Throughout the month of January, I have been thinking, writing and talking about the concept of change in families. Families come to me all the time to help them change – routines, behaviors, feelings…but change can be a scary word for many of us. I would rather approach this notion of change using the word SHIFT.

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Making a SHIFT in the way your family goes about the business of getting everyone off to school by looking at the routine and tweaking a few elements – like no TV/iPad in the morning to delay the process of teeth, clothes, breakfast.

Making a SHIFT in your response to your child’s frustrated LEGO-piece-throwing by making the suggestion, “Is there a way I can help you with this?” or “Sometimes when we take a break from a frustrating project, we come back to it with new ideas.”

Making a SHIFT in how we support the big feelings that our kids experience. When they expresses sadness and hurt, shift your approach by sitting quietly and holding them – without trying to fix it or solve it – just be together with your child.

Families don’t usually need “fixing” by seeking out big changes. You might just consider SHIFTING your approach…your perspective.

You might be surprised at the big changes that magically happen by just a little SHIFT.

What does your family need to SHIFT?  Email me below for more personal tips on how to make the perfect SHIFT for your family!

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Happy New Year! It’s the time of year when we all think about “New Year – New You” resolutions like get a new job, lose weight or start putting money in the college fund.

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I absolutely want to lose weight and know that the goal requires taking baby steps (I’ve already tried and failed at the all-or-nothing approach). I have committed to eating less bread and scheduling yoga once a week.

But I definitely don’t want a new job! I love being a psychologist and parent consultant AND I love being a parent even more! But it is never too late to take the baby steps necessary to resolve to DO a better job at being a parent! Here are 3 to consider:

1. Celebrate your child’s strengths – Often we focus on what our kids are doing wrong and trying to “fix” those things. Resolve to focus on what your kids do well – and right. Notice if they get shutterstock_164519552their buttons lined up, remember to play nicely with their sibling or share the X-box controller. Mention new vocabulary words they are using or how their handwriting has improved. Build up your child’s confidence and you will be amazed at the improvement in competence!

2. Praise your child for their efforts – It isn’t always the final result that matters but the hard work it takes to get there! Just look at any of the college football teams in this week’s bowl games and you’ll see a whole lot of effort – but only one team goes home with the trophy. Your kids won’t always go home with the trophy but encourage their efforts every day to get to the finish line. My favorite phrase to keep your kids motivated, “I love to watch you (fill in the blank).”

3. Hug your kids every day – This is self-explanatory but, I know there are times when we parents are too tired…too angry…too frustrated…too over-it-all to take the time to reconnect with our kids! Make the time – anytime – to hug your kids. They need to know that everyday you love them and care about them – even when their behavior is insane!

Resolve to make 2014 a “New Year – New You” year! Stay tuned for more ways to be the best parent you can be – and some exciting programs coming in 2014 to work with me on becoming a WISE family!

shutterstock_89242903If you celebrate Christmas – or if you are like my family and celebrate a little of everything, including 3 birthdays – you are likely in the throws of shopping, wrapping, baking, card-writing, list-making, elf-moving, school program-attending and all of the many joys of the holidays! Next week you will be awakened at 5:45 AM to the ultimate joy of your children jumping on your bed, begging you to get up so they can open their presents. When I was little, we were made to stay in our rooms until the unbearable hour of 8:00 AM before we could come down the stairs to see the results of Santa’s nighttime escapades! That particular rule has never worked for my kids…

But in the midst of the sticky, candy-cane fingers, battery supply checks and endless questions of, “Is Christmas tomorrow?” consider taking a minute to remember the present. Not the presentS but the present – as in RIGHT NOW! While your kids are tearing open the LEGO sets and rainbow looms, here are a few tips to keep you in the moment –

· Notice your own feelings. Are you irritated that your kids are already fighting over who gets to play the new X-Box One? Is your mother eagerly reminding you that your children have too many toys? When people frustrate or aggravate us, it’s often because we are focused on what we want, how we think we should be treated or how we want everyone else to act. Try to focus your feelings on what the people around you need or want – in the moment.

· Let go of the desire to control. Did the beautiful holiday morning brunch go untouched and unappreciated? Do you hate tinsel but your entire family insists that your tree be completely covered in thick clumps of it (this is particularly personal to me)? Stress comes because we want to control how things go – which we really can’t. Practice not resisting what happens but being happy no matter what happens – in the moment.

· Appreciate the little things. Are you sitting anxiously, poised to pick up the scraps of wrapping shutterstock_166870709paper before your 1-year-old eats it? We get anxious because we wish things were different sometimes. But things are pretty amazing just as they are, without being different. Turn your attention to the joy in your child’s face, the warmth of your fireplace, the beauty of holiday lights – and even the squabbling video gamers and the tinsel!

Appreciate the moment – and stay in it, because it will disappear like the twinkle in Santa’s eye!

My blogs are typically planned in advance, thoughtful essays written about topics related to children and teens like handling melt downs, understanding your child’s temperament and discipline strategies when things get hairy.

But this week, I felt an urgent calling to shine a light on a different kind of topic related to children and teens. Suicide. My close-knit community – where I was born, raised and now raise my own family – has suffered too many recent suicide attempts and completed suicides in recent weeks.

Really, one is too many. Many families, school employees and community leaders are feeling raw, ragged…raging.

These events – some secret and some well-publicized – in my community have rocked families to the core – and I hope they rock our mental health system both locally and nationally too!

shutterstock_79104379How do we deal with a lack of available resources, the disappearing ability to direct your own child’s care rather than trust the state’s temporary detention system, limited access to support for older teens who can’t be picked up and carried to a hospital and the reliance on alcohol and drugs to self-medicate when affordable mental health supports run out?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between the ages of 10 and 19, but how can we support the teens we know? How can we help teens see that there is help all around them – especially when it feels like there isn’t a person in sight who could possibly relate to how they are feeling?

We’re talking about this at my house – a lot. We’re talking about it at our schools – a lot. Talking about feelings…stress…trauma…heartbreak…cutting…suicide – these conversations DO NOT CAUSE kids to get more stressed out – they DO NOT CAUSE kids to self-injure or commit suicide. They open a dialog about LIFE.

Ask your kids about LIFE tonight – be willing to listen to the good…the bad…and the ugly without a running commentary. Let’s make the tragedies around us serve a higher purpose – Be WISE.

Please take a moment to read through these tips for parents and educators on how to help prevent youth suicide.  http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/suicideprevention.aspx

Hello!  I would like to introduce myself…

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I am the Technical Virtual Assistant for WISE Mind Solutions, and I am human. Smile  If you recently received a post about a young man I called “M”, then I apologize.  I accidentally posted a personal post to the WISE blog in error.  I have since deleted the post, and promise to be more careful when posting next time.  Thank you for understanding that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

On a better note, I am so excited about working as the Tech VA for WISE Mind Solutions.  I truly believe in the vision Amy Fortney Parks has for her business and I am honored to be a part of the WISE team!  I am so privileged to work by her side (virtually from GA) and to learn from her as I begin my own parenting journey.

From all of us at WISE, thank you for reading and supporting all the WISE changes happening at WISE Mind Solutions!

~Courtney

It happened! I had been expecting it. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen before now! I get it…it’s darker in the morning…it’s a Monday…it’s raining…the planets aren’t properly aligned to make for optimal waking up conditions!

My kids slept through their alarms today and were “alarmed” by me saying, “Hey, it’s 8:00 AM! You’re going to miss the bus!” But did they hit snooze too many times because they are tired from a weekend of texting their friends and doing craft projects? Or might we be running headlong into the early signs of ‘Unmotivated Mondays’?

If you are noticing days when your child doesn’t seem bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the breakfast table, maybe motivation is waning in your household as well.

As a parent, how you react and deal with the issue can either help or hurt the situation. There are three very common mistakes that parents make when they are in this predicament:

1) Chalking it up to laziness: Many parents struggle to understand why their child isn’t doing well in school and some of the behavior that goes along with it might look a lot like laziness, but it’s probably due to something else.

78369430a) Kids that struggle to pay attention at school may also struggle when it comes to homework and organization. Get involved and help your child get organized. Plan ahead, schedule time for studying and for play, or consider hiring a tutor. The #1 tool for organization – a dry-erase board!

b) The problems they’re having in school might be an indication of an underlying learning problem. If they’ve struggled with reading and writing and seem to have issues with procrastination and work avoidance, it may be a sign that they have a learning issue.

c) Be cautious about the pressure that you put on your child to be successful in school. That’s not to say that school success is not important, but putting a lot of pressure on them will not help them succeed. Let them know that you support them in doing their personal best, and that can be defined differently for every kid.

2) Paying them off: Giving monetary rewards for good grades may be a tempting way to get them motivated, but by doing this, you’re putting more value on the final product (the grade) than you are in the process (learning the material). You are in essence sending the message that the grades matter, but the learning doesn’t. Instead, reward effort by noticing times when your child is working hard and shutterstock_154262117demonstrating persistence on a task.

3) Punishing: Punishing bad grades is also a tempting option – taking away the cell phone or removing screen time privileges. Although technology can get in the way of learning, encourage your child to use their devices to put in some study time. Positive consequences for good study behavior will keep your child motivated at school and prevent creating a world full of restrictions at home.

Want to know more about strategies for kid success at school and at home? Subscribe to our monthly blog and look for upcoming opportunities to get some live – and personal – consulting as you work to grow a WISE family!

School is back in session for kids all over the land and that means it’s time to get out of slow-paced summertime schedules and back into the hustle and bustle of the school year. shutterstock_152714603

Are you dreading the early morning struggles with your kids? Anticipating the fight to get them out of bed and out the door?  Oh, and they have to eat breakfast…brush their teeth, if you’re lucky…and get into a yes-I-am-ready-to-learn frame of mind?

The way you start the day with your kids can make the difference for them between a chaotic, stress-filled day and an open, relaxed, learning-filled experience.  A smiling start might perk your mood up too!

Consider the following tips to help make your morning madness a bit closer to sane –

  • What you do the night before is almost more important than the morning routine. The next morning’s outfit can be chosen and laid out. Lunches can be made and packed. Backpacks should be packed up and left by the door. Bath/shower time can also be done at night. On your end, breakfast can be prepared and ready to go.  Or consider creating a breakfast shelf in the pantry and fridge that is easy to reach and has lots of healthy choices for junior to pick from for a make-it-yourself morning meal!
  • Make sure that your child is not only getting to bed on time, but is sleeping enough hours. Kids need much more sleep than adults do, and lack of sleep has a number of negative effects beyond having a sleepy kid in the morning. Young kids between 3 and 12 should be sleeping between 10 and 12 hours a night and adolescents should be sleeping 8-9 hours a night.  If your ‘mini-me’ seems out of sorts, do a bit of investigating and make whatever changes, routine or environmental, might be necessary to ensure solid shut eye.
  • Your sleep is important as well. Yes, I know…who has time…blah, blah, blah…I have 4 kids – I get it!  But as the say in the Federal Aviation Administration – “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.”  Try to go to bed a little earlier, get a good night’s sleep and wake up earlier than your kids. Once they’re waking up and ready to go, you can be there to make sure their morning goes smoothly.
  • Create a routine. Children respond well to set schedules.  Also, think about building routines that encourage increasing levels of independence and self-sufficiency.  Competence builds confidence – you can Tweet that!  From the moment their alarm goes off, help them set a routine that will keep them on schedule throughout the morning until they enter those hallowed halls of learning.  They’ll thank you one-day…maybe.

Be wise.

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My newly-minted High School Senior son announced this morning that there was very little chance he would get into the college of MY choice. I am so disappointed. Although the dire prediction is merely a speculation, I had already imagined the move-in day, the fall football tailgates, the University of bumper sticker and the bragging rights among the moms group! I secretly already bought myself a University Mom mug!

It is hard to reconcile the dream and the reality. Even before our children are born we visualize their interests, their favorite hobbies and their future professional baseball careers. Or aren’t those our visions? Haven’t you ever wished your daughter would become the first doctor in the family or your son a Hollywood movie producer? The first time my kids made scrambled eggs I felt feverish with the idea that they might become the next Food Network stars! But, it isn’t my life – or my dream – that will become their reality. Their reality, and their success in this challenging world, is up to them – with lots of our support, of course.

Even when we have a dream, though, there are a lot of factors that can get in the way of realizing them – time constraints, financial concerns, course corrections along the way. I think that my kids are great and I know, deep in my heart, that they will be amazingly successful contributors to society. But I want everyone to see that! And no one more than their teachers – those fearless leaders who shape their learning, along with their hopes and dreams.

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As we approach a new school year, take a few moments to share the special gifts that your child has to share with her class. Tell your son’s teacher what really turns him on and tunes him in at school. Help your children to craft their own hopes into reality. We can certainly dream with them, but not for them! I’m prepared to return the mug…or not!

Click on the link below to print out a template that you can complete about your child to make introductions to the teacher easy.

shutterstock_82057315The tradition of story telling is a time-honored way of sharing experiences.  Story telling through journaling is a terrific way for children to document their summer activities and develop their  ideas and opinions in the process.

As the summer draws to a close, now is the perfect opportunity to write about and reflect on memories and experiences.  No fancy equipment required..no internet connection..no controller and no headphones necessary for this task!  After your child finishes a writing prompt, encourage them to present a “reading” to the family – costumes and props are welcome!  You will not only be making writing fun but you will be growing WISE family memories at the same time! 

 The journal prompts below are a great way to get started.

1. What was your favorite summer day? Write about what happened.

2. What is your favorite summer tradition? How did you experience that tradition this year?

3. How will you celebrate the end of summer?

4. What ten words express how you feel about this summer? Why did you pick each word?

5. With whom did you spend most of your time this summer? What was your favorite memory with that person?

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6. Did you make any new friends this summer? Who are they and what did you do with them this summer?

7. What would you do if you had one more month of summer?

8. What did you do for the first week of summer?

9. How was your summer different than you expected at the beginning?

10. How was your summer similar to what you expected at the beginning?

11. Did you go on a vacation? If so, where did you go and what did you do?

12. How do you feel about school starting? What are you looking forward to? What are you not looking forward to?

13. Did you feel bored this summer? What did you do to cure your boredom?

14. What is your favorite month of summer? Why?

15. Make a plan for the last week of summer. Give yourself an activity for each day and then write about it at the end of each day.

Summer is a time for kids to take a break from the demands of school, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t grow and learn during the summer months. Summer is the perfect time for kids to get involved in different kinds of activities where they will develop new skills and have new, fun experiences.  A little planning can get them out of the house more, too, so you don’t have hermits hiding out in the basement playing Mindcraft all afternoon!shutterstock_78120964

Arts & Crafts Projects – Arts and crafts projects are a great way for kids to spend the summer months. Through arts and crafts they will learn self-expression and have the opportunity to share their ideas and creativity. These kinds of projects can be done at home or in the community through art classes, community murals, and day camps.  Check out BabbaBox – www.babbaco.com which offers a cool monthly art project in a box!  Handy!

Volunteer Work – This is a wonderful way for children to learn more about the world around them and begin to understand the different issues facing their community. Parents should get involved by helping to process the feelings, questions, and reflections that the kids experienced as a result of their volunteer work.  Contact your local American Red Cross, the hospital, animal shelter or local churches for programs and projects.

Team Building Activities – Many team building activities and exercises can be found at day camps or summer programs. Kids will learn to work together toward a shared goal and therefore develop their communication and compromising skills. These experiences will help your child increase confidence, understanding and self-esteem.  Camps, schools and recreation centers offer gobs of opportunity to build teamwork and leadership skills!shutterstock_76099252

Reading Together – Reading has so many wonderful benefits fro kids and reading TOGETHER is a great way to spend quality time together!  Take a look at some of the great reading lists put together by parents online or start a book club with neighbors!  Also, join the campaign to read just 15 minutes per day with your child!  WISE is an affiliate and we want to get you involved too – go to www.readaloud.org and sign up.  You’ll get a free Jumpstart reading kit!

Journaling – Journaling is another creative way that kids can document their experiences over the summer months. It’s a great way for kids to reflect and share about their lives, experiences and opinions. Each of the above summer activities can be enriched by including journaling throughout the activity.  Watch for GREAT journaling ideas in our August blog!

And if you don’t feel like doing anything but sitting in the backyard and eating a grape-flavored popsicle, DO IT!  Summertime with kids is precious…and fleeting!  Enjoy it while it is here!