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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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Every Parent Needs This Right Now: Meditation Roundup

Hi. How are you? Like… really? Are you struggling as much as most parents right now? Look. I know you’re worried about your kid(s). I’ll give you some ideas for them, too. I’m pretty concerned about you right now though. The expectations on you are confusing and more than they should be. You know, your kids can’t be fully well if you aren’t. You need support, Mamas and Papas. And kindness and joy and quiet and presence. 

I don’t have anything very profound to say. Just know that we’re thinking about you and we’re here for you. And while I have your attention, maybe a meditation or two for you and the kids would be nice… 

8 Little Meditations for Parents and their Kids

  1. Get started with 10 Easy Steps for Mindfulness Meditation 
  2. Have just a few minutes? 8 Simple Breathing Strategies 
  3. Release Anger. Meditation with Your Feet 
  4. Sleepy time with deep breathing and visual imagery. Sleep Meditation for Kids & Parents
  5. Easy Relaxation for Kids using visual imagery and progressive muscle relaxation 
  6. Loving Kindness Meditation using compassion for self and others
  7. When you just need to Breathe, Mama
  8. And finally, register now for a FREE 15-min Virtual Meditation Break for Busy Moms on July 21

Busy Moms Meditation Break

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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Breathe, Mama

Breathe Mama

Oh, mama. I see you…  tangled up in a mess of emotions and putting on a brave face for the kids. Closing yourself in the bathroom in an effort to shelter your children from the eruption of emotion that is bubbling and threatening just under the surface. Trying hard to smile and show interest in yet-another-kid-inspired game of pretend even though what you actually feel is nothing. Numbness. Yelling at the kids for being too loud only to realize too late the irony of your actions. Trying desperately to retreat secretly to someplace— anyplace— that they may not find you for three glorious minutes. Breathe, mama. 

Breathe, Mama


Close your eyes and take a deep breath in, no matter where you are. Let it out. The whole breath.

Breathe in again, mama. Deeply and slowly. And with that breath, feel your stomach expand. Now hold and count. 1-2-3-4. Deep sigh all the way out… push that breath away and let it take just a small part of the stress you’re feeling with it. 

Imagine that stress swirling away from your body– floating away as if caught on a draft. Imagine in your mind’s eye that that stress, like a plume of smoke or a drifting cloud, escapes with your breath through your open mouth. Take another deep breath and hold. 1-2-3-4. And then watch that deep breath drift from your mouth and take with it stress and frustration. Unrest, distress and pain. 

Breathe in compassion, relaxation, contentment… and breathe out stress.

You’ve got this, mama. You are worthy and good. You can do this…

May is mental health awareness month and nestled in the middle is Mother’s Day. There is no shame in feeling your feelings. Breathe. Work on your village. Look for helpers. Acknowledge that being a mother is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

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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Parents: You can do this!

Social media is a dangerous place to hang out if you’re trying to avoid anxiety-provoking content at the moment. In particular, there’s been such contradictory advice about parenting during the pandemic. And it’s coming from every angle. Meanwhile, parents have found themselves very suddenly coping with their own waves of overwhelming emotions while also simultaneously trying to do what’s best for their children and find some way to make a living. It’s too much and, as Chloe Cooney eloquently put it, Parents Are Not Ok. My addition to her statement is a “yet,” as in “Parents are not ok yet.” In case you needed to hear it, you can do this, Parents!

Amid the extremes, sometimes there are also real gems– validating and connecting pieces– floating about in social media feeds. One recent message perfectly states a position I fully support, particularly for parents. We need community care and not just self care, reaching in and not just reaching out.

In the spirit of reaching in, here’s a little message for our clients and their families. It really isn’t the same at Intuition Wellness Center without you. We miss the chatter and the energy in our Great Room, but our team is still here for you.

Here’s a message from Dr. Kate Sage also who really wants to know “How are you?”:


Despite the pandemic, we are continuing to support children, young adults and parents through telehealth and, in some cases, through home visits. We’ve also made a commitment not to turn anyone away due to financial concerns. 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, request an appointment on our website or call us for more information: 520-333-3320.

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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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Why You Should Talk to Your Children About Race… Yes, Even if You’re White

Talking to children about race

My kids had a day off of school last month in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a natural opportunity for us to talk about who Dr. King was and why his tireless activism was so important. One thing led to another and we were deep in conversation about motivations for racism. I doubted myself. I stumbled on my words. This isn’t the first time that I’ve talked to my children about race, but the older they get the more complex their questions become. I know that it’s part of my white privilege that I don’t think of my race all the time. I also know that talking about race just once a year or just a few times during Black History Month is not enough. We have to talk to our children about race and yes, even us white people. 

Why you should talk to your children about race. 

Colorblind approaches don’t work. 

Well-meaning, but misinformed, many white parents hesitate to teach their children about racial constructs.  There seems to be a wish for a utopian “we’re-all-the-same” approach and by drawing attention to difference we worry that we will disrupt this. Many white parents worry that even saying something positive about race will highlight and create divisions. This assumes that children weren’t previously aware of difference, but this just isn’t what the research suggests. In fact, we’ve known for some time that children become aware of race around age 3 and some research suggests this happens even as early as infancy.

According to a 2007 study, nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75 percent of white parents never or almost never talk to their children about race. In a study that asked white parents to address race with their children, some of the participants dropped out or were only willing to make positive general statements about equality, but not about race specifically. This isn’t enough. Research suggests that without specifically addressing race, children do not generalize these statements to race and, in fact, demonstrate racial bias from a very young age. 

Bias is in all of us. 

Bias exists for all of us. If we’re committed to eliminating it, we also must be open to examining our biases on a regular basis. We used to believe that bias was all socially constructed, but newer theories suggest that preferences for sameness may be more complicated and appear at a very young age. Without talking to our children about bias and specifically with regard to race, we limit their awareness and make them more susceptible to absorb bias. Normalizing this experience while encouraging inclusivity gives our children the information they need to develop self awareness and also recognize micro aggressions.

Interested in exploring your bias? Take a short test through Harvard’s Project Implicit.

Shushing creates shame. 

Children are notorious for fearlessly demonstrating their curiosity. I have a friend who once told me that, while waiting in a grocery store checkout lane, her young white child stared and stared at a black cashier with very dark skin. My friend silently cringed inside thinking about what bold statement her child was about to make. Yet something important happened. She didn’t stop her, rush her, or shush her. Instead, she allowed her daughter to ask the question on her mind and taught her the lifelong lesson that discussion about differences is valued and welcome. Had my friend suggested it wasn’t a topic to be talked about, she would have reinforced bias and suggested that there was something wrong with discussion about race or even with talking to the black cashier.

Mistakes are bound to happen in these conversations. Many white parents want to wait to talk to their children until the just-right moment or until they have the perfect wording. But it never happens. Waiting for the “right” way to talk about race allows for avoidance. Many of us worry that we’ll offend someone. What if my child says something hurtful? What if I say something hurtful? What if I’m perceived as a bad person? As a racist? This is part of the baggage that we carry from our own histories of being shamed, shushed, and shut down in our curiosity. Our children don’t have that same baggage yet. But unless we choose to engage in open dialogue, our kids will follow in our footsteps.

By the way, it turned out that my friend’s child really just wanted to ask how the cashier kept his teeth so white. 🙂

Creating allies. 

White people often don’t realize that NOT talking about race is part of their privilege. Many people of color and other non-white groups think about their race a lot more often than white people. They don’t have a choice because it comes up often in their environment due to a multitude of microagressions and systemic issues that pervade even decades after the civil rights movement. 

Teaching our children how to be allies, to question and evaluate their own and others’ biases, and to call out racism is teaching them to be change makers. They can’t do this without being informed and we, as parents, can be critical supporters in modeling what that looks like. It starts by creating a culture of open dialogue and learning.

Not sure where to start?  

Become informed by going to events and reading. Black History Month is a good time to start, but certainly don’t let it end there. Many public libraries offer programming in celebration of Black History Month and your librarian can make recommendations about books appropriate to your child’s age. Try some of the resources below, too.

For those local to Tucson, Arizona, Pima County public libraries are hosting a number of events in February: 

Reading for grownups:

Children’s books and videos by black authors, about black figures or focused on black culture:

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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Teaching Your Child Gratitude is Slightly Selfish

Teach your child gratitude

I can accept that parenting my kids can be a thankless job; however, watching them respond (or not respond) to others’ kindnesses can really put me on edge. I practically hold my breath when their gratitude is slow to show up. Those two little words, “thank you,” sure can be a relief to hear. While gratitude certainly leaves the person on the receiving end feeling good, there are also amazing benefits to the physical, social and psychological health of the gratitude giver. So, if you came here to read about helping others feel appreciated because it’s polite and kind, then let me stop you right there. This blog is really about revealing something supposedly altruistic as also self-serving– the other reasons to teach your child gratitude.

What is gratitude?

Robert Emmons suggests that gratitude is about both affirming goodness and turning our gaze outward. Specifically, he suggests that gratitude includes “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome… and that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.” This might include gratitude for something nature-made, a chance occurence (“thanking my lucky stars”), a gift from God, or from the people around us.

As Emmons goes on to clarify, gratitude also “requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” What I love about this explanation is that it’s in support of community care and not just self care. That means showing up for each other and truly embodying the it-takes-a-village mentality to raising children. I am a firm believer that caring for oneself is critical. Yet, I have also felt strongly that parents can feel a lot of shame and isolation when the prevailing message is about self care without also emphasizing community.

Gratitude is also complex. It is defined as a disposition or trait, as well as a mood with daily fluctuations or a temporary emotion such as feeling gratitude immediately after receiving a gift. Yet, it’s not just for humans. Gratitude is felt by several species of animals. For example, some animals may help another at a cost to themselves because they understand, instinctually, that they may be on the receiving end of a favor at a later date.

Why is gratitude important? 

Here’s where this blog will really cater to those selfish needs! There are so many ways that being grateful and/or showing gratitude will serve the gratitude giver! Gratitude is associated with:

  • Better physical health. For example, various studies have linked gratitude to better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammation.
  • Better psychological health. Studies have linked gratitude to less depression, less envy and better resilience after a traumatic event.
  • Better social health. Research also suggests that individuals who demonstrate higher levels of gratitude are more socially integrated and have better social support. Researchers have described gratitude as a sort of “social glue.”
  • Better life satisfaction. Research suggests that more grateful adolescents are more interested and satisfied with their school lives, more engaged in schoolwork and hobbies, and less materialistic.

4 Fun Activities that Teach Your Child Gratitude

Parenting is so much easier when you don’t have children. (Yup, let that sink in.) Yet, finding ways to teach your child gratitude can be really enjoyable. It is true that more dispositionally grateful parents have more grateful children. It’s safe to assume that these parents may be modeling gratitude. We also know that these parents are more likely to place their children in situations that might evoke feelings of gratitude, such as volunteering for people in need. In addition to modeling gratitude here are other fun ways to support gratitude. 

  • Gratitude Jar: The gratitude jar is a great way to catch each other in shining moments and to revel in those positive moments. Quite simply, you and your family members track daily at least one positive action of each family member. You write it and collect it in a jar and then review it together as a family. It helps family members to refocus attention, particularly if you’ve been in a slump with these family members.
  • Gratitude Tales: Telling stories that elicit gratitude or demonstrate an example of gratitude can be a great conversation starter. For example, Aesop’s “Androcles and the Lion” shares the concept of “reciprocal altruism.” That is the idea that Androcles’ kindnesgratitude journals to the injured lion is paid back when the lion later spares Androcles life. There are many other similar stories as well!
  • Gratitude Letter. The concept includes writing a letter to people you’ve never properly thanked and then delivering the letter. This particular concept was first studied by the founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman. The effects of the gratitude letter can last more than a month for the writer, particularly when the writer is mature, such as an adolescent or adult.
  • Gratitude Journaling. You can also incorporate a regular practice of documenting the moments that evoke gratitude. If you prefer specific prompts for each day of journaling, check out 30 days of gratitude for daily prompts to last a month.

If you’re looking for more ideas, try Big Life Journal’s printable gratitude challenges for children!

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, professional trainings, 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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Building the Village: 4 steps to social connection

social connection

Many would argue that technology has made instant connection to others increasingly easy. Yet, in the last two decades, the amount of people reporting that they don’t have a trusted confidant has increased threefold. How can this be? It seems that there may be an illusion of connection when the number of online “friends” is in the hundreds or even thousands. What we really need is depth of connection. 

With loneliness and isolation on the rise we are all at greater risk for anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, suicide and even physical disease and earlier death. It’s not enough to simply focus on self care. How do you create depth in relationships when social connectedness has gotten mixed up by social media’s definition of friends? Here are just a few of the ingredients to creating connection. 

Building the Village

Be patient. Being able to connect deeply with someone requires work and time. If you have identified someone with whom you want to become friends, you may need to start small with little gestures such as eye contact, smiles or a compliment. Deep connection and even the start of a friendship are not instantaneous. 

Be interested. If you have felt isolated or depressed, demonstrating interest in someone else may be especially hard to do. Depression impacts the very language used. People who are experiencing depression are more likely to focus on themselves in conversation. They often use “me,” “I,” and “myself” more regularly than those who are not depressed. To get to know someone, be sure to put adequate focus on learning about the other person.

Be vulnerable. If you find it hard to put yourself out there, you’re not alone. The images that you view on social media have often been packaged to meet a certain goal. In general, people tend to want to be viewed in their best moments. Remember this. If you’re comparing your darkest parts to what you see of others. Stop. Look for people who are willing to show their truth–who are willing to laugh (or cry) at their parenting mishaps–and then follow suit. The best way to get at another person’s real self is to be willing to show yours.

Be the village. Don’t just wait idly for people to show up in your village. Be that village to others. Offer help without being asked. Surprise others with your thoughtfulness. Offer words of affirmation– the very kind you wish to hear. All parents experience stress. 

You are not alone. Join us for a free Parents’ Heart-to-Heart on September 24, Be the Parent You Want to Be: Conquer your stress with guest speaker, Lindsay Johnson, MSN, RN.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide rates have been on the rise in the last few years and social connection is a critical factor to prevention. You are not alone. Find more information on suicide and prevention here.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in health and wellness services 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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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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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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