Couples Communication Tips

One of the biggest complaints I hear from couples is that the communication in their relationship is in dire need of fixing. I am often told from my couples that it seems as if their partner no longer “gets them” and they feel as if daily arguments have become the new norm that they cannot figure out how to overcome. These couples come to therapy desperately seeking more effective ways to resolve conflict and reconnect with their partner. Whether it is miscommunication, lack of communication, or simply not understanding how to talk about the “tough stuff” in the relationship, practicing the following couples communication guidelines can drastically change and improve the interactions with your spouse or partner.

Timing is everything when discussing difficult issues

 While this is not new, couples often overlook this crucial detail in their communication dynamic.

  • While it may seem difficult, giving one another some space to calm down, regroup, and return to the conversation at a later point in time is beneficial when discussing “hot” or difficult issues.  I tell my couples that if they feel they are ramping up and losing their temper, call for a break, walk away, and come back at a designated time.
  • I recommend that couples take no longer than 24 hours to return from their break.
  • The partner who called the time-out must be the one to re-initiate the conversation.
  • The partner who did not ask for a break must respect the other partner’s wish to step away, knowing that if the conversation continues in a heated moment, their communication will only deteriorate more rapidly and most likely cause more damage.
  • Regularly scheduled check-in (at least once each week) can also be a great way to structure more difficult issues and allow some space and time before discussing them.

Feelings First

When feelings aren’t addressed first, couples communication can suffer. It is imperative to:

  • understand your significant other’s feelings
  • validate their feelings
  • utilize active listening skills
  • Go one step further than simply saying “I understand.”
  • Be specific as to how you understand their feelings. If you have felt a similar way or have had a similar experience, you can relay your understanding and care for your partner’s feelings.  Saying something like, “I completely understand feeling unappreciated by my boss at work and I never want to make you feel that way in our relationship,” can demonstrate that feelings are heard and understood.

When both parties feel that they are heard and their feelings are tended to, much of the tension can be defused and resolution can be achieved more effectively.

Pay Attention to Your Tone and Language

A conversation can drastically change if the tone of your voice is unpleasant.  The tone of voice you choose can either communicate care and concern, or it can communicate resentment and bitterness.  So often couples communication is derailed because the “tone” of the conversation is negative.  Negative tone causes important messages to slip through the cracks and leads to misinterpretation of information.

The language you choose to use is just as important as using a calm tone of voice. I recommend eliminating these three communication styles from your interactions with your partner. Ditch:

  • All name calling from your vocabulary with one another
  • Any language that belittles or undermines your partner.
  • Yelling and screaming as a means to get your point across.

Sticking to these three rules of tone and language promotes understanding and decreases distress and defensiveness. This might be difficult to do in the heat of the moment, which is why it is so important to time your conversations at appropriate times.

Communication is More than Words

Communicating your love and care through your actions is vital and is just as important as the words you choose in your relationship.  While communicating in a calm and open manner during difficult times is extremely important, so is showing your love on a regular basis.

  • Give your partner small gestures to demonstrate that you notice and appreciate them. Perhaps a note in your partner’s lunch, a meaningful playlist of your favorite songs, planning a date, or tackling a household task that they have wanted to accomplish.
  • Be specific in your compliments to your partner. Let them know what specifically you love about them: their enthusiasm, their thoughtfulness, their charisma; it will communicate that you are invested in them and in your relationship!
  • Learn about your own and your partner’s love languages and demonstrate your love how your partner feels loved and ask for what you need.


Remember, your nonverbal communication is just as vital as the verbal.  Actions often speak louder than words.


The Custody Agreement: 4 Tips to Make Co-Parenting Easier

Where am I sleeping tonight? Whose picking me up from practice? You’re ruining my life! Do these sound familiar to you? If you are a parent in the middle of a custody agreement or divorce, chances are you have heard these statements before. As a therapist, I have guided parents through this difficult time and made it a priority to focus on the kids’ needs first.


Kids Needs

Although it may be a very emotional and stressful time for a parent, children have described feeling scared, confused, sad, angry, and guilty when their parents tell them that they are getting a divorce. Developmentally, kids are not able to process the information the same as adults. At the beginning, it is important to remember to eliminate any negative feelings towards the other parent when talking to your children. Children are a product of both parents and have described feeling personally attacked when parents talk bad about one another. The goal during this time is to make the difficult transition as smooth as possible and cause the least amount of harm to your child. Below are 4 tips to make co-parenting easier during both custody agreements and the divorce.


Open and Honest Communication

When you tell your children that you are getting a divorce, it is important to have open and honest communication with them. Questions about why it is happening and statements about trying again are common phrases that are used. As parents, sit down prior to talking with your children and discuss a plan about how you will answer the “why” question and what the conversation will look like. You want to present a united front and show support of one another (even if feelings are not mutual). Again this time is about putting your child first. It is important not to lie and rather phrase the truth in a kid friendly way. For example, if you are getting a divorce based on years of arguing, you may find yourself telling the children that “Mom and Dad struggled with communication.”


Validate Emotions

Although your first instinct might be to tell your children “I know how hard this is for you,” this phrase can often make children more upset. In the moment, you can’t understand how your child is exactly feeling in that specific situation. In order to validate their emotions and promote more open communication of emotion, parents can use a different phrase when discussing the divorce. Instead of saying “I know,” you can say, “I can’t imagine how you are feeling” or “Can you tell me the emotions you are feeling?” Children will feel more validated, supported, and connected to their parents when these phrases are used.



Children don’t always understand all the “adult words” when it comes to a custody agreement or divorce. There are several questions about where they are sleeping or how many days they will be with their parents. Remember to educate them on terms that you use rather than assuming they know. As parents, you have the opportunity to define custody agreement or divorce agreement for them rather than them assuming or hearing from their peers or TV shows. Be specific and provide details so they can concretely think about what is to come. If children are younger (2-6 yrs old), use stuffed animals or toys to describe what is happening).


Calendars and Visuals

Reducing any anxiety is key to ensure that your child’s needs come first. There is a lot of “unknown” when children are going through a custody agreement or a divorce. They communicate their fears and worries, but don’t know how to get rid of them. Calendars and visuals are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety about the confusion and provide them with more control. I have recommended having a family app for both the parents and children to see. Our Family Wizard is one that I have recommended in the past and have seen successfully used. Google calendars or phone calendars can work as well. If children are younger (2-6 yrs old), use a visual calendar in their room and have a symbol for Mom or Dad. These will not only be successful tools for co-parenting, but also provide your child with peace.


Now, you can move forward and have a confident approach to answering and responding to these questions. Remember the kids do come first and their needs are the most important to address. If you need more guidance, our team of therapists are all trained to be a support during this process.


The Calm Down Box: Helping Kids Self-Regulate and Capture the Quiet Moments

Our child only wants to play on my phone. My daughter can’t play by herself. Our kids say they are bored. My son can’t entertain himself. I want my child to go play outside but he only wants the iPad. Do these sound familiar to you? As a therapist my inbox and voicemail are flooded with them daily. Recently I’ve been introducing The Calm Down Box to families and it has been very successful.

The Calm Down Box

So, what can be done you ask? Plenty! A few years back I was introduced to The Calm Down Box. In its original form, The Calm Down Box was created to help children with sensory needs learn to self-regulate. Over time, The Calm Down Box has taken on many creative names and identities such as The Quiet Time Box, Quiet Corner Kit, Solo Activities Box, Road Trip Kit, Time Out Box, etc. So, what’s the point of this magical box? Self-regulation, quiet play, independent play, sensory break and non-screen activities.

What to Put in a Calm Down Box

Here are some of my favorite items to put into a Calm Down Box. Remember, all boxes can be modified for specific needs:

–Coloring pages and crayons- quiet and soothing activity

–Fidget cubes/stress balls/playdough/ kinetic sand- keeps hands busy

–Favorite book- quiet activity

–Race cars and other small toys – independent play

–Crunchy snacks- great for sensory needs and blood sugar regulation

–Legos- great for sensory and creative play

–Bubbles- calming activity

–Puff balls and pipe cleaners- great for creative play and sensory breaks

–Small stuffed animals/squishies- soothing and comforting

–Feeling chart- self-regulation tool


Below are additional resources, and tips for creating your own kit:

6 ways to make a calm down jar

–What to put in a calm down kit for kids

–Sensory cheat sheets

How to Implement The Calm Down Box

Again, Calm Down Kits can be used for a variety of needs, however the main idea is to gather several calming/soothing items into one place and prompt your child to use the kit in order to learn self-regulation, engage in independent play and non-screen time activities.

Pro tip: Encourage children to use their box for 10-30 minutes each day; make it a family event by declaring quiet play and setting a timer. The more they use the box when calm, the more they will gravitate towards it in moments of dysregulation.

Creating Your Own Calm Down Box

Here is what you need:

–Box- think old shoebox, treasure chest, etc.

–Markers, colored paper, stickers, etc. for decorating

–A list of items to include

Pro tip: Allow your child to decorate the box, this will encourage ownership and pride. In addition, engage your child in finding items from around the house that they would like to include. The more the child is involved, the more likely they will be to utilize the box.

Once you have all your items, it’s time to get busy! Decorate your box, fill it with items, and practice family quiet time! Remember, it’s never too late to teach your child self-regulation, independent play, or the importance of down time, and now you have your box full of tools to do just that!


3 Ways for Kids, Teens, and Spouses to Wow Mom this Mother’s Day

They say a woman’s work is never done, right? As a mom of a toddler, I know first hand what that really means. Being a mom is an honor, a privilege, AND exhausting. One minute we are laughing and celebrating the moments and milestones that fill our hearts with so much love and joy. The next, we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the constant changes and surprises children bring just as soon as we get comfortable and into a routine. This Mother’s Day, why not show Mom how much she is appreciated and loved. Do something a little different. Prepare ahead of time, get the family involved, and make it a Mother’s Day to remember.

Schedule time for love stories

Love stories? What’s that you ask? Well, this can be whatever you make it, but here are some ideas. Whether it’s just your immediate family, or you want to get extended family involved, schedule a time for each family member to share a story with Mom about a time they felt extra loved. This can be scheduled every hour (depending on how many people will be involved), or over a few set times throughout the day, whatever works with your schedule.

Gifts are great, but to hear loved ones share personal experiences that are memorable to them will be sure to melt Mom’s heart. Prepare ahead of time and write it down. Try to provide as many details as possible so that Mom can go down memory lane with you…and probably shed a tear or two!

Plan the ultimate staycation

We all love a little getaway don’t we? Sometimes it’s not that easy to actually “get away.” Life gets busy and just as the thought crosses your mind that a vacation sounds perfect, it’s not always possible. So, plan a staycation for the day, or make a weekend out of it this Mother’s Day. Has Mom mentioned somewhere that she really wants to go? Has she been reminiscing about returning to one of her favorite places? Take elements from those places and incorporate them into a staycation. For example, maybe Mom loves a relaxing, island, beach type of vacation with snorkeling, swimming, and fruity island drinks. Look into your local park district or an indoor water park nearby to enjoy some swimming together as a family. Visit the aquarium to see the fish and maybe a dolphin show. Make Mom one of her favorite drinks (have and adult purchase anything that contains alcohol) and serve it to her at home. Ask Alexa to play some island music so Mom can really put herself in vacay mode.

Let Mom off the hook

At the end of the day, Mom will appreciate the fact that she can have a day where she doesn’t have to plan or prepare. Plan everything for her, or plan nothing and just enjoy the day together with no worries about a schedule. You know your mom best, so think about what she would like to do, or not do. No laundry, no planning, none of that! The laundry can wait. Mom’s probably been washing the same load of laundry for 3 days because she keeps forgetting to put it in the dryer…or maybe that’s just me! It’s the little things, so really tune in to what Mom does day to day. You know, those “mom” duties, and try to take care of those items on your own. Let her sleep in. Bring her coffee. Tidy up the house (you’ll get brownie points if you clean the house for Mom, just sayin’). Plan dinner, even if it’s just picking up takeout, and let her just enjoy her day.

Celebrating Mother’s Day doesn’t have to break the bank. Get creative and think outside the box. No matter how you decide to express your love and gratitude, the fact that her family put in a little extra effort on her special day will go a long way.


Video Game Obsession – 3 Quick Ways to Set Healthy Limits

Remember the days when video games were a privilege and something that wasn’t as mainstreamed as a social outing? As kids, we would play outside, ride our bikes, and go to the park with friends. It seems that in today’s society, video game obsession is taking over and causing frustration for both parents and children. Children are constantly asking to play Fortnite or Call of Duty online with friends and spending money buying gear for their characters. Parents are asking their children to go play outside or do something more active. If this sounds like something you have experienced, you may struggle on knowing the appropriate ways to balance and set limits on your child’s video games.

I have often heard the frustration from parents that their children are spending too much time on video games and not enough time helping out around the house. Understanding how to balance fun and recreation with being responsible in the home is an important part of independent growth. Today, I want to provide you with 3 tips to set healthy limits that can help you manage video game obsession.

Time Limit and Routine

It’s important to sit down with your children and come up with a video game time limit. For example, during the school week (Monday-Thursday) they are allowed to play for 30 minutes after school from 3:30pm-4:00pm.  During the weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), they can play for 1-2 hours (depending on their age) in the morning, afternoon, or before dinner. These rules need to be specific and clear. Remember to tell your children about the rules when there are no distractions happening and they are fully listening. Let’s say you want to have extra video game time as a reward. That’s okay to do, but establish this with the video game rules. For example, if they get this reward it’s an extra 30 minutes. Children may ask for extended time in their games or try to guilt you into playing more times a day than you have established. Remember to hold your boundary and to not give into this request.

Size of the Problem

When children have strong reactions to turning off the video games and transitioning to the next event, remind them the size of the problem. Some children tend to have huge reactions towards this moment and as parents it can be difficult to reason with them. We want to help our children self-regulate independently. Challenging their thinking by asking if this is a small, medium, or huge problem can be effective. This can always put things in a better perspective for them in order to realize that their reaction is not matching the size of the problem. If your child struggles significantly with transitions, transition objects can be a positive replacement to use in these moments.

 Social Understanding

Video games have universally become a way for people to socialize with their friends when they are not with them. This can establish healthy social communication patterns between friends and assist with building rapport with peers. It is important to monitor who your children are playing with and making

sure their online friends are children you know. Safety first! Also, it is important to be mindful that your children may be playing online with their friends. Provide your children with the line, “Let your friends know this is the last game.” This will reduce strong reactions and maintain frustration tolerance as well as not damaging their “social” interactions. Remember what we discussed in the first tip! Talk with your children and establish these rules before using them to help you manage their video game obsession.


How to Keep Prom Events Safe, Simple, and Fun

The flowers are in bloom, we are enjoying more sunshine, and most kids have started their countdown to summer vacation. This can only mean one thing; spring is here! For high school students, this means Prom weekend is approaching.  Parents know that this is an exciting and memorable time for their high school students; however, with the dress shopping and tux rentals come the inevitable stressors. I am sharing a few “prom hacks” concerning how to have fun at prom while keeping events simple and safe.

Safety first

As parents you play a multi-faceted role in your child’s prom experience. In addition to hearing about the creative way that son or daughter asked (or was asked!) part of your role is also to set a few guidelines to ensure their safety.

Start by planning ahead. Once the prom group is formed you can ask your teen to share their date’s and their parent’s contact information. Forming an email chain with the other parents can be a helpful way to discuss pre-and-post prom events, note start and end times, and confirm safe transportation options. Once plans are in place you can make your expectations for the weekend’s events explicit.

Remind your son or daughter that their safety is your first priority.  Discuss prom night rules with your teen; this can include setting a curfew for the evening and asking them to check-in via text or calling once they have arrived to the events safely. Be sure to remind your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving. Consider offering to help them setup a driving service to promote ease and safety. If your teen needs help because of a driver who has been drinking encourage them to call you – no questions asked. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Less stress is best

Think strength in numbers. Once you have your parental email chain in place offer to co-host pre-or-post prom events with the other Moms and Dads. No need to take on full responsibility alone. There are bound to be a few sets of involved parents who are available and willing to help out with weekend events, even in small ways. Divide and conquer the “to-do” list so no single person feels the whole burden. Having extra sets of eyes around is a great way to ensure adequate supervision. If you teen is not keen on the idea of your presence at their party, simply inform them that you are there to help out the hosts. Assure them you want them to have a fun at prom!

Have some fun at prom!

It is prom weekend after all! Coordinating a prom group is no task for the faint of heart. If your teen is stressing about complicated group dynamics, encourage them to put together their own (perhaps smaller) group. This can be a great way to sidestep some of the stress while still making sure they have fun at prom and get to enjoy the company of their good friends all evening long. That is what matters most anyway! Some teens feel overwhelmed by all of the prom-related hype. Remind your teen that the outcome of their evening is all about their perspective. Invite them to notice the small meaningful moments of the night, instead of focusing solely on the things that did not go “as planned.” Take a peek at this this article for suggestions on how to help your teen cope with pre-prom anxiety. Before they head out, let them know that you would love to hear all about their evening and see their pictures once the weekend has ended. Letting your teen know that you care about the things that matter to them builds trust and respect in the parent-child relationship.


Prom holds a lot of expectation, which can add pressure to your teen’s experience of the weekend’s events.  By weaving some of these “prom hacks” into the mix, both you and your teen are likely to sidestep some of the unneeded stress so everyone can focus on what matters most; having a fun, memorable, and safe weekend!


Have a Sense of Humor: 8 Great April Fools’ Jokes for Parents to Play on Kids

On one day every year parents get a chance to let out their fun side and loosen up on the serious job of daily parenting! This April Fools’ Day get silly with your child and play 8 of the greatest kid appropriate jokes on them that will be sure to make them laugh.

Turn Back the Clocks

3 clocksStart off the day with a simple but effective joke of turning back the clocks. Get the kids up and ready for the day hours before they would even be up. In celebration of your victory joke, you can even use those extra hours they are awake to take them out to a breakfast!


Cereal Switch

bowl of cerealDo you have a selection of cereals for the kids to choose from in the morning? Well make it a perfect April Fools’ joke by taking your kids favorite cereals and switching the inside bags into different cereal boxes. Watch as they pour out their cereal and look completely baffled as another cereal comes out instead. Parents can alter this joke by choosing a cereal their kids enjoy, pouring it into a bowl with milk, and placing it in the freezer the night before. Frozen cereal for breakfast anyone?


Soap Doesn’t Work

nail polishFor a kid appropriate bath time joke, grab their bar of soap and paint it with a layer of clear nail polish. Place the no longer sudsy soap back in the shower and wait for all the confusion to begin. Hey at least when they approach you to ask questions about it you can be proud that they actually use soap!


A Solid Drink!

jelloNothing says a great April Fools’ joke like taking your child’s favorite drink, adding some gelatin to it, and refrigerating it with the straw in. When they are ready for a sip of that drink, watch in enjoyment as they struggle to understand why their drink is suddenly undrinkable. Feel free to create different drinks for each of your kids so that they don’t anticipate what will follow. For some April Fools’ Day drink recipes click here.

Why Doesn’t it Work?

TV remoteParents it’s time to use that great sense of humor of yours for this next joke. Just grab some clear tape and get to work taping over the sensors on all your child’s favorite electronics, including the television remote and their video game controllers. Sit back and enjoy some laughs as you watch your child fumble around trying to figure out why they can’t turn on their shows and games. Bonus points if you add to the joke and take the batteries out of the devices too.

The Minty Oreo

oreo cookieSnack time in your house can be an excellent time to try one of your simple kid appropriate April Fools’ jokes. Just take some Oreo cookies, scoop out the original crème center, and replace with some toothpaste! Parents can then be ready to capture the faces made as they bite into their “tasty” snack treats. Be sure to keep some regular Oreo cookies around as well so that they aren’t completely disappointed.

Free Money

stacks of coinsWant to enjoy the weather outside with the kids? Well no worries, here is a great kid appropriate joke to try outdoors! Start by finding some loose change (quarters may be most enticing), and then go ahead and superglue them down to the sidewalk. Watch as your kid struggles to pick up the coins they find. Who said “free money” was easy to come by?


They Grow too Fast

toilet paper april foolsFor another great kid appropriate joke, try stuffing a pair of your kid’s shoes with cotton stuffing or tissues. Confuse them about how they outgrew their shoes overnight. For even more fun, add a little more stuffing in one shoe and a little less in the other. Your kid will for sure wonder how one foot got bigger than the other.


Getting to share in some fun, harmless, kid appropriate April Fools’ jokes with your children can really help to build healthy family relationships and increase parent-child bonding. So parents please spend this April Fools’ exercising your sense of humor, combined with these 8 great kid appropriate jokes to try and practice on the family. Who knows maybe by next year you’ll have come up with other great jokes to add to this list!


7 Ways to Teach Your Child about Responsibility

You want your child to put their plate in the dishwasher, but they leave it in the sink.  You want them to return home at curfew, but they return home 30 minutes late.  You ask them to be a role model for their younger sibling, but they argue over the remote control.  What do we do when we work at teaching children responsibility yet they refuse to accept it?  Here are some helpful guidelines to follow when your child would much rather play the blame-game, than to take ownership for themselves:

 1.  Define choices and consequences

Sit down with your child and engage them in a conversation about what they are responsible for, and what choices will produce the best outcomes for them.  Explain that responsibility means paying attention to their own behaviors and actions. Let them know that you will be there to help them make good choices.  Also explain the consequences should they choose to make an irresponsible choice.  Laying the groundwork before an incident happens allows your child to understand that they are in charge of their quality of life by the choices they make.  Likewise, it helps you to remain calm and to not overreact when your child chooses to be irresponsible.  You can simply implement the consequence discussed and avoid getting sucked into an argument over the outcome of their choice.

2.   Stick to the rules

Follow through on what you say.  This is so important for you to remember as a parent.  Children and teens need to know that there are consequences to their bad behaviors. They need to understand that those consequences are consistent.  Teaching children responsibility requires consistency. Without it, you send the message that the rules only apply some of the time. You give children ammunition for the next time you try to implement a consequence where there was none before.  If you continually overdrew your banking account, your bank would consistently charge you an overdraft fee. They wouldn’t charge you only sometimes, or when it was convenient for them.

Your kids will not always pick the best times to break the rules; their misbehavior may impact you and the plans you have.  If your child throws a fit in the middle of the grocery store and you have told them that they would not be able to shop with you if they choose to scream and yell, then you may have to pause your shopping and return at a later time so that you can remove your child from the store.  While it may not be convenient for you to come back an hour later, it is important to teach your child how to be responsible by demonstrating that there are consequences to their behaviors.

3.   Make it easy

Let your child know that you are a safe person to come to when they make a mistake (because they will!).  After you have given a consequence for their misbehavior, make sure to calmly approach them and have a conversation about why they received the consequence they did.  Instead of reacting to your child’s poor choice with anger, use the experience as an opportunity to teach them a lesson in responsibility.  Let them know that everyone makes mistakes, (yes, even you), and make sure they know that it is more important to be honest about their mistakes, that they learn from the situation, and that they know the difference between right and wrong.  Discuss the situation and explore other ways in which they could have handled the situation differently.  Being calm and approachable makes it easier for your child to own up to their mistakes, and makes it more likely that they will admit to their wrongs in the future.

4.   Highlight their success

Everyone loves to hear that they have done a job well done, kids included!  When you notice your child being responsible for themselves and their behavior, make it known.  Let them know that their effort to be more responsible has not gone unnoticed.  So often we focus on the moments that do not go well, that we lose sight of the moments that do.  The more you focus on the positives and look for the moments where your child does choose appropriate behaviors, the more those behaviors are reinforced.  Your child will feel encouraged and proud of their good choices, inevitably increasing them, making for a more positive environment.

5.   Expectations versus hard work

Be aware of the expectations you might have, and do not overlook the hard work that your child is putting in.  If you ask your child to get themselves ready in the morning, they may put together an outfit that is mix-matched and hair that is a little messy.  Don’t criticize.  Recognize a job-well done and recognize the hard-work they put into getting ready on their own.

6.   Model behavior

What you do and say are often the biggest influences on your child’s own behaviors.  They look to you on how to navigate situations, and the way you model responsibility (and talk about it), becomes the standard.  If you expect your child to make their bed each morning, you must do so as well.  If you would like your child to be polite and respectful to family and friends, you must demonstrate that in your own relationships too.  Ditch the phrase, “I can do it because I’m the adult,” and hold yourself to the same standards that you expect from your child, because remember, you are always modeling and teaching your child how to be responsible.

7.   Don’t give up

Remember, teaching children responsibility to learn new behaviors and skills is a process.  Change does happen, but it does not happen overnight.  Be patient with your child because they will make mistakes along the way, as will you, and that is okay!  Stay calm and focus on how far they have come, versus how far they have to go.


Helping or Hurting: Tips for Teaching Children Responsibility

School is now in full swing! Congratulations, you and your family have successfully survived the back-to-school madness. The teachers have all been met, the physicals complete, school supplies purchased, and the homework is pouring in.

When a parent receives the frantic text from their teen, the note from the teacher, or the tearful story from their first grader, stating an assignment was forgotten, not turned in, forever lost… how should they react?

Children, adolescents and teens are not adults, but one day they will be. Here are some practical tips for teaching children responsibility while young, thus setting them up for success as they enter new life stages, and eventually reach adulthood.

Set Your Children Up for Success: 3 Tips for the School Year and All Year

Everyone needs help getting organized; help your child get and stay organized when it comes to all things academic.

  1. Designate a place for your child to keep their backpack (think cubby, wall hook etc.)
  2. Have a designated folder for homework/papers that are to be turned in to school
  3. Have your child prep their bag each night- try a daily check list to promote independence


Let Them Fail, Let Them Grow:  3 Lessons Learned Through Failure

Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time. But when parents habitually bail their children out, their children are denied the chance to learn from their mistakes. Here are a few examples:

  1. Failing to check their backpack and forgetting an item teaches children self-responsibility, but Mom/Dad checking, double checking and packing all items does not.
  2. Failing to turn in assignments on time teaches adolescents the importance of deadlines, but Mom/Dad rushing the homework to school every time it is forgotten does not.
  3. Failing a test teaches teens the importance of studying/time management, but Mom/Dad making excuses about their busy schedule to school board does not.


Teach, Don’t Shame: 3 Tips for Dealing with Mistakes

 It is easy to become frustrated when children forget to complete an assignment, lose the permission slip, or fail to inform adults they need help with homework. Try these tips for teaching children responsibility by dealing with the mistakes in a helpful and teaching manner, not a shameful one.

  1. Let natural consequences happen. Lost credit, missed points, lower grades – these are all natural consequences.
  2. Don’t expect perfection; stop berating. Natural consequences have lasting effects, berating only isolates the child/teen from seeking help in future.
  3. Empathize, but also offer solutions. Let your children know that failure happens; offer helpful solutions. Remind children that you are on their side and support them, but you cannot do the work/rescue them every time


Children, adolescents, teens and parents make mistakes; mistakes and failings teach us life lessons. Setting children up for success prevents a good portion of failings, it also teaches them to take responsibility for their own work. When children do fail, remember to offer both support, and solutions.


3 Fun Ways to Involve Children in Decorating and Setting the Thanksgiving Table

Can you believe it’s already Thanksgiving? Are the kids ready for a few days off?  This is the time of the year where families come together to celebrate one another and give thanks for what we have. You might be wondering how to get your kids into the spirit of the holiday, be thankful, and work together in a healthy way. Below are three ways to help your children learn positive independent skills while decorating for the holiday.

Craft Projects for the Kidsnsfs-thanksgiving-table-shutterstock_322123175

  1. Handmade Turkey Place Settings

Materials: Scissors, construction paper, and crayons/markers/colored pencils

Procedure: Have your child trace his/her hand on a piece of brown paper.  On the thumb draw the face of a turkey. In the palm of the hand, write the person’s name who will be sitting at the table.  On the other four fingers (the feathers) write four positive things about that person.  Cut out the handmade turkey and place it on the table where that person will be sitting. It will be a nice surprise for your family and friends!

  1. Painted Tablecloth

Materials: Paint (orange, red, brown, yellow, green), markers, paper plates, white tablecloth (easily found at the dollar store), and leaves (from outside)

Procedure:  Have your child pick out four leaves from the front yard. (There are always a ton in the yard around this time of the year). Place the the white tablecloth down on the table. Use the paper plates to pour the different color paint on each plate.  Dip the leaves in the paint and onto the cloth. Repeat with the different colored paint and the different leaves to make a colorful cloth. Lastly, have your child dip their hands in the brown paint to make hand turkeys. This table cloth can be used as an unique cloth for the appetizer, dessert, or kids table.

  1. Turkey Napkin Rings

Materials: Construction paper, wiggle eyes, scissors, markers/crayons/colored pencils, glue, empty paper towel tube (cut in about 1 and 1/2 inches)

Procedure: Have your child cut out a circle for the head of the Turkey on brown construction paper ( it should be half the size of the paper towel ring). Glue the wiggle eyes on the circle and draw (or cut on yellow construction paper) the beak. Glue the head onto the ring.  While that is drying, cut out different colored feathers on the construction paper. Glue them on the inside of the ring behind the turkey head. When it is finished, slide the napkin into the ring and put it on the plate. It is a festive way to add a personal touch!

Remember to be enthusiastic and proud of your child’s work. This helps encourage positive self-esteem and independent skills. Remind your kids that things don’t need to be perfect, but they just need to have fun!

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