Ever notice that a trip to the beach, a hike or a picnic all tend elevate your mood?  Or perhaps you’re familiar with feeling “like a new person” just from taking a shower?

Nature (and yes, for all intents and purposes, shower water is still nature) seeks balance. All of nature, the trees, grass, water and animals have a natural vibration of peace.  So when we are in a natural setting our mood tends to settle in a place of contentment or happiness — especially for children.  The only times a trip outside will not make a child feel better are when the temperature is extreme, making them physically uncomfortable, or when other non-natural factors are involved: like the commotion of a party, the antics of other children on an outdoor playground or when physical fatigue sets in.

But in general, taking kids outside is a great way to help them recharge or elevate the mood of squabbling siblings or a cranky child.  Autumn is a great time to enjoy the uplifting spirit of nature as the temperature is usually kinder to our senses and the colors and smells are particularly vibrant.

Here are a few ways your whole family can get the most mood elevating benefits of a day outdoors.  Best of all, these suggestions are free or at a nominal fee.

1) Pack a picnic and head off to a local park.  Spread a blanket out in a quiet corner and enjoy healthy foods while you tell jokes, read stories or play tag.

2) Look for botanic gardens in your area.  Many are run by Universities or non-profit organizations so they are free or open to the public at a nominal charge.  Wander through the gardens with your children letting them set the pace.  Don’t forget your camera — you’re sure to create memories you won’t want to forget.

3) Check with your local rec center for organized hikes.  Some places will even do small night hikes with campfires and s’mores for the families.  There’s nothing like star-gazing on a crisp Autumn evening and eating a s’more to bring you right to your heart.

4) Get a map of local trails from your local park and rec center or check out the lists of national parks online — one may be closer than you think.  Take a family hike and enjoy the natural beauty of your community. Let the kids gather things they find to be beautiful to bring home and make a collage or picture.

5) Go camping.  Even if it’s in your backyard.  Spend a night outside with your children telling stories.  It’s amazing how much kids open up emotionally when they are outside — you will learn a lot on a family camping adventure.

6) If the weather outside is frightful and the kids are young enough, draw a warm bath for them, put on a nature CD, put a couple of “child safe” potted plants around the tub and sip cocoa with your child while reading their favorite book — the water and plants will provide enough nature to calm a cranky child or wash away a bad day.

by Dr. Frances P. Walfish, Guest Blogger


There are many different ways to be a wonderful father, but for some, it can be a challenge.  For others, it comes easily and naturally.  There are two things that need to be present and in balanced for a man to feel like a successful father: being loving and nurturing and being comfortable setting boundaries and sticking to them.

I find that many fathers are at ease with the first step or the second, but find it a challenge to balance both at the same time.  A great deal of what determines which is more comfortable has to do with the model set by our own fathers and mothers.  For example, a dad in my practice who lacks patience with his children shared that his own father flew off the handle with him.  It was only through gentle exploration that this father was able to take a painful, honest look at his own behavior.  This awareness is the key to breaking the cycle of repetition.

For most dads, loving their child comes easily.  They want to create fun in the relationship so they find ways to engage through play, sports, talking, and wrestling.  But also important to fathering is to setting boundaries, placing limits, saying no, setting up targets.  Many dads are not comfortable with this because it stirs anger, tears, and a little bit of rebellion in the child.  This is where knowing your own history is so vital.  For example, if a father had a harsh disciplinarian father of his own, he may feel that setting limits implies a need to scream at or beat the child.  He may fear repeating the hurt and humiliation he felt with the implementation of rules and boundaries so he instead chooses a loose set of rules.

Let me share an example of a father who, with hard work, changed his own parenting style from that of his parents and grandparents.  This man married late in life and had children at an older age for fear of repeating the mistakes his own parents made with him and his siblings.  His father mishandled the children; he was rough and tough and quick to use the belt.  His mother, who knew no better in raising children, did not intervene and protect her children.  She was busy with her charity and fundraising activities and not very available.  This father decided in his 30’s to invest whatever time, energy, courage, and money it took to turn things around.  He immersed himself in a long term psychotherapy experience.  By the time he married,  had children  and consulted me he knew a great deal about himself.  He came to me when his first child was 9 months old to “prevent” problems.  Because he was open, he took my suggestions, put them into action, and became an exemplary father.  His two school-age children are thriving and doing well.  He has learned how to talk with his children about feelings and behavior rather than responding impulsively.  He is empathic, not reactive.

Tips for dads who have trouble setting.  Remember that each time you set a limit you are giving your child an opportunity to grow.  Meeting the child’s resistance and allowing your child to wrestle with not always getting what she wants builds your child’s strength and character.  Also, when you are able to set a boundary and stick to it without getting angry, you are teaching your child to inhibit aggressive impulses that she would alternatively learn if you screamed and yelled at her.   You are not being mean if you say no.   Your job is to protect your child and to socialize him.

Fun is great!  Disciplining can be a drag.  Fathers must find a way to do both.

One challenge that Conscious Parents face is finding good quality reading material that expresses the emotional and spiritual levels of our existence.  There are many great authors out there who have beautifully expressed these elements in easy to understand terms with gorgeous artwork.  I’ve even been known to refer my adult clients to children’s books as they frequently “tell it like it is” without the excess musings of the author.

This list is not at all comprehensive,  and there are many more great authors and books out there than what I’ve listed. These are some of my family favorites; use this as a guide to get started or to research authors.  Some of these books are available at chain retailers, most can be found at or ordered through smaller privately held bookstores, or there is always online.  Remember to follow your heart as you choose, and share with us your favorite.

Preschool and Early Elementary

  • Emma & Mommy Talk to God by Marianne Williamson
  • The Angel with the Golden Glow by Elissa Al-Chokhachy and Ulrike Graf
  • The Loveables in The Kingdom of Self-Esteem by Diane Loomans
  • All I See is Part of Me by Chara M. Curtis
  • Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
  • The Little Soul in the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch
  • Unstoppable Me! by Dr. Wayne W. Dye with Kristina Tracy
  • Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
  • I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

Middle School and High School

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  • A Treasury of Wise Action by Dharma Publishing
  • Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood
  • Illusions by Richard Bach
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

If milk and all things wholesome supposedly “does a body good,” then doesn’t it also stand to reason that anything not wholesome or “trashy,” as we call it in our home, “does a body bad?”  As Halloween and the “sweets” holidays, (Thanksgiving and Christmas) fast approach, so begins the much heated parental debate over how much “trash” can/should our children have.

This is a perfect opportunity to remind yourself and your children that the best way to avoid eating dilemmas is to tune in to the body.  We get signals everyday about what our body needs.  The dry skin and parched feeling you have is probably a good indicator that you’re dehydrated, and you could use some water.  That craving for a big salad is probably indicative of a need for some “live” food in your diet. 

If you’re like most conscious parents, you are already attuned to most of these signals, but the thought of a bag full of candy and then pies and then cookies — Oh MY!!  It is a well known phenomenon that children who are deprived of all forms of sweets will at some time (be it college or at their first emotional crisis) over indulge because they have a scarcity issue when it comes to these  types of food.  That scarcity issue coupled with no experience in setting self imposed limitations on sweets is a recipe for disaster (weight gain, eating disorders, diabetes. . . . ). 

Kids are more in-tune with their bodies than we give them credit for.  It’s never too late to start the process of helping them recognize their abilities, but the earlier we start the better.   When my oldest was almost 5 and my youngest was 2 we began really working with them on tuning in to what their body needed.  They knew that no sweets were going to be doled out until after lunch, at the very earliest.  If they asked for a treat after this time of day then I would make them sit, close their eyes and stay present with their body.  I would ask them, have you had all of your vitamins, nutrients and energy that you need for the day?  Believe it or not, they were mostly honest about it and would often times, say, “No,” with a very sad face.  I then asked them to sit quietly again and see if they could tell what their body needed.  It was amazing.  They would intuitively know that they needed a banana or a piece of whole grain bread or a yogurt or some cheese.  Of course, they sometimes needed help from me and we might have to talk about what they had already eaten.  The rule was, once you (and I) felt that you had met your nutritional needs for the day you could have a small treat.

The entire process never took more than 5 minutes, and today at 13 and 10 they will ask for foods they need.  I’ll hear things like, “Mom, I really feel like I need some protein, can we have red meat for dinner.”  Or at the grocery store they might say, “Can you get orange fruits and vegetables, I just feel drawn to them for some reason.”  These are all intuitive signals that they have learned to tune in to.  And, they also get the treats so they are learning to eat in balance with what their body needs.

Another quick trick is write down (or on a magnetic board put magnets with pictures) the foods your child has eaten.  As they get older they can keep the journal themselves.  A quick look over the journal will help you both have a good picture of how they have eaten and base treats on a balance daily intake of fruits, vegetables, proteins and water.

So, rather than be the mom who is handing out pencils to trick or treaters and risking a good old fashioned T.P.ing for your efforts, teach your children how to listen to the signals that keep their diets in balance.

It’s back to school time!  That means runny noses, watering eyes, stuffy heads, fevers, tummy aches….

Do you ever look around your child’s classroom and wonder, “Why does one kid get the flu and another doesn’t?”  or “Why is it that my child seems to catch everything going around while my sister’s kid is always healthy?”  Or maybe you are the parent of a healthy child and find yourself being continually grateful for that!

Viruses, bacterias, and micro-organisms of all shapes are everywhere — even in the most well cleaned home, office or school.  That’s because they travel through the air and water too.  As a Spiritual Life Coach and Conscious Parenting Expert, I have seen many cases where a family is suffering year after year with one illness after another, only to make some emotional shift and have the repeating illnesses disappear.  Please note, I am not addressing families where a chronic illness, immune disorder or other serious medical conditions exists.  I’m referring to the everyday germs that are floating around and the havoc they create in our lives.

Our children are powerful messengers for us when they are little and for themselves as they get older.  Yes, we get tired and stressed and are exposed to illnesses…but for one moment, if you’ve never done it before, I ask you to ponder how 15 children can be exposed to a cold virus in a classroom and only 10 get it.  I propose that it’s not always as simple as genes and luck.

I’d like to share with you some common childhood illnesses and the emotions that are commonly associated with them.  I am still advocating that you see your family physician or pediatrician, but while you are treating the symptoms and caring for your child, take a look at the household or your child’s most recent emotional state while you’re nurturing them.  You may find ways to prevent the illness next time.

The key to emotional discovery with each of these illnesses is looking at what has been going on in the family life and/or the life of the child 48 hours prior to the illness onset.  There will be lots of clues in that time frame to help you pinpoint some of the emotional contributors to the illness.

Ear Infections:  So common in small children, they frequenly indicate that the child’s life is out of balance.  Are they too busy? Has a new sibling arrived? Has mom or dad gone back to work? Is there a new stressor in the household or an old stressor that’s not been addressed?  They key with preventing future ear infections could be as simple as taking a look at how household obligations and new situations are affecting the child.  Give them more one on one time or support them if something outside of the family is stressing them out.  It may require mom and dad dealing more effectively with stress at home as well.

Soar Throatsare often the physical sign that a child is having trouble speaking their truth about something.  It could be that they saw someone break a rule or promised to keep a secret that’s weighing on them.  It could be that there is something they want to say to mom or dad but don’t know how or if they will get in trouble.  It could be that they are recognizing something about themselves and they don’t know how to speak from that place of empowerment or disempowerment.  Ask your child some questions about what has been going on recently.

Stomach achesare typically a sign that the child doesn’t feel good about themself.  You may notice that  the stomach ache shows up on test days, or before a big change (like the first day of school or before going to a relative’s house).  If your child only has these occasionally, it is probably a very specific issue that just came up.  If your child has chronic stomach aches, in addition to seeking medical treatment, try to pinpoint when they most frequently occur and give your child the opportunity to share what they are feeling during those times.

Common cold is frequently an indicator that the child or the household has been “going” non-stop.  If mom, dad, siblings or the child are over taxed with obligations or chronic stress, then the body does not have time to fortify it’s immune system properly leaving us more susceptible to the viruses that are floating around.  Make sure that your household schedule always includes down time, nutritious meals and adequate rest.

Why do kids get sick more during school?  In part because that is when their lives become more stressful.  Peer pressure is at its height when school is in session, parents are trying to juggle work, school, sports and leisure time and the stress of showing up everyday and trying to please every adult around you can be exhausting. 

Some people, including me, believe that all illnesses have an emotional component.  The more we can strive towards balanced living the healthier we will be.

“Shhhhh, mommy’s meditrating! ”

Yes, my spell check is functioning and you read that correctly — meditrating.  That’s what my 2-year-old used to say when I was having my quiet time.  With a 5-year-old and 2 year old I had to find alone time for my sanity and theirs.  Like many moms, I worked and so did my husband, so trying to find a few minutes to take a deep breath and recenter myself — an integral piece of not going nuts — I would sit the kids in front of Sesame Street, lock the doors and head up to my son’s bedroom to sit.  I painted and carpeted his nursery with serene cool blue-green so that I would feel like I was stepping into the depths of the ocean.  His room was always calm and peaceful.

Inevitably the kids would seek me out — together, fighting all the way about who was suppose to bother me or not.  They were too young to realize that I was a better mom when I had a few moments alone with my thoughts and my emotions, but they were not too young to understand what it felt like after I had my “alone time.”

After the third or fourth time I was interrupted I explained to the kids that I needed my alone time, I was meditating.  We would set a timer for 10 minutes so that they did not have to guess how long I would be and we discussed the terms under which they could disturb me:  I think it involved blood or fire.   They seemed to get it, my son would stand sentry outside his room and if anyone (namely his sister) tried to get my attention he would say, “Shhhhhhh, mommy’s meditrating.” 

In reality I think he was soaking up the peacefulness.  Over the years, both of my children have come to appreciate their own “alone time”.  It was definitely difficult to make time for me, but in doing so not only was I better mom, but I taught the kids how important it is to put yourself first.  They can now gauge when they are at their limit.  They will choose some time to recharge rather than the “go go go” pace that their peers often choose.  They know themselves and they know how to self-nurture.

Make sure that you are creating space for everyone in your home to have alone time — doesn’t matter what it looks like, a bath, meditation, a quiet walk….But teach one another how to honor the alone time, you will find the whole family exists in more balance.  Now Breathe….

Disciplining our children is a very personal thing.  As Conscious Parents, we have the benefit of being aware of our own triggers, our children’s triggers and looking for tools to help us navigate the waters of discipline effectively.  Let’s face it, we generally discipline our children for engaging in behaviors that either make life unsafe for them or make us feel unsafe.  It’s easy to distinguish those activities that are just out and out unsafe for our kids, sticking things in electrical sockets, running out into the street, riding bikes without helmets and a list a mile long of things children can think to do that we never did.  I never dreamed my son would find the view of the downstairs so inviting peering through the banister railings — until he got his head stuck there.

We also parent our children through our own fears.  I’ve watched parents who are affraid of swimming (or some other activity) over-react to playful and safe water games because of their own fear.  And let’s be honest, we punish our kids for throwing tantrums in the supermarket not because they are unsafe, but because we start to feel judged, overwhelmed and like we “should” be handling things differently.  We’re human, we are all going to do some variation of this. 

When we see our child engaging in a behavior that we know could cause danger (or we suspect will cause pain), we generally react with some fear.  The ironic thing about this is that we cannot experience love and fear at the exact same moment.  So if discipline comes from or in  that moment of fear, the consequences for the behavior may seem extreme or out of context, and then sadly, our child only modifies the behavior based on being afraid, not based on understanding that safety is an issue.  And, we know when we have acted from fear — we generally have huge guilt about the punishment we dolled out.

So, first and foremost, take a deep breath before issuing the consequence.  By all means, if you’re child is running out into the parking lot, scream, grab him around the waist — do whatever you have to to keep him safe, but before yelling, scolding or punishing, take that breath and reconnect with something you love and adore about this child.  Just one thing is all it takes to get you back to your heart.

Consequences must be immediate, firm and adhered to by all adults who are care-taking of the child during the time period of the consequence.  Even if you are on vacation or with family. . . even if it means you as the parent miss out on the fun, any wavering will reinforce the child’s behavior. 

Second, make the consequence fit the action.  Here are a few examples:

1)  Kids want independence…if your little one is insistent on darting out into parking lots or running away from you, then the consequence is that they have to hold your hand for the rest of the trip (or ride in the stroller or cart).  Don’t worry about their screaming, just remind them in a calm voice, “Honey, we have to be safe, you have not been safe today (or the last time we went out) so today you have to ride in the stroller.  Next time well try it your way again and if you wait for mommy and look both ways then you can walk next to me.”  Next time, remind them of the consequence before your trip starts!

2)  Your child rides their bike without their helmet.  A natural consequence is of course falling and getting hurt, but it’s our parenting duty to help prevent this injury.  So if you catch your child being unsafe in this way, the bike gets grounded for a certain amount of time (this is age dependent — a 4 year old will not remember 2 weeks later why the bike is still grounded). 

3)Johnny repeatedly breaks other children’s toys.  The consequence for this could be that Johnny then has to give a similar toy of his own to the other child.  If “Johnny” is older, it’s appropriate that he pay for the damage or  replaces the item, but with smaller children who don’t yet get the concept of money, to replace the item with one of their own is an appropriate consequence.

The goal is to help you keep your calm and teach your child through positive and conscious actions.  Yup, you’re going to get stressed and overwhelmed and maybe even raise your voice.  Just remember that it’s never too late to take that deep breath, reconnect with love and move forward teaching your child how to be a more conscious kid!

Have you ever noticed that children state something they want/desire/need and within a very short period of time it seems to be in their experience?  It’s because children haven’t forgotten that they are powerful creators!  Children stay so present moment and heart-based that they believe anything is possible.  When my daughter was four she really wanted to go camping.  I could not think of anything less appealing since my idea of “roughing it” is having to stay in a 2 star hotel.  My inclination was to tell her, “No, honey, we don’t camp and I don’t want to.”  Instead, I thought I would cleverly encourage her to create what she wanted — I was underestimating her ability to manifest.  I told her, “If you really want to go camping then you have to create it.”  Two days later my nanny said, “Maggie told me she wants to go camping and you know, my boyfriend has a tent you guys can borrow.  Just pitch it in the backyard and do a camp out.”

I was in the unique situation of wanting to ring my nanny’s neck, torch the canvas tent and congratulate my daughter on her manifesting abilities.  That little four year old just knew what she wanted and brought it into her experience.

It’s only as we become hardened to our environment that we slow down this process of manifesting our heart’s desires.  Having children in our life  helps us remember that anything IS possible!

Sometimes we think the best thing we can do as parents is to prepare our children for disappointment, let downs and rejection.  Have you ever found yourself saying some version of , “Life isn’t fair,” or “You don’t always get what you want”?  Because this is what we have experienced we convince ourselves that we would rather be the bearer of that bad news than some uncaring stranger (like a future boss, teacher or bully).  As Conscious Parents we want to help our children hold on to that beautiful sense of hope and the ability to manifest.  What if you lead your child through a process of staying so in touch with his or her heart that life was filled with the experience of truly creating the life they imagined?  And, on your way through that parenting journey, you will find that you are manifesting more and more of what your heart desires too!

Now for the How To:

1) Set aside time every few months to do Vision Boards.  Using magazines, words, pictures, markers, crayons and your imagination, let every person in the house create a poster (of any size) that includes the things they would like to experience.  Hang the posters in bedrooms or on a common wall and look at the boards everyday letting your heart and mind join in the fantasy of imagining how you will feel to experience what is on the board.  Once you feel complete because you have either manifested most of the experiences or because you have other ones that are more important to your heart, it’s time to do it again.  Doing this exercise as a family helps you support each other’s aspirations.

2)  Talk regularly with your children about what they would like to experience.  Just because it seems out of touch with reality to you doesn’t mean it’s truly unattainable.  It’s important that instead of telling your child, “That’s a nice aspiration but I don’t know that it will ever happen,” say things like, “How do think it will feel to do that?”  “How do you imagine it will be to experience that?” 

3)  Support one another’s dreams.  Talk as a family about what each member wants to experience and dream the dream with them, no matter how silly it seems.  This is one of our favorite things to do on long car trips or while we are waiting for food at a restaurant. 

Manifesting your heart’s desires does not have to take a lot of time or energy and it should always feel light and fun.  The key to manifestation is remembering that the only limitations we have are what our mind can conceive.  So take your mind out of the equation and dream with your heart. 

Oh, and my daughter’s camping experience…we did pitch that tent, but my manifestation was to sleep in a warm, cozy bed with the A/C running and access to indoor plumbing without having to dodge midnight spider-webs.  My husband slept in the tent with her!

Whether your child is in preschool, primary school, secondary education or heading off to college, it’s crunch time.  You’re hitting the local retailers stocking up on glue, paper, pencils and the perfect binders, filling out school forms and checking to see which clothes at the bottom of the dresser still fit.

Some children see all of this commotion and transition as an exciting right of passage.  They relish the school clothes shopping, getting a new backpack and the anticipation of finding out which homeroom they will be in.  For other children, this time is filled with anxiety.  They refuse to try on clothes because they don’t want to part with the pair of jeans that fit just right, a new lunch box makes them cry and the thought of walking into school that first day has them twisted in knots — literally.

You might be ready for school to start, but if you have a child who gets anxious or nervous when things change, you may be finding that your home is filled with tears, angst and disruptions.  The key is not trying to convince your Nervous Nelly that “it’s all OK,” because the fact is, no matter what you say, you cannot make it feel OK in their little body with words.  Helping your child with this transition is less about assumptions as to what the stressors are and more about actually finding out what causes the anxiety.

New experiences can make a child feel like their world where they have very few options already is really out of control. Instead of trying to tell your child how great school will be, give him a voice.  Ask him what he thinks about school.  Ask him what he thinks will be fun and ask him what he thinks won’t be fun.  For older children, ask them who they are looking forward to hanging out with and what teachers they hope to get.  Conversely, ask them if anything is making them feel nervous or uncomfortable as they think about the impending school year.  By asking them what they are feeling and thinking you will gain a great deal of insight into what makes them feel safe and what does not.   It may take some prodding and you may have to help your younger child find the words to describe what he is feeling.  Be sure to ask about lunch (some children are afraid they won’t like the food or won’t have someone to sit with — see, it’s not about the green lunchbox  after all.)  Ask about their transportation; just because Aunt Susie is taking them to work doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for them or perhaps they have a perception that Aunt Susie’s propensity for being late will make life difficult for them.   Talk with them about all of the different facets of the upcoming school year, breaking down the  school day if you have to in order to get to the bottom of the stress indicator(s).

Give them as much control as possible.  Let them pick out school supplies and tools.  Let them help set up their study and homework area at home.  Visit the after-school care center and let them see where they will be spending their after or before school time.  Put a picture of you on a keychain and attach it to your child’s backpack or lunchbox.  Help them make a list of foods they would like to have in their lunch or get the school’s lunch calendar before school starts to talk about food options.

Come up with a plan together for those things that make them feel unsafe.  Here’s the key part — there are no rules when it comes to keeping your child safe.  My son use to have a great deal of difficulty assimilating the first few days of school.  A new classroom was completely overstimulating.  Our elementary school does not release classroom assignments  until the night before school starts.  I’m a self-proclaimed rule follower,  but the rules went away when I became my child’s advocate.  For 3 years I would go to the school’s office when it opened in August and talk with the powers that be calmly and articulately explaining what I wanted and why and how it would benefit them as well as my child.  My son would meet his teacher and see his new room several days before school started and it helped him immensely.

So whatever it is that makes your son or daughter feel stressed, find a way to help them feel a little safer — you’ll both be more relaxed the first few days of school.

If you joined us and www.HeartisHot.com on the Balanced Living teleclass last night you got to her Brooke’s amazing story of healing after a stroke at age 24.  Now a healthy, happy and balanced 28 she shared the following tips for living a more balanced life:

1.  Learn to Listen to Your Heart:  Make time for you, whatever that is: taking baths, getting a massage, taking a walk, exercising, meditation…whatever it is that you do that leaves you feeling more connected to your heart, more in tune with it’s messages.

2.  Listen to Your Body:  We all get messages from our body and these little whispers are indicators that we are out of balance.  So don’t ignore those headaches, backaches, bouts of constipation, chronic dry skin. . . these are all tied to emotional issues and if you listen and take care of yourself then you can avoid the “louder message.”

3.  Self-Gratitude:  You are exactly where you are suppose to be in this moment.  Take time everyday to be grateful for where you are, who you are and all that you have accomplished.

4.  Find Joy:  Find joy everyday.  Make a “Joy List” by jotting down 10 things that you can do for you that bring you absolute joy.  Each day make it a point to do at least one thing on the list.

5.  Eliminate “Shoulds,” “Musts,” “Rule Books”:  Whenever we act from a place of “I should do this,” or “I have to do that,” we are not in our heart and we are definitely not in our joy.  These are trigger words that let you know you are headed into out-of-balance territory.

And if you are noticing that your entire family is out of balance, try these tips for regaining your peace and serenity.

1.  Don’t try to correct the child’s behavior without first addressing the source of the problem.  Little Sally will not stop her tantrums if the reason she is doing it is because mom and dad are fighting all of the time.  But stop the fighting and then you can address any bad habits the child has employed to get your attention.

2.  Identify the Problem:  With the help of other adults, friends, therapists, doctors, etc, figure out what the root of the family stress is.  Do not process this with the children — they do not need the gory details of what is stressing you out.

3.  Don’t Hide Important Things from the Kids:  They will know if a secret exists and will react the same way to the secrecy as they would to you processing the problem with them.  It’s OK to say, “Mommy is sad because grandpa is ill.”

4.  Do Tell Your Child(ren) How You are Planning on Resolving the Problem:  “Dad’s been stressed because he lost his job, but he is setting up interviews and in the meantime we are going to support him by making more fun meals at home.”  Make sure the delivery of your plan is age appropriate.

5.  Give Your Kids a Chance to Tell You What is Bothering Them:  The source of a child’s stress might not be what you think it is.  Even young children can express how they feel with a little help.

6.  Play Happy Music in the Household:  This does wonders for the entire family.  Happy music is anything that makes you want to dance or feel really peaceful.  Keep it on all of the time.

7.  Create:  Instead of focusing on what is not going well, help the family focus on what is working and on their dreams.  Do a family vision board or start a family gratitude journal/jar and share the comments once a week.