Does Saying Goodbye to Our Kids Ever Get Easier?

I will never forget dropping off my oldest child at his first day of kindergarten. He was coming from an amazing daycare/preschool situation that served him and our family perfectly with the bonus of being co-located in my office building. What a gift it was to be able to commute together. There was great comfort (mine, not his) in knowing he was only two floors away with an extensive outdoor playground that was visible from my office window. This cushy arrangement spoiled me.

Kindergarten arrived with the usual excitement and anxiety (mine, not his) that led me to overthink decisions from lunchboxes to backpacks between managing work projects and proposals. On the morning of the first day, I kept an upbeat tone in my voice and played it cool, lest he take cues from me; I was not going to be a source of anything but positivity on this milestone day. As soon as we hugged goodbye with way too many reminders (mine, not his) and I was out of sight, my tears welled up. It did not help that our neighborhood elementary school had a tradition of releasing helium balloons to mark the event; sappy symbolism that made my tears flow freely. This was many years ago before such practices were deemed environmentally unfriendly.

Many more sendoffs ensued over the next 13 years: sleepaway camp, overseas teen travel, Appalachian Mountain Club trail repair. And eventually, the college drop-off. Another teary goodbye (mine, not his) though I no longer felt the need to conceal my emotions. I shed a cocktail of tears: happiness for him as he embarked on a such an instrumental time in his life; sadness for me, anticipating missing his characteristically funny, loving, empathic side as well as his developmentally appropriate challenging and moody side.

Over the next four years, there were bumps, pivots, and plot twists along the way, replete with joyous reunions followed by still-painful goodbyes (mine, not his) when school breaks ended. Though the goodbyes never got easier, my sadness diminished more quickly each time.

And now, eighteen years after that kindergarten goodbye, we’ve turned the page to a new chapter and another sendoff as he embarks on a career move that includes another relocation a couple of states away. With this one, my sadness is greatly overshadowed by my joy and excitement as I watch him head off to live his dream and do what makes his heart sing.  Are sendoffs easier? Hard to say. For sure, they are different.

Hope is in the Air; Knots are in My Stomach

Winter weather in the northeast is finally winding down and signs of spring have arrived. I’ve heard more birdsong, seen bright yellow daffodils break through the monochromatic hard earth, and observed tiny buds on some early blooming trees. The days are notably longer! The single word that summarizes my feeling at this time of year is “hopeful”.  And still, it is important to remember that this is a time of transition and to take care of our emotional wellbeing while we acclimate.

Spring represents a time of renewal and growth. And with it comes a natural shift in our emotions and mental state whether big or small. To fully embrace the potential of spring and all it brings, how can we prioritize our emotional health? What would it take to move into the new season with gentleness and intention?

One way to take care of our emotions as we ease into milder temps and longer days is to allow ourselves to feel and process any emotions that may arise. Feelings of anxiety, stress, and excitement commonly surface as we enter a new season, even one we’ve been looking forward to after an endless (albeit milder) New England winter. For example, on early spring mornings, I sometimes wake up with knots in my stomach that have no apparent cause. By acknowledging and accepting that transitions, even those that we’ve been excitedly anticipating, can evoke more than just happiness, we can take care of ourselves appropriately.

Here are some steps we can take to ease into the new season:

  • Be intentional about calming the nervous system. This could be practicing mindfulness and relaxation through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing techniques.
  • Make a point of connecting with our support system. This may be time carved out to be with loved ones, participating in community events, or reaching out to a mental health professional or life coach.
  • Get moving, preferably outside. Fresh air, the beauty of nature, and all the emerging sights and smells offer an abundance of goodness for the soul. Take a walk around the neighborhood, local park, or hiking trail.
  • Do a little spring cleaning. Find a small area to declutter/organize at home and get rid of things no longer needed. This applies to letting go of things that occupy space in our mind that are not serving us.
  • Plan and start a garden. Whether we have a large yard or just a few pots on a balcony, planting some seeds and watching them grow can be a rewarding experience.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Incorporate seasonal produce into meals.
  • Get enough sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene to maximum sleep quality.

Taking care of ourselves as we transition into spring is essential for our overall wellbeing. By allowing ourselves to feel and process our emotions, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, staying connected with our support systems, and being gentle and kind with ourselves as we are to our friends, we can embrace the new season with ease. Let us welcome spring with open hearts and minds and prioritize our emotional health along the way.








































































































































































    It’s holiday time AGAIN and I am wondering how we got here? The last year feels like a blur. Ever since March 2020, I have trouble pinpointing events and moments in my life. I find myself time confused and asking “when did _____ happen?” A lot. 

    So how was your 2022? What did you learn about yourself? Sometimes we don’t realize the extent of what we learned until we pause and think about challenges we overcame. 

    Here are some of my eye openers of the past year:

    • I truly do not like social media and therefore do not participate beyond what feels natural to me
    • Human connection is critical to my core being 
    • Stretching myself beyond my comfort zone is scary and surprisingly rewarding
    • I love exploring new places
    • I’m not as much of an extrovert as I thought
    • I need to always have a book I’m reading; when I am between books, I feel a bit lost
    • I dislike driving in bad weather, at night, and in traffic
    • I love driving by myself
    • I cherish having the family altogether, rare as it may be
    • I have a blast being interviewed for podcasts 
    • I love playing and experimenting in the garden 
    • Deciding not to make holiday cards this year felt liberating

    As you take a moment and think about your year, what stands out for you? Whether you had overt “wins” or realizations from difficult circumstances you encountered, there is undoubtedly a great deal of self-discovery to unpack. 

    May you allow yourself the grace (and time) to reflect.  





































































































































































      Lowering the Bar

      With 2021 having wrapped up last week, I cannot help but reflect on the past twelve months – – – the highs, the too many lows, the surreal – – and think about what I want in the upcoming year, albeit cautiously.

      Never one to believe in new year’s resolutions since I find them a recipe for negative feelings if I slip-up, I *sometimes* set goals for myself, usually business-related (e.g. develop a new presentation for parents) with the occasional fitness ambition or health goal (e.g. drink more water; get more sleep) and hobby aspiration (e.g. beautify the garden) thrown in for good measure. After the last 22 months, I find myself thinking about goals in completely different terms altogether. And that is not only okay; I recommend it for emotional preservation.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted each and every one of us to varying degrees, from feeling inconvenienced to suffering from burnout to dealing with ongoing grief. Not a single person has been spared. And the short-term prognosis does not look good with a highly contagious variant spreading rapidly at this very moment. We find ourselves beyond exhausted from the ongoing mental calculations that accompany the risk assessment for every move we make. Each day can feel like a slog. And that may be an understatement.

      So this year, for now, I give myself permission to look at the upcoming year through a different lens. The bar is lowered, and my goal is to do the best I can to stay healthy and support my family and friends in doing the same. For 2022, I strive to:

      • Remain flexible; things change so rapidly that I must remain open and adaptable or risk repeated frustration and disappointment
      • Stay connected: I might not be able to share in person visits with all the people I want to, but staying in touch through video calls, emails, and frequent texts feels pretty good
      • Take nothing for granted: this was reinforced when I was bedbound for 24 hours with a bad case of vertigo. I found myself bargaining with the universe to make it go away. Talk about having a newfound appreciation for every little thing after it lifted- from the ability to drink water (and have an unlimited supply) to being able to take my dog for a walk
      • Take no one for granted: the losses experienced by people in my inner circle are a stark reminder that life is finite and I want to ensure the relationships with the people I love are the best they can be RIGHT NOW
      • Celebrate tiny moments: a shower, a good read, a walk around the block, a trip down memory lane triggered by a song
      • Allow myself grace whenever and wherever I feel I am not as productive as I typically like to be
      • Ask for help, a hug, a listening ear when I need it

      I put the words out there to keep myself accountable and to encourage others to explore what “lighter” goals might be your focus in 2022.

      Happy, gentle new year!



















        Tips for Easy Sex Chats with Your Kids

        You know that talk you’ve been wanting to have with your kid but keep avoiding for one reason after another – no privacy; no time; uncertain how to begin; embarrassment; fear of not having the answers? Yes – I am talking about sex talks! And you are not alone. Avoidance is a common response to fear. Ironically, I DID feel alone when it came to sex talks with my kids but not for the same reason. I was that odd parent who relished talking about this stuff. I jumped at opportunities, created teachable moments in unexpected places to ensure my two boys had a fountain of knowledge and comfort to optimize sexual health, a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, that is safe, consensual, and free of discrimination and violence.

        Not only did I seize occasions to share nuggets of developmentally appropriate information wherever I could, I looked to create them everywhere. At four years old, when my son mistook an emergency tampon stashed in a kitchen junk drawer for a mysterious new candy, his disappointing “what’s this?” after unwrapping it led to his first, albeit simple and brief, conversation about girls and periods. Dinner table conversations frequently incorporated a fact or two about some aspect of sexual health despite the eye rolls and quiet mutterings, “ugh, not again” from one kid or another. And still, I marched on.

        While talking about this stuff was my jam, I realized it would be beneficial if my husband got in on the game as well. I felt that if our boys heard a thing or two about sex from their other parent, they would see this wasn’t exclusively my territory and that their father was another trustworthy person they could talk to about “sensitive” topics. With a little persuasion and a lot of cheerleading from me, my husband rolled up his proverbial sleeves and climbed the stairs to our older son’s bedroom.

        He entered our son’s room and proceeded to have a heart-to-heart talk about the metamorphosis that our gangly tween would likely begin in the not-too-distant future and the feelings and emotions he might experience as he enters puberty. Feeling pretty smug about having shared such intimate information with our son, my husband concluded the discussion with the common “Is there anything you want to ask me?” After a lengthy pause and with a wrinkled brow, our son replied, “Yeah dad. Who do you think is a better pitcher, Tim Lincecum or Jon Lester?”

        This favorite family anecdote serves as a wonderful reminder that we parents can get worked up about having conversations with our kids that are practically never as big a deal as we anticipate. How does worrying serve us and our kids? Bottom line, it doesn’t. To help work past these common worries, here are 10 tips to make conversations with our kids about sex easier than you think:

        1. Keep it brief. The reality is that many tweens and teens have shorter attention spans and lose interest when too much information is shared at once, especially when we parents are the messenger. Many of these talks will be impromptu, sparked by a news item on the radio for example, or an event at school your child shares with you.
        2. Validate their questions. Using a normal tone, acknowledge what they are asking is a good question. This reassures them that you are open to their questions, regardless of how off guard you might actually be.
        3. Keep the conversation at their level. Launching into a scientific explanation may be appropriate for some kids, and will fly over the heads of others. Knowing where your child is developmentally will help you tailor conversations that satisfy their curiosity without boring them with more information than they can comprehend.
        4. It’s okay not to know all the answers. There will be questions for which you legitimately do not have an answer. Saying, “I’m not sure, let me get back to you on that” is perfectly acceptable and makes you even more accessible by sharing your honesty. Just be sure to circle back with an answer after you figure it out.
        5. Up the frequency. Many brief conversations rather than a single “talk” is the way to go. No cram sessions where you have to remember EVERYTHING feels like a huge relief. More frequent talks also normalizes sex talks so they are less awkward and taboo.
        6. Verify that your words make sense. Asking your child follow-up questions about your conversation is a great opportunity to clarify if needed.
        7. Use the environment as conversation prompts. Opportunities to open a conversation are everywhere if you keep your eyes and ears open. I asked my son if he knew the purpose of a product being touted when a commercial for Kyleena came on during a television show we were watching. (Incidentally, it is a brand of an intrauterine device, a long-acting, reversible birth control method that is placed inside a woman’s uterus.) Once you open your eyes and ears, you will notice that there are ample opportunities to (courageously) start addressing a variety of important subjects that are not being broached elsewhere.
        8. Find settings free of distraction. The car is an example of a great distraction-free place to have these conversations. With both driver and passenger facing forward it is easier to avoid eye contact for the embarrassed tween (or parent) and offers a golden opportunity.
        9. Timing is key. You’ve heard that a poorly timed joke can land flat? Well, hereto timing is a factor in a successful discussion. If one or both of you are tired, rushed, or hangry for example, it is not an ideal time.
        10. Embrace the opportunity to be your child’s guide. Your kids are going to get sex information from a variety of places and the one they really want to hear it from is you, their trusted parent. You are perfectly equipped for this role and have nothing to lose. What are your waiting for?

        Progress Not Perfection

        How often have I stared at the blank page, frozen, without a clue about how to begin? I have had these face-offs with my computer monitor countless times when tasked with a research report, business proposal, book chapter, or blog post. Interestingly, the majority of these catatonic moments occurred around topics I knew well and was excited to produce. Go figure.
        What is this roadblock really about?  What I have observed is that my desire to sound knowledgeable, authentic, and eloquent sometimes ignites my inner critic that tells me I am none of the above. Rationally, I know this to be false and thankfully, coaching has helped me squash the negative voice in order to make room for the loud supportive one bursting with motivation.
        I remain surprised when the words still do not pour out of me after my internal pep talk. I am mindful that the feelings accompanying my snail’s pace are largely attributed to an unrealistic wish that the words flow in thoughtful, melodic prose at first pass. I refer to this as the perfectionist hurdle and she is not my friend.
        When she shows up, it is time for me to implement the same strategy I often use to support clients when they are feeling stuck.  The “I don’t know where to start” that often follows a client’s declaration that they seek a change in one or more aspects of their life.
        The strategy, whether applied to my own hurdle or in support of a client’s, is to take the task at hand and break it down into several small bites.  Shifting the focus from the final product to a series of doable steps is an incredibly useful tool. Empowering.
        This strategy can be applied to a variety of life scenarios where a change is desired – –  career, relationship, fitness, etc. To illustrate this, take Cici (not her real name), a client who was expecting out of town guests for a weekend later that month and she wanted to de-clutter her spare bedroom, which had become the dumping ground for household goods she did not regularly use.  Items such as suitcases, giftwrap, animal carriers, old textbooks, etc. covered the guest bed and much of the floor, making the room inaccessible for an overnight visitor. Tackling the accumulated stuff felt understandably overwhelming to Cici and she kept putting it off believing her goal (having a useable guestroom) was out of reach. 
        Using the method of breaking down the task into smaller pieces, Cici devised a plan to undertake one corner of the room before our next coaching session in one week.  She set out to clean a 4-foot by 4-foot area – a space she felt was reasonable to progress towards her ultimate goal. Days before our scheduled coaching session, I received a text from Cici stating she not only completed the designated corner, but she finished cleaning half of the room.  Once she rolled up her sleeves to confront what overwhelmed her in a manageable dose, she was motivated to keep going.  She indicated she would have done more but was limited by her schedule.  She could not wait to get back and finish what she started.   
        The beauty of this strategy is that it is widely applicable to matters big and small. And the transformational impact is limitless. Seeking change and having goals are part of our personal growth process. Should perfectionist tendencies and overwhelm appear along the way, overcoming them to progress towards your goal is at your fingertips.

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