Tag Archive for parenting help

Recommended Reading

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Often times I give parents book  recommendations, and if you are like most parents out there you have a library full of books that were helpful at some point. These are some of the ones that I most frequently recommend.

In an Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine


Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening The Ordinary Miracle of Healing by Peter Levine


The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel


Princess Recovery: A How-to Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters by Jennifer L Hartstein


The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing To Your Adopted Family by Karyn Purvis


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish





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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant.  Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.




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Happy Kids: Creative and Effective Ways to Reduce Stress for Little Ones

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Kids today are pretty stressed out.  Whether it be that state exam they have to pass before moving onto the next grade, the upcoming choir concert, or the social drama that most young ones have in the playground, life can be a little more overwhelming than  we may remember.  It’s important to ask our children, if they are feeling overwhelmed, and many of us are so inundated by our own stressors, that we forget to. By this time of year, they are growing tired of school and expectations, ready to have more recess and less dance recitals.  The pressures often go unnoticed until you speak with them as adolescents.  I have many teenagers and adults tell me that their anxiety started when they were in grade school.

So how do we teach our children that stress is a normal part of life and can be combated in effective ways? I frequently teach workshops to children on this very topic; children love learning new tools and tricks to feeling better.  When we give them control to pick the techniques that they would like to employ, we are giving them the opportunity to figure out what really works for them, rather then choosing what we want to work for them.  It instills a sense of knowing themselves at a very young age, which is a quality that if developed now, will with self-esteem building, confidence, and self worth that will last a life time.

Stress-Less Ideas

Make a Mind Jar. I love this idea.  A mother, and who spent years in the mental health field created The Mind Jar to help relax her daughter through the first few weeks of kindergarten.  This calming tool is fun to make and allows kids to focus on calming down.  I only use the Mind Jar to get through moments of fear or anxiousness with my kids.  If they are worried about school, or a family member they know is ill, or strife with a friend.  I’m usually sitting with them and we’ll talk it out, as we both enjoy the glitter show.  It never occurred to me to hand them a glass jar full of liquid and glitter while they were in the throes of a tantrum.  What is a mind jar?  It’s a jar full or glitter glue, glitter and water.  Swirl it around and relax while you watch the glitter fall to the bottom of the jar. Check out her awesome blog at chasingthefirefly.wordpress.com

Play dough. Pick up a pack or make  your own from  the simple recipe below.  Whenever I work on stress reduction or anger with kids, play dough is a hidden gem!  They can use it to practice mindfulness and focus on how it feels in their hands as well as how their body feels when they squeeze, pound or pull it.  I often have them make a fruit shape and have them “squeeze” the juice out slowly, focusing on how this whole body feels, and name what they are feeling.  If do this a few times coupled with some breathing and you just relaxed your kiddo. Want to get super creative and make your own?  Try this recipe from Musings from a stay at home mom http://musingsfromasahm.com/2012/02/easy-homemade-playdough-recipe/

Write it out.  When you get worries out of your head and on to a to-do list or journal, life becomes a bit more manageable. Help your child do this by giving them a note pad and some colorful markers.  If the child is old enough, have them write out all the things that are on their mind, then prioritize it.  For school stress this is a sure thing, “talk to Ms. G about retaking test tomorrow”, “pack lunch”, “finish math homework.” Read chapter 4 for English” “Call Jen about hanging out this weekend.” When they get all the thoughts in their head down on paper, it allows for space to be made to actually do them, plus you can see what really is stressful for them and help.  Have younger kids list these things out loud (or drawn them) while you write.

Tip: Then let THEM chose what they want your help with, sometimes they may want to keep their list private, that’s okay.  When they are done they can crumple, rip or get rid of the list.

Yoga for Kids.  There are some amazing classes out there and studios that have yoga classes specifically for kids.  As much as this is great for flexibility, it is also wonderful tool that teaches  mindfulness and body awareness.  If it’s a few postures when they are frustrated with homework or mad at a friend, it allows them to GET IN THEIR BODY and out of their anxious mind.  If your child detests the idea of going to a class, try DVD or hit up YouTube for some kids practicing poses.  I love this article by Michele Zip from Cafe Mom, on Yoga poses to help kids sleep better (they may help us sleep better too)

The bottom line: If we give kids the tools now, we see happier better adjusted adults.

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Keep Your Brain & Body Healthy This Winter

By: Emily Roberts, MA, LPC

Tis the season to be…Sick? Injured? Exhausted?  Let’s hope not.  As the chilly air approaches and the snowflakes begin to fall your immune system is up for a challenge.  Winter is notoriously one of the most difficult times of the year on our health.  Holiday stress takes a toll on us mentally and physically, add in a cold, dehydration, or even a hit to the head and you have yourself a rough few months.  In order to keep your family healthy this seasons our suggestions below.

Immunity Boost.  Our immune systems often take a nose dive when there is a change in temperature.  As adults, the stress of the season, end of year deadlines, and having contact with our office mates who arefeeling under-the-weather, can severely affect our body’s ability to fight off viruses. For kids, they are constantly around runny noses and germs. You know the drill one kid get the flu, and suddenly a classroom of 20 becomes 10.

- Tip: For adults and children, make sure that you are taking your vitamins consistently. Studies suggest that when taken regularly, vitamins and minerals do their job to keep us healthy and happy. When implemented at the sign of sickness, they are not built up in our immune system enough to ward off viruses. Also, it is suggested that Vitamin D, especially in the wintertime, can ward off depression and increase overall immunity.

-Tip: Remember the basics and remind children: cover your mouth/ nose when you sneeze-don’t sneeze on others, wash your hands,  use hand sanitizer, blow your nose in a tissuenot your shirt sleeve ( I really do see adults do this all the time- yuck!) .

Stay Hydrated.  Getting our H20 intake is one of the most neglected parts of our winter routine and is detrimentally to our health.  Dehydration can be just as common in the winter as in the summer. Since your body is not sweating as much as it did in those hot and humid summer months, it’s easy to overlook the signs of dehydration. A dehydrated body can lead to exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cramps, loss of coordination and even stroke.  Dehydration can also leave your body more susceptible to common colds and flu, which are both more prevalent in the winter.

- Tip: Coffee can dehydrate you big time, and although it’s tempting on a chilly day, try tea instead.  The health benefits of tea are immense. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) suggests many teas increase immunity, fight free radicals, reduce cancer risks, heart disease, and other ailments.  Tea also contains flavonoids that may help with blood vessel functionality and buildup of cholesterol. If you’re not into tea, try hot tea, sparkling water, or flavored water if regular water isn’t hitting the spot. For kiddos, cut their juice with water, and decaffeinated flavored tea such as spiced apple or honey lemon can make a great warm treat (plus many feel mature drinking tea- huge selling
point!). Read more: Howto Stay Hydrated During Winter | eHow.com

Head Injuries.  Winter sports can bring on many physical risks.  For our skiers and snowboarders out there helmet use is strongly recommended.  Long term mental issues are often systemic of childhood head injuries.  Dr. Daniel Amen’s work on traumatic brain injury has more verified this. Helmet use is associated with a 22 percent to 60 percent reduction in head injury risk, but helmets are not being used by the majority of those on the slopes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that half of head injuries on the slopes could be prevented by helmets, but a survey of several United States ski resorts found that helmets were worn by just one in eight skiers and snowboarders. Notably, the most-skilled athletes were most likely to wear a helmet.

-Tip:  If your renting ski supplies make sure that you ask for helmets, many rental facilities do not reserve these for you unless you ask in advance.

-Tip: If your child protests, find a picture of a famous Olympic athlete cruising down the slope in their cool helmets, it will help them make a positive association with staying safe.  Also be a good role model, if you’re telling them to wear aone, and your helmet-less they are less likely to comply.

So drink up, stay safe, and be healthy this season.  You’ll enjoy hitting the slopes and building those snowmen much more with an optimal immune system- and your kids will too!

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Tuesday’s Tips: Commuication Enhancers for Parents

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Have you ever been talking to a friend about something important, and you are really spilling your guts, while she appears to be half-heartedly listening?  Maybe she is checking her email, responding to a text, or folding the kids laundry; she may really hear you, but her body language tells a different story.  Does yours?

With good communication, family bonds grow stronger, your children open up more, family members hear one another, and trust is maintained.  Many children I speak to have confessed that they believe that their parents “don’t hear them”.  Interestingly enough, parents are telling me the same thing.  So what’s the problem?  Often times the way we listen that can be the problem.  We also teach our children to model our listening behaviors, if you give off the impression that you are somewhat listening, this closes the door for future communication with them.  Kids are smart, and they remember when they have been shut down, even if it just feels that way.

As a therapist, I have been trained to learn to listen.  There are techniques that I was taught to make sure that I convey a listening ear, they have worked wonders across the couch and even within my outside relationships. Here are a few tips to show your kids (and others in your life) that you are actually hearing what they say.

Eye Contact & Body Language

Do:  Look at them when they are talking to you. Make sure it is natural, not in a creepy bug-eyed, like you are trying too hard kind of way. Naturally looking at them, getting on their level physically and seeing their face conveys that you are hearing them, and you likely are as distractions dimish when you focus on their face.  Also nod.  Nodding is a subtle cue that you are following the story; think about when someone is listening to you, how do you know from their body language that they are paying attention? Do this.

Do: If it’s a bad time, stop what your doing for just a minute, get down on their level and look them in the eye, ask if its an emergency and if not then ask them if they would mind waiting ___amount of time.  Say “It will make me a better listener”.  Make sure to stick to the allocated time.  Respect them just like you would a good friend.

 Don’t: Look at your phone, the computer, TV, or even the chore you are in the middle of completing. Your child, not to mention anyone you are speaking with, gets the impression that you really aren’t fully here due to your body language.  You likely are not looking at them or facing them, which makes it harder to listen fully and hear what they are saying; plus, you are missing out on body language cues.

Take a Technology Break

Do: Put the phone down.  I have talked with hundreds of elementary and adolescent aged children. One of the biggest  complaints I hear is “When my mom/dad picks me up from school (dance, soccer, ect) and they are on the phone it puts me in a bad mood, I don’t want to talk to them afterwards.”  First of all, it’s illegal in most states to talk on the phone in a school zone, so hang up for that reason.  Secondly, it makes kids feel unimportant; as though they are a chore or burden (I had a third grade girl use the word burden in this situation). Use your car travel time as an opportunity to have uninterrupted time with your kids. Catch up on the day, play a game, talk about the music on the radio, stay connected.  

Do:  Talk about talking on the phone: Have you ever been stuck in the car with someone on the phone?  It’s annoying.  If you have to make a call, make it brief and let your child know in advance, as well as the party you are calling “Honey, I have to make a call to let Dad know we are running a few minutes late. Can you do me a favor and be quite for just two minutes?”  Also let the receiving end know you are in the car with the kids “I only have a second I’m in the car…” Keep it short.  If you want them to respect you when they get a phone, you have to do the technology teaching now.

Don’t: Text/email/Google and drive, even at a stop light.  Your kids will be drivers eventually and you are the role models for their driving behavior.  I had a young woman who told me her mother made her take the wheel while she was finishing an email, the girl was 14.  Needless to say, not the best role model, not to mention this particular client’s mother was always texting, emailing, or on the phone in front of her, she told me often she felt like work was more important than spending time with her. Sad.

Summarize and stick to the point

 Do:  Listen and summarize. A teenager will come into my office venting about her “horrible day”.  After her rant I may say “Wow, it sounds like you had a rough day!” or “Sorry to hear about that situation in the lunch room, that must have been really hard.  Is there anything I can do to help?” 

Do: Empathize and ask relevant questions. I suggest parents to listen and respond with empathy and feeling words “that must have been hard”, “Wow, tell me more.”  “It sounds like your handling this well, even with the rough day.”  “Really…What did he/she/your teacher say?” Too many questions may annoy them, so stick to relevant questions about the situation at hand. If they say they don’t feel like talking about it, let them know that you are here to listen when they are, don’t push them to talk- huge roadblock in communication.  Questions show others that you are following their story; AKA listening.

Don’t:  Change the topic or make it about you.  There is nothing more frustrating then when someone does this.  One of the biggest complaints I get from kids is when parents will immediately try and give them advice or use this time as an opportunity to recollect on their own childhood. Of course you are doing this as a learning tool, but most kids see it as taking away from their thunder, thus shutting them down, and the shutting the door to communication.  Use your stories about similar situations after they are done venting, and ask them if they want to hear how you handled a similar situation, don’t demand that they hear it.  They will stop listening, I promise.

Bottom line, notice when you don’t feel entirely heard; whether it by friends, spouse, or your children, and ask yourself  “Am I doing this to them?”  You may not be, but it’s always worth an introspective look, your children model much of your behavior.  Teach them to be good listeners, and better communication patterns will be developed. Also keep your word, if you say you will be off in two minutes get off in two minutes!  Kids use your word to gauge respect, and it feels disrespectful when one does not stick to their end of the bargain.



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Talking to Your Child About 9/11

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

As adults, we can all recall exactly what we were doing when we heard the news on September 11, 2001.  I recall it vividly and always will.  Even though most our children did not experience 9/11 directly, they all remember the first time they heard about or saw the traumatic images of planes crashing, people crying, and utter chaos.  These images will forever be a part of them and their view of the world, as 9/11 is a part of history.  It would be remiss to say that your child does not know about these events, if you haven’t told them (and they are over the age of 6) they have likely heard about it by their peers, at school, or even on television.  Just passing the magazine rack at the grocery store displays graphic images with articles about the upcoming anniversary.  Rather than let the anxiety train go into auto pilot and them come up with their own thoughts or ideas about why 9/11 occurred, or attempting to shield them from life, let’s give them the gentle truth behind what they are exposed to.   This is especially important as images of this tragic day our everywhere with the anniversary approaching.

Here are some suggestions for discussing this difficult topic without re-traumatizing your child and yourself:

Before You Talk:

Talk to your Partner:  make sure both of you are on the same page about how to approach it. You don’t want your child hearing a graphic, emotionally charged version from one parent and nonchalant version from another; that is confusing.  Make sure you set boundaries on how much information you both feel is appropriate.

Talk to your child’s teacher: Ask how they have presented it in class, and if other children are talking about it.

Discharge your own anxiety:  this conversation is to help your child, not to project your own anxieties about the state of affairs in our country or how anxious you are; kids pick up on this and absorb your anxieties.

The Conversation:

Start with a question: 

“Have you heard about 9/11 at school?” 

“Have any of your friends talked about September 11th?” 

“The September 11th Anniversary is coming up have you heard of this before?

Let them drive the conversation:  try to avoid discounting their questions “that’s not important” or “why do you need to know”. This will likely spur more of an interest; if they don’t hear it from you they can get the answer from just about anyone else.  Try to say things like “what questions do you have?”, “What have you learned?”, “How does it make you feel when you hear about it?” “How can I help you?”

Remind them about normal feelings:  many people feel sad or worried, perhaps bring in some of your own feelings; make sure you edit it to your child’s education level. It’s not appropriate to say “I had panic attacks every time I got on a plane afterwards.”  Rather, “I too had some fearfulness after the events, but eventually got through it.” 

Avoid graphic pictures or descriptions:  if you’re walking down the street or turn on the TV you will likely see an image of 9/11 (even on Nickelodeon), therefore explain what the images are and how we are safe now. This is similar to how a history teacher will not go into the gruesome details of a tragic war, rather explains that people did lose their lives and brave civilians saved many lives (talk about the firefighters, police officers, and so on).  Often times, children seem fascinated by the graphic or violence, instead of dismissing you can say it’s important for us to focus on the facts and also ask them why those images stand out for them (this could be an overt way of discussing their fear or anxieties).

Stick to the facts: avoid going into an emotional or politically charged conversation.

Accentuate the positives:  Remind your child about the heroes and the bravery that occurred, how our country came together to support each other.

It is likely that they will ask “Will it happen again?” Try and be honest, letting them know that your unsure but confident in the safety plan our country has set up, and is keeping us safe.  Try to avoid talking about your own fears of national security. 

After the Conversation:

Be available:  Remind them that if they have any questions you will be there to answer them if they want to discuss it

Remember:  this may bring up some anxiety or fears; the anniversary or even just learning about the events can create this.  However, this is a very normal response; be sure to reiterate how safe we are and precautionary measures that are in place.

Again, it’s unfortunate that we need to expose our children to this, however if we don’t tell them, than someone else will.  It’s kind of like the way we look at sex education, would you prefer to tell them the facts or have them hear it from a kid on the bus home from school? 

I appreciate Katherine Lee’s advice:  “It is a fact that we live in a very different world since those attacks happened on September 11. But while we grieve and remember, we can be the best people we can be to those around us and try to live our lives being loving and understanding rather than hurtful. No one can take that away from us.”  To read more on Mrs. Lee click here.

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Boundaries and Children: Are We Creating ‘Generation Entitled?”

By Emily  Roberts MA, LPC

Veruca Salt from 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory'

I am constantly perplexed when I hear parents making excuses for the physical and mental health needs of their children.  “Sam doesn’t like protein so we give him bread and pasta, we don’t want to start a power struggle. “She doesn’t like the taste of x, y, or z, so we don’t want her to be uncomfortable.” Or “I’ll let her spend the night at that house with the parents who are never home; I don’t want her to be an outcast with her friends.” A few weeks, months or years later they come to see me wracking their brains on what “they did wrong” after parenting struggles have become out of hand.  “I was only trying to make them feels safe, so I didn’t want to punish them.” “I want to be their friend and their parent.”  Well, unfortunately, it is difficult to do both, especially with a child or teenager who is testing your boundaries. 

It is the job of a child and adolescent to see how much they can get away with, “If mom gives me one cookie, maybe she’ll give me two…”  “My curfew is at 10, I’ll see if I can get away with 10:15…” Pushing the envelope is something that we did growing up, and your child will do as well. However, most of the parenting experts and psychologists I have worked with suggest the same thing, they need you to make these boundaries for them, as their brains are not at a developmental capacity to do so; boundaries make them feel safe and loved. 

Sure the tantrum over the cookie or the argument over coming in late is not ideal, and can be stressful for both parent and child, but overtime it says something deeper. “I love you enough to help you make good decisions.”  It may not register right away, but isn’t you intention to help your child grow up to be a healthy, fully functioning, adult?  Putting rules in place, and sticking to them, with a little input from your child, can make a huge impact on their future functioning.  If he/she thinks she can get away with testing the limits at home, they will likely do it at school (if not overtly then within their peer group), with friends, and future relationships.  I see this happen all the time, and so do their peers. 

A 14 year old said to me “I have stopped hanging out with her because it’s always her way, she never lets me pick what we are going to do and it’s annoying.” Their peers pick up on their attitudes of entitlement and so do their teachers, not to mention their future employers.

Research conducted by Paul Harvey, assistant professor of management at the University of New Hampshire, shows that members of Generation Y are more entitlement-minded. Many of these college-grads came from families where there were little boundaries put in place.  For employers, that means more employees who feel entitled to undeserved preferential treatment, they are more prone to get into workplace conflicts, are less likely to enjoy their jobs, not to mention, keep their jobs.  “A great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.” Harvey says.

So what do we do?  Set up some boundaries and learn to say “no”. 

When you hear “I don’t like it…”

Okay, I certainly understand not preferring particular foods, or even places.  Especially if your child is sensitive emotionally or tactically; therefore we wouldn’t want to push them to do something that could really trigger a long term avoidance or trauma.  However we do need to give them a little push sometimes. Growing up, when I did not like the taste of the cough medicine I still had to take it.  I made a fuss then, plugged my noise, sucked it up, and drank it.  And guess what?  It actually helped me; my parents helped me feel better.  So now as an adult instead of avoiding the “yucky” tasting supplements I need to feel well, I suck it up, 30 seconds of a detesting taste and I’m on my way to feeling better.  Not to mention, if it’s as task at work or at home, I don’t feel like doing, I have learned through this cough syrup experience (and probably many others), that it will be over soon enough.  A lesson I couldn’t have learned if my mom were to let me get away with things I didn’t prefer doing as a child.

When you hear “That’s not fair!”

Such an overused term by children and teens, but we have to remember, it really may feel unfair. We cannot discount their feelings.  It is so important to discuss with them why you are making this decision and get their feedback; let them talk, they feel more invested in the processes and heard. Often times I ask clients, “Okay your parents say you need to be home by …. What’s reasonable for you?  What’s a good compromise that your parents and you will be comfortable with?  What happens if you don’t arrive on time?”  Amazingly, they are likely to follow through with the rules and consequences if they know what to expect.

When you hear “You think you know it all.”

Parents, we do not know it all and neither do our children, however they do know quite a bit these days.  It so important to let them know that we make mistakes and that we didn’t always get it right when we were their age.  It is also imperative to let them explain to you how they feel about their situation or what they think they know, before rushing to give them advice.  From years of sitting across the couch from these kids let me tell you, they perceive things much differently than you may think, validate this.  Try “You know what, I am sorry I didn’t let you explain, you may be right.” Or “Can you tell me why you feel that way?  What can I do to help you?” or “This is just my experience, I think it could be helpful for your situation.”  This way we are not telling them we know it all, we are simply assisting them in listening to us, while modeling healthy communication.

The bottom line is that if we don’t start setting boundaries now, we are enabling this child to become a less successful adult.  They are less likely to make emotionally sound and physically healthy decisions when they “don’t have to”.  When I speak to adults, those who had parents who were “friends” or let them get away with more than they “should” report wishing they had more structure, and interestingly enough, often times envy a peer who had this structure in their family.  The ones who had parents who gave them boundaries report feeling “thankful” as they now are able to set limits with themselves and with others.  Be this parent!

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Seven Superfoods for Any Budget

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

As I was checking out of my local health foods store last week, I had stunning realization. With less than ten items in my basket I had spent almost $50.00, were these products really worth the hefty price tag or did it make me “feel healthier” by purchasing them at this particular market?  The question is, when it comes to our budget, are we getting the most for our money; are the foods we are choosing to spend money on really even worth the price? Below are 10 Superfoods that weight very little on your pocketbook, and heavy on your families nutrition needs.

1. Yogurt:   look in your store’s dairy section and I guarantee you there is a sale on yogurt, even organic.  I have seen it as low as .59 cents recently and if you by it in quart size or six packs it’s even less expensive.  Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, and natural probiotics that keep your child’s gut happy and healthy.  It helps prevent cavities, increase immunity, and build strong bones.  On the label look for “live active cultures” and avoid added sweeteners. Yogurt is an easy, on-the-go snack; add it to granola or cereal instead of milk for a tasty breakfast.

2. Strawberries:frozen strawberries are a steal, and can be purchased for under 3.oo dollars depending on the store you frequent. Real strawberries those are the ones that are whole and actually look like a strawberry; skip anything that says “strawberry flavor”, has artificial colorings, preservatives, or corn syrup.   Fresh or frozen strawberries are high in vitamin C, are cancer fighters, and can decrease asthmatic symptoms. Remember to wash them well and pat dry. Fresh strawberries can be a sweet snack, and frozen ones can be added to yogurt, cereal, or smoothies.

3. Almonds: buying raw almonds in bulk can be as inexpensive as peanuts. Almond butter is usually around $4.00 for a 12 ounce jar. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, antioxidants, protein, and a high source of monounsaturated fat; good fat that keep your brain running smoothly.  Almonds are also known to help prevent anemia, as it helps produce iron in one’s body. Add a handful of almonds to a salad, add to trail mix for healthy snack, or eat in “butter form”.  Almond butter is a great source of protein and can be substituted for peanut butter.

4.  Quinoa: At $1 a pound quinoa is inexpensive and nutrient dense. Quinoa is a complete protein and can substitute for less sustainable proteins. Compared to other grains, quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc.  The texture is light and fluffy, which most kids love.  Add beans for a great rice substitution and protein packed meal.

5. Black Beans: A can of these guys may run you $0.89-1.99 depending on the brand; never the less is a great substitution from refried beans or anything laden in lard. Black beans are a good source of foliate, dietary fiber, manganese, protein, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), phosphorus, and iron. 

6.  Kale At just over a dollar a bunch, kale is a member of the dark, leafy greens group. It’s loaded with vitamin C and vitamin B as well as calcium, and has known cancer fighting properties. Kale is also known as a great source of soluble fiber, which many children (and adults) do not get enough of in their diets  Use as an alternative to your usual steamed veggie, add to a stir fry or pasta dish, it is packed with more nutrients than your usual vegetable.

7. Blueberries:  At less than $3.00 a container, even less for frozen, blueberries are easy on the budget, but packed with power.  The antioxidant-rich fruit provides bodies with protection from sun damage, and have been shown to slow the rate of pre-cancerous cells; they also help boost immunity.  Add some to a smoothie, yogurt, or cereal. Grab a handful as an alternative to a treat, their natural sweetness can curb any sugar craving.

So you don’t always have to break the bank when it comes to eating well.  Maybe heading to the regular grocery store to stalk up on these basics is in order.  For more information on Superfoods that are kid and family friendly check out http://www.superkidsnutrition.com/superfoods.php and awesome site for parents with information from dietitians and nutritionists.

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Co-Viewing Media with Your Child

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Many parents today are appalled at the television that our children are watching.  From the sexual innuendos that appear in cartoons, to the inappropriate commercials that are shown during “family viewing hours” it is difficult to find anything appropriate for our children and young adults to watch. Did you know that the average viewer between the ages of 8-14 watches an estimated 6.5 hours a day! I would assume some of that is screen time on the computer, but that is a lot of unsuperived media time.

 I often tell parents that after their children are watching popular shows, that “debriefing” is needed.  After watching even mild shows, the messages stay with your child, and if they are confused by the message, they often begin to make their own conclusions about what they see.   I strongly encourage you to investigate what your children are watching, whether its with them or on your own time via Hulu.com or researching the shows on websites such as commonsensemeida.org

Here are some questions to ask your children when  for co-viewing meida :

  • “Do you relate to this show?  Do your friends?  Why or why not?”
  • “What about the characters?  Are these like kids you know?  If not, what makes them different?”
  • “Why do you or your friends like this show?”
  • If/when you see inappropriate behavior (drinking,  drugs, or sexuality), a child fighting, or something that makes YOU uncomfortable,  in a scene ask: “Is this behavior normal for kids your age or kids you know?”  “What do you think about the kids on the show doing _________.”
  • Provocative clothing:  “Is that a new trend?  If so what message does it send about her?”
  • “Do you believe these characters are really in middle school or high school?”
  • “Did you learn anything from watching this show?  Or is it just mindless entertainment?”
  • “Do you think there is a message creeping in that the writers are trying to get across?”
  • If logical ramifications do no occur in the program, to a clear moral issue, ask what they think could happened, ask them to make an alternate ending. For example, unprotected sex, drinking and driving, or shoplifting. 

It is also worth it to research the characters that your child looks up to, do this with your child so they can differentiate between reality and acting.  Here is a great article from Common Sense Media: Mixed Messages to Kids. Let us know your thoughts and how TV is monitored in your home.

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Personality is Developed in the Womb

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

The personality of a child begins in utero.  We know this to be true by looking at our children and the difficult circumstances many of them faced before even being born.   Its no longer, just the genetic make-up or early trauma, its the first 9 months; the mothers mental health, stress level, and environment.  New research and more media attention is being given to the risk children face from the womb, finally…This isn’t to say that Dr. Daniel Seigel and other attachment gurus have not made huge strides in this area, but now we are this more widely accepted.  Its not just if a mother was using drugs, or alcohol, or malnourished, its the emotional health that has become more widely accepted by those in medicine, and this is something us on the psychological end have been waiting for.

Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, psychologist and family systems expert discusses that “A pregnant women’s mental state can shape her offspring’s psyche.These observations and those of others investigating fetal origins, the study of how the nine months of gestation influences physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional functioning, mirror empirical observations long noted by mental health providers.”  To read her post Personality Begins Before Birth click Here

A recent New York Times article titled At-Risk From the Womb  by Nicholas D. Kristof discusses numerous studies that have proven moms emotional state weighs heavily on the development of the child’s personality.” The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.” Click Here to read more.

What this does for parents trying to conceive is give them a better understanding of just how important it is to have a healthy, happy, pregnancy.  What does for those of us who are parenting children from stressful wombs?  Allows us to better understand that this is how they were shaped, this is how their brain chemistry was developed, it is not that they cant control themselves, be happier or calmer, its that their early environment hindered this. Looking at it from this perspective its not that they cant do____ (focus, control themselves, hold it together), its that their brains haven’t allowed them to do so, yet.  This can be fixed, it will be fixed, we as parents and those helping parents, need to keep this valuable research in mind.

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Thirsty? Are You Getting Enough Water?

By Emily Roberts, MA, LPC

Are you getting enough Water? Let’s face it, most of us consume more caffeine then we do water, and with the summer heat, getting hydrated is more important than ever.  Many of us are running on energy drinks and soda, without even thinking about how many glasses of water we have had.  The bottom line is adults and children in the United States are dehydrated, which consequently effects brain chemistry and ones overall health.  Adequate hydration is important for proper brain functioning, as mild dehydration can impair your ability to concentrate, compromise your digestive track, and cause a decrease in energy.

To calculate how much water one needs divide body weight by three to yield the minimum water needed to detoxify the brain daily, if one is exercising heavily divide the body weight by two.  See the table for The Beverage Institute of Health and Wellness recommendations. http://www.thebeverageinstitute.com/

Most children are not getting enough water either, without this we see the same symptoms as we do adults, plus a lot more irritability and focus issues.  It’s important to make sure they are drinking plenty of water when they are outside playing, especially in these warm summer months. Studys show that children will drink up to 50 percent more water if it’s flavored (certainly, adults will too).  Make sure the flavored drinks they consume are all natural, made mostly from water, and do not have added sugars, dyes, or flavors. Here are some other creative ways to get children, and adults, to get their recommended H2o for the day.

  • Sparkling water- this is a favorite among kids and adults I know.  These come in subtle flavors such as mixed berry, lemon, lime, and grapefruit.  I am currently obsessed with the strawberry flavor at Whole Foods, I drank 32oz without even realizing it.
  • Fruit and Vegetable juice- remember many fruits and vegetables are high in water, I suggest diluting juice with 25 percent water to get more with great flavor.
  • Broth based soups and Popsicles- believe it or not, they are high in water content and contribute to your daily fluid intake.
  • Tea- weather its iced tea, green tea, or decaffeinated tea, this is a great way to get flavor and nutrients, as well as hydration.
  • Emergen-C packets- one packet in 8 oz of water gives you 1000 mg of vitamin C, 24 vitamins and minerals, and a great taste to boot.  They make water fizzy, tasty, and full of nutrients; great for kids and adults. http://www.emergenc.com/

Remember, drinking water is the easiest thing you can do to increase hydration, detoxify your body and brain, and help you with optimal health.  By now you are probably reaching for a glass of water (yay). Make sure in these hot summer months, you and your children are getting enough to drink!

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