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Testosterone Central


(BUILT IN) (Photos) LeslieD_photo2006.jpgBy Leslie Dinaberg, South Coasting,


How do you raise a boy to be in touch with his sensitive side, but not to be a wimp?


I've been thinking about this question a lot recently.


I just returned from a few days at "Testosterone Central," otherwise known as my friend Andrea's house. She has three strapping young men between the ages of 9 and 15-in addition to her rather strapping husband and large male dog-so Andrea's house oozes more testosterone than a bachelor party at a NASCAR race on St. Patrick's Day.


Now don't get me wrong. It's beautifully decorated and there's always something wonderful cooking on the stove. But from the moment you get out of the car-and trip over the discarded scooters, soccer cleats, gym bags and tennis shoes-you know that this is not a place for wimps.


These boys live in a swirling cauldron of testosterone and they've marked their territory everywhere you look.


Of course, my son Koss loves it there. What boy could resist the chin up bars, Lacrosse sticks and Old Spice products hiding in every corner? I can practically hear Koss's voice deepen and the hair start to grow on his (barely) ten-year-old chest after a few minutes with "Da Boyz." It doesn't matter how much time has gone by, it never takes him long to pick up the stride at "Testosterone Central." The older kids, and the various neighbor boys who hang out all the time, treat Koss just like another little brother-which is both good and bad.


He loves being part of the gang and tagging along for whatever adventures may happen, but as an only child he's not used to having to keep up with anyone, and even less used to not having anyone coddle him or help him along. In fact, I know he's getting older because this is the first time he's left their house without any injuries.


I'm not saying that "Testosterone Central" is dangerous, only that Andrea is on a first name basis with the emergency room nurses in multiple states. Those kids get hurt and she barely blinks an eye. I guess having three sons toughens you up. Come to think of it, when her kids get hurt they barely blink an eye. I guess having brothers toughens you up too.


Koss is not all that tough. He's never really had to be. I'm sure part of the reason that he still sits on my lap and likes to cuddle is because he doesn't have any older brothers to tell him not to. I love that sweet, cuddly side of him.


But he also loves to immerse himself in that boy energy at "Testosterone Central." It's not exactly animal house, but you can tell that it would easily slip into fraternity style mayhem if mom-and the housekeeper-went away for an extended period of time. No wonder Koss loves it there.


He's spent a lot of the summer hanging out with his girl cousins, and was completely comfortable being assigned to an all girl group (plus one male counselor) at Nature Camp. I don't think the boys who live in "Testosterone Central" would be-except maybe the oldest one, who's got a whole other level of testosterone kicking in.


I asked Koss about whether he felt he behaved differently with all boys or all girls. "When I'm with the boys I definitely feel more aggressive with them," he said. "I try to be funnier with the girls."


That's when I realized that I didn't have to be too worried about him one way or the other. He already knows exactly how to behave with both boys and with girls. If he can make the girls laugh and then go tackle the boys-and as long as he knows the right ones to cry in front of-he's going to be just fine.


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Who's getaway is it, really?

(BUILT IN) (Photos) StarshinePhoto.jpg

By Starshine Roshell,


I fantasize about it all year. The week when my kids go to Grandpa's house five hours away, and my husband and I get rare, rapturous grown-up time. The luxury of sleeping late. The freedom of going to a movie on a whim. The enchanting silence and shocking simplicity of tidying up the house - and having it stay tidy. Day after day after day.

I crave it. I deserve it. I treasure it.

But when the time finally comes for our boys to drag their duffle bags out the door, I'm faced with a disturbing revelation:

Greater than my need to be temporarily childless is my children's need to be briefly, blissfully motherless.

You see, it turns out I'm a terrible shrew. A nagging control freak. A micro-managing ogress from the soggiest bog of Vex-and-Pester Swamp. As my kids prepare to leave, I chase them around the house like a cartoon mother, wagging a bony index finger and barking orders:

Did you pack your swimsuit? I know I already asked you, but last time you forgot it, so let's be sure. How do you plan on practicing your drums without your drumsticks? Be sure to wear sunscreen every day. And to shower once in a while, for goodness' sake. Here's a plastic bag for your laundry; please don't make Grandpa pick up your dirty clothes every night.

Holy harpy! As much as I cherish my annual alone-time, those beleaguered boys must relish it all the more. A week of being out from under the wet blanket? Lock the car doors and step on the gas, Gramps! Faster! We can still hear her ... !

I really do enjoy it when they're gone. But the act of letting them leave - letting someone else care for them, letting them (ack!) care for themselves - feels like ripping off a really big Band-Aid. Or not even a Band-Aid but one of those cheap imitations made of non-breathable plastic that yanks a patch of arm hair out when you peel it off. Like that. That's exactly what it feels like.

The night before they leave, I sleep restlessly. I'm beset with irrational maternal anxiety. Was that a sneeze coming from the bedroom of our youngest? Is he getting sick? I'm the only one who can get him to take medicine. Will they all be miserable and (gulp) have to come home early?

I wonder if this is what it feels like when your kids leave home for good. You worry that you haven't fully prepared them, that they lack the tools (swimsuit, drumsticks) and skills (hygiene! I beg you!) to be happy, healthy and successful in the world. You worry that without these things, no one will like them.

One of the last things I said to my oldest son before he left was this loving dictum: "We've asked you three times to come to the breakfast table and you're still playing Wii. Would you care to explain why that is?"

I never thought I'd be the kind of parent to badger my kids like that. I hate those people. Those are the kind of people whose children turn 18, bolt from home and never look back.

I was still feeling guilty about my morning tirade five hours later when I got an email from my son. He had arrived, logged onto Grandpa's computer and typed this alone:

"i miss u already."

For me, the hands-down hardest part of parenting is locating the sweet spot between becoming someone you don't like, and allowing your kids to become someone you don't like.

For this week, at least, I know exactly where that sweet spot is.

It's five hours from here.



Starshine Roshell is the author of "Keep Your Skirt On," available at


The Art of Sitting Still

Submitted By: Tracey Segarra

When I attended college back in the 1980s, I majored in nothing. Well, it was English Literature and Rhetoric, but essentially, my primary focus was after-hours parties and social networking.


Once freed from the yoke of parental rules, I quickly made my own. Most of them involved leisure. Huge swaths of free time. Time to contemplate Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and the merits of Guinness for breakfast. Time to sit on the rickety upstairs porch and listen to Liz Story. And after that, a nap.


In retrospect, it wasn't the most productive use of my tuition funds. And my stunning lack of direction did lead to spending the next five years wandering from one aimless job to another, even less interesting, aimless job. But it did teach me a valuable lesson that I've carried well into adulthood, and now parenthood.


In a world of multi-tasking and laptops and Blackberrys and soccer practice and dance lessons and in-your-face, up-to-the-millisecond updates on everything and everybody I know or might want to know, tuning out is the new turning on.


I could have gone to law school or grad school or started on the bottom rung of some corporate ladder after college, but the truth was I had no idea who I was and what I wanted out of life. And I needed those five years of downtime to figure it out. So I worked as a secretary and an office manager until the divining rod finally pointed in a direction.


When I realized that I wanted to be a reporter, I poured all my energy into making it happen. And within six months, I was working as editorial assistant at a national magazine, and 21/2 years after that, I was working as a reporter for a national wire service.


What caused me to choose journalism as a career? Damned if I know. It was something that gradually dawned on me during all of that free time working in jobs that I knew weren't going to be my life's work.


When my twins were born in 2000, I started gunning for the role of Supermom. I would tandem-nurse them, freeze my own strained peas in ice-cube trays, teach them to play soccer by the time they were 3, and get the old piano that came with the house tuned and ready for little fingers as soon as they turned 5. And work five days a week, too. Lesser women may not have been up to the task, but I knew in my soul that I was different.


Short story: Didn't happen.


Instead, I quickly understood why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, my babies were sick for 50 percent of the first two years of their lives (causing my then-boss to complain that he couldn't count on me anymore, causing me to start looking for a new career), and in my darkest moments, I felt that not only was I not Supermom, I was not-even-adequate-Mom.


When I wasn't working, I rarely left the house - and essentially spent the first three years of my daughters' lives barricading them in the living room with sofas and dog gates, and making sure they didn't kill themselves.


Once those years were behind me, and they started school, I toyed with the idea of signing them up for soccer or T-ball or dance. In Pre-K, I did sign them up for ballet, but their first recital (complete with pratfalls and giggles, poor tutu etiquette, and a complete lack of awareness of what they were supposed to be doing) made it clear that this was not their calling.


So we dropped that.


We tried a few more activities after that, but anything that started on a weekend morning was difficult for all of us, and after school activities required me to beg huge favors of moms who didn't work in NYC like me, and I just wasn't up to asking.


Not that my girls felt they were missing out - I was the one who felt that working mother twinge of guilt that I wasn't exposing them to enough extracurricular activities - possibly dooming them to teenage angst and excessive drug use.


Secretly, though, I loved our lazy weekends. We'd wake up whenever we woke up, make pancakes or eat cereal out of the box, read a book, play with the cats, or just sit by the front window and watch the neighbors walk their dogs. I live on a suburban corner, with sun streaming in from three sides, and it's a cozy, relaxing place to just be.


Magical things can happen when you're sitting still. One weekend day a few years back, I walked over to one of my daughters and sat beside her on the couch. She smiled, then looked at me quizzically. "Mom," she said, "why is it that just sitting next to you makes me feel so happy inside?"


Those kinds of moments are difficult to catch if you're running too fast from place to place. So over time we've made it a family tradition to have "lazy Saturdays." It's brought my family closer together, and I think my twins are getting a lot more out of it than it may be apparent on the surface.


Yes, they often use this downtime to play on the computer or their video games, but they also draw and paint and build blanket forts and read comic books and ask questions and talk to us about whatever happens to be on their mind. Free time gives them the space to explore and make choices, and create and figure things out and interact with the world in their own way.


And it gives me the opportunity to be a better mother. I try to always take the time to listen, really listen to what they're saying. And to not give them rushed answers, but to thoughtfully and fully respond.


One of my favorite adults when I was young gave me the greatest gift you can give to a child - the gift of attention. From my earliest memory, she treated me as an individual and spent time trying to understand who I was as a human being.


Coincidentally, the home my children are growing up in today is her home, which my husband and I bought from her when we got married. We were starting a new life, while she, an aging widow, moved to another state to live closer to her son.


Before she passed away, she came back to visit for her 90th birthday, to spend time in her old home and to meet my then-baby girls. She told me she was so glad I was raising my family in the home where she raised her son. And she wished me joy in the coming years.


As always, she looked deeply into my eyes when she spoke, as if she was confronting my very soul. She wanted me to know how much this meant to her, and was willing me to acknowledge the importance of this moment. And then she hugged me and laughed. A big, mirthful laugh that showed how much she was still enjoying life in her ninth decade.


I wish for my children and for myself that same kind of joy that comes with attentiveness and the rare, but oh so precious ability to truly know another human being.


The world moves past us all at such a dizzying pace. And it's exciting and wonderful to get caught up in its whirl. But it's in those empty spaces in between that the important stuff happens. And I don't want to miss a thing.


"How to Set Goals with Your Child"

Submitted By: Lorraine Pursell

You've probably set your New Year's resolutions by now, but what about your kids? In case you're at a loss for what to do beyond ‘What do you want to do this year?' I have 6 key questions for you to ask your child, in sequential order, so they'll feel smart and capable. I suggest you write down what they say, so they'll feel all the more important. This whole exercise should increase your connection together.

Question 1- "What did you like about last year? What went well for you?" I invite you to be silent while the wheels turn in their head. Give them plenty of time and only minimal hints from you. Remember, these are their goals -you probably don't like people giving you suggestions for your goals. You're encouraging your child's confidence and capability, so just be supportive of what they say.

Importantly, question 1 is framed in the positive; we're building their strong sense of self. Even if they're two and they say they like their dinosaurs or if they're five and they say the same thing, just nod your head and smile while writing their answer. If they're in elementary school, they may say they liked their friends and in Jr. High that they liked how well they worked on their algebra. In High School and beyond, you'll probably need to participate in setting your goals with them so they don't feel self-conscious. They can be secretary for you if they want.

Question 2- "What would you like to improve this year?" Again, this is framed in the positive. We're suggesting that they did well, and asking what they'd like to add some final touches or tweaks to. This is a good question to ask yourself. As you are gentle with yourself, your child will learn to be gentle with and to like herself. Maybe they want to get their homework bag by the front door, or even in the backseat of the car the night before and you'd like to get 5 easy dinners lined up each Sunday for the week ahead.

As you do this together, it's an opportunity to be closer and for them to see your vulnerable side, which will invite their vulnerable side to show.

Question 3- "How would you like to change your grades this year?" They may say they want to raise that D in biology, but maybe they don't care about their grades. They could be content with their grades as they are, and you can deal with that issue at another time. But for now, just write what they say.

Your parallel to their grades in school is your performance at work. How would YOU like to change your ‘grades' this year. As you show that you have room to improve, you'll inspire their honesty and enthusiasm to do better.

Question 4- Now that they've told you what they want to improve, ask them "How can I support you to do that?" If they want to get better grades this year ask "How can I help you make that happen?" Maybe you create a nice homework environment for them: quiet, well-lit space with everything they need. Do your homework with them: be at the table doing your stuff while they're doing their stuff. Just your being nearby will be comforting to them. And if they have a question, you're right there to help out! They're well on their way if you support them.

Question 5- This is a personal question so be sensitive how you say it. "How would you like to personally grow this year?" If they don't have an answer or don't know what they can improve on, then you chime in with "Well, you know, I think I'd really like to improve on xyz this year." You might say that you'd like to be more patient with them this year or that you'd like to be a better listener. Imagine how you'd feel if your parent said that to you!

Maybe they'd like to broaden their friend base and wean away from the snotty kids into the more intellectuals. Would they like to be more generous or help out more? Would they like to help their teacher out somehow? Would they like to clean up the park?

Question 6- "What new adventure would you like to explore this year?" Would they like to learn about horses? Would they like to earn money? They could start a neighborhood animal care business with your help. Maybe they'd like to overcome their fear of animals or of tests. Would they like to take up art? Life is so new and exciting- what new adventures would they like to go on?

As a bonus, maybe you could explore a new adventure together. My son and I went for a sky dive before he left for the Marines. It was a memory we'll never forget! What bonding experience could you do together or as a family?

I hope this has been helpful. I share all of this with you just to inspire and encourage your own great ideas. Go with it and let your love and respect for your child ooze from your pores while you show them that they can share their heart with you and you will accept it.
THIS lays the greatest foundation of all for raising a responsible child who will love you for life!

Lorraine Pursell, MA, BCET serves kids, parents and families. Since 1995, she's helped hundreds restore self-esteem and achieve closer, lasting relationships in her clinic, private practice and workshops. Email Lorraine! Tell her what's working for you and what's not:
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Triple P - The Positive Parenting Program

Submitted By: Urmila Schmit-Cohen

"Parenting is the hardest job we have and when you really find something that makes it easier, it's a relief for parents." -Urmila Schmit-Cohen, Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Triple P Practitioner


Parenting is very rewarding and enjoyable but it can also be challenging and exhausting. There is no one right way to be a parent, but the Positive Parenting Program, Triple P, offers information, support and practical answers to everyday parenting concerns.

Three local funders - First 5 Santa Cruz County, Health Services Agency and Human Services Department have partnered with several agencies to make it easier for parents to get the information and support they need through the evidence based Positive Parenting Program.

With Triple P, parents can expect a range of high quality parenting services that are consistent across all agencies, and easy to access through a central phone number and website.


Triple P has been successful with families all over the world. Susan True, Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County, states that local families are also finding success with the program, "Triple P is a parenting program, supported by 30 years of research. It is an approach that promotes good communication and strong relationships between parents and their children. Parents are successfully using new strategies to promote children's development, create a positive relationship with their children, and gain the knowledge and confidence to encourage positive behavior and solve future issues with their children."


Parents are always given the opportunity to select which strategies they would like to try at home. The goal of Triple P is to help parents create positive, caring relationships.


Experienced providers have recognized the importance of Triple P on our community's families. Deborah Vitullo, Triple P Practitioner at Families Together and private family therapist, states, "As a Clinician it is my responsibility to provide evidence based programs to my families. Triple P is one of the most comprehensive parenting programs. I have been doing this for over 25 years, this one (Triple P) covers everything that you would want it to cover. It is state of the art. It is a good solid, tried and trued parenting program. They did their homework and their research. It is an amazing program."


There are over 80 other Santa Cruz County Triple P accredited practitioners who agree with Ms. Vitullo. These practitioners are ready to tailor Triple P to suit the needs of every parent. Parents may choose from a variety of Triple P services including: seminars for parents of children 0-12; workshops; group courses and individual consultations.


Triple P services have already had a positive impact on local families. Velma Biddlecome, parent of an 8 year old states: "Triple P helped me get to a place where I am not so frustrated. Now I can deal with the everyday things out there. It also gave me the opportunity to talk to someone without feeling like I was going to be judged. There is so much focus on the positive things that you do as a parent and building on that. It is more of an empowering approach".


Pediatrician Dr. Salem Magarian, who has also seen positive results in families, says ""Here at the Dominican Pediatric Clinic we have found the Triple P program tremendously valuable for our families. This program has been extremely effective. Parental stress has been reduced. Parents are demonstrating improved communication and strategies for positively shaping their child's behavior. We are seeing improved child behavior at home and in the schools. Triple P is making effective positive changes for the families in our clinic."


Every parent can benefit from the advice and information available at and at free Triple P Seminars now available through-out Santa Cruz County.

I enjoy family dinners...but it hasn't always been that way!

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"I enjoy family dinners...but it hasn't always been that way. My kids were picky eaters and we would end up fighting over what they would eat. I even made them each separate meals so they would eat something. I was stressed and wondering how much longer I would have to do this. Then I learned a few simple things from Triple P and now I make one nutritious meal that we all eat. Mealtimes have become a time to have conversations with my children instead of fighting with them". Triple P Parent


Mealtimes can provide great opportunities for families to connect and enjoy each others' company. But if children have a difficult time with eating or they are not behaving well during meals, this time becomes a ‘battle' for parents, who find themselves stressed out and frustrated. Common mealtime problems include refusing to come to the table, leaving the table during the meals, complaining about the food, refusing to feed themselves, playing with food, and eating very slowly.


If you are a parent who experiences these challenges with your child, you are not alone! There are several steps that parents can take to encourage positive mealtime behaviors. Here are some things you can try right away.


Establishing a daily mealtime routine can be very helpful for children. Serving three main meals and a morning and afternoon snack at regular times of the day will help your child separate mealtime and playtime. Also, setting a time limit for finishing up the meal, such as 20-30 minutes, and explaining that to your child ahead of time, will help keep him from getting bored and restless or disruptive.


Let your child know ahead of time when the meal will be ready. Giving your child a 5-10 minute time block to finish up their play will make it easier for them to come to the table.


Having everything prepared before seating your child at the table can prevent unnecessary waiting. Once he is seated at the table, remove any toys or other distractions.


Teaching new skills and recognizing your child's accomplishments around meals will help him become a healthy independent eater. Mealtimes present an opportunity for children to learn new skills and to recognize your child's growing competence. Model and Explain 1-2 mealtime skills that are important for your family. These skills should tell your child what to do rather than be rules of what not to do. For example:
• Eating with a spoon or fork
• Participating in family conversations and mealtime games
• Enjoying time at the table until the meal is over
• Developing specific manners that are important to your family (chewing with the mouth closed)
• Eating a variety of foods with different nutritional values


Parents may want to offer rewards for meal times that go smoothly. These rewards can be a special activity after mealtime or an extra bedtime story. As your child masters new mealtime skills, you can add a few more skills that you want him to learn. It is important that children don't become overwhelmed with too many new things at once and are given a chance to succeed. Pick your focus carefully and stick with it - without adding more - until the child succeeds.


It is common for mealtime problems to persist even when parents have tried these strategies. There are several other techniques to assist your child in developing good eating habits. Local accredited practitioners can assist in finding the best approach for your family. For more information on Triple P services please visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.

Safe Sleep for all Babies

Submitted By: Nancy Diehl, PHN SIDS Coordinator

Safe Sleep for all Babies ~ October is National Infant Mortality and SIDS Awareness Month


I am the Santa Cruz County SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Coordinator and every October I look forward to keeping our community up to date about how to reduce the risk of SIDS and how every baby can sleep safely.

I am happy to share that this past fiscal year (7/10- 6/11), we had no baby die from SIDS in Santa Cruz County. Though our county has not experienced a SIDS death, rates of SIDS deaths continue to increase in California. In 2008, 201 babies died from SIDS, a 12.7% increase from 2007 when 183 babies died from SIDS, so the work of getting the safe sleep message out to all new parents is not finished. The focus of our work, like that of the state's SIDS program needs to embrace the work of those in the infant mortality community and reduce the risk of all preventable infant deaths, not just those from SIDS, but from suffocation and strangulation as well. Every baby sleeping safely continues to be the goal all of us need to embrace.


To support achieving the goal of every baby in Santa Cruz County having a safe sleep environment, I'd like to share information about a new law regarding crib safety. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has enacted new standards for cribs, banning drop side cribs from sale, as of June 2011. It is now illegal to sell a drop side crib. Also, by December 28, 2012, all licensed child care homes, hotels and crib rental companies will have to comply with this law. More information can be found at
Safe sleep recommendations continue to strongly advise parents to avoid the use of all "after-market" products including positioners and firm or soft bumpers as both place the baby at risk of suffocation.


To ensure safe sleep for all babies, professionals remain in agreement that parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics reduce the risk recommendations:
1. Always place a baby on his or her Back to Sleep, for every nap and at night.
2. Place a baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet.
3. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of a baby's sleep area.
4. Do not allow smoking around a baby or a pregnant woman.
5. Keep the baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep.
6. Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing an infant down to sleep. Do not force the baby to take it. When a baby breastfeeds, wait until he or she is one month old or until after breastfeeding has been established to use a pacifier.
7. Do not let a baby overheat during sleep.
8. Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS including infant positions.
9. Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS.
10. Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on a baby's head by placing a baby on their tummy when he/she is awake and someone is watching.


If you have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact me at 831-454-4331. All babies deserve to sleep safely every time they sleep.

Enlisting Your Family's Help

Submitted By: Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

Parenting can be an extremely rewarding experience. It can also be demanding, exhausting and stressful, especially when juggling it with work and other life tasks. If you are a parent that feels overwhelmed by the demands of home life, work life and personal life, you are not alone!

Here are some Triple P tips you can try right away to encourage sharing in your child or children.


Make yourself a priority. One way that parents can find more patience and time for their child is to make sure they also find time for themselves. Taking care of your own needs for intimacy, adult companionship, recreation and time alone will help make parenting easier. When our own needs as adults are neglected, it is so much more difficult to be calm, patient, and consistent with our children. Don't aim to be the perfect parent. If you are spending plenty of quality time with your child and they are a cared for in a safe environment, a break away once in while will do both you and your child a world of good. Even starting with 20 minutes a day or 2 times a week of doing something you enjoy will help tremendously.


Work as a team with your partner. A home runs more smoothly if tasks are shared and everyone is on the same page. With your family, write a list of tasks that need to be done on a weekly basis and divide them up amongst all family members, including adults and children, who are old enough to contribute.


Set some time aside to talk to you partner about ground rules and discipline tactics to ensure you are on the same page when a situation arises. It is important not to contradict one another or argue in front of the children. Save these discussions for when the two of you can speak in private. Making sure that you are giving and receiving practical support from your partner will help you feel more stable and able to better handle the juggling.


Teach children to do things for themselves. The more children learn to look after themselves, the more they are likely to develop the skills they need to be successful. Skills such as getting dressed, putting dirty and clean clothes in the right places, eating by themselves, clearing the dishes, putting toys away, making their own beds,  are skills that children after a certain age can easily attain and participate in. This not only frees up your time to attend to other needed tasks, but it helps your child become independent and confident.


Be organized and develop routines. Being organized can prevent major stressors from arising.  For example: have a special place where keys and wallets go; cook the weeks' meals on the weekend; do laundry on a set day of the week; ask the children to pick out their next days clothes the night before; pack the kids bags the night before. These will all help in getting out the door with less stress and in a timely manner. Developing a morning routine will also help move everyone a lot more smoothly. Your children may want to write/draw out the routine so they  can 'read' it and follow it on their own. A morning routine might look like this:

  • Wake up at 7:30am
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get jackets and shoes on
  • Leave the house

Offering descriptive praise and encouragement when children follow these steps on their own will motivate them to continue to demonstrate their ability to be independent.


Have realistic expectations and avoid being overcommitted. Sometimes parents have unrealistic expectations of themselves both in their home life and at work. It's important to recognize when there is too much on your plate and to be able to re-negotiate achievable tasks with friends, family, or employer. Learning to say 'no' will make life a lot easier. When you feel overcommitted, it is essential to assert your needs (to your friends, family, employer) and let people know what you are able to take on at that time. If you are a working parent, take time to familiarize yourself with your agency's policies regarding family leave and flexible work hours and discuss and negotiate these needs with your employer ahead of time.


Make your family a priority.  When you are at home with your children, do not spend a lot of time thinking about your work or other outside tasks. Physically and mentally separate your family time and work time.  Your children know when you are distracted and may try to get your attention in ways that are not desirable. You will be more productive at work and with your other tasks if you are able to relax and enjoy your children when you are with them.


Enjoy time with your children every day! It may seem like a small thing, but time spent enjoying your children can be the most rejuvenating of all! Quality time doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. Sometimes just reading a book together or going for a walk can help. Other days, a big hug is all it takes! Remember that letting your child initiate an activity and just following her lead for twenty minutes will help her feel important to you and help you understand her more.


Making sure that you, your partner and the kids are happy and healthy is not an easy task! But taking it one step at a time and getting the right support from the rest of your family will make being a parent doable and enjoyable!  Remember, these small changes, can make big differences!


If you are interested in learning more about the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) and services available, contact First 5 Santa Cruz County:  visit or contact Stephanie Bluford at (831) 465-2217.


Written by Susan True, Executive Director First 5 Santa Cruz County

"How I Came to Practice Attachment Parenting"

Submitted By: Tina McRorie, Leaer Monterey Bay API

Being a Feminist, I had always wanted to have a daughter so that I could give her the nurturing and encouragement that my Feminist mom gave me. When I found out that my first child was going to be a boy, I performed my first parental reframe. I thought, "My husband and I could easily raise a girl to be a basically decent human being. But, in this society that, in so many ways, encourages boys to be self-centered and insensitive, it takes something extra to raise a son to be a person who will be a positive force in the world." My husband and I decided that we were were up to that challenge.

I had studied psychology through the Masters level, and had learned about John Bowlby's Attachment Theory. I had learned about the child's primary caregiver providing a "secure base" by being emotionally attuned to the child and providing protection, warmth and attention. I had learned what goes wrong with human development when a child is not able to securely attach to this kind of figure, and what goes right when they do.

Then I worked as a social worker in the foster care system. When we trained new foster parents, we would tell them what an important gift they could give to the children in their care if they forged that kind of bond with them. But there was little concrete training in how to do it.

The behaviors, general and specific, that help children bond to their caregivers had been well studied by researchers in many fields related to child development, but the information was not trickling down to the general public.

When my son was born in 2000, I was thrilled to find that there was someone who was bridging that gap. Dr. William Sears, along with his wife, Martha Sears, R.N., took the body of research informed by Attachment Theory, as well as their own clinical and personal experiences, coined the term "Attachment Parenting," and started writing in concrete language about how parents can bond with their babies.

Of course the Searses weren't the only ones writing about parenting in ways that promote attachment. I found many other authors bringing information from many researchers to the public, some using the term "Attachment Parenting" and some not.

I also found a local support group for parents raising their kids with attachment in mind. The group was affiliated with the non-profit Attachment Parenting International. Through attending meetings, playgroups and potlucks, my family got to know other families who practiced Attachment Parenting. This was enormously helpful in getting me out of the isolation that I felt as a new mother, and it was good for my husband and kids as well. As the group grew, we found ways to support each other, like setting up a childcare co-op, a lending library of parenting books, and meal trains for families with brand new babies, not to mention a million playdates, phone calls, and birthday parties.

So, I went on, my parenting informed by my experiences, my education, the books of the Searses and others, and the support of my peer group, but mostly by my instincts. It felt right to hold and comfort my baby when he cried. It felt right to nurse him when he was hungry. It felt right to listen to his insistence that he be allowed to sleep nestled up against me. (Fortunately, we had a doctor whose calm confidence that we could safely bed-share, convinced me and my husband to do our own research on that topic and come to a decision that worked for our family.)

In short, I didn't treat Attachment Parenting as a checklist, but I did, and do, try to treat my children the way I would like to be treated: with empathy, respect and trust. Now, a dozen years later, the family bed, the nursing bras and my ring sling have long since been retired. Attachment Parenting for us now is more about practicing Positive Discipline and keeping our schedules open enough to include generous time together as a family.

I'm happy to talk about Attachment Parenting all day, but I don't like to use the term "attachment parent." That makes it sound like there is a test. You don't have to breastfeed, bed-share or be a full-time homemaker to parent in a way that promotes healthy attachment relationships with your children. AP is not a checklist; it is a set of tools. Parents who are "attachment minded" make healthy family relationships a priority and use Attachment Parenting principles as tools, using the ones that match their values and work for their family, and leaving the rest.

As I watch my two sons, now ten and twelve, I see confident, joyful young people who treat others with remarkable levels of empathy, respect and trust. I see people who make things better for those around them and think about how their actions affect people, animals, and the environment. I am happy for their future girlfriends, wives and children.

And I'm proud to say they still hug me, even in front of their friends.

Tina McRorie, M.A. is the leader of Monterey Bay Attachment Parenting International which hosts free family events in Santa Cruz and Monterey.

Bullying: help, my child is the bully!

Submitted By: Anna Dasbach, LFMC

How do we as parents respond when we are called to meet with our child's teacher or principle to find out that our child has been bullying other children at school?

Before reacting and defending our child or thinking of ways to discipline her/him it is best to first take a deep breath and stay centered and calm. Checking in with yourself: what is your own feeling and reaction in regards to bullying?

What were your own experiences as a child and how/if have you coped or how was it handled when you were a bully or bullied?

We are at our best in helping and supporting our children if we don't react from our past experiences but can stay in our adult self and look at the issues presented from a calm and centered place, because we have taken the time to process our own past experiences and feelings attached to them.

Before reacting it might also be helpful to know that bullying doesn't happen out of context and is oftentimes not a single occurrence:

According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9-12 have experienced bullying.

The 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, 28% of students in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying.

When talking to the teacher or principle find out if there is a school policy in place in regards to bullying. It is often difficult for the teacher to be fully aware of the subtle forms of bullying or relational aggression, such as name calling, leaving someone out at games or conversations, girls' rolling their eyes etc, that can be very hurtful. So, if talking with the teacher about your child, keep in mind that teachers are not always able to prevent bullying from happening and might not know all the specifics of what occurred between the bully and the victim.

Instead of talking to the other parent or the children involved, in my experience and that of many experts in the field, it is best to implement a school wide curriculum around bullying and relational aggression, without targeting individual children. Therefore it is important for the parents to create an open and constructive dialogue with the school administration.

Now that you have checked in with your own reaction and talked with the school, how do you best respond to your child?

Ask yourself if there are some circumstances in your life that might have caused some upset for your child. Address if anything in your home has changed: has one of the parents taken on a new job or more obligations outside the home? Is there a new sibling? Has the relationship between the parents become more stressful? Has there been a move? Did one of your close relatives become ill?

Perhaps one of your pets has died? Have the relationships with her friends at school changed and if so: how? How does your child like being in school? How is his school performance?

Children don't often express grief, confusion or fears verbally but instead they act out their emotions.

Make some time with your child and talk to check in with what is going on for him/her.

Try to understand your child, play with him/her and take some extra time. If we spend at least 10 minutes every day to fully be present with our children, without focusing on other things, we can get to know them more deeply and understand their inner lives and reactions much better.

Listen to your child, their whole story by encouraging them to share details, and asking clarifying questions and by repeating back what you have heard. While listening, stay open to your child's experience by checking in with yourself about your own reaction. Help him/her to develop empathy for others by seeing the other child's perspective and how they have felt hurt.

We as parents are important influences on our children and how we react and relate teaches them on many levels how to relate to their peers. So, instead of getting angry at the car that cuts us off and swearing at the driver, we might want to take a breath and think about what we want to model to our child in the back seat? When we get annoyed at someone, how do we respond and what do we want our children to learn?

And when we get called into our child's school, how do we want to react and respond to the teacher or principal, and to our child, and how can we remember that we are modeling the behavior we want our children to have.  If there have been more severe issues with your child's acting out and your child has been hurting others severely, find support for you, the parent, and for your child. Join a parent group or seek family or child counseling.

Anna Dasbach, is a licensed Family and Marriage Counselor in Private Practice in Santa Cruz where she sees children, adolescents, couples and adults. She was first an educator, with extensive training in Waldorf and Montessori Education. She has held a class on relational aggression and bullying for fourth graders and is currently coaching her daughter's elementary school volleyball team.  She can be reached at

A Different Perspective: Prevent grade school bullying by finding out what's going on with the "bullies"

Submitted By: Carolyn Farrell, MFT

It's Tuesday evening and the kids are in bed. You're settled on the sofa anticipating falling asleep in front of some escapist TV. The phone rings and it's your child's teacher. You sit up straight and your jaw drops. What? My child was involved in an incident of bullying? My kid was the bully?

No parent wants to get that call, but many do. Some estimate "bullying" incidents happen to at least half of all children between 4th and 7th grade. There is a plethora of information and instruction for children and their parents on how to avoid being the victim of a bully, as there should be, but very little seems to be written on the real source of the issue. How do we address and eliminate bullying behavior? First, I think it is necessary to rethink how we talk about the issue. Labeling our children "bullies" and "victims" tends to set up an "us against them" dynamic that fails to recognize that both are simply children that need help.

I have been working with children and parents as a school counselor, substitute teacher and as a licensed marriage and family therapist for many years, and I would like to offer some tips for the parents, grandparents or caretakers who get that call from the teacher.

1. First notice your emotional reaction to what is being said regarding your child and the incidents. Are you feeling angry at the teacher, your child, or yourself? Are you feeling shock and disbelief? Denial? Are you minimizing the incident? These are some of the normal feelings that we as parents might have. However, these are REACTIONS and we do not want to take action on them. So, stop and take a deep breath. Notice your reactions and emotions. If you have a close and reliable friend who is a good listener call them to help process your initial feelings and thoughts.

2. Talk to your child! THE GOAL IS TO UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE. Devote uninterrupted time to this conversation in a private setting. Remain calm and neutral. Ask open ended questions such as, "Tell me about what happened yesterday on the basketball court with Jaden." Then let the story unfold. If you get the "I don't know" answer, or "Nothing" you can help by stating "Mrs. Smith was really concerned about it when she called and so am I." These types of statements reflect love, concern and a willingness to get to know your child. This will eliminate defensiveness and fear. You want to listen for his thoughts, feelings and motivations regarding the incident in order to help him ultimately solve the issue differently next time. Remember, this is a TEACHING moment. Resist shaming statements such as "I thought you were smarter than that" or "You should have known better than to do that."


These do not teach children how to behave differently. They have the opposite effect by demeaning and lowering the child's self-esteem. This actually causes them to be defensive and create MORE unwanted behavior. By getting your child's perspective you can help them choose alternative behaviors in difficult situations. Remember children are not adults. Their reasoning skills, social skills, and coping strategies are not the same as ours. This is a chance to understand what types of situations feel stressful for your child and where s 500 Internal Server Error

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