Coping with Flood-Related Stress

Flooding in Colorado

Flooding in Colorado

I live and work in Northern Colorado, and this week we have been in the midst of some pretty significant flooding.  Sure, we are used to big snows, tornadoes and persistent droughts – but this flood thing is new to many of us.  What all these weather-related events have in common, though, is the anxiety, fear and worry that accompanies them.  It can be especially tough on our littlest family members.

With my own anxiety, fear and worry swirling, I am trying to use the coping strategies put forth by others before me:

TURN OFF THE TV!  Yes, I know all-caps is the typist’s form of shouting – but I think it is something to shout about.  I estimate that it takes the local news  5-10 minutes to update me on everything I need to know about the storm, the flooding and a bit about the world outside of Colorado.  After that, the pictures are repeated, the warnings more urgent and the predictions more dire.  It’s no wonder that after about 10 minutes of watching (or reading, or YouTubing or Facebooking) I notice my anxiety level soar.  So, this tip is kind of a no-brainer: watch the basics then TURN IT OFF!

Connect with the gang.  Folks often describe feelings of closeness with their community during tough times. I am seeing this all around me.  Neighbors chatting, planning and organizing; co-workers banding together to help the cause; community organizations reaching out in ways they normally don’t.  Connecting with your community can be a really effective way to combat the emotional turmoil that accompanies natural disasters.

Keep on keeping on.  Whether we realize it or not, most of us have some pretty effective stress management strategies on board already.  For example, I love to watch House Hunters as a way to wind down. Other folks might find reading, praying or walking to be particularly effective at managing stress.  The key is, now that we are REALLY stressed, let’s not forget the coping strategies that work for us. That might mean getting creative and reading by candlelight instead of lamp light, but the effect is the same.

For more ideas about managing distress related to the floods (or other natural disasters), check out the American Psychological Association’s Help Center.


Book Review: Please Don’t Label My Child

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I picked up this book, Please Don’t Label My Child, a couple of weeks ago at my local library. It was an impulse buy of sorts. I’m prone to those – particularly at the library.  And boy am I glad I am, because this book was fantastic.  It’s really much better than the title implies (it is not a rant against psychiatric diagnoses, labels, and drugs), but a thoughtful, common-sense, easy-to-read essay on kids and what affects them:

  • Poor eating habits/malnutrition
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stressors in the home
  • Stressors at school/with friends
  • Lack of exposure to sunlight

The author, Dr. Scott Shannon, posits that it is often these factors that negatively affect kids’ ability to concentrate, manage stress, and cope with worry – and NOT an organic psychiatric condition like ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder.

While I don’t doubt the existence of psychiatric and emotional disorders in kids, I do think we sometimes overlook more basic explanations for maladaptive behavior.  After all, do any of us really function all that great when we are sleep deprived, grieved over the loss of a marriage, struggling with financial insecurity, or lack (for whatever reason) wholesome, nutritious foods?  Of course we don’t. And neither do children, whose systems are even more fragile than ours.

In our super crazy, complex world I appreciate straightforward answers and solutions.  Dr. Shannon’s book gives us just that. While there are many children and families who need more intensive interventions (therapy, medication) perhaps there are many, too, whose struggles can be aided by the relatively simple solutions offered in this book.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly for health practitioners, as well as parents who are concerned about some aspect of their child’s behavior.  It is a great first step in making some relatively small changes that can make a big difference.

Summer Vacation: Plugged or Un-plugged?

Have you taken your summer vacation yet? If not, you may find yourself pondering this very question: Should I stay plugged in, or go all-in and un-plug the world? I was having this debate conversation just last night.  Are vacations better if they are completely un-plugged? Is it even possible?  Will my vacation be more beneficial if I don’t check my email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond?

What about when I return: Will the re-entry to my “real” life be more difficult if I have a week or two worth of messages waiting for me?

Here’s my take:

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes.  There’s the quick weekend getaway, the family reunion trip, the sightseeing/cultural trip, the boy scout camping trip, the Disney World trip and the long, lazy summer trip.  It might be no big deal to stay plugged in (meaning checking voicemail, email, etc) on short trips like weekend getaways.  In fact, staying plugged in to the “real world” might be the only thing that gets you through kid-focused trips (like to Disney) and can provide excellent excuses for escape on family reunion trips.

Camping trips and long, lazy summer trips are different in my book.  These vacations should most certainly be experienced un-plugged.  These types of trips are meant to be savored and should be a complete change of pace from your normal life. We can’t be expected to truly un-wind, re-group, and relax if we are constantly updating Facebook or responding to customer inquiries.  Sand castles and s’mores are meant to be relished – and who can do that while responding to email?

How do you decide whether or not to un-plug?

Making Summer Simple

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The “lazy days of summer” I referred to in my last post don’t seem to be coming around as quickly as I would have liked.  Instead, I am having some “crazy days of summer” – running around too fast, too far, and missing perfectly good summer days around here!  In thinking about how to slow down and capture those delicious, slow, long days of summertime I have been compiling a list of ideas.  Thoughts about how we can all slow down and enjoy this season:

  • Check email less often.  Maybe just once in the morning and once at night will do?
  • Instead of posting about your comings and goings on Facebook – get offline and actually experience them! Consider implementing media-free days for yourself
  • Go to the library and stock up on books: fiction, non-fiction, coffee table books, magazines.  Having lots of reading (and “looking”) material on hand might encourage you to actually sit down and relax!
  • Make eating easy.  Check out my post on healthy summer eating.  For some simple summertime recipes check out Produce for Kids.
  • Say no.  Showers, parties, open houses, and birthday celebrations can be fun – but they can eat up time like nobody’s business.  Be picky about how your spend your time and practice saying “no thank you” if need be.
  • Keep a list of fun activities handy.  I’ve known several families who keep a list of fun, relatively easy activities nearby so if they are ever at a loss of things to do, they can simply check their list.  Ideas might include: a local hike, a trip to the zoo, a picnic in the park, pizza at the pool (one of my faves), a midnight movie, and so on.
  • Do something new.  It’s so easy to get into ruts and routines so rigid that we never try new things.  Summer, with its zillions of activities, can be a wonderful time to try new things.  Pickleball, anyone?


Healthy Eating Over Summer Break

Holy cow! It must be summer, because time is flying by and I am way behind on my blogging! While I wait for the “lazy” part of summer to arrive (rather than the super-harried, running around, getting used to new schedules summer that I’m in now) – here is an article I wrote for Produce for Kids.  I provide some tips for maintaining healthy eating habits while school’s out.  The folks at Produce for Kids provide some yummy, easy, and fresh recipes for summertime. Enjoy!Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 9.32.32 AM

Mis-matched socks? Crazy hair? It doesn’t make you a bad mom!



Several months ago I was interviewed for this story over on Baby Zone about how to deal with clothing battles.  Honestly, this is one of my favorite topics, because almost everyone deals with it at one time or another.

Whether your kids refuse to wear clothes with itchy tags, never take off their sweat pants, insist on wearing short shorts in a snowstorm, hate anything without glitter, hate anything with glitter, refuse to have their hair brushed – we have ALL been there!  Battling over clothing just comes with the territory of parenthood.

Granted, battling teens over their choice of clothing is quite different from battling a preschooler, but the battle will come at one time or another.  That’s why getting started on a good path early can help down the road.  For a bunch of ideas, check out the Baby Zone article.  Here are my top suggestions:

Understand that your child’s clothing choices are not a reflection of your parenting skills.  I know great parents whose kids always look a little mis-matched.  But they are not loved – or parented – any less than any other kid.  It’s just that their parents have allowed them to make their own choices about clothing, and don’t insist on perfect hair before leaving the house.  They choose to focus their energies on other things like homework and family fun time.

Pick out one or two non-negotiables and forget about the rest.  Some families feel strongly about modesty in clothing, others may feel uncomfortable with certain labels or words on clothes.  My family? As long as it’s clean, it’s OK.  Once you figure out 1-2 rules about clothing, share them with your kids and don’t waiver.  But be sure to let the other things go.  For example: It’s 25 degrees outside and snowing, but she wants to wear a size-too-small sundress with shorts underneath, and heels on her feet? Well, as long as it’s clean…

Embrace the creativity.  Kids and teens often crave a way to exert some control over their worlds.  Clothing can provide an opportunity to do just that.  Instead of fighting their urge to be creative and gain some control in the world, embrace it.  Engage them in conversation about their clothing choices, and encourage their creativity.  Empower them in their wardrobe choices by teaching them how to do their own laundry, take them to a second hand clothing store, and expose them to sewing and fashion.

For more ideas, check out the full article:

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The Boston Marathon Attacks and Coping with Traumatic Events

As I was brushing my teeth this morning I was thinking about whether and what to post about the attacks in Boston yesterday.  Like everyone else, I am dismayed and grieved at the trauma endured by the athletes and their supporters.  I can’t help but reflect on the multitude of traumas our people have endured over the last few years.

Is this normal?  Have these sorts of incidents increased?  What can be made of all this violence, injury and death?  I don’t know the answers to these questions.  But, I do know that it is normal to feel lots of emotions following tragedies like the one yesterday.

The American Psychological Association offered some tips on how to recognize and cope with traumatic stress.  Check out their tips here.

In looking over APA’s info, I was struck by a couple of points:

  • People respond to tragedies differently.  Some folks might feel nothing, others may cry, still others might have trouble tearing themselves away from news coverage.  I notice many folks turning to social media as a way to cope with their own grief and fear.  Still others may simply want to retreat and withdraw.  No response is right or wrong.  Just different.
  • Re-establishing routines is important.  I’m big into routines, so this tip really rang true for me.  Routines can be comforting to all of us – especially kids – so getting back to a normal schedule can go a long way in helping cope with traumatic events.  Maybe this means going back to your regular dinnertime, enjoying your favorite TV shows, or getting back to your typical workout schedule.  Even if it feels awkward at first, getting back into the swing of your normal routine can help minimize stress, fear, and uncertainty.
  • Avoid major life decisions.  This tip is new to me, but I think it is pretty interesting.  Traumatic events can produce big emotions.  Sometimes those emotions are grief and fear, but they can also be passion, anger, or excitement.  These emotions can be so intense that we may feel driven to make decisions about our relationships, work, and family lives.  APA suggests we avoid these decisions in times of high stress.

For more information about coping with traumatic events, check out the American Psychological Association.


Teaching Kids About Eating Right

Many of you know that one of the hats I wear is an advisory board member for Produce for Kids, an awesome organization dedicated to healthy kids and families.  One of my fellow board members recently wrote some guidelines about teaching even our youngest kids about healthy eating.  As obesity rises among kids (and adults!) this seems like a more important lesson than ever.  But it can be tricky: We don’t want to deprive our kids or set up an unhealthy relationship with food.  But ignoring the issue, or allowing them to indulge in all of their junk food fantasies doesn’t seem right either.  Estella Schnelle of the Weekly Bite provides some great tips for navigating these treacherous waters.

Check out her tips below:

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Parenting Transgender Children

There is a family here in Colorado who has been making headlines recently because of their transgender child.  I’m not going to get into the specifics of the story (you can read more about it here) but will focus on some of the great discussion and information that has been going on surrounding the story.

Most of us don’t have a lot of experience with transgender children, either as parents, professionals, teachers or friends.  This lack of experience can make an already tricky situation even more difficult simply because of our lack of exposure.  In reaction to the above-mentioned story in Colorado, my colleague Dr. Sarah Burgamy, was asked to speak about transgender children on a local TV program.  She did an awesome job answering some basic questions on parenting children who might be – or definitely are – transgender.

A couple of her points that stuck out most to me:

How do you know if your child is transgender, or just “going through a phase?”  Many kids go through phases of exploring interests or looks more typically thought of as belonging to the opposite sex.  For example, a boy enjoying dressing up in skirts, or a little girl enjoying trains.  Dr. Burgamy explained that transgender children’s behaviors and attitudes are “insistent, persistent and consistent” over time.

How should a parent respond to their transgender child?  Parenting is a tough job any time, but can be especially challenging when our children don’t fall inside the “norm,” have unique needs or interests, or are simply different from their peers.  Dr. Burgamy offered some excellent guidelines for parents with transgender children (or any children for that matter):

  •  Minimize distress
  • Increase happiness
  • Do what you can to allow them to have happy childhoods

Check out her full interview here:


Dr. Burgamy also provided some resources for families and friends of transgender youth:

The Transgender Child:  A Handbook for Families and Professionals – by, Stephanie Brill & Rachel Pepper
Gender Born, Gender Made:  Raising Healthy Gender Non-Conforming Children by Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.

Trans Youth Family Allies – TYFA

TransACTIVE – based in Portland, OR but has some good national/international resources.


5 Questions with Lori Gottlieb

I am thrilled to have the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough here today to answer some questions! I recently reviewed Lori Gottlieb’s book, and am thrilled she agreed to share more about the creation of the book with us.  Welcome, Ms. Gottlieb!

Dr. S.: “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is a catchy title, but I didn’t think the title was truly reflective of the book’s message. What were some alternate titles? Something else you wish it were called?Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 3.19.07 PM

L.G.: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to choose the title, and I so wish that it accurately reflected the hopeful message of the book, which is about how to find lasting, passionate love.  The book has absolutely nothing to do with lowering one’s standards or “settling.”  In fact, the book is about having very high standards — extremely high standards — but having high standards about the things that matter for long-term, happy marriages, and letting go of the trivial things that don’t.  In Marry Him, I talk to experts who study relationships and marriage from different perspectives — psychologists, behavioral economists, sociologists, neurobiologists, matchmakers, historians, couples counselors, dating coaches, you name it — then I write about their findings and try them out myself, like a dating guinea pig.  What matters for lasting love?  What doesn’t?  Why do we often pick partners who seem fantastic when we first meet them only to discover that they aren’t right for us — and how might we have seen this more clearly from the beginning?  How can we be more conscious about choosing great partners, especially when we’re young enough to have the most available options?  How do our cultural messages about expectations for love sometimes lead us to make decisions that won’t necessarily make us happy?  What does “true love” really mean?  What keeps people in love?

Dr. S.: Your book doesn’t have a traditional happy ending.  Was it tough (in either your mind, or the mind of your publisher) to end the book without a big wedding?

L.G.: I think it has a very happy ending, and a real happy ending.  I talk about this in Marry Him, but the “traditional” happy endings we often see in movies involve that final wedding scene, and then we just assume that this couple that has been bickering for the past 90 minutes will go on to be compatible and happy for the rest of their lives.  Look at Hollywood marriages — they don’t tend to end up that way.

As I say in the book, I’ve never dreamed about my wedding. I would dream about being happily married:  Who’s the guy?  What is our daily life like?  What is it like to grow old with this person, to share life’s great adventures with this person, to create a memorable history together, to raise children together, to run a household together, to bring out the best in each other while accepting the worst in each other, to witness each other’s great pleasures in life and be there for each other’s difficult failures or disappointments, to make each other laugh and continue to surprise each other even as time goes on, to know somebody that well over decades and be known that well in turn?  Marriage is a very rich, complex, challenging experience; it’s not about the big wedding day and who do you want to go to Tahiti with for the week.

Anyone can have a wedding.  Marry Him is about finding the right person to go through life with.  One expert in the book says, “There’s no perfect partner; there’s the perfect partner for you.”  So the happy endings in the book are all the stories of the women who used the tools in Marry Him to find to find their perfect partner.  And for me, the happy ending was that while I learned these lessons much later than I would have liked to — my point in the book is that young women will save themselves a lot of heartache and have a much easier time finding love if they learn these lessons early on — I did, finally, learn them.  At the end of the book, I acknowledged that it would be far more challenging to date in my forties than it had been to date in my twenties and thirties (a reality that women need to be aware of), but I also felt that I had a much better chance of meeting the right person now that I’d gained this insight.  I suppose if I were to write a post-script to the book, I’d let readers know that, eventually, I did meet somebody great.  And if I’d dated the way I had before researching and writing Marry Him, I might have missed out on the opportunity to be with this person whom I’m so lucky to have in my life on a daily basis.  But in the book, I follow several women on their dating journeys, and for the ones who take the advice and really examine their old patterns, their endings are very happy, too.

Dr. S.: If you were to give relationship/marriage/commitment advice to a young woman just entering the dating pool, what would be your #1 piece of advice?

I wish it were that easy, that I could give the magic answer and poof — that’s how you find love!  I think that all of the advice in Marry Him needs to be taken together to really help people get clear and to realize that they have far more control over how their dating lives are going than they think.  That said, if I had to pick one general idea, it would be that many people treat dating like ordering a  meal at a restaurant. They want to order up a person a la carte: I’ll take a little of this, more of that, less of the other, and please leave the annoying habit or less-than-ideal physical feature on the side.  But a person comes as he or she comes.  There are “no substitutions” at this restaurant.  It’s not your partner’s job to be everything you want at all times.  That’s impossible.  One expert in the book said to me, “Lori, instead of making a list of all the things you want in a guy, I want you make a list of everything a guy would have to put up with, in order to spend his life with you.”  Our girlfriends are always telling us how fabulous we are, and while we all have many appealing qualities, we’re also as flawed as the next person.  That exercise — writing down what a guy would have to compromise on if he wanted to spend his life with me — really made me see things differently!

Dr. S.: What are you working on these days? Any new books we can look forward to?

I’m working on a piece for The Atlantic about sex in marriage!  I also have a private practice and do relationship consulting at
Dr. S.:  One of the things I often write about in my blog is stress management. We all know that yoga and meditation are great, but I am more interested in unique and creative methods of stress management.  What do you do to relieve stress?

This might sound corny, but I do in life what I suggest people do in Marry Him.  I focus on the important things that I’m grateful for and I let the small things go.  I don’t mean that I’m a Pollyanna.  It’s more that when life’s challenges present themselves — and they always will — I remember that I have all kinds of choices. I can choose to be stressed over minor things or I can choose to put my energy elsewhere.   It’s completely up to me how I react to a particular situation, big or small.  It’s really about having perspective — am I running from the bears and about to be devoured, or is this just disappointing (and the disappointment will pass) or a nuisance that I’ll have to deal with temporarily?  It doesn’t take the stress away completely, but it does make things feel far less overwhelming than they would be if I didn’t slow myself down, access my more objective self, and see the situation for what it is.  I find that having that kind of perspective makes daily life so much more relaxing.

To learn more about Lori Gottlieb, check out her website. To order Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, or read some of her other work, click here. Thanks again!