Helping Our Children Make New Friends

I am sharing with you my response to a recent email I received regarding helping our kids making friends at a new school:

Hi Claire!

Thanks so much for the blog post. Just having a little time to pause and acknowledge the upcoming transition is huge. And I love your ideas about visiting the school and doing as much as possible ahead of time to familiarize the kids and ourselves with the new routine. I thought I'd share what my girls have been expressing as their main concern and that is: making friends at their new school. I am wondering if you have any tips about ways parents can talk to their kids about this scary idea of being "on their own" for the first time?

Making friends can be big concern for most kids. I mean, really. It’s a concern for many of us adults? Am I right?

There are several things that come to mind, but one thing that really stands out to me is begin with asking your children, what kind of friend do they want to be? What do they look for in a friend? What do they like to do with their friends? What kind of friend are they, themselves?

What's their friend superpower?

Hear and learn from your kids, what is uniquely them? Doing so allows them to gain ownership of who they are, i.e. friendly, trustworthy, loving etc.. which is a huge confidence builder for them to start with.

A few other things that come to mind to help you, help your kids:

1) Check in with your own anxiety or worry.

It's totally normal and understandable for us parents to worry about our kids and them making friends. Will they make friends? Will the other kids be nice to them? Are they going to feel alone or lonely at school? Who will they sit with? Who will they play with?

These are just some of the thoughts I remember having anytime my kids started a new school, or even a new grade for that matter. Depending on what’s happening, a new school, first time to school, or moving into a new classroom with new kids and teachers, it can be a big transition for all of you and one that can be eased into with patience, gentleness and guidance.

Begin with yourself and what you might be worried about. Our kids are very attuned to us and can pick up on our anxieties quite easily. By checking our own anxieties, figuring out what they are, acknowledging them and dealing with those on our own, is important, as to not unintentionally pass them along to our kids.

*Need tips on how to do this? Email me at claire@ccparentcoach.com and I can send you some tips to help you navigate your own worries and anxieties.


2) I'm curious about the word "scary" Is this your description or your child’s?

  • If it's yours, go back to #1.

  • If it's theirs, I would start by asking them what feels scary? What do they think is scary? What are they worried will happen? First be curious, then hear and listen for what they say. You can do this with any word your child may be using to describe what they are feeling.

  • You can then use what they say to move forward using these steps:

3) Validate how they feel. Acknowledge their emotion(s).

You can do this by reflecting back what they said to you when you asked them to tell you more about what’s scary.

“You’re saying (insert situation) feels scary to you” or “It sounds like you think (insert situation) will be scary”

Often times parents, with very good intentions, will say “It'll be fine” or “It's going to be ok,” or something along those lines, in response to their children’s worries. While the intention is to help our kids feel better, when our children are expressing a negative emotion they are having, these statements can actually feel dismissive. It’s important to acknowledge their emotion, allowing them to feel heard and understood, which can allow you to move into the next step in a really open and creative way.

4) Role Play. Go over the ideas/images your child has come up with that are making them feel scared, and come up with active solutions to overcome them.

Personal story: In order to empower my own children, I would play “worse case scenario/best case scenario”, based on what they were worried about. Truth be told, I actually still do this and they are all now 16 and older. It has always been a powerful and impactful way to help them see their way through any potential situation. I'd ask, “What's the worst thing that could happen?” Usually their “worst” would not even be close to what my “worst” in my head would be, which is why I would always ask THEM. And from there, we would role play by asking follow up questions.

Examples:

How likely do you think that is to happen?

Why do you think that would happen?

What could you do if that were to happen?

Who could you go to if that were to happen?

Having your children actively come up with ideas, envision possibilities and solutions on their own, before offering any suggestions, is a powerful way to empower them and give them confidence they CAN do it.

So back to making friends, and some additional ideas to role play with:

- How to start a conversation. What's usually the best way to do so? By asking questions!

What kinds of questions does your child think they could ask? What does your child like to do? Perhaps when they see another child doing something that is interesting to them too, what could they ask them? Come up with some question starters ahead of time.

- How to introduce themselves. This is a hard one, even for adults!

Discuss who they can look for that they could go up and introduce themselves to? What about someone who is walking to lunch/recess/PE by themselves? Or someone who is coloring or playing on their own? Or maybe it’s someone doing an activity or a new game you’d like to learn how to do. See if they can come up with some scenarios on their own that they would feel comfortable with. Using these scenarios, you both can go back to the conversation starters above and come up with more potential questions.

- Role play how to excuse themselves. If, for some reason, the conversation starter doesn’t work or the other child isn’t interested, you can discuss how not to take it personally. Visiting possibilities like, that person might be having a bad day, or maybe they’re really concentrating on what they are doing and don’t want to be disturbed, and that’s ok. It really has nothing to do with them. Having our children look at things from this perspective is one way to teach about mindset and seeing things from a different point of view.

Let’s all admit, it can be uncomfortable and feel awkward to be in a situation where someone is not be responding to you and your invitation to converse in a welcoming way. Coming up with some ways for our kids to be able to excuse themselves and walk away, still feeing confident and empowered, is a great strategy to have and practice. I know I have used some of these strategies myself!

Examples:

“Ok. I'm going to get a drink of water “

Tell them to look for something on the playground they can go use and excuse themselves with, “Ok, I’m going to go to the swings.”

“There's a book I'd like to go look at in the library” and then they can go to the library.

Role playing these types of things gives them a real ”out” and an actual plan to use, if needed. This knowledge of having an out can be so empowering for our children, giving them more confidence to perhaps try to engage with another in the first place.

Have tips you use and would like to share? Comment below! Would love to hear what works for you.

Here’s to making new friends and of course, keeping the old.

Much love,

xx

🌻Claire


5 tips for a SMOOTH BACK TO SCHOOL TRANSITION

The new school year is quickly approaching which, for some parents, this is a much welcome reprieve. It makes me think of that commercial with the dad singing and dancing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” down the aisles of Staples. For other parents, this time can bring feelings of sadness of another summer come and gone and they are holding on to the last few days of freedom from structure.

Or perhaps you are feeling both of these emotions. Either way, going back to school is a big transition and can leave many of us feeling a bit stressed and like, the pressure is ON.

Can anyone relate?

Along with the pressure we feel, our children are quite possibly experiencing their own excitement, and maybe even anxieties, around the approaching new school year. Whether starting at a new school, or moving up a grade, there are many adjustments to be made and parents often wonder how they can help alleviate the mounting stress and make the transitions into the new year as smooth as possible.

5 TIPS FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION

1) GET FAMILIAR with the school information. Even if you are familiar with the school already, read the materials sent by the school soon after it arrives. There may be new policies, new teachers, new schedules. Be sure to get up to date BEFORE school begins. The first several days, if not weeks, of school and new routines, will be busy enough for you to be dealing with last minute sign-ups, what school supplies are needed and pertinent upcoming school calendar dates in that moment.

2) CREATE A CALENDAR with all the important dates, such as holidays and special events, along with the individual events of each child, including yours. Write in the music lessons, club meetings, sports practices, volunteer duties. Doctor appts, hair appts, date nights out! Write it all on there and put it up for all to see. Try color coding each family member’s activities to keep the calendar organized and easy to see for those quick glances. This kind of clear, direct communication can really help cut down on family chaos and confusion, helping everyone involved stay in the know and on the same page.

3) RE-ESTABLISH the bedtime, wake up time and mealtime routines a week before school begins. This is an incredible way to come off of the less structured summer schedule to the more structured school routine, with less actual consequences, like being late to school because it was so hard to get up!

4) ARRANGE A VISIT to the school. If your child is starting a new school, or if your child is at the same school and going into a new class with a new teacher, go visit the campus. Find out if you can meet the teacher. Find where their class(es) are located. Walk the route they will go from drop off to their class and then to other classrooms, if this applies. This can also be an amazing opportunity to hear what else your child may be worried about, and for you to be able to help ease any anxieties your child may have with actionable steps and plans ahead of time.

5) Finally, along with addressing any worries and anxieties they may be experiencing about the new year, take the time to find out what they are looking forward to as well. You can do this by asking open ended questions.

Some examples might be:

  • What are they most looking forward to?

  • What are they hoping to learn this year?

  • What new activities would they like to try?

  • What will you share about your favorite part of summer?

These steps always worked for me and my family, and my hope is, they help you and your family start the school year off feeling confident, positive and ready to go as well.

What do you do to help your family make this transition as smooth as possible? I’d love to hear!

xx

Claire

Mid-Summer Reset

Many of my summers would begin with this vision of what was in store for me and my kids…

Ah, Summer time. No more waking up and rushing out the door while scrambling to be sure all the shoes were on and back packs were ready to go.  We would be sleeping in, waking when we want to, enjoying long lazy days of going to the pool, the beach or just running through the sprinklers. The day would wind down as we relished in late afternoon, eating popsicles under the shade trees…

Sometimes our summers would actually start out just like that. Everyone would be happy, getting along and looking forward to the long stretch of freedom ahead of us. Oh, ALL the things we would be able to do! It was bliss.

Then reality would strike and what we would end up experiencing would look more like, too much together time, which ramped up those frequent “little annoyances” which lead to (many) sibling squabbles. Complaints of being too hot or the dreaded “I’m bored”! And can we just talk about how hungry everyone was all the time? I mean, I KNOW my kids didn’t eat that much during the school year! Am I right? Anyone else?

I would be exhausted and completely drained having little energy for anything else I might have wanted to do.

We spend so much time taking care of our children, and most likely other people in our lives, who is taking care of us? We need to take care of us. In other words, YOU need to take care of YOU.

But, who has time for that, you ask?

There is something I like to say and I say it often, to myself and to the parents I work with

Little things mean more than you know.

While luxurious spa days or long stretches of quiet time reading our favorite book would be amazing on the regular, it is indeed hard to do with littles, never mind, with littles at home for the summer.

Doing little things throughout your days really does make a big difference. That being said, here are 3 things that you can do, in ten minutes or less, to help keep your energy up when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exasperated or just plain worn out.

1) Give yourself permission to do the minimum that needs to be done.

Yes, I really did say that. The MINIMUM. What do I mean by that?

You most likely have long list of things that need or would like to get done. What’s the minimum you can do right now? Aside from feeding your children and making sure they make it through the day, what is the least amount of “to do’s” on that list that can be done?

  1. Start by looking at the list in front of you. (I’m assuming you have made a list. If you haven’t, and it’s running around in your head, maybe make one. It would help to get it out of your head and on paper to start. Then you can do this next step)

  2. Identify 5 that are the most important to you. What you would like to get done.

  3. Pick the top 3 things that get must get done.

  4. Give yourself permission to get just 1 of those things completed.

Need to go to the store because there’s no food in the house for dinner, except for the last box of mac and cheese? Feed them mac and cheese. But they had that for dinner last night? Great! It’s a double treat. Mac and cheese for dinner. Really feel you can’t do that? Order out. ASK yourself, Is this a like or a must situation? Sure, I’d like to go to the store to get some healthier food for tonight for my kids to eat. It would make me feel better as a parent, for one. Is it a must, though? What would happen if I don’t go to the store right now with tired littles and exhausted me?

We often have the sense that everything on our to do list MUST get done. But do they really? Or is it our own expectation and pressure we are putting on ourselves? Give yourself the permission to do the minimum. It’ll give you space to slow down and catch your breath and maybe enjoy the moment you’re in.

2) Restore your energy

Here are two suggestions to try:

  1. Stretch and Move

    Wait. I’m moving ALL DAY LONG, trekking my kids around, doing all that needs to be done. I just want to chill!

    Theres’ a difference between running from here to there, making lunches, getting kids to and from camps, the beach or the pool, changed and ready for nap or bed time and the intentional, deliberate movement of our bodies that allow us to feel relaxed, healthy and energized.

    When you’re exhausted, it can be so tempting to just sit in front of the TV or scroll through IG and/or FB or that all too perfect Pinterest. But, if we’re going to be honest, that usually just makes us feel more tired, and maybe even go down the rabbit hole of comparison because, clearly, everyone else has it together way more than we do and their bathrooms look amazing and clean.

    Instead of sitting down and scrolling to recharge, try getting up and moving around. Do some sit ups, leg lunges, side bends. Whatever floats your boat. If you have to sit, you can sit on the floor, or even lay on the floor, and stretch your arms, legs, your torso. Even just 10 minutes of doing this can help you feel recharged and energized.

  2. Journal

    Keeping a journal is a great way to help reduce stress by expressing your feelings. It can really help to move these thoughts from your head onto paper. Much like the list I mentioned above. Start by trying to write for at least five minutes a day. This can be done at any part of the day. Kids playing in the yard? Take a moment to sit in the shade and jot a few things down. Kids having a snack? Use this opportunity to check in with yourself and write down what comes up. Doing this can help you sort through any problems or feelings your are currently experiencing, allowing you to move through the rest of the day in a more calm and peaceful way.

3) Really at a loss? Overwhelmed and even #1 and #2 are a stretch for you?

Follow these steps:

  1. Stop whatever you’re doing. Just stop.

  2. Close your eyes (well, not if you’re driving. And if you are, hopefully you’ve done #1)

  3. Breathe. Take a deep breath in for 3. Hold for 3. Exhale for 3. Repeat 3-4x

  4. Open your eyes

    • What can you appreciate right here, right now in front of you? Use all your senses.

    • What do you see? Maybe it’s the sun shining through the window onto the wall

    • What do you hear? Maybe it’s the birds outside or the kid’s chatter about how good the mac and cheese dinner is…

    • What do you taste? Maybe it’s the coolness of the ice tea you’re drinking…

    • What do you smell? Maybe it’s the fresh cut grass….

    • What do you feel? Maybe it’s the breeze in the air…

I heard something the other day, and I loved it. I’ll paraphrase…

Today may not be turning out to be a good day, but you can always find something good within your day.

What are you focusing on? What are the little things around that can bring so much joy into your day and even the moment you are in?

Live what's true for YOU, not what OTHERS expect of you

This is true in all areas of our life, the need and importance to be true to ourselves, and this is absolutely true in parenting as well.  How often do we parent from a place of the expectations others place on us, what they think we should or shouldn’t do, vs doing what we want, or know to do, based on the truth within us and who our child inherently is?

I’ll give you a live example from a mom I worked with previously.  And mind you, while I am giving this one particular example, this challenge is present, in one way shape or form, in MOST of the parents I work with.  Parenting from external pressures, be it due to the vast amount of information out there inundating us daily, the comparison disorder so many of us parents suffer from and the perceived or (if we’re going to be honest) real judgment we receive from other parents/people around us.

This mom, I’ll call her Donna, and I were finishing up our 4th session together, when I noticed Donna had mentioned, on several occasions, her concern around someone “seeing” her child’s challenging behaviors and “seeing” the way in which she was parenting her child during such times.  She even worried about what people would “think” when she was disciplining/parenting in the privacy of her own home. I pointed out to Donna that she seemed to be pretty concerned with what other people thought and I asked her if she could tell me what she was most worried about, as far as people “seeing” her and her child.  What came out, ultimately, was she worried she wasn’t a good mom.  She also feared the judgement of these people around her, mostly strangers, and the kind of mom they thought she was.  This admission led to a conversation about what would happen if she didn’t worry about what people were thinking? What would that feel like and how would that change her reaction(s)/response to her child and the situation at hand? 

It was something she, honestly, hadn’t thought of before.  

This questioning led to her to begin to understand that she truly knows her child better than anyone else does, because SHE is their mother. Strangers, or even good friends and family, do not know her child like she does.  I challenged her, the next time she found herself in a difficult situation with her child, instead of worrying what others thought or were thinking and looking there, to focus her eyes on her child only, in that moment, see what happens and how it changed the way she approached and responded to the situation at hand.

Donna was really encouraged by the idea of putting aside all the “eyes” she worried were watching her, focusing on her child and helping them through the difficult time they were having. Being able to parent from this place of what is true to yourself, what is true for your child and not what others expect of you, is an absolute game changer, both for you as a parent AND for your child(ren). It allows you to be and trust yourself meeting your child where they are at and the situation at hand in that present moment.  

What about you?  Would this mindset change the way you parent? How?

~Do you struggle with managing the expectations of others, whether they be perceived or real? 

~How can you begin to tap into what’s true and real for you, and your child, and parent from there?  

~And, how would that change things and your relationship with your child?

Choosing the Relationship

“We don’t need to pay this much money for a coach to tell us how to parent our kid on how to not use his phone.  Take the phone and smash it in two!  That’s all we need to do!”

A mom I recently worked with shared with me her husband’s frustration about her working with a coach to help her navigate her son’s media/screen over-usage.

I told her I totally understood his mindset and frustration.  That seems like a pretty simple, albeit harsh, answer to a situation in their home that feels overwhelming, daunting and unmanageable at the moment.  It certainly would take care of the problem.  Temporarily, anyway.

I get it, I really do. The real temptation to just put your foot down and end the problem, end of sentence, period, amen! In this case, smash the phone.  I reminded her of the reasons she initially reached out to me. The reason she committed to this plan to help change this really difficult situation her family is in, that her son is in. I replayed her innate, heartfelt desire to approach this challenge as gently as possible in hopes to set a new, clear boundary around technology/phone usage, not only help him re-learn how to be comfortable without his phone/screens, but to reconnect and relate with him on a personal level once again.

Is it easy to do?  No, it isn’t.  

Does it take time?  Yes, it does.  

Is it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY. 

While smashing the phone may work, temporarily, what isn’t temporary is the message to the teenager about how to handle things when things get tough.  More importantly, what isn’t temporary is the very clear message the teenager receives about when things get messy, more specifically, when they themselves get messy, what will they be met with when they might need help.

Let me ask you this:

Can you recall a time you did something wrong or perhaps you were having a hard time figuring out the right thing to do and were not doing whatever it was correctly, over and over and you got admonished, punished or even put down? Maybe it was a teacher, or your boss, a friend or even your spouse or partner.

Did it make you feel like you wanted to cozy on up and share even more of what’s going on and ask them for help?  Or did it make you retreat a bit, perhaps both literally and figuratively, and look elsewhere for help or not at all?

This is the same for your child.  What they see and feel from you over time can create short term gains, getting the results you want right now, or long lasting connection, choosing the relationship and taking the time. Where do you want them to go when they need help?

Here’s the thing:

Relationships take time, effort and intentionality along with a healthy dose of patience to grow and develop. 

It’s NOT always easy but it IS always worth it.

Keep choosing the Relationship.

Changing the Self Care Mindset

YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS TAKING CARE OF YOUR KIDS, PARTNERS, HOME AND WHAT EVER ELSE IS ON YOUR LIST. WHO’S TAKING CARE OF YOU??

Here’s the thing. Literally, no one is going to do this for you. YOU need to do this for you. YOU need to take care of you. End of story, period, Amen.

The real question is: Are you COMMITTED or are you INTERESTED? Do you know the difference? Once you do, it’s a game changer.

Commitment = You are going to do what you need to do to take care of yourself, no matter how big, how small, no matter what. It’s part of your daily TO DO list. YOU are on that long list, right along side everything else you are committed to.

Interested = Sure! Self-Care sounds great! Bring it on! But, this or but, that or, what ever it may be, get’s in your way. Something else comes up that stops your self care from happening and you continue to back burner YOU.

For Self-Care to work, it needs to be an intentional, deliberate and purposeful practice that YOU are committed to. You might be feeling, ugh! Sounds like a lot of work! Well, it can be, but once you begin and commit to it, it get’s easier and easier and it’s WORTH IT! It’s not about being perfect at it, nothing ever is. And it’s not always easy to do, especially at first, but it has to be intentional, deliberate and purposeful in order for it to happen for you.

Commit to getting yourself into the habit and practice of putting YOU on the top of your list along side all of the things you have listed to do for your children and family.

I know, in my own parenting journey, there were times when I rocked self care and did it really well. Then at times, not so much. Then there were times I didn’t take care of myself at all and these times, when I did not take care of me very well to, not at all, were the times I can honestly say I was the most unhappy, exhausted, overwhelmed, and dare I say, resentful parent and person as a whole.

Self-Care is crucial for us, as parents, to be able to be the best version of ourselves, thus allowing us to show up as the best parents we truly wish to be. More often than not, when we become parents, we are so enamored and overjoyed with our little one(s) and we do everything for them. We love on them. Nurture them. Feed them, care for them and it’s a beautiful thing. What tends to happen, however, over time, we forget ourselves in that process until our own self care has been back burnered, or put on a shelf for so long, we actually forget what it is or what it was that we even liked or needed for ourselves in the first place!

But where to begin?? How do you find your joy again? Perhaps you are so overwhelmed, over scheduled, exhausted, the idea of adding this into your already packed day seems not only impossible, but daunting. Understandable.

Start SMALL.

And by small, realize even beginning with making a commitment to YOU is a step. Then take the next action step by asking yourself some questions. Be honest with yourself and understand there are no right or wrong answers, but your answers. These are about YOU. Self-Care is highly personal and unique to YOU.

Commit to yourself first and make it priority. Then take the next action step and ask:

~What is Self-Care to me?. What does it mean? What does it look like?

~How often do I do the things that make me feel good?

~What are my biggest roadblocks stopping me from committing to taking care of me?

Just beginning to THINK about these questions is beginning the path of your self-care.

How amazing is that??

Self-Care is not being SELF-ISH and making it only about you. Self-Care is about being SELF-CARING and making it about you too.

Our Mind's Garden

Written by: Alannah Cetti


Our minds are like gardens
Everything we take in is a seed
Things that have impacted us we plant
As we remember memories and lessons
We water them, helping them to grow into beautiful flowers
But, when looking at our unique garden
We tend to only notice the weeds
As we dread, disgust of these weeds
We pour all our water onto them, making them stronger
We soon begin to ignore our beautiful flowers
Causing our garden to become more and more empty
Little do we know our flowers are much stronger than our weeds
Our weeds are ill rooted and thin, so easy to pick out
Every garden has weeds
But, it is our choice to focus on them
Don’t nourish them
For they are not permanent
So, next time you see a weed
It is not you
It is a part of you
That is so much weaker
Than the field of beautiful flowers
That is right behind it
 
Don’t nourish it
Accept it
So it is easier to pick
 

It's Not You

To be chosen. To be seen.

To be enough. To be loved.

There’s pain behind not feeling chosen.  Not feeling seen. There’s pain behind not feeling enough.  Not feeling loved.

You look for ways to be chosen. You work hard to be seen. But you are not enough as you are. You are loved for other things.

In your desire to: Be chosen. Be seen. Be enough. Be loved.

You put on the happy face. This is your armor. This is your mask. This is you. You believe this as truth.  It becomes a pattern in your life and you don’t even know it.  You are doing what you need to do.

To be chosen, seen, enough, loved.

You don’t fully trust You don’t fully receive You don’t fully believe

Until one day. One day after many Days Months Years

You grieve another “not you” It’s deep It’s raw It’s not you

Only, “It’s not you” takes on a different meaning.

A new dawn arises You take on this new meaning. It’s not you

You begin to say I choose me I see me I am enough I love me

And the patterns come to light- How you’ve bought into the lie. Have repeatedly lived the lie- “Not You” In so many ways.

My children My family For so many years filled my need, my soul, by choosing me.

And I choose them. I see them. They are enough. They are loved.

They grow up – and then they choose.  

Our children. They teach us. We are children among our children, Continuing to grow and evolve.

When they were young; They showed me peace. They showed me creativity. They showed me I am intuitive. They showed me trust.

When they were tweens; They taught me about silence. They taught me about patience. They taught me about boundaries. They taught me about discomfort.

As teenagers, they are teaching me; They wish to be chosen. They wish to be seen. They wish to be enough. They wish to be loved.

 By me, by others, by their own selves.

They become adults: They go. They choose. The choices are theirs. It’s not you.

They teach me: New ways of choosing New ways of being                                                                                                                                     New ways of understanding                                                                                                                      New ways of loving                                                                                                                   

You, too, continue to have a choice. Buy back into the lie and believe, it’s not you Or You can continue to grow, learn and know, it’s not you.

You are seen. You are loved. You are enough. You are chosen.

 As YOU

A Man and His Grandson

Liam is 21 years old today.  Liam Abbondio Cetti. My Irish/Italian son.  His first name, Liam, derives from my father’s father, William Maher. With an Italian last name like Cetti, I had to make sure the Irish heritage was just as prevalent. Therefore, Liam became his first name. His middle name is after his paternal great grandfather, which is a story for another time.  Great name, isn’t it? Liam Abbondio Cetti.

Today also marks the first anniversary of my dad, Denny Maher's passing.  A few days after we brought Liam home , Dad sent me a newspaper clipping from the Boston Globe.  On it was a photograph of lightning above the skyline of Santa Barbara the night Liam was born. He scrawled along the side, “Claire and Nate.  This picture was in the Boston Globe on the day Liam was born. I have the feeling the good Lord was trying to tell us something. Love, Dad and Mom” Liam was Dad’s first grandchild and grandson. He ended up having 4 more grandsons and 2 granddaughters, all of whom he adored immensely.

My father then called Nate’s dad, Guido, (yes. that is actually his name), to congratulate him on his first grandson. See, Liam was Guido’s TENTH grandchild but FIRST grandson. “Well Guido, how about that?  It took a nice Irish girl from Boston to get you your grandson. Congratulations!!”

The morning my father died, he had been in and out of clarity.  At one point, when Dad wasn’t too clear, my mom and I were standing on either side of his bed, by his head, when Nate sent me an early am birthday photo of Liam.  Being we were three hours ahead of Santa Barbara, Nate and the kids were just waking up and I hadn’t had the opportunity to say Happy Birthday to my son yet. I was thrilled to get the birthday picture and leaned over to show my mother his photo on my phone.  I said, “Can you believe he’s 20 years old today??” We gushed and reminisced for a few minutes over Liam and how much we loved him and, really, what an amazing young man he was turning out to be. We remembered how mom used to sing to him when he was a baby and Dad loved to play with him.  How he is passionate in all he does and follows his heart. Although Liam has these gorgeous green eyes, he not only looks like a Maher, he has the same kind, gentle soul as my father. As I was putting my phone back into my pocket, I looked down to see my dad’s big baby blues looking up at me.  I smiled at him and he mouthed up to me, “It’s Liam’s birthday?” Very pleasantly surprised by this, I responded, “Yes! It is! He’s 20!” Dad replied, “I want to see the picture” Wow! He knew there was a picture of Liam! “Of course! Here, take a look” I pulled out my phone and showed him the photo.  He gazed at it for a few minutes and looked back up at me,

“Tell him Happy Birthday and that I love him very much”

My whole being filled up at that very moment with both tears and gratitude and everything in between.  Here he was, clear. Right here, right now. And he knew it was Liam’s birthday. It was one of the last things my father said that day.  He died that night around 9:20pm

Whenever Dad visited Santa Barbara, his favorite place to go, hands down, was Brophy’s. We’d go have some “chowdah” and a beer and gaze out at the harbor and the Santa Barbara mountains and talk about how beautiful it was.  I gave him a shirt from there, many years ago, and he wore until it was literally becoming tattered. So I bought him a new one.  I would then hear when he was wearing the old Brophy’s shirt or the new one.


So, today is Liam’s 21st birthday and it’s my Dad’s first anniversary.  Today, we are going to celebrate both Liam and the amazing man he has become as well as my father and the amazing man he was.  We’ll go to Brophy’s and have some “chowdah” and a beer and I might even wear a Brophy’s shirt. I’ll make sure it’s a new one.

 

the boston globe, september 3rd, 1997.

Love and laughter. dad and liam in 1998

Love and laughter. dad and liam in 1998

one of our first of many trips to brophy's With Dad

one of our first of many trips to brophy's With Dad

Today's Gratitude

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I recently received a review from Ranae, an incredibly smart, witty, strong woman who works in the field of law (did I say strong?) and a single mom of an equally, incredibly smart, witty, strong, 9 year old daughter who she was having some struggles and challenges with.  Here are some of Ranae's words about her coaching experience and what it's done for her:

 "I was at my wits end when I reached out to Claire who had just started her Parent Coaching practice.  My daughter had been diagnosed with ADD and was struggling at school and at home to complete homework and chores.  As her parent, I was struggling right along with her and finding that my patience had diminished greatly.  I was yelling at her a LOT just to get us out the door every day, never mind trying to get her to finish her homework or complete her chores.  

Claire started by having me look at all that was working and great about our family, bringing them to the surface and recognizing them.  I had been mired in all the negative that was happening in our home and she had me re-shift the focus onto the positives of what was around me, while still realizing the challenges that existed.  She taught me how to give my child choices that ultimately supported my boundaries and needs and helped my child to accomplish the end task.  I learned that the ability to offer kids choices allows them to feel heard, validated and respected and this respect is reflected back to us as a parent.  She challenged me to dig deep to understand why my daughter was doing certain things and why I was doing certain things (being reactive rather than responsive). She has helped provide clarity amid lots of confusion.

When she taught me to dream about the life I wanted for us, things started moving in that direction.  Amazing.  I continue to dream about my life and put that out there for the universe to deliver."

Here's the thing.  I love what I get to do when I work with parents.  Love it.  I am so honored, truly, that I am let into people's lives so deeply as they share with me their concerns, fears, challenges and their dreams and desires.  It's humbling and incredibly energizing at the same time. I have seen such realizations, aha moments and major transformations happen in these parents and Ranae was no exception.  Her growth and new understanding of herself personally and as her daughter's mom was immense throughout this process.  And guess what? It transformed me too.  All along the way, I received my own realizations, aha moments as well.  I continue to learn more about myself, as a coach, as a mom as a woman and the realization that this is what I am meant to do gets me each and every time.  It's a journey. All of it, for all of us, and I am so thankful to be able to join you, as people and as parents on it.  So, THANK YOU , Ranae!  It was such an honor working with you and I'm so excited for your continued journey as you move forward in your dreams for yourself and your family.

To see more testimonials, visit my Testimonial page. 

 

 

Walk with Them

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Recently, one of my kids told me a half-truth, which we all know equates to the same as a lie, but I'll give it to them.  Trust me - giving them that is more about me than it is about them.  With 4 kids, it certainly isn't the first time this scenario has made an appearance in my family; yet it still stuns me and rattles me to the core. Lying, half-truths, exaggerations-call it what you may-it's enough to send my insides into a full blown panic that rivals a 5 alarm fire.  Thoughts run through my brain, "Why did they lie? What else have they lied about? How do I stop it?" Then the finale, "I've blown it and they're going to end up as people with no sense of right or wrong!"  Ok, so I got a little carried away there, but you get the point. Lying is one of those things that can send most parents into a frenzy wondering where they went wrong.

When my oldest son (now 20) was around 5, my pastor at the time spoke of his 3 pre-teen/teenaged children and some challenges he was having with them.  He said something that has stuck with me, even after all these years.  He said “I’ve decided I’m going to walk with them through this, not fight them.”  I’m not sure why this resonated so much with me at the time because quite frankly, I wasn’t going to have these issues with my kids, right?  It's fifteen years later and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve recited this very statement to myself, “Walk with them right now.  Don’t fight them.  Walk.”

It’s a choice we have.  We can respond or we can react.  How this looks from parent to parent or family to family can vary greatly, but we do have a choice.  Lies, half-truths or exaggerations, while hurtful and generally unacceptable, usually mean there’s something deeper going on.  As preteens and teenagers, there are so many emotions, the striving and fighting for independence and freedom, figuring out who they are as their own person, the need to fit in and sometimes, in rebellion, the need to NOT fit in.  It’s such a confusing time with tremendous growth and exploration happening. 

So, what exactly does it mean, to me, to walk with them?

After realizing the “half-truth”, aka lie, I had laid awake all night thinking about what to do.  My first thoughts were to pull out all the stops: take away the phone, no going out over the weekend, monitor everything they do, etc.  I’d make their life miserable, which would show them, right?  Actually, no.  That’s my reactionary side at work there, I tell myself.  It will push them away even further, and isolate them even more.  I need to calm down, slow down, put that reaction aside and respond.

Instead of imposing a full blown lock down, I will choose to look at the situation and see what/if there is more going on than meets the eye.

Instead of saying "Can't you see how much this hurts me?", I will choose not to take this personally and help them see how this actually hurts them.

Instead of feeling, I need to deal with and fix this now!  I will choose to allow this to be a process and start with something that might help today.

Instead of continuing to reiterate how much this hurt me, I will look at what I might do to create an even safer, open environment for them to be able to be themselves, and be truthful.

What I want to do is tell them: You won't do this, don't do that and you can't do this.  What I will choose to do is suggest: You could do this, you might find this to be a better option and what do you think about that?

What I really want to do is protect them from the mistakes I’ve made and prevent them from experiencing the hurt and consequences I have felt. What I will choose to do is to see them as individuals, separate from me, making choices of their own and allow them to experience the potential consequences of their own actions while remaining by their side.

What I still want to do is make this about me. What I will choose to do is allow this to be about them.

In the end, by choosing to respond vs react, lessons are learned, by all of us, and opportunities for deeper connections arise that may not have been afforded otherwise.  And while these lessons might very well be difficult and hard to navigate, we learn more about who our children are as individuals and they build resiliency and self-efficacy.  Isn’t that ultimately what we want for our children?  For them to have the knowledge and internal belief they can see a difficult situation through and come out the other side a stronger and more capable person?  To continually learn and understand more about themselves, gaining a deeper sense of self-awareness?  These lessons can only be learned by them walking through these fires on their own, with us as parents, walking alongside them.  Reminding them we are right here, they are going to be ok and nothing they say or do could ever change the love we have for them.  That’s what walking with them looks like to me.  What would it look like to you?

Promises in the Wind; Finding Hope Again

Finding Hope Again

A small boat, in the middle of the sea, once sailing full steam ahead with confidence and surety, now sits still, swaying to the tides. The sails had been full of wind, forging the boat towards a promising horizon, bright with sunshine, filled with possibilities. The excitement and anticipation of what was ahead was both thrilling and intimidating at the same time. It seemed nothing could stop the momentum of this boat’s journey, until something did, knocking the wind right out of it's sails, making this boat come to a screeching halt. There was scrambling to keep the boat afloat, waves to manage that were desperately trying to knock the boat over, at times almost successful. The sails, once full of life, had to come down to allow the boat to hunker down and weather the storm.

The waves eventually died down and the stormy sky, still gray, cleared and all was still, including the air that enveloped the boat. Uncertain of safety, it was questioned, has the storm really passed? There was hesitation to emerge. Everything seemed intact, nothing had been torn or was broken but there was the feeling of having been wounded. The grey skies matched the grey sea and while it was quiet and still, coming out wasn’t feeling too inviting, not just yet. Frustration started to set in as the uncertainty of what’s next came to mind. What just happened, and where did that come from?  What direction to go in now?  Which horizon to head towards? And the sails. Once full of wind now lie flat, wrapped tightly, not exuding a whole lot of hope of ever filling up again.

The sun starts to peak through the grey clouds above, spreading sunshine rays throughout. The sea begins to shimmer, showing signs of its brilliance and promise. Warmth, even if intermittent, begins to surround the air. The sails beckon to be brought back up. Unsure, yet making the leap of faith, the sails go back up. There’s a flutter here and there but nothing substantial to take hold. There are quick moments of despair, then the sea flashes its beauty and the sun shines a bit brighter. The blue sea competes with the sky’s bright blue and in that, it becomes important to just sit with both the sea and the sky. The silence and the beauty brings forth hope. Perhaps the wind can wait for just a bit. Sitting here in the still blue sea, sparkling with diamonds, isn’t such a bad place to be at the moment.  Soaking in the rays of peace, the warmth of joy; hope for new wind fills the air, which feels with certainty, will come again. Therein lies a new excitement in anticipation for that wind and there’s a renewed peace in the waiting, and watching, as a new horizon emerges.

 

 

A Kind, Gentle Soul: Reflecting on a Father's Love

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As I sat at the foot of his bed in the hospital, I looked up at him and saw him looking right back at me. With his bright blue eyes, eyebrows lifted, he mouthed to me, “Hi.”  “Hi Dad” I replied, smiling back at him.  “I love you,” he mouthed to me.  My heart swelled.  Even in his last week as he lay there, fighting his last fight, there was no shortage of love from him.  My dad passed away a few days after this interaction and as I reflect back on him as a man, a husband and a father, two things really stand out that I want to share with all you men/fathers/parents out there.  1) There’s never too many I love you(s).  Never.   2) Love/respect your children’s mother.  It matters.  Dads, YOU matter.  More than you know.  Your kids are watching, feeling, responding to these relationships, whether they are 5 years old or my age now, 50 years old.  It’s transformative.

My father adored my mother.  Adored her.  When he would come home after work or from a long business trip, which he had many of; we kids would be clamoring to say hi to him and if he had his suitcase, oh man.  To find out what he brought for us was more than we could handle!  Even still, he would push through the mayhem, put his suit jacket and briefcase down and find my mother.  It was she who he greeted first.  Every. Single. Time.  If she was at the sink, he’d hug her from behind giving her a smooch on the neck.  Or maybe she was downstairs, or in the den.  Didn’t matter.  He’d find her and we would wait.  As excited as we were, we knew to wait.  I loved this then, as it provided such a sense of security and I love it now, as I can see now how it affected my life today.  It’s what my husband has done and continues to do with me. That modeling of love and respect shown then became my own reality in my life.  I also know it has been influential for my kids and that they are watching their father.  Just recently, my son asked me if papa and I were ok.  I was a little taken aback and said, of course, why do you ask?  His reply stunned me.  “Because he doesn’t kiss you when he comes home anymore.”    During a time when my husband was personally having a hard time, what I viewed as giving him space and room, my kids were viewing as something wrong because they noticed a change in such a small, yet significant daily gesture. Dads. If there is anything you take away from this, know your kids are aware. They are paying attention. They notice how you treat their mother. Whether you are still together or not, how you treat their mother, it matters. I watched my father, my kids are watching their father and someday, their kids will watch them. My hope and prayer is that they, as parents, will carry on that same gesture, or some sort of gesture of their own, perhaps, that emulates love, adoration and respect to the mother of their children. 

After the love for my mother, there was never any shortage of I love you(s) to us kids.  He modeled this in so many ways and I know it has shaped who I am to my children today.  These expressions of love would be given without circumstance or reason.  It could be as random as a stop in the hallway to pull us into a hug, look us in the eye and say, I love you.  It would feel like nothing else mattered as much as you did in that moment.  The ghost kisses at night as he would put us to bed. By the way, if you don’t know what a ghost kiss is, let me tell you, as a kid, they were the best!  The squeeze of the knee, while he drove you to someplace you needed to be, or like I mentioned earlier, the silent gaze with bright blue eyes, the rise of the eyebrows and a simple whisper, “I love you”.  There was never, ever, a shortage of I love you(s) from this kind, gentle soul.  And to that I reply, I love you too, Dad.  I love you, too.

Allowing our kids the freedom to feel.

 

"If I can’t keep my temper in check at all times, I don’t expect my children to have perfect emotional control. If I can’t watch my tone and speak with a kind voice always, how can I expect my little ones to manage this?

We expect these little children with their underdeveloped brains and limited life experiences to behave better than grown men and women. And if you don’t believe me, listen to the next presidential debate or spend some time scrolling your social media newsfeeds."

Let's examine our expectations....are they reasonable? Are we allowing our kids the freedom to feel what they are feeling? Better yet, are we modeling what we want to see?

 
 
 

Smartphone Addiction.

 

This is a post from last year, yet a really good reminder about the real need to manage screen time. If you haven't seen the movie Screenagers, and it comes to your area, go see it! So informative about screen time and the over use of it by teenagers AND parents alike. I will admit, we, and I say we because I include myself here, didn't unplug nearly as much as we should have this summer. This has gotten me recommitted to do so. What do you do to unplug? I'd love to hear what ideas you've come up with.

 
 
 

I would love the opportunity to share.

 

I LOVE that I get to do what I do and that is to walk alongside parents as they discover their own strengths, what’s working in their lives and their families, discovering their own internal parenting voice and creating the family culture they ultimately desire. It’s incredibly empowering. Not just for the parents, but for me as a coach as well. 

I also LOVE hearing from the parents I work with during the week, what they’re thinking about, what they’ve done that they are particularly proud of or just to check in with a “hi” and a picture of their kids. I received 3 of these types of messages just yesterday. It literally made my day. Here's part of an email from one of the moms I am currently working with and I just love what she had to say….

"This has been something I'm learning with the parent coaching and I'm loving the little moments in my day where I focus on what brings our boys joy and what brings me joy - I'm noticing things about them and myself and slowing down feels good. I know i raise my voice a lot and seem overwhelmed but I'm also loving this journey and the process. I used to focus on the results and get discouraged but I'm learning that the little things add up and raising our children is the best job…."

Little things mean more than you know over time.🌻

Call, message, or text me to learn more about the coaching process. I would love the opportunity to share this incredible, unique process with you.

~Claire