I’m Scared My Child Will Turn out Like Her Dad

In my work with parents and children, there is one theme that creates the most anxiety: how likely is it that my child will inherit the abusive personality traits of the father? Worried moms observing aggressive behaviors, similar personality traits to a psychopathic ex-partner, or lack of empathy in their child will tentatively ask this question.

Moms who have left relationships due to abuse, violence, or other criminal behaviors in their partner fear these behaviors when they witness them in their child. In fact, any negatively-viewed behavior that’s similar to the child’s father is often a source of anxiety for these mothers. Sometimes the mother’s own trauma is triggered by their child’s developmentally normal behavior.

As children develop, they can be aggressive. They can hit, kick, bite, pinch, growl, and slap. Even if they’ve never observed violence or been punished physically, children can have volatile anger that they have difficulty self-regulating.

Equally, empathy takes time to develop in children. Humans develop empathy over time. For moms who’ve had an abusive partner with strong psychopathic tendencies, observing heartless or cruel behaviors in their kids younger than five years old can be very worrying. This fear is usually strongest if the child is a boy. Sometimes this fear leads to harsh punishments when a child lacks empathy or behaves aggressively.

As parents, we often place a lot of emphasis on genes as we look for similarities to our families in our children, but how much do genes play a role in psychopathy? Although genes have been found to play a role, no one factor has been pinpointed as the cause of psychopathy.

Parenting style and environment also play a role and can weaken the genetic risk. Researchers of these gene studies, such as the Minnesota twin study that’s often cited to explain the genetic influence, continue to emphasize the role of parenting and environment.

”The message for parents is not that it does not matter how they treat their children, but that it is a big mistake to treat all kids the same,” said Dr. Lykken. ”To guide and shape a child you have to respect his individuality, adapt to it, and cultivate those qualities that will help him in life.”

This means parents should not give up hope and instead parent the child that they have. A 2015 study of 780 twin pairs demonstrated the importance of the environment and parenting we provide for children with a genetic risk for psychopathy. This research has shown that life experiences during the infant and teen period can make all the difference to whether a child becomes a psychopath.

How to help prevent the development of antisocial traits in our children

Nurturing care

By soothing our baby, we provide the first steps towards healthy emotional development. When we comfort our baby, we help him learn to soothe himself and, over time, to soothe others. The love and care you give your child together with talking about his feelings teaches him these skills as he grows. Bruce Perry’s beautiful book “Born for Love” explores this further.

As part of nurturing care, I urge mothers to notice the ways in which their child is different from their ex-partner instead of focusing on similarities. Focusing on what’s the same tends to increase the mothers’ anxieties and impacts their relationship with their child.

Encouraging empathy as your child grows

As your child grows, you can begin actively coaching their empathy skills as their language and cognitive skills increase. Toddlers need carers to repeatedly model empathic behaviors. You can do this both in day-to-day interactions and in play.

You may see your toddler copying your empathic behaviors during play by saying things like, “Oh teddy sick, teddy hug.” Notice and praise these behaviors when you see them.

As your child approaches three, you may notice some empathic behaviors beginning to shape. Many parents report their child reflecting back feelings like, “Mummy sad,” or empathic statements such as, “Poor Mummy is sick.” Praise and notice these interactions.

Parents can help encourage the development of empathy by encouraging discussion about feelings, the child’s and others. Ask questions like, “Why do you think your friend Sophie cried when she fell off the swing at the park?”

Reading books and encouraging discussion about the characters’ main feelings can also help. Discussing with your child how you knew that someone was sad or angry gives your child a broader understanding of how we interpret feelings in others. Playing games or crafts in which you create faces is a fun way to emotion coach. Encourage your child to label her feelings and where she feels them in her body when she is happy, mad, or sad.

As your child approaches six, she will be increasingly able to discuss feelings and develop a sense that she belongs to a community. Children in this age group become more skilled at reading people’s faces and voices for emotions.

Parents can help children to develop empathy by avoiding “quick-fix” solutions or reassurances in response to feelings. These manifest in blanket statement like, “Everything will be all right.” In these situations, reflect what your child is feeling with phrases such as, “You feel scared of the spider because you think the spider will bite you” rather than “Don’t worry, you’re okay.”

It’s also important for children to learn to read your emotions empathically. If you’ve had a hard day, don’t hide your feelings from your kids. Instead, share with them that you feel sad or angry. It may not be appropriate to share every detail and we certainly don’t want to lean on our children emotionally but, by sharing the emotion, we help our children better develop their own empathy skills

Positive parenting with love and limits

It’s important to use positive parenting strategies with lots of love and limits. The heart of positive parenting is guiding behavior through noticing desirable behaviors and ignoring unwanted behaviors. Punishment is avoided wherever possible and empathic guidance is preferred. Limit-setting is also a core part of positive parenting. Children need firm boundaries to feel loved and cared for.

It’s very important not to harshly parent children with a possible genetic history for psychopathy because this will increase the risk rather than minimize it. Here’s an example of what positive parenting could look like:

Mom: “Jack, you hit your sister because you felt angry that she wouldn’t give you the toy when you asked. How did your sister feel when you hit her?”

Jack: “Sad. She cried.”

Mom: “Yes, and she was angry too. Remember I had to stop her from hitting you?”

Jack: “Yes.”

Mom: “What can you do when you’re angry instead of hitting?”

Jack: “Use my words or tell Mommy.”

Mom: “That’s right. Sometimes it’s hard for you. You can’t always do it yet, but I know that you’ll be able to soon if you keep trying. For now, I need you to come and help me in the kitchen until your feelings calm down.”

In this example, the parent coaches the child’s emotional reaction and uses connection rather than consequences (such as time out or losing points).

Provide nurturing care in a loving and safe environment, encourage empathy, and use positive parenting strategies to help prevent your child from developing psychopathy. Seek professional help for your relationship with your child or in the use of positive parenting techniques if you’re struggling to view your child in a positive way. Raising your child with support and guidance is necessary when your child exhibits challenging behaviors that trigger you.

If you fear your child’s genetic loading, there’s a lot that you can do, but always keep in mind that your child shares your genes as well.

50 Questions to Get Your Kid Thinking Like a Scientist

Careers in science, technology, engineering, and math are in high demand for good reason. STEM professionals offer creative and analytical solutions to many of the world’s biggest problems. But how do we encourage the next generation to be interested in these fields?
We should introduce them to the wonders of the universe and the excitement of experimentation early in life. We should support their curiosity and investigations. We should help them notice and study their surroundings. We should encourage their questions and ask some of our own. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer! You can discuss it together, design an experiment, or turn to the internet to learn more. Here’s a list to get you started on cultivating the little scientist in your home.
1 | Do you think this object will sink or float?
2 | What do you think will happen when we mix these ingredients together?
3 | Do you think this will dissolve in water?
4 | How do you think this food will change in the oven?
5 | How do you think this would change in the freezer?
6 | How does a toy car act differently on a hard or soft surface?
7 | How do you think you could make it go faster?
8 | How do you think you could get it to slow down?
9 | What happens when you mix colors?
10 | Why do you think ice melts?
11 | Will the water level in a glass of ice water change as the ice melts?
12 | Why does the water level go down if you leave a cup of water out all night (in dry conditions)?
13 | Why do some foods get warmer on the table while others get cooler (e.g.,  yogurt vs soup)?
14 | Why do bubbles always form spheres?
15 | How can you make your tower taller (or stronger)?
16 | Can you describe what the wind feels like?
17 | Can you describe what the rain feels like?
18 | Which of these objects feels hotter in the sun?
19 | Which of these colors feels hotter in the sun?
20 | Why do you think hair gets longer?
21 | Why do you think cuts and bruises usually go away?
22 | Why do you think plants grow?
23 | What things does your body need to grow?
24 | What do you think the inside of this object looks like?
25 | How can we improve our paper airplane design?
26 | What can you build with these objects?
27 | Why do you think this rock looks this way?
28 | What kind of bugs might live in the ground here?
29 | Why do the leaves change through different seasons?
30 | Why do you think the moon changes?
31 | What do you think this would look like if it was 10 times bigger (or smaller)?
32 | How tall do you think this is?
33 | How long do you think this is?
34 | How much do you think this weighs?
35 | Which thing do you think weighs more?
36 | Which object feels harder?
37 | Which object feels smoother?
38 | What material do you think this is made of?
39 | How do you think this is made?
40 | Does this need energy to work?
41 | Where do you think it gets its energy from?
42 | What’s making that sound?
43 | What can you do to change the sound?
44 | Can you describe what you smell?
45 | Why do you think it smells like that?
46 | How do these things taste different?
47 | How does adding an ingredient change the taste?
48 | How do you think a coat or blanket keeps you warm?
49 | How does a fan keep you cool?
50 | What’s an experiment we could try?
As you start with basic questions of forming hypotheses, designing experiments, and making observations, you and your little scientist will discover many new ways to investigate the world. Incorporating scientific questions into daily activities is easier than you think and will fuel creative problem solving for the whole family!

Posted on Categories _Connections

The Importance of Offering Children an Intergenerational Identity

Children who have what is called an intergenerational identity feel more in control of their lives, according to research by Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush from Emory University.

I grew up in a family of story tellers and talkers. They’re known for chatting, for saying goodbye, and then taking 45 minutes to make it out the door. It’s what they’ve always done, tales of triumph and failure the narrative patches holding the pieces of the family quilt together.
This skill, then, should come naturally to me. That’s why an exchange with my daughter over a game of Uno unsettled me.
“I used to play Uno with my Papa,” I told Wren. “He’s the one who taught me how to play.”
“Who’s Papa?”
“Like your Pappy. He was my grandfather.”
“Why have I never met him?” she asked.
“He died when I was your age.”
She looked sad, and I felt my stomach drop like an elevator on free fall. My grandfather was one of the biggest characters in my life, one of the most important people who played a role in my formative years and beyond. His death leveled me, and my nine-year-old daughter had no idea who he was. I’d never shown her pictures or told her stories.
His death was followed closely by the collapse of my parents’ marriage and the rearranging of family members that felt like tectonic plates shifting without end. I buried the pain, and in the process, I buried the memories.
I did exactly the opposite of what I should have done if my goal was to raise emotionally healthy children.

The importance of the narrative

My motive for keeping my family’s history quiet might have been to protect my kids from the hurt and confusion of death and divorce, or it might have been to avoid sharing my own mistakes and missteps from the past. Whatever the reason, it was the wrong choice. Researchers agree that children need to know that they have a place in a bigger story than their own.
Children who have what is called an intergenerational identity feel more in control of their lives, according to research by Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush from Emory University. Knowing where they fit in a story also seems to paint a rosier view of the family overall, since children in the study who knew the most about their families viewed their family units in a more positive light.
Telling our kids family stories may even lower the chances of anxiety and depression, even when world events stand to trigger a negative response. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush followed up with the kids who had participated in their study only months before. Those who knew they had a place in a larger family story were more resilient than those who scored low on what they knew about their families. An intergenerational identity helped serve as a shield between these kids and catastrophe.
There’s also the benefit of having kids who are less likely to become narcissist. Being a part of a bigger story means not being the center of the universe, a fact we want to instill in our children. We can give them both self-confidence and humility by sharing family stories, helping them develop a sense of self-worth and resilience without losing empathy and becoming solely self-focused.
Author A.J. Jacobs, organizer of the Global Family Reunion, points out another advantage of children knowing their family history: they may become interested in going even further back, looking deeper into genealogy. Their interests can create opportunities for them to find out that we live on a very interconnected planet. “It’s eye-opening,” Jacobs said during an interview. “It’s much harder to be racist and narrow-minded when you see how closely linked all the races are.”

How to tell the story

Not every narrative form is equal. Researchers recommend the oscillating family narrative when sharing family history with children. This style deals with both positive and negative events and enforces the strength of family and perseverance throughout. It avoids sharing only the ups or only the downs, instead presenting a more realistic view of life. Family life, like life in general, has good and bad.
I can use the oscillating family narrative to tell my kids about my younger years and all the memories I have with my parents and grandparents. That will eventually lead to divorce and death, obvious setbacks, but we can then move to stories about how we found ways to heal and move on. This leads to the family they have now, full of both biological and step-grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles who are focused on making a family environment for them.
Good can come from hard times, and that’s the point of the oscillating family narrative. Children will know not to expect everything to be perfect when raised on these types of stories, but they will know that even during trials, people persevere. Mistakes from our families’ pasts can serve as road maps for others, even if they are just evidence of what not to do.
Considering a child’s maturity level is key when sharing family tales. Being honest is always a win, but giving details that are appropriate to a child’s age and understanding is important. Dr. Alisha Griffith recommends parents “meet them on their level, be direct and honest, and use simple language that they would understand. It’s also important to listen to their concerns … and answer their questions.” The point of a family narrative isn’t to overwhelm kids with TMI but to allow them to see where they fit in the big picture.

Getting started

Dr. Fivush created a “Do You Know?” questionnaire that asked children in the study to answer 20 questions about their family stories. It contains questions like: Do you know how your parents met? Do you know the source of your name? Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up? These questions are a great way to start the conversation.
When it’s time to share, there’s no one way to go about it. Family reunions are a place my late uncle entertained generations with his elaborate tales. Any meal or gathering where the family is together can be a time for sharing. One friend I have even videotaped her grandparents telling family stories from their lives. Those videos are now in the hands of younger generations, preserving family stories that can continue to be passed down.
Regular occurrences, like a game of Uno, can even spark memories and offer a time to share. Family stories can take the place of books during bedtime a couple of times a week.
The reaction when I finally started unearthing some memories to pass to my kids was priceless. They winced when they heard the one about how I accidentally hit my sister in the face with a bat, laughed at my Papa mistaking poop that had fallen from my sister’s diaper for chocolate (family stopped him before he ate it), and begged for more stories as bedtime approached.
It wasn’t difficult for me to see the immediate benefits of these stories. My kids laughed, they were engaged, and they seemed to feel they were growing in the knowledge they possessed about their family members. They are learning with each knew story that they are connected to people who succeed, fail, and find ways to overcome, and that’s a gift that can be passed down for generations to come.

Posted on Categories _Connections

Stop in the Name of Hormones: When Puberty Meets Perimenopause

I do not want a she-shed, even though I love to craft. I’d prefer to call it a hormone time-out hut. My dream hormone hut wouldn’t be mine alone. My ‘tween and teen would be welcome to share.

I never planned on puberty and perimenopause in the same house, but here they are. If you have dueling hormones in your home, follow a few simple steps to bring peace without having to build a hut in your backyard.

The two P’s

In 2017, the CDC put the average age of first-time moms at 28. There are many reasons behind that number. Women are waiting to get married and/or have kids because of careers.

I didn’t get married until my late 20’s. I had my kids at 29 and 34, so I fall right in that age-28 average. My mom had me at 22. By the time she was 47, I was almost married. By the time I turned 47, my kids were 12 and 16. That’s a big difference in ages. And in hormones.

“Since the changes of perimenopause may precede menopause by as many as 10 years, daughters often begin puberty around the same time their mothers begin perimenopause,” reports Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D.

I cringed when the doctor wrote AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) on my pregnancy chart. I did the math when I got pregnant. I knew I would be 53 when my youngest graduated high school. What I didn’t count on or know about was the collision of perimenopause and puberty. While my kids are both getting hormones as a ‘tween and teen, my own hormones are apparently beginning to run away.

If you’re a mom in the same boat, here are my tips on finding peace (even without a hormone hut) in your house.

The growth of the Hormone Monster

I’ve been to several parenting seminars and read more books on puberty than I can count. At one of the seminars, the speaker pointed out the first sign of pending puberty wasn’t hair or crying or boobs or even sweatiness. She told us that our kids’ feet growing was the literal biggest indicator that puberty was on the horizon.

Sure enough, Kid One went from a kid’s size shoe to a man’s size 15 in less than a year. Kid Two got woman-sized feet long before boobs. Big Foot-level hairiness definitely followed. Those feet were harbingers of hormonal doom.

My first big tip: watch the feet. Once kids cross into adult sizes, a hormone explosion may be lurking around the corner.

H-H-A-L-T

When my kids were toddlers, I swore by the acronym HALT (Hungry-Angry-Lonely-Tired) to see why they were acting they way they were. With puberty and perimenopause running amok in our house, I’ve added another H to the acronym. Are you hormonal? Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? All of the above? Get thee to the hormone hut. Or get thee to the snack basket and some Midol.

The Ancient Bird and the Very Young Bees

It hit me one day: every person in my house “could” get pregnant or get someone pregnant. In that vein, no one in the house wants to be pregnant or will be getting anyone pregnant. At 47, that would put me at 65 when a third child would graduate high school.

Having to chat about my still-present fertility while threatening my children within an inch of their fertile selves was maybe the most uncomfortable part of “The Talk.” They didn’t want to think about me getting pregnant. Or about what causes that. And they still (fingers crossed forever) think that it’s a gross proposition for themselves.

My mom did very little talking and I consequently did very little understanding of what was going on with me or her. While initially “The Talk” isn’t fun, continuing to talk is crucial. Even if the experience is uncomfortable, it’s necessary.

Go to the doctor hut

A pediatrician only treats your kids so far. Our doctor is board-certified for kids and adults so we’ve discussed everything about puberty with him. When the hormones hit, it may be time to visit the gynecologist with daughters if your doctor only treats younger children. Your doctor that has monitored everything from growth charts to vaccines should also discuss puberty.

Ask questions. What’s normal? What’s your opinion of the HPV vaccine? And Mom, you should also get your hormone levels checked.

Be empathetic

I’ve think that there’s a positive in going through enormous hormonal changes at the same time as my kids. It’s that I’m going through enormous hormonal changes at the same time as my kids.

When they sweat at new levels, I can empathize because I have the beginning of hot flashes. When they start shaving for the first time, we can share the bloody tissue-paper covered shins. (I still haven’t figured out a way to avoid that disaster.)

Hormones can keep both adults and teens up at night and there’s honestly someone in my house crying most days. While they don’t always want to or have the ability to explain why they’re crying (and I definitely don’t always know the origin of my own tears), empathy is key. Sometimes, just sitting next to them and listening is helpful. Sometimes, staying outside of the slammed door is a better choice.

While it isn’t always fun being in the same hormone hut as my kids, the truth is that it’s better because we are together. If you find yourself in the same situation, use empathy even in the midst of your own hormone experience.

Writing the story

My kids and I started to exchange journals at the beginning of the hormone journey. They leave the simple composition notebooks outside their door with notes to me when it’s too hard or too embarrassing to talk. I respond and put the notebooks back in their rooms. The journals are a way they can open up communication without direct conversation.

If you start a similar journal exchange, be prepared for hard and easy questions. Sometimes I just get a simple “thank you” note written on one line. Introducing some form of the no-judgment, no face-to-face conversation can be one way to get hormonal kids to open up, even if it’s just on paper.

You are not alone

Almost all of my mom friends are around my age or older. While we lament and compare some of the changes our kids are going through, it’s much harder (and usually communicated in side whispers) to discuss our own hormonal changes. Open up dialogue in your mom network about your experiences too.

Craft it out

While there won’t be an actual hormone hut growing in my backyard, I am on this hormonal adventure with my kids. Occasionally man-o-pause even rears its hormonal head. By exercising empathy and being aware of the effects of hormones at both ends of the scale, our house is much more peaceful.

When it gets really bad, I may still craft and eat chocolate in my closet. I know I not the only one hiding in a closet with a glue gun and a Hershey bar.

Yep, This Nagging Feeling I Have Toward My Kids’ Grandparents Is Jealousy

I’m jealous my mother’s default child-watching emotion is joy. It sure as hell isn’t my mine.

“Perfect, hon. They were absolutely perfect.”
That’s my mom’s response when I ask her how the kids had been. Of course, I’m skeptical. On the other hand, based on the evidence in front of me, she seems to be telling the truth. Emma’s sitting quietly at the kitchen table and eating her dinner, a stark contrast to how she takes her meals when I’m in charge. Under my watch, I can no more convince my strong-willed toddler to sit down to eat than I can get her to wear pants. So, more often than not, Emma’s “meals” consist of a diaper-clad little creature running around the house while clutching a piece of raisin toast and screaming things like “I’m fru-trated.”
Then, there’s Jake. Dinnertime is normal the witching hour for the baby. But here he is, sucking down that 5:00 p.m. bottle my wife and I always have trouble with.
“Thank you so much,” I say.
“Oh hon,” my mom responds. “I should be thanking you. I get such joy out of spending time with my grandchildren.”
At this last statement, I feel an old, familiar feeling bubbling up to the surface. Initially, I had trouble identifying the feeling. But I now know it’s the green-eyed monster – jealousy. I’m actually jealous my mom is so happy to be around my kids. I’m jealous her default child-watching emotion is joy. It sure as hell isn’t my mine.
(Note: it’s not just jealousy I feel. There’s a ton of love and gratitude I feel toward my mom every single time I see her with my kids, but I don’t know how to write about those feelings in a way that’s either funny or profound – so let’s just stick with the jealousy, okay?)
For me, parenting is a cocktail of anxiety, profound love, exasperation, dread and, in very small increments, joy. Look, I love my kids as much as the next rapidly graying/balding, dad-bod-growing dad, but those little gremlins are exhausting.
The most remarkable thing I’ve discovered about parenting is this: Even if you have the shittiest, most soul-crushing job on the planet, if you have the privilege of coming home on Friday and spending the entire weekend with your children, by Sunday night you’re like, “I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!”
But the grandparent experience seems to be something else altogether. From everyone I’ve talked to, it’s a pretty cush gig.
I used to work with a woman who would tell her own daughter – on a regular basis and in all sincerity – that being a grandmother was so much more enjoyable and rewarding than being a mother.
Of course it’s more enjoyable; it’s by far the better job. And when you have the better gig, you don’t go around rubbing it in to the person in your organization with the shittier job. It’s just common courtesy for grandparents not to brag to parents – the ones in the trenches – about how great they have it. That’s like a doctor telling their nurses how amazing it is to be a doctor.
“Hey nurse, I gotta tell you. Being a doctor is the BEST. You would not believe how great my job is. I just waltz into the patient’s room, spend a few minutes making the sicky feel really important and then leave you guys to do all the hard stuff. Speaking of which, this one smells like he needs a fresh change, nurse. Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t want to be late for my tee time.”
Now my mom is far from the type of grandparent who hands back the baby every time it makes a peep. She’s as hands-on as they come. And I owe her a lot. Every week, she spends her one day off watching my kids. If that isn’t enough, the house is always spotless by the time my wife or I return.
And yet there’s still the jealousy.
I can’t help it. My mom is up at the top of the mountain, enjoying the breathtaking view of what she just scaled and looking down at the fruits of her labor – a couple of children who made it safely into adulthood and a pair of healthy grandkids. Even if she is on the back nine of her life, the top of that mountain looks pretty good to somebody in my spot.
I’m stuck here in the valley, staring up at a mountain that looks as insurmountable as Everest. I haven’t even gotten through the toddler stage, and my beard is nearly half white already. I still have the tweens, the dreaded teenage years, and that indeterminate stage where you wait anxiously to find out if your kid will become a functioning member of society or a basement-dwelling, live-at-home-til-their-late-30s, golden-year-cock-blocking slacker.
This parenting gig is stressful enough under even the most ideal conditions (ideal conditions being a team of nannies and enough money to be impacted by the recent changes to the Estate tax). But when you factor in all the terrifying possibilities beyond your control at each of these stages, it’s no wonder my default is more worry than joy.
If I’m lucky enough to make it to where my mom is right now, you can bet your sweet ass I won’t be showing my kids any common courtesy – I’ll be rubbing it right in their faces how much better I have it as a grandparent.

Posted on Categories _Connections

Four Things Foster Parents Want You to Know

I talked to foster parents, not to obtain statistics, but to hear their stories. This is what they want you to know.

According to recent statistics, roughly half a million children are in the foster care system in the U.S. About half are eventually reunited with their families, while one-fifth are adopted. Many of them entered the foster system as victims of abuse and neglect.
But what about the foster parents who step in to care for these vulnerable children when they are in crisis? While there is plenty of data about foster children, information about foster parents can be elusive.
I talked to foster parents, not to obtain statistics, but to hear their stories. This is what they want you to know.

1 | Foster parents aren’t superheroes

Most foster parents I talked to want to dispel the myth that they’re saints.
Colorado foster parent Heather Grimes says she’s accustomed to people telling her “I could never do that.” Grimes and her husband have one biological child and have fostered two younger children, one of whom they adopted.
While she says it took a lot of soul-searching to become foster parents, their decision was not driven by the conviction that they were somehow superhuman. Rather, they chose to take on the challenge in order to show their biological daughter the value of helping others. They also felt it was important to be open to the experience, rather than ruling it out based on fear of the unknown.
Foster parents are, in many ways, like all parents, says Dr. John DeGarmo. Having fostered over 50 children and the director of The Foster Care Institute, he understands how vulnerable foster parents are to fatigue, setbacks, and disappointments:
“There are times when we succeed, and there are times when we experience failures. We are not the perfect parents. We are simply trying our best to provide a home and family for a child who needs one, and help a child in need.”

2 | Yes, dealing with loss is hard (but not impossible)

Many foster parents mentioned they frequently field questions about what happens when a child is taken away from them. Mary and Ken, foster parents in Rhode Island whose foster child was ultimately reunited with his family, talked about how frequently people express apprehension over the idea of getting “too close” to the child only to have the child reunite with their biological family.
Mary says she finds that perspective “peculiar,” considering people rarely, if ever, take this stance on other relationships. “We don’t avoid having good friends or a romantic relationship because those engagements might someday come to an end. In fact, many of them do end, and we accept that as part of our life experience.”
As an expert in the field, Dr. DeGarmo encounters this question several times a week: “Doesn’t it hurt it too much to give them back?” Of course it hurts, he says; heartache is to be expected. “When the child leaves our home and our family, our hearts should break. We should experience feelings of grief and loss. After all, we have given all of our hearts and love to a child in need.”
Heather Grimes, whose first foster child ended up being returned to her biological family, says it was extremely challenging – though certainly not impossible – to be separated from that child, who lived with the Grimes’ for nearly a year.
Two years later, Grimes says, “Her photo is still on our fridge, from her first birthday, in that adorable denim jumper, sitting on the fake grass outside of Sweet Cow ice cream. Her eyes are the most gorgeous shade of blue.” While the Grimes’ may have moved on with their lives, that little girl is still in their hearts.

3 | Foster kids are not bad kids

Many parents said they often receive comments about how hard it must be to deal with difficult, out-of-control kids. In reality, says Emily, a foster parent in Missouri, most are not bad kids.
Currently the foster mom of a two-year-old and having fostered three children previously, she explains, “They just grew up in chaotic, unhealthy environments without proper adult supervision. They are capable of learning the right way to behave, express their emotions, etc. if you take the time to show and teach them.”
Tammy Hoskins says being trauma-informed is crucial in supporting foster children. Hoskins works for a Virginia non-profit serving the needs of high-risk youth. She is the mother of 10 children, four of whom are biological children and six of whom she adopted through the foster system.
Because their brains are still developing, children are especially vulnerable to the deleterious effects of trauma, including difficulty with learning, social-emotional development, brain structure, cognition, physical health, and attachment.
Says Hoskins, “To understand, to empathize, and to work with them in collaborative ways to solve problems is crucial to their healing.”
The work of Daniel Siegel, Karen Purvis, and webinars available through the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) are among the many resources she recommends foster parents take advantage of.

4 | The foster system isn’t just a cold bureaucracy

While the foster system can be impersonal and frustrating, known for its many rules and regulations, it has its upsides, too.
Heather Grimes was surprised to find how much she appreciated being part of the foster system. “I appreciated interacting with the parents of [our first foster child] with the social workers, medical professionals, everyone. I felt like I was supporting a bigger cause. I felt such a sense of pride that my family chose to go to such great lengths for others.”
Dr. DeGarmo points out that foster parents are helping not just the children, but the whole family. “Part of being a foster parent is helping the parents of the children living with us…helping our fellow human beings.”
He also notes that many biological parents of foster children were in the foster system themselves and, for lack of resources, are stuck in this cycle. As most foster parents were quick to point out, the biological parents aren’t necessarily bad people. They, too, love their kids, and they have flaws – like all parents.
From talking to foster parents, I learned that being a foster parent doesn’t require a superhero cape, sainthood, or limitless patience. It does take commitment, compassion, and a desire to help others.

Reflections on the First 30 Days of Parenthood From Dads Who’ve Been There

We discussed fears, coping, breastfeeding, partnerships, and advice with five rad dads. While each have different stories, many sentiments remain the same.

Fatherhood is an amazing experience … but it doesn’t always start out that way. That’s as true for first-time dads as it is for first-time moms. The moment your child comes into the world, you’re responsible for the survival of a living, breathing, constantly excreting creature.
Between the jarring change to your everyday routine, the sleepless nights, and the nagging suspicion that you’ll never be even remotely as important as Mom, most new dads experience at least a few moments of “What the hell did I just do?!” in those first weeks.

Meet the dads

Parent Co. Studio recently spoke with five dads: Mike (five-year-old son and a new baby arriving any day), Andy (10-month-old daughter), Don (two-month-old son), Jon (five-year-old and two-year-old daughters), and Ben (13-month-old son).
We discussed fears, coping, breastfeeding, partnerships, and advice (tap a topic to jump). Here’s what we learned:

What was the most unexpected thing about becoming a new parent a.k.a. what freaked you out the most?

There’s a popular stereotype about dads being these big dumb oafs who are simply too lazy, too stupid, or both to worry about the myriad dangers facing their babies. (A Google search of “Don’t Leave Babies With Dad” yields 155 million results.)
The dads we spoke with, however, were not only hyper-aware of the sheer responsibility of their new role; they were worried about EVERYTHING. The temperature of the baby bottle, the security of the car seat, the minefield of that first bath, and, of course, the innumerable dangers out of their control all registered like a 7.0 earthquake on the Dad Richter Scale.
Each of these dads also cited the challenges of their limited role in those early days, especially if their partner is exclusively breastfeeding.
But the doubts and fears do eventually fade. One response perfectly illustrates the reason for the anxiety – and why it doesn’t last long:
ANDY: You ask yourself a million questions constantly in the beginning because you don’t want to screw the baby up, but the good news is, you go from knowing nothing to being relatively confident fairly quickly with a new baby.
[su_spacer size=”40″][/su_spacer]new dad and baby with BabyBay cosleeper

Parent Co. partnered with Babybay because they know the role of Dad is one you grow into.

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How did you cope with the crying and the sleep deprivation?

When you combine a wailing baby with the interrupted sleep that accompanies an infant’s constant feeding schedule, you tend to feel pretty crappy.
One of the dads we spoke to was lucky enough to have a unicorn baby – a rare, mythical creature who sleeps soundly from the get-go. This outlier dad wisely didn’t talk about his good fortune around his fellow fathers.
For the rest of the lot, sleep deprivation is very, very real. Yet it was also the one thing they’d been most prepared for in anticipation of their new baby. As a result, they either pushed through it like a marathoner whose feet start to ache around mile 11, or they leaned on their community and slept whenever they could find a couch and fit it in – even if only for 10 minutes here or there.
Jon: I think the sleep deprivation thing is a bit overblown … there was so much build up to it, so many people saying how terrible it was, that I didn’t think it was all that horrible by the time I got to it. Kind of like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The crying was harder to handle for the new dads, which kicked their problem-solving, stress-reducing instincts into high gear because there is simply no worldly equivalent to that nails-on-the-chalkboard screech-howl:
Don: For the crying, I rely on my fitness and my breathing to help keep me calm and composed. Box breathing is a great technique to add to your daily routine. (Don is the owner of Bucktown Fit, a personal training business that specializes in physical and mental strength training.)
Ben: You learn very quickly what’s going to pacify your baby in that first month. Whatever works, just give it a whirl. Usually, it was the boob. The boob is the greatest pacifier ever.
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What was your role in the breastfeeding process during those first 30 days? How did that make you feel?

Due to the insane demands of breastfeeding, the dads felt a lot of pressure to make life a little bit easier for Mom.
They made themselves human gophers (“I’ll do it!”), they jumped at any opportunity to give the bottle, they took on all the household chores…. In short, these guys tried their darndest, tapping a level of empathy that would make even the most demanding psychologist proud.
They also struggled mightily in the process, experiencing feelings ranging from guilt and anxiety to a tinge of jealousy.
Mike: The hardest thing for me was trying to make myself feel useful. I had a difficult time connecting with my son, and I felt like the third wheel. I was there in a helper capacity as opposed to feeling that it was our family we just created.
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How did the baby change things between you and your partner? How did your perception of your partner change after seeing her as a mother?

As the saying goes, “having a baby changes everything” – for better and, at least temporarily, for worse.
While one of the dads met his partner just three months before she got pregnant (for these two, their love was never stronger than the 30 days of the new baby’s life), the rest of group weren’t so lucky. Relationships were tested, fights ensued, and roles shifted dramatically. One dad said it feels like they’re exclusively their son’s parents now.
At the same time, seeing their wives and partners give birth and step into the role of a new mother was an amazing experience for the new dads. Phrases like “awe-inspiring” and “life-changing” were used to describe that feeling, and many said it reminded them of falling in love with their spouse all over again.
Ben: Taking an A/B relationship and adding C – and C just happens to be something B grew in her body for nine months – your A/B relationship gets put to the side, and you have to accept that.
Mike: Your relationship is tested. You’re not doing the things that made you a couple, and the experiences that made you a couple are stripped away, so you’re bound to ask, “Is this gonna be okay?”
Jon: My wife’s instincts – she’s incredibly nurturing and warm – are so strong, and she’s also smart, hard-working, and competent. These are things that attracted me to her in the first place, but I realized after we had a baby that I couldn’t live without those attributes.
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What advice would you offer new dads for those first 30 days?

Mike: That vision you have of being a dad – of running errands and going to the park with your little guy or girl by your side – that takes a while to happen. Hang in there. Time is what makes the bond. By the time my son was a year, it was all dad, all the time.
Andy: Whenever you can, bring your child into your life instead of trying to completely bend your life to your child’s.
Don: Communicate with your wife/partner in a 100 percent open and honest manner from the start. You’re going to need to look out for each other more than you ever have.
Jon: Whether it’s changing diapers and swaddling or just preparing bottles, take pride in everything you learn. I was eager to prove that the stereotype of the helpless dad is lame, sexist and, in most cases, flat-out wrong.
Ben: The routine WILL become second-nature more quickly than you think. But be careful: Time speeds up when you settle into a routine. If you’re not careful, all the magical moments blend into one. Take it slow, enjoy every milestone, and break the routine when you can.
There’s a saying about becoming a new parent that goes something like this: Before you have your children, all your friends with kids tell you about how amazing it is. Then, when you finally do have a baby, those same friends say, “Don’t worry, it gets better.”
For many dads trudging through the muck and mire of those first 30 (or more) days of fatherhood, this saying may hit a little too close to home. If you’re in that boat, remember the words of the seasoned dads we spoke to. After all, each of them not only made it safely to the other shore, but they also made it there a little wiser – and were more than willing to share their wisdom.
While each of these guys has a vastly different background and story, they share many common sentiments about becoming a dad. Perhaps the most important of all:
It only gets better – much, much better.
babybay logoParent Co. partnered with Babybay because they know the role of Dad is one you grow into.

Seven Tips for Stepfamily Success

A loving and well-adjusted stepfamily is possible when couples commit to taking the time and action necessary to get there.

The stakes are high in marriage for those looking to get it right the second time around. While remarriage can heal the scars of divorce, and blended families can provide newfound hope and optimism, recent statistics show that over 60 percent of second marriages fail.
As ominous as this sounds, there are key steps you and your partner can take to maintain a happy remarriage.
In his book “Stepfamilies”, James Bray found that at the heart of every well-functioning blended family is a stable and happy marriage. Research by The Gottman Institute found that the strength of a couple’s relationship ultimately determines the family’s success.
Remarried couples need a strong foundation of trust and communication in order to buffer the challenges that arise from stepfamily life. With the understanding that marriage satisfaction determines stepfamily stability, a loving and well-adjusted stepfamily is possible when couples commit to taking the time and action necessary to get there.
These helpful tips provide a guide for couples who are navigating the ups and downs of remarriage.

Set realistic expectations

Couples can become disillusioned quickly when they fail to anticipate the number of difficulties unique to stepfamily life. Caught up in love and having a sense of family once again, they can forget that blended families are not a restoration of what once existed, but rather a brand new construction of family life.
Once blended families face key issues head-on, like finances, stepchildren dynamics, and navigating ex-spouse relations, then they can create the right atmosphere for a new family to grow and blossom.

Communication is key

It is critical that remarried couples learn how to communicate effectively and not be afraid to discuss sensitive topics as they arise. Conflict is inevitable, and without the fundamentals of effective listening and understanding, a couple can become gridlocked on major marital issues.
Over time, poor communication can chip away at the foundation of the relationship – the foundation that keeps the stepfamily intact. Gottman’s research found that 69 percent of conflict is unsolvable; there is no magic cure to eradicate the inevitable. Instead, couples should seek to manage conflict with empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Gottman also warns couples against engaging in the four most destructive relationship behaviors, known as The Four Horsemen, during disagreements (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling).
Using “I” statements to express your feelings and needs, accepting responsibility, staying respectful, having gratitude and appreciation for your partner’s positive traits and actions, and being able to take a break when things get tough are all helpful ways to keep arguments from escalating.

Parent together, not separately

Loyalty to your own child is real and valid, and can feel very strong. This can make stepparent discipline a very delicate topic. Remember that love and trust develops over time between stepparents and stepchildren. It’s important to establish roles for parenting and discipline early on and adjust as needed to each child’s developmental cycle.
According to Bray, the adolescent period of a child’s life can be a very difficult phase in stepfamily development – one that usually catches the couple off guard and can cause great strain to the family dynamic as a whole. Be mindful of this time in your own family structure, and engage in what Gottman calls “emotion coaching” to help adolescent children understand their emotions and to show that you’re there for them.

Create your own unique family system

One way to think of the difference between blended and nuclear families is that blended families are like a crockpot meal, while nuclear families are like a quick skillet sauté. Purely biological families are seared together with fierce devotion and love, yet stepfamilies stew together slowly, taking time to bond and become unshakeable.
Bray’s research found that stepfamilies often don’t feel like a unit until several years after formation. Give yourselves time to come together and develop as a family. You can help this process along by establishing some special family traditions, like a weekly pizza and movie night or a monthly outing to your family’s favorite restaurant. Shared experiences like these can help families bond and form their own unique identity.

Stay connected to your partner

Staying true to your shared goals as a couple and supporting each other’s future hopes and dreams is essential for staying unified. Daily check-in conversations, engaging in shared hobbies and interests, and regular date nights away from the kids help to keep the relationship strong, romantic, and deeply connected.

Practice patience and understanding

The blending of families is like a marathon, not a sprint. Commit to the journey and find ways to enjoy and learn from each moment of happiness and frustration that comes with it.
Did your stepkids tease you for winning again during family game night? Tease them back and keep it lighthearted. Did your partner go against your wishes on discipline? Talk it through honestly, calmly, and respectfully. With every slip up or misunderstanding, keep in mind that you’re both on the same team.

Stay the course and don’t give up

When things don’t go as planned or you’re having a difficult time integrating as a family, think back to the beginning and remember why you came together in the first place. No relationship is without its own set of challenges. Couples who commit to overcoming the obstacles together build a strong foundation to get through tough issues in the future.
Supportive statements like, “This is a rough time for us, but we’re going to get through it,” or “We’re in this together no matter what” can provide powerful motivation.
Remarried couples committed to success do best when they understand the importance of having a strong marital relationship that acts as the foundation for the blended family’s happiness. Marriage, including its challenges, can be a wonderful adventure for you, your partner, and your new family.
Written by April Eldemire LMFT for The Gottman Relationship Blog.

Posted on Categories _Connections

8 Psychologist-Backed Tips for Improving Communication with Kids

When you communicate well with your child, it leads to a strong relationship, greater cooperation, and feelings of worth. These expert tips can help.

There are two things that I think the TV series “The Simpsons” got spot on when it comes to communication between parents and kids. One is that kids can truly call their parent on repeat for as long as it takes. Many of my days involve a soundtrack of “Mom” call-outs. Lately, there has been a space of actual minutes between each “Mom” called out in my home, so maybe it doesn’t last forever.

The other is that parents often don’t know how to talk to kids. Parents frequently resort to long lectures in which they completely lose their kids’ attention. Like Bart and the other kids in “The Simpsons,” it just sounds like blah, blah, blah. This is unfortunate and frustrating for parents.

Most parents excel at giving instructions or providing facts to their kids. For example, “Please get ready for school” or “You need to watch for cars when you cross the road” are things parents generally have down pat. Struggles with communication often happen when big feelings are involved. This might be your child’s feelings, your feelings, or both.

Along with getting kids to listen, some parents tell me they struggle to get their child to communicate with them other than in one-word answers. They want to know how better to connect with their child so that their child can share thoughts, feelings, and experiences with them.

When you communicate well with your child, it leads to a strong relationship, greater cooperation, and feelings of worth. When communication is a struggle, it can lead to your child switching off, conflict, and feelings of worthlessness.

How can parents talk to kids when kids (or parents) are wrestling with big feelings? How can we talk so kids will listen? How can we encourage our kids to talk to us? Below are my top tips that I’ve gleaned from the experts over the years. I use them in my clinic and as a parent.

1 | Use “Door Opener” statements

These statements encourage your child to say more, and to share ideas and feelings. They tell your child that you’re really listening and interested. They also communicate that you think her ideas are important, and that you accept her and respect what she’s saying.

Examples of “Door Opener” Statements:

  • “Wow”
  • “I see.”
  • “Oh.”
  • “How about that!”
  • “Really?”
  • “Tell me more.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “Amazing”

When you use these statements, your child will get the sense that you’re truly interested. Children are more likely to share when they think you’re engaged with what they’re saying. It goes without saying that you must also look up from what you’re doing and focus on them. The words alone won’t count.

2 | Use more “dos” than “don’ts”

Some kids hear a lot of “don’ts.” Often parents know what they don’t want to happen, so they lead in with a “don’t” statement. The downside of “don’t” statements is that they fail to promote the positive behavior you want to see. If anything, they reinforce the behavior you don’t want.

Imagining talking to your child as you talk to your friends can help break the “don’t” habit. We would rarely say “don’t do this, don’t do that” to our friends when they come to visit. We instead use more open and respectful suggestions. Swapping our “don’ts” for “dos” can look like this:

  • “Don’t go outside, it’s cold,” becomes “Stay inside please. It’s too cold to play outside.”
  • “Don’t hit your brother” becomes “Play gently with your brother.”
  • “Don’t color on the carpet” becomes “Please do your coloring on the table.”

3 | Talk with your child, not at your child

Instead of only giving instructions, engage your child in a two-sided conversation. This means both talking and listening to what your child has to say. This can be challenging when your child has a limited vocabulary or interests, but it’s important to practice if you want a healthy relationship now and in the future.

This is a good habit to get into because, when your child is more skilled verbally, they’ll want to talk with you. When we talk “at” a child, we give the message that their thoughts and feelings are not important or interesting, and that the parenting relationship is about the child doing what you want.

4 | Use “I” statements to communicate

Parents often speak to their children with “you” statements: “You’re so messy,” “You’re a pest,” or “You’re silly.” Using “I” statements can help us more clearly communicate how our child’s behavior is impacting us. It also gives your child more of an idea of what’s expected of him and puts greater responsibility on him to change.

Here are some examples:

  • “You’re a pest” becomes “I don’t feel like playing because I’m tired.”
  • “Your bedroom is a disgrace” becomes “I need you to pick up your things.”
  • “You don’t make any sense” becomes “I don’t understand. Can you explain it again?”

5 | Make requests important

Asking if a child would like to do something but being vague in your request is a recipe for your kid ignoring you. In order to make sure your requests are heeded, you must first ensure you have your child’s attention. Then speak with firmness to show that you mean what you say, and give the child a reason why he must do this thing at this particular time.

If your child is engaged in play, it can be hard to shift his attention to you, so either pick a different time or know that you’ll have to put in the work to engage your child’s attention first in order for your request to be successful.

A successful request would look like this: “James, I need you to pack away your toys on the table now please. It’s important because there is no space to eat on the table.” It will work better than “Can you pack away your toys? I’ve already asked you twice!”

6 | No unkind words and labels

Some common but unhelpful ways of communicating with kids is to use ridiculing, shaming, and name-calling. This communication styles can lead to problems in the parent-child relationship. Avoid using statements like “You’re acting like a two-year-old,” “You’re an embarrassment to me,” or “You’re a bad boy.”

Parents sometimes use these types of statements to get their child to behave. These statements only leave your child feeling disliked, and negatively affects her view of herself.

7 | Use kind words

Kind words create a good relationship and better communication with your child. Children who are spoken to with appreciation and respect also have better self-worth, which allows them to thrive. Instead of, “You idiot, I told you that would break if you played with it in the bathroom,” say “Let’s get the dustpan and clean it up. Accidents happen.”

Other examples of kind words:

  • “Thank you for helping me with the dishes.”
  • “You did a good job of getting your room clean.”
  • “That really makes me feel good.”
  • “I like seeing you play nicely with your sister.”
  • “I love you.”

8 | Show your child you accept them

When your child knows that you accept her as she is and not how you want her to be, everything changes. It allows your child to change and feel good about herself. When your child feels good about herself, she is more likely to get along with other people. She also feels safe to share her thoughts and feelings.

When you threaten, command, preach, and lecture your child it makes her feel like she is bad, that you don’t like her, and that she can’t do anything right. For example, if your child says, “I don’t like those vegetables,” and you respond “Eat your vegetables. You are always trying to get out of it. You’re acting like a spoiled toddler,” your child will be left feeling disconnected from you and believe that you think she is bad.

Instead, try a winning way of talking with your child. Substitute something like this for the previous statement, “It’s hard for you to eat food that you’re unsure of or didn’t like the taste of last time. I’d like you to try to eat at least some so you can see how you find the taste today.” This statement acknowledges your child’s struggle and provides a suggestion of how she can handle the situation.

Accepting your child does not mean accepting all behaviors, it means communicating in a way that doesn’t shame her.

Good communication is the heart of more harmonious homes and is the key to a healthy relationship with your child. It provides a place your child can thrive and grow from. Good communication with you forms the basis of good communication with other people as your child grows into an adult.

Keep working on these communication skills. It can be hard at first, especially if you were parented by an authoritarian parent. Like all skills, practicing helps. When you slip up, repair it with your child and start fresh.

To the Mom Who Is Barely Hanging On

Your face told me you’re clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down, but your world is putting up such a fight you’re not sure it’s worth it.

I drove past you in the dusky light of a fading day. You were hanging onto your life – the life you long to live – but your face told me you’d reached the end of your rope.

An infant strapped to your chest, the handle of a stroller in your left hand, and the leash of your small and energetic dog nearly yanking your right shoulder out of its socket, your face said it all. Your face told me that you’re clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down, but your world is putting up such a fight that you’re not sure it’s worth it.

I’m sure you were stuck in the house all day. I’m sure the walls had started closing in and you grew weary of cleaning up the same 15 toys a dozen times. You probably started to wonder if all this mothering of little ones was making a difference or not, and you might have started to feel that you’d lost yourself.

You gave up your career, or at least the satisfaction of doing it well. You let friendships slip to the back-burner, and you can’t remember the last time you had a girls’ night out or ate with both hands in your very own kitchen. For that matter, you can’t recall the last time you actually sat down to enjoy your own meal.   

You sometimes wonder if you and your husband live on two entirely different planets. The most pressing household needs – hungry children, sticky fingers, toys strewn under the dining room table three minutes before dinner is served, poopy diapers – seem to complete elude his attention.

In addition to living in different worlds, he still holds onto pieces of his life that you lost years ago. He has time for Saturday morning golf, Friday afternoon happy hour, and career development seminars. He has time for football games, haircuts, and morning workouts at the gym.

Meanwhile, you’d like to know just where your individuality up and ran off to. You’ve laid down every hobby and every personal passion for this. You gave up your gym membership for baby yoga in the living room, and you now cut your own hair every six months using a complicated system of tilted mirrors. You’re not sure what you’d even want to do if you had three hours to yourself; most likely, you’d crash into a long and uninterrupted slumber.

I know these things, woman with two children and a yanking dog, because I’ve been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1000 times, but I’ve made it to the other side, and the woman I’ve found there is a woman I’d like to spend a day with. She’s a woman who I happen to like more than the single woman who had a thriving career, passion for travel, strict workout routine, and full social schedule.

When a woman learns to let go of the rope to which she’s ferociously clinging, she’s forced to jump into a new kind of life and, sometimes, letting go of the rope is the greatest gift. 

Letting go made me a bit gentler. It taught me that I don’t have all the answers and that, the longer I live, the fewer answers I seem to have.

Letting go softened me. It slowed me down. It invited me into a life that’s less about me and what I want in any given moment, and more about others and how I can invest in a way that brings joy to the lives of others.

Letting go taught me that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to keep it all together or put on a mask. I simply need to show up.

So, lady with the kids and the yanking dog, I applaud you. I applaud you for trying, and I applaud you for showing up. I see it on your face that you’re barely hanging on, and I’m here to encourage you that letting go isn’t as terrifying as you thought it might be. Let go of all that’s draining you dry, and keep putting one tired foot in front of the other in all your human imperfection.

This season won’t last nearly as long as you expect, and when you emerge on the other side, the woman you’ve become will look back on the journey with a tender smile.