Welcome to In the Moment Notes

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Neuroscience reveals how a year of social distancing broke our brains

So how can people be so lonely yet so nervous about refilling their social calendars?

Well, the brain is remarkably adaptable. And while we can’t know exactly what our brains have gone through over the last year, neuroscientists like me have some insight into how social isolation and resocialization affect the brain...

....But social homeostasis—the right balance of social connections—must be met. Small social networks can’t deliver those benefits, while large ones increase competition for resources and mates. Because of this, human brains developed specialized circuitry to gauge our relationships and make the correct adjustments—much like a social thermostat.

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Kathleen Notes: God made us to be social creatures, in fellowship with Him and with others....

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Upcoming Event!!!

This is a free parenting workshop

Child care is provided upon request.

Please email Kathleen Harwood to register for this group at:

kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com

Learn about:

Communication`s effect on the child`s body and brain

Why a child`s behavior is communication

Why punishment doesn`t work (Break the judge, blame and punish cycle)

Finding new solutions!

Date and Location:

August 14 at Faith Lutheran Church

143 Washington St., Oregon, WI

Time: 8:30-11:30 a.m.
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Kathleen Notes:Please email me at kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com to register or for more information. Hope to see you there!!

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5 Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Makes You Feel Unloved as an Adult

Childhood Emotional Neglect is, in fact, the silent killer of love. It undermines the feeling of love in a family in myriad invisible but powerful ways. It raises children who are emotionally restrained and disconnected from themselves and held back from becoming who they are meant to be.

Growing up with your feelings ignored requires you as a young child to develop some special skills. You must learn how to hide your emotions, the deepest, most personal, biological expression of who you are, from your family.

Pretending you don’t have feelings is like pretending you have no right arm. To make them invisible, you must make sure you do not have them. And this comes at a great cost to you.

So perfectly lovable people walk the earth feeling unloved and people drag their CEN spouses to couples therapy because they feel shut out. And none of it is okay.

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Kathleen Notes: I see many problems in my work with clients that have their roots in CEN, often including couples. The answer is CEN treatment!

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The 5 Greatest Myths About Emotional Neglect

Of the hundreds of psychological and emotional conditions, Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is, in my opinion, among the least widely understood.

That’s because we have spent decades talking about and studying the negative things that can happen to a child. As we’ve done all of this vital and important work, we have overlooked, and essentially ignored, an equal but opposite force: what fails to happen for a child.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (or CEN): A parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs.

Here are five natural, automatic assumptions that are frequently held and expressed, even by mental health professionals.

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Kathleen Notes: Many people (including counselors and therapists) are unaware and uninformed about CEN and it`s impact on people and relationships. Let`s change that!

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What Makes Your House a Home?

That desire for “home” may look like a person, a place, a smell, certain belongings. But as wonderful as those homey things are, they are but an echo of our true home.

C.S. Lewis famously said in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world … Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making your home feel comfortable and particular to you. If you’re able, fill it with the sound of a hometown band, the smell of your grandmother’s prized lilacs, the faces of your tiny children being held in their great-grandparents’ arms. It’s good to have a foretaste of the thing we truly long for—to whet our appetites for the warmth of arriving home that’s coming.

Let it be a daily reminder of the real, forever home you were created for.

But maybe you’re currently in a season of longing or loss of what feels like home. Maybe you moved right as a global pandemic hit the world and had no way of making local friends. Maybe you’re living in a hotel after a natural disaster wreaked havoc on your house. Or maybe, like me, you packed your belongings in a handful of suitcases, said goodbye on a computer screen, and started your life from scratch somewhere new.

Let this, too, be a daily reminder of the real, forever home you were created for.

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Kathleen Notes: Can your home point your family to THE HOME?

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How Children Really Learn Empathy
In the report, The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Value (which I recommend reading in its entirety), Harvard researchers note:

“At the root of this problem may be a rhetoric/reality gap, a gap between what parents and other adults say are their top priorities and the real messages they convey in their behavior day to day. Most parents and teachers say that developing caring children is a top priority and rank it as more important than children’s achievements (Bowman et al., 2012; Suizzo, 2007).

… About 80% of the youth in our survey report that their parents are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others. A similar percentage of youth perceive teachers as prioritizing students’ achievements over their caring. Youth were also 3 times more likely to agree than disagree with this statement: “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” Our conversations with and observations of parents also suggest that the power and frequency of parents’ daily messages about achievement and happiness are drowning out their messages about concern for others.”

Our words matter far less to our children than what we actually think and feel. Our children are the most sensitive, receptive and perceptive audience we will ever encounter, and for them, our feelings and attitudes are transparent and contagious. If we’re the slightest bit anxious or uncomfortable, our child has no choice but to feel that anxiety as well. If we’re annoyed, impatient or even a bit rushed, children have a harder time functioning and will tend to put on the brakes. It’s as if our uncomfortable energy sucks all the air out of the room. A fascinating study reported in Scientific American showed how our children “catch” our social biases through the nonverbal messages we might unconsciously send. So we can preach our unbiased approach to children all we want, but what children sense about us “in action” will override all of those lessons.

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Kathleen Notes: Actions speak louder to our children than what we say to them.

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Around the Table: Why Hospitality Is Vital to Your Soul

When my kids were small and we’d host guests, there was always a moment just before we’d fling open the door when I’d need to wipe my forehead and upper lip. (Places, everyone!)

I literally perspired—partially from anxiety. But mostly because no matter how many Tinker Toys I’d lobbed toward their container or diapers I’d changed, someone always wiped their nose on my T-shirt or conspiratorially ran down the stairs without pants 30 seconds before guests pulled up.

When you have little kids, gathering around the table anyone who doesn’t need their sippy cup filled is tough, y’all.

Yet reasons like these can be exactly what keeps us from the power of sharing our table, even our hamburgers, with someone else.

We’re busy. And hospitality is so stinkin’ exhausting, the preparation mundane. We can’t seem to get (and keep) all rooms of our house clean at the same time. Our cooking may involve hot dogs sliced into mac and cheese or Domino’s on speed dial. Cooking? Like, three dishes in one meal so I don’t look like I always serve something from the InstaPot? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But not gathering around the table—or sharing a false, curated one—can have the opposite power: short-circuiting true community.

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Kathleen Notes: I really appreciate this view of hospitality. We don`t need to be Martha Stewart in our efforts, just open minds and hearts.

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5 Tips to Encourage Your Husband as a Stepdad

I wish I’d done more to encourage Randy when our kids were in the nest. I was too quick to criticize when he parented differently than I did … too slow to thank him for the little things he did that spelled love to my girls every day.

The stepdad role is hard. It often comes with heartache, confusion, grief, and loneliness. There are rewards along the way, but they might be years down the road.

If there’s a stepdad in your home parenting alongside you, he likely needs some encouragement. Here are a few ideas from a wife still figuring it out.

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Kathleen Notes: Both Step and Bio Dads need encouragement and support to do the job that God has called them to as fathers.

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Blindspots

It’s so easy to see someone else’s blind spot.


And sometimes when I do, my immediate reaction is grace and compassion.


But sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes it’s condemnation. It’s with a critical spirit. And then I’m reminded of my blind spot.


If you find yourself recognizing someone else’s blind spot and that condemning spirit rises up in you, the best thing to do is this…


Before you start having that internal dialogue with yourself where you criticize their choices, their motives, how they’ve got it all wrong…


Ask God to show you your blind spot.



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Kathleen Notes: We all have them...

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Not All Recess is Created Equal

Recess quality, not just the amount of time spent away from the classroom, plays a major role in whether children experience the full physical, mental and social-emotional benefits of recess, a new study from Oregon State University found.

“Not all recess is created equal,” said William Massey, study author and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Services. With schools returning to full-time in-person classes this fall, he said, “Now is a good time to rethink, ‘How do we create schools that are more child-friendly?’ I think ensuring quality access to play time and space during the school day is a way we can do that.”

Massey’s study, published this week in the Journal of School Health, involved in-person observation of third- and fifth-grade students at 25 schools across five states during the 2018-19 school year. The schools covered a wide range of socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic diversity.

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Kathleen Notes: Some schools opt for class time instead of recess. Kids learn better, quicker and are happier overall when their need for free play is protected by adults.

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A psychologist shares the 4 styles of parenting—and the type that researchers say is the most successful

The four main parenting styles — permissive, authoritative, neglectful and authoritarian — used in child psychology today are based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, and Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin.

Each parenting style has different effects on children’s behavior and can be identified by certain characteristics, as well as degrees of responsiveness (the extent to which parents are warm and sensitive to their children’s needs) and demandingness (the extent of control parents put on their children in an attempt to influence their behavior).

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Kathleen Notes: A must read for all parents, grandparents and anyone who works with kiddos!

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One Crucial Way a Wife Can Improve Communication in Her Marriage

I do it occasionally and sometimes don’t even realize I’m doing it. It starts off as a little annoyance and as I turn it over in my mind, it begins to turn into anger and then into bitterness and resentment. I have this imaginary conversation in my head that my husband knows nothing about.

The next thing I know, I am snapping at him for not helping me clean the house or do things with the kids, or making plans yet again without talking to me first. And he’s completely confused about what just happened.

The problem?

I never asked him. I never communicated with him that I would have liked help cleaning up the house or doing something with the kids or to know what he’s planning before making any decisions. I assumed he would just know. I assumed he should read my mind.

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Kathleen Notes: God created male and female brains to work differently...just the way it is. To expect your spouse to respond as the opposite gender simply isn`t fair.

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Welcome to the Club (of Dysfunctional Parents)

Growing up, I always figured I’d be an amazing Dad. So when a Christian mentor in college told me, “You’re going to screw up your kids—the hope is to not screw them up too much,” I filed that tidbit away under Things Bad Parents Say.

“I’ll never screw up my kids,” I told myself haughtily.

Arrogance endured right up until my daughter dropped into my sweaty hands, and I quickly found myself drowning in failure.

Now, I get my mentor’s point: Every parent brings dysfunction to the table. Romans 3:23 creates the world’s least exclusive club: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There’s no version which adds, “…except for Andy. Keep up the good work, Bro!”

Paul himself (author of Romans) laments our predicament later in his letter: “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me…?” (verses 21-24, NIV). Paul, a bachelor ‘til the rapture, gets parenthood. We don’t wake up planning to mistreat our kids—to take out frustration on them or ignore them in favor of a screen. Yet our dysfunction inevitably bubbles up like the awkward burp of the office water cooler.

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Kathleen Notes: Most parents try very hard to do a good job in their parenting, but perfection is impossible. We are sinners trying to raise sinners..we need Grace.

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Taking Short Breaks May Help our Brains Learn New Skills
In a study of healthy volunteers, National Institutes of Health researchers have mapped out the brain activity that flows when we learn a new skill, such as playing a new song on the piano, and discovered why taking short breaks from practice is a key to learning. The researchers found that during rest the volunteers’ brains rapidly and repeatedly replayed faster versions of the activity seen while they practiced typing a code. The more a volunteer replayed the activity the better they performed during subsequent practice sessions, suggesting rest strengthened memories.   ...more

Kathleen Notes: If you can incorporate some movement of your body, even better!

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Wring Every Drop

I always knew there would be an end to active parenting, but it seemed so far away. There were glimpses, however. Once, I was walking through a mall when I saw a little girl run up to her dad, his arms laden with packages.

“Daddy? Will you carry me? My legs are tired.”

The young father sighed, moved all his packages from one hand to the other, and scooped up his little girl into one arm.

That’s when it hit me: the days when I carried one of my children through the mall because their little legs were too tired to walk were gone forever. They had slipped away so slowly, so stealthily. A once weekly occurrence hadn’t happened for several years.

How I wish someone had told me, “Gary, this is the last time you’ll get to carry one of your kids through the mall. Take a mental snapshot of this moment. Relish it. Taste it. You’ll never experience it again.”

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Kathleen Notes: Yup, blink and suddenly you are out of a job.

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How to Cope with Parenting Burnout

Most of the time, you function fairly well. You’re able to tolerate sensory input, stay on top of your workload, and respond to your kids’ persistent demands for more screentime.

Of course, there are moments when you feel overwhelmed and tense, but with a few deep breaths, you come back to your calm baseline.

When we’re feeling burnout, the space between calm and stress feels nonexistent. Little things aggravate you more than they used to, mundane tasks feel exhausting, and yelling becomes your go-to response.

Rather than experiencing periods of calm and relaxation, your brain is stuck in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze.

For parents experiencing burnout, this is your everyday existence.

Unfortunately, your body is not designed to manage extreme stress for prolonged periods of time. Without returning to a calm baseline, your body responds in unhealthy ways – emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Emily and Amelia Nagoski‘s book “Burnout” is my go-to resource. The authors suggest moving through a stress cycle as one way to cope with burnout.

To move through a stress cycle: you experience a stressor, your body reacts with a fight, flight, or freeze response, you manage the stressful situation and engage in an activity that gives your brain an “all-clear” signal – helping the brain realize that you are safe and sending the message that the body can go back to a calm state again.

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Kathleen Notes: When you fly they remind you to "put the oxygen mask on yourself" before helping someone else. This rule applies to parenting as well...

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Plant Love to Find Love

Moving from the Pacific Northwest to Houston, Texas meant learning how to run in humidity. Growing up as a Seattle boy, I knew how to run in all kinds of rain (and had three different raincoats for three different types of rain). But you can’t dress for humidity. All you can do is suffer.  

On a ninety-nine (literally) percent humidity day, it felt like I weighed twenty-five pounds more than I did and that I was breathing with half a lung. The first three miles were painful. I still had three more to go, so I decided to do something counter-intuitive: I picked up the pace.

I decided that if I was going to be miserable, I should at least be miserable while getting in a higher quality workout rather than merely slogging through another three miles. At the end, I felt exhilarated, encouraged that I actually got in a rather high-quality run.

Some of you may face a situation in your marriage in which you feel like you’re living in ninety-nine percent humidity. You’re just “slogging through.”  The miles are slow, painful, and sluggish. It feels awful. You can keep plodding, or…you can pick up the pace.

How do you do that?

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Kathleen Notes: I think many of us know what this is like, but God supplies us with what we need to do His Will, both in life and in marriage.

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Do You Experience Conflict in Your Marriage? These 6 Things Will Help

So, do you have conflict in your marriage?

If your answer is “no,” you may be the only couple in the world. (Or you could be in denial!)

Every marriage experiences conflict.

Why?

We are two sinful, selfish humans trying to become one. Conflict is as old as creation. Adam and Eve got into conflict as to whose fault it was. And we’ve inherited their self-centeredness, a desire to be right, a tendency to blame, and a need to control.

John and I have been married for over 51 years now. We are very familiar with conflict. We’ve experienced it, we’ve seen it in others, and yet we’ve grown from it. In this world, we will always have conflict.

The goal in marriage is not to be conflict-free but to learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner.

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Kathleen Notes: All marriages (especially healthy ones) have conflict. It`s what you do to resolve the conflict that matters.

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How the Pandemic Affected Relationships

With mandates and restrictions still varying from place to place, the effects of the pandemic drag on. As a result, many couples are experiencing a “COVID relationship dip.

Increased stress, which bombards couples daily, can make carving out time and energy for relationships challenging. Ironically, it is precisely in these moments of personal struggle, that you long for your partner’s support, welcoming arms, and compassionate empathy. But what happens if your partner is distracted by their own issues or they don’t know how to give you the support you need? This “dip” may feel more like a sinkhole.

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Kathleen Notes: As we are slowly working ourselves out of the pandemic and all that it entails, make your marriage a priority. You`ll find good ideas here...

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Raise a Child Who Loves to Read
Forget Baby Einstein. Research shows that reading to children and discussing the book as you read is the single best way to increase your child’s IQ.

That`s not just because you`re helping your child develop reading comprehension. You`re also nurturing a deep love of reading. And when children love to read, they choose to read independently, become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who don`t.* School performance correlates more directly with children`s reading scores than any other single indicator.

Does your child read every day, not because it’s assigned, but just for fun?  Most parents buy board books for their babies and say they hope they`ll love reading. And yet, by middle school, most kids stop reading books that aren`t assigned in school. In the USA, by the end of middle school, two-thirds of all students do not attain proficiency in literacy and comprehension skills.

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Kathleen Notes: As you read to younger kiddos, you`re helping to associate reading with warmth and connection. As they grow you can continue by modeling to them by reading yourself!

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Your Age-by-Age Guide to Screen-Free Activities Your Child Can Do With Minimal Supervision

Whether you have a Toddler, a Preschooler, and Elementary Schooler or a Middle Schooler, are you working hard to come up with ideas to lure your kids away from screens? 

Here`s your age-by-age guide to keep children under the age of ten busy, with minimal supervision from you. Use these as ideas to get your family brainstorming -- the possibilities are endless!

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Kathleen Notes: Looking for some new ideas? Start here!

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Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature

In the early 1980s, a Harvard University biologist named Edward O. Wilson proposed a theory called biophilia: that humans are instinctively drawn towards their natural surroundings. Many 21st century parents, however, would question this theory, as they watch their kids express a clear preference for sitting on a couch in front of a screen over playing outside.

The national panic about kids spending too much time indoors has become so extreme that the crisis has a name: Nature deficit disorder.

While calling it a disorder might be merely rhetorical, it’s clear kids spend significantly more time inside than outside. This shift is largely due to technology: The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.

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Kathleen Notes: This problem just got bigger during the pandemic. For our kids physical and mental health, we need to get them outside...parents need it, too!

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The surprise side benefit of regulating your own emotions

Sounds familiar, right? Regulating our emotions is at the heart of our ability to parent the way we’d like. In fact, it’s at the heart of most of the ways we trip ourselves up, from over-eating to procrastinating to fighting with our partner. It`s just so easy to get hijacked by our emotions and find ourselves already ten steps down the low road.

This very challenging task -- regulating our own emotions so that we can guide our child lovingly rather than indulging in our own tantrum -- is fundamental to good parenting.

It helps your child grow a calmer brain and nervous system, which makes them easier to live with now, and more resilient for the rest of their lives.

Is it hard? Yes. I think it`s the hardest work any of us will ever do. But it`s completely possible. Here`s the secret.

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Kathleen Notes: You cannot teach or model behaviors and coping skills that you don`t (yet!) possess.

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What Your Toddler Thinks Of Discipline

I’ve been told that I “understand” toddlers (and nothing could be a greater compliment). This might be because my own emotional development was partially arrested as a toddler for reasons I haven’t yet unraveled, but it’s probably also because after all the time I’ve spent observing toddlers, I’ve begun to identify with them.

Sometimes, for example, when a parent in one of my classes asks her toddler not to throw toys, I’ll be unconvinced by her delivery and feel like joining the toddler in throwing more toys. Other times, a child will say he wants to leave the class as soon as he’s arrived. He’ll persist with the issue until his parent says decisively, “I hear you wanting to leave, but we won’t be going until class ends.” I’ll be feeling the toddler’s edginess while the parent is thinking, “Uh, oh, now what?” or is afraid to take a stand.

If toddlers could share their thoughts on discipline, here’s what I think they’d say…

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Kathleen Notes: Great insight and super accurate!!

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In The Moment Notes...

Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona and Monroe, Wisconsin.

I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
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Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!

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