Teaching Our children to Love Their Bodies


So much of my younger life, I learned that my value was connected to what I looked like—particularly my weight.  I remember so often hearing things like, “so-and-so looks like she’s lost weight, gained weight,” “she looks good,” “Wow, she’s put on some pounds…” as well as self-deprecating comments about bodies, and plenty of remarks about what I was eating and how it was sure to negatively effect my body.  Or one of my dad’s favorites, when he’d smack my belly teasingly and say something like, “Suck it in!”

Of course those early family messages were combined with the plethora of “skinny”—(read “not healthy”) size 0 bodies plastered everywhere, further reminding me that the shape of my body was the gauge for which my value was measured by society as well. 

I learned that my worth was intricately connected to what others saw.  I still struggle with that message and have to proactively remind myself that my inherent value is not dependent on my pant size.

I want to teach my kids—yes, both of them—that their value as human beings has so much to do with how they are showing up in the world, and so little to do with the shape or size of their bodies. There are great reasons for keeping our bodies fit and healthy, we just need to untangle those from ideas of our inherent beauty and value. 

While body issues tend to strike more females in our society, plenty of boys and men have deeply engrained narratives about what their bodies are supposed to look like and how they’re falling short.  It’s important in my practice of parenting to provide my kids—and hopefully the ripple effect is far-reaching—a positive foundation for LOVING their bodies, no matter what they look like.    

Here are a few ways I (do my best to) go about that practice:

It’s your body—make friends with it

It’s my job to help you build a healthy relationship with your body and with food—not to regulate everything that goes into your mouth (that teaches you nothing).  I want you to learn to feel what your own body needs, wants, craves; how it responds to different foods, pacing, and ways of eating.  I want you to build a connection to how your body feels when nourished verses “filled up,” and how that impacts the way you move, your presence and overall sense of self, your mental clarity, your emotional state, and your physical capacity. 

I don’t force my kids to “clean their plates.”  That negates developing an attuned response to their personal sense of being full.  I also teach them to develop a sense of amounts that feel reasonable and to be mindful of wasting food. 

Trust the process of learning what your particular body needs to feel it’s best.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and part of the reason I’m here is to help guide and support you—to give you the architecture—then you design your physical home.  Your body is your primary foundation and resource for existing in this world.  It is essential that it become a foundation of love and presence and health, and the way you nourish yourself plays a primary role.


Focus on nourishing, not restricting.  Everything has a place and a time.  Really.  If you want to drink a rainbow sprinkled unicorn smoothie with a friend because it’s the coolest new Starbucks craze, drink it.  Notice what you feel like in the enjoyment …and in the aftermath!  Don’t completely restrict anything—unless you’ve cultivated an understanding of how a particular food just doesn’t work for you.  Find your own balance. 

Does this mean that if my kids want mac & cheese every night, I allow that?  Of course not.  I design meals and provide nutrient-rich foods as snacks.  I encourage healthy choices.  We share meals as a family as much as possible, and we all eat what is served.  And we all get to have a voice. 

When we restrict and restrict and restrict, we tend to crave more.  Feeling deprived creates a negative cycle with focusing and wanting what we can’t have.  But when we learn to make mindful choices based on developing a relationship, we find our way. 

Trust that your body knows, and will learn, what it actually needs when you pay attention.  Also learn to watch for mindless craving and patterns of “filling the gap.”  Learn to listen to the deeper wisdom of your body and that wisdom will grow. 

I Love My Body

We learn through watching the people around us—primarily our parents.  I’m very conscious of talking about my body in terms of things I can do, things I want to be able to do, things I’m learning, reasons for training, stretching, playing, and practicing various sports like skiing and climbing.  I want my body to be a place where I feel centered, grounded, strong, healthy, capable, and at peace. 

I hope that you love ALL OF YOU—even the parts of you that are unique, that don’t match with societal standards, or that seem “imperfect.”  You are imperfectly perfect, and the way you were uniquely designed can be a powerful foundation for your ongoing impact in this world. 

When my kids hear me share how important it is that I train, they know through years of hearing it, that it’s because I feel more present, strong, and embodied.  I have better mental clarity, energy, and emotional resource.  I am taking care of myself so that I can take better care of them.   I don’t believe my children have ever heard me say a single negative word about the shape, size, or weight of my body and I vow that they never will.  I hope that when I’m 80 + I am still an active participant with my body—with play and exercise and presence, and that I’m engaged in physical practices that support aliveness and connection. 

Our bodies provide a wealth of resource for self-reflection.  When we learn to listen to deeper messages, track sensation, and slow our spinning heads enough to sit with what is, we learn so much.  I have always done my best to teach my kids that their bodies are wise and to pay attention to their own developing wisdom.    

We have constant opportunities as parents to stop negative generational patterns and messages that we received, to provide new narratives to our kids, and evolve our experience of living in this world.  Our relationships with our own bodies, and the way we teach our children to love and respect their bodies, has potential to repair so much of our collective story about our value in this world. 

May you feel alive, engaged, and fully IN YOUR BODY with each breath.

May you allow your body to be a source of both wisdom and curiosity, continually challenging and teaching you.

And may you LOVE your body, exactly as it is, and feel it as a foundation of strength, centeredness, openness and connection, and deep gratitude.

For the Love of Your Life,


Five Ways to Get Stinky Kids

My kids stink, today anyway. They smell like sweat, dirt, grime; the kind of kid-smell that says they’ve been running hard, playing rough, non-stop all-day-long kind of playing. They smell like kids are supposed to smell.

Kids don’t smell nearly dirty enough these days.

My kids started full on with all the neighbor kids at about 10:00 this morning and they’re still going at almost 7:00 pm. There’ve been little breaks here and there as they grabbed a bite of food or a sip of water and then raced back into the fray.

kids-fenceEarlier, there were 14 of us—including three parents—walking, running to the park, climbing over the fence, to play soccer, basketball, baseball, groundies, to swing and play on the merry-go-round (yep, our park still has one of those!) Then we came back home for a spur-of-the-moment neighborhood BBQ and they’ve continued with Nerf gun wars, tag, hide-and-seek and a classic game of sardines (remember that one??)

I remember these days from my childhood—when we’d have a group of kids at our house, all the parents visiting inside, and we’d just go and go and go—never needing jackets, never feeling hungry or tired, just thriving in the all-out pushing hard play-time that we lived for. Kick the can, tag, jumping off my Dad’s retaining wall, hide-and-seek, (first kisses during hide-and-seek). This is the kind of play that brings the neighbors out to look, and they end up with these wistful smiles on their faces, remembering their own youth. It surprises them, though, because they haven’t seen it much in a while.

Kids smell too good these days—they smell like designer clothes and hair products, and not like kid-sweat and dirt. They smell like days in front of screens and sitting on couches. They smell like organized sports instead of random play where kids learn all about social rules and kindness and getting along and problem solving and conflict resolution and communication—this is where life is learned. Not that I’m against organized sports—my kids play them and learn a whole lot about discipline and structure, work ethic and dedication, and team-work and commitment. But they don’t learn the basics—like who makes the rules, who’s going to be the leader, how to deal with hurt feelings and disagreements. They don’t learn how to work together to make sure everyone’s included and they don’t get to practice different hierarchical social roles. They don’t really figure out how they fit in the whole scheme of things.

Maybe more play-time really is the key.

All mammals NEED play to survive! We even have a whole brain system dedicated to PLAY. Yet not only do many adults forget how to play, we’re forgetting to teach our kids–or sometimes, we forget to let our kids teach us.

So how about we dedicate some time to teaching our kids how to get dirty, how to play hard, to push themselves, and to stink! Here are some of my suggestions (and reminders for myself, as well as anyone else). What are yours?


You know the drill—shut down the devices, turn off anydigital-kids screen within miles that you can access. Don’t ask and don’t argue—just make the rule and turn it all off. I have difficulty with this at times too, because screens can be such an easy way to make them happy….  in the moment.  But kids are not only, not learning how to play hard; their bodies aren’t developing what they need to be able to play. Loads of screen time leads to a lack of vestibular function (balance) and inhibited proprioception (knowing where our bodies are in space). A lot of kids these days really struggle with sensory integration issues and simple coordination, many, simply because their bodies don’t have the chance to practice. And the overstimulation of sensory mechanisms trying to integrate the images and speed from screens is completely messing with our kiddos body-brain development. Not to mention it’s setting them up for future addictive habits, as they use it (just like their parents) as a means of avoidance—of feeling and life. So turn it off!


Kids will have so much more fun, and feel so much more confident playing, if Mom and Dad are playing with them. And ultimately, they don’t follow my Dad’s old adage—“Do what I say, not what I do”—kids do exactly what they see their parents doing! They mirror our movements, reflect our personalities, and follow our lead. So PLAY. Have fun with them—get dirty and grimy and stinky with them. Let go of the “to-do” lists, and dig deep into your own kid-nature–They’ll love you so much for it.


merry-go-roundKids are going to argue and fight about who’s going to push the merry-go-round, about what game to play, about who’s the ruler in the tree fort—hopefully without getting physical—they’re going to yell and cry and get their feelings hurt, and they’re going to get embarrassed, shy, insecure, and frustrated.  They’re supposed to. And if we rescue them, they’ll lose interest, ultimately, and they’ll stop trying those strategies (because that is exactly what those behaviors are—albeit unconsciously) for themselves.  They’re also going to make friends, create their pack, feel connected and secure and valued.  This is how they learn to navigate intense feelings, how they find their way through the messiness of being a human, and how they learn to find their way with friends with some know-how. And if we fix it for them, or try to change it, they’re going to end up uncertain and scared as grownups.


Sometimes we want our kids to be little adults. The dinner table is a great time for this practice! But play-time… not so much. This is where they get to figure it out on their own. They’re going to scream—let them (unless you have grumpy neighbors), they’re going to break things—in the house and in their bodies. Practice non-attachment and patience. They’re going to get weird and creative and do things that don’t make any logical sense—enjoy it. “Emily”—the name that Lilly has chosen for the day—just told me she’s “selling puffiness”—for one penny each, she’s selling handfuls of these little white puffy flowers to all the kids so they can throw them at one another. There’s no logic that’s going to make that any cooler than it already is to an eight-year-old. So love the illogical, the magical, the strange, and enjoy that THEY ARE NOT LIKE US, yet.


 I can so often forget that PLAY is as essential for my children and myself as housework, and to-do lists, and errands. It’s as important as every lesson I need to teach my kids. And simple, random playful days are sometimes more important than great adventures and planned outings. Our kids don’t need us to constantly entertain them and buy them new toys and plan our lives around cool events. They just need some free time, some space, and a few good friends—and they need us to be there, playing with them and providing a snack or two. They need us to be the one they can check in with, can come to with frustrations, sadness, a great new idea, or an owie. They need to feel us there, watching them, and loving all that we see.

Time to get stinky!

For the Love of Your Life!


Honesty From the Inside Out: A 1-2-3 on How to Equip Our Children

My kids and I have a lot of long talks. We talk about things likeN&L-1 who we want to be in the world, friendships, differences in beliefs and religions, personal responsibility, diversity, and qualities that are important to us. I love hearing their innocent and naturally developing views on these topics that become the foundation, I believe, for their happiness, their relationships, and their sense of living into their truest natures. I love hearing their minds and hearts expression through exploring what’s most relevant in their growing ideas of the world and of people.

Wednesday night, the subject of honesty came up at the dinner table. We were navigating a “little white lie…” in our house, getting clear on why it happened and what the consequences would be.

As many parents have experienced, this bit of dishonesty had to do with an IPad.

iphone-kidsI have a love-hate relationship with everything “I-digital,” mostly because it’s having a significant—in some ways, devastating—impact on our children’s developing brains, their ability to regulate emotions, their attention, their mental health, and their ability to relate to people in the present moment. It’s having a similar impact on us all, but that is for another post! (Noted as I type this on my related mac book).

When our kids lie, as all of them will be at times (it’s their job to push against every boundary, every edge that we have), our response is key. Just like any relationship—we have to know how to respond effectively when we feel mistreated to increase the chance that we’re treated better in the future—we have a powerful opportunity in these moments to help our kids learn this valuable lesson, yet it can be incredibly difficult to slow down our brains enough to take it!

Honesty is a relational quality that doesn’t always come naturally. When we’re lied to, we have an internalized belief that we’ve been wronged and our brains can become reactive to the point that, through shaming, we contribute to an increase in our kid’s dishonesty in the future, rather than a decrease. And because this is parenting, it’s our responsibility to create the foundation and structure that will support our kids in not just “learning the lessons,” but in embedding honesty and integrity as the foundation of who they are—something human relationships don’t practice near enough of these days.

I heard a great quote the other day, though I don’t know whom to credit:

“Children who are not held accountable grow up to be adults who believe they can do no wrong.”

It’s our job to hold our kids accountable in ways that don’t shame them—that honor where they are developmentally, and honor their relationship to us—their models and guides.

It can feel like a mini brain explosion the first time we realize our kiddo has lied to us—one of those blatant lies, thought out, intentional. It’s easy to fall into a trap of what it means about us—their parents—we can feel a need to control the situation, or we can fall into our own shame. Our reptilian brains can go into fight or flight while we work to mitigate the emotional landslide threatening to override rational thought.

If we look at what research has shown to be absolutely necessary, though, in effective relational skills (which are essential in parent-child relationships), there are some things that desperately need to happen if we’re going to affect positive change.

Number One:


We need to slow down. The reactive brain is powerful and quick—it’s built for survival, for protection from threat (and betrayal feels like a big threat), and fight or flight responses. The immediate reaction to our kiddos lie, if not monitored, can do some damage. Slowing down, however, takes some focused, intentional practice—“knowing this” is very different than “doing it” in the heat of the moment. It’s just like a new training regimen; we need consistent, focused practice, often with support to rewire our brain’s very natural and habitual responses.

We need to focus not on what our child did that was so wrong, but on how we feel in that particular moment. What are our emotions, thoughts, and, even deeper than that, what are our physiological responses—what’s happening on the level of sensation? When we have the capacity to simply notice what we’re feeling, before responding, we slow down our powerful reactive brains and we set ourselves up for a load of successful interactions. We also provide a valuable model for our kids.

Number Two:


As difficult as it can be to have compassion when our children misbehave, it’s essential that we remember the fact that underneath the bad behavior, there’s a person—one we love desperately and one who is doing his or her best to learn all of life’s lessons, and looking to us to structure the container in which s/he is learning. It’s amazing when we can approach without judgment, get curious about what was happening, and give some understanding to our little ones, we make it safe for them to actually talk about what they did and why. And the more they trust us to hold that space, the more they will be able to share with us in years to come, things that might be painful, shameful, or embarrassing to share.

Compassion doesn’t mean that we rescue them, make it okay, or let them off the hook. It means we help them to explore the “why,” and what they could’ve done differently, and then we collaborate on an effective consequence that will support more congruent choices in their future—and we do this with love and understanding.

Number Three:


Seems an obvious necessity, right? We’re clearly parents or we wouldn’t be here. Sadly, I often witness parents, either in my practice or in my community, who seem to struggle in deciding whether to be a parent or a friend. I would assert that most of us would like to be both. Sometimes, however, our friend role gets in the way of being good parents, and our kiddos desperately need us to be parents first.

I love the pendulum shift in our culture that has brought us to paying more attention to our children’s emotions than to their behavior, as we did in previous generations. However, with that, our kiddos are struggling to find a solid structure on which they can depend to hold the natural chaos of their development! The rise in anxiety disorders in our kids and teens is unparalleled and so much of that is related to the lack of stable household environments and parents who are modeling emotional tolerance, resiliency, and flexibility.

Parenting—true parenting, including rules, structure, discipline, along with unconditional love—can be really uncomfortable sometimes. We all want our kids to like us, and want to spend time with us. We want to have positive, fulfilling interactions and relationships with them. But sometimes our actions geared at creating friend relationships undermine the effectiveness of our role as parents.

Setting boundaries, enforcing rules, providing consistent and thoughtful consequences—no one enjoys being a drill sergeant (well, there are those few…) and sometimes it may feel as if we need to embody that character for our kids to listen—these are just some of the qualities of a stable parent-child relationship. The other side of this foundation, of course, is our own ability to model these qualities. When kids feel and can trust in us to provide these consistently, they learn to gain a stable foundation from which they can naturally learn to navigate the impact of their own developing relational qualities. 

We are powerful factors in helping to determine the qualities our children choose to practice. The responsibility and impact are incalculable. Pushing into the less comfortable moments in parenting, with some dedication to these practices, can provide some of the most fertile ground for our children to become mighty stewards of our collective humanity.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, reservations, questions, hopes, and some of your own personal stories!

For the Love of Your Life,


Parenting… Good Enough

I remember the first (and possibly only) time I ever heard my mom swear. It was the word, “shit.” And it was directed right at me. I’ll never forget the level of annoyance and disbelief that crossed her face, to the point where she just couldn’t contain it anymore. “You little shit,” she said. And while I have no recollection of exactly what I’d done, I knew that I was being just that—a shit. And I’d pushed her to her edge.

Which apparently was an area I had a good amount of skill.

My mom has never been someone who lost control, who yelled and screamed, who expressed anger like the other people in my family. Maybe it was the Greek blood in the rest of us. I knew angry outbursts—but not from my Mom. But that day, she’d had it. And I deserved it.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve had it as a Mom. I feel that twinge of fear—the “I must be failing as a parent” fear that wrecks me because honestly, since the moment that my son was born almost 12 years ago, my identity has become absolutely attached to being “Mom.” And when most of us feel fear, to the point where it literally “hijacks” our brains, we do everything we can to protect our created realities—our identities, as if our survival depends on it.

Tonight was one of those nights.  And just like me, my kids are damn good at pushing me to my edge.  (My mom warned me about that!)

It’s as if on the nights when I am so excited to just hang out with my kiddos, plan a great dinner, know that we have some simple play and relaxation time, and that’s everything I want… those are the nights when all hell breaks loose and I lose my grasp on my lovely vision of motherhood.

Now here’s where I’ll share that I’m with the rest of you who wonders how much reality exists in social media. I know that what I share—my pictures and posts, especially of parenting—are of the moments that I want to cherish. They’re the moments that get me all soft and, honestly, a little bit like “wow, what a great Mom am I!” And then I get a swift kick in the ass like tonight and I realize that all I can hope for, and work for, is “good enough.”

I’ll also share openly that it’s during nights like tonight when I truly miss having a parenting partner. Single parenting is… well, like an entirely different, life-changing adventure.

We’re wired to do this dance together. It’s sometimes only our kiddos other parent who really gets the unique way that our kids push us to our edge, when all we need is that “I’m done” look to the other, and it’s as if we immediately have our stunt double to take over. In this solo dance… we look sideways for someone to step in and give a reprieve, and realize that when we feel we’re at our edge, our only hope is to stretch even further into the resource of who we are, to manage whatever has taken over the system. And it can feel virtually impossible at times.

Now I’ll be honest, I think my kids are perfect! Perfectly imperfect—exactly how they were created. I believe that their natures are kind and good, and that they are beautiful, wonderful, and innately brilliant in their unique ways.  And I think that they get off track sometimes, and as their Mom, it’s my job to help them get back on—sometimes simply to hang out with them where they are and trust the bigger love that is holding them, to get them back on.

Sometimes when I see my kids have wandered off too far, I think, “yep, that’s normal kid stuff. It’s going to happen,” and I can calmly reflect what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling, and that’s all that’s needed. They feel held and loved regardless, they are okay being “seen,” and are able to recognize what needs to change, and all is good.

Other times, like today, I calmly reflect, and I hear defensiveness and blame and excuses and dishonesty, all sorts of things that trigger this grinding in my heart, and I’m guessing they sense that. And my brain gets a little caught, and I’m not the mindful, centered Mama, but a triggered, fearful woman who’s quickly losing her skills, and searching for a rope to grab ahold of, and flailing.

And tonight… after flailing, I sat at my dinner table alone, looking down at a lovely dinner, while both my children were in their bedrooms crying.  And I had a little “whoa is me” moment, while the old adage, Mothering—the most thankless job, came into my head, and I thought, “No—there’s a deeper Gratitude in the world for Moms, and Dads—parents who are pushing past the edges of who they’ve known themselves to be because they love their kids to the ends of the earth.

Life asks us to stretch into more capable, more tolerant, more vulnerable versions of ourselves when we step into parenting. And if we can do that, Life will thank us. I fully trust that.  And wow, sometimes that’s just about the most difficult task there is.

Ultimately, my kids joined me for dinner and, later, after a quiet, somewhat tense evening, we talked, and cried a little, and watched Brené Brown’s TedTalk on Vulnerability. Honestly, it’s all I had left, and I felt like she’d share it better than I would.   And while some of it was probably over my seven-year-olds head, my son got it—and it was exactly what they needed to hear. They needed to hear—maybe from someone other than me—that it’s their willingness to share all of themselves, and to be seen, even when they mess up, to be compassionate—first and foremost toward themselves—and to believe they are worthy of immense love, that will allow them to actually feel love deeply.

Something began to heal what had been a really painful experience between us tonight. Shared understanding maybe. Willingness to allow ourselves to be imperfect and still worthy of love—for my kids to get that they can’t “earn” my love—nor can they un-earn it. It’s as present as the sun and has nothing to do with how they act or behave, or what they accomplish, or how often life gets messy between us. It just is.

So I’m doing it—this parenting thing, I’d say about good enough…

And tonight, I’m wiped!


For the Love of Your Life!



Co-Parenting with Ex’s… and Their New Partners

Like so many people I know, my tolerance for emotional distress has been stretched to maximum capacity a number of times throughout my life. And honestly–I’m so grateful… There’s this one specific piece that has pushed my edges more than anything else. …Wait, let me put that another way—that feels like a sledgehammer in the center of my heart, and it has demanded that I stretch further than I thought possible.

And the idea is this: ….That I am going to have to share my children with another mother.


Having had a few years to really consider the possibility of “another woman” in the lives of my children, I’ve had some time to FEEL a lot. And I think the potential of someone else in a “mothering” role, in their lives, is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced.

me-lillyFrom the moment that my son was born, and then as powerfully as that first moment, when my daughter entered the world four years later, my heart exploded wide open. My entire identity became something completely new—I was an altered human being. In fact, it seemed as if the world became a different place, as soon as they each took their first breaths. There are those rare times in life that our identities and perceptions alter so dramatically. Becoming a mother is the most profound shift I have personally ever experienced. I’m guessing many of you can relate.

I know that my children can never really know how much I love them. At least until they are parents themselves. And I have to trust that my love—which is sourced from a place that is so much bigger than me—is going to hold them …through these transitions, through all of the things that I fear may damage them, due to me or to someone else.

So I remind myself that I’m not going to do it perfectly—that there really is no right or wrong, that I need to do it “well enough,” and hold them to the best of my ability throughout the journey. And that the love that surrounds us, that is going to be the foundation for how they resource their own sense of safety and being-ness in the world, is more powerful than anything.

Obviously we cannot control who our ex partners choose to support the rest of their hearts journeys, and who all will be influencing our children. We cannot have any control over how those people interact and influence these little people who inhabit almost the entirety of our hearts… Unless, of course, we are open to some dialogue, and unless we are both respecting and honoring the strength and the possibility of different perspectives, and unless we are willing to stretch ourselves. And those things are my intention and hope.

We also have to trust who our children are, and their capacity and need Nathaniel-Lillyfor feeling loved from multiple sources, and for ultimately designing their own paths as they take nourishment from the strength and support around them. We need to help our children feel a sense of community… And I believe there is huge opportunity for us, and them, in accepting the community we have, including our ex partners new partners. Because really what is the alternative?

By developing positive relationships with one another—and I’m talking authentic connection, because each one of us knows the discomfort of un-owned resentment, and our children, especially, feel when we are out of integrity—we provide safety for our children to trust, to cultivate closeness, to love and receive love, and to learn to depend on their family—their entire family—to support them.

Our kids look to us for cues in who and how to trust, and their hearts are soothed when they see us doing the work to stretch ourselves into new, supportive and authentic relationships.

Some might balk at the idea of my developing a positive co-parenting relationship a partner of my ex-husband. But let’s really look at this. If she’s in love with the man that I loved for so many years, chances are we have some things in common.

My ex-husband is holding and managing half of my children’s lives in his hands and heart, and if he chooses a woman as worthy of both his heart, as well as theirs, it is my work to open my heart as well. A woman who is willing to be a positive, loving force in the lives of my children deserves my appreciation and respect, and if she opens her heart to them, I want to support that with everything in me, because they will feel the nourishment of her love. And do you wonder if that hurts or scares me? You’re damn right it does. And it is the practice of parenting to continue to consciously stretch into all that our children need and that can serve them.

N-L2These two little people are the number one most important thing in my world. Their happiness and capacity to thrive is worth every ounce of me stretching into a better version of myself. And no matter what I have to do to authentically show up and support healthy relationships in their lives, they are worth it.

We can handle so much more than we imagine, as can our children, and even more so if each of us can understand the fabric that weaves the complexity of emotions around and between us. When we’re honest with our kids, sharing honestly what’s happening in our lives in a way that they can understand, it settles them. They feel our congruence with our inner truth.

And when they see us doing the work to cultivate resiliency and to stretch into life, rather than close ourselves off from it, they begin to embody that same strength. And what better gift can we give?

I’ve seen a beautiful quote a number of times that goes like this: “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” ~ Anonymous

I’ve always loved that.

I wonder… for the divorced family, the best gift of each parent might be to truly honor and appreciate our ex-partner, and his or her new partner!

For the Love of Your Life!me-kids





Modeling Emotions to Our Kids

emotions1I’m a mama who shares a lot with my kids. I’ve gone overboard at times. I’ve shared too much, not quite grasping that my emotions or mental “meaning-making” machine was just too much for my little ones. But overall, I’ve realized that my kiddos have a lot of emotional intelligence that I want to honor.

Being intentional about sharing our emotions with our kids requires balance, mindfulness, and a lot of awareness of our own internal landscape.

Many of us shield our more intense emotions when we think our kids can’t handle them—or we fear that expressing our emotions might do damage, or frighten them. And while we do need to be cautious about our expression with our kiddos, we can sometimes do more damage in our attempts to protect them.

Parents often shield their children from so much and, subsequently, children don’t build the understanding or skills to manage their own intense emotions. Because emotions—big ones—are natural. They’re going to happen. And it’s our response to them, and our ability to be with them, regulate them, and learn to trust the wisdom of them, that allows us to build a healthy sense of self and ultimately forge healthy relationships with others. For our kids to be able to cultivate these abilities, they need to feel the raw, poignant teaching, modeled to them by their parents, of feeling and regulating the spectrum of all that life brings.

There is research related to human beings, even at early ages, having strong emotions2instincts when it comes to innately knowing when others are being dishonest. Sometimes we don’t cognitively perceive dishonesty but we feel it—our bodies sense when others are hiding something and it does damage in our relationships. When children feel us having an emotion that we attempt to hide, they experience us as incongruent, not aligned, not trustworthy. And then they’re left holding that.

When children are offered the chance, however, to consistently witness the practice of feeling, expressing, and regulating emotions, in a healthy way, by a primary influence—namely, their parents—they learn to integrate learning at a deep, core level. Our little ones need to build understanding not simply through practicing what we tell them, but through witnessing explicit behaviors from adult caregivers. They require embodied learning that occurs through the interdependent “neural wiring” that occurs between parent-child dyads—they need to experience their parents navigating life’s intensity, with developed skill, to feel safe and secure in developing their own ability to navigate the same.

Now, does this mean we should share everything with our kids—all the details of our messy emotional lives? Of course not. There is plenty in our adult world to which our children need not have access. They don’t need to know “the story.” They simply need to understand how we’re managing the story.

Here are 10 tips for being an “Emotional Model” for your children:

  1. Be Honest.  Trust that your kids can feel you feeling, and stay present both with yourself and with them. When they feel your congruence, they will naturally settle in your presence.
  1. Learn about your own emotions. Learn where they come from, how they tend to “show up,” and what you BELIEVE they mean. When you understand the habits of your emotional responses, you will be more equipped to regulate them, and your children will learn through your modeling.
  1. Practice tracking the “underneath” side of emotions—you’re frustrated… what’s underneath that? What’s the “deeper thing at stake?” What’s the more vulnerable version of whatever you’re feeling? Slow your emotional response down and validate the truth of whatever is at the core. That’s where the intelligence of emotion resides and when you share what’s underneath, your children will learn to share their own vulnerable truth.
  1. Share the Felt Sense. When you say, “I’m so angry right now,” also share what that feels like. For example, you might say, “I feel like my chest is really tight and I’m not breathing very well.” When we notice the sensation that corresponds with our emotion, we are actually slowing down our reactive habits just like that! And when kids see you tracking the sensation that informs your feelings, they’ll learn to do the same, and there’s tremendous wisdom in our SENSATION. We often mistake “thoughts” for feelings, but sensation always leads us to our deeper truth.
  1. Check in with your kids when you share “big” emotions with them. How is it for them to experience your intensity? Stay curious and engaged and invite them to do the same. Make it safe for them to honestly share their emotions. And let them share in their own time, and in their own way.
  1. Share not just what you feel, but how you’re regulating what you feel. When our kids see us feeling, and practicing regulating those feelings—because it’s always a practice—they learn that our emotional habits are a constant work in progress. Just like keeping our bodies fit and healthy, it takes consistent, mindful work to keep our emotional responses aligned with who we want to be in the world and in our relationships.
  1. Know why you want to share with your kids—is it for your benefit or theirs? Being honest isn’t always to benefit someone else. Sometimes sharing emotions is about our egos, or it’s related to our inability to manage feelings internally. It’s a difficult edge to know if we’re sharing for us or them. And with our children, it’s incredibly important to check ourselves!
  1. Let kids share their emotions on their own terms. As a therapist mom, I know this one all too well. Having an agenda for how and what our children share is simply going to distance them. We can ask, we can do our best to provide the safety and attunement that our kids need to open up to us, but we need to trust their timing and willingness to do so.
  1. Share the powerful positive feelings too. Let the love fly! If you have big anger and potent sadness that you share, be sure you’re filling their emotional buckets with loads of immense love, unconstrained giggles, open adoration, care, gratefulness, and joy.
  1. When you over-share—do the repair. Whether you’ve shared too much of “the story” with your kids, or you let your emotions get out of control, consistently come back and do the necessary repair with your kids. Take ownership. Let them know where you got off track and how you’re going to practice doing it differently next time. Be gentle with yourself too… our kids need to see us offering ourselves compassion so that they can learn compassion for their own missteps.

I’d love to hear your responses, your thoughts, your FEELINGS! Hopefully, you’ll feel free to share!

For the Love of Your Life!