2015-10-08 18.11.28One of the best ways to help your child develop language and reading skills is to tell stories. But those aren’t the only reasons to nurture a storytelling tradition in your home.

Young or old, we’re all inspired and entertained by stories. We intuit valuable life lessons from the tales handed down from one generation to the next. The family lore that parents, grandparents and other relatives pass down become interwoven into our own life stories.

Unlike lectures, stories compel us to listen. We develop compassion for others and learn important family values. We gain respect and admiration for the generations who came before, who blazed trails and faced unimaginable hardship. Studies, in fact, find that children who are part of a storytelling tradition are more confident, have higher self-esteem and have a stronger understanding of who they are in the world.

With the holidays steadily marching closer, there will be plenty of opportunities to tell and listen to stories as families come together.

Here are just a few ways to begin nurturing a storytelling tradition in your family:

  • Share your heritage. Cook the foods you grew up with that were part of family celebrations or that represent your family’s culture. If you didn’t grow up eating the traditional foods of your ancestors, borrow an ethnic cookbook from the library and together with your kids, try making a recipe or two.
  • Breathe life into old photos. Weave old photos into your family decor to invite questions and discussion. Look through photo albums together and share what you know about different family members. If you have them, read old letters and postcards. Do a little historical digging by checking out books or going online to learn more about the time period you’re discussing. Talk about what life was like when your ancestor was alive.
  • This reminds me of the time… Kids love hearing stories from your past, especially your funny and harrowing antics. Tell them about your first job as a teenager, your first dance, challenges in school or sports, what your best friend was like and your childhood adventures. Also encourage your kids to ask grandparents and other relatives questions about their lives as children or young adults.
  • Tell your child her birth story. Every child wants to hear the story of the day he or she arrived into your loving arms. Look at baby pictures together. Kids love to hear how you and your spouse chose their names. What foods did you crave? What excited you most about their impending arrival? How did their older sibling(s) feel? What was it like bringing him home from the hospital?

What are your family storytelling traditions? 


null (1)Do you often say demeaning things to yourself that you wouldn’t dream of saying to anyone else? The self-critical statements we make to ourselves have a way of worming little holes in our spirits that bleed self-worth. Over time, negative self-talk not only harms our self-esteem, it hurts our relationships with others, our confidence in forming new relationships and our ability to reach our dreams.

Whether you’ve always struggled with self-confidence or you’re enduring a a self-confidence crisis brought on by an emotionally traumatic event, Shan White, a certified life coach who works with divorced women, shares advice for recovery.

You work with women experiencing major life transitions, particularly women who have gone through divorce. How is self-confidence impacted during a traumatic life event like divorce?
Shan: Self-confidence becomes eroded, especially during divorce because the one person who was supposed to love you unconditionally has withdrawn that love. It is therefore human nature to assume you are not worthy of love and therefore void of worth and value. When you feel unworthy, self-confidence goes out the window. But consider a new perspective. Renowned family therapist Cloe Maddanes says, to remember the love that you had inside of you when you first met your spouse. That loves that grew in you still resides – it still resides in you and cannot be taken from your spouse. And here’s the best news, the love that still resides in you can be re-directed towards yourself.

What strategies can you suggest to women to help them build self-confidence, whether they are recovering from an emotional blow or simply struggling to reach their goals due to a low self-image?

Shan: Learn to become your own best friend. Make a choice not to say anything TO yourself ABOUT yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Do you love, nurture and encourage your friends? Then, why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? Would you condemn, discourage and abandon your close friend? Then, don’t do it to yourself. Be kind, gentle and soothing to yourself as you would do for others.

Self confidence can dip for any of us on a bad day. What are tactics you use in your own life to boost your confidence when you feel it slipping?

Shan: I rehearse all of the intangible qualities I have that give me a sense of worth. Not external things like a nice car or home or wealth. Instead, I focus on those internal qualities like generosity, and kindness, compassion, loving, forgiving and being merciful to those who are not to me.

Any other comments, thoughts or resources?

Shan: Yes, Nathaniel Branden has some great books and exercises to build self-esteem.

Thank you, Shan!

Do you have a question or comment for Shan? Please post in the comments section below or you can contact her directly.

FB photo of Shan WhiteAbout Shan White, Women’s Peak Performance Coaching:

Shan is a certified life coach from the Tony Robbins School, Robbins-Madanes Coaching Training. She specializes in helping women thrive after divorce, as opposed to merely surviving. Divorce affects every area of our lives – financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and the family dynamics. Our lives feel shattered and we need someone to help put the pieces back together again. 

Shan is an expert in providing guidance, support and direction. She does this by designing customized tools, techniques, and strategies in order to help ease the difficult challenge of change and uncertainty. Her mission in working with women recovering from divorce comes from having struggled with it herself. As a result, she became committed to first bringing wholeness and happiness to herself. Subsequently, she became certified in order to help other women avoid the unnecessary pitfalls that inevitably come from going through a divorce without working with a trained professional.

Daisy illustration courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/SalvatoreVuono


An Age-Proof Beauty Secret

by CMHines4 on September 18, 2015

It's what we believe about ourselves thatThere’s no question that our culture values a certain kind of beauty often based on whomever is gracing the cover of the latest fashion magazines.

Next time you pick up your favorite magazine, take a closer look at the cover, past the clothes, makeup and photoshopped body. Notice the power postures – hands on hips, body taking up space, arms out or calmly in a lap. Eyes looking out warmly toward the reader. Their body language practically shouts, “I’m in charge!” 

We’re attracted to the confident, empowered look. Have you ever noticed how some people, who may not be considered beautiful or handsome in the traditional sense, are attractive simply because they exude warmth, friendliness and confidence.

Self-confidence is truly an attractive, ageless trait, but it can be fleeting and tempered depending on how we feel in any given situation. So how do we gain more confidence, especially in the areas where we feel most insecure?

What self-confidence looks like. Unlike arrogance or narcissism, people who are self-assured show interest in the world around them, but are unlikely to compromise their values to go with the crowd. They trust themselves.

People who are confident stand up straight. They look others in the eye. They are comfortable with their outlook on life without feeling the need to bully others into their way of looking at the world.

They are strong enough to admit when they are wrong. When confident individuals make a mistake, they own it and apologize or seek ways to make amends.

Self-confident individuals speak decisively rather than making statements that sound like questions with the tell-tale upward lilt at the end of the sentence. For example, “I liked that movie. It was different, but I thought it made some interesting points.” versus “I kind of liked that movie? It sort of made some interesting points? Don’t you think?”

Whether you are facing a difficult parenting situation or heading into a networking event, self-confidence can wax and wane.

Beginning next week, I will begin posting helpful, proactive tips each month that we can all use to boost our self-confidence. I plan to include advice that I gather through my research, as well as tips from communication experts, authors, coaches and whoever else has great advice for boosting confidence every day.

Whether you’ve recently experienced a major life transition, such as relocation or a divorce; you’re looking for a new job; or wondering how to nurture more confidence in your kids as they begin facing increasingly serious small decisions (that can have big consequences), you won’t want to miss these tips.

The truth is when we have faith in ourselves, we’re more likely to feel empowered in our lives and more deliberate in how we connect with others.

Tell me what areas of your life that you struggle with confidence.


8 Signs You’re Raising a Thoughtful Communicator

by CMHines4 on September 10, 2015

Engaging with the social world isn't just1.) You teach manners. Even before your kids learned to speak, you taught “please” and “thank you”. You know that manners are the first step toward helping kids learn to treat others politely and respectfully whether they are interacting online or offline, with friends or individuals they don’t know.

2.) You nurture empathy. Empathy plays an enormous role in reducing the chances that a child will bully others. When we empathize we’re able to put ourselves in another’s shoes and understand how they must feel. Read books and watch TV or movies together – check out the Pixar movie “Inside Out,” which characterizes emotions. Highlight real-life empathy building opportunities by labeling emotions. For example: “Ah, poor guy. Jimmy has a pretty bad cold, doesn’t he? I bet he feels miserable. Maybe we can make him a card to cheer him up?”

3.) You take a mindful approach to technology. While technology is a major asset for learning and connecting, it’s no longer beneficial when it distracts us from engaging with those who need our full attention and when it is used to screen out life going on around us. Kids watch how we use technology and follow suit.

4.) You nurture listening skills. You know that a thoughtful communicator listens attentively without allowing screens to distract her from the conversation. You teach listening through role modeling and practice. (For fun ideas on how to tune up listening skills, check out my article in this month’s Kansas City Parent magazine.)

5.) You set boundaries. Too much technology can increase anxiety, depression and even affect sleep. Whether you require a 9 p.m. sign off on all electronics in your home, tech-free dinner time or even reserve an entire screen-free day every week, you teach your family that it’s perfectly acceptable and healthy to have time to yourself away from the distractions of other people’s lives and/or demands on your time. In this way you create sacred space for creativity, reflection, real-time connection and solid sleep!

6.) You model attentiveness. You encourage your kids to notice and experience the world around them. You visit museums/zoos, attend plays/concerts, picnic at parks, ride bikes, play, explore nature, and interact with people in your community.

7.) You’re raising a problem-solver. You allow your child to learn to manage problems like conflict with a sibling, friend or a classmate. Before you step in with solutions, you ask your child to problem-solve ways to handle the situation. While they aren’t fun to sort out at the time, over time kids learn what works and what doesn’t which will be an asset in navigating professional and personal relationships throughout life.

8.) You talk together. Believe it or not, conversation skills are negatively affected by an over-reliance on digital communication. Small talk is challenging for many people and it only gets harder when we don’t practice it. Take opportunities to chit-chat with your kids. Teach them to engage with others. Encourage their curiosity. Share stories with each other. Repeat their favorite stories if they ask. Ask them questions that require reflection and thought or are just entertaining and fun. Want conversation starters delivered to your phone every Monday morning?  Sign up for my weekly conversation starters!

Looking for more ways to raise a child who is both a thoughtful and confident communicator? My book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World can help.


Navigating the Tumultuous Toddler Years

by CMHines4 on September 1, 2015

Blog photo:Serge Bertasius


How can a person be so sweetly adorable one minute and so completely exasperating the next? Toddlers may have small bodies, but anyone who has ever parented one knows they have voluminous, moody spirits that can cause tremors in a room and test the most patient parent.

Toddlers are fascinating creatures who love to test our boundaries, wherever and whenever the mood strikes. (I admit it. It’s easy for me to say “fascinating” because I no longer parent one!) At what other time in a child’s life does she feel completely free to resist and retaliate against social/cultural norms without worrying what peers, parents or anyone else will think?

In one of my most popular articles to date “When Toddlers Say No,” which appears in this month’s issue of Central California Parent, parenting expert Laura Murphy shares a few best practices for managing our young, free-spirited naysayers while still giving them some sense of control–and saving a frustrated parent’s sanity in the process. Below is a short excerpt and a link to the entire article.

When Toddlers Say No!

The moment your child utters her first word, you’ll probably want to announce it to the world, while quickly marking the occasion in her baby book. You probably won’t be so thrilled, however, when her word of choice evolves into the very opinionated word “no.” Read more…


How do you or did you handle the “No” phase during toddlerhood? Help other parents by commenting below. 


TalkLessListenmoreIf you follow me much, you know that I often offer tips to spark conversation. I do this because intentional conversation with our kids helps them practice their social skills (i.e., turn-taking, speaking, listening, etc.) in an entertaining way that also draws the family closer.

Conversation matters. We build, break and repair relationships through our actions and the things we say to each other. 

But there are moments when it’s more important to stop talking and questioning in order to allow for a meaningful exchange. Maybe that sounds counter-intuitive. Let me give you an example:

I’m an information-gatherer by nature. This isn’t a trait my kids are overly fond of, particularly right after they get home from school.

After all, how would you react if you walked through the door after a busy day only to be greeted by a bulldog interrogator who bombards you with questions like: “How are you? What’d you do today? Did you remember to turn in your library books? Did you remember your homework? What is your homework tonight? Did you get enough to eat for lunch? …Hey, where are you going?”

You could say I’m not voted most popular after school. 

My intentions are innocent. I’m curious about the ups and downs of their day. “Throw me a bone,” I think in frustration. “Don’t just grunt, shrug your shoulders or pass me off with an ‘I don’t know’ or a ‘nothing’ answer.” 

I’ve come to realize that my inquisitive behavior, in fact, pushes my kids away. It’s exhausting to be peppered with a stream of questions. No wonder my son ducks into the bathroom with a book the minute he gets home!

The truth is sometimes people don’t feel like talking because they’re tired, hungry, or just need a break from the intensity of the day. We don’t have to constantly fill the car with chit-chat nor do we have to come up with ways to create conversation around the dinner table if it doesn’t feel right. Silence is okay and shouldn’t cause discomfort. Often it’s nice to just sit with the people we care about and say nothing. Often nothing needs to be said.

And sometimes out of that companionable silence something magical happens. A quiet, simple connection. Kids start to talk about whatever is on their minds, nudging the door open for gentle questions from you.

In a couple of weeks my kids will start back to school. They’ll continue to grow, learn and change. As for me, I’m aiming to turn around my annoying communication pattern by putting aside demanding questions when my kids get home and instead say, “Welcome home! I’m so glad to see you.”

That’s it.

Will this be a challenge? It will be brutal. But, I’m focusing on the rewards. 

I know that I’ll get to ask my questions eventually. I predict that by allowing space for a deep, collective breath–and a snack–we’ll enjoy a more positive, less pressured evening. And just maybe, they’ll throw this mama bulldog a bone. 

How about you? What is one of your habits that you would like to change about how you talk to your kids?

If you know someone who would find this post helpful, please feel free to share it!

“Questions” image courtesy of Danillo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


52 Weeks of Family Conversation

by CMHines4 on June 30, 2015

52 Weeks of Family ConversationSign up to receive a free family conversation starter delivered to your inbox every Monday morning beginning July 6.

Although we may envision summer days as lazy and leisurely, for many of us summer means more time traveling in the car as we head off on family vacations or running kids to various activities and camps. At least that’s my reality this time of the year.

Naturally, when we are forced to sit in close quarters with the hot sun beaming in, tempers are likely to flair. Try switching gears with a light-hearted conversation prompt and invite some thoughtful introspection. You may exit the car feeling enlightened or at least feeling lighter. That’s what good conversation does.

I have created “52 Weeks of Family Conversation Starters” that begins Monday, July 6. When you sign up, you’ll receive a prompt delivered to your inbox every Monday morning. These postcard-style conversation starters feature a different theme each month. For example, July’s theme is “summer fun”. Some weeks I’ll include brief “just-for-fun” or “did you know” facts to go with the question or additional questions below the postcard.

Sign Up Now

Here’s how these e-cards can benefit your family:

  • Enhance small talk skills
  • Encourage your kids to think introspectively
  • Practice listening skills
  • Grow closer as a family
  • Enjoy entertaining, lively conversations

Want to join me in the pursuit of more entertaining family conversation to spark the imagination and grow closer as a family? Then sign up today and receive your first inspiration for conversation on Monday, July 6.


How to Evaluate Games and Apps for Kids

by CMHines4 on May 28, 2015

Raise your hand if you’re like me and have a youngster who loves to play video games. Although screen time is pretty limited in our household that hasn’t dimmed my son’s interest in gaming. Gaming has become increasingly social. Even if kids don’t play the games together, they talk to each other about the games they like.

Needless to say, my son is constantly asking me to download new apps. But he is starting to figure out that the “but all my friends play it” argument isn’t a strong sell for me. I’m a research kind of gal and I prefer to make my own decisions about what games are right for my kids. I’m betting you have a similar attitude.

In this video, I share a few ways I evaluate games to help me decide which ones I’ll agree to download.


Quick tips for evaluating games and apps:

Read the review on the app’s website.

Check out Common Sense Media.org, LearningWorksforKids.com and GamerDad.com for independent reviews.

Talk to other parents.

Download, play and review the game yourself.

Play the game with your child to monitor any red flags that can come up.

How do you decide which games are right for your kids? Share your favorite tips in the comments below.


How to Support Those Who Grieve

by CMHines4 on May 20, 2015

Dandelion:samarttiw:fdpIn my network and community, the past few months have been littered with a minefield of broken hearts among family, friends and acquaintances. I don’t mean the passing momentary “ugh, that was a bad day” sort of disappointments, but the kind of soul-crushing sadness that grips us when we lose someone we love to the ethers of forever. When life doesn’t work out the way we hoped and planned, and dreams are forced to adjust.

Maybe you know someone who is struggling to make peace with death too.

As the friends and loved ones of those who are in the midst of painful emotional suffering, we are often left wondering how we can help and worried about what to say.

Our compassion demands that we find ways to nourish them, love on them and gently guide them back out to drink in the fresh air and blink back the glaring sunlight of life. We want them to feel joyful and hopeful again.

But based on my own personal experience, healing from devastating loss and disappointment for what could have been doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months, years or…never. But that isn’t to say those who grieve won’t move forward. Life does get better eventually.

So what can we do to support those we love who are grieving?

  • Tell them you care.
  • Give hugs.
  • Offer support by caring for a child or running an errand for them.
  • Give them space. They may need to retreat at seemingly unexpected moments.
  • Drop off a meal.
  • Deliver ice cream or their favorite treat.
  • Check in regularly without expecting a response.
  • Send a text.
  • Direct message them on social media.
  • Mail a card.
  • Call. Leave an encouraging message.
  • Be patient.
  • Gift them a pedicure, manicure or massage.
  • Invite them out for a walk, a movie or to a small gathering of close friends.
  • Say less. Listen more.
  • Share stories/ask questions to help keep the memory of the one they loved alive.
  • Be aware that anniversaries and holidays can be exceptionally challenging–especially the first ones.

Will you always say the right thing? Maybe not. But showing you care matters more than standing in the shadows and saying or doing nothing at all. Life is about connection. And nothing teaches us that lesson more than death.

photo courtesy: samarttiw/freedigitalphotos.net


What Does Mom Want?

by CMHines4 on May 1, 2015

Find the perfect gift idea for mom this year.
2015-05-01 14.21.10

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. If you need a little help coming up with an idea beyond flowers and chocolate (which are always nice, too), here are a few ideas and products that moms I know say they love:

Cooking gadgets. Got a mom who loves to cook? Several moms listed Pampered Chef’s spatula scraper and garlic press among their favorites. Include a cookbook by her favorite chef and a box of oven liners to make oven clean-up a cinch.

Give her the gift of time. Treat mom to gift cards to a cooking or art class; the local gardening store; or a beloved coffee shop, boutique or book store. Nothing beats taking time on her own or with a friend to engage in a relaxing, stress-free activity.

Pamper her. With summer right around the corner, there is nothing more luxurious than making a spa date for her.

Haley’s Corker 5-in-1 Wine Tool. Give mom this clever gadget along with her favorite bottle of vino and she’ll be as happy as a lark.

Camping headlight. Whether she’s an avid outdoors-woman, a late-night reader, dumpster diver or simply needs a reason to freak out the kids, a camping headlight is a hands-free gift idea that will light up her life!

The gift of service. Hire an personal stylist, organization specialist or a cleaning crew to give mom a helping hand this Mother’s Day.

Band-aid Blister Blocker. One of my fashionista friends recommends this product. She says to rub it on your feet to prevent blisters when you show off those new sandals this summer. Pair this product with a gift card to your mom’s favorite shoe store.

Gmail calendar. Get mom set up with a gmail (short for Google mail) calendar and streamline the entire family’s life. One of my newsletter readers recommended this product. She says it has helped her kids learn to schedule things in advance, especially now that they carry their own smartphones. Instead of asking mom about what’s on the calendar, everyone in the family can check it themselves.

Italia Shopper. This is one of my personal go-to products. I almost always forget to bring my reusable grocery bags when I go to the store. But this stylish bag folds neatly up into my purse so it’s always there when I need it.

Norwex Enviro cloth and polishing cloth. A friend whose house looks like a page ripped from House Beautiful magazine recommends this product. (Of course if you give mom a cleaning product for Mother’s Day, you might also want to give her a coupon for a free day of cleaning too!)

A homemade card. No budget? No problem. Every mom loves to feel appreciated and a homemade card with a thoughtful message will be a keepsake she’ll hold onto forever. Moms are sentimental like that. We just can’t help it.

Happy Mother’s Day!