Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet Maureen Healy, Author of Growing Happy Kids

Maureen Healy is a practicing child development and parenting expert with twenty years of global experience. She also writes a popular blog for Psychology Today’s website, and for the PBS series: This Emotional Life. Her organization, Growing Happy Kids, is dedicated to planting the seeds of strength and happiness in children worldwide. Maureen’s latest book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, became available in April of 2012.

Unique about Maureen is that she has spent a significant portion of her life studying Eastern and Western psychologies focused upon how to be happier. She has studied in Asia with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, worked with Tibetan children in India, and has continued to be a student of Tibetan Buddhism with her root lama in the United States. Complimenting her Eastern mindset, Maureen has also delved deeply into the Western science of happiness through studying child clinical psychology and working with some of the “great” thinkers of our time.

With such an insightful and rare perspective, Maureen has become a leading voice in the field of parenting and children’s happiness. She has appeared on ABC’s View from the Bay, CW’s San Diego Living, and NBC’s The 10! Show. Her writing has also appeared in popular magazines such as Spirituality & Health, Tathaastu, and Counselor Magazine as well as notable websites like AOL, WebMD and Huffington Post. She is also a sought sought-after speaker for educational conferences, international events, and parenting programs across the nation.

Healy’s intuitive insights and scientific understanding of children is grounded in her educational background, having studied psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she received a BA, and also an MBA focused on human potential. She then studied at Fielding Graduate University, which is based in Santa Barbara, California, where she focused on child clinical psychology and completed two years of doctoral training. Combining these fortune educational experiences with practical understanding, Maureen is committed to being a force for good on behalf of children everywhere. For more information, please visit or

Thursday, June 28, 2012

'50 Ways to Build Emotionally Healthy Kids' article by Mary Jo Rapini

Mary Jo Rapini, psychotherapist and coauthor of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health Sex, or Whatever has put together this list of ways to help your children become emotionally healthy.

50 Ways to Build Emotionally Healthy Kids

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Every child I ever spoke with who grew up in a healthy, loving family has told me their home was “safe.” They explained it further saying, “No matter what was happening in the world, when I came home I felt safe from the perils out there.” Our future depends on our families, and our ability as parents to protect our child’s youth and sense of family. Today our families are under attack by the virtual world, single parenting, and media’s influence on our children. This list will help guide parents to raising healthy children who are able to socialize, love and succeed in their academic pursuits. Some of the items on the list may not be possible to carry through with parent’s limiting schedules, but many of them are easily managed with time management skills and a desire to help your child become a healthy, strong, independent adult.
  1. When you are with your kids on a play day, walk, or activity, shut your phone off. Nothing is as important in your life as this moment.
  2. Set boundaries and discipline (teach) kids for not adhering to them.
  3. Learn to say NO and mean it.
  4. Be demonstrative with loving gestures in your home (especially with your spouse).
  5. Have a family day once a week (including activities you share together).
  6. Have a set dinnertime as many days in the week as you can, and have everyone plan to attend.
  7. Take time and cook with your children.
  8. Take time and fix things around the house with your children.
  9. Take time and help your kids with their homework.
  10. Take time and go to your kids’ after school activities.
  11. Whatever you promised your kids, make sure you did it. If you lose their trust, you have lost everything important about being a good parent.
  12. Say grace with your kids prior to eating, and whoever made the dinner should be thanked profusely. If you were treated out for dinner, thank whoever bought the dinner at least three times.
  13. Say a night prayer with your kids.
  14. Include extended family with your family as much as you can for celebrations.
  15. Talk well about your child’s other parent (hopefully your spouse) as frequently as you can (this builds a healthy self-esteem for your child).
  16. Don’t gossip about others, especially in front of your kids.
  17. Stay as healthy as a person and parent as possible.
  18. Talk about lifestyle with your kids, and help them understand the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.
  19. Take time to listen to your kids and hold your tongue.
  20. Accept your children’s friends as much as possible.
  21. Invite all of your child’s friends to dinner so your child can see them as clearly as you do.
  22. Get interested in what your child is doing online and via their phone.
  23. Do not allow texting at the dinner table.
  24. Do not allow texting while in the company of family days or family activities.
  25. Set a specific time and shut down computers at night for you, your spouse and kids.
  26. Collect all cell phones each night and keep them in a parental designated area.
  27. Make it mandatory that kids clean their own room each week even if you have a housekeeper who cleans.
  28. Never give your child money or an allowance for doing nothing. An allowance is pay for a job (or jobs) well done.
  29. If you have a raging problem, do not flaunt it in front of your kids, but rather seek help from a professional.
  30. Do not tolerate cussing, or improper speech/ grammar in your children or your spouse. The universal language is English; make sure your child understands English before they leave home (Parents, that means you should learn and be able to speak English no matter where you came from).
  31. Support your child’s teacher. When you dismiss your child’s teacher or talk bad about them, you are giving your child permission to disregard other authorities (you are or should be an authority in your child’s life).
  32. Do not have channels on the television that you are not comfortable with your child seeing. If you aren’t there to monitor the TV, then get rid of the channels.
  33. Make sure you know whom your child is talking to online.
  34. Make sure you know and have taught your child online politeness. READ your child’s texts and what they post online so you can keep an eye on them. Tell your child when you set up the account that you will have access to reading what they write, especially if your child is under the age of sixteen. Your child is smarter than you with all virtual areas, so it is not a bad idea to hire an online security company to monitor if you are not going to.
  35. Never dismiss the fact that your child could be a cyber-bully, so checking on them is important.
  36. Explain to your child that photos must be approved before posting anywhere (kids don’t understand that a photo can go anywhere. Their world is egocentric; yours should not be).
  37. No adult should be emailing or texting your child unless you are related to them, and even then, you may want to be aware.
  38. A phone is a privilege. If your child has one, they must understand that and you, as a parent must have a consequence for your child if you find them texting while driving or sending nude photos of themselves to others.
  39. Take the time to teach your child about their bodies and their sexuality as soon as you see their bodies changing. School is not the place for a child to learn about their sexuality. Parents teach this in a more effective manner.
  40. Talk to your child about their commute to and from school with direct communication. Never ask, “How was your day?” Ask, “Did you feel safe on the bus (or whatever form of transportation) to school?”
  41. If your child tells you they are being bullied, believe them and have an action plan.
  42. When you argue with your spouse, let your children see the argument, see the understanding, see the working out of the conflict in a healthy manner, and see you embrace and forgive one another after the argument. You are mentoring for your children.
  43. Never allow a child under the age of thirteen on a social network. Period. I don’t care how mature they are, nor should you.
  44. No drinking or driving period (by child or parent).
  45. No texting or driving period (by child or parent).
  46. No porn magazines or porn sites should be allowed on any computer in the family home. Porn addiction is a growing addiction and is so easy to access that parents must guard their home as a safe place without porn.
  47. Eating healthy means saying NO to fast food. Nothing good comes from fast food, and it takes understanding of this as parents to help motivate parents to pack lunches or healthy snacks the night before. 15 minutes of packing lunches or snacks the night before can actually minimize obesity in your family. Obesity is a direct link to so many childhood and adult diseases.
  48. No emotional, physical or sexual abuse is tolerated in the family. It is never okay, and no one’s behavior should ever be an excuse for someone else to abuse them. There is not one prisoner or thug who has not been abused as a child. Enough said.
  49. Let your child witness that you make time for your marriage. Keep your emotional life between you and your child’s other parent. Do NOT become emotionally needy with your kids.
I can imagine healthy teens leaving home for college or work, and becoming assets to their society. It doesn’t just happen though. Healthy kids come from a healthy home. Make your home a “safe” place for kids to grow up and make mistakes, learn and love. Our country and world at large depends so much on the parents who rock the cradle.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at Twitter Mary Jo: @maryjorapini or talk to her on her fan page:
Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'Ways to Create Lasting Memories This Summer (without breaking the bank!)' Article by Mary Jo Rapini

Mary Jo Rapini is a psychotherapist and coauthor of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever. Here she shares with you some ways of bonding with your kids this summer, without having to spend a ton of money.

Ways to Create Lasting Memories This Summer (without breaking the bank!)
 by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Kids remember the strangest things. Ask any teen what he remembers about his childhood and he will most likely tell you about the adventurous things that his parents did with him. You can tell it has impacted him because it brings a smile to his face when he retells it.

Summer is a perfect time to do things with your kids that just might make some lasting memories. These times will never present themselves again, because next summer your child will be one year older (you will, too), and he may not appreciate the family experience as much as he would this year.

Here are some suggestions. This isn't a mandatory list, so there's no need to become compulsive and do everything. In fact, one or more of these might give you your own ideas. It may be one of the things that bring a smile to your child's face long after he becomes an adult.


10 activities that won't break the bank
Plan a fall garden with your child. Let him help decide what goes in the garden.

Re-decorate one aspect of your child's room. Whether it's painting her wall, buying new curtains, or a bedspread, let her be a part of it.

Have a picnic at night with your whole family. Everyone is responsible for making one dish.

Take the family ice-skating at an indoor rink if there is one in your area.

Get the family up early and drive to the beach to watch the sunrise. Pack small snacks for the humans and food for the birds the night before. Helping with this part can mean a lot to a child, and add excitement to the trip.

Make the World's Largest Ice Cream Sundae and let your child help add the toppings. Let her invite three of her best friends to share the sundae.

Plan a short weekend getaway that involves camping and a hike
. Kids really love the idea of getting away, and they like to see mom and dad relaxing and playing with them. A bonfire is a wonderful way to end the perfect family day.

Make bubbles, and invite the neighborhood kids (and their parents) over. Parents enjoy relaxing with other parents, and kids like blowing bubbles. Something about seeing kids blowing bubbles and parents relaxing makes me feel will do the same for you (be sure to keep this activity outside).

Have a movie day at home when the rain keeps you indoors. Serving popcorn and hot dogs adds to the overall event.

Go out in the evening and catch fireflies with your child. Let him keep them in a jar overnight and then free them in the morning.

Have a wonderful summer --
building memories!
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Am I Old Enough?' Article by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Today's guest post comes from Mary Jo Rapini, author of Start Talking, a book for girls and moms to use about all kinds of female issues.

Am I old enough?  
(Saying "NO" to your child is still in fashion)

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

A month ago a video went viral when a 12-year-old girl recorded herself looking very sincere with a cute hat on her head asking if she was pretty. The little girl took the recording, posted it on YouTube and the rest is history. Every person interested in vulnerable silly little girls modestly dressed with a cute voice responded. The responses were mixed and extreme. Some comments told her how ugly she was, some validated her concern but reassured her, and a few scolded her for doing such an action. The most common criticism asked where her parents were (her mom was especially named) and why were they not monitoring what she does online.
Recently during my segment of answering viewer questions on the local TV station, a 12-year-old sent me the following question:

Dear Mary Jo,
I tape your segments each week. This week I have a big problem. I want to go to a concert. I am an honors student, get only A's and B's and am very responsible. I want to go to a concert with my friend. My mom says I am too young. I have reassured her that I will call her every half hour, and she knows my friend and trusts her. Will you please help convince my mom that it is okay for me to go?
Thank you, Kellie.
I answered Kellie's question on the air, because she asks a very poignant question. How can a 12-year-old talk mom into getting her own way? It is obvious that Kellie has no idea what dangers lurk in a concert crowd for a 12-year-old. Kellie is able to use the Internet and Facebook (even though you aren't suppose to be on Facebook until you are 13); she has a cell phone so she can call home to check in with mom; and she believes that if she continues to bargain a bit longer with mom, that mom will acquiesce due to fatigue.

Moms (and dads) are more and more under the gun. They not only have to try to secure their child's safety from the dangers they can see, but they have to try and minimize the more threatening danger--the virtual world these kids belong to. This was my answer to Kellie:
Dear Kellie,
I want to thank you for watching my segments and trusting me with your very important question. I love your mom. I want to put her face up on a billboard and say, "This is what a mother does...she says, 'NO.'" You sound like a smart girl, and you sound as if you have been taught to negotiate and be assertive. These are wonderful traits, and I am glad your mom has helped nurture these skills. There is one trait you must learn a bit more though...and that is respect for "NO" when it is in your own best interest. I agree with your mother. You are much too precious to go to a concert at the age of twelve without a parent. You have no idea, Kellie, of the possible dangers, and no one will ever love you like your mom. I would like you to go to your mother and tell her that you are so grateful you have a loving, engaged mom, and tell her Mary Jo wants to use her for a poster mom. Lastly, if you really want to negotiate further, one thing she may enjoy is if she invites a friend and they take you and your friend to the concert. You can make it a "girl's night" and strengthen the mother-daughter bond that you are so fortunate to have. Thanks for asking my opinion; I am expecting great achievements from you in the future.
Being a parent has always been tough, but being a parent today is tough for many different reasons. Our society has become so permissive with the parent/child boundary that telling your child, "No" is increasingly difficult. This is partly due to the parent's lack of engagement in their kid's life. They have no idea what their child is doing. That may not have been necessary years back, but now if the child has a computer in their room, their body may be in their room, but their mind and actions can be anywhere. If parents don't talk to their kids and understand their virtual world, they are missing out on 50% of what is going on in their child's life.
For all of you parents who feel overwhelmed by your child's virtual world, this is a quick way to begin to get a handle on it:
  • You need to talk to your kids. You need to find out who their friends are and what websites they frequent. This is a good time to say yes or no to inappropriate sites.
  • Get the computer out of the bedroom and into a large family area. Have a large screen so you can glance at it quickly as you walk by. Computers in a child's bedroom are a luxury (for the child and many time the parents). If your teen has a computer and food in their bedroom, why would they want to come out?
  • Prior to setting up a computer, talk about online acceptable behavior. Digital manners are important with all virtual media.
  • Limit all computer and cell phone use. If a child wants to post a picture, it must be parent approved.
  • Your child should never befriend an adult unless they are related to you.
  • Your child will have difficulty understanding the concept of permanence; this is due to their frontal cortex not being fully developed. As much as you can, underline the fact that nothing is ever truly gone on the Internet. Being a child means making mistakes, but in the case of posting a mistake, it goes on and on.
  • If you are too busy to monitor your child's activity on the Internet or their cell phones, hire a company to monitor for you. I am an expert for and can tell you of numerous lives it has saved, as well as accidents it has prevented.
We cannot save our children from all of the dangers, any more than our parents could save us. We can be proactive though, and we can assert our parental authority and say "NO," even if that isn't the most popular response. Parents cannot be parents and be their kid's buddy. Be your spouse's buddy, be your kid's mom and dad.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at

Article reprinted with permission from KSB Promotions.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

'Plan a Great Vacation!' Article by Janine Sherman

Janine Sherman is one of the coauthors of the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever. Here she offers advice to parents who are preparing to go on vacation with their kids. Include them in the planning process to ensure maximum enjoyment all the way around!

Plan a Great Vacation!
by Janine Sherman, MSN, WHNP-BC

Some of my favorite childhood memories are from my family's vacations. Every summer my parents, three siblings and I would load up the station wagon and set out on what always promised to be a bonding experience. As soon as we got back from one vacation we would take steps to plan the next one. Because of the memorable times I had as a child on those trips, I made summer vacation a top priority as a parent myself. Now if you were to ask my children about some of their favorite memories, it would probably be a story about one of our family trips.  

Here are some tips on how to plan a great summer vacation:
Have a family meeting to decide what kind of vacation your family has in mind.There are many options: road trips, educational, beach resort, cruise -- the list goes on. Get a consensus so that everyone feels that they had a say in what you decide to do.

Stay within a pre-determined budget. You don't want to spend your whole vacation worrying about how you're going to pay for it. Fortunately, there are some great vacation packages available. All-inclusive trips and cruises have the benefit of upfront costs, and they often include many extras. We have a vacation fund that we add to throughout the year so that the money is there when we are ready to go.

Research the trip with your kids. One year, we were going to Nashville and Memphis for a short time. I gave every person an assignment, including the parents: each one of us had to research a place we wanted to visit in each of the cities and be the tour guide at that site. In the beginning everyone grumbled about doing this. Yet when we arrived in each city, they were all anxious to be the tour guide and share what they had learned about their chosen place!

Be prepared! For instance, if you are going on a road trip, plan activities that you can do in the car. DVDs are great, but try to do things where you can interact as well. Some activities that you can do are 20 questions, auto bingo, or my kids' favorite, the license plate game. Other things to consider are the climate, the activities that you are going to be involved in and any advanced reservations that need to be made.

Record your experience with pictures or a journal. As a family, we often look at our pictures from our family vacations and reminisce about the things we did on those trips. Plus, years from now when they show their own children, they can laugh about the hairstyles and clothes we wore.

When you're on vacation, be on vacation. In other words, try to leave the work at home. My husband, who loves his Blackberry, will not check his e-mail during our family vacations (and this is the only time that happens). Taking time off from your work shows your children that this vacation is about them and them alone.

Try something new. Whether it's a new activity -- like whitewater rafting or a new cuisine -- be sure to show off your adventurous side. Even if you don't like the experience, you can say you've been there and done that.

Have specific family time. When we've been on cruise vacations, everyone is doing different activities during the day. However, we will all come together at night for a leisurely family dinner. We have great food, great conversation and make wonderful memories.

Listen to what your kids have to say about what they want to do on a vacation. It might lead you down a path you would have never thought of. For example, we have done some very offbeat activities that we would have never considered if my children had not brought them to our attention.

Make it fun and laugh a lot!!! Whatever you do, wherever you go, just remember that vacation is a time to have fun, bond with your kids, and make wonderful memories.

The best way to build strong bonds between parents and children is to really share fun experiences and get to know each other better. Family vacations can not only be fun but can create a solid foundation of mutual caring that will help kids and parents also connect when life isn't all fun and games.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Q&A With Maureen Healy, Author of Growing Happy Kids

A few weeks ago, I reviewed for you the book Growing Happy Kids by Maureen Healy. She is often asked many questions about her work. Here she shares more of her wisdom with readers in this Q&A.

1. So I love your book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness. Can you tell us why you wrote it?

Over the years, I have found that most parents and children want to become happier but just don’t know how to do it. By learning how to create a deeper sense of confidence – what I call inner confidence – the foundation for someone’s happiest life is created. So I was inspired to write this book and share with more people how to create a deeper type of confidence that opens the way for real happiness.

2. You have a unique background bringing eastern wisdom, and western science together to help more adults raise happier kids today. Can you tell us more about your holistic approach to guiding parents?

Unique about me is my ability to see children (and parents) through a traditional lens of western psychology and also eastern wisdom. I have lived at the Base of the Himalayas, and studied with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his temple as well as studied and taught Buddhist psychology – basically how to become happy – in the US, Europe and Asia. So my approach to guiding parents takes into consideration not only what we know from a scientific standpoint on how to become happier, and more inwardly confident but I also share ancient tools in everyday language so that anyone can develop the skill of confidence and then happiness.

3. With 20 years of global experience, you have clearly lived your work. Can you share with listeners some of the places you have visited and worked with children?
Yes. Some of the places I have worked with children include Mexico, India, Ireland, England, and across the United States. One of my most memorable trips is living at the Base of the Himalayas in India where I worked with Tibetan refugee children. It was this trip where I showered out of buckets weekly in the middle of winter – there was no heat - and also had the adventure of traveling on top of a bus, and living with inconsistent electricity. I believe that I was learning to the deepest degree about how to become confident and happy no matter what. I’d say it worked!

4. You explain that confidence is merely a skill for people to learn and it’s not a biological gift from great parents. Can you tell us more?

Yes – that is absolutely true. Confidence is a skill that can be created by merely doing things in a certain way. The Five Building Blocks of Confidence that are shared in this book is a proven system that nurtures a sense of confidence in children from outer to inner confidence. The blocks are: Biology, Beliefs, Emotions, Social and Spiritual. I share how each block “comes to life” and how through some clear intentions your time with your kids can pay even higher confidence and happiness dividends.

5. Can you tell us a little more about the Five Building Blocks of Confidence?

Sure. Building Block 1 is Biology that means every child’s body and brain must be healthy in order for confidence to flourish. This translates into children eating right, sleeping well and getting enough exercise on a weekly basis. My child clients with extremely low confidence, self-esteem and a general sense of unhappiness didn’t have their brain working for them – the chemicals in their brain were imbalanced and fixing this allowed them to set the stage for confidence. Building Block 2 is Beliefs that means every child must think inwardly confident thoughts to become confident and ultimately happier. It sounds simple but can be very complex. Again, Block 1 must be in working order, then Block 2 can be activated and so on and so forth (Block 3: Emotions, Block 4: Social and Block 5: Spiritual). Once these blocks are optimized then your child’s confidence begins increasing steadily day-by-day.

6. Also, you make something extremely clear in this book that I have never heard said before --- you say that confidence comes before happiness. Can you tell us more?

Yes. This is true. Confidence comes before real happiness. The type of happiness that isn’t fleeting but can stay regardless of the problems of everyday living. And when I say confidence I am talking about inner confidence. The type of confidence that is rooted in something internal versus external. So when I say confidence comes before happiness I am really saying, inner confidence comes before lasting happiness. I devote an entire chapter of the book on this connection and introducing you to it.

7. For listeners that would like to see you in person, buy your book or connect with you – where would they go?

Go to my website:

On the website, I have a free book excerpt, links to my upcoming free talks & book signings, a button to buy the book, and a place to sign-up for a free monthly newsletter full of great parenting tips.

Reprinted with permission.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review of The 5 Love Languages of Children

At my previous teaching job, ten years ago, my boss was always asking me if I knew what each child's love language was. I had no idea what she was talking about at first. Then, she finally told me about a book called The 5 Love Languages of Children. It was originally published in 1997, which would have been the edition to which she was referring. In 2005 it was updated; now it has been updated yet again in 2012.

Every child has a particular way in which he demonstrates or best accepts love. Some children respond best to that physical touch. They like to be hugged and kissed or even to have a backrub. Others thrive on "words of affirmation." They want to be told all the time what a good job they are doing, to be encouraged. Some just want to spend quality time with their parents. Some prefer gifts. And finally, some demonstrate love the best through acts of service. Each child's emotional needs are going to manifest in a different way. This book is a guide for parents to figure out what the child's needs are and how to satisfy them.

Each love language is given its own chapter for definition and includes ways to fulfill that emotional need without going overboard and having the opposite effect. Real stories of real children and adults provide examples as to how these needs can manifest. The author also points out how different it can be from when a child is in preschool to when she is a teenager.

Advice on how to discipline and educate children based on their love languages also makes up a couple of chapters. These parts in particular can help educators as they work with a variety of children. So many children in classrooms have so many different needs today. Sometimes they just aren't getting what they need at home and look to receive it at school. Teachers who are familiar with the 5 love languages can help to also educate parents as to how best help their children.

At the end of the book are resources for more information. There is also an exercise known as the Love Language Game, adapted for each age group. Groups of parents and teachers may wish to utlilize the discussion guide at the end of the book to strategize for different children.

The information in this book is familiar to me, as I have implemented the ideas for several years in my classroom. It felt good to finally read the book that explains all of it, as a sort of refresher course. I would recommend it to parents and educators.