For those of you who follow my blog, I apologize for the big gap from my last post to now. Thank you for sticking with me!

Valentine’s Day is upon us which is a time we’re reminded to acknowledge the people we love. Many will argue it’s become far too commercialized and maybe it has. We can though, with some imagination, express love to someone without spending a lot of money. You don’t have to step foot in a card or flower shop to acknowledge your love in a meaningful way.

Valentine’s Day also gives us an opportunity to think about the whole topic of love; how it’s expressed and what it means to really love someone. As parents, apart from providing food and shelter, our biggest responsiblity to our children is to love them; and to love them unconditionally. We are asked to love them even when they’re not so loveable. There are times when we might say: “I love you very much, but today I don’t really like you.” Even if we’ve been up and down all night long with them, we still love them.

All parents will say they love their children and would do anything for them. Some children though will say they don’t feel loved. It may be because they perceive their sibling gets more positive attention than they do, or there is a lot of focus on the things they’re doing wrong. Notice that I’ve used the word “perceive”. It’s not because they really are not loved, it’s because they don’t receive it in the way it was intended.

In order to truly love another, we have to first love ourselves. We simply can’t give what we don’t have. If we have poor boundaries, don’t take proper care of ourselves, put ourselves down constantly for things we do or say, we’re not expressing love to the most important person in our lives. In order to freely express love to another person, we have first of all know how to love ourselves. By doing so, we also teach our kids to do the same. The more we love and honor who we are, the more we can love and honor who are kids are.

How Do I Raise My Child To Become A Happy Adult?

When asked what we ultimately want for our kids, most of will say “We just want them to be happy”. It seems like an obvious goal but how many of us really understand how to get there? I decided to ask another parenting expert and someone who specializes in teaching parents how to raise happy adults.  I am delighted to introduce Patrick McMillan owner of who agreed to be interviewed on the topic of happiness and kids.

Q.  Most parents say they just want their kids to be happy.  How do you define happiness?


A.  Happiness I believe does not have a “one-size-fits-all” definition because joy, love, excitement, accomplishment, contentment, optimism or any emotion for that matter can only be felt by the individual and come from within, so what causes one person to feel positive emotion may not necessarily be the same for others.


I believe the word “happy” is used as an overall positive assessment of who we are.  Saying “I am happy” is saying that at the very core of our spiritual being, which is where happiness resides, (the “self”) we feel more positive and satisfied than negative and dissatisfied.  We are content and pleased with our present selves, our past experiences and we look with anticipation to our future.


Q.   Do you think some kids are just happier than others, by nature?


A.    I do believe in the “set point” theory of happiness in that we possess a genetic set point for happiness and emotional wellbeing.  However given more recent studies we can in fact rise above and sustain higher levels of happiness regardless of our “genetic set point” for happiness, which also is thought to alter the genetics of our children and future generations. I believe nature and the entire Universe is always in a state of growth and change.  However I also believe the rub here is that for our children to benefit from lasting happiness it is up to us, their parents to take the lead role in modeling happiness for our children.


Q.  If a parent comes to you whose child is generally miserable, what would be the first thing you would look at if they asked for your advice?


A.  The first thing I would look at in the case of the miserable child is the parent’s level of happiness, or in this case the likely unhappiness in their life and how they explain their own life events (i.e. optimistically or pessimistically)   I believe that a child’s lack of emotional control can usually attributed to their parent’s level of emotional literacy and their ability, or inability to model emotional literacy and to “emotion coach” their child to help foster emotional intelligence.


Q.  Do you consider yourself happy?


A.   Yes I do consider myself very happy, but I also believe the unhappiness I have experienced in my life has allowed me to understand what happiness really means to me and to embrace it more every single day.


Q.  Has it been a process for you?


A.   Oh yes! It has been so much more than a process.  It has been and still is a daily ongoing journey of learning, growing and forming new habits of thought and actions.  But I must point out that though it has not always been easy and I, like everyone else, have faced huge life changing challenges along the way, putting forth the emotional effort to make a conscious choice to see things in a different and positive way has benefitted myself and my children in remarkable ways.


Q.   How are your own kids influenced by your happiness?


A.   Modeling happiness by making a conscious choice to BE happier is teaching my kids that we have a choice to react to situations in our lives in ways that empower and motivate us.  They have also learned that our own happiness is enhanced when we help others be happy.  In fact my eldest son who is in 8th grade has become the “go to” guy in his circle of friends when they need advice or cheering up.  He was actually credited by a friend for saving her life when she was contemplating suicide.  I honestly couldn’t be a more proud father.


Q.  We want our kids to feel good about who they are.  How can parents contribute to that feeling of worth we want them to have?


A.  There are several ways to help our kids feel great about “who” they are and have stable, positive self-esteem and I believe one of the most important is based on the concept of developing a “growth mindset” which is to help our children recognize that it is with effort and commitment and we can achieve what we really want and who we want to be.  By recognizing it is with the effort and commitment to achieve a goal or aspiration we learn our destiny is not “fixed” or based on innate ability or talent but rather our desire and commitment to do what it takes for success.  But another equally as important thing we can do for our children is to help them understand that mistakes and failures must happen and they truly do contain  all the opportunity for growth and learning to become who we truly want to be.  By sharing how I have learned from my own mistakes and failures and how I cope with adversity is how I continue to model for my kids to do the same for themselves.


Q.  When you hear about kids being depressed, what factors do you think contribute to their depression?


A.  There are many factors that will contribute to child’s sadness, anxiety and even full blown depression but these negative emotional states are all based upon negative and pessimistic thinking and reacting, and this way of thinking is learned from parents, teachers and other important grown-ups in a child’s life.

I also believe that what makes a child unhappy is to see his mom or dad unhappy.  With my children I know this is true so therefore I believe one of the best things I can do to see happy kids is to be happy myself.  This way of thinking has helped my children tremendously as my wife and I went through our divorce.


Q.  How much of an impact does our environment have on our happiness?


A.  Happiness researcher and Professor of Psychology Sonja Lyubomirski from the University of California at Riverside explains in her book, The How of Happiness, the three factors that research has  determined how happy we are in a three piece “pie chart”.  According to studies using identical and fraternal twins raised separately, among many other studies, research has determined that 50% of how happy or unhappy we are is determined by our genetic blueprint and is, for the most part, unchangeable. Only 10% (just a sliver) is a result of our environment and life circumstances like our health, wealth, marriage, kids, possessions, etc., and changing our life‘s circumstances is not the key to happiness because these things are not completely in our control. We do however get to choose to react to the situations and circumstances in our life, which is the next piece of the pie. The remaining 40% (nearly half of the pie) of your happiness and I believe the most important part, depends on your own choice and voluntary actions toward doing what it takes to think and feel happier. However, it must be stressed that to become happier does take effort.  Nothing good comes without effort and becoming happier takes focus and commitment but will eventually become “who we are”, and one of the most wonderful side effects of our effort is to see our kids follow in our happy footsteps.


Q.  How important are friendships for our kids to feel happy?


A.  Friendships and social connection play an extremely influential part in happiness for all human beings and giving our children opportunities to develop friendships will benefit them throughout life.  But I have found that we need to be there for our children to help them understand how important it is to feel positive and happy about ourselves and “who we are” first which will inevitably attract more meaningful and long lasting friendships into our life.


Q.  I often tell parents it’s not our job to ensure our kids are happy all the time.  How do you feel about that?


A.  I completely agree!  In fact we would be doing our children a great disservice if we were to imply that one is even capable of being happy all the time.  There are very important reasons human beings were endowed with the ability to feel the wide range of emotions we feel and our survival is a core reason.  This in fact was one the main reasons I wrote An Exercise in Happiness© (An Emotional Fitness Program for Kids) which I originally wrote to teach my children about how their emotional system works in order to develop more control over it.

As I mentioned above I also believe the unhappiness I have experienced in my life has allowed me to understand what happiness really means to me and to embrace it every single day.  It would be impossible to really understand what brings out happiness from within us if we don’t know or understand what unhappiness feels like.


Also knowing and understanding “cause and effect” allows us to see that happiness and unhappiness are the “effects” of some “cause” and that cause can be boiled down to only one thing…How we think!


Q.  What else can you tell us about happiness as it relates to our kids?


A.   Happiness I believe really comes down to experiencing more positive emotions throughout life than negative.  How we react and respond through thought to the experiences and circumstances in our life will ultimately determine how we can asses our lives as either happy or unhappy, satisfied or unsatisfied and whether we can look back on our lives more joy and happiness than regret or sadness.


With that being said we can look at our choice to raising happy kids like putting our oxygen mask on first when flying in a plane and the cabin looses air pressure.  We would be unable to help our kids if we become disoriented from lack of oxygen ourselves.  So I look at my own happiness like “emotional oxygen” and by providing more to myself allows me to provide it to my children and they learn to create more for themselves.  It’s like a “happiness feedback loop” in that when I become happier, so do my kids, which in turn makes me happier, and so on…




My free ebook for kids:  The Ultimate Kids Guide to Happiness


An Exercise in Happiness:


Happier Kids Blog:

Having Children Later in Life

Recently I’ve spoken to a few parents who started their parenting journey later in life.  They’re in their forties and have preschoolers.  In the simpliest terms, they’re exhausted and frustrated.   Do they regret their decision to become parents ?  No.  They’re doing their best  working at full-time  jobs outside the home and meeting the many demands of parenting young children.

There are times in life when the best decision we can make is just to embrace what is, rather than what we’d like.  If you’re forty-five, you probably don’t have the same kind of energy you had at twenty-five.  That’s just the way it is and comparing yourself to a parent twenty years your junior isn’t fair.  You do though offer things a younger parent can’t, simply because they don’t have the life experience.  We learn the most about life by living life.  The longer we’ve lived, the more we’ve learned.  We’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.  Older parents pass all of that on to their children.

Our children deserve to experience the best of us.  Often our co-workers and friends see our best side but the people who matter the most get a watered down version of who we really are.  We therefore owe it to the people we love to conciously nurture our mind, body and spirit, and we’re all nurtured in different ways.  If you’re an older parent who feels pressured to get down on the floor and play with your three year old or plan a designer birthday party but the whole idea leaves you drained and feeling resentful, no one benefits.  When we push ourselves to do things that other people do, but it’s not really who we are, we’re more likely to get easily irritated and bothered by small things that in difference circumstances may not phase us. Those are the times we yell and nag and at the end of the day feel guilty for how we acted.

What our kids want from us is our presence.  They want to feel loved and nurtured.  We don’t have to be keeping up with what other people are doing to be a good parent.  If someone has told you they don’t allow their children to watch TV, it doesn’t mean that’s right and you should do the same.  If you’ve read a book that suggests activities to do with your preschooler and most of them feel uncomfortable to you, don’t do them.  Go with what feels right for you.  A parent who is calm and relaxed is much nicer to be around than one who is stressed and feeling resentful.  If you simply don’t have the energy to do the things you feel you “should” be doing,  give yourself permission to do what you can.  This is not a competition.  If some evenings sitting on the couch with your four year old and watching a TV show together is all you can manage, do just that. Your child will love the closeness and just feeling your love and warmth will be enough.



Kids Are Back To School – Some Tips To Make Mornings Run Smoothly

You have exactly one hour to get the kids fed and out the door for school and yourself off to work. You have one child refusing to eat breakfast, another not dressed and you can’t find the permission slip that needs to be returned that day. You’re getting more frazzled by the minute and the day has barely started. Without careful organization, weekday mornings can often look like this. How can you avoid the craziness?

I would not define myself as super organized or as a person who has fool proof systems in place. However, when my kids were young what was important to me was that we all started our day on a positive note. I didn’t like the idea of them going to school upset and I didn’t want to start my day exhausted from nagging and running around the house looking for things. It just made sense to set up a system that made life easy for everyone.

When we have to be somewhere in the morning, every minute counts. Ten minutes spent looking for something when you have to leave in half an hour is critical. My morning routine actually started the night before. I made lunches at night and put them in the fridge so in the morning the kids just needed to open the fridge and grab their lunch kit on their way out the door. When they were young, I set their clothes out at night so no time was spent in the morning picking out something to wear. I very often put cereal bowls and a couple of boxes of cereal on the table so in the morning, all they had to do was get the milk out of the fridge. I made sure backpacks were at the front door and permission slips and forms were all dealt with the night before. All of this made the morning routine run pretty well.

Once my kids became teenagers, I decided it was their responsibility and not mine to make sure they got to school on time. I simply wasn’t going to take that on. I knew none of their teachers were going to look at them and say: “Why didn’t your mom make sure you got to class on time?”. I did tell them that once they got into the work world, being late was not going to be an option.

I recently came across a video with health and family blogger, Deborah Lowther that gives some excellent tips on developing healthy school routines.  Deborah definately has some great systems in place.

Parenting and Enabling

My job as a parenting and life coach is evolving much more towards life coaching than parent coaching when I work with parents individually.  The initial contact with me is always about the kids but the more we get into the coaching, the more their own issues come up, but as I always tell my clients, it’s all parenting.  How we respond or react to events of our lives is what we teach our kids.

Are you an enabler?  Do you find yourself walking on egg shells so as not to rock the boat with a difficult partner?  Do you bend over backwards to please in the hopes of preventing an angry outburst?  Do you find yourself trying to fix your  partner? Do you pick up after your partner and do things they’re completely capable of doing themselves?  Do you comply with unreasonable requests?  If so, it may be that you’re an enabler or perhaps a co-dependent.  Children learn what they live.  They watch our every move and soon learn to do the same in their own relationships. Our responses become programmed into them.

We are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.  The only person we can make happy is ourselves and we have the option to choose happiness or not.  We can see our cup half empty or half full.  We can seek out people and things that give us joy.  Our partners have the option to do exactly the same and if they choose not to, it’s not our problem.  That can be a tough lesson to learn.

The more time we spend trying to fix another person or worrying about their problems, the less time we are spending on ourselves.  When we say “yes” to focusing all our resources on to another adult, we say “no” to our own personal growth.  If you’re a parent of young children and you fit into this category, you have absolutely no time left for the most important person in your life; YOU.  Our children deserve to see and experience the best of who we are.  They deserve a happy, peaceful and fulfilled parent. Your responsibility is take excellent care of yourself so you can be available to your children who are counting on you to be fully  present, both physically and emotionally.  This does not mean focusing on yourself at the expensive of your children.  It means focusing on yourself so you can be the best parent possible.  You are not responsible for another adult.  When you spend an excessive amount of time trying to please another adult rather than yourself, your kids get a watered down version of you.  If you’re an enabler or a co-dependent ask yourself what impact it is having on your children.

Parenting and Yoga

I have been a parent now for over 26 years.  Do I have all the answers? No.  Have I learned from my mistakes and victories?  Yes.  Much of what I’ve learned around how to be a good parent is from working with parents over the last 20 years.  I can definitively say that parenting is much, much more than knowing how to effectively discipline.  What I didn’t know in the early years was the correlation between my state of mind and my children’s happiness.

I have raised 4 children; two of them step-children who lived with us most of the time.  Except for ongoing part-time work, for the most part I was a stay-at-home mom.  Although I’ve been blessed with a pretty easy going temperament, I noticed that some days I was less tolerant than other days and little things seemed to be bother me more.  Was it my children’s behavior or was it something that was going on with me, that made the difference?

When my 2 youngest children were very young, I started attending an aerobics program at our local community centre, three times a week.  Childcare was provided so it was perfect, and once they started school, I continued.  I got to know a lot of the other young moms and we regularly met for coffee after the class.  If you’ve ever read that exercising with a buddy is a great motivator, it’s absolutely true.  Without fail, I showed up 3 times a week because I so looked forward to the social part after class.  We all did.  The combination of the exercise and meeting my social needs I know, without a doubt, made me a more patient and loving mother.

As my children got older and issues sometimes became more complicated in my life, I knew I needed something more.  I decided to try yoga.  It immediately gave me a greater sense of calm and better awareness of the mind/body connection.  I loved the stretching and the feeling of deep relaxation.  I have been doing yoga now for about 15 years and although I still cannot get my head to reach my knees when I do a forward bend, the benefits are immeasurable.  I know it’s made me a better person.  I’ve had many, many different instructors who in their own way, have taught me something valuable.

Almost daily, I get emails promoting all sorts of different programs and products related to parenting or coaching.  Most don’t resonate with my general philosophy or my message but Yoga Parenting came across my desk recently and I knew for sure this was something I wanted to share with readers.  The program reminds us that if we’re not calm and at peace, our kids can’t be either.  I often tell my clients that those of us who are fortunate enough to raise children, are given an opportunity to become better people.  We want to be positive role models and present the best of ourselves to the people we love the most.  I speak from experience when I say that a regular yoga practice can help you become the calm, peaceful parent you want to be.

Both Parents Work Outside The Home – What Is The Impact On The Kids?

When I was growing up in the 60’s, my dad worked outside the home and my mom stayed home. We came home for lunch every day and Mom was always there and she was always there after school. That was just the way it was and that was pretty much that way it was for virtually all my friends. In fact, if I remember correctly, I only had one friend whose mom worked outside the home. She went back to work when my friend was 12 years old.

Today things are very different. Our new reality is that in most families, both parents work outside the home, at least part time and many families are headed by only one parent who in most cases, is working outside the home. My 1960’s reality is now very much the exception.

What is the impact on the kids when they’re away from their parents for sometimes, ten hours a day? I’ve often had parents of young children tell me they only see their kids for one or two hours a day. The bulk of the time, their kids are in the care of someone else. They might be with a nanny in their own home, in a daycare center or with a relative. Bedtime often becomes a very challenging time because the kids want to drag it out for as long as possible and parents who are out working all day long will often indulge out of guilt. Bedtime can be challenging for parents who are at home all day but it can be even more difficult for working parents.

When both parents work outside the home, they will often confess to giving in to demands just because it’s easier. They’re too tired to fight or negotiate. As well, they often confess to buying more toys and extravagant experiences because they feel guilty for being away for so much of the day.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent, that is your job and it’s more than a full-time job. I don’t have to explain. If you have a job outside the home which is full-time, you have two full-time jobs and there is no break in between. You have to immediately change hats. Children are self-centered and “winding down” after a long day at work is out of the question. They want you the minute you step inside the door. There are also bills to pay, phone calls to return, and time needed to catch up with your partner if you live with the other parent. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new meaning.

This new reality makes it necessary to radically adjust the expectations of both ourselves and others. We’re not super human and if there was ever a time to prioritize, this is the time. I remember giving a workshop to a large group of working parents once and one parent gave us a snap shot of her day. It began at 6am and ended at 11pm. It was non-stop. We worked together to see how she might make things easier on herself and everyone agreed that her first priority should be to hire a cleaner to do her house work. Several people said it saved them hours of time and was worth every cent. Other people suggested things like making meals ahead of time to store in the freezer. We also talked about letting go of any need to be perfect. The key word was DELEGATE.

One of my suggestions is to limit the number of extra-curricular activities your children are enrolled in. It means even more time away from parents and is often conducive to lots of quarreling when it comes time to get ready and get out the door. Instead of enrolling your children in baseball when they’re young, opt instead to play ball with them in your own backyard. Instead of putting them in art classes, do art projects with them at home. When they reflect on their childhood they’ll appreciate the time you spent with them much more than what they learned from the organized activities.

Parenting And Priorities

When I work with parents I always like to look at the big picture.  I tell clients that everything is interconnected.  All aspects of our lives affect our parenting so it’s never just about how to discipline effectively.

A common theme I hear is how busy parents are and there never seems to be time to just relax and enjoy each other.  Everyone is constantly coming and going.  It usually looks something like this:  Up at 6ish, shower and dress then get the kids up and ready to go to school or daycare, quickly eat breakfast then make a mad dash out the door to get everyone in the car so Mom and/or Dad can get to work on time.  When the work day is finished it’s then going from work to the daycare or after school care to pick up the kids then back home to get dinner ready.  After dinner it’s bath, stories and bed and then clean up and start getting ready for the next day.  For some people that takes a couple of hours because there’s bills to pay, lunches to make, laundry to be done, mail to go through, etc, etc.

We’re told over and over again that life is about balance and we’re happier if we can somehow balance our lives between work and fun.  It seems too many people never get to the fun part because if they’re not working at their day job, they’re working at home, managing the household.  How then can we achieve some kind of balance when there is only so many hours in the day?

As a parenting coach, my biggest concern is that with all the craziness that goes with a busy schedule we simply can’t be the best parents we can be.  A tired and stressed parent that feels pulled in multiple directions tends to yell more and is less tolerant than those that take time to nurture themselves in some way.  It’s all about priorities.  If you’re a parent with a job outside the home, then you have two full-time jobs because parenting and running a home is a full-time job.  In order to make more time for fun and recreation, we have to give up something else.  It might mean giving up some of the house work and hiring a cleaning service or it might mean choosing to live closer to work so you can cut down on comuting time.  It might mean considering part-time work instead of full-time.  Sometimes when you look at all the costs associated with full-time employment, part-time makes more sense.

Our kids deserve to see the best of us and it’s up to us to ensure we orchestrate our lives in a way that makes fun and relaxation a priority.  Take a hard look at all the things you do in a week – write everything down and see what you can either eliminate or delegate.  If you have young children, remember they’re only young once and what they want from you more than anything is your time and attention.  They won’t thank you for spending extra time at the office so you could live in the big house or own two big cars or have all the latest gadgets.  What kind of memories do you want to create?  Every single day we’re creating memories.  We want them to be positive.  What are the values you consider the most important to live by?  Are you living by those values right now?

Raising My Kids With Oprah

I remember vividly looking for something on TV while I was spending endless hours nursing my first born child, Claire in the mid 80’s.  I’d watched Phil Donahue from time to time but his show ended and was replaced by Oprah Winfrey.  I loved her instantly and I felt, like so many others, that she was like one of us.  She was someone I knew I could comfortably invite into my own living room.  She was real.  She was funny.  She was warm.  I absolutely loved the way she connected with her audience and her guests.  I was hooked.  Everyday from 4-5 for probably 20 years, I turned on Oprah.  I watched how the show evolved from a standard talk show with a bit of a twist, to what Oprah stands for now.  I confess I’m a personal growth junky so I would be riveted to the TV with the many guests she had who taught us how to live a better life.

My kids have grown up with Oprah.  Part of their childhood memories will be remembering me turning her on every single day.  When my daughter graduated, someone wrote in her yearbook:  “I’ll always remember coming to your house after school and watching Oprah with you and your mom.”  Many of her regular guests have become household names.  Like thousands of other people, I started a book club after Oprah started her book club.  I learned what a life coach was from watching her interview people like Cheryl Richardson, Debbie Ford and many others.  I became a life coach myself.

I haven’t been watching Oprah as religiously as I did before because when Dr. Phil started his show, I felt I couldn’t justify watching TV for 2 hours straight, during the the afternoon.  On Wednesday, she’ll be airing her very last show.  It’s going to mark the end of an era.  I’ll be watching the last few shows for sure and I know her parting words will stay with us forever.  In some way, Oprah has touched us all.  We’ve cried with her, laughed with her and grown with with her.  There’s much more of her to come, but afternoon TV won’t be the same without her.

Parents Hooked On Video Games

Last week I was leading a parenting group and we started discussing video games.  We weren’t talking about kids playing video games, in this case we were talking about husbands.  There were three women who said their husbands spent countless hours in front of a video screen playing games.  As my own husband has never even held a controller in his hand, and has absolutely no interest in learning, it’s something I’m not able to relate to.  I have sons though that play video games.

As I was listening to these women express their frustration around the hours their husbands spent playing games all sorts of things went through my mind.  There’s the issue of one parent doing the lion’s share of the childcare while the other parent is playing a game.  There’s the focus and energy  put towards a virtual world rather than the real world.  Is this another addiction?  Will these parents look back once their children have grown and regret the hours they chose to spend in front of a screen instead of being with their growing children?  We can never get back those years.  What is it doing to their relationships with the most important people in their lives?  How is it contributing to family  harmony?

We parents are our children’s role models.  Everything we do we have to ask ourselves if this is what we want to teach our children.  If you’re a parent who spends the evenings and most of the weekend playing a video game, what are you teaching your children?  The moms who were talking to me had very young children.  They weren’t anywhere near old enough to participate in the games and won’t be for many years.

What I think can easily be called an addiction, is resulting in complete disengagement with the real world.  It’s a very effective form of escape.  What are these husbands escaping? From a health perspective,  how is it affecting the mind, body and spirit of a person who spends six or seven hours in front of a video screen interacting with a virtual world?  The real world is a magical place and when we choose not to embrace it, we miss out on more than we can ever imagine.