Articles


Best bets for serving kids a yummy, nutritious meal

By Molly Morgan

When it comes to school lunch, deciding what to pack—or not to pack—or allow your child to buy—or not to buy—can quickly become a weekday dilemma. As a mom of two school-age boys and a registered dietitian, I can relate on many different levels.

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Parents can successfully explain therapy to a child

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Explaining to your child why you want her to talk with a therapist can be worrisome for parents

 

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Ex-spouses can ease the way for kids

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Divorce is stressful for both parents and children.

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Students with learning disabilities should practice independence

By Cary and Tonja Rector

High school seniors have a lot to think about, including college visits, applications, financial aid forms and, of course, graduation.

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Strategies for handling a kid who can’t handle frustration

By Cary and Tonja Rector

An inflexible, easily frustrated and explosive child makes life very difficult for both the child and those around him.

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Finding out about a child’s disability can be a blow

By Cary and Tonja Rector

When parents learn their child has a disability, life changes. Parents report a variety of emotions, including profound sadness, anxiety and uncertainty. Many say they were devastated by the news and remember little about the days following the diagnosis.

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Certain stages mark a family’s growing closeness

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Stepfamilies are a common family structure yet information about what is typical and expected at different stages can be difficult to find. We often work with stepfamilies and find this lack of information contributes to feelings of confusion and discouragement for all family members.

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A child’s rituals have an explanation

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Have you ever encountered a child with obsessive compulsive disorder?

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Stepfamilies can find new ways to celebrate

By Cary and Tonja Rector

When thinking about the holidays, most people focus on family. Family outings, gatherings and traditions are a large part of the holiday season for many people

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Overscheduling kids stifles their development

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Children need to play—for social, physical and emotional development, and for mental health. As a matter of fact, play is so important for children it is listed as a right by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

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Encourage children to pursue their passions

By Cary and Tonja Rector

A number of years ago we had the opportunity to visit an alternative school that individualized curriculum to meet specific interests of students and foster intrinsic motivation.

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First-time fathers have their own concerns

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Becoming a parent for the first time is amazing. Most parents will tell you it was a pivotal moment, changing them in unexpected ways. While there is lots of information available for expecting or new mothers, information for first-time fathers can be harder to find. This coupled with the fact that men typically are less likely than women to talk to their friends and seek outside support can leave first-time fathers with a lack of information and peer support.

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When a child feels conflicted about a stepparent

By Cary and Tonja Rector

In our work with stepfamilies we often hear about children’s behavior toward a stepparent: “My husband’s daughter doesn’t like me! She is rude and he does nothing about it,” says a woman who sits with her arms crossed during a therapy session.

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Healthy routines and plenty of prep lead to sleep for all

By Cary And Tonja Rector

 

Ahh—sleep. It’s what every parent wants for her child and herself. Helping parents establish a good nighttime routine for their children is a regular topic in our work with families. Understanding why sleep is so important and what environment encourages sleep helps parents devise a good nighttime ritual for their kids. Although there’s still much to learn about sleep, we now understand it’s necessary for physical growth, healing and emotional health. Studies have shown deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormone in children and young adults.

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Help your child address learning difficulties

By Cary and Tonja Rector

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Parents can help sons and daughters in unhealthy relationships

By Cary and Tonja Rector

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” asks a worried-looking mother after her daughter’s therapy session. “Please wait for me in the car,” she says to her 17-year-old.

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Developing empathy is an extended process

By Cary and Tonja Rector

When 3-year-old Emily sees her older brother has cut his finger, she grabs her own finger and winces. This “mirroring” effect, where we experience “secondhand” pain, is something we have all felt. Research is demonstrating there is a neurological link between our own experience of pain and our perception of pain in others. The parts of the brain active in personal experiences of pain are also active when observing pain in others. This ability also appears to be present in other animals. Brain scans and neurological research might make one wonder if empathy is an automatic process rather than something that is learned.

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End power struggles with your child

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Billy you have 10 minutes to end your game. It’s Tuesday, your day to help clean up the kitchen.”

“In a minute.”

“I asked you 20 minutes ago to end
the game!”

“Just let me finish this level!”

“That’s it, get off the game!”

On and on it goes.

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Guiding your teenager’s social media use

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Think you know your teen’s social media platforms? Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—right?

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Parents must teach kids about financial realities

By Cary and Tonja Rector

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Females use different tactics but still hurt victims

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Bullying among kids has gained national attention and schools now have programs to recognize and address it right away. Parents are more aware of the issue, and what was once considered a rite of passage during childhood is getting a reappraisal.

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How women can cope with postpartum depression

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The birth of a baby is a joyous occasion for a family. When postpartum depression becomes part of the experience it can be confusing and frightening.

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An exercise habit can alleviate anxiety and depression

By Cary and Tonja Rector

You just can’t go wrong with exercising and emotional health. Several times each week we talk with our clients about the importance of the habit of exercise.

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Help teens avoid the pitfalls of consuming alcohol

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The summer season is here. It’s an exciting time for teens. Prom, senior ball, graduation—there’s a lot to celebrate. And while parents are happy to see their teen enjoy the activities of high school, they also worry about drinking, especially this time of year.

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Protecting your child from sexual abuse starts with information

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Few situations make parents feel more vulnerable than thinking about how to protect their children from sexual abuse and sexual assault.

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Parents can help improve their kids’ resiliency

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Resilient children are likely to be happy and successful. These children handle adversity, trauma and everyday disappointments more effectively. They solve problems with empathy and thoughtfulness.

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Prepare your relationship to withstand the teen years

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Mark Twain once said, “When a boy turns 13, seal him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.”

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Mental preparedness helps a parent withstand a toddler’s tantrums

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Any parent who has experienced grocery shopping with her toddler soon learns to appreciate the “No Candy” checkout lane.

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Kids need to know their holiday manners

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Here’s the scene: You’re hosting family for the holidays. Parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles, everyone within a 200-mile radius is gathered in your home. The kids have endured the meal and are eagerly opening gifts. Your son rips into the package from Aunt Louise and sees a paint-by-numbers kit of a clown. He declares in a loud, disapproving voice, “I don’t want this!” All conversation stops while attention turns to your frowning child holding the kit high in his hand.

 

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Plan around your child’s needs to ensure a happy celebration

By Cary and Tonja Rector

You may recall the TV commercial where a young couple is seated in front of their laptop computer viewing possible vacation scenarios. At first glance the vacation possibilities seem wonderful, but as they think it through they have (funny) visions of what might go wrong—clearly not the vacation of a lifetime.

 

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Job loss can test a marriage

By Cary and Tonja Rector

“For richer or poorer” is a common marriage vow. Dealing with unemployment can put that vow to the test. The economic downturn over the past several years has resulted in many couples facing long-term unemployment for one or both partners.

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Parents can help kids manage their reactions to scary events

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Many households have the television tuned to the evening news on a regular basis. Adults like to catch up on local and world events as the day comes to a close. But what about the kids? Exposure to news events can be overwhelming to children.

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Help your child welcome a new baby

By Cary and Tonja Rector

“Tommy loves his little sister so much he wants to hug her over and over, only sometimes he hugs her so tight she cries!”

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What’s the right pet for your child?

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Kids and pets. Seems like a great combination. Most parents can remember either having or wanting a pet as a child and are eager to provide that experience for their own children. The sentimental idea of having a pet is often at odds with reality. Some pets are as much work as an infant. Realistic expectations and considering your child’s developmental stage will greatly reduce conflict.

 

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Kids of divorced parents need help moving from one household to another

By Cary and Tonja Rector

A recent session with an 8-year-old client highlighted a post-divorce reality for many kids: moving between two households. She talked about how difficult it was to remember to take her belongings with her as she went from one household to the other. She had left part of a school project at one parent’s house and had to duplicate the work at the other parent’s home.

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Children with intellectual disabilities face particular challenges

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Young people today are capable of sexual reproduction years before they become psychologically and socially ready to function as parents and adults in our society. For children with developmental disabilities the gap between biological reality and social maturity presents some additional challenges.

 

 

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A little perspective—and deep breathing—can help

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The way you think about the decision-making process will influence the way you experience it emotionally. Denial—a primitive defense against anxiety—is not helpful in making important decisions. We encourage our clients to take a breath, confront their fears and take the first step: gathering information.

 

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More holiday magic, less holiday greed

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The holidays are here! Many households are a flurry of preparation. While the parents are decorating, baking and planning, kids are working on their wish lists. Those lists can make a parent cringe. The wish list can grow and change daily, turning your nice, thoughtful kids into materialistic, consuming machines. If you find yourself worrying about how to combat this ravenous desire in your child while still providing a joyous holiday, take heart! It’s probably not as bad as it seems.

 

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When your kid stops short of the truth

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Lying: In a nutshell, it’s to be expected but it shouldn’t be disregarded.

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When your child has a problem friend

By Cary and Tonja Rector

What do you do if you don’t think your tween or teen child has picked a “good” friend? Once your kids leave elementary school, you can no longer make or avoid playdates at certain friends’ houses.

 

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A child needs an explanation for an absent parent

By cary and Tonja Rector

We often hear from single parents asking how to help children cope with an absent or mostly absent parent. For instance, “My daughter is asking a lot of questions about her father, who is in and out of her life. She wants to know why he doesn’t see her more, why other kids live with their fathers” or “Doesn’t he want to be my dad?” and other difficult questions.

 

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Some new parents must move beyond a dysfunctional childhood

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Anticipating the birth of your child is an exciting time. There are many things to think about and prepare. New parents have events and experiences from their own childhood they want to repeat for their children—and often some they want to avoid. For those who experienced a difficult childhood, the list of what to avoid far outweighs what to replicate. As we talk with these parents in our practices, we hear their determination to provide a better environment for their children, along with a strong fear: “What if I can’t pull it off?”

 

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Parents can—gently—help kids with weight issues

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Several months ago we discovered the wallpaper on the family computer had been changed. What now greeted the user was a picture of an obese giraffe standing on the Serengeti Plain with the caption, “McDonald’s Hits Africa.” Our 12-year-old son found the picture on the Internet. It’s a funny-looking picture that told us he made the connection between fast food and obesity, which was encouraging.

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Supporting typically developing brothers and sisters

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Typically developing brothers and sisters are intertwined in the lives of their siblings with special needs longer than anyone else including parents, teachers and helping professionals.

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What children need to know about death

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Few topics are more anxiety-provoking than death and dying. Paradoxically, helping children talk and learn about death will significantly defuse their anxiety.

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Denying a child’s requests has benefits

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Are there any benefits to your child hearing the word “no”?

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Parental guidance is a must for video games

By Cary and Tonja Rector

In our practice not a day goes by without kids or parents talking about video games, although typically for very different reasons. The kids are excited about the action and challenges of the game while parents are concerned about the depiction of violence and first-person shooting.

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You can help your child learn social skills

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The autumn return to school is an emotional time for kids. Most feel sad to leave summer behind and also excited about connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some children navigate the social scene with relative ease, incorporating new friendships with little trouble. Other kids, however, seem to struggle. They have difficulty making and keeping friends.

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Everyone wins when kids pitch in

By Cary and Tonja Rector


I don’t want to clean the cat’s litter box! It stinks and I have to hold my nose the whole time!” “Fold the laundry? You guys always say I should take care of my stuff. I’ll fold my own laundry, but not the whole basket.”

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Prepare for the impact of a newborn

By Cary abd Tonja Rector

When sentiment and reality clash, the result is stress. The birth of a baby is often such an occasion. Having a baby is a life-changing event. It’s not unusual for a couple to romanticize the idea of a newborn. The larger the gap between sentiment and reality, the greater the stress.

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Technology has created new ways for kids to hurt each other

By Cary and Tonja Rector

As parents of adolescents can attest, teens use technology to socialize more than ever. Most have access to the Internet and e-mail through multiple devices such as computers, cell phones and smartphones. They use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Texts and instant messages are common ways to communicate. Unfortunately their communication isn’t always positive. As adolescent use of technology has increased, so has cyberbullying.

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Parenting with consistency is a worthy goal

By Cary and Tonja Rector

If you walk into any large bookstore and go to the parenting section, you will likely encounter rows of books on parenting— a great deal of information representing many different approaches. It’s a safe bet that most authors of such books consider consistent parenting essential for building a child’s sense of security and trust, and for effective discipline.

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Forging a blended family is demanding

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Both adults had tears in their eyes as they explained, “We love each other, but the parenting problems are tearing us apart.” In our practice we see many different combinations of stepfamilies. Each member of a stepfamily has his or her own unique perspective, experiences and challenges. The number of children living with both biological parents has declined in recent years; however, the number of children living in a stepfamily has increased. This means many adults find themselves in the position of raising children who are not biologically their own. This article is a look at the challenges from the stepparent’s point of view.

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Parent and child must adjust to the new reality

By Cary and Tonja Rector

It’s hard to believe we are heading into the fall “back to school” season already. For a select group of parents and teens, this year brings a different transition to navigate. These families are facing a child’s freshman year at college. The bags are packed, dorm assignments are in hand and moving day is scheduled.

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Does your child have the signs?

By Cary and Tonja Rector

There has been a striking increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children over the past several years. Pediatric bipolar disorder is being diagnosed at a rate 40 times greater than the recent past!

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Successful marriages include four stages

By Cary and Tonja Rector
Most people are familiar with the stages of child development, but what about the developmental stages of marriage? Not as widely known, but familiarity with typical stages of marriage can be as helpful as understanding your child’s development. Michele Weiner Davis notes stages of marriage in her book The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

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Kids can figure out the mysteries of friendships and personal conflicts

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Children rank time with their friends as a top priority. In fact, many children say social interaction is the most important part of their school day. Parents often want a better understanding of their child’s social choices and how to help when the going gets rough.

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Power struggles come to a boil at the dinner table

By Cary and Tonja Rector

A pediatrician, also a good friend of ours, called to refer a 4-year-old who had refused to eat anything but Fudgy Bars and chicken McNuggets for the past two months. Indeed, any therapist working with families soon encounters problems involving some type of disturbance in the feeding relationship between parents and their children.

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Think ahead to avoid major meltdowns on the road to holiday happiness

By Cary and Tonja Rector

This time of year is filled with excitement and anticipation, especially for children. Adults go to great lengths to create memorable moments for kids during the holiday season. And if those efforts end with a child in tears or a tantrum, it can be exasperating for parents. A few guidelines may help holiday plans remain a pleasant experience for parents and children.

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Play therapy helps children express concerns

By Cary and Tonja Rector

In our practice we take play seriously. Well, that’s not to say we aren’t having some fun, but we recognize how important play is to children and that it can be a powerful therapeutic tool.

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Parents must allow their adolescents to grow up

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The adolescent years bring change at a pace not experienced since infancy. Physical, cognitive and psychosocial changes all come together to fuel rapid development. Understanding what is happening for your teenager on a developmental level allows parents to respond in a way that encourages mastery of essential life skills. This school year may present you and your teen with the following tasks.

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Learn to cope with sibling rivalry

By Cary and Tonja Rector

"Please, please help me stop the fighting, I can’t stand it!”

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Encourage your child to try and to take risks

by Cary and Tonja Rector

Of the numerous adults in a child’s life, parents are in the best position to offer their child encouragement and promote positive self-esteem—and it’s really not difficult.

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Learn to use the popular behavior modification technique

By Cary and Tonja Rector

A typical toddler might require correction 100 to 150 times each day. No wonder parent and toddler are exhausted by bedtime! That’s a lot of work and fertile ground for conflict. Managing parent-child conflict may include the behavioral technique of “time-out.”

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Help your relationship survive the test of a new baby

By Cary and Tonja Rector

One irony of married life is the affection and romance that lead a couple to want to start a family in the first place can be so quickly jettisoned once an actual baby enters the picture.

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Parents can do a lot to help young kids overcome fears

By Cary and Tonja Rector

I knew there was something terrible down in the cellar. I just knew, because the cellar was dark and damp and it smelled.” Harry and the Terrible Whatzit (Clarion Books) by Dick Gackenbach is one of several children’s books we read with young children who come to our office because they are worried, fearful or anxious.

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New family traditions can replace those that don't work any more

By Cary and Tonja Rector

For many families, the holidays include seasonal traditions. The words “we always” often mark the event. It might be “we always have Grandma’s cinnamon cookies,” or “we always” attend a particular religious service.

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Children struggle when their parents decide to separate or divorce.

By Cary and Tonja Rector

The voice on the other end of the phone is strained: “My husband and I separated three months ago. Our children are having a difficult time. What can we do to help them?”

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When it comes to homework, your middle-schooler's in charge

By Cary and Tonja Rector

Sitting in our office for the first time are a 12-year-old boy and his parents. "Bobby is not working up to his potential in school. Getting him to do homework is an argument every night!" his father says. As his parents express their worries about his academic future, Bobby stares out the office window and starts to yawn.

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