7 Strategies to Implement Gratitude with Your Kids {and Yourself}

Entitlement is a real thing. Just this morning, one of my children which will remain nameless was running a little behind. To help her sibling, another one of my children put bread in the toaster for her. When my child who was running late came into the kitchen– I mentioned that their sibling had put in the bread for them. They retrieved the toast only to say, “Than–oh–I like my toast darker than that.” After the initial shock of hearing their statement wore off, I realized that the missing part of this equation was gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote for entitlement and is beyond powerful. In this case, it was easy to point out that I was grateful for a toaster button that could be pushed again and would result in darker toast and that I was grateful that a sibling cared enough to try and help them eat breakfast. Luckily this story ends well with my child apologizing to their sibling, saying thank you and all toast was buttered and no one ended up being late. However, it is amazing how fast we can go from being grateful to entitled. Here are seven strategies to help implement more gratitude in your kids and yourself.

Recognize the Source: When your child comes home from school with a smile on their face with a good grade on a report, it is easy to praise them for their efforts and celebrate in their joy. But there is one more acknowledgment that will help them cultivate gratitude in their lives and that is simply by helping them recognize an additional source of gratitude. So that means that they aren’t just grateful for the result of a good grade that maybe came from extra hard work that they put in but with one extra statement you can help them recognize invisible sources they wouldn’t automatically consider. This is simply done by an extra statement–“I am so thankful that we live in a place where you have the opportunity to learn and go to school.” This is a statement of an invisible source that aided in their success. It really doesn’t matter what the statement is–just as long as it is an additional one that will help them consider more sources in their life that they might feel gratitude for.

Show them by Example: It is very easy in the day to day of life that we become complacent. I heard a wise saying the other day: Imagine that today you only had what you expressed gratitude for yesterday. I know a lot of us would be left without a lot as we all have a natural tendency to become accustomed to things and we all develop entitlement–I don’t always express gratitude for hot water during a shower but I sure expect that it should be a hot shower when I turn on the water. It is much more natural to complain when you don’t have something than it is to express gratitude for something when you expect it. It’s also easy to fail to see how actions can be an expression of gratitude: For instance, when I leave, I try to make sure all the lights are off. My daughter asked me why I even cared once and I quickly responded that I’m thankful that your Dad works so hard to earn money so we can have electricity so I’m making sure all the lights are off when we leave. When my kids were able to recognize the connection between their actions being a way to show gratitude, they were much better at doing the “light checks”. Kids and really even adults can use help in recognizing examples of gratitude to help them to make the connections between how things come to be and that it is not just the magic of a light switch.

Create Rituals or Routines around Gratitude: Make gratitude an every day part of your life by associating it with something you do on a regular basis. A friend once told me how when she is folding laundry–a task that she despises– she thinks of things or attributes of each person as she is folding their clothes. I thought it was a neat idea and decided to do the same. I found that I looked forward to folding clothes and my love and patience for my kids on laundry day is often higher. Other examples of adding gratitude to your life routines could be talking about something you are grateful for while you are picking up or dropping off your kids to school or an activity. Discuss one thing you are grateful for during dinnertime. Prayer time is another routine time that they can express their gratitude on a regular basis.

Express it: This is often the most obvious strategy but one that really gets overlooked. It is difficult to express gratitude when we expect things but it doesn’t mean we should stop expressing our gratitude. It seems ridiculous to constantly repeat, “Thanks for putting on your seatbelt.” or “Thanks for putting away your laundry” when you have asked them it feels like a dozen times to do so. However, saying thank you and acknowledging the gratitude you feel when they complete a task is an absolute game changer. It can trigger your brain to feel more optimistic and it also positively affects your child to increase their motivation to complete those tasks that are sincerely acknowledged. Think about the last time someone told you thank you for a routine task “Thank you for dinner.” or “Thank you for putting gas in the car”. It makes a big difference and helps your kids to feel more gratitude even for the mundane and typical things we all do everyday.

Make a Gratitude Journal: Although there are benefits from just reciting things you are grateful for, their is actually proven evidence that writing them down makes a big difference. In fact, researchers at Indiana University and Harvard found that writing down three things everyday for 21 days increases your level of optimism and more importantly that this higher level of optimism lasts for 6 months. Take a moment and jot things down or even put them in the notes section of your phone and notice the lasting difference gratitude can make in your life.

The Silent Minute Technique: Mister Rogers was an advocate for what he called the silent minute. During this minute he would ask that you think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Whether they were near or far away or even in heaven, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you he asked that you honor them and devote some thoughts to them during one silent minute. Imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you. You can even take this silent minute technique a step farther by taking a minute to do something in their honor to show them how grateful you are.

Remember the Beginnings. We are very visual people, so put things in your line of sight that help your kids and you feel gratitude and remember the gratitude that you have felt. Maybe it is putting up the homemade card your kids made for you in their office when they could barely write their letters, maybe it is a particular quote or saying about gratitude that you display in your home. One thing that helps me remember the beginnings and increases my gratitude is oranges. I have a great grandfather who was a farmer and in a tough year they were barely able to scrape enough money that the only gift my great grandfather got for Christmas that year was an orange. He was so grateful though for that orange that he ate the entire thing including the peel. This helps me put into perspective when Christmas gift giving and receiving gets out of hand. We all have a natural tendency to forget the beginnings and get accustomed to what we have now and remembering the beginnings–living in a one bedroom apartment or eating ramen noodles in college–helps us have gratitude for what we have now no matter what the quantities. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” (Anonymous)

Bottom line, you cannot make someone else feel gratitude—feeling gratitude is a choice–but you can share the gratitude you feel and can inspire them to recognize and feel the gratitude in their own lives.

If you found this useful, please take a moment to like and share. Thank you!

Top Tip to Stop Negative Self-Talk

It has often been said that the greatest battles we face are the battles within our own mind. Today’s tip is a simple one, but can make a tremendous difference in combating this war with a simple tool I call the thought check.

The thought check is a quick and effective exercise in gaging how we are treating ourselves. Here is how it works: you simply imagine your best friend committing the same error that you have. How would you respond to them?

For instance, you are late for an important meeting or for picking up carpool. What would you tell your friend if they were to relay to you that they were late for an important meeting or picking up carpool? Would you berate them or attack their character with phrases like, “You are such an idiot and are so unreliable.” “Why can’t you get your act together?” No, that would be absolutely crazy. While the fact they were late doesn’t change, you would probably be empathetic to their plight and express that this does not define their character and maybe you would offer some perspective or advice–“Everybody’s late sometimes. Maybe next time you could try taking a different route–that freeway is so backed up at that hour.” “I know that you are feeling embarrassed right now. This isn’t you. They will get to know that you will be there next time on time. Everything is going to be okay. “

You then repeat those phrases to yourself that you would tell your best friend rather than the internal negative dialogue that we often berate ourselves with. This tool allows yourself the grace and room to acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings but from a place of love and growth that allow you to become better. So the next time you recognize a mistake and the negative inner dialogue you tell yourself, simply stop and tell your mind to do a “Thought Check”. Become your own best friend. We all spend a lot of time in our own heads– make it a place where you would want to be.

The Number One Tip That Will Improve Your Relationship Right Now

Regardless of the state of your relationship–whether you are currently riding sky high or feel like you have hit rock bottom, there is one tip that will make a huge difference in improving it. Simply stated: Be intentional.

What does be intentional mean or even look like? Being intentional means that you make your relationship a priority and that you are intentional about its value. Let me give you an example–take a look at your calendar. It is beyond easy to fill it up with all kinds of important activities, events and celebrations. In this day and age, it has become necessary to develop the skill to not schedule overlapping conflicts. Everyone is busy. But you can easily assess the value of your relationship based on your calendar. For instance, when you schedule a meeting at work with your boss or you schedule a parent teacher conference with your child’s teacher–those dates and times are mentally blocked off. You are committed to making those things work, as well you should. But what about your relationship with your spouse? Do you have a time where you have mentally blocked out a time where it is just for them–not just what’s leftover at the end of the day or an occasional date night but where you are intentional about blocking out a time for them? A time that shows they matter to you and hold value?

Intention is powerful. Even if you absolutely get things wrong—when your intent is to show your spouse that you love them, it improves your relationship. I will share a personal example with the permission of my husband here that might illustrate this concept. I will call it the Parable of the Spider Jewelry. My husband and I enjoy binge watching television shows together and in one such show, a character wore a red spider brooch that I had commented looked neat. My husband found a cheap costume jewelry red spider brooch for me and that gift is still on my winter jacket. Very thoughtful and meaningful. He didn’t end there though and thought this idea of spider jewelry was the best concept yet and ended up getting me a spider ring, a spider necklace and a spider bracelet in subsequent gifts. I am including a picture here so you can get an idea of the size of this spider ring that he to this day swears is a great gift. I don’t even like spiders. What I do love though is that I know his intention. He intended to buy me a gift that showed how much he cared even though this gift missed the mark in my book and I have a difficult time to this day wearing them. Intention is powerful force for improving your relationship even if you get things wrong.

There is a song that sums up too many relationships that I have seen in my office. It was sung by numerous artists including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Michael Buble and even the Pet Shop Boys. It shows the timeless outcome of not being intentional and unintentionally letting the love in a relationship dwindle. It is called, “Always on My Mind”:

[Verse 1]
Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind

[Verse 2]
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you
I’m so happy that you’re mine
If I make you feel second best
Girl, I’m so sorry I was blind

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind


Tell me
Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
Give me
Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied, satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind


Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you…

You were always on my mind.

So, be intentional and voice your desires with your spouse. “I want you to know how much you mean to me so I am going to _________” and fill in that blank with an honest intent to show them how much you care and then do that item. It doesn’t matter how small or how extreme–whether it is making the bed or washing their car. Let them know the why or the intent behind the actions. I should note that this is not a quid pro quo exercise where you do this with the expectation that they will do the same for you, although many times that might be the outcome. This is simply you stating and showing intention in keeping your relationship alive. Intentions show where you heart is and will improve your relationship the moment they are expressed and shown.

How Failure Allows You to Grow

Anyone who has taken a timed test has felt that overwhelming rush of pure anxiety. Even decades later I can remember the surge I would feel when I got to the bottom row of math problems knowing that time was nearly out. Failure was never a fun feeling. Fast forward a few years to today and now I am the one giving these timed tests and I can say that it might even be harder to watch someone else fail. While volunteering today at my children’s elementary school I was giving timed tests for division for my daughter’s 5th grade class. As I watched the seconds on my clock slowly tick away as these young kids furiously were trying to finish in time, I was in agony. I felt impulsed to silence my alarm on the clock to give them a few extra seconds to finish but then I remembered that this would not help them in the long run. Failure, although hard to watch, is not bad. In fact, failure is often our best teacher.

Struggle and failure are a part of life–the key is learning how to deal with failure. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to try again, this time more intelligently.” Failure is a way to learn–maybe what to do different–maybe what went wrong–but in my opinion the greatest lesson it teaches you is that you can do hard things and that failure doesn’t define you but can demonstrate the courage and strength that do define you–those parts of your character that help you to try again.

I will always remember the day that I “rescued” a butterfly that I had found in our backyard as a little girl. I watched it as it was emerging from its chrysalis and I could tell that it was struggling and not wanting it to experience any difficulty, I assisted in removing it from what I viewed as it’s cage. When it sad there limpless for an extended time, I went running to my mom who listened to my breathless explanation as I frantically tried to help this creature. My mom explained that it didn’t get enough blood to it’s wings–that struggling in the chrysalis was the way in which the blood went to the wings and would allow it to fly. My assistance had crippled the butterflies ability to fly on its own. Sometimes, just like me, out of love and concern we remove obstacles from the lives of our children that are meant to teach them about the inner strength they have which will let them fly on their own.

So, don’t be afraid of failure or even watching those you love fail. Although it is difficult to experience and agonizing to watch, it serves a character building experience in a way that no other experience can. God knows how to build and shape character.

Remember that we are all like pencils–each with an eraser at their disposal that has the potential to fix failures. It is an essential skill that we all need to learn to be able to fail and fix mistakes. An old man said, “Erasers are made for those who make mistakes.” A youth replied, “Erasers are made for those who are willing to correct their mistakes.” Allow failure in your life and in those you love. Erasers are a gift but only if they are used.

Truth or Myth? There is Such a Thing as a Perfect Parent. Myth!

“Today in an auditorium full of parents my son scanned the room looking for me. When he saw me his face lit up in the room. He wasn’t looking for the perfect parent. He was looking for his mom. Don’t ever forget the power of simply being their mom.” Rachel Marie Martin

Today I was able to accompany my 3rd grade daughter’s class on a field trip to the State Capitol Building and the Courthouse. Mornings around here can get pretty stressful getting four kids ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade out the door and on time to school and this morning was no exception. It didn’t help matters at all that my daughter came up the stairs wearing shoes that weren’t going to work for a walking field trip. Getting her to wear tennis shoes was quite the chore especially with the little patience that I had, and I was far from a perfect parent in navigating the shoe switch negotiations of my sweet fashionista. Less than 30 minutes after dropping my kids off at school, I returned to check in as a volunteer to accompany her class field trip. As I entered the classroom, my beautiful little girl’s face lit up with excitement at my arrival. I couldn’t help but smile in return and then I looked down at her shoes. Although she was still wearing the tennis shoes that we had argued about less than an hour earlier, she still wanted me to come with her on her adventure with her classmates. She didn’t want the perfect parent to come, she wanted me.

This made me reflect on my own mother. Today she would be picking up my youngest kindergartener who would get out of school while I was still on the 3rd grade field trip adventure. Although I confirmed numerous times the pickup time and location, my mom ended up arriving late and my littlest girl ended up waiting in the office–the last one of three classes of Kindergartener’s to be picked up. My mom had let me down and the added guilt of imagining my daughter panicking at being forgotten at school definitely weighed me down. However, my mom sent me this picture a few hours later. My little bundle of entertainment had spent the afternoon making pickles from the cucumbers in our garden. When I asked her about her day, thinking she would relay how she was the LAST ONE, she shocked me with her response. She instead recounted how she helped her grandma–even with directions and what a good helper she was adding flour to the chicken that my mom had started in a crock-pot for our dinner. Just like my 3rd grader, they were not looking for the perfect (grand)parent, they simply wanted to be with their (grand)parent. I couldn’t eat tonight’s chicken dinner without feeling complete gratitude for my imperfect mother.

So, these pickles will now serve as this reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, spouse, child etc… but in spite of our imperfections we hold an important and irreplaceable part in the lives of others. When it boils down to it, there is no better motivation than to become a better parent, spouse, friend and child than to feel that joy of knowing that you are essential in their lives. They don’t need a perfect parent, they need a parent that can model that to be loved doesn’t mean to be perfect. There are few greater gifts that you could give your child, than the gift of knowing that in spite of imperfections, they are loveable and wanted and it is important to remember that as a parent you are too.

The Secret to Achieving Your Goals

Simply put and summed up in one phrase, the secret to achieving your goal is this: “Put it out there.” There are a million different reasons that we tend to keep our hopes and our dreams in our mind–a place that no one can really know what we are thinking or wishing will come true. We aren’t really held accountable to anyone and we can keep our goals and our progress (or lack of progress) on them to ourselves. Sometimes our dreams seem so large we are not sure how we are going to get there and so we seek to solve that conundrum by ourselves. Sometimes we are not sure if our dreams are even possible. There is no guarantee that we will achieve them but there is a guarantee that we won’t if we don’t put them out there.

I’m not sure at what age we loose the ability to dream big but spending time with Kindergarteners today reminded me of that joy as they have no qualms about dreaming big or sharing their ideas. “I want to be a doctor!” “I want to be a race car driver!” They proclaim their dreams with eager anticipation to anyone who will listen.This is a valuable skill that if we kept would propel us towards those goals no matter what they may be and even if they were to change.

In fact, researchers have found that putting your goals out there is more helpful than we might realize. The reason that support groups— whether they be for weight loss or grief or pornography addiction are so successful is that they are prime examples of putting your dreams or goals of change out there and by sharing them with others. This makes you accountable not only to yourself but to others as well which is a powerful motivator to pursue your goals.

So, here is today’s Tuesday Tip: Put Your Goals Out There.

A wise person once said that goals are dreams on paper. Get your dreams on paper. Spend sometime writing them down. This is the step one of every dream. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to work for them but goals help to guide the direction of your life and are a way to measure if you are moving in the right direction.

Then, put it out there and share your dreams and goals like you were a Kindergartener again. The more you get out of your head and put words to your ambitions, the more likely you will achieve your desired outcome. So, mention to a trusted friend or colleague that you are thinking about asking for a raise at work, or mention to your spouse that you are going to make an effort to make date nights and cultivate your relationship, or to someone you want to be in your corner with you that you are going to go running three times a week.

The path to achieving your goals is not meant to be a smooth road and there are no guarantees for success but the process to become better at anything requires goals and dreams. In fact, everything is a process. Winston Churchill one said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” So, take the courage to put it out there. It is the only way to get the results that you want and the secret to achieving them.

Truth or Myth: Events Can Define Your Life. Myth!

This week is a solemn week. In addition to it being National Suicide Prevention Week, it is also the anniversary of the senseless terrorist attacks of 9-11. As I have reflected on these events, it became abundantly clear what myth would be most helpful to debunk this time. And that myth is this: that events can define your life.

I, in NO way, am seeking to dismiss the pain and anguish associated with tragic events. Everyone in this life, myself included, has and will experience painful events. That pain is real. However, it is not the events themselves that define your life, but your reaction to them. And, there is real power in being able to recognize that you have a control over your reactions. That means when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store, you don’t have to throw a tantrum in the isle as well. It means when you realize that you have been ghosted in a budding relationship that you were really hopeful would develop, you don’t become a ghost yourself and swear off dating. That means when you have been a victim of any form of abuse whether it be emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or even neglect, that does not define you.

In fact, your reactions to events can and will change. You can probably see this for yourself in the difference to your reactions to anniversaries or reminders of painful experiences. When you process your feelings from tragic and painful events, your emotions toward that event change. It doesn’t mean that the pain is always completely gone, but it no longer carries the same weight. It takes on a new meaning as your reaction to those events changes.

You always have a choice, even if it is the choice of your attitude. You can choose your reactions and you can choose to change your reactions. Events do not define you. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says it best: “Between stimulus [or the event], there is a space…in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.

The Key To Making It Through The Storms of Life

Currently, Hurricane Dorian is extending its path of destruction from the Bahamas where 110 mph winds have decimated islands, and is heading towards Florida. Despite having more technological advances than any time in history and even with all of the scientific resources, there is still no controlling the weather. Storms are a part of life. While not everyone in this life will experience a hurricane, everyone as part of life is going to experience internal storms of life–each as unique as the individual experiencing them. Every storm is different and the reactions to the storms are as unique as the storms themselves but there is one key that will help no matter what the storm you are facing in this life. What is the key to facing storms? The key to making it through the storms of life is to find meaning in the storms.

Legendary Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor, Viktor Frankl, details his experiences and his findings of being a psychiatrist in concentration camps in his book, “A Man’s Search For Meaning.” Frankl gave up a chance to immigrate to the United States and instead opted to stay in Vienna with his parents. In 1941, he met and married the love of his life, Tilly, and shortly after they were forced to abort their unborn child as Jews were forbidden to have children. Frankl, his parents and his wife were arrested in September 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt where his Dad passed away a few months later. Soon after, Frankl was separated from his mother and wife, and was forced to dig barefoot in the snow injured and starving. Frankl describes how simply imagining the face of his wife became a radiant sun that kept him warm. Although during this time Frankl battled his own depression, he offered therapy to his fellow inmates. He urged them to to sing and replay cherished memories to remind them of a life worth living and found that those who survived had a deeper purpose in life. Frankl was determined to be reunited with his wife and endured over 3 years of malnutrition, cruel beatings, and living in unimaginable conditions. He was liberated from the concentration camp by Allied Troops in 1945 only to find that his brother, mother were murdered in Auschwitz and his beloved 24 year old wife passed away at Bergen-Belsen a few months earlier in 1944. While in this state of despair, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” When asked why he chose to share his story in his book, Frankl responded, “…to convey that life holds potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones.” For Frankl, finding meaning was the only way out of suffering. Having a meaning or a purpose was the key to weathering the storms.

This life was never meant to be smooth sailing. In fact, there is an african proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Developing character and virtues like patience, diligence, humility and faith often are the pearls that come from adversity. Facing difficult challenges teaches us that we can do hard things. There are a few things that are helpful to remember while we are in the midst of a storm and can help us find meaning and purpose in them.

Everything can– and will– change. Storms do end.

You’ve overcome challenges before. Remember past storms that you have experienced and reflect on the what you learned about yourself having gone through them.

Being kind to yourself is the best medicine. You spend a lot of time in your head, so make it a pleasant place to be. Allow yourself to learn and grow from mistakes.

Although trials and storms are difficult it is important to remember that we are never left alone to face them. Surround yourself with people who truly care. Even if you feel that no one understands, it is important to know that God does and that He is omniscient–or all knowing. He knows, he hears and answers prayers.

Storms will come and go and we cannot control the weather but we can become master sailors and find meaning in them. As Victor Frankl said, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.”

Truth or Myth: Small, Consistent Acts Make A Greater Impact than Grandiose, Thoughtful Gestures.

Truth! This actually holds true whether you are talking about your relationship with a partner or spouse, your relationships with your kids, a relationship with a friend or coworker and even your relationship with yourself.

With a Spouse

It is the small things done often that make the biggest difference in relationships. These small things, are referred to as “bids”, which are really opportunities to pay attention to the small ways in which your partner reaches for you and attempts to connect. When you turn towards your partner in a response to an emotional bid, you are making an investment in your relationship that deepens your relationship in a way that a grandiose gesture never can. These responses to the small everyday bids are the key to connection and satisfaction in marriage. World renowned researcher, John Gottman, PHd, refers to this as emotional bank accounts, where turning towards each other’s bids results in a deposit in the account. On the other hand, turning away from each other’s attempts at connection will result in an withdrawl from the account. After a six year research study on newlyweds, Dr. Gottman discovered that couples who stayed together turned toward each other’s emotional bids 86 percent of the time, while those who went on to divorce turned toward each other’s bids only 33 percent of the time. By turning toward your partner’s emotional bids, you safeguard your relationship against disrepair and deepen the love you share.

This doesn’t only apply to marital relationships but even to relationships with our kids, our friends and ourselves.

With Your Kids

As luck would have it, we live close enough to the elementary school that our kids attend that they do not have a bus and so I have the opportunity to pick them up after school a lot. So, I am there with a lot of parents and have witnessed this interaction too many times to count and I am sure I have been guilty as well. It usually goes like this: the child comes up to the parent waving with anticipation a piece of paper. Once they get to the parent, they begin an animated dialogue about that piece of paper in their hand to suddenly stop and go quiet as their parent has taken the paper and without a glance or with a passing glance put the paper in their bag or just holds it to their side as they rush to get their child home. This crushing moment happens so quickly but it sends a message to the child in their first interaction with their parent, that they aren’t important. Now let’s be honest, time doesn’t always allow you in the moment to engage in a dialogue about each paper your child brings to show you but you can acknowledge that it is important to them and you want to be able to hear about it and then give them a time. “when we get home”, “after dinner”, “after we get out of the middle of the carpool line”. This is still a deposit and then keeping our word and returning to listen when we are capable becomes an additional deposit. You are teaching them that they matter to you and that they are important. This makes deeper and harder conversations much easier to have because you have created the ritual of listening to the small ones. The small things carry more weight than you think.

With Friends

There is really no one who could say it better than Mother Teresa who simply stated: “Do Small Things With Great Love.” Sometimes when the emotions are so high or the event so large that we don’t know what to do, we simply do nothing. We get lost in intentions of doing something big or waiting to figure out a way that would adequately show how much we really care.

My friend, Liz, just rang the now famous bell having completed her 8th round of chemo today. This is a moment that is absolutely huge and is a glimpse into the strong, determined character she has developed as her body is fighting breast cancer. However, I would say that an even bigger moment was a post that she shared in part after completing her 7th round of chemo. She reflected on what having cancer has taught her and one thing that she learned is that people will show up. She went on to mention the myriad of little things that those that love her have done for her since she was diagnosed ranging from meals, to errands run on her behalf, those who watched her 3 children, prayed, sent gifts, cards, cash, thoughtful check ins and phone calls. With her permission, I will share a few quotes: “What may have felt like a small sacrifice to them has made a huge impact on my soul. I am forever changed from the love and care I have been shown.”

Liz went on to give powerful advice she learned from being on the other side as the patient of cancer:

” • show up for the people you love so they know how much you care • check in so they know you haven’t forgotten that life will never be the same • show up but don’t be offended if they can’t answer the door/phone that day • go to the funeral • offer to help in various ways and follow through when you can • sit and listen • drop by just for a hug • send flowers • love on their kids • try to be sensitive about the words you speak • be grateful for your own parents, children and good health • whatever you do, just don’t do nothing. doing the wrong thing is better than not reaching out at all. “

Small and simple acts are more powerful than we realize.

With Yourself

This may seem strange to include ourselves here but there is more power in your relationship with yourself than you realize. In fact, if you don’t take care of yourself, you limit the gift you are and the ability to share that gift with others. There are a million different things you can do for the now well coined phrase, “Self-Care”, so I will not mention them all but I do want to emphasize the simple power of consistent, small actions. Listening to your body–identifying thoughts and feelings— and acknowledging them with a small and simple act— from simply making a circular motion with your shoulders when you are feelings stressed or getting up and taking a drink of water— they are the key to being able to truly progress and to take care of the gift that you are.

Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Child When They Get Home From School {#10 is my personal favorite}

Once again, it’s “Back to School” season. If there is anything that I have learned as a Marriage and Family Therapist, it is that questions can be really powerful tools. I think the number one question that I hear most often at school pick up is, “Hey! How was school?” Although this question is a great way to show interest and create connection with our kids who have been gone at school, it can cause kids to unknowingly narrow their thinking to a one word response: “Good”, or “Fine”. I decided I would share a list of my top 10 favorite after school questions. Not only are you able to reconnect with your kids, these questions can be powerful catalysts to really help kids become aware of their feelings, to inspire resilience and thought provoking answers and can change their perspective and actions in the future. Welcome back to school!! (Top 10 questions listed below. The responses to #10 are my absolute favorite 😂).

1. What was the best thing that happened in school today?

Best doesn’t mean that they had to have a good day because we all have bad days, but it allows them to look for good things and have a positive outlook.


2. Did you see anyone helping someone today? How did they help? Did you see anyone who needed help today? What could you do next time to help?

This can cultivate a helper mindset and a problem solving mentality.


3. Tell me one thing you learned today.

This sets up a learning mindset and allows them to recognize that they can and are supposed to learn something new everyday. Spark their curiosity!


4. When were you the most {excited, frustrated, bored, curious, anxious, happy} today?

It is really neat to watch them respond when you ask them about different feelings than being happy as they learn how to process and explain ‘heavier’ feelings that often aren’t talked about or as easily “accepted” as ‘happy’ feelings.


5. Who would you like to play with the recess that you never played with before?

This question allows for future thinking and plants seeds for actions in the future.


6. What word did your teacher say the most today?

This question will tell you a lot about what they are perceiving and will plant a seed to pay attention to their teacher more. 😉


7. Where do you play the most at recess?

This is a great opportunity to learn what your child enjoys and that they have a choice as to what they do at recess and how they spend that time. Especially if your child is into electronics and video games, it is great to get an understanding of what other interests they have outside when electronics at school are not available.


8. What was your favorite part of lunch?

If you listen and remember their response, it is a powerful tool to let them know they are loved while at school. I can even remember this many years later being excited about certain lunches that were served at school and circling those lunch days on my calendar. Never underestimate the power of bonding over the love of french fries.


9. If you could change one thing about your day, but would it be?

This is a way that you can empower problem solving and being part of the solution. Even if it isn’t possible to change that they would “skip math” or “have longer recess”, you can relate to the emotions behind them and process those feelings.

**My Personal Favorite:
10. What made your teacher smile/frown today? What made you smile/frown today? This can help kids to develop an emotional intelligence- to realize feelings and when someone is happy, sad or frustrated. It is a great way to help them process feelings and recognize how those feelings change and fluctuate throughout the day. Kids are so honest too so the responses to this one are very entertaining!