An Apology

By Karen DeBolt | 14th Jun 2012 | Filed under Reflections

This has been a crazy year for our family. My husband and I were sick most of the month of May – not just sniffles that you can continue to do stuff around, but flat out, antibiotics, “How many sick days do I have anyway?” kind of sick. Not fun and even worse, I got waaaaay behind on everything. I still have over 500 unread emails in my inbox! Ugh! So if you did not get a call from me recently when you expected it. Please accept my apologies.

I’m working on getting caught up!  A big part of getting caught up is trying to make sure that the families who would like to attend camp are able to get in. If you are still interested in having your child attend one of our camps, please call me at 503-459-2073 and we can schedule a time to get the registration started. For all the details about our Summer Day Camp Programs please visit the website at:

We have two great weeks planned: July 16 – 20 and Aug 6-10. Check it out and see if your child would benefit.


All the best, Karen


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What Social Skills are NOT

By Karen DeBolt | 14th Mar 2012 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Social Skills, Techniques

Message from Karen

Well, it has been a number of months since I have been in contact with you all. We have been making some major changes that will allow us to serve more children and their families. This means that we are in the process of moving out of my upstairs and into a new space in the community building of Christ Community Church. We are very fortunate that the Church is allowing us to use their facilities. Our programs have not changed a lot in terms of what and how we are teaching, but we are hopeful that this location will be more central to more families. We are now located in North East Beaverton just off the 217 freeway. 4325 SW107th Avenue, Beaverton, OR 97005

Starting April 5th, we are holding our after school program, Whiz Kids Club, again on Thursdays. We will be running three groups: one for younger boys, one for older boys, and a girls group. All the details are on the website at:

Resource Fair Coming up!

We will be heading over to the Swindell’s Complementary Therapies and Recreation resource fair on March 23rd from 11 am to 4 pm. At 830 NE 47th Ave., Portland, OR. 503-215-2429 Karen will be giving a 20 minute talk about social skills and our day camp program, and we will be manning a booth as well, so come support us and bring the kids as there will be fun things for them to do as well!

What social skills are NOT

I spend a lot of time thinking about, teaching about, writing about social skills. It is very clear to me what it means, but I’m not sure that the big picture concept is completely understood. This article will hopefully clarify what I mean when I talk about social skills.

Social skills is not about manners, which fork to use on the salad, or whether to write a thank you note after a play date although that type of knowledge is a tiny piece. The larger part is about reading non-verbal communication, being able to understand another person’s point of view, and participating in the give and take of a good conversation. Manners are important, but they are not the whole picture.

Social skills is not only about making friends. I have parents all the time tell me that their child has no trouble at all making friends, but when I see their child with friends, I find that they are bossy, they have trouble sharing, they play next to others not with them, and some don’t actually know their friends names or interests. They may not be able to carry on the give and take of a conversation, but will “talk their friends ear off.” This means that while they may claim “friends” in the end they may not really even know what that means or worst they start off a friendship then end up fighting with the friend so much that they lose the friendship which is very painful.

Social skills are not about “being respectful” although this is a concept that must often be taught to our children specifically. Many times our kids do not seem to be able to understand that how they treat an adult is different than how they would treat a child their own age or even a younger child. They appear to believe that all people are equal and to be treated the same which does not work well at all. Teachers, Principals, and even parents often have a very different idea about how children should treat them and see any deviation from that norm as “Disrespectful.” The bottom line is that how one treats one type of person is different than how one treats another and by breaking that hidden social rule, your child will get into trouble.

I hope that this clarifies a bit what it is I’m talking about when I say Social Skills. There is a lot more, and I will be continuing to clarify and give examples and ideas as time goes by.

Of course, I believe that our programs are the amazing for children to begin to learn these skills while having fun, so that they can be more successful in school, at home, and in life! Visit to see if our programs would be a good fit for your family.

Self Care: Taking time to read for fun

In my never ending quest to nag, cajole, and convince you to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of your child, I have gotten bored with the usual suspects – good sleep, healthy food and exercise. Todays topic was suggested to me by a recently divorced mom of two who called reading “fun books” comfort food for the soul. I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, much like comfort food, one person’s fun is going to be different than another person. I remember during my divorce time, I would need to just escape into silliness for a while to take a break from all the seriously scary stuff that was going on in my life, so I read Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books – all of them in one giant tome. I laughed and laughed until the tears ran down my cheeks.

I also enjoy reading young adult fiction for fun like the Harry Potter Books, Percy Jackson books, or books by John Green. The added bonus is that I can talk to my kids about them and use them as examples for topics I’m trying to explain to them. Also, they just make me laugh. The latest Percy Jackson goes to which is being run by actual amazons with armored and sharpened forklifts! I cracked up at that one!

I also enjoy a nice pulpy mystery novel like by J.D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts) In Death series or James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club books or Alexander McCalls #1 Ladies Detective Agency stories. Fun with a bit of mystery, sexy characters, and adventure thrown in just takes me out of my everyday existence.

So what is fun for you to read? Let us know in the comments on the Blog.

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Defying Defiance

By Karen DeBolt | 14th Jun 2011 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, School help, Social Skills, Techniques

With the end of the school year drawing to a close, I have been getting lots of parents contacting me regarding their child’s defiance at school. Sometimes this is an ongoing problem, but often it seems to be escalating now or coming up for the first time. This doesn’t really surprise me. Defiance in children is often misunderstood as being about “willful disobedience” or about “trying to drive authority figures crazy” when that is very often not even close to what is going on in the child’s mind.

Allie (not a real child) is a bright and talented 9 year old who is often found starring out the window in the classroom and spinning in fast circles on the playground. Allie often struggles with back talking at home, but does usually doesn’t make a lot of waves at school. This week Allie began to refuse to do things that her teacher or playground attendants requested. She refused to come in from recess with the other children and had to be escorted back to the classroom, then she refused to work on the year end review worksheets that the teacher asked her to do.

What’s going on? 

Allie’s mom and dad were confused about why all the sudden Allie was having trouble at school and they worried that this would carry over to the new school year as well. In the moment, Allie would only answer an informative “I don’t know” with a frown and a shrug when asked about her behavior. Her teachers and parents were very concerned.

Putting on your detective hat 

Defiance can be somewhat complex to untangle at times because the causes are rarely what the adults in the child’s life might think. I find that the most helpful way to think about it is that the child is doing the best that she can in the moment, but is feeling too overwhelmed to do what is asked. This overwhelm can be caused by a myriad of things. Here are some ideas of things your child might say or do to give you some clues.

Anxiety/Perfectionism: “I don’t know how!” “I can’t do it right.” “Its too hard.” “You do it.” “I can’t do it without <the certain color crayon or other supply>”

Sensory Overload: “Its <too loud>, <smells bad>, <that this tag hurts>” Child may hold ears or nose or other sensing organ for protection. Child may bang head, bang into walls(sensory seeking), may shut down, flap hands, or stiffen fingers (sensory defensive)

Emotional: “She did it on purpose!” Uncontrolled emotional outbursts of crying or yelling over things that seem small to others. Holding onto grudges.

Social Skills: May not recognize authority of teachers, parents, etc. Might be upset over a perceived slight or even a righteous bullying experience. Only sees her own point of view and cannot understand another person’s point of view.

Executive functioning: May be overwhelmed with other responsibilities or perceived responsibilities and unable to properly prioritize.

These will hopefully give you some places to start in exploring with your child her reasons for not doing what she has been told to do. As your child becomes more self aware and better able to communicate her needs she will be able to express her reasons for refusing so that problem solving will become easier for both of you. The key is to ask with empathy so that she more likely to communicate with you and then you can begin problem solving.

Now what? 

Once Allie’s parents were able to have calm information gathering session with Allie they found out a few things that they did not know before. Allie had problems with some girls on the playground and she was very upset about that situation, so that is why she was refusing to come in from the playground and return to class where those girls were. Allie’s parents informed the teacher who did some work with Allie and these girls to help them work out their problems.

So Allie was getting hit from many sides at once which went a long way towards her “defiance.” Allie was having strong emotions regarding the problem with her classmates on the playground. Allie was also feeling that she was not able to do the work in the class room perfectly due to her upset, so she refused to do that as well.

Can you see how punishing Allie for “defiance” would not be helpful in changing her behavior? Through understanding and problem solving, you will be able to help your child to learn how to communicate her needs and problem solve rather than just shutting down and yelling “NO!”

This will take some work, but in the long run you will have a stronger relationship with your child and your child will become skilled at problem solving and self advocating which is bound to build self esteem as well.


Its a big win for both of you!


Sounds great? or think I’m all wet? Let me know by leaving a comment.




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Vitamin N Improves Behavior

By Karen DeBolt | 18th Apr 2011 | Filed under Family Rituals, Parenting, Personal, Reflections, Relationships, Self Care, Techniques

I feel very fortunate to live in an area where nature is
very close, yet it is so easy to forget to go out and enjoy
it. I get so busy that I forget to smell the freshly mown
grass or forget to go over to the local woods for a nice
walk. This lack of being in nature or “vitamin N” can
really start to make us feel crumby after a while.

This is especially true for children who get stuck watching
TV or playing their favorite videogames. Its not like when
I was little and my mom would just say, “Go outside!” and I
would hang out with the neighborhood kids riding bikes or
skating. Our modern world seems to be full of a lot more
worries now.

Lessons from Day Camp

Yet, this vitamin N deficiency really does affect our
children’s behavior in a negative way. During our Summer
Day Camps, we have learned that taking a hike in nature
every single day means that the afternoon activities go
well. Even just going to a playground doesn’t quite work in
the same way. There’s something special about mindfully
walking looking for living creatures to show to each other.
Our campers would be able to focus better and control their
emotions better after taking a hike.

So take this as a reminder to get your Vitamin N this week,
both for yourself and for your child.

And, if you are still thinking about whether to sign up for
Whiz Kid Summer Day Camp then now is the time. We have a
few different options to choose from a 5 week two day a
week camp and a traditional one week Camp for each boys and
girls. All the details are here:

Please don’t delay if this is something that you think would
be a good fit for your family! We have 3 more spots available
in August and 4 in June/July.

Check out the link or feel free to give me a call at
503-459-2073 to get started.

All the best,  Karen

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Happy Holidaze to you and yours

By Karen DeBolt | 13th Dec 2010 | Filed under Family Rituals, Reflections

We celebrate Christmas at our home, and today was the annual going to get the Christmas tree ritual. As in past years, things did not go completely smoothly. You can probably relate!

As some of you know, I work on a crisis line over the weekend on the overnight shift. While I do really love this work, the hours make life very hard sometimes.  My 15 year old also has all kinds of choir practices and 6 performances and my son is also doing play practice and my 17 year old is working part time. Needless to say, finding a time to go get a tree was not easy this year! So I decided that I would just stay up one morning, and we would go.

So I get off work yesterday morning, I’m a bit wound up over something that happened at work so that delays me in getting home. Then my 15 year old is refusing to get out of bed. She is usually my easy kid too! ugh! I lay the guilt trip on strong and thick. It worked! Luckily, my son and other daughter are ready and excited to get started. It’s a Christmas Miracle!

We go to a local farm, Furrow Farms, to pick out and cut our own tree. We walk and walk until we find the perfect enough tree. Everyone gets a vote and it took a while to find the perfect tree. By the time we walk back to the car, I’m dead on my feet! My beloved husband gets the tree tied up on the roof of the car and we take it home.

The tree is  sitting in my living room now smelling lovely and looking gorgeous even without a stitch of ornamentation yet. Hopefully, I won’t have to resort to the guilt trip to get them to decorate it!

Wishing you and yours lovely holiday rituals in whatever way that you celebrate the season.

All the best, Karen

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Your Child is like a thermometer

By Karen DeBolt | 6th Oct 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, Self Care

Have you ever noticed that on days that you are the most stressed out that is usually the day that your child is driving you the most crazy? She may be in slow motion getting ready for school, or he might be more defiant than usual. Just when you really need a little peace that is when you are often the least likely to get it.

What the heck?!

While it may seem like the world is conspiring to drive you nuts and sometimes it really does feel like that. In truth, we as parents sometimes allow ourselves to get depleted on our energy reserves. I am as guilty of this as anyone, and I see it all the time in the parents that I work with. Whenever you get depleted, your child will also get depleted because you are not able to give as much as you normally do when you have more energy in reserve.

In other words, your child can be like a thermometer for how you feel. So if you start noticing that your child is more needy than usual, you might want to take a look in a mirror and see how needy you are.

What me needy?

You may have life stressors involving grown up problems like finances, job stress, relationship problems. Not only that, but you don’t give yourself the time for self care so you end up running on empty. That good old puritan ethic that we were all taught as children that work must be done before we can play had a place, but in the end sometimes that advice actually makes things worse for us.

If we are depleted, then we go and do more depleting activities (cleaning the house, paying bills) then we will continue to go down into negativity. What would happen if instead you did something that would bring you up and make you feel nourished and energized? Then when you do the depleting activities it doesn’t feel so bad because you were in a higher spot to begin with.

But if I play first, then I’ll feel guilty

You might at first because all those years of programming are not going to just suddenly disappear. You will still hear those voices saying things like: “You are being so irresponsible right now!” “I can’t believe you did do XXX before going to have fun!” “Who do you think you are?”

I encouraged you to remember that when you do choose to do those things that nurture you that you will:

• Have more patience
• Yell less
• Be better able to problem solve
• Enjoy your child more

That ought to quiet those voices down quite a bit!

Now if you are not sure what you should do, I would recommend sitting down writing a list of all the activities that nourish and energize you. What helps you to feel good–body, mind, and soul? When you have even 15 minutes to spare, you can pull out your list and do something on it or at least plan something on it. Sometimes it helps to just know that something is planned.

I KNOW this is hard for a lot of you as it is hard for me, but it is SO important for your health, your child’s health, and the health of your relationship.

If you need ideas, email me!

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Autumn is the time to put on the teflon suit

By Karen DeBolt | 15th Sep 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, Techniques

Autumn is in the air. This is one of my favorite times of the year. I grew up in an area where we only had two seasons, so I really treasure this time of year. The crisp air, the smell of burning leaves, and the gorgeous foliage put a smile on my face. Of course, this is also the beginning of a new school year which brings with it many hopes that things will go better this year and worries that the phone will ring with the school’s number on my caller ID. I know many of you have those same hopes and fears.

Luckily for me, my son has the same teachers this year for the most part, so I know what to expect and have a good working relationship with them which is a relief. One of the things that I have had to learn over the years is that I cannot allow myself or other people to put my son’s challenging behaviors on me. I have had to put on my teflon suit and deal with frustrated teachers, scolding principals, and  well meaning school counselors that don’t understand what I have been through with my son or how much effort I put into parenting him. How could they know?

So how can you put on your teflon suit?

Here are some ideas to help you to communicate with the other people in your child’s life who
are also struggling with his behavior.

  1. Avoid getting defensive, remind yourself that they do not know you well, so take their comments with a grain of salt.
  2. Provide them with some empathy for their frustrations. I find that this will completely disarm a lot of difficult conversations.
  3. Ask the other person what they would recommend that you do. (I did this one time and found out that the teacher did not know that we were in counseling even though I was sure that we had talked about it in the IEP. Once she knew, she understood better how hard we were working on things and became very helpful.)

Of course, none of this will work, if you are also blaming yourself for your child’s behavior. This will make those judgmental comments more likely to stick. Your child’s behavior is not your fault! That is not to say that there is nothing left to learn–there’s always more to learn.

If you feel confident about yourself, it will be easier to let those jabs slide right off.

Have you felt the need for a Teflon suit? Found a good tip for coping? Please comment below!

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Social Skills: The Right Time and the Right Audience

By Karen DeBolt | 12th Aug 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, Techniques

Boys in hatsI was talking to my husband about today’s newsletter topic and I explained to him that children who struggle with social skills often don’t understand that some behaviors are okay with some people and at some times, but not okay with other people or at other times. For example, arm farts are really funny and very acceptable when you are with your other 3rd grade friends on the playground or hanging around outside at home, but those same very funny arm farts will get you a trip to the principals office if you do it in the classroom or a time out if you do it at Grandma’s house.

“Aaah.” Said my husband with that dreamy look in his eye that tells me that he is remembering his own past arm fart fun.” Suddenly he said, “So how do you teach that?” “Well,” I said off handedly, “You just talk about it. Most of the time we just tell them to knock it off and that’s it. We assume that they know that this is not the right time. In fact, most of the time they must get pretty confused because they really don’t understand when it is okay and when it is not.”

I didn’t think anymore about it that day, but the next day my husband happily told me a story about putting this little idea on the road.

We were at an art fair with our extended family. My dad’s hip was bothering him, so I walked him back to the car and my son was tagging along. When we arrived my husband was already at the car, so he took both of them back to the house. My typically stoic dad was telling my husband about how much pain he is in when my son pipes up from the backseat, “Oh yeah, you think that’s bad, you should have felt how much pain, I was in last week!”

My husband immediately recognized that my son was acting in an inappropriate manner—some would even say that he lacked empathy—but rather than just tell him to “Knock it off.” He explained to my son that talking like that would be okay with his buddies.

(Imagine for a moment: a group of boys standing in a circle comparing war wounds. “Oh yeah, when I cut my arm it bled for an hour!” “Oh yeah, when I broke my arm the bone was sticking out!” “Oh yeah. . .”)

My husband also explained that this is not an appropriate way to talk to Grandpa when he is in pain. My husband said that he saw that little light bulb go off over my son’s head that day. The other added benefit was that this conversation also helped my dad to better understand my son’s social skills challenges.


Advantage Day Camp – Aug 24th – 28th in Hillsboro, OR.

Does your child sometimes behave in ways that are not appropriate to the situation at hand? This is an area where additional social skills help can make a huge difference.

If your child is going into 2nd through 6th grade and has social skills challenges, then Advantage Day Camp was especially designed for you. Day camp will provide a ratio of one highly skilled leader for each two children. We will be teaching skills like:

  • Flexibility
  • Collaboration
  • Communication skills
  • Impulse control

All while having fun playing games, getting into nature, and exploring our creativity.

You may notice that I left the Early Bird discount up even though that is long past. It was 105 degrees that week! Who could think about anything, but a nice, cool lemonade in that weather?

So, not to worry, I would like to help as many children as I can with this program before school starts again, so if this sounds like a good fit, then please don’t hesitate. I will be closing registration this Friday, August 14th at midnight, so that I can concentrate on preparations.

Fill out the form at the bottom of the webpage, and I will be happy to contact you at your convenience or feel free to contact me at 503-459-2073.

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Three Keys to Better Social Skills

By Karen DeBolt | 26th Jul 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Techniques

True story

We are standing in line at the grocery store. There is a fairly large, attractive black woman standing in front of us in the line. My beloved boy takes one look and says, “Oh. My. God. Look at how HUGE that woman’s. . .” I put my hand firmly on his mouth at that point! Oy! I was so embarrassed! I must have turned six shades of purple. I explained to him for the 876,000th time that we don’t talk about other people’s body parts. I have a dream that some day he will actually understand, but that is still a work in progress.

I think most every parent at one time or another has been embarrassed by something your child did in public. If your child struggles more than others with a deficit in social skills like mine, then this may be an everyday experience. I think it can be easy to get used to our children’s quirks at home, but out in the world that brutal honesty might get him a dirty look or worse a punch in the nose, that constant chatter about her special interest might get her shunned by peers, and that bossy attitude might land him in the Principal’s office—again.

Why does he do this stuff anyway?

Sure a diagnosis of ADHD, high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, etc. explains that there is a social skills deficit, but is it possible to teach something that most people learn intuitively?

The answer is yes!

Social skills can be taught just like any other set of skills since they don’t come naturally, each skill must be specifically taught, and not only how to do a skill, but when and why need to taught as well. Here are three keys to beginning to help your child improve his or her social skills.

Three Keys to Better Social Skills

1. Self Awareness – Helping your child to become more aware of how he or she looks to other people. You can do this by becoming a mirror for your child. You can do this as a game or by using a video camera to build awareness of how he is perceived

2. Other Awareness – stop the action on his or her favorite video and ask how a particular character might be feeling inside right now or what reasons they might have for how they are acting right now.

3. Situational Awareness – When you notice a particular social challenge arising within your family, stop the action and start a discussion about what is happening at that moment. For example, if your child is going on and on about his special interest, but the other family members are no longer listening. Stop the action and ask your child to notice the people around him right now. How are they holding their bodies, what expression is on their face, etc.

By building awareness, your child will begin the process of noticing and thinking about how he or she feels as well as other people.

I would love to hear what challenges and successes you have.

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Calling All Single Moms

By Karen DeBolt | 13th Mar 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Personal, Reflections, Relationships

I am working on a new resource for single moms who are wanting to get back into the dating scene or who are already trying to date and not getting the results they want.

 Believe me I have been there. After my divorce from my kid’s father, I went online and posted a profile on an internet dating site. I couldn’t figure out how I would ever meet anyone otherwise.

Nightclubs?  Too loud to talk

Book store? Way too shy to walk up and talk to someone

Friends? No one in my circle knew anyone date worthy.

So, I bit the bullet and gave online dating a try.  I learned a lot and in time I did meet and marry the man of my dreams. We have been very happily married for four years now and still act like a couple of newly weds most days.

So, I decided to create a resource for others so that I could share what I learned, so that you can avoid some of the pitfalls on the way to meeting the man of your dreams.

And what are those dreams anyway?

Send me an email at the contact line there on the left and tell me what questions or worries or problems you are having with dating as a single mom. Everyone who posts will get an opportunity to win a free copy.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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