12 Co-Parenting Facts and Strategies: Keeping it Civil for Everyone’s Sake

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The transition out of partnership is a huge challenge, but a little strategy and self-awareness go a long way.

In the wake of a divorce, there is often so much static that parenting becomes a power struggle.  Even if it is a mutual decision, it’s a painful process of becoming two households and restarting. 

For children, this process is confusing and emotional.  If there is drama, they don’t understand it and this can be very disruptive.  For you as the parent, once custody issues and lawyers are added in, the burden becomes not just emotional but also financial.  In this situation, it’s not uncommon for adults to act out and it’s the kids that really pay the price. 

However, there are some actions you can take to avoid this kind of stress, and taking control of what you can control will limit the damage and hopefully, settle into a more regulated, neutral situation.  Let’s take a look at what the experts say on co-parenting and how to minimize the discomfort.

  1. Cool down.  Taking a step back from the situation allows everyone a short period of respite.  Meet in a neutral place to do the handing off, and keep communication limited to details via email.  Resist the urge to engage in-person for a couple weeks or a month. 
  2. Separate out your issues from those that directly affect the child.  This can be tricky, and let’s be honest, part of the insult of a failed marriage is that we feel being in a partnership is the best thing for our kids.  But if we are vigilant about asking the question: “Is this about me, or is it about the kids?” we cultivate a distinction in our minds, and hopefully in our behavior over time. 
  3. If things remain tense, seek out mediation.  You don’t have to wait until things are so bad that legal counsel is required (especially at $250 per hour!). You can actually get an intermediary with legal training who will guide you both toward a clearer schematic. 
  4. Attend a co-parenting class.  This is another very valuable resource that many people don’t know about, but going to a class can really steady the boat.  When you aren’t trying to resolve the larger marital issues but simply getting assistance in how to structure the new arrangement, you take a big load off the whole dynamic. 
  5. Share a calendar.  Use Google Docs or an organizational app to set up a way that you can communicate with your co-parent.  This minimizes potential for conflict, and ensures that the week goes smoothly. 
  6. Clear boundaries.  Rules should be consistent at both households so that the routine is not lopsided.  Agree on as many daily self-care details as possible, like bedtime, diet, and doctor visits.  Try to come to an agreement on chores and allowance so kids understand. 
  7. Draw up a written agreement.  Again, for the sake of clarity, write it all down, copy it, and sign it so each of you can regularly refer to it.  You can amend it at any point as long as the two parties agree, but the act of putting it down on paper makes the lines cleaner. 
  8. Allocate tasks evenly.  If there are parental demands from school like paperwork or driving to extra curricular activities, try to maintain a balance to avoid resentment. 
  9. Commit to positive talk.  Resist the temptation to get your kids on your side of the divide.  It really doesn’t help and in the long run, shows them that it’s okay to talk smack about their other parent.  Save venting for your grown-up friends who have the context and the maturity to actually understand your need to get out negative feelings.  Always avoid sabotaging your child’s relationship with the other parent.
  10. Let life be ordinary.  If one parent only sees the children on the weekends, the inclination is to fill that time with entertaining fun.  This sends the signal that one parent is the ant and one parent is the grasshopper.  Studies show kids need to see both parents doing daily, household stuff too1.
  11. Update often.  When your children encounter a stumbling block, make sure your co-parent knows about it.  Keep that door open so that both households can be supportive.
  12. Deep breaths.  It gets easier.  No one in their right mind will tell you this is fun, but many families make the transition when they get some practice.  Parenting in any conditions is a long road, and when the dust settles, hopefully both parties can agree on the terms and remain focused on the most important thing: the kids. 

Sometimes, there is a certain tension that gets released when the effort becomes about parenting rather than mending the relationship.  There will be slips and fumbles, but try to keep your highest mind in the game and stay flexible.  In the long run, clear communication, good boundaries, and a steady schedule will show your kids that even when a partnership doesn’t work out, you are both committed to loving and raising them.  As adults, they will respect this and it will serve them in their own relationships too. 

Reference:

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201203/the-dos-and-donts-co-parenting-well

Smooth Day Tripping with Your School Age Kids

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Now that you are done with the diaper bag, and your kids are at that fantastic age when reading, writing, problem-solving and exploring are exciting, one day activities don’t have to mean loads of planning, packing, and hair pulling. The prep can be part of the action and help to build anticipation for them. Here are some handy ideas for simple excursions, and some tips for making them a little more preparation light for you and exciting for them.

Before You Go:

  1. Let them research their adventure. The local library (also a great day trip), city hall, or a tourist center can furnish you with a list of local attractions and other day trip possibilities. Consider your child’s interests and try to work that in. Of course, the Internet is a great resource too, but not as hands-on.
  1. The car kit. Keeping a duffle of travel stuff in a corner of your car’s trunk or one of those other nifty side compartments. It can make it easier to get up and go. Essentials include spare shirt in case your little explorer gets dirty, wipes (still handy!), sunscreen, spare water and a few protein bars. This is great for emergencies but it also aids the day trip, and it’s easy enough to snatch out of your vehicle if your adventure doesn’t involve driving. Keep a good, old fashioned map in there too, and on the road, let your kids follow your progress.
  1. Picnic. Before you leave, make simple road food like wraps or sandwiches that small hands can help prepare. There are some great new concepts in the area of picnic basket design that compress four sets of utensils into a neat portable container. Check out the Tandoor 4 backpack, which has insulated storage for your food:

http://www.amazon.com/Tandoor-Person-Picnic-Backpack-Insulation/dp/B002TI1078

Note: you don’t have to get fancy, either. Cheese, crackers, grapes, water and go. Save yourself some money and the time of finding a decent restaurant.

So where do you go?

  • Ride a train. Commuter trains are pretty cheap to get one or two towns away, and for kids, there is nothing more exciting than the clickety clack of the track. Even if you just go to a neighboring town and wander around, the novelty is the key piece.
  • Botanical Gardens. Bring a handbook from Audubon and see if you and your family can identify some of the birds and flowers. If you have a lightweight camera, let them take pictures.
  • Flea Market. Make a list for your child of out-of-date objects: rotary phone, ink blotter, suspenders and see if they can find these objects. Flea markets are also a great place to score old costumes and crafting materials.
  • River Trip. Parking a blanket on the bank of a river provides plenty of fascinating activity for kids. They can collect rocks, catch tadpoles, make sand castles and, of course, swim.
  • State and National Parks. Even if you live in a big city, getting to a state park is usually only an hour or so away. Rock climbing, hiking, bird watching and insect catching encourage kids to get in touch with their wild side. Note: most state parks insist that all the wildlife stays in the park, so check pockets before you leave!
  • Most museums have a local discount day or evening and whether it’s history, science or art, museums always offer something new to see.
  • Family Farms. Some local farms have kid-friendly events during the holiday seasons where they can ride ponies or pick their own fruit. Not only is it fun, it gives kids a chance to get dirty and to understand where their food comes from.
  • Zoos and Aquariums. Everyone loves to get up close to wild animals. If you have a book at home that helps identify animals, bring it along. Every time you read it after that, your child will remember when they saw that animal in real life.

For kids to get the most out of these day trips, we as parents also need to be enthusiastic, so make sure it’s something you want to do too. A little research and preparation can take your family to an unexpected place where you can make memories that last. And while it may not seem like a huge deal at the time, when they are adults, they will remind you what a big impact these adventures made.

Need a little more inspiration?

Here are some websites that have great ideas on traveling and activities for kids.

http://www.takingthekids.com/

http://havebabywilltravel.com/

http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/summer-travel-for-families-day-trips-with-kids

The Right Time for Some Family Fitness Fun

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We recently discussed how spring is the perfect time to start better eating habits with your family. There is also no better time to begin to implement more physical activity into your routine. Regular exercise improves your mood, enhances the quality of your life, helps you reduce stress — and, most importantly, it strengthens your body while it burns calories. Physical activity helps your body work the way it is supposed to, and this goes for your kids as well. Adding new elements of physical fitness can be quite simple, and most importantly fun. Here are some ideas for you this spring:

  • Family walk and talk.
    A weekend walk can be enjoyable and a way to fit in some fitness, and with more hours of daylight now, you can also squeeze in a weekday post-dinner stroll. Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a mood and energy booster, and improves our absorption of vitamin D, essential for healthy bones. A walk also provides the perfect opportunity to further discuss the day, and what’s to come for the week!
  • Hiking and bicycling.
    These are activities that can both accommodate groups of varying ages and abilities. In the process, you’ll build endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and stronger legs.
  • Join a Family Fun Run for charity.
    Spring is “high season” for local charity events that encourage you to walk, run, or cycle, meet new people, and support good causes. It’s a great way to do a good deed and improve your heart health.
  • Fly a kite.
    While it may not sound like real exercise, flying a kite at your local park or playground can keep your family in constant motion for hours. From assembling the kite to running repeatedly back and forth, this activity helps your family connect, burn calories, and build leg muscles.
  • Participate in a local park cleanup.
    When your family volunteers for such an event, you’ll get plenty of sun and exercise while making a difference in your community. And remember, spring is peak season for local cleanups. Contact your state Department of Natural Resources or local environmental groups to find cleanups in your area.
  • Go kayaking or canoeing.
    These are great ways to explore the outdoors and build upper-body strength. Many local departments of parks and recreation offer free courses as well as reasonable equipment rentals. If you live near an area with major outdoors outfitters, you can also find free or low-cost introductory classes where the sponsor provides all the equipment.

With a focus on family, the outdoors, and physical activity, these examples will remind you that fitness and fun go hand in hand. Ready to go outside and play this spring?

5 Easy Day trips for Kids in Northern California

It’s hard not to try and wring some extra quality time out of the last few weeks of summer, but planning a big trip takes time you might not have.  Here are some easy day trip suggestions that only require snacks, sunscreen and a tank of gas.
1. Tilden Park, East Bay.  This park is located in the foothills of Berkeley and it features a working replica of a steam train that you and the kids can ride, a botanical garden, and a small farm. 
2. Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito.  Get out of the heat where kids can make some wacky art, take a workshop on waves, or participate in a performance. 
3. Muir Woods, Mill Valley.  There is nothing like walking among the oldest living things on earth.  This forest is like few on the planet, inspiring awe in all its visitors. 
4. Tech Museum, San Jose. This place is a treat for kids who love to take things apart, explore systems, or just run around and have fun.  There is a great section on sustainability here too. 
5. Exploratorium, San Francisco. At its new location, this highly inventive and
interactive museum is a whole new level of “edutainment.” 

Give your kids something to talk about when they get back to school.  These days are a great time to be spontaneous without a huge expense in time or money.  Fall will be here soon enough, so squeeze in some more family fun while you can.

Family’s Day Out: 5 Ways to Support Good Behavior in Public Places

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From the days before parenthood, it’s probably quite easy to recall a time you were out for a quiet dinner, and a table full of rowdy children next to you quickly ruined that hope. You were possibly left to wonder why those parents weren’t taking the right action, but you’ve come to realize in the years since how truly difficult that can be.

Managing children’s behavior in public is a timeless struggle for parents. Having a child throw a major temper tantrum or act out in a public place is a horrifying event that most parents experience at least once with their children. But let’s face it, you want to include them in outings when appropriate. It offers experience that helps kids grow into socially adjusted adults. The challenge in attaining this is requiring them to be well-behaved in oftentimes unfamiliar settings. How can you set your child, and yourself, up for success in these situations?

A good place to start is at home. Dwelling on poor behavior discourages everyone involved, so positive feedback several times a day is more effective all around (“I liked how nicely you played with your brother” or “You did a great job working on your art project”). This approach shows that you’re on the same team, and working together has better results, setting the stage to better carry out some recommended steps in guiding your child’s behavior while out in public. Consider the following elements:

1. Pre-game

Before heading to that restaurant or store, take a minute to discuss good choices and bad choices. Be specific and relay with confidence that you expect your kids, for example, to stay next to your cart and to use “inside voices.” Teach them and prep them every time, and if you’re lucky, that’s all the help they’ll need.

2. Understand what’s going on

It’s a scientific fact that children’s brains are not fully mature, including their frontal lobes, the part of the brain that helps control impulses and manage emotion. So, when they enter Target and are bombarded with lights, colors, people, loud noises, and rows upon rows of fun things to touch, of course they have more trouble managing their behavior than at home. Understanding this gives you more patience and more realistic expectations for your children, and the more patient you are, the better able you are to handle their behaviors. [1]

3. Preparation is everything

You can decrease a child’s social anxiety in public settings by being completely prepared. Be sure to bring snacks and juice boxes, offer opportunities to explore a bit when in an unfamiliar setting, and minimize the amount of time the child must spend in a crowded or confined area. Also, bring a favorite toy for a means of familiarity and comfort.

4. Game plan execution

Don’t be caught off guard and let a “quick trip” to the grocery store ruin your day. Establish a routine system for rewarding behavior in public. A good example is taking raffle tickets along on your excursion. Children earn a ticket each time you observe good behavior. If rewarded liberally, children love it and they spend the whole trip working to be good, and you escape without a crisis. There are lots of variations on this system that will work; the point is that you’re using positive reinforcement again, rather than spending the entire trip nagging them for bad behavior.

5. Always remember who’s boss

Kids learn ways to get what they want, and some learn that their parents get immobilized in public when they act up, which usually results in having a big fit until parents give in, in order to prevent utter public humiliation. Unfortunately, when that happens, the child is rewarded for having a fit in public, and it is more likely to happen again. Kids need to know the rules, and that they apply anywhere, so don’t be afraid to enforce consequences, even while in public.

A little preparation, a lot of positive reinforcement, and a solid plan can and will make a huge difference in encouraging your child’s good behavior in public. This will lead to outings becoming more of the norm, and less anxiety-inducing for the child, and you as well. There’s a good chance you’ll never have to be that parent receiving a glare from the restaurant guest at the neighboring table after all.

[1] http://arfamiliesfirst.com/managing-childrens-behavior-in-public/

Wonders of the Night Sky: Introducing Kids to the Ancient Art and Modern Technology for Stargazing

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On a new moon night in 1986, a family in the San Fernando Valley got into their station wagon at 8pm. The sun had already set when they reached the crest of Griffith Park in the Hollywood Hills, where the Griffith Observatory offered the best view of the night sky.

Equipped with a home made telescope constructed out of an elbow piece of pipe and a mirror, the family, along with several thousand other Los Angeles residents, peered up at the flaring tail of Halley’s Comet. Though it was just a slightly orange wisp in the milky sky, no member of the family would ever forget it.

There is a constant show happening on the celestial stage and now with the quantum leaps forward in GPS and touch screen technology, we can access a world of information about the cosmos. We put together a list of tools for introducing your budding astronomers to some awe-inspiring sights and facts.

No matter where you are in the summer, there is something extraordinary happening in the night sky.

Summer is the best time for stargazing. If you already have plans to go camping or traveling, take a little time to figure out what might be visible from your location. Moonless nights present the most visibility, and there is nothing like a campfire and a view of the constellations.

Telescopes offer a remarkable view of the stars and there are manyhighly rated, beginner-friendly options that won’t break that bank and require minimal set up. Some of them have full stands, desktop stands or portable handheld models with excellent magnification. A quick search on Google can provide a wide array of recommended telescopes.

Smart devices offer universes of education and fun. Below are some very nifty apps that provide beautifully rendered drawings of the solar system, engaging games and other juicy celestial information you and your kids can explore, whether conditions are optimal or not.

SkySafari offers NASA images collected from the Hubble. It has fantastic GPS and provides updates on upcoming celestial events: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/skysafari-3/id437108143?mt=8

Pocket Universe is great for beginners; it has easy identification for planets and stars, and it even has a quiz built in: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-universe-virtual-sky/id306916838?mt=8

SimpleRockets is a game based on real physics that lets the user design their own craft and use actual calculations to complete successful missions: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simplerockets/id663068211?mt=8

There is so much to discover about the vast reaches of space– and doing it as a family is all that much more rewarding. We have at our disposal both the original sense of inquiry that our early ancestors did, along with the most powerful tools to experience the magic of the night sky. For more resources on stargazing with your family, check out Sky and Telescope:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/stargazing-family-style/

Eye Candy: Tech and Trendy Treats for Your Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that’s kind of like an extra birthday; you appreciate the kind thought, but you also don’t expect much from it. Keep in mind, though, that for your family, it’s a big deal to do something special for you.

And if you are like most moms, you have a collection of clay figurines and handmade cards, and maybe some well-meaning jewelry that you feel compelled to put on to show your significant other you like it. Right?

Here’s a radical new idea: you get something you really want and can really use this year for Mother’s Day. You may even have a mental list of things you want but haven’t found the time to buy, or feel frivolous spending the money on yourself. Well, this is an invitation to do away with those excuses and straight up ask for the little thing that will make your life a little more delicious. After all, it’s spring, and there is no better time to pamper yourself. And if this seems a little unconventional, remember that your Mother’s Day is an opportunity for your family to make you happy, and so giving them a nudge will make their job easier too.

1. Oregon Scientific Aromatherapy Clock

You will actually look forward to waking up in the morning with this brilliant device. Offering a combination of sound, diffused fragrance, and soothing light, this little gadget lifts you gently out of sleep through a subtle relaxation period. A few dreamy nights with this thing and you will wake up feeling revived and energized.

2. Fitbit

It seems like a silly thing, but once you harness the information this little gizmo tells you, you will really see how small adjustments in schedule and effort work to your advantage. A healthy mom is a happy mom!

3. Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones

You haven’t heard silence until you put these babies on. They are great for the office, when you work from home, or blocking out the noises on the plane when you travel. Get ready for crystal clear audio and no interference.

4. Original Art

Thanks to the Internet, you can find incredibly beautiful paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures from up-and-coming talent. Find something you want to look at everyday on sites like zatista.com and gallerytoday.com.

5. Baby Your Face

Chantecaille’s Save the Bees Eye & Cheek Palette net-a-porter.com is next-level pampering with limited edition hues and rich ingredients. Five percent of proceeds from the item are donated to help protect our pollinating friends.

6. Apple Watch in Rose Gold

Had your eye on an Apple Watch? Now it’s in your color. This thing is marvel and a sexy piece of jewelry– you can’t really beat that.

7. Palais Des Thes

Travel all over the world without leaving the comfort of your living room with this lovely gift set that features signature artisanal tea from around the
globe.

8. Charles Chocolates

This is not your mom’s one-pound box of nuts and chews. This chocolatier based in Emeryville, CA is world-famous for its wares. Indulge in some triple chocolate almonds or a mini-toffee. So delicious!

If your family is determined to surprise you for Mother’s Day, maybe think about ways you can hint to them playfully, or you know, leave behind that not-so-obvious list. You can also always treat yourself; you deserve it! Or – simply do what lots of women who have it all do: just opt for some quality time with the people you love. Maybe a combo of all of the above will provide to you the ultimate Mother’s Day for 2016!

However you end up celebrating, give the people around you a chance to appreciate your hard work and care. The holiday actually ends up being a treat to everyone
involved.

Reuse, Recycle, Rejuvenate! 7 Tips for Home and Work that Support Earth Day

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First, let’s face the facts. Climate scientists across the globe agree that Mother Earth is in real trouble. Recent talks in Paris on climate change revealed just how fraught this issue is, with protests popping up and different groups trying to control the conversation. Species both wild and domestic are undergoing rapid extinction, the ocean levels are rising, and the planet is getting warmer.

If you are like most moms in the world, these thoughts probably keep you up at night. We want what people all over the world throughout history have always wanted: to leave our children with a quality of life better than ours. Faced with these scary facts, we are often left with feelings of helplessness. However, this isn’t the end of the conversation. As consumers and parents, our job is to educate our families and make the kind of small changes that influence bigger changes.

It’s more important now than ever that we face these issues and set our children on a better path. We can encourage greener habits that will aid our own health, and the health of the globe. April 22 is Earth Day, and here are some ways to give thanks to this beautiful planet that supports us.

1. Eat Vegetarian.

Food educator Michael Pollan says that if American families added three vegetarian meals a week into their routine, we could cut down on top soil pollution, improve our health, and feed more people for less cost [1]. Thanks to the slow food movement, there are zillions of fantastic recipes out there sans-meat, and if you can get your veggies locally grown, you are also
supporting bio-diversity and small farms.

2. Buy Bulk.

While recycling was a game changer in the 80s, it has not solved the problem of less waste. Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery or farmer’s market, buy your dry goods from bulk where you can reuse your containers, and avoid processed and packaged food. The convenience
doesn’t outweigh the consequences.

3. Get on the Bike, Carpool, Take Public Transit.

Our carbon footprint is obviously one of the bigger challenges we need to overcome globally as the population continues to boom. If you can ride a bike or walk to work, you solve several problems at once: fossil fuel, parking, space, noise, and your get your exercise! Alternately, you can team up with neighbors to share rides, or take the train or the bus. Even a couple days a week makes a profound
impact over the course of a year.
4. Save Water.

It really doesn’t matter if you are in California where there is a serious drought, or on the East Coast where it is snowing. Clean water is a global problem. Use a small bowl of soapy water when doing the dishes,rather than running the tap or filling the whole sink. Wash big loads of laundry and buy water and energy efficient appliances whenever possible. Put a bucket in the shower and collect the run-off as the water gets warm. You can then use that water for houseplants or in the garden. Some more food for thought on water: bottled water is incredibly wasteful; in fact, it takes three times the amount of water to produce just one bottle of water. Even more curiously, bottle water is not as carefully regulated as most city water, so pick up a reusable bottle and use filtered tap [2].

5. Plant Food and Trees.

Every little bit helps with green things, so even if you have a window box, plant some herbs to spice up your cooking and save a little money. Many cities now have tree-planting incentives because they keep houses cool in the summer. Do your part to re-green.

6. Park Clean Up.

State parks regularly have volunteer-based clean-up projects to help maintain local nature. This is a great opportunity to get your team at home and work in on a civic project with visibly obvious results.

7. Go Paperless. Save yourself time, waste, and the visual chaos of the mail.

If you haven’t already, convert your bills and periodicals to digital. There are also a few non-profit organizations that will stop businesses from sending
you ads in the mail.

We are all busy in our own lives, but this is the moment where we need to draw back and evaluate some of our practices to better serve our children’s future. Earth Day signifies this need, and so it represents a powerful opportunity to inspire change. The mothers of the world must unite and leverage our new power in business to aid progress. We owe it to our families, and ourselves.

Resources:

1. http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-omnivores-dilemma/

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norm-schriever/post_5218_b_3613577.html

 

 

 

 

For Spring Cleaning Inside and Out, Boss Mom Deserves a Little Bonus

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In this season of rejuvenation, make sure you do some things that will help you bloom.

Spring is arguably one of the busiest seasons of the year. Emerging from the shorter days and cold weather necessarily gets our collective engine revving. No matter what industry you work in, you are likely about to see a big surge in energy.

And on the home-front, things are no less crazy: it’s test-taking season, garden planting season, with recital and graduation season right around the corner. It’s exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. That’s why now is a great time to look around at some ways to go into the next few months feeling relaxed, confident, and organized. Below are a few clever ideas to bring in the new for you, so that you can orchestrate a great spring and summer for your team at home and at work.

1. Get your taxes sorted.

Sure, we started with the least pleasant task, but you know better than anybody that you have to get that off your desk now, rather than fight the rush in April. Block out one afternoon, send the kids to the movies, and overhaul your desk, eliminating errant pieces of paper and crossing off the pesky tasks that only you can do. This scrapes the plate for
you mentally and puts you out ahead of the pressure.

2. Deep clean the house.

You can outsource the scrubbing to one of your teens or your cleaning service, but going through the closets, garage, old boxes, and dressers is something everyone can do to pare down and start fresh. Avoid the temptation to complicate your organization system by buying a bunch of containers. Try instead to consolidate media digitally, put things to use, or make a large pile that you either garage sale or donate. Other ideas: rearrange the furniture, plant some flowers or veggie starts in the garden, or switch the art around on the walls.

3. Clean house at work.

Gather your team and do a big picture evaluation. Where are we succeeding, where are we lacking? It can be enormously helpful to draw back from the work and examine the process from the long view, and by doing so collaboratively, you invite a fresh influx of ideas and motivation.

4. Go on a cleanse.

Take it easy, it sounds scarier than it is. No one is suggesting starvation, but a week or 10 days before the Easter Break is a great time to lighten your eating to white meat or vegetarian, cut out sugar and alcohol, and boost your water intake. The first few days feel pretty lousy, but by day four or five, Mama’s got a whole new bag. And the family can handle giving up pizza and soda for 10 days. Really, they can!

5. Go to the spa.

Now we get into reward territory: consider a deep tissue massage, an Infrared detox sauna, or a vitamin facial. These simple, inexpensive ways of flushing out what you might call the “grit of life” will leave you feeling younger, stronger, and more energized.

6. Get beautiful, make a change.

Are you sick of your look? Feeling older? Remember that is winter talking, and we have the opportunity to shake that negative stuff off. If you have been considering a new hair style, a change of pace fashion-wise, or maybe new glasses, go ahead and spoil yourself so you can sport that new look for spring break.

7. Quiet time to reassess.

If you don’t use any of these other suggestions, just too busy or not a high priority, that’s cool, but don’t cheat yourself on this one. Carve out two hours to go someplace calming, preferably natural, and bring your journal. Give yourself a chance to settle with your thoughts, examine your goals, and take a good look at places you can improve. Even if you do this as a matter of course, take a break from your usual environment for this check-in with yourself. These periods of reflection will invite in more clarity and more resolve.

You are in charge and you carry a heavy load of responsibilities, so balance your spring maintenance with some well-deserved healthy treats. Your positive energy will be infectious to the people around you if your take care of yourself. So in essence by indulging yourself a bit, everyone wins.

3 Ways to Ensure your Teen Has a Successful School Year

With fall just around the corner, parents start strategizing on how to enable their children to be happy and productive at school.  

Hopefully summer was fun-filled and relaxing, and the challenges of the previous year were learning experiences that provide a place to grow and improve.  Here are some effective ways to ensure that the fun continues but that a smooth transition back into academics is possible.

Capitalize on Strengths.  Culturally, we tend to emphasize improvement on areas where we are lacking, based on the idea that we need to maintain a well-rounded approach to learning.  And while there is nothing wrong with that, educators also remind us that playing to our children’s natural abilities offers distinct academic advantages.  

Encourage Socialization. All parents are concerned that the emergence of social media interferes with study, but a recent study at the Pew research center informs us that teens use social media to strengthen their relationships in positive ways.  Of course, a balance must be struck, but moderate use of these platforms have be shown to help adolescents to find common ground and make connections.http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/teenagers-leading-happy-connected-lives-online/

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure. The term “helicopter mom” didn’t come out of a vacuum.  As society puts more and more pressure on our teens to get into good schools, we feel put upon as parents, often maneuvering to protect them.  But initial failure, as many tech billionaires will tell you, actually arm young people with copingstrategies and learning experiences that provide them with resilience later on in life. Giving our teens room to navigate setbacks is essential to their long-term success.

Of course we want our children to be well adjusted and get the most out of their time in junior high or high school, a time we all admit can be very challenging socially and academically.  We serve them better by staying communicative, encouraging and allowing them make decisions to better develop into engaged andmotivated adults.