Dr. Amy Fortney Parks was recently featured on The Rant with Baeth podcast! In her interview with host Baeth Davis, Dr. Parks talks about how to parent, your kid’s happiness, social media and much much more. With over 25 years experience working with children, adolescents and families as both an educator and psychologist, Dr. Parks sheds light on the link between happiness and social media, why parents are NOT responsible for their child’s happiness and how we all parent in different ways.

“What is it that you feel needs to happen for your family? What is that path that you want your family to be on?”

~Dr. Amy Fortney Parks


Tune into episode 38 Dr. Amy Fortney Parks –

Your Child’s Happiness is Not Your Job from the Rant with Baeth in Podcasts!




Until next week, Be Wise!

This week’s blog post brought to you by:
Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: 


Communicating with our children is an age old conflict of parenting. Parents want to know the details of their children’s lives to keep them safe and guide them through the world. However, as children grow and develop, they require privacy and independence. Further complicating things is the disconnect between generations. The new generation almost always thinks “They just don’t understand!” or “The world is so different from when my parents were kids.”

And, this generation isn’t wrong. I always hate to give away my age but I can tell you that I am a part of the last generation to grow up without the internet. I got my first email account in college and have been learning to navigate the digital world since. The children I work with on a daily basis, though, have never lived in a world without the internet, cell phones, Google, etc. I like to say that we are trying to teach them how to play on the playground, but their playground is nothing like the one we experienced. So, we do our best and hope and wish and search for ways to connect to our kids.

Even before I had my own children, I worked in education and interacted with children on a daily basis. I found that the younger kiddos (PreK and K) were easy to engage with and gave their love and trust freely. As kids got older, they became more reluctant to trust and connect. And then as they entered the “tween-ager” years it was extremely challenging to learn about not only their thoughts and feelings, but even simple facts about their day. I find myself constantly referring to and recommending the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk. Written by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish and originally published in 1980, this book remains relevant and helpful. It provides specific examples and exercises that you can practice (try with a friend first) to improve your communication skills with children.

Sometimes we don’t have time to read an entire book so I am also a fan of the following lists that can be printed out, posted, or saved to a phone, and quickly referenced. A quick Google search will yield an extensive list of “ways to ask your kids ‘how was school today’ without actually using those words. Some of my favorites include:

  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today?
  • If you were the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?

It is also fun to have a regular ritual, maybe at dinner or the car ride home, where everyone shares an “up” and a “down” – something they liked about the day and something less pleasant. Starting this early helps keep the momentum going into the teen years. Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to tell you everything. Remember, we are not their best friends. We are their parents. Encourage open conversation and be clear that you are there for them for better or worse. Show that you are willing to listen.

And don’t forget, when we truly listen, we must be silent. (Just move the letters around in listen and you can switch it to silent!)

Until next week, Be Wise!

Dr. Amy Fortney ParksOwner of The Wise Family: The word wonder has a few definitions. We tend to think about the verb form – “To desire or be curious to know something.” At The Wise Family, we talk about “wonder” in our four-part family exploration model – W- Wonder; I- Insight; S- Strategies; E- Expectations. There is another way to look at wonder, however. And that is the noun form – “A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

How can you find something WONDER-FUL today in your family? Let’s wonder about that, and more below –

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Parents want to know the details of their children’s lives to keep them safe and guide them through the world. However, as children grow and develop, they require privacy and independence. “Wondering” what is going on in their lives – and in their heads – can be a full-time job for a parent.

I have some tricks that I am sharing in next week’s blog, but one way of “wondering” that we use in my family is a fun dinnertime ritual. Rituals help bring stability and structure to anything! So maybe at dinner, or the car ride home, everyone shares an “up” and a “down” – something they liked about the day and something less pleasant. Starting this early helps keep the momentum going in the teen years. Or some families do “roses” and “thorns” – same concept, different words. And everyone shares so parents are part of the “wondering” too!

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  As teens become absorbed with technology more, it becomes challenging for parents to effectively communicate with them. Parents often feel the best way to know what is going on with their teen is to follow them on Instagram or Snap Chat, which often is a sacred territory for teens. It is important to remember teens are trying to find a balance between their need for independence and the support of parents.

Parents try to provide a safe, encouraging, and nonjudgmental space for dialogues to occur. Limit the number of questions as that often makes teens feel interrogated. Keep the questions open ended instead of closed to avoid the one word answers. Replace your extra questions with a reflection or summary of what your teen said. When all else fails, just listen because when your teen finally opens up they usually just need someone to listen and not fix.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  When parents are asked what they want most of their kids, the most common reply seems to be that they want their children to be happy. Many parents worry about their children being happy but how do we know if we don’t know what’s going on in their lives!

Parents want to know that their children are safe and sound while kids want to be independent and trusted. When a child does share about his or her day, parents often feel the need to be problem solvers, which to some kids feels like they are being judged. They want to feel that they are competent and able to find a solution on their own. Work on focusing more on listening, less on solutions, and be aware of body language. Even when we aren’t being vocal, we are communicating how we are feeling through shrugs, smiles, and sometimes even eye rolls. Silence often makes us uncomfortable but sometimes it’s hard to verbalize things.

Be patient and give children time rather than rushing to help them answer to avoid sitting in silence. The most important part is to just listen; reflect so they know you are hearing them and then let them talk more.

Kelsey Yeager – Counseling Intern for The Wise Family: Parents are deeply invested in the lives of their children. Sometimes, there is almost a craving for all the details of their lives. And for kids, it is important to know that someone is there and willing to listen.

One thing that parents can do with kids, starting from an early age, is create a special talk time. By giving children the gift of time and talking with them we instill in them the knowledge and belief behind the phrase, “you can talk to me about anything”. This special talk time is a time in which kids can ask questions and voice their opinions, their hopes and dreams, as well as the disappointments of the day, without fear of judgement. For some families this may be dinner together at night or once a week. For others it may be breakfast on Saturday morning. It could simply be the 10 minutes in the car on the way home from school or practice.

By starting this with your children when they are little they will have a foundation built for talking and with you. Having this foundation built will be so helpful as they grow older and the topics get more difficult.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Do you suffer from anxiety? Does your child? Partner? Exciting news! The Wise Family will be hosting a screening of the movie, ANGST, at First Baptist Church in Alexandria. ANGST is an IndieFlix Original documentary about anxiety. It’s a 55 minute film and virtual reality experience that explores anxiety, its causes, its effects and what we can do about it. The film includes interviews with kids, teens, experts and parents. The goal specifically is to help people identity and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help.  Appropriate for ages 10 and up.
The screening will take place on Tuesday, May 8th at First Baptist Church in Alexandria at 7pm.


Questions about a parenting concern?

We’d love to hear from you! Just reply to this email. We are here for you!

Be Wise!

This week The Wise Family clinical team helps explain Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short) and STRATEGIES to implement at every age. Read on to learn more!


Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: As the name indicates, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often referred to as CBT, looks at the way people think (cognitive) and act (behavior). Central to this practice is the belief that our thoughts impact our emotional and physical feelings and those drive our actions.

Many children and adults seeking therapy have gotten into an unhealthy pattern of cognitive distortions – thinking errors. There are many types of thinking errors. Depending on the book you reference, they may be called by different names. However, a thinking error occurs when something you are thinking does not match up with the actual reality of the situation. Here are just a few examples:

– Negative Glasses: This type of thinking filters out all of the positives and focuses only on the negatives. Ten good things could have happened throughout the day with one negative experience like a disappointing grade. This type of thinking can lead to another thinking error…overgeneralizing.

– Overgeneralizing: Where someone takes one event and applies it to everything. “I am bad at everything/” or “I am so dumb and will never learn!” are examples of overgeneralization.

– Predicting Failure is another type of faulty thinking where someone convinces themselves not to even attempt something because they “know” they will fail – “If I ask them to play with me they will certainly say no!”

– Mind Reading is another thinking error that I encounter with children all the time. “They were talking about me!” is a common sentence I hear in my work. In reality, the child has no idea if they were being talked about and are making guesses about other people’s perceptions.

To combat thinking errors, I like to challenge the thoughts and work to re-frame them with a more positive/realistic lens. One of my favorite tools to use when discussing thoughts with children of all ages is my thought bubble dry erase board. This double-sided board makes it easy for clients to display a thought, look at it, read it, examine it (with support), and then flip to the other side and re-frame that thought.

Changing harmful/hurtful thoughts into helpful thoughts takes practice and perseverance. Kids and adults need to be kind to themselves and be willing to learn from mistakes. Carol Dweck, known for her work/book Mindset talks, about “The Power of YET.” Everyone can continue to learn and grow. We might not have mastered a skill in the moment but that just means we can’t do it YET. CBT can help reshape thinking so if a child hasn’t overcome his or her thinking errors YET, there is still hope and success will come.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  CBT techniques help teens to recognize the vital role their thoughts play in their life experience. The negative and egocentric thinking patterns of teens combined with the developmental pressures can be a hinderance and a challenge for teens.

Teens tend to forget these damaging thought patterns are within their power. Educating teens on how their thoughts are affecting their emotions and behaviors is beneficial and empowering. Together we can support teens to develop healthier ways of thinking to achieve their desired outcomes. Let’s empower teens to have positive thoughts and positive results!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Using CBT interventions helps kids to understand that there is a connection between the way that they think and the things that they do, or their actions. CBT encourages kids to look at how their thoughts and feelings may lead to certain behaviors. Our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors all intersect!

When I start working with a new child we talk about the “toolbox” that we are going to build during our time together. Most of the tools in the CBT toolbox encourage kids to replace their negative thinking with positive, and usually more realistic, thoughts. While CBT is known as a “talk therapy” sometimes the talking part can be difficult for kids. While working on CBT tools, it’s helpful to make it into something the child may enjoy, like creating a story with alternative endings.

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family:  CBT is an umbrella term that represents many specific and general treatments for mental health concerns. A key feature is that CBT generally focuses on a specific set of symptoms or problems to improve, and it has been well-researched to treat many common childhood conditions, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety and OCD.

The website www.effectivechildtherapy.org profiles the evidence base for treating a variety of concerns, symptoms, and conditions, with many of the best-supported approaches based on CBT techniques. Some of these treatments are even “manualized,” meaning that there is a standard, consistent approach to the intervention that has been well-tested but still allows for individualized adjustments. For many concerns, this solid foundation of research means that there is a very good chance you and your child will see significant improvement in the issues of concern, often within just a few months, and learn helpful strategies that can be applied across many situations and problems.


Questions about the above topic or any other parenting concern?

We’d love to hear from you! Just reply to this email. We are here for you!

Be Wise!


Our very own Dr. Amy Fortney Parks participated in a Facebook Live yesterday with Eduardo Placer’s Fearless at 4. Check out their convo about fearless families, anxiety, school walk outs, talking less and listening more, suicide rate with teens, creating moments of consciousness and much more! It’s not about fixing our kids… it’s about growing! Tune in to learn more. Click the below image to access the video.

As always, contact us if have any questions on what was discussed. We also love hearing from you on if the information shared was helpful.

As always, Be Wise!

#ASKWISE – “My daughter has been waking up in the morning complaining of a stomach ache, and we can’t figure out what is going on. We don’t think it is physical because she eats fine, and has had a recent check up. Could it be something else? She seems overly worried about things lately, and now I am too!” ~Mom of 9-year-old daughter

Dear Mom – Being 9 years old is so hard (and being a worried mom of a 9-year-old is hard too). Moving into the middle elementary school years can add unexpected academic and social demands. Kids communicate their emotions in ways that sound like physical ailments, often because they don’t have the language to identify their feelings. This is called Emotional IQ, and it is just as developmental as regular IQ. The Mighty has a great video about this that might help explain…
Touch base with your child’s teacher, counselor, or a community resource to find out how to build a team to support your child’s emotional IQ! We have some other blogs about anxiety that might be interesting to you too, like –
Feel free to reach out to REPLY to this email if you have more questions!
Be Wise.

Understanding how your brain works – and the brain of your child – provides a great frame of reference for talking with your kids about self esteem and managing big feelings like anxiety, depression and fear.

The brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons. These cells have nerve endings called synapses and dendrites. Nerve endings release chemical and electrical signals to communicate with each other – kind of like the way that beach lifeguards signal each other to spread a message.

This brain communication forms “roads” in the brain called neuro-pathways and is the basis for how the brain works. When you first learn something, the “roads” are like dirt trails that get stronger – more like super highways – the more you think about or focus on that thing. This is how a habit is formed – and we call this brain training.

Our friends at www.self-esteem-experts.com share this example to illustrate this process:

“Learning to ride a bike – At first you must pay attention to stay balanced, keeping your eyes on the road, holding onto the handlebars and steering in your desired direction. Then the more you practice, the stronger your bicycle riding pathways become.

Eventually you are able to get on your bike and ride without thinking. You’re operating on automatic. A strong brain pathway has been created as though new brain software has been uploaded and is seamlessly operating in your mind.”

What does bike riding have to do with self-esteem, and responding to big emotions? The brain works in the same way to build a strong brain pathway to our thoughts about ourselves and the world around us, as it does for riding a bike. As our thoughts are formed from the messages we hear and believe from friends, coaches, teachers and parents, the thoughts become more and more automatic.

“People don’t like me.”

“I never say anything important.”

“Something is wrong with me.”

“I can’t handle this.”

These thoughts operate like a habit, and like any habit, the brain has to be RE-TRAINED to change the thoughts. When we change our thoughts, we can change our feelings and actions.

Stay tuned for strategies and activities for developing new brain pathways in your kids – and maybe yourself too!


Be Wise!


Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: The world is a confusing place – and there is a lot of sadness. There are often situations (and opportunities) when we want – or need – to talk to our kids about BIG sadness – depression. And you may be worried about saying the “right” thing. We tell parents at The Wise Family that just having an honest conversation with a child about BIG feelings might provide super support.

Here are 3 tips to help –

Use “kid friendly” words – Make sure that the words you are using with your kids are easy to understand. Words like “depression” might be too complex for young children, but may be appropriate for tweens and teens. We use “big feelings of sadness” to explain depression sometimes. Before you launch into any conversation, make sure your kids/teens understand the language you are using.

Be positive, and honest – When you are talking about depression, the goal is to support sharing and conversation so discuss the seriousness of this illness, along with the availability of support and care. If your child asks about something you can’t answer, tell your child that you don’t know, and make a list of questions to discuss with a mental health professional – and follow up.

Be a good listener – Allow your child/teen to talk openly and express opinions and thoughts. These might not align with yours, but avoid interrupting or punishing your child/teen for their feelings. All feelings are ok – it is the actions that we want to help guide.

And while talking about depression with your family is very important, it does not replace the need for a mental health professional in your life. Find someone that you can trust, that also connects well with kids. If you need help finding someone, reach out to us here.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Depression comes in many forms. A teen may act out, cry, get angry, or take risks. The variety of manifestions of depression can lead to the emotional needs being overlooked. Teens’ busy schedules, the need to strive for perfection, constant connection with electronics often prevents them from being fully aware of their emotions. Additionally, there is often a tendency to avoid difficult moments and feelings which only prolongs the suffering. Each moment in life is temporary. Mindful awareness of each emotion not only reduces the suffering but increases awareness of the positive. I encourage teens to designate time to spend quietly and alone with their thoughts and feelings so they can mindfully and non-judgmentally notice what they are experiencing each day. This mindful moment helps teens to slow down, recognize, communicate their needs, and proceed in a way that supports them in the moment. Let’s partner with teens to increase communication about feelings and help create these daily mindful moments!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Talking about how we feel is usually a difficult task for all of us but kids especially can have a difficult time communicating how they are feeling. We’ve had years of practice when it comes to our emotions which helps us pinpoint how we’re feeling and why that may be. Sometimes, with kids, these big emotions come with big reactions that cannot always be connected back to how they are feeling. While the kids are unsure about exactly how they are feeling, we as adults are trying to figure it out too! Sometimes people jump to assumptions about how someone may be feeling based on how they are expressing themselves but that isn’t always the case. Yelling doesn’t always mean we’re angry just like crying is not always due to sadness. In order to understand how we’re feeling we have to talk about it and embrace all of our feelings; not just the easy ones!
Sadness can be especially hard to talk about because it isn’t always something that is understood. Someone may be sad for a reason that someone else wouldn’t be able to relate to but that doesn’t make the sadness any less real. Acknowledge your child’s sadness for whatever it is! They may be sad about forgetting their favorite stuffed animal at home which may sound silly to us but is sincere for them. Reassure your child that sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences at some point in time, you can even share with them a time that you felt sad. This will help to normalize the feeling for the child and help them to become more comfortable with feeling sad. Don’t rush them out of their feelings but talk to them about what might help them feel better.

Kasey CainResident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: Depression is one of those terms that is used regularly. It is not uncommon during an average day in a school or office for me to hear someone say “I am so depressed!” As an adult, when we hear a child say this, it is difficult to know if the child is expressing a feeling of sadness in the moment, or a more recurring feeling that may be getting in the way of his or her life. Even as adults we often have difficulty understanding, expressing, and managing our feelings.

One of the first steps towards helping your child manage depression or other uncomfortable feelings is to be open with your feelings. Children watch all that we say and do. If we can learn to express our feelings in a healthy way or at least note when we realize we perhaps acted out, then children will model our behavior. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “bad feeling.” There are pleasant feelings that we like to have and others’ that are more uncomfortable. All feelings are natural and worth exploring and understanding.

Another step towards talking about sadness is to begin early and in “low threat” ways. The optimal time to talk to your child about being super sad is not when he or she is already sobbing. These conversation can happen any time. When reading a book, watching a movie – heck, even commercials can bring out strong emotions. Take any moment as an opportunity to learn about the complexity of feelings with your child. Expand their feelings vocabulary so your child understands that sad, lonely, gloomy, disappointed, and depressed are variances of similar feelings. And, remember, none of them are bad, because they can use these feelings to learn new, healthy coping mechanisms and increase their resilience. You will be surprised at how much you learn too!

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family:  One of the first steps to effectively managing depression in children and teens is better understanding how it is likely to present itself. Many adults assume that depression looks like the stereotypical episodes of obvious sadness, crying, not wanting to leave bed, etc. But in young people, depression is just as likely to appear as heightened irritability and “testiness”, a loss of interest or pleasure in things they used to enjoy, more negative ways of thinking and seeing the world, and/or physical symptoms like persistent changes in appetite, weight, or activity level.

These are often dismissed as your child being “difficult” or “just being a teen” but may mask deeper concerns. If you notice these signs, begin to gently ask more questions, making sure to avoid a judgmental or dismissive tone, and expect that your efforts may be rebuffed at first (or second or third…). A child dealing with depression is likely to think you will never understand or she is unworthy or unable to be helped. Gentle, supportive listening and persistence are key. While mild symptoms may improve with time, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, as depression is often chronic and recurrent. And indications that your child is having thoughts of death or self-harm should always be taken seriously, with a focus on ensuring safety.

Depression can seem scary and strange, but with some preparation and support from others, you and your child can weather the storm with effective help.

Be Wise!