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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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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Help! My Kid Won’t Turn In His Homework!

By Karen DeBolt | 30th Jun 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Self Care, Techniques

I recently got a comment on my blog from a mom who is exhausted and requested some help for her son. First of all let me say how excited I got to get this comment from a reader! Please if you have any questions along these lines, please feel free to email them or post them as a comment on my blog and I will be happy to answer them on the blog, in the newsletter or by email. I am honored that you trusted me enough to write.

Here is the message:

“At almost 12 y.o (in July), my son still needs too much input from me to get anything done. He has trouble keeping track of his schedule: when he has tests and other school related due dates. Remembering to put on deodorant, losing assignments just between home and school. It is getting exhausting and I am running out of ideas.”

This particular question is one that I hear frequently at our ADHD parent support group I would say the seeming inability to turn in homework or remember to put on deodorant should be listed in the DSM V under the features of ADHD because it is so common amongst the children of the parents who attend our meetings.Anyway, the good news is that he will probably be able to remember his deodorant and keep track of his work assignments when he is 40 years old. The trick is getting from here to there without losing it yourself.

Many of our children don’t mature at the same speed as their peers. They need more specific training and repetition than other children in order to be successful—not because they are stupid or not capable or trying to drive you crazy, but because the way that his brain is wired is not conducive to those organizational tasks that seem so easy to us.

Working with your child’s neurology

So helping your child to set up a system of organization the works with the way his brain works is going to go a long way towards future success. For example, your child is likely a visual person, so out of sight out of mind is the literal truth. So, setting up a visual reminders is going to really make a difference in whether he remembers or not.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

For example, to help with remembering to turn in homework, set up a class binder with a clear sleeve in the front which will be where the homework goes. When your child arrives at his class and takes out his notebook, the home work will be there sitting in clear sight in the clear sleeve as a reminder to turn it in. The sleeve will keep the homework contained in one place. So, hopefully it won’t get jammed into the bottom of the backpack or the back of the locker never to be seen again. The trick is to teach him that the homework is not done until it is in the clear sleeve! If you are already rewarding your child at home for completing homework adding this step into the requirements will help to cement it as a habit.

I would recommend a similar system for his deodorant. By storing the deodorant in a place that he never forgets to look, it will serve as a reminder to be used. For example, don’t put it away in a drawer or cabinet. Again, out of sight is out of mind. Put it on top of a dresser or on the bathroom counter where it is in plain sight for him to use. Rewarding him for remembering will help it to become a habit over time.

Taking Care Of You

By teaching your child how to work with his own neurology, you will be able to help him to learn to be more independent over time. You may find that it takes your child longer to learn these skills and with more repetition. This is why is it so critical that you make sure to do your own self care so that you don’t get so exhausted. Sometimes I think just knowing that, “This too shall Pass,” helps to keep us going even when we are beyond exhausted. Also, getting support from other parents can be very helpful. Finding a local support group can help you to know that you are not alone and that there is hope that one day your child will remember to turn in his homework and use his deodorant every day.

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Breathing the Magic Bullet

By Karen DeBolt | 30th Mar 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Self Care, Techniques

Self Care:  Breathing the Magic Bullet


Some of you know that I work on a Crisis line on the overnight shift on the weekends. This is a very stressful job and many of my callers are in the midst of various types of crisis situations. Sometimes, I just have to get them calm enough to be able to talk to me about what is happening. How on earth do I get someone calmed down who is crying inconsolably or having a full blown panic attack?

I get them to breath.It sounds simple, but there’s more to it than just taking a deep breath. When you are stressed, the muscles in your body will tighten which can cause shallow breathing. Shallow breathing causes rapid heart beat, sweating, dizziness, etc.  This is a recipe for a panic attack.Probably, not very helpful when you are already stressed out by work, family, or life in general. So How Do I calm that down?Here is a breathing technique that works really well for most people.Four Count Breathing:

  1. Get into a comfortable position–either sitting or laying down is fine.
  2. Put your hand on your belly button.
  3. Breath down into your belly so that your hand moves.
  4. Breath in to the count of four.
  5. Hold your breath to the count of four.
  6. Breath out to the count of four.
  7. Repeat the breathing five or six times
  8. Notice how relaxed your body feels now.

This type of breathing will cause your body to relax–it’s automatic. By relaxing and breathing more deeply your body will feel less tense and your symptoms of stress will begin to decrease as well.You may need to adjust this technique if you are a heavy smoker or if you have any kind of respiratory problem–try breathing to the count of three to start.But I’m not in a crisisYou may not be having a crisis, but that doesn’t mean that you are not under a tremendous amount of stress everyday. So whether you are frustrated at being on hold forever with the cable company, angry at your child for back talking, or feeling pressured by your boss, four count breathing can help to calm your body down so that you can focus your mind better to problem solve whatever the situation.Practice this technique before you go to sleep at night, and you may find that you are able to get to sleep faster and more restfully.Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

How to Calm A Melt Down



My son is a bit of a drama king at times. He will get extremely frustrated over the seemingly smallest things. He will be happily playing a video game one moment, and then the next he will blow sky high because he was not able to “beat the boss” or something. Often, he will actually have some other need that is causing this small thing to suddenly seem insurmountable, like he is hungry or tired or upset about something else.

Sometimes he is so upset that I am not able to figure out what is going on. After all, not beating a boss is not usually grounds for a major blow–normally its a time for one of his epithets like “Butter Biscuits!”

The trick is to get him calm enough to figure out what is going on. I find that helping him to use a breathing technique like the the Four Count Breathing technique below is very tricky when he is upset already. So, I taught it to him and had him practice it before he goes to bed at night.

This way, when he is upset and could use it, he already knows what to do and just needs a reminder. During a melt down is not a good time for a teaching moment.

 Four Count Breathing Technique

1.    Get into a comfortable position either laying down or sitting.

2.    Ask your child to put his hand on his belly button.

3.    Have your child breath down into his belly until he feels his hand move.

4.    Have him breath in to the count of four.

5.    Hold his breath for the count of four.

6.    Then breath out to the count of four.

7.    Have your child repeat this five or six times. 

8.    Ask your child to notice how relaxed his body feels.

Encourage your child to practice this technique when he is fairly calm at first, then use it when he is just starting to get anxious or upset. Over time, he will be able to do it when he is in the middle of a melt down and may be able to slow down that process enough to calm down. 

The goal is that over time he will be able to calm himself down without any reminders, but know that this may take a whole lot of practice!

 Let me know how your child responds to this type of breathing.

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Holiday Wishes

By Karen DeBolt | 18th Dec 2009 | Filed under Family Rituals, Relationships, Self Care

Here is wishing you and yours a happy holiday season filled with love and laughter.
Well, I don’t know about you, but we are in full swing around here. I have attended 4 out of 5 choir concerts (All three of my kiddos are in choir!)  this season and have been trying to organize the special meals and celebrations to come. I was beginning to feel frazzeled already!I got this message from Rena Hatch who is a Life Coach and truly a maven of self care that really helped me get back into focus on what is important.Check out her message about how her cat inspired her thoughts on self care for the holiday season.  Cats really are pretty wise! :) All the best,

Karen DeBolt, MA
Parent Coach and Family Therapist

Helping families struggling with chaos at home to raise happy, successful children.

placeholder image

Okay the hat has got to go!

Photo by Delina on Flickr

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Gotta Do it: Self Care

By Karen DeBolt | 3rd Dec 2009 | Filed under Self Care

Oh my gosh! I don’t know about you, but I have a ton to do before I’m ready for the holidays. With all the planning, shopping, baking and party going, it is very easy to wear ourselves completely out before the big day even comes. I want you to think about some ways that you can increase your self care this holiday season so that you can actually enjoy it without getting fried to a crisp.

Gotta do it self care

Get enough sleep – yes actually make sure that you get into bed at a decent hour and allow yourself to sleep the amount of sleep that you personally need to feel good–every night! Sleep is critical for healing, for emotional regulation, for repairing your cells and filing away those things you need to remember. In other words, get enough sleep and you will think better, feel better and, yes darling, you will also look better. (Go back and read that with the Billy Crystal doing Lorenzo Lamas voice) Because to feel good is to look good. Okay, I’m getting a little goofy now!

Eat small healthy meals
– with so much junk around it can be easy to just snack and forget to eat actual meals. Schedule in some time for eating healthy meals, and you will not only feel better, but be happier about the scale when January rolls around.

Exercise – you don’t actually have to get to the Gym and do two hours on the machines to get the benefits of exercise. Taking a 30 minute walk outside every day will do wonders for your mood and your energy levels. When you are feeling exhausted, try taking a walk. Walking really does seem to energize me when I’m feeling sluggish–give it a try!

Have some “Me time”
– of all the gotta do it self care this is probably the most important and least likely to actually happen.  I want to strongly encouraged you to stop and get whatever you write your appointments in and actually schedule yourself time to do something that nurture your soul. Not sure what does nurture your soul? Then maybe its time to schedule time to think about that. . .

Time with friends?
Dancing to music you love?
Watching a mushy love story or a sexy thriller?
How about a nap or a bubble bath?

None of these things costs a lot of money but they all pay back big dividends in higher energy and better mood! Believe me getting depleted doesn’t do anyone any good–not you and not your family either.

So fill ‘er up and enjoy everything that the holidays have to offer. :)

Winter Advantage Day Camp

We are offering a great new program for Winter break which will help you to find the time to get in that self care I was just talking about!  Not only will you have some time, but your child will be learning, growing, and best of all having a great time.

Our summer program was so much fun that the children left camp asking to come back next year.

Check out all the details here

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Self Care Challenge: Making a date with yourself

By Karen DeBolt | 9th Jul 2009 | Filed under Self Care

As busy moms the biggest mistake that we make is in taking care of everyone else and not taking care of ourselves. I know that I am guilty of this one on a regular basis. I will just keep powering through instead of allowing myself to take time to have some fun.

Fun? You say what the heck is that?

I know that feeling! You almost forget what you used to enjoy after a while. So think back and remember before you had a mortgage, children, significant other, etc. What did you use to do for fun?

Go for a hike?
Take in a play at the theater?
Hang out at the coffee shop with friends?
Dance around the living room?

I challenge each and every one of you out there to schedule some time for fun this week.  Make a plan then get a sitter and go for it!
If you did it, then go to the comments and post what you did so we can celebrate together!

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Living the Vida Loca

By Karen DeBolt | 29th Apr 2009 | Filed under Relationships, Self Care

Organization in our home is a constant work in progress. We struggle to get our schedules straight and make sure that we have what we need when we need it. Heck, its hard lately to even find time to schedule a meeting to talk about our schedules. (Oy!)

So we have  phones which are actually little computers that help a lot, since we can text each other schedule changes and put it right into the calendar on the phone. Still it’s not a perfect science and sometimes we will get crossed signals and then there’s problems. I suppose most families struggle with this.

The other day, my husband was dancing around the kitchen, while I was making coffee, singing “Living the Vida Loca” to me and swinging his hips just like Ricki Martin. I said, “Hey, I’m already late for work Mister. We can have La Vida Loca later.” He then started off on one of his comedy riffs about scheduling La Vida Loca.

“Let’s see next Thursday at 3 o’clock we can have some La Vida but there no time to be Loca, no wait I forgot you have a client scheduled then. How about Friday at 8 pm. Hmm I’m usually tired after work so that’s iffy” Maybe. . . .”

As I was laughing, I thought you know scheduling in fun times is actually critically important. We remember to put in doctor appointments and when we are supposed to work, heck we even have our leaf pick up scheduled. Do we have fun times with our loved ones scheduled? Do we put in:

  • Wrestling with my kid
  • Snuggling with my sweetie
  • Dancing in the living room

Okay, that might be too specific, but leaving open spaces for family fun, couple time, and alone time is really important. Don’t let your La Vida Loca get lost in the shuffle—schedule it in too!

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Finding the best ways to express your love

By Karen DeBolt | 11th Feb 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Self Care, Techniques

It has been a while since I wrote a blog entry. I hope you
have been well, dear readers, and I thank you for your
patience. Seems like the big life transitions got in the
way of my best laid plans. I’m just beginning to peek my
head out again with a purpose and a vision to begin to build
on my work again.

I will be writing this blog again on a regular basis
and I plan to add in some topics regarding relationships
that have not been my focus up until now. I realized that
the relationship (or lack of one!) between the adults in a
home can have as much impact on children as the relationship
between adults and children. So, there will be more
articles about maintaining and creating good relationships
coming up in addition to more about parenting.

So stay tuned!

Finding the best ways to express your love

Most of us are struggling financially these days, between
the high prices at the grocery store and the huge
fluctuations in gas prices, it can be pretty tough to make
ends meet. Still, we don’t want to short change our
holidays, especially a fun one like Valentines Day.

So I have come up with an idea that you might enjoy if
buying a box of chocolates or a dozen roses is not in the
budget this year. Actually, my guess is that many of these
ideas might actually be enjoyed more than those traditional
gifts. So whether you are thinking about a little sweetheart
or a big one, these ideas will help you pick just the right
way to show how much you care.

Find your sweetie’s love language

The first step to make sure that your gift is well received
is to figure out what love languages your sweetie prefers.
If you haven’t done this already based on a past newsletter
(hyperlink) then now is the time. This is based on the book
by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages: How to
Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. The author
describes five love languages:Heart Candy

* Touch
* Quality time together
* Words of Affection
* Acts of Service
* Gifts

All of these languages are lovely of course, but one or two
will be a person’s preferred love language and by using that
preference you will be able to choose the perfect gift for
the one that you love. Often, we will give others the love
language that we prefer. So noticing what your sweetie does
for you will also give you a good clue. Does he set up the
stereo system for you, pick daisies out of the yard, or give
you a nice shoulder rub? That might be a clue that he likes
Acts of service, gifts, or touch as his love languages.

So go find out which are your sweeties top two love
languages, then refer to this list for ideas for each type:


Coupons for foot, shoulder, or full body massages (by you of
An expensive stuffed animal with extra soft fur
How about a book or DVD on massage for couples with lots of
exercises to try together?

Quality Time Together

For little sweeties plan some one on one time doing an
activity of their choice. Write the plan in a card and you
are good to go.

For big sweeties, arrange for grandma to take the kids for
the afternoon or even the weekend if that is possible, and
then plan to just hang out together doing things that you
and your sweetie enjoy doing together. Really focus all your
attention on your sweetie. Write out your planned
arrangements in a card you make or buy, then enjoy!

Words of Affection

Words can be delivered in a number of ways so get creative
and use several methods
Write a poem or a letter detailing your love
Record yourself expressing your love and deliver it as an
MP3 file or on a tape or CD
Film yourself on video expressing your love
If all of that is too nerve wracking, then find a card that
aptly expresses your feelings and underline and add notes to

Note: None of this needs to be long or flowery unless that
is your style. Just be your genuine self and speak from
your heart.

Acts Of Service

Do something to make your sweetie’s life a little bit
easier. It could be making a favorite meal or treat, taking
over a hated chore for a specific period of time, or giving
them a coupon for one act of service “to be named by the


Think back to times when you have given a gift that was a
big hit. Now, don’t go and do exactly the same thing–yep,
boring. Think about what made that gift the hit that it
was. Was it something your sweetie admired in a store and
you remembered and went to pick it up later? Was it
something that you noticed your sweetie needs? Maybe it’s
something that will help your sweetie remember how much you
really care. Remember, it doesn’t have to be big and
extravagant to be appreciated. It does need to show that you
spent some time thinking and appreciating before you plunked
down that dough.

My friend’s husband once bought his wife a vacuum cleaner
for a gift. Many of you are out there groaning and believe
me I would be also, but this was the perfect gift for my
friend. She had admired it several times and expressed that
she would like to buy it “someday.” She also got the added
bonus of being able to tell everyone that her Valentines
Gift really sucked! Believe me that man was a hero that day.

Okay, now forward this off to your sweetie so that you can
get what you really want too!

 If you have any other great ideas for a love language based gift please post a comment, I’d love to hear what else you come up with!

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Have a cookie!

By Karen DeBolt | 24th Jul 2008 | Filed under Parenting, Personal, Reflections, Self Care, Techniques

I just read an interesting blog entry from my dear friend, Anne Cuthbert. Anne is a counselor here in Portland specializing in eating disorders. She wrote a blog recently about how to help your kids avoid the risk factors for an eating disorder. Check out the article and send her a comment if you have any questions.

 I recognized many of this from my own childhood and some of you may notice the same thing. We don’t require anybody clean their plate at our house, but both my husband and I have trouble remembering for ourselves. Those habits get so deeply ingrained when we are little. 

Did you have to clean your plate?

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