Welcome to In the Moment Notes



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How to Enjoy Small Talk and Deepen Your Conversations

This simple yet incredibly effective conversational technique helps people communicate on a deeper level. This skill is especially useful for those with childhood emotional neglect.

If you grew up in an emotionally neglectful home, you’re probably familiar with a lack of communication, low emphasis on emotions, and surface-level conversations. It’s difficult to learn how to talk to someone on a deeper, emotional level because it was never modeled for you. Instead, you were taught how to communicate using facts and logistics to avoid a conversation that may elicit emotions.

Learning how to communicate using vertical questioning will allow for ease in making new friends, strengthen already established bonds, and increase the rewards of your everyday interactions with others.

Both vertical and horizontal questioning involve asking questions when engaging in a conversation. But vertical questioning prods the person you’re conversing with to turn inward and think about their response more profoundly.

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Kathleen Notes: We connect with others through emotions yet are taught not to talk about them...what could go wrong?

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Say the Right Words (Not the Wrong Ones)

You have a relationship to words. What we find is that in the depths of people’s souls, where true behavior and its resulting success or chaos originates, there is a real relationship with certain words. The nature of that relationship dictates a lot of what happens in people’s lives. If the relationship is good and they get along well with words, they use them to create and maintain a healthy structure and boundaries. But if they do not get along well with words, then structure and boundaries are compromised and their lives become fragmented as a result.

So, we are going to look at the words that have to do with why you find yourself in certain situations more than you might think. We are going to examine your relationship to some key words, including how you feel about them and how free you are to use them, or not.

The use of the words that we will explore next directly corresponds to the key components that your boundaries are designed to deliver for you. It includes the ability to do the following:

  • Experience yourself as separate and differentiated from others.
  • Contain destruction and keep it from spreading.
  • Define yourself and know who you are.
  • Set limits when needed.
  • Possess and live out values.
  • Have self-control and thereby be free and autonomous.
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Kathleen Notes: Words have the power to hurt or heal. When using words ask yourself which one is happening...

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Being hard on yourself doesn`t make you a better parent.

What we CAN do is make the commitment to increase our ratio of good to bad parenting moments, and keep working at it, day after day. When we mess up -- which we all do -- we can pick ourselves up and try again. Luckily, each step in the right direction makes a big difference.

But if you`re wishing you could be that parent more often, or if you`re feeling stuck in a negative cycle, maybe it`s time to give yourself more support. Most of us feel guilty when we lose it. We ricochet between losing our temper and being permissive. We keep resolving to "do better." But being hard on yourself doesn`t make you a better parent. Even resolving to be more patient doesn`t necessarily help. What we all need is more support, the kind of support that helps us stay calm and regulate our own emotions.

If you have a plant that`s wilting, you don`t yell at it to straighten up and grow right. You figure out what it needs to thrive: More water? More sunshine? More room to grow? This applies to your child, of course. But it also applies to you. We all need support to be our best selves. 

So instead of berating yourself, take a moment right now, and consider what one thing you could do today to support yourself to be the parent you want to be.

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Kathleen Notes: Most parents do the best they can...no shame or blame. But don`t be afraid to learn better skills!

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How Emotional Neglect Makes You Feel Excessively Responsible

It’s important to be responsible, of course. It means that you’re dependable, committed, and caring. But, for some, it’s too easy to over-swing the pendulum and become excessively responsible, and it’s even easier to become overly responsible if you experienced childhood emotional neglect.

Feelings like numbness, shame, and guilt are common emotions that emotionally neglected folks report. But the feeling of responsibility, because it’s generally thought of as a positive, gets overlooked. Yet, it can spoil your fun and burden you. Like when you’re hosting a party and feel it’s your job to make sure everyone is having a good time. Or when you find yourself picking up your coworker’s slack at work. Or even when someone else is struggling and you want to make it better. You feel responsible for all of it.

Feeling responsible is common among emotionally neglected adults. Perhaps you’ve labeled yourself the one other people can count on, the one people can go to if there’s an issue, or just the person that is always willing to give. With so much giving, you are likely to overlook yourself: your feelings, your needs, your wishes. And it`s burdensome.

Why does this happen? It’ll be helpful to first understand childhood emotional neglect.

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Kathleen Notes: A cause of burnout for sure. In addition it makes the person vulnerable to exploitation and resentment.

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8 Things You Can Do When Your Child Is Belligerent
When children are having a hard time, their feelings usually explode at the people with whom they feel safe -- Us! It`s natural for us to get angry, reprimand, tell them to behave, or send them off to calm down. 

But when kids act rude and belligerent, they aren`t trying to give us a hard time.  They`re trying to send us an SOS.

If we respond by yelling, threatening, or sending them away to "calm down," we shut the door they`ve opened, and leave them to struggle on their own.

Of course, it`s not unusual for a child`s belligerence to look more like a minefield than an open door -- so this takes a lot of patience from you as the parent.

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Kathleen Notes: So glad that the author said "when" and not "if"...

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4 Types of Gaslighting in a Family

You’re so dramatic.

That never even happened.

You’re overly emotional.

Have you been on the receiving end of statements like these? If so, you may be a victim of gaslighting. But gaslighting comes in other forms too. It can be obvious or subtle, and in some ways, the subtle forms can be the most harmful.

The term gaslighting originated from the 1944 film Gaslight. The film follows Paula through emotional manipulation by her husband, Gregory. Gregory orchestrates pictures that disappear in the house, noises from the attic, and the gaslights dim and brighten, and then denies they`re happening, insisting Paula is making it up or losing touch with reality.

“Gaslighting” is now used broadly to describe one person treating another this way, usually in romantic relationships. It means purposely making someone doubt their own truth. In its extreme, gaslighting can undermine a person’s grip on reality. In milder forms, it can undermine their trust in themselves and their own experience.

But, what happens if a child is gaslighted by their family? Receiving it as a vulnerable child can make it more powerful, more lasting, and harder to see.

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Kathleen Notes: In CEN families it`s the unspoken "rules" around emotions that cause the damage.

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What Emotional Intelligence Really Means

How would you define emotional intelligence? 

When I define emotional intelligence, I define it as the capacity to BE with.

But be with what?…

The capacity to be with our sensations, our feelings, and our thoughts that arise in any given moment. What I’m describing is our capacity to regulate. Our ability to connect or to regulate in the midst of whatever experience we’re having. 

It’s not about being calm. It’s not about having a particular experience in our feelings, thoughts, or body.

It is about being able to be with any and all experiences that arise in any given moment. 

It’s our capacity to stay connected to ourselves in frustration, joy, sorrow, anxiety, confusion, overwhelm, anger….the list goes on. 

And it’s one of the most important and hardest things to develop in ourselves.

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Kathleen Notes:...and requires learning some emotional regulation skills.

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11 Reasons To Stop Rushing Through Life

Now that kids are back in school and activities, are you noticing that life is too busy? Most of us take it for granted that we`re always rushing from one thing to the next, that we have a never-ending to-do list that keeps us from catching our breath. Pausing to watch the sunset together? Maybe once a year on vacation.

But it costs us. It wears us out and erodes our patience. And it costs our kids even more. Our society is so hooked on adrenalin that we don`t acknowledge the high price we, and our children, pay for our lifestyle. There`s nothing wrong with rushing once in a while. But rushing our children through life on a daily basis has some serious negative results. For instance, it:

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Kathleen Notes: “Why do you want your child to hurry up? Because you`re done and figure he’s had long enough to finish? ... If you are constantly rushing from one place to the next (doctor’s appointment, haircut, playgroup, music lessons) have you taken on too much? Should you plan more downtime in your schedule so you have more time to be patient? More time for play and cuddles?” - PhdinParenting

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How To Get A Man To Go To Therapy

How do you get a man to go to therapy? As a couple’s therapist who also sees individuals, I’ve been asked this question many dozens of times — literally.

It’s not always the woman asking, sometimes it’s the man who is trying to get therapy to happen. But whatever your gender, when you know you and/or your partner really need some guidance and help and your partner refuses to go, it can be incredibly frustrating.

Why are some folks so resistant to going to therapy, especially men? There are three primary reasons I’ve seen.

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Kathleen Notes: Great article and contains a really interesting YouTube as well...

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If You Answer `Yes` To These 5 Qs, You`re In The Right Relationship

But as a couples therapist who has worked with hundreds of couples, when I hear these concerns from a client I almost always try to steer him or her away from the concern itself, and more in the direction of a far more valuable question:

How would your partner respond if you brought this concern up directly with him or her?

I ask my client this question because I know that having an issue like any of those listed above can be very troublesome. And I also know that wherever that issue lies also exist many other issues. Being partnered with someone for a lifetime is a guarantee that as a couple you will face many such problems. So the problem itself is less important than the ability of the couple to work through it.

Clinical psychologist John Gottman found, in a now-famous 2002 longitudinal study aimed at predicting when a couple will divorce, that contempt is a common by-product of a lack of relationship skills. He also found that contempt is the strongest predictor that a couple will divorce.

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Kathleen Notes: Contempt is shown in many ways, but often as invalidation or a refusal to address problems.

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5 Threatening but Fixable Relationship Challenges

When you think about what factors go into a happy marriage, you may think about such necessary qualities as love, shared interests, supportive family, a good sex life, financial agreement, similar parenting styles, or shared values. There’s no doubt these are all important factors in a healthy relationship.

And yet there’s one factor in a marriage that lays the foundation for all others to be possible. This factor is pivotal to the psychological health and happiness of a couple. It’s emotional intimacy.

Emotional intimacy is difficult to articulate, but if you have ever spent time around a couple who has emotional intimacy, you may have observed its unique qualities.

When couples have it, you may notice a kind of comfortable compatibility between them. Exuding warmth rather than distance, they can get a sense of what the other is thinking and feeling with a single glance. They laugh together and are at ease expressing differing opinions. These are the ways that couples with emotional intimacy are set apart.

In my work as a couples therapist specializing in childhood emotional neglect, I often see how it blocks couples` emotional intimacy, interfering with the necessary factors listed above, and preventing an opportunity for true, close emotional connection to take hold.

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Kathleen Notes: CEN makes this tough but not impossible at all!

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How to Destroy All of Your Relationships

I have a question for you. In your opinion, what is the formula for destroying relationships?
If you are like most people, you can probably think of a few ways to make them worse:
Lie
Cheat
Don’t pay attention
Criticize
Those are all good suggestions, and they would probably be pretty effective, but they are not the answer that I believe is true. Here is all you have to do to ruin every relationship in your life:

Play fair.

If you play fair, you will ruin all of them. Some may go pretty quickly, others may take longer. But in the end, you will succeed. Play fair and all your relationships will be ruined.

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Kathleen Notes: Fair seems equal but equal (or tit for tat) often doesn`t work well.

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Learning to Enjoy Cognitive Effort

People like to take the path of least resistance when it comes to cognitive effort – a common assumption in cognitive psychology. Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Technische Universität Dresden have now come to a different conclusion: once people receive a reward for their effort investment, they later choose challenging tasks even if they no longer receive a reward. The study is currently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Many exceptional human skills, such as reading, mastering a musical instrument or programming complex software, require thousands of hours of practice and consistent cognitive effort. Prevailing scientific theories hold that cognitive effort is experienced as unpleasant and people try to avoid it whenever possible.

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Kathleen Notes:This is about learning how to enjoy learning...

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Nicer… Through Nurture

Before Eric’s fourth birthday, he had been treated by half a dozen therapists, none of whom made life easier for him or his mother.

“I was always on edge at work, waiting for the phone call from his pre-school to come pick him up,” recalls Michelle, a single mom in New York City. (Her name, like Eric’s, has been changed to protect the family’s privacy.)

The trouble began when Eric was diagnosed with ADHD, which fueled his impulsive behavior — hitting, kicking, and biting. The worse Eric behaved, the more those around him scolded or avoided him, which caused him to misbehave even more.

Luckily, Michelle tried one more strategy. After reading an ad in a local newspaper, she signed up Eric for an eight-week clinical trial for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and continued on for several weeks after the trial ended. Today, two years later, she’s less stressed. “I’m no longer walking on eggshells,” she says. “I’m starting to enjoy my son.”

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Kathleen Notes: I love this...no one is motivated by punishment..

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The Messy Home of Blessing Why Children Are Worth the Chaos

Every parent has stories like mine. Raising children is predictably hard in unpredictable ways. We rarely know what hard will look like tomorrow, or next week, or in five years, but we can be reasonably sure it won’t be easy.

This is obviously intentional on God’s part. He knows what our kids need most is not parents who parent relatively easily, but parents who must rely on God each day. They need to see parents of clay, regularly tiring, sinning, confessing, repenting, pleading for forgiveness, strength, and help, while still trusting and enjoying God. They need to see how we endure hard with hope in him.

Satan, however, preys on all the painful aspects of parenting. He has studied our vulnerabilities and waits to attack in our weakest moments. He makes it all seem so trivial, so unrewarding, so futile. When his temptations come (and they will come), it’s important that another voice rings louder than his in our frustrated and exhausted ears.


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Kathleen Notes: YES!!!

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The Effect of Emotional Neglect on Highly Sensitive People

It is also important to note that HSPs are born this way. In the classic debate of nature vs. nurture, scientific evidence shows HSPs fall firmly into the nature camp. This confirms that parents do not cause their children to be highly sensitive by the way they raise them.

If you’re an HSP, you think more about decisions and actions, and you process them deeply as a natural outcome. You also feel your feelings extra deeply and intensely. In some ways, having this genetic disposition can be almost like having a superpower. HSPs are capable of being more thoughtful and can feel empathy more deeply.

As a psychologist and specialist in childhood emotional neglect, this leads me to a question: Are HSPs shaped differently by emotionally neglectful parenting than non-HSPs? In other words, what happens when a highly emotionally sensitive child grows up in a family that discounts, ignores, or judges the child`s emotions? And how do those effects play out throughout the child`s lifetime?

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Kathleen Notes: An HSP feels everything, including CEN, on a whole different level..

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Dealing With People Who Resist or Thwart Confrontation

When you are preparing to confront a resistant person, remember that they also need relationship, safety, and grace. They may resist due to hurt or past experiences that made truth dangerous or unsafe for them. Grace and love are not everything a person needs; however, they are the most important elements they need. In addition, without grace and love, it is unlikely that anything redemptive will happen in your conversation.

Come to the talk being “for” them, knowing that you also are in need of love and grace.

When the person you are confronting reacts negatively (blame, defensiveness, etc.), you will be sorely tempted to respond in kind: anger to anger, blame to blame. This is the most natural thing in the world. When we are attacked, we protect ourselves, and sometimes we attack back. At the same time, the most natural thing in the world may not be the best, most helpful, or most mature thing to do. This is why you need to be in control of how you respond to an attack. If you are not, the tack can quickly degenerate into an argument or alienation.

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Kathleen Notes: You can`t force someone to engage with you...it takes two people to make a relationship work.

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3 Ways Having Empathy Can Actually Be EXTREMELY Dangerous

We can get angry, we can feel guilty. We can be frustrated or anxious. We can grieve or feel sadness, regret or resentment. But none makes a statement about who we are as a person or about the nature of the human race like empathy does.

It’s the glue that binds a family, the bond that helps two people resolve a conflict. It’s a salve for pain and an essential ingredient in resilient romantic love. If you’re a parent, you must have it for your children in order to raise them to be healthy and strong adults.

Study after study has shown empathy’s surprising power. Empathy can motivate a wife to protect her husband, spur a man to care for his elderly mother, and even reduce the pain of an electric shock. Therapists know that when they can feel a patient’s feelings, it is a healing force for positive change.

Most people would never think of it, but there are times when empathy is a problem. This best part of the human spirit can turn against us and, unchecked, it can damage both the empathizer and the recipient.

Being aware of the risks of empathy-gone-bad is both incredibly important and vastly helpful. Here are 3 times when empathy is a problem:

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Kathleen Notes: Empathy is truly a double edged sword..

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5 Daily Practices to Harness and Use Your Emotions

The mark emotional neglect leaves can be significant, but that mark need not stay for a lifetime. You can reconnect with your feelings and begin to use them as they are meant to be used.

Every feeling you have carries a message from your body, many of which are very useful. Your feelings can energize you, direct you, motivate you, and even connect you to others. The process of healing childhood emotional neglect involves getting back in touch with the emotions you`ve been blocking so that you can listen to their messages and harness their energy.

Below are some healthy daily practices that I have observed to be particularly valuable for those who are on the road to recovery. Like any new habit, it takes dedication and openness to start something different. But, in many ways, the process of reuniting with your feelings, listening to them, and using them makes you feel more awake and alive.

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Kathleen Notes: A good list and also some helpful emotional regulation skills. You have to "feel it to heal it".

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A New Study Shows the Power of Positivity Resonance for Couples

Way back in 2001, a study by Gottman, Levensen, and Woodin showed that contemptuous, disgusted, and other negative facial expressions observed in a marriage are a predictor of not only the couple’s future likelihood of separation but also each spouse’s future problems with their physical health.

Fast forward to 21 years later, and a new study by Wells and Haase, et al., (2022) gives us the mirror image of that finding. A positive phenomenon the authors call “positivity resonance” accurately predicts not only a successful, rewarding marriage but also each partner’s future good physical health.

What Is Positivity Resonance?

The authors define positivity resonance as “moments of interpersonal connection characterized by shared positive affect, caring nonverbal synchrony, and biological synchrony.”

So, positivity resonance is a moment in which you share a positive emotion together, requiring no words, that synchronizes your heartbeats and other physical processes.
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Kathleen Notes: Attunement and emotional intelligence are key here...and these are skills you can learn!

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The Top 10 Manifestations of ADHD in Boys
The signature symptoms of ADHD in boys are not hyperactivity and impulsivity. Especially in the adolescent years, they are poor perspective taking, rejection sensitive dysphoria, weak episodic memory, and these other 7 ADHD traits.

1. Difficulty with Self-Directed Talk

“We all have an internal dialog in our heads that we use to talk to ourselves. When someone has ADHD, they are not always hearing that internal dialog or ‘brain coach.’ When your brain works with ADHD, the volume on your brain coach is turned down too low. The self-directed talk is there; they just aren’t hearing it very well.”

2. Hyperfocusing on Things That Are Interesting and Difficulty Sustaining Attention on Things That Are Not

“Parents say to me, ‘How do I help my son concentrate better?’ I have never found anything that works for this other than medication and helping kids develop their self-directed dialog, and that’s a long process. If your son tends to hyperfocus on things that are interesting to him, that could help him become very successful in life.”

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Kathleen Notes: A really good and thoughtful list...parents, family members and educators please take note.

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What Is a Godly Home?

Godliness can be understood most simply as “God-likeness.” 

Theologians help us distinguish between the communicable and the incommunicable attributes of God. No matter how hard we try, there are some ways we will never be like God. Only God is all-knowing and all-powerful. Good luck with that. Those are incommunicable attributes we will never achieve. But God’s communicable attributes—like His love, forgiveness, and kindness—are attributes we should pursue daily in an effort to be “God-like,” or “godly.” 

Homes where God’s attributes are on display can be accurately described as godly homes. Although our homes will never be perfect, our homes can and should become increasingly godly. Let’s put it this way…

Godly homes are places where imperfect families rely on God’s grace to be faithful reflections of Him in the way they relate to others both inside and outside of their homes.

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Kathleen Notes: Tremendous blessings in our relationships with God and each other....

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Why Minimalism is Especially Good for Introverts

Introversion is the tendency to be predominantly interested in your inner life, whereas extroverts are mainly interested in what’s outside the self.

But the most recognizable difference is where we draw our energy from. Introverts feel depleted after time spent with others and need time alone—solitude—in order to recharge. Extroverts get energy from being with others.

Highly Sensitive People, a term popularized by Elaine Aron in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, are easily overwhelmed by noise, texture, smells, busyness, and even their own thoughts. They’re often sensitive to physical discomfort, violence in media, and the emotions of others.

Not all introverts are highly sensitive people, and not all HSPs are introverts, but they do often correlate. 

Do you see yourself in this description?

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Kathleen Notes: Makes sense to me...

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Building an evening routine for kids of different ages

Bedtimes are a great place to begin because they include real rewards for your kids -- time you spend with each of them. That means kids will be more accepting as you introduce the new routine. You can explain to them that you want to make sure you get "quality time" with each of them every night. So let`s use bedtimes as our example.

What`s the secret of a routine that works for different ages? Consider what each child needs to do each evening, because kids of different ages do have different needs. There may be some activities your kids can do together, but because they are different ages, they will also be doing different things at some points. The good news, though, is that your family as a whole can still have a routine. 

How do you figure out your desired routine? Start by deciding what time you want each child in bed. You shouldn`t have to wake them up in the morning. If you do, then it means they aren`t getting enough sleep. So keep moving bedtime earlier until they wake up by themselves in the morning. Once you have your target bedtime for each child, count backwards, thinking about what each of them will be doing at each point in time, and write it down.   ...more

Kathleen Notes: Super helpful article on a tough problem.

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In The Moment Notes...

Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.

I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
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Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!

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