Inspiring Words

Here I am sharing some thoughts from my experiences in my clinical and forensic practice, as well as through my role as a mother of three children, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

Ways of Staying Connected With Your Teen or Tween

It is not unusual for teenagers and their parents to have periods of difficulty getting along, when they previously enjoyed positive relationships. While nothing may have been “wrong” with the parent or child, they were having trouble adjusting to the natural, normal, and healthy changes that children go through as they work toward the developmental task of independence during adolescence. As I often address this issue in my work with families, I am interested in what can be done to protect the parent-child relationship. In my research as well as in my forensic and clinical practice, three findings came up repeatedly: 1) The relationship that a teen has with a parent can serve as a protective factor and help them to make healthy decisions, particularly in risky situations, 2) parents sometimes need help in connecting with their children during these changes, 3) ongoing communication is extremely important to maintain a positive relationship. This article focuses on ways of fostering the two factors that help tweens and teens thrive: the parent-child relationship, and communication.

Make a point to connect every day (or almost every day)

Families are so busy these days. With sports, Scouts, employment, homework, PTA meetings, etc. it is difficult to find the time to spend together. A solution is to the make the most of what is already occurring in our lives.

  • Make the most of family dinners. Studies have demonstrated a correlation between family dinners and mental and physical health in children, improved social skills, improved grades, and the avoidance of engaging in teen risky behavior, including substance use. Here are some suggestions for making the most of family dinners.
  • Get the most out of travel time. You could make a family rule that electronics and ear phones are not used for short car rides. These are the times when we can learn about our children’s days and their thoughts. Also, just being together, even in the absence of words, is an opportunity to connect. These are missed opportunities when our children are plugged in and tuned out on their devices. To get the conversation going, you could purchase a conversation starter to keep in the car, such as “Tabletopics Family: Questions to Start Great Conversations, which can be purchased on Amazon.
  • Limit screen time and time on devices. Screen time, whether it is on a computer, smartphone, or tablet, can be addictive. For both parents and adults, this can not only take away from family time, but studies have also linked screen time with depression and anxiety. Resist the temptation to whip out the device during down time. We have small periods of down time during the day, and we have become so accustomed to being entertained and processing information that we feel the need to fill a void when nothing is happening. We need that down time to unwind, think, process emotions and thoughts, or just be. We need that down time to connect with our children or just BE together in the absence of distraction.
  • Check-in with your child 5-10 minutes every day at bedtime. Bedtime is a great time to check-in with our children because it is a quiet time without distractions. This could be a time to talk about your child’s day, or just lay down next to your child and be together. At bedtime, children are tired, their defenses are down, and they are more emotionally vulnerable. This can be a time for poignant connecting on an emotional level.


Methods of bonding and strengthening the relationship

 In order to keep relationships strong, we need to pay attention to them and spend time together. Here are some suggestions for connecting.

  • Find a shared interest. Activities bring people together, and keep them together. There may be times when it feels awkward to just “hang out” with your teen, and finding a shared interest gives you something to do together. This could involve signing up for a class together, or engaging in an activity in the home or outside together. Having a shared interest or activity provides you and your child with an opportunity to connect for a lifetime. (Cook, bake, craft, bike, walk, ski, etc.).
  • Make mother and child bracelets. Visit a local craft store and buy elastic and glass beads in a variety of colors. The mother and child each make a bracelet for each other. Each color bead on the bracelet represents a quality in the mother or daughter that is appreciated, a memory, or favorite activity. For example, purple could represent, “I love when we walk together”, pink could represent, “I love you”. Each color and related sentiment is then written down on a card and given to the other person along with the bracelet.
  • Play board/card games. Pictionary, Taboo, and Apples to Apples are some great family games.
  • Give to others. This could be volunteering together at a soup kitchen or food pantry, or working together to collect donations for a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, or children in foster care.
  • Start or continue a family ritual. Read more about the importance of family rituals at:


Use humor.Humor simply makes life more enjoyable, makes problems feel less daunting, and is another way to connect. So watch comedies together, purchase a joke book, or take out the old Mad Libs!


Show love. Find verbal and non-verbal ways of communicating your love to your child. Here are some suggestions.


Communication.Ongoing communication is so important. When you keep the lines of communication open for the small stuff and really pay attention to your child, your child is more likely to come to you with the big stuff.

  • Keep a Mother/Child Journal. This journal is for mother and child to write back and forth to each other. Sometimes it is easier to write something than to say it, and this could help get the conversation going. Some ideas include: sneak the notebook under your child’s pillow and write a little love note, leave the notebook out with a drawing for your child for when he/she wakes up, for mother and child to let the other know that they want to start a difficult conversation, to apologize and then start a conversation, to write down a worry, and/or write your hopes for your relationship.
  • Ask interesting questions! Would you like to hear more than a one word answer from your child about his or her school day? To help get the conversation going, make your questions interesting, silly, and fun! Here are a few suggestions for when your child comes home from school. You could write these down on slips of paper and put them in a jar, and then take one or two out a day!


The importance of physical touch.

As your child becomes a tween/teen, there is less physical affection than the preschool years! Your daughter may not be eagerly holding your hand like she did when she was four years old. Your son may not want to cuddle like he enjoyed when he was younger. Your child is not sitting on your lap, and you no longer have a person attached to your hip! This is all part of normal development. However, as humans, we still have a need for physical affection with our loved ones. Physical affection provides a connection, and this can be particularly useful when the words are not there. There may be times when your teen/tween comes home from school, seems upset, and does not want to talk about it. There may be times when you want to express your love for your child, but the words do not come easily. These are times when physical affection can go a long way. Yet as children get older, they become less comfortable asking for the physical affection from parents that can be so comforting. And parents need the affection too! We all need physical affection in varying degrees, and sometimes it is hard for both children and adults to ask for it. Making and using a “Hug Jar” can make it fun. Here are some suggestions to write down on a piece of paper and put into a “hug jar”. Make a point to pull one out a day.

Here is a great article if you are interested in reading more about the power of physical touch


Make a point to talk about difficult topics.

Teens these days are faced with more issues and stressors than ever. In order to best help them, it is important to do regular “check-ins” to see how things are going, particularly about the use of social media. Studies show that the greatest protection against the potential harmful effects of social media is open communication with a parent (rather than parental controls or tracking systems). Talk about difficult topics on a regular basis. This makes the situation less uncomfortable when your child has an issue that they would like to discuss. So talk about friendships, bullying, social media, sex, substance use. These topics are difficult to bring up. Be brave!  They are important!


Allow privacy.

Your child likely has an increased need for privacy and personal space. Allow that, while at the same time, being careful for withdrawal. It is important for children to know that they have private physical space and belongings. So if your daughter has her door closed, knock before entering. If she has a private journal, do not read it. At the same time, monitor the amount of time that your child spends alone in his/her bedroom, as withdrawing and isolation are not the same thing as allowing privacy, and if left unchecked, can be harmful.


Foster independence and choices.

Resist the temptation to comment on choice of clothes or music. Resist commenting on his/her appearance. As long as your child is not engaging in dangerous behavior, or if you do not have a concern about a related mental health concern, resist the temptation to comment as your child tries out new interests and styles.


Get adequate sleep

Teens need about nine or more hours of sleep in order to function at their optimal levels, and hardly any teens are receiving this much sleep. Adequate sleep is so important to function at school and in all of their interests. Lack of adequate sleep contributes to irritability, anxiety, and depression.


Protect your child from social media

  • It is so important to protect our children from the potential harmful impact of social media. Social media use is related to anxiety/stress, pressure to be perfect, feeling left out, feeling not good enough, distraction from school work and responsibilities, and missing out on the “good stuff” in life. One study found that 92% of teenagers went on-line daily, and 25% reported being on-line almost constantly. Teens experience various kinds of “digital distress”, including impersonation, public shaming, mean and harassing personal attacks, breaking and entering, pressure to comply, smothering, and lurking (Pew Research Center Cyberbullying 2010: What the Research Tells Us, by Amanda Lambert).
  • Develop a contract for the use of social media
  • Check in daily with your child regarding social media use and the impact on him/her
  • Stress the importance of in-person human interactions


Express gratitude and appreciation.

When I ran the MotherDaughter Connection, we began every session with an exercise in gratitude. Each mother and daughter thought about one aspect of their mother or daughter for which they are grateful, or an aspect of the mother/daughter relationship for which they grateful. Then they privately shared with each other. This is one way to help foster the mother-child bond.

  • It is also important to express appreciation. Yes, your son is SUPPOSED to do her homework. Yes, your daughter is SUPPOSED to take out the trash. Yes, your children are SUPPOSED to put away their laundry. Being thanked and shown appreciation, even for the expected, can help strengthen a relationship.
  • Appreciation and gratitude go a long way. Not only do they create a positive feeling in the moment, but they helps to nurture a relationship. They serve as a buffer in times of conflict by creating a sense of closeness and deeper connection. We behave our best and treat people nicely when we feel an emotional connection with them. Expressing gratitude for the person or the relationship can help foster that connection. Test it out today. What might you take for granted and not express thanks for? What small act can you express appreciation and thanks for today within your family? Take a moment to think about it, and then make a point to express it.


Help manage feelings.

  • Sometimes your daughter’s emotions may be running so high, that the best thing to do in the moment is to let her take a break from the conversation. You may feel calm and able to communicate clearly, but she may not be able to do so. Trying to communicate with someone under those circumstances may do more damage than good. Give your daughter some cooling off time, while communicating to her that she is not off the hook. Make a plan to talk later. You can also be proactive and be mindful of the times when your daughter may be too exhausted to discuss a meaningful issue, and avoid bringing up difficult topics during those times.
  • Sometimes the tween/teen behaviors and emotions can feel so out of control to your son that he says things he regrets, and behaves in ways that cause him to experience guilt and shame. When you may be feeling the most frustrated with his behavior is when he needs to feel your love the most. Hisown behavior may be causing him to dislike himself and feel unlovable, and he needs you to show him that he is loved.
  • Set the example. Emotions feed off of emotions, and emotions are running high during the tween/teen years. This is completely normal! The trick is to stay calm. Guaranteed, if you react, your child will only meet that level, and then some! This is your opportunity to teach her to remain calm when trying to get her point across. Be mindful of your attitude and tone. Eventually, she will recognize the discrepancy between your calmness and her lack of calmness, and she will slowly begin to match your level.
  • Here are some more suggestions for getting through times of high emotion and/or conflict.


Have your child use an alarm clock 

  • Your child’s independence is budding. Responsibility is increasing. It is developmentally appropriate for your child to set his or her own alarm clock to get up in the morning by the time he/she enters middle school.
  • If your child has difficulty waking in the morning, or is not in the best of moods, the use of an alarm clock has the added benefit of your child not becoming angry with YOU for waking him or her. When that happens on a repeated daily basis, that can be damaging to the relationship.


Expect unpredictability and change!

During the teen and tween years, children are discovering themselves. They are discovering their interests, and testing things out on a daily basis. This is normal and healthy. If you expect it, you may be less surprised by it, and less likely to comment on it. Give your child the time and space to explore without verbal or non-verbal judgment.


Avoid criticism.

The quickest way to destroy a relationship is to criticize. This is not to say that you cannot address your child’s grades if they are not up to ability, or address any other concerns. However, it can be done without using words that are perceived as critical. Remember that how you speak to your children becomes their inner voice, a favorite quote of mine from Peggy O’Mara. If you would like to read a great article on the subtleties of critical words, read this.

And after that, here are some suggestions for positive words of encouragement:


Nip disrespectful behavior in the bud.

Nothing can be more damaging to a relationship than disrespectful behavior. Ever hear the saying, “We teach people how to treat us”? Well, it is true, and there will be times when you need to teach your son/daughter that disrespect will not be tolerated. Everyone has his or her own perception and definition of what constitutes disrespectful behavior. If it feels disrespectful to you, do not let it go. Stop the conversation, point out the behavior and how it made you feel, and firmly tell your son/daughter that disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated. This is so important, because once you allow it, it will very likely happen again, and over time, it can intensify.


Don’t take things personally.

Your child is developing new interests of his/her own, and this may include a new interest that does not have anything to do with you anymore! It may also interfere with a time when you are used to being together. It is normal and healthy for children to be focused on peer relationships and spending time with friends. Try not to take her interest in other things as rejection. Once we begin to take things personally, we feel hurt. In return, as parents, we may consciously or unconsciously pull back and create more space in the relationship than is healthy. A result is that we may be emotionally unavailable to our children when they need it the most. Remember that during times of difficulty and when she may seem to be rejecting you, she needs her mother more than ever, not less.


Develop your own interests.

As your child is developing his own interests separate from you, this can be a time for you to develop your own interests. Maybe take that photography or pottery class that you’ve been interested in. Get back in to a hobby or craft that has been neglected. Join a book club or walking group. If you live in the area and would like to join my weekly women’s walking group, please sign up through my website to learn of the day and location of our walks.


Share ideas with a trusted friend or professional.

  • Regularly check in with a trusted friend who has children of similar ages. While not violating your child’s privacy, you can discuss general parenting issues and learn that you are not alone in the challenges of parenting a teen or tween. Make a point to spend time with a friend who leaves you feeling good and uplifted after spending time together, and not one who leaves you questioning yourself or feeling “less than”.
  • Check in with a professional. Mental health professionals are available for time-limited parent consultation. You do not need to make a commitment to long-term psychotherapy or have a mental health problem in order to seek the support and guidance of a mental health professional. We all need support in parenting, and sometimes a neutral person who is not a family member or friend can be most helpful.

2019 Schedule of Speaking Engagements, Presentations, Workshops, Author Talks, Book Signings

January 22, 7PM, Gratitude Workshop, Perfect Harmony Yoga, Califon, NJ 07830

January 31, 10AM, Gratitude Workshop, Perfect Harmony Yoga, Califon, NJ 07830

February 4, 7PM, Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship, Washington Township Public Library, 37 East Springtown Road, Long Valley, NJ  07853

February 5, 7PM, Invited Author Talk with Memoir Writing Group, Chester, NJ 07930

February 26, 7PM, Finding Joy and Cultivating Happiness, for Garden State Social held at Racks Valley Boutique, Long Valley, NJ  07853

March 20, Book Launch, Peacock Proud Press, Facebook Live 12:00 EST

April 3, 9:45 Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives, Chatham pod of Believe, Inspire, Grow, 460 Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928

April 13, 2-5PM, Book Launch Party, The Bernardsville Library, Anderson Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924

April 18, 7PM, Book Presentation and Book Signing, Washington Township Public Library, 37 East Springtown Road, Long Valley, NJ 07853

April 23, 7:00PM, Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives, Perfect Harmony Yoga, Long Valley, NJ

April 24, 6:30PM, Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives, Private Women’s Group, Morris Plains, NJ

April 25, 6:30PM, Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives, Imaginations, an International Boutique, 44 Main Street, Chester, NJ  07930

April 30, 3:30PM, Teachable Moments in Business, Hunterdon Chamber Radio with Vicki Lynne Morgan

May 2, 6:30PM, Gratitude Workshop, Hackettstown Public Library, 110 Church Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840

May 7, 3:30PM, SuperPower Mommas Interview, guest on Laura Greco’s The Art of Soulful Parenting podcast

May 7, 7:30PM, Celebrating Mother-Daughter Relationships, guest on Irene Weingber’s Grief and Rebirth podcast

May 9, 7PM, Author Talk and Book Signing, Chester Public Library, 250 West Main Street, Chester, NJ 07930

May 11, 1-2:30PM, Gratitude Workshop, Bee You Yoga and Wellness, 3 Middlebury Road, Randolph, NJ  07869

May 14, 6:30PM, Private Book Club Discussion, Livingston, NJ

May 18, 10-11AM, Gratitude Workshop, Women’s Wellness New Jersey, (Midwives of NJ Classroom), Rt. 46, Hackettstown, NJ 07840

May 21, 6:30PM, Private Book Club Discussion, Chatham, NJ 07928

May 24, 8:30AM, Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship, Dutchess Day School, Millville, NY 12545

May 28, 7PM, Book Discussion, Washington Township Public Library, 37 East Springtown Road, Long Valley, NJ 07853

May 30, 7PM, Harnessing the Power of the Law of Attraction, Scooch A Mi Boutique, 17 N. Passaic Ave, Chatham, NJ 07928

June 6, 3-7 PM, Book Signing, The Market, East Mill Road, Long Valley, 07853

June 7, 11:30AM-2PM, Tour Taste Talk to benefit Diva For A Day, Featured Author, Basking Ridge, Far Hills, Warren, NJ

June 12, 6:30PM, Author Talk and Book Signing, Mendham Borough Public Library, 10 Hilltop Road, Mendham, NJ 07945

June 18, 9:30AM-2:00PM, Relax, Rejuvenate, Rejoice – A Mini-Retreat for Women, Long Valley, NJ 07853

July 8, 6-7PM, Suzane Northrup Blog Talk Radio

July 10, 10AM, Happy to Help, radio show of Nicole Smith

July 12, 12:00, Gratitude Workshop, The Lodge at Arrowhead, Arrowhead Lake, PA

July 12, 5-7PM, Gratitude Book and Bracelet Event, Journey’s Day Spa, 1930 Rt. 940, Pocono Pines, PA 18350

July 15, 7PM, Private Book Club, Warwick, NY

July 16, 9:30AM-3:30PM, Relax, Rejuvenate, Rejoice – A Day Retreat for Women, Long Valley, NJ 07853

July 19, 9:30AM-2:00PM, Mother-Daughter Retreat – A Special Day for Daughters Leaving for College and Their Mothers, Long Valley, NJ 07853

July 26, Relax, Rejuvenate, Rejoice – A Day Retreat for Women in the Pocono Mountains, Pocono Lake, PA

September 13, 10AM-12, Lady Boss Book Club, The Book House, Millburn, NJ

September 21, 10-11AM, Finding Joy and Cultivating Happiness, Part I, Women’s Wellness New Jersey, (Midwives of NJ Classroom), Rt. 46, Hackettstown, NJ 07840

September 21, World Gratitude Summit, an on-line summit of world experts in research and practice related to gratitude for World Gratitude Day

November 4, 7PM, Gratitude Workshop: Harnessing the Power of Gratitude to Heal and Grow, Livingston Public Library, 10 Robert H. Harp Drive, Livingston, NJ 07039

May 16, 10-11AM, Finding Joy and Cultivating Happiness, Part II, Women’s Wellness New Jersey, (Midwives of NJ Classroom), Rt. 46, Hackettstown, NJ 07840

Not Caring What Others Think of You = Pure Freedom

I recently finished my second book, which is about finding joy and cultivating happiness in everyday living. My whole life, people have commented that I am a happy person, and I have often been asked what I do to be so happy. Then when I share my ideas with friends or therapy clients, the response has often been, “Well that’s easy for you. You’re a happy person!” But the truth is, I am just like everybody else, and I work at it. I suppose I am blessed to have learned some techniques in early childhood that helped me. Also, being a psychologist certainly helps, as I need to stay on top of research and best practices to be of service to my clients.


So I sat down and thought about what exactly it is that I do to be “happy”. But I want to caution the pursuit of “happiness”. Happiness is an elusive state. And how do we know when we have achieved it anyway? I prefer to think of it as finding joy, or living your most fulfilling life, even on the worst of days.


I came up with 35 different things that I do. Some are thoughts, some are behaviors, some are simple, and some are more involved. My editor may condense them so that there are fewer chapters, but for now, that’s where it’s at. Thirty-five things that I practice to live my best life. I then did some research on each of the 35 ideas, just to make sure it was not just me and anecdotal, and that I could back up my ideas with some research in psychology.


In this article, I want to talk about not caring what other people think as it relates to happiness in life. I love the quote, “What people think of you is not your business.” Deepak Chopra


Oooh, and this one, “Let them judge you. Let them misunderstand you. Let them gossip about you. Their opinions aren’t your problem. You stay kind, committed to love, and free in your authenticity. No matter what they do or say, don’t you dare doubt your worth or the beauty of your truth. Just keep on shining like you do.” Scott Stabile


My father was the perfect example of not caring what people think. And he was the kindest man I have ever known. He used to ski with a multi-colored clown wig. Why? It made him happy. He used to jog at my high school track while school was in session and punch the air like Rocky Balboa. Why? Because it made him happy. He did not care what anyone thought of him. This embarrassed me when I was younger. As I got older, I came to appreciate this as pure freedom. But I was not able to achieve this “not caring thing” until my late 40s. I suppose not caring what others think is a wonderful benefit of aging!

Not caring about what people think of you does not mean not caring about people! It simply means that you do not let others’ opinions affect your self-worth. And this goes for positive statements as well. Yes, it is nice to receive compliments and praise, but do not connect this to your self-worth. Because it changes. If you attach your self-worth to what others think, then once they change their positive opinion, your self-worth goes down. You need to be in control of your own self-worth, and part of that involves accepting and appreciating compliments and praise, but not tying it to your self-worth.


In my 17 years of private practice, I have interviewed 3,500 people who have experienced significant trauma through my contract with the State of NJ. I have had the privilege of hearing about their intimate thoughts and feelings. A common theme is that children and adults of all ages are pained by what they believe to be the negative opinions of others. This is so sad, and so unnecessary, yet so difficult to change. Difficult, but not impossible.


So let’s work on making it possible. A necessary step is to not take things personally. To grasp this, you need to understand that other people’s actions are not about you. It is all about them and their past hurts, disappointments, relationships. This is much easier said than done, and I highly recommend reading the chapter, “Don’t Take Things Personally” in “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.


When someone who knows you well insults you and your feelings are hurt, let those hurt feeling be a trigger to remind yourself, “Do not take this personally, smart self. This is about her, not me. This is about the way she sees the world, not me. This is her problem, not mine.”


Remember that judgmental people are not happy with themselves. Think about it. People who are happy with themselves and content with their lives want to lift other people up. Not criticize, bring them down, or try to make them feel badly about themselves.


Sometimes caring what others think is tied to being a judgmental person. In other words, you may think that others are judging you because that is what you do to others. So in your quest to not care what others think, it would also be helpful to examine your tendency to judge others.


Be honest with yourself. Do you have a tendency to judge others? You will be a happier person if you gain awareness of this and stop. Your judgment serves no purpose. You are likely to have difficulty not caring what others think if you continue to judge others. You unwittingly hurt yourself. Thoughts have energy, and when you judge with negativity, you attract more negativity into your life. You will see more and more of what you do not like in others, and this will not feel good. Also, when you negatively judge others, it is often related to feeling threatened by how your perceive yourself. So instead, look inward. What is your inclination to judge someone revealing about yourself? When you can learn to accept and embrace yourself as you are and increase self-love, you will likely decrease your judgment toward others. And the more you are able to decrease your judgment of others, the more you are able to move toward not caring what others think of you.


Here is a quick summary of some helpful steps toward reaching your goal of not caring what others think:


  1. Set your intention of the day. Explicitly tell yourself that your goal of the day is to not care what others think. Sounds corny, but when we set our intentions of the day, it helps keep them front and center.
  2. Keep a visual reminder. Use an inspirational quote on your phone. Use a photo that represents not caring what others think. I keep a picture of my father skiing in his clown wig in my wallet as my daily reminder. While I feel that I have finally achieved this, it is always possible to regress. I need this reminder.
  3. Examine your tendency to judge others. You will have an easier time not caring what others think if you are able to minimize your judgement of others. But awareness needs to come first, so be honest with yourself and takes steps to minimize your judgment. You will benefit from doing so.
  4. Part of not caring what others think involves not taking things personally. Read “The Four Agreements” for some wisdom in this area. It’s a tough one! But necessary.
  5. Appreciate others’ kind words, but be mindful not to attach this to your self-worth.
  6. Love yourself. Know your self-worth. Be impervious to the opinions of others that do not serve to help you learn and grow.

Do what makes your soul happy without giving a thought to what anyone thinks of you!

In addition to keeping a photo of my father in the clown wig in my wallet, I wear my Do What Makes Your Soul Happy Bracelet as a wearable reminder!

Parent-Child Bonding Activity

activity - framed love letters

Here is a suggestion for a parent-child bonding activity. I realized as I was working in my home office yesterday that one of my most treasured items is a framed letter that my father wrote me in 1984 when I was a teenager. The letter is about love and independence, and allowing me the freedom to be the teenager I was becoming. I thought that these days with computers, our children do not receive many handwritten letters from us. I leave my children handwritten sticky notes around the house, but this is not the same as a love letter that they can keep and frame, and treasure forever as I have with the one my father gave me.

So I thought that this would be a nice activity to share with my children, and to incorporate into a session of The MotherDaughter Connection, a group that I used to facilitate for girls in grades 5-9 with their mothers.

Here are some questions that can help you brainstorm some poignant sentiments to include in your letter. You can also make this a family activity, with your child making one for you as well.

Questions for parent to consider in letter to child:

  1. How did you feel the day your child came in to your life? If you were pregnant with him/her, how did you feel during the pregnancy? If he/she was adopted, how did you feel during the adoption period and anticipation of him/her becoming part of your family?
  2. What makes your child unique? What are his/her special talents, personality characteristics?
  3. What are your hopes for your child’s future?
  4. What is a special day that you shared that you will always remember?
  5. What is a daily or weekly activity that means so much to you?
  6. What little “quirk” of your child do you love?
  7. How would you describe your love and care for your child?

Questions for child to consider in letter to parent:

  1. What makes your mother/father unique? What are his/her special talents, personality characteristics?
  2. What does he/she do for you that makes you feel loved? Special?
  3. What parenting responsibility does he/she do for you that you might forget to thank him/her for?
  4. What are your hopes for your future relationship with your father/mother?
  5. What is a special day that you shared that you will always remember?
  6. What is a daily or weekly activity that you do together means so much to you?
  7. What little “quirk” of your father/mother do you love?
  8. How would you describe your love for your father/mother?

I loved this activity because not only did we share a special bonding activity together, but I love the idea that my children will have something special from me in my handwriting that they can keep through high school, college, their first apartment, and when they become parents.

Mental Health Goal Setting for 2019

When setting goals for 2019, don’t forget about your emotional and mental health! Make your/your family members’ mental health a priority. Set some concrete goals where your whole family can benefit. Here are six simple ideas:

  1. Less technology and social media…. Studies demonstrate a correlation between depression and the amount of time that teens (and adults!) spend on social media. Keep personal devices out of bedrooms, off the dinner table, and avoid use in the morning before school/work.  Here are some additional suggestions regarding limiting screen time.
  2. Be still. Sit in a comfy chair and just breathe for five or ten minutes. Clear your head of your thoughts, particularly negative thoughts and to-do lists. Bring your focus back to your breath. This may feel funny at first and take some practice, but stick with it. The benefits are less stress and anxiety, and less emotional reactivity. And when you’ve mastered just breathing and clearing your mind of your thoughts, practice visualizing what you would like for your day, what you would like for your life. Then envision yourself already having it. If you would like some guidance and convincing regarding this powerful exercise for every day living, read “Into the Magic Shop” by James Doty.
  3. Get outside, and better yet, with others! Research demonstrated that walks in nature with others were associated with decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, and an overall enhanced sense of well-being. Here is a relevant study –
  4. Express appreciation every day. This can be formally, through a Gratitude Journal, or simply by telling others that you appreciate them, and what you appreciate about them. One study found that a simple way to improve a relationship was to express appreciation for that person.  Here is an article about expressing appreciation in a relationship and another article about ways of practicing gratitude
  5. More family dinners. Studies demonstrate that children who have regular family dinners have improved mental health and overall well-being (they also have improved grades and make better decisions regarding risky behavior).  Here are some additional suggestions regarding making the most of family dinners.
  6. Don’t be afraid to seek professional support!  A recent study found that one in five children has or has had a debilitating mental health disorder.  But you/your child do not need to have a mental health “problem” to seek support and advice.  Just like we take our children for annual physical check-ups, mental health check-ups and check-ins are helpful as well, and sometimes can make all the difference in the world in a child’s overall sense of well-being.

Coping With Depression

So many people are struggling with sad/depressed mood, feelings of hopeless, lack of motivation, feelings of unworthiness, and loneliness. In my private practice, I have had the privilege of helping people in a private, comfortable space. I wanted to share some suggestions from research and practice in psychology related to coping skills for depression.  While these suggestions do not cure depression, research has demonstrated that they are effective in elevating mood.

Any time you need a mood boost, try one of these things:

  1. Spend a time in gratitude and think about one person, object, relationship, or experience for which you are grateful. Research demonstrates that practicing gratitude not only helps elevate mood in the moment by focusing on what is GOOD and what is going RIGHT, but when practiced regularly, it has long-term positive effects and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety. One study found that after just 21 days, people who were diagnosed with clinical depression reported significant elevations in their mood when using a gratitude journal. But two things need to happen. First, what you write down needs to be specific. In other words, instead of writing, “I am grateful for my friend”, write, “I am grateful for my friend because she is a wonderful listener. Second, write something different every day. This helps you retrain your brain by scanning the environment to see the good. This is the purpose of my Gratitude Bracelet. When you purchase that bracelet, it comes with a free 21 day Gratitude Journal with writing prompts.
  2. Think about one of your favorite experiences, remembering it in as much detail as possible, drawing upon all of your senses. Did you know that the brain cannot distinguish the difference between living an event and remembering an event??? How cool is that? That is why this is so powerful. The same neurotransmitters fire in your brain, resulting in elevated mood.
  3. Think about one person you can reach out to today to say thank you, give a compliment, or say, “I am thinking about you.” Make a phone call, send a text, write and email, or mail a card or letter. This is important because we are social beings, and social connectedness helps to foster happiness and fulfillment in life.
  4. Exercise. This is probably the most effective way of elevating mood. There are countless studies demonstrating the proven mental health benefits of exercise. Find something you enjoy doing, and make the time in your day to do it. The simplest is walking. For an instant mood boost, go for a walk in nature, and better yet, with a friend. Studies demonstrate that walking in nature with others is associated with less perceived stress and improved overall emotional well-being. What do you like to do? Walk, run, bike, hike, stretch, swim, yoga, spinning, dance? Find a group – Facebook, Meet Up, etc. Put it on your calendar and keep it like it is an appointment.
  5. Do not compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to zap your happiness. You may be so happy with your belongings, your achievements, your successes, and as soon as you compare yourself to someone you perceive as having/being/doing more, your joy is zapped. In an instant. Just like that. Gone. Remember the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It is SO true. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself and your own goals. Remember that if you have a tendency to compare yourself to others, social media exacerbates this. Pay attention to how you feel after being on social media. Most people feel better when they limit their usage.
  6. Hope. When all else fails, hope. And there will be days when hope is all you have left. Hope for better days ahead, hope for less emotional or physical pain, hope after lost love. The healing power of hope cannot be underestimated. I love the saying, “When the world says, ‘Give up’, Hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’”

I have designed a special bracelet for coping with depression. It comes in an organza pouch, with the first three of these suggestions listed on the inspirational/instructional enclosed card.

If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health support, here are some resources:

Please feel free to share with anyone you know who could use this information.

Mental health matters.


Resilience Is The New Happiness

I love it when my inbox is filled with interesting psychological research.  It fuels my quest for knowledge in how I can best help my therapy clients, and it also provides me with unique and valuable information for my mental health bracelet designs.

I read this great article about how “resilience in the new happiness”.  The concept is that in order for us to be happy, we first must be strong.  We need to be able to pick ourselves up when we fall, and detach ourselves from sadness when we fail.  And the best part – resilience is a skill.  It is not some quality that is reserved for a select few.  Everyone can build up resilience skills, like a muscle, at any age. And it is well worth putting in the effort. Simply put, resilience can help us heal ourselves.

Here are some areas that you can work on in order to build up your resilience.  Let each of the blue beads be a reminder to focus on these daily.

  1. Boundaries.  Be mindful of how much you allow problems in one area of your life to affect other areas of your life.  Learn to set boundaries and avoid “spillover”.
  2. Self-Talk.  Pay attention to what thoughts are running through your head.  How to you talk to yourself?  When you catch yourself having negative thoughts, work on turning them into positive thoughts.  Use meditation or other relaxation strategies to help quiet the “chatter”, “static”, or “noise” going on in your head. If you’d like some help with this, here is an article I wrote on helping you identify what “cognitive distortion” you are using, and then applying “the fix”.
  3. Locus of control.  Remember that you are in control of your own thoughts and behavior.  The more you believe that you can effect change, the more you will be engaged in purposeful behavior to bounce back and improve a negative situation.
  4. Compassion and empathy.  We feel good when we help others, and building connections helps us build our own social networks.  A strong social support network is important to the resilient person, and the resilient person knows how to draw upon that support when needed.
  5. Stress Management.  Engage in whatever activity helps you relax and de-stress.  Yoga, meditation, hiking, deep breathing, listening to music, running, or spending time with your partner, family, pet, and/or friends.
  6. Gratitude.  Practicing gratitude on a daily basis will help you build resilience.  You then will not get caught up in the things that are going wrong, and rather be better able to celebrate the things that are going well. If you would like to learn some creative and fun ways to incorporate gratitude into your life, feel free to come to one of my upcoming workshops on fostering gratitude.

Here is the link for the Resilience is the New Happiness Bracelet

Here is a link to browse other mental health bracelets

And here is a link to browse other bracelets for inspiration, encouragement, and support

Speaking Engagements Fall 2018


Please join me at one of these upcoming “feel good” workshops in northern New Jersey! Contact me if you would like me to bring a workshop to your community group, business group, group of friends, etc.

September 24th 7PM  “Fostering Gratitude“, Chester Public Library, 250 West Main Street, Chester, NJ 07930; register at

September 26th noon “Finding Joy and Cultivating Happiness in Every Day Living,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

October 9th “Fostering Gratitude“, Sisters in Entrepreneurship (members only presentation)

October 17th noon “Resilience is the New Happiness: Methods of Building Resilience Based on Research in Psychology,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

November 1st 9:30AM “Fostering Gratitude“, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Bernardsville pod, California Closets, 9 Olcott Square, Bernardsville, NJ 07924

November 7th noon “Fostering Gratitude,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

November 10th 1PM “Fostering Gratitude,” Journey’s Day Spa, 1930 Rt. 940, Pocono Pines, PA 18350

November 12 7PM “Fostering Gratitude“, Washington Township Public Library, 37 East Springtown Road, Long Valley, NJ 07853; register at (sign up not available yet)

November 14 9:30AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives”, Believe, Inspire, Grow, South Orange/Maplewood Pod, Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street, South Orange, NJ 07079

November 28 10:30AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives”, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Morristown Pod, Avalon Wellness Center, 25 Lindsey Drive, Morristown, NJ 07960

December 6th noon “Mindfulness Workshop: Beyond Meditation – Creative Exercises for You and Your Family,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

December 13 10AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives“, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Basking Ridge Pod, St. Mark’s Church, 140 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

First meeting of Believe, Inspire, Grow is free. Contact me if you would like to be my guest!



Ten Practical Suggestions for Parents of Kindergarteners or Children Who Are Experiencing Some Anxiety Returning to School

Starting school at summer’s end can be both exciting, and a bit scary, particularly for those starting Kindergarten. Children are leaving behind comfort and familiarity of home, and entering new territory. While they may be developmentally ready and prepared with all necessary school supplies, it is not uncommon for children to experience uncertainty and anxiety. Here are some tips for parents in assisting their children with the transition.

  1. Likely, some of the anxiety that your child is experiencing is related to being separated from YOU. Home is comfortable. Home is familiar. Home is loving. It is natural for children, including older children, to experience some anxiety upon separation, especially after spending so much time with family over the summer. You can help her with this concern by acknowledging it and not minimizing it. Assure her that you will see her at the end of the school day or when you get home, and remind her of what great things are in store once she gets home. Often, having something to look forward to can help a child get through the day. Some other ideas for helping with the separation include drawing a heart on her palm in marker, so that she can look at the heart and feel your love when she is missing you. You can also read “The Kissing Hand” and kiss each other’s palms. Then when she is missing you during the day, she can place her palm to her cheek and feel your love. Another idea is to have matching parent-child bracelets. The idea is that she knows that you will be wearing your bracelet and thinking about her, and she will be wearing her bracelet and feel close to you, fostering a sense of connection despite the separation, helping her to get through her day. Here is a link to purchase a set:
  2. Whether your child is entering Kindergarten for the first time, or returning to elementary school, it is likely that some of your child’s worries are social worries. Questions may be running through your child’s mind, such as “Who am I going to eat lunch with?” “Will I see any of my old friends?” “Will the other kids like me?” “What if I have nothing to say?” Help your child to identify and verbalize these concerns. Your child may also be comforted in knowing that other children have these same concerns. Also, if your child is feeling shy and/or does not feel that she has something to contribute to a conversation, remind her that a simple smile and eye contact go a long way. You could also encourage her to ask a question to demonstrate interest. Many schools have “walk-throughs”, “meet the teacher day”, or ice cream socials before the first day of school. Participating in these can also help alleviate your child’s anxiety.
  3. Help your child to anticipate changes. School transitions are filled with changes. Your child will likely experiences changes such as different friends, increased responsibilities, and new interests. While this is positive and part of growth, your child may feel some uneasiness, especially if many changes are happening all at once. Your child is more likely to be accepting of these changes if he has an understanding that these changes are natural and healthy, even if they feel uncomfortable at times. Keep the lines of communication open, and check in with him about these issues.
  4. Resist the temptation to solve your child’s problems. It is natural to want to help your child out when he encounters problems at school, whether they be social or academic. It may seem like it is not a big deal to solve a small problem your child is having, but it is these very problems that are small that are the practice for the bigger problems. Solving small problems for your child deprives him of the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and to gain confidence from success. Instead of stepping in and solving the problem for your child, be a sounding board for him. Talk about possible solutions and outcomes, and then encourage him to take the necessary steps. (Of course step in if a problem becomes too big for him to handle on his own).
  5. Identify a trusted adult in the school setting. This could be a special teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator. Help your child to identify who this person is, and how to access this person during the school day.
  6. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to proper functioning, including academic, emotional, and social functioning. Limit screen time before bed, and keep electronics out of your child’s bedroom. Studies show that when devices are left in bedrooms, children check them in the middle of the night if they wake up, and this affects both quality and quantity of sleep. Most children need more sleep than they are getting.
  7. Show confidence. Remember the quote by Peggy O’Mara – “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Your child is more likely to believe in herself when you show that you believe in her, and when you use words that support that. Here is a link to some encouraging words to use with children.
  8. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Help your child anticipate what is needed for the next day, and complete as much as possible in the evening for a smoother morning. Encourage your child to pick out her outfit the night before, make sure she knows where her shoes are, and have lunch ready. Get up earlier than you think is necessary. Your child will have a much smoother start of the school day when the morning is not rushed and chaotic.
  9. Positive affirmations. Studies demonstrate that positive affirmations help improve mood, increase confidence, and achieve goals. Keep affirmations written down on pieces of paper in your child’s bedroom. Keep affirmations in the present tense, not something that your child wants to achieve in the future. For example, instead of “I will make friends”, the affirmation should be “I make friends easily.” Positive affirmations are so important because they help children maintain positive thoughts and create a positive belief system, which serves as the foundation for their lives (adults too)! Here is a link to positive affirmations for teens and one for younger children
  10. Love. Show love. Talk love. In any way you can, show love for your child. Surprise your child with a special note. Sneak a love note in your child’s lunch or school folder. Or leave it on your child’s pillow. Yep, even for your teenager. Especially your teenager. Here is a link to some simple things to do today and every day to show love for your child.