Would you bring anyone with you? How long would you stay? What would you do there?

Ask Your Kids (all ages) 
Your children are also likely to know a few games, either from school or playing with friends. Ask them if they have a game they’d like to try at the dinner table!

Would you hop on the FB group or hit “Reply” to this email and let us know what you did with your family! Extra credit for posting a picture or video of your family playing!

Remember – This week is about PLAY!  

Play and Be Wise! 

 

Since you are already a member of The Wise Family, you might already have seen this in our “Stay Tuned” section.

And we are SO EXCITED!

Get ready for our Annual Wise Family CHALLENGE called “Come to the Table – Family Dinner Challenge”.

Families in this challenge will find time for dinner together at the table, enjoy some good food and fun, and add tons of talking topics to their conversation recipe box!

Here’s what you’ll get out of the FREE Come to the Table Dinner Challenge this month – 

  • Strategies and time hacks to get your family sitting together for an evening meal
  • Kid-tested ideas for meals that everyone will enjoy
  • Links to scheduling and meal planning tools
  • Topics to talk about at the table that get everyone engaged
  • The joy of seeing your dream dinners together become a reality

The goal of The Wise Family “Come to the Table” dinner challenge is simple…EAT. The hard part is adding TOGETHER to the plans! Having a meal as a family has become more challenging than ever before for families.

Never fear, however! The Wise Family has some things figured out – and we’re here to get you all to the table – EATING TOGETHER! We want to encourage your family to plan ONE family dinner together each week for the next 3 weeks – and you already have a freebee in there if you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Dinner looks different for every family. Maybe you have never really eaten together, or most dinners are spent in the car running from soccer practice to piano lessons. Or maybe you have dinner together every night and your conversations have gotten routine, like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Whaw, Whaw, Whaw, Whaw”.

This might be the start of something new for you, so no matter what, we all begin at the beginning – one dinner and one conversation. You are all planning to eat anyway, right? Imagine the magic that could happen…

STEP 1: Take a look at your schedule this week. If it is mid-week or the weekend, take a look at the next 7 days and find one night that you know that everyone can be together for dinner and stay at the table for at least 30 minutes without having to run off to finish the science fair project. Mark that date on the calendar!

STEP 2: Pick something easy to prepare that everyone will eat. It might be a picnic dinner with take out Chinese or a candlelight supper of spaghetti and meatballs. It doesn’t matter. Just make it simple.

STEP 3: Plan some conversation starters (we’ll also share some later in the month). Open-ended questions (questions that require more than a “yes” “no” or “I don’t know”) are a good place to begin. “Tell me about something you learned today that we might not know.” “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” You get the idea.

STEP 4: Call everyone to the table! And give it a go!

Share your experiences with us, and in our Come to the Table Challenge Facebook group HERE.

You can even post a picture of your family eating together in the group!

We’ll be back next week with ideas for food and fun at the table! Meanwhile, Be Wise!

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family:

As I write this note to you, I am sitting on the couch with a bowl FULL of Reeces’s peanut butter cups! We did not have ONE trick or treater. What a bummer! I bought candy, lit candles, have the door open and someone on our street is playing spooky music. We set up the whole scene, and not one Harry Potter or Princess Leia in sight.

Reminds me of the nights that I worked my tush off to make a nice dinner, and everyone either ate and rushed off to a sports practice or event, or looked at the dinner and said ‘YUCK”!

Have you ever worked hard to make something special for your family, to then have it fizzle in your face? Well, Happy 1st Day of November – and the 1st day of our November Dinner Challenge!

As folks that work with families everyday, and who have families ourselves, we know what it is like to want the family to get together for a meal, or to have a tradition that inspires FAMILY SPIRIT!  So we created the FAMILY DINNER CHALLENGE to encourage and support you in your efforts to bring everyone to the table! Before we start the FAMILY SPIRIT cheer, let us share a few thoughts about the importance of rituals and traditions for your family.

And share this email with friends – or look for the FAMILY DINNER CHALLENGE info on Facebook and Instagram to share with other families.

WE GOT SPIRIT, YES WE DO, WE GOT SPIRIT, HOW ABOUT YOU? And lots of left over candy TOO!

 

Dr. Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Family rituals are a time to grow and bond as a family. Even as children become teens and teens become young adults it is important to keep these traditions. These rituals can be during the holidays or on a weekly or monthly basis. The fun thing about rituals is they can evolve to meet the needs of each generation while having the same impact on a family. Think of this set aside time as a way to connect with each other and to pass along traditions and the family’s culture that one day your teens or young adults will share with their family.

The wonderful thing about rituals or traditions is they can start at any time and with any event or activity. So if your family does not have one it is never too late to start one!

 

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Family rituals, or traditions, are simple- just something your family does together! With the various activities and commitments each family member has, rituals help to develop belonging and create connection with each member of the family. Kids thrive on routine so family rituals just take them one step further.

We don’t have to wait for a holiday to have a ritual and it doesn’t need to be something showy or expensive. If your family ritual is something simple and inexpensive it’s likely to be something everyone will look forward to and easy to do regularly. You might already have a family ritual that you don’t even consider a “ritual”. Rituals could be family movie night on Friday, pancake breakfast on Sunday, or a family bike ride every other weekend and each will be unique to the family. Whatever it is just make sure the whole family is involved and have fun!

 

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Routines and rituals are repeated patterns of behaviors. Some may happen naturally while others may be intentional. Routines provide order and predictability in an often frenetic world. It is important to teach a child flexibility in case the routine is disrupted for some reason or another, but it is equally important to work towards maintaining the routine. Routines serve as a way to help young children learn important life skills such as self-care (ex. brushing teeth at least two times daily) and time management (ex. setting aside time for daily tasks while still allowing time for relaxation/play).

Rituals often hold a more sentimental meaning. They express a sense of belonging and identity in a family unit. Example of rituals include but are not limited to cultural traditions, holiday celebrations, vacations, shared family mealtime, yearly seasonal activity such as apple picking. Both routines and rituals are important to the social, emotional and academic growth and development of children. But you don’t just have to take my word for it. A review of over 50 years of research on family routines and rituals identified improved marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships as benefits of routines and rituals.

Reference: “A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?,” Barbara H. Fiese, Thomas J. Tomcho, Michael Douglas, Kimberly Josephs, Scott Poltrock, and Tim Baker; Syracuse University; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Illustration: Keith Negley

This week, The Wise Family wanted to share some Wise Words from Glennon Doyle, author, activist, philanthropist and founder of Momastery.

It’s easier said than done to let your child face a challenge on their own but it’s our job to guide them and support them whether they succeed or fail. Life happens!

*****

“What if it has never been our job—or our right—to protect our children from every incoming bump and bruise? What if, instead, our obligation is to point them directly toward life’s inevitable trials and tribulations and say, ‘Honey, that challenge was made for you. It might hurt, but it will also nurture wisdom, courage, and character. I can see what you’re going through, and it’s big. But I can also see your strength, and that’s even bigger. This won’t be easy, but we can do hard things.”

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

Image (c) Getty Images


The Number #1 reason that kids and teens come to see us at The Wise Family is because they are experiencing anxiety – anxiety at home, at school, in social situations, taking the SAT, even out having a pizza with friends.

The ability to handle anxious feelings has become so difficult for kids and teens because it has become to easy to hide from them – avoid them – or soothe one’s self into feeling something else all together. This month we are launching two LIVE Teen Talk high school groups – one for girls on Mondays and one for boys on Thursdays. One of the primary goals of the groups is to help teens build the resilience they are so seriously lacking – that kind of mental toughness that contributes to strong decision making and confidence even when times are tough! And times are often tough when you are a teen.

The article attached gives you a bit more insight into why we are seeing such an increase in anxiety among kids and teens. Next week we will share with you some really helpful ways to do something about it!

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

 

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family:

If you are like most parents, you get frustrated with the lack of information relayed to you from your kids. Guess what? You are not alone there! Our team of therapists have put together some great suggestions on how to get your kids to tell you how their day was.

Check out the below tips from the Wise Ones here at The Wise Family.

 

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

Take a moment to imagine the following scene:

Child just getting home/picked up from school
Adult: “Hi sweetheart. How was your day at school?”
Child: :::Blank stare:::
Adult: “Did you have a good day? What did you learn today?”
Child: :::Still Nothing:::
Adult: “Are you okay?”
Child: “I’m fine!” :::Storms to room and shuts door firmly:::

This was probably not a difficult scene to imagine as it plays out daily across the country. Parents crave information on their children’s daily lives while kids crave independence and privacy. Additionally, when a child returns home from school it is important to remember they have just put in a full day of work. They are tired, just like we are after putting in a full day, and may want some time to decompress and relax. Too often, children get bombarded with questions and demands – “How are you?” “Do you have homework?”, “Don’t forget to hurry up and get ready for dance class!”

When your kiddo gets home (or when you do) let them know you are happy to see them. When conversation does occur be creative in your questions. One of my favorite lists came from an article I read recently (50 Fun Questions to Get Your Kid Talking). As the article states “Don’t worry if your child isn’t initially excited about answering your questions – and don’t rush him/her to answer or move to another one too quickly.”

If you have relayed that you are caring, interested, and available, you have succeeded in positively supporting your child.

Dr. Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

When attempting to communicate with your teen in a meaningful manner always keep in mind the importance of open ended questions. The closed ended questions such as “Did you have a good day at school?” can lead to an automatic yes or no. If your question starts with “What”, “How”, “When”, “Who”, or “Where” you are off to a good start.

Also keep the questions to a minimum and listen. While it may seem like questions are the only way to elicit information there are other avenues. Remember this is not an interrogation. Stay present and describe what you see in your teen’s body language and facial expressions. If your teen looks upset or happy share your visual observations with them. You will be surprised by their response even though technically a question has not been asked.

Finally, be sure to remain in the moment and remove any possible distractions when trying to communicate.

 

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: 

How was your day can be a tough question to answer, even for adults, but it’s also easy to answer with one word. Kids spend a large portion of their days at school and we don’t want to miss out on anything. So, as parents, how can you get your child tell you about their day in more than one word?

Try to focus on the things they may be most willing to share about school in order to get the conversation started. These questions could be something specific like what was the best game at recess today or broad like what was the most exciting part of your day. Instead of asking specific questions about their classmates or peers try questions like “did anyone make you laugh today?” or “who did you eat lunch with today?”.

Give your children a chance to reflect on how they did personally during the day with questions about how they may have helped someone or something they were proud of.

Use open-ended questions, get specific, and be creative!

 

Kelsey Yeager – Therapist for The Wise Family:

The end of the day is a rough time for everyone, including kids. I know I am not always the most talkative at the end of the day, but at the same time I want/expect my kids to be chatty about how their day was at school at the end of their day. “How was your day?” “What did you do?” questions flood most cars at pick up, mine included, when sometimes all kids need is a few minutes and a snack.

But once the hunger has subsided and they’ve had a brain break, how do you get kids to communicate with you as a parent?

Sometimes you just need a little something to get the conversation going. On iMom.com recently, I read a great list of ideas to creatively ask kids about their day. The list included questions that your kiddos most likely would not expect after school such as, “What do you look forward to seeing the most at school each day?”, “Who is the friendliest person in your class?”, and “Who is someone at school who needs a friend?”. The unexpected question gets kids to think differently and poses an open ended question, which can be the gateway into more about the day and how things are going.

Sometimes you just need a little something to get the conversation going. On iMom.com recently, I read a great list of ideas to creatively ask kids about their day. The list included questions that your kiddos most likely would not expect after school such as, “What do you look forward to seeing the most at school each day?”, “Who is the friendliest person in your class?”, and “Who is someone at school who needs a friend?”. The unexpected question gets kids to think differently and poses an open ended question, which can be the gateway into more about the day and how things are going.

Maybe you are not the person picking your child up from school or maybe your little one takes the bus home, the same is true if you have your catch up time at dinner or before bed. Another great way to get kids talking is by making it a game. I often use the “highs and lows” game, which is awesome at dinner time because it gets the whole family involved. Everyone (parents too) goes around the table and tells the best part of the day (high) and the worst/hardest part of the day (low). By having everyone participate in the game the questions are less of a “demand” and more of a conversation among the family.

Get the conversation started!

Since this is such a stressful time of year for a lot of kids with the start of a new school year, we wanted to focus again on how to manage worry and anxiety.

New environments, assignments, teachers, students etc. – the list goes on! A lot of “unknowns” can cause kids to think about the “what if instead of thinking about what is”.

Check out this video – with a catchy rap and a mindfulness technique to help calm nerves included! Watch and show your kids!

 

 

As parents we can’t always shield our youngsters from life’s worrisome moments, but we can offer helpful tips to help them manage worry and anxiety.

Be Wise!

Photo by Maria Elena Zuñiga on Unsplash


This is a time of year when lots of kids and teens come in expressing feelings of worry and anxiousness as the new school year begins. New teachers, new layout, new friends – not to mention old homework, old lunch menu and old bullies.

As parents, we wish we could shield our youngsters from life’s worrisome moments, but navigating anxiety is an essential life skill that will service them in the years to come. We wanted to share with you 5 phrases that might help your child/teen identify, accept, and work through anxious feelings and set them on the road to mastering BIG feelings!

1. “I love you. You are safe.”
Being told that you are safe by the person that you love the most in the world is a powerful affirmation. Remember, anxiety makes us feel as if our minds and bodies are in danger. Repeating that they are safe can soothe the nervous system.

2. “Let’s go play catch.”
Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American Psychologist, is best known for his research into something he calls “FLOW.” The idea behind his theory is that the nervous system can only process so much information at a time and repetitive tasks such as playing catch, kicking a soccer ball back and forth, or knitting actually trick the nervous system into focusing on the task rather than the stressor.

3. “How big is your worry? Let’s see if we can make it smaller.”
Quantifying anxiety in terms of size is much more effective for young children than a number scale. Figuring out the size of a worry can also help align the size of the reaction (which is sometimes a bit mismatched). A worry the size of a mouse can be put in an imaginary cage. A worry the size of a tree can be “chopped down” using your child’s imagination.

4. “You will not feel this way forever.”
It is so easy for kids, and ESPECIALLY teens, to think that anxiety will last, at its current level, for the rest of their lives. In reality, anxiety tends to be changeable. Reassuring your young person that their anxiety will fade helps remind them that they will feel normal again one day.

5. “Let’s count _______.”
This mindfulness technique requires no advance preparation. Counting the number of people wearing sneakers, the number of kids in the room, or closing your eyes and verbally recounting the layout of the space are all ways to bring the mind away from the ‘feeling center’ and back into the ‘thinking center’.

Be Wise!

 

 

Adapted from ideas shared by Go Zen at www.gozen.com.