Welcome to What’s Eating You? musings on food, weight, body image and raising resilient kids. This blog will include observations and thoughts from my life as a mom, daughter and wife, and a gal who’s sat on both sides of the therapy couch.
Every day I see teens and women who are seeking help to “fix” their dysfunctional relationship to food: well, at least that’s their stated excuse for showing up in my office. Little do they know that our task is much more profound. Food issues are metaphors. They are the key to unlocking deeper mysteries. Eating problems are about nurturance, self-love, control, protection, anger, sexuality, shame, hopelessness, trauma, trust, self-worth, fear and a yearning for a more meaningful life.
Many therapists and helping professionals refuse to work with people struggling with eating disorders. There is nothing like sitting across from someone who is either precariously underweight or dangerously overweight to put you in touch with your helplessness. Helping professionals don’t like that feeling.
I had to make a profound paradigm shift in order to do this work: the first and most challenging (for someone with her own control issues!) was to not view my clients’ weight status as a sign of progress. If she senses that I need her to either lose or gain weight to validate my worth as a therapist, I will lose the subtle power struggle that results.
In a world of quick fixes, long-term sustainable behavior change leading to healthy weight change is painstakingly slow. Patience, my friend.
At the same time I have learned to respect the awesome power of the therapeutic relationship: an accepting and trusting connection creates a safe space for real change to occur. Together we will re-write her life story, discover hidden strengths and moments of true courage. Her history will turn out to be more complex than she knew, and she’ll realize that her eating disorder may have actually saved her sanity and her life. As her story evolves, so too, will the possibilities for a different future.
My hope is that these stories will help you understand yourself better. You will develop a healthier relationship with food, with your body and with yourself. I also hope that if you are a mom, you’ll make a commitment to ending unhealthy generational patterns you may have inherited.
The next generation—your daughters, your sons and your grandchildren—is depending on you.
Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally-known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.

More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.


© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009
Dec 14


Life, as they say, can change in an instant. Today, you have a job, tomorrow you don’t. Today, you’re married with children. Tomorrow you’re married with children AND caring for your father with Alzheimer’s disease.

During these trying times, it’s typical to feel confused and off balance. Unfortunately, it’s also common to deprive ourselves of what we need the most: Time to take care of ourselves, time to do something we love, or better yet time to do nothing at all.


In her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, bestselling author and coach Cheryl Richardson describes our tendency to fall into familiar patterns when we are faced with life’s challenges. One of these patterns involves depriving ourselves of what we need and enjoy, whether that’s a night out with friends, vigorous exercise or healthy food to nourish our bodies.

The trick, Richardson tells us, is to become aware of that tendency, and feed ourselves, instead, with the stuff we truly need. Because the fact is, if we don’t take care of ourselves and make time for our own lives, we won’t have the energy or enthusiasm to find a new job or take care of our loved ones.


By the way, I’m not a guru preaching to you from high on a mountain, I don’t pretend to be perfect. In fact, I recently fell into my own version of the deprivation trap when my beloved father-in-law, John, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In addition to having cancer, John has late-stage Alzheimer’s Disease, and for a whole host of reasons I won’t explain here, we made the difficult decision to place him in a nursing home.


When John was first diagnosed with cancer, my husband, Jeff, and I visited him every day, which usually amounted to about four hours at a pop (including travel time). While I’ve always loved John as though he were my own dad, the truth is that spending time with someone who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease is incredibly draining, emotionally.


While he still may know who we are on good days, we can no longer communicate with him. Words, apparently sound like gobbledygook to him. So we just sit with him and hold his hand and speak in soothing tones, knowing that he doesn’t know what we’re saying, but hoping he finds comfort in our familiar voices.


It is painful to witness his slide into oblivion, to watch a man I love who was once so vital, slipping away. I tell you all this not so you pity me, but to demonstrate the wear and tear … And to show how easy it is to fall into the trap of depriving yourself of self care when you are committed to attending to someone else’s needs.


That’s what was happening for me. While I was still keeping up with my exercise routine, many other aspects of my self care were falling away. I wasn’t taking time to get together with friends or carving out time for meditation and yoga. And as a result, I was feeling exhausted, emotionally and physically.


Finally, we realized something had to change. So we don’t visit John every day, and don’t always spend as much time with him on each visit. Sometimes I feel guilty about that. I wish I could always be there for John AND take care of myself.


But that’s impossible. In the end, I know we need to take care of ourselves, so when we visit John, we’re healthy and present and able to attend to his needs.


Tough times like these have taught me a great deal about the importance of practicing extreme self care.  Over the years, I’ve learned a number of strategies (from masters such as Richardson and through trial and error) that have worked well for me and many of my clients.

Listed below are several of those strategies:


1.     Remind yourself of why it’s important to take time for yourself. If you’re not sure, ask yourself this: in what way would my life be different if I were more relaxed and less stressed? Or, if I had more energy, how would my life be better?


2.     Create an affirmation to remind you of your commitment to self care. Repeat it, periodically, throughout the day.


3.     Create a list of activities that appeal to you and help you relax.


4.     Block out specific times on your calendar when you’re going to practice extreme self care.


5.     If you are caring for a loved one, ask a friend or family member to help out a couple times a week so you can make time for some of the activities you’ve listed above.


6.     If it’s helpful, set alarms on your cell phone or computer to remind you of these activities.


7.    If you are having trouble honoring your commitment to yourself, hire a coach, who can hold you accountable and help you overcome the limiting beliefs that may be stopping you from taking time for your life.


Are you facing a difficult life transition? If so, I’d love to support you on your new life journey. Visit my website at http://ellen-brown.com/ to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism. She is also a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.


More Ellen Brown articles, click here.

© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009

Dec 27

Have you been laid off, or are you changing careers? Or are you dealing with the loss of a loved one? If so, let me ask you this: what do you need to let go of?

If you think my question is ridiculous, you’re not alone. When I ask my clients this question, they sometimes act perplexed or angry, as though I’m the one who’s lost something, namely my common sense and decency! Isn’t the answer obvious, they sometimes huff. If they lost their job, they need to let go of that. If their husband died, they need to let go of the fact that he’s no longer coming back. Duh!

But it’s not that simple. What I’m really talking about is this: when something in our lives ends, we need to let go of and grieve what we’ve lost. And that might involve letting go of a number of different things.

In his bestselling book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, internationally-known speaker, author, and consultant William Bridges describes it this way: “Transition is not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now.” What he says is true, whether you’ve lost your job, moved to another city, started caring for an older relative, or have given birth to a new baby.

So, if you were laid off from your job, or changed careers, you may need to let go of your identity, or at least the label you used to assume, as an attorney or accountant at a large firm. You may also need to let go of certain beliefs or attitudes before you can make a clean beginning. But those “somethings” you need to let go of cannot be prescribed, because they are different for each of us. Only you know what you need to let go of.

I’m not suggesting that this process is easy. In fact, it can be quite a struggle. I’ve certainly found it more than a little challenging to let go of my certain somethings, even when I’ve moved across town or changed from one job to another. And dealing with a full-blown career change? Well, that felt incredibly disorienting, sometimes.

But letting go is important, because if we don’t let go and grieve our losses when we lose our job or get divorced, or change careers or deal with any life transition, we often carry our old “baggage” with us into that next new whatever. And when that happens, we run the risk of repeating old patterns in life (e.g. getting involved with the same sort of partner who still isn’t a good fit for us) or carrying unresolved feelings into our new relationships and jobs.

So the question is what do YOU need to let go of?

And what’s the toughest thing about letting that go?

Are you facing a difficult life transition such as job loss or dealing with the death of a loved one? Are you struggling to keep your head above water as a primary caregiver of an older adult? Or would you like to thrive as a survivor of rape or sexual abuse, rather than merely surviving?

If so, I’d love to support you on your challenging life journey. As a certified professional coach, I help clients navigate difficult transitions, encouraging them to see the treasures buried deep within their “tragedies.” Visit my website at http://ellen-brown.com/ to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism. She is also a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.

More Ellen Brown articles, click here.


©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2009

Feb 14

Our lives are constantly changing. Yet, oddly enough, rather than embracing change, we often resist it. That’s true of my clients, whether they’re dealing with job loss or a serious illness, or any life transition, for that matter. And it’s certainly true of me, sometimes.

Recently, I was reminded of that fact, when I watched, with sadness, as the golden autumn leaves in our backyard twirled their way to the ground.

But why was I so sad? I mean, it’s still autumn. Plenty of leaves remain on the trees, and that crisp autumn scent I love continues to permeate the air. Technically, winter won’t be ushered in for another two months. But with each leaf that falls and every cool night, I’m reminded that the end is near.

As much as I’d like to embrace change, sometimes I cling to the things I love. But when I do, I miss out on the opportunities right in front of me. So, I’m sad that winter is coming, but winter isn’t even here yet.

When I see the words laid out on the page, I realize how silly it sounds to concern myself with a season that hasn’t even arrived yet. Why not enjoy autumn while it’s still here?

Perhaps the great spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says it best: “All you really need to do is accept this moment fully. You are then at ease in the here and now and at ease with yourself.” His advice isn’t always easy to put into practice. Yet it rings true, whether our goal is to accept the coming of winter, the loss of a job, or a serious illness.

Acceptance, of course, is a process, and I certainly don’t mean to equate the ending of autumn with the loss of a loved one. As a coach, I never hurry acceptance along. Because grieving our losses is SO important.

But the longer we resist accepting what is, the longer we feel the pain and the harder it is to enjoy what we DO have in our lives.

We always have a choice about whether to resist or go with the flow. So I can choose to resist the coming of winter until the first spring flowers sprout from the ground. But if I do, I’ll miss out on autumn and winter, and all the beauty that the seasons have to offer, and I won’t be living in the present moment. Enjoying what is.

The truth is winter is NOT my favorite season. I’m not a fan of the biting cold or bundling up. And driving in the snow? Well, given the choice, I’d rather pass, if you don’t mind!

But I DO enjoy watching the snowflakes gliding their way through the air, on their journey to places unknown.  And when I don’t have to trek across town, I enjoy curling up by the window, with a good book, taking in the glitter of a nice ice storm.

I also like the quiet of winter. The way it invites us to travel inward and be still, like the stately sycamore in our front yard.

But before I get ahead of myself, I’m going to stop thinking about winter and enjoy autumn. Because as I look out my office window, the leaves on the Maple are glowing. And our yard is a gorgeous masterpiece, flecked with gold and orange, crimson and sienna.

Yes, today, I’m going to enjoy what is. Because all I have is the present moment.

How do you deal with change?

What might you be resisting in YOUR life?

How does that resistance affect you?

I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Are you recovering from job loss or dealing with the death of a loved one? Or are you struggling with another life transition? If so, I’d love to support on your new life journey. Visit my website at  http://ellen-brown.com/ to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism. She is also a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.


More Ellen Brown articles, click here.


© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2010

I forgot I was a therapist for a few minutes. I got caught in the oldest trap in the book: trying to talk someone out of their belief system.

Angie, a 32-year-old woman who had overcome sexual trauma, emotional abandonment and loss, still saw herself as a “failure” and a “loser.” She had recovered from a severe eating disorder and years of wishing she was dead. Now a sober, healthy adult, she’d maintained her sanity and, most importantly, her integrity. She was in a loving relationship and on her way to a successful career doing what she loved. Yet, despite all that she’d accomplished, she held fast to the belief that she was weak and fragile. And she sure as heck wasn’t about to let me talk her out of it.  

One of the most memorable books I read as a college psych major was “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.”  It was about a fascinating experiment performed in the 1950’s at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan. Dr. Milton Rokeach decided to take three schizophrenics who each believed they were Jesus Christ and have them live, eat and room together for two years. (Today such an experiment would never pass the Ethics Board!)  Rokeach was curious about whether men confronted with two others claiming to be the same person would alter their belief system about their identities. These guys struggled mightily with each other over the course of the experiment, yet in the end, each held steadfastly to their belief in his own divinity, declaring the other two to be crazy.

Each day I am confronted with the distorted beliefs of clients who are severely underweight yet state with great conviction and emotion that they are “fat and disgustingly obese.” I can argue until I’m blue in the face, presenting them with rational, objective data (weight charts, the size of their clothes, the worries of their loved ones), but they still declare, “I’m sorry, this is what I SEE when I look in the mirror.”

One need not be struggling with schizophrenia or anorexia to hold tightly to inaccurate self-assessments.  Many of us view ourselves through a distorted lens.

In my role as a psychologist, I get to ask some pointed questions. In the beginning of therapy a standard query goes: “What experiences do you think helped shape your beliefs about yourself?”  This leads to an exploration of their early life experience and the key messages they internalized from their parents, sibs, peers, boyfriends, teachers and preachers.  We also explore their personality and the unique filter they brought into the world.  Sometimes understanding (and challenging) the source of the negative self-perception can actually help a person start to question whether it still applies (or ever applied)!  

However, here’s where things gets interesting: a person may have the insight and self-awareness to realize they are holding onto an outdated version of themselves, yet they are deathly afraid to give it up. They may have shifted seamlessly from typewriter to keyboard to touchpad, but when it comes to updating their Selfware, they are still writing with a stick in the dirt.

Instead of attempting to use logic to argue them out of it, a better step is to ask: “What if you could suddenly see yourself more accurately?  What if you left here today with a clear, realistic sense of yourself? How might you carry yourself differently through your day and your life?”

The beautiful woman who views herself as fat and ugly says: “I would be more affectionate with my husband.   I push him away because I don’t feel deserving of his love and affection.”

The intellectually gifted woman who fears others will judge me says: “I would start writing the novel that’s in my head because I wouldn’t be so paralyzed by others’ reactions.”

The creative woman who believes she can’t complete anything says, “I would start taking better care of my body and saving my money instead of always living in the moment.  I’d start trying to build a better future for myself.”

The handsome singer who sees himself as hideous says, “If I felt good about the way I looked I would write more songs, perform at more venues, and push myself further in my music career.”

The courageous woman (whom I mentioned at the beginning) who thinks she is fragile and a failure says, “If I viewed myself as stronger and more resilient, I’d allow myself to be more fully present, to experience my feelings and to connect to people. I wouldn’t be so afraid of getting hurt.”

Even knowing the upside of adopting a more forgiving and balanced self-perception, we view our old story as a “crutch” (even though it causes us to fall down) or a “security blanket” (even though it leaves us out in the cold). Given the choice, we pick familiar pain over the unknown.    


Here’s my version of a helpful metaphor from Anita Johnston, the author of “Eating in the Light of the Moon”: 

You are holding onto a log while you float down a rushing river.  The log (your old familiar self-defeating beliefs or behaviors) may have saved your life at some point, but there is a waterfall up ahead.  You can hear the water crashing on the rocks below.  You may let go for a moment to swim around the log, but you don’t trust yet in your ability to swim. You build up your strength until there comes a moment when you have to take a leap of faith in your ability to survive. In a burst of courage, you push off from the log and discover…

….you can swim afterall~

Solid ground and a richer life welcome you on the shore… 

Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web atdinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org. 


More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Feb 04

We do agree that there is evil—plenty of it.  The difference, succinctly put, is that Christianity generally believes that evil comes from outside people; the Jews accept that there is some evil and some good within every person born.  In other words, we do not believe in Satan; people themselves can be satanic enough.  


We’re not that intrigued by sins, sinners, demonic forces, as some of our good neighbors in other faith communities.  We’re much more fascinated with life itself, milestones, experience, and repairing the world.

But not only that: “The devil” is not involved in our liturgies, because we don’t have a corporeal devil concept in Judaism (except in some peripheral sects) and we don’t burden people with trying to get God to exorcise any kind of evil entity out of themselves.  We’re just trying to get ourselves to change—this is the leitmotif of the whole exercise.  Change, or “turning over” comes from within—and this is an area where Judaism does differ significantly with Christianity.

Nor are we afraid of evil—we just wish to protect our children from it. No third party, human or divine, is required for human moments of outreach and healing.  It's all in our hands.  And completing these good works guards us against our inner "evil inclination."  Given the Holocaust, if we actually thought that a vile deity equal to heaven exterminated six million people, including 1.5 million kids, we’d be without a trace of hope and our God would be invalidated.  The Germans and their many accomplices did it; men and women went mad and all we had was God to hold on to. 

God is life and we’re still here.

If there were really a Devil, why bother reaching out to another person?  That arrangement precludes my ability to serve human life, to be creative, to fight injustice, and be God’s partner on earth.  I personally would have a hard time believing in a system that starts out by weakening God with a 50 percent demonic degradation, presumes I’m inherently evil and has a quick existence on the planet just to shed that doom in a future world.  This makes my existence more a competition than an opportunity.

With respect:  Christianity, a great faith that has helped a lot of people for a very long time, perceives evil as a force from without human life.  That is why the Adam and Eve story, when it is strained by the serpent and the forbidden fruit, is labeled as the chronicle of Original Sin.   For the Jews, Adam and Eve didn’t sin; they grew up.

None of us can—or would want to—live in paradise forever.  There comes a time, whether it’s college, marriage, a job change, a recovery from trouble or misfortune, when we realize that from bittersweet wisdom comes growth.  There also come many times when we realize that we might have done something really bad, even evil, to someone else, or to ourselves.  We thought about it and halted the evil inclination and chose the good—both necessary human attributes.  In that tension is a harvest of knowledge.

When a Christian asks, what’s in store in the afterlife, the answer is often: “the Judgment.”  When a Jew asks about it, the answer usually is: “We don’t know.  Let’s eat.”


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


More Ben Kamin articles, click here  


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group 
Mar 03

The news of an impending divorce is often met with disbelief.  Friends and family declare their surprise, their outrage..."They were the last couple I thought would ever get divorced.  They seemed so happy."

There are many grounds for divorce that are based on "fault" or "no fault".  No wonder then, that a common question friends ask is "whose fault was it?". 

Both high- and low-conflict divorces involve disputes or disagreements that can be resolved in mediation, a less costly and less adversarial process than a courtroom trial.

Divorcing couples with children are often faced with preparing a parenting plan and child support worksheet.  Determining alimony and equitable division of marital assets may also be involved.  

The goal of mediation with a qualified neutral is to draft an agreement that is acceptable to all parties and, after attorney review, may be included in the court order.

Here are some suggestions for being there for a friend as they navigate the divorce maze:

Don't ask what happened.  Instead, ask how things are now.  This is a day-by-day process.  Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

Don't tell your friend to get on with her life.  Right now, this is your friend's life.  Remind her that a new life is ahead of her and you will be there with and for her.

Divorce involves legal, financial and emotional issues.  No matter what advice friends or family may offer, the best advice is given by a qualified professional. Call to give your friend support, but try not to give advice.

The truth may be different for each party.  Don't challenge your friend's viewpoint or undermine her ability to see reality.  Mediation involves reality checks. 

And that may influence the outcome.

Friends lose friends in divorces and afterwards as life situations change.  Be a supportive friend, but also realize and accept that things can change.

If you are going through a divorce, it us likely that many of your friends are or have tried to be there for you.  Excuse yourself for not always being at your best and not always being nice.  Whenever you can, say "thank you" and be quick to say "I'm sorry".  At the end of it all, let your friends know you are back in the friendship and grateful that they never left.

Susanne Katz is a registered mediator with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, and an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

For more Susanne Katz, click here.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

If you are a teacher, you have probably heard the faculty lunch room chatter that sounds something like “These kids today just don’t understand what I am trying to teach them!”  “Unless I am doing a song and dance routine with a laser light show, my students are bored in the classroom!”  “Do any of our students know how to use a dictionary anymore?”  “How come I am the only one in the room who still doesn’t know how to operate the VCR/DVD player?”

These are the sounds of an antiquated education system that is in dire need of an overhaul.  The majority of our schools in the United States use educators with  teaching practices from the 20th century while trying to facilitate learning with 21st century students.  It’s past time to be moving forward.

Let’s take a look at the way in which we “old folks” think of education versus the way in which our future leaders think of education.  First of all, the vast majority of our teachers are “digital immigrants.”  We didn’t grow up with the lightning fast technology of our youth today.  We can remember seeing the first microwave ovens enter our homes and used rotary dial telephones.  Our classroom experiences had us as students sitting quietly in our desks listening attentively to the teacher as she droned on for seven hours each day.  Each of us worked independently of our mates as we scoured dictionaries, thesauri, and reams of ancient encyclopedias as our primary sources for information.

By contrast, our students of the 21st century are “digital natives.”  They are accustomed to food that cooks fast and phones that can be carried in their back pockets.  They have been raised on a constant diet of hundreds of television channels in multi languages right in their own living rooms 24-7.  Looking for a classroom resource?  These Millennial students pull out their iPhones, iPads, or laptops and type in a question to a search bar; moments later they have access to hundreds of up-to-date resources.  No more do they walk to the classroom shelf and pick up the dusty volumes to find an answer.

So, how must our educational practices respond to these Net-generation learners?  Surely education has the need for the talents and experience of our Digital Immigrants to educate our Digital Natives, but the way in which we do that needs to change.

Classrooms of the new millennium will become more project-based, aimed at asking real-life questions and solving real-world problems.  Students today are very social and are comfortable in ethnically and racially diverse settings.  They are adept at multi-tasking and quite used to being on-the-go all the time (soccer practice, music lessons, dinner and school work in the car, etc).  These students take in an enormous amount of information each day thus craving the interactivity all of the technology has afforded them.

Teachers will need to operate more as facilitators in the classroom and less like lecturers.  One of the buzz phrases in teacher education training is “What is the essential question?” that we are trying to solve in any given lesson.  When we work with our students, we need to have them drive the lesson by asking the messy questions that require the higher order thinking skills of creative thinking, problem solving, and critical reasoning.  Students will want to work in group settings with access to parallel informational resources to find answers to questions that matter.  No more can teachers rely on the “you need to learn this because it’s good for you” mentality. Our students today are too savvy to accept that answer.

As quickly as our classroom is changing due to technology and the abilities of our students, we as educators must change quickly too.  It is no longer an option to regurgitate last year’s lesson plan book with new dates to accommodate this school year.  It’s time to let go of the control.  We need to take the lessons we have taught in the past and reproduce them into lessons that are student-centered, reach across the curriculum, and use the inquiry method.  Yet we can’t achieve that all in one year’s time.  

My personal challenge, and one that I pass along to all teachers, is to step out of your box and find at least one lesson each week in which you try something new.  Find a way to incorporate technology into group projects that allow students to show their mastery of the information.  Sit back and enjoy watching students sift through the mountains of information that come through to them via the internet.  Marvel at their adeptness to create a multi-media presentation that rivals award-winning documentaries.

And BTW, it wouldn’t hurt to bone up on the new IM language so that you will be able to understand your students.  It sometimes creeps into their formal writing (which I still don’t allow them to use) because they use it everyday to communicate with one another.  Better to be multi-lingual than miss out on what they are talking about.  OK.  G2G.  TTYL

Margaret Anderson is the mother of three teenagers and a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Recently I was co-leading a group of older adults who wanted to know the Jewish way to grieve. They had experienced a variety of losses – ones that come with the aging process as well as the death of a loved one. Most had experienced the death of parents. Some had experienced the death of a spouse, of an adult child and friends. Some had experienced multiple deaths in a short time. Almost all start their day by reading obituaries.

We explained that there is no right or wrong way, good or bad way to grieve. It is an individualized process that has no calendar. We talked about common grief reactions, coping strategies and ways to honor the deceased and continue their legacy. 

Before the next meeting, the rabbi and I both did some homework. The rabbi started by reading with some text that spoke about lessons learned and transformations that occurred when the ancient rabbis died. This spoke to the individualized and community  responses to grief as well as the way grief has the ability to change a person.

We discussed the Jewish way of mourning (the outward expression of grief). This includes the period of Shiva (first seven days), Shloshim (first 30 days), Kaddish (the traditional mourner’s prayer), Yartzheit (observed each year on the date of death according to the Hebrew calendar) and Yikor services (observed four times per year during specific holidays).

The fact that Yahrzeit is a yearly occurrence and Yizkor services happen four times a year reinforces the concept that one does not get over grief. Also, since the holidays often bring memories and reminders of loved ones that are no longer present, Yizkor services provide comfort and the spirit of community (you do not need to grieve alone).

Grief doesn’t end. You don’t finish it, like a book. You change. You start a new chapter. You transform. You transcend. You find ways to take the energy and love from the person who died and carry it inside your heart as you move forward in time. 

The pain of grief will soften over time but it is something you always carry.  It’s like a rock with rough edges.  If you put that rock in your pocket, it might tear the pocket and even break your skin. But in time, the rough edges of the rock soften. You continue to feel the rock in your pocket. You know it’s there. Sometimes it’s more pronounced than others, but it’s always there.  That’s the way grief works. Not that there is a right or wrong way. It’s just the way.

Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


I had the honor of being involved in the crisis response in the Chardon School systems since February 27, 2012, when three students were shot and killed. The impact of this incident was initially devastating, but the community has undergone a transformation that continues to this day and will hopefully go beyond.


As part of the bereavement center, my team was involved in the initial crisis response as well as many community events and ongoing support initiatives.  Prior to that date, we offered a grief support group to the school and during this school year we are providing additional support services including groups and health classes on death, dying, grief and loss.


Recently, I attended the Chardon Healing Fund’s Journey to Healing Strategic Planning Session. The day utilized Appreciative Inquiry, which is a model that looks at the alignment of strengths to promote change.  At my table in the morning, there was one student, two parents, a mental health counselor, the principal of the high school, and a first responder. 

Our discussion really hit home with me as everyone shared a story of support (community and worldwide). I interviewed the student, who said somehow the school was better, if that was possible, from such a tragedy. ….that kids were nicer to each other and were more inclusive of one another.  Her most memorable moment was walking to school from the square in town, arm in arm with other students, to parents greeting them with applause.  Students were scattered at tables throughout the room and each table shared a similar story. It was awesome.


The goal is to continue to move the community into an ongoing caring culture. The remainder of the day focused on just that.


My takeaway was the confirmation that grief can transform not just a single person, but an entire community.  People and communities are resilient. There is an inner capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe, to adapt and to rebuild after a devastating tragedy.


Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups here.


Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Thanksgiving is right around the corner. UGH! It used to be my favorite holiday but that has changed over the past few years. My children have migrated to opposite coasts and their absence in the house is palpable.  

This year, the first thing that comes to mind is …..Thanksgiving is here, that means it’s been a year since my dad died.  So now, my kids and the grandkids will be absent and so will my father. UGH!  I would really just like to sleep through the whole weekend.

I take time to pause and reflect. Did I change this past year? Did I move through the tasks of grief okay? Was I transformed?  Did I do the grief thing correctly?!  After all, I am the director of a large bereavement center.


It’s a good thing that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I’m pretty sure I might have failed if there was a test. I have definitely changed. I am now a member of a club that I didn’t want to join. I approach the world differently. My sensitivity to others who have experienced the death of a loved one, especially a parent, has been heightened.  I relate differently to people. My spirituality has taken another dimension and I have found parts of my faith rituals to be comforting and validating.  I have taken the love from my relationship with my dad from a physical one to one that I hold in my heart.  These have been the gifts of my grief.


My dad also gave me several gifts. In addition to concrete things like piano lessons and college tuition, he passed on the values of family, generosity, education, and service to others. Despite our often tumultuous relationship, we were very much alike and loved each other deeply. There really is plenty to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.


Consider the growth and changes that come with your grief as gifts. Think about the gifts from your deceased love one….the hugs, the love, the long walks and talks, and the lessons learned. And if you are not at this point in your grief, remember there is no test, no right or wrong way to grieve. You might just want to crawl under the blanket and mindlessly watch the parade. You can pick any day to be your day of giving thanks.


Remember you do not have to grieve alone. Look for comfort and support with family, friends, or a professional provider.


Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

 Read more columns by Diane Snyder Cowan here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Many people think about making resolutions in the new year. This is usually a firm determination to do or not do something. Lose weight, exercise more and spend less are but a few examples of resolutions that are more often than not, put to rest by the end of January.

Online, you can find many definitions of resolution.


In chemistry, it is the process of separating or reducing something into parts. It is the fineness of detail in images and the picture on our flat screen TV. In medicine, it is when symptoms or abnormal conditions subside or disappear.  In law, it’s a court decision. In music, it’s the progression of a dissonant tone to a consonant one or how a musical phrase ends.


In grief work resolution includes adjusting to the loss. Part of adjusting to the loss is making meaning of the changes that have resulted as part of the death. Consider making New Year’s resolutions that will help you find meaning as you adjust to life without your loved one.


Here are some questions to ponder:


§  What have you lost?

§  What do you have left?

§  What are you going to do now?

§  What is becoming of the person you used to be? Who are you now?

§  What lessons have you learned?

§  What self-discoveries have you made?

§  What was important to you before the loss in comparison to what is important now?


As you search to find meaning in loss and revise your life story, you may begin to make some sense of what has happened. You may find a new continuity that bridges the past with the future in a way that makes sense to you.

Wishing you peace in 2013.


Additional resources




Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in music therapy and grief counseling, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read more columns by Diane Snyder Cowan here. 

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 07

How does the death of someone we love impact our lives? While January makes us re-evaluate our goals, death may ask us to redefine our lives. 

I view death as a lens through which we can see things from a different perspective. In a vulnerable state from the loss of someone you love, life seems to temporarily stand still, even when expected. How could it happen? How do you go forward? What does it mean? What does anything mean?  

It makes us stop and focus on what’s important, to re-evaluate. Its impact has the power to change our whole direction.

The reality of a finite time with a beginning and an end can nudge us to come to terms with what we are doing in our lives. Are we making a difference or just going through the motions? Are we focused on our own gratification or something bigger? 

Loss can be a catalyst for change. It’s a wakeup call, a painful gift reminding us that we are here for a reason, one each of us must discover for ourselves. The rawness of grief, although painful, is one of the most powerful states in which you can find yourself. It holds the power of the past, the present, the love you feel and the pain of losing an important part of what has defined who you are. It jars everything you thought you knew and makes you question what are you really here for? 

I have found that during times of extreme loss, there is an opportunity for accelerated change. It allows us, for just a moment, to get a glimpse from a different vantage point. Perhaps this is part of the gift a loved one leaves behind… the opportunity to see your life in a different way, to do something more, maybe something important.

After 50, money is not the measuring stick it once was. Don’t get me wrong, money is great, but it’s not enough. As we move into our second half, making a difference in other’s lives may make the difference we are looking for in our own. 

Looking for meaning in what seems so hard to accept forces us to move beyond our daily schedule of things to do. For me, it was like the whole world stopped. It felt like someone hit the reset button and I was not the same person. I had to now live without my father.

I began to write. Before long, I was developing a system for other caregivers. Fueled by the pain of his death, I discovered a passion for connecting with others who are going through what I went through. 

The hardship of losing my father turned out to be his gift to me. 

Thinking about death might change your life.

Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com

Read more columns by Lee Lambert here

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Feb 03

I’m a university professor and a pastor, and for the last 20 years students and parishioners have often invited me to various events, sought my counsel, or asked me to hear their confessions.   I remember being the Faculty chaperone to many College events including, one year, a particularly notorious  "Sophomore Snow Ball."  Three Dog Night sang in Mama Told Me Not to Come, “I’ve seen things I ain’t ever seen before.”  And when it come to what has been shared in the privacy of my office or study, I've heard things I ain't ever heard before.

We like to categorize people for our convenience, but human beings defy categorization.

No two people or couples are alike.

I still remember being utterly flummoxed by a married couple who came to me for advice on how to resist the temptation to have sex with each other daily.  What was most curious is that they were in the middle of a nasty divorce, complete with a child custody battle and were constantly fighting ... except when they were having sex … daily.

When they raised the question I was so stunned I wanted to laugh, but they were in tears.  I said what came to me at the moment, “Well, it looks like you’ll be able to get along with each other after the divorce.”  As soon as the words passed my lips I was horrified at what I said.  Strangely, they found it comforting and made peace with each other after the divorce.

I remember the guy who came to me because he was struggling with the fact that everywhere he went women propositioned him to have sex and he couldn’t bring himself to say no.

What I wanted to say was, “What do you have that I don’t?”  I think I said something to the effect that this was something his wife wouldn’t approve.  Only to find out she did approve.  It was he who didn’t approve of himself.

Then there was the man who went through surgery and hormone therapy to become a woman, who then decided that she really wanted to be a man and asked me if it was theologically acceptable for her to now cross-dress as a man?

These are just a few examples of a wide variety of human encounters I've had, and I’m not even a counselor.  I can only imagine what professional therapists encounter on a day-to-day basis.

No two people are alike and when people are honest, they defy simple categorization.  The study of human beings cannot be described as an exact science.  We all have different backgrounds, different stories, and genetic markers.  While it is the case that humans are somewhat predictable, such as the fact that those of us who are sexually abused as kids usually fall apart when we get to the 40’s, but even so not every victim does, and if we do, we fall apart in uncommonly common ways.

All of this is to bring up a question to which I cannot fathom an answer.

Why are various professional associations of psychologists and psychiatrists aggressively seeking to outlaw therapies that assist clients who have sexual attractions that confuse or concern them?

And why do they do this in the name of "science?"

Recently, at the urging of such professional associations and professional, the state of California passed such a law, only to have it overturned by the courts.

In late January I was present for a debate at the British Parliament in which a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists was adamant about the damage that is done to anyone who seeks to change an unwanted sexual attraction.  I was surprised when he spoke as though the scientific literature strongly supports the idea that genetic and bio-chemical factors are the two primary causes of sexual attraction, and left speechless when he concluded that any client who comes to a professional therapist for help in dealing with unwanted sexual attraction should be turned away.  

I realize my Ph.D. is in politics, but I've never read a peer-review study that provided conclusive evidence of the causation of sexual attraction.  To the contrary, the literature speaks to a variety of factors connected to the science of sexual attraction, with life experience being as significant a factor as genetics and biochemical issues.  Sexual attraction is clearly complicated and the search for causality is ongoing and there is much disagreement between the various camps.

The reality is we do not know what causes same-sex attraction or other sexual attractions.  Studies are being conducted, but it will take decades to do the longitudinal studies to establish any significant claims about the nature of sexual attraction and the relative benefits or costs of acting on these attractions.

In his address at Parliament the member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists was focusing on same-sex issues, but since the science of sexual attraction does not yet differentiate between the varieties of sexual attraction, why are we being so hasty to outlaw providing therapy to anyone who comes asking for help dealing with confusing or concerning sexual attraction?  

For instance, what do I say to the bisexual who comes to me who says they want help focusing on the sexuality of their life-partner?  

What do we say to the man of same-sex attraction who has decided he wants to marry a woman and have a family?

I've both of the above come seek my counsel along with many variations of this theme.

Why the rush to legislate when so much is yet unknown?  

Why does a client-centered discipline rush to embrace dogma rather than wait for the science to catch-up?

I submit a scientific response on these issues might read as follows::

"We need more time to do the kind of studies on sexual attraction that can raise the 'accuracy' factor to an acceptable threshold for which a professional body may make society-wide recommendations.  Until then, more work needs to be done by the widest number of professionals and scientists to help us approach a scientifically acceptable level of reliability in making recommendations politicians can feel comfortable enacting.  In the meantime enacting laws denying treatment to clients with unwanted sexual attraction without regard to the quality and approach of the individual therapist is unscientific, phobic, inhumane, and cruel to both the professionals and their would-be clients.  Professionals who see patients should not be forced to administer therapies they do not believe to ethical or helpful, and clients should not be categorically denied help by licensed therapists who believe they have something helpful to offer."

It’s time, in the name of science, to save the psychological professionals from themselves.

I am not suggesting that all “reparative” therapies work.  I am not even suggesting that any of them work on everyone.  I would stand up against anyone who would seek to make anyone feel guilty for feelings none of us choose.  I am of the belief that unless a person wants to change they won’t.

But why, in the name of a human science would we not explore helping anyone who asks for help, when there is so much we don’t know about humans, let alone any individual?

Why, in a free society, would we tell anyone in a counseling relationship that their desire to explore change is wrong? Why, in the name of science would we say that sex-sex attractions, along with many other sexual attractions, can’t be changed when there are peer-review longitudinal studies in psychology that show some clients can change and are not hurt in the process?

If this subset of psychological professionals get their way and outlaw reparative therapy I’ll have more people come to me for help.  In what kind of world does this make sense?

To quote a friend, “this is all very nice, but how do we get from here back to reality?”


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister, and is presently the Interim Pastor at the Monadnock Covenant Church in Keene, NH.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 13

What is it that defines who we are? Is it our circumstances or is it something else? How we respond is what tells our life story.

As caregivers, if we are not grappling with these kinds of questions, we may be hiding out singing la la la, la la la.  In the movie “The Hours,” Virginia Wolf’s character states, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” 

Caregiving brings to the forefront many of the major questions we face over the period of a lifetime, but within a more compressed time frame. The time frame is the key. When you experience more important decisions within a shorter period of time, you see the relativity of their impact more clearly. It gives you a unique opportunity to see how our thoughts and actions determine outcome and a chance to make important changes, which may significantly alter our direction in life.

So, what am I talking about? For me, during my years of caregiving, it meant redefining everything. It’s hard to do that when you are so busy with life; you can’t stop to question where it’s taking you. Unfortunately, we almost never make change a priority until we are forced by external circumstances. 

Caregiving gave me the chance to be still… for a very long time. And it took a very long time to get my attention. Owning a manufacturing company with 80 families depending on me made stress a way of life. Nothing was going to make me stop and take the long hard look I should have taken a long time ago. That is, nothing until my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Of course, I had to practically crash and burn before taking the steps needed to not only survive, but to see life from an entirely new perspective. I can’t say what this means for another person, but for me, it was an awakening that started an avalanche. There was no turning back. 

So is caregiving a gift… or a burden? Ready or not, the process offers us a choice, a reason to re-think who we are and what we are doing in life. If you resist this question, you may find yourself in an awkward position of not knowing how you quite got there. Remember, you first get the feather, then the hammer and then if you still are not paying attention… the Mack truck. They say ignorance is bliss, but awareness without action can make life increasingly uncomfortable. The pressure mounts to now do something about what you know.

Because no one can do this for you, it becomes a clear point at which you must assume a different level of responsibility for your life. Caregiving gives us the gift of seeing life’s meaning transform and us along with it, if we are lucky. 

There is a prayer that talks about healing “the seen and the unseen disease.” While your loved one is fighting to stay alive, you may find yourself fighting to live… in a whole new way. 

Author Lee Lambert, CEO of Lee Lambert Cares, empowers family caregivers to know what to do and when to do it, so that they can experience the simple joy of living life normally while caring for a loved one. Visit her at www.leelambertcares.com

Read more columns by Lee Lambert here

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

When we notice that some aspect of our life is truly out of control, we are likely to have one of three responses: we can take back the reins, we can stay the course (with some degree of denial), or we can surrender to the inevitable.

Most of us want to believe we’d take control. I suspect many of us fear – like me – that we’d surrender all too quickly. (One of my greatest fears, actually, is that I’m basically a chicken at heart.) In truth, the most common response is to stay the course, often with a healthy dose of denial.

I have seen true bravery in my life. I’ve watched my child withstand outrageous medical procedures with hardly a word or a tear (from her – I’ve cried plenty). I saw my spouse dive into a murky river to rescue a drunk stranger he saw disappear beneath the surface. And I’ve witnessed loved ones make the drastic decision to take back the reins of their lives and undergo gastric bypass surgery.

The thing about many people who struggle with obesity – whatever the cause, and there are many – is that their relationship with food, or depression, or something fiendish has gotten out of control. Smart, funny, creative souls find themselves hiding behind padded rooms of their own making, of their own flesh. 

The considerations surrounding gastric bypass surgery are incredibly complex. I see the final decision as incredibly brave. Think about it. Pulling yourself up and onto firm ground when you’ve already toppled over an edge can be a helluva lot harder than breaking before you go over the edge in the first place. 

Living with obesity can build boundaries that limit the opportunity for full expression of life. Choosing surgery is a bold move:  by doing so, people take the reins firmly in their grasp and reclaim the ability to steer their lives in a direction of their choosing.  

The risks of gastric bypass are extensive. While any surgery is dangerous, this one is particularly complex because it presents a sort of Catch 22. The long-term success of gastric bypass depends on behavioral changes. That would be hard enough in the best of circumstances, but when those behaviors have been part of the very challenge that created the problem in the first place, then the risks are compounded.

To commit to gastric bypass people must commit to doing what they’ve previously had trouble demonstrating a consistent ability to do: use extreme self-discipline in their relationship with food and eating, and in their relationship with themselves.

A dear cousin of mine elected to have this surgery. He was inspired, in part, by the birth of a grandchild. New life reminded him that he could actually determine his own life.  After decades of staying the course, he opted to initiate dramatic change.

It took some getting used to, actually, to see the features of his face after the surgery. I couldn’t get over how much he had grown to look like his father. Being with him after the surgery was an inspiration. His life had a renewed sense of purpose.

What strikes me is that he took back the reins of his life when he had a strong enough motivation to do so. He came to the recognition that, to be fully present for his loved ones, he had to do something to help himself. And it was not a little something (no pun intended). 

Classic lesson, isn’t it? Sure enough, you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself. But I think it’s actually a two-part lesson. To take care of yourself, to hold the reins tight, it helps to figure out what motivates you. What’s important enough to get you to slam on the breaks, or climb back over the edge, if the need arises? 

Wherever you are when facing a situation seemingly out of control – in charge of the reins, on auto-pilot or hands up in surrender – these two lessons are a guide on the path to recovery: 

• self-care is a gift to those you love, and 

• figuring out what motivates you is a powerful agent for change

It’s no coincidence, of course, that heeding these lessons can help prevent you from getting to the edge in the first place.

Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.

Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 25

What will change after you get married?

I couldn’t answer that question.  Neither could Phang.  He thought getting married was the change.  I thought growing from who we were then to who we are now was the change.  So I needed to understand what change means. 


1. Change is an alteration.  An alteration person changed the length of my wedding dress last week.  If we don’t like something, we can often change or alter it.  Most things in life are not permanent or are changeable.


2. Change is a metamorphosis.  It changes wood into rock and changes rocks too.  They become something with history.  We can tell a bit about where they have been by where they are now.  As children, we are taught about changes in nature, like the tadpole and the frog.


3. Change is what happens during menopause or a mid-life crisis.  The problem here is that we don’t know who to blame for the change and how we are feeling abut it; and we often are unaware of how our life will change ever after.


4. Change will happen when you are looking and when you aren’t aware of it at all. Small changes cause little aha’s.  Big changes can cause a crisis.  One grey hair or one wrinkled is no big deal.  The big deal is when you realize you are looking older than you had realized.  And then you become aware that most people are younger than you.  How, you may wonder, does all that happen so quickly?


5. Change is what is in your pocket that you may want to spend or may just put in a bowl and save it for a later time.  It’s what you do with your change that determines its true value. 


People change.  We say that our children have developed.  Even adults can experience personal development.  This is the change I see in Phang and in myself too.  We somehow morphed from two singles into a couple.


So, after exploring what change means, I’m thinking that what will change is our story.  Here we are, grandparents, who have the opportunity to write our story…our history…together.  From a writer’s point of view, this is the story of a lifetime.


Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC. She is co-author of the book A Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and caregiving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt. Vernon Counseling in Atlanta. A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications. Follow her on Twitter @SusanneGKatz.  

Read more columns by Susanne Katz here.

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

A comedian once said that children are like the paparazzi – they’re always watching. It’s so true.

Children learn much more from our actions than our words. And yet, somehow we continue to convince ourselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that what we say to our kids matters more than what we do.

Don’t get me wrong. Talking to our kids, and teaching them, and coaching them through their life experiences, has value. It is time extremely well spent. 

Equally as important is time spent modeling how to live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Are you ready for the best part? If you really want to teach someone else how to take good care of themselves and their health – whether it’s a child or another adult – the best way to do it is to take care of yourself!

That’s right. Paying attention to yourself and your health is a great way to teach your kids to do the same. A healthy balance of parent self-care, thrown into the typical mix of managing family life, is a sure-fire recipe for success -- for everyone. 

“But I don’t have the time!” I hear you cry. “I can’t take that time away from my kids.” Baloney. If your kids don’t see you making exercise a priority, or choosing to eat fresh food instead of constantly eating out of a box, then why should they do it themselves? 

A number of years ago, when my husband and I still had three small children (and we hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in nearly a decade), we were modeling excuses. Rather than teaching our children about the value of exercise, we were slugs ourselves. We took them to the playground so that they could run around while we sat and talked. We were way too sedentary for our own health.

We bemoaned our lack of time and energy. We complained that we were out of shape. And we just kept doing the same thing, as if somehow, magically, we would get different results.

It was time for a change. I’m not sure what inspired us, really. Maybe it was the creativity of a novel fundraiser happening at just the right time (a challenge event called the Ovarian Cycle). Maybe it was that our kids were finally old enough for us to get some sleep. Maybe it was that life was not going the way we wanted and we had to do something. I really can’t recall what sparked it, but my husband and I each committed to the challenge event. We did it to give us a structure to “get back in shape.”

That fundraiser marked an enormous change for our entire family. It was a pivotal player in our becoming healthier adults. It was a key development in raising healthy kids. And it started a course that changed our self-concepts from that of couch-potatoes to athletic people (or, if not athletic, at least physically active). 

Despite the years of T-ball, ballet, softball, soccer, karate, etc. that we enrolled our children in when they were young, their sense of themselves as athletes developed with ours. Everything changed – for the rest of our lives – when my husband and I said “yes” to getting healthy.

I tend to look at getting healthy as a lifetime change, not a temporary fix. I’m not one of those people who bounce from one diet to another. Having said that, I still remember the fundamental suggestions I learned with the one diet program I subscribed to in my mid-twenties. The program taught me how to eat healthily, and the lessons lasted a life-time:

  • Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store
  • Make dates for movement instead of socializing around food
  • Eat a citrus fruit every day
  • Pay attention to portion control
  • Drink plenty of water

 Seriously, it’s not rocket science. It’s basic healthy living. Our challenge is to get ourselves to do what we know we should be doing. The challenge, for most of us, is simply to eat less (or better), and move more.

As adults, it’s extremely difficult to get ourselves motivated. So if the message of getting healthy appeals to you, but you can’t find a way to do it for yourself, then do it for your kids! If they see you doing it – and benefitting from it -- they will begin to follow suit. What better gift can you offer them, after all, than the gift of learning HOW to live a healthy life?

Your kids watch you everyday. Guess it’s time to give them something worth watching!


Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.


Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

home | sitemapfaq | columnists | members | discussions | groups | videos | press | advertise | contact us | estore | share your story | topics | calendar

Search ShareWIK



Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Enter email below to receive our free eNewsletter
For Email Newsletters you can trust


Latest Columns

The Grass Is Greener Right Here
With her trademark wisdom, humor and honesty, Diana Keough provides a spiritual antidote to anxiety and despair in increasingly fraught times.

Ben KaminSpirit Behind the News
Ben Kamin is one of America's best-known rabbis, a multi-cultural spiritualist, New York Times Op-ed contributor, national columnist, and the author of seven books on human values. His kids, however, are not that impressed.

I Kid You Not
With a self-deprecating sense of humor, a dash of Midwest sarcasm, and candid honesty, award-winning freelance writer Kristine muses on life in a chaotic household. Spoiler Alert: her teen, tweens and dog don’t find her even mildly amusing.

Susanne KatzSecond Life
After divorce, a death, a mid-life crisis, or just growing up and changing, baby boomers are learning to reinvent themselves, have fun and find satisfaction. Look out kids…it’s a new world out there!
Class Notes: Special Needs
Learn from the journey of Jacque Digieso who was given a challenge and a blessing with her son, who has special needs.

What's Eating You?
Dina Zeckhausen, Ph.D. on food, weight, body image and raising resilient kids.

Steve Powell
Steve is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25-years in experience in human factors education and teamwork training.
Living On Purpose
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, teaches how to make life extraordinary.
Dale Kuehne explores developing a world where relationships come first, and recognizes that individual health and fulfillment is connected to the quality of our relationships.
Teacher Feature
School teacher Margaret Anderson will provide insight into what really happens with your child in the classroom.
The Power of Grief
Diane Snyder Cowan specializes in grief therapy to help those in need deal with loss.
Jan Jaben-Eilon Cancer is Not Me and I Am Not My Cancer
My name is Jan Jaben-Eilon and I am an ovarian cancer survivor. I don’t like the expression, battling with cancer. I am living my life as fully and passionately as possible, despite the cancer. Cancer is NOT my identity.

Latest Activity

posted a new blog entry Are You Up for the Job of Caregiver?.
4 years ago
posted a new blog entry When does Sex End?.
4 years ago
posted a new blog entry Obesity brings on a variety of health issues.
4 years ago
posted a new blog entry Getting the marriage license.
4 years ago
posted a new blog entry Praying for Theo.
4 years ago