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No More Battles: Morning routines that work!

setting a morning routine

Over and over I hear from parents who feel like the life has been drained out of them before they’ve even made it through their morning coffee. Kids are sluggish and full of complaints from the moment they open their eyes; parents are nagging and panicking about being late (again); the whole family is angry and anxious and starts their day feeling awful. It doesn’t have to be this way! You can say goodbye to those morning battles and find a routine that works!

7 Tips for a Successful Morning Routine:

  1. Sleep. You know it and I know it. We are never going to be at our best when we’re tired. I know that this is easier said than done, but for your morning to go as smoothly as possible your kiddo AND you should be as well-rested as possible. It’s not enough to get one good night of sleep to make up for a weekend of late nights. That means working on your sleep hygiene, including going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day.
  2. Nourished Brain. Eat breakfast. The research is SO clear on this. Your child will be a more effective decision maker and have better attention and memory if they’ve eaten breakfast.  If your child rejects the notion of breakfast, try something sneaky… like a smoothie. It may not be ideal, but drinking their breakfast while getting ready may be easier than sitting down to eat for a child who would otherwise not eat at all. Relatedly, some kiddos’ brain chemistry is a whole lot more balanced with medication. If your child is taking medication, keep it consistent. Talk to your child’s prescribing practitioner. Ask about any tips they have for timing daily dosages to set them up for success. Also, speaking from experience with numerous teens and tweens, please help monitor their medication to ensure that they maintain consistency. Your child may be very responsible, but for some medications a missed dosage can have a lasting impact.
  3. Screen Time Limits. As I write this, kids all over the world are sitting in front of a computer most of their school day due to the necessity of distance learning. Parents are also exhausted and without childcare. What does that mean? A lot of screen time. Look, I am certainly not without compassion. However, too much screen time can cause epic cases of the grouchies, lead to lack of movement, and disrupt sleep. In excess, it can also wreak havoc on the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the part of the brain that helps us with things like planning, follow through and organization. I believe deeply in a few things when it comes to screen time: not all screen time is created equal (school is not the same as watching tv); screen time, when offered as a reward, makes us want it more; and  “Zoom Fatigue” is real. If your child will be using screen time in the morning before school, avoid it being a “reward,” consider your parameters carefully and check out some surprising secret solutions for setting screen time limits.
  4. Musical Associations. We are all creatures of habit and tend to respond predictably to cues in our environment. Think about it this way. Most of us have been exposed to one or another version of a clean up song often reserved for preschoolers. Have you ever witnessed it’s magic? When a teacher starts singing their version of the song, nearly all the students automatically go right into the task. They know what it symbolizes. These sorts of associations work for all ages and can work for any task. One easy way to do this is to create a household music playlist for the mornings (or have your child create one just for them). The lyrics don’t have to have anything to do with the specific task. The song itself will still operate as a symbol. You can time it out and designate, as a family, certain songs as markers for the start of a new activity. Just be sure that you use music that you enjoy and can tolerate listening to everyday.
  5. Visual Reminders. Technically, this is another form of association not so unlike the tip above. It’s one thing to “know” the routine and it’s another to follow it. Having the morning (or daily) routine written out or even displayed in pictures can give kids the reference point they need to re-orient themselves. I also find that visual reminders can take some of the pressure off of us to hold a list of tasks in our brain. This is great for reducing anxiety. It’s essentially a to-do list. In my household right now, we’re juggling several schedules. Some of these schedules change from one day to the next and can be really confusing! I find that having a morning huddle to review the day’s plan and reference the calendars we’ve put on our wall helps lower the morning anxiety and decrease the grouchies. The image included here is a sample of a weekly calendar that I might make in my practice with a family to help their young child know what they can look forward to during the week– fun activities, chores and tasks, tasty treats. You can include it all. Just be sure to keep some empty space and not overwhelm. Create Your Own Customizable Calendar!
  6. Individualized Routine. When I was still relatively new to the whole chaos of the morning routine with kids, I remember rigidly holding out on a morning routine. I was certain it made the most sense for us. Over time, however, I discovered that there was one task that always stopped us up in our household. We were late more times than I’d like to admit because brushing my preschoolers teeth near the end of the morning routine would go awry somehow. One day I was lamenting over it with a friend. She asked me– what if he brushed his teeth before breakfast? Before breakfast?! I could hardly fathom it. Then I considered the layout of my house. We would now end the routine closer to the front door. I also considered that my kid was food-motivated. He would do anything I asked with record speed to get to his first meal of the day. Suddenly, my friend’s suggestion seemed like such a brilliant solution! That’s my silly story about how I let go of rigidity. We found a morning routine that decreased our stress tenfold. You can do it, too.
  7. Be Kind to Yourself. Our children depend on us a great deal to help them regulate when they are overwhelmed by emotion. If you have a teenager, you know that the parent-child mood tangle is impactful, too. So, when I say “be kind to yourself” I mean seek support, take a moment for a few deep breaths, and find other ways to ensure that YOU are healthy and well. Your ability to regulate your own emotions during the morning routine (aka morning chaos) will be so much better if you are operating from a full cup. This will absolutely have an impact on your child’s mindset.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

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School Dread? Change their mindset in four steps

As your kids get ready to go back to school (or resume online school), do you wonder what more you can do to help them succeed academically or thrive socially? In her updated 2017 version of her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck, the psychologist who researched and coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset,”cautions us that true mindset change requires more than just “picking up a few tricks”. It requires us to take a journey and change our perspective. Before school begins, start that journey and change their (and your) mindset with four steps!

A few of years ago on this blog, we talked about “fixed mindset”, a belief that one’s qualities and abilities are fixed, and that one can’t readily change or grow. This belief leads to problems such as: acting up, perfectionism, and seeking constant reassurance. We explained how adopting a “growth mindset”, a belief that people can learn and improve through effort, can promote learning. We suggested some simple growth mindset practices you could try.

Now seems like a good time to check back in with you about this. Did you try some of the growth mindset practices we suggested?  Did you find your situation improved in the short-term, but eventually returned to the way it was before? Have you and your child fallen back into old “fixed mindset” ways of thinking and behaving? Changing behavior can be hard! It’s never too late to restart your journey and change your mindset in four steps. 

The Growth Mindset Journey

Dweck outlines the process to change mindset in four steps, summarized below. Read on for an in-depth explanation of each step! 

  1. Embrace your fixed mindset. 
  2. Become aware of your fixed mindset triggers.
  3. Give your fixed mindset persona a name.
  4. Educate your fixed mindset persona and take it on the journey with you.
Embrace Your Fixed Mindset

The first step, “Embrace your fixed mindset”, involves becoming aware of your fixed mindset thoughts when they arise, and acknowledging and accepting them for what they are.  Many people believe that they can solve their problems and become happier by changing their thoughts. Therefore, when people try to take up a growth mindset, they often try to suppress, replace, or avoid fixed mindset thoughts.  However, the principles of mindfulness tell us that trying to change our thinking in this way often makes us think unwanted thoughts even more. It creates more internal struggle. 

If you’re not convinced, try this little thought experiment: For a full minute, don’t think about popcorn. Whatever you do, don’t think about popcorn. Try to avoid thinking about it at all costs. Think about bananas instead. 

What happened?  Did you think about popcorn? Of course you did!  That is just the way the mind works. So instead of trying to avoid or change fixed mindset thoughts, try just noticing your fixed mindset thoughts with nonjudgmental awareness. Let them be just as they are.  Notice them. Note that they are there. You might say to yourself silently, “I’m having the thought that I’ll never be able to learn this,” or, “I notice I’m having the thought that Jake is never going to get better.” Try noticing your fixed mindset thoughts like this for a few days. It may help to remember, we all have fixed mindset thoughts sometimes. None of us embodies a growth mindset 100% of the time.

Become Aware of Your Fixed Mindset Triggers

In the second step of this journey, “Become aware of your fixed mindset triggers,” we start to identify when our fixed mindset shows up. Maybe your fixed mindset kicks in when you take on a new challenge, when you’ve failed at something, or when you hear about someone else doing something (like baking a cake or writing a report), a lot better than you can. For a week or two, notice whenever your fixed mindset is triggered and write down the situation that sets off your fixed mindset thinking. Then review your list of triggers and note any patterns. You may find that you have a number of fixed mindset triggers, but that there are some triggers that you are especially sensitive to. This is helpful information. You can use it as you continue on with your journey.

Give Your Fixed Mindset Persona A Name

For the third step, Dweck recommends you give your fixed mindset a first name and think about how your fixed mindset impacts your life and others. Some of you may find giving your fixed mindset persona a name to be helpful, but if this doesn’t feel right to you, skip it. Just be sure to spend time thinking deeply about how your fixed mindset affects your life and others in your life in different ways. 

If your family, friends, or co-workers who you interact with regularly are going on a growth mindset journey with you, you can sit down together and discuss how each person’s fixed mindset persona affects them as well as everybody else in your group. Alternatively, you can spend some time writing about the effects of your fixed mindset in a journal. However you choose to do it, see if you can approach this step with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Perhaps explore why your fixed mindset has taken hold. Often, a fixed mindset develops to protect us from rejection and harm. Our mind tries hard to protect us!

Educate Your Fixed Mindset Persona and Take it on the Journey with You.

For the last step, we continue to be aware when we have a fixed mindset thought and accept it for what it is. We begin to apply our new understanding of our fixed mindset as we go about our daily lives. Begin a silent, internal dialogue with the fixed mindset part of you. When the fixed mindset shows up, try to empathize with it. Thank it for its input. Tell it you’d like try something a little different and and ask it if it’s willing to bear with you as you try a different way. If you’re working on adopting a growth mindset alongside others, you can help each other. When you find yourself becoming judgmental of others’ skills or abilities, let them know that your fixed mindset is active. When either of you fall into a fixed mindset, you can ask each other for support. 

Don’t Lose Sight of the Journey

So now you’re on your way! As you continue along this path, know this: Often when people start to change their behavior and notice improvement, they think the improvement will stick around without any additional effort on their part. They stop doing the things that caused the improvement. Then the situation gets worse again! 

As with any kind of behavior change, to see lasting change, we need to continue to do the things that help. Dweck advises us that change requires commitment, as well as time, effort, and support from others. When you find your motivation decreasing or your behavior slipping, gently remind yourself why you embarked on this journey. Be kind to yourself and remember we all misstep from time to time. Then revisit the process outlined here and step back on the path to growth and learning! Bon voyage!

Debby Urken, LMSW is a child and family therapist at Intuition Wellness Center in Tucson, AZ. To schedule an appointment, please fill out an online request . 

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

By Debby Urken, LMSW; Child & Family Therapist at Intuition Wellness Center


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Four Movement Activities For Your Cranky Kid

Movement for Cranky Kids

There’s a lot going on right now for all of us. And by that, I’m definitely talking about the anger, sadness, grief and chronic state of crisis fatigue many are experiencing. Tired from trying our best to cope with our own big feelings, many parents are finding it difficult to navigate our kids feelings, too. However, all of us can certainly understand why our kids are cranky. I mean, who isn’t feeling irritable? When I asked our team pediatric occupational therapist, Anne Berkery, OTR/L, about recommendations for helping kids cope, she didn’t disappoint. Anne enthusiastically offered many suggestions of movement-based activities that can help kids with their crankies.

An occupational therapist (OT) is always thinking about the movement needs of their clients. A lack of movement often means big problems and Anne Berkery, OTR/L conceptualizes this as a contributor to irritability. With school remaining online for many and usual activities inaccessible, so many kids are more sedentary than usual right now. 

4 Easy Movement Activities to Help Your Cranky Kid

  1. Obstacle Courses. Anne says that we should get our kids running. Obstacle courses are a semi-sneaky way of achieving this goal. The especially great thing about obstacle courses is that you can make them in just about any space and using things around your house. If the kids start getting bored with it, just switch it up. Move things around. Level Up: For a personalized touch, help your kiddo trace their feet and cut out the shapes on colored paper. Use these cutouts to mark their intended steps or to represent certain actions during the obstacle course.
  2. Musical Chairs. Tried and true, a game of musical chairs will get them moving and laughing. This works especially well when at least a few family members can join in. All you need is one less chair than players, some fun music and someone who will hit pause from time to time. Level Up: Have your child choose the soundtrack to make it especially fun for them and have them dance and not just walk around the chairs.
  3. Beach Balls. Bop around a beach ball or two or a couple of balloons for another movement activity that’s hard to resist. Level Up: Create a challenge of how many times they can bop the ball before it hits the ground. See if you can add in a funny gesture or movement between hitting the ball.
  4. Jump Rope. A great test of coordination, the rhythmic nature of jumping rope can actually be soothing as well.  Also great about jumping rope? It can be done independently when others aren’t available to help turn the rope. Level Up: Add a song to your jumping or for a really big challenge try it out with a second rope double dutch style. For especially young kids, the rope can be placed on the floor to allow them to jump over.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you. Call 520-333-3320 or request an appointment.

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The Pandemic of COVID-19: A lesson to our kids that we are all connected

I didn’t understand– most of us didn’t– exactly how it would feel to prepare for a pandemic to sweep through. On Friday afternoon our team naturopathic physician, Dr. Sage, attended a special seminar hosted by the Arizona Department of Health Services about COVID-19 (aka. Novel Coronavirus). On Monday, Dr. Sage and I began putting together a statement for our team and our clients as well as a protocol for increasing cleaning measures in our office. By Tuesday, we became aware that a confirmed case of the virus is now in our county. And for the last couple of days we’ve been working out the details of a plan in case our team members or clients are quarantined. It’s been a whirlwind, but now we’re just waiting and thinking a lot about what’s to come. The spread of COVID-19 is a reminder and a lesson on how interconnected we all are at both global and local levels… for better or worse.

As a pediatric practice, most of our clients are children and young adults who seem to be the least impacted by the virus. This is a relief certainly. Yet, we believe in a community-based model of healing and wellbeing, which means that each of us– old, young, healthy and sick– has a responsibility to others. It’s up to all of us to make efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to respond with compassion to those who are suffering because of it.

Most of the kiddos we see are spending their days at school in what is often akin to a petri dish no matter how well school personnel clean. Many kids have or will get COVID-19 and they will very likely be fine. However, in order to be a part of protecting others in their community, they do need to understand that there is a virus coming through. They need to understand also that each of us could unwittingly spread it to others.

Looking for support in talking to your kids about COVID-19?

I encourage you to talk to your children about COVID-19 in a measured, compassionate and rational way. There’s some excellent content out there about how to do so that I’m linking below. My biggest tip is to monitor your own anxiety about it and be certain that your anxiety feels manageable in the moment(s) you have this conversation with your children. Filter their news intake and your own for that matter, as well. And don’t forget to talk to them about what they can do to help protect their community.

We can help support you in talking to your child about COVID-19 and if your child already has a provider, don’t hesitate to let them know that you would like this support.

If you notice that your child seems to be experiencing particularly big worry about COVID-19, it’s not generally helpful to tell them simply not to worry. Katie Hurley, a licensed clinical social worker who works with children, recently summed this up on her social media.

“During the past few days of therapy sessions, a number of kids have said something like this: Grownups are telling me not to worry because it only gets old people, but what about my grandparents? Will they be okay? …It’s up to us to help kids work through their anxious thoughts. Kids never ever stop worrying simply because adults say, ‘don’t worry.’ That’s not how worrying works.” — Katie Hurley, LCSW

What steps is Intuition Wellness Center taking to protect our community?

  1. Limiting exposures. We are asking that if you have symptoms, please do not come in for your appointments. In fact, stay home altogether. Call or email us and let us know if you have a fever or cough. Our team members are working hard to stay healthy and will be staying home if they have symptoms. Medical facilities are reserving tests for only those with severe symptoms, so, unfortunately, there will be no way for many of us to truly confirm if it’s COVID-19 rather than just a cold. Telehealth may be an option for your OT or therapy sessions if it’s clinically appropriate and it will definitely be an option for naturopathic medical sessions.
  2. Keeping a clean space. We’ve given each team member additional cleaning options and we’ve asked them to up their cleaning protocol. We’re also pulling out some of the non-essential play items and fabric items in our center so that we can concentrate our cleaning efforts. Lastly, we’ve also asked our nighttime cleaning crew to increase their efforts.
  3. Handwashing. You’ve heard it a million times now, but this may be one of the most important tips. Wash your hands… wash your hands… wash your hands. Simple soap and water is very effective at killing COVID-19. We’ve added a hand washing station and reminders and tips to make it more enjoyable for children. Please wash your hands when you arrive in our center to protect yourself and others.

Read our full statement about attendance at sessions and our precautions here.

The very short video here is of Dr. Sage and me with a quick acknowledgment of the symptoms to watch for and a general overview of how we’re approaching all of this. The resources that I mention at the end of this video are conveniently listed and/or linked at the end of this post.

Finally, a silver lining.

Here’s the great news. People really do pull together when there’s a crisis or devastating event. Research suggests that most of us become incredibly altruistic in these situations. We are even more likely to do things like wash our hands when we know it is for the good of someone else. Your children can understand this and are capable of great compassion. The recent spread of COVID-19 is also an opportunity to think through, perhaps with your children, the things that you can do to reach out to those who are directly impacted. Know an elderly neighbor without local family? Check in on them regularly to prevent isolation. Even if they’re quarantined, a phone call can go a long way. What about a family who may be especially financially impacted if schools close down and mom can’t go to work? Offer them childcare or groceries. As part of that practice of compassion and kindness, remember this in a time when many people are fearful:

“If you believe that somebody is overreacting, just try to remember that another word for ‘overreaction’ is ‘fear.’ Try to be compassionate, not contemptuous. We don’t all share the same fears, but we all know what fear feels like, and it’s a terrible sensation. I wouldn’t wish fear on anybody, and I know that a lot of people are genuinely afraid right now.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Another silver lining in all of this is that, for some of us, this may be an opportunity to slow down life with our children and reconnect with them. Yes, that can also create stress, too.

What am I going to do with my children during this?

Here are some screen-free ideas for things to do with your kids if school shuts down or if they’re in a 14-day quarantine:

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Get Your Wakeful Child to Sleep… Finally!

healthy sleep

If your children (and you) sleep through the night, you are the envy of parents everywhere! So many things can get in the way of getting a consistently good night’s rest– overstimulation, anxiety, depression, difficulty with making transitions, etc. Maybe your sweetie pie repeatedly begs for one more drink of water, worries about the next school day, or can’t seem to turn off their motor at the end of the day. As a parent it can be so hard to keep your wits about you when you’re tired, they’re tired, and no one is getting their much needed rest. If you’re ready to be proactive in support of healthy sleep patterns for your wakeful child, keep reading.

How Much Sleep Should Kiddo Get?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you and your littles strive to get the following amount of hours of sleep per night:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • School Age (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older Adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours

Now, there is a reason that a range of hours is listed for each age group and that is that people are all different. If you have questions about whether or not your unique child is getting enough sleep, consult with your child’s physician.

3 Tips for Getting Your Child to Sleep
  • Be Consistent. You’ve most likely heard this tip before. Getting your child or yourself into a rhythm and routine each day is crucial for getting restful sleep. They should have a set bedtime and wake time regardless of whether it’s a weekday, weekend, or holiday. Additionally, get a routine in place for bedtime that includes relaxing activities such as bath time and reading, or meditation and journaling. These consistent rhythms and routines will keep your kiddo’s sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) in check and their natural melatonin production operating optimally.  For more information on balancing natural melatonin levels, check out the tips below from Dr. Sage, Naturopathic Family Physician at Intuition Wellness.

Video not working?  Try this: Get Your Child to Sleep: Rebalance Melatonin Production

  • Create a Sanctuary. Your child’s sleeping area should be simple and their bed should be a sleep-only zone. This means that they shouldn’t be doing their homework or even reading in their bed. Creating the right mental association for them will essentially train their brain to relax once they lay down in their bed. It’s ok for your child to have some sort of transitional object, such as a stuffed animal, in bed with them. Yet, keep the space uncluttered overall to maintain your sleep-only zone. In addition, create a home culture that doesn’t allow electronics in bed. The blue light emitted from screens can be especially problematic for sleep-wake cycles. Plus,  keeping screen distractions away from bed will also create healthy bedtime boundaries. It’s also best if your child can be awakened by natural light. However, most school days start so early that this often isn’t an option. If getting up before sunrise is truly necessary, consider purchasing a light box, which will also support natural melatonin production.
  •  Exercise and Movement. Children who stay active during the day often sleep more restfully in the evening. If your child has a tendency to be a couch potato, there are many strategies you can try to get them moving. Finding activities that they enjoy is especially important. They should refrain from heavy exercise close to bedtime. Activities such as slow yoga or stretching are ok in the evenings and you can even combine them with meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Looking for more? Check out a more detailed version of our sleep tips ready for print or to be bookmarked.

8 Tips for Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Printable Tips for Getting Your Child to Sleep!

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.



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Create Meaningful (and Achievable) Family Goals for the New Year

New Year Resolutions

It’s a new year and a new decade. For many people, that means it’s resolution time. It’s finding-yourself time. It’s creating-new-habits-and-setting-goals time. Maybe you’re one of the few who make your dreams come true at the start of each new year, but most of us live a different reality. Depending on the source, surveys suggest that up to 80 percent of new year’s resolutions may fail. But that doesn’t mean that using the new year as a time to clean the slate and set intentions is completely useless. It can be a perfectly natural time for your family to reset. Here’s a few tips to help your family create meaningful and achievable goals for the new year. 

Creating Meaningful (and Achievable) Family Goals

  1. Find Purpose. Allowing your kids to set their own goals and supporting them to find something that really speaks to them will set them up for success. When your child or family is working toward something that matters to them, their  investment will undoubtedly increase. Try creating vision boards and look to see what themes emerge for each family member. Read more about supporting your child to find their purpose.
  2. Think Habits. Reaching a new goal is generally more successful if you instead think of it as a new habit or series of habits. When creating a family goal create a habit around it and pair it with habits that your family already engages in. If your goal is to get into nature more often as a family, for example, you could look to your usual dinner routine as a place to pair a new habit of an after dinner walk. Read more about creating habits.
  3. Plan for Obstacles. Brainstorm with your family about the things that could get in the way of reaching the goal. Ask them, “If you feel like giving up, what will you do instead?” Teaching your child to stick to it is part of teaching resilience and planning for the hiccups will support you and your family in overcoming challenges.

Find tips for creating vision boards with your family (and other good stuff to support your wellness) in Intuition Wellness Center’s wellness handouts.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults and families. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation. 


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Fidgeting, Wiggling, Doodling: 3 reasons to encourage these ‘naughty’ behaviors at school

Remember a few years ago when fidget spinners were a big deal? If your child is the right age, you may have even been one of the families on the receiving end of a communication from your child’s teacher or school administration announcing the ban on fidget spinners. This is one of many things banned from schools with the explanation that they are distracting– gum, headphones, certain types of jewelry, etc.


I understand how this comes to be. Think of the last time you were with a child and took a long car trip, or waited a long time for your food at a restaurant or stood in a long line. Did they wiggle? Fidget? Ask ‘how much longer?’ Of course. It’s developmentally appropriate. Now imagine that times about 25. Yes, 25 sweetie pies all wiggling and fidgeting 6-8 hours a day in their classrooms. Teachers deserve a crown, a throne, piles of treasure and donuts for their amazing abilities. It’s hard to manage that amount of movement and potential for distraction. I can understand why many schools create so many limits. 

Yet, fidgeting, wiggling and doodling are typically an attempt to adapt to the circumstances. Said another way, your child is probably engaging in these things in an effort to be GOOD not bad. To get their movement and stimulation needs met, not to be troublesome for the classroom. 

3 Reasons to Allow a Child to Fidget

  1. Your child probably isn’t getting enough exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that only about 5% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.  In addition, numerous pressures on schools have led to up to 40% of school districts within the U.S. reducing or cutting recess. Recess is associated with improved social and emotional outcomes as well as academic achievement (memory, attention, grades, attendance, and classroom behavior!). You can see why shortened recess is a problem. Less opportunity for movement can lead to excess energy.
  2. Your child probably feels anxious. Particularly at the beginning of the academic year, as children are transitioning to the new structure of school, to a new morning routine, to a new teacher, and perhaps a new classroom or building, they will be nervous. There will be unknowns for them as they learn about what’s expected of them. They may be standing up in front of a new classroom of peers or being called upon for the first time this year. Some anxiety is to be expected. Anxiety can look like restlessness, agitation, and tension of the body. Exercise, particularly frequent and short bouts, is a great natural way to reduce anxiety. Yet, this isn’t available to a child during the vast majority of their school day. What is? Wiggling. Little movements like tapping toes, clicking a pen, and nibbling on pencil all exert nervous energy. Doodling on the corner of their page may also be cathartic.
  3. Your child is probably bored. We’re all bored numerous times a day! This is actually NOT a bad thing, but it does mean that the brain is under-stimulated. The human brain will seek a cure to its boredom which can lead a person to their most curious and creative moments. Diagnoses of ADHD, anxiety, depression and sensory integration disorder (sensory processing) are all related to stimulation needs. The body tries to accommodate and get the brain to the just-right-place of stimulation and when it does, it can be present in the moment. This is why you may pick at your cuticles during a work meeting or drum your fingers while you wait for an appointment. Interestingly, research suggests that fidgeting can release neurotransmitters in the brain that mimic the effects of ADHD medications and support better concentration and sustained attention. A child who can fidget is actually more likely to be able to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.

Tips for improving your child’s concentration and attention

  1. Appeal to your teacher, school administrator or district if your child’s school has cut back on recess, takes recess away as punishment or uses it as a time for kids to catch up on overdue work. 
  2. Ensure that you’re allowing plenty of movement time for your child elsewhere. Try an activity like yoga or taekwondo which both support physical and mental fitness.
  3. Find out what your child’s teachers do to encourage movement and share resources on ways to incorporate classroom movement.
  4. Find out if the teacher will consider gum chewing (or chewelry), standing desks and cozy corners that allow for various sitting positions or lying down (read: wiggling), midday walking breaks, standing up instead of raising hands, incorporating drawing during assignments, rotating stations in the classroom, listening to music or doodling as a way to fight boredom and attention issues.
  5. Teach your child mindfulness and meditation. Meditation also supports improved attention and concentration.
  6. Be sure that your child is getting enough sleep. Stay strong during bedtime battles. A rested brain operates from a full cup and won’t be distracted by tiredness or need as much stimulation to stay alert.
  7. Pay attention to your child’s diet and talk to a doctor about your child’s eating habits. A malnourished brain is also more susceptible to concentration difficulties. The gut is the second brain after all. Some people especially need predictable snack and meal times and need to eat more frequently. Many teachers are willing to offer snack times during school day (and definitely will with a doctor’s note).

Join Dr. Kate Sage for “Happy Belly, Happy Kid: A parents’ heart-to-heart

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Your Child Needs a Purpose

There are things I spend a fair amount of time worrying about in my professional work. As a psychologist and director of a child and family wellness center, I worry about whether families feel supported; about overscheduled lives limiting opportunities for connection; about the stress hormones resulting from the hurry-hurry-do-everything attitude of our society causing harm to young bodies. I worry about what children are eating and if they’re moving regularly throughout their day; about technology disrupting sleep and relational skills; about whether school expectations for children are developmentally appropriate; and about a trending tendency to avoid doing things that are effortful. Yet, my biggest worry is whether life is feeling less and less meaningful and purposeful to children. It’s not distinct from the other worries, but actually an amalgam of the other worries smooshied together. 

I have a great imagination. I can conjure up images of children playing video games, isolated in their bedrooms, shades drawn, from the time they wake up into the wee hours of the night every day of their summer vacation. Likewise, I can also imagine the rigidly scheduled teen turning down invitations from friends in order to get ahead of the upcoming school year with summer classes, private lessons, as well as part-time jobs, sports camps, and volunteer work to ensure that they’re well-rounded and marketable to colleges. Both of these children’s circumstances concern me. They each have goals– some centered around present-moment achievements on a screen and some oriented to futures that make the present seem like nothing more than a hoop to jump through. Yet, I worry… do either of these children feel passionate about something? Have they found something yet that feels meaningful and bigger than themselves?

Parenting a Child with Purpose

Defined Values. Purpose is wrapped up in what is meaningful and what is meaningful is centered around one’s values. As a family, you can start early by talking about what values you share and why. Be careful also to support your child’s developing identity and allowing for them to explore interests that differ from those of your family. Leaving room for exploration is part of their developing identity and values. You might also discuss with your child what they wish they could change about the world and what sort of adult they want to be. How do your and and your child’s values manifest through action? Talking about this is a good lead into your child developing goals.

Goal-Setting. Whether you’re a free range, helicopter, tiger parent or none of the above, your children need goals, though goals are not the same thing as purpose. Goals are about achieving something, purpose typically includes having goals but they are part of a bigger meaningful commitment and vision. How do you support your child in setting goals that really matter to them? Once your child know’s what’s important to them and why then you can help them take action. Developing smaller goals and reasonable timelines will support them in making concrete progress. At times, you might help them determine steps they can take that would be congruent with their values.  Consider creating vision boards together and ask them if there’s anything you can do to support them in reaching their goals.

Transformative Experiences. Some of the ways that young people find their purpose is through an important event or circumstance, service to others or other transformative experience. Patrick Cook-Deegan tells us that some of the most common transformative experiences are traveling abroad, spending time in the natural world, joining a social change project, or establishing a contemplative practice. As a parent, you can support these experiences for your child. Not all organized trips are expensive and many organizations offer scholarships.

Sometimes it can feel like a confusing line between supporting your child and putting undue pressure on them. Remember that purpose is about your child finding meaning, not about you finding it for them.


Join guest speaker, Dr. Kate Sage, for “Avoiding the Helicopter Parenting Trap


At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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The Emphasis on Self Care is Shaming Moms

Once upon a time, families of the neighborhood looked out for one another’s kids; sent a casserole down the street when their neighbor was down on their luck; called upon the mama with a new baby; and confidently sent their kids down the block for a cup of sugar from the neighbor. The days of Beverly Cleary characters are long gone. Lately parenting seems to be done more and more in isolation. Yet there is another shift occurring. Some quiet rumblings. A suggestion that the last couple of decades of parenting without the village may be lonely and counterproductive. There’s even been a few disgruntled mentionings of the term “self care” and a countermovement toward a new conceptualization— “community care.” 

The Rise of Self Care

At what point did we start talking about and using the term “self care?” I don’t know, honestly, but in my own musings it likely evolved from the same culture where parents are often expected to be well-informed, self-sufficient, and able to juggle all of their responsibilities flawlessly. In addition, they should not be irritable, exhausted, lonely and/or prone to feelings of inadequacy. If they are experiencing any of these “symptoms” then the commonplace recommendation is more self care because they must not be doing it enough and, of course, they should be able to juggle that, too! 

Parenting is hard, Dear Ones. I don’t know anyone who will argue with that! Exhaustion may even be a normal response to such an important job. Yet, I’m of the mindset that it could be a little easier. If only we still truly had the village mentality (and not the mentality where we just say “it takes a village” but then do little to actually embody this). And if we could also just be honest with each other about just how often we’re actually struggling to juggle all of it.

When someone is struggling and admitting to the exhaustion, I know I’ve certainly been guilty of asking things like, “when’s the last time you did something for yourself?” as if to suggest that feeling this way demands a remedy and that the solution is in their hands alone. Is encouraging self care wrong? No. In fact, doing right by oneself is VERY important. But it’s also not totally adequate.

The Fall of Self Care

Some say the emphasis on self care remains neglectful of that aforementioned self. By focusing solely on self care as the remedy, we fail to put some responsibility on the villagers as essential to supporting the mama, the papa, the caregiver, etc. Some say that stressing self care is shaming. Blaming even. Because it can sometimes seem to suggest that if you’re exhausted, irritable, feeling inadequate and can’t live up to your standards…. it’s both your fault and you should fix it. That you should have been able to do something to negate all of those feelings. Something for yourself. Some self care. 

Yet, where are the villagers? 

Where is the community to also care for the caregiver? 

By falling back on recommending self care to others does that give us an excuse not to step up and be the villager?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.


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Mother Nature’s Parenting Tips

I have always been an observer. This tendency doesn’t stop with people-watching. As a child, I was fortunate enough to live near a nationally-ranked well-funded zoo. For a period of time, I was certain zoology was the field for me. I remember standing gape-mouthed at my local zoo as young gorillas pulled off impressive gymnastic-quality feats and played pranks on their family members. I remember the awe and joy I felt as a mama bear and her little one did bonafide underwater handstands, purple padded feet in the air, just for the fun of it. The animals, it seemed, took genuine delight in their play. Nature is on to something. Our physical world is full of lessons. 

Three Parenting Tips from Mother Nature

1. Get them moving.

Just ahead of May’s mental health awareness month, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a statement aptly titled, “To Grow Up Healthy, Children Need to Sit Less and Play More.” The title says it all really. Children are meant to move just like the vast majority of nature’s fauna. With so many sedentary activities that are full of tempting lights and binging noises, both kids and adults are struggling with inactivity, particularly the screen time takeover. It’s not good for us. And, while I certainly don’t want to discourage organized sports or scheduled workouts, natural movement is also important– movement that occurs throughout the day, not just 3 times a week for an hour.

If you see your child struggling with coordination or avoiding certain kinds of movement-based play, consider talking to an expert. They could benefit from pediatric occupational therapy. If it’s a matter of your child simply preferring the couch to the swing in the backyard, try some new strategies and make movement a family affair.

2. Throw caution to the wind.

I think back to the animals I watched in the zoo. Those gorillas and polar bears were jumping in the water, rolling in the dirt, and making a mess of things while exploring their environment. Adults swooped in to help only when it was really needed. Certainly these little ones didn’t experience their caregivers as stepping in regularly with messages of caution. No. In fact, baby animals know when their parents are serious about being careful, because they only caution when it’s really needed. Children are supposed to be messy climbing machines. That’s why your two-year-old wants to get on top of the table and doesn’t hold back in the muddle puddles.

There’s literally stuff in dirt that helps our mental and physical health. I’m not making that up. And the kind of movement that children engage in in nature– climbing  trees, digging in the creek bed, splashing through the rain– those kinds of things support coordination and a sense of confidence that comes with mastery. We’ve got to get out of the way. I’m not saying there should be no rules. Surely it can be ok to let them get dirty and to let them try new physical feats from time to time though. Intervene when it’s needed, just like mama gorilla, and catch yourself the next time you say “Be careful” to your child. Was it really necessary?

3. Be one with nature.

Well, of course, Mother Nature encourages this one. Nature in and of itself is both predictable and changing, mundane and awe-inspiring. Being a quiet observer can certainly teach a child a lot about mindfulness and about how the bigger world works. Watching those gorillas all those years ago, I learned about family hierarchies and what unfiltered joy looks like. Watching the polar bears, I saw authentic mother’s love. In the trail of ants in my backyard, my children see perseverance and structure. In the quail families hiding in the weeds, they see loyalty and protectiveness. It turns out that nature is good for our mental health. Forest bathing, that is surrounding ourselves with trees leads us to be happier and healthier. Even just looking at pictures of trees (with or without leaves) leads to improved outcomes. Get your children outside!   Perhaps you’ll notice an immediate improvement in their mood.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.


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The Child Who Doesn’t Conform

When a child responds with immediate compliance to a parent’s request, it certainly seems to make the day go smoother. If the kids on the playground all run with the pack (and not against it), the social interactions for those children seem to be more at ease, less conflictual. When all of the students in the classroom follow their teacher’s instructions without dawdling or questioning the teacher’s reasoning, yup, that seems to make things feel a little easier, at least for the grownup, too. Currently, in most settings in most children’s lives, conformity seems to be valued and demanded even. Yet, there are some children who just don’t seem to conform.

Inconvenient Isn’t Always Problematic

The kids who don’t conform are the most likely to get labeled problematic. We often go into “fix-it” mode— wanting to change the child who seems to be in the world differently than same-age peers. At times though, we may be trying to fix something simply because of our own grownup desires for convenience. Sometimes, those children with different ways of being in and viewing the world grow into adults who will lead society to advance in unexpected ways.  

It’s April, which is Autism awareness month. Autism is a very good example of something that was once viewed as a condition warranting a solution and/or cure and those with Autism are often viewed as non-conformists. However, the contemporary viewpoint seems to be one of acceptance. Consequently, it focuses on supporting the child in finding ease and success in their life and addresses the environment as the most appropriate place for intervention. This is different than just treating the child’s symptoms, though that may also be helpful.

Allowing for Uniqueness 

In honor of Autism Awareness month and in support of the misunderstood non-conformist child, I share a quote. Samantha Berger, author of the children’s book, “Rock What Ya Got!”, is, presumably, in support of leaving room for people to be uniquely them:

“Everyone has their own special thing— find what is yours, and bring what you bring… Find your own voice and sing how you sing. Find your own OOMPH! Find your own ZING! Be your best you, and rock what ya got. Don’t let anyone say what you’re not. Live in this world and make your own spot. Take what you’ve got and rock it— A  LOT!” -Samantha Berger, “Rock What Ya Got!”

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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The Bounce-Back Kid: 3 steps to a happy and resilient child

When you ask any parent off the street what they want for their kids, my guess is that at least 9 out of 10 would say they want their kids to be happy. But the way that I dissect that wish in my mind does not equate to kids who are protected from everything, never suffer, and never go through hardships. In fact, a kid who can bounce back from challenges might be the happiest kind of kid. Wouldn’t you agree? 

What’s a Bounce-Back Kid? 

After 9/11, the American Psychological Association (APA) created an initiative to bring public awareness to the concept of resilience. APA (2003) defines resilience as “the human ability to adapt in the face of tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors.” There is a common misperception that resilience is dichotomous— a have or have not— but it’s just not true. Some kids may have the bounce-back of a rubbery bounce-y ball while others’ bounce may be more like that of a tennis ball, but either way, these are kids that demonstrate a pretty high degree of resilience.

Raising a Kid with Bounce

It is true that some kids are just born with a bit more bounce than others. For example, intelligence, which does have some genetic loading, seems to act as a a buffer. Research has also identified several other predictors of resilience, too, that a parent can surely help support.  

Sees the bright side:

A bounce-back kid of the highest degree typically copes using humor. That’s right. Belly laughs aren’t just fun, they’re practical. People who are able to see the bright side of things seem to be able to un-do some of the negativity they might feel after a stressful event. They also happen to be better at gaining support from others. How can a parent support this? Don’t take yourself too seriously. That is, be willing to laugh at yourself. Being able to see the bright side can also translate into gratitude which has gained lots of attention in the last decade as a mood booster. 

Sense of competence:

One of my favorite concepts to teach others about is Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. As a society, we seem to have become uncomfortable with struggle. A growth mindset not only teaches the bright side to struggle, but embraces challenges as a learning opportunity. A bounce-back kid isn’t deterred when the going gets tough. The bounce-back kid is determined because she believes in herself. How can a parent support this? A caregiver who can step aside while a child figures something out, providing support when needed, but not interfering when their child demonstrates developmentally-appropriate struggling, sends an important message. This caregiver communicates to their child, “I believe in you and see you as capable” and this is a lesson that children take to heart.

Social strengths:

A bounce-back kid is a kid who knows that at least one parent cares about her. The warmth of a parent and a health attachment are tied to all kinds of goodness that will result in better emotional regulation and friendship-making skills in a child. How can a parent support this? We know that parents who have social support are more sensitive to their kids and cope better with irritable kids. Yet, parents can be so self-sacrificing. Seek support for yourself. This will absolutely have a positive impact on your parenting and it’s also good modeling to show your children that you’re willing to ask others for support. Secondly, set up times for your child to practice their social skills. If you have a child who struggles socially, set up really low pressure play dates that are sure to set up your child for success— ones that involve a structured activity perhaps and ones with another child who you know is patient and kind. 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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3 Ways Your Attachment with Your Child Is Impacting Their Behavior

About 70 years ago, the psychiatrist Dr. John Bowlby made a surprising revelation about mental health. He stated that it is dependent on each of us experiencing a “warm, intimate and continuous relationship” in which both child and caregiver “find satisfaction and enjoyment.” Dr. Bowlby’s findings led him to develop the science of attachment– which offers an explanation of relationships patterns and, coincidentally, our children’s behavior. 

What is Attachment Theory? 

Bowlby believed that children are born seeking and attempting to remain close to attachment figures. From a purely evolutionary perspective, this makes complete sense. Stick close to someone who is more clever and bigger than you and you’re more likely to be fed and protected. 

An adult who serves as a playmate, disciplinarian, or teacher isn’t necessarily a primary attachment figure, though they could be. So what does it take to be an attachment figure? The adult’s presence in the first few years of the child’s life certainly helps a lot, since relationship patterns start to take hold right away in life. An attachment that is secure and healthy ultimately results from a caregiver responding with sensitivity and consistency. For me, the epitome of a secure attachment is a young toddler playing independently while his mother looks on. Every few minutes he wanders back to his mother to show her something or engage her in the play. This serves as an “emotional refueling” before he goes back to his independent play. When he is distressed from an accidental fall he, again, returns to his mother and finds comfort in her warm reassurance. 

Understanding Attachment Can Change Behavior

  1. Interactions will seem smoother. Children naturally want to help, adopt your values, and follow your instructions. Yet, injuries in the attachment may impact these natural tendencies. Instead, you may get what appears to be disobedience, disrespect, and emotional explosiveness. The quality of the relationship will play out over and over in every interaction. If your child struggles to follow directions or appears disrespectful, an investment of time into the relationship, and not just the behavior, may work wonders. 
  1. Separations and connection to others will be easier. Many children go through separation anxiety as part of healthy and normal development. Yet, a secure attachment to you means she will learn to trust that you will return. She will also believe that adults, in general, are trustworthy. 
  1. Strong attachments serve as a balm for emotional wounds. Children tend to believe they get the care they deserve. A child who is consistently met with warmth from an attachment figure will believe she is worthy of it. When hurt occurs in her interactions with peers or other adults, she will be more resilient and protected as a result of her caregiving. She’ll understand that this hurt is not indicative of her worth in the world. 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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‘Tis the Season for Sensory Overload

It’s a time of year that can certainly overwhelm the senses for many of us– flashing lights littering many lawns and homes, Christmas music blasting from department store speakers, crowds… crowds…. CROWDS. For some people though, sensory overload can be an everyday experience that leads to many moments of discomfort.

What is Sensory Overload?

Some children may become overwhelmed when they experience too many sensations coming into the body at one time. This is called sensory overload. Some examples of sensory overload may include too much noise or a sound that is too loud. A child may become visually overwhelmed in crowded places. More movement than the body can process can also be challenging, such as a ride at an amusement park.   

Children generally respond to sensory overload in two ways. First, they may try remove themselves from the overstimulating environment such as going off in a corner to trying to limit the amount of stimulation. Some children may also respond to sensory overload by acting out behaviorally. Your child may become irritable or defiant, scream, cry, or lash out at others. Your child’s ability to respond appropriately is based on the foundation of their basic senses: touch, vision, hearing, movement, and an internal awareness of where they are in space. A child who has difficulty integrating their senses may be diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder. A pediatric occupational therapist can support a child with this disorder.

What is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?

Pediatric occupational therapists help children develop their occupation to its fullest potential. A child’s occupation is, of course, different from an adult’s. Your child’s main occupation is to play and to learn. As such, occupational therapy goals might include: improving fine motor skills, coordination, muscle strength, cognitive and visual perceptual skills, attention, and following directions. Pediatric occupational therapists working with sensory processing disorder will work to support a child in organizing and maturing their nervous system.

What Can You Do About Sensory Overload?

There are ways to minimize sensory overload this holiday season! Keep your child’s regular routine with adequate sleep and regular nutritious meals and snacks. Ensure they exercise regularly. Plan a schedule that spreads out holiday activities and include down time to help your child’s nervous system to relax.

Get your printable version of tips to prevent sensory overload!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in inspiring children, young adults and families to live in health and joy and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes, occupational therapy, and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Anne Berkery (formerly Swiderek), Pediatric Occupational Therapist, & Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director, at Intuition Wellness Center

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An Attitude of Gratitude for the Whole Family

Halloween is over and November has arrived. With it comes cooler days, longer nights and the winter holiday season rapidly approaching. This time of year, many of us struggle with feeling there is too much to do and too little time! We may have the desire to have a joyful, relaxed approach to the holidays, yet find ourselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed and even Grinch-like-irritable. If you’re looking for ways to embrace the holiday season with a deeper feeling of joy and connection consider a gratitude practice. 

Research on gratitude shows that people who practice gratitude are happier. How does it work? Basically it’s a way of re-focusing our attention.

Gratitude supports us to focus on what we have, rather than getting stuck on comparisons to others or on what we think might make us happy at some point in the future. 

There are many ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for both children and adults, including writing a thank you note to someone who has contributed positively to your life or keeping a gratitude journal. This year I would like to recommend a family activity. 

A Family Attitude of Gratitude… In a Jar!

Step One: Get your supplies together. As a family, decide on some sort of container to which you’ll all be adding slips of paper for the next few weeks. Gather some small pieces of paper or post-it notes.

Step Two: Find a spot. The home for your gratitude jar should be very visible and accessible to all so that each family member can join in.

Step Three: Choose your time frame. Pick a date to start (maybe Thanksgiving) and a date to end (perhaps the last day of Hanukkah or Christmas day).

Step Four: Let the attitude of gratitude commence. Encourage all family members to write down daily something they are grateful for and why. Consider and encourage writing things you are grateful for that happen within your family. For example, I was grateful when Jimmy offered to load the dishwasher without being asked BECAUSE it gave me a few moments to take a deep breath and relax. On the agreed upon last day, take time to read the gratitude notes out loud as a family. 

Step Five Enjoy. Take a deep breath and notice how you feel!


At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director at Intuition Wellness Center

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Do This and Find Your Parenting Mojo Again

Dear Experienced Caregivers,

I am of the belief that we have a crisis on our hands. And this is important. Parenting is not living up to the expectations many of us had for it. In fact, it has been full of disappointments and unexpected challenges. I, for one, thought I would have a whole lot more fun and be a whole lot better at this parenting thing than I actually am. Don’t get me wrong, I understood it would be hard, but I must not have read the fine print, because I didn’t know that it would be this hard.

I think I’ve lost my parenting mojo.


                                     Every Parent


Raise your hand if any of these things are familiar to you:

  1. Staying late at work to avoid the hassles at home.
  2. Preferring to play a game on your phone than play with your kids.
  3. Immersing yourself in errands and projects so as to avoid unstructured time with your children.
  4. Escaping to your home bathroom, at times, because you need a “moment” that has nothing to do with a movement.
  5. Agreeing to allow video game play or other screen time at otherwise restricted times because it will give you breathing room.

Did you raise your hand to at least one? Then you may have lost your parenting mojo, too. If you’re feeling uninspired and lacking joy in your relationship with your child, then let me share a secret that helps me find my parenting mojo again each and every time.

Give them your full attention. That’s the secret ingredient. The exact thing that you may have been avoiding or finding difficult, is the thing that will bring you back to a connected place with them.

If you are the parent or caregiver of multiple children, schedule a special time with each. Let your child choose a developmentally-appropriate screen-free activity for 20 minutes. And then? Play with them. Really notice them– their mannerisms, the way that their hair curls behind one ear, their enjoyment (or lack thereof) in the activity. Don’t judge any of it, just notice. No running off to the bathroom. No important calls or texts. No avoiding.

When’s the last time that you were fully present with your child? When’s the last time that you allowed yourself to play?

Join special guest, Kimberly Lewis, MEd, Early Childhood Educator, for Joyful Parenting, the next topic of Intuition Wellness Center’s monthly Parents’ Heart-to-Heart.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Dr. Brandy Baker, Co-Founder and Clinical & Training Director at Intuition Wellness Center

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Helping Your High Schooler Transition to College


Whether your child is approaching legal adulthood or still has several years to go, if you told me that you hadn’t once thought about college or their adult years, I’d be pretty darn skeptical. I don’t know the first time that I thought about it for my own kids, who haven’t even reached their teens yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it crossed my mind before they were even born. Certainly, I thought about it by the time I was looking into preschools for my oldest. In fact, I remember doubting one preschool option for him when he was just three based on whether or not it would have the right level of academic rigor to get him into college. Yes, I really did have that thought for my then three-year-old (I chose that school, ultimately, and I have no regrets!) and I’ve heard the same from other parents.

It seems to plague many of us parents— the worry about the launch into college and/or the beyond. Maybe some of us would even go so far as to say that that worry has impacted many of our parenting decisions. It’s true that there’s some upfront work that we can do as parents to support our kids in really thriving and not just surviving when they get to that milestone. Dr. Kacey Greening spent several years working primarily in college counseling centers and with college-age young adults. During those years, Dr. Greening saw where young adults sometimes bungled in some areas of transitioning to college. She often wished she could reverse time and act more preventatively with this young person and their family. Now, Dr. Greening is doing just that in her clinical work and shares her top tips with us!


4 Tips for a Successful Launch to College:

  1. Find a Good Fit
    One of the kindest things you can do for your teen is to help them find a college that has the potential to be a good fit for them. College is a broad term that includes large universities, small community colleges, two year degrees, four year degrees, certification programs, and vocational/technical careers. Being open to all the possibilities gives you and your teen the opportunity to harness your teen’s strengths and interests. While it can sometimes seem like there’s only one path to success and fulfillment, many paths could lead your teen to a viable career. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that your teen can make a change if a change is needed.
  2. Give Them Wings to Fly
    While there is often a focus on getting your teen into a particular college, it is just as important to teach your teen not only how to survive but to thrive once they’re in college. Being a college student typically comes with a higher degree of independence, and it’s much easier if your teen is already practicing important life skills. Does your teen know the value of money? Do they know how to budget? Can they do a load of laundry or make a grilled cheese sandwich? Do they know how to talk to a teacher about a grade or an assignment? As understandable as it is to want to protect your teen or do things for your teen, encouraging your teen to take responsibility for themselves will be an invaluable tool for success in college.
  3. Talk About Risky Situations
    For many families it can sometimes feel awkward when discussing sex, alcohol, drugs, and other potentially risky situations. These topics are not the easiest to broach. However, they are very important and could really save your teen from a lot of pain and heartache. While you’ve probably already discussed family values around these issues and encouraged them to make safe choices, it doesn’t hurt to remind your teen again as they head off to college. It might give you more credibility with your teen if you share some of your own experiences and lessons you’ve learned if you let them know you’re talking to them about it because you care and want them to be healthy and happy. Never underestimate the value of letting your teen know that you’re there for them no matter what. Be willing to handle tough situations in a calm and collected manner that prioritizes listening over lecturing.
  4. Be Kind to Yourself
    Seeing your teen off to college is often a big transition for you both. While it can be a wonderful new chapter in both of your lives, there can be some tough moments spent missing them, worrying about their leap into adulthood, and redesigning your life and priorities. It’s so important for parents to take care of themselves during this transition. Think about what would bring a sense of joy or peace into your life? Maybe calling a friend for a nice dinner or a cup of coffee? Connecting with nature or taking an exercise class? Relying on your sense of humor or cultivating a hobby?

Join Dr. Kacey Greening for more discussion at a Parents’ Heart-To-Heart– Spreading Their Wings: Helping your high schooler transition to college on September 18 at 7pm.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Dr. Kacey Greening, Clinical Psychologist, and Dr. Brandy Baker, Co-Founder and Clinical & Training Director,  at Intuition Wellness Center

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Your Inattentive & Restless Child

As a parent I know how important it is to be able to read your child’s signs. While you may have been able to know what each cry was asking for when your child was a baby, knowing what is at the root of distraction and agitation now that they are a much older and more complex being, is another animal altogether. 

Even if you do have a pretty good sense about whether your child might be wrestling with a fear-based school, social, or general anxiety, or the more neurobiologically-based ADHD, knowing if both are co-existing and how to meet your child’s needs around all of the symptoms accurately and adequately….is simply not simple. 

My hope is that you won’t expect yourself to figure it all out on your own, since we all know how the saying goes about the village it takes to raise a child. And may the following nuggets of guidance help you weave your way toward understanding the distinctions between anxiety and ADHD, where their crossover lies, and some ways in which you can intervene on the home front to provide some support.

How do I know if it’s ADHD or anxiety?

  • Key into clues about whether incomplete tasks are due to anxious perfectionism or to impulsivity-based distractedness (related to ADHD).
  • Notice if instances of impulsivity happen often and even when situations are calm and safe, which would indicate ADHD. 
  • Ask about any worried thoughts that happen for your child…these are often the foundation for an anxious restless and focus-less child. 
  • Ask or notice if your child is showing a collection of physiological or physical signs of anxiety (such as nausea, tense muscles, increased heart-rate, and sweating); these are not going to show up in such a clear and collective way if only ADHD is present.
  • You may notice more social concerns coming from your child when they are dealing with anxiety moreso than with ADHD, since anxiety, and not ADHD, lends itself to an increase in sensitivity to social cues.

Why is it that ADHD and anxiety can look so similar?

  • Both ADHD and anxiety result from decreased and changed activity in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC), which is a place of high-level thinking. Consider the PFC like the control center of the brain, and one of the main reasons we are so distinct in our behavioral capabilities in comparison to other animals. The PFC enables us humans to engage in a great deal of planning, organizing, concentrating, and self-control.
  • The reasons why the PFC goes “offline” when anxious and when ADHD is present are different. This is important because it means that treating them will require us to be on the lookout for different things and to use somewhat different responses.

What can I do about my child’s symptoms?

  • Although the supports for anxiety and ADHD should be different, daily mindfulness and exercise activities create a powerful duo in combating symptoms of both. This is because these activities target executive functioning and sensorimotor processing, which are key to bringing the PFC back “online” and integrating mind and body for managing the present moment effectively.
    • There are a few online sites that I recommend to many of my clients, such a GoZen and GoNoodle. They provide exercise and relaxation activities to help a variety of symptoms related to both diagnoses. Intuition Wellness Center offers a few online resources that focus on breathing and mindfulness that you might find helpful, too.
    • I often also recommend Me Moves and Brain Gym for kids who experience symptoms of ADHD. 
  • Games that hone the different aspects of attention will help “train” the ADHD brain so that it can settle into a focused state and complete tasks effectively. Good examples of such programs can be found on the ADDitude online magazine website.
  • Whether managing ADHD or anxiety, organizing the home and school environment is key to helping your child succeed. Set routines, preparation for what is coming next, and setting up work, play, and relaxation stations at home are all valuable factors in this equation. 
  • Often ADHD, as well as more severe forms of anxiety, are treated with psychotropic medication. An evaluation with a medication provider can help answer your questions and concerns about the pros and cons of this aspect of treatment.
  • A psychological evaluation is one of the best ways to determine if ADHD and/or anxiety is at the root of the symptoms you are seeing in your child. Importantly, a formal evaluation by a trained specialist can allow your child to receive the supports they need both at home and at school, owing to the diagnosis and list of recommendations (specific to your child’s strengths and areas of need) that come out of this.

To learn more about what might help you and your child in navigating attention and restlessness related challenges, please join me for our Parents’ Heart-to-Heart education series about this very topic, on Tuesday August 21, 2018, from 7-8:30pm.


REGISTER NOW for our Parents’ Heart-to-Heart on “Your Inattentive & Restless Child.” Tuesday, August 21, 2018 from 7pm-8:30pm

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Lindsay Lennertz, PsyD; Clinical Psychologist at Intuition Wellness Center


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Let Them Play (and Get Out of the Way)!

Child-Directed Play

Child-Directed PlayWhen you’re a busy parent or caregiver with errands to run, mouths to feed, and work to do, allowing for time for play might seem pretty low on the priority list. In fact, these days play often has to be scheduled to ensure it happens. As someone who spends a good amount of my work day attempting to be fully present with others, it’s amazing to me how easy it is to get caught up in the daily whirlwind in my personal life. When I’m in a particularly aware space, I can catch myself turning every activity into a goal-directed one. Even play time with my kids can evolve into a very time-limited and rushed flurry of lego-building and board games. In those moments, I tend to do a lot of directing. It allows me to get onto my next to-do item, but these generally aren’t my shiniest parenting moments.

There’s a time and place for that sort of play. Structured and goal-directed play isn’t inherently bad. For example, competitive games, like Uno are loads of fun. Crafting with a specific “product” or goal in mind is also satisfying for many. But the play that this generation of kids is especially losing out on is the unstructured kind. The kind of play where a child gets to be spontaneous and creative, exploratory and in charge. The kind that occurs just for the sake of having fun with no planned product in mind except that of their own imagination. And trust me when I say that losing unstructured child-directed play is a big problem. Our over-scheduled kids are on the front lines of a nationwide anxiety epidemic, while child-directed play has so many critical benefits (motor skills/coordination, self concept, and social skills, to name just a few).

Assume you’re being invited in and that you’re making an effort to create space for non-competitive, non-directive play, here’s a few tips to get you started:

Three Tips for Getting Out of the Way of a Kid’s Play

  1. Pretend You’re a (Play) House Guest. When you’re a new guest in someone else’s house, you don’t just bulldoze your way through a visit. Instead, you would typically use your best manners, observe whether others take off their shoes at the door, politely ask for a drink of water if it’s not offered, etc. Think of yourself as a guest in your child’s play. Don’t just help yourself to what’s in the fridge. Ask how they want you to play if they don’t tell you first. Better yet, observe them in their play for a bit before getting involved.
  2. Allow for Repetitive Play. Look… if you’re going to be a good playmate, you simply have to stop putting a kibosh on kiddo playing out the same thing over and over. Do you remember when your four-year-old requested that you read the story of “The Little Red Hen” again? For the six bazillionth time in a week? That’s developmentally appropriate for young children. Personally, I conceptualize that sort of repetitive play as an attempt at mastery– a signal to me that I ought to stay out of the way until they’ve resolved the issue. It’s tempting to insist on something different because YOU are getting bored of it. Ultimately though, if you let your child engage in that repetitive play enough, she’s likely to move on eventually.
  3. Get Over your Savior Complex. Many in our culture have misinterpreted boredom as signaling something negative is happening— that our child needs more activities, more things to accomplish. But let me clear up that confusion. Being bored is OK. Some even tout it as a gift. From boredom comes the best kind of creativity and spontaneity. Please stop rescuing your child each time he or she complains of boredom. Instead, say “Huh. I wonder what you’ll do about that?” Expect a bit of resistance if your child isn’t used to that sort of response. I can almost guarantee though that if you suggest a chore as an activity, they’ll find their own boredom solution.

Sometimes having a designated time and space for play can be the best answer to getting into a play rhythm. While there’s lots of options, some of our favorites are right here in house:

REGISTER NOW: Friday Night Family Yoga at Intuition Wellness Center.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Brandy Baker, PsyD; Co-Founder; Clinical Psychologist


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Creating Calm by Creating Routines

School is ending and summer’s here! Children are excited and may be looking forward to no homework, sleeping in, and more freedom! As parents you might be worried about what to do to keep your child busy and out of trouble while keeping your own frustration level low. This is a great time to begin to establish a summer routine for your household. Establishing a routine now will also help with transitioning back to school.

5 Reasons Routines Can be Helpful to Both You & Your Kids:

  1. Kids feel less anxious. Routines create predictability. Kids feel less anxious when they can anticipate what’s next. Expectations that are clear and consistent help children to feel safe and secure.
  2. Kids transition more easily. Routines insure that important tasks are completed without the last minute pressure of the clock.
  3. Kids learn responsibility. As kids learn routines they will be able to complete tasks without your help. As they feel successful, confidence grows.
  4. Kids’ nervous system relax. Routines support a calm environment. This saves both you and your child from countless reminders and potential upsets.
  5. Kids receive positive attention. Routines provide opportunities to spend nurturing time together. Routines can provide a touchstone for positive connection.

Tips for Creating Successful Routines

  1. Take time to sit down and decide what routines are most important. It’s best when all caregivers are on the same page.
  2. Make sure that your child is developmentally able to complete the tasks related to the routine.
  3. Let kids know ahead of time that you are planning on putting a new routine in place.
  4. Start with one routine, master it, do it long enough to make it a habit.
  5. Write it down and post it so expectations are clear.
  6. Practice it with your children until they have mastered the routine.
  7. Offer TONS of praise each time your child successfully completes the task.
  8. Stay consistent. Your nerves will be less frayed and your home much more calm. The effort it takes is worth it!

Involving children in age-appropriate chores can also become part of your family’s daily routine. Think your kiddo is too young for chores? Think again! Even a 2-year-old can put dirty clothes in a hamper! A child who makes contributions to the household also gets to experience themselves as a helpful member of the family.

Interested in other ideas to calm your child’s nervous system? Join me on June 19 for a Parents’ Heart-to-Heart:

Parents’ Heart-to-Heart: Help Your Child Calm Their Nervous System

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, LCSW; Wellness Director,  Child & Family Clinician


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