in Flourishing Physically

5 Simple, Natural Ways to Boost ImmunityFeatured

Your body’s immune system protects against illness and infection, fighting off threats before you even know there’s a problem. Even though your immune system usually does its job automatically, you can give it a boost with habits that promote wellness and support immunity.

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in Uncategorized

Meet the Home Sweet Homes Journal — a Way for Co-Parents to Help Young Children Cope with DivorceFeatured

Fiona Kong is on a mission to help children of divorced families cope with the separation of homes with her newly released Home Sweet Homes Journal. Designed for kids four and up, it provides comfort and stability during a difficult time by serving as a safe space children can work with both parents on their needs as they go back and forth between homes.

The innovative idea gives children a personal platform to express thoughts and emotions, and easily track their transition schedule, events, milestones and more. The journal travels with the child from home to home, making it a mental and emotional anchor they can use to help with the transition from one house to the other.

Fiona developed the first-of-its-kind journal following her separation from her son’s father saying “parental separation can be very traumatic for kids where they may blame themselves, experience immense grief, or feel confused, scared or angry about what is happening”.  She went on to say, “Maintaining a strong and healthy connection to parents plays an important role in a child’s mental and emotional wellbeing. The journal serves as a bridge between homes for co-parented kids; it gives them a way to still feel like a family while providing reassurance they are safe, secure, and loved.”

The interactive daily journal contains fun activities for children to fill out, resilience building affirmations, and monthly calendars so children have access to their schedule no matter where they are. Each day contains open journaling space for kids to reflect on their day, process feelings and communicate ideas on their own or with the help of a parent. Overall, it provides a neutral place for the family to stay connected and actionably manage information between households.

The book has received praise from co-parents, therapists and coaches. Brandyn Roark Caires, LCPC, owner of Mind Matters BRC, Co-founder of Parent Team, mediator, and Accredited Collaborative Divorce Practitioner, Co-Parenting Coach is a Clinical Mental Health Therapist who specializes in working with children, teens, and families with two-home structures — assessed the journal and shared her thoughts.

“Children with two homes have to navigate more complexity in their lives. It’s important that their parents absorb as much of this complexity as possible, so kids aren’t left in the middle, don’t have to manage adult challenges, and just “get to be kids”. The Home Sweet Homes Journal and Planner helps to open a safe, neutral space for children to explore and process their two-home experiences. This journal also provides a child-focused opportunity for co-parents to connect on their children’s needs, keep their children out of the middle of conflict, and keep the focus on what their kids need. This beautifully bound journal is a thoughtful, organized, joyful, place for two-home families to navigate transitions, emotions, experiences, and memories together.” 

In addition to Brandyn’s positive comments, parenting coaches, divorce professionals and co-parents have left their thoughts in comments on Amazon and the Home Sweet Homes website. You can find the journal on Amazon or purchase it directly from Fiona’s website, Home Sweet Homes. In addition, the site includes how-to videos, use case examples, and a way to give back to the community of co-parents. 

Positively impacting future generations by helping children of divorce grow up to be emotionally healthy adults is especially important to Fiona. For that reason, she wants to help every co-parenting family have access to this tool and set up the Pay it Forward Program page for others who feel the same and want to donate a book to a family in need.

Contact Information:
Fiona Kong
hello@homesweethomesjournal.com

Photo Credit: Juhn Kwon Photography

in Emotional Mastery

5 Healthy Habits to Help Reduce StressFeatured

Between work, family obligations and a constantly changing world, people in the United States are stressed. In fact, U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, according to a State of the Global Workplace study. While some stress is unavoidable and can be good for you, constant or chronic stress can have real consequences for your mental and physical health.

Chronic stress can increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to unhealthy habits like overeating, physical inactivity and smoking while also increasing risk factors, including high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. However, a scientific statement from the American Heart Association shows reducing stress and cultivating a positive mindset can improve health and well-being.

To help people understand the connection between stress and physical health, the American Heart Association offers these science-backed insights to help reduce chronic stress.

Stay Active

Exercise is one of the easiest ways to keep your body healthy and release stress. Physical activity is linked to lower risk of diseases, stronger bones and muscles, improved mental health and cognitive function and lower risk of depression. It can also help increase energy and improve quality of sleep. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination.

Meditate

Incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices into your day to give yourself a few minutes to create some distance from daily stress. Some studies show meditation can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, support the immune system and increase your ability to process information.

Practice Positivity

A positive mindset can improve overall health. Studies show a positive mindset can help you live longer, and happy individuals tend to sleep better, exercise more, eat better and not smoke. Practice positive self-talk to help you stay calm. Instead of saying, “everything is going wrong,” re-frame the situation and remind yourself “I can handle this if I take it one step at a time.”

Show Gratitude

Gratitude – or thankfulness – is a powerful tool that can reduce levels of depression and anxiety and improve sleep. Start by simply writing down three things you’re grateful for each day.

Find a Furry Friend

Having a pet may help you get more fit; lower stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; and boost overall happiness and well-being. When you see, touch, hear or talk to companion animals, you may feel a sense of goodwill, joy, nurturing and happiness. At the same time, stress hormones are suppressed. Dog ownership is also associated with a lower risk of depression, according to research published by the American Heart Association.

Find more stress-management tips at Heart.org/stress.

Stress 101

Understanding stress is an important step in managing and reducing it. Consider these things to know about stress and how it could affect your life:

  • Today, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. report being worried or depressed.
  • Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol are linked to increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events like heart disease and stroke.
  • The top sources of stress are money, work, family responsibilities and health concerns.
  • Work-related stress is associated with a 40% increased risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

in Focus on Finances

Financial Strategies for Surviving Divorce

In my 36 years as a Private Wealth Counselor, I have seen many divorces. Make no mistake about it — divorce is heartbreaking. To make matters worse, you’re left to figure out how to salvage the economics of your new financial life after the divorce.
I have found that, for my clients, the best way to start is by taking one step at a time. Write down a list of the most important items and then commit to addressing them one by one.

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in Legally Literate

Find a Good Lawyer in 7 Steps

This is your life we are talking about, so you want to make sure you take every necessary step to find the right lawyer for your needs. It is very hard to do this, though, with all the ads flying at you, the people soliciting you and all the negative things heard about lawyers these days. But the fact of the matter is you can find the right lawyer and not all of them are bad.
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in Uncategorized

Protecting Children in a Digital Age

Keeping a watchful eye on your kids requires an increasing level of tech savvy many parents find intimidating. Not only are your kids vulnerable to bad actors online, but your family’s personal information could be at risk, as well.

Learn how to protect your children and family in this digital age with these tips:

Elementary-Age Children

  • Encourage open communication. Have conversations about what your kids see and do online and talk with them about potential dangers. Avoid lecturing in favor of an open exchange of information.
  • Make their inherent interest in privacy work in your favor. Kids in this age group, particularly toward the middle school years, understand the concept of privacy and value it immensely. Use that context to help them understand what goes online is there to stay. Talk about what kinds of information should always be kept private, including identifying details like addresses and social security numbers.
  • Stay on alert. Not all apps are completely safe (even the ones you can access from trusted stores) and not all filters are foolproof. Keep close tabs on what your kids are downloading by reading comments and reviews, and regularly monitoring what kind of content they see.

Middle School and High School Kids

  • Continue talking about privacy. You can never have too many conversations about privacy. What seems like harmless sharing on social media can be quite revealing. For example, frequent posts about visits to a favorite store or restaurant can allow a predator to begin tracking behavior patterns that make your child a target. It’s also important for kids to understand how their privacy settings work. For example, settings that allow exposure to friends of friends make their visibility to strangers much broader than they may realize.
  • Help manage their online reputation. Behaviors that once resulted in a day or two of hallway chatter can now live forever. Documenting mischief online is only fun until it spills over into real life and everyone sees those mistakes in full color – including prospective future employers.
  • Be clear about your position on bullying. From the safe distance of a screen, it’s easier for kids (and adults) to say things they’d never say in person. Teach your kids to handle problems constructively offline and avoid engaging in attacks on others through social media, email and other platforms.

College Students

  • Reinforce the risks. Once they’re on their own, kids may feel more liberated to make their own choices online. However, college students are easy prey for identity theft and worse. Remind them what’s at stake if they fail to protect their identity and private information, like where they live and what they do on a regular basis.
  • Teach smart practices. With all the independence that comes with college life, this is an ideal time for your student to take personal responsibility for his or her online security, including learning about virus protection, updating software, avoiding scams and backing up data.

If you’re looking for more practical advice for everyday family matters, visit eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

in Focus on Finances

Understanding Financial Infidelity and Its Effect on Relationships

Infidelity and deception can take many forms in a relationship, including some that have nothing to do with romance at all. One example is financial infidelity, where deceptions are reported in nearly half of relationships where finances are combined.

Among people who have combined finances with a partner, 2 in 5 (43%) confessed to committing an act of financial deception in a current or past relationship, according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). What’s more, 85% of those who reported a financial deception acknowledged the indiscretion affected the relationship in some way.

“When you comingle finances in a relationship, you’re consenting to cooperation and transparency in your money management,” said Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president and CEO of NEFE. “Regardless of the severity of the act, financial deception can cause tremendous strain on couples – it leads to arguments, a breakdown of trust and, in some cases, separation or even divorce.”

Understanding Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity is an act of deception by one partner in a relationship where finances are combined. Examples include hiding purchases, money or accounts, or lying about the amount of income earned and debt owed.

More than one-third (39%) of U.S. adults who have combined finances in a current or past relationship admitted to hiding a purchase, bank account, statement, bill or cash from their partner, and about 1 in 5 (21%) admitted to lying to a partner or spouse about finances, the amount of debt they owe or the amount of money they earn.

Reasons for Financial Deception

A lack of communication and conflicting life or financial values may often be the root causes of financial deception, but U.S. adults also revealed other reasons for deceit with money. More than one-third (38%) said even though they are in a committed relationship, they believe some aspects of their finances should remain private. Meanwhile, another 33% were embarrassed or fearful about their finances and didn’t want their partner to know.

Fear of disapproval by a partner is also a powerful force, regardless of whether financial discussions are happening in the relationship. For example, 34% of U.S. adults who admitted to financial deception in a relationship with combined finances said they feared disapproval by their partner given discussions of finances had already occurred while 27% feared disapproval by a partner in a relationship where discussions about finances had not yet occurred.

How Financial Deception Affects Couples

Like other forms of infidelity, financial cheating can wreak havoc on a relationship, including arguments, loss of trust, less privacy, separating combined finances and even divorce. However, those who have been there offered some insight into positive repercussions, too, such as growing closer together and learning to communicate proactively.

Signs of Financial Infidelity

You may discover your partner is cheating financially when you come across a receipt or piece of paper indicating a purchase you don’t recognize or find your partner defensive or withdrawn in conversations about money. A deceptive partner may attempt to intercept bills via mail or email before you see them or remove the itemization of purchases on bills.

Learn more and find the full poll on financial deception at nefe.org.

Coming Clean

How to recover from financial deception

Whether you’ve caught your partner cheating when it comes to money, or you’re the one in the spotlight after making some financial transgressions, there are some steps you can take together to rebuild trust.

1. Be realistic in your expectations. Understand successfully rebuilding trust will take time, sustained transparency and commitment to shared goals and increased communication.

2. Commit to open communication. While the conversations may be stressful, the key is to focus on understanding why the financial deception occurred and what you can do, together, moving forward.

“When 2 in 5 people admit to committing financial deception in a relationship where money is combined, it highlights the need for greater communication and a deeper understanding of who your partner is financially,” Hensley said.

3. Create goals and ground rules together. Finding areas of compromise can help you get on the path toward rebuilding trust. That might mean having separate personal accounts while maintaining a joint account for household expenses, or you might create separate accounts completely with each of you paying an equitable share of household expenses.

You could also establish guidelines you can both abide by, such as agreeing that neither will make a large purchase, such as items over $100, without discussing it together.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

in Emotional Mastery

Emotional Safe Spaces Help Children Express Their Big Feelings

Many internet memes have been made about toddlers and their temper tantrums. While the outpouring of oversized emotions can be amusing when viewed from afar, most parents and caregivers simply want to know what they can do to help children express their feelings in less dramatic ways.

According to child development experts, one of the keys to helping children learn to regulate their emotions is to develop emotional literacy; the ability to identify feelings. This can help children learn to recognize those feelings and apply coping strategies to (hopefully) calm down before their feelings overwhelm them. One way to help children work on their emotional literacy is to talk about emotions other people feel.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to process our own emotions because that puts you in a vulnerable position,” said Taunya Banta from KinderCare’s Inclusion Services team. “When we’re able to find some detachment from the immediate emotion, like talking about characters in a story – ‘How do you think they feel?’ or ‘Why do you think they feel that way?’ – it opens an opportunity for kids to safely process their own emotions because they’re not in the spotlight.”

Another way to help children work through their emotions before becoming overwhelmed is doing what many early childhood teachers do and create a space filled with things that allow children to find emotional release in a safe way. If space allows, Banta recommends creating both a quiet area and an active area.

Quiet areas allow children to work through their emotions using fine motor or listening skills. Items in this space could include blankets or pillows to cuddle up in or headphones to listen to relaxing music or audiobooks. Some children may find comfort in expressing their feelings through art, so consider including some drawing materials or a journal. For young children, a set of pictures or cards showing faces expressing different emotions can help them as they learn to identify their own feelings.

Active areas provide children opportunities to use their gross motor skills to work through emotions. If outdoor space is easily accessible, encourage your children to go outside and jump, stomp or run when they start to feel the urge to “let it all out.” An indoor active space could include pillows to scream into or hit and plastic bottles or bubble wrap to stomp on or squeeze. The action and noise can help get out the desire to hit or punch. Watch how your children show their emotions and give them safe alternatives. For example, if they tend to yell and hit when they’re upset, give them pillows to scream into or hit. You can also help them designate a box or a specific spot on the wall or floor that they can throw beanbags, wadded up socks or any soft object at.

Acknowledge the emotions your children are experiencing and reassure them that while it’s fine to feel that way, it’s just as important they find a safe outlet for their emotions.

For more tips to help children identify and regulate their emotions, visit KinderCare.com.