Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
How Can I Tell if My Child Has Trauma Effects?
You hear a great deal about trauma in the news these days, and you wonder if your child is showing the signs of having been traumatized. It’s often hard to tell if the trauma is having ongoing effects on your child or if it was even traumatic to him at all! Here are some examples of trauma and the signs of their effects:
The most traumatic event for a child is the death of, or removal from, a parent. Due to the internal imperative to survive, the child is biologically wired to connect with her parent, and if that connection is broken, even at birth, the signs of trauma can be seen. But not in every single case. Some children are adopted at birth or later, and never show signs of trauma. Some who are adopted at birth feel the separation deeply.
If the connection to the parent is broken by physical abuse on the part of the parent or other adult, the effects are also significant, and trauma signs are likely to be evident. Physical abuse is spanking, hitting, choking, restraining for long periods, burning, cutting, and more. It’s hard to think that a parent would ever do such things to a child, but when a parent has mental illness or a chemical addiction, the urge to protect the child or avoid harming her is dampened or obliterated, and impulse control goes out the window. The child does nothing to provoke this, although the parent will insist that she does. It’s the parent’s lack of restraint that leads to physical abuse.
Similarly, sexual abuse will bring signs of trauma. Again, it’s never the child’s doing that brings on the abuse, but the parent will insist that he or she caused it somehow. It’s very likely that the adult has deep pain which is causing the sexual abuse, and also that the adult has been abused as a child. This is why sexual abuse is so horrific. It makes a criminal out of the victim. Sexual abuse profoundly confuses loyalty to the adult with sexual involvement, and can have lifelong effects on the child’s ability to form a healthy sexual relationship. There is no form of sexual interaction with a child that is OK. Hugging, kissing, massaging, and washing are all part of normal child raising, but touching of genitals for pleasure – either the child touching the adult or the adult touching the child, is abuse. Showing pornography to children or photographing them in sexual positions or without clothing is also sexual abuse.
Emotional/psychological abuse is particularly damaging to a child. The reason this type of abuse (which is also often present with physical and sexual abuse) is so hard to identify and treat is that there are no outward signs of the abuse. In fact, the way systems operate, the abuser is often not stopped, as the law depends on physical findings to prosecute. Emotional abuse, in the form of blaming children for everything that “goes wrong”, accusing them of things they didn’t do, playing mind games with them, calling them names such as stupid, filthy, unwanted (and worse) has more impact that physical abuse on the future mental health of the child. It’s insidious, hidden where it cannot be healed, in far too many cases.
Neglect is also highly traumatizing for children. It conveys to the child that he or she is not worthy of parental care, which can go deep into the psychological landscape to create feelings of lack and low self-esteem. Physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical neglect, educational neglect, and exposure to violence are all types of trauma.
What are the signs that a child has had the trauma of abuse?
Children who have experienced trauma often have difficulty trusting others. When they look to their caregivers as infants or at any age, really, and they don’t get their emotional and physical needs met, their brains undergo a change that involves not being able to trust. This is not a choice, it’s a physiological response. Once the child touches that hot stove of connection that results in being abandoned, he or she is wired not to touch it again.
Other ways that trauma shows up are: decreased mental ability and memory, lack of “executive functioning” which means they have trouble remembering their homework, remembering to hand it in, organizing their rooms, backpacks or desks, and planning ahead. Constant anxiety is another sign of trauma, as are bed-wetting, lying, stealing, and emotional outbursts for no logical reason. Sensory sensitivities are also frequently seen in children with traumatic histories. Visual, auditory, smell, touch, and taste input is felt as 1,000 times stronger than for those without trauma. Another one is “interpersonal sensitivity” where a child is hyper-reactive to the presence of others. Sensory seeking can also be a sign of trauma, particularly with sexual abuse. These children are absolutely compelled to replay the sexual scene, all on an unconscious level.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the signs of trauma, often also referred to as “stuck grief” for all the missed nurturing the child has experienced. The next article will offer tips for helping the traumatized child overcome the effects of trauma.
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When All You Get is Resistance
by Tina Feigal Copyright © 2017
No, no, no, no, no! Are you exhausted from fielding way too many acts of resistance from your child? If so, let’s look at how to get rid of such strong resistance, and replace it with calm cooperation. I can almost hear you saying, “She’s obviously never met this kid!” You’re right, I haven’t met your child, but I do know a thing or two about how resistance develops and what to do about it.
First, when you see repeated resistance, ask yourself, “Why does she respond this way?” Figuring out why you see this behavior is the first step to resolving it. Pushing harder to make her comply is a step away from resolution.
Second, imagine you were in your child’s shoes, with a young person’s perspective. You are totally subject to your adults’ decisions, and you are growing up enough to make some of them yourself. But the adults don’t seem to see that you’re different, so you must resist them until they do. The message of resistance is, “SEE ME!”
Third, look for ways that you can actively notice the changes in your child’s abilities to make her own decisions. Maybe she chose away from a toxic friend last week, or maybe she decided to work on her big assignment with friends instead of going it alone. Maybe she just put her dirty clothes in the hamper without being asked. Or perhaps she was thoughtful to you in an unexpected way. These are all the experiences you can use to see her.
Fourth, let her know. Write a note to your child saying that you notice she’s changing. Tell her specifically how you see her growing, for example, “I saw you make a great decision about phone time last night. You brought it to the kitchen for charging at 9, as we’d decided, and you allowed yourself some unplugged time. That’s the sign of a truly grown up person, and I’m going to be on the lookout for more signs, as they are coming fast right now! I need to adjust my thinking as to how old you really are, and start treating you in a way that you deserve. ”
Fifth, watch the resistance melt. When you see your child for who she is right now, in the Present Moment, her need to resist you loses its purpose. Enjoy your victory, share it with your child’s other parent, and write about it in your gratitude journal.
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The School Year is Wearing Thin Already
The school year is wearing thin already. We parent coaches usually see an up-tick in referrals from professionals and calls for help from parents at this time of year. Parents are distressed because homework struggles and/or behavior calls from school are increasing. The newness has worn off, and learning issues are coming to light. Children can’t do their math, they bother their friends, they seem testy and disrespectful, and they are emotionally wrecked by the end of the day. Gifted kids are disrupting the classroom because they are being under-challenged. kids with undiscovered reading disabilities are losing their hope. Those with ADHD are remembering that it’s more of the same every day … I can’t focus enough to do what the others do, and I don’t want to be different!
What can parents do to help in these situations? First, understand that if your child is losing interest in school this early in the year, it’s important to
- Listen closely to what he’s saying
- Avoid blaming him for being unmotivated.
If the issues persist week after week, asking the school for accommodations and/or testing is well within your rights and responsibility. If it’s math, reading, or writing that’s causing the issue, the evaluation team can try some strategies to help your child. Do not wait for a few more months to go by. If there’s a true learning issue, the sooner you discover it, the better. If the strategies (i.e., fewer problems or items assigned, moving to the front of the room, or more time allotted for tests) don’t seem to help, the team can decide that a formal learning evaluation should take place.This may involve:
1. the school psychologist (IQ/learning strengths and weaknesses testing)
2. the reading, writing or math specialist (grade level achievement testing)
3. the regular education classroom teacher
4. your input via surveys and conversation
5. music, gym, and art teachersIf your child shows that there’s a significant grade-level lag in his or her abilities, special education can be provided for the Specific Learning Disability in the form of an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP. The child will have programming, often in the regular classroom with the special education teacher co-teaching as a resource for special needs students. Or the child may be in the special education resource room for math, reading, or writing. Each school handles this according to their staffing configuration. If no learning disability is discovered, the child may be eligible for regular education accommodations that can support him or her. Many schools have supplemental reading programs, in particular, that can be of great help to your child.
If the problems at school are more focused on behavior and emotions, a similar path can be followed by the school staff. After a request from parents or a teacher, a team meets to discuss the issues, and then accommodations (i.e., moving to the front of the room, more breaks between activities, and extra guidance at transition times) are made. If there’s not significant improvement, a special education evaluation can take place. The process involves classroom observation, questionnaires for parents, teachers and familiar adults in the community, and sometimes surveys completed by the child. The parents, the school psychologist, the regular classroom teacher, the social worker or counselor, and the Emotional-Behavioral Disability special ed teacher could all be involved. If the child is determined to be in need of special education in this area, the EBD teacher would write an IEP, and the parents would be invited to hear the details in a meeting. If the parents approve, the school can institute a regular program of support for the child, with contact with the EBD teacher, social worker, or counselor.
IEP’s follow children from year to year in school, and are reviewed annually. Parents are considered part of the IEP team, and are invited to all annual meetings to learn the results of the tests, and to hear of, and contribute to, changes in the plan. If a need for an early IEP meeting becomes apparent, parents are included in it, too. Every three years, the special education team re-evaluates the child’s learning disability to be certain that services are still required. Some children mature out of their need for extra support, so they can be “mainstreamed” fully in the regular education classroom.
Some other children have conditions that interfere with their learning, such as hearing or vision impairment, medical issues, or ADHD, that do not qualify them for special education, but require classroom accommodations. In this case, a 504 plan can be instituted. This is a regular education program by which the school team and parents make plans to assure success in school for children whose needs are not in the special education realm, but are still significant enough to require help. Read more about 504 plans here.
You may also hear your child talking about the classroom, lunchroom, bus, or gym being “too loud.” She may say that she cannot concentrate in class because of certain smells. You might hear that your child is struggling because the lights in the room seem to be flickering. He may say that he cannot stand wearing jeans to school, but can only wear wind pants or sweats. These all point to sensory processing issues (sensory avoidant), which can understandably interfere with learning. Some children have sensory seeking tendencies, wherein they are always touching a wall, other children, the floor, or furniture. They often bump into others and have difficulty keeping their bodies in their own space. For some children, sensory avoidant and sensory seeking are both part of their landscape. Click here for information on Sensory Processing Disorder. These issues can be helped by Occupational Therapy, which is usually delivered outside the school setting, but is no less important than school-based services. OT’s do provide services in school, but usually related to handwriting and other needs that are directly related to school performance. For more concentrated OT, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation, and start with requesting an evaluation from the OT.
Many children whose behaviors are found to be on the autism spectrum receive special education services in autism-specific programs. Evaluations at school and by medical professionals help to determine if autism is the issue. If you have a question about whether your child exhibits traits of autism, be sure to start the conversation early, as that will insure earlier intervention and more academic success for your child. Click here for the characteristics of autism in children.
It’s possible to have sensory issues on their own, and it’s also very common for children with autism to have sensory issues. If your child has sensory concerns, it’s not necessary to assume autism, but it certainly warrants an investigation if some of the other characteristics are also present.
Auditory processing may also be an issue for your child. This is different from the processing disorder above, where it’s hard for the child to receive auditory input. This auditory processing issue involves the inability to get the message from the teacher when he or she is speaking. If your child repeatedly says, “I just didn’t hear him,” or “I don’t remember what she said,” this may be your sign that auditory processing is the issue. For children with ADHD, who appear not to be “paying attention,” you can assume that auditory processing is low. Think about how much of school is delivered auditorily, and it’s no wonder kids with ADHD struggle.
It’s also possible to be gifted and have a learning disability. Your child could exhibit “enormous capacity for novelty” and constant curiosity about topics way beyond the interests of her peers, and still struggle with math, reading, or writing. Do not be lulled into thinking your child is not gifted if one of these areas is not up to grade level. Ask for an evaluation to find out if your child is Twice Exceptional, meaning she’s gifted and struggles with learning in one or more areas. Sometimes gifted children have autism characteristics, as well.
Giftedness is determined by IQ testing. If a child doesn’t make the IQ cut-off for giftedness, the school district may consider the overall creativity, verbal adeptness, interest in advanced subjects, or advanced musical or art abilities to include the child in gifted programming. Many parents are reluctant to say, “My child may be gifted.” Please, please respond if your child is showing signs of giftedness. These children often get overlooked and become discouraged in school, leading to behavior issues. They are vulnerable to depression and anxiety when their learning needs go unrecognized. School personnel who are not attuned to gifted characteristics may not recognize what is causing misbehavior or withdrawal, so it’s up to parents to call attention to this issue, and ask for testing. Again, this is your right and your responsibility.
This can be a dizzying collection of information if you’ve never had to deal with it before. Do not blame yourself if you feel you should have addressed these issues earlier. You could only do what you knew how to do!
If you need help sorting these topics out, parent coaching is the ideal way to get that help. Information on coaching is here. Please write email@example.com or call 651-453-0123 for an appointment.
Fourteen Questions for Parents
Directions: On a five-point scale, with “5” as extremely satisfied and “1” is extremely dissatisfied, how satisfied are you with your own parenting?
- I know what is expected of me as a parent. 1 2 3 4 5
- I have the knowledge and skills I need to parent my children. 1 2 3 4 5
- I have the opportunity to parent my children well every day. 1 2 3 4 5
- In the last seven days, I received recognition for my parenting. 1 2 3 4 5
- Someone seems to care about me as a parent. 1 2 3 4 5
- There is someone who encourages my growth as a parent. 1 2 3 4 5
- My opinions as a parent seem to count. 1 2 3 4 5
- I feel my parenting is an important contribution to the family. 1 2 3 4 5
- My extended family/spouse/partner are doing a good job with parenting. 1 2 3 4 5
- I have a best friend to confide in in the world of parenting. 1 2 3 4 5
- In the last six months, someone else has discussed my parenting progress. 1 2 3 4 5
- This last year, I have had opportunities to grow as a parent. 1 2 3 4 5
- My children have reflected my positive parenting in the last week. 1 2 3 4 5
- I feel my parenting is fine, and that I don’t need assistance. 1 2 3 4 5
How did you like your score? Is your parenting where you want it to be?
Call Tina Feigal at 651-453-0123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 20-minute consultation on your results.
*Questionnaire adapted for parents from Gallup’s 12 Questions for Employee Engagement.
FIRST, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
When Children “Take care of” Their Parents and Siblings
I had this question from a foster mom yesterday. “Should I be all right with my child comforting me and apologizing when we’ve had a disagreement, and there’s been some yelling?”
My answer is, mostly “yes.” But with some caveats.
Some children become “parentified” when they have lived in less-than-healthy situations. If at a young age, their parent(s) have not fulfilled their emotional and physical needs, children will naturally take on the role of the “missing” need-fulfiller. This can be true whether the parent is present or not. If the parent has mental health needs of his or her own, is abusing drugs to mask emotional pain, is too busy with work, or is physically not able to take care of the child, the child’s unconscious response is: “Someone has to do this. It must be me.”
Note that I said, “unconscious response.” This is not a choice on the child’s part, but rather an automatic physiological mechanism. So often I hear the phrase, “She’s trying to manipulate the situation by being the ‘little mother.'” Believe me, if she’d had a mother who was able to do her job, she would have remained in the child role. Yes, some well-loved children are just natural care-takers, and they are not the ones I am discussing here. I’m talking about the ones who become extremely uncomfortable with adults caring for the younger siblings, or for themselves.
These children will rush to take care of everyone’s needs, without prompting. They seem blind to their own needs, as well, and can’t seem to even think about them, let alone attend to them. When prompted to care for themselves, and not get involved in others’ business, they respond anxiously with, “She needed me!” or “I have to take care of him!” If a new adult says, “You can relax. I have it now,” this child will become very agitated and confused. This is not obstinance, but a normal reaction for a child who has seen a lack and tried, in his or her own way, to fulfill it.
Children will often act as their siblings’ disciplinarian. At first glance, one could judge the child as unduly harsh with the sibling, and label him or her “mean” or “controlling.” What’s really happening is that the child again feels an internal imperative to protect the younger ones, and is not mature enough to determine which situations require intense warning, and which ones are not really dangerous. This is natural, as it addresses fundamental safety, and yet it needs intervention.
Another way we see this expressed is when a parent has not met the child’s needs, and the child insists on defending the parent. Even when no one is trying to blame the parent, the child is defensive, guarded, and secretive. The imperative to protect one’s parent is STRONG, as the foundational relationship was, at its onset, representative of the child’s very survival. To engage in criticism of that parent strikes a cord of disloyalty that the child cannot tolerate, as it implies a threat to the child’s survival that was established in infancy, pre-memory.
How do we help kids who seem overprotective of their adults or siblings?
- First, avoid asking the child to calm down. That will only escalate the issue, as he or she cannot just calm down on command after building protective responses over time.
- Second, build trust with the child. Act as the adult, guiding decisions and providing structure. Regular bedtimes and meals may be foreign to the child, but over time they provide security.
- Third, ask the child’s advice on the sibling’s care. If you are new to this sibling group, the older child, most often, IS the expert on the younger ones, and can provide good information. Sometimes it will be immature, and you’ll have to say, “That’s a great idea. And to be sure he’s safe, let’s also put these sturdy shoes on him.”
- If the child is caretaking to an adult, show appreciation for the care, and then ask, “Do you think I might be able to handle it from here?” or “Do you think she’s grown up enough to make her way through this?” Always start with appreciation, and then ask a question that draws out the child’s intelligence. If the parent has not proven to be adult enough, empathize with the child that it’s uncomfortable to watch him struggle. Also, lightly let him or her know that each person has to find his way, but don’t get into a big discussion about it.
- Rather than repeatedly reassuring the child, ask questions that help him question his need to take care of others. Reassurance can increase anxiety, as the brain immediately asks, “Well what if that other bad thing happens?” So getting the child to think works a lot better.
Back to the question above: if my child has gotten louder and more intense than she intended, is it appropriate for her to apologize and comfort me? Yes, if it’s from a desire to connect and empathize. You want your child to grow up with empathy. If you sense that the child is very anxious when you are upset, it’s time to sit down and talk, when this issue is not occurring, about how you are a big person, and can sometimes get angry or cry, but you’re also taking care of yourself. Again, genuinely appreciate the child’s comforting gesture, but let him or her know that big people can cope with strong emotions.
In the case of a sibling needing care, express how nice it is that the child is there for her. Then ask some questions that imply that the child is the expert on the sibling, followed by a gentle suggestion that the sibling may be able to handle his or her own need. You’ll sense how much of this the older child can tolerate by his reaction, and take the pacing from that. It will take time, weeks to months, for the older child to feel comfortable allowing the younger one to make a mistake or do something mildly dangerous.
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Being Vulnerable as a Parent
Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. Copyright © 2016 Center for the Challenging Child
Maybe the last thing you ever thought a parent coach would tell you is “be vulnerable with your child.” You’ve spent your whole adult life making sure your child knew who was boss, working hard to never let him take advantage of you. You thought if you did that, you would lose your authority and never get it back. Who wants to live with a child who thinks he’s the boss of his parents? Wouldn’t being vulnerable give him the wrong idea?
Dr. Brené Brown, a social work researcher, talks about “leaning into the discomfort” in her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. She was NOT built to accept anything uncertain, and railed at the thought of it, as many of us would. You might ask, “What does leaning into the discomfort mean?”
Dr. Brown also talks about “connection” being the reason we’re all here. And she says that shame is the manifestation of disconnection. Underlying this is “excruciating vulnerability.” To truly connect we need to be vulnerable, she says.
After 6 years of listening to people’s stories on shame, she wrote a book and published a theory, realizing that the people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they’re worthy of it. Our fear that we’re not worthy of connection is what causes disconnection, which leads to shame.
Dr. Brown says that “wholehearted people” live from a deep sense of worthiness and had a “sense of courage” in common. This courage is made up of telling who you are with your whole heart, the courage to be imperfect, compassion for self and others, connection as a result of authenticity, and fully embracing vulnerability. These courageous wholehearteds believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. They say it’s necessary to do something where there are no guarantees, i.e. willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. In the words of my dear friend Artem Kuznetsov, this describes “beautiful uncertainty.”
To me there’s nothing more beautiful nor more uncertain than raising a child. Without guarantees of any kind, we rush headlong into the most compelling, uncertain, vulnerable experience of love, usually without a map or compass. And then the children we love so intensely defy us. They develop their own will, they want what they want, and we feel utterly broad-sided after pouring so much of our hearts into their being. Where’s the gratitude? Can’t they tell how much we’ve cared?
Frankly, they can’t. Because they’re children. And it’s completely understandable that parents start to want control, in order to protect themselves from the strong will of their child and the rejection of having your beloved, cherished offspring turn on you.
It’s normal. Almost every parent experiences it, especially those with strong-willed children. So where’s the redemption here? In vulnerability? Well, yes.
Children who attempt to run the show are often bright. They may be intellectually bright, interpersonally gifted, intrapersonally astute, highly creative and sensitive, or all of the above. And some average-ability children also attempt to run the show, depending on their own experiences as babies and toddlers. Whatever the reason, we feel the last thing we should do is become vulnerable with them. But really, it’s important to do this.
How does it look to be vulnerable to your child? It means stepping off the “perfect, all-knowing adult” platform and getting down to your heart with your child. When you do this, he starts to realize that you’re human, too, and a switch flips. He has less to resist when you become less rigid. Now the grace and light-heartedness for which most parents yearn can begin seeping into your relationship. Herein lies the benefit of “leaning in.”
What do the words look like? Instead of saying, “I’m your dad and I mean business” when a child is acting out (usually because of a fear), it’s more heart-centered to say, “I know. I had that fear when I was your age, too. Want me to tell you how I got past it? I used to pretend that the monsters under my bed had five eyes, so many that they couldn’t focus well enough to see me.” Here, the father has become a child again, this time for the purpose of connecting with his child. He’s remembering his child-like self, allowing a little vulnerability, and adding a dash of humor to bring intimacy to the conversation.
Dr. Brown’s mission to “control and predict” led her to the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability.
Letting go of the need to control and predict your child and building emotional intimacy is the hallmark of a strong relationship. You get there by being vulnerable, and you can’t get there without it.
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Talking to Your Child About the Estranged Parent
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. Copyright © 2015 Center for the Challenging Child
When parents are separated or divorced, a gradual or sudden taboo around talking about the estranged parent often sets in. This can result in some very strong loyalty struggles, with kids feeling guilty for discussing mom with dad, dad with mom, or both. Many parents have asked how to handle this, feeling completely undone by the rift, and not knowing what’s best for the child.
First, there’s a rule to remember: Don’t leave the child hanging with no sounding board during the biggest challenge of his or her life. If you are not comfortable having a conversation with your child about the other parent, find someone who can talk to your child. Do it right away.
Second, it’s very important not to put the other parent down, because as hard as it is between you, that person is half of your child’s sense of self in the world. If you put him or her down, you put the child down. And if the Golden Rule ever applied anywhere, it’s here. Check if you’d want the other parent saying what you want to say to your child, about you. You will never regret holding to this rule. Your child will be eternally grateful, even if he or she can’t express it during the storm of emotion, that you avoided negative talk about the other parent.
Third, and this is the one that most parents don’t know: You can be a sounding board for your child regarding the feelings about the other parent. Just KEEP IT FOCUSED ON THE CHILD’S FEELINGS IN THE MOMENT. Too often kids get trapped in their feelings, desperate for someone to validate them, and have nowhere to turn. Validating their feelings is your job here.
How do you do that? Here are some examples:
Parent: “I know it’s hard, now that daddy and I are not together any more, to talk to me about your feelings about him. I promise you I will not put him down. I also promise you that I will listen to your feelings, because that’s what moms do. You don’t have to feel alone in this.”
Child: “I hate going to daddy’s house because he’s so strict.”
Parent: “Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling, Honey. I hear you. You feel daddy is too strict, and that’s tough when you have to stay with him.”
Child: “Yeah, he needs to let up on me. He orders me around like I’m a robot or something.”
Parent: “You feel like he thinks you’re a robot when he orders you around.” (This is just affirming the exact expression from the child. It is not a put-down to the other parent, which might sound like this: “What a jerk. He shouldn’t treat you like that. He calls himself a dad?”)
Child: “Yes, and I hate that. I’m a kid!”
Parent: “You really hate that. You should be seen as a kid, because you are a kid.”
Child: “Yup. I want to be a kid, not some robot. How can I make daddy stop that?”
Parent: “What would you say to telling him that you don’t like coming to his house because he’s so strict that you feel like a robot?”
Child: “I might be too scared to say that.”
Parent: “I sure understand that. But if you want help in feeling strong enough to talk to him, I’m here for you. Think about it for a few days, and we’ll talk about it again.”
Child: “Thanks, Mom. I feel better just being able to tell you about it.”
Parent: “You’re so welcome, Honey. I love that you can tell me.”
The child is no longer trapped by the feeling that she or he can’t express negative feelings. This may be one of the most traumatizing experiences of being in a divorced family, and you have just resolved it for your child. Remember to keep the focus directly on what he or she says, and not to veer into your opinions. Ask open-ended questions, starting with “how”, which will keep you on track. “How did you feel? How did you handle it? How do you want me to help you?”
If your child wants you to ask the other parent to stop a behavior or start a missing one, be willing to do that, but first encourage direct communication. You can be the back-up if it doesn’t go well, but always help your child to feel empowered to say his truth to the other parent first.
If you do want to express your child’s thought to the other parent, say or write it like this: “I spoke with Gina last night, and I want you to hear her exact words. She said, ‘Daddy is too strict at his house, and I feel like a robot, not a kid. I don’t like going over there.’ I am just telling you this because she was reluctant to say it to you, and she asked me to do so. I will leave it to you to resolve it in whatever way you see fit.”
The other parent may or may not accept your comments, nor make a change in his or her approach, but at least you’ve done your job in helping your child feel heard. If no change comes, you can ALWAYS help your child feel heard when he or she is with you. Nothing will ever take that from you and your child. It’s a lifelong gift for both of you.
If the child expresses that abuse or neglect is occurring at the other parent’s home, you need to report it to your county’s Child Protective Services department. Check with your lawyer before doing so, so you are going about it in a way that works. Here’s a resource for reporting.
A footnote: Try to remember the good things about your ex, and reiterate them to your child when the emotion has subsided. Do not do this when the child is expressing his or her hard feelings, though, as it could be felt as a rejection of those feelings or of the child. It’s very healing to everyone to remember the good things at a later time, and it may be well worth your effort as you navigate co-parenting with your ex.
For help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information on parent coaching.
Mornings Can Go Well!
1. First, take away that idea that they need to understand the urgency of the situation. They don’t. This relieves you from having to convince them that they must hurry EVERY SINGLE MORNING.
2. Instead of convincing, convincing, convincing, try rehearsing the morning routine in advance at your next Saturday family meeting (which I’m sure you’re having regularly, because you are dedicated to the success of your family and realize it won’t just happen on its own … wink-wink.) After rehearsing the whole morning routine, including starting in bed, a wake-up from the alarm clock, a gentle touch and “Good morning! We’re having waffles today! I’ll see you in the kitchen, all dressed and ready!”, getting dressed, and coming to the kitchen, the kids will have a map in their brains for what peaceful mornings look like in the “Sandfort (insert your last name) home.”
3. Give heartfelt appreciation for any cooperation you see: “When you come down all dressed and ready, AND your hair is combed, I feel so relaxed and happy. We are starting our day with such calm, which makes the whole day better, and you’re doing that!”
4. Talk about happy things that show you are not just focused on the kids’ morning routine performance. Ask their opinions, advice and ideas. This makes children feel grown up, and in turn helps them act grown up.
5. Share your success with another adult. Maybe the child’s other parent, your sister, your niece, your best friend, or your parents, and let your child overhear this conversation. Think of the huge neural pathway you’ve just formed and strengthened for the child’s cooperation. You are so powerful!
For help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.
Listen to Tina’s Interview on Taking Care of the Caregiver
Helping Keep Tabs on Kids’ Phones
Below is a list of apps that can be helpful monitoring your kids’ phone location and usage.
1. Many wireless carriers have their own apps: (AT&T FamilyMap, Sprint Family Connector, Verizon FamilyBase and T-Mobile FamilyWhere)
2. Below are free or low cost apps:
-Life 360 is a location tracking app
-Time Away helps manage app usage and location tracking
-Mama Bear does location tracking and sends updates on types of social media usage and types of posts
-My Mobile Watchdog has parent controls including phone logs, read text messages on teen’s phones, and location tracking. It can be used to block certain times of use, and block certain apps. It’s not spyware in that the kid is aware they are being watched.
-Mobiflock’s Mobile Guardian has similar controls to My Mobile Watchdog, with more ability for web filtering and content blocking
-Canary lets parents know if teens are using the phone in the car while driving, allows “geo- fencing” – areas the phone can/can’t be used, and allows a phone curfew.
-Mobile Guardian includes web content filtering, application blocking, scheduling use, contacts management and contacts blocking, as well as a GPS tracking and geo-fencing
This should be very helpful as you work to keep your child safe!
For help with monitoring phones or any other parenting issue, please click here.
PARENTING COACH CERTIFICATION REGISTRATION FORM – Weekend Intensive
Today’s Date: ______________ Course Date: April 8, 9, 10, 2016
Email: _______________________ Phone: _____________
Credit Card Number: _______________________________
Current Work: ______________________________________________________________________________
How did you find out about the Parenting Coach Certification Course?
You will receive 15 CEUs for your attendance at the weekend intensive. A shuttle will take you both ways from the Roseville, MN Holiday Inn Express (2715 Long Lake Rd, Roseville, MN 55113. Call to reserve your room and mention Center for the Challenging Child for the discount: 651- 636-5800) to the U of M Continuing Education and Conference Center,1890 Buford St., St. Paul, for the training. Please email this form to Tina Feigal, email@example.com. Fee is $299 for the weekend.
Schedule for the Weekend Intensive
Day I: April 8, 2016
1:00p-1:30 Introductions, welcome, orientation Tina Feigal
1:30p-3p Grief, Loss and Trauma TBA
3:30p-4:15 Grief, Loss, Trauma
Professional Use of Self & Vicarious Trauma TBA
4:15p-4:30 Wrap-up, Questions, Planning Tina Feigal
6:30p-8:30 Axel’s Restaurant, Roseville, MN Networking Event (heavy hors d’oeuvres) All
Day II: April 9, 2016
8:30a-9:00 Welcome, De-brief, Questions
9:00-10:00 Fill in topic Tina Feigal
10:15-11:15 Coaching Session I (Introduction Session) Tina Feigal
11:15-12noon De-Brief Session I with Coach and Parents
1:00-2:00 Coaching Session II Tina Feigal
2:00p-2:45 De-Brief Session II with Coach and Parents
3:00p-4:00 Coaching Session III Tina Feigal
4:00-4:45 De-Brief Session III with Coach and Parents
4:45p-5:00 Wrap-up, Questions, Planning
Day III: April 10, 2016
8:30a-9:00 Welcome, De-brief, Questions Tina Feigal
9:00a-10:30 Breakout/Role Plays/Scenarios Tina Feigal
10:45-11:45 Group Debriefing on Practice Coaching Tina Feigal
11:45-12:30 Importance of Coaching/Wrap-up, Next Steps Tina Feigal
Happy Valentine’s Day!
How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?
Copyright © Tina Feigal 2015
If it does, you may wonder how you help a child who can be very nice in front of others, but when it comes to being home with your family, is able to wreak havoc at any moment. Luckily, there are some great ways to handle this.
1. Have a heart-to-heart talk, just the two of you. Say, “Honey, it seems like I see such a great girl out in public. Your teachers just love you, you get along with your friends, and you’re so polite to their parents. And then you come home, and it’s all so rough. I hear demanding, yelling, stomping, crying and slamming. Can you tell me what’s going on? Maybe you don’t want to tell me right now, but if you do, I want to listen. If not, I’ll get back to you when you’ve had time to think about it. How about tomorrow at 5?” This gives your daughter time to reflect on what is going on. Maybe she doesn’t even know what her triggers are, but you’ve now respectfully opened the door to her figuring them out.
2. Whether it’s now or later, allow an open-hearted time to just listen. Maybe she’s upset because something happened at school, but she was too embarrassed to talk about it. Maybe she’s mad at you because she feels like you never pay attention to her (even though it seems like that’s all you do!) Maybe she’s not feeling well, or worried about something. It could be one of these or myriad other reasons, but here’s your chance to get to the bottom of the feelings. When the feelings are heard, the upsetting behavior won’t be so necessary. When a child feels seen and heard, she loses the need to get your attention in negative ways.
3. Listen without fixing or correcting. Just reflect. “You feel as if I never pay attention to you, and that makes you really mad.” Even if this is a preposterous thought, let it be. It will take some courage and big resolve not to correct her, but the return on investment of your time and attention will be tremendous. You are not seeking the absolute truth here. You are seeking her truth, whether it seems true to you or not.
4. Apologize if it feels right to you. If you have been too busy to give your daughter the attention she needs, say so. “I’m sorry, Honey. I have been so wrapped up in (work, your siblings’ sports, the house project, my parent’s illness) that I have not been able to talk to you the way I’d like. Let’s make a plan for some one-on-one time this weekend.”
5. If you don’t feel like an apology is warranted, that’s OK. Maybe you’ve given your daughter “the moon” but she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Just probe now, very matter-of-factly. “When I took you to practice last week, that felt like you didn’t have enough attention.” “When I gave you a ride to your friend’s house, you still felt like I wasn’t there for you.” “When I made spaghetti when you asked, it seemed like I still didn’t care.” “When I bought you that top on Saturday, it felt like it wasn’t enough.” Don’t defend your actions, just try to get her to think about reasonable expectations. She may say, “Yeah, you did all those things for me, but I still wanted that new video game.” Now just hang in there. “I hear you. When I didn’t go out and get the game, you felt as if I didn’t really care about you.” “Yeah.” Then just say, “Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling.” No lecture on gratitude, no defenses. What you’re doing here is letting your daughter hear the illogical way her mind is working. This is much more powerful than your telling her, so allow time for it to occur.
6. Just wait a few hours or days. When kids have been out of line, and you give them time to process it, they can “bubble to the surface” with their own insight and apology. Again, this is much more powerful than your mini-lecture on gratitude. The learning is coming from inside the child and her direct experience, which results in a much more effective lesson.
7. Give her heartfelt appreciation for her insight. “When you think about things and come up with your own ideas, I am really impressed! It shows how grown up you’re getting.”
You’ve just avoided a big scene, which may have turned into an even bigger one. You’ve equipped your daughter to think about her own actions without having to say, “Now think about your actions, Young Lady!” We all know how well that works. And you’ve engaged in a type of communication that sets the stage for more openness between you and your child. Win, win, win.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching, and feel free to call 651-453-0123 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.
What About When He Gets to the Real World?
Tina Feigal, MS, Ed. © Copyright 2015
So often when I offer parents techniques such as speaking in softer tones, not getting upset, listening deeply, and showing respect to a child, they say, “Well that’s not how it will be in the ‘real world.’ What about when he gets a job and his boss tells him what to do, and he’s just supposed to do it?”
Stop. Wait. We left something out of this picture. It’s called “child development.” The point is that a child is not a “young man,” even though we often call him that. He’s a developing person, so our expectations need to match his developmental phase, or we will definitely have a fight on our hands. When parents make unreasonable demands of their children, they rebel. This is not unnatural, as the “organism child” knows what it’s capable of, and it knows what it’s not. This is more of an instinct on the child’s part than a willful decision. In other words, it’s not conscious.
Let’s take a look at expectations. Would we apply the same argument about the workplace to other areas? The man in this picture climbs to electrical wires 80 feet above the street to repair them. So should his parents have started teaching him to shop for clothes, buy tools, drive to work, climb into a cherry picker, and know what to do up there to avoid electrocution when he was 8? Probably not. But we often get caught in this trap of expectations when it comes to “controlling your behavior” and “showing respect” when we are equally off the mark regarding the child’s capabilities.
Here’s the 8-year-old. He’s not a developed man, as you can see. He has no facial hair, beard, or pronounced jaw. He has no job, no mortgage, and only a third grade education. He looks innocent, and he is. If he crosses his parents, it’s because he doesn’t see the big picture yet, nor does he have the brain development to stop his impulses all the time. If he’s had trauma, or a diagnosis like ADHD, Asperger’s, autism, or an attachment disorder, he’s a lot younger than 8. He could use some softer tones, calm demeanor, listening deeply, and yes some respect, until he gets to the point where he needs to answer to a boss.
In fact, all children need those things. And even adults do. There’s no hard and fast “world out there” that’s guaranteed to chew your son up if you’ve been gentle with him during childhood. But if he does encounter such a world, your gentleness has given him time and space to grow, mature, and become the kind of man who can take the inevitable knocks of life with grace and not anger. The children who can’t respond well to adversity are the ones who were asked to “grow up” too soon.
Having your unique needs met when you’re 2, 8, 16, etc., opens the path to all your educational, social, emotional and worldly maturation. There’s really no other way to get there.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching. Call 651-453-0123 or email email@example.com for an appointment today.
5 Ways to Make the Present Moment “New” with Your Child
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. Copyright © 2014
Parents ask about how to make the present moment more “real” to themselves and their children. Does it really mean letting go of all past information about your child’s behavior? And does it really mean putting an end to fear of future behavior? Yes to both. At a recent presentation by “The Mother of Mindfulness” Ellen Langer, I learned the phrase “making it new.” I thought that was helpful, so I’m sharing it with you today.
Eli’s mom and dad came to me with this scenario. Their 9-year-old was habitually using bad language, refusing any household help requests, and opposing just about every request from his parents. Tony and Marsha love their son. They are feeling traumatized themselves by the constant resistance to everyday life with Eli, and they are desperate for help.
Here’s the way the scene usually plays out:
Tony: “Eli, it’s time to get off the iPad and get ready for bed.”
Eli: “No! I am in the middle of the game.”
Tony: “Eli, I said it’s time for bed. I don’t want to hear another word from you on this. We’ve talked about it 100 times. It’s time for bed and I mean it!”
Eli: “I don’t care what you say. I’m finishing my game!”
Tony: “OK, if that’s what you want. No iPad for a week.”
Eli: “That’s not fair! You can’t do this to me!” and a huge meltdown ensues. Tony feels out of control and awful, and Eli is completely out of his body with rage.
This is a regular occurrence at bedtime, and Tony and Marsha are ready to try anything to make it better.
Here are the five ways to do just that:
1. Realize that for Eli, it feels like the first time he’s ever played this game. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but children’s thinking and adults’ thinking are very different. Eli is completely absorbed, as the game feels new every time he plays it. Respect that turning it off is a big jolt to him. Use a quiet and calm voice, and avoid letting it rise at the end, signifying, “I have this expectation and you’d better fulfill it!” That triggers opposition.
2. Decide in advance (together) what time the game is turned off every night, and help Eli count backwards from bedtime, so he can get finished with the game at an appropriate time. In the PRESENT MOMENT, when the game needs to be shut down, place your trust in his knowing of the rules, and stay with Eli’s emotions. “I know you know it’s time to get finished. It’s a disappointment, yes. Let’s turn it off now, as this is the time we chose.” Then don’t waver. It’s a gift to Eli to hold your ground. It makes you predictable, which is very helpful to him over the long term.
3. Give Eli heartfelt appreciation for turning off the game, even if he’s not cheerful about it. “When you do as we planned, I feel relieved and relaxed. Now we can both have a good night’s sleep. Thank you, Eli.”
4. Remember that Eli doesn’t want to be out of control. Deep down, when you are calm and certain about bedtime, he’s reassured. Again, it feels new to him to hear your calm voice, even though it’s a regular occurrence.
5. Let go of past incidents. Talk to Eli about the game, how many points he has, what a feeling of accomplishment he gets from excelling at it, and how you feel accomplishment in your life. This takes the fight out of the conversation about video games, and allows Eli to get perspective on it. If you hold on to your authority over Eli, he needs to counter it. If you just share your life with him, he can let go and make good decisions. Again, there’s a feeling of newness. That fresh interaction with you can help him ride a wave of cooperation.
Every present moment offers the opportunity to 1. connect with the feelings your child is having, 2. make a plan for when typical conflicts arise, 3. express heartfelt appreciation, 4. present a calm and certain demeanor to your child, and 5. create a casual, interested conversation with your child that conveys, “I’m sharing my life with you” rather than “I’m in charge of you.”
Each step of parenting is a new learning experience. We grow as our kids grow, and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to do or say when conflicts arise. Give yourself a break if you blew it, but then resolve to improve the situation next time. If you need help with this process, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the info on ways to set up an appointment and get started!
Parent Coaching: An Innovative Approach
to Helping with Challenging Child Behavior
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.
Director of Family Engagement
Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.
How This Came to Be
History of parent coaching
Used with parents whose children exhibit aggressive, hostile, and/or passive behavior
The EAP-Parent Coaching Match
Not deep therapy
Designed to help employees “get back in the game”
Before Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education.
Therapy/meds for the child
Cycle back to the same issues.
After Parent Coaching
Parents of a troubled or traumatized child need help with parenting.
Support the family with education, frequent coaching contacts.
Help parents help the child feel feelings, avoiding blame, and focusing on healing.
Harmony is restored to family life.
Present Moment Parenting
It’s healing for parents and children to learn new ways of interacting.
It’s all about physical and emotional survival.
Ten Basic Tenets of Present Moment Parenting
1. Attunement in the present moment is vital for a healthy parent-child relationship
2. The overarching goal for every child is to feel lovable.
3. With every interaction, parents are either pushing their children away or drawing them near.
4. Staying the in the present moment reduces parents’ fear of past or future behaviors.
5. All behavior is communication.
6. Respectfully addressing the child’s true feelings eliminates the need for punishment.
7. The child’s body is affected by emotional input from the parent.
8. The greatest human need is to be needed.
9. The parents’ role is to support and guide their children as they become capable in their own right.
10. Parents do the best they can with the tools they have.
Children are Organisms
Water • Sunshine • Fertilizer
Unwrapping Child Behavior
A Physiological Approach
The effect of communication on the child’s body
How is the heart involved?
According to the Institute of Heartmath, the heart is responsive to emotional input.
The amygdala responds to stress, and it sustains the response, even when the threat is over.
“Keep me safe.”
Adrenaline is more readily triggered with children who have experienced trauma. Also, with ADHD.
The Adrenal Glands
The Fear State
The child who is constantly alert to feeling unsafe. This creates a “state” of fear, which dictates responses, often overly reactive.
The child gets blamed for being uncooperative, when she was just unconsciously responding to perceived threat, trying to get back to safety. Fear becomes the default emotion, unless parents know how to reduce it.
Resource: Beyond Consequences
Join the child in the present moment. Scrupulously avoid blame. This assures safety.
What Parents Can Do
Attune to the child to facilitate attachment.
Help her know herself as lovable.
Help others understand.
Daniel Siegel, M.D. – The Mindful Brain
Paul Pearsall, PhD. – The Heart’s Code
Heather Forbes, LCSW – Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control
IN GROUPS OF 3 OR 4
When Does Innocence Disappear?
At what age do children start to willfully manipulate adults?
Types of Parenting
Authoritarian: My way or the highway
Passive: You don’t listen anyway, so why bother?
Authoritative: I’m the parent and I accept responsibility for your welfare. I am also including you in the process of life.
All Behavior is Communication
Why Doesn’t Punishment Work?
Punishment has 3 results:
Temporary stoppage of the behavior
The need to retaliate
Judge, Blame, Punish Cycle
When Parents Live in Fear, We Miss the Love.
A New Way
A New Role for parents
From Behavior Police to Success Mentors
Set Up Success Opportunities
Heartfelt Appreciation: “When you … I feel … because…”
Opposition to Positive Input
First Family Meeting
Second Family Meeting
When a Tradition is Broken, Employ Do-Overs
Do-overs are teachable moments
They avoid “pushing the child away”
Rehearse them at the family meeting.
Play the scene as it happened.
Play it again in a way that works better.
Creates a map in the child’s brain for positivity.
Give heartfelt appreciation for practicing.
Do-Overs with Teens
A casual “Let’s try that again.” If she refuses, don’t push.
Set an example, and parents have do-overs themselves.
Successes are the big deal.
The Do-over is NOT Punishment
Do Not Encourage Do-Overs Until …
Family has had the second meeting.
The family traditions have been posted.
Do-overs have been rehearsed.
They’ve switched roles to practice the do-overs.
Dealing with Anxiety
What are the sources of anxiety?
Learning disability, ADHD
Grief and loss
Every misbehaving child has a degree of anxiety.
Anxiety Defined: Fear where there’s no real threat
How do we help him?
Understand that the child is having a physiological response, not being “impossible,” “picky,” or “looking for attention.”
Manage your own anxiety, for the sake of the child: relaxation techniques, self-care, and/or therapy. Read Self Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD.
What Parents Can Do
Coaches can provide information, and encourage self-compassion, which both reduce anxiety.
“When we know better, we do better.”
More on Helping a Child with Anxiety
Build self-efficacy slowly over time, as trust develops
Join the child in the present moment, using attunement.
Reassuring the Child
It’s not reassuring to tell the child over and over how much you love her. Too much telling can give her the idea there’s something to worry about.
Join her on the feelings she’s having right now. That will communicate love.
How to Help with the Feelings
“You’re really worried.”
“You want me to take you to the store right now.”
“You’re worried that you won’t get what you want.”
“Your feelings seem very strong and powerful.”
“If I guess how you’re feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Be willing to be wrong, and just listen. The true feelings will come up. Use the magic of silence.
Avoid Triggering Opposition
How do you think you’d feel if we did as you suggested?
How should we solve this problem so that everyone feels OK about the outcome?
How do you want to limit screen time so that you don’t lose touch with your real life?
How will leaving the house right now go with getting your homework done?
Teach parents to use them instead of directives.
A Better Choice for Young Children
What Works With Older Kids?
Suburban high school with 80 min. subject blocks
37 detentions from last year, 16 more now
Oppositional at home
Verbal altercation with a teacher
Unable to sit in class, failing everything
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Explore Feelings to Express Grief Directly
The words to use:
“I see you are upset. Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?”
“If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”
Words to Use
Tell me more.
I appreciate your letting me know.
It helps me to hear your story.
Your feelings matter to me.
and more …
When you let me in, I feel deeply honored.
I know it’s not easy to talk about. You are braver than so many kids.
(Listen without judging or fixing.)
Consult the Child on the Solutions
Testing: One, Two, Three …
Mistakes are our teachers
Abused and neglected by his low-IQ mom
Mom’s boyfriend was sex offender
Mom had TPR
Grandma and her husband took her in
He was sexually aggressive with other children
Verbally aggressive with step-grandpa
Had rages, took a knife to grandma
County was ready to send her to residential treatment
Grandpa does “story time” at night.
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Foster mom who is a healer: has two adopted kids already living with her, 18 (girl) and 13 (boy).
Two boys, 13 and 11, needed placement after mother died suddenly. Dad was on drugs, mutilated himself.
Previous foster placement failed; 14-year-old was blamed.
Family pride in “being an Anderson”
13-year-old using, stealing, needs treatment
11-year-old unable to get up in the a.m.
Coaching the mom helped son do his grief work. Powerful response.
Truancy became the issue for the court.
Ordered to residential.
Mother stayed in the present moment, adopted him.
New discovery of LD
Mom panicked, consumed by every homework detail
Came to coaching, “We’ve lost our little girl.”
Coaching resolved major issues.
Backslid to old ways.
Return to coaching
Question: How long ‘til this child feels safe enough to be kind?
Children’s Sensory Issues
6. Interpersonal sensitivity
To Help Children with Sensory Issues
Realize it’s not just picky or bad behavior
Don’t try to talk them out of their sensitivities
Make adjustments to the environment
Seek occupational therapy
Appreciate the quiet, inwardly-focused child – great work may be happening
The Power of Now
Remember: The Power is in the Positives!
Contact Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. for training, parenting coach certification, consulting
© 2014 by Anu Family Services. All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Anu Family Services.